Staying the Mind on Peace, 2: Songs of Their Deliverance

Phyllis Nissila


music pageLisa was a Laotian refugee coming up to academic speed in our middle school resource room. Her family had survived the bloody civil turmoil of the 1970s in Laos and had been sponsored by a local church to immigrate here.

She was very anxious to “become an American” which is why she insisted we call her Lisa instead of her given name. She was as beautiful as she was intelligent and soon acquired the status of one of THE seventh grade “fashionistas.” For all intents and purposes, Lisa seemed the epitome of a fun-loving, popular, care-free young miss eager to enter fully into her new life, new world.

But once in a while, as she gained English skills, Lisa shared anecdotes about her younger years in war-wracked Laos. I think just now about this story by which she explained how she, her siblings, and her friends let the “shadow soldiers” (guerrilla fighters hiding in the jungle bordering the village) know those approaching were neighbors and not enemies: “We sang home songs,” she said.

I came to understand that, as this: during the thick of local skirmishes, in the day’s emerging or waning lights when she and other children had to be outside to walk to and from school or other necessary forays into the village, they sang, loudly, the songs of childhood and popular hits, nuanced with the local dialect. This served two purposes. The shadow soldiers “on their side” knew this group lived in the area, and the children felt some sense of protection: there would then be no kidnapping or killing.

And I suspect that whoever told them to do this also realized the technique would inform the enemy, were there any also hiding near, that here was not one or two children out alone, easy pickings to become part of the “spoils of war,” but a group—much harder to control…

There was not so much talk about and provision for Post Traumatic Stress back in the early eighties. I pray that Lisa, over the years, has been able to process her childhood war experiences. But her spirit and intelligence, I think, have probably served her well.


What brought this story to the surface were thoughts on King David’s “songs of deliverance” in the Hymnal of hymnals, the Book of Psalms (“sacred songs”). Take Psalm 143, for example, one of many that reveal David’s “home songs,” if you will, when his enemies closed in:

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart is appalled within me.

5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.

7 Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;
Do not hide Your face from me,
Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
I take refuge in You.

10 Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
11 For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant.
(NASB version)

No doubt at times David sang his songs quietly to himself in the thick of the mud and blood; other times, he boomed them forth with gusto, revived once again on the “level ground” of victory in the Lord.

Although we don’t know all the particulars that prompted each psalm, what is preserved in these twelve verses for us today is a pattern of redemption: the enemy strikes, David turns to God (reminding Him—and himself—of past triumphs) and he pleads for help again. We are confident of the success of this approach for two reasons: history records David survived to rule Israel, and there are a total of 150 psalms, several striking similar themes, many of which are attributed to him.


To the reasons for singing our own songs of deliverance, whatever they may be, inspired by the above anecdotes and ready metaphors, I would add only this, “God inhabits the praises of His people” (to paraphrase Psalm 22:3), and I figure it this way: where God IS, Satan ISN’T. Not to mention all the other benefits of approaching the God Who SPOKE earth, wind, fire, and water to existence; Who shared the potency of free will with mere humans and sent His Son to suffer the justice due when we mis-handle all that power; and Who extends today the same lovingkindness David sang of centuries ago…

Don’t have a song, yet? Pick a psalm—or create one—and make melody from your heart.

He listens.


P.S. Psalm 138 wouldn’t be a bad place to start…

Photo from the public domain.

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1 Response to Staying the Mind on Peace, 2: Songs of Their Deliverance

  1. Carl Gordon says:

    This really touched me! “The enemy has crushed my life to the ground…” I can relate to that! And then it’s all about His answer, His face, His Name.” This should be on the New York Times Best Seller’s List. Shalom lecha b’Shem Yeshua HaMessiach. Peace to you in the Name of Jesus the Messiah.


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