Home is Where Your Story Begins

April 20, 2011

Peace in the Shelter of His Wings

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 10:31 pm

W hen my heart is aching, when I feel I can’t go on, I run to the shelter of His wings . . . . . . . and there I find peace.

Tonight was our Tenebrae Service for Holy Week. (Tenebrae is the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”)  I arrived at church with a heavy heart, tears flowing from frustration, hurt and anger.  By the time service started, the peace of God’s home had begun to sooth me.  The service lifted my spirits and gave me hope and joy.  Following are my reflections and notes of various things that really touched me.  If you would like to read the service in its entirety, please let me know and I will see that you get a copy.  Note that there were fifteen candles on the altar at the beginning of the service.  After each Antiphon, an acolyte (in this case Nathaniel who is too cute) extinguished a candle.

Antiphon 1 was Psalm 69:1-23.  I felt as if I could have written this Psalm.  It was comforting to read it and know that I am not the first person to have felt like this.

1  Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.

2  I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet

3  I have come into deep waters, and the torrent washes over me.

4  I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; my eyes have failed from looking for my   God.

5  Those who hate me without cause are more than the hairs of my head; my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty.  Must I then give back what I never stole?

6  O God, You know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from You.

7  Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek You be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel.

14  But as for me, this is my prayer to You, at the time You have set, O Lord;

15   “In Your great mercy, O God, answer me with Your unfailing help.

16  Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; let me be rescued from those who hate me and out of the deep waters.

18  Answer me, O Lord, for Your love is kind; in Your great compassion, turn to me.

19  Hide not Your face from Your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.

20  Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me.

21   You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in Your sight.”

22  Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I could find no one.

Antiphon 2 was Psalm 70.  Again, I could totally relate.

1   Be please, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me.

2  Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced.

5  But as for me, I am poor and needy; come to me speedily, O God.

6  You are my Helper and my Deliverer; O Lord do not tarry.

Antiphon 3 was Psalm 74.  Verse 20 reads “Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed; let the poor and needy praise Your Name.”  Yeap, I’m the oppressed, the poor, the needy.  I don’t want to turn away ashamed so I need to praise His Name.

Lessons 1-3 were a reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet (1:1-14).  Jeremiah’s descriptions sounded as if they were describing me.  “She weeps bitterly in the night, tears run down her cheeks; . . . Judah has gone into the misery of exile and of hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; . . . Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and bitterness all the precious things that were hers from the days of old; “.  At the end of each Lesson was the line “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.”  I personalized it to be “Dawn, Dawn, return to the Lord your God.” (not out loud of course, especially since I was the reader for these lessons)

Antiphon 4 was Psalm 2.  I liked the last verse.  It gave me hope.  “Happy are they all who take refuge in Him!” (v 13)  Although I am not one to put stock in happiness, which is fleeting, I am claiming this verse as my own.  I’m just changing it to “Joyful are they . . .” since joy is lasting.

Antiphon 5 was Psalm 22:1-21.  Could anything describe my feelings better?

1  My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?

2  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.

10  I have been entrusted to You ever since I was born; You were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

Antiphon 6 was Psalm 27, one of my favorite Psalms.

1  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

7  For in the day of trouble He shall keep me safe in His shelter, He shall hide me in the secrecy of His dwelling and set me high upon a rock. (those of you familiar with Jan Karon’s Mitford series may recognize this as Olivia’s Life Verse)

8  Even now He lifts up my head above my enemies round about me. (to me that was an immediate victory—even now in the midst of my misery He is lifting up my head through this service)

Lessons 4-6 were a reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms.  It started out with a cry that I could readily apply to my life.  “Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide Yourself from my petition.  Listen to me and answer me.  I mourn in my trial and am troubled.”

Saint Augustine said that “Every wicked person lives either that he may be corrected, or that through him the righteous may be tried and tested.”  When I heard that I thought “I’m being tried and tested.”  A little further on Saint Augustine reminded me that “most of the time, when you think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your brother without knowing it.”  My response—Ouch.

