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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Praise At Odd Times

In college I became a voracious note-taker. I've seen college classrooms today with students furiously clicking away on their laptops during the professor's lecture. But that's not how it was "in my day." In my day, I feverishly wrote, trying to capture what was written on the board before the next board was pulled down in front of the previous one and subsequently filled up as well. (Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about it!) It's a skill that has served me well, even into my adult years. It's almost how I listen now. In church, at seminars, and sometimes even as I listen to podcasts, there I am... scribbling in my notebook.

One tactic I learned to employ in some of my science or French classes in college, when the lecture was sometimes given by an international student or teaching assistant from another country, was to write what I thought they said and just make sense of it later. Many times, due to the difference in his or her accent, I would write one thing, and then later figure out it meant something completely different! (Sort of like making a game of Mad Gab out of my study notes!) A few months ago at a women's conference, I found myself copiously taking notes using this particular method as a precious woman from Zambia was speaking quite fast and with a heavy accent. What I heard her repeat several times was, "I will praise Him at odd times." As she repeated it, my brain heard it that way again. So, I wrote it. Just like that. I will praise Him at odd times. I thought to myself, "I suppose it is good to praise God at odd times," wondering where she was going with her point. I later figured out that what she said was, "I will praise Him at ALL times," which makes total sense!

But so did what I thought she said.

You see, if we praise Him at all times, then inevitably we are going to praise Him at some odd times, too. There are certain moments that just don't seem to call for praise: Being stuck in traffic. Sitting with a sick child. Being bedridden. Receiving devastating news. In the midst of financial uncertainty. Facing a giant disappointment. Letting go of a dream.

But, those are precisely the moments when we most need to praise God. Praise ushers us into "His courts" where we can lay all of it at His feet, and helps to put our circumstance into the proper perspective. It doesn't mean that we are to act like we've got the "holy jollies" in the midst of our grief and pain, but we can honestly praise Him through it. In one of my favorite resources, 31 Days of Praise, Ruth Myers says of David and the other psalmists:

"They did not deny their feelings or simply ignore them. Nor did they wallow in them until they'd all but drowned. And it doesn't seem that they postponed their praise until they had worked through their emotions and felt better. Instead, they mingled an honest pouring-out of their feelings with sincere, God-honoring praise."

Myers also says:

"I find that sooner or later (often sooner) the Lord releases me from being a slave to my distressing emotions. He unties the tight knots within me and settles my feelings, though He may not answer my questions about how He's handling my affairs. And when at times praise does not quickly bring inner feedom and joy, I can say, 'Lord, I can't praise You in the same way I did last week (or last year). I can't seem to respond to You with the same sense of delight and celebration. But I do choose to lift You high, praising You for what You are and what You mean to me.' "

Since the day I wrote that mis-heard sentence in my notebook (I didn't change it!) I have thought about, and even looked for, odd times to praise Him. When I have, I have seen a difference in how I cope in those moments, and my relationship with Him has grown so much deeper. I praised God two summers ago while I held my sick child in a foreign country. I praised Him during a health issue I recently experienced. I praised Him yesterday when I was grieving the news of the death of a dear friend. I don't always do this, and I do revert to "panic mode" way more often than I should, but by His grace and through His precious Holy Spirit, He's teaching me.

Have you praised Him at some odd times? Would you share it with us in the comments? God is good, all the time. May we praise Him at all times. Even the odd ones.

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalm 34:1

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Blogger Denise said...

I am praising Him right now in odd times, my vision is fading, but I choose to praise Him in the dark, as well as the light.

May 2, 2007 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

This reminds me of a lesson I learned ages ago (while taking copious notes). That is, to praise Him in all things - in all circumstances and situations. Examples:

--I hate laundry so, as I endure the tedious task of folding, I've learned to praise Him for my precious family that wears and dirties the clothes and appreciates the fabric softener I add to make them smell good.

--I don't like shopping, so I praise Him that our grocery store is laid out so nicely and we have the resources for me to re-stock the cupboard and 'fridge with things my family enjoys eating.

--I don't like traffic so, when I'm stuck in it, I praise Him for safety and that we can afford a vehicle and gasoline so I don't have to walk everywhere.

