Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 16: Lament as a Sacred Act, with Peace Lee

Psalms for the Spirit is back with some new episodes!

It’s by chance that these new episodes are coming out during the season of Advent, but I think it’s fitting. At this time of the liturgical year we recognize our longing for a better world, and we name our hopes for justice and peace to become more fully present here on earth. Those themes are most definitely present in the Psalms, which constantly remind us that God is with us in our broken, vulnerable, beautiful humanity.  

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Peace Lee – spiritual director, preacher, and educator on decolonial and feminist perspectives. I had the privilege of journeying with Peace in our spirituality studies at seminary, and through that shared experience got to see not only her sharp and probing intellect but her tender, loving heart. As a member of the Korean diaspora, Peace describes herself as someone whose personal history has been marked by the larger history of imperial colonialism in her ancestral home of Korea, and also having grown up as a racial and gendered “other” in white supremacist American culture. In this conversation, we reconnect over our mutual love for the Psalms: how they can be imprinted on our hearts and come to us when we need them most, how we can read them afresh as we consider new language for them, the importance of lament in finding healing and wholeness, and how the Psalms can nourish us in building a more just and equitable world.

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

More about Peace:

Peace Pyunghwa Lee (she/her) is a spiritual director, preacher, and an educator committed to decolonial and feminist praxis. Formative experiences of growing up in Korea and the Philippines and later immigrating to the United States as a preteen has imbued Peace with a humanizing and inclusive perspective. At the core of her faith is the affirmation of the sacred worth of all persons, as imago dei. 

Link to Peace’s sermon on Psalm 119

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by Celtic Psalms (Kiran Young Wimberly & The McGraths).

Come, Spirit, Come (Psalm 144)

How Long (Psalm 13)

The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27)

You Have Turned My Sorrow (Psalm 30)

God of My Salvation (Psalm 88 – forthcoming album)

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

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

UPCOMING RETREATS

2nd January 2022 “Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

Silent Retreat 25-27 February 2022 at Corrymeela

This retreat offers a space to be in silence alongside a gathered community. In silence we take the time to still the swirl of daily life and really listen, deeply, to what is going on below the surface. We listen to ourselves – to our own voices, needs, pains, griefs, longings and hopes for the future. And we listen to what God might saying to us and leading us into.

Silence crosses many barriers. This retreat is open to people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. It is led by Kiran Young Wimberly, Presbyterian minister and spiritual director.

Contact bookings@corrymeela.org to book your place. 

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.

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

November Newsletter: Mothering Arms

[This post first appeared on my blog about a year ago. It’s been on my mind so I decided to share it for this month’s reflection.]

Thirteen years ago I was handed a tiny human to hold for the very first time. I still remember the delightful shock of seeing the curves and crevices of this new person, whom no one had ever seen before, in all her particularity. “So you’re the one who’s been living inside me!” I thought. She had a character, a personality, a uniqueness, an “I am who I am” quality about her. And she was wholly mine (ours!) to embrace, to welcome, to love, to embrace. To hold.

Holding our daughter became life’s new activity. Holding her for feeding, holding her to walk from room to room, holding her with extended family, church members, friends – and handing her to them to hold.

What a precious experience it is to hold a newborn baby! There is nothing like their newborn smell, their fragile lightness, their precious vulnerability. And the holy task – the only task we have at those moments – is to show utter gentleness toward the human being in our arms.

Holding her that first moment filled me with such a sense of awe, instantly. Over the following hours, days, weeks the initial surprise transformed into familiarity, as I came to know her every movement and expression, as I developed an intuition for what she might be trying to communicate.

In the beginning there were also hours, days, nights when I felt baffled, holding her in confusion and frustration as I attempted to understand how to meet her needs.

But eventually, sometimes after a bit of a struggle, we would melt into the restful embrace of contentedness. My arms became that place of stillness for her, that place of comfort.

Like a child with mother quieted, reads Psalm 131.

