“I will praise you with all my heart;” Psalm 9:1a. When I think of praise (Heb. Yadah), I think of verbal expression of one’s greatness. This verse corrects my definition. Praise is not just verbal. It’s a heart matter. Hmmm. In Pr. 4:23 Solomon told us, “above all things guard your heart, for from it are the issues of life.” What does all that mean? First I’m to guard it, now I’m to praise God with all of it. Hmmm.
In my upcoming book, Napping in Delilah’s Lap, I came up with an acronym to describe the heart according to its Hebrew attributes: PAPDATE. Imagine that you’re a gynecologist. A patient comes in for a PAPDATE. That doctor visit is going to consist of 7 checkpoints: purposes, affections, passions, drive, appetites, thoughts, and endeavors. These are the “issues” we are to guard. These are the things we are to praise him with all of.
It’s easy to say, “Man we had great praise and worship at church today.” Did you know that can be pretty meaningless in God’s eyes? We can sing ‘our hearts out’ yet have hearts far from him. While he loves our verbal praise, it can be a beautiful but empty vessel. In Mt. 15:8 Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”
Listen to Jesus again, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” We can sing and sound amazing, but it’s all external show unless our purposes, affections, passions, drive, appetites, thoughts, and endeavors are lined up with his purposes, affections, passions, drive, appetites, thoughts, and endeavors. Performance. That’s. Merely. External. Drives. God. Nuts!
So let’s try that again, with trembling lips. “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart.”
When I was a little girl, I’d rush home after school, gobble up tea and bread, hurry through my homework and go sit in the hallway outside my sister Irene’s locked bedroom door. I was enthralled by that neat room and grown girl treasures.
She’s been gone 8 years but I can still smell her ‘Anais Anais’. My eyes sparkled at the rows of colorful nail polish and lipstick. Her pretty clothes and jewelry dazzled me. But greatest of all was her presence when she finally got home. Finally! My heart raced at the clip-clop sound of her shoes when she walked in the front door. I can still see the precious smile on her beautiful face when she found me waiting in the hallway.
She’d greet me fondly then fumble in her purse for her key and let us into that magical room. Then, while I sat mesmerized on her bed, my feet barely touching the floor, she’d pull some little treat from her purse that she’d picked up for me. Oh the wonder of a piece of candy a little knick-knack. I was gob-smacked by it all.
In studying the book of Proverbs and the concept of lady Wisdom, I came this gem, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.” 8:34. May we eagerly anticipate wisdom, knowing full well that she never EVER disappoints.
I’ve been hearing the word narrative a lot lately. I have one too. When I moved to the States in the mid nineties, I showed up at PDX with a green and black plaid suitcase in hand. Ken Reade, a giant of a man, drove me through the city and to the small town that has been my home to this day. I’d never been in a foreign country. I’d never flown in an airplane. There I was at 21 off to who knows where!
I grew up hearing of racial discord in the US and just expected some degree of it, chalking it off to human nature. Well, little did I know what awaited me…
That first Sunday, I went to a church with a small group of white people aged 340 each. When I walked on the sidewalks, whites looked me in the eye and smiled. Some even said halo. In class and in homes, they asked my opinion and considered it. A local white family with four young children and the single income of a teacher rented out a room to me. Do you know what Chris and Eric charged me? Every single extra penny I had! Which is to say, nothing. They met all my physical needs and treated me as one of their own. To this day.
I went through too many years of college and had to jostle my way through it like all the other white students beside me – passing and failing classes every step of the way. I was hired by a young family of two doctors to care for their babies. Dave and Cathy handed me the keys to their fancy cars and said I could go wherever I wanted. I had access to every room in their house. Dave told me one day, “There are some crazy people that live in those hills. If anyone ever gives you any kind of trouble, why you just let me know.”
