“When the Day of Judgment comes, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.” Thomas á Kempis (The Imitation of Christ)
I received bad news, the other day. This had me reflecting; what do other people do when they get bad news? Surreptitiously I have been observing or asking people this week how they handle bad news.
I discerned, observed or had reported to me the following methods;
Get it over with, with a dramatic episode; kick the cat, spouse, road rage.
Coldly channel the negative energy; gym, running, sport, furious knitting.
Indulgence; food, alcohol, sex, nails.
Escapism; TV, Romance novels, Porn.
Activity; Overtime, disassemble car.
Withdrawal; depression, silence, worm-eating.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You may be able to pick out one of your own from the above. I’m sure the psych guys have all sorts of advice for us and I’ve read a sufficient share of pop-psychology literature to tell you that you can save some money and read the Psalms.
I had a great Pastor, no really I do. I’m so grateful that I go to a small enough church where I could drown my sorrows in good coffee with my pastor. No five-year plan; no spiritual dagga, no maniacal grinning. Just “oh this is really bum news. How are you feeling?” More coffee. After some soothing noises, the shepherds crook appears from under the table. “So where do you go when you get bad news?” He queries, off the cuff. “To the minor prophets.” I lamented. “Hmmm,” pastor (experienced at dealing with nutters) controls his mirth. “I prefer the Psalms,” he comments.
Have you spent time in the Psalms lately? The book of Psalms is the ‘secret place’ of the scriptures. Don’t look that one up in a commentary it won’t be there. If you can’t find God when you’re furiously knitting, eating worms or grumbling to yourself, or doing something unspeakable – head for the Psalms I say. That’s where God makes all the necessary ooh-aah noises.
I never thought I’d see the day that I would be kissing little girls’ toes saying “ooh…..aah, wasn’t that awful, poor little frozen chicken, ag…shame, poor little hamster dropping.” But then I had some daughters, who, whilst performing Pavlova type leaps, sustain no small number of injuries. Since one can not concentrate on the gripping editorials contained within the bowels of the Isle-of-man-shoemakers-monthly magazine, with the deafening shrieks of amateur ballerinas in the background, the abovementioned empathizing is necessary.
Back to the Psalms; well when I stub my toe, or worse, whilst performing amateur ballerina maneuvers (okay the metaphor is wearing a bit thin. Imagine me and thin being in the same sentence.) I head for the Psalms. I confess that the Minor Prophets do appeal to my sense of self-flagellation but they can do it for me too. Let me not fool you into a false sense of my saintliness. (Oh do stop laughing.) I have and do end up on the heap of sin and sulkiness when I’m on the receiving end of bad news too. But sometimes I get it right. Try and get it right – aim for God’s Word especially the Psalms in times of trouble.
So what’s so special about the Psalms? There is not a single emotion, urge, temptation, elation, delight, praise or passion not mentioned in the psalms. I challenge you to find one and let me know. (Actually, rather don’t.) The Psalms is where God empathizes with us through the experiences of the likes of David. This is where God says “there, there it’ll be all right, I’m in control.” Or “For goodness sake, pull your finger out.” Words we need hear sometimes.
I just love the variety in the Psalms; as the book opens with Psalm 1 (strangely enough, doesn’t miss a trick does He.) which sagely reminds us about where we should find ourselves in the economy of God; delighting in His Word, not in the seat of mockers – In the Jerusalem Bible it renders that “cynics”. Then waxes on about how the wicked will all end up in deep yogurt. If you like that sort of thing. Then there are those Psalms of ascent journeying through the seasons of the heart. There’s pleading, begging for forgiveness, boasting, delighting in the triumph of the victorious, self-encouragement and so on. As a Grande finale, the last 10 Psalms do a sort of Sound-of-Music type giddy dance over the hills delighting in God whose majesty is beyond our most eloquent idiom.
What are you waiting for? Add the psalms to your devotions if you don’t already. Next time you’re tempted to throw your toys, or the bones for that matter, rush for the Psalms, rather than the knitting, or the remote.
“Okay so you’ve got my attention, what do I do with these Psalms?”