Last week as I reflected on this passage, I recalled the way I had rested in my mother’s arms as a child. Though it’s been a while, the memory was fresh and visceral. I could feel the stroke of her hand through my hair. A sense of wellbeing washed over me – a contended relaxation. I had nowhere I needed to go, nothing I needed to do. Only to allow myself to be held in my mother’s arms.

Though I’m a grown woman, this memory of being held felt so deeply comforting to me. I continued to remember it throughout that day and the days after. I hope I continue to return to it, over and over again.

For the arms holding me in this image were not only my mother’s – they were God’s.

I was resting in the love, acceptance, and tenderness of the Mothering God.

It made me realize how important those moments of tenderness with my own daughter are, even now. She is growing up, she is developing her independence, and rightly so. I want that freedom for her, and I want her to develop that confidence to strike out on her own, as I did.

But when those moments of tenderness come, I will treat them as sacred. In those times when she rests on me, she is also experiencing rest in the arms of the Mothering God. The God who will hold her and love her much longer, and better, and more fully than I ever could as her earthly mother. I have my limitations, my faults; I make my mistakes. But God is the one who will embrace her forever.

So for now, while I can, I will hold my little girl, who is not so little anymore, and I will give thanks that the Mothering God will continue to hold her all her life long.

Ponderings for Your Path

  • There are references to God’s motherly nature in scripture, but we tend to spend little time focusing on those images. Sometimes we need to be given permission to imagine God in this way. Have you ever experienced God as mother – perhaps through the gentle and loving presence of an earthly mother, or through imagining God showing you motherly love and tenderness that you didn’t receive in your life? 
  • Take a moment to still your heart, your mind, your spirit… and rest. Rest in God’s gentle, loving, tender arms, and know that you are a beloved and precious child of God. 

Onwards into November and Beyond

  • Silent Retreat 25-27 February – in person at Corrymeela Ballycastle. This weekend will be the first (hopefully of many!) in person retreats at Corrymeela here in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. It’s oversubscribed and bursting at the seams, but anyone who missed the chance to attend this retreat should mark their calendar for the Silent Retreat I will be leading in February. Book your place here
  • Sing a New Song Online Mini-Retreat 2 January – PACIFIC RIM TIMING! We’ve been asked to offer another “Sing a New Song” Retreat, this timing favoring Pacific Rim timing – specifically Eastern Australia, where a friend of mine is based. We will be listening for the new song in our lives just after the turn of the New Year, on Sunday the 2nd of January 2022. This time, Paul and I will be the ones yawning and sipping our morning coffee at 7am in Ireland, in the cold of winter, while our friends on the Pacific Rim will be bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 6pm Australia in the heat of summer. It will also be daytime for East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Europe. Perhaps this is a chance to look ahead and consider what the new year could be about for you or someone you know? Book your place here
  • Celtic Psalms in Live Concert, 8pm on 12 December! For the first time in two years, Celtic Psalms will be singing some songs live at a concert in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. We have been asked to open for a band that is releasing an album and raising funds to support the homeless. Buy your ticket here
  • New Psalms for the Spirit Podcast Episodes, coming up! I’m really enjoying have some conversations for the podcast again, after a long break. New episodes will be coming out in the next few weeks. Without having planned this, the first two conversations happen to explore feminine and motherly images of God. Stay tuned, and check out previous episodes in the meantime! 
  • Spiritual Direction – I’d love to walk alongside you on your journey. Find out more about what that might mean for you here
  • Turas Pilgrimage in Ireland October 2023 – find out more here

Blessing for Our Journey

May the God who gave us life 

hold us until our anxieties have subsided

until our fears have calmed

until our hearts have cried their fill 

even as we squirm and wrestle

even as we weep in distress

even as we ourselves don’t know what we need 

until that moment when we melt

into deep rest

and deep quiet

and deep peace

in the Mothering Arms of love. 

Amen

October Monthly Newsletter: Walk in the Weather

It’s the time of year when I don my wind and rain gear for my walk. Every. Single. Day. Rain slacks and windbreaker are my non-negotiable attire. The wind is picking up, the rain coming down in gentle drizzle or heavy showers, the temperature dropping to a chill. Even if the sun shines at the beginning of my walk, I can’t guarantee that I won’t be soaked by the time I get home.

