When my kids are especially full of complaints I make them give me 5 things they’re grateful for, telling them “Thanksgiving is like magic, it makes the grouchies go away.” It worked like a charm on my oldest but the younger two are more resistant, determined to fight for their right to be in a foul mood (wherever could they get that from??)
I’ve been praying the Psalms as a spiritual habit for the past few months. I guess I’ve been doing it for the past 100 days, since I prayed Psalm 101 this morning. Though I’ve missed some days, and there were a few Psalms that spoke so directly and poignantly to my exact feelings that I stayed with them for a few days.
It has been a good and life-giving habit, celebrating the character of God and being honest about the realities of life. If I can pray the Psalm for myself and others as a “we” then I pray for us all. If I can’t relate at all to the circumstances of the Psalmist, then I think of someone or a group who could relate, and I pray for them. It has been stretching and good, teaching me to pray beyond my own present experience.
Most of the time this practice has stretched me toward praying for hard things I don’t often experience – enemies, the need for revenge, oppression. But this week I was unexpectedly stretched by Psalm 100.
The 100th Psalm is a favorite favorite, a passage I’ve read and written and sung and taught and LOVED over the years. But yesterday I wasn’t feeling it. At all.
It was a tired Monday morning, I woke up with lots on my mind, and I wasn’t exactly in the mood to start my day by shouting joyfully to the Lord. I wasn’t really even feeling much like sitting joyfully in the Lord.
Psalm 100 is only 5 verses long, so I wrote out the words in my journal and made myself think about them. This song is a call to praise Yahweh, 7 commands in 5 verses:
SERVE (with Gladness)
COME (with Joyful Singing)
KNOW (the Lord is God)
ENTER (His gates, His presence, with Thanksgiving and Praise)
BLESS (His Name)
It wasn’t really in me in that moment to shout or sing joyfully, and I was feeling a bit resentful about serving with gladness. But in verse 3 I found something I could do:
Know that the Lord Himself is God, and we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
So I stayed there for a while, knowing that the Lord Himself is God. And then I found that I could enter His gates (His presence) with praise, I could give thanks and bless His name.
In verse 5 we’re given the reason to answer these calls to praise:
The Lord is GOOD. His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
That is true truth, true on a grouchy Monday morning, true on good days and bad, true for the rich and for the poor, true for us all. The Lord is GOOD.
And I realized: I was grouchy because I was fighting battles in my mind that are not my battles to fight, fighting battles with people who are not my enemy (people who are, as Psalm 100 reminds me, His people and sheep of His pasture.) I had my eyes on little things rather than the one BIG thing (The Lord is GOOD.)
And as it turns out, Thanksgiving IS like magic. It chased my Monday morning grouchy away. I was able to enter my day with thanksgiving and serve with gladness.
Even I still wasn’t ready to shout.