Owning One Another’s Ministries and Passions Psalm One

Sharing Our Ministries and Our Passions  Lois Kieffaber and Linda Tuinstra

Spokane Community Mental Health Chaplaincy

People with mental illness are just like us, only more so.”

There are three parts to the program:

  • To organize a congregational mental health team and companionship group
  • To educate pastors, pastoral care staff and students of ministry about mental illness, recovery, and persistent mental health issues.
  • To train ordinary members of congregations to be companions in the healing journey of families facing severe and persistent mental health challenges.

Linda Tuinstra and Lois Kieffaber are involved in the third program componen

Companionship is a relationship between two equal human beings.  It is marked by mutuality.  We are neighbors in a relationship that responds to suffering, supports recovery, and is safe for both parties.  The model is that of the Good Samaritan, someone who comes alongside someone who is suffering.   However, the suffering may be internal rather than overtly physical, as in trauma, serious mental illness, substance abuse, issues of aging/dementia, or insecurity about housing or employment. A good example is our participation in Family Promise.  We are not pastors or psychiatrists or social workers.  We simply accompany people during hard times.

 4 Steps in Healing Care

  1. Awareness  A smile or a nod may be enough, an acknowledgment that another human being is present.             “What do you like to be called?”
  2. Companionship   Frameless relationships, common space, present moment, common time.  (Frames:  education, kids, jobs, politics, where we live)
  3. Partnership          Circle of care    Side-by-side:  looking at the world with  different perspectives, collective wisdom
  4. Mutuality           (I have problems too)

Listening – the core practice of companionship

  1. Listening is a gift
  2. Listen for themes/feelings
  3. Take care with responses: “How so?”   “Please tell me more”   “What does that mean?”    “Help me understand”
  4. Listen over time and in community, listen for words of hope, love, possibility, we hold hope for each other
  5. Listen for soul stories: each has its own arc, developing over time

Time commitment:  One hour per week. No guiding, no fixing, lay down judgment.  Go with, send a note, phone call, hold in thought, in prayer, make room in your heart.

 

Psalm 1 King James Version (KJV)

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

 

From the very onset of Psalm 1, we can guess that it is a description of opposites: blessed is the one who doesn’t do this, but instead does this. We are clearly encouraged to take the road less traveled. First the psalmist gives us a clear picture of what will happen if we don’t. The ungodly traveler, when we first encounter him, is walking along his ungodly path. And then, if you can be a bit playful with the text, he is no longer moving, he is standing in the way of sinners. Sounds like a good way to get run over. And then he is no longer walking or standing, he is sitting in the seat of the scornful, like a disappointed and brooding child.

And as if you thought he couldn’t get any lower, in verse 4 he becomes like chaff, a tossed-aside bit of fluff with no substance.  In a few short verses, this traveler has gone from purposeful walking to purposeless chaff, human to dandelion fluff.

On the other hand the righteous one is like a tree planted by the waters. She sinks her roots deep into the soil. Her branches grow up, bearing fruit in due season. While the path of the ungodly leads ultimately nowhere, the righteous one finds growth in all directions- down, out, and up.

The psalmist’s message is clear: walk the way of righteousness, it is the way to growth and health.

Fascinating, isn’t it, that after some 2,500 years we are still thinking about and talking about happiness. For the psalmists, the primary subject is not the human being, but rather God! So, happiness is not about what we human beings feel, desire, or accomplish. Happiness is not about doing what we want to do. Rather, happiness is about doing what God wants done.

There are some things I found helpful to the study of this first Psalm. The traditional translation “law” in the second verse is quite misleading and has led to very negative assessments of Psalm 1. You’ve missed the point the psalmist is trying to make if you see it as legalistic and about retribution.  We’ve been conditioned to think that the word Torah means ‘law’. It means “teaching” or ‘instruction and in the broadest sense, it suggests God’s will.  Contrary to some commentators, verses 4-5 do not portray a system of retribution through which  God punishes “the wicked.” Rather, by their own choice, “the wicked” separate themselves from God. Verse 5 could be translated, “The wicked do not stand up for justice.” Why? Because, unlike “the righteous,” they do not attend to God’s torah. In other words, God does not exclude “the wicked” from “the congregation of the righteous.” Rather, “the wicked” choose not to be there. To be sure, one may conclude that the consequences of this choice are “punishing.” But if so, this is not a punishment that God intends.

So, Psalm 1 does not mean that happiness can be reduced to a mechanical process of following a set of rules, for which you reap a rewarded. Instead, happiness is a dynamic process that requires meditating on what God wants. The Psalmist says “day and night” to emphasize the need to be constantly open to what God would have us do in any and every situation. In short, as Jesus would later summarize the Torah, happiness grows out of discerning what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39.)

There are two things in the third verse that I found important.  The first is that the tree is only expected to produce fruit in its season.  That takes away some of the pressure, a built in Sabbath.  Verse three also includes the word  “prosper”.  In English it almost inevitably speaks of money or material wealth.  It suggests the promise of a reward for obedience — even a material reward.  A better translation is “thrives”. “..whatsoever he doeth shall thrive”  I like that a lot better.  If there is a reward involved, that reward is the stability and strength which comes from a connectedness to God that offers the opportunity to grow and bear fruit.

Psalm 1 invites a choice — our choice. There are clearly two contrasting ways with sharply different consequences.   Will we choose God’s way, which promises life? Or will we choose to go our own way, which promises nothing more than a dead end?  The promise of Psalm 1, reinforced by Jesus and Paul, is that the God-directed and neighbor-oriented way is the most rewarding and happiness-producing life possible. If there is a law involved, it is the law of love. The choice is ours.

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