Singing Psalms in the Dark

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Believe it or not, in the summer of 2013, a few high school juniors gathered together during their free time of a church retreat to sing Psalms. We were going through favorites and having a great time. I do not recall what we were singing at the time, but in the middle of the Psalm, the lights suddenly went out. The only source of light left was from the windows in the back of the room, which did not provide much thanks to the cloudy sky.

Unable to see our Psalters, you would think that we would just stop singing. Whatever we were singing, however, was one that most of us were familiar with. Some of us rushed over to the pale light from the windows, some of us pulled out phones to shed some light on the now darkened Psalters, and others just continued singing from memory. The singing degraded in quality quite a bit. Most stumbled over words, and a few parts were abandoned for the melody’s sake to keep it alive. None of us, however, stopped singing completely.

We finished the Psalm. Right after, of course, we all had a good laugh and tried to find some of the adults so that we could fix the problem; but none of us were willing to quit in the middle. This was three years ago, so the memory is a little hazy, but I definitely remember more Psalm singing, even before we fixed the lights.

I learned a lot of things during that summer, but here’s one of the most important lessons:

Sometimes, the lights go out.

There will come a time when life will come crashing down on your head, and everything bright and good in the world will suddenly seem to disappear. The lights are going to out and you’re going to be left with only what remains stored up in your heart.

This is why the Word of the Lord is so important in our lives.

 

Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

The ones who continued to sing the strongest were those who had the Psalm memorized. They kept it alive. If it was up to those who were scrambling to the dim lit window, it just might have died out. God’s Word is your weapon. When the lights go out, you want to have it with you, one way or another. The best way is to memorize.

Memorization has never been something I’ve been good at. It might not be yours either, but this is why it is so important to be in the Word every day. It’s hard. It requires time and patience to keep consistent in reading your Bible, but it will be an invaluable practice when times continue to get darker and darker.

 

Romans 10:8-9 (ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

When the lights go out, you will have a choice of loyalty. We all could have just as easily stopped singing and went about our business. Even those who did not know it by heart, however, rushed to whatever light source they could. You need the Word of God when times are dark, because when it is near you, you know where your hope comes from.

It is really that powerful, though? It’s just words in a book, right?

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews makes it clear. The Word of the Lord is more than just a book of words. It is a consistent, sovereign truth that is more powerful than we can ever understand. It cuts through our false identities and shows us our hearts, which is what our God judges us and knows us from.

This is something that we cannot ignore. If we do, then we will be lost in the dark without any idea of how we are to act or who to trust. Whether you sing it out, or recite it in the deepest parts of your soul, you need to keep to what God has so readily given us.

Darkness can be many things in life. It could be depression, persecution, temptation, loss of a friend or family member, and more. It’s when the darkness approaches that you learn where your real source of light comes from. God allows the dark because it helps us realize where our hope is, and if we are following his path, or our own.

Not facing darkness right now? Life pretty good? Then learn the scriptures. Everyone faces the darkness of sin. It is inescapable, but not unable to be defeated. You have to fight when the dark approaches, and your weapon is the Word.

 

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.

Mission Trip to Larnaca, Cyprus

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This is a letter that is being sent out to a few people by mail. There’s quite a few of you that have been asking about the trip, however, so I thought I would send out the letter in my blog as well.

I probably won’t count this towards my second blog of the month, so you can look towards another one coming later in May.

Please keep this new opportunity in your prayers and I hope you all have a blessed summer!

.        .          .         .        .

     Dear Friends, Family, and brothers and sisters in Christ,

This is to be an update letter to make you aware of the changes I have made toward my mission this summer. I trust that some of you have already received a letter about the mission to Landstuhl, Germany, and I would like to keep you all informed toward what is going to happen.

I talked with the Trinity Reformed Church quite a bit, and they decided that they aren’t in a great position to make the most out of a team this year. Therefore, no Germany trip.

Still wanting to make my services useful towards mission work this summer, I talked with RPmissions about an opportunity to go to Athens, Greece. This trip is coming 2017, but not to be this summer.

So I settled on being Assistant Leader, going to Larnaca, Cyprus. This trip will be from July 1st to July 21st, and will involve VBS work, bible studies, evangelism, and mainly working with the churches in the surrounding area. All this being said, I would be blessed if you would continue to support me in prayer.

  • Please continue to keep Trinity Reformed Church in Landstuhl in your prayers. They’re some pretty great people, and they lost quite a few members through military transfer.
  • Yes, this trip is safe. No, I’m not a terrorist, and neither are they. However, pray for safety anyway. It’s going to be a lot of traveling.
  • I still have to raise $1,460.00 to go. This does not count airfare. If it is put on your heart, I would love financial support as well as your prayers. If you want to support me, go to http://rpmissions.org/donate. It has all of the information on mailing or submitting donations.
  • Pray for the whole Cyprus team! I have not met any of them yet, but we’re coming up on an adventure that will require our unified attention.

God bless,
Nathanael Planalp

Your Metaphorical Packing List

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By the time this blog publishes, I’ll be done with my second year of college. Freshman year, and sophomore year, completed. Half way done with undergraduate school. Now, I could get sentimental (and that will probably happen anyway), but I wanted to do something I haven’t seen done.

