The Psalms: More than Just a Matt Redman Lyric

Do you like roller coasters? The slow climb up to the top, then the controlled crash down? Some people love ‘em, some people throw up.

How about emotional roller coasters? Ever been on one of those? The Psalms are sort of like a roller coaster, and I believe that we need to ride this thing a whole lot more. The ups and the downs. The happy jumpy praisey parts and the depressed anxious homicidal parts.

I want to invite you into the chorus of the Church; to remind you of the prayer book of God’s people.

Theologically, we need the Psalms.
Emotionally, we need the Psalms.

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Jesus loved the Psalms
In fact, Jesus quotes from the Psalms more than any other Old Testament book. Here are the top four books Jesus quotes:

#4 Exodus
#3 Isaiah
#2 Deuteronomy
#1 Psalms

The thing is, when Jesus references the Psalms, it’s almost always in a difficult situation. That is to say, when Jesus was in a stressful spot, he most often fell back on the Psalms.

  1. When he’s speaking to angry leaders who are mad because he healed someone. [Matthew 21:16]
  2. When he’s dying on the cross. [Matthew 27:46]
  3. When he’s hated without cause. [John 15:25]
  4. When he’s talking about his betrayal. [John 13:18]
  5. When the Jews want to stone him for claiming divinity. [John 10:34]
  6. When he’s being interrogated by Pilate. [Matthew 26:64]
  7. When his authority’s challenged by the chief priests and elders. [Matthew 21:42]
  8. When he’s talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. [Matthew 23:39]

If Jesus himself needed the Psalms in hard times, I might too.

And if that’s not reason enough to dive into the Psalms, here’s a collection of thoughts on the Psalms that might nudge you to jump in…

 

NT Wright, The Case for the Psalms
“The celebration is wild and uninhibited; the misery is deep and horrible. One moment we are chanting, perhaps clapping our hands in time, even stamping our feet. . . . The next moment we have tears running down our cheeks, and we want the earth to open and swallow us.”

“The Psalms not only insist that we are called to live at the intersection of God’s space and our space, of heaven and earth, to be (in other words) Temple people. They call us to live at the intersection of sacred space, the Temple and the holy land that surrounds it, and the rest of human space, the world where idolatry and injustice still wreak their misery.”

“The Psalms are among the oldest poems in the world, and they still rank with any poetry in any culture, ancient or modern, from anywhere in the world. They are full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope. Anyone at all whose heart is open to new dimensions of human experience, anyone who loves good writing, anyone who wants a window into the bright lights and dark corners of the human soul – anyone open to the beautiful expression of a larger vision of reality should react to these poems like someone who hasn’t had a good meal for a week or two. It’s all here.”

“The Psalms are the steady, sustained subcurrent of healthy Christian living.”

“Scripture is not simply a reference book to which we turn to look up correct answers – though it’s full of those when we need them. Scripture is, at its heart, the great story that we sing in order not just to learn it with our heads but to become part of it through and through, the story that in turn becomes part of us.”

“If the Psalms provide a sense of sacred space, that space is where celebration and sorrow are held together within the powerful love and presence of the one God.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible
“Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church.”

 “The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity.”

 “That can be very painful, to want to speak with God and not to be able to.” [Bonhoeffer saw this moment as the best time to pray the Psalms.]

“There is in the Psalms no quick and easy resignation to suffering. There is always struggle, anxiety, doubt. God’s righteousness which allows the pious to be met by misfortune but the godless to escape free, even God’s good and gracious will, is undermined. His behavior is too difficult to grasp. But even in the deepest hopelessness God alone remains the one addressed. . . . He sets out to do battle against God for God.”

“If I am guilty, why does God not forgive me? If I am not guilty, why does he not bring my misery to an end and thus demonstrate my innocence to my enemies? There are no theoretical answers in the Psalms to all these questions. As there are none in the New Testament. The only real answer is Jesus Christ.”

Billy Graham
I used to read five psalms every day – that teaches me how to get along with God. Then I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.” 

Martin Luther
The Psalter promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly – and pictures his kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom – that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.”

Further Resources
Psalms – Songs for our time (31mb, mp3) This is a message I preached at the Red Bridge Church of Christ on November 29, 2015.

One way to combine the Psalms with Discovery Bible Studies and inner healing ministries.

A three-minute video showing one way to interface with the Psalms. You can read more on this method here.

 

What I Want to Give My TCKs {Velvet Ashes}

by Elizabeth

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I didn’t know how hard it would be to parent Third Culture Kids. I assumed that my own TCK upbringing would make it easier; I was only partially correct. While it’s true that we share common feelings and experiences, and that my kids enjoy hearing stories from my own TCKhood, I didn’t foresee the way living overseas would duplicate the pain of my youth. The grief of constant goodbyes, the temporariness of our community, the missing of friends and family back “home” – all these things deplete me.

