Saturday, April 12, 2014

In God Alone...

Rest is a natural part of the rhythm of life. We long to relax and sleep after “a hard day at the office.” We look forward to a day off each week. We anticipate a restful vacation after months of work. But how do we experience rest? How do we get a good night’s sleep? How do we let things go during a holiday weekend or an extended vacation?

Whenever Psalm 62 comes around in the cycle of psalms, I am reminded that true rest is found in God alone. The psalm begins, “In God alone is my soul at rest.” Consider that our minds and bodies rest only as our souls are at peace.

The writer of Psalm 62 is in the midst of an unsettled situation. He laments, “How long will you all attack one man to break him down, as though he were a tottering wall, or a tumbling fence?” So he longs for rest from the commotion. And he begins by telling the truth: “In God alone is my soul at rest.” A few verses later he reminds himself to act on the truth: “In God alone be at rest, my soul.”

So how can we rest in God? I have two suggestions. First, quietly meditate on the truth. Find a peaceful place where you will not be disturbed. Sit quietly and let the rhythm of your breathing set the pace for the truth to run through your mind: “In God alone is my soul at rest.”

My second suggestion is to consider the simplicity and word-order of the statement: “In God alone is my soul at rest.” That translation is more satisfying for me than alternatives such as, “My soul finds rest in God alone;” or “Truly my soul finds rest in God.”

The version I have settled on puts God first. The writer tells us that in God my soul finds rest: “He alone is my rock, my salvation, my fortress; never shall I falter.” Next it says that God alone is my source of rest—not alternatives such as TV, music, parties, alcohol, or drugs. And it is my soul that rests in God. That’s the part of me that relates most fully to the Creator. The other parts of my being follow the inclination of my soul. The final word of the adage is rest—literally silence. That is, when my soul is silent, not cluttered with worries and anxiety, I am at rest. The goal is rest; the source is God.

So the next time you are frazzled, consider meditating on Psalm 62 verses 1 and 5. “In God alone is my soul at rest;” and “In God alone be at rest, my soul.”

Note: The translation of Psalm 62 that I have used is from The Revised Grail Psalms, Copyright © 2010.  Click on to view the full text.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Choreography!

What makes a film a work of art? First-rate writing, acting, music, direction, cinematography, and editing must meld to make a beautiful film. All of those components come together in the remarkable movie, The King’s Speech. It is a stunning composition.

As I watched it the first time in the theater I realized: It’s choreography! All the parts interact gracefully. And they lead, ultimately, to a dramatic duet performed by the speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), and his subject, King George VI (Colin Firth). All that precedes that performance makes the dance possible.

Choreography involves three basics: music, movement, and a message. Consider Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker or Bernstein’s West Side Story. Both integrate music and movement; and they tell a story. All three fundamentals are present

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lord, Open Our Lips

Every day I look for a phrase that helps me focus on God and dismiss unnecessary and distracting thoughts as I pray. The other day a beautiful “phrase” came to light that had been staring me in the face. It’s in The Book of Common Prayer and comes from Psalm 51.

Officiant          Lord, open our lips.
People             And our mouth shall proclaim your praise. [1]

As I meditated on that petition, it occurred to me that God gives us the ability to speak, first and foremost, to declare his praise. The idea of praising God is a stream that runs through the Bible, especially in the Psalms. Accordingly, the last psalm gives us a grand series of prompts to praise God. For example, “Praise God in his sanctuary; / praise him in his mighty heavens. / Praise him for his acts of power; / praise him for his surpassing greatness.” It ends with the triumphant, “Praise the Lord!” [2]

We also use our lips for ordinary communication, recreational conversation, and relationship-building. It is truly a blessing to be able to speak. Alas, we use our mouths far too often for criticism, backbiting, and even vulgarity. A good spiritual discipline would be to monitor our speech and go a whole day, a week, or even a month without negative conversation.

An article about a gifted pastor by the name of Dieter Zander has prompted me to think more deeply about the purpose and blessing of speech. In 2008 he suffered a massive stroke that hampers his ability to think normally. His speech no longer flows freely. He cannot preach or teach, so he lost his vocation as a pastor. And he has lost friends who simply don’t have time to wait and listen. [3]

In the midst of those losses there is the blessing of silence and intimacy with God. Zander ironically refers to his misfortune as a “stroke of grace.” He has embraced the losses as part of his life journey. “And I realize it’s not my leadership, or my singing or my performance that God loves. Even when all that is gone God tells me—just as I am, all alone with nothing—I am loved.” [4]

Yet, God has reopened Zander’s lips! A short video, available at, shows how the prayer, “Lord, open our lips. / And our mouth shall proclaim your praise,” is being answered.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), 80.
[2] Psalm 150:1-2, 6 (New International Version).
[3] Gary Black Jr., “Stroke of Grace,” Conversations: A Forum for Authentic Transformation 11.2 (Fall/Winter 2013), 31-33.
[4] Ibid., 33.