Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

Path in the Woods

For some reason I like pictures of paths and roads in the woods.  In high school my art teacher taught us that since Western languages read left to right, any image that seems to “flow” right to left will have an off, or negative, or even menacing feel.  She showed us a Russian artist’s depiction of a 17th century woman being arrested for her beliefs.  The villagers mourn for her as she is dragged away, moving right to left.

So, I often take this particular path through the woods on walks.  Because the path curves a wee bit to the right and then to the left, it always catches my eye.  It just looks like I’m getting ready to walk into some far-off place, not knowing if it’s a good or bad “flow.”


Sometimes we go down a foreboding path because we have to.  As in the case with this path, it leads me on the rest of my walk, so I know it serves a good purpose.  Sometimes we have to go down a worrisome path, because we have become ill, or because we experience a significant loss.

When the path goes right to left, or when we can’t see the end of it, it’s important to know we’re not alone.  Several of the Psalms mention God’s leadership on the path:

Psalm 23.3:  He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Psalm 119.105:  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 139.3: You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

May we be aware of, and thankful for, God’s presence on the path.

Advent 1 — Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19

David Leite, in his 2010 book The New Portuguese Table, writes of the endless ways the thrifty Portuguese use up leftovers and scraps of food.  With what’s around in the kitchen, they make comfort food:  soup, thick-cut potato chips, rice pilaf.  (My mom bought this book for us because my husband’s heritage is Portuguese.  Anything with chourico is amazing.)

You can do with the Psalms what the Portuguese do with food:   repackage, rephrase, and reinterpret ad infinitum. The images and combinations of words have endless possibilities.  For this reason, I have yet to find a better poet than the Psalmist.

Add some spices and make a remix!

You may not have heard the Psalm read in your worship service on Sunday, which is too bad.  Most of the time in today’s Presbyterian churches, we read one selection from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and perhaps give a nod to the Psalms in our hymns.

That’s a shame because the Psalms rock.

Think of all the ways Psalm 80 could be used this week by different Christians in their everyday lives.  These words could refresh and inspire whatever you’re doing, like a handful of fresh cilantro in some leftover rice.

∞ An artist could get so much material out of these images.  Let your face shine … you have fed them the bread of tears … stir up your might.

∞ A counselor could use this Psalm in working with troubled people.  The concept of God being “angry” with people’s prayers could really speak to someone who feels that nothing is working right.

∞ A healthcare professional could find some sustenance in the cry, “Restore us!”  I have friend in medical school who appreciates the divine moments that remind him why he’s there:  to serve those who are in great need.

∞ A family could quote verse 18:  “give us life, and we will call on your name.”

Why not use Psalm 80 sometime during your day, particularly as the fall turns to winter?  Here’s a prayer to get you started:

Shine on us, O Lord, as the days grow shorter and the night gathers around us.

Shine on us, O Lord, as we sit at our desks and work at our stations under artificial light.

Shine on us, O Lord, as we sit in dark rooms, rocking our babies back to sleep and holding the hands of our ancient ones.

Shine on us, O Lord, as we do the best we can with a pinch of this and a dash of that.

Shine on us, O Lord, as we wade through murky dilemmas, where no path seems clear.

Shine on us, O Lord, when we smile and share your radiant love.