The Practice of Praise

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You praise the heartbreaking beauty of Jessye Norman singing the Vier Letzte Lieder of Richard Strauss. You praise the new puppy for making its offering on the lawn for once instead of on the living-room rug. Maybe you yourself are praised for some generous thing you have done. In each case, the praise that is handed out is a measured response. It is a matter of saying something to one degree or another complimentary, with the implication that if Jessye Norman’s voice had sprung a leak or the puppy hadn’t made it outside in time or your generous deed turned out to be secretly self-serving, a different sort of response altogether would have been called for.

flowers on hill 4 copyThe way Psalm 148 describes it, praising God is another kettle of fish altogether. It is about as measured as a volcanic eruption, and there is no implication that under any conceivable circumstances it could be anything other than what it is. The whole of creation is  on the act—the sun and moon, the sea, fire and snow, Holstein cows and white-throated sparrows, old men in walkers and children who still haven’t taken their first step. Their praise is not chiefly a matter of saying anything, because most of creation doesn’t deal in words. Instead, the snow whirls, the fire roars, the Holstein bellows, the old man watches the moon rise. Their praise is not something that at their most complimentary they say, but something that at their truest they are.

We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the sound of the rain. Learn how to say “Hallelujah” from the ones who say it right.

–Frederick Buechner

 

 

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The Bright Field

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I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was
the pearl of great price, the one field
that had treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess. Life is not hurrying on
to a receding future, nor hankering
after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside like Moises
to the miracle of the lit bush,
to a brightness that seemed transitory
as your youth once, but is the
eternity that awaits you.

–R. S. Thomas,
The Bright Field

Published in: on 04/21/2018 at 11:00  Leave a Comment  
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Only God can Make a Tree

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I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

–Joyce Kilmer

Published in: on 01/15/2017 at 15:38  Leave a Comment  
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All is a Miracle

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People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

Published in: on 07/17/2016 at 13:27  Leave a Comment  
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Lost in Wonder

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We must recognize the fact that true wonder is not a passing emotion or some kind of shallow excitement. It has depth to it. True wonder reaches right into your heart and mind and shakes you up. It not only has depth, it has value; it enriches your life.

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Wonder is not cheap amusement that brings a smile to your face. It is an encounter with reality – with God – that brings awe to your heart. You are overwhelmed with an emotion that is a mixture of gratitude, adoration, reverence, fear, — and love. You are not looking for explanations; you are lost in the wonder of God.

–Warren Wiersbe

Published in: on 07/09/2016 at 17:55  Leave a Comment  
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Delightful Repetition

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It may not be automatic necessity
that makes all daisies alike;
it may be that God
makes every daisy separately,
but has never got tired of making them.
It may be that He has
the eternal appetite of infancy;
for we have sinned and grown old,
and our Father is younger than we.
The repetition in Nature may not be
a mere recurrence; it may be
a theatrical encore.

–G. K. Chesterton,
Orthodoxy

 

Published in: on 06/04/2016 at 12:33  Comments (1)  
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Miniscule and massive

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Understand this: we are both tiny and massive. We are nothing more than molded clay given breath, but we are nothing less than divine self-portraits, huffing and puffing along the mountain ranges of epic narrative arcs prepared for us by the Infinite Word Himself.

―N. D. Wilson
Death by Living:
Life Is Meant to Be Spent

Nothing too absurd

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A thing may be too sad to be believed
or too wicked to be believed
or too good to be believed;
but it cannot be too absurd
to be believed in this planet
of frogs and elephants,
of crocodiles and cuttle-fish.

–G.K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Orthodox

Orchestrated by love

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In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the one who has preformed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.

–St. Isaac of Syria
(7th Century)

God’s handwriting

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Never lose an opportunity
of seeing anything that is beautiful,
for beauty is God’s handwriting–a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky,
in every flower, and thank God for it
as a cup of blessing.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803 – 1882)

God of the Beautiful

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One of my greatest difficulties in consenting to think of religion was that I thought I should have to give up my beautiful thoughts and my love for the things God has made. But I find that the happiness springing from all things not in themselves sinful is much increased by religion.

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God is the God of the Beautiful—Religion is the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven is the Home of the Beautiful—Nature is tenfold brighter in the Sun of Righteousness, and my love of Nature is more intense since I became a Christian—if indeed I am one. God has not given me such thoughts and forbidden me to enjoy them.

–George MacDonald
(1824 – 1905)

Artwork: Jim Mitchell

Published in: on 09/30/2014 at 2:22  Leave a Comment  
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The sun, planets and grapes

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The sun, with all those planets
revolving around it
and dependent upon it,
can still ripen a bunch of grapes
as it if had nothing else
in the universe to do.

