A Rock of Refuge
I wrote this contemporary psalm based on Psalm 71:1-6 for my sermon today. It is a movement from lament to praise!
In you, O God, I take refuge
from the noisy clamor of this hectic life,
with its ubiquitous social media
and easy access to every imaginable entertainment.
My phone is always by my side
sounding off when texts or emails arrive
teasing me to open them asap!
My annual physical raises the alarm
of slightly elevated blood pressure
and high cholesterol.
The doc says, “Let’s watch ‘em for a while,
and see if lifestyle changes make a difference.”
Okay, but I wonder – am I headed for a heart attack?
Is the pressure of meeting work demands
and the expectations of those I love
doing damage to my health?
Source of life and Ground of our being,
you are the one I run to in my need.
You are the one who offers peace in the storm.
Do not abandon me, I pray.
Enfold me beneath the wings of your grace,
that I might know the liberating strength
only your Spirit is able to breath into my life.
In your righteousness
you make known your will for my life:
that I walk in your ways
and observe your commandments,
that I choose life -
loving you, obeying you,
and holding fast to you (Deut. 30:16, 19-20).
You want nothing more for me
than that I embrace the person I am meant to be,
the creation of your loving and generous heart,
so that I can offer this world you created in love
the very best of myself,
the very giftedness I discover in you.
You call me to orient my life in your direction,
to strive first for the kingdom of God
and your righteousness (Matt. 6:33).
Deliver me, Lord, from the flashy allure of things.
Remind me often to use things and love people,
not the other way around.
Save me from my stingy self-centeredness –
the times when I think the world revolves around me
and I forget my sister or brother in need.
You have always been like a Rock for me,
a place of refuge where I know I am protected -
from life’s incessant demands, to be sure,
but also from my own inner strivings.
You save me from myself –
from thinking that I must achieve importance
when all the importance I really need
comes from joining you
in the unveiling of your gracious purposes for the world.
You are for me a strong fortress, O God,
and always have been,
shielding me from the harm others seek to do me.
In this world where evil so often flourishes –
where malicious viruses are set loose on computers,
where whole identities are stolen from people,
where those in whom we place our trust betray us
with lies that cheat us out of our life savings
or deceit that destroys our innocence
or violence that robs us of peace of mind -
you remain the one trustworthy place of refuge.
Rescue me, O my God, from all of the voices
that tell me to depend solely on my own strength,
that tell me to create my own life on my own terms,
that tell me I am not meant to be deeply connected to others.
Rescue me from the crass commercializing of life,
always throwing in my face the manufactured images
that falsely promise happiness and fulfillment.
Rescue me from thinking that I am immune to suffering
simply because I come to church
and read the Bible sometimes
and pray almost every day
and try to be a decent human being!
Rescue me from pious platitudes and cheap grace.
Rescue me from the polarizing influences
that pit neighbor against neighbor
in ideological battles
in which no one truly wins
and the fabric of society is torn and trampled.
Rescue me from those who spread misery
by their greed and lack of compassion.
Rescue me from the loss of hope
the loneliness of isolation
the trap of fear.
For you, Lord of life, have walked with me
from the day of my birth
when you took me from my mother’s womb.
You call my name
and seek my companionship each day.
You speak to me in whispers –
through the quiet breathing of a newborn,
the silence of contemplative prayer,
the breeze touching lightly on the trees.
You say that I am one of your own,
that I have always belonged to you.
You give me confidence enough
to trust in your tender mercy and amazing grace.
You, Lord of eternity, are my hope.
You are my refuge.
You are my strength.
I will not be shaken.
Praise wells up in my heart and soul.
Praise that your glory shines upon this world
in spite of our constant fighting
and our shameful willfulness.
Praise that the power of your love
dawns upon us as surely as the morning sun.
Praise that you fully know me,
and the content of my heart,
and still you love me.
Let praise be the language of my being.
Let hope be the attitude I carry into the future.
For just as my past has been lived in you, Lord,
so my future depends on your ever-flowing mercy.
You will comfort me again in my times of need.
You will guide me in right paths.
You will continually offer me abundant life.
You will give me faith’s assurance
even when I come face to face with my own doubt.
You will restore my soul.
You will manifest yourself in the world
through the witness of courageous people,
through the hospitality of strangers,
through the presence of the poor and the needy.
You will not allow me to forget
that ultimately nothing is able to separate us
from your love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39).
You will follow me throughout my life
with your goodness and mercy
so that I am able to dwell with you
my whole life long (Ps. 23:6).
Words (c) 2013 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c) 2008 Mark Lloyd Richardson