Weathering the Psalms

Book contracts make me happy. In the case of an academic out of water, they are rare. Few people care what a PhD has to say unless s/he has a university appointment to back him or her up. Still, I wrote Weathering the Psalms while I was fully employed at Nashotah House. I carved the time out by waking at 4 a.m. to do my writing (a practice that has stayed with me ever since), and from 1995 to 2000, the bulk of the book slowly emerged. The day I was terminated at Nashotah I was working on a revision of the manuscript, a bit uncertain of what direction to go. After the trauma of that day, I couldn’t face my little project without the anxiety of association tainting the effort. It seemed to represent my failures in finding the job I knew I was meant to do. Such potent reminders soon weary even those of us who awake well before the sun.

Working in isolation, I had noticed that the weather is a very common motif in the Psalms. The problem is, any attempt to fit the evidence into an overarching scheme is artificial. I undertook a survey of all the weather references in the Psalms, and explained them as scientifically as a layman could. The result was not the smoothest reading, nor was it tied together with a strong thesis, but it was important. Although I have not been in a position to keep up with the research such a project requires, I’ve not seen anything similar emerge. The weather, however, still happens. And people still blame it on the divine. In ancient times there was no natural world. What we call nature was actively directed by the divine. The weather is probably only the most obvious example. We all know the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” This encapsulates the biblical view of the weather. This winter with its series of storms has reminded me of this, forcefully.

Photo credit: Don Amaro, wiki commons

Photo credit: Don Amaro, wiki commons

Ironically, editors started to show interest in the project only after I’d abandoned hope of ever getting it published. It was the fruit of my despair. It represented several years of my academic life, but, like its creator, it was growing older. So last week when a contract landed on my desk from Wipf and Stock, a profound happiness settled in. A sense of completion. I am not in a position to update the contents, but at least one academic publishing house sees the worth in the manuscript that came from so much personal experience. A decade is a long gestation period. I suppose if I had to write the book today it would reflect much more the experience of world-weariness that comes from not ever finding the job you know you were meant to do. Nevertheless, it is a small offering to the deity of the weather, and I am glad that, come next year, others will be able to share in my struggles to make sense of that world.

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