Noticing & Acknowledging as an Act of Praise

About a year ago, I was sitting at the back of our church auditorium preparing to run graphics for a special worship night. If you attend a church that uses screens, you’ve seen graphics: they’re the song lyrics, Bible verses, photos, videos, or whatever else the church prepares ahead of time to put on the screens, and my job at the time was to click on the slide that contained the correct graphics to display. On that particular night, the pastor who was speaking wanted to chat about the best time to display the photos he was planning to use during his talk.

Woman in a chair sitting at a production station in the back of an auditorium

“I’m Rhonda,” I said when he approached me, as a way of introducing myself.

“I know,” he said. “We met the last time I preached.” He was right; we had met. And I hadn’t forgotten it.

I had just assumed he had forgotten me.

Do you ever do that? I often think—assume—that I am not memorable. That others won’t remember that we’ve met or spoken before. I know that this assumption, in part, grows from a belief I have always struggled against, particularly when it comes to people I admire, people in higher positions of authority, or people I look up to: I’m not important enough to notice or remember.

All of us want to be known by others, but being known begins with being noticed. Being acknowledged. Being remembered. When I was younger—and yes, sometimes even now—I struggled because I often felt forgotten, overlooked, and inferior to those around me. I was quiet and shy, afraid to approach others for fear of rejection, large or small. I saw this fear—this loneliness—in my mom too. I remember seeing someone walk away from her in the middle of a conversation when another person interrupted, and I remember the way she wrapped her arms around herself and the flustered look on her face that spoke of obvious emotional pain. I remember hurting for her because I thought I knew how she must feel: unimportant, the inferior person who was neither acknowledged nor apologized to, but was left standing there. Forgotten. Alone.

But there I was, sitting in an often “invisible” volunteer position at the church (that’s the way the position should be, since attention driven to it would likely be the result of mistakes being made), and I had been remembered. I was known—at least, my name and my volunteer position. It may seem like a small thing, but the fact that this pastor remembered me, remembered my name, was important to me. It made me feel a little bit, well, special.

If this desire is in us—a desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be named by others—how much more might it be a desire of God’s?

Earlier this week, I was reading about Jesus’ crucifixion and death and puzzled over something I had never noticed before:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:44-47, NIV, emphasis mine)

My first thought upon reading this was, What an odd time to offer praise to God. A time to be afraid and for chills to run down the spine, yes—for the past three hours, it had been so dark and overcast that one author says the sun stopped shining. The man on the center cross had just been crying out, praying, and then took his last breath.

And the centurion praised God.

My second thought was, How was this praise? How was this worship? I know that the type of “praise and worship” we offer in the weekly church service is not what is usually (if ever!) meant when the Bible speaks of praise or worship, but I’ll be honest—it’s what my mind goes to first when I hear the word praise. That, or the oft-used expression, “Praise the Lord!” when God answers prayer or does something amazing. There’s nothing wrong with that type of praise, but because my mind went to that, it puzzled me when I read this. How was just proclaiming Jesus to be a “righteous man”—and, as Matthew (27:54) and Mark (15:39) tell us, “the Son of God”—considered an act of praise?

In times like these I often wish I knew the original languages used in the Bible so I could determine if something was lost in translation, but in English the word praise is a transitive verb meaning “to express a favorable judgment of” or “to glorify.” And I do think there were elements of that in the centurion’s expression; he was awed, and probably a bit fearful, by everything he had seen and heard that afternoon. But as I ruminated—and prayed—about this all week, I came to believe it was even simpler than that: This man first noticed who Jesus was—a righteous man—and then acknowledged it by proclaiming it aloud and naming him: the Son of God. And that alone—simply noticing and acknowledging God—was his act of praise.

Earlier I suggested that God, like us, desires to be noticed. In reality, it’s the other way around. God made us in his image, and the desires of our hearts that are not sinful come from him—they reflect him. Our creator, our sovereign, our savior wants first to be noticed by us. He wants us to acknowledge who he is. By doing so, we offer him our praise.

Only after noticing and acknowledging who he is can we really get to know him.

If you’ve never before considered who God really is, who Jesus really is, I hope you will consider it today. Think about it—have you ever noticed God? Have you ever acknowledged him? If you want to get to know him, offering this simple act of praise is a good place to start.

***
(Side note: I’m nothing if not a practical planner, so my little interaction with the pastor at my church and a few other interactions with him since then have put him on a short list of pastors who I’ve instructed my husband to approach if he needs to plan my funeral any time soon. I at least want the pastor who does it to have known my name while I was living!)

Life, Miracles, & God’s Faithfulness

Three weeks since I’ve blogged—wait, what? Three weeks? But as I look back on them, it’s understandable. A lot has happened in three weeks.

A little over three weeks ago, my son graduated from kindergarten and my daughter finished fourth grade. Both were given awards for their artistic and creative abilities—something so precious to this mama’s heart! I am a creative at heart, and love seeing creativity shine through my children.A teacher and kindergarten graduate in a kindergarten classroomAnother teacher and kindergarten graduate in a kindergarten classroomA fourth-turning-fifth grader and her teacher outside the school on the last day of fourth grade
The following week, VBS happened—Vacation Bible School—and during that week we also

    *had an attempted sleepover with one of my daughter’s friends (she went home, and I later discovered she has never spent the night anywhere before—still it broke my daughter’s heart because she thought there was something wrong with her that made her friend leave)
    *went to the sprinkler park with some cousins
    *made my son’s second batch of cupcakes for the summer (he’s working through a magazine of 100 different cupcakes, and wanted to make all of them this summer! I told him it would take a bit longer than that)
    *had an actual sleepover with another cousin to make up for the attempted one.

