In Times Like These, Lament

Lament: Prayer for when our spiritual journey with God is at a wall.

Today, we, along with most of humanity, are experiencing the unprecedented in our lifetime world-wide pandemic of COVID-19. There is confusion, fear, anxiety, loss of many kinds, sickness, sorrow, death and grief all around. We, the people of God have questions.  If we are honest, the big question is, “Where are you God, in all of this?”

What we as Christians are experiencing is described as “The Wall”; a stage in the life of faith described in the book “The Critical Journey”, by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich.

“The Wall” is often precipitated by a life or faith crisis that turns our world upside down and for the first time, our faith doesn’t seem to work. Our experience of life and our beliefs aren’t matching up. We have more questions than answers. Sometimes this stage is entered into gradually and at some point we realize that God seems far away and whatever we’ve been doing up to that point to connect with God isn’t working. Sometimes this experience happens suddenly.  The experience of “The Wall” often leads to uncertainty about God, everything we thought we knew about the life of faith, shame, fear, and an urge to give up. It can be a dark and lonely time.

Historic Christian writer St. John of the Cross (1542-1592), a Catholic Christian monk who spent his life in the service of Catholic Reform, described this experience of God’s absence as “The Dark Night of the Soul”.

Contemporary writer Lee Beach, in his article “A Spirituality of Exile: Responding to God’s Absence”, describes the sense of God’s absence as feeling like being in a spiritual exile.

A few Biblical individuals who experienced a deep sense of loss and seeming absence of God’s presence are Job, Naomi, and the Israelites when in Babylonian exile.

What we see in the life of the Biblical examples mentioned, as well as from St. John of the Cross, is that these individuals responded to God in a variety of ways.

Job grieved, and lamented to his friends, who provided poor counsel. Eventually Job approached God with his questions.  God listened (described through several chapters) and then responded to Job. (Book of Job)

Naomi and her family moved away from the land of Israel to care for their physical needs when famine struck God’s people in “the promised land.” After some years went by, which included many severe losses for Namoi, Naomi’s return to the land of Israel represents her return to God, even as she recognizes her bitterness  (“Call me Mara”). Eventually she recognizes God’s care for her through Ruth and Boaz, and her joy is restored. (Book of Ruth)

The Israelites cried out to God in lament, mourning their losses, asking for God’s help many times throughout their journey out of Egypt, as well as when they were exiled from their country many years later. At times they even blamed God for turning against them and allowing them to be overcome and taken into captivity. While in captivity in Babylon, they kept calling out to God to save them. 70 years later, God restored their land to them. (Lamentations, Psalms 44, 74, 89, 89, 102, 106, 137).

Most of these suffering people moved towards God in a new way, bringing their questions, confusion and pain to God. While they felt abandoned by God, they didn’t give up on God. In fact, their lament shows their determination to speak with God about their situation, question God about God’s action or lack thereof in regards to their plight.

The language of lament as found in scripture, offers a paradigm for engaging with God in the midst of our experience of God’s seeming absence. This language of lament is one of struggle, doubt, frustration with God, and wrestling with where God is in the midst of painful experiences.

There are a couple of movements in the lament prayers of the Israelites as described by Beach that can help us as we approach God in our times of spiritual exile, Dark Night of the Soul, or Wall experience:

  • An honest description of the problem.
  • A request for God to act on our behalf and remedy the problem.
  • Confession of Trust. Remembering what God has done in the past and confessing trust in God for the present.
  • Vow of Praise. Praising God in anticipation of God’s new redemption action in the future.

Theological Reflection is at the heart of lament.  When we sense God’s absence it can feel like an exilic experience. We no longer feel at home with God as our normal life experience has changed. We feel that we are “cast into a foreign land.”

Prayer and Reflection:

In times like these, I invite you to find a scripture of lament below to meditate on, perhaps daily, and then write your own prayers of lament as described above, following the example of Job, Naomi, the Israelites in exile, St. John of the Cross and countless Christians down through the ages, by continuing to call out to God. He is a God who is far away yet also very near. (Jeremiah 23:23)

Some scriptures of lament: Psalm 5-7, 10, 11 – 13, 17, 22, 28, 56, 60-64, 69-70, 74, 77, 90, 102, 120-121, 130, 140-143, Book of Lamentations

Photo credit: Charlotte Hedman, https://charhedman.wixsite.com/photography

Scraps of Life, Part 3

Surgery and After

Finally, after interruptions and another surgery, I am back to writing this series.

