The psalms of scripture are filled with the holy “land” as well as the longings of God’s holy children. This Saturday I’ve written improvisations on common psalms from two places that I have visited to celebrate them and to encourage you in your prayerful practice to consider writing a psalm from your place. If you would like me to share your psalm here please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psalm 121 — Black Hills, South Dakota
I will lift up my eyes to the Black Hills
and give thanks for God’s help.
God’s help is deep as mammoth bones,
and warm as hot springs.
God does not let us stumble
because God’s path is straight
as the Heartland Highway.
God does not slumber
in the dark shadows of ponderosa pine,
nor sleep in the hidden homes
of great elk or fragile deer.
God is the keeper …
for the wobbly newborn calf
of the majestic buffalo, and the
popcorn cities of the prairie dogs,
and God is our keeper.
God gives breeze in the drought of noon
moonlight for pigtail curves
of the nighttime roads of life,
and the laughter of wild donkeys,
when we take ourselves too seriously.
God is the carver of needle and valley,
of cave and cliff … and this is sure –
our not-very-famous faces
are carved on the hills of God’s love
in our small time and forevermore.
Psalm 148 – Nebraska
Praise God, sandhill crane,
mating for life in the shallow waters
of the Platte River.
Pause and praise,
you field of snow geese,
prairie chicken, golden eagle,
sharp-tailed grouse …
the God of faithfulness and migration.
Praise God, whistle of coal train,
threading prairie like a hem,
flying through the sandhills
like a bent arrow,
from Wyoming, Colorado,
lonely as Jacob’s ladder, Jonah’s dice.
Praise God, ruts of Conestoga wagon,
ghosts of Gold Rush,
Wild West Show.
Praise God with your memories
of wandering peoples,
and praise God, you modern Conestogas,
the behemoths on I-eighty,
throwing spray of freezing rain,
wake of blizzard.
Praise God, wind, wind, wind —
blowing with nothing to stop it
soil-gripping, twisted dark,
with Gethsemane in its heart.
Praise God, wind through sage,
nostrils flared to it — prong-horn antelope,
Angus, Hereford, elk.
Let all in this restless land —
river, rail, road, ruts,
both the hunters and the grazers —
all you moving ones,
in this place of wind … and wings.