Saturday, June 20, 2009

David the blogger - Psalms Part I

For the past several years I have been reading through the Bible using a list of each book and recommended readings for the day. The list was designed to read the Bible in 1 year. Okay... I just admitted that I have been working on this for several years... And one book that I have read in the past, but not within the "list" was Psalms.

As a child I read the Psalms -- for whatever reason I could identify with the author's anguish, love, hate, etc that flowed through the words. Over the years I have heard a reading from Psalms at worship on Sunday morning (each lectionary passage includes a Psalm -- so with 150 of them, and 52 weeks in a year, every third year we start over again) and at funerals (with the 23rd Psalm at 99% of them) and the words set to a variety of melodies for hymns or "Christian" songs.

Finally I put Psalms at the top of the Bible reading list and set off through those familiar expressions of praise and anguish. But the other night it occurred to me -- maybe I should try a different approach. Rather than just reading the words, look to further messages. What can I learn about God or my approach to Him in the midst of the written words? What response does He desire back from me in my devotion of service to Him?

On a day of wandering, I ran across a book, "The Bible" within "the Smart Guide to the Bible series". This was a really cheap book in a store that I did not anticipate selling anything religious. I bought the book because it was so cheap, I wanted to let the store know that I support their carrying Christian material, and in just 2 pages I learned something. One thing was the list classified as "expressions of emotion" -- that very thing thing that drew me as a youngster to reading Psalms. The emotions listed were:
1. Anger at others (Ps. 7, 36)
2. Guilt over sins (Ps. 32, 51)
3. Anxiety or fear (Ps. 23, 64)
4. Discouragement (Ps. 42, 107)
5. Joy (Ps. 33, 98)
6.Loneliness (Ps. 25, 91)
7. Stress (Ps. 31, 89)
8. Troubled (Ps. 10, 126)
9. Weakness (Ps. 62, 102)
10. Envy (Ps. 16, 73)
(p. 77)

Another list was the "What's to Talk About?"
Themes, confession of sins, consideration of right choices, anticipation of Christ, call on God to judge, complain to God, thanks for deliverance, and praise for God himself. (p. 77)

The view of David as a blogger popped in my head. He was just rambling at whatever came into his mind about God -- they caught on and now there is a book of those random thoughts presented in the Psalms.

OKAY -- not a hard book to read... Should be much easier than some of the other choices still on my "to-do" list for successfully reading the entire Bible. (I still have all the "Pentateuch" books left... although Genesis is almost complete.)

This morning I picked up The NIV Study Bible expecting just a few short paragraphs telling of the Psalms. Instead, I found pages written and some of the information changed my thinking of "David as a blogger". Here are some exerpts...

The Psalter served as a the prayer book (book of prayer, praise and religious instruction)...

Psalm Types
(numbering added for emphasis)
1. Prayers of the individual (Ps. 3; 7-8)

2. Praise from the individual for God's saving help (Ps. 30; 34)
3. Prayers of the community (Ps. 12; 44; 79)
4. Praise from the community (Ps. 66; 75)
5. Confessions of confidence in the Lord (Ps. 11; 16; 52)
6. Hymns in praise of God's majesty and virtues (ps. 8; 19; 29; 65)
7. Hymns of celebrating God's universal reign (Ps. 47; 93-97)
8. Songs of Zion, city of God (Ps. 46; 48; 76; 84; 112; 126; 129; 137)
9. Royal psalms - by, for or concerning the king, the Lord's annointed (Ps. 2; 18; 20; 45; 72; 89; 110)
10 Pilgrimate psalms (Ps. 120-124)
11. Litergical songs (Ps. 15; 24; 68)
12. Didactic (instructional) songs (Ps. 1; 34; 37; 73; 112; 119; 128; 133)

The Psalter is for the most part a book of prayer and praise. It speaks to God in prayer and it speaks of God in praise -- also in professions of faith and trust... The Psalter is not a catechism of doctrine. Its "theology" is therefore not abstract or systematic but confessional and doxological."

At the core of the theology of the Psalter is the conviction that the gravitational center of life (of right human understanding, trust, hope, service, morality, adoration),but also history of the whole creation (heaven and earth) is God (
YAHWEH, "The Lord). He is the Great King over all, the One to whom all things are subject. He created all things and preserves them; they are the robe of glory with which he has clothed himself. Because he ordered them, they have a well-defined and true identity (no chaos there). Because he maintains them, they are sustained and kept secure from disruption, confusion or annihilation. Because he alone is sovereign God, they are govered by one hand and held in the service of one divine purpose. Under God creation is a cosmos -- an orderly and systematic whole. What we distingguish as "nature" and history had for them one Lord, under whose rule all things worked together. Through the creation the Great King's majestic glory is displayed. He is good (wise, righteous, faithful, amazingly benevolent and merciful -- evoking trust), and he is great (his knowledge, thoughts and works are beyond human comprehension -- evoking reverent awe). By his good and lordly rule he is shown to be the Holy One."

At this point, I can honestly say that I never imagined so much depth to the Psalms. The concept of David (or other authors) as simply bloggers jotting down their thoughts has come to a screeching halt. Instead, I am filled with wonder at learning more to the words and meaning shared.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Ok, it isn't Thursday, but I'm still thankful. Actually, I have been thinking of what am I thankful for -- that I could include something here no the board. Here goes.... I am thankful for:
1) No train at railroad tracks. On average, a train passes through town 1 every 15 minutes. Typically, there is one that gives everyone the opportunity to stop -- especially when running late... I was running late, so I figured I'd be stuck there for at least 5 minutes. No stop... I was on time for an appointment.
2) Glasses /contacts. With that resource I can see like a normal person. I recognize that being able to see 20 / 20 with visual correction does not necessarily make ME normal... But at least I can see...
3) Internet / web connection. Through this wonderful mode of communication I can "chat" with family and friends, teach courses from the comfort of my recliner, and search for answers to questions. Communication is wonderful!
4) Sewing machine, fabric, and patterns. I love to sew and am thankful that in 1979 (give or take a year) I was given a sewing machine. It was not a new machine, but pretty close. It is not any newer now, but it still works just fine. This summer I have actually done a few fun things without a time pressure. And, now I am in love with sewing all over again.
5) Slight breeze, sunshine, flowers, trees, birds, and bunny rabbits. Quite a list of beautiful things outside, and more could have been added, but I picked the first 6 that came to mind.
6) Rocking chairs and swings. Just sitting and rocking -- slowly moving back and forth can make time seem to stand still. That unhurried atmosphere that encourages simplicity is welcome when classes and committees and activities require thought and planning and coordination of efforts. But rocking does not require thinking or planning, but can simply be enjoyed for a moment or an hour.
7) Answer to prayer... Last Sunday I substituted for Connie at church and had my usual shaking like a leaf for the prelude and first hymn. This is typical, but believe me not the preferred for me or anyone close enough to see me. Our prayer of confession was, "Triune God, you dance among us in joy, inviting us into the mystery that you are. Yet we want understanding; we want answers. Forgive our thickness. Encircle us in your oneness, and teach us to trust you with abandon, as we invite others to join the dance; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." I thought of the Lord and that phrase "encircle us in your oneness..." And I prayed again. "Lord encircle me with your oneness that my hands would be still and my heart calm as I lift my music and heart before you."
And my hands were still. I played without any further shaking, and my heart was filled with joy as I knew the reality of God with me.
Thankfully, Connie is back for this Sunday. But now I know without a shadow of a doubt that God can do miracles -- even within and for me.

And I am thankful.