Psalm 59 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 59: Wild phlox and lichen

“Each evening they come back, howling like dogs….”

“O my strength, I will watch for you.” Refrains from Psalm 58

Reflection:  The first sight of wild phlox, its soft splash of lavender, was a delight on a cool, cloudy day.  Surrounding the phlox patch is lichen, a crusty symbiotic relationship of algae and fungus.  The contrast of lichen and phlox, their texture and color, caught my eye.

Each day as I prepare a post, I look for a verse in the assigned psalm that I underlined while I was hiking on the trail, or that  reminds me of a photo from my time on one of the trails, or that simply grabs my attention on the day of writing.  Today after reading this psalm a few times, what struck me was the presence of contrasting refrains. There are two of them, each occurring twice, although I didn’t notice the refrain pattern at first.  The first refrain is a strange one and is found in verse 6 and again in 14:

“Each evening they come back,

howling like dogs

and  prowling about the city.”

The second set of refrains is found in verses 9-10 and 17:

“O my strength, I will watch for you;

for you, O God, are my fortress.

My God in his steadfast love will meet me.”

and its variation

“O my strength, I will sing praises to you,

for you, O God, are my fortress,

the God who shows me steadfast love.”

Life is like this—a contrasts of refrains.   I have times when I feel like wild dogs are roaming around me, ready to grab my leftover scraps, and all  I want to do is hide and be left at peace.  You can read about my encounter with a stray dog in a symbiotic relationship with hikers here.  Then there are times when things are going really well, when I am aware of God’s presence and blessing in my life—like seeing the first wild phlox of spring.  Sometimes it is enough to sing about it!   There is an inevitable rhythm of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, defensive retreat and joyous singing—sometimes all in the same day.  It is all part of the faith journey, and this psalm maps out the contrasts on the journey well.  Down, up, down, up.  Where are you on your faith journey today?


1. Read Psalm 59 and ponder its meaning for you.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  Write down where are you on your faith journey and what are the refrains in your life?

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

Tomorrow’s verse is from Psalm 60:1-2.

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.