It has become harder, the farther away I am from this time of my life, to remember things accurately. I didn’t realize that until months after my initial surgery. One day, when I was recovered enough to get around, I found a bedpan in the laundry room and had no idea why it was there.  I had forgotten much of those first weeks between breaking my leg and following my surgery. My memory loss was more than likely due to the fact I was on pain medication and was sleeping a lot. My spot was flat on my back on the couch with my ankles iced and highly elevated. Yes, ankles.  My right ankle was sprained as well as my left broken, making it difficult to get to the bathroom, among other things!  Thus the need for a bedpan….

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My view from the couch.

When I came home from the emergency room late that night, we were sent home with the name of a surgeon they were passing me on to.  I was very concerned that I would not get in touch with the surgeon and get the surgery done quick enough.  So I called on Monday to get a hold of someone, and then found we were sent to a different surgeon.

The accident happened on Saturday; surgery was scheduled for Wednesday of the next week. I was eager to get on to the healing part, but it was a strange feeling to submit my leg to someone who I did not know anything about.  It never occurred to me at that time to Google and get that info! After my initial surgery to repair the broken bones, I learned that my surgeon had a reputation in Wichita of being a premier trauma ortho surgeon.  Thank you Lord!

My husband and I arrived at the hospital on surgery day by 5:30 am to check in. It was a bit of a shock to find out what we owed financially before surgery could happen (Gulp!  Thank goodness for HSA accounts.) I was wheeled away to get prepped for surgery and soon my family joined me in waiting.

When the surgeon arrived he informed us that in addition to the two broken bones at my left ankle (tibia and fibula) my ligaments were badly torn so he could not guarantee that they would fully recover.  He didn’t outright say it – I had to ask a few questions after he implied it (a man of few words) – and that gave me pause to realize that this may be a game changer for me.  How much would my ankle heal? And always the concern, how will I respond to anesthesia?  Yet as I lay there getting ready for surgery, something I have not experienced before, God gave me peace as I maintained my focus on Jesus by praying the Jesus Prayer,

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

A version of the well known quote by Julian of Norwich was also on my mind,

“With God all is well and all will be well.”

I gave myself into God’s care, safe no matter what the outcome. After a short ride to the OR, sliding onto the surgery table for the 1 1/2 hour surgery, I was out in a few minutes. Before I knew it, I was waking up in recovery.

Reflection:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We live in a broken world,  a world marred by sin.  Accidents, illness, harm happens to all of us sooner or later.  Suffering occurs.  I am one that has spent a great deal of time trying to avoid suffering in my life.  As a young adult, during a “wilderness” time spiritually, I ran across (was guided by the Holy Spirit) Jesus’ words to his disciples quoted above. When troubles come, Jesus says, we should not be surprised. Strengthen your heart!  Jesus has overcome.

What troubles have come your way?  Are you discouraged?  Weary?  Full of anxiety?

I invite you to turn to Jesus in the midst of whatever you are experiencing.  Sometimes, however, we simply can’t prayer.  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” is a form of what is sometimes called the Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, or Breath Prayer. It was first prayed by a man who was blind, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), as he called out to Jesus. Consider praying this prayer to center your thoughts on Jesus, particularly when you are feeling the weight of your troubles.  It can help to focus on your breathing. As you pray, “Lord Jesus Christ”, slowly breath in, “have mercy on me”,  slowly breath out.

The actual quote by Julian of Norwich is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well…you shall not be overcome.”

 

 

 

 

Part 10: Arms of Love. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Nine: Arms of Love (Doug & The Slugs)

I sing a simple song of love,

To my Savior, to my Jesus.

I’m grateful for the things you’ve done.

My loving Savior, My precious Jesus.

 

My heart is glad, that you’ve called me your own.

There’s no place I’d rather be.

 

Than in your arms of love.

Than in your arms of love.

Holding me still, Holding me near,

In Your arms of love.

