Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

Soul Ripples 2: Soul Psalms

Posted: September 26, 2019 by Ty in Soul Ripples 2
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For those who are not familiar with the Hebrew Bible-Christian Testament, a Psalm is a song or poem. It is a collection of 150 that run the gambit of emotions and situations for people and the Nation of Israel on their faith journey with the Holy Mystery.

Soul Psalms are a poetic expression of my own journey of healing.

Part of the work with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mindfulness practice of a body scan where you get in touch with your physical self, emotions and thoughts.

Out of those, as the tears of healing flow:

Soul Psalms.

The journey is the healing.

The destination is the new book of your life.

What follows are some of these psalms of healing.

Read the Soul Psalms

Two weeks in with our community open exploration of the Psalms. It has been an interesting journey. I have touched upon 3 specific dialogue partners to deepen the discussion within myself to aid in facilitating the discussion in our living room. There was a fourth that cropped up this week to my surprise. Many had referred me to the writings of Brene Brown on my journey. I had put in to the public library for her latest book, Dare to Lead, and time passed it finally came up on my hold shelf. Now for my own journey I rated it 2/5. Not because it is a bad book, or anything in it. Note the wording, for my own journey. See, if I was coming to this from a different journey it would probably be a 5/5, but from my journey through a Franciscan formation what was echoed in these pages was a modern take on ancient wisdom. Much like the Dalai Lama text from years ago I had read, Ancient Wisdom, Modern World.

These with my own journey are a cornerstone of the Selah this pause where we rest in the words and the Spirit to see what is discerned. It is the familiarity, as N.T Wright would discuss in The Case for the Psalms, that can reduce these ancient words to modern filler in worship services, or worse, choruses of popular religious tunes with meaning stripped from them. Wright challenges the reader to ask if the Psalms had been lost to antiquity would one’s faith be any different? Do we accept the transformative challenge where the Psalms bring one to the crossroads/intersection of time/humanity/God. That is the Psalms bring us to the celebration of the transformation of time, and the physicality of creation. A liturgical rhythm of life where one can experience all the spectrum of emotions with the Holy, and not have to fake it. Where it is normalized to be a feeling full person as we are created in our thinking, feeling, spiritual, soul self. These are the words on the page, that are used in worship, and daily prayer to free us.

As one would say about the Liturgy, it is the framework or coat-hanger of our faith, and then our lives are the dressing. Is it plausible then that the emotional element is connected through the Psalms?

This is the pattern Herbert O’Driscoll brings to the reader in Finer Than Gold, Sweeter than Honey, which is essentially a reading guide. That is there is 150 short treatises (one for each Psalm) that ends with a contemplative prayer-action question for the reader. You become active in your understanding of the Psalms and how they wrap around your life. An impactful reflection is on the fifth Psalm where O’Driscoll asks “What are the virtues of God? How committed are we to those in our daily lives?”

O’Driscoll brings the priestly and lay perspective as like Wright pointing out how often Psalms are used, and said by rote, but have we spent time to connect with the words? To the time and place they came from? and our time and place now? To our daily walk.

This is the challenge of Selah, as Billy Graham would encourage believers to read a chapter of Proverbs a day, and five Psalms a day as a monthly practice to get through both books. The Proverbs for how to be with neighbour, and the Psalms for how to be with God, one would imagine the overlap being how to be with self, hence creating a cross in scripture or a reflection of the Great Commandments.

Now before someone points out that they are of the Hebrew Bible, and the three mentioned here are Christian, I am also from a psychology background, and enjoy Harold S. Kushner’s works (most notably, When Bad Things Happen to God People) he has a short treatise on probably the most famous Psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the 23rd Psalm. Within the synagogue, Kushner points out how easily meaning can be lost through constant memorized recitation. Yet he also raises the question:

Can a psalm change your life?

As the flip side to those that point out scripture can become so formulaic in study and worship that it loses any of its oomph, or connection to the now. Which Kushner brings a reminder that religion first and foremost is a place of community (belonging) where questions arise, and journeys are shared. The rhythm of life, the crux is finding the healthy religion, community, for your journey and seasons of your life.

