Thursday, March 20, 2014

Psalmody Psunday (errr, Ptuesday) -- Psalm 71

So Jenny and I have started this new bloggy thing--full explanation here. And yes, I'm posting two in one night, but I wrote the first at Jenny's kitchen table two weeks ago, and the second two days ago, waiting for my plane out of LAX, so I'm not quite as much of a slacker as it might seem. (And we did allow that while the alliterative fun of Psunday was too good to miss, we'd give ourselves all week to write, just in case.) 

Just in case you wanted to verify the facts.

This Week's Psalmody Psunday:
Psalm 71

I love how human this psalm is. A silly thing to say, I suppose, but I try to remind myself as I read Scripture that it is God-breathed but written by plain old normal humans. In this psalm (and many others), you can nearly see the shake in the psalmist's hand as she wrote. (Yeah, I said it. Prove me wrong.) I love the psalms for this reason, perhaps above all: that they come from a human--and thus broken--place. (That's not to say they don't speak truth!) And maybe I say this only because I have written this psalm in my head and out loud a hundred times, and all-too-easily recognize the pendulum swings:

      1) Brave--but surface-level--hope: "You alone are my hope. I've trusted you, O Lord, from childhood..." (v. 5)       2) Gut-wrenching--but honest--fear: "Don't set me aside. Don't abandon me when my strength is failing." (v. 9)      3) Deeper-than-gut promise: "But I will keep on... All day long I will proclaim your saving power" (v. 14-15)      4) Quiet, residual rest: "Then I will praise you...because you are faithful to your promises, O God." (v. 22)

This is a pendulum I know well. So well it might seem I carved it myself: scraping it down with fingernails, varnishing it with tears. I know this psalm because I have lived it, and because I still do. Like the psalmist, I've known of God since early childhood, and have every reason to rely on him wholly. But this fear, this certainty that at some point You will run out of rope for me, that I will exhaust You, become too much or not measure up, still lingers. I can point to my history and see too many places where this has been true, where human hands have lifted and left. And with hindsight I know Yours have remained--but the fear is there, too. And the fear can rip through me, can rupture me until I don't even remember where it started--like leaving an empty island only to be overwhelmed by open sea. But a simple prayer--a psalm--and the waters calm, lower, part. Sometimes I can cross them back to home on dry land, sometimes I have to swim, flailing, but every time the pendulum falls: fear will swell but faith soothes--because faith stands rooted in truth. It is the sea floor. It is the path home. The waters recede, and like Noah, like the psalmist, I find music is the only thing that hopes to answer well enough. A soul-cry of praise--this truths started with remained through the fear. I start to say the truth was immovable, but that is not at all true--it came to seek me, find me, save me.

[Drafter's Note: I wrote this psalm before I got some gut-wrenching news. Nothing to be shared on the blogosphere, but as I reread and edited this, I was washed over by this psalm again. Swing, pendulum, swing.]

Psalmody Psunday: Intro, and 86

Perhaps I've mentioned my amazing sister-coz Jenny once or thirty-two times before--having spent a week with her and her kiddos (and husband, and some mutual friends), I am amazed all over again And not only is she an awesome wife and mom, but she comes up with awesome-amazing ideas, such as this one.

"So," she says, a nerd smile playing on her face. (We are soaking in being together, across this very same kitchen, hearing tone and seeing facial expression accompany our words--a seemingly newfound form of expression for we who have never lived within a thousand miles.) "I have a proposition for you that I think you're going to say yes to. Part devotional, part writing challenge, part blogger accountability."

"I'm in," I say gleefully, before she's quite finished the last word. Allen, already on his way toward the door, seems to pick up his pace to escape us before the nerdery truly descends. We are not unused to this--and not unamiable to the solitude. :)

So here's the challenge--having done this once in person, we quickly agreed to make it a weekly thing. Each week, we'll randomly pick a psalm, read it, and take 10 (ish) minutes to write/reflect/muse on it. Dissection, interpretation, or inspiration--wherever it leads. This first time, we attacked different psalms, but going forward we'll do one at a time. (Now that we're back to being thousands of miles apart, the likelihood of cheating off each other is so greatly reduced...)

Read Jenny's awesome thoughts on Psalm 123 here.

Last Week's Psalmody Psunday:
Psalm 86 (NLT) -- read it here

"O Lord, You are so good,
   so ready to forgive,
      so full of unfailing love."   v. 5

A whole psalm of praise, of truth, and this leaps out like flight, like shower water bursting cold. You are so ready. As usual, Your truth catches me when I am still in the entryway, at the gate, behind the door. Preparing. Readying myself. "Chandra's busy with another god right now, but if You'll just take a number..."
You are so ready. I can nearly see Your face, smiling sadly as a Father whose love is once again, always, misunderstood. Sold short. 

"Stop getting ready," You whisper. "This isn't the love story of the prom date: you perfecting yourself upstairs while I wait sweaty-handed and expectant. This is a different story...
We have been long-married, though I knew love for you long before you knew Me, befriended Me, loved Me. That's never been a burden, my love--only a banner for you to unfurl: "Unforgotten. Ever-loved."
But though long-married, you have been drawn away, and not for the first time. (I say it's not the first, but not because I keep score. But you take longer each time--longer to see it, longer to be grieved, longer to wish you were back with Me.) You have not protected your heart as I warned, and you slipped and fall, the gravel hillside ceding eagerly to your foot. And rather than turning back to Me, than leaning against my banner and letting Me prove its truth, you stumbled farther and further. And now you call back to me, hiding, telling me you're preparing yourself, that I should wait just one minute more. But I told you, this is not that story.
This is the story: You are so certain that this was the last, that we are done, that I am done pursuing--and you have every human reason to believe it's true. I have seen the others quit the pursuit, and have sat with you in the quiet they left. Seeking to hide, you find yourself in the very place you've found sanctuary before--your legs stretched out on red carpet, your head unable to bring your eyes heavenward. You are sure that, at best, I will bide my time, that I will make you patch your wounds alone. 
But here I am. Willing. Ready. Not waiting. I wipe streaked mascara from your face--what god told you that you looked better with it? My eyes, far from waiting in the ceiling, seek yours out, and my arms have already forded the river you thought impassable. You are the lost, and I am the finder--always. 
That wind you hear is My breath, the ripple is my banner. The words are unchanged. 
My love is utterly unfailing--it does not have a word for abandonment--and I Am it. 
I am so ready to forgive.