Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life...
~ Psalm 23: 5 (NKJV)
Hmm…I don’t know about late night pizza cooking up a stew of dreams, but I have noticed…words and pictures do.
Especially the ones that are still circling in my mind, or entering just before the last click of my remote and bed…
Indulging in one last flip of the stations the other night, I came across a PBS documentary of 70’s singer-songwriter Nilsson. Somehow, as much as his music had been a soundtrack to my growing up years, I’d never seen his picture, known anything more than his sweet, sometimes delightfully quirky sound that holds nostalgia close in heart. Who is this guy, I’d often wondered as a teen. Now I would find out.
Wondrously creative. Endearingly remembered by many of his close friends and listeners. Mixed up, lonely, brokenhearted and abandoned by his father at two years old… Searching for God’s rainbow…following after tragedy… All of these could describe this nice-looking young man lost much too young…
And as weariness pushed me to bed without finishing the show, some of his old lyrics whispered their heart of melodies across my pillow…
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know… (I loved discovering the story behind this song… of the day he’d been stuck on a phone with a persistent waiting dial tone…when suddenly it sparked his creating the clever repeating sound in the background…)
The tender song lines he wove so integrally into a warm old TV program about the love between a widower dad and his young son…
And one of my most favorites…from his song, Remember….
life was clear;
close your eyes…
think of all that
life can be;
life is never
as it seems;
Into my dreams that night came the oddest storyline. “Where did that come from?” I abruptly awoke asking…
A faceless guy friend and I had been trying to help some children who seemed alone. I’m not sure if they were orphans, or how they came into our homes, but they became like our own in many ways. One day a little boy…maybe three years old… appeared out of nowhere and began to terrorize the others, spewing angry words, beating at all of us with his doubled-up fists. We tried reasoning, disciplining, comforting… nothing softened his struggling heart. Often we prayed for him, but hurt and fight was all he seemed to know… a charcoal cloud literally engulfing and following after him.
I don’t remember all the details, but a moment came when we were going to have to make him leave if one more horrific tantrum erupted. It seemed inevitable, but I hoped against it. For I was somehow elected to handle it. Things were smooth, then it happened. I grabbed him up, scooping his tiny body high into the air and began running with him outside in the street, when something spoke into my heart to ask him a few questions…much more grown up questions than I’d normally ask a small child.
“What words do you hear in your thoughts, right now?” I asked, still running, flying him down the street.
Weeping, he choked out, “I’m alone. No one likes me. No one ever will.”
I stopped and put him down. “Why do you think that?” I asked.
Trembling in my arms, he muttered, “Because I am unlovable. My dad said so when he left me–”
I turned him around to face me. “Now…what words have you heard from my friend and I while you’ve been here?”
He sniffled, looked up at me, tears smearing his cheeks. “I am beloved,” he whispered. “You want to be my friend. There is a Father who treasures me and calls me a good boy.”
“Which words do you want to believe?” I asked him gently.
And… woke up.
Suddenly, as I thought this story over, I was painting thoughts about words and their power, like swirling so many colors to make a new one on a palette, and thinking of this blog post. I remembered asking Him the night before for an idea…
“But God… what an odd dream! Where did this come from?” I pondered, thinking too how unusual it was for me to remember a dream so vividly, even one minute after waking. Always elusive and out the door before I can grasp them.
“Nilsson…,” whispered, an illuminating thought. Then, I remembered. He was the two year old boy whose life was forever changed, according to the PBS account. They’d even shown a dear photo of him at that age – blond, curly haired, eyes smiling behind a sadness. Always deeply insecure. Forever struggling against demons that eventually stole all the joy and beauty he was to create… left lost, not knowing or believing how deeply one Father loved him…THE Father…
I don’t know if he ever found out…
But something else from that dream emerged and reiterated ideas I’ve been thinking a lot about these last few years.
How no matter how much we love and follow the Lord, we often speak out lies that He would never tell us. Words that essentially call Him a liar. Maybe hundreds of times a week. Proclaim them over and against ourselves in everyday clichés, or words that falsely seem like inevitable. Or couch them in the guise of just being realistic. (After all, we have to face life, right?) Sometimes they are even said slightly tongue in cheek, but even so, establish doubt in our hearts.