I didn’t know I’d need to juggle my own complicated emotions at the same time as my children’s. It’s hard for me not to outlaw my own emotions, so it takes conscious effort to give my kids the time and space they need to grieve and mourn their own losses. I want to find the silver lining too soon, to rush too fast to a happy ending. It’s hard not to swoop in prematurely in an attempt to ease their pain.

So in times of emotional distress, I actually tell myself to shut up. Then I open my arms and give them space to cry. I open my ears and give them time to speak. I want to give them a safe place to express themselves and to process their own emotions. I don’t do this perfectly by any means, but it is my heart’s desire nonetheless.

There’s something else I want to give my TCKs, and that’s privacy. I’ve chosen a very public profession; my children, however, have not. They may go wherever I go and live wherever I live, but they didn’t choose to live a public life the way I did. Perhaps when they’re grown, they will. I don’t know. I only know I want to give them the luxury of choosing it for themselves.

Not too long after moving to Cambodia, I decided to keep my children’s lives and struggles offline. I pulled back from sharing things about them on social media, and I focused on telling my own stories, and not theirs, on my blog. I’m guided by my own mother’s example in this. Some of you know I struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager. I’m open about it now, but I would have been mortified if my mom had shared it publicly then, and I’m thankful for the way she protected my privacy.

I’m absolutely in love with my TCKs. They’re amazing — so amazing, in fact, that they deserve to grow up out of the public eye. They’re public enough as it is. That doesn’t mean I’ll never tell a story about homeschooling or family life, or share photos from a vacation or outing. But it does mean that, especially as they grow older and barrel towards upper elementary and middle school, I try not to post private details about their lives. It means I think carefully before sharing about them, and that in any public discourse, you’ll find me honoring them by accentuating the positive rather than the negative.

None of this means I don’t have trusted real-life people to whom I turn for prayer and parenting advice, because I do. And it doesn’t mean we don’t have a sending organization and a sending church that are checking up on us and making sure that our whole family is thriving, because we’re blessed to have both. And it most certainly doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate our children and their hilarious antics with our family and friends. Because we do! That’s one of my favorite parts of family life, in fact, and we have a private Facebook messaging group for our closest family and friends just so we can share their sweet words and funny stories across the continents.

I love these words from fellow blogger and overseas worker Lindsey Lautsbaugh: “If people want to share their good news on Facebook and bad news in person, what’s it to you? That actually sounds pretty healthy to me. ’Keeping it real’ does not need to be an occasional #hashtag. If I see only people’s success and not their struggle, failure, and fights with their kids, then I assume someone else gets the privilege of seeing those glorious moments. Someone else gets to gently say, ‘Let your children live to see another day, walls can be re-painted.’ Someone else gets to say, ‘Call the counselor, and I’ll babysit for you and your husband tonight.’ Another friend gets to challenge our tendency to hide our weaknesses and struggles.”

In saying all this, I recognize that different families do things differently. Some families may be more comfortable sharing their kids’ stories publicly – and I don’t judge that. All I want to do today is share my own personal parenting philosophy: I respect your right to feel your feelings, and I respect your right to keep those feelings private. Those are the things I want to give my TCKs.

Originally published here; reprinted with permission.

For the times when you hold back the tears

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by Elizabeth

I’ve spent most of my life locked in my head. Keeping my emotions at bay, and not even realizing I was doing so.

I still do this, even though I know by now what’s going on inside of me. I can feel tears rising up inside me, begging to be poured out. But I shove them down and don’t engage.

I swallow the lump in my throat. I blink back the tears. I’m so good at this that I don’t even have to blink sometimes.

I can literally watch myself do this. It’s like an out-of-body experience. I can say to myself,“She’s locked in her head right now, refusing to deal with those pesky emotions. Why is she so stubborn??”

Why? Because emotions take time. They take energy. And after I engage my emotions, I seriously need a nap. So it’s easier for me to detach from them. It’s easier to ignore them.

It might not be easier in the long run. But in the short run, it’s certainly faster. Because I’ve got things to do. People are depending on me. I can’t take the time to deal with this. Crying won’t help my situation.

No, crying might not help my situation. But it might help me. When I’m done crying, my problem might not be better, but I am be better. My problem might not be solved, but I no longer feel like it’s insurmountable.

I don’t always let myself do that. I’m afraid that if I start crying, I won’t stop. I’m afraid it won’t fix my problem. And I’m all about solutions, people.

But. What if the tears are the solution? What if the tears allow my soul to say something that words can’t?

I need to feel.

I don’t always feel like feeling.

But I need to feel.

So today, if you’re like me, and you have a hard time accepting the fact that you’re human and that you have feelings in the midst of all the goals and tasks of life, I give you permission to feel.

And if it’s easier to shove the tears down your throat than to let them flow freely, I give you permission to cry. Cry as hard as you need, for as long as you need. Use all the tissues you need.

And if too much is going on in your life, and you don’t think you have the time to stop and cry, I still give you permission. After you’ve cried a little, or even a lot, you just might find you have the strength to carry on.

And when you’re finished, you can look up and remember that if I were with you today, I’d be sitting right beside you, with a tearful smile and a warm hug.

I promise.

 

 photo credit