Finding Hope in Times of Transition

  • Going back to school
  • Going away to college
  • Moving across the country
  • Getting married
  • Losing a parent
  • Starting a new job
  • Having a baby

Transitions create opportunities for new routines, new relationships, and new ways of doing things. All those new shiny ventures have a flip side, endless goodbyes and letting go.

My husband and I are walking through a season of transition. In June we were called to leave a church community that we had done life with for almost two decades. We are journeying with the Gathering, a community on a mission to plant a church in Richmond, Texas. Seasons of transition involve many goodbyes and some amazing introductions.

And now, God, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.So those who planted their crops in despair will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalms 126:4-6 The Message

Psalm 126 is a psalm of ascent and was designed for traveling and transitions. Psalms of ascent were shared to encourage pilgrims on the yearly journey back to Jerusalem. While on a tour of Israel, our group read these psalms of ascent as our bus drove up the steep road to Jerusalem. Even our bus seemed to struggle slightly to make its way ever upward. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for families with young or older members.

This psalm focuses on the story of God’s faithfulness to his people. It tells a story of people reuniting after one group was taken captive and the other was left behind. Last week we looked at the joyful reunions in the first three verses. (https://antheakotlan.com/2021/08/04/am-i-watching-for-gods-wonderfulness/)The next three verses of Psalm 126 (verses 4-6) overflow with joyful celebration and speak about reversals of fortune. Weaved into these verses are some cautions for me to consider.

Verse 4 opens with a request to God, “do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.”
The idea of an encore performance proves that the author of the text knew that God was capable of fulfilling this request as He had done before. This was more than a simple request for rain. The psalmist begs for a remedy for drought-stricken lives because he knows what God can and will do.

Keep me reminded, Lord, of what you have done and will continue to do in times of transition.

Times of transition make God’s people particularly vulnerable to becoming soul parched. Drought-stricken lives can lose hope and become hardened by disappointment. The dry ground of my heart can’t germinate even the very best seed. A miraculous intervention is needed for two kinds of thirsty people.

1) Those who planted crops in despair stayed and found themselves surrounded by uncertainty.

2) Those who went off with heavy hearts when they were taken captive by the enemy. Now, they have returned to their homeland decades later. They are parched beyond measure.

I can relate to both kinds of people.

What does it mean to plant crops in despair?

• Is it the mother who continues to pray for an estranged child?

• Is it an adult child who continues to honor her elderly parent, even when it is emotionally costly?

• Is it the worker who works hard despite a lack of accolades?

How is God calling me to plant seeds in areas of my life that might feel hopeless? What harvest is He asking me to remain faithful to? Even before the rains come back.Is a harvest still good and abundant if it doesn’t come in on my timeline? What if the harvest is not what I expected? Could it be more of what I need and not so much what I want?

Keep me planting the seeds you have entrusted to me in this season. Even when I can’t see the harvest.

How about those captives “who went off with heavy hearts”? How will they come back?
Verse 6 says, “they will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

How about the times in my life when I am called to go out with a heavy heart? Departing with sadness may happen long before I return with the armloads of blessings. Sometimes I have to go, not knowing where I will land or what I will find when I get there. Sometimes I am called to go even when I don’t want to.

Keep me on track and in step with you even when the path takes me in another direction, and I’m not clear exactly where we are going.

What about those armloads of blessings? What do I need to put down so I have the armload space for those new blessings? If they are measured in armloads, could they be a burden in themselves? Do blessings sometimes take work on my part? Do blessings come in armloads and seem too much sometimes? Do blessings overflow and surprise us with the generosity of God?

Psalm 126 seems to point to the now and not yet. When I see the partial restoration, maybe it is a sign or reminder for what is yet to come. God is, in fact, going to do it again and again. He never grows weary of surprising me with abundance.

As a Christ-follower, I have a call on my life to be a hope giver, hope sharer, and a hope speaker. None of which comes naturally to me. In times of transition, can I choose to do just that?

Keep me open-handed and open-armed in times of transition.

Prayer

Lord, help me to offer hope for a future, fuller harvest. Can I be found pointing to you for a greater and more complete restoration? Can you help me in preparing in hope for those armloads of blessings? May they spill over to a broken world. Amen.

How do you see hope in Psalm 126? How could you share that hope today?

