“In tight circumstances…I won’t be afraid”

Posted Nov 27, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 118:5-6, 28-29

5 In tight circumstances, I cried out to the Lord.
The Lord answered me with wide-open spaces.
6 The Lord is for me—I won’t be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
You are my God—I will lift you up high!
29 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.

Reflection Questions

Psalm 118 was the last hallel (hymn of praise) Hebrews sang at Passover as they recalled God freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt. Mark 14:23-26 showed that Jesus, on the dark night just before his arrest and crucifixion, likely sang, “The Lord is for me—I won’t be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” and “Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever.” Even the darkness gathering around him couldn’t stop him from praising God’s eternal goodness.

  • The Psalmist asked, simply yet profoundly, “The Lord is for me…. What can anyone do to me?” To what extent are you able to trust that God is indeed “for” you? How much stronger is your level of trust on a sunny morning when all is going well than on a cold, gray day when you’ve received sad news? During a year full of good news, personally or globally, than during a year like 2020?
  • Robert Emmons wrote, “It is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful…. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy… being grateful is a choice… that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives…. [T]his perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort.”* How did Jesus singing Psalm 118 just before he faced the cross show his choice to be grateful? How can you nurture gratitude for even basic gifts like shelter, food—and life itself?

Prayer

Loving Lord, my goal is to remember that you are for me, so I won’t be afraid. My goal is to never forget that your faithful love lasts forever. I don’t always reach that goal, yet. I ask your continued presence with me to help me grow toward the goal. Amen.


* Robert Emmons, “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times,” syndicated from Greater Good, Sep 12, 2013 at dailygood.org, emphasis supplied.

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

As I was considering Thanksgiving weekend, I recalled our family visit in 2013 to Valley Forge National Historic Park – site of the winter camp for George Washington’s American Continental Army in 1777-1778.

Aside: As a kid I always wanted to be a historian, but I just didn’t see any future in it. While at the Valley Forge museum, I asked the tour guide if it was okay to take pictures. He said, “No. Please just leave them on the wall.”

The day prior to arriving at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, George Washington & his troops stopped to celebrate the 1st national Thanksgiving Day of the United States (Dec 18, 1777) as proclaimed by the Continental Congress. The purpose was to offer thanks & praise to God, to inspire the commanders, & to remind the soldiers “that they were under the providence of almighty God to secure the greatest of human blessings - independence & peace.”

For context, the Continental Army had just failed to re-take Philadelphia & was forced to flee to the countryside to escape being captured by the British. The troops were in bad shape, with many suffering significant injuries. Coats & blankets were scarce. Some were barefoot & their frostbitten feet were leaving a trail of blood through the snow. Food rations were non-existent, so the 12,000 soldiers were left to forage for nuts, berries, bark, & whatever else they could find in the surrounding forests.

It’s during these grim circumstances that General Washington chooses to pause to set aside a day of thanks to God. Seriously? Why? Washington believed that it would help improve the troop’s morale.

Could a day of giving thanks to God in the midst of bleak conditions really change one’s perspective? I’ve been trying an experiment to see if Washington was on to something. The past few weeks, as I did my daily neighborhood walk with our beagles, Maggie & Sally, I deliberately sought out praiseworthy scenes:

  • There was a tree with blazing orange leaves. They were so vivid, that if you saw them in a painting you would swear they were faked.
  • There were 2 brothers (age 3 & 5) helping Dad wash the car. As Maggie & Sally paused to check for rabbits under a bush, I watched as the little brother accidentally sprayed the older brother. Well, maybe not accidentally since he started laughing uncontrollably. The older brother charged the little brother, who panicked & dropped the hose. The older brother then squirted the little brother. Dad appeared on the scene & commandeered the hose to restore order - well, until he started chasing after both brothers with the hose.
  • I chatted with an elderly neighbor as he was getting ready to go to the grocery store to buy groceries for his Mom (age 102) & Dad (age 103), who still lived independently in their farmhouse outside Kansas City. He’s been doing this every week since COVID started. As I applauded him, he noted, “I’ve learned a lot. For example, Mom can still spot the difference between a good & a bad cantaloupe before I even get on the porch."
  • I chatted with a fellow stroller on a brisk, breezy day. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He had resolved to go out for a walk every day- rain or shine. He wanted to “feel” nature every single day while he could.

My mood didn’t magically change, my prayerful concerns weren’t miraculously resolved, & my worries about the Chiefs’ defense still remained. Yet. My perspective was remarkably improved - -there WERE a lot of reasons to give thanks.

Sadly, over 2,000 soldiers (1 out of 6) would die at Valley Forge due to malnutrition &/or disease. Historians view the winter of 1777-1778 as the low point of the Revolutionary War for the Americans, when the conventional wisdom said the fight for freedom was hopeless.

I imagine some might be asking why visit such a seemingly dismal National Park? (Actually, I don’t need to imagine it – our two teen-aged sons both asked the question.) Washington would use this time at Valley Forge to train/re-train his troops, to incorporate discipline, & to develop camaraderie. The army that emerged from this bleak winter would become the catalyst to one of the greatest upsets in military history.

Perhaps we could mimic General Washington & the heroes of Valley Forge. We could start this weekend with a day truly devoted to thanksgiving & we could then utilize this pending winter as a time to re-tool & renew as we, too, prepare for an epic spring.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to check the History Channel TV schedule to see if they might have an episode devoted to the winter at Valley Forge. Nope. Just another “Swamp People” marathon. Sigh.

PS: George Washington’s devotion to giving thanks to God wasn’t a one-time deal. His first proclamation as President of the United States was to set aside a day of Thanksgiving “devoted by the people to the service of that great & glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

www.mountvernon.org

www.nps.gov/vafo

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