As I'm reading today's reading, I'm looking at the view you see above. My family and I are somewhere in the Ozarks and have just finished watching/listening to a fantastic thunderstorm while three generations of Josts played Mexican Train. So it's not too hard to Praise God in this moment. It's been a lovely afternoon.
My Redeemer. Patient. Source of Never Ending Forgiveness. Endless Grace. Teacher.
But it wasn't so easy earlier today. Or last night. Or in all the days since I found out this trip was pretty much planned without my input. It's been hard to be grateful, thankful, and anything but selfish, honestly.
The Ultimate Sacrifice. The Ultimate Gift. The Beginning and The End. (and the Glory of Everything in Between)
So when I read today's reading, I really thought I was going to have to text Delton to say that I couldn't write this blog entry. I'm sure I could have given him a great reason and he would have understood and had taken care of everything of. I am on vacation, after all. But my reason wasn't a good one - it was because I didn't want to let go of my control over my selfish mindset, in order to shift my mind to recognize God's glory and praise Him. See, the two just can't exist in the same place at the same time -- self-focus and adoring praise.
Holy, Holy, Holy. Son of God Almighty. Lord of Heaven and Earth.
So what changed? First, my husband prayed for me. Having someone else step in to pray, when I couldn't, was huge. The Holy Spirit, through my husband, loved me. He knew I was struggling, yet loved me right there where I was. Second, as a lover of words, I went back to an elemental activity of simply listing the names of God. I thought back to the many Alpha retreats I have attended and recalled listening to the A-Z list of names that voices around me would call out in the dark as we sat around the campfires.
Abba Father. Beyond Comprehension. Caring. Devoted. Everlasting. Friend. God.
Finally, rather than write this entry right away, I went upstairs to join the rest of the family. I didn't realize it yet, but just initializing my train of thought into praise already had begun pushing out the selfishness. I was actually fully present in the conversations and games. I wanted to get to know my young niece and nephew that I've only seen maybe 3 times in their young lives. I laughed. (I didn't want to laugh on this trip.)
Which is why I could say at the beginning of this blog entry that it wasn't too hard to praise God now.
Friends, I am not at all proud of this story. I'm sharing this and all my yuckiness with you, because if praise is the doorway to prayer and the two affected ME this profoundly in just this day alone -- how much more so will it affect the neighborhoods around me - around us. For one thing, I WAS NOT BEING LIGHT in the relationships around me, which left darkness to have a strong foothold in us and between us. I WAS NOT BEING SALT and adding in God's freshness and flavor to the atmosphere, but was really just ensuring that we all simply endured this trip and left without anything being made better.
But once I began praising and thanking my God for all He has done, all He has given, all that He Is, my whole outlook has changed - I have to say it is going to be fun now, and I pray that I will leave a different lasting impact than I was leaving before in these relationships.
And I'm not in charge anymore!
“This, then, is how you should pray:“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV84)
Before you pray today - begin by listing the glorious names of God. I've listed some of the ones that came to mind for me - use them as a start, if you need it. Then, in the midst of that praise, ask God to lead you to a neighborhood or area around you. Pray for them. And keep praising.
I would love to hear if this has affected you as much as it has affected me today!