Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stilled and Quieted

"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore."

(Psalm 131, ESV)

The words "calmed and quieted my soul" jumped out at me from this Psalm. I have not been experiencing much of that lately. The imagery of a young child being calmed by his mother is strong. Even if it has been years, you can remember that feeling of knowing everything would be alright when your mother was holding you close. Sometimes we long for those days when we could go to someone and basically say "just make it all go away." Then I was called back to the beginning of the Psalm. What is the key to having access to that comfort? Realizing that we are small and not in control of this world. We will always be his little children, and God is always ready to comfort and protect us if we'll just recognize and ask him. The problems and hurts may still be there, but he will hold us through it until the pain is past.

Attached are a melody and lyrics that are my response to this Psalm.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Riches & Blessings

Psalm 144: 3, 13-15
"O Lord, what is man that you care for him,
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow...
....Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
blessed are the people whose God is the Lord."
Can be purchased at Igniter Media.
We are living in a country that has full barns, oxen drawing heavy loads, and full fields. If we focus on the things of this world, material security, comfort, and entertainment we will be lulled asleep by Satan. This lulling starts with sleep, brings us into a coma, and eventually leads to spiritual death.
We are made alive together with Christ, and Christ brings us riches not found in this world.
Ephesians 2:3-7
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh,
indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
But God, being rich in mercy,
because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised up with Him,
and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Psalm 104--Foundations

As I was reading this Psalm, the sense of God's overarching power to direct everything and care for everything came through loud and clear. in this section of scripture, God is referred to by the tetragammaton, YHWH. Since the Jewish people considered this name too holy to be spoken, they would call him Adonai (Lord) instead. The foundation in the image is the Aramaic spelling of YHWH and the foundation pillars contain the letterforms from Adonai. I will simply quote the passage in the psalm where this image is pulled from.
He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth. (Psalm 104:5-9, NIV)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Psalm 70: Deliver Me

Some of you have heard this background, but some have not, so I'll give it again:

In December of 1999, my mother was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. She was given only a 25% chance of living for 5 years. She beat those odds and after her treatments actually went into remission for about 5 years. We were told at the time of initial diagnosis, though, that if it ever came back it would probably progress so rapidly that there would be nothing that could be done medically. So, when it did come back, we were devastated. Thankfully, in 5 years' time cancer treatment had developed to the point that the doctors were able to treat the cancer, but for several days we did not know this.

About that time, I had been reading in the Psalms. During the night, a portion of Psalm 70 was going through my head constantly -- "O my God, deliver me. O my God, deliver me. O my God, deliver me. O my Lord do not delay." It was one of those nights where I was constantly shifting from a waking state to sleep, but the phrase followed me where ever I was. It started as a plea of desperation but as the night progressed it gradually developed into a victory chant.

That continual chant is the basis of "Deliver Me". It never leaves (sorry, basses) just as the phrase would never leave my mind. Other thoughts came in and mingled with it -- sometimes very confused thoughts. But by the end "O my God, deliver me" is not a plea so much as a declaration of assurance of our deliverance.

Recording note:
This is the first attempt at recording this version with words. I could only get one male singer, so the tenor line had to be supplied by an alto friend of mine, and it's in a difficult part of her range to project. We practiced for about an hour then recorded it. There are a couple of "cringe-worthy" moments, but I was so grateful to be able to hear all the parts at once with the lyrics.

The song is designed to be sung by a larger group, so the balance of voices and interpretation are not what I would envision in a finished product. It does make it difficult to understand some of the words, so I put the recording in a slide show so that the lyrics could be read while listening.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psalm 75: A Directed Prayer

As I was reading different psalms from Book 3 of the Psalms, I was noticing how many of the psalms are prayers. I also noticed how focused the prayers are to God. After almost 50 years of life, I still struggle with focus in my prayer life, so I thought this week that I would create a directed prayer based on Psalm 75. This video is an sample of the Keynote file. Sometimes active praying included my adding my own thoughts and other times, just sitting there and reflecting on what was said on the slide was more than an adequate prayer posture. Since prayer is communion with God, we don't have to talk all the time. I can remember how frustrating it was when our kids were younger and and talked "at us", with no opening for us to respond. Some of the best times are just sitting and being with each other–but being fully present all the while.

Those thoughts are part of what lies behind this piece.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Waiting in Silence

From the Feb 10 class:

Having done my usual lack of preparation and confounded at the fact that I had not come up with anything creative, I found myself indicted by the first line of Psalm 62:

"For God alone my soul waits in silence . . ." (ESV)

I have not done much waiting for God, much less in silence. And, of course, if we want God to reveal anything meaningful to us it is pretty much a requirement than we stop long enough to listen. This is something I have been trying to correct in my life as of late (with marginal success).

The NIV does not use the word silence, opting for the word "rest" instead (I think). I went ahead and read all the different versions on Bible Gateway, and I think the word silence best portrays the intent David had. So, going along with the theme of "waiting in silence" combine with the direction of "Selah" given between stanzas, I thought of alternating periods of silence with the stanzas. I made an mp3 of a reading of Psalm 62, starting with 30 seconds of silence before the first stanza, with two more 30-second periods of silence between each additional stanza. In the periods of silence, if your mind wanders, concentrate on your breathing and relaxing the muscles in your shoulders, your face and jaw, your arms, etc.

Unfortunately, you cannot post an mp3 to Blogger, but you can post a video. So, I made a slide show video with the reading as the background audio. You can watch the slides, or close your eyes, but take 3 minutes to wait before God.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Than Words Can Say

This is from the Feb 3 class, and comes from Psalm 40:4-5 (ESV):

Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.

The last two lines stuck out to me, of David telling of all of God's wondrous deeds and all the thoughts he directs toward us. David details many of these things in other Psalms, yet here he simply says that "they are more than can be told." Then my thoughts went to Job, when God speaks to Job. Instead of just telling Job that he didn't know enough about the world to tell God what decisions should be made, God lists example after example of all the things Job didn't know, letting the sheer weight of all the details that God handles (and Job doesn't understand) convict Job of the foolishness of trying to tell God what he should do. So, I just started listing some of the things God does for us, the wonders and thoughts, and came up with these lyrics:

More Than Words Can Say

In the song we sing,
In the air we breathe,
In a summer's day,
In a cooling breeze,
In a child's laugh,
In a baby's cry,
When we shout for joy,
When we wonder why,
In a vict'ry won,
In a burden shared,
In your loving care
You are everywhere,
More than words can say,
More than words can say.

Teeth of Spears and Arrows

I thought I'd let Psalm 57 speak for itself this week.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness.

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts–
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. selah

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing an make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth. (ESV)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Psalm 3: I Lie Down and Sleep

What a joy it is to know that no matter what is happening in our world, we can have the comfort and ease of lying down and sleeping peacefully because we know that God is watching over us. That is what this image is about. Sometimes we feel our enemies are too great to count their number, and everywhere we look we see trouble. It is very easy to get discouraged as a human. I was thinking about Elijah and his despair as he was running away from Jezebel (1 Kings 19), Elijah complained to God that he was the only one left who followed Him. God told him that there were still 7000 faithful in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal. He had lost heart and had to be reminded that God was still in control. In Psalm 3, David does not fall into that trap.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side. (ESV)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Give Ear– Psalm 40:6

We are studying the Psalms in our Creative Bible Study this semester. Last night I chose to work with Psalm 40. I kept noticing as I read through the Psalm that David continually mentions that God listens to us, is aware of us and cares for us. In verse 6 David states that God isn't interested our giving him sacrifices, he wants us to hear him:

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required. (ESV)