Sarah Dickey on Psalm 90:12

On Ash Wednesday, I quoted an interaction I had with Sarah Dickey over email about the verse we were looking at (Psalm 90:12) and what God has taught her through the loss of her husband last year to an aggressive form of cancer. Many asked me if I could send them what I shared, and Sarah graciously allowed me to share this more broadly. I pray it’s encouraging!

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
-Psalm 90:12

Walking through terminal illness, the dying process, death of my life partner and then continuing to live with the immense grief and pain that followed while raising two little kids has brought me to a mental space I didn’t know existed before. When I think about what it means to “number our days”… I think, those days ultimately aren’t ours to begin with.

Keith used his earthly days to exercise and train so he could climb harder. He worked long, physically demanding days as a route setter, to improve his trade. He spent late hours shaping climbing holds, to expand his line. Gave endless energy to house renovation projects, bringing ideas to fruition. Gave afternoons to watching football. Or practicing music. Or serving the church. Or resting.

10 years as a husband.
3 1/2 years as a father.
37 years as a son.
35 years as a brother.
20ish years as a believer

August 12, 1980 – February 8, 2018

That’s it. The number of Keith Michael Dickey’s days.

That’s not easy to write. Feels harsh and somehow still not true. Yet here we are.

What did I learn as I watched what Keith wanted from life and worked for with his days, where a tangle of serving God and himself existed… slip from his desperate grasp? As I waited for his last day on this side of eternity, for his last breath from the wretched body that betrayed him?

I learned to hold this life, these days with the most open of hands. I can serve and love God and his Creation with what he has given me. I can ask Jesus for forgiveness and confess when I fail. I can honor brokenness and cling to a deep hope in future glory.

But I can’t make the days my own. God holds them, they aren’t mine; they never were. I think this painful yet freeing understanding, reached by way of cancer and death and grief and solo parenting, has given or yielded in me a wise heart… or heart of wisdom as they say.

Exploring Lent Practically

This year we’re inviting everyone at Park Church who is participating in Lent to engage in three kinds of spiritual practices: fasting, prayer, and generosity. We covered the basics in our “Engaging With Lent 2019” guide that we’ll be handing out on Sunday, but here we’ll take a little bit of time around each practice but also share some practical ways of exploring each. James and I also talked in depth about what Lent is, where it came from, and some ways of exploring it here.

Fasting
Fasting is one of those disciplines that most Christians know they should do, but rarely get around to it. The interesting thing is that it’s one of the disciplines we see Jesus doing (Matthew 4:1-11; 17:21), a discipline He assumes His disciples are doing (Matthew 6:16) and a discipline we see the early church continuing to do (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23). So what is it? David Mathis defines fasting as “voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose.”

Fasting ultimately is about refraining from one thing that we might engage more intentionally with another, namely God. Sam Storms comments, “The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy. Let me say it again: Fasting is not primarily about not eating food. It is primarily about feasting on God.”

Practically speaking, there are a couple great ways of exploring fasting during Lent:

One is called a whole fast, where you actually skip whole meals with the exception of water, juice, or liquids. This kind of fast can be hard for some people due to particular physical conditions so don’t just jump in without considering how it might affect you. A way of easing your way into this whole fast is simply by skipping breakfast and lunch on a day and eating dinner in the evening. Another way would be to do a 24 hour whole fast where you only drink water, juice, or liquid during that day.

Another way is called a partial fast. This might look like you giving up eating sugar or drinking alcohol. Others choose to give up things like social media, Netflix, etc. The important thing isn’t necessarily what you’re giving up, but what you do in the absence of that item and where it leads your heart. Fasting generally is never a solo discipline, but rather should always be practiced in conjunction with prayer.

Prayer
We believe that prayer is an essential part of what it means to be both a human and a Christian. It’s about communion and communication with the God we were created to know and walk with. As we fast during this season of Lent, we also feast on God through prayer! We encourage everyone to find meaningful ways to pray corporately and personally in this season.

