Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Praise Habit"- David Crowder, my notes

     At long last I am using this site for another of its intended purposes!  A book review.  Well, actually it's going to be more of my thoughts as I was reading it, important notes I took, etc.  As I am getting older, I am finding that my retention when I am going through several things at once is not what it used to be.  So this is a way for me to focus for a few minutes and put pen to paper so I can go back later and get the gist of it.  And here is the first; "Praise Habit" by David Crowder.
     First off, some background.  This book was nowhere near my radar.  I don't think that I had even heard of it.  In fact, back when my friend Evan McElrath was reading one of David's other books, I did not get a resounding approval of it (although he did enjoy the book, I didn't know how much he did until later).  So when he offered me up this one, it came as a bit of a surprise.  But it looked short, and I do like the band's music, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
    I am sure glad I did.  In reading it, I discovered a new appreciation for the psalms, a new appreciation for this life God has blessed me with, and a perspective that I am trying to apply to my life.   And as you can probably guess from the title, it is all about praise.  Recognizing the rescue and salvation we live within because of Christ, and letting our thankfulness and devotion spill out into everything we do.  Finding praise in small and big, in dark and light, in hope and despair.  And letting that praise define us.
    Crowder takes the reader through all of this in a commentary, if you will, of 21 of the Psalms.  There is, of course, the intro section where we come to understand his point of view.  Then he jumps right in.  And between his anecdotes, his wit, and his style, he shows the reader how each of them exemplifies a habit of praise.
    I am not going to go step by step through the book (that would give away spoilers:-)), but I will recommend this book whole-heartedly.  It has certainly made me concentrate more on finding the praise in every situation, and then splashing my extra (my cup overflows, remember) onto those around me.  And it is definitely a book that I would read again (I almost did just writing this review). 
     Thanks David, for this insightful book.  And thanks to God and Christ for my salvation!
Here are a few of the more significant passages that I really liked:

"Here [in Scripture] are the stories of our running and His running after."
"What we praise signifies our treasure."
"Sometimes praise comes face to the ground, unable to move because we are so aware that this holy, terrifying God has busied Himself bringing us back to Him."
"What is this praise He is after? It is Praise Living.  It is GOD leaning in and shouting "I am the center!" and the sum of our lives nodding back in agreement.  It is the core of our hearts echoing this statement."
"When we are fully aware of rescue, it should also cause us to bring an offering of our best, with the knowledge that we can not respond in equal measure to God's actions but with all that we have available to express our gratefulness for such deliverance."
"We have not been promised palatial housing, but we have been promised His presence."
"We regularly learn and discern that there in the darkness-- more than anywhere else-- newness that is not of our making breaks upon us and we are surely then drowned in Him.  Psalm 88 shows us what the cross is about: faithfulness in scenes of complete abandonment."
"If you put life together in any way that doesn't include Yahweh Caps Lock GOD... it is not life."

See, I did just read a bunch of it again.  Great book!  Thanks Evan!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growing up and letting go...

     It has been a very tumultuous time around the Haley household for the past several weeks, to say the least.  Since Labor day or so, things have just been crazy.  Not uncontrollably crazy, but crazy in that there is always something going on.  We have work, school for the high schoolers, night school for Christine, drill team for Heather, HSM, adult small groups, various service projects, church, and getting everything ready for Zach's trip to Scotland, just to name a few of the things that have pulled at us.
    And now we are in one of the most complicated weeks yet as Zach, Eric, and Evan are in the final few days before their trip.  Set in among the "normal" activities, we have to do some last minute clothes shopping, be sure that his finances are in order, go to the good-bye party, and see them off.  And yet, in the midst of all of this commotion, I am finding that I have been more reflective than I have been in a long time.  This opportunity for Zach is unparalleled, and we are so excited to see what God will do through and with him, but at the same time there is alot more at stake, too.  This is his first long-term outing as an adult, and there is a chance this week is the last time he calls our house his home except for between semesters.  He has grown up.
     I have spent alot of time thinking about Steven, too.  It seems that prayers are being answered, and things are moving in a positive direction.  We are excited to see what God has in store for him, too.  Yet, as he is approaching adulthood right behind Zach, I find that I am constantly questioning myself.  Did I do everything I could?  Are his foundations sound?  And worst of all, the realization that we are beyond all that.  There is no going back.  No way to redo it if I did something wrong.
     Then, the other day I was watching our three-year old playing.  He has taken a liking to the movie "How to Train Your Dragon." Excellent movie, by the way.  If you get a chance, check it out.  Anyway, I was watching him as he talked to his imaginary pet dragon.  He brings it along everywhere, and it is very cute watching his imagination flourish as he goes on adventures with it.  And as I was sitting there, praising God that He put me in this moment, another thought jumped in to stop that worship.  It said "you will never have another moment just like this," and that sobered me up quite a bit.       
       Three separate instances when praise was interrupted by foreboding.  When shouts of gladness were turned to murmurs.  When causes for worship were deformed into apprehension.
      When I was thinking these things, my first reaction was sadness.  I looked out to my future, and saw that at some point all of the kids are going to become adults.  That we will have less and less a part in their lives (as it should be), and I will be left with only memories of them. 
     But then another thought struck me.  "Why?"  Why am I sad?  I have been tasked by God to bring up these children, so why are examples of their growth a cause for sadness?  In all other aspects of life, when a project reaches completion it is cause for celebration.  The only answer I can come up with is fear.  I am afraid for the future, for what is in store for them, what is in store for me. 
     God didn't create fear.  In fact, the first time fear is mentioned is not until after man had been separated from Him by sin.  Rather, the serpent first put fear into our hearts when he caused us to turn our focus away from pleasing God and start worrying about ourselves.  When we worry about OUR smallness, about what WE are missing, then OUR world becomes THE world, and we are afraid because deep inside we know we can't control it all, we can't do it on our own.
     Satan is a funny guy that way.  He introduced us to sin with the allure that when we choose based on our own selfishness, we will be better off.  That sin only lead to death and separation from God.  Then, with death now imminent, he thrives off of our fear of that death, hoping that we slip more and more into self-focused despair, and, more importantly, away from God.  He coaxes us off the path, then laughs as we get more and more lost.
     So how to cure the fear?  Simply stated, I just have to renew my focus.  God is doing incredible things here, and what I am seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is like a small island that is the peak of an underwater mountain.  And while I may not understand it on my own, when I am content to relish in praise of Him for what He has provided now, and let Him take care of what comes next, my fears can be relieved.
     Father, help me to be content.  Your Word promises that I do not have to worry about what is coming, and I know You hold everything in your hands.  Help me to resist the temptation to focus on my worries as if I could take care of them better than You.  Help me to recognize fear and apprehension for my future as a lure to take my eyes off of You.  And most of all, help me to stay focused on You and to live with your Son as my example.  Amen
But I still hope there is TIVO in heaven.  Matt was so cute the other day....:-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's been a while...

OK, so I know that it has been a while since I posted anything.  I have a few ideas in the works, and I am definitely going to have a book commentary started in the next few days.  I just haven't had time to be on the computer in the past couple of weeks.

But I promise I have not forgotten about the blog...