Friday, December 16, 2011

Whats up with praise?

It is the season of giving, of thanks, of sharing, of 'goodwill'. And it seems for a few weeks now I've been wrestling with this thought of gratitude, of grace, of thankfulness... 

There's several blogs that I 'subscribe to' and when I get a email that there is a new post, I want to drop everything to read the words that come from the depths of their hearts; they bring me to the feet of Jesus as I am overwhelmed with the vulnerability and truth that seeps into my aching heart. These women are incredibly strong, stunningly beautiful, overwhelmed and in high demand, not perfect and utterly amazing. And I have been noticing a theme in what the Lord is revealing to them and to me, and its this :

     recognizing the importance of gratitude & its role in our experience of 'full life'.

We are taught those polite manners and social 'nicities' such as "thank you'', ''your welcome'', ''have a good day'', ''great to see you", etc. from the cradle; they're ingrained and in reality they're a front, a fake, an unconscious greeting or parting comment most of the time. And sometimes it frustrates me that they are used as something to hide behind, a quick get-a-way as we are walking in opposite directions, you know what I'm talking about... And I have caught myself several times lately falling into the play-by-play we all know, without any intentionality or genuineness in the midst of the 'hustle and bustle' of this season.

And I wonder, how much do I rely on the ingrained or convenient phrases as I communicate with God? How much do I over look because all I say is "Thanks God, great going today!", or "Oh hey Jesus, hope you have a great day - peace out!", and the classic "So wonderful to see you, lets catch up SOON!"... And I realize, that sucks. I want more. And yes, Little Mermaid song is running through my head as I write that last sentence!

This word of "adoration" has come up many times lately... WHAT does it mean? HOW are we supposed to do it? HOW important is it? And WHY the heck is it seemingly so hard to do..?

Adoration : the act of paying honor. reverent homage. fervent and devoted love. worship given 
                           to God alone. profound love and regard. praise.

Well, there you go.. that's why its so hard. It requires of me in order to express fervent and devoted love. Its not an absentminded "Oh hey, what's up?" or a "You're pretty cool, I guess.." but an expression of utter thankfulness, of deep awareness of who He is and how He is working in my life and in the lives of people around me - near and far.

There is also the element of stability. I am praising and adoring the character of who God is, not just how pleased I am that He worked things out to how I wanted them to be in a certain circumstance. I am expressing love and devotion even when I don't have the answers and my heart is aching. I am putting my heart in a place of trust and depending on who He has promised to be, not only when its convenient but when I have all these lies going to and fro in my mind. I am choosing to praise through life and joy, but also in death and sickness by believing He is faithful.

One of my favorite writer's Sara (She's adopted 3 girls and 1 boy from Africa and has an incredible story as well as a beautiful gift of putting words together, check out her blog here) wrote this post, putting words to what I was trying to flesh out in my mind. And these words resonated with my heart :

     "Then come the questions - the shadows over my vision: Who am I? and Where is He? they 
     whisper. They seek to draw me back to the well of uncertainty, feeling low about myself and 
     all that I'm not and having forgotten the very thing which gives me life: who HE is.

     Enter adoration. Moments of praise aren't just for the ones who feel all filled-up with praise,
     but they are the weapons of war for those who have forgotten their last song. Praise is for 
     the bored, the broken, the barely-surviving. Adoration is like oxygen, infusing, building and
     rebuilding... Him into us, and us built-up in Him. You and me, on our worst days, have been 
     given a way out. A way up."

Praise isn't only when I'm happy-go-lucky and when there are rainbows and unicorns  all over my world or just standing in church on a Sunday night. But maybe more importantly when I don't have much else left.. When I'm having really hard conversations.. When I am yet again curled up in a chair in the middle of the night at the hospital waiting for news of friends.. When I can't breathe because my heart hurts so bad. When I have so many questions rolling around in my head, the "why did this have to happen this way?" 's or the "why did it have to happen now?'' 's and the "why did it have to happen to that person?'' 's... When I don't have the words to offer comfort and can just sit next to them... When my empty arms ache to hold the one's I know need hugs, to let them know that someone care's and to wipe away the tears. When my lips ache to kiss the precious foreheads and boo boos that need comfort and healing.. When I'm stuck in the cold in the parking lot with a dead car in the middle of the night.. When my wallet and bank account have pennies in them instead of dollars yet again... 

Maybe these are the moments that praise is for... To know that I'm not alone in the ER waiting for news but am with my Papa, believing and knowing that He is faithful and good.  When my arms are empty and boo boos are going un-kissed, that their real Father has them in His lap - cuddling and soothing and healing and protecting in ways that I couldn't. When the empty wallet shows how intimately He know my needs and provides for them through people and circumstances... When there aren't words to comfort or heal or erase the past, the Holy Spirit in me is with us and healing as we sit in the silence. When my heart is breaking, getting a little glimpse of how intimately He craves all of me and how deeply He loves. And when the questions come a-knocking, answering with assurance of and trust in who He is. 

Praise is powerful.

Praise puts my heart in line with His, that no matter the outcome - He is good and faithful and true.

Praise is getting my head out of my butt and focusing on who He is and what He has promised instead of slipping into doubt or frustration or anger or bitterness.

Praise is healing.

Praise is a breath of fresh air and a peace where there wasn't one before.

Praise is hard, but it is so integral to my survival. Because in praise I can recognize how powerful He is; I can acknowledge my limitations and lack of control and give Him reign to be sovereign; I can release my aching heart into His care, knowing that He will give it back to me a little bit more healed and a little bit more beautiful. And I can declare how He has brought me this far, how He redeems, how He pursues the heck out of me. I can proclaim not just with my lips and words but with my heart and soul that He is good.

And so in this season of reunions and goodbyes, laughter and tears, changes and patterns, new memories and loses - I am choosing to praise with all of me. Choosing to declare, recognize, proclaim, acknowledge, whisper and scream that He is faithful and good and true, that He delights in us, that He calls us home to His side and His heart, and that He loves. And I'm choosing to remember the blessings that I have and the people that I love - whether they are with me or not. 

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