A Song for each kind of day

Scheduling Calendar - differrent kinds of days

Scheduling Calendar - different kinds of days

Two years ago during my step-daughter’s final months with terminal cancer, I spent three days in quiet reflecton at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN.Worshiping with the Benedictines was part of the structure of my day, the chants and readings opening space for fresh air to enter my angry soul…except for…the Psalms. Outrageously violent, vindictive, intolerant, self-righteous…horrible expressions of emotions I had gone there to revoke.

One day following morning prayer, I asked my Benedictine spiritual guide “Why do you read them aloud? Over and over again. They’re horrible.”

“Yes,” he replied, “because they’re real.” And words to this effect: “All those emotions are in us. Every one. Only if we recognize and remember can hate be transformed into love, fear into trust, self-centeredness into compassion. The gospel makes no sense unless it is a word spoken directly into these parts of ourselves we wish weren’t there, the sides of us we deny or from which we take flight into illusions of perfection.”

The words of another Benedictine, Dom Sebastian Moore of Downside Abbey in England, had hit the mark once before during the greatest personal crisis of my life – a time filled with the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow at the very same time. The words are heavily underlined in my copy of Moore’s The Crucified Jesus Is No Stranger. They were a lifeline to a drowning man.

“We have to think of a God closer to our evil than we ever dare to be. We have to think of God not as standing at the end of the way we take when we run away from our evil in the search for good, but as taking hold of us in our evil, at the sore point which the whole idealistic thrust of man is concerned to avoid.”

Or, as Steve concludes his poem, “there is a Psalm for each one of our days.”  Here’s the poem.

“A Song for Each Kind of Day”

Steve Shoemaker, April 12, 2012


One Hebrew word for “god” was “jah.”

(It was a time of many words

for god–and many gods.)  To say

“hallel” was for all to sing praise,

so HALLELUJAH meant “Praise God!”

(or “Thanks to you, oh God!”– for some

words could be truly translated

more than one way.


And so, a Psalm, or Song, that offered thanks or praise

might well be paired with a lament:

a cry of pain from one who prays

for help, relief, from gods who sent

disaster.  (But, of course, some Psalms

wisely acknowledged that some wrongs


were caused by those who sang the songs!)

There is a Psalm for each one of our days…

9 thoughts on “A Song for each kind of day

  1. These words from your guide really strike a chord with me, Gordon: Only if we recognize and remember can hate be transformed into love, fear into trust, self-centeredness into compassion.

    On so many occasions, such as with Katie and her cancer, I was reminded of those very words. Another occasion was when my best friend’s mother passed away in 2004. Her husband spoke at her funeral with such sadness (sadness that was enveloped in strength) and he said these very similar words to the massive number of people at her funeral (there were over 800 people there; in such a large church, but not large enough to seat all of the people whose lives she’d touched): you cannot have love without hate, or good without bad, or life without loss.

    She also lived with cancer for some time before passing away. As we both know from our own experiences, her family suffered through her cancer with her. It was very difficult for them, obviously. He shared with the entire mass that he was very angry at first, but explained that he must have known/experienced such a strong love from her, or the loss of her would not have been so painful. So his anger turned into gratitude. I learned a very valuable lesson that day at her funeral.

    Gordon, I am loving this blog of yours. I may not get the chance to read every post, but it seems the posts I do get to read always touch me in such a way that I find hard to explain. I’ve always told you how I love your words…how you explain things. I have a hard time explaining things a lot…my thoughts/feelings, especially. So, I find through your posts a relation to my thoughts that I don’t usually expect.


  2. Gordon your writings and Steve’s poems give me a great hope for the Body of Christ and that body part we call the Presbyterian Church USA. There is a reason they call the Book the “living word.” Now if we could help those within our denomination and within our nation who would proclaim social Darwinism instead of the healing Word of God. Thanks again for your good words, Gordon.


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