I also got some adult time in with two of my oldest, dearest friends—we haven’t been able to get together for 2.5 years!

Six year old boy and ten year old girl making goofy faces at a park

Life only got busier, faster, and slower all at once after that. This has been a season of graduations, with two in my family, and between VBS and my daughter’s sleep-away camp (coming up next) we attended the second of the graduation parties for my cousins’ children. We weren’t even there ten minutes when near-tragedy hit. One of my aunts, now in her seventies (but I have no idea how—my aunts and uncles are not that old! They can’t be!) but still full of life, somehow tripped coming down the stairs and hit her head on the wall opposite. Then she stopped breathing and responding to anything until her sister gave her CPR. Away in an ambulance to a nearby hospital she went, with her sister and her daughter’s family, who had arrived right after the ambulance did.

The next several hours were full of conflicting reports from the various doctors running the tests and coming in to observe her. Scans revealed she had broken her C1 vertebra, and one report said she would need surgery or could face paralysis. Just then, back home and having just splashed boiling water on my stomach when the macaroni for my son’s dinner stuck in the bottom of the pan while I was stirring it, I broke down in tears and begged God for a miracle. I confessed my mustard-seed sized faith in the modern medical miracle—I know God can perform miracles of healing, but I often doubt that he will, telling myself that he has allowed the condition for some reason—and asked for one, also confessing that my motive was completely selfish. I am not ready to lose my mom’s siblings; I lost her early enough. And I asked for my aunt to have the peace that passes understanding as she went through this. I knew she was conscious, and I couldn’t imagine what she was going through.

The following morning, having not heard many more specifics other than that things might have been better than expected with my aunt, I took my daughter to a Christian camp for the third year in a row (six days, five nights). My son and I headed to another aunt’s house for a few days, where I discovered I had no cell service (seems crippling after having grown familiar with it these past twenty years or so). My daughter made friends, had fun, and grew closer to God—and was once again recognized for her creativity—and my son and I relaxed into life at a different pace for a few days.

10 year old girl in life jacket on a dock at a lake at campSix year old boy eating lunch, playing on a tablet, and making a goofy face sitting at a kitchen island

While my aunt, son, and I relaxed, my injured aunt came home. When I was able to talk with her I made an amazing discovery—God had granted my miracle. The neurosurgeon, the “final authority” as he told my relatives, started the consultation before he sent her home with the bad news: “You broke your neck.” Then he continued with the amazing, miraculous news: “You have to wear a brace for two weeks, and then you should be good as new.” He explained that she probably didn’t even need the brace and it was just a precaution. And my aunt, speaking to me, told me she was peaceful and calm in the hospital.

Thank God for miracles, great and small.

Finally, this past week, spent at home, has been a never-ending battle to catch up and deal with one small mishap at another. Without having to run here and there and play the chauffeur, I thought it might be one of the more relaxing weeks of the summer. Instead, it’s been the week of small attacks I think were meant to bring me down—the low after the high of witnessing a miracle. The housecleaning that usually takes me five hours on a Monday never got completely done, probably because I kept adding things to my agenda like trying to get the second of my two vegetable gardens cleared of the pineapple sage that has overtaken it (probably no veggies in that one this year—we’ll see. That garden is still a work in progress). I also decided to begin shampooing our carpets, and did my bedroom and the hallway (pictured in my Instagram feed on the left). That night, my senior dog peed in her sleep for the first time in months—on the bedroom carpet—and the following night she threw up on it. The next day our kitten decided to knock over a bowl that had the remnants of chocolate ice cream in it (yes, on the carpet). And this morning I broke a coffee pot full of water while trying to make my coffee (so thankful for the spare coffee pot!).

Garden overrun by pineapple sageProgress made clearing the pineapple sage from the gardenTomato garden planted

I can’t help but think that all of the little mishaps are small efforts to attack my faith. It’s not just those small things; I’ve also learned that two friends who previously beat cancer have had (or may have had, for one) it return in different forms. At a time in my life when I’m trying to lean on God, follow his direction, and hoping he’ll let me and lead me into an entirely new adventure, I am being hit with things large and small to take me down in the day-to-day. At those times, though, I just need to sit and remember and see how faithful God is in the day-to-day. To see the things listed in this post, how much I have to be thankful for in just the past three weeks. And I know that God will remain faithful, will remain performing miracles—large and small—in the day to day of my life.

I am thankful. Grateful. Blessed.

To Dad, On Father’s Day

Memories of my childhood are so precious to me. In so many of those my dad is the star.

I remember…

Walking on your feet, you carrying my weight
Running the halls of an empty church while you cleaned, counted money, and poured grape juice into communion cups
Sunday morning breakfasts of biscuits and biscuit dough
Learning to cook alongside you
Laughing and laughing while others rolled their eyes
Family devotions around the table in a bright yellow kitchen
Wondering if a stranger covered in snow came home early from a hunting trip instead of my dad
My sister taking a spill as a passenger on the back of your bicycle
Camping trips in a canvas tent (it always rained)
The only time I heard you swear (you were trying to fix something)
The sacrifices you made to send us to school
Going to the dairy with you (it was wet that day)
Counting washers, bolts, hosing by the inch (and getting donuts and money for it)
Sweating in Renaissance costumes (and loving it)
You shivering and waiting patiently for the birth of my firstborn
So. Much. More.

Countless memories, countless laughs, countless smiles.
(And yes, a few tears too.)

Thank you for all of the good memories. Looking forward to many more in the years to come. I love you.