God Loves a Fixer-Upper

(House graphic)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the popularity of television shows that feature backyard makeovers or home fix-ups. The first part of Psalm 19 points out how God wants to renovate our hearts and souls. As humans we a drawn to the idea of renewal because it positions hope within reach. On television, it is all about the talented crew’s hard work. Spiritual transformation works from the inside out and can only be accomplished by God, but He desires our partnership.

Last week in the middle of Psalm 19, the need for daily watering in God’s word proved to be the only way to revive a parched soul. In the final section of Psalm 19, we will look at how the ultimate makeovers restore hope, reveal hidden problems, and support sustainable growth and change.

Next time you watch a show featuring home or garden renovation, look for this universal formula to play out.

  •           First, the family and the crew meet in the backyard or at the house and cast vision and get guidance for what they want, what they value, and how much it will cost.
  •           Second, just as the work is getting started, a hidden fault will be revealed. There is always something that no one saw at the beginning that threatens to hijack the entire project. The good news is that there will always be a creative work solution once the problem is discovered. 
  •          Third, the grand reveal introduced the family to transformed space. Everything has been made new, and it was done in such a way that will last and be sustainable.

God uses His word to begin a transformation in each of our hearts. First, He wants us to see how valuable transformation can be. Then, using vivid imagery, God reveals His word is a treasure.

Have you ever spent time asking the Lord for a vision for your life?

10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

(Psalm 19:10-11 ESV)

God’s word is beneficial in short-term ways. Money or gold can be spent on whatever is needed. Honey can be eaten or used medicinally immediately. By contrast, Verse 11 points to the long-term benefits of listening and obeying God’s word. Notice the promise tucked in here, “there is great reward.”

12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

(Psalm 19:12-13 ESV)

On a recent home makeover show, the crew discovered critical support beams were rotted down inside the concrete. The rotten wood was concealed until the time was spent in a very close inspection.  Some of the concrete had to be chipped away to reveal the state of these beams. If left in place, the balcony would have collapsed. The problem with hidden faults is that they are hidden. Spending regular time alone with God focused on hearing from Him is a pathway toward discovering secret sins. Sometimes praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal what we can’t see by ourselves.

Have you set aside time recently for a heart inspection with your Heavenly Father?

Finally, the day of the “big reveal” comes on the renovation show, and the changes are put on display. Fresh flowers and candles are added to make a clear outward sign of all the work that has been done.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

(Psalm 19:14 ESV)

A true heart renovation is revealed by what I say, how I think, and what I care about and value. These are the visible signs of all that has been changed within. We are walking about as living evidence of what God is doing to transform us every single day.

Do the words of your mouth and how you spend your time and talent reveal God’s priorities?

Lord, thank you that you long to transform with the ultimate makeover to restore hope, reveal hidden problems, and support sustainable growth and change. Show me how to begin that work today. Amen.

Does your parched soul need some drip irrigation?

(a photo of pink roses)

In the middle of the 1970s, my Welsh-born father brought our family from England to Texas. After purchasing a modest home in the Spring Branch area, he created an English Rose Garden. Popular gardening wisdom warned him that this might be impossible, but he took the challenge in stride. Clad in his favorite bicentennial shorts, he set out to create the perfect place for delicate roses to thrive in the harsh Texas climate.
He built a raised flower bed with railroad ties to provide proper drainage. He filled it with premium soil. Before planting those rose bushes, he added a drip irrigation system. This form of steady watering was truly the best kept rose growing secret. Roses love moist soil. If you know Texas summers, you know the two kinds of weather: monsoon and drought. None of those gentle, soaking rains around here. It is all or nothing. My father’s efforts were rewarded with the most spectacular display of rose blooms that wrapped our entire front garden in a rainbow of colors.
Gardeners must provide all that is need for plants to thrive. Because God is a faithful tender of my soul, he provides the Bible to give practical guidance on soul care and to keep. The book of Psalms is one of my favorite places to find this kind of wisdom.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

(Psalm 19:7-9 ESV)

We all need a drip irrigation system of daily exposure to God’s word. A once-weekly reading of the Bible at church might last for a day or two, but it is the daily infusion to revive us and keep us thriving.
Verses 7-9 of Psalm 19 identify three soul care essentials.

