Sir…can anything be greater than to be a pastor in God’s church?
—Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God
Sir…can anything be greater than to be a pastor in God’s church?
—Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God
I used to plug in my phone overnight on the nightstand beside my bed.
This was a bad idea.
First of all, when my phone, which serves as my alarm clock, would sound early in the morning, it was too easy to quickly turn it off and go back to sleep. Charging my phone by my dresser on the other side of the room hasn’t entirely eliminated that problem, but it has made it more of a nuisance to get up and turn it off.
But there was a bigger problem. With my phone beside my bed, it was not unusual for me to just check a few things just before I went to sleep. And in the morning, when I was awake but too lazy to get out of bed, I could just reach over, and with one eye open, check my email, my Facebook or news feed. Worse yet, when on occasion I lay sleepless in the night, I could occupy my sleepless mind by staring at the world of information to be found on my phone.
In the past six months or so I have been spending a great deal of time in the Psalms. And I began to realize that my phone was functioning in the way that the Psalmist speaks of the Scriptures. Oops. Evening and morning I turned to my phone. Let the morning bring me news from the latest source. On my bed I remember my Facebook friends. No, that’s not how it’s supposed to go.
What if, instead of opening my eyes to see what my friends have posted, I did what generations upon generations of believers have done when they arose from slumber? What if my day was more punctuated by prayer than by my regular urge to check my phone? What if I did what Christians for centuries have done and prayed the daily offices of prayer that were basically a structure for prayer using the psalms?
So now my phone charges on my dresser. On my nightstand rests my Psalter. The nice thing is that there are many great options out there for someone who wishes to read, pray, and sing the psalms. Here are a few (beside the option of just reading them from your Bible):
It was our congregation’s transition to the ESV that prompted my venture into the Psalter. My lips have been praying the Psalms in NIV for many years, and this was the best place to start to re-memorize. I love this little volume—the size, format, page layout. The only thing I wish this had was marks for chanting. Right now I’m just writing them in as I need.
Reading the Psalms with Luther / Psalms: with Introductions by Martin Luther
This is basically the Psalm text with some introductions to the Psalms written by Martin Luther. Ironically, Luther asked that people not print them interspersed with the Psalter as they did here. The older version is NIV and not pointed for singing. The newer version (Reading the Psalms with Luther) is pointed for singing and also includes psalm prayers for each psalm.
This one was just published at the beginning of this year. It also has a nice size, it is marked for chanting with simple psalm tones for each psalm and psalm prayers. It is essentially a revision of the above volume, but with the psalm tones in place of Luther’s introductions. The cover is beautiful and feels great to hold in the hand.
Treasury of Daily Prayer
This is a much larger volume, for a complete daily prayer solution. But in the back of the book is the entire psalter, marked for singing. Additionally, the content from this volume is also available in the iOS and Android app PrayNow. One great little feature of that is that when you pull up the psalm (also marked for singing) it displays your psalm tones and will even play the tone so that you can hear it before you sing. This is great for travelling.
In many of these volumes there is some guidance on reading the psalms. I usually don’t advise people to attempt to read the Bible straight through. But that doesn’t hurt to do with the Psalms. Remember that the Psalms were collected and arranged in the order they are in. They are intended to be read in order. Still, perhaps you wish to follow a schedule. And there is good reason to read certain psalms at particular times of the day, or at specified times of the year. I wouldn’t just read the psalms you are already most familiar with, or just pick them at random. Here are a couple schedules you won’t find in the above books.
These are what I’m currently writing with:
For this reason I approve of the Lenten fast, although in the early church it was observed in Christian freedom, so that by fasting people might prepare themselves for more ardent and attentive prayer and for giving thanks in the Supper of the Lord, both for the most precious death of Christ by which we are redeemed from all evils in eternity, and for his most victorious resurrection that is the source of our justification and resurrection.
Andrew sang the opening stanza of “Once in Royal David’s City” for our Lessons & Carols on Christmas Eve. Here is a clip of him practicing.
This is the opening of Bach’s cantata for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (BWV 132). The video shows Bach’s own score. I love that it takes up to ten measures to sing the word Bahn—that’s like 85 notes. The road that John the Baptist comes to prepare seems to be a long and bumpy one.
Thomas Jefferson used a contraption called a polygraph duplicator to make copies of the many letters he wrote—as he wrote them. He could then file and store these copies as record of his correspondence. He called the device “the finest invention of the present age.” He also said that a record of one’s correspondence “form the only full and genuine journal of his life.” In fact, these letters provide much of the information we have about Thomas Jefferson, his life and thought.
