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!)

Front Porch Musings

This morning, in the pre-dawn hour, I sat on my front porch and looked and listened and wrote. I had a purpose, I had my coffee, and I had my phone’s flashlight to see my notebook when I needed it. My purpose was to complete a challenge in creativity by observing the creativity of the Creator. And when I was done? My soul could not help but to respond in worship, in song. (I’m hoping I didn’t wake my neighbor up.)

The challenge was from day two of Courageous Creative, a study I’m doing with a small group through my church. (For me, this is the continuation of a journey I started a year ago—that’s for another post, another time though.) The challenge was to go somewhere, observe God’s creation, and write using action verbs about what God has done in his acts as the Creator. I read the challenge last night and decided to wait for my favorite time of day and not to go far—my front porch was all I needed. And I bent the guidelines, using the action verbs for God’s creation as well as for him.

God met me there on my front porch, and it set the tone for the entire day: All day songs of his praise have been bursting from my heart, my lips. I’ll share what I wrote with you, and I would love it if you took up the challenge and shared it with me. This post won’t have any photos (it was too dark!), but so much imagery. I hope you enjoy God’s creation as it was this morning through my eyes, my words.

5:43 a.m.

The cool spring breeze
blows strands of hair against my cheek
gently tickling my neck

Rain drops fall singly, together
interrupting the joyful chaos of the birds’ morning song
(but not quite)
(they sing on through the rain)

A single cloud reflects light
but other clouds are there
now pouring out their offerings on the earth—
or are they crying?
Crying in bursts and fits
now sobbing,
soon slowing
trying to wash the earth clean before the new day begins.

The birds sing on
trying to awaken the dawn

The earth soaks in rain
yields its fresh, earthy scent
(smells like worms)

The moon is behind the clouds
smiling with its half face
poking through the holes in the clouds
and pointing the way to the sunrise yet to come.
It is what gives the single cloud(s) its brilliance.
The cloud tried to steal the moon’s light
masking it as its own
but could not compare to the moon
(which does not compare to the sun).

Tree limbs stand stark against the grey
grey of the morning
grey before blue
the Herald
Light is coming.

Lightning plays hide and seek
just out of the corner of my eye
fairy-like, it makes me wonder
was it there, or was it my imagination?

The world outside my door is ALIVE.

The grey gives up the sky
but clings to the clouds
as the earth turns its face toward the sun
(or is it turning its back on the night?)

my dog, my companion
wonders at the early excursion
sniffs the air for remnants of the breakfast
I forgot to share
shakes the lingering raindrops
from her ears

An insect
a speck of black against the bluing sky
flits into and out of my sight
the coffee is warm in my mouth, my throat
and lightning still flirts with my vision
(there? or not? hiding just out of sight?)

Lord, you have done all of this
and it is good.
A hint of orange kisses the horizon
caresses the earth as I retreat
to awaken my sleeping children.

But first, a song bursts forth from my lips,
my heart.