  • law, commandments, precepts
  • testimonies
  • fear or proper reverence or respect

The Law – we have to know the law or the commandments to follow them. God is our designer, and he knows all about our design capacity. Can someone function well without sleep? No. Did you know that God actually directs us to rest in His word? Can someone lie or steal and suffer zero consequences? No. God’s guidance is always for our good, and we need daily reminders less we wander off course.

Testimonies—God directs his people to share with one another about what He is doing in each of our lives. (1 Chronicles 16:8) He knows we need the reminder, and sharing testimonies is a powerful way to encourage others.

Fear- God wants us to remember to show respect for Him and for all He has created. When we lose touch with this principle, suffering follows quickly.

How can we make daily Bible reading a part of our lives? How do we make that drip irrigation of Bible verses an essential part of each day?

First, figure out your best learning style. Are you a visual learner, an audio learner, or a tactile-kinesthetic learner (someone who learns best through movement or touch)?

Second, test-drive some different ways to take in scripture daily. Since I am an audio learner, I listen to a podcast that reads scripture daily, and it takes me through the whole Bible in one year. So it’s a daily 15-20 minute investment that really makes a difference for me.What could a visual learner do? First, find a daily scripture reading program that would give you daily doses of scripture that could be read in less than 15-20 minutes. What about tactile-kinesthetic learners? Try moving as you listen to scripture. I actually walk while listening, and this helps my focus.

Thank you, Lord that your law is perfect. Thank you, that it has the power to revive my parched soul today and always. Thank you that testimonies about what you have done for me and others are sure certain and and daily reminders of your kindness. Thank that your guidance makes wise the simple. I could really use an extra measure of your wisdom today. Thank you that your precepts are right, and they bring joy to my battered heart. Your commandment is pure, and enlightening to my eyes when I don’t know what to do or where to go. Help me to recognize and respect you and be cleansed by drawing near to you. Thank you that in an ever-changing world, all of this is enduring forever; your rules are true, and righteous altogether. When I cry out to you, I am restored. AMEN

How about you? How will you take in your daily dose of scripture?

Sunrise Sightings of the Kingdom of God

Don’t you just love a good home or backyard makeover show? Evidently, everyone does because it is entirely satisfying to spend less than an hour watching the entire transformation from broken to beautiful, gross to gorgeous, and so forth. A home renovation or backyard makeover typically takes months, but pop on your favorite streaming service, and you can witness a swift restoration. It’s a quick fix! As humans, we are drawn to renewal. I believe it is a glimpse into the now and not yet living in God’s Kingdom. God is in the business of renovating our lives for His glory. Will a setback be turned into a setup for a miraculous display of restoration? Psalm 19 begins with recordings of these kinds of sightings in the world all around us.

1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)

God appears in all aspects of creation. His presence is translated from the skies to the earth. In every 24-hour cycle, His presence is revealed from the first light to the dark of night. There is no part of earth or resident of this planet who doesn’t experience the warmth of God’s presence. He covers every inch of the world and makes Himself known over and over in so many different ways because He is so kind. He wants everyone to see and experience Him. This drives His endless creativity to show up in new ways every single day and night. Those twinkling stars, that staggering moon, and the sunrise every morning is a clear reminder that His mercies are new every morning. He’s at work in a makeover every single day.

If your schedule permits, consider getting up about thirty minutes before the sun is scheduled to rise. Check the weather app on your phone, and it will tell you when the sun will be coming up. Find a place outside where you can sit, sip coffee (a pretty essential part for me), and watch the first light of the sunrise begin to fill the sky. It’s a slow-motion reveal. Don’t take your eyes off the horizon for even a minute. A soft but growing glow begins the display. Then fingers of light poke up and out. Incrementally the sun appears and then hangs suspended between earth and the sky. So often, there is a vivid display of many colors. The sun almost appears to be paused, and yet it surges on. Finally, it is fully sprung and released to fill the sky with brightness.

This soul tending activity is a sacred practice done in the quiet hours of the early morning. It feels like a secret that God is sharing just with you. But, most of all, it is a reminder of God’s power to make all things new. A momentary glimpse into the promise of eternity in a new heaven and earth gives us strength to face another day. These are sunrise sightings of the Kingdom of God.

