Thinking Out Loud

October 4, 2018

A New Old Edition of Psalm 23

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

We had this article linked yesterday, but I wanted more of you to see it.

Alliterative 23rd Psalm

by Aaron Wilkinson

We tend to think narrowly about poetry. Open most anthologies of English poetry and you’ll find a ubiquitous feature – it rhymes. Specifically, it rhymes at the end of each line and in consecutive or alternating patterns (ie. AABB or ABAB.) You could also rhyme within the line, or rhyme the end of the line with the beginning of the next line, both of which I’ve seen done. But those don’t make it into the anthologies.

That is far from the only way to do poetry. You may have heard the simplified accounts of far-Eastern poetry being about syllable counts (eg. Haikus) and Hebrew poetry being about “rhyming ideas/images.” And you can do even more. Classical Greek and Latin poets seem to love their meter.

And, long ago, poets of old Germanic tongues mastered alliteration! I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with alliterative poetry, reading the Alliterative Morte Arthure and some of Tolkien’s modernizations of Middle English poetry. I’ve been trying to teach myself to write in this ancient English form and I figured I’d share one of my earliest attempts (I hope one of the first of many).

I’ll add a couple comments at the end, but first just one quick note. When reading conventional rhyming poetry, you anticipate the rhyme at the end of the line. So how does alliterative poetry work? What do we expect? What gives it its form? It’s quite simple.

You got two half-lines we call hemistichs (like Hemisphere and Stick). The first hemistich has two alliterating stressed syllables. They can be at the beginning, middle, or end of a word but they gotta be stressed. The second hemistich (separated by a little space called a caesura) gives you one more alliterating syllable to round it off. Once you know what to look for, it gives each line a nice sense of resolution. Like with rhyming poetry, the poet can then subvert those expectations for varying effects. So here’s what that looks like in action.

The Wool-Ward – by Aaron Wilkinson

He who all holds   in His hand is my herdsman.
I grasp not for gold,   my gullet to bloat with,
My needs are nothing,   I am never without.
I’ll want for no wealth,   never wish for more.

By freely flowing   waters refreshing,
And bath-worthy brooks,   bending rivers,
Clear courses bright,   falling through fields,
There I am found,   reclined by the banks.

I graze on green grasses,   enough on the ground,
In the Wool-Ward’s shade   through warmth of noon.
When my throat hisses   for thirst and hunger,
He finds where to feed   refreshing me fully.

When days grow dark   as though dawn was never
And hot sun is hid   by high mount peaks,
Down in the dark dale,   death’s dismal den,
I follow and fare well   knowing no fright.

My courage’s cause   is only your closeness.
I am rallied and righted   by your crook and rood.
In faces of foes   you fill up my table.
The froth of the mead   falls from my mug.

Fate has me followed   by favour and faith
All this loaned life   in the length of days.
The hall of the Holy   I will call home
And sit with the saints   in the seats of that hall.

A few end notes. Many will recognize this as the 23rd Psalm. Most of my experiments in alliterative poetry have been with biblical poems so far. It presents a series of interesting challenges and opportunities. What I’m trying to do is take a Hebrew text replete with Hebrew images and ideas and then describe it with language and images from the medieval English tradition. I’m not yet sure if the result is a funky fusion or a disharmonious mess.

In either case, what I think a new (or rather ‘forgotten’) genre of poetry allows us to do is innovate. Some of those innovations will be victories, others disasters.

A major occasion for such innovations is within the restrictions of the genre. You can’t just state something directly if the words don’t alliterate. I can’t use words like “Shepherd” or “Lord” if it doesn’t fit the context. So I have to invent new ways of describing things, sometimes speaking around or circumlocuting the subject of the line. This can give us all sorts of fun results like “Wool-Ward,” which is my favourite part of this little experiment.

And as a side note for those already in love with medieval English poetry, I do want to admit that I directly imported some language just for fun. Rood (a word related to “rod”) recalls The Dream of the Rood, the mead hall is a common setting especially in Beowulf, etc.

Okay, now go write your own. If you want a better feel for this love-lorn genre, read Tolkien’s modernization of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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May 1, 2016

20 Minutes with the U2 Guy and The Message Guy

Bono and Eugene Peterson discuss the Psalms. I know this has been posted all over the internet, and I was going to save it for a link on Wednesday, but it’s really worth the extra attention:

[Interview at Point Loma Nazarene University, 2007:]
Dean Nelson:
Yes, but the rest of the story is that he invited you to come and hang with them for a while. You turned him down.

