“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
Psalm 139:14 ESV
A flowering bush hidden by the fence is so exotic it seems more fit for another country. The blooms like tiny cups of strawberry buttercream on a tiny spoon, the center a plop of darkness.
My granddaughter decided
“These beautiful flowers, Grandma…they’re blueberry blooms”.
She plucked a few “babies” and I picked a branch full of blooms for inside.
The splendid color praising a very sweet Saturday.
Rarely do I pass by the patch of grass shaded by pines and hidden by high fence.
The place of the flowers showing their brilliant display.
Yesterday, I was moved in a sweet heavy way by the nearness of spontaneous praise, the connectedness to another who felt the words of a song and proclaimed in a way that was personal, something they only knew, were fearing or taking hold of in renewed faith.
Once, I sat beside a woman with a jawline changed by the ravaging in her body evidenced by the cloth covering her head.
I felt her being comforted by song. I embraced it beside her. We listened together.
I touched her arm in a goodbye as we exited. I hope my look said “I care”, words felt unnecessary.
She’d surely heard them in abundance already I was certain.
Another time, I sat next to a man about my age who looked like he’d been a linebacker in his day. He smiled as if he’d been lonely when I asked if the seat was vacant and he made affirming sounds during the message.
My favorite part was his singing, his abandonment to the joining with others maybe better at singing than he or I.
He sang along.
He sang loud enough to be heard clearly, his one voice in the crowd of others.
One Sunday, I found a spot next to a woman who was large and strong and dressed up for Sunday in a way that said confident joy. Once the music began, I saw my first impression was accurate.
Because she sang like the old cliche’ “like no one was listening”, like maybe she understood what Maya Angelou felt…
like a splendid bird who had been set free from its cage.
Together, we were in an old country church with the windows up in August. She swayed and her swaying body made me sway.
We became secret sisters.
Reluctantly, I went to church last night. Sullen over feeling alone, burdened by answers not coming soon enough and vulnerable over what it seems God is calling me to that I sort of wish He wouldn’t.
I listened to a podcast on the way, one hosted by a woman who is learned because of her scholarly credentials coupled with the dilemma of serious illness, typically an honest and helpful voice, interesting.
She is a researcher, well read and well respected, a historian of religion.
She once believed in “praise and worship” and has now decided she doesn’t. She is now quite critical of what she defines as manipulative.
Although she misses the beauty of joining others in worship, she’s just not “taking the bait” anymore.
So, I stopped listening as I began to feel conflicted and that “critical spirit” that’s not beneficial began to creep in.
I thought of her jadedness. I can relate.
I felt sad for her. Her scary illness had caused her to become cynical, to be expectant of bad things, to decide maybe, after all, God is “not good, not great”.
I switched to music and listened.
One hand on the wheel on the crowded interstate, the other raised in agreement to a song about prayers, circumstances and healing.
Three or four years ago, I too believed most people were faking praise, were desperate for attention or just liked it when church felt more like a nightclub than a sanctuary.
Then, I landed on the second row from the stage because I was late. Pondering on my drive there, my ambivalence over my commitments and asking God to help me know where I belong.
God answered that day.
A thought, a word,
the Holy Spirit.
“You resist most what you need most.”
I need to feel connected to worship, I need to be led by vocalists and musicians to do so.
Not manipulating me, rather encouraging me.
It’ll be rare for me to be seen raising my hands. I’m more private, more quiet. I believe made “wonderfully” that way.
My personality of praise is more receptive, more being alongside the extravagant praises of others and with eyes closed, a simple opening of my hand, palm towards heaven.
In a way, I suppose, an exchange.
Freely receiving the goodness of God and privately, quietly joining others in a praise that says “Thank you”.
I’ll never stop singing.
Steadily, and mostly in secret places.
Being so grateful to stand so close to others made different by God’s design, that the praise they give, I get to join in.
A spirit of grace, love and mercy, one that’s not critical.
May what you’ve been resisting find you today, my prayer.
And another, let there be a song that beckons the jaded, the reluctant, the uncertain of us today.
May we not be resistant.