FROM THE BURSTING HEART journeying through some favourite Psalms copyright Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON, 2016
One, Two, Three…Basic
Not here is the help Not here is the rescue But looking above Like the servants in hope Awaiting a Master Of Heavenly mercy Eyes straining upward Our wounded hands grope. Here we find greed And cowardly slander Taskmaster’s whip And bigotry’s curse Luxury judging The struggling one’s battle Gossip and grabbing
And other things worse. Come Lord of Ages And rescue your darlings End the oppression And make your power known. Vindicate now all the Simple and trusting Dress them in righteousness Drawn to your throne. (Consider the mighty agenda of Psalm 123)
Lord you played with matter It bounced from hand to hand And lines were drawn In earthâ€™s pre-dawn Dividing sea from land. And lights and nights And mountain heights Became at your command. The forests deep and verdent Were your menagerie And birds would sing And haply wing From nest to fruitful tree. While padded feet
On paths discreet Would seek out food for free. You knew each birthing tremor You saw the young well trained And blossoms grew With morning dew Or rivers where it rained. And men arrived And worked and thrived And from your bounty gained. Which brings us all to worship Your kindness and your good And cry for peace And love’s release In Eden’s neighbourhood. We trust your will As sovereign still And sealed in selfless blood.
Controversy with David’s Psalm (37)
Whadya mean “fret not”? Can’t ya see all The wickedness Manipulation Outright oppression
Slippery talk Unjust gain Pain and grief Ignored By rogues who Could easily help? Even the King Sold over To darkness. And you say…fret not. Ha! But you say more Don’t you. “Trust” That’s a good one Trust others? Trust family, myself? That’s pretty shaky. Oh, trust you Lord. But I hardly know you And can you be known? You say “delight” Easy perhaps for the shepherd With the psalms And fresh air and liberty. …Oh but that shepherd Became the hunted animal Despised and tracked
And nearly trapped But got through somehow. And that was you right? Well I’ve had some Narrow misses too. Should I be thanking you Looking higher for provision And protection? HHHMMM… Obviously that shepherd “Delighted” in you Got to see really That there was No other Source. “Committed” his ways And hopes unto you. Found that he could “Rest” in a mighty confidence Found only in Another. Made the conscious quality Decision to “cease from anger And forsake wrath”. Started to realize That nothing, absolutely nothing Could better the newfound process Of “waiting” upon your majesty Your timing, agenda and pathway. But all that is really
Just for your special anointed No? “The steps of a good man are ordered…” Could that ever be me? “You forsake not your saints They are preserved forever.” Could that ever be me? “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Could that ever be me? This process of delightful dependence? Surely such a God Is all Giver and not Taker. And I think I am beginning to see And I praise you For your justice and mercy And sing out my thanks. Starting now.
(painting by Peter Etril Snyder of Waterloo)
My God, My God
The cry comes from the darkness of an execution. The accused has called himself a King. He has said that he is truth incarnate. He has said that he could easily summon a host of angels to the scene if that would further his peculiar plan. But instead he hangs there listening to the groans of his two colleagues and the jeers of a mob out of control. His mother is front and centre, trying to restrain the tears and deliver a gaze of courage and compassion to the jewel of her heart. His dear friend wraps arms of protection around her, shielding her from the jostling and the raised arms. The friend thinks to himself, "Master why cry, My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me? Better to cry, Peace be still. Or give the people to eat. Or take up your bed and walk. Or come out of him you foul spirit. Or fools, hypocrites you make a mockery of religion. Or come unto me and I will give you rest. Or look for me from the clouds of heaven with the angels." (Note: But "My God, my God!" That is the cry of vulnerability and trapped desperation, of human doubt and wincing pain, of bewilderment in a man beside himself with anguish. Yes, a man who had come this low from the majestic corridors of heaven. Now each breath gets harder and harder. The shoulders and the extremities scream. See Philippians 2: 5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. 9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. - The Message by Eugene Peterson He "gets" our pain.)
See the entirety of Psalm 22. It is a prophetic snapshot of Christ at Calvary, uttered hundreds of years in advance.
Sparrows and Swallows
3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, OLORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah. I have always taken delight in the images of this Psalm. The House of God is not a place for greatness and pomp; rather for the simple and contented. Little creatures doing what they were made to do, and happily so. The sparrow communes in playful chatter and hops around in search of the food at hand. The swallow seems a more isolated creature with breathtaking flight patterns plucking the insects a hazardous two inches from the water's surface at tremendous speed. She also plasters a miraculous nest on perpendicular walls and corners with no apparent under-support. The Temple is safe for their kind and safe for their youngsters. There is almost a child-like air to everything; and indeed the messages of the place are intended for the unsophisticated. And these children are content that it should be so:
10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
They are made the custodians of the greatest of messages, the Testament of God:
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. In this statement we see the whole spectrum of scripture. "Sun" the centre and source of the whole universe in creation and procreation. "Shield" a particular defender of a peculiar people in the lineage of the faith of Abraham. "Grace" in the Good News of the mission and success of Jesus the Saviour. "Glory" in the expectation of the redeemed starting now and never ending.