Lord, open my eyes to your displays of majesty. Help me to see what you are doing in the world around me every day to prove who you are. Thank you for the sunrises. Thank you for reminding me of the ways you are renewing me and your world. Amen.

When Planting Leads to Uprooting and a Reason to Lament

In the middle of February, my area of tropical southeast Texas experienced a significant snowstorm. We awoke to find a crisp blanket of snow, inches deep, as far as the eye could see. In the midst of this deep freeze, I wondered what plants and shrubs would re-emerge once the snow went away? If you had asked me at the end of March, I would have told you that it wasn’t looking good. However, the next thing I knew, green shoots surged up all over my front and back garden. These green bursts were a mixed batch of weed and plant. I have systematically worked over various flower beds by trimming back the overgrowth and pulling out the weeds. As I began the removal surgery on one particular bed, I spied a tiny oak sapling. I tried hard to gently remove it but failed. I pulled and pulled and pulled even though it was a relatively small sapling, its roots sunk deep down into the bed. Finally, I managed to excise the tiny tree with a shovel in hand, with most of its roots still attached.

Something nobody tells you about church planting is the uprooting that occurs right before you start. Leaving behind the familiar and comfortable and exchanging it for the new and uncertain is exactly where I find myself in the summer of 2021. My husband and I have felt a call to church plant for a very long time, but it never seemed quite the right season. Finally, months ago, God made it clear to us it was time. However, obedience is costly and painful, and my wise daughter told me just days before our final Sunday at our old church, “Mom, you’ve got to feel all the feels.”

It is challenging to feel uprooted and untethered as we launch out and away from the wonderful group of believers we have worshiped alongside for over two decades. So I am going to have to leave some room for lament in this season of transition.

In the second half of Psalm 42, (I looked at the first half of Psalm 42 last week. Follow the link to see that post. https://wordpress.com/post/antheakotlan.com/416.) David started with a desperately thirsty deer, and he circles back to water again by calling to mind the sound of waves and waterfalls.

7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 
(Psalm 42:8 ESV)

Waves and waterfalls move with power and loud sounds. A simple flow of water carved the Grand Canyon. Water is indeed the universal solvent. Waves wear down inches of sand from beaches around the world. However, God’s love is steadfast and unchanging. It does not get worn away by the ebb and flow of tides or water flows.
In times of deep sadness and lament, I have a profound need within my soul to cry out to the only one capable of plumbing those depths. This level of need requires a supernatural remedy. Only God can handle such profound wounding in me, and when I try to call other people to meet me in the depth of my suffering, they may be pulled into something that will overwhelm them.

Sometimes I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night with worries and concerns. In the darkness, a song about God’s faithfulness can encourage me. The familiar lyrics take me on a journey to the refrain that brings truth deeply down into my heart. Music is a powerful reminder and force to lift moods and provide comfort. Singing a praise and worship song or listening to Christian music can transform the atmosphere in significant ways.

9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10 ESV)

Verses 9 and 10 vividly reveal the cyclical nature of grief. I believe I have moved forward, and yet a fresh wave of grieving hits me hard again and again. My enemy, sometimes my own inner critic, gets louder in these moments. I have to counter all this with God’s truth. I choose to stand on the rock of God’s word by intentionally recalling to my mind what I know for certain. I can counter the enemy’s caustic narrative and endless questions with God’s promises to me.

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 ESV)

This final verse acknowledges the pain and then states the truth worth standing on in the midst of the storm of grief. “Hope in God…” In response to this truth, I shall choose to praise God as I grasp a rung of the ladder out of the pit of grief. I will likely find myself here again, but I have a map contained in Psalm 42 to guide me back to the only one capable of handling all my deep feelings. He is my salvation and my God.

Lord, thank you for your kindness in providing a remedy for grief. You know me, you see my tears, and my despair is not too much for you. May I always run to you and entrust you with my sadness. Help me to take time to lament today. Keep me from stuffing down sadness and denying my loss. For in the leaving and the letting go, you have even more for me than I could ask for or imagine. You alone are my hope. Amen.

Are You Giving Margin for Lament?

(Actual photo of the deer that treat my front yard as a salad bar.)

Everyone I know experienced loss in 2020. Job loss, death, illness, cancellation of special events, long months of separation from loved ones, financial struggles, depression, strain on marriages, anxiety and more was served up in abundance to everyone.

