Dazed to Praise
You heard about Chippey, the dazed parakeet? In Galveston, TX a few years ago, Chippey’s owner was cleaning his cage with a vacuum hose when the phone went off. Keeping the hose in the cage, she reached for the phone, and suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of sucked up bird. She dropped the phone, ripped open the cleaner’s bag, grabbed her beloved parakeet to find him alive but rather stunned by the whole experience, covered in soot. What if he breathes this in, it may clog his lungs! So she ran to the faucet, turned it on full-bore to clean him off, not realizing that Chippey wasn’t enjoying this either. When she finally inspected him, he was clean, but dripping wet, and she panicked again. What if he catches pneumonia?! Now you may be getting ahead of me. There was a hairdryer sitting nearby… Chippey got a blow dry. And how did the local reporter describe the parakeet post-trauma? It quoted the owner saying, Well, he doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sort of sits there now. We might say he’s dazed.
Couldn’t that be said of a lot of us? We may be dazed by boredom, by just going through the motions, or, like Chippey, dazed by tough times: Year 2 of job hunting, or burying both Mosko parents in 9 months. Or like the Rev. Dr. Lew Smedes’ mother. As a recent, Dutch im-migrant she didn’t speak much English when her husband died. In 1922 there were no welfare checks for widows, she had no family in the US, so there was nothing for her to do to feed her five kids (Lew was a baby at the time), but to go to work scrubbing peoples’ floors. Tough! But she never complained, her deep faith told her that God cared for widows, and she was thankful.
I used to think that the refrain of Psalm 103 came out of a heart overflowing with gratitude. But now, I think that the Psalmist was in some way dazed by life, and wanted to snap himself out of it, so he sang to himself, Bless the Lord, O my soul… Bless the Lord, O my…
How do we move from dazed to praise? The Psalmist, probably unintentionally, describes four ways to build up a crescendo of praise: listing, looking, loving and listening.
First, list personal blessings. It’s like the psalmist, needing to wake up to life’s blessings, was humming the old tune, Count your blessings, name them… I mean look at his list:
Forgiveness, healing, down deep and topping off grace, satisfaction, renewal.
It reminds me of this 20 year old list on lavendar paper, in wobbly handwriting, that my Grandma wrote on her last Thanksgiving. Gram was dazed that she had to move from her home to a nursing home. In her more delusional moments she thought it a plot to get rid of her. But aware of Thanksgiving, and wanting to forget not all his benefits she wrote, I am thankful that:
- I can walk behind the wheelchair;
- I can sleep all night;
- I can read;
- I can eat well;
- I can pray for people;
- I can still paint sometimes (she really couldn’t anymore)
- I can call many folks friends;
- I can tolerate pills;
- I can love people;
- I am God’s child.
As listing personal blessings lifts up the head, secondly look at God’s way in history. Whatever was bothering the psalmist it was helpful to remember the exodus. How God had taken beaten down slaves in Egypt and brought them into freedom in the Promised Land.
That’s like the youtube campaign where older gay folk are telling younger gay folk, It gets better. However you interpret God’s will on homosexuality, we can all agree that God wants every gay or straight child to grow up assured of love. Whatever you believe the Bible says about gay marriage, you want to save the Tyler Clementi’s of the world from suicide. Listen to this clip… Looking back at God’s way in history, it gets better. Thank God!
To move from dazed to praise, we list personal blessings, look at God’s way in the past, and then just love God. This poetry sings of God’s infinity and God’s intimacy. The first sonnet serenades us with how infinitely far God has removed our guilt. It refers to east and west, because east and west never meet, as God and our sins never meet. Lose your guilt in thanksgiving for that. Love God for God’s infinity and intimacy. As a father [and mother have] compassion… For those of you worried about a prodigal son, or those who keep vigil at the bedside of a sick aunt, there is no human love like yours. But there is a heavenly love that is greater. Trust your loved one to the One who loves them infinitely, and give thanks.
Moving from dazed now almost to praise because we listed personal blessings, looked at God’s way in history, loved God, now listen to the great chorus. What began as a thankful solo, now has crescendoed into a heaven and creation’s chorus. It’s like fretting over a mistake made singing in church, or thanking God that all earthly worship is rehearsal for the heavenly chorus. It’s like looking out at the changing leaves and moaning that you have to rake, or rejoicing in the colors of God’s praise. Listen to praise’s chorus and join in!
That’s how we move from a dazed Chippey to a praising Mama Smedes: listing, looking, loving and listening. Bless the Lord, O my soul… Mindful of his own mother, Lew Smedes concludes, I have never known a grateful person who was not a happy person, too. Not one. Me neither. He ends: In fact, gratitude is the happiest feeling you will ever have.