Never Met Such a Judge
(a development from Psalm 82) The seat's for her Don't say different. And those little ones Right beside. Let your faces Show a welcome. Dump your postures Dump your pride. No she missed The teaching series. Coming new here Without shine. And she needs some care That's obvious. But she's precious And she's mine. The collection Will scarce miss her But she gives much more You see. She is needy And she knows it And she's not ashamed of me. Much unlike The current fashion Where the name of Christ Is hid. Talk of marriages
And finance And the way to tame that kid. And the suppers Pot-luck pretty And the baseball when it's hot. She is seeking out My City. And you trendy bunch Are NOT. So the lesson Sits among you And the litmus test is here. Come up forward Gracious daughter At my feet Where all is clear. Psalm 68: 5 – A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 82: 2 – How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3:Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Seldom do we lay ourselves dependent, wet-cheeked and snotty-nosed at the feet of Jesus, affirming that He, and more of Him, is what we need for right living, for correction, for Love's compass, for tomorrow's hope, for the right word in season to him that is weary, for joy unspeakable and full of Glory. Matthew 11: 27-30. I will repeat it. Matthew 11: 27-30
Mercy and Truth (shining out from Psalm 86) “Plenteous in mercy” It sounds like a tree Abounding in good fruit Especially for me And I don't deserve it I know where I've been The dark thoughts assailing The trouble I've seen
Somehow You look past it And smile on your child Bestowing your goodness On one so defiled The words still escape me I long for your ear My prayers often awkward Regardless you hear And send me some token That evil must yield That fretting is pointless That you've won the field And lately you whisper Some deeper truths still I love you my Captain And yield to your will. Psalm 86: 3-5 Note: And what is this yieldedness? It does not take us out of everyday requirements. It simply comes alongside and says 'you can turn the other cheek, you can represent me here, you can be my co-worker in a kind word, a help offered, a comfort ministered, an honest word put in for my Son's good work, a darkness shunned.'
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive: and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.(Psalm 86: 5)
I have found sweet hiding place Through a path of steaming tears For the sin that I had hidden So I tought for many years. But you saw and brought the pressure And I struggled 'neath your hand And I thought I had it covered But I did not understand That release was just a measure That a little child might gain In repentance and in trusting Total discharge of the pain. And a sense of treasured lambkin And a path assuredly pure And a bond of sweet rejoicing Meant to evermore endure.
Just such a sunrise Iâ€™d head to the Place Where priests in their joy Launched the day The crackling of fires
The bleating of lambs The worshipers keen On their way. For me it was song That opened the heart And beckoned sweet thoughts Of your love The lute and the timbrel The pounding of drum The cooing of small Birds above. But now an exile I run from my son With treachery’s price On my head A stark camp protects A quick chill awakes And sun-up, my hope Is near dead. But Glory I’ve seen In your Holy Place You can’t shut me out For too long A day comes and soon To cherish your face And thrill once again In the song.
Almost Home A Wednesday afternoon. Keith ran the stairs two at a time to the fourth floor. He knew the service door push-button combination. No time for the elevator. Stewart and Krista were already there and Nurse Katie, senior woman in George Cromarty's wing. There was evidence that the Doctor had just left. "Hi guys, when did it happen?" Stewart turned slowly from his uncle, "About 9:45. Katie was the first one to know." The nurse put her hand on Keith's shoulder. "He had had a good breakfast. Shared some laughter with one of the newer residents. A volunteer wheeled him back and all seemed OK. I got a ring at the desk an hour later. He was all smiles. Told me that we hadn't had our mid-week "chin-wag". Told me a bit about what is going on at the Church, Keith. Then he reached over to the side table for his Bible and handed it to me. Asked me to open it where the paper clip was, and to start reading at the 6th verse through the 19th. There, Stewart the Book is right beside you. It was Psalm 34, I think. 'Scuse me, I'm not quite up on these things any more. The stroke musta' been within the half hour after I left." Stewart took the Bible, faced his uncle again, tried to focus on the one moist eye still where it was supposed to be,
and read to the silent Scot: 6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. 8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. 9O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. 11Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? 13Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. 14Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. 15The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. 16The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Krista was holding George's good hand. He slowly withdrew it and displayed his first two fingers. Krista looked puzzled, "Two, the number two. Do you want us to continue with the second Psalm George?" A queer acknowledging smile was made by the good side of the face. Things continued in this fashion for another ten minutes and then the old boy's eyes closed in sleep, one at a time. Others in the room huddled closer, and hugged silently. Katie had remained throughout like a loving sentinel. No one had called for her over the P.A. She had witnessed all of these moments of holy and unstoppable trust.
