January - Thoughts on Praise for the New Year

“God inhabits the praises of his people”

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. - Ps. 22:3

Recently I was remembering this verse about God inhabiting the praise of His people. And the idea that The Holy One lives in our praise was always unclear to me in its meaning.
New insight?

I hope this is not too much of a stretch, but I had a new view of it as I thought of it in terms of what praise, (not flattery, but genuine positive praise) can do for a human.  Bernie has often quoted a Mark Twain-ism, where he says, "I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat." - Letter to Gertrude Natkin, 2 March 1906 (now Twain also admits that compliments can make him vain...so I guess not to overdo it.) I also remembered something one of our son Josh's professors said of him at an awards banquet when he was in college. He said, "Because Josh is in my computer science class, I can live!" :)  What he was saying was that Josh's interest in, understanding of, and appreciation of what that Computer Science teacher was teaching gave him the desire to live.  It was a slight exaggeration of course to make a point, but isn't there some truth to that?

Just as God apparently 'lives' in our praise as we acknowledge and appreciate and praise Him for who He is, for what He has done, I think people also can be encouraged also by sincere praise, when we look for what they do right, what natural strengths they have, what is good in them. It makes them want to continue, makes them want to 'live' in a sense.

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I first learned this with my parents:

I first learned the lesson related to my parents.  As a young adult I was rather critical of my Mom in particular, and told her of different things I didn't think she had done right. "I am insecure because..."  But as I started raising my own children, (and learning how hard a parent tries to do everything right and everything for the child's best, but yet how hard it is!), the book "The Tribute - what every parent longs to hear" by Dennis Rainey came across my path, and I read it.

The book tells stories of people looking for the good in their parents lives and writing tributes to parents, and how it brought healing to the person as well as the parent.  The stories of forgiveness and honor in very difficult circumstances in this book made any petty grievance I had against mine look so small.  I purposed from that point on to honor and appreciate my parents.  And honoring over time, helped me realize also that the things I thought were wrong, were not necessarily wrong either.  I started with a party for their 40th anniversary, and was so glad I did, as they both succumbed to Cancer and never made it to their 50th. I was so glad I had at least 10 years of blessing, thanking and honoring them for their sacrifice and love before I couldn't do that anymore. And of course I sought to do the same for my parents-in-law, too!  I really think this book marked my life in a way nothing short of the Bible has, and I highly recommend it to you if you are struggling with forgiving anyone in your life.

Here is a link to the book, The Tribute by Dennis Rainey

Here is a good review at Amazon

Apparently it has been edited and re-released as this title

I next learned this lesson with my children:

As a parent I had a propensity to focus primarily on what needed to be improved on or fixed in my children.  There were different challenges with different children, but every school year involved a reassessment of what needed to be improved on.  Work. Order. Schedules. Discipline. Work. Fun happened with their friends and activities, but really not so much with me as I sought to teach and train them to make good choices and to be successful and to work hard.

I might have had their heads with this mindset but not as much their hearts.  In their teen years, as I was facing conflicts and concerns, I came across some materials about 'Blessing' your children.  Again this was transformational to me.  Look for the good.  Appreciate the good.  Look past the current problems and believe in your children's potential.  See past their faults.  Write them letters of blessing. And most importantly look at yourself.  During this season I learned about realizing that their faults were often magnifications of my own.  And I must pull out the root in me, to have any hope of helping them remove the plant in them. So we prayed and worked and repented as parents.  The amazing thing was, at first it was actually hard to realign my mind to actually see any good thing to praise if the relationship was particularly difficult.  But I committed to finding and saying at least one thing every day to each child.  Amazingly, over a rather short time, it became natural and easy. And for one of my children, this act brought them to really believe I loved them at an emotional rather than just a head level. Wow so sad and humbling to think they could have ever doubted that! I still tear up as I think about that. :( Was my hope and encouragement bringing our children hope? I don't know, but it was good for me and good for them.  And I do think God brought about some miracles during that season. 

So after these two periods of growth and learning, I began to apply the idea of writing 'tributes' or 'blessing' people to broader areas.  If I saw a Panera's manager doing an amazing job keeping the line moving on a particularly busy day, I went over and told him.  If I appreciated the cheerfulness of the checker at the grocery store, I told them.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  My motto became, if you see something good, if possible, say it!

So action point for the new year...An experiment...if you like this idea, try to apply it to people in your life who are discouraged.  See if it helps both you and them look up and want to live. :)

God bless you!

Linda for the Bealls