Here are some thoughts to help you stay positive during these uncertain times. This page will contain passages from scripture, poems and songs to help you through your day or night.
The Book of Psalms contains prayers, songs and meditations which have been inspirations for composers over the years. Check out this sectionregularly for a new psalm.
We hope that the writing will remind you that you are not alone.
Broken Vessels by Hillsong is a wonderful song based around the traditional hymn Amazing Grace.
Click the link to watch it.
No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
Sometimes, we find it hard to be a Christian. In the song Flawless by Mercy Me, they sing about grace.
Click on the photo to play the video. Here the lead singer explains:
I think it (Flawless) kind of sums up the message of the album probably better than any other song. If anybody is like me there had to be a point in your life where you were saying “there has to be more than me playing by the rules, there has to be more than what religion tells me there is. There’s gotta be more than me being good and then following these three steps to being a better church goer-there’s gotta be more than that.” And I think the one thing we miss is that grace says “no matter how beat up you are, no matter what you go through in life, no matter how difficult life is, the cross made you flawless.” The day you came to Christ you were made brand new. It’s all in place for the rest of your life. – Bart Millard (MercyMe) from an article by Abbey Young, Christian News, 27th May, 2014
Graham Kendrick is a prolific writer of songs of worship. Teach me to Dance is an upbeat song. He explains in the 'Stories behind the songs' on his website, 'So the words, “Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart” sets in motion what is effectively a sung prayer to live in a way that is consistent with God’s heart of compassion, love and justice'.
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context. (from https://www.bibleref.com)
"This is the day that the Lord has made." v. 24
As we travel through Holy week in 2022, may we remember the joy of Palm Sunday with the hope of the crowds, as well as the sadness of Good Friday, before the Joy of Easter Day when our Lord is risen.
Life is full of sadness and joy. May we remember that stones are important to our lives. We use them for so many things. From buildings to memorials. In this Psalm importantly, we are reminded that "The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone!"
Peter in his letter (1 Peter) reminds us of the living Stone, the source of life. He then gives instructions to, "Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God."
May you celebrate being a stone for God. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir certainly help us to do this as they sing "This is the Day."
Image by Lorraine
"Light, space, zest -
that's GOD!" v. 1
How wonderful to know that out of the darkness of our lives, then God will always be there for us. The psalmist says, "with him on my side I'm fearless, afraid of no one and nothing." v. 2
As we read our Bible and pray daily to God; we endeavour to get nearer to being able to live in God's house our whole life long- not just in heaven. For with God, though "all hell breaks loose" around us, we can be "collected and cool."
Shane and Shane sing a powerful version of this psalm.
Image by Jez Timms on Unsplash.
Blessed is the man
Psalm 1 is known as a Wisdom Psalm, as it reminds all those who follow God's law (wisdom) are blessed. The Law of God is a way to stay close to HIM.
In The Message Bible, this psalm finishes with the idea that those who don't follow the Law "take Skid Row". May this psalm remind you that staying close to God is not a burden, but a joy.
Learn this psalm by listening to The Sons of Korah entitled Blessed is the man
Psalm 24 2nd February, 2022
The King of Glory
"Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in." v. 7
Having read this psalm, I was struck by the verses 7 - 10. After, praising the Lord for his marvellous earth at the beginning of this psalm and then asking who shall go up to the hill of the Lord, the psalmist talks about gates and doors, so that the Lord may come into our lives.
Looking for an image, I found this by Keith Harding of some gates in Richmond Park. They were placed in the park to mark the tercentenary of St Paul's Cathedral in 2011. As well as celebrating the cathedral, they also remember the late ecologist Oliver Goldsmith who wrote a book called The Way. The gates were donated by his family.
In the chorus, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, we are reminded that we only need to "knock and the door shall be opened". Have you knocked on the door or opened the gates to your heart so that the Lord may come in? Prayerfully comtemplate these questions as you listen to the song by Keith and Kristyn Getty here.