I attended white churches where I was challenged and encouraged to grow and develop my gifts, especially teaching. Bev purchased my first little car and let me live with her for the same ridiculous amount of rent as Christ and Eric had. Mike offered to take me to buy a car and introduced me to the salesman as his daughter. He’d had me pull over before we got there and given me a pep-talk about what shenanigans they’d throw at me and how I was to respond. His wife Shari calls my children her grandchildren. None of these people EVER asked for anything in return – the gall!
Then I met a mountain man from them hills. (I think all mountain men are white?) He called me honey and took me fishing (a rather white sport, I think). Now my children call him father. His family has been nothing but loving towards me from the word go.
And when I started my elder care business, white people brought their dependent parents to my home and entrusted their care to me. One gets to know an awful lot of dirt on families and their members when offering personal care for residents. In twelve years of care-giving I have been treated with utmost honor and respect by every single one of my residents and their families except for two family members. (They had obvious problems that I’m not about to taken on as my own.) My white employees and the families of these residents will be family to me for the rest of my life.
I’m not sharing my experiences to discount those of anyone else. I could go into the incidents of being pulled over twice in my hometown for no reason at all. This was before I knew one could ask why they were being pulled over. I could go into driving with my father by a hick truck full of high school kids who screamed “Niggers!” I could go into all kinds of encounters, but today I wanted to tell you about these other white people.
God’s has a disturbing indictment: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals. Your assemblies are a stench to me… away with the noise of your songs…”
“This is what the Lord says:
“Seek me and live; There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.
You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts…
Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:
“There will be wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square. The farmers will be summoned to weep and the mourners to wail. There will be wailing in all the vineyards, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord.
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Amos 5:4, 7, 9-12, 14, 15a, 16, 21-24
“He has shown you oh mortal, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to love justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Jesus lover, do what he did:
Feel your pain. Acknowledge it. Hold it. Experience it.
Flee to your Father for comfort. He’s expecting you. Dodge the distractions. Don’t allow them into your heart. Their goal is to further distance you from intimacy with God at a crucial time. God alone can truly comfort you. He cares.
Despite your pain or current weakness, see the crowd. Wake up. Pay attention. Notice what’s going on. Engage. Take off your blinders.
Have compassion. Notice their need. Put yourself in their shoes. Walk a mile in their shoes. Nurture mercy.
Look up to God, your source of strength. Apart from him you can do no good thing.
Look around and identify what you already have. What ‘loaves and fishes” did you bring for lunch (see part 2)? Offer them to him. He will give thanks and a miracle with ensue.
He’ll hand it back to you and you will hand, and hand, and hand it out. They are hungry. Feed them. “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their needs, what good is it?” James 2:16.
Father, please challenge us to please you. We desire to be people of justice and people of righteousness. We need your help.
I visited Australia in 2019. I was thrilled by Aboriginal names of streets, towns, and landmarks: Drik Drik, Warandite, Wagga Wagga, Yarra River, Gooloogong, Bellambi, Murrumburrah, Manganatang. They are so resonant and lyrical that one almost has to assume the grand posture of an orator to pronounce them right.
Presently, I noticed a recurring theme posted on boards such as the ones below. Note the acknowledgement below “Nature Conservation Reserve.” It caught my eye repeatedly.
The bottom left of the sign above, next to the black, red, and sun Aboriginal flag reads, “We acknowledge the Wurundjeri william peoples, the traditional owners of the land on which this reserve is located.” I asked my sister who lives there about it and she said that not only is that sign posted on such boards, but all official meetings in workplaces begin with a similar statement.
This statement of acknowledgement is called “Welcome to Country.” This “Acknowledgement of Country” is a means by which all people can show respect for Aboriginal culture and heritage. It also acknowledges the ongoing relationship the Traditional Custodians have with the Land.
Whoever is chairing a meeting or gathering begins with this “Acknowledgement of Country” because the meeting is taking place in the “Country of the Traditional Custodians.” This happens whether the meeting is taking place in a government gathering or not, so, for example, a staff meeting at a workplace would begin in this way. There are various versions of acknowledgement that can be used. The University of Melbourne website lists 2 examples of “Acknowledgement of Country”:
Example 1 – I would like to show my respect and Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land, of Elders past and present, on which this meeting takes place.
