(Ode to Triteness – A Story)
‘Twas a dark and stormy night,
When I felt pain of broken heart…
“Cut, stop! Quit, I say! That’s too trite!”
“Oh, father! Please! Don’t even start!”
The one screaming ‘trite,’ that’s daddy dear,
The one moaning – that’s me.
Accusing finger flying, I hear –
“Originality’s what we need!”
A young artist, slaving away,
The only words to touch my ears –
“Say it a different way!”
But it’s all been said over the years.
I can’t say – Lips like roses red,
Or – Eyes like the brilliant sky blue,
Because it’s already been said,
And it’s rally touch to make it new.
People praise Shakespeare and Poe,
And say they were talented men,
But what they don’t seem to know
Is that writers today just can’t win!
Sure, it was just fine for them to say –
“I’ll love you til the end of time”
But if I wrote that stuff today,
I’d cross it out and write a new line.
There is one handy weapon though,
A thesaurus is its name,
And it doesn’t matter what you know,
Your writing will never be the same!
On a dim, tempestuous eve,
I knew anguish of a splintered soul –
Aha! I’e done it as you can see!
Now I can say anything – new or old!
Listen up, how does this sound –
Fairer than flowers, sanguine lips,
Or – Cerulean eyes heaven bound.
Now, I’ll just spew off revised quips!
Transfiguration is what we need
(Because really it’s the only way)
Because it just won’t happen today.
(By the way…)
(Please don’t mention this to my dad.
He’s just not the type to understand,
And I know for a fact he’d be mad,
If he knew about my master plan!)
I really don’t remember the word “praise” being used in the church I grew up in, and their definition of worship had an extremely narrow view that I won’t even attempt to describe here because I would immediately lose two-thirds of my audience! We definitely spoke about thankfulness and thanksgiving, but seemed to stop intentionally short of praise. I’ve realized in the years since that there seems to almost be an embarrassment around the idea of praise. Especially around praise that goes beyond polite listening to a physicality of standing or lifting hands.
However, as God was preparing me at the age of 38 years to leave the church I spent my entire life in, one of the first concepts he made me aware of was the need to praise him. I was reading a book where the Christian author spoke of the importance of praising God with our lips.
One of the verses that really stood out to me was Romans 4:20 in the amplified version that described how Abraham behaved in his time of waiting for the promise of God to him to be fulfilled.
Romans 4:20 Amplified
“No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God.”
I was deeply impressed at that stage of my life that it was needful for me to begin to praise God with my lips and not just in my heart. It felt uncomfortable initially to begin to introduce praise into my speech, but I was convicted of the necessity of this act in my life. The more I praised God, the more I could sense his pleasure at my praise. I remember one time praising him out loud in my car and it felt as if he was hugging me in response. It was so powerful a sensation and such a surprise that I can remember the section of road I was driving.
Over the next several years I began to learn more about praise and the importance and necessity of it in our lives. Looking back, I am fully persuaded that the praise on my lips helped me get out of many difficult situations I was in.
The kingdom of God is sometimes referred to as the Upside Down Kingdom, because it works in a way that seems contrary to our human logic. We give and yet receive. We pray for those who hurt us and somehow we are healed when we release the job of vengeance to the Lord. And we praise when we are yet in sorrow, and God turns our situations around. The concept of lamentations is that of praises given when there seems no evidence for praise.
(17) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
(18) yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.
There is a protection that God is able to provide when we praise him. On more than one occasion the scripture records how God would send out the Israeli troops with people praising in advance of the sword-wielding troops. Sometimes he removed their “weapons” altogether – such as the record of Gideon and his small band of warriors. There is a power to our praise that confuses and confounds the enemy of our souls.
One of my favorite movie scenes is the culminating battle in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. The dark and ominous villain, shrouded in black with dark circles around his eyes dripping black down his cheeks, is closing in on our heroes and everything seems lost. Then the heroes use humor in the face of their doom and it leads to the undoing of the powerful enemy. I love that because I feel like there is a lot of truth to that idea. It reminds me of the concept of a sacrifice of praise.
When in the midst of terrible circumstances, we turn away from sorrow, self-pity and depression, our praise opens an avenue for the Lord God of Angel-Armies to move and rescue us. It is not by our might or power, but by the genius of the Holy Spirit that God flips the enemy’s plans on its head. When we rejoice before we feel the joy, before we see the victory, then we are offering what is referred to as a sacrifice of praise, and it opens a door for God to move powerfully on our behalf! I heard one pastor describe it as praise embarrasses the enemy to the point that Satan will excuse himself from the presence of praise.