 

Click on the arrow below to listen to Arms of Love.  Allow time for the song to load.

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Doug holding his three loves.

Reflection

Wow, this song caught me off guard.  As I started listening to it, after writing the last reflection, I couldn’t stop the tears.  It wasn’t like Doug to use words like “precious Jesus”, and “loving Savior”.  Yet here is Doug’s love song, if you will, for his Jesus. He expresses his gratitude for what Jesus has done for him. Jesus’s arms of love is where Doug is now.  Jesus never left Doug, but carried Him all the way through the process of leaving this life to life eternal.  Not what we desired, but safe in the arms of Jesus.

I am reminded of the song Rich Mullins recorded based on Psalm 73:25 (Rich, who lived in my home town for some years, died as a result of injuries from a car accident while Doug was ill.);

 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

And from Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Another passage beautifully put to music by Brahms in his “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place”. (Requiem) A favorite choral number of our father.

And finally, from Revelation 21;

 Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

 Reflection

Take some time to consider the love Jesus has for you. Re-read the scripture passages. Find these songs on you-tube and listen to them.  The Morman Tabernacle Choir has a great recording of the Brahms. Listen to Doug’s song again – “a simple song of love to my Savior, my Jesus.”  May you find peace and joy in Jesus, your Savior, and hope for when God will make all things new, when He will well among His children forever.  Doug’s prayer, and mine as well, is that you will be among God’s children and experience the love of Jesus as Doug did. Now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Part 9: Hear My Cry. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Eight: Hear My Cry (by Doug)

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Hear my cry, oh God.

Listen to my prayer, from the depths of my soul.

From the end of the earth,

My soul cries out when my heart is faint. When my heart is faint.

 

Chorus: Lord, lead me to a rock that is higher than I.

For you are my refuge.

Oh a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in thy tent forever.

 

For God, my soul waits.

I wait alone, in the silence of the morning.

My spirit is, whisper of my Lord,

as in the sunny of the morning breeze.  Of the morning wind.

  

From the ends of the earth, I call to you, and you answer my prayer.

You answer my prayer. You answer my prayer.

 

Listen to Doug’s recording of this Hear My Cry by clicking on the arrow below.  Allow some time for it to load.

 

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Doug with his accompanist at his Master’s Vocal Recital, Vermillion, SD

In mid-June of 1998 we learned that there was nothing medically that could be done for Doug.  Such horribly hard news to recieve.  Some weeks later, when his body went into a coma, I read the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden on the night he was betrayed. Jesus demonstrated great trust in the plan of His Heavenly Father, but it wasn’t without struggle.

Doug, his family, as well as his church family, prayed all during Doug’s illness, imploring God to heal him.  We did not want to give up hope for physical healing.

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Doug worked with his dad, Peter Friesen, at Winkler Bible Institute.

There is the idea of a “Prayer of Indifference” that come from the 2000 plus years of Christian tradition.  It sounds wrong at first, but it means praying to be free from the desires that hold us back from saying yes to God and His will and purposes. Another way to think of this prayer is to pray to relinquish control, leave the results in God’s hands, asking to be “indifferent” to the results.  This is what faith allows us to do, but it can be a struggle to take refuge in God alone. In this song, Doug declares, “you Lord are my refuge.”

That is what Jesus was able to do, but first he wrestled with God in the Garden right before He was arrested, tried, and crucified.  He cried out saying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me”. Eventually,  Jesus came to the place where He was able to say, “not my will but thine be done.” (Matt. 26:39 NIV) This kind of prayer can only be uttered by those who are fully confident of God’s neverending love for them.

This is where I came to as Doug lay in a semi-coma.  With sorrow…”Lord, your will be done. If healing isn’t going to happen, please let Doug’s suffering end.”

Reflection 

This song reflects the deep longings and feelings that come with these kinds of prayers for help.  Do not hesitate to pray these types of prayers yourself or for someone you know.  Jesus did. Jesus then expressed faith in God with his final prayer of “not my will but yours be done”.

During a time of prayer God gave Doug tremendous peace in the last days of his conscious life. The fear of death was gone. He was trusting in God’s loving care. Consider pouring out your heart to God about your concerns.

If you are able, consider the prayer below by Richard Foster, a “Prayer of Relinquishment” as he calls it.

