short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the tag “change”

“Psalms…Up Close and Personal”

Psalms have always been special to me. Maybe because they came out of the gut of the writer—David for the most part. David and Psalms are a little like Billy Joel and “New York State of Mind” sung in Central Park, or Whitney Houston hitting the key change in, “I Will Always Love You.” Soul stuff.

Decades ago, I read that Billy Graham went through Psalms every month—all 150…five per day. That’s commitment—particularly when Psalm 119 rolls around. It may have been the original praise chorus as it goes on and on…and on. (Being a little ADD, I appreciate the short ones. 🙂 )

I tried the “five a day” approach for a while, but for me it was just too much goodness to savor at one sitting.  So I adjusted and have for many years now, read just one psalm a day—a sort of spiritual vitamin. But that one psalm a day has become the most meaningful reading I do. As my little quartz guitar tuner helps me tune my guitar to a standard “A=440” tuning, Psalms helps me tune my heart to God.

A couple of tips that, for me, have multiplied the power of Psalms.

1) Take it personally!  Read the verses as though you were the writer—not David or some ancient, at-a-safe-distance somebody else.  Yes, psalms were written about Jerusalem, or David vs. Goliath, or a monumental blunder with Bathsheba, or processing up Mount Zion to worship on holy days.  But for your devotional purposes, the psalm is all about you. Take it personally.

The second tip has to do with a sort of spiritual geography.

Assume “Jerusalem”–that all-important, center of the Hebrew universe, the Holy City–is your life, and  that “the Temple” is your heart..your soul.  “The wilderness” and “Babylon” would be those times and places you feel furthest from God–desperate times and lonely places.

And what about “the enemies”?  Well, for now, the enemies are not some invading army or an angry King Saul trying to destroy David.  For now, the enemies  are those real life forces that are out to do you in.  Fear… lust… loneliness… financial pressures… addiction… anger,… shame… grief… greed… pride… a physical malady.  The enemy may be real life attackers like terrorists or political adversaries, or perhaps, social ills such as racism or injustice.  

Has that devotional time been a little lacking of late?

Try reading Psalms “up close and personal” for thirty-days…or thirty years.  Just one-a-day. It might just be “the cure to what ails you.” 




“Claypool, Bigger Rooms, and the Way We Grow”

If I had to sum up the life journey in a few words, I think I would choose hope (what keeps us in the game)…then transformation (growth)…and ultimately, holiness (peace with God, neighbor, and self).

My experience and observation would suggest that the transformation/growth part happens in stages.  We go to a seminar or a seminary or retreat.  We meet or lose a special someone.  We read an earth-shaking book.  We are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  However it happens, we wake up in a different place.

I was at a seminar in Birmingham. The speaker/presenter was the late, great, John Claypool.  Having converted from a childhood in the Baptist Church to the Episcopal Church, Claypool became known for his appreciation of grace, his buttery-smooth delivery and his piercing insight.

Insight for the day (in paraphrase):

“You know, we all start out in a little room—our mother’s womb. It is warm…safe…comfortable.  All our needs are met.  But one day a traumatic event occurs—we are thrust into a bigger room…the delivery room to be exact.  Bright lights, noise, cold.  We cry, “We want to go back!”  But in time, we adjust   We get used to “the new digs”…accustomed to a world of Mom’s nursing and Dad’s knee bouncing and siblings’ sparring.  Life’s good.  But then the day comes when we are yanked out and thrust into yet a bigger room—school. It is strangers and books, lunch and recess, and teachers and homework.  Yikes!  But, over time, we adjust….”

Claypool talks of other rooms—leaving home, marriage, work, retirement, and inevitably Heaven.  His point: that growth is a process of moving from smaller rooms to bigger rooms.  Call them chapters or stages, but the move from one to the next will be uncomfortable at best, excruciating at worst.  It’s a trauma… a new perspective…a gnawing dissatisfaction.  But something makes the old status quo unacceptable.

What room are you in at present?  Does it light your fires and bring you joy?  Maybe you’re in a new room with a mix of discomfort, excitement and fear.  Maybe you are in transition.

Wherever you are, count on it: there will come a time when you have to change rooms.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just the way we grow.

Keith — 3/16/2013

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