Let me tell you one of my favorite times of the week. About 12:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if I can work it out in my schedule, and Doris is keeping Caleb. That’s the time for his nap. He has been playing with Mimi all morning long. They are laughing and hide-and-seeking and having snacks. But at 12:30, it’s nap time and she is in my office, in my rocking chair, just getting him settled, when he hears the back door open and he will say, “I want PoppyC to rock me.” Now, that’s not my favorite time, (alright, maybe it is a little bit), my favorite time is what happens next. He picks out a book. He takes off his shoes. He crawls up in my lap and I read the book. Then he says, “PoppyC, tell me a story.”
Our stories all begin the same, “Once upon a time there was a little boy, and his name was…” Caleb grins real big, looks up at me, and says, “Caleb Race Courtney.” And from there unfolds some great adventure with Caleb and PoppyC fighting off monkeys, swimming with hippopotamuses, and flying over Murfreesboro in our special flying tennis shoes.
Caleb has taught me a lot about what makes a good story. Psalm 147 is about stories, good ones, and I see some of the same stuff here. The psalm begins with, “Praise the Lord!” Good stories start in familiar places. Many of the psalms begin this way, “Praise the Lord!” I imagine there is something very comfortable for the ancient Jew when the rabbi would open the scroll and start with these words they had heard a thousand times, “Praise the Lord!”
I posted a vlog this week about worship and the importance of rituals. We, evangelical, fundamental, Pentecostal, Jesus-loving protestants like to think we are above rituals. I am learning how valuable it is to have stories that start the same place, all the time, by everyone. Stories like The Apostles Creed. Stories like Communion. Stories like “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…” Don’t be afraid of rituals that immediately, emotionally, and cognitively put you in a place of worship. Once upon a time and Praise the Lord.
Another thing about great stories, they have a repeating theme. In Caleb and PoppyC’s stories, it is always an adventure. It is always Caleb and PoppyC, and it usually ends with ice cream and cookies. Psalm 147 is a litany of all the wonderful things God has done. He builds up Jerusalem. He sustains the humble. He strengthens the gates. He sends His word. Oh, the power of rehearsing and repeating all the good things that God has done for us. That’s why we sing worship songs. That’s why we read scripture. That’s why we do a Summer in the Psalms, to hear again how wonderful and faithful God is to us.
The central theme of Psalm 147 is easy, verse 3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” When I am finished telling Caleb about flying monkeys, and rivers of milkshakes, I usually tell him something that God has done to heal and comfort PoppyC. Tell those stories, a lot. Testify on Wednesday night (there’s a shameless plug), post on FaceBook, take every opportunity to tell the simple story, “Once I was blind and now I can see.”
Well, last thing. The best stories are about me and Caleb. We like the Three Little Pigs, and Pete the Cat, but our favorite ones start with Caleb Race Courtney and PoppyC. We want to know where we fit into the story. In verse 20, the psalmist says, “He has done this for no other nation.” Now, I know textually, historically, if we are doing good exegesis, we see this psalm as a list of blessings that God has performed for the Biblical nation of Israel. But I’m not talking about exegesis. I’m talking about a great story. It is not a difficult thing to read yourself, to read your family, to read us into that story. God has done so many things for us that we know we are special. We know “He loves us with and everlasting love.” We know that “He will never leave us or forsake us.”
I tell Caleb, and Jon-Mical and Jakson, (and I will tell Amos) unashamedly that we are a special family and God loves us and has done great things just for our family. I believe that is true. And you know what? I believe it is true for you and your family as well. Tell those stories to your kids and grandkids. Tell those stories to yourself.
Here’s a challenge. Take a little time this week and write out your own Psalm 147. Write a list of all the things He has done for you, of the times He has healed your broken heart and bound up your wounds. Then sit down with your family and tell them a story. And if you want to, throw in some swimming with hippopotamuses and some ice cream and cookies at the end.