Prayer of Relinquishment, by Richard Foster

Today, O Lord, I yield myself to You.
May Your will be my delight today.
May You have perfect sway in me.
May your love be the pattern of my living.
I surrender to You my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.
Do with them what You will, when You will, as You will.
I place into Your loving care my family, my friends, my future.
Care for them with a care that I can never give.
I release into Your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.
Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish Your Kingdom on earth.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 8: Show Your Power. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Seven: Show Your Power (by Kevin Prosch)

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He is the Lord, and He reigns on high.

He is the Lord.

Spoke into the darkness, created the light.

He is the Lord.

 Who is like unto Him never ending in days,

He is the Lord.

As He comes in power when we call on His name.

He is the Lord.

 Chorus 1:

Show your power, Oh Lord our God.

Show your power, Oh Lord our God.

Our God.

 Your gospel oh Lord is the hope of our nation.

You are the Lord.

It’s the power of God, for our salvation.

You are the Lord.

 We ask not for riches but look to the Cross.

You are the Lord.

Pour out our inheritance 

Give us the lost.

You are the Lord.               

 Chorus (x2):

Send your power, Oh Lord our God.

Send your power, Oh Lord our God. Our God.

Click on the arrow below to listen to Show Your Power. Allow some time for the song to load.

Doug & Monica Friesen, Jenny & Rob Wall going out to eat, June 1998.

Last dinner out with Doug around 6 weeks before he passed away.

We wanted God to show us God’s power by healing Doug. In this song we are calling out to God over and over to first “show your power”, and then “send your power”.

This song also reminds us that “you are the Lord”.  We are not.  We are invited to  “look to the Cross.”

The cross shows us the weakness of God. God allowed God to be wounded, harmed, killed.  We don’t see any show of strength at the cross.  That didn’t come till the resurrection, when God conquered death once and for all, demonstrating God’s great power for the good of all people for all time.  In the end, this was a much greater show of power than ending Christ’s suffering and death before it happened, with a much greater result of salvation for all as well as God’s glory and power revealed.

Reflection

Where are you needing God to “send his power?”  Are you able to tell God what you need, and leave the results in God’s hands?  Talk to God about what rises up in you as you consider these questions.

Part 7: Lament. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Six, Lam. 3:22 & 23

 Chorus:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is thy faithfulness.

 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

To the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly.

For the salvation of the Lord.

 Let us test and examine our ways,

And return to the Lord.

For the Lord, He is our mighty fortress.

Let us always praise His name.

You can listen to Lam. 3:22-23 by clicking on the arrow below. Allow some time for the song to load.

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Doug and the author singing at our sister’s wedding.

 This song is based on words from Lamentation 3:22-23:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

One begins to read these verses a little differently when serious health issues stop us in our tracks; particularly when healing is not guaranteed, and death is a very real possibility.

One can feel consumed – consumed with fear, anxiety, anger, depression, helplessness, hopelessness.  Because, let’s face it, even though as Christians we read in scripture that we have the hope of eternal life after death, that Jesus went to “prepare a place for us” in heaven, that when this earthly tent wears out we have a “heavenly” one, we don’t really focus on that much in our lives.  In fact, we don’t really think we will die, particularly when we are in our early 30’s and life is busy with raising small children, working and serving the Lord.

Life-threatening illness tests our faith – do we really believe this stuff?  If so, how do we live in this new reality we are facing?  Time and time again we are told in scripture to look to the Lord, seek His face, take our eyes off of the things of this earth and on to Christ.  Does he not care for us?  Is he not filled with compassion for us?  Does he not know we are weak and helpless?

A lament is a prayer of complaint – letting God know what is going on and how we feel about it.  We see many in the Psalms and of course in the book of Lamentations. In fact this passage from Lamentations chapter 3 comes after several chapters of lamenting the difficult and painful conditions of life the Israelites were enduring in captivity. I learned during Doug’s illness that God is not afraid of our questions or our overwhelming emotions.  He invites us to bring them to Him.

There are several movements in prayers of lament:

  • An honest description of the problem.
  • A request for God to act on our behalf and remedy the problem.
  • Confession of Trust. Remembering what God has done in the past and confessing trust in God for the present.
  • Vow of Praise. Praising God in anticipation of God’s new redemption action in the future.

