Tag Archives: Ps. 139

A Lesson from Bedsheets

Raising three boys was a joy. A joy not without its challenges but still a joy. One of those challenges was finding a reliable, good trustworthy babysitter for those all too few occasions when my wife and I wanted to relish time alone. We were blessed with and by Pam. She was that rare combination of fun and firmness. Fun enough that the boys loved her (they still do) yet firm enough to keep them in check and enforce the rules.

In that vein, when Pam put the boys in bed she was sure to play a game of tucking the top sheets firmly under the sides of the mattress to help hold the boys in place. They enjoyed the game and challenge but also heard the message: “The sheets are tucked tightly around you so you don’t try to get up and become disobedient. If you become disobedient the fun stops. The bedsheets are hemming you in for your own good.”

The memory of that tactic reminds me that God is much like a babysitter. Recall the words of the Psalmist. “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” The New Living Translation puts it: “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” And the Good News Translation words it: “You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power.” God hems us in! God keeps in our place! God hems us in and keeps us in our place for our own good. He tightens the sheets around us to remind us to stay put with Him so He can protect us and bless us.

The next time…

  • you’re not happy with life
  • not happy where you are or not happy you can’t go where you want to go,
  • not happy that you cannot do what you want to do,
  • you feel like God’s not being fair because He’s not answering your prayers and giving you what you want
  • you just wish God would just leave you alone

…spend some time wondering.

“What is God protecting me from?” “How is it God wants to bless me?” You may not come up with firm answers, but you will be reminded that God has your best interests at heart.

That’s the affirmation of the Psalmist: “Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.” (Psalm 139:6 Good News Translation) Then he recognizes how valuable God’s hemming us in really is.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.(Psalm 139:7-12 The Message)

Oh the beauty of God’s presence! We are never alone, always protected, always blessed by His loving hands. I realize our boys never thought of the Psalmist as they were being hemmed in. I didn’t think of Him for a long time either. But now that I have, each bedtime can take on new meaning. Each night, as I nestle under my bedsheet, I can envision God tucking in my sheets, reminding me He will protect and bless me through the night. It gives new meaning to my version of the old child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep while grateful, Lord, my soul you keep. Guide and guard me through the night and wake me when your time is right.”

Thanks, Pam, for the lessons and inspiration.










Sailing Through Life – Part 7 – Reflections on Feeling Lost

As we sailed throughout our journey, we were surprised how often we felt at least slightly lost. We had wandered and taken some wrong turns or simply lost track of where were because we were too busy enjoying the scenery and activities. “Where’s our room?” “Which deck is that on?” “Which deck are we on?” “Can we get to the other end of the ship on this deck?” We spent time laughing at ourselves. But we never worried – we knew we weren’t really lost. We were just disoriented.

The important thing was we knew we really couldn’t get lost. There was always lots of help. There were signs and maps posted along the way.

There were also plenty of people to help and staff to assist. As long as we were on board, we could never be truly lost.

It just like the life of those who are baptized. We’re on board with Jesus. We sometimes feel lost; we wander too far, take some wrong turns. We lose track of where we are and where we need to be because  we’re too busy enjoying the scenery and activities of life. Yet we’re never really lost – we just get disoriented. Think about baptism.

At the moment of baptism God makes some very special promises.

“Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promises to this covenant people. In baptism God promises by grace alone: to forgive our sins; to adopt us into the Body of Christ, the Church; to send the Holy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us; and to resurrect us to eternal life.” This promise is made visible in the water of baptism. Water cleanses; purifies; refreshes; sustains: Jesus Christ is living water. (1)

In baptism we are getting on board with Jesus for our journey through life.

“Through baptism Christ calls us to new obedience: to love and trust God completely; to forsake the evil of the world; and to live a new and holy life.” (2)

We may become disoriented through our wandering and sinning, but we are and always will be on board.

“Yet, when we fall into sin, we must not despair of God’s mercy, nor continue in sin,
for baptism is the sign and seal of God’s eternal covenant of grace with us.” (3)

Just like on a cruise ship, God provides plenty of help. There are signs and maps – the Word of God. God sends plenty of people to help – family, friends, fellow Christians, mentors, coaches, teachers, friends. God’s staff is always present and available – Pastors, Sunday School teachers, Youth leaders, Christian authors, angels, His Holy Spirit.





The reality is, baptism assures us that once we’re on board, we’re never really lost; only disoriented for a while. I’m not sure if King David ever sailed on a ship, but he knew the same reality.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
(Ps. 139:2-12)

Once we’re on board, God keeps us on board. Jesus affirmed it when He said, “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.” (John 10:27-30 The Message)

The reality is, once we’re on board we’re never really lost; only disoriented for a while. Jesus has us – and He will never let go!

(1) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America
(2) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America
(3) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America

Please Bug Me

I once watched a movie about the daughter of the president of the United States. The plot centered on the daughter’s frustration of always being under the watchful eye of the Secret Service. It bugged her. At one point she snuck away for an adventuresome junket with a secret service agent who had befriended her. Yet she eventually shook him as well – only to be kidnapped. That experience led her to wish there were some Secret Service people around! While fictional, I’m sure most presidents’ children have had the desire to get out of sight for a while! What struck me is that I have had a similar feeling at times. I mean, it’s good to have God around, isn’t it – but have you ever wished you could shake him, if even for just a moment? Ever felt like shouting “Don’t bug me. Just leave me alone?”

David, in Psalm 139, addressed this desire when he wrote about the nearness of God. Verse 5: “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” God has laid his hand upon me. (1)

It means that my way is enclosed by God; I cannot escape him. But neither can anyone get at me! The image is of an army laying siege. When it does so, it blocks off all escape routes. So God is behind me forgiving me, before me preparing the way, above beneath and around me to protect me. God is managing and protecting my life. I can never shake nor escape God! While I may leave his path, He will never leave mine. I may sleep, He will not; I may forget Him, He will not forget me.

Verses 7-8 expand the thought: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God is always present – it’s what theologians call the omnipresence of God. I can say I know someone in Texas who is the victim of flooding; it’s another thing to say I went to be with them to help them. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he made a promise to his disciples. He didn’t just say “I know you well – you can do it. Go into all the world…” No. What He said was “Go into all the world…And surely I am with you always…”

At first hearing, that wounds wonderful. But are you really comfortable with it? It’s like a young lady who keeps saying she wants some young, handsome man to fall madly in love with her and sweep her off her feet. Then a man comes along and aggressively pursues her – and suddenly she’s frightened by him! She’s not sure she likes all the attention. Have you ever felt that way with God? Just once you wanted to see that movie, buy that magazine, tell that joke, cheat on that income tax, or to do whatever with no one, not even God knowing?

But think about it. Because God is with us, we can never say “I’m a total stranger. No one knows me. I am alone. There’s no one who understands or who can help me.” We are never alone. When you’re ready to lead that study, God is with you; when leaving for your job or school, when trying to make that sale, when you need to witness, when you are traveling, when someone you love needs confrontation, when you go to bed at night, when your loved one dies and the loneliness unbearable – you are never alone! Even in the heights and depths (Ps. 139:8), even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is always present. Would you really want it any other way?

I didn’t think so. May your prayer always be “Lord, please bug me.” (2)

(1)Photo from http://lacasamorett.com/foxgallery/hand-on-shoulder.html
(2) Photo from https://www.storyblocks.com/stock-image/a-woman-holds-her-hands-in-prayer-sju7s3t8pliydeuxk0