–Galileo Galilei
(1564 – 1642)

Published in: on 06/11/2014 at 8:06  Leave a Comment  
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Altars everywhere

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Earth is so thick
with divine possibility
that it is a wonder
we can walk anywhere
without cracking our shins
on altars.

–Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Published in: on 05/23/2014 at 17:10  Leave a Comment  
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Fun and God’s will

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Whence comes this idea that if what we are doing is fun, it can’t be God’s will? The God who made giraffes, a baby’s fingernails, a puppy’s tail, a crooknecked squash, the bobwhite’s call, and a young girl’s giggle, has a sense of humor. Make no mistake about that.

  –Catherine Marshall
(1914 – 1983)

Published in: on 05/17/2014 at 9:33  Leave a Comment  
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Inventor of pleasure

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In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would have not been at all.

— St. Augustine

Learning to notice

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We are here
to abet Creation
and to witness it,
to notice each thing
so each thing gets noticed…
so that Creation
need not play to
an empty house.

–Annie Dillard
The Meaning of Life

Published in: on 03/20/2014 at 12:33  Leave a Comment  
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Outrageous

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The whole order of things
is as outrageous as any miracle
which could presume
to violate it.

–G. K. Chesterton

Published in: on 03/19/2014 at 11:08  Leave a Comment  
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Nature grins

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All nature
wears one
universal grin.

–Henry Fielding
(1707 – 1754)

Published in: on 03/17/2014 at 12:38  Leave a Comment  
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Why did He do it?

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He splashed orange in the sunrise
and cast the sky in blue.
And if you love to see geese as they gather,
chances are you’ll see that too.

Did he have make the squirrel’s tail furry?
Was he obliged to make the birds sing?
And the funny way that chickens scurry
or the majesty of thunder when it rings?

Why give a flower fragrance.
Why give food its taste?
Could it be he loves to see
that look upon your face?

–Max Lucado
He Chose the Nails

Photo: Kevin Fleming

Published in: on 03/13/2014 at 18:08  Leave a Comment  
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Playful universe

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The universe is not
God at work but
God at play.

–Leonard Sweet
The Well Played Life

Sillier and better fun

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“Talking of beasts and birds…when you read a scientific account of any animal’s life, you get an impression of laborious, incessant almost rational economic activity, as if all animals were Germans. But when you study any animal you know, what strikes you is their cheerful fatuity, the pointlessness of nearly all they do. Say what you like, Barfield. The world is sillier and better fun than they make out.”

–C. S. Lewis
A letter to Owen Barfield

Published in: on 03/10/2014 at 11:40  Leave a Comment  
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Lacking moderation

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God never
seems capable
of moderation.

–N. D. Wilson

Published in: on 03/03/2014 at 18:48  Leave a Comment  
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Loved into existence

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God, who needs nothing,
loves into existence
wholly superfluous creatures
in order that he may love
and perfect them.

–C. S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Published in: on 01/24/2014 at 5:44  Leave a Comment  
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Known by name

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He calls each
and every star by name.
It’s not likely that
He’s forgotten yours.

–Louie Giglio

Image: David Nunuk

Published in: on 10/25/2013 at 8:16  Leave a Comment  
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The overflow of grace

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Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.

–Sinclair Ferguson

A place to pour out His love

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The whole raison d’etre of the universe lies in the fact that God will not be alone, that he will not be without us, but has freely and purposely created the universe and bound it to himself as the sphere where he may ungrudgingly pour out his love, and where we may enjoy communion with him.

–Thomas Torrance
Trinitarian Faith

On our side

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The God of the universe
who made the stars
with a whisper of His breath,
who holds the oceans in His palm,
who fashioned redwood trees,
He is for us, on our side.

–Mary DeMuth

What is grass?

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What is the grass?
I guess it is the handkerchief
of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrance
designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name
some way in the corner,
that we may see and remark,
and say Whose?

–Walt Whitman
(1819 – 1892)

Published in: on 08/31/2013 at 4:16  Leave a Comment  
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Living in a sacred world

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The world is not God, of course, but the incarnation goes all the way down, and the Spirit indwells all that exists. Nothing is without a witness to the divine; everything that exists praises the Creator . . .

God’s creation is a revelation
of divine presence.

This is the genius of Christian theology: It radically reconfigures the human conception of the sacred. Nothing is inherently “profane.” It may be profaned by sin; but it is inherently an arena of divine activity and spiritual insight. The locus and focus of biblical theology is the world, not the heavens.

–Leonard Sweet

Whose idea was it?

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Music, wine, poetry, sunsets…those were his inventions, not ours. We simply discovered what He had already thought of. Lovers and honeymooners choose places like Hawaii, the Bahamas, or Tuscany as a backdrop for their love. But whose idea was Hawaii, the Bahamas, and Tuscany?”

–John Eldredge
Wild at Heart

Published in: on 08/23/2013 at 6:20  Leave a Comment  
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