13 October 2014

Psalms for Praying: Follow-up

Last time, I wrote about a book I had stumbled upon, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan Merrill. In that post, I explained how the Psalms bother me at times, specifically when they’re violent. As an example, I quoted this section of Psalm 139:

O G‑d, how I wish you would kill the wicked!
How I wish violent people would leave me alone!
They say wicked things about you;
they speak evil things against your name.
O Yahweh, how I hate those who hate you!
How I despise those who rebel against you!
I hate them with a total hatred;
I regard them as my enemies.

Examine me, O G‑d, and know my mind;
test me, and discover my thoughts.
Find out if there is any evil in me
and guide me in the everlasting way.

I then went through and gave various examples of how Psalms for Praying removes the violent passages and focuses inwardly. That is, instead of seeing the “wicked” as someone “out there,” Merrill recognizes the falseness within our own hearts.

Well, some people responded to say they read the whole post waiting for the comparison passage from Psalm 139 but I never quoted it! The simple answer for that is I didn’t get that far when I was initially reading Psalms for Praying! So, I had a friend send me pictures of the text. Without further ado, here’s how Psalm for Praying renders Psalm 139.19-22:

O that You would vanquish my fears,
    O that ignorance and suffering
        would depart from me—
All that separates me from true
    to surrendering myself into
        your Hands!
Yet are these not the very thorns that
        focus my thoughts upon You?
    Will I always need reminders to
        turn my face to You?
I yearn to come to You in love,
    to learn of your mercy and wisdom!

As can be seen, Merrill focuses, not on the other, those outside us but within us. She shines G‑d’s light within our own hearts realizing that the difference between good and evil, righteousness and wickedness doesn’t lie outside ourselves but fights within ourselves.

Again, this is something I can relate to. I can testify that this is true in my own heart. My own fears and falseness cloud my views of others. I need G‑d’s light to shine within the darkness of my own heart and change me. And that’s exactly how Merrill finishes out Psalm 139:

Search me, O my Beloved, and know
        my heart!
    Try me and discern my thoughts!
Help me to face the darkness within me;
    enlighten me, that I might
        radiate your love and light!

So, there you go! The Psalm 139 comparison. I already ordered my copy of Psalms for Praying, I hope you did, too.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

* Good News Translation (GNT); Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society.

09 October 2014

Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness

I’ve had a really hard time with the Psalms for a while now. Some of them are fantastic but others turn my stomach. For example:

O G‑d, how I wish you would kill the wicked!
How I wish violent people would leave me alone!
They say wicked things about you;
they speak evil things against your name.
O Yahweh, how I hate those who hate you!
How I despise those who rebel against you!
I hate them with a total hatred;
I regard them as my enemies.


While I get that this is a reflection of the poet’s heart (and our hearts at times), it just bothers me to read that in my Daily Prayers, especially when I don’t feel that way (which is a lot of the time). Furthermore, if my intention in my prayers is to move beyond those feelings, to be more like Christ — that is, to be loving and forgiving all — saying them in my most intimate times with the Beloved is very upsetting to me.

However, last weekend at the Grace Garden Yoga Retreat, I stumbled upon a book by Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness. Merrill refreshes the Psalms in a way that left me feeling...I don’t know...free? Joyful? Hopeful? There was a sense of, “Yes! Exactly!” when I read through the first part of this book. They conveyed a lot of what I feel but don’t know quite how to express it. The beauty of the way she refreshed these ancient songs and poems moved me. I’ve copied a few examples below.


Psalm 8
O Love, my Beloved,
How powerful is your Name
    in all the earth!
You, whose glory is sung in heaven
    by the angels and saints,
Who with the innocence and
        spontaneity of a child,
Confounded those who are mighty
        and proud,
You quiet the unloving and fearful.

When I look up at the heavens,
    at the work of Love’s creation,
    at the infinite variety of your Plan;
What is woman that you rejoice in her,
And man that you do delight in him?
    You have made us in your image,
    You fill us with your Love;
You have made us co-creators of
    the earth!
    guardians of the planet!
to care for all your creatures,
to tend the land, the sea,
        and the air we breathe;
all that You have made,
    You have placed in our hands.

O Love, my Beloved,
How powerful is your Name
    in all the earth!

Psalm 23
O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
    I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures
        for rest
    and lead me beside still waters
        renewing my spirit,
    You restore my soul;
You lead me in the path of
    to follow Love’s way.

