Tag Archives: Psalm 140

Ruminating

Ruminating (CaD Ps 140) Wayfarer

Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.

Psalm 140:5 (NIV)

Ever since I was a kid, I have been one to excessively ruminate on conflict or personal problems that I encounter along life’s road. When this happens, I can’t stop thinking about it, mulling it over, replaying things again and again in my head. When it’s really bad, my ceaseless ruminations can steal my sleep and paralyze me from effectively managing other important things in life.

The word “ruminate” has only been a common part of the English language since the 1500s. It derives from a Latin word that refers to animals, specifically cows, who can dredge up already chewed and partially digested food from their stomachs in order to chew it again. This is commonly referred to as a cow “chewing the cud.” I realize that’s a rather gross word, picture. But, it is an apt word picture for the thing my mind does with problems and conflicts.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 140, is another song ascribed to King David. Like other songs of David, he is lamenting unnamed enemies who are bent on his personal and political destruction. What is interesting about the lyrics of this song is the multiple physiological metaphors David uses:

  • stir up war in their hearts
  • sharpen their tongues
  • poison on their lips
  • hands of the wicked
  • trip my feet

As is common with ancient Hebrew songwriting, the central stanza of today’s chapter provides the main theme for the song. And I couldn’t help but notice that David asks God to “shield my head” in the day of battle. Of course, head injuries in human battle can easily be fatal, but as I read it I immediately thought about the conflicts, problems, and relational battles I’ve encountered along life’s road and my seemingly endless ruminating when they occur. I have found that me regurgitating an issue and chewing it over, and over, and over can be as much a spiritual and emotional threat to my well-being as a warrior going into fire-fight without their helmet.

I love that David asks God to shield his head. It’s my own brain that so easily works against me in times of trouble. I also love that David poured out his heart, his conflicts, and his problems in musical and lyrical prayers. I have to believe it was a healthy form of expression that helped him get things out so that they wouldn’t be bottled up inside where rumination can easily lead to unhealthy places.

In the quiet this morning, I’ve thinking back on circumstances that have led to ruminating in the last year or two. I have gotten better at recognizing when I’m doing it and addressing it sooner. I’ve gotten better at getting it out in conversations with the inner circle of confidants I’m blessed to have in my life. I’ve also learned that expressing things in handwritten prayers in my morning pages can be a really good antidote for ruminating.

Along life’s road I’ve observed that my natural temperament, personality, and bents lead me to certain patterns of reaction to negative stimuli I encounter along the way. Some of these natural reactions are both unhealthy and unproductive. Being a follower of Jesus, my relationship has motivated and challenged me to actively address some of my less than stellar traits, like my ruminating. By choosing to get out my ruminations, I make room for my heart and mind to meditate on the things with which Jesus asks me to fill them.

Body and Soul

source: Geof Wilson via Flickr
source: Geof Wilson via Flickr

Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.
Psalm 140:7 (NIV)

Last night I was invited to dinner by a client. One of the men at our table shared a humorous story of when he was young and trying to get in shape for hockey season. On his family’s farm was grain silo several stories tall with a ladder that extended to its height. Each morning he would get up early and climb quickly all the way up the ladder, then back down the ladder, all the way up the ladder, then back down the ladder, all the way up the ladder, then all the way down the ladder. And, he added with a laugh, “I’d only stop long enough to have a cigarette between each ascent.”

As my own life journey continues and I can see the big 5-0 sitting out there on the horizon, I have become increasingly conscious of my body and my health. At my annual physical my doctor tells me to inform Wendy that she won’t be cashing in on my life insurance policy any time soon. Nevertheless, I find my body is starting to feel the effects of time and age more and more. I feel certain little aches, pains and twinges in places that have never seemed to be an issue before. Yikes!

One of the interesting things about the lyric of today’s psalm is the allusion made to many different parts of the body:

  • Heart (v. 2)
  • Tongue (v. 3)
  • Lips (v. 3 and v. 9)
  • Hands (v. 4)
  • Feet (v. 4)
  • Head (v. 7 and v. 9)

God’s Message refers to the body in many key teachings. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit indwells us and our bodies become, quite literally, a temple. David’s use of these body parts in his lyrics reminds me that it would be wise for me to be mindful of this temple and its parts, not just in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense as well.

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 140

The law of the playground. I prayed, "God, you're my God! Listen, God! Mercy! Psalm 140:6 (MSG)

I remember, as a kid, playing a game called "Mercy." It was your typical alpha male, king of the mountain, game of physical domination and abject humiliation. I'm sure it was created by some bully named Zeke who thought it up after he'd already given wedgies to every kid on the playground. Basically, two people face each other and put their hands together as if they were giving each other high fives. However, they lace their fingers together so that their hands are now clasping. Then they try to bend the other person's hands back until one of them is on their knees in submission and cries, "Mercy!"

How easily we come to equate "mercy" with defeat and humiliation. How quickly mercy becomes a cry to be avoided as we hang desperately to our pride and rugged self-sufficiency. As a child on the playground I learned that asking for "mercy" was a repugnant admission of defeat.

But, God is no school ground bully. If life were a mere playground game, God would have sent Jesus to be King of the Mountain. From his throne, Jesus would tyrannically force people in submission to his will. Instead, God sent Jesus to suffer humiliation and death on our behalf. The way of salvation became, not a meritous reward we earn in the dominating power of our own goodness, but an undeserved gift to any who are willing to pick up their own cross, follow Jesus and cry to God: "Mercy!"

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mangee