Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hope and Praise

Each morning this gem of a devotion arrives in my inbox, and I look forward to quieting mind and spirit in order to read, learn, ponder, and pray.

The High Calling website is a favorite of mine, and I've posted several poems in response to their monthly writing challenges, receiving constructive feedback from some of the best Christian poets of our time. It's a blessing in so many ways.

Unfortunately, in the melee that this last semester turned into, I have fallen out of the habit of checking the website and writing in response to their prompts and challenges. However, this daily gem has spoken to me in wonderful ways, and I have at times posted comments to Mark Roberts, the author of these daily ponderings and prayers.

Today's offering spoke precisely to where Keith and I are. With the economy in its present state, Keith's home design work has been extremely slow, and he's taken to doing anything and everything he can, especially handyman-type work. He's done landscaping, bathroom remodelings, kitchen repair and renovation, furniture repair and refinishing, fence repair, front door refinishing, and he even installed an elevator in my parents' home. He has also received several stained glass commissions which is his forte, although the pay isn't much when compared to handyman or drafting.

I've been doing my part. While continuing to educate the kids at home, I've picked up tutoring jobs where I can, offered online grading of essays, and have taken on teaching additional classes at Brave Writer.

But financially it's been tight, and sometimes downright scary. We scrabble each week to buy groceries and pay bills which we keep as low as possible--necessities only.

So as we wait on the Lord, today's devotional spoke especially to my heart; I reproduce it in its entirety.

You may read it online here.

Hope and Praise
by Mark D. Roberts
Psalm 71:1-24

But I will keep on hoping for your help;
I will praise you more and more.
--Psalm 71:14

Psalm 71 is a prayer for deliverance offered by an unnamed poet who has repeatedly experienced God’s help throughout his long life. Now he needs the Lord to protect and save him once again.

In verse 14 this psalmist writes, “But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more.” The verb translated here as “to hope” has a basic sense of “to wait.” It implies an extended time of looking to God and God alone for deliverance. The second line of verse 14 literally translates, “I will add on to all of your praise.” “I will praise you more and more” captures the sense of the original.

Notice closely the relationship between hope and praise in this verse. The psalmist does not say, “I will praise you more and more after you answer my prayers, when my hope is fulfilled,” though this would surely be true. Rather, his growing praise comes in the midst of hoping, as he is still looking to God to save him. His praise, in fact, strengthens his hope, because it helps the psalmist to remember God’s greatness and glory. When he praises the Lord for all he has done, the psalmist is inspired to hope in God more faithfully and earnestly.

When we are in difficult situations, when our desperation drags upon our hearts, it is sometimes difficult to praise God. Yet if we focus more on him and less on ourselves, if we remember his goodness to his people, including us, if we meditate upon his character, we will be stirred to praise the Lord even in hard times. Our praise will, in turn, help us to keep on hoping, because it makes the reality of God even more real to us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced the relationship between hope and praise? What helps you to praise God even in the midst of difficult times?

PRAYER: I praise you today, O Lord, because you are the all-powerful creator of heaven and earth.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have created beauty and given me the ability to delight in it.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have been ever faithful to your people, including me.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you give me not what I deserve, but so much better.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have delivered me from all measure of snares in this life.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you are sovereign over heaven and earth and are working out your design for the cosmos even today.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have chosen me, of all people to be part of your kingdom effort.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have saved me through Jesus Christ, that I might belong to you and serve you with all my life.

I praise you today, O Lord, because in you I experience a hope that will not disappoint me.

I praise you today, O Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.

So today we indeed praise the Lord, thanking Him for His good gifts. The difficulties we are in draw us to Him, and He opens our eyes to His workings in our lives. He brings people to us to help and comfort us, and we see the Body of Christ actively at work, bringing His glory to the Kingdom.

And thus I pray one of the verses I cling to, Psalm 27:14:
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"
So we wait, hoping and praying and praising, depending on the One Who loves us more that we can ever conceive or imagine.

Hoping, praying, praising, this day and always,

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