Of memories and psalteries

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Psalm 144:9 (KJV) 

It’s been old home week for me of late. Old home weeks, actually.

It began on a somber note. A bittersweet weekend with aunts, cousins and old friends at my dear Aunt Gerry’s funeral July 27 in Pittsburg, Kansas.

A much happier occasion followed. Off I flew to Chiefland, Florida for a few day’s vacation and my mother’s 85th birthday celebration on August 21. 

Last weekend, it was a much shorter trip. An hour’s drive north to Denison to see my brother Chris, his wife Linda and their new home.

Yesterday I had lunch with a few old friends I haven’t seen in years – co-workers from my 22 years with Nortel Networks.

On Wednesday, my cousin Steve and I met for lunch. And for the hand-off of a gift for my wife Marcy – a psaltery. 

At various times Marcy has played the guitar, the dulcimer, the French horn and the recorder. She even jumped in on a washtub bass one Christmas Eve at First United Methodist Garland. Her real gift is playing and teaching the piano.

And now the psaltery – or psaltry (also a correct spelling) – has been added. 

A psaltery is “an ancient and medieval musical instrument like a dulcimer but played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum (pick).” (lexico.com/en/definition/psaltery

The psaltery is mentioned 17 times in various translations of the Bible, understandably in reference to playing and singing praises to God. (By the way, our pew Bibles – the New Revised Standard Version or NRSV – do not reference the psaltery, but rather the lyre.) 

The psaltery is, of course, related to the word “psalter,” which refers to the Book of Psalms, or “a copy of the Psalms, especially for liturgical use.” (lexico.com/en/definition/psalter)

Those of you who attend our 8:30 Service of Morning Prayer and Communion on Sunday mornings are familiar with the psalters we sing and recite each week from The United Methodist Hymnal

Tomorrow morning’s service is particularly Psalm-heavy (Psalter 756, Psalm 25:1-10; Psalm 121 and Psalm 139:1-18) as Senior Pastor Valarie Englert closes our “Holy Rhythms” worship series with “Night.”

I find this particularly comforting.

In times of sadness as well as times of joy and fond memories, I often turn to music to lift or capture my spirits. What better way to do so than praising our Lord and Savior with the psalters and the psalms.

I don’t yet know what Marcy will choose to play on her psaltery. But whether it be psalters, classical music or classical rock, I’ll enjoy it. They’ll all be reminders of God’s blessings and God’s grace. 

Time and our bubble

Josh Medlock, Director of Missions and Student Ministries

As we take time this season to explore the concept of “Holy Rhythms” during worship, my mind is drawn to how our days are divided up.

We typically think of our days as being divided up into parts. Every person views these parts a little differently.

I have heard them divided up like this: morning, noon, evening, night. I have also heard them divided like this: day and night, light and dark. Waking hours, sleeping hours.

I am sure right now you are probably thinking of how you would divide the times of your day and what you would call them.

We all have the ability to look at any given day and break it up into clear and defined parts. We all do this. And by doing this we are convinced we can tackle any one part more efficiently.

When we break something down into smaller parts, it becomes less overwhelming, less exhausting and easier to plan around.

Admittedly I do the same thing. I try to break down tasks and compartmentalize them into morning, afternoon or evening.

I try daily to commit two of these three parts to my ministry at First United Methodist Church Garland. The other part I reserve for myself and my family.

This usually works. I say usually because as most of you know, you can plan all you want but life happens, and we are constantly having to change things around to accommodate for this. 

I started thinking recently about how our days are broken down and how that affects our relationship with God and with each other.

If we are really good at breaking down our days and the tasks we have to accomplish into smaller parts, are we making time for relationships?

Think about it this way: Are we trying to break down tasks so much that God becomes just another part? Are the parts so small that we don’t pay attention to them like we should?

We allow ourselves to become so consumed with the day, the tasks and how much time we have or don’t have that we can simply forget to make time for relationships.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you made time to sit for more than five minutes to visit with someone you care about who doesn’t live in your house?

When was the last time you intentionally made time to reach out to someone to invite them over for a “hen party” or to “just catch up on things”?

We become so enslaved to the everyday grind that often we find ourselves living in a bubble. We only see and pay attention to the things in this bubble with us. 

I recently had a friend send me an email that caught me off guard.

The title of the email said, “Why I am cutting you out?” It went on to talk about how they felt they were the only ones reaching out to me and that I do not ever reciprocate.

They invested time and effort into the relationship but felt like I wasn’t doing the same. They even used the phrase “living in your own little bubble.”

Although this email was hurtful at the time, it made me analyze my part in all of this. Am I living in a bubble? Have I become that person I have so often cautioned others not to become?

The truth is I have been living in a bubble. If you don’t live in my house or attend my church, I haven’t been making time for you. That was a hard pill to swallow. I was ashamed and unsure how to address this.

But it wasn’t just people I had grown apart from for whom I wasn’t making time. I realized I also wasn’t making time to work on my relationship with God. And I certainly haven’t been praying about my relationship with anyone outside my bubble.

The fix is easy, but so hard to do. The fix: I need to intentionally make time during my day to be in relationship with God and others.

That means giving up on breaking down my day into such compartmentalized details and time slots, and opening myself up to allowing relational work to take place.

This is not easy for me. Those who know me realize I so desperately want everything done in advance and finalized … right now. So this is obviously a work in progress.

As I grow older I learn that time is fleeting and I can’t control it. I am starting to learn how to let go, and to allow relational work to happen by being intentional and not staying in my bubble.

God years for a relationship with us. If we live in a bubble, allow ourselves to be consumed with breaking down our time into small pieces, and do not allow room for relational work to happen, then our relationships suffer.

God’s love is given freely. God’s grace is abundant and available for all. But we do have a part to play in this.

Our art is to seek God, and to be intentional in our relationship with God. “Love your neighbors” means we have to be in relationship with all those in our lives as well. Especially those who are not in our bubble.

This is a challenge. If you are anything like me, it will most likely continue to be a work in progress.

I challenge you this week to take time and be intentional with your relationships. Set aside time for your relationship with God. Call a friend and invite them over. Call your brother and sister and ask them how things are in their spiritual lives. Don’t wait.

I know this much to be true: God loves us. God is always with us. And God meets us where we are. Even when we are living in our bubble.