How Pleasant

I am in Florida as I write this, and the “real feel temperature” is 36 degrees. What the heck? Part of my reason for being here is to visit family and enjoy long runs in perfect temperatures. If I wanted to run in 36 degree weather I could have stayed home. Plus the winds are almost 20 MPH. NOT pleasant indeed.

Think of the things you experience that bring instant pleasure. A great cup of morning coffee, the sound of a friend’s voice in unexpected phone call, a soft, fluffy blanket, the snore of a big yellow Lab who lies contentedly in the sun at your feet….these things are pleasant.

Today we are going to listen to a psalmist talk about pleasant things. I find that in the midst of things that are wholly unpleasant (politics, news, the pandemic, math equations) it is good to take a moment to consider something pleasant. Maybe the yellow Lab has figured something out.

According to Psalm 147, it is pleasant to praise God:

Psalm 147 (New International Version)

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

We could just stop there. Praising God does many things for us. It takes our focus away from our troubles. It ushers us into his presence. It benefits us by bringing sunlight into our present darkness. But most of all, it is good and fitting to praise him because he deserves it.

The Psalmist goes on to explain why:

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.

We praise God because he brings all of us out of exile and back home again. We praise him because he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Are you broken hearted today? Are you wounded by someone’s words, actions, betrayals, or dismissal of you?

Praise him anyway.

He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

This Psalm echoes Isaiah 40 by reminding us that God numbers and names the stars. He also numbers and names his people.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
    and for the young ravens when they call.

Everything around us is a gift from God. His care and provision are extended even to the young ravens.

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

The invitation today is to put your hope in God’s unfailing love. Your strength and your self-reliance will never be enough. But with God, you have everything you need. Praise be to God!

Reflections of Praise by Kathy Schumacher

Songs of the Pandemic

The Psalms were originally written to be sung as songs. They provide a glimpse of ancient Hebrew life when we read them and hear what the people were experiencing. Music has always been a way to record the joys, sorrows, angst, and fears of a generation. In the Psalms, we experience the hope and sadness of that generation, and surprisingly, they translate into songs for our current circumstance as well.

As you read this, think of those who have lost a loved one to COVID 19. Think of the exhaustion of the front line workers who are taking care of us, feeding us, providing services for us, and putting their own lives at risk for us.

Psalm 116 (New King James Version)

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

In every circumstance, God’s people have called upon the name of the Lord, and in every circumstance, God has inclined his ear. Wherever we find trouble and sorrow, we also find God, right there in the midst of it.

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Many have died. Many more will die. All are precious in the sight of the Lord. We are one day closer to the end of this thing, but we aren’t finished yet. How can we continue to sing in the middle of this pandemic? What should our lyrics be?

I think we should join the chorus of the original Psalmists, and sing praises. We should lift our voices high in harmonies of thanksgiving. Let us simply praise the Lord. Praising God in the storm reminds us of who he is, and whose we are. God loosed our bonds so that we might be free of all fear and sadness. Yes, there is death, but death has no sting. Praise the Lord!

16 O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
19 In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Singing Alone in the Pandemic by Wende Pritchard