Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God of unfailing love
O God of great compassion
Blot out my troublesome doubts and despair
Wash away all my dark thoughts
Cleanse my selfish feelings
For I know my worst tendencies
They are always before me
They lead me away from Your peace and light
Into turmoil and darkness
I begin to doubt and fear Your righteousness, Your judgment
It becomes easier to believe that You don’t exist
That You are a creation of human beings
I am not alone in this, surely
It seems to be pretty common among all people
This turning from You
Yet You remain
From before I was, from when I first was
Through my life and past it
The psalmist says that You taught us wisdom
In the secret place of the womb
Maybe, but I forget it too easily
In the public places of my life
So I’m back, again, asking for Your compassion
Wash away my mind’s dark stains
Let my thoughts turn to rejoicing, to joy, to gladness
Help me to turn away, as You turn away, from darkness and selfishness
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me
Don’t desert me; don’t let me forget that I need You
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
Turn my self-centered pride into a God-centered willing spirit
That will sustain me
Then maybe, just maybe, I can remember You in my dark times
I can turn back to You when I feel low and unloved
When I feel defeated by my own negativity, hurt and anger
Deliver me from my crushing feelings of inadequacy and despair
O God, You are my Savior, my only hope
Let my mind and heart sing of Your righteousness
Then my words, my life will reflect Your goodness, will declare Your praise
You do not delight in my fears, my withdrawal from life
You take no pleasure in watching me undermine myself
I will draw away from doubt and despair, from selfishness and pride
I will come to You for peace and security, for love and hope
May it please You to draw me ever more into Your castle
Ever nearer to Your bright throne
Surrounded by Your great glowing cloud of witnesses
I can let Your light devour my darkness. Amen.

Third Grade Our Father

In 2005, our Vacation Bible School’s theme was the Lord’s Prayer. I taught third grade that year and, over the course of the five days, had my third graders put the Lord’s Prayer into their own words. Here is the result:

Dear daddy God,
I know you live in heaven.
You are very, very special to me – no one else in the world is like you.
I hope that soon we will all live with you and we will all do what you want us to do – all of the time.
Then earth will be just like heaven.
Please take care of me every day.
Forgive me when I hurt You and help me to forgive people who hurt me.
Keep me safe from sin and evil.
You are the Greatest, the Strongest and the Best. Amen

Psalm 46

God is my refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble
Even when I don’t know it, can’t recognize it
Therefore, I do not have to fear, though my life changes and changes again
Though the mountain of my faith sinks in the tumultuous seas of my doubts
Though my doubts roar and foam into despair, though my faith trembles
Still, through my life the river of God’s grace flows fresh and sure
Whenever I let myself drown in it, I arise baptized again in gladness
Knowing I am destined for God’s own heaven
God is in the midst of my life and God will not let go of me
God’s help dawns ever new in my life
My world tumbles around me again and again
My sureness in my own self totters
I stumble, I fall, my own earth quakes, my doubts flood me
Then I remember, then I feel it again
God, God almighty, is with me
God, God is with me no less than with my ancestors
Because somehow, by some miracle
I am part of that great cloud of witnesses
So come and see me – me, a work of God
See how God desolates my terrible Ds*
See how God causes all those wars inside me to still to peace
See how God destroys all the weapons that destroy my peace
God commands my internal turmoil, “Be still!
Be still and know that I am God
Exalted among all people; exalted in all your life
Exalted and lifting you with Me above all your troubles
God, God of forever and everyone, God of power, is with me
God is with me no less than with my ancestors
Because somehow, by some miracle
I am part of that great cloud of witnesses. Amen.

*my terrible Ds: doubt, depression, despair, discouragement, dis-ease…

Psalm 47

I will laugh, I will clap my hands, I will make noise enough for nations
God, hear my joy; God, know that I rejoice today, tonight in You
You are awesome; Sovereign of my world; Crusher of my doubts
Light to my darkness; Parent to my child; Giver to my needs
Lover to myself, my whole self, even the parts that I don’t love
Ha, God has blessed me and blessed me and blessed me
God is on top of my world; God is Conqueror of my troubles
God is Sovereign and God ENJOYS my singing! Ha! So there
I will sing and sing and sing to my Sovereign and God will smile
I sing because God is Sovereign, God is holy, God is all I need
From my lowest thoughts and troubles to my highest works and loves
From my worst to my best: God is Sovereign, God reigns over all
I belong to God – all of me; I don’t have to disown any of me
God loves me and God is greatly exalted. Amen and Hallelujah!

Psalm 48

I begin with the end, for the sheer beauty and joy of it
“For this God is our God for ever and ever;
[S]he will be our guide even to the end.”
The psalmist gets there through imagery that is foreign to me
Zaphon, Mount Zion, Tarshish, the villages of Judah
These I do not know
But I know the praise, I know the assurance, I know the joy
The joy of having a Savior
The assurance that our God conquers evil
The praise of such unfailing might – on our side!
And so, I can echo the psalmist: God makes me secure forever
And then, and then, with the psalmist:
“Within your temple, O God,
We meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
Your praise reaches to the end of the earth;
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.”
I rejoice, I am glad, I tell of your wonders
And so, here I am, back at the end
This is my God forever and ever, my Guide to the end. Amen.