Once my daughter caught me pretending to play the piano whilst listening to Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano concerto – one of my favorites. Rather embarrassing for me, not so strange for her. I coughed a little and began dusting ebony and ivory with an imaginary duster. “Oh I do that.” She inflected with five-year-old nonchalance. Don’t be a wimp about reading scripture out allowed. So what if you look silly. I’ve seen grown men cry at the end of cricket matches. (Probably with relief.) I’ve seen 150kg rugby fans leaping about screaming like fairies from a Peter Pan movie, talk about camping-it-up. I think that the Psalms should be wept over, danced upon, bellowed out, laboured with, announced and proclaimed, quietly considered and gently treasured. The Psalms are the gentle whisperings from a lover and the angry commandments to the disobedient. They represent God’s heart of mercy and grace as well as His fierce wrath as expressed by the Psalmists. So Copy & Paste the words of the Psalms into your prayers, your worship, your crib notes for the tests of life and into your favorite tunes. There’s no copyright on God’s Word. Enjoy!
Try these Psalms for size
Distress; Psalm 121
U2’s favorite; Psalm 40
Fed up with the corrupt about you; Psalm 37
In need of transformation; Psalm 25
Comfort; Psalm 23
On your knees; Psalm 38, 39
Under Pressure; Psalm 54, 55
Beautiful women; Psalm 56:1 (NIV)
Reflective: Psalm 63,112
Historical: Psalm 106,
Hysterical; Psalm 140-150
Fighting fear; Psalm 91
Awe: Psalm 78
Cranial: Psalm 119, Psalm 18
Relief: Psalm 4, Psalm 64, Psalm 68
Deliverance: Psalm 141, Psalm 43
Fascinated: Psalm 19, Psalm 93, Psalm 104
Now make your own list, cut it out and put it in your Bible.
Remember those old printer’s trays that young girls, mostly, now a little older, used to put on their bedroom walls filled with the most hideous useless junk. I think the trays then moved to more sumptuous parts of the home and became centre pieces for more ornate and tasteful knick-knacks as the girls grew up. If you have printers trays in the house you now know what to buy for Christmas at the end of this year and if you were the recipient of some irksome little trinkets last Christmas, you know where you can put them now.
Well, as a pre-Christmas chore I found myself chipping and scouring away the layers of paint, especially from the corners, from my daughter’s printers trays that she inherited from my wife, that she had as a teenager back in the, never-mind. Clearly instead of their beautiful virgin wood, paint was applied with whimsy and little skill to the trays as often as a new fashionable colour got their attention. Alas the burden of restoration is a heavy one. If you find yourself being asked if you think the current colour of the printer’s trays is suitable, whatever you do gush madly at its beauty in order to avoid hard labour.
This got me thinking about when I was a library prefect at King Edward VII School. I had an unorthodox and engaging library master called Mr Sandom. He encouraged us to read all manner of works from the classics to the then, recently in vogue, fantasy literature.
Just before the Christmas holidays Mr Sandom took us library geeks, as we would be called today I suspect, to the then arty-farty suburb of Melville where we visited a house with a ye-olde genuine printing press, cabinets with draws similar to the printer’s trays that people used to put up on their walls in the 80’s. They were full of letters, numbers, punctuation, and many other characters, as well as space blocks.
We all got into the spirit of the occasion and learned from the Mr Sandom how to create a page that we would print and place into our hardcover books that we had manufactured out of old maps as Christmas gifts the previous week. I distinctly remember that I had Iceland on the back and Nyasaland on the front. We didn’t just learn the rudimentaries of what it took to create a page of text the manual way we came away with a sense of achievement that a print out from our state-of-the art dot-matrix couldn’t do for us.
Which causes one to reflect, wither are we bound? Elsewhere in this magazine you will have read that inkjet technology exists that can produce droplets smaller than bacteria. Talk about sending the ‘flu a message. Then some Japanese guy had the bright idea while putting on his deodorant one morning: “if inkjet printing is just firing liquid at a surface why not spay stuff with perfume and other smells.” So maybe you’ll receive Christmas card smelling of roast turkey. And to think we got all excited in the 80’s about scratch-n-smell.
Whether it was yesterday, today or tomorrow, in the printing world higher and higher resolution seems to be that holy grail or fleeting horizon, reaching ever further, to working harder to produce clearer and better images and text, faster and faster, with less and less, in narrower and smaller spaces, cheaper and cheaper, with fewer and fewer people, using the fewer calories and lower wages, during reduced hours and….okay I’ll stops now.