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Spiritual Rollercoasters: A Reflection for Wednesday, December 14

By Pastor Denise McKinney

Daily Lectionary reading: Psalm 42; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Jude 1:17-25

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 42


Read

Psalm 42 NRSVUE or listen to Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team


1 As a deer longs for flowing streams,

so my soul longs for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

When shall I come and behold

the face of God?

3 My tears have been my food

day and night,

while people say to me continually,

“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng[a]

and led them in procession to the house of God,

with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,

a multitude keeping festival.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise him,

my help

6 and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you

from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep

at the thunder of your torrents;

all your waves and your billows

have gone over me.

8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me,

a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God, my rock,

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I walk about mournfully

because the enemy oppresses me?”

10 As with a deadly wound in my body,

my adversaries taunt me,

while they say to me continually,

“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise him,

my help and my God.


Reflect

I am not a true fan of roller coasters. I certainly enjoy a medium intensity one with a few dips and curves that move a delightful tickle from my stomach up to my lungs, but I have an entire list of the kind of roller coasters I will not ride. Wooden–too jerky. No loops–my insides are turned upside down for a day after. No long steep climbs and deep vertical dives that make me feel a most certain death awaits me. Nothing that goes forward then slingshots me backwards to the original start. All these have a few things in common. They are full of unknowns and strip me of any sense of safety or control. As I rode in the roller coaster car climbing the first high rise incline of the Texas Giant wooden coaster twenty years ago, I remember thinking “when will this be over?” The last time I accidentally got on a ride with multiple loops, all I could think was “where are the places I am going to be hanging on by my toes?” And every time I step on a roller coaster that I should know better, but go anyway, I ask myself, “Why did I do this?” And on every ride I wish I’d avoided, my family will tell you I pour out my soul in screaming these questions throughout the ride.


This Psalmist seems to be on a spiritual roller coaster that is jerking him between devastating loss and momentary glimmers of hope. He is thirsting to know, “When is God actually going to show up in all this?” His friends taunt with “Where is your God now?” And looking inwardly, he longs to know why his soul is so burdened and discouraged. When? Where? Why? All he holds onto is a thread of sacred connection that is only described as deep calling to deep.


The push and pull of our faith journeys often feels very much like this and unlike roller coasters, we usually don’t have a choice to avoid the ride. One day belief is simple and comes as easily as the light tickle of a gentle roller coaster. The next we are filled with the when, where and why questions of an unexpected and discouraging uphill struggle. But like the psalmist, we are invited to pour out our longings and ask the honest questions that surface with each plunge into trouble. And when every day is filled with unknowns we long to avoid and we feel stripped of any control for our destiny, there remains an invitation to a hope deeply embedded in our souls. It’s the spiritual memory, the impalpable song, the pulse of a hidden love finding our deepest selves sometimes at the very moment our mouths are uttering the hardest questions and our eyes are heavy with sleep.



Respond

Take a few minutes to be still while listening to the song, Asleep by Sleeping at Last.


Start by considering what is pushing and pulling your life in ways you feel stripped of any ability to control or even understand the unknowns. Acknowledge the deep dives and uphill climbs you are facing.


Then be still and allow your soul to connect your deep self to the deep presence of God. Allow the pulse of hidden love to meet you even in weariness and uncertainty.



Rest

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your torrents; all your waves and your billows have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Amen.



About the Author

Denise McKinney lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she leads The Well, a dinner church planted in 2020. She also writes, sings, runs and bakes. She is married to Gary and mom to Lanie and Garrison who have taught her more on the faith journey than anyone or anything. You can find more of Denise’s storytelling and music at denisemckinney.com, and learn about The Well’s sacred life around shared meals at thewelltulsa.org.


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