The parking lot was empty, and for that I was grateful. I had come to the neighborhood park for my lunch break. After a morning of chaos at work, I needed to renew my soul, and I couldn't think of a better way to do that than to surround myself with God's creation in solitude. A park bench situated on a hill overlooking a grassy area shaded by maples, pines, and dogwoods looked like a perfect spot.
I grabbed my lunch and Bible from the front seat of my car, got out, and walked over. The bench warmed my legs as I sat down. I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sun. Taking a few deep breaths to calm my spirit, I thanked God for my food and asked him to open my heart and mind as I read his word.
I pulled my sandwich out of its bag and took a bite as I opened my Bible to the Psalms. The word "psalm" comes from the Greek word psalmos, meaning "a poem sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments."
Since the book of Psalms is essentially the prayer book of the Bible, it contains some of the most beloved writing in God's word. The emotions expressed in the Psalms run the gamut from joy to sorrow, exultation to despair, anger and disappointment to happiness and peace.
When most people think of the Psalms, however, what usually comes to mind is peaceful praise, making it the perfect book to calm one's soul and foster a reverent attitude.
I tried not to let crumbs fall onto the pages as I munched and began reading Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalms. A reference note in my Bible informed me that Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem, and is the most elaborate of the nine acrostic Psalms. (The others are Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.)
An acrostic poem is one in which each line begins with successive letters of the alphabet in order. Psalm 119 is composed of 22 sections of eight lines each, with each line of a section beginning with the Hebrew letter corresponding to that section. For example, all eight verses of the first section begin with the letter aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. All eight verses of the second section begin with beth, the second letter; and so on, through all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
What a neat way to write a poem, I thought. Enjoying writing poetry myself, I thought I'd give it a try. I finished my sandwich and began chewing on carrots as I wrote in my notebook: All my days I will praise the Lord.
Well, that was easy. What about "B"? Because he is my refuge and strength, I will sing his praises forever.
Hey, not too bad. What will I do, though, when I get to letters like "Q" and "X" and "Z"? I guess I will just keep writing and see what comes out.
I got as far as the letter "F" and realized that "F" might stand for "fired" if I didn't get back to work. I gathered my things and headed back to my car.
Over the next few weeks, during lunch, I continued to work on my acrostic psalm. First, I read a couple of psalms for inspiration. Then, I meditated on my readings, and stilled my mind and heart enough to listen to God's whispers. Finally, I wrote down my feelings about God, letting his Spirit guide me in the process. I never failed to return to work refreshed and renewed for the rest of the day. My only regret was that I couldn't linger longer with my Lord.
After several weeks I completed my acrostic psalm. I encourage you to write your own psalm, in whatever manner you wish. Make it an acrostic psalm, or begin every line with the same letter, or with the last letter of the previous line. Or, stay away from the cute and fancy altogether, and just write what is in your heart.
However you decide to write it, know that quietness and solitude are most conducive to psalm writing. It is difficult to communicate with God when life's distractions surround you.
So, grab a pen and notebook (or your laptop), find a secluded spot outside your home or office, and spend some intimate moments with God, praising him for his blessings and for his goodness.
MY ACROSTIC PSALM
All my days I will praise the Lord;
Because he is my refuge and strength, I will sing his praises forever.
Come, all who trust in God, and join in praise to him.
Delight yourself in his law, for his word is sure.
Eternal and steadfast are the statutes of our God,
Forever leading his people in the direction they should go.
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise.
He is our rock, our fortress, and our redeemer;
In him is our trust and our hope for all our days.
Just as all creation sings his praise, let us with our lips shout to God on high.
Knowledge and wisdom, blessing and honor, power and strength belong to you, O God.
Like a father loves his children, so the Lord blesses all those who love him.
Mercy is in your right hand, grace in your left—a double portion of love for your sons and daughters.
No temptation shall conquer us, not trouble overcome those whose trust is in the Lord.
Oh great God, with whom can we compare you?
Patiently you lead your children;
Quietly you speak to us in whispers of love,
Revealing to us your infinite compassion.
Softly and gently, as a mother hen gathers her chicks, you draw us close to your breast,
Tenderly holding our fragile lives in your everlasting arms of love.
Unto you, O Lord, our refuge and strength, we lift our hymns of praise;
Voices join with harp and lyre, trumpet and flute, to magnify your name.
Wondrous are your works and the gifts from your hands.
Xeroxing a thousand copies of every poem, every song, every word ever written to praise your name would never be enough to show our love for you.
Your name is above all names, for you are matchless in power, unparalleled in mercy, the height of love, the
Zenith of wisdom and grace, to whom be all glory and honor forever and ever.
This piece first appeared in Positive Thinking, November 2002, published by Peale Center for Christian Living