Even though I walk through the
    valley of the shadow and
        of death,
    I am not afraid;
For You are ever with me;
    your rod and your staff
        they guide me,
    they give me strength
        and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of all my fears;
        you bless me with oil,
        my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will
        follow me
    all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart
    of my Beloved

Psalm 25.16ff
Turn to me, O Holy One, and envelop me
        with your love, for
    I am lonely and oppressed.
Relieve the block in my heart
    that keep me separated from You;
See all the darkness within me;
    fill it with your healing light.
Look at my pain and all my fears;
    they shut out love and life.

Protect me and free me;
    let me not live as unworthy,
    for I would make my home in You
May integrity and wholeness fill me
    as I dwell with You,
        O Loving Presence.

O Beloved, as you renew me,
    redeem the nations,
That we on earth may unfold
        your Plan.

Psalm 27.4-6; 11ff
One thing have I asked of Love,
    that I shall ever seek:
That I might dwell in the
        Heart of Love
    all the days of my life,
To behold the Beauty of my Beloved,
    and to know Love’s Plan.

For I shall hide in Love’s heart
    in the day of trouble,
As in a tent in the desert,
Away from the noise of my fears.
And I shall rise above
    my struggles, my pain,
Shouting blessings of gratitude
    in Love’s Heart
And singing melodies of praise
        to my Beloved.

Teach me to be love,
        as You are Love;
Lead me through each fear;
Hold my hand as I walk through
    valleys of doubt each day,
That I may know your peace.

I believe that I shall know the
        Realm of Heaven,
    of Love, here on Earth!
Wait for the Beloved,
    be strong with courage
        of the heart;
Yes! Wait for the Beloved
        of your heart!

Beautiful words reflecting my heart and longings. I will be ordering me a copy of Psalms for Praying and I’ll be using it in my Daily Prayers. I hope you do too.

Br. Jack+, LC

* Good News Translation (GNT); Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society.

07 October 2014

07 October 2014

“Why don’t you go to seminary?”

I was standing in my Mom’s kitchen. We had just been talking about some things I was learning in my study of the Scriptures.

We did that a lot — talked about theology, Christ, G‑d, predestination, free will, church history, etc. You name it, if it was about our walks with Christ, we talked about it.

For the most part.

Obviously there were times when we didn’t see eye-to-eye about things, but those times were very few and far between. She always had a way of asking the right question in the right way to make me dig deeper and try a little harder at making complicated things easier to understand.

I remember one time (and no, it wasn’t at band camp) I was publishing a monthly newsletter. In it I chronicled my understandings about “end-times” (eschatology) and “salvation” (soteriology). I always gave her a copy. “What’d you think?” I regularly sought her feedback and input.

“Well, it was good for the first couple of paragraphs but after that, you lost me.”

“What? I broke it down the best I could!” I said shaking my head.

I would then go back and rewrite and rewrite, trying to make what I was saying easier to follow. I still do that to this day, a practice that I will forever cherish because it makes me think of my Mom.


When Mom was in the hospital, we had a chrysalis on a plant in our home. We didn’t know what type of insect it was. When my Mom passed over to the Otherworld through that thin veil that separates us from G‑d’s Realm, the chrysalis opened and a monarch butterfly emerged. When we went to Mom’s burial, there were monarch’s all over the place. We like to think of it as Mom’s way of letting us know that she’s alive and that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Julian of Norwich, c. 1416).

A number of years after she died, I was sitting in a parish church awaiting my turn to receive the Eucharist. As I waited, I asked G‑d for a sign. I wanted to be sure that I should become a priest. As I was praying, the choir started singing my Mom’s favorite hymn, How Great Thou Art. I took it as G‑d’s sign and Mom’s assurance that, yes, I should become a priest. I was ordained a priest in 2011.


This past Saturday was St. Francis’ Feast day (04 October). I officiated over the pet blessings and Eucharist at St. Francis of the Woods. Before the service, I found a little circle of oak trees and walked into the center for prayer — just a simple prayer asking for G‑d’s presence and guidance and grace. As I made my way back to the outdoor spot we were going to have for the service, a monarch butterfly fluttered into my face and danced away. A gentle reminder that my Mom was with me, too.

Today, on the day of Mom’s passing from our realm to G‑d’s Realm, I’m thankful for the ways she continues to support me and guide me. I’m thankful for her continued prayers and comfort. But most of all, I’m thankful for the time when I will get to see her face-to-face. Until then, I keep my eyes and ears open for her love and light.

Oh look! A monarch!

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC