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!

Advent Prayer Guide, Week One

As a part of our engaging in the season of Advent, we are inviting everyone at Park Church to join us in prayer on Wednesdays (Dec. 6, 13, 20) during the lunch hour in our sanctuary to pray. If you can’t join us physically, we hope you can join in personally or even get together with others and pray through the prayer guide offered below! Throughout these prayer times we will be focusing on particular phrases and petitions within the Lord’s Prayer.

What is the Lord’s Prayer and why are we praying it?

One of the main markers of Jesus’ life was not merely His powerful ministry, but also the intentional space Jesus made to get alone and pray to the Father. One might even say that prayer and dependence on His Father was the precise reason His ministry was so effective! He knew that apart from doing what His Father was doing, He could do nothing. From the beginning of His public ministry to the end of it, prayer was a centerpiece in the life of Jesus. When asked by His disciples how to pray, He taught them what is now known as “The Lord’s Prayer” and is found in Matthew 6:9-13:

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

This prayer is short (only 52 words in the ESV!), and yet it is rich in depth… It begins with an address and then gives us 7 petitions. We’ll be focusing in and praying through the address and the first petition today.

The Address

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” -A.W. Tozer

Close your eyes for moment. Picture yourself walking into the throne room of God in order to speak with Him. As you come closer to His throne, what immediately comes to your mind? What does God’s face look like? Does he have a scowl or a grin? Is He busy and bothered, or caring and loving? Do you have part of His attention or the whole of it? For Jesus’ disciples to have a healthy prayer life, He knew they’d have to think rightly about God, so He intentionally starts with this address.

Jesus teaches us that we must see God rightly when we come to Him! Jesus calls Him Abba Father. First and foremost, God is our Father. We don’t come to God as distant servants, but as cherished sons and daughters who through the work and blood of Jesus have been adopted into God’s very own family. Not only is God our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. Our Father isn’t some weak powerless dad who can’t stand up for us, but rather is the King of the universe with unlimited power at His disposal. There is nothing impossible for Him, and there is no request too great!

Let’s begin by worshipping our Father in heaven! Let’s start by praising Him in prayer… Think about God’s attributes and actions toward you, particularly as a Father. Meditate on those things, express gratitude for each one! Let’s take also take a moment to pray that Park would be a church that prays regularly because they know of their identity as children of God! Pray that God wouldn’t be a theoretically good Father to those at Park, but rather a Father whom they know intimately and walk with through His Spirit.

Song Ideas For This Prayer Section: Good Good Father, In Tenderness, Before The Throne

Petition #1: Hallowed be Your name

The first petition Jesus teaches us to ask our heavenly Father for is that His name would be “hallowed.” God reveals Himself throughout Scripture as the God who is thrice holy. If God is already holy, why would we need to pray that God’s name would be hallowed? Jesus wants the name of God to be the most important name in His disciples’ lives! What’s in a name? In Bible times, names got at the heart of who someone was. A name was tied to a person; to an identity and an essence. To pray for God’s name to be “hallowed” means to pray that His name would be set apart in our lives from every other name. That His name would be uncontested in our hearts! That we would honor God’s name, revere it, and ultimately treasure His name above any other name, even our very own names!

Take a moment to think about your own life. What are you treasuring most? What things are you honoring and seeking? In all of those pursuits, where does the pursuit of God lie? Is He chief among all pursuits or one among many? Or is He not even on your radar? Let’s take time to pray that God’s name would be:

  • Treasured in our lives first and foremost.
  • Esteemed by our friends and families.
  • Known and loved by our co-workers, neighbors, and those who don’t yet know Him!
  • Lifted up in Denver above all names! That Jesus would be the name that resounds the loudest throughout the city.

Song Ideas For This Prayer Section: Be Thou My Vision, Set A Fire, Forever Reign, Be Lifted Up (Josh Baldwin)

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