Last week there was a day I stayed home from my studio and waited all day for a delivery. We’d ordered a credenza for the office. During this quarantine, people have been doing a lot of jigsaw puzzles. This credenza was a puzzle on steroids. It came in four huge boxes and it took some time to put together. I put off assembling it, but Mike (my hero) took the bull by the horns and spent a day (and all night) putting it together. Now I have one less excuse for getting the office put back in order.
Excuses. So many excuses for not engaging life. When I think of two of my dearest friends - Jan and Cindy, both gone now - I realized that both women really engaged life. In different ways and in different things, but they both really explored the world and various interests.
Instead of engagement, I’ve used excuses.
I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have enough money and that I needed any spare dime put into my art career. While that was true when I was starting out, I now have a well supplied studio and I have more than enough.
I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have enough time because I was caring first for my mother and then for my in-laws. Sadly, they are gone. I did take good care of them but now my time has opened up yet I still hang back.
I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have anyone to do things with anymore. When you lose a friend that’s almost like a sister it does leave a gaping hole in your life. There is no getting around that. And life will never be quite the same again because each of us is a unique poem. In fact in scripture we are called God’s masterpieces. The Greek for that word is poema. We are each a poem and there’s no replacement for a truly lovely poem. But I’m well aware that there are other lonely people out there who have also experienced loss that I could reach out to and start to build relationships with.
All these excuses are basically a way to mask anxiety. What if I fail? What if people hate me and reject me? What if I can’t figure out what I’m “supposed” to do? These questions sound ridiculous when I write them on the page.
Of course I’ll fail. I’ve failed before and it wasn’t fatal. In fact, it’s a way to learn and grow. Of course some people hate me and reject me. You can’t please everyone. And I know what I’m supposed to do…walk justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Add to that to open up my training and experiences to God and let him run with it.
It’s not rocket science so it’s time to stop making excuses.
During the quarantine, our church has been doing a study of Psalm 91 and I decided to do a calligraphic meditation on it. So for a couple of weeks, I would take one verse and write it out to try to create a cohesive block of work on the theme of that passage. Writing it this way, slowly and carefully, made me ponder it in ways I haven’t before. I tend to read quickly and when doing this particular writing style, I had to slow down and really meditate on what I was writing.
While I was doing that, two women from our church have been writing thoughtful, daily devotionals about their meditations of each verse. If you're interested in it, you can find it at this link: http://lakeeffect.church/91-for-91/.
I have known people who claim this psalm for themselves as a good luck charm…that if they recite it enough and believe hard enough that nothing bad will happen to them. That is not what the scriptures promise.
Rebecca Sytsema, author and co-pastor of Lake Effect Church in Grand Rapids, is one of the devotional writers for this Psalm. In today’s meditation, she wrote:
Because Psalm 91 is not a guarantee that we will not face difficult times, nor that we will be spared from death. If that were the case, we would have millennia-old relatives running around! But, Psalm 91 is written about a God who has a jealous, fervent, militant love for His
children. It is written about a God who is not impotent, weak, or unwilling to move on our behalf.
She would know. Her eldest son is low functioning autistic. He’s non-verbal, functions at a toddler level and is built like a linebacker. He also had COVID-19 last week and had to be hospitalized which is a situation he does not understand and fights. Was it easy? No. Was there a miracle of God’s rescue. Yes. Did it involve medical attention from a fabulous staff? You betcha. This miracle of Nick’s quick turn around (he was out of the hospital in 48 hours) involved a good amount of struggle, effort and incredible determination on Becky’s part (who, by the way, is half of Nick’s size). And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer from hundreds of people worldwide.
Psalm 91 isn’t a good luck charm. It’s not about getting the results we want. I encourage you to do a deeper reading of it. One of the themes is God’s aid in helping us overcome and about His presence in our times of trouble. It's about His love.
I leave you with the last passage I illumined. Blessings on you in this time of quarantine.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.