Praise is such an enormous topic, I feel intimidated to even try to speak on the power and purpose of it! But I do get really excited about the subject, because I know it means so much to our God, and it is such an easily accessible tool that we can use to defeat the enemy in our lives.
There are more than a hundred uses of the word praise JUST in the Psalms! Here are some that clearly indicate that praise is to be done outside of our heart – to be done OUT LOUD! Even IN FRONT OF PEOPLE – what? – Yes!
Psalm 22:22 ISV
I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you…
Wow, even to our “brothers,” i.e. to me brothers isn’t just biological family, but our spiritual family, those who know the Lord – I’m still supposed to declare his name to them! And to praise him in that setting.
Psalm 22:25 ISV
My praise in the great congregation is because of you; I will pay my vows before those who fear you.
Praise is referred to as a way of paying our vows – how beautiful and significant.
Psalm 22:7 Common English Bible
proclaiming out loud my thanks, declaring all your wonderful deeds.
We speak it out loud. I don’t know why it can seem so hard to praise God out loud – I do struggle lots of times with wanting to praise him in my mind, and not with my mouth even in the privacy of my own home. And I have to work on this and remind myself there is a power in praising out loud.
Psalm 30:12 ISV
so that I may sing praise to you and not remain silent. Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever!
This verse again makes a point that praise is not only to be inside our hearts – we are NOT to remain silent. Our words are weapons – let’s make them weapons against Satan!
Psalm 34:1 ISV
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will be in my mouth continuously.
Psalm 35:28 ISV
My tongue will declare your righteousness and praise you all day long.
My tongue will declare your righteousness. I don’t mean we can’t ALSO praise him silently, but it’s important to speak it out loud – even just for ourselves! I am persuaded that there is a power that vibrates the very air waves and atmosphere as we take praise out of the inside of our hearts and pour it into the air around us. I don’t know that you’re necessarily going to find a scientific study to substantiate this, but if you have not already experienced it, you will find that we change the environment around us by the words we speak. I have heard many times that there are studies that indicate we believe our own voice above all else – so it nothing else, speaking out praise helps persuade us to have a grateful attitude!!
When I praise God it takes my eyes off of my situation and places them on the majesty, beauty and supremacy of an omnipotent God. I currently live in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is nestled against the Sandia Mountains. Although I see the mountains every single day, when I travel further east in the city so that I am closer to the magnitude of the mountains, I feel a physical response in my chest – emotion swells in my heart in response to the vastness of these mountains as I move closer to them.
Last week my friend drove me right up into the base of the mountains, and I was so moved by the enormity of the mountains that in that moment were to me a representation of the enormity of my God and the enormity of his surpassing power to do good for me.
The Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I do feel aware of God in my every day life, constantly and regularly, but sometimes I need to position myself in a different way before him. I see the mountains in Albuquerque every day, but when I change my position and my proximity to the mountains, I am reminded of their magnitude that I can begin to take for granted in my daily life when I see them in the background rather than the foreground. In a similar manner, praise can position our hearts to place Father God into the foreground of our thoughts and our considerations. Praise can positively affect our attitude and our circumstances. I encourage you to praise the Lord with your lips.
They fill my head.
And I’ve given up
On trying to record
That fill my mind.
I see all the colors,
And the faces of the people.
And the places,
The peeks into their souls
That flit across
And I tire
Of the guile,
And the hidden hearts,
Of the people at my side.
Let me see your soul.
Is it anything
Let me know your dreams.
Do you ever find
What you’re looking for?
Let’s soar beyond
These small places
Let’s strip our eyes
Of dullness acquired.
Let’s not hide
One more honest cry
– by Jenne Brown
Scripture describes a time after this life when we will receive rewards for our faithfulness in this life. I find this comforting and exciting to consider. In addition to eternal life, there are eternal rewards and this poem is about using that future reward as a current motivator. Much Love, Jenne
We reside in a world of sin,
With a soul that Christ cleansed.
We have an enemy who daily strives
To steal our confidence and ruin our lives.
We’ve been justified
By the faith of Jesus Christ.
