Resilience: The Ability to Thrive under Pressure

What does it Take to Thrive Under Pressure?

Moss in Bar Harbor at Low Tide

Part of the Poetry Project
Suggested by a Reading of Psalm 12

Read Psalm 12

“There is no strength left in the world of men.”

—Elrond, in The Fellowship of the Ring,
by J.R.R. Tolkein

Resilience is the ability to thrive under pressure.

I have seen some remarkable examples of resilience in life. Double amputees overcoming the loss of both legs to resume life with gusto; Girls with MS running (and winning) races and collapsing into coaches arms at the finish line. And then there is that rock in the picture above.

You see it? It’s the green one bathed in sunlight. For more between 12-16 hours a day, 365 days a year, that rock is under at least 12 feet of ocean salt water in Acadia, Maine. And yet, that moss is resilient. It persists. Despite all that it must endure, it grows, it thrives. Cut off from light, under the weight of several tons of briny water, the moss clings to that rock and continues to endure. It’s a remarkable picture of resilience.

That kind of resilience in Americans is becoming harder and harder to find.

But that kind of resilience or perseverance is what David is aiming at in Psalm 12 when he cries out to God for salvation. He feels alone. The godly and faithful ones have vanished. He is surrounded by the mouths of flatterers he knows he can’t trust. And so he cries out for rescue and God answers. This psalm is rooted in the dirty, earthy, mess of the “children of men” (cf. vs 1, 8). This is a reality check psalm. It begins in a harrowing situation and ends with “the wicked prowling” on every side.

But in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the psalm is hope of the righteous. God will arise (vs. 5), place in safety (vs. 5b), keep and guard (vs. 7) those who are His. Hope belongs to the one who in the midst of pain, and sorrow, and heartache, and fear, and the wicked choices of others cling to the “pure words” of the YHWH (vs. 6).

Clinging to a Rock

Solid rock, firm and sure
The kind of rock to build a house on
That can’t be moved
Because You won’t be moved.

Our hope and trust
Our eyes object when we don’t know what to do
Our treasure when other treasures are taken
Our joy when other joys are removed
Is always, must always be, You,
And the words that You have spoken
When others speak only lies.

“All we get to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”  

—Gandalf

Resilience comes from trusting in the ONE who is always faithful. Resilience comes when we decide to trust Him in the time that we are given.

Go to Psalm 13

The King and a Blade of Dry Grass (a meditation)

Wednesday is for Prayer

Backyard 3Sleep is over-rated. One hour, and then toss, switch sides, too hot, toilet, a thousand thoughts, turn them into prayers, what was that sound?, more thoughts, more prayers, give up, rise, light on, rearrange bed, locate Bible, listen to the voice of God.

Last night, reading, praying, meditating on Psalm 93. This.

Part of “The Poetry Project, an offering for Psalm 93

Read Psalm 93

The King and a Blade of Dry Grass

Robed and covered,
.      surrounded with majesty,
the Lord is enthroned with glory and power.
What He establishes is unmoveable,

And you?
You puny little man,
who are you?
You are a breath, a blade of dry grass,
and yet,
.      a little lower than an angel
.      the bearer of a Kings image,
a King whose might is greater than the waves that would crush you
or the floods that would drown you.

You,
.      you puny little man,
    .  you are not mighty.
But He to whom you belong,
He is mighty, and every word He decrees is trust-tested worthy.

Remember that and live,
for holiness saturates His dwelling place.

Go to Psalm 94.

Delighting in Undeserved Gifts

The Poetry Project Continues

Poems for Psalms
(Part of the “Poetry Project”)

Suggested by Psalm 127

In December of 2009 or there abouts, my son, Marty Schoenleber III (aka Marty S. Dalton), put a video up on Youtube.com. It inspired me to keep working on a project I thought of a couple of years ago. The idea is to write a poem of personal reflection for each Psalm in the psalter.  Some of the poems are preceded by a brief commentary.

Please don’t think of any of these offerings as high art. I’m not that talented. Think of them as the musings of one desperate and poor man’s desire to draw nearer to Christ.

One more thing: It is always best to read the psalm or the verses being commented on first.

Read Psalm 127

Delighting in Undeserved Gifts

Psalm 127:1–5
Reworking and thinking Solomon’s Psalm.