Psalm 49

Ah, how many are my parts; “I contain multitudes”
The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly
The serene, the conflicted, the faithful, the doubt-filled
I want to choose wisdom and understanding
I want to depend on God’s wisdom, to sing my doubts away
So much competes for my attention, so many promises
Promises of happiness, wealth, health, success, nirvana even
I can get myself twisted in knots, trying to discern truth
Until, like jesting Pilate, I wash my hands of it all
Because nothing is worthwhile, nothing truly holds the secret
No practice, no philosophy, no promise, no purpose
Nothing redeems my life, nothing guarantees eternal life
My wisdom will count for nothing, my foolishness will be forgotten
My wealth will not buy life, my poverty will not guarantee goodness
Yoga will not give me youth; prayers will not earn me years
In the end, like all animals, I will die
Death is my shepherd
Wait – wait – Death WAS my shepherd but no longer has to be
“I am the shepherd,” said Jesus
My Christ, my God-Anointed, God-Appointed One
“I am the way, the truth, the life”
Can there be any other answer? Can wealth suffice? Happiness? Wisdom?
Do they last beyond death?
Ah, no, the psalmist reminds us
Humans like animals must die
Nothing accumulated on earth is permanent, all will pass away.
If we are to be more than animals, if we are to survive death
We must look beyond earth. Amen

Psalm 50

God, my God, summons me, calls upon me to pay attention
Not just on Sunday, not just for a few minutes of prayer
But all day, every day, from dawn to dawn, God wants me
God wants me to recognize the beauty, the perfection
The perfect beauty of what She has to give
God speaks, but can I hear, even though God speaks mightily
God calls, but do I answer, even though God is my Judge
God asks, but how do I respond to God’s righteousness
What need does God have of my church-going, my prayer-recitals
What can I bring to God that God does not already have
God created the universe, God does not need anything from me
I, on the other hand, need everything from God
If I am to have any righteousness, any holiness, any salvation
Then it will only be as a gift from God, not from my efforts
My only duty is to recognize my helplessness, turn to God
With thanksgiving and praise
Then God will take care of those terrible Ds for me
God will cast them out as Jesus cast out devils
I will laugh and be free because God can do what I cannot
God knows the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy of me
God knows the struggle and the quiet, the faith and the doubt of me
God knows the gratitude and the envy, the generosity and the meanness of me
God knows it all and can take care of it all
So I will come, come as one of the faithful
With thanksgiving to honor God, my Lady Wisdom
God who clears my mind and heart of the terrible Ds
God who gives me a clear path to Her
God who saves me. Amen

Psalm 41

Blessed, blessed, when I remember others before myself
Let me care for and be one of the so-called weak
Let me rely on God to deliver me from troubles
Let me rely on God to protect and preserve me
Let me rely on God to bless me
Let me remember that God does not abandon me to my fears
Let me remember that God sustains me through all woes
Let me remember that God restores me despite any weakness
Have mercy on me, God, heal me, for I am full of sorrow
I feel deserted, maligned, afraid, cast off, alone
Will anyone notice when I die? Will anyone care?
Whom can I trust? Whom can I turn to?
I know that my friends and family deserve better from me
And yet I feel alone and fearful
As if no one cares, as if everyone thinks I am worthless
As if even my best friends have given up on me
Because I have given up on myself
But may You, God, have mercy on me
Raise me up
Remind me that You are pleased with me
Remind me that no enemy triumphs over You
And You are within me; You uphold me
You set me in Your presence forever
Praise be to God from everlasting to everlasting
Amen and Amen.

A Riff on Psalm 42

What do I know about deer? Only that there are too many of them
They keep getting killed by cars and trucks
But I know about dry and thirsty souls
Feeling that my mind is parched, my soul is shriveled
Was it P, P & M who sang about the woman at the well?
“Jesus met the woman at the well…
She went running, crying, ‘God help me.’”
I’m a woman, dry and thirsty, at Your well of eternal water
God, help me
I can’t say that I cry – even crying is too active
I can’t even say that I am waiting
I’m just kind of hibernating, shriveling, longing
Trying to remember what it felt like to be confident
To feel blessed, under Your protection, Mighty Wisdom Woman,
To join others with songs and shouts of joy and praise
It’s not like it was long ago – there are moments, more than moments
When I live even now within that joy and hope and friendship
But then why do I still get so downcast? Why so parched again?
Why so disturbed within myself? Why so hopeless?
Back and forth I go, between hope and despair, between love and loss
“Deep calls to deep”, the psalmist says
“All Your waves and breakers have swept over me”
Some days I feel You with me, some nights I’m content
Your song and prayer fill my life
Then again I start feeling like You have forgotten me
That there is nothing in my life but mourning and regret
Oppressed by my own doubts, feeling more dead than alive
Questioning, doubting, crying, Where are You, God?
Why do I struggle so, again and again? Why is my peace of mind so fragile?
Give me Your everlasting water, that I may never thirst again
And the psalmist tells me
Put your hope in God for you will yet praise God
God, your Savior. Amen.

Psalm 43

I ask You, O God, once again – again and again –
Help me, defend me, save me, here on earth
As You have done for eternity
Save me from deceitful distractions, deliver me from unworthy interests
You are God – mighty over all – so if I can’t depend on You to help me
What hope do I have?
So help me already, I’m tired, weary of walking about as if in mourning,
Weary of feeling as if I am oppressed by an enemy,
When I am my own enemy, always
O God, my God, blind me to the world, blind me with your blazing truth
Let your truth lead me, your beauty guide me
Let me look at the world, let me live my life, as if from atop Your holy hill
As if worshiping always at Your altar
Let me laugh with the joy of Your service; sing with Your praise
(Never mind that I can’t carry a tune; You don’t care so I won’t either)
Stop feeling sorry for yourself, O my soul, stop your grumbling
Stop feeling you need to be something more
Stop regretting you aren’t special, aren’t more talented, aren’t a saint
God wants what you are, not what you are not.
So just put your hope, your faith, your joy, your life in God
Who is Lady Wisdom
Praise God, your help. Amen .