Image by Keith Harding on Unsplash.
Psalm 67 24th January,2022
"Let all peoples praise you, God."
A psalm of celebration of God's rule over the whole world. St Benedict instructed that this psalm always begin the monastic morning pryaer of praise.
The opening of the psalm also harkens back to the blessing in Numbers 6:24, "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you." A source of comfort to each one of us as well as all nations this psalm and not just the Israelites.
As we eat our food today, may we remember to give thanks for God's harvest as the psalmist does here.
Image by Seth Gerak on Unsplash.
Psalm 36 - 17th January, 2022
"For with you is the fountain of life,
and by your light we are enlightened." v. 9
Revised English Bible
FOUNTAIN OF LIFE
Think of your favourite fountain. How does it make you feel when you see the water gushing into the air?
One of my favourite fountains is at Whitley Court in Worcestershire. The large house, where King Edward VII visited is long gone - destroyed by fire - but the fountain has been lovingly restored. Its main water spout firing 36 metres into the air. Each day from April to October it 'fires' into life. It is an awesome sight.
In psalm 36, we are told that God is the source of all life - the fountain of life - given to us. Like the Whitley Court fountain, do you 'fire' up each day with God's spirit ready to share it with others? Do you laugh with life, as little children do when they run through fountains? May you share God's love with those you meet this week 'with unfailing love' cascading from you like a fountain.
Esther Mui sings this psalm.
Image by Sophie Dale on Unsplash.
Psalm for the week - Psalm 50
"The Almighty God, the LORD speaks,
he calls to the whole earth from east to west." v. 1
The Good News Bible
At the start of January in Methodist churches across the world covenant services are held to renew our promise to rely on "God's grace". In part of the service, the members of the congregation say, "Let us make this covenant of God our own. Let us give ourselves to him trusting in his promises and relying on his grace."
In psalm 50, God asks that the faithful people who have made a covenant by offering a sacrifice are gathered to him. He reminds the people that he does not need sacrifices and burnt offerings, but "the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God." v. 14 By praising God, he will save you.
May we remember to praise God this week whatever the week may bring.
I was reminded of the beautiful chorus "Only by Grace" as I read the words of this psalm. May it bring you solace.
Image on Unsplash from the collection of the New York Public Library
Psalm for the week - Psalm 29
The Voice of the Lord in the Storm
"The voice of LORD is heard on the seas;
the glorious God thunders,
and his voice echoes over the ocean." v.3
Good News Bible
Image by Ray Carrington on Unsplash.
What do you think of when you see a wave like this? Are you frightened or exhilarated. Images speak to people in different ways. However, in the time of the Old Testament, water was to be feared. Whether it was at sea, or the water of an inland sea like Lake Gallilee. The Leviathan dwelt in its depths.
In this psalm, we praise Adonai - the LORD - who can be heard in the thunder storms, which echo over the waters and break the trees. We see HIS power over all the earth. In hearing this sound of storms; the people are reminded that Adonai gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace as he rules as king for ever. "Glory to God!"
The voice of the Lord by Heartsong celebrates HIS power.
Human Wickedness and Divine Goodness
"Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks." v. 6
The Message Bible
As I read this week's psalm in The Message Bible, I was reminded of a photo that I took whilst out on a walk in Herefordshire back in September. I was walking along the side of a road in a small village, when something caught my eye. There, as still as a statue, was a tiny field mouse waiting for me to move.
In the vastness of creation, we are told by the psalmist that God saves "humans and animals alike, O LORD" NRSV. May we be reminded that with God is "the fountain of life; in your light we see light". May we share God's light with all those we meet this week.
Exodus Road Band sing this psalm to remind us to praise God.
Image by Lorraine H.
A Song of Praise
"Praise the Lord, all you nations,
extol him all you peoples." v.1 New International Version
Last week, a friend sent me this stunning image of a sunset from their house near the south coast of Hampshire. It reminded me of the words, 'I can see the hand of God, the evidence around me, in the greatness of His world.
