Originally posted January 5, 2018.
In the Spring of 2012, I met with a couple of friends for a weekly "book club" of sorts. My daughter was almost 3 years old, and I was very pregnant with our second child. We had been meeting for a few years, and had read through numerous books written by various authors, usually concerning motherhood, faith, and encouraging suggestions on how to live out faith IN our mothering. Our young children would play around us as we discussed questions from our study guides.
The book that we spent time in that Spring was A Mom After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. The subtitle she used to describe her book's content was 10 Ways to Love Your Children. One of those suggested ways was to "Teach Your Children God's Word," living out the encouragement of Deuteronomy 6 to "teach [God's Word] diligently to your children" so that it "shall be in [their] hearts." As if that wasn't a high enough calling, I was struck by something very specific in this chapter. While Elizabeth George researched the cultural "how" behind Deuteronomy 6, she found a guideline based on Jewish customs: "The life of a Jew is religious from the cradle to the grave. In the room occupied by the mother and her newborn infant the rabbi puts a paper containing Psalm 121 in Hebrew." These mommas would literally pray Psalm 121 over their newborn babies, establishing God's character in their hearts from an early age.
“Imagine the heart, faith, and emotion of the mom who holds her baby
and prays Psalm 121 over her newborn”
Elizabeth George, A Mom After God’s Own Heart
The study guide associated with this chapter posed this question: How are you living out "the cradle to the grave" principle of teaching God's Word diligently to your children, no matter what their ages?" My answers were 1) teaching songs about God/Jesus, 2) attending church as a family, 3) praying the Lord's Prayer with them at night, and 4) playing Christian music throughout the day. All good things, but right after that list I added something I wanted to strive toward, especially for the baby growing inside me. I wanted to be able to pray Psalm 121 over my kids, as often as possible. And for me, that meant I needed to memorize it, because carrying around an open bible or even a piece of paper with the psalm typed out on it didn't seem feasible while changing diapers. However, memorizing large portions of scripture has always been pretty tough for me...unless it is set to a tune. That is where my setting of Psalm 121 was born.
I encourage you to take a moment to read through Psalm 121. As one of the "Songs of Ascents", it was intended to instill confidence in God's people as they made the long and often difficult journey to Jerusalem, the City of David set high in the hills, to worship Him. Right away it asks the reader a question: "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?" Imagine being at the bottom of a long hill that had to be climbed. The elements could be brutal and everyone around you was making a journey of their own. What a metaphor for life, right? The answer in the next verse is the confidence boost: "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." The best and most powerful help we could ever seek to find during life's circumstances is from the One who made those very hills. I truly love the contents of the remaining verses in how they further build on the confidence we can find in the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth.
“The LORD is your keeper…your shade on your right hand…
The LORD shall keep you from all evil…
He will keep your life…keep your going out and your coming in…
He will not let your foot be moved…
He who keeps you will not slumber…nor sleep.”
Psalm 121: 5-8, 3-4 ESV
Fast forward a few months, and our family had welcomed our son, Matthias, into the family. In true busy momma fashion, my goal to have Psalm 121 memorized or set to music hadn't happened yet, but I had never lost the desire to see it through. I could tell that he loved music from an early age, and it made sense that he would as the poor kid had no choice but to attend worship team practices and full Sunday mornings of leading worship while his ears developed. Music was also one of the only things that calmed him down...a glorious discovery! On one particularly tough momma day, I decided to press pause. I followed through with an obedient step forward, and printed Psalm 121 out on a single piece of paper. I needed the encouragement found within those verses, and in true God fashion, He helped me piece together a setting...in my kitchen...within the time it took me to prep dinner. I had been given a melody, and got to sit at my piano later that night to figure out the rest. It was simple, easy to remember, and quickly became a daily lullaby. Praise God!
I was honored to share the setting with our congregation later that Fall on the Sunday morning we prayed over our little boy. We also got to sing it together as a Women's Bible Study during a summer study of the Psalms, and it has been shared during a summer concert in recent past as well. There is something quite scary yet beautiful about sharing our creative works with one another.
On May 24th of 2015, our Music Pastor, Joel Stamoolis, took us into a congregational project of singing through the whole book of Psalms during Sunday worship. So, for the past 2 1/2 years, we have sung one Psalm each Sunday and are currently in the middle of Psalm 119 (the longest psalm) which we are signing one stanza per week. God willing, we will finish with Psalm 150 on September 2nd of 2018! It has been an amazing project of which I have been honored to be a part of in writing, leading and recording capacities. Singing Psalms has become a regular part of my daily worship, for which I am truly thankful! If you'd like to know more about this project and check out the recordings we have accomplished so far, please visit the Psalms Project at WBC. There is also a Facebook page for the project, so look us up and follow along!
To wrap up this lengthy post (ha, sorry...long history to this one), I'd like to share a bit of the "why" behind my choice to share this song first. I had just finished the book A Million Little Ways (see previous post) during a weekend of moose hunting and was driving back home to lead worship. On the 1 1/2 hour drive back, I prayed for guidance on how I should go about sharing my music. While I was at church that morning, two separate friends asked me about this very psalm setting...unprompted by me...but obviously prompted by the One who answers prayer. I left that morning with the goal to pull this recording together as soon as I could.
I also knew I wanted a mountain background for the video, and in reaching out to friends I received many beautiful offerings! Some of my favorites are scattered throughout this post, and I am excited to use them all in upcoming projects. For this setting, I have to thank my friend Kyle Moffat from The Alaska Life for a stunning picture of the highest hill around...Denali. Our mighty God created even that "highest of hills"! So, I invite you to enjoy my humble first offering, Psalm 121.