We received what You delighted to give
.     and the delights have continued to live
It was You who built our house
.     and our labor with You has not been in vain.
We have watched You guard this house
.     and all subtractions have been gain.

The vanity of doing life without You
.     is a painful and ill-fruited labor
But You give rest and peace to the heart fixed on You.

These children, … these children are such gifts 
.      The fruit of my bride’s womb is beyond imagining.
And now the arrows are released from a broken warriors hand;
.      my youth is spent; the horizon shortens.
But I am a blessed man whose quiver, though empty now;
.      Is not ashamed by thoughts of them
.      and the battles they will fight and win.

.      When the enemies of You stand at the gate and rage.

Go to Psalm 128

To Mourn Well: Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Original Musical Composition by Aubre Schoenleber to Accompany Poetry Project

Read Psalm 16

Suggested by a Reading of Psalm 16
Part of the Poetry Project

Lament (How Long O Lord)A Miktam.

Nobody knows what Miktam means. It only occurs in six places (Psalm 16, 56-60). One interesting note is that each of the psalms it appears in breathe an atmosphere of lamentation or urgent supplication. The psalmist is in pain and emotionally distraught. He is in agony because of the sin that he sees around him. And out of that profound agony, he cries out to God for relief. This particular psalm is a messianic psalm. Below I have re-cast its words as if Christ Himself is praying the psalm.

Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame
Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Christ knew he was to die for the sins of men. He mourned and cried out to the Father in the midst of His agony in the garden. But he knew also that He would rise. These mysteries are great but He is also our model.

We have much to lament, much to mourn in our age. But we don’t hear much lamentation in the church. We should.

On our watch,

  • abortion on demand became the law of the land
  • abortion has ended the lives of 57 million children
  • the corruption of our political system took place
  • divorce has become common place
  • marriage has been dishonored
  • marriage has been redefined
  • college students can’t tell you who we fought in the revolutionary war
  • college students can’t tell you who George Washington was
  • or what the civil war was fought over
  • sexuality has been redefined
  • Jesus and his word are dishonored
  • Church attendance is at its lowest point in the last 80 years
  • Christian giving averages only 2.5% of income
  • and younger generations replacing the old give even less
  • TV sells alternative lifestyles as normal in nearly every program
  • and with all of this, God’s people seem to have little interest in prayer

In short, there is much that we should be crying out to God about. And that is what lament is all about. Psalm 16 is a good place to begin.

Hope from Agony

 I am a refugee seeking protection.

 Declaring, “The LORD is My shepherd;
.        and all My wants are satisfied in You.”
All those invited to Your banquet hall

.        are My delightful friends.
The sorrows of those who turn their back on You shall increase;
.       But You are My guide, I will not follow their example
.        or proclaim their passions as My own;
 You are the one who fills My cup

.        and holds My future in Your hands.

 It may not look like it now;
.        but My inheritance is a promised and beautiful thing.
 My heart will delight in Your counsel;
.        and the sleep I lose will be spent in Your presence. 
 You will be before Me in every scary moment;
.        so nothing will shake Me.
 My heart has risen from the depths and My whole being rejoices;
.        because I dwell in security.
10  For there is no way that You will abandon Me.
.        You won’t let Your Son end in the grave.
11  You make the path of life crystal clear;
.        and in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
.        at Your right hand pleasures never end.

Go to Psalm 17

There are Things that are Certain

Thursday Afternoon Musings

Read Psalm 46

Corn coming up in the field
Backyard Stillness

Another offering for the poetry project.

The psalmist knows his God.

  • God is our refuge (vs. 1)
  • He is our present help (vss. 1, 5)
  • He is in our midst. (v. 5)
  • He is the LORD of hosts (vss. 7, 11)
  • He is the God of Jacob (vss. 7, 11)
  • He is the only God (vs. 10)

This is what the sons of Korah know of their God and so the “therefore” of verse 2 is the perfect expression of their hope and ours:

“therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, 
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.”

Still your heart in the midst of pain. Take refuge in the surety of God’s promises. He is with you. Remember.

Suggestion:
Read Psalm 46 out loud. Read it again. Read it again and again till your soul melts under its truth and His Spirit remolds your hope, because there are things that are certain.

