1 Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
~Psalm 147:1-11 (NRSV)
I had great hopes and high expectations to blog reflections through Lent based on the Daily Common Lectionary. As you might imagine, that has not gone according to plan. But I offer Psalm 147 and the powerful and encouraging language of giving thanks and praising God. I posted on Twitter the other day that it was challenging to encourage those with whom I minister to pray every day and offer constant praises to God when I, as their pastor, struggle to do the same. And so, I take great solace in the third phrase of verse 1: “for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.”
In November I told my spiritual director about my struggle to just sit in the presence of God for any length of time and feeling like I was always rushing from one thing to the next and that I could seem to keep up with all that had to be done and that the piles on my desk were growing and the to-do list was getting longer and I was behind in phone calls and pastoral visits and notes of encouragement and…oh yeah…I have to preach on Sunday! She breathed in deeply, let it out long and slow and loud—a great sigh of both exhaustion and relief on my behalf. She suggested setting several alarms on my iPhone, invitations to spend even just a few seconds breathing deeply and remembering God’s presence in the fractiousness. I set my alarms to start at 8am and chime every 2 hours throughout the day (skipping 8pm because I am often in meetings), concluding with Compline at 10pm when I would try to spend some time in examen looking at the day and reflecting on God’s presence throughout.
In January I told my spiritual director of my journey thus far and how it seemed the chimes were just an annoyance, that when my phone chimed I found myself just turning it off and going about my business like nothing happened (not all the time, but enough to notice). Then she said something that challenged me, surprised me, and relieved me: “Don’t be afraid to just take the time, sit in the anxiety and stress and say to God, ‘Well, God, I’m here. I’m distracted and frazzled and exhausted, but I’m here. This moment is yours, even in all my anxiety.'” Wow! What a reality check!
Being in relationship with God is not always to be sitting silently, but to be present to God even in the midst of the chaos. Our God, according to Psalm 147, is a gracious, gathering, binding, giving, abundant, powerful, uplifting, awesome God whose hope is found in steadfast and abiding love. So in my hurriedness (a totally unsustainable tone and speed for my life), I can pause, even if just for a moment, and merely breathe in the love of God, exhaling and entrust my anxieties to God, and move forward leaning heavily into my experiential relationship with God allowing my body to listen to all it already knows about how God works.
God of steadfast love,
help me to trust
in your goodness,
in your wholeness,
in your strength,
that I might learn to praise you with
my whole being,
my whole life,
my whole self.
God of gathering power and binding graciousness,
help me to lean
into your love
when I am weary,
into your steadfastness
when I am weak,
into your breath
when I cannot catch mine.
Amen and amen.