Washed by his righteous stripes,
We rejoice in hope, embracing life.
When the anger is unfurled
From the god of this world,
We stay our minds against senses convictions,
To boast of God in contradiction.
We sense strain and struggle,
Tugs that tempt us to tumble.
We draw close to the Word,
Reminding ourselves God’s Truth is sure.
At times our heart yearns to turn and run,
We hold our soul in opposition,
To face the ugly terrors of the night.
We stand. We move. We fight!
For our basis of boasting far exceeds
The tribulations we receive.
More real than flesh we wear on our bones
Is the Word God gave us as our own.
We receive the endurance we need,
When we take the Word’s statutes to heed.
So, we prove God to be just and true,
Steadfast to His standard, steadfastly unmoved.
The Father gave us an evidence to assure,
A token of truth to help us endure.
There is a truth seeped in our souls,
That his Son will return to rule.
In the stark face of frailty and frustration,
We draw our eyes to our future elation.
The glass we peer through can seem mighty dim,
Still we know, God has enabled us to win!
When the destroyer leaves us feeling rocked and shaken,
We love the hope by standing in retaliation!
For this competition we steel our souls
With the Hope of being perfectly whole.
This fight we did not choose,
But choose to fight – That we do!
God has fully equipped us for this fight
Evil cannot withstand true light.
To Satan’s devices we stand in defiance
For we know we have the final triumph.
This conflict is worth our time –
We will to hold our minds!
Faster than the light can leave the eye
We shall be gathered together in the sky.
We revel in taking on this – our appointed day,
Looking toward His coming, to our carrying away!
by Jenne Brown
I want to express at the start of this blog how little a person I am. Of myself I am incredibly small and weak. I have no greatness. All that is appealing or winsome about anything I do or express is so very much of God and not me. I know that without the strength of Christ and the genius of the Holy Spirit, I have no power, no strength to win or influence or inspire. I must pray through so many moments of every single day because that is literally the only way for me to make it out the door and through the process of regular life. I pray through dishes and showers, through walks and work. I am a praying fool because I must to survive and even begin to succeed at the most minimal of matters.
And yet, I feel so strongly that God has called me to share my story, not as somebody special or extraordinary, but as someone in constant desperate need of God’s intervening hand. I don’t ever mean to say that my experiences are a standard of right. I simply am endeavoring to share with you, the reader, the places the Lord has brought me and the wonder and understanding I feel I have gleaned in this process. I struggle often to write these blogs, to share the challenges and the beauty that I experience. I know there will be detractors who scoff or mock or disagree, but I push past that for people who I feel will gain something from my story and my experiences.
So, there I was. August of 2014 just home from a stunning, life-changing weekend of God’s word, friendship and healing. Lying on my bed my first night home in wonder and awe at the transformation Jesus had wrought inside of me in the previous year after a lifetime of bible study and following God. After decades of calling myself a Christian, I finally felt as though I had met Jesus and could actually call him a friend.
One of the songs we often sang in the home churches I grew up in was “Constantly Abiding.” The second stanza of that song, that we slightly modified, reads:
“All the world seemed to sing of a savior and lord.
When peace sweetly came to my heart.
Troubles all fled away and my night turned to day,
Blessed Jesus, how glorious thou art!”
I used to literally sing this song and have no idea what it was about. I had never experienced a relationship with Jesus that I could remember.
Then that Sunday night at the start of August 2014, I pondered what I could give King Jesus as a gift. I was remembering the lyrics to a song where the singer gives his song as a gift. Lying there I thought, I have no musical ability, I have no song to gift, what can I give him?
I’ll give him my heart I thought. In my mind’s eye, I placed my heart on an altar to the Lord Jesus. I wasn’t thinking about how my heart was a bigger gift than a song. I wasn’t trying to be clever or look good. I was being genuine in the privacy of my heart and soul, lying on my bed.
I couldn’t have anticipated how much my life would change from this act. I didn’t know that misleading teachings had led me away from allowing Jesus Christ to truly be my Lord and Savior. I didn’t understand so many things in the moment that I did them. But that is life. So much of life we don’t understand till later. A book I was reading recently said we live life forward but we understand it backwards.
