give ear to my words, O Lord
consider my meditations
hearken unto the voice of my cry
my King and my God
for unto thee will I pray
my voice shalt thou hear in the morning
O Lord in the morning
will I direct my prayer
unto thee and will look up
In 1985 a scout friend invited me to her high school youth group at Goleta Presbyterian Church in California. It was a wild group that year with a youth group used to certain ways and a brand new youth pastor, one Rev. Terry McBride. I had never been to church much; my family attended the occasional Christmas Eve service or Easter brunch. One year, when we still lived in Los Angeles, we
went to a Methodist church for several weeks. That year I had an easter dress--yellow with flowers and flowing skirt that swished when I twirled.
The youth group was wild. And I was wild. At 13 my world was coming apart in drastic ways, and I was scared and lonely. Friends did not come easy then--I was...odd.
The truth is Terry was odd too. And my parents did not like him. He had long hair, and my father called him a hippy. He wore corduroy pants and boots and played guitar. He kept pretzels and cheezits in his office, and he was in that office most afternoons. He made an open invitation at youth group to stop by his office any afternoon, and I came by one day when things were especially bad. That church, Terry, and the youth group became a refuge for me. Later it became a family. Still later it became my place of employment. And even later after that it became my church of care. And then eventually, it became the church I used to belong to. I still grieve that loss.
I loved that we sang at youth group. If I had my way in those days we would have spent all 90 minutes singing. There were silly songs--one of the things my parents held against Terry for a long time was that at the parent meeting he taught them to sing, "If God Can Love Turkeys, God Can Love You".
Sometime in that first year, Terry taught us to sing Psalm 5. It was in our songbooks, and I didn't know what a Psalm was anyway. It was just a pretty song we sang. I've sung it often in the last 25 years, most mornings, actually. When I found it on youtube this morning I was surprised to find that I still knew the tune more or less exactly--these melodies have a way of drifting over time, but this one stayed.
Today's daily lectionary passages include Psalm 5. There are slight differences in the words:
Give ear to my words, O LORD;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
I realized as I read the psalm and sang the song, that Terry taught me to pray in the only way I could have accepted it at that time in my life. He taught me accidentally with a sideways move, so typical of the Spirit. If Terry had sat me down and said, "You are going to memorize this scripture today," I simply would not have memorized it. If he'd said, "I'm going to teach you to pray," I would have skipped that week of youth group. Not for me, thank you! But I am a sucker for pretty sounds on a guitar and a softly sung song. The calming of a wild creature begins with such small things.
I give thanks for Terry. Not for his particular saintliness or brilliant ministry. But for the faithful doing of everyday work that must have seemed somewhat pointless and ineffective. Frankly, I still haven't quite settled from those wild ways. But I do sing that song most days.