At this time of year I’m tempted to stay in the cozy confines of my home rather than brave the blustery weather. The temptation grows stronger as the weather becomes more intense. Soon, it won’t just be the wind and rain and cold – it will be the darkness, too. 

And yet, I find the best practice for me, for my resilience at this time of year, is to walk in the weather.

There is Goodness Still

Twenty years ago, I was on a plane headed from one intense situation to another, from volunteering in India after a devastating earthquake to starting a new chapter as a seminary student. When my friend and I boarded that plane, we were exhausted, we were disillusioned from a difficult journey, we had Bollywood songs floating through our heads, and we didn’t know that our lives would be altered while on that flight.

Mid-Atlantic, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that due to a “political situation” our plane was being re-rerouted from New York City to Montreal, Canada. People began standing up from their seats and demanding more information, and when none was given, they took the initiative of calling from their mobile phones (which at the time was nearly unheard of) to find out more.

Planes had been hijacked? Crashed into the World Trade Center? Thousands had died?

These words spilled out into the plane from the man on the phone, and we looked at each other – friends, families, strangers – with astonishment and growing fear.

Decades, later, I remember those minutes on the plane with the veneer of time. The exact emotions I felt then, and in the following days, are distant from me now. But I know that as a young adult in my early twenties, this was a pivotal moment.

I went straight into seminary after this – traumatized by my proximity to these terrorist attacks, disturbed by a difficult summer before I’d even boarded that plane, perplexed by the complexity of humanity, devastated by the depth of sorrow and loss in the world, horrified by the unfathomable evils that people can perpetrate against each other.

There was much for me to process as a young adult, and I remember the heaviness I carried for years afterwards.

Yet, the overriding memory of that time, when I look back all these years later, is this:

There is goodness still.

I began my theological studies and immediately found a best friend with whom I could sing. I wrote a song about my experience, and together my friend and I sang this refrain to other seminary students who were also traumatized by this event.

Together, we reminded each other of this truth:

There is goodness still.

Nearly a decade later, the refrain continued when my son was born on that day. And now, it’s that event that fills my thoughts on September 11th. My day centers around celebrating the life, the joy, the rowdiness, the mischievousness, the sweetness, the tenderness that came into our family on that day.

There is goodness still.

I woke up this morning to messages from my seminary friends reminding me of that refrain that we sang so many years ago.

And 20 years later, I believe it to be true.

On September 11th, 2001, I could see it in the kind gestures of strangers on that flight as we faced this catastrophe together. The woman who saw me crying in the bathroom and asked if I was ok. The fellow travelers who shared stories over a meal at the Montreal ski resort where we were put up. The dear friend with whom I shared that terrifying flight. The Bollywood songs that comforted us in our sleeplessness. The darling woman named Lily, our roommate for the night.

I saw goodness in the new friends I met so quickly when classes began. In the songs that filled nearly every day of my life for the next few years. In the laughter that felt like such a gift after witnessing such heartbreak.

There is goodness still.

And here we are, in 2021, needing that refrain once again.

We lean into the future with a pandemic in our midst, uncertain how to move forward. Climate change brings us frightening new realities. Refugees seek places of safety.

Yet, at my core I believe those words, and I offer them up again:

There is goodness still.

I am thankful to my friends for reminding me this morning of that truth, and for bringing me such joy in the face of tragedy all those years ago.

Together, let’s sing these words, remember them, and never forget them:

There is goodness still.

Monthly Newsletter: The Sheen of September, and a Welcome Video

[This newsletter appears on my Substack community called “Bless My Feet.” Click here to view the entire newsletter, including welcome video!]

Things are really starting to ramp up around here now that it’s the beginning of September. I don’t know about you, but I love it when the routine of a new school year begins to unfold. I love when I can pack my three vibrant children up in a car, wave them away to their day, and then (finally!) return to a quiet house to get on with my own pursuits. 

