Friday, May 20, 2011

The rhythm

One of the rhythms of my devotional life that I picked up somewhere along the way and never put down is a daily Psalm reading. Those who have lived in monasteries have been following pattern for well over a thousand years.  No matter is going on outside the walls, the Psalms set the tone for their daily, prayerful life.  Like so much about that life, I love this.  If truth be told, as far back as my pre-Christ-following days, I read a novel called In This House of Brede about a very worldly city woman who gives it all up to become a cloistered nun.  I was so drawn to the story I imagined doing so myself, though at the time I had no notion of what I'd be giving up or why I'd be doing it.  Now that I've followed Christ for many years, I still gaze with something like wonder at that simple, prayerful life, though I imagine it neither as pure nor as empty of human drama as my dreams.  A community of people holed up together is bound to create discord and flared tempers, and rubbed-the-wrong-way personalities that must rub along together none-the-less.  The Psalms help.

And they help us.  These very human, at times very primal cries to God to intervene and BE GOD!  These dances in the soul praises.  They help me.  Like familiar friends, at times.  I look forward to certain ones when I know I'm almost to one, like the anticipation of a good meal.  My rhythm is simply to read a single Psalm a day, with the exception of 119, which I read in 2 stanza sections.  When I finish 150, I begin again.  Around and around I go.

This never-ending reading of the Psalms always leads me into whatever else I am reading for my time with God.  There are seasons when it's difficult to plot what I should read next.  (If this is true for me, I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be a pastor who must continually find new and fresh 'material' from which to preach the good news.) In my most drought-filled times, though, the Psalms pull me through.  They are, of course, "new every morning," fresh and clear and stand in the place for when I can not summon my own words.  Prayer when I cannot pray, thoughts to stimulate me when I am foggy and dense.  "Deep calls to deep," they say, and I have found this true.

I'm back at the beginning of the Psalter now, back at the starting line, I suppose you could say.  When Beve and I were first married, we decided to memorize scripture together, and he suggested that we begin with Psalm 1.  He loves this Psalm.  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not whither--whatever he does prospers."

This is the rhythm of discipleship.  Delight in the Lord, firmly planted by water (of course!), yielding seasonal fruit.  We often miss this, I think.  We always want to yield fruit, or to yield fruit without being firmly planted and planted where there is water, streams of LIVING water flowing into us so that our roots grow as deep as our branches grow tall.  No lone tree out on the edge of a bluff where the wind will whip its branches, but right by the source.  And fruit comes from cross-pollination.  To become like Christ, to bear the fruit of Him, I need those who will challenge and stretch and push me to become more than I could be on my own.  All in order to produce the fruit of righteousness.

 Because it's the fruit of righteousness Psalm 1 is talking about.   In my early Christian life, I heard much about a different kind of fruit--those people or souls we have led or brought to Christ.  The more mature and theologically astute I've become, the more I understand that 'fruit' in John 15, Galatians 5 have to do with something going on within oneself.  But here in Psalm 1, the phrase is "yield its fruit in season", which has a unique twist.  That there's a seasonal aspect to fruit is obvious in the natural world, but what are we to make of it spiritually?  Are we to assume we aren't intended to (always, in all ways, at all times) be Holy, wholly like Christ, having the fruit of righteousness?  So is there room here to  believe that the Psalmist refers to the fruit of ministry in a different way?  There are definitely seasons for that.  Seasons for planting, watering, watching and waiting then finally--finally!!!--bearing and harvesting fruit.

The point is that we are to live in the rhythm of walking in step with Him and not with the wicked. Delight in Him and His word, and not with the scoffers of it and Him.  It's this rhythm that produces fruit.  And...in this we prosper.  Not in a worldly way, but the Kingdom's economy.

I love that this first Psalm, which can be considered an introduction, is about the rhythm of life. It's the perfect way to start. After all, you get the rhythm down, everything else will follow!

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