A reflection on Psalm 143 for Davidson College Presbyterian Church’s Lenten devotional book; Cornelius, NC, January 2017.


{Canvas, cardstock, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, magazines, plastic bag, newspaper, book pages, and glass.}

Psalm 143 sings a weary song. More than weary, even. Bone tired and burned out, the psalmist tells of life crushed to the ground and a faint spirit fleeing from enemies. And still:

6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

There’s a lot coming at us these days, and I hear this psalm resonating in the brokenness we seem to find in all too many places. The background blocks here represent some of those places.

Magazine ads are there to call out all-too-consuming consuming commercialism; newspapers to represent current events be they politics or nonstop news of violence. An oil slick and plastic bags mar nature imagery to reflect our care (or lack thereof) for creation. Question marks for doubt and lines for division that are punctuated by an “other” down below. Look closely in the bottom left corner and you’ll find an “i” shaped person, because isolation and loneliness can make us feel separated from God too.

Even in the midst of it all may we, like the psalmist, stretch out our hands toward God. Easier said than done, of course. But there’s more than one way to do it, represented here by light breaking through the midst of chaos.


 A hymnal page for the prayers we sing, and more nature imagery for the Sabbath time some find there. Thesaurus pages that remind us to speak the truth, resist, repeat, and respect, among other things. Footprints for when it’s time for our feet to hit the pavement. Maybe this walking means a particular action for social change (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I worked on this piece in the days surrounding the Women’s March). But it might also mean, more simply, being proactive in seeking God. Getting up, literally or figuratively, to find God’s presence even when God seems to be far away. A fellow Young Adult Volunteer once said “you will never go where God is not,” but sometimes it feels like we have to look a little harder.

This turned out to be one of the pieces that teaches me as much in the process as it does through the final product. The kind of project that ends with more questions than answers.

 This sand-colored cave began in the psalm’s desert language. But as I added more and more to the background, what started as a parched place began to feel more and more like a refuge. A space carved out of the craziness. I started with the glass because of its brokenness, the large pieces representing the boulder-like weight of our burdens, whatever they might be. But as calmness seeped into the sand, the glass also reminded me of the stained windows of many churches. There’s brokenness there too, to be sure, and there’s always work to be done. Too often we preach hospitality and only welcome some. Teach grace and show each other anything but. What if we strive to make our places of faith spaces of refuge? What if we work together to carve that space out of the craziness? When a person’s burdens are boulders too heavy to bear, what if we hold them up for her? Maybe one person’s desert prayer becomes a whole community’s song.