The Shorey Psalter

by Timothy Shorey

It was the spring of 1990—about 31 years ago at this moment. I was recovering from a bout with viral meningitis that would leave me with what is now a 31-year-long headache (about which you may read in my book, 30/30 Hindsight: 30 Reflections on a 30-Year Headache). While recovering from meningitis, I was too feeble to budge very much from my big chair, but my mind wanted to worship. That was when I tried my hand at something I had done little to none of before: putting Scripture to music. Specifically, I wanted to help my church learn to sing the Psalms (since, after all, they form the original hymnbook of the church). But in order to sing the Psalms, they needed to be put to familiar music.

So I began to write lyrics which followed the words of each Psalm pretty closely, setting them all to familiar tunes. My efforts led to a complete “Shorey Psalter” which our church sang through twice. No one will ever read or sing these compositions and mistake me for a “poet”; at least not one with very many original creative juices flowing in the veins. My attempts at poetry usually aim to marry biblical truth to a rhyme and rhythm that might help people to remember it or sing it or perhaps hear it in a slightly different way.  I want people to learn from what they sing, and there is nothing better to learn than Scripture.

Sadly (for me anyways), many of those compositions have since been lost. Some have remained in a binder, but are in need of fresh attention and revision. So here’s what I think I’m going to do: I’d like to rework them—as close to one per week as possible—to see if I can re-finish what was once complete. And if God permits, I’ll post them here one at a time as I am able.

I’m freshly motivated to do this, in part from an email I received just this week—31 years after I led our folks into the Psalms. A woman who was around back then to sing through all 150 Psalms twice wrote this: As an aside, I have been delighting in the Psalms daily for the past several years. I want to thank you for the season of Trinity [our church] when you put the Psalms to music and we sang through all the Psalms. What an undertaking! But it helped cultivate my love of the Psalms and I think the Church has lost something by not singing the Psalms as was once the pattern. All of this is to just say thank you for a life well lived with a pastor’s heart…”

That’s a blessing reaped from seeds sown over 31 years ago! Apparently, it was worth the effort. So keep your eye open, as fresh expressions of the Psalms will be appearing as the Lord gives me time, strength, and a little bit of creative energy to do them. Don’t expect masterpieces; only truth simply expressed and ready to sing.

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