But most people don’t write letters these days. For almost 20 years now, email has been widely in use. And free long distance and text messaging have made long-distance communication quicker and cheaper. But what about a permanent record of your correspondence? Where is the “genuine journal” of our lives?
Most email clients now enable you to save every email you send and receive. But that wasn’t the case when we started using it. Remember AOL? Remember your old work or school email accounts? What about the messages you had to delete back when your mailboxes reached capacity? What about all the messages downloaded from POP servers and stored locally on your old computer, wherever that is? I just looked in my email folders, and the oldest received email in my archive is from 2000. My oldest sent email saved is from 2010.
I began using email in 1996. During that school year I was a senior in high school and Sara was a freshman in college. At the beginning of the year, letters were our main form of communication. During the year, email became a convenient way to stay in touch without having to wait days for a letter in the mail.
Today, I don’t know if I could find our emails from that year (unless I printed them out). I still have all the letters. And there are others—including the letter my godfather wrote to me on the day of my baptism.
Realizing the permanence of letters like this, in the past few years I began writing actual, handwritten letters to several of my family, friends, and other acquaintances. I had to work on cleaning up my handwriting, which was a problem in the past. (But I would take a sloppily-written letter any day! In my stash of old stuff I have a check written out to me by my grandmother in the last year of her life. Her penmanship was not nearly as beautiful as I hear it once was, but it’s her writing, and that’s precious to me—and it’s just a check.) I found some good monarch-sized stationery, but any piece of paper that can travel from one writing surface to its recipient’s mailbox and hands will work just fine. Sitting down at the end of a day and writing a letter is quite relaxing and enjoyable for me. I like to turn off the tech and work at my desk with pen and paper. I have to admit that it would be better were I to also receive letters in return.
But what about copies? I do not have access to a Jefferson-style polygraph duplicator, but even my old-school tendencies can make good use of good technology. After I write a letter, I use the Evernote app on my phone to snap a picture, which makes the photo available on my computer or any of my devices. Evernote can even recognize handwritten text and use that for searching through your notes. And perhaps, that in-the-cloud database will serve as a long-term record of my outgoing correspondence. Perhaps.
I suspect that the original letters will outlast the digital copies. Time will tell. That’s okay, because it’s time that will make any letters that we actually write and keep into a true and genuine journal of our lives.
Here’s a few links to get you started. Leave a comment, send an email, or write me a letter if you want to know more.
This is the week that I listen to Bach’s Cantata 140 “Wachet auf” in preparation for the last Sunday in the church year. There are so many things that I love about this cantata and the hymn on which it is based. Here’s just one.
There are two soprano-bass arias. As Bach tends to do, the bass is the Vox Christi, the voice of Christ, and the soprano is the voice of the Christian soul (or perhaps the church). In the first of these, it is the bride who asks the bridegroom “when are you coming?” His response is “I’m coming.” Then she sings, “Come, Jesus.” Again, he replies, “I’m coming.”
Isn’t that just the way it is with Jesus and his bride? She keeps on asking, because life in this world—waiting for him—is hard, and she wants nothing more than to see him and be with him, and because she loves him.
His response is always the same. His word and promise never change. But it’s comforting to hear his promise from his voice.
And the amazing thing about this piece of music—it makes me cling to the voice of Christ all the more.
About a month ago, Hannah and Andrew each played a piece of music in an Organ Symposium here in El Paso, when several organists from around the area get together and play a piece or two for each other. Here is a video of the end of Hannah’s piece, just after she had been playing on two manuals, and after changing pistons midway through the song. I love that we’re able to give them the opportunity to try and experience things just like this.
This morning I shaved with a new razor. But not really new. It is a safety razor which belonged to my grandfather, Andrew Linkert. It was made in 1970 by Gillette.
I have been wetshaving using a double-edge safety razor for around eight years now. What made me think of looking for one of Grandpa’s razors was actually Dr. T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns (great book, btw). He was speaking at worship conference about our modern notion that what is new is better, and how new isn’t always that much of an improvement. He gave the example of shaving with his father’s (or grandfather’s) straight razor, which he said gives a better shave than the disposable blades available today, lasts longer, better for the environment, and so on. And being able to hand it down to another generation is a feature, too.
I didn’t expect that it would still be around—Grandpa’s been gone 15 years—but my Aunt Martha found it and sent it to me. After a little soap, water, and elbow grease, it looks almost like new. It certainly works just fine. The blades I have fit perfectly—which cost less than 25¢ apiece. It’s not as heavy as the Merkur I have, but that will just take getting used to.