Kushner pushes the reader on asking what the Lord is my shepherd means for one who is an advocate for the voiceless or fights injustice. Which is where he hits with this Psalm (and I would posit with others) it is about pointing out what more do I need? That is, where is the true meaning of my life resting? What does it mean to restore our souls in the world today? That is in that soul (whole) restoration, it is centered on wellness by no longer violating our human nature (core values) that make us sick. Now, as Kushner points out this is not about believing our dissonance causes all illness, but dissonance between true nature and self creates illness which can manifest in many ways. When one is true to who they are, as a whole they are healthier regardless of what they face.

Now I can give a pat answer on many things during this rest, this next phase of asking what is next, but let us close with a question as we explore:

What does it mean to be home in-with God?

Yup, new YouTube videos were created during my family’s retreat at Countess, AB. They cover a variety of spiritual formation topics in no more than 3 minute stints. The first is about Selah.

Watch here.


Posted: August 10, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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Selah. An ancient Hebrew word found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) books of Habakkuk and Psalms. It is a direction for the chorus and music director. Can be seen as an exclamation, but actually means- Rest.

Yes, rest. Even in worship there are times when we are rolling in all of life’s emotions that we simply need to pause, rest, reflect, discover, grow and learn. This has been a re-connecting point in my healing journey and as a family. As part of the re-connection we are excited to re-open our home for Dinner & Bible. It is a time of potluck feasting, or as those of our brothers and sisters int he Salvation Army would coin it, Communion (Eucharist). Then following the time together sharing life, we enter into (at request of my daughter, from her learning at Pine Lake Christian Camp)– the Psalms. A collection of poems, hymns, worship songs, and prayers that cover the emotional spectrum in the journey with God.

These have been such great points of community and belonging in our home that there is excitement to welcome it back on Tuesday nights starting August 20 (oh, and this will also start reflections on the Psalms here possibly).

So, may the journey of summer, and entry in the fall, seek a rhythm of -pause-rest- Selah in your own life and soul.

Many of the Psalms are related to David. A case study in sanitizing the horrors of a leader, but also of what happens with power and a humble spirit. Started out as a cast off shepherd boy, hunted by the ruling monarch, before finally being anointed as King. It was his descendants that would take Israel into exile. Yet, the poetic words accredited to him does bring forward a powerful question on the road to recovery:

Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed,
let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed:
let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses;
for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions:
according to thy mercy remember thou me
for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord:
therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
The meek will he guide in judgment:
and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

-Psalm 25:1-10 (King James Version)

Spend some time with these poetic words, in this translation so you really have to think of the resonance. What questions arise for you in life?

For me there is two. The first is about our relationships in life with our faith, ourselves and others. What is the way of the Covenant?

The other though, is along the same depth. Where do we seek out wisdom in our labyrinth like journey?

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Psalmists’ paint such wonderful word pictures that can speak across centuries, and, cultures. In Psalm 82, which I remember from a paper I wrote in seminary, challenges the understanding of creation and cosmology. It is within the tradition of the 10 Commandments from Exodus, where there is no God before YHWH, rather than the post-exile Deuteronomy that there is no God by YHWH. It fits into a culture we already may be within today without realizing it.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
    maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk around in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, “You are gods,
    children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
    and fall like any prince.”[a]

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
    for all the nations belong to you!

-Psalm 82 (New Revised Standard Version)

Think of a grand cosmic council, like the pantheons many understood in the ancient world. Yet over them all is God. The one Source. This can also be an allegory for world governments, corporations, any leading group. But the allegory chosen is this Cosmic Council of the gods and goddesses.


An great illustrative point of the world they have left in discord. Like the battle within ourselves. Wrestling through each step of the way. Which do we rest in? The light or the shadow? Order or Chaos? Each is apart of us, to make a whole, it is up to us where we spend our time. When we go askew, help is needed to right the raft on the river of life if you will. Here the Psalmist is laying out allegory as well for the failure of Kingdom, how the monarchs have created division, a nation that chased after to be like everyone else, envy, has no succumbed to the same injustices and horrors.