Psalm 117 is the shortest of the psalms. It reminds us that all nations should praise the Lord - the covenant name for God. The God who is for all people, Jew and Gentile. Jesus would have said this psalm at the final Passover meal.
In this sunset, I am reminded how, "great is his love towards us" which "endures for ever." We should indeed praise the Lord.
Psalm 22 for 17 - 24th October
A cry for Anguish and a Song of Praise
"Rescue me from these lions"
V. 21 The Good News Bible
'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' is the verse that begins this psalm. Words that we recognise as those of Jesus on the cross. Jesus crying in anguish and at the same time fulfilling the prophesy.
Many times do we, God's people, cry out in anguish to the Lord for his help. In this psalm, the lion is seen as dangerous; ready to roar and tear at us when we are feeling down. The music this week is sung by a group called, My soul among lions. And yet...
If like me, you read C.S.Lewis's books, then you will remember that Aslan, the lion, is seen as a source of good. In Christian interpretations of the book, he is seen as representing God. I was reminded reading Thom Shuman's interpretation of this psalm that we need to listen carefully to hear God speak to us. Perhaps, through the turmoil associated with lions, as Shuman says:
are we listening?"
God has not forsaken us and @those who come to the Lord will praise him.' v.26
Hear My soul among Lions sing this psalm.
Image by Brianna R. on Unsplash
Psalm for the week - Psalm 13
A Prayer for Help
"Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death."
v. 3 New King James Version
Image by Kat James
When we look at someone's eyes, the phrase " a window to our soul" can spring to mind. We can tell if someone is happy, sad or worried. Over the last 18 months, we have sometimes had to rely on looking at someone's eyes above their mask; to help us to recognise the person.
In this psalm, which begins with a prayer for help when we are perhaps at our most sad or depressed, then the moment we ask God to help us we are reminded that he 'has been good' to each one of us. In the Message Bible, it says "I am singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers." Our eyes will no longer be dull, but be 'enlightened' by HIS love. What will you celebrate that God has done for you?
Thanksgiving to God for His Justice
" The Lord is a refuge for th eoppressed,
a place of safety in times of trouble."
v. 8 The Good News Bible
Image by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash
Listen to Karl Kohlhase's hymn of Psalm 9.
Whilst this psalm is a song of thanksgiving, the words that struck a chord with me this morning are contained in verse 9 - refuge for the oppressed and a place of safety. In The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson translates this verse as: "God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times."
Sanctuary has two meanings for me. The image of a church where people used to knock on the door and claim sanctuary from the ir enemies and also a place of calm where you can be still and know God. Some of you may even associate it with a certain spa product!
Whatever you imagine, it is a place where we can be safe in "times of trouble". In verse 10, Peterson translates it as the following, "The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry knocked." May you take time to "knock" and find sanctuary this week.
Thanksgiving for Israel's deliverance
"Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth."
v. 8 New Revised Standard Version
Image by Geoffrey Hamilton on Unsplash
On Saturday, I was outside at dusk when I heard a sign of Autumn. The geese from a nearby nature reserve were flying in formation overhead. It is a time of sadness for many as we realise that the season is changing, but also a time of wonder.
Imagine being a geese, preparing to fly thousands of miles back to your winter home. How wonderful is that? Each bird taking the lead during the journey to help the others. In this psalm we are reminded that "we're as free as a bird in flight." v.7
We are free in the love of God because "God's strong name is our help, the same GOD who made heaven and earth." (v. 8 The Message Bible)
Listen to Wendell Kimbrough singing this psalm, with Jason Pears. "He's on our side."
"Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers." v.6
The Message Bible
How can we be wise? Scholars believe that this psalm was written by David for Solomon who was to be the next king. It begins by praying that the 'gift of the wise' be given to the king. Later, it asks that the new king 'stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy and come down hard on the cruel tyrants'.