Hope from the Hill (the hundred twenty-first)
A dearly loved friend is struggling with station in life. On a drive into the country this afternoon Hilary and I were discussing the situation and wondering whether our Christ-directed comments to the person had been an encouragement or an untimely stumbling-block (There is a significant difference in this based on God's timing.) I commented that perhaps our "mongrel" experience of finance, social connection, employment and Christian assembly had gotten in the way with this friend. But then, almost prophetically, I blurted to Hilary that "if we had possessed any commendable resilience at all it had come from the blessing of relatively good health, family and hope from the hill." Hmmm. Hope from the hill. That's it! The sure-fire victory message, circumstances notwithstanding: "1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. 3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. 4Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand." (Psalm 121) Kept by the Lord, in and through all circumstances. That has been our experience. Undeserving.Faltering. Inconsistent. Sometimes murmuring, envious or self-pitying. But ransomed and kept. Eternity is here now, and it awaits in greater measure, in the company of our Elder Brother, Jesus, and the multitude of redeemed (Revelation 7:9, 10) Our God is the God of hills and mountains. He formed them (Isaiah 40:12). Fellowship with Him is on a holy hill (Psalm 15:1,2). His New Jerusalem is mountainous (Revelation 21:16). We have the assurance that he hears us out of His holy hill, and that therefore we may relax (Psalm 3:4,5). Take a wander through a Bible concordance and the word "hill". See if you are not comforted and encouraged. Nothing else is like the assurance of Him for you forever! Do you have this assurance? It is given, not earned. Ask, seek, knock. (Matthew 7:7)
Rescue, Time and Again (the hundred seventh)
Psalm 107: 43Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD. What things? God's timely rescues in the midst of wandering, homelessness, loneliness, imprisonment, illness, natural disaster, storms, hunger, unemployment, oppression, dryness, injustice. He is under no obligation. He simply loves the ones whom He has made the objects of His mercy. Ever the compassionate, wise, resourceful Father to the rescue. Our hope is to know Him and to know that He never tires of the recurring cries for help. He says in Psalm 50 " 14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." It is just that basic a transaction. I have a son in a new and challenging situation in a new province. He needs to see God operate soon in the lovingkindness put on display in this 107th Psalm. And God will be there for him. This is my prayer and my word of thanksgiving voiced in advance. 31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
The Seventy-Seventh (...but I will remember)
Things are not as they ought I am weary I am vexed by the evil I see And much pained by those selfish agendas That would batter And ridicule me That would say I am sick
Without rescue And abandoned by friends of the past ‘For this faith ill-befitting The present And its precepts that can’t And won’t last.” Still I look for your rescue Dear Father And your lessons I hold In my heart While it seems you partake Of the wounding Must all Heavenly comfort depart? But a check comes To all of this whining And a nudge points To joys of the past When your power alone Saved the faithful From the Pharaoh, the famine The blast From the godless and gloating Around them And the straightness Of living at times. It would seem I have Preached myself happy In reviewing your record sublime.
No Longer Opting Out
You say you wouldn't dare Discern the Word for certain You couldn't utter out 'Thus saith the Lord.' And let us not forget all The wars and persecutions That marred the trail of faith Can't be ignored. Great minds have gone to battle On just a single precept And here you sit a simple Doubting saint. You think it oh so humble To hold out reservations. But really, gotta tell ya' Friend, it ain't. Those scriptures are the one meal To feed the inner warrior And give him strength To tread down unbelief. That Dragon who devours The hopes of hurting people And builds a wall To block out all relief. You wouldn't pass a diamond by Or fail to stake your claim So why the double mind On Holy Writ? The Spirit makes it clear If we only pray for vision And trust His urge As we are getting it. This truth that God deposits Will span the miles and ages. He knows the needs of Every human heart. The ones quite universal That bind a mystic Body The Church He dreamed of From the very start. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enligtening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19: 8-10)
One to Greet
Charlie, Lad It's you I see With eyes no verra skillful Not long ago You left the Glen In debt and doubt and wilful Your Gramma Mourned the parting While your sister paid the toll In London And in service Til it killed her, precious soul. But Jamie Of our number At her death-bed all-assuring And kindly Was one Doctor Full intent upon her curing She passed in peace With plans to bless The loves of Scottish youth And said your name In hopeful trust That you would come to truth. And here you be A sight to see I'm done here in the garden So step within A bite and talk Your work abroad and pardon. How folk will laugh Embrace you Lad The sheep has clean amended Back in the fold As days of old
By love and hope defended. And I, old Drumsheugh Privileged here To give Drumtochty's hand The lost is found Now safe and sound A bloom from barren land. (With thanks to the precious writing of Ian MacLaren in â€œDays of Auld Lang Syneâ€?)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23: 1-3)
It is often said that the Psalms constitute a little Bible within the Bible. All major themes of redemption and grace appear to be addressed. Praise and thanksgiving, petition, distress, Messiah, people of Israel, history, rescue, guidance, surprise, wonder, recollection and the regenerating power of God's Word. One can open the Psalms at any place and receive fresh air and hope. One can also see how the major psalmist, King David, did not hold back in honesty, pain, quandary or rejoicing in uttering these thoughts Heavenward. He was simply being himself, unadorned...and God loved it.