There are Things that are Certain

The Lord of hosts is with us
The God of Jacob is with us

There are things that are sure
There are things that are certain
There are things that must happen
Because a faithful God has declared it

No matter the trouble
No matter our fears
No matter our terror
No matter what is happening around us
No matter how we are betrayed, unvalued, despised, disdained, dismissed, rejected, or misunderstood
No matter how much sorrow is poured into us

No matter the tumult and confusion that surround us
No matter the desolations of war or the loses of time

There are things that nothing can stop
There are promises that can never be undone
There are glories yet to be seen

You will make the wars to cease
You will break every instrument and plan
You will burn the weapons of war

So here in this moment
Here in this place
We will remember that You are God
You are with us 
You are in our midst
We will cease striving and remember that You are God
You are here
The Lord of hosts is with us
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

 Go to Psalm 47

“Surely Every Man is a Mere Breath”

Tuesday is for Prayer

Read Psalm 39

A Bird's Breath on a Cool Morning or a Cloud?
A Bird’s Breath on a Cool Morning or a Cloud?

We only slow down when we hurt. The rest of the time, we run around like we know what we are doing and stay just ahead of the puppy barking at our heals calling us to stop and pet him. He won’t bite. He wants to play. God is always trying to slow me down and get me to think, and reflect, and wonder, and repent, and cry, and rejoice. Me? I am always rushing ahead with “stuff” that I think is important and He thinks is silly. He’s right and I’m stupid.

So finally He gives the blessing of a sleepless night and in the silence, He speaks through His word. This morning at 4 AM it is Psalm 39 and I put pen to paper to force myself to slow down, to not just read but to meditate and reflect. Poetry shouldn’t explain everything. It should force us to reach beyond our immediate conscious awareness. Good poetry, like my sons, suggests unseen worlds and hints at future glory.

My poetry is unworthy of the name. There is little artistic beauty and skill in my too-cluttered brain. But these words captured for me what David was going through and how he found hope in the midst of a crushing weight. We will all have that moment. When you have yours, Psalm 39 wouldn’t be a bad place to spend some time.

Another offering to The Poetry Project

Surely Every Man is a Mere Breath

A speaker struck speechless,
A giver of words now wordless,
A singer with no more songs,
Choking on nothing left and everything that remains,
With a worsening sorrow and an implacable hope.

There are no words left.
No arguments to be made
Only prayers to be prayed
An anguished selah of recognition
Affliction’s good and bitter fruit is born

I want a dictionary that can remove scales.
I want a language that explains mysteries.
I want a library of perfect wisdom.

   .    dropping from shelf-limbs as I look up
.       to receive their bounty.
But the time is past.
All words are tintiddles.
The moment is gone.
The library has burned to the ground.
And the dictionary no longer is around.

Sinners live with consequences.
Some they create and some they inherit
David created many.
How did he survive the wreckage of his pain?

“My hope is in You.”  
He saw Your hand;
He cried for Your mercy;
He held to his hope;
He held on to You. 
With every reproof,
When he knew he was a breath,
He held on to You.

“I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner like all the heroes before me”
O God make me like them,
Make me like them, for You.

Go to Psalm 40

Addendum: Just saw that I already covered this Psalm in March of this year. That post focused on verses 7-11 and was titled “Tomorrow”. In my Bible, Psalm 39 is laid out in 13 verses and 36 lines. I tried to constrain my thoughts to 36 lines as well.

“Friday Night” Party Night

alcoholJust spent 20 minutes talking on the phone with a man I have never met who called up the pastor (me) of his father’s former church. He was emotional, drunk, broken, guilt ridden and longing, in the emptiness of all the choices that hollowed his life out, for a return to a more innocent time.

I was able to pray with him and give him my cell phone number. I gave him the name of a solid church in his area (about 60 miles away from here but closer to him).  I invited him to sit down and have a cup of coffee when he passes through this area in the future and assured him that I would be praying for him.

It was a sad goodbye. He’s alone. He’s hurting. And the odds are good, that when he sobers up, he will think that his phone call (if he remembers it) was silly or pointless. But the message of Psalm 4 is otherwise.

For a reflection on the goodness of sober choices see: “Friday Night” Party Night.