In Richard B. Colligan's reflective song Be a blessing, we are reminded that we too should be a blessing for all, like 'rain showers the earth'. We should have 'compassion, convictions and loving kindness' for all those people who are 'caught in the system', suffering from poverty, cruelty or being a refugee. We can all work together to help to 'be a blessing' to others, as we are called to do.
Image by Marc Zimmer on Unsplash
"What else have I in heaven but you?
Since I have you, what else could I want on earth?"
v. 25 The Good News Bible
Image by Ricard Gomez Angel on Unsplash.
This morning there was low-lying mist above the fieldsw as I dove to the station. Then, when I switched on the computer in the office it declared FOG in Liverpool.
As I read Psalm 73, I thought of how we sometimes feel that we are in FOG, unable to see the clear way ahead. WE look at the world around us and can be tempted to stray away from God believing that he "will not know" (v. 11 if we are tempted to follow the "proud." (v. 3)
Then, in the second part of the spalm, we are reminded that if we stay close to God (especially when life seems foggy), then we find our way and God will be our strength. Esther Mui, uses her creative skills to write the following song based on verses 21-26 and 28. Whom have I in heaven but you?
Do take time to listen. May the "fog" clear from our lives as we lean into God, who is our strength and all we ever need.
" He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul," v. 2
The Message Bible
I was away last week on a walking holiday in the Malvern Hills. We did a lot of walking on solid ground and just as is described in the psalm, I found 'breathing room for my soul'. (v. 5)
As I looked for an image of someone standing on a rock, I found this on Unsplash. It is by an Afghan from Kabul - Nasim Dadfar - and was taken just 10 months ago. I wonder where he is now? Please hold him in your prayers.
The psalmist also describes God as 'the one and only - I'll wait as long as he says.' Patience can be hard sometimes, but in this psalm we are reminded that 'Strength comes straight from God' (v. 11) Perhaps as you go about your week, walking in your neighbourhood then you will remember that through your uncertainties, if you 'lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.(v. 8)
Solid Rock sung by Parkway Worship Ministry
Image by Nasim Dadfar on Unsplash
"God make a fresh start in me
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life." v. 10
The Message Bible
Do you sometimes feel like your life is in chaos, like the jigsaw image? When you think back over the past week, or months can you remember times when you have sinned?
In this psalm, we are reminded that God gives each one of us the opportunity to make a fresh start; to ask for his mercy; 'blot out our inequities' so that we live 'fairly' and live according to his word with a 'new and right spirit' within us.
I love Eugene Peterson describing God shaping a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. May you feel God working through the Holy Spirit this week in your life.
Graham Kendrick's meditation on this psalm may help you in your prayers this week.
Image by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash.
"Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God." v.1 NRSV
Last week, Heather chose the song which has the chorus 'Great is our faithfulness' as part of her reflection in one of the Grain. Gather. Grow. Harvest event at Somewhere Else. What do you think of when you hear the word "GREAT"? A great leader, a great song, a great place to visit?
In my Pocket Oxford Dictionary (well-thumbed with over 40 years use), the first definition of the word is 'occupying much space'. How appropriate when we connect this with today's psalm: God occupying so much space, that he does indeed deserve our praise. Other definitions include these words - more than ordinary, pre-eminent, of lofty character.
As you listen or read today's psalm, may you reflect on these other meanings and indeed see why the LORD is "greatly to be praised".
Enjoy Richard Smallwood's Gospel version of this psalm.
Great is the Lord
Image by Lorraine
Praise for Deliverance from Trouble
"When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles." v. 17 NRSV
The image on the right is one that sadly many of us will be familiar with in our towns and cities. A person, who has found themselves homeless and in need of rest. We do not see the face of this person, as they seek to sleep in the daytime. How would we feel trying to do this? Can we even begin to walk in the shoes of the homeless?
