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Thu January 1, 2004
Before the pace of a new year picks up, Paul suggests a bit of light reading to help you "hold it in the road."
By Paul Wilkes
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Paul's commentary.]
Let me wish you a Happy New Year through the speaker on your radio today and to offer you another voice... and the best New Year's resolution you might ever make. And its one that anyone can accomplish. It's good for you. Easy. Wonderful.
I thought about this resolution as I was backed up in holiday traffic up on College Road. Impatient. Late. A list of things to do scrolling through my mind. Sound familiar?
Well, instead of tapping impatiently on my steering wheel, I reached down to the tape deck and pushed in the tape.
Music in a certain way. But music of the ages. The Psalms.
My version happens to be read by Alexander Scourby, but there are many others on the market. Choose a voice that talks to you. And push the cassette in.
Let your love be ready to console me
Let your love come to me and I shall live
Words like these are exactly what we need when we feel overwhelmed by life, harried. Here is a guarantee, the guarantee of a divine presence, a companion. The traffic light may change, and you may only inch up a car length or two. But with the psalms filling your car, you won't even mind.
...like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters,
That yields its fruit in due season
And whose leaves never fade.
That's one of my personal favorites. Every time I hear Psalm one, it instills a sense of quiet confidence. It's going to be okay. Somehow, some way, this is going to work out. After all, hasn't it always? Only when our anxiety and impatience smother the faith that is so imbedded in every soul, then do we go astray.
It doesn't matter where you start or how much you know about the psalms, in fact, whether you are a churchgoer or not.
He has sent deliverance to his people...it is you, O Lord, who are my hope.... In you, O Lord, I take refuge.
The Psalms summon us to look beyond the surface of our lives, to the deepest part of ourselves. That part where God and the best that we are ...dwells. Where the vibrant and living God consoles and prods and questions...but ultimately comforts us and gives us the confidence that we are not alone in this life. Not alone in our confusion, not alone in that traffic jam, not alone in this tough decision, not alone in that crushing disappointment.
For thousands of years, men and women have read and heard the words of the one hundred and fifty psalms. And... their piercing, insightful power on this very day, at this very moment inspire orthodox Jews with dangling pais at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a newly minted Catholic on a dusty road outside an African village, a good Baptist at a kitchen table on a North Carolina farm, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, all Christian expressions.
And you, if you choose. If, but only if, you wish to invite the wise writers of the psalms to ride along in your car this year. And let it begin to be... a Happy New Year.
Paul Wilkes teaches in the English Department at UNCW, and is the creator of New Beginnings, a church revitalization program.