Eugene Peterson:
I was pushing a deadline on The Message. I was finishing up the Old Testament at the time, and I really couldn’t do it.

Dean Nelson:
You may be the only person alive who would turn down the opportunity just to make a deadline. I mean, come on. It’s Bono, for crying out loud!

Eugene Peterson:
Dean, he was Isaiah.

Dean Nelson:
Yeah.

April 2, 2010

God Help Me

Or should I perhaps say, “God, Help me.”  (What a difference a comma makes!)

The following is from John Cassian (365-435)

There is something which has been handed on to us by some of the oldest of the Fathers and which we hand on to only a very small number of the souls eager to know it: To keep the thought of God  always in your mind you must cling totally to this formula for piety:  “Come to my help, O God; Lord hurry to my rescue.”  (Psalm 70:1)

It is not without good reason that this verse has been chosen from the whole of scripture as a device.   It carries within it all the feelings of which human nature is capable.  It can be adapted to every condition and can be usefully deployed against every temptation.  It carries within it a cry of help to God in the face of every danger.   It expresses the humility of a pious confession.   It conveys the watchfulness born of unending worry and fear.   It covers a sense of our frailty, the assurance of being heard, the confidence in help that is always and everywhere present.   Someone forever calling out to his protector is indeed very sure of having him close by.   This is the voice filled with ardor of love and of charity.   This is the terrified cry of someone who sees the snares of the enemy, the cry of someone besieged day and night and, exclaiming that he cannot escape unless his protector comes to the rescue…

This little verse, I am saying, proves to be necessary and useful to each one of us and in all circumstances.   For someone who needs help in all things is making clear that he requires the help of God not simply in hard and sad situations but equally and amid fortunate and joyful conditions.   He knows that God saves us from adversity and makes our joys linger and that in neither situation can human frailty survive without His help.

~as quoted in Devotions for Lent adapted from the NLT Mosaic Bible (Tyndale Publishing)

December 3, 2009

Self Deprecating Worship Music

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:50 pm

So the other night we’re reading Psalm 106.  You know that one.  The one where the Israelites are reminded of all the times they screwed up as a nation.   The times they forgot their God.    Then it suddenly occurs to me.    This is a PSALM.   They SANG THIS.   This was one of their WORSHIP SONGS.   As in, “Take your hymnbook and turn to number 106.”  How do you SING stuff that is so self deprecating?  Definitely a minor key.

6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

7 When our fathers were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his counsel.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wasteland they put God to the test.

15 So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease upon them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
it buried the company of Abiram.

18 Fire blazed among their followers;
a flame consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped an idol cast from metal.

20 They exchanged their Glory
for an image of a bull, which eats grass.

21 They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,

22 miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23 So he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents
and did not obey the LORD.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
that he would make them fall in the desert,

27 make their descendants fall among the nations
and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;

29 they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.

31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;

33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips. [c]

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the LORD had commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations
and adopted their customs.

36 They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.

38 They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.

39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.

41 He handed them over to the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.

43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.

Okay, I left out a few of the good verses.  But even so…

What if Western Christians had a song that was the modern equivalent to this?

September 25, 2009

Worship Team Meeting

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:33 pm

This is something I put together several years ago which appeared one time on this blog.   I know some of you are recent readers or subscribers so I thought we’d run it again today.


WORSHIP TEAM MEETING
a very short play by Paul Wilkinson


King David, dressed in robes and crown, is sitting on his throne holding a clipboard and writing. A servant enters to interrupt…

SERVANT: King David, Asaph is here as you requested.

DAVID: Send him in.
[Servant exits. Asaph enters and bows]


DAVID: Thank you for coming, Asaph.

ASAPH: Your excellency… [bows]

DAVID: I wanted to go over the worship for the Sabbath.

ASAPH: “Go over?”

DAVID: Yes, review the songs we will be singing.

ASAPH: But surely, the Spirit of the Lord only reveals those to you as we are at worship. How can we know this now?

