Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Price of Praise

Rendered Praise
See, I made this challenge for myself on my Rendered Praise blog. I had the idea for it in the middle of the night and figured why not. I write a bunch of stuff anyway, so make it worthwhile.

As soon as I begin, I realized it was the right thing to do. It felt right. It went so smoothly that I was able to do a post ahead. This helps if I'm having a pain filled day and I can't write. I won't miss a post. I find I like being a day ahead on something. In theory, this could be a post for that blog, but since the next ten days of Render Praise are devoted to praise, it wouldn't work. Since I constantly whine here, this works.

As with any project I've ever done for God, and that whole blog is directed to Him, there are rewards and penalties. The reward is that I like the more positive feelings it has evoked. I find I'm thinking of new ways to give praise instead of focusing on what is "wrong" and things to complain about. No, this won't save me nor make me perfect. It doesn't mean I'm more special than anyone else. I just feel better in my brain.

Of course, I mentioned penalties, too. The first penalty I've experienced is the meltdown I had today while doing the next post. I have no explanation for it. I just fell apart in the middle of writing and had to walk away. I came back once I'd regained some control and finished it, but I'm not exactly "right" at the moment. There is an edge to the afternoon that cuts each time my thoughts move in specific directions. Even writing this post is a challenge to my body and mind. I'm exhausted and feel as if I've hit bottom. I'm not sorry I made the challenge nor do I want to quit.

I've always known that praise is an empowering item. There is a book by a guy named Merlin Carouthers, who wrote Power in Praise. If you've never read him, I would encourage you to find a copy of the book and read it. He also wrote Prison to Praise, equally good. If you want a life-altering perspective of praise he provides it. I read it nearly 40 years ago and I've not forgotten his name or the name of the book. The truth is, praise is the only life saver you have. It doesn't mean you have to jump up and down or run around the block. These are impossible for me now with my hips, knees, and feet feeling broken most of the time. You don't have to scream, cry, or use a bullhorn. Praise is not just a way of talking. Praise is a way of thinking.

You may be sick and everyone who looks at you may think you're dying. You may be wracked in pain and unable to move without hurting. Praise can be uttered anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. If someone thinks the only place you can praise is in church, in a certain manner -- they're wrong. David wrote dozens of Psalms while watching sheep, surely the loneliest job in the world.

Paul and Silas were alone in the deepest part of the jail to ensure they couldn't escape and their only companion was the jail keeper. They were not comfortable. Yet, they sang and praised God. Not because they were happy or excited. There was no church music, no praise team, no congregation to pump them up. Have you ever seen a real dungeon? Can you picture the smell of filthy bodies, rotting food, human excrement? I suspect in some part of their mind, the knew they had to do something to get their mind off their situation. We've all been there. It is why we crank up the stereo so loud the neighbors have their heads out the windows considering calling the police. Or we load up on our drug of choice. It is because want to think about something else. We're not interested in praising God in the the middle of our mess.

Jeremiah, one of my favorite prophets, was up to his armpits in mud when he came up with one of the most comforting praise passages for grief-stricken widows I've ever read, anywhere. It is marked in my Bible in red with a pink bookmark. I've read it hundreds of times in the last six and a half years. It always makes me cry uncontrollably. Why would I read it? Because someone understood what I feel in ways I never thought possible and they are able to tell me how great God is in the middle of it all. And I want to know that.

I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. 
Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 
Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, 
Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.

So, even in isolation, it is possible to simply praise God for being. And despite the penalties, I'll do my 10 Days of Praise. I suspect other penalties may be waiting, but I won't borrow from tomorrow that which will be here soon enough. Instead, I'll just think about how I can give Him more praise today.

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