Monday, November 23
Invited to speak on Praise after Lament
*** this photo is slightly different than the "altar" photo from a couple days ago. On Friday - I was surpised to find an very old brick - way out in the back forty!!
I picked it up and decided to put it as part of the altar. To me - finding an old brick in a pasture way far out - seemed like an "unexpected" thing - and it reminded me that life often holds unexpected surprises that sometimes make us happy - sometimes sad - sometimes remorseful etc....
That is why I brought the brick forward - to represent the things we think are "buried" but continue to rear their ugly heads!!
About a month ago I was asked to consider speaking at a Worship Night hosted by the Adoration Band at McIvor. My kids - Ashley and Michael - are part of this band. When I got asked I wasn't sure if I could do it - I still felt stuck in lament. But this past week God has taught me alot - feel free to read what I prepared and delivered. Before I got up to speak - I texted Alvin. The text said - "please pray. I am second guessing what I am going to say." Before I began to speak - I asked for the song YET I WILL PRAISE YOU LORD (by Vineyard) to be played with the words on ppt. This song has become my anthem - my "life song". It is the song Jeremy used for the background of the dvd he made with our little Jay's photos on it. Normally it makes me weep. I had this song played and then got up to speak - I had prayed that the words that God gave - would fall on hearts and perhaps even have an effect on one!! Perhaps it will have an affect of your heart - regardless - may you be able to PRAISE HIM!!
Worship Night Talk: Praise After Lament (Sunday, November 22, 2009)
July 25th, 2008 was the first time I heard that song. Jeremy Hiebert who is a family friend, and a photographer, had come to the hospital and taken pictures the day our grandson Jay Benjamin was born silently. Jeremy put the beautiful pictures into a DVD with this song attached. YET I WILL PRAISE YOU LORD…
This became a song that spoke into the deep deep places of our grief. Grief that came out of no where – and launched me into places I have never before experienced, and pray that I will never experience again.
As I listened to this song – I could not even fathom how lament and praise could be part of the same song?
Even in the darkest valley – I will praise you Lord.
I found myself saying – Praise you Lord? – There is nothing in me that felt like praising.
My laments began with phrases like God – WHY?
God – I don’t get you.
God – didn’t you hear our prayers? Didn’t you care?
God – I don’t even think you were faithful!
The past year and a half has taken me on a journey punctuated with lament .
I found myself lodged smack dab in the Psalms – they became dear to me.
As I read them, I found a mixture of sadness, anger and helplessness. The concrete language of the lament psalms is directed to God - sometimes as a complaint but almost always as a petition.
They enabled me to give expression to what was on my heart!
I felt secure in knowing that David dared to express the deepest thoughts of his being – and he was still known as a man after God’s own heart.
This brought me comfort.
The lament out of my mouth – spoken aloud, bathed in tears, or journalled was full of questions and doubts. Sometimes expressing what I felt as disillusionment with God. In my lament I felt raw, vulnerable and exposed.
At first I was shocked with my own lament – but I began to understand that I would not breach my relationship with God because of my honest crying out.
Lament was the avenue I needed to express the pain and suffering in my life – and I came to see that it was through this lament that I could truly experience healing and restoration of hope.
I came to understand the importance of and need for community to surround me and my family – to help us find healing and hope. It is through healing – through hope that we can begin to praise again.
I learned that lament is more than just bemoaning hardship. Lament is about seeking change – it is primarily an appeal for God to intervene in our lives. It is about a journey from doubt and fear through faith to confidence in God. And through the periods of lament I began to see the thread of joy that was woven through our sorrow.
I knew about Joy. Joy is diffent than happiness. Happiness is based on your feelings about something. Joy is different – and I knew that joy is what could turn my heart toward praise. Because it took my eyes off of myself and onto the Lord.
Praise after Lament.
As the psalms of lament had given me to express my sorrow –
I knew that the psalms of praise would give expression when I was looking for adequate words to praise the Lord with.
It was jut that often, coming through the dark valleys - I felt like praise was foreign to me all of a sudden.
It felt tentative at best. Like I didn’t trust the words that may come out.
Or maybe I didn’t trust that my heart and lips were even capable of praise.
So it was when Ashley called one night after meeting with Theresa – and asked Mom would you consider speaking at our next worship night.
What is the theme?
Praise after lament.
Honestly I wasn’t sure they had asked the right person. But something within me said that there was something to share – something about the story that would ultimately bring praise and glory to Jesus.
At that time that Ashley asked, I was walking in another valley.
Lament was once again my expression.
Psalm 42 could have been my personal psalm – except for the part about praising God.
“why am I discouraged. Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God. I will praise him again. My Savior and my God.”
Praise him again?
Somehow I was struggling to speak praise.
In fact – praise felt like an old friend that I hadn’t spent time with in a while.
Life was not going the way I thought God would make it go!
Wrong or right – I was basing my decision to praise, on the way I felt.
Bottom line – praise was just not a part of my last month.
