I have been on holiday this week, so had a little time to carry on with the ‘Stepping Up’ book I mentioned before, which takes a look at prayers/songs from the Biblical book, Psalms. In particular, it focuses on the ‘Psalms of Ascent’ or Pilgrimage Psalms.
This week has involved a lot of travelling for me. I have driven through the beautiful English countryside, passing the time with both conversation and quietness, admiring poppies and blue skies, hanging out of the window to find relief from the heat, distracting myself from slow, traffic restricted progress by flicking through magazines or playlists, getting overly excited about an M&S lunch, and even, when really desperate, having a ‘who can make the best sheep noise’ competition. I have also spent a little time kayaking with various partners to varying degrees of success, spent 45 minutes on a Segway (in ‘Turtle’ mode), climbed winding, holiday-maker-filled ramps on a bike, swum, walked, pottered and paddled. A fair share of journeys, and, it turns out, feelings – tiredness, peacefulness, anxiety, companionship, thoughtfulness, fun… the list goes on.
That’s the thing about journeys – they have their struggles and joys, their highs and lows, times when you can think, talk, laugh. I guess that is why we so often describe life as a journey, an ongoing process that moves us on from where we are to somewhere new, in which we encounter all manner of companions, emotions, experiences, views.
It made sense, then, for me this week to be reading the prayers of ancient travellers, and to be making them my own.
Psalm 120 is where the pilgrim begins – in this case, frustrated with where he or she lives, feeling far from home in the place where they live, wanting to be in a different place, one where, in the pilgrim’s hopeful mind, peace and truth are upheld and war and deceit are no more. Psalm 121 is an en-route prayer, one that asks for protection day and night on the lonely desert road, and encouragement in the struggle to keep going. At the end of each day or so of the workbook, Beth asks her readers to write their own versions of the Psalms.
Here is my Psalm 121:
‘I lift up my eyes to the sky. Who can help me in my life’s journey?
Yahweh can help me – He made heaven and earth.
When my nerve fails, my courage caves in, my spirit crumbles,
My Keeper will catch me and set me back on life’s path.
My Keeper is always watching over me.
His attention to me never wavers, He never stops looking after me.
Yahweh is my Keeper. He takes me under his wing
And Shelters me when I need help.
There is never a time, day or night, when He is not there for me.
My Keeper is always there.
He protects me, so that whatever the situation, my spirit will live, strong and free and His.
He watches over my going in and my coming out, whether at home or away, among friends or alone, in struggle or in comfort.’