DAVID: Actually, I’ve been giving that some thought and it occurred to me that if the Spirit of God can inspire us as we worship Him, truly He can not also inspire us to choose those songs a few days ahead?

ASAPH: But…we’ve never done it this way before.

DAVID: You’ll get used to it. [Looks at clipboard] So I thought we’d begin with, “The Lord is One” from Deuteronomy, and then go into “Moses’ Song of Triumph” from Exodus.

ASAPH: Actually, we did that one last week.

DAVID: Oh…right.

ASAPH: I’m sorry, oh King, I spoke out of turn.

DAVID: What if we do it before the time of worship has actually begun? As people are gathering. A sort of pre-service song.

ASAPH: To what end?

DAVID: Just to help people get in the mood for worship.

ASAPH: “Get in the mood?”

DAVID: Hey, I’m King. We’ll try this.

ASAPH: You know we don’t have a drummer this week. He has to work.

DAVID: He cannot work on the Sabbath.

ASAPH: His master has introduced something called ‘rotating shifts’ at the brick plant. It allows them to keep the oven fired up all the time and produce bricks around the clock, but the men have to work at all hours.

DAVID: But he is one of the temple musicians. I don’t like this ‘rotating shifts’ thing; it could affect temple worship for generations. …Anyway…let’s move on. What if we open with “The Lord is One” and then go into the one I wrote as a kid, “Blessed is the Man.”

ASAPH: You mean the one you call “Psalm One?”

DAVID: Yeah, I am thinking of combining them into a book with some of the ones you wrote; there’s got to be over a hundred of them. Maybe I’ll get Solomon to do it.

ASAPH: Actually, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about “Psalm One.” With all due respect oh King, we often sing it after “The Lord is One” and well… you see “The Lord is One” is in the key of F, and your “Psalm One” is in the key of E, and when we go down one key it always sounds… oh, I don’t know… it just sounds wrong.

DAVID: Then we’ll do it first, and then sing “The Lord is One” and the musical keys will be in ascending order. This will be more pleasing to the ear.

ASAPH: But “The Lord is One” is the call to worship. “Psalm One” is not, but perhaps we could sing “Psalm 100” which is a call to worship and use the other song later in the service.

DAVID: [picking up clipboard] Let me write that down. [Writes] Well…thank you for coming, I will call you again to discuss the closing of the service.

ASAPH: Do you need to write it? Won’t the Spirit of the Lord remind us of what He is telling us today?

DAVID: Yes… this list is for someone new I am adding our team, someone who I think will make a difference in our temple worship for years to come. I call this appointment, “The Sound Man.”

[Asaph exits, facing the crowd, and rolling his eyes upward!]

June 15, 2009

Surfing Blogland: Psalms, Prayer and Tough Questions

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:37 pm

These Are A Few of My Favorite Psalms

You’ve got a Psalm or two that you know by heart or like to read, but could you put together a list of twelve key Psalms and why they mean something to you?   And getting the references right?  Blogger Bill Williams at A Spiritual Oasis does just that here.

When God Said, “No”

John Somerville is a blogger from South Africa, who reminds us that the phrase, God Answers Prayer can become trite if we think he always answers (a) right away, and (b) in the affirmative.   You can link to the original here. I’ve seen some of the last few lines before, but not this full-length version; someone sent it to John in an e-mail.   Check out the rest of John’s blog, too.

I asked God to take away my habit.

God said, No.

It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.

God said, No.

His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.

God said, No.

Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
it isn’t granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.

God said, No.

I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.

God said, No.

Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.

God said, No.

You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things
that I might enjoy life.

God said, No.

I will give you life,
so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said…Ahhhh,

finally you have the idea.

Dealing with The Tough Questions

Pete Wilson at Cross Point in Nashville asked his congregation to throw him some tough questions, and they did.  Over 200.   Unfortunately, Pete’s only doing a five week series on this.   For now.   You can stream audio or video at this page.   (Do the audio, it streams faster and Pete’s fashion sense is… well let’s say he’s a better pastor than he is a…)  BTW, if Pete’s name is new to you, his style is similar to Andy Stanley and his blog, Without Wax, is always linked on my blogroll.   Note: At this writing, only two of the three completed sermons are available; the others will follow.

