An Invitation to Join the Psalms Journey Community

  walk through the psalmsI have made it through one third of my journey of writing through the Psalms. Hallelujah! 50 Psalms down, only 100 to go…

 

I want to start the next leg of the journey by moving towards some longings I have had for quite awhile.

 

I long to create a space that invites more people to engage with the Bible. To get past fears of interpreting wrong or not being scholarly enough, and begin to read, pray, and connect with its words.

 

I long to create a space that invites more people from a variety of backgrounds to read the same biblical text at the same time. To put aside our differences for a moment and find unity in our respect for God’s Word.

 

I long to create a space that invites more people to listen to each other and learn from each others' perspective on a text. To see that words that felt dead to us felt alive to someone else. To see how we were viewing the text through our own lens in ways we might not have even realized.

 

The Psalms provide a perfect backdrop for this kind of space. Though their meaning can certainly be enhanced through language knowledge and historical context, they are also poems and prayers. I believe that opens them up for a different reflection and response.

 

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So, I am forming a Psalms Journey community. Beginning next week, with Psalm 51. And this is your invitation to join.

 

If you are a reader, I invite you to join this community by reading the same Psalm as us each week.

 

Sometimes it will be inspirational, and sometimes it will be frustrating. But I believe that God works in our wrestling. I’d also like to invite you to read not only the words on my site, but the words written by other bloggers in the community.

 

If you are a blogger, I invite you to join this community by writing about the same Psalm as us each week. (Many thanks to Brenna, Jennifer, and RR who have already joined and are helping me launch!)

 

This is a big commitment, so I welcome you to come in and out of the series based on your availability. However, I also want to challenge you to try to stick with it. I have experienced so much depth in my own spiritual life based on the weekly discipline of this series, and I think that could happen for you as well.

 

I also invite you to guest post on the Psalms. So if a Psalm coming up has been particularly meaningful to you, please send a post my way! (email: everydayawe at gmail dot com)

 

(A few blogging details to know: 1. My post will go up midnight on Tuesday mornings. 2. The link up will be open all day Tuesday. 3. You can use the Twitter hashtag #PsalmsJourney 4. If you link up, please read the post of at least one other who links.)

 

It can be intimidating to think about how to write about the Bible. So, I’d like to give you a few practical ideas for types of posts you could write.

A Meditation

You could write a kind of public journal in response to a slow, meditative reading of the text, in the style of Lectio Divina.

Ingest the psalm by reading it several times. Reflect on the words and phrases. What sticks out to you? Why? Spend time in silence, yielded to the presence of God. Offer your insight back to God in prayerful and meditative writing.

A Reaction

You could write a reaction to how the Psalm made you feel. Some psalms are quite difficult or frustrating or confusing. Others are quite beautiful or artistic or despairing.

Read the Psalm and think about how it makes you feel about God or the Bible or life. Does it make you want to throw the Bible out your window? Does it make you drop to your knees in worship? Does it speak words into pain from your past? Dive into your feelings through the written word.

An Analysis

You could write an exegetical-style working out of the text through study.

Read the Psalm in a few different translations. Notice the differences in the wording. What might that tell you about the meaning?  Which words and phrases are repeated and which are used only once? What does that tell you about the emphasis? If possible, look into the original language. Are there any poetic movements that don’t come across strongly in English?

Read more about the history and context of the Psalm. Do we know when in Israel’s history it was written? What might we need to be careful of when thinking about how a meaning during that time crosses over to today’s time and culture?

Write about what you learned and what you can pull from that study into your life.

An Inspiration

You could write your own poem to God, inspired by the Psalm.

After reading the Psalm several times, use it as a launching point for your own prayer. Give yourself permission to express your feelings to God with raw and deep honesty. Paraphrase the Psalm with your own words or write something entirely new, spurred on by its themes.

 

The idea is that all posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

 

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

 

So, what do you say? Want to join? Have questions? Let’s chat in the comments.