September always had a sheen of possibility on it for me. Growing up, I wondered what my teachers would be like, whether my classmates had changed since I’d last seen them, whether there would be a new student who might become a best friend. Sometimes I was that new student, walking into those hallways that smelled like fresh paint, stomach fluttering with butterflies, a timid but hopeful smile on my face. No matter what the circumstances, September always filled me with a yearning to learn and grow, to be challenged and stretched. I was so done with the lazy days of summer and felt ready to apply myself.

Of course, this feeling never lasted forever. By November I would have something different to say about my oppressive school routine. But September… September brimmed with possibility. 

Last September I was a bit more wary than usual because of the looming uncertainties of COVID. The vaccine hadn’t been developed yet and I had an ominous sense about the future. 

I know, I know. Things aren’t much different now. We do have the vaccine, but variants are still spreading, climate change is doing scary things, and there is a looming refugee crisis. There will always be ominous threats in this world. Every single September, we will have cause to worry, fear, or even despair. 

But the sheen of September shines through all that, for me, this year. The possibility of what’s ahead glows brighter than the heavy news we receive every day. The future stretches before me – before us – and I’m excited to learn and grow, to be challenged and stretched. 

I hope there’s a sheen of possibility this September for you, too. 

Kiran 

p.s. Click this link to see my welcome video!

There’s a lot coming up that I’m excited about. I hope I’ll be able to connect with you in one or many of these ways.

  • 18th September Online mini retreat with Paul Hutchinson – book here
  • Bless My Feet series on Spiritual Practices for Resilience – become a member here
  • 19-21 November in person retreat at Corrymeela – find out more here or email me at revkiran@gmail.com. Deposits of £50 due on Friday 24th September, £130 due Friday 22nd October
  • New Celtic Psalms album in the works – preorder here. If you’d like to be among the churches hosting a virtual concert, contact me at revkiran@gmail.com
  • Spiritual Direction – find out more about what this means here. I’d love to walk alongside you on your journey
  • Turas Pilgrimage in Ireland October 2023 – find out more here

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 15: Hope is Stronger than Fear, with Denise Bradley

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Denise Bradley, an expert in trauma theory, particularly as it applies to people on the margins of society. Denise has extensive training the field of trauma and has spent decades helping victims of violence find healing, accompanying them as they process their experiences and eventually begin to find a way forward. I know Denise from her current work with Corrymeela in which she works with marginalized groups, particularly refugee and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. I had the privilege of seeing Denise in her element as she created a safe, warm, welcoming space for people who had gone through recent traumas, and the joy that emerged during her time with them was palpable. I wanted to learn more from Denise about how the theory of trauma relates to the Psalms, and in this conversation we talk about using the Psalms for grounding and comfort in times of fear or traumatic stress, finding inner safety that helps us move forward even when under threat, how the Psalms express all three stages of trauma healing, and about how hope is stronger than fear. 

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

More about Denise:

Denise Bradley is currently Programme Manager for Marginalisation at Corrymeela, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

Since joining the staff team, she has been leading and pioneering the development of trauma informed practice as a key peacebuilding mechanism both regionally and internationally, whilst promoting sustainability for peacebuilders. She has over 25 years practitioner experience in voluntary and statutory sectors graduating with Early Years and Childhood Studies BA hons degree, Psychological Trauma Studies 1st class honours from QUB and currently a part time law student finishing MSc law, specialising in conflict, trauma and displacement . Denise is an accredited domestic and sexual and trauma practitioner, accumulating over 15 years extensive experience in leading, managing and developing specialist support services and programmes for female survivors of sexual and domestic violence in a post conflict society.

Denise is married to Paul and has 3 amazing adult sons and a gorgeous grandson who keep her grounded, alongside metal smithing and sea swimming.

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 (Psalm 144)

All Who Dwell (Psalm 91)

Wings of a Dove (Psalm 55)

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

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

Album draft cover by Eva Wimberly

NEW ALBUM, COMING UP!

Celtic Psalms has a new (fourth) album coming out in the next few months! We were so excited to be able to do music together again. Your pre-order will help us push the album through to the finish line. Pre-order here

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.

