Subliminal hope

I had a doctor's appointment this week. On the desk in the examination room, replacing the usual stack of women's and news magazines, was a stack of materials on stress management. Everyone's all knotted up these days was my doctor's observation.

Listening to the evening news or even the news that comes across my telephone some days it's easy to imagine danger threatening at every corner. Safety nets irreparably ripped. It's easy to yield to the impulse of setting one's face like flint against the risk of need or frailty or disappointment, determining to be one's own safety net; work every minute and save every dime against the hour of need; take every precaution about one's health; why did we stop building backyard bomb shelters anyway? And the stomach churns and the heart pounds and life darkens.

Calm; calm.

This past summer I bought a Psalter, which is just a bound copy of the Old Testament Psalms. In this Eastern Orthodox version, the Psalms are broken down into 20 sections called "kathisma." A schedule in the back of the book suggests the entire Psalms be read through weekly, with three kathisma read each day and two on Sunday. Although I bought the book because I wanted to develop a habit of reading through the Psalms, I hadn't anticipated quite this rigorous a schedule. Despite an initial attempt to keep to this standard, I fell into a more leisurely routine of one kathisma daily. Doing this for a couple months now I'm starting to understand the beauty of the weekly goal, even of my schedule-lite.

So many lines of Psalms going into the brain each day realigns one's thoughts. These are not just aphorisms or reminders of truth or points of study to underline or outline in a notebook, but curative corrective therapy. A primer on reality: the nature of the world and the glory of God, the match between the longing for hope and hope's source. 

Reading so many lines everyday it's impossible to concentrate on each and that's okay. Good in fact. The lines slip in and do their work. Nothing is wasted. I can imagine that the lines that do get my attention, that do call my thoughts back from their wandering are the ones needed now like an aspirin--or a tranquilizer--whereas the others are more like a multivitamin, strengthening for days ahead.

There's this: "Work in me a sign unto good." And this: "Under His wings shalt thou have hope." And this: "All things wait on Thee." And finally: "The Lord is well pleased in them...that hope in His mercy."