Family Liturgies

Psalm 84: Where God Dwells

by Erika Marksbury

Scripture: Psalm 84:1-7
What a beautiful home, God!
I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God! How blessed they are to live and sing there!

And how blessed are all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!

Reflection
We moved at the beginning of the summer, and the previous owners of our house left us a treasure in the backyard: a small, blue-glass-stone-dotted fairy garden. There’s a small cottage, a delicate walkway made of two-inch twigs looped together, a few tiny terra cotta pots that I imagine might serve multiple purposes for the flittering inhabitants.

fairy-gardenMy kids spent the summer adding their own touches. Well, ok, my older kid designed tornadoes to tear through the fairies’ abode, but my younger one continued the themes we inherited from the previous creators. Tiny chairs and tables from pieces of bark and leaves. Couches from seashells. He called me over one afternoon and showed me eight white rocks he’d arranged in a ring. “It’s a family circle,” he told me proudly. “So they can come together.”

I thought about that later. I’m not sure where the idea came from. We don’t have a family circle. I mean, we have a dining table where we gather often, and sometimes we all drag some camping chairs around a small fire in the backyard, but a “family circle” was really his invention. It’s made me think about how we shape the spaces entrusted to us, what we create space for, what we make possible by how we arrange our white rocks, or our small twigs, or our lives.

In Psalm 84, even as the singer revels in being where God is, the song gives away that God is not contained to any space. There is this dwelling the singer describes, with room for each small creature to tuck away in its own nook, or room for all the creatures to join in singing together. But outside of that dwelling, God is also found – beside the road, at the end of the road, and in each person making their way along it. How might we arrange our space, or our lives, to make room for that? How might we stay aware, wherever we go, that we are in God’s dwelling, all of it?

Questions to Spark Conversation
-Tell each other stories of beautiful homes you’ve visited, and what it was that made them so.

-In the scripture, the speaker longs for a place to “sing for joy to God-alive” and tells that the birds sing their songs in that place, too. What do you imagine this place sounds like, with the songs of people and birds together?

-What are the roads that you travel like? What sort of landscapes, or cityscapes, stretch out ahead of you on your way? Do you ever see clues that God has been there?

Spiritual Practice
Survey your space with your kids. Ask them how they experience connection in your home. Ask them where they feel safe, and loved, and cared for, and have them point out specific places. Talk together about how you want people to feel in your home. Maybe rearrange some furniture, or find some nuts of gourds for a table centerpiece, or draw something to hang on the wall to help make your space the kind of place where people feel welcomed. Talk to them about how welcome, and connection, are ways that God lets us know we are home.

Prayer
God of this and every place,
of this and every moment,
bless our homes and our roads,
our visitors and our fellow travelers.
May we know you in all of it,
as the one who prepares a place,
the one who welcomes us,
the one who comes asking to be let in.
Amen.

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