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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
   I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
   in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
   their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
   or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
   you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
   I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
   in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
   because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
   my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
   or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.
   In your presence there is fullness of joy;
   in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (NRSV)

I had a very smart mom. Whenever anyone in our family (or, actually, anybody who came into her path) was having a bad day or didn’t feel good, her solution was simple, “Take a hot bath, and go to bed.” Though my adolescent self rolled her eyes hundreds of times at this advice that clearly displayed such an egregious lack of understanding, I now know the power of hot water and cool sheets, relaxation and rest.

This comes to mind because of Psalm 16, verse 7. Our translation here gives it as “in the night also my heart instructs me;” other translations might have different verbs—exhort, direct—but we get the idea. Even when we’re not aware, not attentive, not even conscious, God is working inside.

We’ve probably all read articles about the critical importance of sleep. As much as is scientifically known, there is still mystery involved in how sleep repairs and replenishes our bodies, minds, and yes, souls. In terms of the latter, I imagine its hortatory powers have to do with renewed energy to function and focus, or perspective, or time spent not obsessing about a worry. Whatever it is, I am grateful.

And I am especially grateful that God can use even our “night seasons” (that’s the King James version). We can be taught not just through our daily experience of what happens to us, but through our stillness, our non-awareness, our being rather than our doing. We can help the process if what we do when we’re awake feeds our spirits: reading, praying, reflecting, meditating, experiencing beauty, cultivating silence as well as participating in healthy conversations. But it’s consoling to remember that the Holy One is Lord of it all and will take any and every opportunity to bring us closer to understanding and peace.

God of day and God of darkness, thank you for your action in us even when we are asleep. Help us employ these Lenten days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—and these Lenten evenings of extended quiet and reflection—to soften our hearts and give you something to work with. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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