What do I do when faced with a sad situation, a significant loss or a painful transition?

I believe there is a need, hard-wired into our soul, to grieve, process and lament pain. Stuffing it down only lengthens the healing pathway or avoids it entirely.

Psalm 42 is written as a lament. It begins with the vivid picture of thirsty animal.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1-2 ESV

The Master Designer of humans created me with a need for Him. My soul literally thirsts and hungers to be in God’s presence. Far too often shame, guilt, sadness, and depression keep me from running to the only one who can fill my needs. I might even try to satisfy myself with people and things, but only God can water my parched soul.

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:3-4 ESV

In times of deep grieving my tears have truly been my food day and night. Sometimes well-meaning friends offer empty platitudes or pointed questions that provide no hope or encouragement. While I long to gather in God’s house, I’m pouring out what little energy I might have left on my grief journey. The steps in processing grief must be taken one by one. Rushing back into a festival or celebration would be disorienting until the work of grieving in completed.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
and my God.My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

Part of any grieving journey requires some soul searching and an exploration of why. My own feeling sometimes surprises me. My hope is found in God and that is a handhold in the dark way that must be traveled. Can I call to mind times of God’s faithfulness in my life? Making a list might bring a fresh spring of encouragement. The psalmist recalls the unchanging landmarks in the land where he lives as he travels the uncertain territory of processing grief. What are the places where God has shown himself large and active in my life? Shall I place a stone of remembrance there to bear testimony of what He has done for me?

Thank you, God that you provide a map for traveling the pathway of grieving. You give abundant margin for me to bring all my deepest and darkest feelings to you. You are always available to hear my cries. You never tire of reminding me of what you have done for me. Help me to travel the grieving pathway at your pace. Not running ahead or giving up but moving ever forward to great healing that can only come from you. AMEN

How do you leave margin to process grief? I would love to hear your thoughts.

How Can I Avoid Anger’s Trap?

What is a trap? Something that collects and keeps something else that eventually may or may not be released.

I believe that anger a problem because it could lead to some damaging words or actions. However, it is also a problem if it is stuffed down deep into our souls. I believe there it can cause deep and lasting damage. Eventually, the anger may surprise us with how heavy it has become. Much like a stone that is weighing us down.

There is nothing like sitting on hard plastic chairs for hours waiting for my turn in a line moving like molasses to bring out the very best in me. Recently I spent most of a Monday assisting my eighty-year-old mother with renewing her driver’s license at a local office of the Department of Public Safety. I had made an “online appointment” three months earlier but arrived and found two very long lines snaking out into the parking lot. We waited in these lines for about twenty minutes and discovered we were missing a document. We got back in the car and drove home to find it and just over an hour later, we returned to begin the process again. This time, after the thirty-minute wait outside, we gained access to the building and found our way to those hard plastic chairs. We waited there for two more hours. As we sat together, I began to notice more and more people were processed through and all the while my mother’s name was not called. Finally, frustration was boiling over in my heart and mind. My inner advocate propelled me up from my seat to ask, as politely as I could, how much longer we might have to wait. The receptionist went to go check and I found out that my mother’s name had never been re-entered into the queue. We were then assured that we would be the very next customer.

Honestly, when I realized an error had been made, harsh words almost spilled from my mouth. An hour earlier my mother had tried to advocate for herself with this receptionist, and she had been dismissed. I swallowed my frustration hard as I sat back down to wait about twenty more hard-plastic-chair minutes, which I believe should count twice. When I finally arrived back home, about eight hours after I had initially left my house, I did not process all that anger and aggravation. Those strong feelings turned into hard rocks that weighed me down for weeks. Good soul care requires that I be proactive and find healthy ways to process anger, fear, shame, and guilt. While the employees of the DPS are not my enemies, my disappointment with mistakes made can operate like strategic plots by an enemy power that seeks to keep me away from my Father’s business. What happened was a minor inconvenience, but I know it caused a great deal of stress for my mother. She now dreads ever having to return there.