Here are a few ways to explore praying corporately with others:

  • Join us for our pre-service prayer on Sundays at 8:15am or 4:15pm in the basement!
  • Come to our Sunday services
  • Thursdays at 6:30am in the gallery
  • Pray with your Gospel Communities
  • Intentionally pray daily or weekly with a friend throughout Lent

We also encourage you in your personal exploration of prayer:

  • Pray prayers of self-examination like David in Psalm 139:23-24.
  • Pray the Lord’s Prayer in the mornings and/or evenings
  • Pick a different psalm each day to pray and meditate on throughout the day
  • Check out the prayer app called “Pray As You Go” which has some great contemplative prayers
  • Another app called “Daily Prayer” has Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, and Night Prayers. Dependent on when you open it up, it takes you there automatically! Easily accessible.

Generosity
As we fast from food or particular hobbies that cost money, we want to be open to re-directing the money saved and invest that somewhere else. The God we serve is an insanely generous and kind God. How might you learn to imitate Him and His generosity? How might God be directing you to be generous with your time, energy, and money in this season of Lent? Is there an organization that Park works with that you can contribute toward (find a comprehensive list at www.love5280.org)? Is there a need that might come up in your neighborhood or friendships where you can assist in? This practice works in conjunction with fasting and prayer and aids in shaping us in looking more Christlike. It’s a reminder that our spirituality affects all aspects of our lives, including our bank account and how we view money.

Final Encouragement
Wanted to close this time by encouraging you in five ways:

1. ​Plan before Ash Wednesday.​ The longer you wait, the less likely you are to do anything.

2. ​Ask God what His invitation is to you this Lent! Let Lent be part of your relationship with God.​ Talk to God about where He wants you to grow. Where have there been areas of struggle? Where is God shining a light and inviting you to walk more closely with Him in? David Powlison has some amazing questions called “X Ray Questions” that might be of help as we practice some of this self-examination. Here’s a short sampling of those:

  • Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, and escape? When you are fearful, discouraged, and upset, where do you run? Do you run to God for comfort and safety or to something else? (To food, to others, to work, to solitude?)
  • What do you love? Is there something you love more than God or your neighbor?
  • What do you want? What do you desire? What do you crave, long for, wish? Whose desires do you obey?
  • What do you think about most often? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?
    When you are doing a menial task or driving alone in your car, what captures your mind? What is your mindset?
  • What do you talk about? What occupies your conversations with others? What subjects do you tend to discuss over and over with your friends? The Bible says it is out of the heart that our mouths speak.

Your answers to questions these might help lead you as you process how to fast, pray, and be generous!

3. ​Don’t take too much on.​ Keep it simple. If you take on too much, you’ll get overwhelmed. Take on 1-3 new practices. I’m going to fast from this on this day or the whole time; I’m going to gather for pre-service prayer at Park; I’m going to try to give some money to someone or something during that time. For parents, it might be doing one weekly devotional. If you’re not trying to add stuff in your world, consider just studying Exodus which we’re going through as a church more closely.

4. ​Share your plan with a friend or spouse​, and then chat with them during the time about how it’s going.

5. ​Don’t be discouraged by failures.​ Let any failures lead you back to the truth that God is more gracious than we are sinful! He’s kind. John Newton said, ​“Our sins are many, but His mercies are more: our sins are great, but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.” What a truth to celebrate as we jump into Lent!

Why We Observe Lent

You might have noticed us talking about Lent as well as the “Christian Calendar”. Many did not grow up in a Christian church, and if you did, your particular church may have never talked about Lent or some of the other seasons within the Christian calendar.

