Living the Psalms

Nate,

How do I go about learning to navigate the Psalms better? I struggle to understand them unless I have a context or topic associated with them beforehand.

Earnest

text message

 

Dear Earnest,

  1. Turn to the Psalms in moments of felt need
  2. Practice

Age and experience will embed the Psalms in your affections as you find in them, sometimes, your only comfort.

Make their review a habitual part of your life. I recommend using a through the Psalms every two months approach, with psalms for every morning and evening. Only by deep familiarity can you practice biblical meditation (haggah), and then as life take its inevitably difficult twists and turns, the Psalms become the soundtrack of your sanity (or your sanctification; both are true).

A specific example comes to mind. I recall being on a six-hour road trip some 12 years ago when I was unexpectedly struck by the most intense sexual temptation I’ve ever experienced. I made it home faithfully by popping in a Sons of Korah CD and playing Psalm 116 on repeat for an hour or two, singing along at full volume like a fool for Jesus.

As you can likely imagine, Psalm 116 now has a very special place in my affections. The difficult path of discipleship, what we otherwise call “life”, brings the Psalms home to us all, if we will but listen to them. It is evidence of God’s phenomenal grace and amazing providence that He gave us such an emotion-packed and ever applicable tool.

The Magic of Suburbia. Really? Yep.

What follows is a review of I Have (Had) Enough: Memoirs of Abundance in Fatherhood, Friendship, and Faith, by Jeff Jacobson. I highly commend it to you.

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.

Dorothea Lange

Jeff Jacobson is the greatest contemporary American author you’ve never heard of, but it’s time that changed.

Jeff is to suburban life what Photoshop filters are to pictures. Just when you thought you knew what life looks like, Jeff reminds you of the forgotten details that make all the difference. Reading his reflections on life it’s as if Norman Rockwell painted memories with words; if you can imagine a Rockwell who put brush to tragedy as well as Americana. The moments are vivid, the people are vibrant, the emotions noticed–even if belatedly–with honest reflection, and determinedly filled with wonder.

Wonder. Wonder might be the connective tissue of Jeff’s writing; it breaks out of every difficulty and every tender memory, of every moment you’ve also experienced and those you wish you might have. You are left theorizing that Jeff’s life–not short of pain–is still just a few hints more magical than yours. But, you hope, it’s probably just his filter on life; a filter that’s available to all who choose to adopt it. Normal life lived intentionally; a choice to cherish the magic of moments on living room carpet, at funerals, moments of pennies in urinals, and of sun shining on a future wife’s hair.

What was it that Wendell Berry did for farm life? The same thing Philip Gulley did for small towns, David James Duncan did for the Pacific Northwest, and Eugene Peterson did for theology. Whatever that was, Jeff does for middle class, suburban America. I never imagined wanting to live a corporate sponsored, Midwestern life in a developer designed neighborhood till I read Jacobson’s reflections. These memories read like the musings of a Leif Enger novel…but they’re real.

Jacobson’s memoir is a tool for learning how to recall your own life. It’s a master class in cherishing that will rewrite your own memories as you tour through Jeff’s with a vibrancy you forgot was possible: memories in 4k.

Want to change your life–even the part you’ve already lived? Read Jeff Jacobson.