Oh My Soul Reflections - Richard ParrishA Reflection for August 2017 by Richard Parrish

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Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” – Psalm 95:1-3 (NRSV) [1]

 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 42:5 [2]

 

REFLECT


The activity of all creation is to honor God for his mighty acts and nature.

 

When we recognize the wonders of God’s handiwork, awe overtakes us. How is it possible to adequately express our senses stimulated by the beauty of a sunset, the sound of ocean waves, the feel of sand under our feet, or the sight of the Grand Canyon?

 

On more than one occasion I’ve found myself expressing statements like: “The sky is so beautiful; I’ve never seen such colors.” Or, “The sound of the waves is so powerful, yet soothing, and the sand is so soft and warm under my feet.” Or, “I understand why they call this the ‘Grand Canyon.’”

 

Although these thoughts did not directly state God’s name, God’s creation moved me to vocalize my feelings. When I stop and observe the beauty of nature –knowingly, or unknowingly, I cannot help but praise God!  But I’m not alone!

 

The heavens tell the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Even without speech, nature’s words saturate the world (Ps.19: 1-4). That is what God’s creation – people and nature are to do. We give thanks (words of gratitude to God) for his care, concern, and beauty – and we remember his redemptive acts.

 

In many churches, it’s increasingly common to experience worship as celebratory. Praise bands and worship leaders encourage us to engage our voices in celebrating God. Pipe organs and choirs resonate the sounds of praise. Worship leaders invite us to lift our voices as we magnify the wonders of God.

 

I admit: I’ve had my share of days when celebrating God was the last thing on my mind. Consumed by the challenges of life, my focus was not on God, but rather how I could get through the day.

 

In a recent meeting I had with a man – a person of deep faith and dedication to God – I was asked the question: “Is praise of God strictly celebrating?” This person faces some difficult tests in his life. “Sometimes, praising God is the furthest thing from my mind,” he said.

 

Although I empathized with his lament, the honesty of his acknowledgment somehow encouraged me to know I’m not alone. There are days when celebrating God requires raw discipline.

 

Some Sundays, even guitar driven amplified praise bands – on stages with spectacular light shows; or cathedrals filled with the sounds of pipe organs and choirs are insufficient to spark a celebratory response from me.

 

Yes, it’s appropriate to rejoice because of the goodness of God. The Psalmist encourages us to sing, make a joyful noise and have hearts filled with thanksgiving. I understand this. But, how is it possible to sing, be joyful, and grateful when we don’t feel like it? How is it possible for a sad heart to become celebratory?

 

It’s easy to read festive psalms and forget that the Psalmist also had moments of despondency. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5). Those words indicate an awareness and honesty of why he struggles to celebrate God.

 

However, he talks directly to himself: “[Soul], Hope in God” (Ps. 42:5). To hope is to wait with anticipation. Waiting is not easy. Hope is an active word that involves my participation in worship – even when glorifying God is hard.

 

The author of Hebrews understood that worship is more than a celebration; it is a sacrifice (an act that costs us):

 

“Through him [Jesus], then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name” (emphasis mine).[3]

 

When we recall and retell the mighty acts of God through song and word, we remember God’s faithfulness. The act of worship – especially when we don’t feel like it – inspires hope that bolsters our faith and moves us from despondency to celebration.

 

Perhaps some personal “soul talk” would do us good!


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 95:1–3.
[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ps 42:5.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Heb 13:15.

 

RESPOND


●     When was the last time I noticed a sunset? How did I feel when I saw the colors?

●     How does God’s creation speak to me? What emotions stir within me because of nature?

●     Do I struggle to celebrate God? Why? Why not?

●     What action do I take when I’m despondent? How do I speak to my soul?

●     Where have I encountered God in the past? Is it time for me to recall and retell the stories of how
       God’s faithfulness met me?