Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Security Sings the Blues

December 23, 2008

Almost nine years ago, I wrote in my Christmas letter “A special Christmas memory is the way my mother lit up an evergreen tree on our farm in Kentucky. Each year she would put strands of blue lights on a Blue Spruce tree in our snow-covered yard. We lived high on a hill, and the lights could be seen for miles. To me they were always too sad and serious, but to her there seemed to be something special about them”. I wish I knew. Maybe it’s because this Christmas I’m so blue myself, missing her – missing Megan - that I think about the blue lights on that tree so much.

You are probably thinking this will be an Elvis essay….not this year. But “blue” does seem to be the theme of the scriptures where I have been camped. They are in the book of Psalms, but these are the ones that are seldom used in our worship services – especially at Christmas. In these “psalms of lament” as they are called, we hear the strong, emotional words of sufferers. These are words written by real people, in very difficult situations. These Godly sufferers know that God will not be angry with their honesty, for even when they scream at God, it is a scream of faith.
They read of discontent, frustration, personal anguish, longing for deliverance. They seem to fit my mood. No matter how many cookies we bake or miles we travel, we cannot escape the pain. Our Megan is not here with us and the Psalms seem to give solace to me when they read,
“How Long, O Lord?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
And every day have sorrow in my heart?”

In His book, Invitation to the Psalms, Michael Jinkins writes better than I can express,
“If the Lord reigns, why do good people suffer? If the Lord reigns, why do injustice and violence continue? The psalms of lament exist because people of faith – people who trust God, people who know the story of God’s faithfulness as their own history – refuse to close their eyes to the world around them. They meet life realistically, and they interrogate God. The psalmist holds God ultimately accountable for the world in which we find ourselves, because the psalmist truly believes the Lord reigns.
The psalms of lament grab God by the lapels, eye to eye and face to face, and demand to know, “Where are you, Lord? Have you forsaken me forever?” These are personal prayers, sometimes angry tirades or chronicles of grief. At times overflowing with regret, at times steeped in the psalmist’s feelings of having been personally wronged by God, they are nonetheless faithful prayers. The psalms of lament invite us into a faith that for us as Christians, cannot rest until in embraces the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Theses psalms hold to the hope against hope that the seismic stresses caused by our confidence in God’s reign and our experience of the terrors and risks of human existence can be held together, but only by God. The world God created bears witness that God loves freedom more than safety and the psalms of lament never cease to hold God responsible for the dangerous world in which we live. They confirm that life’s terrors are inseparable from life’s wonders, and sorrow is the price tag on everything we love.”
Most of the lament psalms have a definite order – the cry for help, the complaint, the confession of trust, the petition, and the vow of praise. For me, that about covers my emotions this Christmas. One day I am full of complaints and tears. The next day I am more trusting and hopeful. Some days I actually am humming a tune in praise. And on a really roller-coaster day my heart can be racing, throbbing, and skipping beats all at the same time. That is when I really have to repeat “Be still and know that I am God.” And God is with us and He has a plan…
I was reminded by a friend of the Jewish Kaddish, the “mourner’s prayer” which is purely a praise of God. He says that in the Kaddish, the praise is in the future tense. The mourner is not asked to praise God in his moment when the grief is so intense, but to affirm that God will bless the future.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve….Christ is born. The future is secure.

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