I don’t listen to my car radio anymore. The fuzzy sound coming from the twelve-year old speakers is annoying.
But the silence has turned into a gift, a time for prayer and worship.
As I leave our neighborhood and pass the ponds and large live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, I praise God for the beauty of creation, within steps of our home:
- The glassy surface of the ponds, reflecting blue sky and mounds of clouds
- The stately trees, with branches spread wide, as if to praise God with me
- The family of sandhill cranes, stretching their graceful necks to the ground in search of breakfast
- The rich green grass, arrayed in dew-diamonds
And with the psalmist I want to add my enthusiastic voice.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty…How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all, the earth is full of your creatures. I will sing praise…as I rejoice in the Lord (Psalm 104:1, 24, 33-34).
On the way to my hair appointment the other day, that’s exactly what I was doing: praising God for the beauty around me.
And then, boom. My mind veered off to a troubling event that happened years ago. Before I even realized what was happening, my thoughts were swirling around in a cesspool of negativity.
When I caught myself, I said out loud in a firm but frustrated voice: “LET. IT. GO!”
And just as suddenly as that cesspool opened up, I found myself singing an old chorus from my childhood, but with new words. Do you remember:
“Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord?”
My altered rendition went like this:
Let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go now!
Praise ye the Lord! (Repeat.)
Praise ye the Lord! Let it go, now! (Repeat three times.)
PRAISE YE THE LORD!
Did you figure out the tune? Do you remember this song?
Well, no sooner did I start singing that silly song, than I was smiling to myself. My spirit was downright laughing!
And the cesspool drained away.
I don’t know how ugly matters can flood into my mind, even as I’m praising God. I don’t know how to keep the mess out once and for all.
What I am learning is this:
As soon as I recognize that the floodgates of negativity have opened, my best offensive move to close them up again is praise and gratitude.
And why does it work?
“Satan so hates genuine praise that his fiery darts of discouragement are not effective against us when we respond in praise” – Bill Thrasher (A Journey to Victorious Praying, Moody, 2003, p. 206).
Evidently, Satan hasn’t given up on me yet; he’s still firing darts of discouragement to render me ineffective. You know–reduce me to one of those people who revels in self-pity and the pity of others.
I do not want him to score a single point, much less win the victory!
My aim is to adopt David’s attitude:
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast: I will sing and give praise” (Psalm 57:7).
Note that David wrote this psalm when he had to flee for his life from murderous King Saul (1 Samuel 22-24).
M-m-m. Surely David had to avoid a few cesspools of negativity under such circumstances. Those words, “My heart is steadfast,” may have been spoken through gritted teeth.
But even when praise is more of a forced discipline than a natural delight, God is undoubtedly pleased. Perhaps even more so. Like a parent especially appreciative when the teenager loads the dishwasher. Even when he doesn’t want to.
* * * * * * * * * *
So, here I am, Lord –my toes a bit soiled from getting too close to that cesspool again. But thanks to you, thanks to the power you’ve given me through praise, it’s only my toes! Thank you for pulling me away from the brink. Thank you for turning me around and refocusing me on your glorious wonders. May “my mouth be filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long” (Psalm 71:8)! Amen.