Diana and John Holbert
Seeking the Psalms Today

Aug. 13-19, 2017


"… (John Holbert's work on the Psalms) offers tools for "the work," which is to enact our God-given humanness in the presence of God and neighbor. Quite concretely, pastors and congregations using these materials will not be spectators but participants in the voicing of praise and complaint, in order to enact the whole of human life in the presence of God's holiness."
- Walter Bruggemann, from the Foreword to Psalms for Praise and Worship

"In singing and praying [the psalms] we experience bringing the full spectrum of our thought and emotions to God. If we are concerned with our identity and want to know who we are, not merely who we can be or should be – if we want to learn to live with the reality that just persons and causes do not always prosper – if we want to be able to bring all our emotions and thought, including anger and mistrust, in an honest expression to God – if we desire to know ourselves – if we want to come into direct contact with God through the assent of faith to God's revelation – sing and pray the psalms!"
- John Holbert, from the Introduction to Psalms for Praise and Worship

I have to be honest – anyone who knows me knows I'm not very good at faking enthusiasm – I struggled for many years to appreciate the psalms. I remembered them only from typical mainline Protestant church services: simple, praise-focused prose read dryly, without context, nuance or enthusiasm. Thankfully, early in my first year with Ring Lake Ranch, I was introduced to Norman Fischer's translation of the psalms, Opening to You. His training in Zen Buddhism helped him interpret the psalms in an intimate, powerful way that broke them open for me. I could finally experience the wide range of emotions, the brutally honest personal and divine assessment, and the wonder at the world around the psalmist. It's important to find these new ways to experience and understand our traditions and sacred texts and there are lots of ways to 'break them open.' Singing the psalms can certainly change how one experiences them. Interpretation through art – both by others and by oneself – can offer insights. We'll try those methods, and others, in our retreat with John and Diana and come away with a new and deeper appreciation of this poetic collection of human experience. Please join us!