 

See you next week with Psalm 51. (And then, the week after with Psalm 52, then the week after that with Psalm 53…)

 

 A Few Recommended Resources:

For Study:

  • NET Bible: This site has tons of notes on language and translation, as well as free commentary notes by Dr. Constable.
  • Bible Gateway: This site has many translations available for comparison.
  • ESV Study Bible: This Bible is filled with historical background and other notes that aid in interpretation. It is a fantastic resource.

For Meditation:

  • Lectio Divina: This article gives a good overview of the ancient contemplative practice.
  • Soul Feast: This book provides an overview of contemplative spiritual practices with invitations to engage.

For An Overview of Psalms

  • Nancy Orterg’s Sermon: This video of a sermon gives a great birds-eye view of what is going on in the book of Psalms. It is especially helpful when it comes to Psalms of lament.
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The Psalms: A Review, A Look Ahead, and an Invitation

One year ago, I made a decision. It turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. I chose to spend a year walking through the Psalms.

Except for some time I took off for seasonal breaks and series, I kept up my rhythm all year: one post a week on one Psalm a week. One at a time, starting at Psalm 1.

It proved to be much more difficult, and much more rewarding, than I ever anticipated.

When I read Psalm 1, I thought, “This is going to be easy! So much rich imagery. So many beautiful metaphors.” Then I read Psalm 2. And Psalm 7. And so many other Psalms that are arduous. Psalms about justice and vengeance and frustrations with God.

As I reflected on these Psalms, I realized how often I have picked and skimmed and glossed over when reading the Bible. Many times I have read the warm and flowery words that brought me encouragement, and skipped the sharp words that made me feel uncomfortable.

This series forced me to not skip over those words. And I am a better person for it.

The book of Psalms is a beautiful gift to us, if we have the courage to open it. The Psalms are real life prayers of real life people that we have the privilege to read. They are the prayers of people who’ve been blessed and cursed, loved and abandoned. They are a mix of honest praise and deep and thoughtful wrestling.

As the Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith.

The life of faith is a life lived with God. A life that stays close enough beside Him to beat against His chest when we are furious, feel the warmth of His embrace when we are depressed, and press our lips against His feet when we are in awe.

As the Psalms connect seemingly far apart themes, they also paint a landscape of a life lived in community.

Sometimes, the words of the Psalms sing beauty in our ears as if they are written only for us. Other times, the clang and feel out of tune. But perhaps that is because for someone else, those words are beautiful music. The Psalms are the prayers of a community. We are meant to lift one another up in prayer, to feel one another’s pain, and to sing for one another’s joy. The Psalms were sung by Israel as a community, and passed down to us so that we might do the same.

The Psalms are works of art can be appreciated on so many levels.

They can be analyzed by the academic, meditated upon by the contemplative, lived out by the activist, and gazed at by the artist. Whatever our approach, I believe we could spend a lifetime studying the Psalms, and still never plunge to their depths.

And so, it is without hesitation that I move forward into another year in the Psalms. One at a time, starting where I left off before Advent.

But this year, I would like to change one thing.

I don’t want to do this alone.

I am extending an invitation to you. Will you join me in my Walk Through The Psalms?

One post a week on one Psalm a week. It’s that simple.

You can reflect on the entire Psalm or simply a verse or two. You can talk about history and context and structure, or you can talk about your life and your story and how you see that Psalm at work.

Really, the only rule is to go in order. No skipping verses that make us uncomfortable. No skimming over verses that we find all to familiar. No rolling our eyes at the verses that seem to make it life sound more simple than it is.

One post a week on one Psalm a week. Period.

(Oh, but please. Please. Don’t worry. Grace. There will be grace here. If the Psalms teach us anything, it’s that life is full of ups and downs and unpredictable moments. If you decide to participate, and need to take weeks off here and there, you are always welcome to jump back in when you are able.)

My Psalm posts will go up on Thursday mornings. I will include a linky tool at the bottom for you to add your post and thumbnail.

And so, this Thursday, will you join with me and launch the year with a reflection on Psalm 37? It is a pretty good entry point to this journey, I think. It is long, but includes plenty of elements that might stir your heart.

I’m excited to see where the journey goes. Especially with company along the road.

Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join.