Sunday, April 27, 2014

Psalmody Psunday: 83

It appears, in looking at my last couple months' worth of posts, that PsPs is all that's keeping me blogging these days.

Ya know what? Good 'nough. At least something is. Maybe I'll go do a Five-Minute Friday next, just to round myself out...

This Week's Psalm: 83

It's something magical--yes, I'm going to use that word--to be in a certain place emotionally/spiritually, and open up a "random" psalm (Jenny picks them!), only to be greeted with words that were written millennia ago, but speak directly from your own heart, right now.

Especially when, say, BibleGateway is set on KJV.

Keep not thou silence, O God; hold not thy peace and be not still...

Well. Hi, there, Jesus. I didn't see you come in.

I'd just finished journaling, pleading with God to show up in a situation where He seems to be keeping a back seat, waiting for something. I had confessed how in a (sadly) not-too-deep place, I am convinced I could handle this better than He is. I know this is wrong... but there is no hiding one's heart from Him, so might as well be blunt. He's the maker and savior of the world. He can take it.

...For lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head...

Occasionally there comes a circumstance where only borderline-archaic words dating from the fourteenth century will do. 
tumult, from the Old French tumult (12th century), from the Latim tumultus: commotion, bustle, uproar, disorder, disturbance.* 

That pretty much sums it up, yes. Tumultuous. It's huge and small at once--a tempest in a teapot. It is massive and thrashing, subversive and unspeakable. And the Enemy is involved, just see if he isn't. Given an eighth of a chance, he lifts up his head like he has a right to look down on anything.

I'm not sure I'll even move any farther in this psalm. From here we get into a list of Israel's enemies, which doesn't really suit me for the moment--I have no beefs with Edom or Midian, and the only Endor I'm attached to contains a civilization of warrior teddy bears. <-- comic relief

In fact, let's just skip to the end--because this, too, is where I ended in my journal moments ago: that though I can't see these attacks coming, and can't pinpoint how to hold defense, the Warrior God is awake and aware, and while He may be waiting, while He may be preparing me by refining me, He does not slumber or sleep.

Let [the Enemy] be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

Praise You, praise You, praise You, God, for being so much larger than this. For seeing more than I do, for feeling each injury and slight with a far more personal pain, and for counting each tear. Thank You that there is no debate on who wins at the end. Keep me strong, and clinging only to You, until that day.


Verses cited, in order, and in NIV for less word-nerdy minds:
1: "O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God."
2: "See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads."
17b-8: "May they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD--that you alone are the Most High over all the earth."

* Thanks, Online Etymology Dictionary! What would an Information Age English major do without you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Psalmody Pwhat Day Is It Again: Psalm 19

[Drafter's Note: Why do I go weeks or months with no post, and then twice in two hours? ...Do other writers not sway to a standard never-rains-but-it-pour drumbeat?? I'm confused...]

My sister-coz and I are competing for Most Sporadic Blogger of 2014. Your votes are appreciated.

I'm going to "catch up" tonight--which is to say, I think this will bring both of us up two 10 days behind, which is (in case you were wondering) that same as being caught up, because who is to say that Palm Sunday was a Psalmist's day off??


Psalm 19 (read it here)

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults."    v. 12, KJV

You're joking, right? SECRET faults?? All the sludge in my soul, all the boarded-up windows and locked drawers, those are only what's on file? There's more??

I know this is truth--a glimpse into that dark tells me there are hallways that resist even the intrepid and myriad angles and dead ends defy the stubborn--but it's no less defeating. "I am a hopeless case," sayeth the psalmist. "Send help!"

But even in the same thought, a moment earlier, the laws (what King James' friends termed the judgment) of the Lord is "sweeter than honey, even honey dripping off the comb" (v. 10). This is an image that works for me--my uncle had a little bee colony for a while, and the geniuses of Mssrs. Reese, Hershey, Whitman, and Stover have never some close to that goodness. So how is law, how is judgment, so good as that? Do I crave law like I crave Ben & Jerry's? Do I get in the mood for discipline that way I could go for a frozen Take 5 right now?

But "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (v. 7)*. This is a process, and each season where the discipline of God smarts hard across me, I appreciate it more. Rarely at the time. And not, I would say, in the same way as I appreciate my mom's snickerdoodles straight from the oven. But as I dwell on this, I take our psalmist's point. Even the things that are hard, painful, unending processes with God have a sweetness to them, and maybe it's just the knowing that it's not in vain, that it is for our good, that it is covered by and made of his love and so--to borrow from a future psalmody--while the pain lasts for a night, joy comes with the morning.

Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
my strength and my redeemer.
v. 14

* Am I driving someone crazy by walking backwards through this psalm? Certainly. Is that someone me? Likely.

Calling out among the scoffers: A Good Friday

Aside from the occasional remembrance (only present for the hiccup in my otherwise slothful Friday schedule), I wouldn't know the day as any different. The dim awareness that Sunday will be special--a service at the oceanside, scheduled time with family instead of impromptu--is dimmer still as life's frustrations and uglinesses have gotten to me more than usual lately.

The day is nice enough for April in Maine and I have a coupon for iced coffee, so the bus is traded in for a walk along the Green Belt, where the reality of living against the ocean with my sweet little city perched quietly across the harbor is once again accepted as normal, taken for granted, forgotten. A call to my mother--the marrow-deep familiar tones of her voice, the intimate reflection of myself--also normal, also taken as unremarkable.

Arriving, coffee in hand, I get to work, correcting grammar and aligning text, explaining busyness away as service, even ministry. Only mildly grateful for a restored voice after sickness, I lose myself in songs that trigger an emotional response, but even this I recognize for what it is: surface-level, nicks and scrapes on the hard rock that I plaster myself with. Verses are read, more songs are sung. Truths recited as normal, taken for granted, forgotten.

And then she comes forward to read, my sweet friend who only stands to my elbow, whose stature and quick laugh and self-deprecation don't hint at the depth and the strength of her. Even knowing her as I do, I assume she won't be able to get through this, one of the hardest descriptions in our holy book, where he is flogged, pierced, facetiously robed, mocked, slapped, jeered.

She speaks it, every word with its own comprehensive intonation. She feels every word, but her voice doesn't crack, doesn't wobble. From practice or grace, I don't know. She nears the end, her voice strong and clear and just as I start to turn away, she chokes on, "carrying the cross by himself."

And this is where I break, too. Every mention of "scoffers" in those songs has hung a little heavier over my neck, and this is where I fall to my knees from the weight. Because I can't help him. Two thousand years ago he walked those streets, but we purposely stop on a Friday night in the spring to remind ourselves of this: that we didn't help, wouldn't help, can't help. We don't sing the fourth verses that talk about victory and new dawns and torn veils because, if for just a couple hours, we need--I need--to remember this scene:

He didn't help me out. He didn't catch me when I almost stumbled. He didn't pinch hit for me. He carried my cross by himself. At best, I was nearby--but even in that, I cannot be heroic: "Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice / Call out among the scoffers." This is why we pause, why we dwell with death for a day of the calendar, because otherwise our story is over-softened, and Jesus is somehow shaped into a sidekick, a helpful buddy who pats me on the back and justifies my wrongs.

But even while I walked through my day nearly unthinking of him--ungrateful for what He's graced me with, unnoticing of the pain and hurt that surrounds me, too distracted by my own paper cuts and stepped-on toes--he still takes on my brokenness and carries it. By himself. Not as a pack mule, not as a bit player, but as the One who saved my life and saves me still. How is it easy to forget that, to paint it as a minor subheading in my oh-so-busy life?

In the traditional celebrations of Passover, the youngest asks, "Why is this night different from all the others?" There's no reason to believe a close friend of Jesus didn't ask the same question at their Passover table hours before he would take that cross for himself. What makes tonight different?

It isn't. It's the same--I am the same, and so is He. But for one night, this night, we remember. We don't skim, we don't turn the page. We hold, just for these few hours. And even though our story reminds us of his wounds, he comes still, even now, to heal.

Just as I am, without one plea
but that Thy blood was shed for me
and that Thou bidst me come to Thee!
O, Lamb of God, I come. I come.

I come broken to be mended.
I come wounded to be healed.
I come desperate to be rescued.
I come empty to be filled.
I come guilty to be pardoned
by the blood of Christ the Lamb,
And I'm welcomed with open arms--
Praise God--just as I am.

Just as I am, I would be lost
but mercy and grace, my freedom bought.
And now to glory in Your cross,
O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

The specific scripture referenced is John 19--a shocking, painful, awful narrative... And how terrifying that I can read it nearly without feeling if I'm in the right mindset.

And if reading song lyrics was a little lacking, Travis Cottrell can help.