For some reason, I was resisting. (perhaps even behaving like a spoiled brat who didn’t get her way)
I did know though – that my whole being just wanted the cloud of lament to life.
God – well he kept whispering to me… the same things – more often. Guess I was not listening like I should have.
“Spend time with me. Don’t try to orchestrate what you will do – just come and be with me.”
He strongly impressed the need for me to give up time I was spending aimlessly on the computer.
NO agenda. I was not to fill my day with busy “God times”
He just wanted me to wait. And rest. And just try to be conscious of His presence with me.
I had a strong feeling there was more and that God would make that very clear to me soon.
Within a couple days the cloud of lament lifted.
And then God did impress on me that yes, now I should spend intentional time sitting at my dining room table with the Word open in front of me –there were things that He wanted me to see!
Reading, memorizing, jouralling thoughts on the scripture I was reading.
5 minutes easily turned into an hour before I knew it.
And some mornings I believed I needed to go and literally lay face down before him
So I did.
And I began to be surprised at how my heart changed. Praise began to bubble…
I became even more aware again of my brokenness and need for repentence
I began to feel more healing and restoration.
I saw how God was redeeming my broken and shattered life.
All of a sudden praise became an expression instead of lament.
I want to share something with you about this past week.
I love visual reminders of God in my life.
I love it when God puts things across my path that I know are only orchestrated by him! Some people call these things coincidence – I call them GOD MOMENTS.
Seems God did that a lot this last week of my life.
When I felt the cloud of lament lift from me - it was very tangible.
Unlike other times, I knew that THIS TIME – I needed to mark the day where lament and praise met.
SO it was that on Monday – I went out to the back where I have been walking daily. I knew that I had to do something that would be a visual reminder of lament turning to praise. I knew that I had to physically build an altar – and to name what I was laying down before God. And to spend time praising Him.
I picked the place – right at the corner where I turned to head further out on our land.
And then I began to collect stones.
My choices were purposeful – some were rough, jagged and ugly. Some were little, others were bigger. One was smooth and beautiful.
I carried stones from all parts of the property, including one from as far back as I walked.
I named the stones I had put down – grief – hurt – pain – sorrow – loss’
I also laid stones of praise!
I assembled each one with deliberate thought – and stood back and dedicated the place to God.
I spoke out loud – I praised – I sang the words that Steve Bell sings – here by the water – I’ll make an altar to praise you.
Out of the stones that I’ve found here. I’ll set them down here rough as they are.
Only you can make them holy.
Even my dog seemed to sense a holy moment, as he stopped his wandering and waited quietly close by.
At that time, and since – the lament of the previous month felt like they were a million miles away.
And praise felt at home within me once again.
I was able to praise God for how he has taken the shattered pieces of our heart and begun putting them back together.
I was able to praise God for my first born grandson Jay, in heaven.
I was able to praise God that even in tragedy, He had brought beauty from the ashes.
And was also able to praise God for our little grandbaby who we look forward to welcoming in less than 4 weeks.
I was able to praise God for what He is going to do – even though his plans are much different than we thought they were.
I stood there that day, and each day since as I walk past this altar and speak out loud – praising God for WHO HE is – and for what He has done and what He is going to do in my life.
I have come to see that lament is okay – because it moves us toward God –
Even if things don’t go as I expect, or want, or pray for, or dream – God is GOD and He is true to his word. And he will always bring joy in the morning.
This past week – a couple verses spoke into the deep places of my soul.
To all who mourn in Israel
He will give a crown of beauty for ashes
A joyous blessing instead of mourning
Festive praise instead of despair
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory!
I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.
I have come to realize that sometimes I stand in the way of praise.
Sometimes my heart needs to repent – so that the praise can come forth.
I have come to once again remember that my praise to God is not continguent on what I have gotten from him, or what I feel like at the time –
No – my praise is because of what He has ultimately done for me –
Giving his live for me on the cross – because He loved me.
Rising again – and giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us and fill us with resurrection power.
Giving me hope that one day I will dance with the Trinity – and that my praise will go forever – and then, there will be no more lament.
In the meantime – I will walk each day with God - and it will be really hard at times.
I guarantee that if you haven’t encountered that yet – you will.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I have often asked God WHY.
Sometimes I am too busy acting like a spoiled brat when things don’t go my way – or when I don’t get what I have prayed for or asked God about….
I have come to see that this spirit of entitlement always destroys a spirit of gratitude.
It’s hard to praise then.
I have found that when I do praise (especially in the times I least feel like praising) something amazing happens.
It seems that my heart opens up to what God wants me to experience in greater measure – his love and forgiveness, his goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy, and his grace.
I figure that when I choose not to praise – I just quench the Holy Spirit within me, who wants me to experience the fullness of Christ in my life.
Have I finished lamenting? I am sure there will be more to come.
Will praising God always be as easy as it feels in this moment today – not likely – somehow in our human –ness – it is not our first nature to praise God first no matter what.
But I do know that there is Praise after lament and I can say with the psalmist in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed,
They will put their trust in the Lord.” (New Living Translation)
at 12:02 AM