Psalm 150

Psalms starts with the word “blessed” and flows like a rich nourishing river of God’s word until it ends with “hallelujah” – praise the Lord.

And a little like a river, following the course of it can get a bit repetitive, but coming across it can be the best part of your day.

This simple burst of praise is one of my faves. We praise God in his sanctuary, and out of it. With every musical instrument we can grab, but especially the cymbals, extra especially the loud ones. AKA come on, feel the noise! With dancing, singing, music.

I want to dance more. I’m a terrible dancer, but I would like to dance more!

Everything that has breath. In my mind I always add “while they have breath”, and imagine praising God with my last breaths, as my sister reports my mother did, singing about clinging to the old rugged cross.

And I imagine all the animals praising God and dancing, like those happy visions from Disney, snow white and the seven dwarfs.

But even without anthropomorphism, animals are praise of God’s creativity, they give us comfort, joy, awe, amazement and fascination.

I imagine the Israelites chanting this over and over to some wild beat, dancing away into the night. Uncle Rex, a classic old Aboriginal Christian leader talked about dancing and praise under the stars deep in Arnhem land, all night, from dusk til morning. Timeless. This psalm is about praising like that.

And for me each day, praising God in the sanctuary means in my heart, practising the presence of Christ, taking him with me everywhere, being alert to the spirit, seeking to obey, looking for the joy.

Hallelujah!

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Psalm 148

The last five psalms have in common that they all start with “hallelujah” – praise the Lord. Bang bang bang bang bang, like the big finish to a fireworks display.

This is a big fun communal song about everything praising God. First half the heavens, second half the earth.

Each half ends in a “why?”

For the heavens, angels, heavenly powers, sun moon stars etc, they praise God because his decrees are eternal. From them we learn of a bigger, longer reality than our own. We get the mind-blowing physical and temporal scale of God.

The “why” at the end of it all is a bit circular. We on earth praise God because though he’s above everything there is, we are dear to him, and the connection grows stronger through our praise.

So we praise him because praise strengthens our praise. It’s a pop song, ok? You got a problem with that?

The overall effect played in my mind a bit like when you use Google Earth and start in space, zooming in on the ball of earth, past all the vast seas, wild places and daunting features of creation down down, past kingdoms, cities and villages right down to you.

And the God view and the micro view are connected and strengthened because he hears our praise.

It’s a happy vision to start the week.

I’m looking forward to working on soldiership materials (ie: the training course you take to become a salvation army soldier) and some of the notes for self denial, which is a charity appeal within the membership, not a public appeal. Goodness me, I’m deep in the weeds these days! But they will be enjoyable projects.

It’s the last week of Kelly’s internship, she’s worked two days a week in an architect office for five weeks, and we’ve really loved meeting after work and catching up. Highlight of the week. Which I will partcularly treasure as the last one. And also as she enters her last semester, it’s a positive glimpse of possibilities post graduation, which can be scary too.

There are some constructive opportunities at church too, going to have a chat with the Minister about music, is one of them.

Some things to praise God for, you know, and the heavens and the world broadly too. Lots of challenges as well.

Psalm 146

God is eternal, God is good. It’s another praise psalm, and it’s a simple formula. And it’s beautiful.

His eternal nature is compared to human rulers. Even the best of them are a bad bet for your faith, because they pass away, their power fades. Not so God.

His goodness is very much in terms of care for the weak, vulnerable, unexpected, marginalised. At the heart of this boisterous cheer leader chant for God is compassion, gentleness. That’s the beautiful bit.

Less beautiful was the Donald Trump rally yesterday where the people chanted “send her back” about a Congress woman who was originally a refugee from Somalia.

No matter how far you go, beyond citizenship all the way to Capitol Hill, at any moment you can still be hated as a foreigner if you aren’t white. Thrown out of the circle of acceptance. If you have an opinion people disagree with, your race and origin can always be used to attack you.

We watched a sad documentary walking though the racist booing for over a year of Adam Goodes, an indigenous footballer who was made Australian of the year, he played a legendary 375 Premier league matches, but skipped his retirement parade on the field because he anticipated being booed so much. As Australian of the year he expected he had a platform to represent indigenous causes. The acceptance was withdrawn by the crowds when he tried to have a voice.