In this psalm, we are told that 'the LORD hears' and rescues them from their troubles. As followers of Christ, we too must hear the cry of the homeless and do all that we can to help, whether by buying the Big Issue, donating to Shelter or helping with the SWE's 'toiletry bags' for the homeless.
The song by John Foley features images of the sculpture by Thomas Schwalz - "Homeless Jesus". During the video, we see photos of this sculpture from around the world. Next time you are in Liverpool, why not walk down to St. Nicholas' Church Garden where you will the Liverpool's copy of this sculpture. As you look at the feet, may you reflect on its meaning.
John Foley's Psalm 34 - listen hear.
Image by John Tyson on Unsplash.
Longing for God and His Help in Distress
'As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.' v. 1 NRSV
What a wonderful image this psalm begins with. It is one that has been with me for over 30 years, when it first spoke to me at a service of remembrance for a friend's father, who had been a vicar.
At the time, I was in the depths of despair, as my home and work life were making me ill. In the psalm, I heard how though we may feel far from God, discouraged by life, then God is always there to comfort us. In the words of Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady who wrote the version of this song I heard:
"Hope still, and thou shalt sing
The spring of him who is thy God,
Thy health's eternal spring."
May this give you comfort too.
The modern chorus of this psalm .
May they help you to reflect on your relationship with God this week.
Psalm for 25 - 31st of July - Psalm 145
Praising God for who he is and what he does
'Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
Your beauty and splendour have everyone talking;
I compose songs on your wonders.' v. 4-5 The Message Bible
Praise. This week's psalm is all about praising our mighty God. I discovered that there are different words for praise in Hebrew, which have been translated into English as simply praise. Three of them spoke to me.
There is shabach which means to praise God with a loud voice. Tehillah is about praising God by singing- how we have missed singing God's praise in person in church over the pandemic. Finally, there is halal, which means in Hebrew crazy exuberant praise. Its short definition means shine, like a flash. Where and when was the last time that your praise was bright and flashing, so as to draw everyone's attention to how good God is?
May we this week, shine a light through our exuberant praise of God to tell others of all that He does for us.
Scott Soper has written a reflective praise song based on psalm 145 - 'I will praise your name'.
Image by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash.
Psalm for the week - Psalm 28
Prayer for help and Thanksgiving for it
'O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them for ever.' v. 9 NRSV
This week, I am leaving the writer of the song - Carry Us, Matt Searles, to explain why he wrote this psalm in 2017.
"I love how in this psalm the psalmist combines strong imagery (fortress) with the tender picture of the Lord as shepherd, carrying his sheep in his arms. This combination of great strength and tenderness is seen most clearly in Jesus, THE good shepherd. I've turned the phrase from the psalm 'you carry us' into a prayer 'carry us!' - not because the Lord needs to be reminded but because when we take these words on our lips we throw ourselves once again into his everlasting arms."
May you feel Jesus carrying you through this week. Lx
Image by FOYN on Unsplash.
Prayer for Victory
"The LORD answer you in the day of trouble!" v. 1 NRSV
Trust in the Lord always. This is the theme of this psalm. In the song by Brad Fitts, he focuses on the words of verse 7 and entitles his song, "Some trust in horses." It could be interpreted as all the possessions (stuff) that we feel we need to own in these modern times to help us gain happiness, rather than trusting in our God.
In the psalm, we are told that God will "grant you your heart's desire", if we depend on him for all things. As Jim Erwin explains (on the Patheos website), it is conditional of us asking God for help.
Perhaps this week, we need to remind ourselves that "TRUSTING GOD WORKS" if we pray for each other and ask others to pray for us. You can use this psalm to pray for someone you know by substituting the word 'you' with their name.
In The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson interprets verse 8 with these words:
" The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame ---- and we'll be on our feet, standing tall" because we trust in God.
Image by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash.
Who shall abide in God's sanctuary?
'O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell in your holy hill?' v. 1-2
This week's psalm contains a list of the things believers of God must do if we want to dwell on God's holy hill. Eugene Peterson, in his The Message Bible version of this psalm, translates it as the following.