Before going off to college, I was sent a packing list to help my transition. It had the basics covered. The list suggested things like flip-flops, a mini fridge, notebooks, a Nerf gun, and a calendar. All sound advice, don’t get me wrong. I found it useful and packed accordingly. This college-sent packing list supplied me with enough false confidence to be able to walk into freshmen year with enough ignorant optimism that I didn’t have a worry or a care in the world. That, however, is when I learned that a well stocked closet and a fancy mini-fridge would NOT solve all of my problems.

Do you want to know the biggest lie you will ever hear about college? The hardest thing about college is the school work.

I have found this to be incorrect.

The school work is hard, yes. It will kick your teeth in and have you staying up all night just to complete projects that were probably due the week previous. But it’s not the world of academia that will break you. It’s everything shoveled on top of that glorious pile of assignments and GPA.

It’s not college that’s hard, it’s life that’s hard. Once you get to college, you discover that school would be seriously easier if you didn’t have finances, family, relationships, work, and your own health to juggle in the process. No amount of walking through the supermarket to pick out the best equipment will help you with that.

That being said, I’ve made my own packing list for college (or possibly life in general) that you may find helpful.

#1. Mental Camera

You’re going to need to take some mental snapshots to remember the good times. They go fast, and these are things that you won’t be able to catch on the press of a shutter-button. The things you feel are sometimes more important than the things you see, and they can be the first things to leave you. Don’t let those moments get away. Fight for them.

#2. Second Wind

Whether you’re in Physical Education class, or simply need to run across campus to turn in a paper, you will need to keep breathing as you run. If you leave your second wind at home, then you’re distance will be halved, and that paper will be late.

This also applies to your mental second wind, as you will tire from projects, papers, and readings that will constantly attack you from all directions.

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#3. A Verbal Shield

To protect you from the gossip and hurtful comments, and to stop yourself from saying really dumb or annoying things. You should get the shield that works both ways to best prepare for your inevitable conflict concerning your everyday linguistic problems.

 

#4. Personal Change

Um… never mind. College comes with enough change to last you a life time anyway.

#5. Blinders

Like those things they put on horses so they don’t steer off course to eat the yummy grass, or get startled by the strange people just to the side of them.

Eyes front, soldier. Stay on target, and stay focused.

#6. A Vocational Map

But make it a dry erase one. You’re probably going to have to change it as you go.

#7. An Umbrella, and a Raincoat

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Times will get tough. When the rain rolls in, just raise your umbrella, throw on your coat,
and keep on walking down the path.

Also, you can share an umbrella. Never forget that.

#8. An Extra Bag

You’re mental baggage can get pretty heavy. It sometimes helps to split the contents up into a few different containers or bags so that you can evenly distribute the weight.

#9. A Trust Fall Friend

So that when life tips you over, there’s someone who has your back to pick you back up.

#10. First-Aid Kit for the Heart

Sometimes that friend doesn’t actually catch you, and you’re left alone on the ground. Just bandage up that broken heart and keep right on walking.

#11. Adventure Boots

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Because there’s always time for an adventure, and you will require the right mental attire to get the most out of it. Adventuring is tricky business, so you’ll need some tough boots that will stay tried and comfortable.

 

 

#12. Patience Pocket Watch

When it’s required, pull it out and take a deep breath. Your patience will be tested, and sometimes a different clock than the one with all of the alarms set on it is required.

#13. A Mirror

You need to be able to remind yourself of who you are. This mirror needs to go beyond the potentially unflattering skin level, and needs to be able to reflect who you really are.

#14. A Chill Pill

Because drama is overrated.

#15. A Trash Can

You’re already carrying a lot of junk with you. Get rid of it, and throw it away. When you receive more junk from someone else? Get rid of that too. You deserve more than to be crushed underneath a pile of waste and trash. That’s no way to go.

#16. A Hand on your Hip

list5.jpgSo that you can link arms with fellow travelers with you as you walk down the road. They might not hold on for very long, but life’s always better arm in arm.

Also, I’m told that the goal is to find someone who’s always gently holding onto your arm as you both walk towards something greater.

 

#17. A Letter and a Stamp

To send to someone you care about to tell them how you really feel. It might be an apology, it might be a thank you note, or maybe even just to say “Happy Birthday.” Text messages are nice, but just aren’t the same.

#18. A Mini-Fridge

What can I say? They do come in handy for snack time. I’m not sure how it’s suppose to be metaphorical though…

#19. A Pack of Cards

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Sometimes, you just have some time to kill. Pull out some mental puzzles or games to keep you sharp and (at least mildly) entertained while you wait. Whether you’ve got a group of James Bond going, or you’re just cruising along with Solitaire, its always better than getting distracted while you twiddle your thumbs.

 

#20. Your Sword

When the enemy comes at you, you’ll need something to defend yourself. Luckily for you, your Father gave you the perfect weapon to keep yourself alive in times of trouble. This sword needs to have the law of your Father written deeply on it, and you should always keep it at your side. I’ve seen both lions and bandits hide in wait for those who walk around unarmed. The worlds a dangerous place. Be prepared to fight.

.     .     .     .     .

Well, there you go. Twenty items that you will need for college. Bring these things, and you’re experience will be a smooth and prepared one.

Now, keep in mind that you can’t find any of these items in the supermarket. You’re going to have to search for them in places that most will not go. Some of these items are rare, and require a special person to easily get them. However, some are given to us and readily at hand.

Whether you’re going to go off to college, joining me for junior year, or just going about life outside of undergraduate education; walk wisely in the Lord, and remember that he will make your pathway straight and comfort you always.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.