David A. Davis
July 7, 2019
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I will extol you, O Lord. I will celebrate, I will rise up, I will rejoice, I will be glad, in you. In you I seek comfort and assurance and encouragement and rest. I yearn for my restless heart to find rest in Thee, O God. You lift me up when I feel down. You help me dust off and keep going when I have fallen, made a mistake, or disappointed myself and others. Your fresh forgiveness meets me every time I, like everybody else, has fallen short of your glory. Your Spirit tells me over and over again to not focus on the negative, or the naysayers, or those forces and movements so against your Kingdom, so contrary to the gospel, so inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus. You squelch the celebrations that seem to taunt my life in you and you never stop telling me, convincing me that love wins.
Yes, I cry to you for help. Please, please, always turn an ear to listen to me. Lean over to hear me. Reach toward me to hold me. Do not withhold your steadfast love from me, even for a second, O Lord. I have cried to you for help and you healed me. In your righteousness, in your goodness, in your graciousness, in your love, Holy One, you have delivered me. Saved me. Loved me. Accepted me. You have taken my restless heart and allowed me to find rest in Thee. You have brought me up from the lowest places, you have brought me home from the farthest places, you have allowed your light to shine on me even in the darkest places. Even when my spirits, my life, my outlook was going down, down, down; going way down where the struggles of so many are legion, you were there for me. You helped me. You restored me. You gave me a taste, a glimpse of life in you, again and again.
You have been a rock of refuge for me. You have been a firm foundation to steady me in my walk with you. You have been a warm embrace to hold me tight. You have been a beauty for my delight. You have been an everlasting grasp that will not let me go. O Holy God, you have restored my soul, over and over and over again.
All of you, God’s people, all of you walking along the Way, all of you who gather in God’s name, all of you who are making a go of it best you can, baby step by baby step, in the life of faith to which God has called….you sing! You be thankful! Express your gratitude and praise to the name of, in the name of the God of heaven and earth! Praise the name of the Lord! And be thankful. Be….thankful!
Yes, there are moments when God must get angry. God must get made at me. Everyone else does once in a while. Why not God? There are those moments, those fleeting, passing times in life, those times every now and then when God gets angry at you, at me, at the world. But God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s favor is for the long haul. God’s love, not anger shall carry you all the days of your life. God’s grace will be with you all of your days up to, including, and through your death. God’s favor is for more than a lifetime. It’s forever. Yes, God may get mad, God may get angry, God may at times be disappointed, and God know tears of sadness and grief as well. After all, God knows what it means to lose a child. God…angry? Ok. But in God, with God, you and God? There is nothing ever to fear. Ever.
Weeping may linger for the night, for a long dark night. Grief, sadness, struggle, suffering. Sometimes the hardest nights can last almost forever. No one can lie about that. No one can deny that. Ask anyone who has cried themselves to sleep at night. But with the rising sun comes morning joy. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in 24 hours, but the unshakeable hope of resurrection, new life, and grace unbound. That’s morning joy. Joy that comes like the promise of a new day. Joy that comes when the slightest glimmer of hope starts to catch. Joy that still upends life and world when there was nothing left in the tank, nothing left to give, nothing left to draw upon. Then, maybe with just a flicker, just the slightest sure sign, a kind word of love, a tear harvesting “I’m sorry”, an assuring “I’m still here” from a loved one, from a friend, from God. Morning joy shows up. Not always with a bang, not always like a stunning sunrise, but just with God being there with us….still. Weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning.
When things are going well, when I’m on top of the world, when I am absolutely killing it; and feeling it, and rocking it, I puff out my chest and lift my snooty, spiritual nose and say, “I shall never be moved. God is good! God’s love and grace shine on me, baby! I must be doing something right, thank you God! Instead of giving you thanks, I was taking you for granted. Instead of acknowledging you humbly and deeply, I was shining my own bootstraps. There is a difference between gratitude and arrogance. There is a difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. There is a difference between trying to live a Christian life and deciding you’re leading a better Christian life, a more faithful Christian life, the best Christian life. I guess I can’t blame you for looking the other way, for turning away from my distasteful, full of myself, pious prosperity. It was like you turned away and everything started to crumble, to fall to pieces. I mean it happens to everyone at some point. Struggle, challenge, pain, illness. Last time I checked we all die at some point.