They had lost the ability to see each other as family, as need for interconnectedness, rather they let might rule, and a hierarchy. Through this council, God calls out the earthly and faux cosmic despots for what they have sowed and reaped. The harvest is of hate, fear, and despair. An anxious world, riddled with grief. The Psalmist points out that there is no divine right of leadership, no special blessing or provision. Simply, what actions show and in their here and now (and ours) it is shining through the religious lens that it is seeking after their own power, wealth and glory.

The resounding answer presented to this way of religion and rule is a resounding NO from the heavens.

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bShout for joy to God, all the earth;

2  sing the glory of his name;

cgive to him glorious praise!

3  Say to God, d“How awesome are your deeds!

So great is your power that your enemies ecome cringing to you.

fAll the earth worships you

and sings praises to you;

they sing praises to your name.” Selah

gCome and see what God has done:

dhe is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

6  He hturned the sea into dry land;

they ipassed through the river on foot.

There did we rejoice in him,

7  who rules by his might forever,

whose jeyes keep watch on the nations—

let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

8  Bless our God, O peoples;

let the sound of his praise be heard,

9  who has kept our soul among the living

and khas not let our feet slip.

-Psalm 66:1-9 (English Standard Version)

It is the emergence from the shadow self into the true you is what the Psalmist sings of. It lays out the hypocrite as the ones that claim true religiousity (may we name a few politicians and cast thy out?) yet there is a true path out of bondage. Whether that bondage is due to physical, mental or spiritual health or as we truly know the combination of all for the Imageo Dei does not function as a silo of systems but rather as one fluid whole being.

The psalmist sings of the release of this bondage–trauma that you have tried to persevere through or cover up in your lifetime. The sense of not being good enough, it is the new slavery that we measure ourselves by immeasurable standards and remove joy and happiness supplanted for prestige, title and wealth. We must be more– but at what cost to ourselves? And the generations that are with us, and come after us? What is the ripple effect of our damaged souls? Or those inter-connected with our generations?

How many times has this been done under the idolatry of the false god of Christendom–where power and wealth is what is truly worshipped, not the discipled life of holy love?

This falsity is the slavery and shadow that the psalmist cries out for escape from… Is in Holy Thankfulness to be released from…

Can we do the same today?

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What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

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What’s a Sanctuary?

Posted: July 3, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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As the lectionary winds this week we are brought to Psalm 16 which seems a tad bit odd, with the struggling ones put out there. Yet it is another way to connect with the Holy in all the Imageo Dei‘s. This ancient Hymn attested to be from David is of the refuge there is in God through life. Refuge can also be described as a sanctuary. For church goers they default to the architectural idea of sanctuary in that it is the place with the pews (or Image result for psalm 16stadium seating) where you go to hear the preacher, take part in the Sacraments, and be entertained by and/or sing songs/hymns. Sadly, many have defaulted that this is where God is. This is one piece of sanctuary, but I challenge it has a broader understanding and definition for our journey.

I started to contemplate these ideas as I sit sipping my coffee, with my daughter playing songs by ear on her keyboard, my son doing his Power Rangers’ thing and I ponder what is a deeper meaning than just these words on the page:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.[b]

The sorrows of those who run after[c] another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.[f]

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

-Psalm 16 (English Standard Version)

If we go deeper into the love that we are to have, and extend it out into the Shema, it lets us know that refuge/sanctuary is not just in a place and time. It is a space. A sacred space where we are safe, with those around us are safe, we can be authentic just like the book of Psalms in all our emotions. This sanctuary is not one specific building but rather the circle that travels with us. This refuge is with us constantly.

So what is a sanctuary?

It is the courageous safe space in our lives where we can authentically be ourselves and be part of the flow of unconditional love.

What is your sanctuary?

