Archive for November, 2011
“Out of the mouths of babes…you have perfected praise.” (Matthew 21:16 NKJV)
Don’t you love seeing exuberant outbursts of praise and thanks from children? Having just returned from a visit with two of our grandchildren, I have fresh memories of Hannah’s chubby little hands raised in praise as she sang the doxology with gusto before a meal. At two and a half years, Hannah embraces life with uncomplicated enthusiasm. Why not praise God the same way?
Older brother Bengt is often a bit more thoughtful. He’s beginning to be more aware of Who we praise, and what kind of God He is. We got a glimpse into his 6-year-old mind when we heard this observation, seemingly out of the blue, from the car seat in the back of the van: “I don’t know if you know this, Dad. But God is all the light we ever really need.”
Thanks and praise seem to come easier in childhood, when life is less complicated. But what about the kind of praise called for this Thanksgiving from all of us grown-ups? Yes, all of us. Not just those for whom life seems to be flowing along smoothly (Let me know who you are out there!) Or those rejoicing in recent breakthrough answers to prayer. Also those still waiting for answers, struggling with the answers you seem to be getting, or wondering where God is in all this. How many months can a family go without jobs? How much life is left after a lung cancer diagnosis? Will the husband’s depression ever lift, the wayward child ever come home, the special needs child ever get what he needs? How long will the business hold out in this economy? I’m sure you can quickly fill in your own blanks. It’s a tough world we live in.
That’s where outrageous praise comes in. It’s the real deal, I’m convinced. Not just the “things are going just great in my world for now, God. Thank you—and please may it last” kind of praise. But the no-matter-what kind of praise.
It’s the praise I wake up in the night thinking about lately. It’s the praise that comes only from a clear understanding of Whom we praise and why. It’s the praise born of the daily conviction of the Presence of God in every circumstance of our lives. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. It’s the praise of the Psalmist in Psalm 34.
I’ve shared from a favorite paraphrase of this Psalm before. It’s the one Woody’s parents read together almost daily in Dad Anderson’s last week of life before he died at age 52. It’s the one that hangs on the wall in our family room and in the walls of my heart. It’s the best example of outrageous praise I know:
I feel at times as if I can never cease praising God. Come and rejoice with me over His goodness.
I reached to Him out of my inner conflicts, and He was there to give me strength and courage. I wept in utter frustration over my troubles, and He was near to help and support me. What He has done for me he can do for you. Turn to Him; He will not turn away from you. His loving presence encompasses those who yield to Him. He is with them even in the midst of their troubles and conflicts. He meets their emptiness with His abundance and shores up their weakness with His divine power.
Listen to me. I know whereof I speak. I have learned from experience that this is the way to happiness. God is ever alert to the cries of His children. He feels and bears with them their pain and problems. He is very near to those who suffer and reaches down to help those who are battered down with despair.
Even the children of God must experience affliction.
But they have a loving God to keep them and watch over them.
The godless suffer in loneliness and without hope.
The servant of God finds meaning and purpose even in the midst of his suffering and conflict.
(from Psalms Now! by Leslie F. Brandt)
I hope you’ll join me in outrageous praise—Happy Thanksgiving 2011!
My morning prayers (and all-day prayers, really) are filled with mamas today. That’s not unusual. Many, many mamas are on my prayer list regularly—both close personal friends and Mom to Mom groups around the country.
But today my heart is especially heavy with recent conversations. My memory is filled with God-moments from last weekend at the wonderful Hearts at Home Northeast Convention in Rochester, Minnesota. Later this week I spent a few precious hours around a warm, cozy table on a gloomy November afternoon with mom-friends sharing deeply from their hearts. And then there have been texts and phone calls and emails from near and far.
The stories swirl around my mind and fill my heart. Young mamas struggle with multiple miscarriages, contested adoptions, tiny babies fighting mightily in NICU’s, and post-partum depression. A 7-year-old is pushing a mama to the edge, and a 17-year-old makes one mother of 6 say to me, “If I’d had a 17-year-old first, I’d have had only one child!”
Mamas of young adult children are on their knees everywhere. A daughter makes one terrible choice after another to pursue what looks like the life of her dreams but what may very well turn out to be a nightmare. Another runs from God down “the labyrinthine paths of her own mind” (to borrow from Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven”). How long will it take them to come to their senses? Another fights the constant specter of past drug addiction, while a son battles alcoholism. Are they really “clean” and sober now? Sons and daughters move home as marriages fall apart. Why is this happening to so many marriages?
I think of these stories and pray for these mamas and their children, no matter what age they are. As I pray, God brings to mind words of encouragement. Words from somewhat random sources. Words which strengthen me as I pray and which I hope will encourage my friends—and every one of you who may need “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (as the great old hymn puts it):
- From an old prayer quoted in the September 12 reading from Streams in the Desert: “O Lord, support us! Yes, support us on every leaning side.”
- From Psalm 94:18-19: “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
- From a Facebook posting my daughter tells me comes from Ann Voskamp’s wonderful blog: “One foot in front of the other and one murmured thanks after another and underneath the Everlasting Arms will hold.”
I pray for every one of my mama-friends with leaning sides and slipping feet—including me! And I wonder how it is that Sarah Young, in her amazing devotional Jesus Calling, always seems to make God’s Words speak directly into my life. Just in case these words from her November 9 entry might describe you as they did me:
“. . . some fears surface over and over again, especially fear of the future. You tend to project yourself into the next day, week, month, year, decade; and you visualize yourself coping badly in those times. What you are seeing is a false image, because it doesn’t include Me. These gloomy times that you imagine will not come to pass, since my Presence will be with you at all times. When a future-oriented worry assails you, capture it and disarm it by suffusing the Light of My Presence into that mental image. Say to yourself, “Jesus will be with me there and then. With His help, I can cope!” Then come home to the present moment, where you can enjoy peace in My Presence.” ( Jesus Calling, p. 328)
My prayer for all of us, sisters of the leaning sides and slipping feet.