Outrageous Praise

“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!