Monday, June 23, 2008

Preemptive Praise

I'd heard of the capabilities of the kitchen aid. After all, what self-respecting novice chef has not heard of and longed for, perhaps dare I say even lusted after the sleek yet sturdy design of the kitchen aid free-standing mixer? Though my own fingers had never personally touched one and I'd never turned out any culinary confection thanks to one, I was confident that with one I could do far greater things than without. I began what can only be called a kitchen-aid campaign and I waged it on my very new and very green husband. At the time two-hundred and ninety-nine dollars seemed like an awful lot to spend on a kitchen appliance--especially one that would take up three quarters of the counter space in our second floor Victorian apartment. My approach was to sing the kitchen-aid praises until Jeff was convinced as was I that without the stainless and white mixer our lives would somehow be inadequate. I praised it's ability to make bread, to make cookies, to puree baby food, (though babies were not in our plan for ten years) and most of all, I praised it's ability to work alone, while I focused on other tasks. In effect, I launched a preemptive praise attack declaring the worth and ability of this appliance before I had ever experienced the evidence to ratify my beliefs. And, it worked. Ten years later that beautiful baby we call Betsy is still turning out triple batches of chocolate chip cookies each week while I happily listen to her buzz and twirl around. I was preemptive in my praise of her and she's never let me down--not once. This idea of preemptive praise has kept me thinking. The notion that I praise before I experience is somewhat foreign when it comes to God. With Betsy (my mixer) I was confident because other people had told me all about the kitchen aid's great performance history. With God the Bible says we are surrounded by "a great cloud of witnesses" --those who have gone before and banked on His goodness without wavering and yet I hesitate to pre-praise Him because in any given circumstance I'm not sure what He will do. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen." The NET translation puts it this way: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." When we praise God before the answer, solution or resolution comes it's like we are placing our situation like a seed into prepared soil. When a gardener tills, pulls roots, adds nutrients and fertilizers to soil before he places a seed into the ground he is declaring to the world that he knows full well what's fixing to happen. He's going to plant that seed into the ground and within a short period of time the buds of new life will appear and it won't be long before he's enjoying fresh produce. Preparing the soil actually produces the best results. When we praise God before He acts, we are fertilizing our hearts--making them soft and supple, ready to receive whatever fruit he desires to produce in our lives. This past spring the boys and I put some potatoes into the ground in the back yard. We didn't do any prep work--just dug holes and tossed the buds into the red clay. We got a real bad cold snap that killed just about everything people had put in the ground and we figured those potatoes were rotting under the soil. We gave up on them and completely forgot about them. We weren't overly disappointed or concerned because we hadn't really counted on much anyway. But just this past week Corton announced, "Momma, our potatoes are coming up!" I was shocked and went to check out his story. Sure enough, there, amidst the rocky, red clay were potato plants almost a foot tall. I couldn't believe it. We hadn't even watered them because we figured they were a lost cause--hopeless; yet here they were growing despite our lack of faith. Now that's the difference between being the kind of person who lives a preemptive praise lifestyle and the kind of person who loses faith, gives up and writes things off as hopeless. Corty had remembered what we planted and had continued to keep an eye on the dry cracked earth waiting for life to appear. I had turned to other pursuits and figured I could buy potatoes from the grocery store if we needed them. Had it not been for a little man of faith I would have missed the life God brought from the terra cotta earth. How often in our lives do we completely miss God's answers, His power, His work in our little worlds because we have long ago given up hope? It is possible for believers to live in a garden filled with lush, ripe fruit of God and see only desert sandstorms--sort of a reverse mirage. On the other hand when I choose to preemptively praise God in every area of my life, I will look at the veins of a cracked and dry ground and say, "I know the God who will bring forth life here and I can't wait to see it." Preemptive praise gives me hope when I tearfully bring my beautiful family member whose life has been drained by drugs and men who refuse to love her but happily take from her before God's thrown of grace. Of course I plead with God to intervene and beg Him to act quickly, but I also spend time praising Him for what I know He can do--soften hearts, minister healing, restore that which was taken. Preemptive praise is evidence of faith in our lives. We won't always see evidence that God is working, but "what is visible has its origin in the invisible." (Hebrews.11:3b) I campaigned for a kitchen aid because I believed in it's reputation. I need to campaign for God's work in my life because I believe what is said of Him in His Word to be true. When we choose to believe God's Word, choose to stand on it, base our lives on it, the quality will be starkly different and the outcomes will be different too. Remember the famous words of the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." For followers of Christ there are truths that are self-evident. We serve a good God. We love a faithful God. We hope in an able God. We seek an ever present God. We count on a powerful God. We believe in a loving God. God's word says, "Without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews. 11:6) He exists. That's evident because of creation. He rewards those who seek him. That's evident because of Noah and Abraham and David and Jabez. Listen to His words of promise, "You keep completely safe the people who maintain their faith, for they trust in you..." (Isaiah 26:3) Completely safe. Wow! This is the God we are praising so, "let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings...and let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy..." (Hebrews10;22a, 23) We don't praise a God who drowned the Israelites in the Red Sea because of their selfish whining. We don't praise a God who drowned Noah and his family in a flood because of a leaky boat. We don't praise a God who drowned Jonah in the Sea because of his weakness and fear. We serve the God who parts Red Seas, builds sound vessels and provides giant fish to carry us through our doubts, fears and rebellion to the shore of His promises. May it be said of us all that we lived a life of faith, that though we did not always see the fruition of our faith, we held unwaveringly to the hope we had in a good and faithful God. Lord, today, I praise you because I know you are working in the circumstances in our life. I know you are working beneath the soil now where I cannot see, but I am watching, Lord, expectantly. I'll be ready when the first shoots sprout forth to shout to the world, Look! My Father is acting! He's working! He's making a way in the desert. Lord, may this be so because of your name's sake. Amen. Read with me: Psalm 16:8,9 Psalm 34:1-4, 10, 37:3-5, 7a, Psalm 150:2, Isaiah 26:3-4, Jeremiah 32:27,


Julie said...

This was beautiful. Sarah, Bretta told me about your blog. I go to the co-op in Blairsville. I hear I will be seeing you next year. My kids are older, but I am sure we will run into each other.

I also have a blog and I write devotionals for 2 ministry blogs... Heart of the Matter Online (a home school blog) and the Internet Cafe.

I have enjoyed blogworld. I am glad to meet someone in my own "backyard" so to speak. I live in Ellijay...not too far away!

It's nice to meet you.

Sarah said...

It's a pleasure to meet you--I have to tell you I already know who you are...does a Versace suit and a bit of a catwalk moment ring any bells? Around Christmas? I knew at that party that yours was a heart which would sing harmony with mine! I look forward to meeting you again. Your blog is a delight. Sarah

Julie said...

Sarah, I think that maybe there must be another Julie or I have a twin...that was at the Christmas party! : )

I didn't attend the Christmas party. I don't think we have met yet.

But I do look forward to it. I live in Ellijay and started attending the co-op last year. I have 3 kids there now.

Where was the Christmas party? Now I am wondering who had on that Versace suit on the catwalk!!! : )

Thanks for coming by my blog. I love having visitors.