The Lord watches over the foreigner, says David, upholds the oppressed, lifts up those who are bowed down, sustains the fatherless and the widow. This is our God, it’s who I want to be, my crowd!

Give me a head full of praise today. I’m not going into work, I’m heading off to go bushwalking with my son, a little school holiday escapade. Let my praise be natural, not preachy, but clear and honest.

Psalm 145

I think i recall from a talk about psalms that it ends in a blaze of praise. This psalm fits with that theory. It’s everything king David loves about God.

I’m enjoying that they are all by David at the moment, because we know him so well.

He says how God is too much for any one person to understand, he places himself in a generation to generation project to think about and share about God. You see that in all cultures. Unfortunately our inclination towards sin corrupts what we can learn by ourselves from the degrees of God’s revelation.

At church we celebrated the coming of the light to islands in the Torres Strait. When missionaries arrived, they instantly recognised the gospel as filling out their understanding of the God they had always worshipped. And they saw clearly in a way they hadn’t before that they should leave headhunting and violence behind.

Israel struggled with the idea that God’s plan for all mankind may not literally include the temple and Jerusalem.

Having talked about how much greater god is than we can comprehend, David lists what he does know of God in the second half of the psalm.

God is good, compassionate, patient, generous, eternal, faithful, mighty trustworthy, loving, caring, close, sustaining, just, righteous, a rescuer, a provider, a listener, a saviour.

The pile up leaves me a bit unemotional to read. But to gather and sing this, it would take flight. Praise is best done in groups of two or more. Praise is a triangular process, with the praisers along one side of it, all pointing to a shared third point.

Ah the corruption of man… My mind drifts to a logo design for my long imagined, never realised, praise band.

Don’t forget to pray.

Psalm 136

His love endures forever. This is a chant, a groove. In this song “His love endures forever” is an phrase that endures forever… In a 26 verse psalm its repeated 26 times. HLEF.

I really want to write music based on this one, and maybe make it like one of those Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, where there is a tradition of writing in new lyrics for the current times.

Maybe it would work better rhythmically if it was “forever his love endures”. “Endures” is an enduring word, it stretches out.

The interposed lines run though God’s saving acts. Exodus. The Israelites can never get enough of exodus.

First we get God’s greatness: God of Gods, Lord of lords.

Then his creation. These are beautiful and elemental: earth, sun, moon, land and sea.

Then exodus. Same order as the Bible really.

Then.. us. He remembered us, freed us, gives every living creature food.

Give thanks to God in heaven!

I’m feeling thankful and proud of the report of the first NAIDOC (week celebrating indigenous culture) morning tea in the Queensland office.

One of our team was there and she was so excited, many of the workers, the people from properties, accounts etc felt moved by the explanation of, and support for the theme: Voice, Treaty, Truth. There were tears. They hung around just talking about it for a long time.

His love endures forever!

Give me wisdom to talk to my children Lord, give me and Kelly happy times. I’m having trouble remembering all the blessings we’ve had because of the challenges we face, may love endure.

Psalm 117

Big love, forever faithful.

Score! Easy reading today. Wikipedia confirmed this is the shortest chapter in the Bible, and as it turns out the middle one.

Praise God – who? Everyone! All nations, all people.

Praise God – why? Because his huge love has taken over our lives (thanks message translation!) And his faithfulness lasts forever, praise the Lord!

Deep down in its very heart this book’s secret is revealed: the Bible is a love letter.

I was circulated stats yesterday. Australia is approx 50% Christian. I’m actually surprised it’s that high. Glebe, where I go to church is more like 30%, and it dropped about 9% in the past 5 years. I’d even been feeling pretty good about the 30% until they laid out the bars over each other in a graph, each one dramatically shorter.

What’s up God? Is this going to tend down to zero?

And I had a sleepless night. Woke up at two with a restless mind. I’m disturbed, can’t unpack why. A bit to do with identity and the future, somehow.

Praise God – is it a fun communal activity, or a largely unheard plea?

Well it’s true. His love is great, it’s for sharing with everyone, and it will be the last thing standing. Praise God!