So what is Lent and why do we observe it? “The Worship Sourcebook” describes the season this way:

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the heart of the Christian gospel, and Good Friday and Easter are two of the most significant celebrations of the Christian year. Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate Good Friday and Easter. Just as we carefully prepare for big events in our personal lives, such as a wedding or commencement, Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

The practice of a forty-day preparation period began in the Christian church during the third and fourth centuries. The number forty carries biblical significance based on the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness and Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness. The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and continue through holy week, not counting Sundays (which are reserved for celebratory worship). In practice, many congregations choose to focus Sunday worship on the themes of repentance and renewal. As a period of preparation, Lent has historically included the instruction of persons for baptism and profession of faith on Easter Sunday; the calling back of those who have become estranged from the church; and efforts by all Christians to deepen their piety, devotion, and readiness to mark the death and resurrection of their Savior. As such, the primary focus of the season is to explore and deepen a “baptismal spirituality” that centers on our union with Christ rather than to function only as an extended meditation on Christ’s suffering and death.

The traditional color for the season is purple. Some congregations choose to highlight the contrast between Lent and Eastertide (the period from Easter to Ascension Day or Pentecost or Trinity Sunday) by omitting the singing of “Alleluia” during the Lenten season, and yet other congregations stress that all the Sundays of Lent are “little Easters” and thus may appropriately feature Easter-like praise.

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:

Why Bother With Lent

What Is The Christian Calendar?

Why Do We Follow The Christian Calendar?

What is Ash Wednesday and Why Do We Observe It?

We hope this helps you understand and engage a bit more with the season. For those wanting to explore this season in more depth, we’re encouraging everyone to read “A Hunger For God” by John Piper.

We have it available at our bookstore, but you can get a free PDF of the book here.

May this season of Lent that often is marked by fasting be one of feasting on God and all He is for us in Christ. May this season prepare our hearts for Good Friday & Easter, both increasing our awareness of our sinfulness but also our gratitude for the One who gave His life for us.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 6

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. This week’s Lenten song meditation will be “Not In Me”, a song written by Eric Schumacher and David Ward and sung by Aaron Ivey on The Gospel Coalition’s “Songs For The Book of Luke”.

(Verse 1)
No list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue
No list of those I am not like can earn myself a place with you
O God! Be merciful to me. I am a sinner through and through
My only hope of righteousness is not in me but only you

(Verse 2)
No humble dress, no fervent prayer, no lifted hands no tearful song,
No recitation of the truth can justify a single wrong.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus death.
My weary load was borne by Him and He alone can give me rest.

(Verse 3)
No separation from the world, no work I do, no gift I give
Can cleanse my conscience, cleanse my hands, I cannot cause my soul to live.
But Jesus died and rose again. The pow’r of death is overthrown!
My God is merciful to me and merciful in Christ alone.

(Tag)
My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus’ death.
My weary load was borne by him, and He alone can give me rest
And He alone can give me rest.

1) Why do you think God shows His mercy to you? Verse 1 reminds us that it’s not because you stayed away from a list of sins or pursued a list of virtues. Verse 2 tells us that it’s not through more prayer or more expressive worship! Verse 3 declares it’s not by separating ourselves from the world, or work, or generosity. God’s mercy flows out of who He is and what Christ has done. God’s mercy is not in response to your life, but rather Christ’s life & death.

2) Take time to remember in this season that your righteousness comes from Christ alone! Remember, rejoice, and rest in this amazing truth.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 5

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. This week we’ll be looking at an old hymn by Philip Bliss slightly reworked by the folks at Austin Stone called “Hallelujah What A Savior” (aka “Man of Sorrows, What A Name”). If you’ve been around this last month, we’ve sung it a few times. If you want to purchase the track, click here.

(Verse 1)
Man of sorrows, what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah! What Savior

(Verse 2)
Stand unclean, no one else could
In my place condemned He stood
Now His nearness is my good
Hallelujah! What a Savior

(Chorus)
Hallelujah, praise to the one
Whose blood has pardoned me
Oh what a Savior, Redeemer and King
Your love has rescued me

(Verse 3)
Lifted up was He to die
“It is finished!” was His cry
Now in Heaven lifted high
Hallelujah! What a Savior

(Verse 4)
When He comes, our Glorious King
All His ransomed home to bring
Then anew this song we’ll sing
Hallelujah! What a Savior
Hallelujah! What a Savior

(Chorus)
Hallelujah, praise to the one
Whose blood has pardoned me
Oh what a Savior, Redeemer and King
Your love has rescued me

1) This hymn starts with the line, “Man of sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came…” This is a reference to Isaiah 53:3-6, so take some time to read through that passage, seeing that Jesus took your sin & sorrow upon Himself on the cross. Thank Him for doing this!

