Typically when I read my Bible I like to have a plan. I know this is surprising for all of you. I feel frustrated wasting precious time flipping through pages, trying to figure what to read--Old Testament or New? Narratives or directives? Poetry or prophesy? Too many choices. Give me a reading plan to follow and I'll be happy.
But the last couple nights I've not looked at it that way. It finally dawned on me that the precious time I spend flipping pages, trying to decide what to read is part of the quiet time. Instead of me deciding what I need to read, I've been letting that small quiet stirring (Holy Spirit) lead me. And I've been led to the Psalms. Psalm 34 on Tuesday, Psalm 104 on Wednesday. Tuesday I was searching for peace, Wednesday searching for words to praise. It really only make sense that I would respond for the peace I was given with praise.
But I'm not really one to stop and praise God, if I'm going to be painfully honest here. Oh, sure, I'm grateful for dazzling sunsets, expansive twinkling night skies, the simple beauty of a carefully crafted flower. Yes, I'm relieved and grateful when things don't blow up in my face or don't all crumble to bits. I can think and talk for hours on God's greatness--both in size and in goodness. But all of this 'feel good' doesn't really translate into sincere praise for God. I have a hard time stopping to just revel in His protection and provision. To rest in gratitude.
Rest in gratitude. That just came to me and I think it's hitting the proverbial nail right on it's proverbial metal head. I think there is a certain amount of resting involved in praising God. When I'm truly taking time to praise Him, to thank Him for what He's done, to think about and rejoice in His goodness and grandeur, I'm not doing anything else. I'm not asking for the next thing, worrying about the next thing, planning for the next thing. And for someone like me, whose mind is always going around 100 miles an hour with frenzied thoughts, it's difficult to not simply give a nod to Heaven, and then start on the next thing.
I'm learning, ever so slowly, that taking time to really praise God, to give myself a mental and emotional break by dwelling only on His goodness, is really a healthy choice for me. It's healthy mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and I would argue, even physically.
To illustrate this...Monday night I knew I was headed into a big, fat, busy week. Preparing for a licensing check at work and the first youth swim & study at our house--happening on the same day--was looming in front of me, stressing me out. Monday night I got virtually no sleep. My brain wouldn't turn off. Consciously I wasn't thinking about the things that were subconsciously keeping me awake. My brain will appear to be thinking about stupid things like TV shows, cookies, funny things the dogs did...but underneath the gears are churning because of the things I am worried about.
I already told you that Tuesday night I was looking for some words about peace. I found this: The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19). I wrote down some thoughts about righteousness (which I may share someday), and instead of 'praying' about my problems (which is really just whining directed at God), I simply rested in these words. And I slept.
Last night, Wednesday, my heart was full of praise. All I wanted to do was to find some words to praise God, and I found this: I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. (Psalm 104: 33-34). The last couple of verses of a beautiful poem about God's mastery and wisdom in creation. After writing my thoughts, I took a few minutes to really praise God, to agree with the words of the Psalmist, and then I slept through the night.
Reading my Bible, praising God, thinking about Him, allows my brainwaves to settle. The hurricane of thoughts dissipates. Jesus calmed the storm out on the Sea of Galilee, He can, will, and does calm the storm in my mind--when I do my part to allow Him. When I'm not flipping through the pages of His letter to me in frustration, needing a plan to follow. When I'm quiet, not in control, and really there for Him amazing things can happen. A stressful week is tamed, a roaring lion turned into a purring cat, a hurricane turned into a soft spring rain.