Nick emailed me in March, “Surely this isn’t going to last that long, I mean Glastonbury is still on!” How naïve this sounds after months of lockdown and coronavirus – but at the time it made sense. I’d announced that I was writing 300 words every day on each of the 150 Psalms in the bible. This would take until August 13th – nearly 6 months. Surely this virus thing would be over before that.
It seemed a good idea at the time. Four of us were trying to grab 5 days of ski-ing in France in early March, just as the French president announced the closure of all resorts, hotels & restaurants. As we sat on a ski lift, realising that our skiing was coming to an early end and we’d be heading home, I had an idea: “I think I might write a daily blog during this coming lockdown.” My fellow skiers encouraged me and asked what about. “How about the Psalms” I suggested? And the idea was born.
So, on March 17th 2020 I embarked on a daily discipline of writing and recording a 300 word reflection on each Psalm under the title “Love in the Time of Corona” (the name inspired by the novel by Gabriel García Márquez). It was designed for people who knew the psalms, and for those who have never read any of them – and may not believe in God. The purpose was to provide a daily diet of something biblical for people who were now stuck at home or whose routine was significantly disrupted. Some inspiration, encouragement and challenge in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.
So off I went. The writing came easily (to quote Robert Louis Stevenson). I simply read the psalm and asked God for an idea – which popped into my head – and I was away. The Psalms are awe-inspiring, challenging, awkward, honest, brutal, gracious – and at times I didn’t agree with the writers. They need wrestling with – they are not always easy – and at face-value they can cause a problem or two. But as I have for years read a psalm every day anyway – they seemed a good place to go – and to encourage this daily practice in others.
What was surprising was how many people read them or listened to the audio. Every day I had comments from a wide range of people – churched and non-churched. Some were reading every day – others just now and again – but loads of people were engaging – and many were finding a way into the psalms that they hadn’t before. It was something that worked in the moment. If I did it next year, I don’t think it would have anything like the impact. It was a consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown that gave it ‘traction’. Like so many things – they worked because of the coronavirus restrictions – online church attendance soaring, Joe Wick’s daily exercises, the clap for the NHS and so on.
Working through the psalms showed just how often the writers felt under pressure and were crying out to God. This was ideal for people struggling in the pandemic.
All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away. (Psalm 38:9-11)
But, and it’s a big but [this was my catchphrase for the blog] – again and again the writers cry to God, and the answer comes. This was the theme over and over again.
So, which Psalm for the next phase? How about Psalm 18:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
I am very glad I did it, but I was also glad when I reached Psalm 150 and could take a break.
Love in Him,
The written blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona
The audio blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona