Rotation.org Writing Team
Psalm 8 ~ When I look at your heavens
Music Video ~ Meditation Workshop
Summary of Activities
Students will lay down under a "nighttime sky" to view and discuss two wonderful music videos based on scripture and depicting the majesty described by the Psalm. They will create a "take-home" glo-in-the-dark drawing of what they've learned as their own personal "nighttime sky."
Psalm 8 is a meditation that calls our attention to the wonderous nighttime sky. To recreate the sensation of that experience, this lesson strongly suggests you recreate the Psalmist's point of view by creating a relaxing learning place where they can lean back and look up. This will not only make your lesson memorable and fun, it will facilitate a contemplative mood as the class enjoys and discusses the music videos. See the suggestions below!
Psalms are songs, as well as, poems. That's why this "Video Workshop" uses two music videos as its primary media. Music and lyrics are naturally contemplative and memorable. Dimming the lights, leaning back, and looking up at the music (both the literal and figurative kind), will create a lasting memory, and teach your students an important spiritual practice they can enjoy in the future.
About the Two Videos Embedded Below
(1) "When I Look to the Sky" by Train.
This video features spectacular time-lapse photography of the nighttime sky. The song, though not originally intended as a religious one, speaks to the Psalmist's inspiration and insight. "When I look to the sky, something tells me you're here with me...." Like many songs, we can hear meanings in them that the author didn't originally consider, ...an experience not unlike the psalmist's who sees the hand of God where others don't.
(2) "God of Wonders," as performed by Third Day
Third Day is an award winning and popular contemporary Christian rock band. They were the first to record this popular song written for a church choir by Steve Hindalong and Marc Byrd. The video includes Third Day concert video and space imagery, as well as, onscreen lyrics.
We have referenced the videos here on this lesson's webpage, but you will want to show them from YouTube to your class (or download them). See "how-to" below. We have also excerpted lyrics below for your discussion use. (Done so under the "Fair Use" copyright provisions for teaching purposes.)
Each song is about 4 minutes long. You may choose to repeat each after you have discussed them (which is a typical thing to do when teaching with songs). They are appropriate for all ages. The lyrics in each are uncomplicated and repeat memorable phrases.
Lean back, look up, and think deep thoughts!
"When I Look to the Sky" by Train
"God of Wonders," performed by Third Day
FYI: Here's another fan-created devotion of "God of Wonders" that features some beautiful photography of Creation along with the lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlU89VB6Tm4
Scripture for the Lesson
Psalm 8. All verses for older children. Verses 1, 3-5 for younger.
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Preview and get the two music videos so you can watch/project them. They're linked above. See "download" notes at the end of this lesson.
- See "Creating a Nighttime Sky in Your Classroom" at the end of this lesson for suggestions on decorating your classroom, including, using an inexpensive star projector.
- A flashlight
- A "star projecting" toy or globe (optional).
- Glo-in-the-dark craft paint, brushes, and white paper.
- Print copies of the song lyrics (linked at the end of this lesson).
Suggestion: Let students help you create the nighttime sky space in your classroom.
Ask everyone to lie down, then lower the lights and project a star field (see notes about how to do that).
Toss out a few questions to get them thinking:
- When you look at the stars in heaven, do you feel big or small? Why?
- What sort of cool things or questions do you think are "out there" ?
- When you look into the vastness of space, does God feel near or far from you? Why?
Say (while moving your flashlight across the star field):
Ever since God brought forth human beings upon the earth, human beings have been looking up at the nighttime sky and wondering deep thoughts, like, What were the lights made out of? How far away are they? What are they made of? And did anyone live up there?
Ask: Do you know some of the answers to those questions?
Say: Ancient people saw the great lights moving, like the moon, and imagined a greater power doing the moving, a god. They saw the planets and imagined they might be gods and goddesses, or "heavenly beings." They saw comets and imagined they were bringing bad news or death, or perhaps announcing the birth of a king. Mostly, the sky made them feel small and insignificant, unimportant. To some, it was terrifying. But to others, they saw a message of love from God.
The First Video: "When I Look to the Sky"
Say and Show: When Christians look at the nighttime sky, we don't see scary things, instead, we see the loving majesty and embrace of God. I want you to lay back and listen to our first video: "When I look to the sky."
Follow up questions for "When I look to the sky"
Ask: Do you think the song was about God or about a person the song writer loved? (what are the clues?)
Say: The song was originally about someone the songwriter loved and lost. But one of the cool things about songs, is that we can see other meanings in them too. In this song, we can hear a song about God.
Ask: What did you hear about God in the song?
(Lyrics to jog their memory: Cause when I look to the sky something tells me you're here with me. And you make everything alright. And when I feel like I'm lost something tells me you're here with me. And I can always find my way when you are here .
Ask: Did the songwriter see something scary, or something comforting in the nighttime sky? (Some people look into the vastness of space and feel afraid or useless. Others see comfort and wonder)
Say: I'm going to play the video again, this time with the sound turned off. As the video plays, I'm going to read Psalm 8 — our Bible passage for today's lesson. But before I do, I want to let you in on a little "secret" about Psalm 8:
Teaching Tip: Use your flashlight to draw this word-study concept in circles and streams on your nighttime sky as you describe it. These concepts are directly from the Bible Background.
Things to share before showing the video again:
1. When the Psalmist looks at the heavens, he sees the heavens surrounding the earth and us on it. When he uses the word "crowned" he means "surrounded or encircled." The Psalmist is comparing how the heavens surround us, to how GOD surrounds us, like an embrace. (This is what the Hebrew word for "crowned" means. Draw it with your flashlight.)
2. When the Psalmist mentions the moon and the stars, these are things that give us light in the darkness, right? The Psalmist will also talk about GOD surrounding us with glory, and glory is another way of saying "God's presence" which is often described as light. (Draw streaming light with your flashlight.)
After the video, make these comments...
The heavens not only surround us, they appear to circle around us! Did you notice that? This is what the Psalmist saw, and he compared it to God surrounding and moving around us.
Ask: According to the Psalmist, what is the message God has written for us in the nighttime sky? Fear or wonder? Alone? or Embraced?
The Second Video: "God of Wonders"
Ask: What words would you use to describe the universe?
(Vast, huge, deep, dark, shining, mysterious, unknown, surrounding, etc.)
Ask: Psalm 8 calls the Lord's name "majestic." What does the word "majestic" or "majesty" mean? (In Hebrew it can mean awesome, excellent, or Holy.)
Say: We use the word "Holy" a lot in church. "Holy" is a special word to describe something that is "set apart," or "special." It can mean, "high up" like a Holy Mountain, or "Deep and Mysterious" like the nighttime sky. When the Psalmist looks up in the heavens, which are SUPER high up! ....vast, beautiful, awesome, and mysterious, the Psalmist sees that they describe the feelings we have about God too.... "holy, special, set apart, mysterious, deep."
Listen to and watch the words of this next song "God of Wonders." It's by the super-popular Christian rock band, "Third Day," (Some of you know it.)
Follow up Questions:
What is the Tabernacle that the songwriter spoke of? (The Tabernacle was the 'tent" structure carried during the Exodus. In it, God was worshiped and said to reside. The heavens are described in other psalms as a "tent" (tabernacle" over the earth.)
What do you think the song writer meant when he wrote, "Precious lord reveal your heart to me...." How does God reveal his heart to us? (Through Jesus, through contemplating the majesty of the nighttime sky, and its embrace.)
Pick a word or phrase from Psalm 8 and paint it onto a white sheet of paper using glo-in-the-dark paint. Use additional glo-in-the-dark paint to create a "surrounding/embracing" pattern around the words.
Apply two coats. Use a hairdryer in-between coats and after the final coat.
Creating the "Heavens" in your Classroom
In this workshop, we want to recreate the Pslamist's experience of looking up into God's heavens and contemplating our place in it.
Here are several creative options for pulling that off:
(1) Ideally, you would have the kids laying on pillows or sleeping bags while looking up at the ceiling. With the lights off, you would project the videos on the ceiling. Pretty easy to do if you have a portable LCD projector hooked up to a computer laptop or tablet. Put the projector in a box to hold and aim it at the ceiling.
If your ceiling doesn't have a suitable viewing area, you could suspend a white sheet from it, pinning the sheet at its four corners to the ceiling. Tip: Cut out some silver stars and tape them to the sheet, or stamp the sheet with glo-in-the-dark paint. They'll pick up some of the light from the projector to give you a "nighttime sky effect."
(2) If you don't have a portable LCD projector, then it's assumed you have a large screen TV. Stretch a sheet or two above and behind it that's decorated to look like a star field. (You can also buy a bolt of starry "gossamer" fabric from a prom catalog. It's durable, reusable, and handy for many other projects. Google "star gossamer.")
(3) IKEA makes a "star and moon" projector nightlight for under $20. Check Amazon for several similar star projectors. Use it to illuminate your discussion-sky when not projecting the music videos. You can make your own star projector by placing a piece of hole-y black paper over the top of a lampshade. (A member of rotation.org found something similar at the "Dollar" store for under $5. Ask around.)
(4) You can also cut out a lot of stars and moon shapes and suspend them from the ceiling on string.
(5) If you have an LCD projector, you can also project an image of a star field, or video of the nighttime sky. You could even use Train's music video with the sound turned off.
Go the extra mile! It will be appreciated by the kids, their memories, and their parents.
Don't have an internet connection in your classroom? Here's how to download the videos from YouTube. You can then put them on a thumbdrive to plug into your smarttv or laptop. Easy-peasy.
God of Wonders - Lyrics online
When I look to the sky - Lyrics online
Written by the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2017, Rotation.org Inc.
The songs heard in the music videos have been licensed to YouTube by their owners for the enjoyment of the public. Their use in a visual "transformative work" falls under the "fair use" copyright doctrine for non-commercial personal or teaching uses. Images and lyrics used under the "fair use" clause for the purposes of educational/reference/commentary.