1-2 Silence is praise to you,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.
2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, “Come and worship.”
9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
(Psalm 65, MSG)
On the patio at twilight at Chianti Grill, we sat around a few tables pulled together and drank and chuckled and went around one by one to tell my mom why she’s Special. We do this at every birthday or celebration, each of us takes a turn to speak, to speak to the profound significance of that person’s life in our own.
The setting sun angled low, the red and orange washed through us in waves as we led one another down different memories of our tough-as-nails, always found in your corner mom. It was a beautiful, wonderful night.
And You are special.
Even the cheesiness of that phrase cannot drown out the sweet ping it makes in the back of our soul when someone says it. You are special. You are made. You are exquisite. You mean something. You are part of an unraveling world that is awful and amazing and all at once, alive.
For much of my faith walk, I’ve viewed praise as somewhat strange. Actually, uncomfortable. It felt like I was constantly required to give God a nod for my life… when He felt so absent. I couldn’t feel the nails of that cross that happened ages and ages ago, I was wrestling with Holy doubts, but they just felt like doubts at the time. I didn’t like the image of God sitting on a throne, steel-faced, waving his hand for me to bow down and worship him. After all, every Christian I knew said I should praise him simply because He’s God, which wasn’t exactly a catalyst for my enthusiasm.
When I was at my lowest, I had an aunt that suggested something that, if phrased the wrong way, could’ve sounded completely patronizing and deft of emotion. It could’ve felt too close to the praise because “He’s God, after all.” But she offered up something she had done when she was at the frayed end of her rope. Make every day lists of why I was thankful.
Since I had traipsed down every healing avenue imaginable, I thought, why not? what did I have to lose? (with the exception of my pride.) And at first I couldn’t think of much. When you’re in that low place, everything is molded by your sickness, your depression.
And when you’re sick. You can’t see. Everything is in a lens of sad and unfair.
But one warm summer afternoon, I was lying in the hammock and there was this deep blue sky arching over me. There were the dragonflies with wings of red and green and purple flitting about in the field, and I could hear their buzz. There were my two dogs who know how to love more fiercely than any human I have ever known. There was the way the sun, at twilight, made the forest come alive in some kind of crescendo.
And I was part of it all.
I’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating, I cannot do prayer apart from nature. I cannot feel God locked up in my room or even really in a church. It takes flowers, fresh grass, a huge lake, to bring me into the presence of the almighty.
Because in that moment, when I am immersed in this budding and dying world, I feel special. I feel a part of it all. I feel thankful that there’s this God and he is meticulous about his work. He is threading the petals to the stem, he is feeding the fish and the birds and he once said that I am more important than all of this. When you are placed above gorgeousness of creation- you are special. You are loved. You feel that rising sense of worthiness and then unworthiness when you toss it all way, but worry not, because he closes his eyes at that part. For our sake.
And how can you resist such a gesture? How can you not praise?
It is a grace-filled, kindly crafted, sweat and blood and tears beg for your love.
My mom tears up as each of us go through why she matters, deeply to us. We don’t have to stretch our minds, not in the slightest, to find some memory of some nice thing she did. Every day is a memory of her kindness, of her grace, of her bleeding heart. And her humility shows in through in the tears of surprise welling at her eyes.
Praise. I wonder how this would change if instead of perfunctory phrases of acknowledgement God is God and I am not, we saw a person, tearing up at our expressions of why He matters more than anything. Why He is special. Why He matters. How He makes me feel. Reminiscing on moments when he was as close as our breath. What if, even if it’s just in the colors of our imagination, we heard Him whispering “thank you, thank you, oh, thank you. I love you too.”
How do you approach praise? Is intimate? Does it feel perfunctory?
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