Psalm 30 (Psalms on the Trail)

You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. Psalm 30:11-12

You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.  Psalm 30:11-12

Reflection:  Once upon a time when I was a young adult, people would frequently comment on what a great smile I had.  Nobody does that anymore.  Instead, I frequently hear: Pastor, is something wrong?  Usually, nothing is.  Usually, the question comes before worship and I’m just busy concentrating.  I do smile; I hope I smile frequently.  But on the trail, things were different.  On the trail I found myself like a kid truly joyful over the smallest things—like a wild flame azalea.  Once I was so exuberant watching a wobbly young foal in a herd of wild ponies, that my hiking buddy got justifiably panicked with my lack of caution around these unpredictable creatures—known to kick or bite when hikers get in the way.  As I fussed over his (understandable) non-appreciation of my risk-taking delight, my joy refused to put on serious responsibility pants and go underground.  Over the next several miles I kept chuckling over the ponies and reflected how responsibilities, plans, schedules, anxiety, caution, paying the bills, problem solving, and shared burdens do their part in dampening daily joyful enthusiasm.  After years of being a responsible adult and faithful pastor, maybe it was true that I had lost the catching smile that once flourished in a more youthful version of myself.  That didn’t mean joy had disappeared, but something was set free in climbing mountain tops and gazing  at flame azalea and all the other things I’ve been writing about.  The joy in being alive was bubbling to the surface again.  We forget that our Christian faith at its heart is birthed in joy.  The psalmist knows this: (“You have clothed me with joy.”).  Jesus knows this: (“I have said these thing to you that my joy may be in you.”)  Paul knows this:  (“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”)  On the trail joy thrived in wilderness risk-taking, attention to discoveries of the moment, spaciousness, and an honoring of God’s presence.  Yes, there are indeed times to be serious, even somber, and in fact tears and joy can intermingle like sisters.  But tears don’t last and burdens will fade (or else we grow stronger), and in the end it is our deepest smile that will inevitably emerge again.  Better sooner rather than later.  For some reason I had to walk 500 miles to know that  joy will ultimately triumph, that joy is where I will be most at home, and that joy is where others see my truest self.

Suggestions:

1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder? Where do you discover joy?

2. Or read all of Psalm 30 to discover how this verse fits into the psalm or to discover a different verse.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that illustrates this verse’s meaning for you.

Tomorrow’s verse is from Psalm 31:5.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at http://elainedent.net or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.