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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Today’s Reading | Psalm 48

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
   in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
   is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
   the city of the great King.
Within its citadels God
   has shown himself a sure defense.

Then the kings assembled,
   they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
   they were in panic, they took to flight;
trembling took hold of them there,
   pains as of a woman in labor,
as when an east wind shatters
   the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
   in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
   which God establishes forever.

We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
   in the midst of your temple.
Your name, O God, like your praise,
   reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
   Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah
   rejoice because of your judgments.

Walk about Zion, go all around it,
   count its towers,
consider well its ramparts;
   go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
   that this is God,
our God forever and ever.   
   He will be our guide forever. (NRSV)

As I write this devotion, I am in Montreat, North Carolina, teaching children’s handbells at the Presbyterian Association of Musicians Worship and Music conference. The theme of the conference is “Grace and Gratitude,” and it has been a beautiful week of heart-changing, meaningful worship.

The opening of Psalm 48 reminds me of Monday’s worship service, in which the pastor talked about how praise can encompass a wide array of emotions. Throughout the week, we have discussed the importance of praising God in all situations: when we are content, when we are depressed, when we are joyful, and when we are grieving.

Easier said than done, right? It can be very difficult to feel God’s love and presence when we are in a dark place. We may ask why we are going through difficult times and may even wonder if God is even with us. The pastor asked us to think of a person who praises God regardless of their situation—one who praises God in times of joy and times of sorrow. She then asked us to pray for that person and to challenge ourselves to do the same. Even in life’s rough patches, we can look for traces of God’s goodness—a hug, a heartfelt conversation with a friend, or even just a simple smile from someone walking by.

Who is someone that you know who is able to praise God in all circumstances? Pray for that person, and challenge yourself to do the same.

Great and loving God, thank you for being gracious to me, even when I am not. Help me to always praise you, in good times and in bad. Amen.

Written by Briana Belding-Peck, Family Ministry Coordinator

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