Psalms: Eleven

To be so simple, hope is sort of complex. It’s simple in that we all want and need hope and that we can all experience it. It’s complex in that it isn’t always constant and consistent.

I’ll give you an example. Every year, Western Carolina University holds the Spring Literary Festival, which is when a lot of writers come to the campus to speak and read some of their work. It’s basically Christmas for English majors. Most English professors cancel class so students can go to an event instead. It also means that students are exposed to a wealth of talent and experience for four days, which is completely invaluable, especially to aspiring writers. Plus, the local (and lovely) bookstore, City Lights, sets up a few tables outside of the theater or auditorium so you can buy the authors’ books if you like what you hear. It’s a phenomenal time, especially if you’re a literary nerd.

Nick Flynn came to speak my sophomore year. Flynn is an incredible writer and a kind, interesting person. After he read and spoke, he signed autographs, and when I went to get my book signed, he talked to me a little bit about what I studied and what my aspirations were. When I told him that I wanted to be a writer, he encouraged me, and he said to remember that a lot of writers aren’t published and distinguished until their late thirties or forties.

So there stood Nick Flynn – a man who, as far as I’m concerned, is living the dream – telling me – a 20-year-old girl who’s only really good at writing and loves it – that it could be 20 more years before my stories and words could reach the world.

I wasn’t hurt by his words at all, but I was a little bummed out. Call it innocence or call it optimism, but I felt a little underestimated. Regardless, I didn’t feel hopeful.

Now at age 24, I find Flynn’s words extremely hopeful and comforting. In fact, of all the things anyone’s ever told me in regards to writing, Flynn’s words sound out the loudest and the clearest. I’ve grown to treasure them and the pleasant exchange they’re encased in.

As I said, hope is both simple and complex, and I believe that to be shown plainly in Psalm 11.

David starts in verses 1-3 (NLT), “I trust in the Lord for protection. So why do you say to me, ‘Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety! The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?’”

I don’t know the circumstances behind this psalm, but the situation doesn’t sound too good. Maybe it was a wave of persecution that was set to fall on David or a personal vendetta or something else altogether. Whatever the case may be, David seems to be sticking around when other people would not. They’re telling him to bail, to get out before it gets worse, but David doesn’t. He plans to stay because he firmly trusts in God.

David goes on to explain in verses 4-7, “But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.”

This is David’s rebuttal to all of the people telling him to head out of whatever this bad situation is. He says that God’s still watching over everyone, no matter how bad things have gotten. His point is that God sees and God knows, and He’s going to fight by David’s side because David is in the right. David has hope where others do not because He’s putting his faith in something that everyone else isn’t. Where their lack of faith has left them hopeless, David’s faith has made him hopeful because he knows the outcome doesn’t rest in his hands.

It seems so easy, doesn’t it? God has been there for him before, so He’ll be there again and again. After all, God is faithful even when we’re not, constant even when we’re erratic.

But doesn’t applying this to our own lives complicate things?

When it comes to our faith, it’s easy to lose sight of hope and forget the times God’s brought us through. And even if we don’t forget, it’s easy to feel like this time’s different or maybe our luck is running out. But God is greater than luck, and He isn’t some meter or allotment that can be depleted. And even if this time is different, God is not. He’s the same, His abilities are the same, and His love for you is the same.

Wherever you find your hope, hold onto it. Hope is a jewel, especially in the state the world is in today. But know that whatever gives you hope, it cannot and does not compare to the hope found in God. David stuck to his beliefs, and made it out of that troublesome time and the next and the next. It wasn’t easy, but it happened because of who he was placing his trust in. It was the same God that wants to help you now. And isn’t that at least worth a shot?

By Carrie Prevette

Psalms: Eight

As some of you know, I usually base my blog posts off of the previous Sunday’s sermon. Every now and then, I’ll deviate, and for the first time, I’m going to deviate from the sermons for an entire series.

The current sermon series at Abstract is The Parables of Jesus, and it’s been good so far. I’m not skipping the series because I dislike it. The problem is that parables are pretty simple. Whenever Jesus wanted to spell something out for His followers or His audience, He used a parable as a teaching tool to get the message across. The stories are fairly easy to understand and are also fairly easy to explain or discuss. That being said, I don’t feel like there’s anything I can add or contribute to this series without just repeating the preacher who gave the sermon. I mean, if you wanted to hear the sermon all over again, you could just go to the Abstract website and listen to it. (Here is the place if you’d like to give it a listen.)

I’ll be doing a blog series on some of my favorite psalms in the meantime, and I hope the fact that I’m doing a series of my own and not one that supplements the sermon series doesn’t make you all throw up your hands and leave the blog.

 

God’s been trying to point my attention back to prayer for a while now, and I can remember when He started. It was at Bible study (Connect Groups is what Abstract attendees will know it as), and it was the beginning of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love study. We were discussing whether we usually feel intimacy with God or feel reverence for Him. Then the question arose of when we felt sort of stunned by the magnitude and majesty of God, and the very first thing that came to my mind was Psalm 8.

“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8, NRSV).

As a piece of literature, Psalm 8 is lovely. The first and last sentences are exactly the same, which creates a bookend situation and also summarizes and reiterates what the entire psalm is about. The tone of awe is not only fitting, it is also very clear and well-established. The words fit together well and create images that truly resonate and put the size, love, and beauty of God into perspective.

I typically am very casual with God. The fact that I can (and do) have a personal relationship with God that is often very private is engrained in my brain. Hearing preachers, teachers, and church elders – spiritual role models – telling me repeatedly that God is my friend and longs to be close to me and finding those same themes and lines of thought in the Bible have led to me seeing God as someone who knows me better than any other being ever could and regarding Him as a friend. All of that to say that whenever I read this psalm, God’s bigness and power is very evident to me, and I’m filled with awe and reverence of Him.

About five and a half years ago, I joined a group of friends from school on this retreat deep into the mountains where we stayed in a house that was far off any sort of main road. This place did not have wifi, and I don’t recall it having much signal either. One night when we were all there and hanging out, me and a couple of other people were out on the deck looking out at the stars. The owner asked if we’d like for him to turn the lights inside off for a minute, and we said yes. When he did, the amount of visible stars doubled. To this day, I have never seen so many stars before in my life. They were so abundant and were shining so brightly since they didn’t have any streetlights or stoplights or lit towers to compete with. It’s a very vivid memory of mine, and Psalm 8 reminds me of that feeling: standing in the valley of the mountains and looking up at more stars than I could ever count.

Because of that experience, I can see why David asked God what the big deal was with humans considering other things He’s created. We don’t always sparkle. We don’t usually leave everyone breathless. We don’t command attention while drawing people’s thoughts in a philosophical or pleasant direction. We aren’t the stars.

But to quote The Script in their song “Science and Faith,” “You won’t find heart and soul in the stars.” Humans may not be as dazzling as other parts of creation, but we have personalities that make us unique and different from one another as much as we’re the same. We have an interesting complexity to us. We were given free will and therefore require the guidance of God in a way that no other part of creation does. And we were given souls, which means that we’re given the opportunity to be with God forever, even when everything else from this life and world fade.

As odd as it may sound, Psalm 8 also feels a bit intimate as well, although not overwhelmingly so as it does reverent. To think that God cared about humans, including me, enough to give me power over everything and bestow upon me the opportunity of eternity the way that He has is certainly humbling. Psalm 8 is one of the most oddly empowering pieces of literature that I’ve ever read because it demonstrates that although God’s huge and so are His capabilities, He still cares greatly for us. (To prove this further, the New King James Version of Psalm 8 says in verse 2 that God has “ordained strength” out of the mouths of young children. It also says in verse 4 that God visits the son of man.)

I suppose the idea of whether or not you view God in a more intimate or reverent way can be food for thought this week, but I really just wanted to illustrate that there’s always both. The duality of God’s immenseness and intimacy is just as real in Psalm 8 as it is in our lives. There will be moments when God seems too huge for us, and there will be moments when He seems closer than any tangible thing possibly could be. Either way we see Him, we’ll be able to see Him as long as we look for Him.

By Carrie Prevette

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