Why More Is Less

The broadcast airwaves are now cluttered with commercials coming at us every 15 seconds.   Some networks are selling 10-second and 5-second spots.   It all reminds us of the “blipverts” from the Max Headroom TV series.   But if you want to go back to the old days, when sponsors took 60-seconds to tell their story, this clip may change your mind.  The commercial that never ends. [Note: This diversion is completely off-blog-topic.]

…Didn’t click on that Psalm link did you?   Well here it is…

Psalms

May 25, 2009

Confessions of a Psalm 23 Fan

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:05 pm

I devoted an entire blog post to Psalm 23 back in January, which was actually an encore of a post from the July previous.   I guess I’m a fan.

Truth is, I have major sleep deprivation issues.   I fall asleep okay, but then I wake up after only three or four hours and simply can’t get back.    So I try various techniques — except for just taking a few deep breaths, which always works,  which I forget to do until about an hour has passed — including reciting memorized scriptures in my head such as The Lord’s Prayer, various Psalms and the chorus Paul quotes in Philippians which talks about Christ humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant.  (And last night, a new one, the five points of James MacDonald’s Downpour book and CDs.)

This of course raises the issue of the lost art of scripture memorization.   But we’ve dealt with that before here, also:

You’ve heard the saying, “A generation that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.”  People are seeing this truth playing out in some communities and recognizing the need for some fine tuning.  Keep the media.  Keep the interactives.   Keep the cool music.   But we’ve got to bring back the memory verse, the memory chapter, and the memory Psalm.

The last few days however, I’ve been struck by the incredible complexity of the best known among the Psalms, the one we call number 23.    At three or four in the morning, there are little phrases of this psalm that seem to be nested in such a way that it’s hard to believe that so few verses can contain so many golden nuggets.

If I were not a Christian, I would still have to marvel at these short lines of lyric poetry for their intricacy and beauty.    How can they possibly be ignored?

It’s also the only passage in the Bible — longer than a single verse — that I have memorized two completely different ways.   I once thought that the music piece I knew as “The New 23rd” was taken from the Living Bible, but I now know it was actually written in 1969 by Ralph Carmichael.

Consider the original if you were fortunate enough to memorize it, and then enjoy “The New 23rd” variation.   And try to get some sleep tonight, okay?

Because the Lord is my Shepherd
I have everything that I need.
He lets me rest in meadows green
And leads me beside the quiet stream.
He keeps on giving life to me
And helps me to do what honours Him the most.
Even when walking through the dark valley of death
I will never be afraid
For He is close beside me.
Guarding, guiding all the way
He spreads a feast before me.
In the presence of my enemies
He welcomes me as His special guest.
With blessing overflowing
His goodness and unfailing kindness
Shall be with me all my life
And afterwards I will live with Him
Forever and ever
In His house.

May 21, 2009

Psalm 19 in The Message – Excerpt

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:16 pm

7-9 The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God‘s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.

Something about the wording of this really struck me the other night.    I hope it helps someone out there today!   The Message is a modern-language rendering of the Bible by Eugene Peterson.   Although some call it a ‘paraphrase,’ it’s important to note that Peterson worked from the text in the original languages, not another English version.   We prefer to call it a ‘loose translation.’

September 25, 2008

A Contemporary Psalm of Encouragement

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:09 pm
Just finished reading this and thought it might encourage someone here.  I heard about Jenn’s website, from Jenna.  So even though we don’t normally do poetry…

I wrote this last night as a reminder and self encouragement. I wasn’t going to post it, but it may serve as a reminder and encouragement for another brother or sister in Christ.

———–

Though…

Though the darkness is thick and heavy
Though it suffocates me so
Truth shall hold my hand tightly
And lead me wherever I shall go (Psalm 43:3)

Though brokenness knows me well
And pain be far from me not
I shall press to speak to my soul (Ps. 42:5)
And take captive every thought (2 Cor. 10:5)

Though sleep evades me nightly
And tears flow with no end in sight (Ps 22:2)
I shall pour out my heart to God
Whose song is with me in the night (Ps 42:8)

Though it seems no end’s in view
And the doldrums my daily path
I shall take comfort in the reality
That eternally it won’t last (Rev. 21:4)

Though the darkness is thick and heavy
Though it suffocates me so
Truth shall hold my hand tightly
And lead me wherever I shall go (Ps. 43:3)

~Jenn, September 8th, Philadelphia, PA

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