Category Archives: Psalm Reflections
(Written 6 years ago on November, 6 2012)
On this election eve I find myself reflecting on this voting season. Postal fliers, pervasive emails, attack ads, debates, party conventions, pre-spin, mid-spin, post-spin and rhetoric so tornadic it seems all are pulled into its grasp. Pastors make political preferences known from the pulpit, Christian brothers and sisters from both political sides, send emails, post on Facebook, call, write and generally become indistinguishable from the cacophony that threatens to deafen our world to the true source of He that is our only, true hope .
As a pastor many people ask me “Who do you think Jesus would vote for?” and I answer them; “The question is not ‘who would Jesus vote for?” but would Jesus vote at all?”
Psalm 20 is my thought and prayer this night for each of us and the community we desire to be. I would ask, if you so choose, to pray it with me.
“The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favour your burnt sacrifices.
May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfil all your plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfil all your petitions.
Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.
Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.
“My God, do not be angry with me or wash me away like a flood.Be kind to me, my Lord, for I am drowning; I need your touch Father, for my anxious bones rattle within me.I am terrified and you are nowhere to be found.How long before I see you, feel you, again?I’m dying! Save me! Answer me out of your deep love for me.If I am separated from you forever I can’t speak of you.This hell I’m going through takes my strength and my voice.I’m so weary. I cry all the time.At night my bed floats on tears. In the day I weep with scorched eyes, red, inflamed and parched.I grieve, screaming for you to come to my rescue.Wipe out those who would do me and those I love harm.Hear me O God! Please listen! You are my only hope.I have no one but you. Fill those who set themselves against me with terror and dread.
Turn them away from me and bring shame upon those who come against me. Amen.”
This morning I sat on a bench under a large tree in my backyard reading and praying the Psalms. As I reflected upon them a storm front began moving through our area. Thunder rolled and the wind began blowing. I considered going inside but waited, enjoying the stiff breeze, to see if any rain would fall.
“Yet God, being compassionate, forgives us, restrains his anger toward us, and doesn’t let it get the best of him. He remembers that we are but flesh, a wind that passes and does not come again.” Psalm 78,v38-39
Not long after reading this portion of scripture the wind died down and the skies partially cleared. What was once a lot of sound and fury quickly dissipated with nothing to show for its bluster and posturing.
I thought about the truth of this Psalm and how our lives are; “a wind that passes and does not come again.” I’m 44 but I’ve felt my age, perhaps even older, the last several weeks. I connected with a friend yesterday I haven’t seen in 10 years and it doesn’t seem possible its been that long.
After soaking in the Psalms I read a selection from the Rule of Saint Benedict on humility. One of the key tenets of Benedictine Oblate and Monastic life is accepting who we are; our shallowness, selfishness and sinfulness. Benedict believed, and I concur, that when we become self-aware of our weakness and need, we are far less likely to judge and condemn others while also becoming more capable of authentic grace and love for all, including ourselves.
The wind which bowed low the cattails and bent tree limbs decreased, the gray clouds blew away and once again I accepted a life which is quickly fading.
cold hand reaches out
strangling life, silencing voice
only fools doubt this
Fretting, a nasty habit which leads us nowhere, yet takes us to bad places…
Fretting manifests itself in anger. When we are anxious, nervous, worked up, we lash out at the people and circumstances around us. We desperately grasp for control over something and respond in hostility when we cannot attain it.
To be still when what surrounds us is shifting, uncertain, chaotic takes trust. To believe that what our faith is in, is greater than what frustrates and threatens us doesn’t come easy.
If we wait until calamity strikes to begin learning to be still, we might find ourselves fretting more, not less.
Now, this moment, is the time to embrace stillness, develop trust.
Last night I listened to an NPR podcast about the ISIS militant group occupying parts of Iraq and Syria.
These are some bad dudes. Stories of hands, arms, heads, being chopped off, abuse of women, firing squads.
My heart ached to think of the great pain the weak are enduring and the great darkness which envelops those who have power over others.
To know and understand history is to accept the truth;
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Part of my prayers and readings this morning was from Psalm 10.
A reminder that those who hurt, suffer, are not alone. I like the mental picture of God holding not just the helpless but also their troubles, of him touching, feeling, hurting with us. Not just acknowledging the sufferer but suffering with them.
I, maybe you too?, also need the reminder that hurt, pain, abuse, will not last forever. One day, hopefully soon, these things “will strike terror no more.”
One of the disciplines I’ve learned from being a Benedictine Oblate is praying the Psalms. These poems, songs, are the soul’s cry of faith walkers for ages, even before the Master walked the earth. They are a source of strength, conviction and hope. Each time I read, pray through the book, I am staggered by how fresh they are to my spirit.
