My Psalm 75
When Pentecost began, I had just completed a theology course which included a brief discussion about the psalms. During the four year program I discovered that many people thought David, the boy who faced a giant and won and later became king, wrote all one hundred and fifty of them. Historians, Linguists, and theologians do not believe that to be true. In fact, it is estimated that the composition of the psalms, songs of prayer and praise as well as supplication, were written over a span of five centuries.
What really amazed me during the four years of hearing people discuss the psalms was the general agreement in the various translations of the Torah and Holy Bible containing them despite a great deal of dissension among readers and my classmates regarding what they really mean. It seemed that experts agreed but readers did not. Some of the psalms were written after great battles; some preceded them. Similarly, in class some psalms caused total agreement while others complete differences of opinion. And people would become a bit worked up over their interpretations!
I have read all of the psalms via my chosen religious denominational service countless times over but had I really read them, really thought about them? Sadly, I confess that the answer was no. So during Pentecost I thought I would not only read each psalm but write my own, using updated language and thoughts. There are many formulas for writing a psalm but I wanted mine to simply be verses – verses of praise, question, and adoration. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
There are, in case you did not know, one hundred and fifty psalms. I like poetry and I like writing it. I completely understand those poets who communicated solely in haiku or iambic pentameter. After all, we all have our own accents based on where we have lived or our ethnic backgrounds, rhythmic patterns of speech that help people recognize our voices. The thing is….When you commit to writing one hundred and fifty psalms, you need to write one hundred and fifty psalms. And that is daily. Talk about stress!
As I sat wondering why I had put myself through this stress, I realized two things: First, I was already half-way through my goal. Secondly, did I know exactly what stress was that made it so bad? You see, while it has been stressing at times, I actually admit to being a bit pleased at this challenge. At times I feel a bit guilty not following the formulas but then again, I’m not sure David and his helpers always did either. I think the most important thing is that you say whatever you say from the heart and with sincerity. I also learned I did not particularly like all of the psalms. They are all beautiful but some are full of negativity. Were the writers stressed? Probably!
So what exactly is stress? According to the national Institute of Mental Health, a part of the National Institutes of Health, “stress is the body’s response to a demand”. Say what? That’s it? Stress is a response? Turns out that is exactly what it is and there is good stress as well as the bad stress we all have experienced. The fight or flight response we’ve discussed here is one way the body handles stress and it can save your life. Chronic stress, though, can be harmful to your health – physical, emotional, and mental.
There are three types of stress. Routine stress is that which we associate with our daily lives, those pressures of work, family, and other normal and daily responsibilities. Stress brought about by change, a sudden unexpected negative event, is the second type of stress. This includes losing a job, divorce, or illness. Traumatic stress is the third type and is just what the name describes – a major accident or natural diasater. War is also considered a traumatic stress.
So which type of stress was my writing one hundred and fifty psalms? Other than the mental exercise, which was really a good type of stress, it really has not been that stressful. Once I got over a lack of faith I could do it and just did it, it wasn’t that bad. By the grace of the Eternal Spirit and Creator, words have flowed. By your kindness and grace, they appear to have been somewhat accepted for what they are and in spite of my needing to edit and re-edit at times!
The psalms were a type of song back in David’s day. A warrior in training who dared to put his faith in action, the psalms were his way of relaxing, of praying, of meditating. All of those are great ways to cope with stress! I have found writing my own daunting but also helpful, not stressful.
Many people today have taken up journaling and for a great many, writing a blog is a digital journal. I tend to pose more questions than answer them and that is intentional. I want to think and expand my thinking and I am inviting you to join me in doing so. Writing a psalm a day has helped me do that. More importantly, I have realized that, while the clothing and lifestyles are very different, the basic concerns and confusions of David are the same as those of us who are living today. We have leaders who are distrustful. We have episodes of complete joy. We have times of fear. We are subject to hatred by some. We want to live a life of faith. We sing glory to our Maker.
The psalms overall are a way to give thanks for our wonderful world. Writing a thank you note sometimes seems a bit daunting but really, all we have to do is let our heart speak. When we write a psalm and begin by describing God, we are not telling Him who He is but reminding ourselves.
Writing these psalms has been a reminder for me of the wonderful world that exists and the beauty of the people that are in it. This of course includes you, my followers. You are a rainbow of ethnicities and professions, locations, and beliefs. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”. (Philippians 1:3)
My Psalm 75
To you, O Heavenly Father, do I give thanks.
For myself, family, friends, and life, I say thank you.
You alone know me well, very well.
For all you have given me,
In spite of myself at times,
I give you thanks.
There are those who dislike me;
Your love makes the hurt dissolve.
Thank you, dear Lord, for all the mercies of this life
And the promises of the next.
You alone are the Most High.
Thank you, my God.