Theological Reflection is at the heart of Lament.  When we experience loss and hard times, it can feel like God is absent. We no longer feel at home with God as our normal life experience has changed. We feel that we are “cast into a foreign land.”  We become consumed by our emotions and wonder if God is really who we thought He was.

These verses in Lamentations that Doug chose to focus on in this song are a good representation of the last movement in the prayer of lament; the Vow of Praise.  I am wondering if at this point, Doug had worked through the other movements of lament, and landed at praise.

Reflection

 Are you facing the biggest test of faith you’ve ever faced?  Are you concerned for someone else? Consider writing your own prayer of lament.  Don’t give up on God.  Seek His face each morning – great is His faithfulness.

Part 6: Praise Him (Again). Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Five, Praise Him (by Doug and the Slugs)

v. 1 If any man be in Christ, then he has become a new creation.

Old things have passed away, behold everything has become new again.

God no longer knows the things that brought you to this place before you came here.

He only sees you holy now, faultless and blameless as you’re standing here.

 Chorus:

Praise him, lift your hands and praise him.

Praise him; Praise the name of Jesus.

Praise him.

 v. 2 Through the blood of Jesus His righteousness is like a flowing water,

Totally covering his garment of praise will now adorn you.

We live and reign forever, as kings and priests,

His blood is flowing through you now,

Royalty has finally found a place in you.

You can listen to this song by clicking on the arrow below. Allow some time for the song to load.

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Doug’s guitar, Bible, and worship books as displayed at his funeral in Grand Forks, ND

Such a quiet, worshipful, prayerful song. Listening to it brings tears to my eyes.  It seems to me that Doug is recognizing, with humility and gratefulness, the new life he has in Christ. He is forgiven; blameless before God.

I have to admit initially I had a difficult time understanding many of the words of this song.  The accompaniment is louder than the vocals.  I listened over and over and wasn’t sure I got them all right.  At first I thought this line in the first verse said

He only sees you holy now, hopeless and blameless as you’re standing here.

The word “hopeless” doesn’t seem to fit in with the thoughts and mood of this song, but I couldn’t make out what else that word is.

After pondering it for I while, I thought that perhaps it does fit.  We are hopeless without Christ.  And God knows that.  We have no ability to stand before a holy God without accepting His love demonstrated through the work Jesus did for us on the cross.  We began that journey of becoming a new creation – we have become before God, and we are becoming in this life.  This work of becoming is not finished in this lifetime. Yet every experience, every joy, every sorrow, every bump in the road can be an opportunity to let God shape us into that new creation we are becoming, if we let him.  And along the way, we realize that it is the righteousness of Jesus that clothes us, and “royalty has finally found a place in you.”

And then, after checking with Doug’s wife, I learned that the word was “faultless” instead of “hopeless”.  Well, in spite of the fact that we are hopeless without Christ, God graces us with Christ’s righteousness when we come to faith in Him, and we are “faultless” before Him.  That is a truely amazing gift of love!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  (I John 3:1)

Reflection

I invite you to listen to this song again.  Listen to it several times.  Sing along.  Let your voice praise along with Doug’s. Have you received God’s forgiveness by accepting his love as demonstrated through Jesus? Do you see yourself as God sees you?  As a new creation?  As covered and flowing with the life of Christ in you? If not, would you like to?  Talk to God about your thoughts and desires. Talk to a trusted pastor or friend who could help you.

Doug, Allison & Kate in Seattle for Aunt Susan's wedding

Doug with niece and daughter (L-R) in Seattle, WA, 1993, for a family wedding.

 

Part 5: Faithful One. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Four, Faithful One (By Brian Doerkson)

v. 1 Faithful one, so unchanging.

Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace,

Lord of all, I depend on you.

I call out to you, again and again.

I call out to you, again and again.

 v. 2 You are my rock in time of trouble.

You lift me up when I fall down.

All through the storm, your love is the anchor,

My hope is in you alone.

Oh, we had so much HOPE that Doug would be healed.  Doug placed his hope in God as this song states.  My mantra to the very end was “if there’s life there’s hope.”

You can listen to this song by clicking on the arrow below. Allow some time for the song to load.

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Doug and his family, E. Grand Forks, ND, Spring 1998

I view this song as a declaration of Doug’s faith in God.  It is a prayer of dependence on God for the “storm” of cancer Doug was experiencing. But we see in this song the words “I call out to you again and again…I call out to you again and again.”  I remember doing this, and I’m sure this reflects what Doug did as well.

When Doug placed his faith in God, he experienced God as “faithful”, “unchanging”, “ageless”, “rock of peace”, “anchor”.  The emotions were strong as Doug experienced progress and set backs in his health. Doug often depended on his family and pastor for encouragement, but utlimately God was the one who lifted Doug up when he was discouraged, fearful, feeling the effects of the cancer and/or the treatment, weary, worried.  In the end, as modern medicine failed, his hope was truly in God alone.

Reflection

Take a little time to read slowly through the verses from Psalm 3 several times.  Then reflect on the following questions.

Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. (Pause) But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. (Pause) I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. (Psalm 3:1-5 KJV)

What troubles are facing you today?  Are you weighed down by a heavy burden?

Consider calling to the Lord, today, tomorrow, again and again. Invite Him to be the “lifter of your head.” Your “rock of peace.”

Part 4: Praise the Lord Now! Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Three, Praise the Lord Now! (By Doug & one Slug)

v. 1 We come to praise you,

acknowledge God our King;

We proclaim your name to all the nations.

Many will hear and put their trust in you,

your wonders I proclaim through all the earth.

Chorus:

Oh – praise the Lord now! 

We will follow you, all of our days.

Oh – praise the Lord now! 

Your word will light our path and show the way.

 v. 2 Your – mercy Lord is a wonder to my soul,

my hope is in the grace you’ve given me.

I will set my gaze on you and you alone,

And invite the world to come and see.

Fun!  Listening to “Praise the Lord Now!” made me smile and brought back the memory of Doug’s fun loving nature.  He liked to laugh, tease, have a good time, party with the music cranked up, and have fun!

You can listen to this song by clicking on the arrow below. Allow some time for the song to load.

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This song starts with the bass in the style of Harold J. Faultmier, the TV show Barney Miller intro song, or The Blues Brothers church style, for those who might remember.  Lively, jazzy, with a strong beat as the bass, keyboards, brass and other instrumentation joins in.

Doug and one “Slug” are singing it out in the chorus, inviting us to “praise the Lord now!” It reminds me of the summer after college I moved back home between jobs in the early 1980’s. Doug had just graduated from high school.  My parents were renting an old 3 story farm house and Doug’s room had a door out onto the flat roof of the back porch.  One day I was out there sunbathing, and Doug appeared with a cassette tape player.  He cranked it up to full volume and we sang our hearts out together to the tunes of 2nd Chapter of Acts, one of the earlier popular Christian music singing groups made up of three siblings.  Exhilarating!  But anyone coming onto the farm would have thought we were a little crazy!

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Doug’s high school graduation, with sisters Jenny (author) & Susan.

The word that stands out to me in this song is the word “hope”.  Doug, along with our entire family and church families, had hope that God would heal him.  Doug was placing his full gaze on the Lord, and invited others to do the same.

The phrase, “Invite the world to come and see” made me think of the conversation Doug and I had when I visited him in spring of 1998 after the cancer re-appeared.  Doug was getting “reduction” on his tumors with chemotherapy, but they weren’t going away.  His desire was to live at least 15 more years and raise his kids if God gave him more time.

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Doug praising along with young son.

Doug also expressed the desire to reach out to his community with the love of God, inviting them to “come and see” this God that he was fixing his gaze on.

Reflection

Crank up the volume and listen to this song again! Consider accepting Doug’s musical invitation and spend a little time fixing your gaze on Jesus, who is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). Let the passages below assist you.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 24:7)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Part 3: Psalm 148. Doug & the Slugs, Music from a Sick Man’s Bedroom

Song Two, Psalm 148 (by Rosie)

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Praise Him from the heavens;
    praise Him in the heights.
Praise Him, all the angels;
    praise Him, stars at night.

Let the waters that are above the heavens;
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for He commanded and they were created,
He has established them forever.