I cried to you, O God. I still cried out to you. I was still able to tell you. What good will come if I get pulled always the down to the pit. Is there anything to gain from my own suffering? Do the powers and principalities of this world ever proclaim your praise? Does the force of darkness every have a word of gratitude for you? All that is at work to pull me away from you and push me down, does any of that contribute to a symphony of praise that lifts your name on high? Does death ever sing “Alleluia”? Does death every proclaim “Christ is Risen?” Hear, O Lord and be gracious to me! O Lord be my helper? Don’t leave me now! Don’t turn your back on me now! Don’t’ look away now! Because I am still your instrument of praise. I am still, as you have told me, wonderfully and beautifully made. I am still, and always will be, your child, O Lord, My God. Just like a learned when I was a very young child; it’s still true. “I’m gonna sing, sing, sing. I’m gonna shout, shout, shout. I’m gonna sing, I’m gonna shout praise the Lord.” I’m still a child; a child of God, a child of yours.
You alone have turned my mourning, my sadness, my lamenting, my wearied soul, you alone have turned it into dancing. Now I’m not very good at that; dancing I mean. Oh, I don’t mind dancing. I don’t embarrass myself or anything. I just don’t do it often enough, so I’m not very good at it. I do not offer myself before you enough in unbridled joy. So whenever I do, it’s like I have to learn all over again what it means to give myself completely to you, to empty myself before you, to collapse into a puddle of gratitude….to dance before the Lord. But still, you remove the weight of sin and repentance, sin and repentance, you tell me to stop beating myself up, running myself down, always convinced in your eyes, that I am never good enough. You replace all of that, all of my utterly human, understandable thoughts and conclusions about myself, my discipleship, my faith, you take all that away and clothe me in joy. Cover me in joy. Dress me in my Sunday best, spanking fresh, birthday suit of joy. I’ve got joy, joy, you, down in my heart. Yeah, yeah right, we sing it. Joy to the world, blah, blah, blah. Yup, every year. I get all of that. But Lord Jesus, Precious Savior still my refuge, I’m talking about joy, your joy to me. Me. You, joy, and me! You offer me joy, head to toe.
No, it’s not all the time and it’s not every time. It’s not every day; maybe not even most days. But there are glimpses, sneak peaks, flashing indescribable moments. Oh, there not all religious, spiritual, or even particular holy. The joy of life can be pretty gritty. Clothed in joy is like being stopped right in your tracks with an awareness of how you have blessed me. Clothed in joy is being full confident that what is most important is more than the task set before me. Clothed in joy is going to bed at night fully and forever confident of your love for me. Clothed in joy is remembering the times when I couldn’t fix it, I couldn’t make it right, I couldn’t….and somewhere you gave me the nudge of “It’s okay, I got this.” Happiness is great. Maybe a bit overrated. I never understood those bible translations that talk about “Happy” rather than “blessed”. As if Jesus would ever say, “Happy are those who mourn”. Happy rather than blessed. What a mistake. Yes, I want to be happy God, but joy, being clothed in joy. That’s about being blessed and I’ll always take more of that.
Because when I experience those clothed in joy moments? I want to give you thanks O Lord my God forever. Joy births gratitude. Gratitude to you. I want to be ever more grateful, more thankful to you, Holy One. That’s how I want to live my life. That’s how I want to live and how I want to die. Thankful. Because when you clothe me in joy, you touch me all the way, deep inside my soul, you come all the way down, to me, just to me. And then that happens, my soul, my being, my spirit, me….. I cannot just be silent. I absolutely have to offer you the deepest, fullest, earth-shattering, ear splitting praise. The praise of my life.
Praise. Gratitude. Thanksgiving to you for my life as your child, as a follower of Jesus, and the knowledge that I now and forever belong not to myself, but to you, to my Savior Jesus the Christ.
Joy gives birth to gratitude. I will always take more of that.
Thanksgiving. Gratitude. Praise.
It’s the prayer from my soul.