Last week on the blog I wrote about the first half of Psalm 5. Click on this link to see the post. https://antheakotlan.com/2021/06/16/how-can-i-be-angry-and-sin-not/

This week I am going to look at verses 7-12 to see how I could have handled my anger better.
In the second half of Psalm 5 (verses 7-12), David continues to pour out his angry heart to God. He reminds himself of God’s character and asks God for what he needs.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

Psalm 5:7-8 ESV

Keep me in fellowship with you in your house. I thank you that I can approach you this day because of what you have done for me in abundance. I praise you this day for your mercy. Your love is my compass and provision. Please, don’t let my enemies, mistakes others make, or the unfairness of everyday life distract me from living out the life you have for me. Keep me on track with you and in step with you. I entrust you with all my disappointments and trust you to make these situations work out for my benefit, and for those I love.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction, their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
My enemies speak fluent deception, and even their compliments tear down. Please settle the score on my behalf and send them away. While they seek their own counsel, help me to always seek your wisdom first. You are my advocate.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:9-12 ESV

Running into your safe embrace is worthy of celebration. In your presence, I can sing and praise you in peaceful protection. There is always enough room for me in your presence. I choose to give thanks for all you are doing for me and those I love. I will take time today to hide with you.

Last week I talked about my granddaughter throwing a tantrum. One of the most tender moments I have witnessed is when my tall son-in-law bends down to the ground and looks into his tiny daughter’s eyes. He says, “I can see that you have some big feelings right now. Please use your words and tell Daddy what you need.” Psalm 5 is my heavenly father’s message to me to come to him and use my words to let him know what I need. He longs to hear from me and for me to express my anger and hurt with words, cries, and groans. He alone is always a safe place to run.

Lord, thank you. You are my Jehovah Jirah and you have everything I need. You are always ready to hold me in my angry moments and help me process through all my big feelings. Only you can help me avoid the trap of anger that leads to sin. Amen.

How do you process anger in a healthy way?

How Can I Be Angry and Sin Not?

Sometimes my two-year-old granddaughter’s entire body displays her displeasure with life and or a directive from me. Her tiny balled-up fists jerk about, her bottom lip protrudes, as a steady stream of “no, no, no,” alerts everyone to her frustration. As a toddler, her vocabulary might be limited, but her feelings are made crystal clear.

Flashpoint anger flares in my heart. Sometimes it catches me by surprise, but other times it is been on a slow simmer for hours or even days. As a child, I was trained in the ways of emotional suppression. Anger was never acceptable, and all unpleasant emotional responses were to be squashed down post-haste.

So how do I “be angry and sin not?” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV) According to the rest of this passage, I’m not even supposed to let the sun go down on my anger. So much for sleeping it off!

I believe that God provided the psalms for soul care. Each one is designed to help process difficult emotional reactions like sadness, fear, anger, and joy. Today I’m looking at Psalm 5.

King David knew a little about anger and frustration. He opens Psalm 5 by begging God to hear him.

1Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
(Psalm 5:1-2 ESV)

David asked God to hear not only his words but also his feelings expressed in groanings and cries. He pours out all of his frustration directly to his loving heavenly father. Processing anger with God is a healthy option for David and for me. God may already know everything, but he longs to hear from me even when it’s negative. I can afford to get real with God. Psalm 5 provides a liturgy for me to use to process my anger with God.


O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (Psalm 5:3-4 ESV)

Thank you, LORD, that I am truly seen and heard by you. As I wait for you, I lay before you my life and beg for your intervention. Life is hard right now and things seem very unfair. When I spend time with you, God, I can take a break from the evils of this world. In your presence are peace, joy, and light.

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:5-6 ESV)

Lord, thank you that you will level the playing field and it is not up to me to fetch justice for myself or my loved ones. You will handle all those who frustrate me or cause pain. Lord, guard my heart against becoming deceptive especially towards myself. Help me to have an accurate view of myself and others based on your truth. Only you can help me to acknowledge my anger and sin not. Amen.

The first half of Psalm 5 provides so much that is needed to process through anger. Next week, I’ll be looking at the final six verses to see the completion of this process.

Psalm 16: A Remedy for Soul Weary Days

Are you tired? Are you worn out?

God’s guidance continues to challenge me to dismantle the influence of hustle culture on my life.  For decades I’ve been immersed in the need to do more, work harder, and keep going. My type A personality struggles to avoid the trap that hems me in on all sides with chaos of competing calls to never stop. I will never arrive or complete what is most essential according to the world. Choosing the narrow way, and daily exposure to God’s directive for time management realigns my priorities.

