Tag Archives: psalms


Photo on 2015-02-12 at 08.27Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me,

or the hand of the wicked drive me away.

Psalm 36:11 (NRSV)

It’s been one long snowstorm in Massachusetts. In the past three weeks, the snow banks have grown into mountains and sidewalks are out of sight. It’s not that any one of the storms created havoc, but the steady onslaught of snow laden clouds that have covered the sun for weeks. Snow accumulation has accumulated: too much too close together.

Not a single incident, but a collection of slights and plans gone awry that accumulated into paralyzing, insurmountable banks. A cry to God for help, for a place to stand, for a reprieve from something too big to overcome. Whoever wrote this psalm had too much too close together.

My sons built a snow NO a few days back. They’ve each had fun events cancelled and school days missed – life veering from its expected track. But they had a great time building the snow NO and spending time outdoors together. I see their NO every time I feed the birds or glance out the window.

I think the psalmist was creating his own snow NO – a complaint against life going wrong and the ones responsible for some of it. Snow falls on the wicked and the good and a sense of proportion and humor kept bitterness from settling in his or her heart permanently. Why do I think this? Because these words are also in psalm 36:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

No amount of blinding white can hide the truth: we are never lost to God. Snow or no snow.

In the dark, into the light

For evils have encompassed me without number; my iniquities have overtaken me, until I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me…

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.

Psalm 40:12, 17

What I see inside colors what I see outside. If my inner life is a wasteland of fear and anger, I’ll see enemies all around, dark projections that threaten to overwhelm me. Overtaken by my inner darkness, I am blind. Disheartened by the dangerous world, so very aware of my own inadequacies, there is no place for me to hide.

When I rely on my own strength, intelligence, and courage, the world shrinks to the size of my own inner resources. There’s nothing beyond the end of my nose. In such a small place, there is no help. For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me. (Ps. 38:17) There is no way to get myself out of the box I created. I need help, and so I cry to God: I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. (Ps. 38:18). Sin isn’t a tally of all my bad deeds and shortcomings, it’s an admission that I’ve lost my way in the darkness. I need someone else to bring me back into the light.

Some people don’t believe in miracles. Walking on water, oil lamps that never run dry, and earthquakes that open jail cells don’t seem believable to some or necessary to others. But under all that is a miracle that’s easy to miss: the miracle of being brought out of darkness into light. To see the light, to take the hand of God when it’s offered (and it’s always offered) is miraculous. Out of the shadows, I can sing:

He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:2-3


The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;

see what desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46:6-11

Psalms bring together images that don’t usually travel in the same circles. In this case, God bringing desolation to the earth and God making wars cease. Melting earth and broken bow, both changing reality in unimaginable ways. Be Still and shattered spear, exaltation and burnt shields. God is with us, God is our refuge – the very God who guided Jacob from his trickster days to being Israel.

What would this world look like if everyone called it even, dropped their deadly toys and went home? Diplomacy would be the only way to get things done. Peace takes a lot more work and time, friendly relations a lot more flexibility and respect. Everyone would have to play by the rules…eventually.

In a way, I think that would be a desolation of the earth. A reversal of how power is exercised on a global scale destroys the violent reality that justifies and even encourages war. This isn’t just taking away the weapons: this is destroying the acceptance of pervasive violence as a way to live as a country, culture, and species.

How does such Godly, war-ending desolation begin? I guess it depends on the starting point. It takes such courage and faith to stop shooting arrows and hiding behind shields, and no one can do it alone. It takes reacting not in fear but in trust and hope – something I can’t do on my own. I guess that’s why I read the Psalms. When I am scared to death they assure me that…

God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea…

Psalm 46:1-2 (NRSV)

White Wonder


On the glorious splendor of your majesty,

and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Psalm 145:5

Last Saturday at the library, the young girl in front of me checked out Snowflake Bentley, the story of snowflake photographer Wilson Bentley. Bentley’s life-long love of snowflakes moved him to study them, to see and capture their hexagonal beauty.

It’s not easy to photograph a snowflake; they are tiny and fragile and they melt when held too long or brought inside the house. But Wilson Bentley wanted to share their beauty and structure with the world, so he developed a way to photograph them. Snowflake Bentley’s passion and effort brought snowflakes to the tropics and the deserts, giving them to people who will never see snow flying outside the window.

That young girl’s book choice couldn’t be more perfect: what better to read during a blizzard than Snowflake Bentley? The illustrations and words have come alive right outside the window – millions of unique snowflakes just waiting for someone with eyes to see and a heart to appreciate them.

I love snow, but I don’t spend a lot of time meditating on each individual snowflake. Even with so many outside my window, it takes seeing a book in the hands of a child to open my eyes to the one-of-a-kind beauty of each snowflake. A passing glance just isn’t enough to see what is right in front of me.

The same can be said of God’s wonder-filled world: sometimes it takes a psalm in my hands to give me eyes to see it and a heart to appreciate it.

Images of Wilson Bentley’s photographs are from Wikipedia, Snowflake Bentley.

(Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Snowflake Bentley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998, ISBN 0395861624)


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,

until the destroying storms pass by.

Psalm 57:1, NRSV

The sky is cloudy this morning, and snow is coming. High winds, almost hurricane strength, are on their way. Towns on the seacoast are preparing for storm surge. A blizzard is a fierce storm, and sometimes a destroying one. The last time this happened, the power was out for two days.

Storms are giant reminders that I cannot control the world I live in. I can and do prepare – pulling in trash cans and other things that might blow away, filling the bird feeders, having food and candles and batteries at hand – but I cannot control or avoid the storms that visit my home. Unless I leave.

For most storms, I’ll stay home; losing power and mobility for a day or two is just an inconvenience. But for those storms that threaten to destroy my home, ones that threaten my life and the lives of those I love, I’ll leave home and possessions to find a safer place. Houses can be rebuilt. There’s a big difference between inconvenience and death dealing destruction.

The same is true of the storms in my life that aren’t weather related. Heartache, pain, loss, and death. They hit home, wreaking havoc in my heart, mind, and soul. It’s easy to get lost in these storms; I’ll stay put and take the consequences for most of these, but seek a safe place when it’s beyond my strength.

Whatever type of storm comes, I’ll say a prayer for mercy and refuge. I’ll pray for myself and for others. I’ll seek shelter in the storm in the home that can never be destroyed: God’s loving embrace.