Lesson 6 talked about the glory of the cross.  I love the line “He has conquered the world, not by steel, but by wood.”  Many times I’ve heard that the pen is mightier than the sword.  In the great game of eternal rock/paper/scissors, wood conquers all.

Antiphon 7, Psalm 54, began and ended with the entire congregation saying “God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life.”

Antiphon 8 was Psalm 76.  Verse 11 told me to “Make a vow to the Lord your God and keep it; let all around Him bring gifts to Him who is worthy to be feared.”  I vow to tithe 10% and then back off when things get tight.  I vow to have daily devotions and then get distracted.  It’s time for me to make the vow and keep it.

Antiphon 9, Psalm 88, was a perfect description of where I was at when I walked into church tonight.  Literally, I felt like I’ve been crying out constantly for help and not being heard.  Many times I have thought of ending my life.  Thankfully I have friends who always seem to pop up to encourage me when I need them most.  And not just local friends who can see on my face, in my demeanor, that I am hurting.  My most supportive friends are miles away in other states and even in other countries.  I thank God that they are sensitive to the leading of His Spirit and reach out to me.

1  O Lord, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you.

2  Let my prayer enter into Your presence; incline Your ear to my lamentation.

3  For I am full of trouble; my life is at the brink of the grave.

Lessons 7-9 were from the Letter to the Hebrews (4:15-5:10; 9:11-15a).  This was exactly what I was learning as I participated in tonight’s service.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Antiphon 10 was Psalm 63:1-8.  “O God, You are my God; eagerly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” (v 1)  This does not describe me at the moment but it’s where I need to be.  I want to be able to say, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand holds me fast.” (v 8)  (I know there’s something significant in that it’s the right hand but I can’t remember what it is.  If you’ve read this far and know the answer, please post in the comments, thanks)

Antiphon 11 was Psalm 90:1-12.  Nothing really spoke to my heart from this one but I didn’t want you to wonder why I skipped from Antiphon 10 to Antiphon 12.

Antiphon 12, Psalm 143, was again something that could have been written from my own heart.  I really don’t understand why people feel they are holier if they have “original” prayers.  Why improve on the perfection that is the Bible?

1   Lord, hear my prayer, and in Your faithfulness heed my supplications; answer me in Your righteousness.

3  For my enemy has sought my life; he has crushed me to the ground; he has made me live in dark places like those who are long dead.

4  My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate;

5  I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds; I consider the works of your hands. (I’m counting my blessings, or at least trying to)

6  I spread out my hands to you; my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land.

8  Let me hear of Your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to You. (and if that could be tomorrow  morning, Lord, it would be extra great, thanks)

10 Teach me to do what pleases you, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  (please, oh please, give me some direction.  I am so lost)

Antiphon 13 was The Song of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10-20).  You were expecting another Psalm weren’t you?  Verse 7 is my prayer—“My weary eyes look up to you; Lord be my refuge in my affliction.”

Antiphon 14 brought us back to the Psalms with Psalm 150, the last Psalm.  It ended with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (v 6)

Remember, we had been extinguishing one candle of the fifteen on the altar after each Antiphon.  If you’ve been paying attention you will see that there was one candle left.  Remember also that this was evening in Michigan (service started at 7:00 pm) so the entire nave was lit by one solitary candle.  Actually, the lights were on very low because we still had one more Antiphon to go, Canticle 16:  Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.  At the end of this Antiphon, the entire congregation said “Now the women sitting at the tomb made lamentation, weeping for the Lord.”  Then the remaining candle was taken from the altar and removed from sight (and the lights were turned out).

We said the Christus factus est—“Christ for us became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name.”  After a brief silence was observed, we quietly said Psalm 51.  (the rubric says to read it quietly but I think part of the quiet was because it was hard to see the words in the dark).  I like verse 9 “Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

Deacon Bob concluded with a Collect.  In the silence that followed a noise was made (Joseph:  “What was that noise?), the fifteenth candle was brought back in and everyone departed in silence.

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