'God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?'
Do you ever think about God in this way? Do you explore how you may enter his Kingdom, or in these strange times, have you turned to God in despair, rather than thanking him as a teacher who shows us how to live our lives.
At this time of year, there are lots of cards in the shops saying, "Thank you teacher."
Perhaps this week, as you read this psalm or hear the uplifting song by Greg Long - "I want to be" - you can set time
aside to thank God - the teacher - who reminds us how to live. You could even make a Thank You card. Have a good week.
from the album David - Ordinary Man, Extraordinary God.
Image by Pars Sahin on Unsplash
"I run to you GOD; I run for dear life.
Don't let me down...
Your granite cave a hiding place,
your high cliff a place of safety." v.1-2 The Message Bible
I don't know about you, but when I think of cliffs; I never think of them as a place of safety? Either they are too high and I won't go near the edge, or they loom dangerously out of the mist when I am on a boat! However, in this psalm, David describes them as a place of safety - up away from his enemies. In The Message Bible version, he then cries to God for him to be his 'safe leader, be my true mountain guide.'
Rocks are seen a symbols of stability - 'the wise man builds his house upon the rocks' springs to my mind - upon which we can depend. We are reminded that God is our rock. He will be our refuge. In the version from The Message Bible, "You won't drop me, you'll never let me down." May we be reminded of this, as we journey through this week.
Karl Kohlhase reminds us of this in his song: "You are my strength."
Image by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash.
Psalm 4 - a David psalm
"Why is everyone hungry for more? "More, more," they say.
I have God's more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep,
For you, GOD, have put my life back together." v. 6-8 The Message
What an interesting interpretation of this psalm from Eugene Peterson, the writer of the contemporary version of the bible. Over the last few months, as society has opened up more, perhaps you have witnessed people in town with many bags of clothes etc. as they get their "fix" from shopping again. I too like to purchase new things, but as we have become more aware of the damage to our environment from the chemicals needed to make things, to the rubbish sent to landfill and the plastic in our seas, I have felt less comfortable with our consumer society.
In this version of the psalm, we hear the psalmist call for God to answer his prayer and put his "life back together."
Instead of us crying for more, let us be a people who find joy in God alone.
Hear Charles Ciepiel sing this psalm: Answer Me (Psalm 4)
Image by freestocks on Unsplash.
Psalm 148 - Praise for God's Universal Glory
"Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven." v.13 NRSV
Over the last few weeks, I have been enjoying each new flower that has opened in my garden. Yesterday, my 'Bowl of Beauty' paeony came into flower. You can see another two ready to flower too. How can we fail to praise the Lord when we see beauty all around us?
The psalmist also reminds us that 'fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!' Everything continues because of God's decree. As a result, it is our highest calling to praise God.
Enjoy the Sons of Korah as they sing psalm 148.
Image by Lorraine Howarth
Psalm for the week - Psalm 112
Blessings for the Righteous
"It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice."
v. 5 N.R.S.V.
Reading this psalm at the start of the week that the G7 meeting is held in Cornwall; I was struck by the words in verse 5. In this psalm, we are reminded to follow God's commandments: to help, be wise, generous and not abuse the power we have been given.
If we are to ensure that our planet is 'well' for future generations to be able to enjoy bees taking nectar from Cow Parsley, as in my photo, then we must all work together to influence our leaders to protect our planet and improve the lives of people in poorer or war torn nations. That is what we are called to do. That is our blessing.
Listen to a calm rendition of this psalm by the Coram Deo Worship group in Nebraska, USA.
Image By Lorraine Howarth
Psalm 150 - Praise for God's Surpassing Greatness
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise fhim for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness."
v.1-2 The Message Bible
Listening to the Hebrew version of this psalm by the group MIQEDEM with over 100 participants, from 26 countries, across 6 continents - everyone singing Psalm 150 in the original Hebrew - made a great start to my day and my week. Fortunately, a translation is also provided!