I had confessed Romans 10:9, 10 as a four-year-old girl, confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior and looking back, I think I did know Jesus then as that little girl confessing Jesus in the chapel of the Christian pre-school I was attending. However by eight years old already I began to come under the grip of religion on the one hand and hurt on the other hand. These two great lies, two sides of evil that are both wrong, usurped King Jesus from his rightful place on the throne of my heart. I’ve often wondered why I was saved at such a young age, and I think now that part of the reason is so God could save me before I went down a twisted road of interior corruption.
God showed me a picture in the fall of 2014 of how he had guarded and protected my inner spirit from all the wrongs and hurts and twisting from the crazy paths I went down. Some people go down those roads without God and meet him afterwards and are made clean. I do believe he was with me through it all, but much of my thinking became darkened and deceived, and I had to be cleansed and healed afterward.
Romans 10:9, 10 from my KJV bible.
Romans 10:9, 10 in the King James Version that I grew up on reads:
9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
So many incredible things happened in the coming week. Part of me wishes I had journaled more from that week, but I didn’t fully understand many of the things happening, so I’m not sure how much I could have journaled.
I had an experience that I will describe as the personal presence of the Lord Jesus. I have met people who have literally seen and spoken to Jesus. I did not have that experience, but for a day his presence was so tangible I could clearly speak to him in conversation and receive responses. It was incredible and beautiful and life-changing.
Toward the end of the day I was at the sink washing a dish and Jesus and I were having an exchange of humor and love that was healing me in a category. In that moment I thought, I can do anything with you by my side. With you Jesus, I am invincible. I will be able to proclaim you and be victorious. That was the moment I realized this experience wasn’t going to last.
Yet, even as I realized this powerful sense of the presence of Jesus wasn’t going to remain with me for the rest of my days, Jesus told me he was never going to leave me and that he would always be just as present in moments where I could not feel him, as he was in that moment where he was so vivid and clear.
I have read and learned and believed all my life that God in Christ is present with me always, yet when Jesus said it to me that day it became real in a whole new dimension. I once heard a teacher say that God won’t give you revelation of things that are in his word. The exact example he used was that God won’t tell you by revelation that he loves you.
I think about that and how in my experience of the presence of Jesus, one of the most meaningful conversations was the one where he told me he would always be just as present with me as he was in that moment. All my life I’ve read in scripture and believed God is always with me, but now on tough days, in painful, devastating moments when I cannot “feel” Jesus with all my feelers turned on – I draw on that experience and I hold fast to the truth that Jesus Christ is just as present with me today as he was that day when I could see him so clearly in my mind’s eye and hear his voice strong and clear in my heart.
His presence was thrilling, exciting, funny….and overwhelming. By the end of the day, I realized, I couldn’t handle the strength of his presence, even where I knew I wasn’t fully, fully experiencing him. He had me laughing so hard as I tried to watch a favorite TV show, I was shushing him. I know it sounds nuts to watch TV when you have the Lord Jesus available for conversation, but I was getting maxed out on what I could handle and I still wasn’t sure how much I would continue to feel and sense him. I didn’t know it was really just that day. I don’t regret how I lived that day. It was beautiful and wondrous and he revealed much understanding and reassurance to my heart.
At one point I asked him why when I imagined his eyes I saw them as blue when it seemed to me that as a middle-eastern man of Jewish descent his eyes should be brown or black even. He expressed to me an understanding that people see him as they are able to receive and understand him. It was especially fun when the following year I sat through a class on the prophetic where a whole line of people stood up and gave a “word.” We were instructed to go to the person who gave a word that we felt was for us. Well, individual after individual gave a word that resonated with me. But then, almost the last person, a woman gave a word that also sang to my heart, and then she added, “And he says his eyes are blue.” Well, I knew that was the word for me!
The wonder is that me, a girl who wrestled with suicidal ideation for more than thirty years, a girl who spent a season having to check herself into the psychiatric ward to avoid harming herself, the girl who spent four years using cocaine on a regular basis, along with marijuana and another number of years abusing other medications – this girl has found that in Jesus all her wrongs are made right and all of her mess is turned into something useful.
I am made new again and again in his presence and in his friendship. He is my constant friend and the Captain of my Salvation. I seek to spend all my days glorifying him, becoming more like him, collapsing against him in my struggles, slipping into him for strength beyond my own.
That is the most wondrous discovery of it all. Jesus is the pearl without price. Jesus is the prize. To find Jesus is to find the way. To find Jesus is to find the truth. To find Jesus is to find life.