Skip to main content

Feasting on the Psalms

Listen To Article

I’ve been enjoying this week’s big music release: the new Mumford and Sons album, Wilder Mind, with its more electric direction–what I’d label “thrash folk.” But what’s been on really heavy rotation for the last couple of weeks is Sandra McCracken’s contemporary settings of the Psalms (fittingly entitled Psalms).  I’ve long been a fan of McCracken as a smart, insightful singer-songwriter and have deeply appreciated her fine settings of hymns–her own (her song, “In Feast or Fallow,” has gotten me through some difficult times) and in collaboration with Indelible Grace Music.

On Psalms (the whole album can be streamed here, or purchased here or on iTunes), McCracken’s songs do what all good art does: call us to attention. Listening to this album, one hears again the depths of lament, the yearnings for hope, the promise of restoration that the Psalms in all their richness offer.  Certainly, we know all that is true about the Psalms intellectually, but McCracken’s interpretations–beautifully, but rawly, emotional–insist on these being the words of real, hurting people, not some ancient abstraction.  This is a soundtrack for the dark night of the soul as well as for the bright day of rejoicing.

My words don’t do the project justice, so I’ll commend two of my favorites from the album for you to meditate on this morning (or sometime soon). The lyrics follow, for your convenience.  May they bless you as they’ve blessed me.


“Send Out Your Light” (Psalm 43)

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
Against the deceitful man, O deliver us
For you are the God in whom I take refuge
Why have you rejected me? I walk around confused.

Send out your light and truth
Let them lead me
Bring me to your holy hill
To your dwelling
Then I will go to the alter of God
To God, my exceeding joy
Then I will praise him with my guitar
Oh my joy, my joy

Why are you cast down low, o my soul?
Why are you cast down low, and in turmoil?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him
Hope in God, for he is my salvation. (Chorus)

“We Will Feast in the House of Zion”

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

1. We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus)

2. In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus)

3. Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus)


Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

Leave a Reply