Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Hebrews 13:15
Most mornings, the dog wakes me up, ready for his morning walk. He starts to whine somewhere between 6:45 and 7:30 am, and whatever stage of sleep I’m in, I quickly find myself focused on getting him outside. I jump out of bed, throw on a pair of sweats and some old shoes, scoop up the dog, and head downstairs. I snatch up his collar as we pass by the rack, fill my pocket with treats and waste bags, and head out the door. Four or five houses down the street, I finally find myself truly awake and aware of my surroundings.
And then somewhere before the corner, I realize I am humming a song to myself. I never consciously decide to hum, it just seems to happen. And I never choose what I’m going to hum. Whatever song I’m humming just comes unbidden, creeping out of my subconscious so that I begin humming or singing without realizing it. And suddenly, I find myself mouthing song lyrics. Today, it was “Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height,” from Mary Poppins Another day it might be a Broadway showtune or a Billy Joel song. And sometimes it is a hymn – one day last week I realized I was humming “Fairest Lord Jesus” and trying to remember all the words.
I don’t know what causes a particular song to come to mind – perhaps a smell, a sense of the weather, some other association – who knows what. But I wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning with songs of praise to God on my lips. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Lord and give God all the glory for the good in my life. But I admit, I do not “continually offer a sacrifice of praise” in song to God.
Oh, I can decide I should sing a hymn or praise song while I’m walking, but I wonder what it would take for that unconscious process to end up putting a sacred song into my head without my having to think, “Okay, what religious song should I sing?”. What would be needed to make God’s praise the unbidden song on my lips in the morning instead of a rock and roll oldie that would only yield to a hymn after conscious thought and choice?
As I wondered about that, I remembered how I learned to drive a stick shift. I started my driving on a ’64 VW Beetle with a stick shift. I remember how I went through a mental checklist at every stop light – brake with one foot, push in the clutch with the other, come to a stop, move the stick into into 1st gear with the clutch in, when the light turned green begin to let the clutch out as I feathered the gas, go. I went through that checklist at every stoplight, ticking off step after step. But over time, I was able to skip a checklist step mentally – I just did it without thinking about it. And at last, the whole process became automatic, second nature.
Maybe that’s how God’s praise needs to be. Perhaps I need to be more intentional about running my praise checklist every day – rehearsing the reasons for thanking God, reminding myself of God’s praiseworthy characteristics and repeating songs and words that express that praise and thanksgiving. Then, maybe God’s praises would come more unconsciously to my mind as songs and lyrics suddenly appear on my lips. So first thing in the morning, I can give thanks to God for this new day; last thing in the evening, I can praise God for all the good that has happened during the day; and intermittently during the day, I can pause to give thanks where it is truly due – to the Lord who is over all things. So maybe as I change my routine, the songs of my heart will become more about God and less about the glory days of rock and roll!
Prayer: Lord of love and life, from you comes every good and perfect gift. Accept my words of thanks and praise for who you are and for what you have done in my life and the life of the world. Keep my heart ever grateful; keep my mind centered on your love, and keep my eyes open to see your compassionate hand at work around me. Let songs of your praise be ever in my heart, my mind and on my lips. For with thanksgiving and praise, I ask this in Christ’s holy name. Amen.