Disquietude

Last month, in honor of Eugene Peterson, Fathom Magazine ran a contest inviting folks to submit Psalm paraphrases. Those chosen appeared in this month’s issue and they are excellent. My paraphrase of Psalm 77 was not chosen, but I wanted to share it, hoping it might be a blessing to some. 

I do not hold back my tears from God.
Oh that he would hear my painful wailing,
that he would not be deaf to my disquietude.

In the depths of despair,
when all is blackness,
I grope around for my Comforter.
I strain to reach him, yet my hands come up empty.
How can I rest in peace without him?

Even as I think about him, tears stain my cheeks;
I try to pray, but what’s the use?

Breathe.

My pain blinds me, but you make me see.
Still, my words are held captive by my suffering heart.

I turn my thoughts to the past,
which seems so long ago.
I find my tongue, “Help me to remember joy’s melody!
let your mercy shine light into my darkness.”
I think long and hard.
“Will I always feel rejected by God?
Will he always be disapproving?
Has he stopped loving me?
Has he checked out of my life?
Has he forgotten how much I depend upon his grace?
Must I be crushed by his anger rather than upheld by his love?”

Breathe.

I tell myself, “Remember the past.
Remember God’s goodness to his people.”

Yes, I must recollect what God has done.
I need to recall his never-ending love.
“I will turn my thoughts to every good thing you have done, Father,
and when my thoughts stray, I will turn again to your goodness.
Your way, God, is the right way.
Why do I even consider that anything else compares with you?
You are the wonder-working God.
All I need to do is open my eyes and I can see your handiwork!
Again and again, you have saved your people from impossible situations,
generations have tasted your goodness.”

Breathe.

“When the oceans and the rivers see you, O God,
they retreat in awed surrender.
Even the very depths of the ocean
cannot hide from your glorious might.
At your word, O LORD,
Storms rained upon the earth,
torrents prevailed
lightning assailed
everywhere, accompanied by
thundrous wails.
All creation bowed to your command
winds whirling
with staccato flashes
and booming crashes.
You are the Lord of the lightning
and you are the gentle shepherd.
Your unseen presence
leads your people through life’s storms.”

All of us continue to be painted on by the brush of God. This kind of unexpected beauty is salvific. -Lucy Shaw

Fall Headlong Into Courage

November PAD
Day 16 prompt: Write a brave poem

Often the line is hazy between
bravery and recklessness,
courage and stupidity.
Prompted to leap
into the darkness
I can not see bottom.
I stand trembling at the edge
unsure whether to retreat to what is safe
what is comfortable,
or step from the ledge into the unknown.

Maybe we don’t know
whether something is brave
or brainless
until after we jump.
Perhaps even then we are not sure.

In truth, none of us knows
quite when or where we will land,
though we like to pretend otherwise.

But me?
I choose to breathe out a prayer
close my eyes
and fall headlong
into courage.

Private Thoughts

Sometimes I fear
that my private story,
if ever found out
will keep me from glory.

An evil concoction
of anger and lust,
of judgmental thinking
and questionable trust.

Sequestered thoughts
shown on a screen,
in heaven’s courtroom
nothing unseen.

All the assembled
stop singing and stare,
mortified whispers
and looks I can’t bear.

From his holy throne
God shakes his head,
his disappointment
becomes my worst dread.

But I’ve read my Bible
that’s not how it goes,
because of Christ’s blood
we’re no longer foes.

When I leave this earth
and enter heavenly space,
I’ll step not into judgment
but into my Father’s embrace.

Rhythmicity

Five Minute Friday
Prompt: Repeat

Our solar system pulses with rhythm. Every 365 days, we make a turn around the dance floor, spinning all the way. Ever in a hurry, Mercury makes the trip in 88 days, while Pluto takes 248 years. (Perhaps Pluto’s pace explains why cosmologists decided it no longer deserved the title of “planet”).

Today, I looked out of my office window and beheld a tree dressed with fire. She clothed herself this way last year too, celebrating the fall gala. Yet even amidst the rhythmicity, this year is entirely unique. The leaves’ arrangement approximates, yet does not copy, last year’s gown.

What a wonderful world where rhythm’s repetition still manages to make things brand new.

This post is part of the 5-minute Friday linkup.

Glorious Belonging

November 1 PAD
Prompt: Write a glorious poem

I close my eyes
and descend into light
embraced by love
immersed in glory
surrounded by welcome.

Your voice is a flowing river
powerful, soothing.
“My glory is found in the belonging.
“I am so glad you are here.”

To Gather

Write 31 days, day 29
Writing Prompt: Together

For several months,
I have dreamed of a time
to gather.
A coming together
to share stories or song.
A place where we could talk about
truth and goodness and beauty.
A place where all is welcome
whether it be joy or sorrow,
lament or celebration.
A community without hierarchy,
but where all are equally valued,
where we choose to set aside
offense, conflict, and division for a few hours.
A forum void of correction, but filled instead
with listening.
A place where we remind ourselves
of the goodness and beauty and creativity
of God.

For reflection: What constitutes a good gathering? 

and so we rest

Write 31 days, day 28
Writing Prompt: Song

Like good music, life’s composition must vary. Too often, we try to match our lives to Rimsky’s The Flight of the Bumblebee. We seek to live prestissimo–as fast as possible, but a life lived so quickly is both uninteresting and unsustainable. Instead, our life’s song fluctuates. It is sometimes fast, and sometimes slow; sometimes joyful and lively, but at other times somber and dark. There are places for both major and minor keys.

And there are times for rest. Rests are not the absence of music, but an essential part of the score. I was anticipating a joyful and lively day spent with dear friends, drinking in the beauty of their country setting. Yet, circumstances have changed. The score now reveals a rest and so we pause, and rather than playing on, we listen.

For reflection: Spend some time thinking about how music evokes emotion. 

Wholeness or Harm?

Write 31 days, day 27
Writing Prompt: Whole

If you were to ask me what thoughts fill my head during the day’s mental pit stops, there would be just a few things I would mention. I think a lot about Jesus and I think a lot about the transcendentals–truth, goodness, and beauty. Wholeness is the other concept I give a lot of mental space. I also believe that these three topics are closely related. Jesus epitomizes truth, goodness, and beauty. Jesus is wholeness.

Yet when I look around at the world, I rarely see wholeness. I see brokenness.  I see division. I see hatred. I see dis-integration. I suspect you do too.  Just today, the news told us of another hate crime. This time, a gunman killed 10 people and wounded others at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. Every time these attacks occur, we disintegrate further. But it’s not just these publicized attacks–it is every murder, every rape, every sexual assault, every physical assault, every action motivated by hate. Every hateful word, every time we use name calling during disagreement, we are contributing to this degradation.

It grieves me when I see my friends using name calling. I wish I could say that my Christian friends on social media rose above name calling and hateful invective, but from what I can tell, they don’t. In fact, some days it seems that those who profess Christ are more likely to engage in character attacks and name calling. Friends, it ought not be so. We are called to live lives of love…in everything (1 Corinthians 16:14).

Earlier I shared on Facebook:

Stand against hate in all its forms. Christians, we are called to testify to the truth and to do so lovingly. Every person…hear me…EVERY PERSON, bears the image of God. EVERY PERSON, regardless of creed, is to be loved, not hated. Yes, speak out against bombings of Jewish Synagogues, or black churches, or movie theaters, schools, and bars. But also speak out against the hateful words so often spoken against or about those who think differently.

Every day, we have an opportunity to use our words. Will we use them for wholeness or harm?

For reflection: What does your social media presence look like? How do you speak about those with whom you disagree? 

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