A Cup of Coffee and the Psalms
“My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the Psalms,” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker community, said. A cup of coffee and the Psalms. Good things happen over a cup of coffee or tea: in depth conversations with a friend or just shooting the breeze; early morning meditations with God. What better way to start the day?
Why the Psalms
I came to the Psalms later in life. First, I preferred books with a storyline. The Gospels, of course, with the story of the life of Jesus. Genesis with all of the Bible stories I had learned as a child.
In college I took a course on the “Bible as Literature” and was exposed to the beautiful poetry of the Psalms and the Prophets. As a young adult I loved the Prophets, especially Isaiah. The imagery of second Isaiah brought tears to my eyes. While the storyline wasn’t always evident, there was enough of a story to hold the book together.
To my thinking back then, the Psalms were just a mass of words, poems, with no story to give context. I’ve never been a big fan of poetry so I chose to ignore the Psalms.
In my fifties, after thirty years as a lay minister in the Catholic Church, eleven years serving as a chaplain to a retirement community where I preached every Sunday, I was tired of using the Lectionary as the basis for preaching. I decided to try something new and preach on a Psalm every Sunday. This would serve two purposes. It would force me to reflect further on this book of the Bible that I had neglected for so long, and give new direction for preaching.
Bird by Bird – Psalm by Psalm
At first it seemed like an overwhelming task. There are 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Anne Lamott in her book on writing, Bird by Bird, tells the story of how her ten-year-old brother was brought close to tears when confronted with the enormity of writing a report on birds, one he had put off for three months and was due the next day. Her father sat down next to him and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
If I looked at this task as a whole, it was impossible. So I took it bird by bird, one psalm at a time.
As part of this experiment in preaching, I started a blog on preaching the Psalms. When my position as chaplain was eliminated a year into the series, I continued to blog on the Psalms, doing one Psalm each week. I’ve since been through the entire psaltery three times.
A Cup of Coffee and the Psalms
I’m still pursuing my own study of the Psalms, praying them, reflecting on them, studying them. After going through the Psalms three times, I’m taking a break from my weekly posts. I’m still writing about the Psalms but I’m trying different approaches. The power and beauty of the Psalms continues to sustain and enrich my life. I hope my posts provide fodder for preachers who may want to preach on the Psalms but I hope they also reach a wider audience. The power and beauty of the Psalms continues to sustain and enrich my life.
As I wrote ten years ago when I started this venture: “I hope that this blog will be a space for dialogue about the Psalms, for a chance to, in a sense, sit down together with a cup of coffee and converse. To discuss, what are your favorite Psalms and why? Are there quotes about the Psalms that you really like? Have the Psalms played an important role in your life and if so, how? All of these will be up for discussion. I hope you will join me in this endeavor.” These words remain true.
However you came to my blog, I’m glad you are here. Browse through the different posts. Share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
(Please note – in order to help ensure you receive email with link to new book, please add my email, firstname.lastname@example.org to your contact list. Some servers are quick to send newsletters to spam or other boxes.)