And how those words stab at God’s heart.
“With my luck, I’m going to catch the flu, lose my job in this economy… for sure.”
“I am SO stupid, when will I ever learn?”
” I just have to live with this pain and sorrow…”
“I’m probably going to have, or I’m worried that I’m going to have, or I KNOW I’m going to have [name the disease or ailment] because it ‘runs’ in my family…”
“I know God heals…but he didn’t heal so and so, so maybe I just have to go through the worst…”
“I am just unlucky.”
I think those expressions stab Him…because Lent and Easter show us just how much the Lord suffered to rid us of those deceptions… exchange the curse of death for the blessing of life, here and now, restore us to choosing life with our words. The power of life and death in our tongues…
Reading many scriptures out loud to myself this Lent, verses of his promises about light and life and healing, I suddenly see something. God has been planting them inside me and I feel like sprouts of faith are coming up…stronger as I lean into what He tells me instead of how things appear. Or fears that others pronounce as true, no matter how well-meaning.
That there is no such thing as being lucky or unlucky. I AM blessed, because He says so. That my life is not determined by what has happened to someone else, even if they are in my bloodline. “Think on what is lovely, and true, and these things will guard your heart with peace…” He has set a guard with peace around my soul, but I must align my words with His, or the protection is compromised… like a hole in a wall…
I first began to listen to words coming out of my mouth a few years ago. So many seemingly innocuous things… but, nevertheless, words of death. So many typical sayings laced with them.
“I’m blown away.”
“I’m deadly serious.”
“I feel sick and tired.”
“You are giving me a heart attack.”
“I died laughing.”
Those may seem like silliness…but if words hold life and death, shouldn’t we put a watch on the ones we say even in jest?
I remember a time a few years ago when everything seemed to be predicting a bad situation ahead. Fear overtook my heart and I struggled for the peace God promises.
“O God,” I cried silently, wringing my hands at all the ‘what ifs.’ “I want to look at this realistically, but –“
“What IS real?” He seemed to interrupt my thoughts.
“We-ell…,” I started.
“Do you believe what I say or what the world says about your situation?”
“I want to believe You,” I answered.
“If you’re going to trust Me with a steadfast heart, you cannot allow ‘bad news’ to enter your heart,” He seemed to say, gently as I read those very words in Psalm 112. “Water your heart with My truth, not what you see. Don’t stake claim to lies with your words and thoughts. Find what I say and speak those words out.”
“Yes!” I thought. I’d been approaching this problem from what awful things MIGHT happen, or what so called statistics or economy or the world say will happen, rather than believing in God who always speaks light.
I could say, trouble is coming.
Or I can say with God…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days…
With all things looking like the problem is insurmountable, I can easily speak fear out of a pounding heart…
Or I can believe and say with the Psalmist, God is surrounding me with songs of victory, no matter what things look like!
Trouble and sorrow have dogged me long enough. How about you? Do you feel engulfed by your own charcoal cloud right now? I heard an acronym last night that flowed peace like a river over some worrisome thoughts plaguing me this week…all the things that seem to be overwhelming at the moment for me and those I love:
FEAR = false evidence appearing real.
What is real? Every life-giving word from God’s mouth. Yes, they often go against the “reality” that life or experience seem to suggest. All the more reason to take our every thought captive and decide to speak out His. To say… NO. Enough. I will choose to believe what God’s words say.
No matter what things look like…
I am His beloved and He is mine. His banner over me is Love.
He keeps me in the shadow of His wing. Lifts me out of the pit and puts me high on a rock.
Surely… (no doubt, no excuse, no way that it will not happen)… He assigns Goodness and Mercy to follow me. (I wonder if there are two huge angels who are named Goodness and Mercy? 🙂 ) And you.
Not for an hour. Not here and there. But ALL our days.
When those doubt-filled words of what the world calls being realistic slither across my lips… O to remember to look behind me…
And in this resurrection season, in a time when everything may seem to be falling apart or swimming us in over our heads, O I pray that for you too.
And that we keep before us…The stone has rolled away. He is risen.
© Pam Depoyan