This week I am pleased to share the Saturday Post with one of my pastors, Aaron Buttery. I learned recently of his Lenten practice of “writing” the Psalms as an act of devotion. The idea captured my attention, so I asked him to write an article describing his experience. Here it is:
Have you ever written a note to someone, or maybe a prayer? There is something about writing thoughts, feelings and beliefs that transforms a concept into a reality. Consider also the long term value: my fiancé can hear me say I love her, but the notes I have written can be read in times of difficulty or in 15 years to children who are beginning to date. My son treasures the notes I send in his lunch box, even though they are often the same words I say as he goes to school.
From the earliest days of our scriptures, from the Masorites to the monastics, the scribes have recorded the text for its preservation and proclamation. With the advent of the printing press and now with apps like iBooks Author, there is seemingly no reason to engage in writing out anything from the Bible. Why would we when we can read it on a Kindle or simply hear a passage read on a Sunday?
In the same way that writing a love note or sending a card in a lunch box conveys something beyond the simple words, I would invite you into a scribal discipline. In 2003, for Lent, I began writing the Psalms. At first it was easy, with the first few Psalms only 6, 13 and 8 verses long. Psalm 5 was the first hard one. After 15 verses, my hand was weak as I was accustomed more to typing than writing. This is when the discipline began, and suddenly the Psalms became real. As singing the Psalms brings the reader through the whole story of the Psalm, writing does the same in a different sense. As you write, the action becomes steady, and your lips will begin saying the words. Often you will say the Psalm multiple times as your hand tries to keep up with your eye. The movement connects to the mind. The whispered words resonate in the soul, and the repetition writes the words on your heart. The words become real in a new way.
This Lent, as we Sing our way to Easter and Pentecost, I invite you to write. Write notes of praise, suffering, penance, joy and song. Try writing one Psalm a day in a notebook of your choice. Write to allow the reality of the Psalms to settle deep within you, and for seasons to come, to treasure the Psalms as you read them in your own hand. It took me 4 years of Lenten practice to cover the entire Psalter, yet it’s given me a treasure I’ll enjoy the rest of my life.
Aaron Buttery loves being a father and is excited about marrying his fiancé this July. He currently serves at the Wilmore Anglican Mission and is an student in the MDiv track.