2) Do you see yourself as One who needed and needs pardon? Do you see yourself as one who needed and needs saving? Confess your need before God. Praise Him for being a Savior, Redeemer, & King.

3) Think on His return in glory, where finally we’ll be free from sin. Let your Savior’s return fill you with a deep sense of hope this season.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 4

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. This week we’ll be listening to “To Thee I Come”, a song on Red Mountain’s album “All Things New” and sung by one of my favorite singer/songwriters Thad Cockrell. If you want to buy the song or the album, click here.

(Verse 1)
To Thee I come a sinner poor
And wait for mercy at Thy door
Indeed, I’ve nowhere else to flee
Oh God, be merciful to me

(Chorus 1)
To Thee I come a sinner weak
And scarce know how to pray or speak
From fear and weakness set me free
Oh God be merciful to me!

(Verse 2)
To Thee I come a sinner vile
Upon me Lord vouchsafe to smile
Mercy through blood I make my plea
Oh God be merciful to me!

(Chorus 2)
To Thee I come a sinner great
And well Thou knowest all my state
Yet full forgiveness is with Thee
Oh God be merciful to me!

(Verse 3)
To Thee I come a sinner lost
Nor have I aught wherein to trust
But where Thou art, Lord, I would be
Oh God be merciful to me!

(Chorus 3)
To glory bring me Lord at last
And there when all my sins are passed
With all the saints I’ll then agree
God was merciful to me!
God was merciful to me!

1) This song provides us a few descriptions of how we come to God: a sinner poor, weak, vile, great, and lost. These are reminiscent of the tax collector who approached God and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” in Luke 18:9-14. As we approach God, may we approach with a deep sense of humility this season.

2) Verse 2 says, “Mercy through blood I make my plea.” On what basis do we ask for mercy from God? Here we are reminded that it’s only through the blood of Christ that we ultimately find mercy and cleansing. Thank Him for His blood shed for your sins!

3) The last verse reminds us of our glorious end in Christ. One day we will be with God in glory and all our sins will be wiped away. One thing that won’t be wiped away is the worship that we’ll be pouring out on God for all eternity as we thank Him for the mercy that is ours in Christ! Take time this season of Lent to thank Him for this beautiful and hopeful truth.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 3

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. As we enter into week 3 of Lent, we’ll take time to listen to “Lord I Need You” by Daniel Carson, Matt Maher, Christy Nockels, Jesse Reeves, and Kristian Stanfill. If you’re interested in purchasing this song, do so here on iTunes.

(Verse 1)
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

(Chorus)
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

(Verse 2)
Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

(Bridge)
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

1) Lent is a season where our awareness of our need for a Savior is deepened. Are we aware of our need this season? May we cry out to God for open eyes to see our true state before Him: as needy & desperate; Him as eternally sufficient & compassionate.

2) Not only do we want an awareness of our sin, but also for God to give us strength to overcome the sin that overcomes us. Ask God for the power to kill the sin lurks at your door! Apart from God’s grace and empowering presence, we will not find victory over these sins! We need God.

Lent 2014 Artwork

You may have noticed the artwork hung in the middle of the stage over the last couple weeks of Lent. We commissioned Lane Geurkink, a visual artist and graphic designer from our church to create a progressive art piece that will visually capture the “feel” of Lent. It started off with the simplicity of the ash cross that marks the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Over the 40 days of Lent, the art piece will gradually turn darker and darker as we remember our sin and need for a Savior! Our prayer is that as you come on Sundays, the artwork would remind us of the darkness of sin but also the beauty and light of our Savior as we turn to Him in repentance.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 2

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. For week 2 of our Lenten song meditation, we’ll be looking at Red Mountain’s “Christ Or Else I Die”. We’ll also be singing this song on Sunday, so take time to meditate on the words! If you want to buy this song on iTunes, click here.

