If I say that God's word is true, all of it, then I have to believe all of it. And what I need to believe today is "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth" Psalm 34:1 (KJV). I am to bless, or praise Him at all times. In good times, in bad times, in joyous times, in the sad times. I am to praise Him when all is well and I am to praise Him when I just really don't feel like it. And why are we to do that? Because He is worthy of it all. Psalm 103:1-2 puts it this way, "Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul, And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name. Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul, And do not forget any of His benefits" (AMP). Do not forget any of His benefits.
Even though I was drained this morning, I could look outside and see the sun. I could feel the coolness of the morning air. I could hear the birds singing and see the flowers lifting their heads to the sky. I could taste my coffee (oh, start working soon caffeine!!) and enjoy my husband's kiss as he left for work. And these are just some of the temporal benefits, there are myriads more I could list if I was so inclined. But that's just it. There are so many and they are temporary and fleeting. The benefits that we have in our relationship with the Lord are eternal. They are infinite and exquisite. His salvation, His love, His grace, His mercy. Healing, strength, wisdom, the list truly goes on and on.
I mentioned the car show this weekend. For those of you who don't really know us, our business is building hot rods and repairing cars. My husband has blessed me with an amazing 1966 Ford Fairlane, it is a beast. It is not finished, but it still draws attention and admirers. People appreciate the workmanship in the engine Jim has built me and they enjoy the sound of horsepower. People came by and complimented the car and lauded Jim's skill and attention to detail. They praised the artisanship and expertise involved in building it.
C.S. Lewis talks of his difficulty with giving praise to God. In "Reflections on the Psalms" he writes this, "But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with."
At the car show, the participants and those who came to look showed their appreciation and shared their recognition of a beautiful vehicle by giving out awards. Why bother? Who cares? What good is an award or trophy? Because someone put a lot of hard work and effort into building something beautiful. And by giving out that award they were recognizing and acknowledging the builder and creator of that classic car or hot rod. They were saying, this is a job well done. By the way, they acknowledged my amazing man's hard work and long hours by giving the Fairlane the "Best Under Construction" award. Funny, I think that is where I am at, if I will admit the truth here. I am under construction, maybe not always the best, but always giving it the effort. I struggle to always give my Builder and Creator the praise, but I do always have the desire to want to. I want to make the Lord feel what I felt when I heard people saying nice things about my car. People came and took pictures, they asked questions, they inspected underneath and took time to point out details in the engine. Even people who could not speak English made their appreciation known by pointing at the smile on their faces, as if to say, see I like this even though I cannot speak your language. How much more can we show the world how we appreciate and honor the God who created us. How much more can we express our joy in the Lord, because as C.S. Lewis put it, our delight is incomplete until it is expressed. And that delight and praise should be something that even those who cannot speak the language of "Christianese" per se can see. Our very lives, our actions should show praise to the Lord. Our every day existence should shout who we belong to without our having to say a word. I know I often fail at that. There are days that joy seems to evade me and I don't represent Him the way I should. And then there are days where the joy of the Lord is not only filling my spirit, but it overflows onto my face. When we were leaving the hotel this weekend, I went to the lobby to check out and get a receipt. As I walked up to the door a lady was coming out. I smiled at her and walked in, just going about my business. I saw her again as I walked out and smiled again. As we were in the car waiting to pull out she walked across the parking lot and said 'I am glad you hadn't left yet. I wanted to say you caught my attention.' She knew I thought she meant the car, and said, 'no not the car. Yes that, too; but I meant you. You are beautiful, but it is not just on the outside, but there is something on the inside that is beautiful.' After she left, Jim just joked with his "I'm just chopped liver" line, but I started to cry. I struggle with self-confidence, with not being enough. With not being pretty enough, with not being smart enough, etc. But when she said that, I was so touched by the fact that she saw something inside me. I don't know if she was a Christian or not, but I know what she saw 'inside' was Him. And somehow that 'Him on the inside' leaked out and showed on my face. And my delight in life, in Him and and His blessings was expressed and became complete. And that was far more valuable than any trophy or award.
So today, I will 'bless the Lord, oh my soul'. I will remind myself of all that He is, of all He has done. I will remind myself of who I am in Him. I will let His praise be continually be on my lips. I will do like the car show judges do, I will look at all that this Master Builder and Creator has accomplished, I will acknowledge His workmanship, I will applaud His skills and compliment His attention to detail. I will award Him the most coveted trophy, the greatest award, that of praise flowing freely from my lips.