Psalm 51 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 51:9-10

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Reflection:  On the AT I gave up being clean. I had tried. I even had a folding plastic bucket to hold water I could collect from a creek. Sometimes I was desperate enough to wash my clothes in it, adding a few drops from my tiny container of biodegradable soap. (If you want to protect the environment, no laundering is allowed in the creek itself.) At night I would wipe down my sweaty skin with a couple of fresh wipes. But the effort was mostly futile.  A hiker smells like a hiker smells.  The only real solution for a clean me was a hot shower and a laundromat at a resupply town.

Our psalmist of Psalm 51 is very aware of her failures and short-comings and desperately wants a clean heart. Like me, the hiker, she knows her efforts are futile, and a clean heart can only come from God. God does the washing, blotting out, cleansing, creating, renewing, restoring.  All she can do is show up for a “resupply,” which for the psalmist is an honest confession of who she is before God. That’s it, and God even helps her with the confession part since it’s God’s desire to reveal the truth deep within the psalmist. (51:6)

So when I (not the psalmist) show up this morning for a spiritual “resupply” and pray through this verse, I realize that the “clean” heart I long for today is not so much a washing from specific moral failures. Instead it is the cleanness that comes from a heart not hooked by the voices that are turned in on oneself or the voices that are defensive, negative and anxious. I long for a resupply of a heart that slips through these hooks in order to be more centered and absorbed by the receiving and giving of God’s love—a heart like Jesus had. Create in me that kind of clean heart, O God.


1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  What kind of clean heart do you long for?

2. Or read all of Psalm 51 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 52:8.

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 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.