Psalm 77

Posted: July 3, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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Image result for psalm 77We tend to only want a happy faith. A religion that can never veer into the darkness of life. One where we can accept that mental health struggles, physical health struggles, life struggles may lead one down a path of lament.

La–what did you just say? Lament. It is a word that sums up that gut punch feeling, when you are eternally “meh” or lower. It is a type of Psalm. The book of Psalms is a wonderful resource for understanding the ebb and flow of a Spirit-filled life journey with God. It covers the spectrum of emotions that one will feel in a healthy life. It is 150 poems, songs and hymns that show it is okay in our relationship with the loving creator to be truly authentic with where we are. We do not have to be hypocrites in our emotions, we can be authentic. It is okay, to as we see in Psalm 77 to have friends and loved ones try to encourage to no avail. To truly have the stories of miracles and freedom, and still be in despair.

As I read these words in my own recovery, it is an encouragement. For in this scientific wonder that is the 21st Century, I do believe it affirms medical science. It affirms those blessed creations that help us come out of the darkness, to be able to root out the cause, to heal and grow from our experiences. For everything is from God… God answers the why of life, while science answers the how…

And to be completely honest, we cannot get to the why of life without radical honesty about where we are in our lives, and who we are in this moment in time.

There are many questions that swirl around as one continues wrestling through the echoes of the past trying, and sometimes succeeding, in shaping your identity today. It has been a quiet time of reflection, and truly just getting my memories under control to be able to continue to write these reflections on the Sunday Lectionary readings. These readings are from June 23, 2019…but as I cracked opened my bible on Thursday in the Husky House, I can tell you there was some empathy for where the Prophet Elijah was at in his journey in 1 Kings 19:1-15

Elijah is left in the shadows, his journey and despair is what I have felt in the midst of PNES/PTSD. Have I made a difference? Is it worthwhile to continue to worry about healing, or simply accept the hear and now? Elijah, literally is at the point of despair where he wants death to conclude it. It is the spectrum of feelings one can begin to experience when things go askew with our life, whether personally, professionally (collectively?) or with loved ones.

Yet, The Holy Mystery does not respond by quickness of reinvigorated life or simply death for the faithful servant on the lamb. Nope, it is a laid out expansive life as Elijah is taken through another journey. Yet it is a journey of illustration outside of Israel. It is letting Elijah live the inclusive and expansive love God has intended all along, not one little sliver has it right, but rather for all… Taking a broader look which can be hard in the shadows by ourselves, yet showing that it takes an outside agent to move through. In a way, the story with the Syrian king, Elijah and God, is a living breathing story of the Shema. That is love God with everything, love of neighbour as self.

The lectionary continues to challenge on this theme of love to emerge from the shadow, from the pain, but that it is in community as the Psalmist cries out. The Psalms are a beautiful collection of songs, hymns and prayers that pull no punches. They give an authentic window into life, and that even the spiritual life is filled with all the “feels” (that is the spectrum of emotion). It is life lived, like any life. Yet, for the spiritual, the why of life is understood at a deeper level, a level of holiness. And that holiness can be ugly, especially in the darkness as Psalm 42 sings out.

And the singing out continues in Psalm 43 that shows the Psalmist seeking out hope in the darkness. Hope, such a small word, yet one that can carry so much power in life when looking for healing. Looking for a way out of the shadow. It answers the why question. I know my recovery is going well, and that has a lot to do with my wife and kids, but also the friends that did not abandon us, and even within the darkest times still having sparks of being taken out. Keeping a semblance of what the old normal was as the journey into the shadow time, and the emergent light of hope continued.

This week’s lectionary gave us an alternative writing of a prophet, and a Psalm. The Psalm snippet came from Psalm 22:19-28, Psalm 22 is famous in kitchy Christianities because the opening line is quoted by Jesus on the Cross, as the Psalmist literally cries out to the justice the Prophets taught. Writing a reminder, an affirmation if you will of the source of all.