Often, when we read the psalms, particularly aloud, we miss the joyfulness of the words. In this rendition of the psalm, we are reminded how it would have originally been spoken. The song transports us back in time and place to the land of the Bible; connecting us over centuries to people praising God. How wonderful is that to know that we form part of a continuing thread of praise to God. HE IS MIGHTY.
Psalm 146 - Praise the Lord
"...Put your hope in GOD and know real blessing!" v. 5 The Message
Yesterday, was Pentecost Sunday. The bible reading from Acts 2:1-11 reminds us of the amazing time when the Holy Spirit came to the Disciples and enabled them to speak foreign languages so that they could communicate the GOOD NEWS taught them by Jesus.
If we put our hope in God, so that we will know real blessing, then we must therefore wait patiently and be guided by the HOLY SPIRIT. As The Message Bible version says at the end of this psalm: "GOD's in charge - always."
May we take time to pause and receive God's Holy Spirit in our lives this week.
Listen to a reading of this psalm.
Psalm 1 - The Two Ways
"God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row." v. 6 The Message Bible
There is something in our psychi that makes us pause and reflect whenever we hear about or see two roads diverging. Many writers have used this image in their writing. A particular favourite of mine is "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, which concludes:
"I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Throughout our lives we have many choices to make and roads to choose. Sometimes, we fervently believe that the one we take is the right one, only to 'come a cropper' further down the track. In Psalm 1, the writer reminds us that if we 'plant ourselves in God's word' then we will prosper, as all the decisions we take will have good roots. "All the difference" in our lives as Christians, is our belief in the 'Lord's teaching' which shows us the way.
The Shiyr Poets sing The Way (Psalm 1)
"For the Lord embraces the way of the righteous
And the way of the wicked is lost . . ."
Image by Oliver Roos on Unsplash
Psalm 121 - Assurance of God's Protection
'I lift up my eyes to the hills-
from where will my help come?
My help comes form the LORD,
who made heavens and earth.' v-1-2 NRSV
This psalm is one that is used daily in Jewish households, as part of it is written down v. 5 and 8 and then placed inside a Mezuzah which is put on the doorpost as a sign of the household's Jewish faith. It reminds the people within the household that God is their helper and protector. Originally, it was written for people about to set off on a journey to Jerusalem. The journey might be full of danger along the road, but God would always be with them.
Today, our journeys may not be as physically dangerous as in ancient times, but our life can be full of other types of dangers - physical, economic and spritual. If we look to the Lord and trust him in all things, then we are indeed blessed because He is our protector.
Brian Doerksen sings a haunting version of this psalm.
Image by Benjamin Rascoe on Unsplash.
Psalm 23 - The Divine Shepherd
'And I will trust in You alone,
And I will trust in You alone,
For Your endless mercy follows me,
Your goodness will lead me home.' from Stuart Townsend's song of this psalm.
Yesterday, as I sat in church wearing my mask, unable to sing, but grateful to be with my church family we sat and listened to this meditative version of this psalm.
Back in November, I posted a different version of this, which reflected my emotions of that time. As I revisited the psalm yesterday, I was struck how Stuart Townsend used the words of the psalm "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" v. 6 NRSV to reflect our lives today. Townsend says that the chorus is the 'active response of faith to what the psalmist is saying'. Isn't wonderful that the same psalm can speak to us in different ways, at different times of our life and was written thousands of years ago? Truly God's word is alive. May you have a week where you walk with God.
Psalm 104 - God the Creator and Providor
"O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures." v. 24 NRSV
In the version of this psalm that was sung at Prince Philip's, the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral service on Saturday, 17th April 2021, the words that stayed with me were the following:
'My whole life I will sing............Give Praise.'
The psalmist describes God the Creator of our planet from the heavens to the winds, the earth to plants and creatures on it so that 'the glory of the LORD endure for ever' v.31.
