Unbroken Praise

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”~~Elbert Hubbard

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is neophobia, “Fear or dislike of what is new; aversion to novelty.” Also known as “Baptist.” (I can say that, because I am one.) A close second for word of the day was from Word Think, and is perfidious, “Deceitful and untrustworthy.” I suppose it would be possible to have a “perfidious neophobe.”

Today is Chaos Never Dies Day. Isn’t that encouraging? Embrace the moment! 😀

Yesterday was a nice day. It kind of seemed like a long day. We had a pretty good church service, and then went to a new place (new to us) for lunch. In our efforts to fill the void left by Fogata’s (Martha’s is closed on Sundays), we tried a place that we haven’t tried since we first moved into the area, many years ago, Los Molcajetes. We remembered trying the place a long time ago, and finding it to be quite expensive. It’s still not cheap, but relatively comparable to the prices we paid at Fogata’s, maybe a tad more. Anyway, it was good, so we may go back there.

But not real soon, because we did one of those impulsive things that we Bickleys are known for, yesterday. We joined another health club. After we dropped Stephanie off at home, we went over to a nearby Fitness 2000 to check out the facility. It was not huge, but not as small as the Anytime Fitness where we used to be members. The membership counselor was nice, friendly, and seemed “real.” The price was right, so we joined up. We had to make an eighteen month commitment, just like we did at Anytime, but the price is only $9 a month, and the joining fee was only $9. After eighteen months, it goes month-to-month, staying at $9. So for all three of us, at Fitness 2000, it is costing $27/month + tax, which was what it cost one of us at Anytime Fitness. And it gets us access to any of the three clubs in the area, as well as access to most of the classes that they have, at no extra charge (excluding “boot camp”). And trust me, I am never interested in anything called “boot camp!”

We went home, gave the news to Stephanie, rested up from lunch, and all went back up to the gym at 4:00PM, for our first workout. Christi and Stephanie plan to go back, this evening, while I’m at band practice. Then we should all be able to go back tomorrow evening. We’re planning to make this a habit again.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

The last few Psalms in the book of Psalms are all about praise. Psalm 150 is the strongest of these.

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

Why does the book of Psalms end with “unbroken praise?” Eugene Peterson offers this explanation in his book, Answering God.

All [true] prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experiences it traverses, ends up in praise. It does not always get there quickly or easily–the trip can take a lifetime–but the end is always praise. . . . There are intimations of this throughout the Psalms. Not infrequently, even in the middle of a terrible lament, defying logic and without transition, praise erupts. . . .
Psalm 150 does not stand alone; four more hallelujah psalms are inserted in front of it so that it becomes the fifth of five psalms that conclude the Psalter. These five hallelujah psalms are extraordinarily robust. . . . [This means] no matter how much we suffer, no matter our doubts, no matter how angry we get, no matter how many times we have asked in desperation “How long?,” prayer develops finally into praise. Everything finds its way to the doorstep of praise. This is not to say that other prayers are inferior to praise, only that all prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise. . . . Don’t rush it. It may take years, decades even, before certain prayers arrive at the hallelujahs, at Psalms 146-150. Not every prayer is capped off with praise. In fact, most prayers, if the Psalter is a true guide, are not. But prayer is always reaching toward praise and will finally arrive there.
So . . . our lives fill out in goodness. Earth and heaven meet in extraordinary conjunction. Clashing cymbals announce the glory. Blessing. Amen. Hallelujah.

C.S. Lewis compares a lack of praise in one’s life to a “lack of reality.” He says that praising God helps us “enter the real world and enjoy him more fully.” In fact, he says, “the more perfectly we can praise an object, the greater our enjoyment, and ‘the worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be.'”

We must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God–drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says: “a man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.

When we try to bring this down to a practical level, we might consider what happens when “bad” things happen to us. We believe in a loving, caring God. But then something comes along that threatens to devastate us. We might feel “crestfallen and downcast.” If we think of God’s love in abstract terms, that will not prevent us from being completely devastated, unable to function. However, if we have God’s love as a “felt and lived reality through prayer, then it buoys you up.”

“Prayer plunges us into the fullness of who he is, and his love becomes more real than the rejection or disappointment we are experiencing. . . . What could be more practical than that?”

Father, teach me this praise. I would ask that every prayer I engage in would work its way around to prayer. Perhaps this is unrealistic, as Peterson has explained. But I believe it is a worthy goal, considering how praiseworthy you are. As I pray, this morning, may my prayers begin and end with the most important piece, praising you for who and what you are, and making that praise and prayer a reality in my life, not just some abstract concept that floats out there, waiting for me to grasp.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

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