Psalm 111

A straight praise Psalm. Talks of god’s goodness, provision, strength and eternal nature, and his kindness in revealing himself to us, “causing his wonders to be remembered”. That stuck out for some reason.

I think I have a massive case of overthinking. I was listening to Taylor Swift’s new song “me” yesterday and, yes it’s probably a cynical zeitgeist-driven money-making machine, but what a catchy chorus!

For me pure pop has always accessed a blissful euphoria that helps me feel, and let go a heap of complexity. These praise Psalms are like pure pop to me.

God, help me smile, help me relax and get on with the stuff I need to do.

I didn’t work worthily and vigorously yesterday like I hoped, I did stuff but it was piecemeal and poorly prioritised. Am I too hard on myself? Dunno. I’ve decided not to overthink today!

Sigh.

Psalm 103

This is a delightful Psalm of happy praise to God. It’s one of David’s, and they think it probably dates from his later years.

It’s a nice counterpoint to yesterday’s, from the start of his reign promising sincerely to stay pure, strong and good.

Older David is still praising unreservedly, but thanking God over and over for lifting the burden of his sin, his failure. It has a wonderful light, spacious feeling.

As high as the heavens is the size of god’s love, as far a the East is from the West has he removed David’s sin.

He remembers god’s patient compassion to past generations and looks forward to an eternal future of god’s rule, erasing the sadness of the ending of our frail ephemeral span of years.

He lists the benefits of being God’s: personally he’s been pulled from the pit, given a crown of love and compassion (more worth mentioning than the earthly crown) provided good things and he feels young and invigorated, ready to soar like an eagle.

It’s just wonderful intimate tumbling praise of a person filled with God’s spirit.

The righteousness and justice phrase describes god’s objective again.

Righteousness and justice; forgiveness and love. Being the beginning and end of all those seemingly irreconcilable things is the mystery and power of our triune God.

But that’s not a heavy thing to think about, it’s light, fizzy and best expressed in a song.

Psalm 87

A psalm about Zion, the city, the metaphor for salvation. It inspired the hymn ‘glorious things of thee are spoken’.

I took from it consolation that salvation extends to anyone who becomes a citizen of the holy city – Augustine was also inspired by this surprisingly short psalm when he wrote his most significant work, ‘The city of God’.

Feeling a bit bleak, they told me I didn’t get the manager job today, but in other news, no one got it.  They are rethinking and making an adjustment to the structure and they are saying hold on, they will probably create a new job I will be interested in… what talk is that!  Its good that they seem to want me around and are working on some plan about which they are not at liberty to divulge.  I’m grateful really… about as grateful as you can be for, so far, a handful of actually nothing. I’m feeling either keep me or let me go, but get on with it!

But I did get the citizenship of Zion, and I feel less worthy of that than I did of the manager position I applied for, yet its a better position.

The weather is hot, the family are miserable and the funds are low, its all a bit much. ‘Solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know…’

Psalm 86

‘I will praise you Lord my God with all my heart’

Deep in praise. I can imagine its the sort of thing king David was saying during those stories of where he spent days and nights in the sanctuary of the Lord, lost in praise,

I had to read the psalm a few times to make anything stand out, because it’s such a pile of praise phrases.

There is a spine of supplication through it. He’s in a pickle and he wants God to help, every stanza refers to it.

But in the presence of God, his mind gets so attuned to God’s mind that his problems fade and go into the background, while God’s character overwhelms everything in the foreground.

It’s like I came to you to butter you up for a favour by flattering you, but then the flattery became an end in itself ‘you’re a helpful guy, can I borrow five dollars? You’ve always lent me money in the past. You’re generous, you’re the best friend a guy ever had. You’re so amazing, you’re actually incredible…’

I’ve had a bit of this. Being very engaged with my church, reading here each day, working for a Christian organisation. I’m so Christian! It’s a deep dive. I’ll observe two things.

The human will is incredibly resislient against the promptings of the holy spirit.

It’s good brain washing. The closer I align my mind to God’s, the more I find my own identity and my humanness. Christianity is a massive process of finding out what’s wrong with you and setting yourself free from it.

‘Great is your love towards me’