Longing for Refuge

The Psalms have always been a refuge for me. From the time I was able to read, I stole away to my room for solace from the bustle of the household. There in the quiet, I flipped open my Bible, and the pages often opened up ward the middle, to a psalm.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you.” Psalm 42

“O God, you are my God, and I long for you.” Psalm 63

“My heart cries out and my flesh faints for the courts of the Lord.” Psalm 84

As a child, being at the heart of the family felt like both a blessing and a curse – I loved them dearly, but my emotions and thoughts also became mixed up in the midst of the relationships, the happenings, the conflicts, the conversations going on around me. I needed to find my center, my refuge, and I found it in God.

So, I escaped frequently to the quiet of my room, crawling under my covers and breaking open the psalms. These ageless words entered into me – the prayers of ancient people reverberating in my heart, becoming my own. As the deer longs to drink from streams of water, my soul is thirsty for you. O God, you are my God, and I long for you. My heart cries out to be in your presence now.

Meditating on these words, praying these prayers, I slowly found myself once again in the calming presence of God. I knew, somehow, in the depths of my being, that God had heard me, that God cared for me, and that God had met me there. I sat in that blissful place for a few moments, until I heard someone calling me to set the table, or to join the family for a movie, or to get on with whatever I was up to that day. Though it was always hard to leave that serenity, I carried a piece of it with me as I left my room and returned to the rest of my life.

The psalms have been my refuge, as they have been for countless others around the world for thousands of years. It’s incredible to me to think of the universality of this longing to be in God’s presence. For millennia, in a myriad of cultures and time periods, people have longed to find solace in God. They have longed to lay their burdens and concerns into God’s arms so that they might rest more fully in their Creator. We all long for things to be made right in this world, long to be our best selves, long to find our center, long to be at peace within ourselves, with others, and with God. No matter what separates us from each other, we share this deep inner longing to find refuge in God.

Though my longing was met momentarily during those moments of solace, it would always return. Again and again, that longing would return, and I would be called back to that same spot to seek God’s presence once more. As I got older, got married, became a minister, became a mother, it never failed to come back. That longing within me indicated that something was off kilter – that my emotions were overwhelming me, that my thoughts were careening in an unhelpful direction, that events in the world around me were whirling and swirling in a way that left me feeling turbulent inside. But as soon as I noticed that desire to return to God’s presence, and stole away to my quiet place once more, the storm within me began to die down. That longing was a signal for me to seek God again.

We might think of longing as something we want to get rid of – something to be satisfied, quenched, vanquished, gone forever. But I know that my longing has been a gift to me. Every time that longing arises within me and I pay attention to it, I find myself drawn closer to the heart of God. Without that signal, I’m not sure I would have chosen to return so frequently over the years, or found so many quiet moments of much-needed serenity in the midst of the activity of life.

Our longing beckons us to return to our place of refuge, again and again, amid the whirl and swirl of our lives. In that place of refuge, those ancient words resound in us still: As the deer longs for streams of water, so our souls thirst for you. O God, you are our God, and we long for you. Our hearts cry out to be in your presence now.

Ponderings for Your Path

  • Do you recall feeling that sense of longing in your life? If a memory comes to mind, sit with it for a few minutes. What did that longing reveal to you? Did you listen to that longing at the time, and if so, where did that lead you? 
  • What about right now. Do you notice a longing inside of you today? What is it telling you? Is there a way that you can meet that longing now? For example, is your longing nudging you to spend a few minutes centering yourself with God? Or is it pointing you towards a shift in your day-to-day life that will bring you into closer connection with God and with the deeper parts of yourself? 
  • Perhaps take a walk by a stream or river sometime this week, or if you can’t go to one in person, view the video below. Pay attention to the strength of its flow, the trickling sounds, the endless supply of water. How does the stream remind us of God’s unending supply of love, care, attention, and compassion for us? 

Blessing for our Journeys

May we listen to our longings

as we would listen to a dear friend

with attentiveness to the messages they offer 

in what is spoken and unspoken. 

May our longings draw us closer to the stream

of unending love and care,

attention and compassion

that is freely given. 

May our feet take us to that 

life-giving, 

God-given water,

again 

and again

and again. 

Amen.

