It was one of those stereotypical coastal days,
The time-between-times: not really summer, not quite fall
Mid-afternoon, the opportune moment
The rain had pulled back—a strategic retreat to recruit reinforcements
But the wind still held the beachhead against all comers.
The tide was low, the sand deserted at the moment
Except for us.
We’re really not insane, regardless of what they say,
Peeking out at us through their windows,
Still spattered with the rain they decline to brave.
Warm and dry, battened down against the petulant wind,
They shake their heads, uncomprehending
As we move out of sight, seeking we know not what,
Left for us.
We walk into the wind, facing down its fits and flurries,
Whipping us with sand and our own hair,
Whipping the sea-foam into fishy-smelling meringues.
Our eyes are down, partly to shield, partly—mostly—to see
The treasure left behind by the retreating tide,
Dredged up from the sea bed, carried from who knows where,
Just for us.
A bit of sea glass: polished, sanded, smooth green gem
One perfect sand dollar, hiding its tiny doves inside
A bit of crab shell, remnant of a seagull’s dinner
Another—no, that one’s still occupied, skittering sideways away
A bit of driftwood, shaped exactly like…well, we both see something different
A length of kelp, coiled like a bullwhip (if whips had leaves on one end)
Wait for us.
The treasures that we find hold little intrinsic value.
No roadshow appraiser would stagger back in awe
But each one is a memory of a day, of time together
Braving the elements, daring the rain to return in force,
Chasing us indoors to recruit our strength, warm ourselves
With a steaming bowl of clam chowder, a pot of tea—
Well, if we must…
We may find, in years to come, that the sand we walk
Has a different feel—stony, hot, dry—no ocean in sight
Yet we hold a shell and hear the call of the waves that were,
Feel the grain of the driftwood (whatever its shape)
And see in its whirling lines the pattern of the sand that was,
Voices sealed in the treasures that still, no matter the time or distance,
Speak to us.
–Mark J. Leamy, 2019
The ocean is vast and cold and mysterious, but there are small treasures on the beach—treasures to pick up and take home and touch and feel and remember.
The book of Psalms, like the ocean, can be overwhelming. It is, after all, the longest book in the Bible. It can be mysterious, with its blend of grandiose praises and heart-wrenching cries of despair. But, like the seashore, Psalms is full of treasures. And not just beautiful treasures, but useful words and patterns and habits to enrich our communication with God.
Beachcombing the Psalms is not a Bible study–it’s a prayer study. We’ll read the whole book of Psalms, but we won’t take a scholarly exploration of every word in every chapter. Just as you cannot take the entire ocean home in your pocket, you can’t put the whole book of Psalms into every prayer you pray. We’ll walk through Psalms and talk to the Lord as we do so, using the treasures that catch our eyes today. And as the couple in the poem were on the beach to enjoy time together, we’ll be opening our Bibles to spend time with the Author.
We’ll begin by simply choosing verses that appeal to us—verses we can treasure and use in our prayers. We’ll move on to looking for specific topics in Psalms, learning what the Psalms say about God and how he interacts with us. I’ll share personal experiences and the prayer exercises that have helped me to respond to this ancient book of prayers. Every week or chapter contains five days of study and prayer, and one day of worship. The worship day is a time to slow down and remember who you are talking to—the living God who is our salvation, our Rock, our Refuge. A brief quote from the New Testament will show you Jesus, the living Word, bringing these descriptions to life.
We’ll jump into Psalm 40 to begin.
Photo by Amy Mayfield