Highs and lows

Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)

Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)

Habakkuk 1:1-2:1

Philippians 3:13-4:1

Matthew 23:13-24

What an interesting juxtaposition of psalms we have today! In the morning, we have Psalm 66, the Jubilate (Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!)…and in the evening, we have that old standby at funerals, Psalm 46 (refuge…strength…very present help in time of trouble.) In just the space of a few hours, we move from high to low (or as my late grandmother used to say, “from the penthouse to the outhouse.”) It reminds me of one of my favorite Internet memes about my beloved Show-Me-State: “You know you’re from Missouri when you’ve run the heater and the air conditioning in the car on the same day.” (I suspect several other states qualify for this meme.) A typical high-low temperature range around here on any given day is around a twenty degree difference between the daily high and the daily low–but every once in a while it will be thirty or even forty degrees. A couple of Sundays ago, we went from 66 degrees and a warm, tolerable rain, to a low of 21 with sleet that felt like little ice bullets piercing the skin. Now for whatever reason, it always seems we notice the drop in one of those days rather than a 30 or 40 degree rise. It’s just our nature, I think.

The fact is, sometimes life deals us days where the highs and lows of our temperament can have a range just as big–and again, human nature being what it is, we almost always notice a swift drop in our temperament rather than a meteoric rise. That’s probably a good reason why we have the juxtaposition of these Psalms today the way they are in the Daily Office. Saying them as a part of our spiritual discipline reminds us that God exists in both places, and that it’s just as important to see God’s presence in the joy as it is to seek God’s comforting hand in the pain. By simply reciting, singing, or chanting the Psalms, we can have our memories tweaked that God exists in both places, and to be open to that presence in both places.

One of the things I’ve been working on in terms of my own spiritual discipline with the Psalms is to be mindful of people who are not in the place where the Psalm is, at the time I’m reading the Psalm. Let me explain that in the context of these two Psalms. I am finding that in the words of Psalm 66, I can find room to consider the people who are not feeling anything worth praising. I can hope for its appearance in their life…or my life, if I’m not feeling it at the moment and am having to grit my teeth just to recite that Psalm. Likewise, in the yearning for God in Psalm 46, there’s room for me to consider the people so happy right now, they aren’t noticing those in anguish and ask for them to be open to the pain of others…or if I’m in one of my happy and oblivious moods, to remember that God is just as present in my low times, and give a little of it away since I have plenty to spare.

What are additional ways we can become more open to those in the opposite mood of where we are at the moment? How do we continue to feel God’s presence when our mood is going from the penthouse to the outhouse?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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