The Voice of the Psalms

imageThe Voice is an interesting translation project unlike the others currently available. The bible market has been dominated by literal, word for word and paraphrase translations, all produced by scholars working in the ancient languages and seeking to produce a Bible that aligns closely with the original apparatus while smoothing the syntax to varying degrees. While some translations have been idiomatically freer, few translation committees have taken the input of artists, poets and authors of fiction and given them free reign to retell God’s story in the scriptures. The Ecclesia Bible Society does, and its work is to create a series of new translations for modern readers. The scriptures that result from the project are meant to appeal to a current day audience by retelling the story using modern language and imagery that brings inspiration to modern ears similar to that the Hebrew poetry brought to ancient listeners.

The Voice of the Psalms is a ‘retelling’ of the Psalter that intends to restore the beauty of the original Hebrew poetry for the modern reader. I tend to be conservative in my approach to the Bible and the translations that I will use in the pulpit or for teaching but I can appreciate a Bible in a different voice that offers benefits for my devotional life. The Voice is just such a translation. By and large, the Psalms in The Voice are faithful to the structure and pace of an ESV or NIV with re-phrasings or rewordings to bring out a depth that straight translation might not highlight.

A familiar example that readers can compare is the 23rd Psalm, which many will know by heart. The NIV verses are:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (vv 1-3)

The Voice verses read:

The Eternal One is my shepherd, He cares for me always.

He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water.

He soothes my fears;

He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. (vv 1-3)

The Voice’s poetic presentation offers a new approach to a well known scripture. Devotional reading of familiar passages can be empty as they threaten to leave our heart by rote rather than with prayerful consideration. The Voice encourages us to pause, to consider the language and images, and perhaps to find the freedom to write the psalms to the Father in our own language.  The book won’t accompany me to preach except for illustrative purposes but I feel very comfortable in recommending this  volume for personal prayer and reading. God is blessed when the creativity embedded in His people is released.


This volume was graciously provided by Thomas Nelson for review.

A Theology of Creativity

The single greatest act of creativity is revealed in the first verse of the Old Testament.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

This consummate act becomes the model by which all other creative acts in the span of history will be judged. Staring into the pure black darkness, the Creator envisioned and brought into existence everything that is, purely from His own creative energy and imagination. The extent of His creativity has never been fully discovered, from the secrets that lie in depths of the oceans here on earth to furthest reaches of the universe who light has yet to reach

Continue reading “A Theology of Creativity”

Creativity According to Twyla

Creativity Twyla Tharp“I walk into a large white room. It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. I’m wearing a sweatshirt, faded jeans, and Nike cross-trainers. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirror, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.”

Everyone who creates must begin here; the environment and your tools. For the woodworker there is the wood and your edge tools. The writer begins with a blank screen and the keyboard, the photographer with a lens and unexposed film, and the teacher with knowledge and a course schedule.  The process of creating something from nothing is difficult, challenging work that often finds you bumping up against a variety of blocks. Preparation to create is the key to climbing over these obstacles to mine the creative gold that lies on the other side.

The renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp shares the core elements that she relies upon to create new dances over and over throughout the decades of her storied career. Key to the process of creating is to prepare yourself to create. You will not run a marathon without having trained yourself to go that distance. A table will not be created from that expensive walnut without your having learned find it in the wood. Why do we expect creativity to simply flow without having trained ourselves to be prepared to harvest the flow?

Tharp’s theme throughout is to emphasize the habits that the truly creative people develop. She relates her own rituals as well as those of other creatives to point you toward finding your own set of habits that will prepare and arrange you in the place where your mind and soul are prepared to create. Be at your keyboard, with your camera, in your workshop and your brain will automatically know that it is time to create.

But I’m not creative, you say. Twyla would say nonsense! You simply have not prepared yourself to create. You have not identified your specific creative spark, you have not developed a process (The Box), you have put yourself in a place to scratch, you have not identified the core of the work (The Spine), and you have not put the time into the basics (Skill) that must be second nature so that creativity can put them to use in new forms.

Tharp’s book is not a manual but rather, an inspiration. She is not telling you to follow her method step by step. Instead Twyla practically demands that you find your personal method, strengthen it and make it tough, and then put yourself in a position of letting it work for you. Savor the book; get a pencil and make it your own.

Now, get out and create something.


Pastors and other ministry leaders might look at a book like this and wonder what it might have to offer them. In reality, is there any more demanding job than preparing to speak God’s word each week? God is a Creative Entity and he has placed this in you. Train yourself to be creative, know your skills (scripture and theology), and let that creativity color the work you produce each week.

Merlin turned me on to this book and many of us can benefit from the new direction he has taken 43 Folders. The language and humor can be a little coarse so be aware but check out what he has to say and who he links to if you want to continue to grow in your creativity.

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