Tag Archives: Psalm 107

Exilic Reflections

Exilic Reflections (CaD Ps 107) Wayfarer

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 107:6 (NIV)

As I’ve been mulling over the spiritual milestones I’ve shared about recently, I have been looking back at my life journey of 20,000+ days and my spiritual journey of 40 years. There have been some amazing moments, some stretches of prosperity on multiple levels, and then there have been some seasons of soul-stretching adversity. As I recount the peaks and valleys and where they’ve brought me, it occurs to me that the latter has been more critical in my spiritual growth. And, very often the former follows. The valleys of life prune me spiritually, and when I eventually reach the high places they are particularly fruitful.

“Exile” is one of the grand themes of the Great Story. Some scholars have gone so far as to say that it is the primary theme that occurs over and over again, beginning with Adam and Eve being exiled from the Garden and their intimate relationship with the Creator. The Hebrews living in bondage and exile in Egypt, then later being exiled and scattered by the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. The crux of the Great Story is Jesus leaving heaven to be exiled here as one of us to make a way for us to escape our own earthly exile and be at home in eternity. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Exile is a theme in the stories of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Jesus, John, and Paul.

All good stories are a reflection of the Great Story, and I typically find the theme of exile in every major human epic.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 107, kicks off the fifth and final “Book” of Hebrew Song lyrics we know as the Psalms. Psalm 107 is another liturgical song, most likely written to be sung during one of the Hebrew religious festivals. Most scholars agree that it was penned during the period of time when the Hebrews returned from Babylonian exile, rebuilt Jerusalem and God’s temple there. Having come through years of captivity and exile, they have ascended Mount Zion to worship, reflect on their experiences, and give thanks.

The song lyrics introduce different exilic experiences: wandering in the desert, living in darkness, struggling through captivity and forced labor, bitter consequences of foolish choices, sickness and disease, and being lost and rudderless on the stormy seas. In each of the stanzas the description of exilic struggle leads to the phrase: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” This is followed by God’s salvation, deliverance, redemption, and restoration. Each stanza ends calling the listener to gratitude and praise.

In the quiet this morning, I’m seeing the pattern. Out of darkness into the light. Up from the valley to the mountaintop. Return from exilic adversity to the blessing of finding myself safe at home. This is the Great Story. It’s life’s story. It’s my story, too.

As I meditate on the lyrics of Psalm 107 and look back on my journey, I’m reminded that there is purpose in the painful stretches. Perseverance has always paid off. I have always been able to cry out to the Lord in my troubles. There have always been better stretches ahead.

Note: A new message has been posted to my Messages Page.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time
Once upon a time (Photo credit: steveczajka)

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
Psalm 107:2a (NIV)

This past Friday night a group of friends gathered at our house to read that latest draft of a play I wrote, which is entitled Ham Buns and Potato Salad. The play is slated to be produced by our local community theatre in April and I’ve been scrambling to make a couple of major revisions to the script. Friday night was an opportunity to hear the script, and my changes, read by other voices and to get a feel for what is working, and what is not.

The play is about the stories of a small group of people in a small Iowa town. It is rooted in my experiences of living for three years in a very small town along with bits and pieces of many real stories people have shared with me over the years. In particular, the play revolves around one young woman’s story, which she herself has refused to share with anyone in the town for over a decade. Her refusal to tell her story has become a legendary piece of town gossip and the source of endless speculation. The play deals with the unforeseen circumstances which bring the young woman to share her story and her secret.

I find it interesting that the psalmist didn’t write “Let the redeemed of the Lord:”

  • …tell others what to do.”
  • …make a lot of rules.”
  • …appear perfect.”
  • …act like they’ve got it all together.”
  • …hide their faults.”
  • …judge others.”

I love that the are encouraged to share our stories. We all have stories, and I love to hear other people’s stories. I find them fascinating. Once I have heard a person’s story I understand them better, appreciate them more, and have a greater capacity to love them. The world would be a better place if we all took the time to share and listen to one another’s stories. I love the fact that Jesus wrapped His teaching in stories, and I enjoy being a storyteller, which is why I wrote Ham Buns and Potato Salad.

This week we will all gather with family and friends to share meals, open gifts, worship, play games, and watch football. Today, I am challenging myself and all who read this blogpost to intentionally take the time to ask for, and listen to, another person’s story:

  • Grandma, how did you and grandpa meet? Tell me about falling in love with him.
  • Dad, what was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
  • Tell me mom, what was a typical Christmas when you were young?
  • Tell me, nephew, what is it you are passionate about?
  • What was the high point and low point of this past year for you?
  • What was the naughtiest thing you did as a kid?
  • How did you end up in your career? Are you glad? What did you want to do?
  • Nobody talks about Uncle Sid. What’s his story?
  • Where’s the most exotic place you’ve traveled? What was it like?
  • What is your biggest regret in life thus far?

Trust me, the holidays will be much more enjoyable if people share their stories.