I've been doing a Bible study this year by Beth Moore. I've often found that it's easier for me to go deeper into God's word if I have some sort of guide to follow. So often when I read over the familiar words on the pages of the Bible my mind drifts. Rather than seeing the deeper truths, rather than letting the words saturate my heart, I find myself doing it more for the sake of doing it, for remaining in the discipline, rather than really finding anything life changing on the pages.
I've really been enjoying this particular book that I've been using. Partly because at the end of each unit there is a little creative writing segment. The goal is to rewrite the Psalm that has been studied into a more personal format. When I went on Teen Missions back in 1996 (scary long time ago) each member of the team was responsible for leading Bible study at least once during the summer. Being the person I've always been, I opted to take a Psalm and paraphrase it, then I had all my teammates do likewise with a really short Psalm. Not sure if it was right up all their alleys, but they did it all the same and I enjoyed myself. Therefore, I've been quite excited to have the opportunity to do the same thing with these studies. I'm not trying to say I've created a new translation in the process of putting things into my own words. I've just made it all sink a little deeper into my head by going through the study and adding my feelings into the words.
I think the Psalms are the best part of the Bible to do this with. While it can be helpful to look intensely into what is being said everywhere in the Bible, the Psalms are the most human part of God's word. They're the place where man gives vent to his thoughts, frustrations, hopes, dreams, and innermost feelings. The psalmists poured everything into this beautiful poetry. Likewise, I enjoy taking their words and imagining how I would say the same things, how my heart would cry out in the circumstances of my own days. So I thought it might be interesting to share some of my Psalms of Ascent here as well. I won't say that they're exactly paralleling what is going on in my life at the moment. They're more in response to the original words, and how they echo in my head after studying them. So here's Psalm 120:
In my distress I called to the Lord,
and He answered me:
"Lord deliver me from lying lips
and a deceitful tongue."
What will He give you,
and what will He do to you,
you deceitful tongue?
A warrior's sharp arrows,
with burning charcoal!
What misery that I have stayed in Meshech,
that I have lived among the tents of Kedar!
I have lived to long
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak,
they are for war.
And now for my version:
I cry out to God,
I who am miserable,
Buried amongst deceit
I cry out empty and await His answer.
Those who have lied,
Those who have mistreated
They shall get their reward,
But it is not mine to repay their misery with misery.
I've dwelt long in their darkness
Allowing their mind games and
manipulation to torture me.
It's hard to see the reason for so much abuse.
All I ask is for a cease fire
For us to be reasonable and at peace.
But they insist upon continued dissent.
They refuse to hear my plea.
Okay, so maybe this first one isn't exactly uplifting. A bit of a downer really, but it's only the beginning of the journey. A place to start looking forward to a better time, a safer place. And it's always good to be reminded that God wants to hear everything that is in our hearts. He wants us to feel free to come to Him with everything that is within us. Naturally, His desire is for our hearts to be turned to praise, but that isn't possible every moment of every day. So He takes us as we come. Broken and bruised, or thankful and jubilant. These are the sort of things that uplift me.