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 12: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness, with Sarah Griffith Lund

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Sarah Griffith Lund, a minister and author who has focused her life’s work on breaking the silence about mental illness. In her moving memoir entitled “Blessed are the Crazy,” Sarah tells her story of growing up in a family struggling with serious mental illness, and of finding blessing in the midst of her at times harrowing journey; and in her book “Blessed Union” she broaches the subject of mental illness in the context of marriage. When Sarah heard about this podcast, she got in touch with me to suggest that we talk about the connections between the Psalms and her work with mental illness – and I’m so glad she did. With her generous and gracious spirit, Sarah talks me through the stark realities of mental illness today, made even more extreme because of the pandemic, and how the themes of the Psalms speak to that life experience shared by so many. In our conversation, we talk about walking through the valley of the shadow of mental illness, sitting at table with mental illness, and finding ways to speak into the silence about mental illness. I felt grateful for Sarah’s gentle but firm reminder that we simply cannot stay silent when lives are at stake. There is some heavy content in this episode, so please do ensure that you have proper supports in place if needed, or listen to a previous episode – I’d recommend Episode 2 on building up habits of resilience in our daily lives. 

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about Sarah:

The Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund is passionate about loving her family, God, and being part of faith communities. She is an ordained minister and has served as pastor to churches in Brooklyn, NY, Minneapolis, MN, and New Smyrna Beach, FL. Rev. Dr. Lund served as Regional Minister in the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ and as a Vice President for Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN. She holds degrees from Trinity University (BA), Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv), Rutgers University (MSW), and McCormick Theological Seminary (DMin). Rev. Dr. Lund received the Dell Award for Mental Health Education at the 30th General Synod of the UCC. She currently serves as Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice on the national staff of the UCC and as senior pastor of First Congregational UCC of Indianapolis, IN. Sarah is the author of Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church (Chalice Press, 2014) and Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage (Chalice Press, 2021). Sarah blogs at www.sarahgriffithlund.com.

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by Celtic Psalms (Kiran Young Wimberly & The McGraths). You can purchase mp3s directly through www.celticpsalms.com

Come, Spirit, Come

I am Weary

The Lord’s My Shepherd

O God of My Salvation (from our forthcoming album – preorder here)

You can find our published scores, CDs and mp3s through GIA Music

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

SUPPORT THE PODCAST

If you would like to support the production of this podcast, you can do so by contributing here. Thank you so much! Your support will means there will facilitate more meaningful conversations about spirituality and resilience into the future.

ONLINE QUIET DAY 12th June 2021 (Trans-Atlantic)

How’s your spirit these days? I’d like to ask you the question I ask my guests. It’s a question that’s not always easy to answer – it takes time, space, and intentionality to be able to really listen to our spirits and God’s Spirit in our lives. 

If you feel drawn to set aside that time, I wanted to let you know that I’m leading an online Quiet Day (to suit trans-Atlantic timings) on the 12th of June, 2021. Follow this link to book on Eventbrite. I would love to share that quiet space with people like you. There will be music and prayer, meditation and reflection, silence and sharing. It’ll be a beautiful time, good for my spirit as well as yours. 

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits. If you send an audio file, I may just include it in an upcoming episode!

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran

Waking to Gratefulness

“Thank you.” 

For years now, these have been my first words each morning as I reach out towards the cup of coffee my husband offers me. In that bleary, not-quite-awake state, my first thought is of thanks. 

I then get out of bed and sit in what I call my “prayer chair” in a private corner of the room, and in between sips of that freshly-made coffee, I write in my journal about the previous day. My dreamy state begins to sharpen its focus as I put words on the page. 

Bless My Feet: Let’s Walk This Path Together

Dear Fellow Travelers,

We don’t need to journey alone. I’d love to walk with you.

I’ve created a space where people of open-hearted Christian perspective can walk together to reflect on how spirituality connects to our daily lives.

You can subscribe to receive a free monthly reflection with questions to ponder for your own spiritual journey, and you’ll be kept up to date with what I’m involved with.

If you’d like to become more intentionally involved in this community, you can become a member to receive weekly emails with personal reflections, prompts for pondering, images of the beautiful north coast of Ireland where I live, additional video, music or podcast to accompany the written content, and blessings for your journeys. In the privacy of this space for members, you’ll be able to share on a more authentic level with others of like mind.

Until now, I’ve written the occasional post on this blog reflecting on the spiritual journey of daily life, but I’m migrating those posts to the Bless My Feet community. The reason for this is that I feel drawn to connect on a deeper, personal level with people in a more private environment for all of us, where we can share and reflect in a more honest and real way.

Whether you sign up either for the free monthly reflection or if you’re interested in walking together a part of the members’ community, it would be great to see you there.

Your fellow traveler,

Kiran

Psalms for the Spirit, Ep. 11: Loved in Our Unfixed State, with Paul Hutchinson

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Paul Hutchinson, mediator, therapist, author and brilliant storyteller. A former Director of the Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Centre, Paul has distilled his memories and learnings from that time in his delightful book “Between the Bells.” I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Paul – interweaving spirituality, storytelling, and music with visiting groups. Paul exudes both wisdom and a wry sense of humor – his gentle presence fills a room, and he has that uncanny gift of seeing right through to what’s really going on under the surface. I wanted to hear from Paul about his spiritual journey from searching teenager to reflective Quaker, and about how his background as a therapist and mediator informs his reading of the Psalms. In our conversation, we talk about being drawn to sing a new song, about the importance of hosting all of our feelings, about how we can know when reconciliation is close at hand, and about how we are loved in our unfixed state.