May we too endeavour to sing praise to God for his wonderful world everyday of our time on this earth.
Listen to the stunning singing from St George's Chapel, Windsor praising God in this psalm.
Image by Photo Board on Unsplash.
Psalm 133 - A Song of Ascents - a song for going up to a high place
"How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!" v. 1 NRSV
Psalm 133 is a psalm that was to be sung when people came together to worship God together, particularly when they went to the Temple on the Mount. It reminds us of God's promise to meet us when we come together for worship and our oneness in faith. Kindred means people who are joined together by God's grace.
Oil for Christians signifies worship, feasting and celebration. This psalm reminds us as 'Easter People' that we are one family in Christ - around the world - united in faith, hope and love.
James Block helps us to learn this psalm with his reflective version.
Psalm 136 - God's Work in Creation and in History
"O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever. " v. 1 NRSV
Psalm 36 has 26 verses, which all end with "for his steadfast love endures for ever." How wonderful to know that whilst we might sometimes 'walk away from God' then as they sing in the version of this psalm, "His never ending love is steadfast and sure".
It is a call and response prayer, where people sing of all the good things that God has done for his and remember his never ending love. May you use this psalm as a way to thank God for all the good that comes to you today and forever.
Pete Crockett worship group sing this psalm using a call and response style. Enjoy the a cappella song of praise.
Psalm 70 - Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
"Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
O LORD, make haste to help me!" v. 1 NRSV
This psalm is also a "memorial offering" one to be said again and again when we are going through times of "trial". We are reminded that even if the Lord seems to forget us, we must not forget him.
I like the image of the lens of the camera, that helps us to see things more clearly. As we go to God in prayer, may we too understand things more clearly.
Why not learn the psalm by listening to Daniel James's version, which I first posted last July?
So how are you staying connected to your friends? Do you phone them via WhatsApp; have an old-fashioned phone call with them; a Zoom party or meet them at a distance in the park?
Here at the Bread Church, our friends come from all over the world and our country too. Risma is from Indonesia, Stephanie and Simon are from Hong Kong, Peter and Laura from the Wirral. So during lockdown, we have been chatting on messenger, phoning each other or holding WhatsApp video calls. We are connected by our love of God, love of breadmaking and our friendship begun here at SWE. Most importantly we stay connected when we prayer for each other and with each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm, through our facebook page, where a prayer is posted. We may not be together, but we are there for each other. That's part of being church.
They might not need me; but they might.
I'll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.
by Emily Dickinson
from The Poems of Dickinson edited by Ralph W Franklin (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) 1998.
Heather, one of our members, has sent in this link for the video Happiness starts with a Smile.
Do take time to watch it. Something wonderful will happen!
Here is a prayer of Blessing to use at the close of your prayer time.
It is from Stephen Shakespeare's The Earth Cries Glory - Daily Prayer with Creation (Canterbury Press 978-1-78622-288-2)
May the highest light shine within us,
dispelling the fear from our path.
May the deepest warmth flow from us, connecting heart to heart.
And may your blessing be to us a circle of flame,
to inspire and protect us through this day.
The following piece of writing has been a source of comfort to many through difficult times. We’d like to share it with you.
Me: Hey God.
Me: I'm falling apart. Can you put me back together?
God: I would rather not.
God: Because you aren't a puzzle.
Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?
God: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.
Me: You don't understand! I'm breaking down!
God: No - you don't understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren't falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don't need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don't fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?
God: Only the very best pieces of you.
Me: I'm scared of changing.
God: I keep telling you - you aren’t changing, you are becoming.
Me: Becoming who?
God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off of you. I love you! Don't change! Become! Become! Become who you were born to be. I'm going to keep telling you this until you remember it.
Me: There goes another piece.
God: Yep. Let it be.
Me: So ... I'm not broken?
God: Of course not - but you are breaking like the dawn. It's a new day. Become!