  Praise Him from the heavens;
    praise Him in the heights.
Praise Him, all the angels;
    praise him, stars at night.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for His name alone is exalted;

His glory is above heaven and earth;

He has made his people strong,

Honoring his godly ones.

 Praise Him from the heavens;
    praise Him in the heights.
Praise Him, all the angels;
    praise Him, stars at night.

Praise Him from the heavens;
    praise Him in the heights.
Praise Him, all the angels;
    praise Him, stars at night.

Written by a college friend of Doug’s, the lyrics of this song are taken from Psalm 148 but are not a direct word-for-word rendering.

You can listen to the song by clicking on the arrow below. Allow some time for the song to load.

Doug&Rosiesingingatchurchpicnicwichita

Doug and Rosie performing together at a church picnic in Wichita, KS around 1986.

I listened carefully to the words as Doug sang them and found that they focused my attention up – to the heavens – where the angels, the stars, and even “the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord.” Look up…and when you do, you can’t help but praise God as you take in what He created and established. As the writer looks up into the night sky he is overwhelmed with awe for the creator.

Who looks up to the heavens these days? Who is paying attention to what the heavens are saying in their silent way? For thousands of years humans paid a great deal of attention to the heavens.  Before electricity, the lights of the sky were studied and used to guide travelers by land and by sea.  The movement of the sun by day and the stars by night was discovered and used to plan life.  People were always looking up to the heavens and thereby also noticing God’s creation daily.  Many marveled at the soundless message of God’s glory, but many chose to ignore it.

Now with our modern conveniences we produce fake light at night and are distracted by our technology.  Who looks up at the night sky?  Who notices and sings along with the silent praise that is pouring out of the heavens?

The angels, the night stars, and even the waters above the heavens are praising God and invite us to look up — and notice – and join the everlasting chorus of praise. For God’s glory and greatness exceeds what you see in the heavens.

The refrain “praise him” is repeated over and over in this song.  What does it even mean to praise God?  Well, the Psalms were originally written in the Hebrew language, so if we go to the Hebrew, there are several words that are translated as the word “praise” in our English translations.

Here are a few Hebrew words we translate as praise: 1) yadah means praise, give thanks, confess; 2) hala means to praise, glorify, boast, commend; 3) zamar means to make music or sing praise. [i] The end result of praise is that God’s name is exalted.  As we read more in the Biblical book of Psalms, which speaks much about praising God, we find we can praise God in song, in dance, in prayer, through speaking, studying God’s Word, and in honoring God before all other people or things.

In Psalm 148, God’s creation in the heavens is giving him praise.  It makes me think of another Psalm:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm, 19:1-4)

Tucked in this song of praise, Psalm 148, is the phrase I had the hardest time understanding from the recording,

            He has made his people strong, honoring his godly ones.

You only hear this phrase once.  And at first I couldn’t understand the words.  I listened over and over to these two lines.  As a singer, I was impressed with Doug’s final “t” at the end of the last word “night” but the rest of the words were unclear, muffled somehow. Now that I understand the words, it is obvious that this is truly a praise song – exalting God, and not people.  However, God’s attention to his “godly ones” is what He is praised for in these two short lines, and that makes all the difference to people of faith.  God is with us, making us strong, honoring us.

The action in this song all belongs to God which makes Him worthy of praise….the creator of the majestic heavens…He has made his people strong.  In the end, through all the ups and downs of Doug’s illness, Doug was strengthened by God to persevere in faith right to the end of his life.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.  (I Sam. 2:8)

Reflection

As if fighting cancer wasn’t enough, Doug and his family had to evacuate their home during Doug’s chemo treatment due to a large flood.

FamilyatHoferFarm

During the weeks of evacuation Doug and his family were living on his in-law’s farm outside of Freeman, SD. I can picture Doug sitting outside at night with his guitar, looking up at the sky and singing this song of praise to the Lord.

On a clear night, spend some time outside, looking up.  Listen to this song and contemplate, or think with God, about what you hear and see. Contemplate the God who made the heavens.  Is God important in your life? Do you praise God with your actions, songs, words, study, prayer?  Talk with God about what you discover.

[i] https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/what-does-praising-god-mean/