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about Paul: 

Paul Hutchinson is a mediator, therapist, artist and retreat leader. He is a former Director of the Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Centre and the founder/Director of Imagined Spaces. Paul has over 25 years experience as a mediator and peace practitioner and has worked extensively in Northern Ireland, in North West of England (as a Neighbourhood Renewal Advisor), in New York, Jerusalem and Canada. He works with individuals, with interpersonal issues, with organisations, congregations and communities. Paul teaches/trains extensively on conflict transformation (Ulster University, Toronto School of Theology) and is a Visiting Lecturer at Dalhousie School of Law and the Atlantic School of Theology (Nova Scotia). Paul is a renowned storyteller and uses narrative practices throughout his work. He has created films such as Waiting & Silence, UPstanding: Stories of Courage from Northern Ireland and BYStanding: The Choices We Made. His latest book is Between the Bells – stories of reconciliation from Corrymeela (2019 Canterbury Press).

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by Celtic Psalms (Kiran Young Wimberly & The McGraths). You can purchase mp3s directly through www.celticpsalms.com

Come, Spirit, Come

Sing to the Lord

From the Depths

Love and Mercy (forthcoming album – preorder here)

You can find published scores, CDs and mp3s through GIA Music

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

SUPPORT THE PODCAST

If you would like to support the production of this podcast, you can do so by contributing here. Thank you so much! Your support will means there will facilitate more meaningful conversations about spirituality and resilience into the future.

ONLINE QUIET DAY 12th June 2021 (Trans-Atlantic)

How’s your spirit these days? I’d like to ask you the question I ask my guests. It’s a question that’s not always easy to answer – it takes time, space, and intentionality to be able to really listen to our spirits and God’s Spirit in our lives. 

If you feel drawn to set aside that time, I wanted to let you know that I’m leading an online Quiet Day (to suit trans-Atlantic timings) on the 12th of June, 2021. Follow this link to book on Eventbrite. I would love to share that quiet space with people like you. There will be music and prayer, meditation and reflection, silence and sharing. It’ll be a beautiful time, good for my spirit as well as yours. 

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits. If you send an audio file, I may just include it in an upcoming episode!

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran

Invitation to a Quiet Day

Hello friends,

I wanted to let you know about an online Quiet Day that I’ll be leading on 12th June 2021. It will be a time to listen to our spirits, to each others’ spirits, and to God’s Spirit as we gather for prayer, music, reflection, and silence.

In my podcast Psalms for the Spirit, I begin by asking “How’s your spirit these days?” and I’d love to ask you the same. How’s your spirit these days? Is it weary or joyful, heavy or hopeful – or a little of everything?

As we enter into new stages of normalcy, as our communities thrive and struggle in different ways, as we return to some of the familiar old ways and lean into a future that may be entirely different from anything we’ve experienced yet, we need to find time to be still, to listen deeply, and to be refreshed for the road ahead.

I invite you to join me in this time set aside for listening to our spirits and to God’s Spirit, grounded in Psalms of longing. I hope and pray that it will be a space where we can support one another through prayer and reflection, silence and sharing.

You can register for this event through this link. I’m asking for donations rather than a set fee for this Quiet Day, as I don’t want anything to hinder you from joining us. Your donation will go towards audio editing/mixing of the Psalms for the Spirit podcasts, which I am hoping to be able to outsource eventually.

The timing of the event on Saturday, 12th June 2021 is:

3pm-9pm GT (Northern Ireland/UK/Ireland)

10am-4pm ET (East Coast N. America)

9am-3pm CT (Central N. America)

7am-1pm PT (Pacific Coast N. America)

I hope to see you in that sacred Zoom space we’ll create together.

God bless,

Kiran

If you haven’t found them already, listen to the podcast episodes with wonderfully insightful guests here

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 10: Leaning into the Cycles of Darkness and Light, with Barbara Brown Taylor

Today’s guest is Barbara Brown Taylor – author, speaker, Episcopal priest, retired professor, and all-around-delightful person. Barbara Brown Taylor has long been a highly regarded preacher, and she has written a number of compelling books on the spiritual life, including Altar in the World, Holy Envy, and Learning to Walk in the Dark. I was in the right place at the right time and got to spend a few hours with Barbara while driving her from Belfast to Corrymeela when she was here on book tour a few years ago, and I was thrilled when she agreed to talk with me on this podcast. In this conversation, we talk about the bird psalms, the bed psalms, and the difficult psalms, and we muse together on what they tell us about our humanity and how God sees us in that. We reflect on making friends with the dust, living gratefully on the earth, celebrating our place in the line of people who come before and after us, and leaning into the cycles of darkness and light, death and new life.  

