Adapted from a reflection on Psalm 27 for a joint campus ministry Advent devotional; Oxford, MS, November 2017. (See the original devo here.)

During the season of Advent, we hear a lot of “wait for the Lord!,” and this psalm certainly doesn’t leave that out. But as I reflected on the rest of it, I found one of the most striking parts to be the way the psalmist so explicitly names all of the things they’re up against.  Evildoers devouring flesh, adversaries and armies encamped. War and false witnesses breathing out violence…


And still, the confident claim…

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.


{Canvas board, newspaper, magazines, watercolor paint, acrylic paint, and permanent marker.}

This is not a psalm about pretending that messed up stuff never happens. So, as I thought about what image(s) might best reflect on this biblical text, portraying the psalmist’s adversaries felt important. TV and computer screens screaming disasters both natural and human-made, headlines filling the space between the thick borders we draw around ourselves. There’s a lot going on. How are we supposed to spend a season focused on hope and love and peace in the middle of all that?

This is not a psalm about pretending that messed up stuff never happens. But it is a proclamation of God’s presence in spite of all of that stuff. Of God’s presence right there in the midst of it. So, in this visual reflection, that first layer is still visible even as calm washes over the relative chaos and as gold lines soften the harsher ones underneath. One of my favorite things about using gold paint is that it looks different from just about every angle. Sometimes it’s subtle, ordinary. But catch the light in just the right way, and it’s impossible to ignore. I feel the same way about glimpses of God in the world. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes we have to look a little harder. Painting with splatters is a bit like looking for God, too. It’s impossible to predict with certainty what the exact outcome will be. All there is to do is pull a page from Samuel’s book, show up, and say to God, “here I am.” 

Here’s to hoping that whichever version of gold and God we’re seeing right now, we can join the psalmist’s belief that we will see the goodness of the Lord right here and right now — and that’ll we’ll do our part to make it happen.