Bless the Lord, O My Soul
Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
I cannot read Psalm 103 without thinking of Bill Cody. Bill was the Director of Laity Lodge, the retreat center associated with The High Calling, from 1965 through 1979. As you may recall, I was a director of Laity Lodge from 2007 through 2011. Bill Cody left a deep imprint upon the Lodge, helping it become a place of celebration, intimacy, artistic expression, and spiritual depth. Though I never had the pleasure of meeting Bill, I know some wonderful members of his family, as well as dozens of people whose lives were changed forever through Bill's influence.
I have been told that Bill began every retreat at Laity Lodge by quoting the first verses of Psalm 103, beginning with verse 1: "Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!" (RSV). The New Living Translation, which I use when reflecting on the Psalms, makes the same point with different words, "Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name."
The NLT gets the sense of "soul" in traditional translations. Indeed, the soul in biblical understanding is not some small part of our inner being. It is, rather, that which binds together all that we are. When the psalm writer says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul," an accurate rendering of the original Hebrew words, he is not saying, "Let something inside of me bless the Lord." Rather, he is saying, "Let all that I am bless the Lord," a point that is made clear in the following phrase, "and all that is within me, bless his holy name." The psalmist is inviting and urging himself to praise God with all that he is, using every part of himself.
Wouldn't you like to praise God this way? I would! All too often, when I'm worshiping the Lord, whether in church or in my private devotions, I find that part of me is focused on God and part of me is focused elsewhere. "Glory be to the Father." That man in front of me is pretty tall. "And to the Son." I wonder where we should eat after church. "And to the Holy Ghost." Maybe one of my children is texting me, but I silenced my phone. Rats." As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be." I can't wait to get home to catch part of the game. "World without end. Amen. Amen." Oh, oh. It's almost time to pass the peace. I wish I weren't so much of an introvert.
I know that God is worthy of my wholehearted worship. And I also know that my soul—my whole inner being—needs to praise the Lord for its own sake as well as God's glory. So, as I begin to worship, whether with my community or by myself, I am encouraged to echo Bill Cody by quoting Psalm 103: "Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you find it difficult to worship God with all that you are? Why? What helps you devote your full self to praising God?
PRAYER: Indeed, O Lord, my heart longs to praise you with all that I am. You deserve my full attention, my all-inclusive worship.
Forgive me when I am divided in my worship, when part of me looks in your direction and part of me looks elsewhere. Help me, I pray, to give you all that I am, to love you with heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I bless you, Lord, with my whole soul. May all that is within me, every part, bless your holy name. Amen.
How to Share Your Faith at Work
Let’s admit it: It can be awkward to share our faith at work. The fear of damaging relationships and making the workplace that much more difficult (we do, after all, have to deal with these people on a daily basis). The fear of repercussions from those we work for. The fear of coming across as, well, just weird. In the stories found in the series, How to Share Your Faith at Work, we find practical ways to naturally share with people the thing that is most precious in our lives – our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Image above by Sean McGrath. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.