UPCOMING EVENTS

“Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

18th September 2021

“Refresh Your Spirit” In-Person Weekend Retreat at Corrymeela

19th-21st Nov 2021

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

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 14: Listening in the Silence for What is True, with Brother Thierry

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Brother Thierry, a French Benedictine monk who has lived in Northern Ireland for the past 22 years. Ages ago, when I visited Holy Cross Monastery where he’s based, I remembering Brother Thierry coming to welcome our group, and I was impressed by his gracious hospitality and the inviting and accessible way he spoke to our group about Benedictine spiritual practice, especially the role of silence. Then, earlier this year, Brother Thierry and I were a part of a panel on Contemplative Prayer for the Four Corners Festival in Belfast, and once again I was struck by the wisdom he has to offer about prayer and silence. So, I was delighted when he said he would talk with me on this podcast about the Benedictine rhythm of prayer, which includes a swift cycle of daily Psalm singing. In this conversation, we talk about finding happiness in a life of prayer, about being called to pray when others can’t, about how prayer is the only place we can be who we truly are, and about how silence is a listening relationship. 

I was grateful to get an inside perspective on monastic life, and as always, I was moved by the way prayer – and in particular, the psalms – can bring us together across religious divides. 

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

Find out more about Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland where Brother Thierry is based.

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 (Psalm 144)

Their Delight (Psalm 1 – forthcoming album, preorder here)

Love is Lord of All (Psalm 86)

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

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

Album draft cover by Eva Wimberly

NEW ALBUM, COMING UP!

Celtic Psalms has a new (fourth) album coming out in the next few months! We were so excited to be able to do music together again. Your pre-order will help us push the album through to the finish line. Pre-order here

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.

UPCOMING EVENTS

“Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

18th September 2021

“Refresh Your Spirit” In-Person Weekend Retreat at Corrymeela

19th-21st Nov 2021

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

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 13: Transformed by Grief into Agents of Change, with Sunder John Boopalan

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Sunder John Boopalan, a professor specializing in political theology and ethics, with a personal focus on Dalit theology and social justice. I knew John way back when we were in seminary, when he also passed on his now-famous Indian Dhal curry recipe to my family. I always had a deep respect for his perspective, and John’s work recently came to mind because of the prominent book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson. Along those same lines, John has written a powerful book called “Memory, Grief, and Agency,” in which he highlights the marginalization of the Dalit community in India – those who are considered to be outside the caste system, sometimes derogatorily referred to as untouchables or outcastes – and he proposes a theological response to caste or race-based injustices, naming the importance of grief in building our capacity to transform this world. In this podcast, we hear about John’s personal background with the Psalms as he grew up in South India, about caste-based violence and humiliations that Dalits endure on a daily basis, and about how Psalms might offer a way to express grief over society’s wrongs and transform us into agents of change. I couldn’t believe that so much laughter and heartbreak could be found within the same conversation – as you’ll hear, John isn’t afraid of looking at what’s challenging, but his warmth and joy never fails to come through. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dalit experience, John recommends a few films: Fandry and Sairat, directed by Nagraj Manjule, which you can find online.

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

More about John:

Sunder John Boopalan, Assistant Professor at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada, where he specializes in political theologies and ethics, with personal emphases in the areas of Dalit Christianity and redress of structural or systemic wrongdoing. John is the author of the book Memory, Grief, and Agency (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). His most recent essay in the journal Religions is titled “Religious Amnesias, Mythologies, and Apolitical Affects in Racist Landscapes,” and is freely available at https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110615. John is a columnist for The Blueprint (https://theblueprint.news/), a digital publication that explores identity, society, culture, human rights, and freedom by centering marginalized voices with an emphasis on South Asia and its diaspora.

Purchase John’s book

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 (Psalm 144)

I Lift My Eyes Up to the Hills (Psalm 121)

My God, My God (Psalm 22)

From the Depths (Psalms 130, 131)

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.

UPCOMING EVENTS

“Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

18th September 2021

“Refresh Your Spirit” In-Person Weekend Retreat at Corrymeela

19th-21st Nov 2021

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

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.

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.