--When my dad was dying with Alzheimer's I praised Him repeatedly for all the valuable lessons my father taught me over the years.

Great post! Thank you for prompting me to look for more opportunities to praise Him!

May 2, 2007 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Lynn Donovan said...

Oh Cyndi,

I loved this.... Yes, I praise Him at odd times. The oddest times and it is delightful. I wouldn't change it either. God Bless you.

Praising Him now and odd times too!

May 2, 2007 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

How easy it is to praise God in good times or when things in life are moving along smoothly, but how often do we think of praising Him during the rough times or when we hear a bad report. When the word says, "His praise shall continually be on my lips" we were not given certain times to praise Him. So praising Him at "odd" times should be included. Great reminder today in the midst of all my busyness and "odd" morning when my two year old decided to pour a bottle of baby shampoo over one of his cars. I think he was pretending he was at the car wash. I need to praise Him for this little one who keeps me so busy!

May 2, 2007 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Susanne said...

I'm a note taker too. I love this post! Praising Him at all times will look odd to some, as it makes no sense to the world. But oh so important to us.

I love where you talked about honestly praising God, not necessarily having the "holy jollies" in the midst of grief and pain.

May 2, 2007 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

A couple of years ago we got news that gave life to my worst nightmare. For weeks and weeks I couldnt even pray let along praise. Whe I finally was able to pray again, I asked the Lord how I was to pray. I believe He said to my heart "Praise." I did. The circumstances didn't change, but something in my did. Perhaps it is the reminding of ourselves just Who He truly is. When we believe He is all He says He is and that He can do all He says He can do (thank you Beth Moore) we begin to rest in Him and find a peace filling our hearts and spirits that is totally inexplicable apart from Him.
I am blessed today reading this devotional Cyndi. Thank you.

May 2, 2007 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I love this post and how God used what you thought the woman said as well as what she really said. Awesome! And this quote from the book you referenced really hit me:

"He unties the tight knots within me."

I need to pray that for myself. I have many knots that need untying by my Father!

May 2, 2007 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Cyndi said...

Wow, the comments today have blessed me so, so much. I am praising right along with you, and praying God's rich spiritual blessings for each of you today as you have praised Him.

Denise, what a powerful, powerful thing... to praise Him as your vision fades. I know that you are seeing some rooms of God's heart that the rest of us have not, and as physical darkness encroaches, that it is being replaced with spiritual brightness as you praise Him. God bless you!

Carol, how you have inspired me! I have a new perspective on two of my "least favorite" things (grocery shopping and laundry) thanks to your praises. Thank you!(And what you said about your sweet Dad really touched me.)

Chris, how I giggled imagining the shampoo car wash! I absolutely love how you turned that into a praise for your dear little one.

Linda, you continue to bless and teach me the way you are taking it ALL to God and relying on Him to be Who He says He is. You are giving legs and feet to so many Scriptures right now, my sister, as you walk through this.

Lynn, You're right... it is delightful! The "odder" the "better," right?

Christine, first of all, Congratulations!! And I know you have been praising him in recent days (and hours.) I prayed for your "knots" just now (as well as your nights :) {{{hug}}}

May 2, 2007 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Cyndi said...

Susanne, you're right-- it will "look odd to some." I was thinking about when it seems odd to *me*... how much *more* odd might it seem to others! I know when I have thought someone "odd" in their faith and praise in the past, I secretly really wanted that myself...

May 2, 2007 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

This reminds me of the Casting Crowns song, "Praise You in the Storm."

I am convinced the world never notices when we react in expected ways. It is only when we respond totally contrary to what they would in the same situation that they take notice and think, "hmmm..what's up with that girl?" Praise in grief, loss, pain. That's the divine paradox that will get the attention of unbelievers!

Loved this post Cyndi!!


May 4, 2007 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

So encouraging--this post of yours. Thank you for reminding us how to praise. It is the sacrifice of praise on our lips that rises to the Lord like a sweet aroma from His saints.

Praising Him now, in difficult times and uncertainty.


May 4, 2007 at 1:34 PM  

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