(Verse 1)
Gracious Lord, incline thy ear
My requests vouchsafe to hear
Hear my never-ceasing cry
Give me Christ, or else I die.

(Verse 2)
Wealth and honor I disdain
Earthly comforts, Lord are vain
These can never satisfy
Give me Christ, or else I die

(Chorus)
All unholy and unclean
I am nothing but sin
On thy mercy I rely
Give me Christ, or else I die

(Verse 3)
Thou dost freely save the lost
In thy grace alone I trust
With my earnest suit comply
Give me Christ, or else I die

(Verse 4)
Thou dost promise to forgive
All who in thy Son believe
Lord, I know Thou cannot lie
Give me Christ, or else I die

1) When we read & sing the words “Give me Christ, or else I die,” what’s our response? Is it one of agreement, complacency, or even disagreement? During this season of Lent, we want to remind ourselves that Christ is the only hope for sinners like us! Apart from Christ, there is no salvation from our sin, only judgment. May Park Church be a place that trumpets the declaration: “Give us Christ or else we die!”

2) The chorus says some big statements about our condition apart from Christ. “All unholy and unclean, I am nothing but sin.” Often we forget our state apart from Christ. May this season of Lent stand as a reminder to us that our sins took Christ to the cross. Take time to meditate on the truths of Ephesians 2:1-3 (we were dead in our trespasses and sins). May this again lead us to sing, “Give me Christ or else I die.”

3) Often we seek to find life outside of Christ, be it in our jobs, hobbies, money, etc. This song is a reminder to us that though those things can bring temporary joy, they can’t truly and eternally satisfy us. Take time to think on Peter’s response to Jesus in John 6 asking if he was going to leave as well: “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'” This season of Lent, let us remind ourselves of where we find the words of eternal life.

Lenten Song Meditation: Week 1

Throughout the season of Lent, we’ll be posting various songs that will help us engage in this season. Music is a helpful way of engaging both our minds and our affections as we meditate on truths of Scripture. For week 1 of Lent, we’ll be looking at “Out Of The Depths” by City Hymns, which we played on the first Sunday of Lent in our time of confession. It’s based on Psalm 130. If you want to buy this song or album on iTunes, click here.

(Verse 1)
Out of the depths I cry to Thee, oh Lord please hear my call
O Lord be merciful to me, at Thy throne of grace I fall
At Thy throne of grace I fall

(Verse 2)
Out of the woeful depths I cry, from the depths of sin
Of evil done in days gone by, of evil now within
Of evil now within

(Chorus)
If Thou, oh Lord, should mark iniquities
Lord, who could then draw near?
But here I find forgiveness with Thee
That Thou may be feared, that Thou may be feared

(Verse 3)
Lord from the depths I wait for Thee, my hope is in Thy Word
All through the night ’till day is nigh, my soul waits upon the Lord
My soul waits upon the Lord

(Verse 4)
Lord here I find Thy mercy now, as ever was with Thee
Before Thy throne of grace I bow, Lord be merciful to me
Lord be merciful to me

(Chorus 2)
O Israel cast your hope upon the Lord
And in His Word do trust
He will redeem you from your sin
And raise you from the dust, and raise you from the dust

A few questions/observations as you engage with this song:

1) Note in verse 1 the basis on which mercy is requested: the throne of grace. We do not request mercy blindly hoping God may hear, but rather because God has called us to approach His throne of grace with confidence because of what Christ has done! Come with a humble boldness.

2) Verse 2 describes crying out from the depths of sin. Are you aware of sin in your life? Either in the past (“as in days gone by”) or currently (“evil now within”)? If you’re not aware of sin, ask God to graciously open your eyes to see it and in turn confess it.

3) Part of confession is in turn trusting God to forgive us and cleanse us through Christ’s work (1 John 1). As you confess, on what basis do you hope for forgiveness? Do you move into gratitude for God’s forgiveness in Christ (Romans 8:1) or do you get stuck in the confession, never moving on?