The Psalms: Saying What is On Our Heart

Judy Niemi Johnson

The Psalms: Saying What is On Our Heart

After a three-year hiatus, the women in our faith community were hungry for a retreat. Traditionally held over a weekend, it was a great way to grow closer to each other and to God. We decided to take a small step towards reviving this annual event with an afternoon retreat in our parish hall.

We combined a spiritual reflection with a spring roll cooking lesson. The challenge was bringing some spiritual depth to the conversation, and helping women from a variety of faith communities get to know each other better, in an hour. We settled on a three-part dive into the psalms, where the heart meets the head.

We chose Psalm 40 and used The Message translation. The psalm expressed a variety of emotions, providing multiple touchpoints for individual reflection. We began with the spiritual practice of Dwelling in the Word. After hearing the psalm read, and reading it through silently, women broke into groups of three to share what they noticed or what jumped out to them. The room was buzzing with conversations. As a large group we shared what stood out to people. Secondly, we asked each group to share a bit of their story with each other. What memory was brought to mind as you read this psalm? Again, the level of energy in the room was high. Women listened intensely to each other, giving the other person the gift of hearing their story. Third, we created our own psalm. Each woman was given a strip of paper and asked to write a one-line prayer, whatever was on their mind. Then we combined the lines into a single psalm. No one knew what the other person was writing. But our separate prayers came together into a song from our collective hearts. We listened as our psalm was read aloud and felt deeply blessed.

The symbolism of the spring rolls was not lost on us. As one woman pointed out, “Different ingredients were gathered and combined, forming a new thing together.” A physical representation of what the Spirit had done with us, bringing his people together to form a new community. Oh, how we have missed each other and look forward to when we can gather again.