The prophet that is shared is a “major prophet” which literally is deemed such just cause it is a long book. I do love to wrestle through the writing of the prophets in group studies, I tend to avoid preaching on them from the pulpit. The reason is that they are layered, and best unpacked in conversation. I find when preached on they easily become these Thou Shalt NOT texts, or bastardized into a futuristic text which is not the intent. These are people called by God into a role like the Judges, they are meant to keep the people out of exile, or while in exile to encourage and exhort and point out what needs to be shed to come back to the roots. Come back to the roots, see every movement has roots, yet we tend to avoid the hard conversations, it is the avoidance of these holy conversations, that we leave rot in the roots so that death happens to the gathering. This is what the role of the prophets were, the voice to kick start and maintain the holy conversation.

Isaiah is a book that some hold was written by one prophet, some scholars stipulate 2 or three prophets wrote it in movements. The works are during the Assyrian Empire’s control and conquering of Israel. The prophets pointed back towards the Just Society God had laid out, as we saw with Elijah’s story the Great Commandments and what that means for a healthy transformational society, but also that it is not easy, and that love carries through the shadow.

Here in 65:1-9 Isaiah is speaking, in my humble opinion, to a people in their adolescence if we are to borrow from lifespan development. They have been pushing boundaries,and discovering the why of life. They have seen and felt the consequences for always doing things as they have been done (exile not fun), and no the early adolescence selfishness is not working.  The ground work has been laid, but will the message go in one ear and out the other, or land in the mind, or more importantly the heart. That through this comes growth, and in that growth one must find hope.

It is these holy texts that Jesus of Nazareth was formed, and taught, as well as one of the lead apostles of the early church, Paul. Paul wrote to the gathering in Galatia:

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

-Galatians 3:23-29 (New Revised Standard Version)

It is the path out of the shadow. It is faith. It is doing the work to go deep with self and neighbour. And in going deep, you see the holy in one another. You see each other as created, the Imageo Dei (Image of God). Paul is pointing out that the oppressive rules created to make spaces of exclusion in the Holy have been eliminated. That the oppressive castes created by the Empire have been erased. What is left is simply, the beloved and blessed creation of the family of God.

Let that settle in.

Do we gather and live as such?

The final piece of the puzzle that this builds to is in Luke 8:26-39. Luke was one of Paul’s disciples. A disciple is someone that does life with another, to learn and grow. Luke was a physician who set out to right a history of the early church, and this was done in two books in the Christian Testament, Luke and Acts. This story comes from Jesus’ time of travelling, teaching and healing.

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes,[a] which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn[b] no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus[c] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons[d] begged Jesus[e] to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes[f]asked Jesus[g] to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus[h] sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version)

An ancient voice sees a man tormented by many demons, it can be literal (been involved in some exorcisms in the modern era myself) or an allegory for unpacking mental health. Could this be a former soldier so traumatized that he is experiencing Dissociative Identity Disorder? Both are plausibilities. How one sees Legion’s affliction is secondary to the story, if completely irrelevant.

What Jesus sees is an Imageo Dei; what the religious and people saw was a label. A label designed not to figure out how Legion could be a part of community, but a label to keep Legion out of community. To make him feel less than. To make him fully understand by those “religous authority” that he was not loved by God, and was a less than Image of…

What the story here is with Jesus, is Jesus looking at, a neighbour, a friend…one that needs kindness. Accessibility when Jesus goes forward to talk. Legion has his back up as he is expecting the B.S. that has left his outcast, and instead Jesus opens up. That is the first step, can one even enter the community? The next is Jesus affirms that he is an image bearer, for he challenges the shadow that keeps him, he lays out hope. Inclusion if you will, the circle is being drawn wide enough there is a place for Legion to wrestle his demons and perhaps the hope of healing.

Finally hope is answered…he is sent into the community as a full member.


Nothing changed about who the authentic Legion was. Despair met Hope. In Hope, Legion knew there was more than the shadows and the demons, more than the labels.

This is the core of Pentecost, erasing that which keeps us apart.

Are we willing though is the question?