Whenever I finish praying, reflecting, on the book of Psalms I choose a different translation of them for my next reading. An alternate wording or phrasing helps with new insights. This go around I am using a straight translation from their original language, Hebrew.
Hebrew to English can be difficult but catching a glimpse of the author’s heartbeat is worth the struggle.
Psalm 46 is one of my “go to” Psalms. It hits me where I am, every time. Today was no exception.
This has been an incredibly rough couple of weeks. Lots of struggle, chaos and heartbreak. I’ve cried, gotten angry, been depressed, dared to hope, experienced disappointment, and am just exhausted. The loss of my friend Mary has taken its toll but other pressing matters have stolen my time and ability to fully grieve.
“Roar!” This word was like a bullet in my heart this morning. So much noise and thoughts have threatened to topple me over lately. These verses pinpointed where I am, now. However, thankfully, the Psalmist doesn’t leave me without consolation.
“Desist,” stop, be still, settle your heart, mind and spirit. “Remember” it says to me, that where I am there He is. I’m not alone in this chaos, in this season, in these difficult times.
Deeper, past all the mess and the stuff, the pain and the frustration, there is a greater truth, a place beneath the waves where the storms of life cannot toss me to and fro.
Yes, this is where I long to be…
On a long, cold night, in a dark dreary place, I wait for him. “What’s taking so long? Why the delay? Where is he? Did he forget, change his mind?”
At last, he comes to me, standing in my door way. He lays down beside me, wraps me in his arms, pulls me close. I cry, weeping into his chest, and he listens. When my eyes will shed no more tears, I close them and rest.
I awake and find he is still with me. He did not abandon me. He whispers to my heart, “I’ll never leave, never walk away.”
I arise, morning has dawned, light has come. I am able to move again because he, my lover, my life, has returned.
a reflection based on Psalm 40v1&2
“Who needs God?”, you say.
“There’s money in the bank, a roof over my head, a car in the driveway, plasma TVs in every room. The job pays good, the boss’ pet.
Name brand clothes hang from my body, stylish shoes wrap around my feet. Eat out every night, buy new trinkets everyday. I am healthy, wealthy, in mind and body.
Life is good.”
Silly person, you cannot depend on what you hold in your hand. It won’t last. In due season temporal things dry up, whither, blow away, and are no more. It is the way of existence.
Rid yourself of dependence upon that which crumbles and fades. Trust in the one who can deliver you from the death of a meaningless life filled with things which do not matter and cannot endure.
Be still, wait, allow for the possibility that life is more than what you possess.
“How did I miss what was right in front of my eyes?
In a season of chaos and confusion I became blind to all else except escaping.
I have shed countless tears, screamed until my vocal chords dried up, searched for relief but found only sorrow.
I thought you, O my God, had forgotten me, abandoned me in my time of greatest need.
But now I see, at last I understand. It was by your kindness I wasn’t lost forever in a sea of darkness. You were my shelter from an evil wind which sought to blow my soul to hell.
You heard me. You rescued me. Not from the storm that rages but from my fear that I faced it alone.”
a reflection based on Psalm 31v21-24
Under a moonless night there came uninvited visitors, slithering from the shadows, rapping on my door…
“Evil, wickedness, chaos, trouble, pain, and death.”
“What do you want?”
“To trouble you, cause you sleepless nights, haunt your waking hours, fill your thoughts with anxieties, fears and misery.”
“Who do you think you are to come to this house with your threats and sorcery?”
“We are many. You are one. We will overwhelm. You are surrounded. Give up, give in. Open the door and let us make ourselves comfortable in the darkest corners of your mind and soul.”
Never opening the door, I say, “Just a minute, let me go get the master of the house.”
I call out to him in whom there is no darkness. This one who brings peace, comfort, goodness and kindness. It is he in whose presence I dwell, who owns this space, my heart. I let him know someones at the door.
He swings open the door to greet the visitors but they are no where to be found.
a reflection based on Psalm 27v1-5
though no help is seen, or voice is heard
when others scoff, mock and tell me I am forgotten
though my sin is too great and my evil overwhelms
even as others move on
though promises and expectations remain unfulfilled
hoping my cries will be answered
though my guide and the path are invisible
even as the way leads to dark places
by letting go, accepting, going deeper
to trust when I am trapped, and destruction seems imminent
to wait for the path and its maker to carve out my way, in due season
to follow by being still, believing what I cannot see, sensing what I cannot know, touching what cannot be grasped”
a reflection based on Psalm 25
“Quiet! Did you hear that? Hush…the wind is whispering a melody of love. If you still yourself, calm the inner dialogue, you can pick up on the rhythm of all creation. It speaks, ever so softly, of the beloved Creator.