Podcast Website

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

More about Barbara Brown Taylor:

http:barbarabrowntaylor.com

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 9: Speaking to Each Other Across our Depths, with Avivah Zornberg

Today’s guest is Dr Avivah Zornberg, renowned Torah scholar, teacher and speaker based in Jerusalem. I first became aware Dr. Zornberg’s work when I heard a lecture she delivered in Belfast, and I was immediately mesmerized by her deep insights into Hebrew scripture – her studies are based on Midrash, literature, psychoanalysis and philosophy. She really brought Moses and other Biblical figures to life for me in a new way. With Passover in mind this weekend, I wanted to explore the use of Psalms in recounting the story of the Exodus, and I was absolutely delighted when Avivah agreed to speak with me not only from her scholarly background, but from her personal experience of the Psalms throughout her life. Our conversation spans from  stories of her grandmother to a Jewish theology of the Psalms to prayers said at the Passover table to speaking of what’s under the surface in each of our depths. 

Podcast Website

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

More about Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg:

See https://www.avivahzornberg.com/bio.html

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 8 Uncovering Deep Grace in a Year of Turbulence, with Karen Campbell

Today’s guest is Karen Campbell, minister and musician, originally from Northern Ireland and currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Karen and I met first when we were both serving Presbyterian churches in the Belfast area, but our friendship has extended into our shared love of music, the Psalms, and spirituality – as well as some fun times and good laughs along the way. Here, Karen shares about her connections with the Psalms throughout her life, leading up to the creation of an album she and her husband David put together during the pandemic period of 2020. I’m grateful to the Campbell family for the music in today’s episode – their son Ian’s voice features in the opening song, followed by David’s voice as well as other musicians from the Church of the Servant with whom they recorded this beautiful and uplifting album. In our conversation, we look at how exploring the psalms through music, art, and honest reflection helped her congregation uncover deep grace in the midst of the pains, laments, and hurts that came to the surface in a turbulent year, and how that process has led them to hear the voices on the margins in a clearer way. Check show notes to see photos of some of the artwork that came out of those sacred times of gathering around the Psalms. 

Podcast Website

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

More about Karen:

Karen grew up in Northern Ireland. Before becoming a pastor, she worked for 3 years in Nairobi, Kenya teaching music and worship at Daystar University. She has worked in both rural and city settings, but longs for people to become fully mature, spirit-filled worshippers and followers of Jesus who unite together in being kingdom influencers in the world.  Karen came to be co-pastor at Church of the Servant in 2018. Karen is passionate about fulfilling Church of the Servant’s mission statement: to enable a fellowship where the burdened and suffering will find support and comfort, where the alienated will be accepted, and where those seeking God will be shown the way. Karen is married to David and they have three sons, Ian, Callum, and Duncan.

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 7: Shepherding through the Rugged Terrain of the Valley, with Kate Wiebe

Today’s guest is Kate Wiebe, founder of the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth. We both entered seminary only days after 9/11, an event that influenced many of us as we began our theological studies not far away from the areas that had been traumatized by those events. It wasn’t until years after we’d graduated that I found out that she’d gone on to do doctoral work on how people come through times of crisis, and that her studies led to the founding of ICTG, an organization focused on helping groups respond to large scale crises such as natural disasters and acts of mass violence, as well as more private crises that devastate smaller communities. In our conversation, Kate and I explore how spirituality and the Psalms weave into her life’s work of being a guide for people through the rugged terrain of the valley of the shadow of death. 

This episode contains references to numerous traumatic incidents, so please keep your triggers in mind, either by having proper supports in place or by listening to a previous episode instead – I’d recommend Episode 2 which offers lots of practical tips on building resilience in day to day life.

I can’t imagine a gentler guide through life’s rough paths than Kate, and I’m sure you’ll learn so much from the wisdom she shares, as I did when we talked. 

Podcast Website

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

More about Kate Wiebe:

Rev Dr Kate Wiebe is a pastor in the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, CA, a telehealth counselor at La Vie Centers in Pasadena, and a volunteer with the Institute for Collective Trauma & Growth, which she founded in 2012. 
Over the last two years, Wiebe has found herself increasingly drawn to follow the research and invest time and energy more locally. She supports the development of local resources among individuals, families, and groups to become refreshed and to thrive amid adversity, especially through counseling, mentoring, and encouraging congregational ministries. As time allows, she continues to offer national and international subject matter expertise and consulting on disaster response and organizational restoration after crises. Her most treasured time is with her family, including her husband and four children.