Example 2 – I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of this Land. I would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians present.
Blak is an Australian expression of taking back power and control within a society. The Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander Peoples use it to refer to their self-determination as individuals and communities. Blak is a term “used by some Aboriginal people to reclaim historical, representational, symbolical, stereotypical and romanticised notions of Black or Blackness. Often used as ammunition or insipration. This type of spelling may have been appropriated from American hip-hop or rap music.” Destiny Deacon first the term in 1991 in an exhibition Blak lik mi.
Last Sunday, there was a large “Black Lives Matter” protest in Melbourne. It was also meant to draw attention to racial profiling, police brutality and the high number of Indigenous people who have died in police custody since a royal commission into the problem was held in 1991. At over 437 deaths, an average of about one death has resulted per month since. The chart below shows under what conditions people died.
In 2016 David Dungay Jr an Aboriginal inmate who wouldn’t stop eating a packet of biscuits, was stormed by prison officers and forcibly restrained. In a chilling coincidence, 12 times he said, “I can’t breathe.” That was his last day alive. While wild fires ravaged Australia causing a state of emergency, Veronica Nelson died in custody just this year. Aboriginal women are the fastest growing demographic. VALS, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service reports that
My heart is truly warmed and encouraged to see a worldwide protest to the injustice that blaks face. Clearly the blaks are many and come in various colors: aboriginal, black, immigrants in all countries of the world, abused children, the poor, the down-trodden, etc. A new day is dawning as the herd awakens and poses, mighty horns lowered, a thunderous bellow emanates from deep within and it will not be silenced. It’s gaining momentum. Hooves are pounding the earth! Dust clouds the air….
Something interesting happened that intercepted Joshua’s escape to solitude. A crowd heard he was on the lake. They knew the private spot where he was going. And they beat him there. When he landed he saw a large crowd. It was a sea of blak lives. There in their midst, he zoomed in on Michael and his family. He knew their rent was several months late. There was Judith and her ill son. He looked terrible. This would never do. So many that he knew and loved. So many that the system had failed, its unseen knee on their necks.
His broken heart welled up in compassion for them all. He sighed deeply, wiped his tears and sweat, and smiled his warm, determined smile. He stretched out his arms and his heart. And he healed them. Waves of tears hit him hard from time to time all day. That evening, after a full day of meeting bottomless needs, a personal friend and associate worried for him. He came up to Joshua and whispered, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go and buy themselves some food.”
Joshua grabbed his broad shoulders and said, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“Uh, we only have five loaves and two fish,” his other associates chimed in.
“Give them to me,” he said. He took them, looked up to his abba, gave heart-felt thanks for these people he loved, and broke the loaves. Then he handed them to his twelve close friends, and these associates gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and twelve basket-fulls of scraps were picked up.
This story is a powerful life lesson on how we are to deal with the world’s current injustices…
Bart is the deliverer of this horrendous news and he can hardly breath, let alone speak. He is horrified, shocked. There’s no gentle way to drop a hand-grenade. He stumbles out onto the street and leaves a stunned Joshua.
It is a senseless killing while in custody. The injustice is stifling, systemic. John’s life was worthless to the tyrant leader who had a brief internal moral battle before ordering the beheading. John’s head was casually presented on a platter. John was blak.
“No!” John’s cousin Joshua moaned as his heart bottomed out, the blood draining from his head. He had to get away and be alone. He needed to mourn and process this death. He felt angry, assaulted, shocked. He felt threatened. He was blak too.
He immediately withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place, his crushed heart was beating wildly, arrhythmical . “No!” He screamed again and again across the still lake as he rowed madly, blind with tears and rage. The anguish echoed, amplified and carried by the water.
What does one do with a burden like this? A reality like this? John was too young. So much potential. So much purpose. Direction. Passion. So much fire in his veins. This was not fair. Not right. His blak life mattered.