From dawn to dusk, midnight to morning, it tells of the One who crafted beauty from nothing with gentle, powerful, hands.
The stars shine with his reflected glory, the galaxies a fraction of his immensity. The sun reveals his penetrating heat, the greatness of his ever present light.
Listen, as all that has been made sings of One who has not. Listen, as their silent song fills the air.”
a reflection based on Psalm 19v1-4
“If you do not seek to understand life, why would you worry about death?” – Confucius
This morning, following worship with some Methodist brothers and sisters, I visited a friend in a rehab center…
She was moving very slow today, swollen and tired, from battling a terminal disease. I’ve carved out Sunday mornings as my time with her. We usually begin with me putting on her stockings and shoes, making her bed, talking about our week, laugh a little, and then I open (turn on) my Bible and begin reading the Psalms. Sometimes I choose which ones to read, other times she selects her favorites, but either way the words of these ancient poems fill the air.
One of the reasons I love the Psalms is the writers pull no punches. They tell it like it is, or rather, tell God, tell others, remind themselves, life is tough, there are no easy answers. At times life is good, food is plentiful, friends are many, health is no concern, all is right, God seems to be everywhere. Other seasons bring poverty, famine, war, disease, calamity and chaos, God seems nowhere, playing hide and seek while his chosen ones suffer and die.
My friend and I both are in difficult seasons right now. She with her physical health, me with seeking God’s direction after a long and difficult assignment. Her body is breaking down and full recovery won’t happen this side of eternity. I am hoping my sabbatical will bring rest, health, and renewed hope in the church’s direction and those pointing the way.
Hearing the Psalms speak to us, where we are on life’s road, is to be reminded it’s the good and bad, the joy and pain, the healing and hurt, the restoration and destruction, birth and death, that all must be embraced to truly know and experience this mystery we call life.
When I was leaving today my friend held my hand in her’s and didn’t want to let go. For the longest time she tried to tell me something but couldn’t find the words.
I told her it was okay, that I loved her, and reserved this sacred space for next Sunday.
“O God, I am speaking as plainly, honestly as I can. You see right through my words, flattery doesn’t work with you. My heart, motives, desires are known to you. You are not fooled by my appearance, you are fully aware of the darkness I am capable of.
If I am full of it, only looking out for myself, then ignore my prayer, close your ears to my cries. But if I am innocent, attacked without cause, do not deserve what is happening, then help me, please.
Walk beside me, lead me on your path, take my hand and never let me go. Keep me from slipping, safe from those who seek to harm me.
O my Intimate Companion, turn your face to me, let me whisper my worries and anxieties into your ear. Promise me you’ll love me forever, that I’ll be your cherished one, that you will hold me close and not let anything hurt me.”
a reflection based on Psalm 17v1-8
“The days pass by so slowly. Staring at the clock, my hope dwindles with each second, tick-tock. Moments become forever.
Do you even care? What’s taking so long? Are you there or have you moved on to another? Am I no longer your favorite?
Voices of doubt and fear scream to the deep recesses of my soul. My spirit light flickers with the force of their horrid breath as they stand over me ready to snuff out my life.
Where is my hero, the one who rides to my rescue? Where is he whom I trusted, whom my heart was given? Where is the one who whispered love and fidelity into my ears? I wait for him to do as he promised.”
a reflection based on Psalm 13
“Bruised, battered, and beaten, I lay down to die, no one to save me.
The difficulties and pains of life have taken their toll, I have nothing left to give, no strength to rise again.
O Lord, if you are not my source, if you are not my breath, if you are not my life, it is over.
With my last gasp I cry out for you. Sighs and moans, all I am able to utter.
You, who are forever, be with me, one who is fading quickly.”
a reflection based on Psalm 9v9&10
“O God, my weakness is showing again, my selfishness is winning. Please don’t hate me. You tell me I don’t have to live like this; miserable and beaten, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.
I am troubled deep in the heart of me, my body aches, my spirit is desperate for your touch. My desires and lusts always leave me wanting more, but with your presence comes healing, intimacy and peace.
I know I don’t deserve another chance. I know I’m getting what I’ve got coming but please, because you are kind and loving, hold me close.”
a reflection based on Psalm 6v1-4
“O God, I’m running out of room listing all my troubles. The list is long and complicated. Every item is filled with heartache and sadness. My problems and trials laugh at me, mock me, screaming; “Where is your God?! Why doesn’t he do something!? He is absent and couldn’t care less!”
Please, God, take me in your gentle hands and lift up my head. Brush back my matted hair, wipe away my tears, and let me catch a glimpse of you. That’s all I need, just to know you are there, I’m not alone.
I have no where else to go, no one else to turn to, but if you’re with me, that’s all I need.”
a reflection based on Psalm 3v1-5