Tag Archive: Psalter


Fourth Sunday in Lent

Another week down – that’s crazy! I have no idea where the time is going. All I know is that this week, Psalm 46 did not get memorized. I selected it because we had looked at it last Friday in my Psalter class, finding that the Hebrew in 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God!”) is actually closer to “Let go and know that I am God!” “Let go.” Wow. That blew my mind. It has the connotation of letting go of a rope or unclenching one’s fist (as in a war).

This “letting go” also came up later when I was in contemplative prayer and meditating on what I felt called to work on in my relationships with God and others. What came up was trusting God more. And when I prayed about and listened for how to trust more, the answer I heard was twofold: to embrace the blessings God has given me and to “let go and know that I am God.”

So when it came time to pick a psalm to memorize, I thought Psalm 46 would be a winner. However, when I sat down to read over it, nothing was sticking. I tried a few times and it just wasn’t speaking to me. And throughout the week, various things came up and I neglected poor 46. Sigh.

When I realized the week had gone by and I hadn’t managed to memorize this psalm, I was discouraged. How could I have been such a slacker? Even if it wasn’t speaking to me, I still should have spent more time with it, opening my heart to see if it would touch me. However, this struggle with Psalm 46 seems to have served to point me in the direction of my next psalm. What could it be? Psalm 42:

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help 6and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?’
10 As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen a longer psalm when I couldn’t even get through the relatively short Psalm 46 last week, but I think I’ll have better luck because this speaks to me, especially the first two verses: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Like the deer of the wilderness longing for a stream, I, too, long to be closer to God – to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and inspired (“in-Spirited”) for service to God and the world.

With this psalm on my lips and in my heart, perhaps it’ll be a constant reminder of what and for whom I should be longing – not after the things of this world, but God. And in those moments when my soul is disquieted and cast down, I can recall that I will indeed praise God at a later time – as I have done in the past so many times due to God’s mercy, grace and outrageous generosity.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Second Sunday in Lent

Round two. Ding ding! We’re now one and a half weeks into our Lenten journey. And I must admit that this past week, I floundered a bit with my Lenten discipline. I didn’t touch Facebook, but I also neglected digging into the Psalms like I was hoping to. I continued praying and living with Psalm 51, which I’m now quite comfortable with, but with midterms, I decided to save the space in my memory for vocabulary terms, dates, religious movements, and themes in Christian mission and the Psalter rather than for memorizing a psalm.

I think that having the Scriptures memorized is incredibly helpful and can give me words when my own seem inadequate or like they come up empty. At the same time, however, “failing” in my memorization for the past week made me feel like I was neglecting my discipline (which I was), but I think I need to be careful not to slip over into equating “succeeding” in this discipline as putting me more in God’s favor or somehow making me more pious. It is a tool to help me on my way – first and foremost to teach me about God and help me to follow God, and secondly, to encourage me to reflect on myself. No memorization or lack of memorization can increase or decrease the amazing gift we have received through what Christ has already accomplished on the cross.

Providentially, Psalm 121 is today’s psalm and it highlights that God alone is our help. The same God who created heaven and earth and who will keep our going out and coming in “from this time on and forevermore.” I pray that reading and contemplating this psalm this week will remind me of the incredible goodness and steadfastness of God’s work and promises – promises which God keeps even when I may fall short. The Lord of all creation keeps our lives, watches over us and “will neither slumber not sleep” out of love for us – God’s children.

Stay tuned next week to see what I learn from a week with Psalm 121!

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Below is a song from Casting Crowns entitled “Praise You in This Storm” which includes the words of Psalm 121:

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

First Sunday in Lent

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Ash Wednesday, only 4 days ago, marked the beginning of my journey. With quiet time for prayers and reflection, as well as a cross smeared on my head in ashes, my season of Lent started.

Ash Cross from Google Search

In general, I look forward to Lent – to the quiet and penitential season which allows us to examine and rest in our relationship with God. “Examine” and “rest” don’t seem like two words that should go together, but reading Psalm 51 (the first Psalm I’m working on memorizing and the Psalm read at the Ash Wednesday service), has helped me to understand Lent in a different light:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6 You desire truth in the inward being;1 therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God1 is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

This is a song of penitence – a prayer that God might turn God’s face from the psalmist’s sins, that God, in God’s “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy,” might blot out or erase the psalmist’s transgressions. This is the examining part of Lent, and what Lutherans would call “the law.” We are all sinners. We have all done things we know we should not have. Moreover, we have all committed sins that we may not even recognize as sins. We have also failed to do the things we should have. In short, as Paul writes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But this is not, thankfully, the end of the story. There is also the resting part of Lent, or, as Lutherans, would call it, the gospel part of “law and gospel.” This is the good news that God does indeed forgive us – no matter what we have done or failed to do. The good news that God can and will create clean hearts in us and restore the joy of salvation to us. Joy. That’s a word we don’t often hear in Lent, but I believe it is crucial. In examining our sins and noting how we have fallen short of God’s glory, we are driven back to the cross of Christ, forgiven of our sins, and it is there, at the foot of the cross, that we know the joy of God’s salvation – of God’s grace, mercy and love. This is the love and comforting embrace in which we can rest – holding firm to the promises of God.

I am really enjoying reading the Psalms carefully and trying to memorize them. It’s difficult and can be frustrating, especially when I don’t get it right even after many attempts, but once memorized, it’s been amazing to speak Psalm 51 aloud and actually think about the words I’m saying. To recite the psalm not just as a monologue, but as a prayer has made helped me to appreciate the Psalter not just as a thing of the past, but as a collection of prayers and songs to be used in conversation with God.

As for being off of Facebook, what a blessing! Surprisingly, it’s been easy to avoid it and I don’t miss it much, although it is hard to break the habit of compulsively checking it every 5 seconds. Sigh. I think I may limit myself to once a week once Lent is over because I’m enjoying the detachment. Over time, I think I may notice that being disconnected from Facebook will encourage me to connect on a deeper level with family and friends – that it will help me to really be present with them, not thinking about something else or multitasking while we talk. We’ll see, I suppose!

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Arches - Pergamum, Turkey

Lent. The time which spans from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The 40 days in which Christians are to prepare their hearts for Good Friday and the Crucifixion as well as Easter and the Resurrection. A common practice is to give something up or to adopt a new spiritual discipline in order to reflect upon what Christ has done for us. However, often times, this Lenten practice is reduced to giving up sweets or junk food, something I, too, have done in the past. Thinking about this now, it seems like giving up candy is a silly idea since we’re supposed to be reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and drawing closer to God – how does not eating something sugary help? Am I really sacrificing anything or drawing closer to my Lord and my God? I don’t think so.

With this in mind, as I am journeying through this Lenten season, I will be giving up Facebook. While it is a wonderful tool for connecting people, staying in touch, and, well, procrastinating, I think I will better be able to focus on the richness of Lent if Facebook is not around as a distraction. In addition to this and in response to my awesome “Psalter and the Life of Faith” course this semester, I am going to dig into the Psalter and work on “writing it upon my heart” (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18, Psalm 119:11). Yes, I am going to try to memorize some of the Psalms. We’ll see how far I go!

While I’m giving up Facebook, I hope to record and keep track of my journey and my experiences here. I’m so excited! I’d love to hear what others are doing this Lent – leave comments below about your past experiences and/or what you’d like to do this year. Can’t wait to hear what you’re up to!

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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