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Psalms For Now

PSALMS – interpreted by Jim Burklo
Use freely with attribution

Psalm 8

O dear One
whose name is more than a name
whose power I cannot tame
O dear One
I look into the sky, brushed with streaks of pink and orange at the dawn
And am reduced to babytalk — ohhhh, wow….
I gaze at mountain ranges, parapets of stone
And remember how puny is my place in the grand order of things.
O dear One, how can it be
that you, who with consummate skill cut the facets of the celestial gems
And burnished the alabaster moon,
would have bothered to fashion a creature such as myself,
with fickle faith, indigestion, cavitated molars, and the habit of repeating bad jokes?
How can it be that my kind can exist at all, trashing the earth and all its creatures with greed and lust?
Yet you gave me inner eyes that can see you beyond the clouds
You gave me a heart that is a compass aimed at your feet,
You gave me a mind that strives to reveal your every hiding place,
And you gave me a voice to say your name
which is something more than any other name, with a power I cannot attain.

Psalm 22

Oh, vacant sky!  Oh, empty land!
Oh heart of mine, bereft of hope!
Why do I even bother crying?  What’s the use
Of even complaining?  When there is no one to hear
And no one to see my tears?
Why wake at daylight, why sleep at night,
When there is no one to tell about the passage of my time,
the hands of the clock spinning like a vortex
Of water running down a sink.

Yet I find myself writing this lament, as if there was a You to read it.
I howl, as if there was a You to hear it.
I cry, as if there was a You to see my tears.

And so You must be holy
Because my despair itself is sacred–
It is holy because it is all I have left–
Everything else is dust.
My despair is precious because it is all that remains of my life
And there is no one else but You to whom I can express it.

To You I cry
As Israel cried to you from Egypt and from Auschwitz
As black slaves cried to you from the cotton fields of Mississippi
As the mentally ill cry to you from under their rags on the bus stop benches of urban America
To you I cry
As villagers cry to you from Chechnya
As refugees huddle in shelters from the storms of Orissa

But who am I to cry?
What is my despair worth?  How do my miseries compare to the unspeakable sufferings of others?  By what right do I complain?

Yet I feel a rush of warmth as I lift my lament to You
I feel your presence all around me,
As if I was a baby once again, surrounded by the sweetness of my mother’s breasts
You were there then, to hear my infant cry
You are here now to hear my cry once more
Please, please stay, please comfort me —

Psalm 23

God is my personal consultant.  I have it made.  She lets me kick back and relax, knowing that with her guidance, everything will go smoothly.  She gives me a much-needed boost.  She tells me the right way to handle things — and let’s face it, she does it partly to preserve her own reputation so she can get more consulting jobs.  God’s on my side.  Her advice, her connections, they comfort me.  Even though my job is on the line, my family is mad at me, I’m way deep in debt, and I’ve got a dangerously high cholesterol level, I am not sweating any of it.  She’s calling a conference to work things out with everybody who is breathing down my neck, and she has a plan that will get me through it — she has it greased, and I’m gushing with gratitude.  Pain and heartache are ahead of me, but because of her, surely goodness and mercy will follow me — so I’m extending her consulting contract with me indefinitely.

Psalm 63

O dear God, I love you!
I ache for you, my heart burns for you
and only you can quench this fire
only you can satisfy my desire
O sweet God, be on my lips
lightly brushing, then with the full force
Of my passion for your presence within me.
I lift up my hands to caress you
I can’t get enough of you.  Forlorn in my bed,
I dream only of you, my desire for you keeps me awake into the night,
this longing for you is better than sleep.
Your presence hovers over me, in your shadow I moan with joy.
I feel your grasp, I grasp at you, I gasp for you, dearest Lover God…..

Psalm 100

May the sounds of every city in every land–
the rush of traffic, the din of piledrivers
the hum of power lines, the roar of furnaces
the whine of pumps, the howl of the crowd
the patter of conversation, the rumble of tires–
harmonize into one sweet song of divine praise
that cancels cacophony and synthesizes symphony.

May we take delight in doing the right,
May we not only pray, but sing our way
into the presence of God.

Let God alone be God: let us belong to God.

Let gratitude and delight usher us
Into the intimate presence of God

Let God alone be good, let God be known as Love
Let Love remain for good, forever.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to Diablo
looming over the bay, a diadem of gold and green
spreading its dun folds down to its urban skirts

I lift up my eyes to Tamalpais
a sharp jut of rock wrapped in chaparral
and wreathed in fog that burns away in summer sun

I lift up my eyes to Pedernal
black mesa lifted high above pinon forest
and red rock desert
holding up the grand sky of New Mexico
underlining ever-changing moods of color and shadow

I lift up my eyes to Whitney
a dark wall on the east side of the Sierra
the granite teeth of its peak catching the setting sun
that casts a faint effulgence over their shadows

I lift up my eyes to the Minarets
The cathedral ridge of Mount Ritter and Mount Banner
Spires and organ pipes in silhouette
Against a sky thick with stars.

I lift up my eyes to the hills
And see that there is something — Someone —
infinitely more powerful and mysterious than I am
forcing them up from the plains
And I remember that this same Someone
creates and keeps me
and thrills me with this urge
to lift up my eyes to the hills.

About the Author
Rev. Jim Burklo is the Senior Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Southern California. An ordained United Church of Christ minister, he formerly served as a community organizer, director of a homeless services agency, church pastor, and campus minister. He is a member of the board of directors of and an honorary advisor for His weekly blog, “Musings”, has a global readership.

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