Sunday, October 4, 2009

Take my moments and my days let them flow in endless praise

I like to sing.  Every night I sing somewhere between 3-9 songs to Jo and Sim as I put them to bed.  Some kid's songs, a couple of folk favorites, but mostly I sing them hymns. To close our singing time I always sing a song Doug's mom made up and the Doxology.  We started to sing the Doxology before we joined a Russian Mennonite congregation that joyfully refers to the song as the Mennonite National Anthem.  The particular hymns that we sing tend to go through phases.  Currently, "They will Know we are Christians" is quite popular.  I especially like the line about "guarding each man's dignity and saving each man's pride."  It has a nice Trade Union sound to it and also fits my Father's ethic of never, ever embarrassing someone or making them covet you.  

Others that are on the top ten right now are "Forever Young" and "Simple Gifts.  "Forever Young" is a pretty perfect blessing for a kid.  I especially like the line "May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth and the light surrounding you, may always be courageous, be upright and be strong and may you stay forever young .. "  I also have been singing "Take My Life"   

I am not a good singer or even average.   Whenever I get to the line "take my voice and let me sing always only for my King."  I chuckle to myself.  My kids and God might be the only ones that want to hear me sing.  A select group.  However, singing is pretty hard to detach from being human and I feel like it important to sally forth with my nasally out of tune jubilations despite the ways in which my voice can falter and fail.  

It was during the stressful time that surrounded my comps that I found myself singing "Take My Life" to the kids.  It might have been at that time that the lines about intellect and will were especially resonate to me as I was pondering which had primacy.  But, I also think it was part of a clambering towards wholeness and a deep longing to feel like my days were part of a great symphony of praise.  Marilyn Robinson's Gilead helped me to see the degree to which there is praise embedded  in our very being in this world--a world that God had set apart by his presence.  

I recently has a friend refer me to a G.K. Chesterton quotation : "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly."  I have fallen in love with it.  I see the merits of excellence, but it has started to fail for me as a way of praising God.  I would like to return to a place when human excellence can once again feel doxological to me.   I realize that much of the dismissal of praise songs that occurred when I was at Calvin came from a strong commitment to the belief that God should only receive our best.  I can think of better reasons for not liking praise songs.  But, I think this is a particularly unhelpful one.  We praise a God who is high and holy and beyond us and we always fall utterly short in this.  Excellence as a measure of a life of endless praise fails me because I seek excellence for a whole host of other reasons as well--typically the real praise in the equation is the praise I hope to gain from others.  . 

During my time at Calvin I received lots of praise from my Professors.  I had never even been the biggest academic star in the very small Buckley, MI constellation.  Suddenly some of the smartest people I had ever met were giving me outrageous praise.  It all seemed to fit the idea of calling-- the fact that people were telling me how talented I was in something, the wonderful atmosphere of a Christian academic community. . .  It was easy for me to see how my papers, and test, and projects might be part of a larger project of praise and thanksgiving and joyful being.  It is tougher now.  Currently, I am trying to figure out what it might mean to let my moments and my days flow in endless praise and if that means an attitude change or something more drastic.

My singing is perhaps the least excellent thing that I do.  But, I have always sensed a blessing in singing words of resignation, praise, release, faith, boldness, and lament.  It may be that we are as likely to find a life that is doxological doing the things that we fail and falter at as those where we find our gifts. I have known this a long time.  But, I seem to need to be reminded hourly of it.  

Take my life and let it flow in endless praise...