The second half of Psalm 16 gives special direction for finding a place of refuge that refuels me on my journey. The ever forward motion can cease when I pause and rest with God. (See last week’s blog post for the first half of Psalm 16 https://antheakotlan.com/2021/06/02/psalm-16-gods-prescription-for-rest/.)

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

When the dark of the night surrounds me it is easy to become disoriented and discouraged. How often has sleep been stolen by anxiety’s grip in the middle of the night, pulling back the covers and causing fears to loom larger? The worst dilemma is not facing a difficult decision, but it is actually the lack of clarity. In the night God will show up and give guidance. Perhaps it is in the night, when I finally get still, I can hear His voice above the hustle of this world.   

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

My rest is even found in celebrating in the security of my now and not yet. In a world full of anxiety and threats, I can rest assured in soul security found only in the Lord. I can know my eternal soul is safe forever in the company of God.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

True soul tending rest delivers gladness and thankfulness. I know where I am going with God. He will never leave me or forsake me. He has revealed a way to live in His presence, and I can escape an exhausting cycle of second guessing, criticizing myself, and striving to do more and more. The joy found in the presence of God is soul sustaining for the ongoing journey of life this side of heaven.

Lord, teach me to take time away with you to restore my soul in the rest. I choose to listen to the faithful counsel of your word and sit with you and rejoice. All I need is right here with you. Amen.

How do you find rest?

Psalm 16: God’s Prescription for Rest

I am comfortable living in hustle culture. The work harder, do more, don’t give up message ricochets through my mind every single day on repeat. God’s call to rest is not easy for me for me to answer. I love to check things off a list, track my steps, and multi-task.

Psalm 16 is a prayer that provides God’s instructions for rest because the creator of the universe, and the maker of me, knows my design capacity. He knows the lure and seductive nature of hustle culture and the lies it tells. He offers a counter narrative.

1Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

Notice the verb, take. I must actively take the refuge God offers. This offer of refuge is much like a prescription given to me by a medical doctor. It must be taken daily to be effective. Refuge will not come upon me unless I choose it, plan for it, and seek it.  I might have to give up other activities in order to slip away to the place of refuge. I will never arrive there on autopilot.

Do I really believe, “I have no good apart from you”? There’s a song that I remember singing. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel) When I do focus entirely on Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, everything, everyone, every screaming deadline, and item on the to do list fades away. I discover the reality of what is truly important…only things of an eternal nature.

I spend entirely too much of my time being distracted. All in the name of efficient multi-tasking, I often do many things at one time. However, when I come fully into God’s presence, and unplug from the noise of this world, I can take refuge in Him. Refuge is a place set apart to be alone with God and soak in His presence. In that quiet time, I gain clarity on my priorities.

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

God designed me to serve and worship him in a faith community. Even in a time of Covid, I have to find ways to connect and not become isolated. There is rest found in the gathering together with God’s people. I need others to lift me up in prayer, teach me, challenge me, and keep me accountable. Just as I would do those things for other members of the body. Attempting to follow God on my own is exhausting and leaves no margin for rest. God calls me to find delight in community.

Just as I seek community with a like-minded people of faith, I also need to be wary of those who “run after another god.” Some of the nicest people you could ever meet, might not be seeking Jesus. I must be discerning in how I spend time with unbelievers. Time spent with unbelievers can be draining. While I am called to be a witness to a watching world, I am also called to guard what I take into my life.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

A grateful heart finds satisfaction in listing all that God has provided. Do I allow myself to buy into the world’s idea of scarcity, or do I see the way the LORD has provided my portion, my cup, my lot and my beautiful inheritance? God has given me everything I could ever need for now and for eternity. Will I consider a soul tending reset?

How do you find rest when you are busy? Do you ever get caught up in hustle culture?

Next week, I will unpack the rest of Psalm 16 as a prescription for rest. There are five more verses that are rich with clear direction regarding finding rest in the land of hustle.

Lord, help me to see how I can intentionally seek rest in you. Help take that time away with you and guard my mind when I do. Help me to escape the “do more” lure. Draw me into the shelter of your surrounding presence. Amen