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Monday, January 4, 2016

Stop, just for a moment, and look up

Oprah Winfrey made a comment once which kind of struck me:  "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."  I think there is something about celebrating the things in life which God has done in our lives which gives us a deeper awareness of his presence, develops a deeper sense of gratefulness, and just gets us closer to his heart when we do.  It isn't US celebrating what WE have done, but rather us celebrating what HE has done.  Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who often wrote and spoke of the "death of God".  In his mind, a God who had to be praised all the time was not "worth" believing in.  What a sad state of mind to think a God who does so much for mankind, from creating man to creating all that mankind enjoys, is not worth praising!  Maria Mitchell was a female astronomer (rare in her days) who discovered a comet which eventually was named the "Miss Mitchell's Comet".  She was the first American female astronomer.  Even in the study of astronomy, she saw the majesty and mystery of God.  She penned these words, "Every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God." 

O my soul, come, praise the Eternal with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am— praise His holy name. O my soul, come, praise the Eternal; sing a song from a grateful heart; sing and never forget all the good He has done. (Psalm 103:1-2 VOICE)

David reminds us of the importance of praise being a kind of "all-consuming" thing - with us using our body, emotions, mind, and will (every part of who we are) to praise the magnificence of the God of all creation.  Too many times we count on the circumstances of life to determine if we are going to be praising, sadly complaining, or even criticizing.  If we were to change our focus a little, we might just find we'd do a little less complaining or criticizing of our circumstances and a whole lot more praising of the God who rules over those circumstances in the first place!

Every part of who we are - stop for a moment to consider the word picture presented here.  Body - movement of any kind, from raising our hands, to tapping our feet, or even swaying to the music gently playing in the background, this is the use of our body in praise.  Emotions - we certainly know how much influence our emotions have over our attitude, don't we?  Maybe David is trying to get us to change our attitude toward the circumstances by changing the direction our emotions are taking us.  When we begin to consider God's provisions in our lives, we cannot help but begin to get a little less focused on the sadness or seriousness of the circumstances and a little more focused on the greatness of God's desire to be center-stage in the midst of those circumstances. 

Mind - so much of what we do in life is because of thought and thought begins in the mind.  Mindfulness in praise is really a centering of one's thoughts, for even a short period of time, off of the distractions of the day, or the intensity of the circumstances, toward God.  We try so much to "think our way out" of the mess we find ourselves in, when perhaps the best "tact" to take in the realm of the circumstances we are in is one of a little less thinking and a little more trusting.  Trust begins in the mind - for what we "believe in" as the solution to our problem in life will often be the thing we rely upon to be the solution.  When we center our thoughts on God, we might just find ourselves trusting a little more in his solution and a little less upon our own.

Will - that side of us which gets us into so many a pickle, and sometimes keeps us from actually getting beyond where we are because we are digging in so stubbornly.  Ever stop for just a moment to consider God's presence?  When you do, what kind of happens to your stubbornness, or your willful disobedience?  When we are headlong in pursuit of whatever satisfies our present longing, stopping for even one moment to praise God does something we might not have considered - it disarms our willfulness!  You cannot truly enter into praise of God and remain willfully disobedient or stubbornly committed to the pursuit of anything selfish in nature.  You will find yourself returning to a place of submitting that thing to God's grace and asking for the forgiveness you so desperately need.

In thinking about praise, it isn't the things WE accomplish in life which make it to the top of the "praise list" today.  It isn't our ability to rule over the circumstances.  It isn't even that we come to a place of understanding the circumstances, so much as it is us coming to a place of understanding who it is who is in control of those circumstances.  Maybe some think praise is not important, but when I consider the giving of all that I am to praise the one who gave all that he is on my behalf, I don't get the same impression!  Just sayin!