given on Sunday, October 18, 2009
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The rain has really gotten to me this week. I suppose it would not be so frustrating if the sun could have popped out at least once a day. The grey sky, the multiple levels of clouds, the drizzle, the downpours, and the cold have taken a toll on me. I started looking for ways to have sunshine.
Then I worked on reading the lectionary for the week. I could not find a bright side to the verses in Job, Hebrews, or Mark, but then I began reading Psalm 104. The words sounded so joyous but I had a hard time feeling very picked up. I turned and asked Bruce just how do you praise God in the rain.
Now think about that for a minute. We have not seen the beautiful colors of the fall yet. All we have seen is rain! But wait, the color is there. The trees are indeed dressing up. The maples, especially the hard maples, are turning those rich, radiant reds and oranges that contrast with the dark bark of the limbs.
The oaks are turning colors, too. They are turning from the bright green of the heated summer to the yellowish, almost polka dot leaves with the brown-capped acorns cupped in the small twigs and leaves right before they fall to the littered ground.
And what about the black gum trees? I saw one that was larger than most; and its burgundy, almost black, leaves were illumined by ghost-like silvery grey. The rain and cool temperatures almost seem to have frozen the leaves to the trees’ limbs.
Still the constant drone of rain on the metal roof at school or the cold wind blowing in the opening and closing doors has taken a toll on me. I struggle with long, drawn-out days, and it is frightening to think that the days are actually shorter—at least according to the sunrise and sunset.
The question remains, though. How does one praise God in the rain? Psalm 104 may guide us by providing us a reminder of all the glories that we do have surrounding us. Sometimes the rain just slows us down and makes us take time to remember just where God is in our lives. Yet rain is key to our lives so we praise God for the rain even when we think we have had way too much.
As you continue to read through the verses of Psalm 104, you find the language so colorful—much like the autumn leaves and mums. And then, I saw something else: the creation story in living color. Verses 11 through 18 list all the wonderful creatures that have filled this earth. Tucked away in this section is verse 13:
13 You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
How could I be so blind or narrow-minded not to remember this! All I have been doing is whining, not praising the Lord.
Still the psalm continues. The verses from 18 to 31 continue to describe the earth as the delightful creation of God. The earth is populated by so many creatures which demonstrate their uniqueness, their adaptability, their beauty and God has given us charge over them. Rainy days are part of that delicate life cycle which sustains all living creatures here on this earth.
How do we praise God on the eighth day of clouds, rain and cold? We must keep our focus on him. When the rains hit, we need to take a moment and thank God for that rain. Sometimes it takes days of rain to force us inside our homes to sit, rest, and re-prioritize our lives. The top priority, which we so often drop to the bottom of the list, is to praise God.
Rainy days are restful days. We cannot go out and do the yard work or the fieldwork. We cannot go out and play in cold rain without reaching a point we are chased back inside to the warmth of a hot shower or a cup of hot cocoa. We tend to come in and complain about that chore we wanted to get done before the rain or complain how the rain is ruining our lives since we cannot go to the lake or get on the bikes and go. One might be tempted to say rain is one of God reminding us who is in charge—God is!
Are there other ways to praise God on these rainy days? Sure there are, but sometimes we have to be reminded what we can do. By carefully adjusting our mindset into a praise mode rather than a complain mode, we can see other options for these rainy days.
At school, rainy days typically mean more students tend to sit more quietly and work more productively. Yet after about the second or third day, they begin fighting the quiet, productive pace. They move into an agitated state. They cannot sit still. They crash at the table or they stay at home. Teaching changes its focus, too, from praise to consequences. The teachers and the students must work to keep focused and positive.
The psalmist says it so clearly:
27 They all depend on you
to give them food as they need it.
28 When you supply it, they gather it.
You open your hand to feed them,
and they are richly satisfied.
29 But if you turn away from them, they panic.
When you take away their breath,
they die and turn again to dust.
30 When you give them your breath, life is created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
Whether we are students and teachers, whether we are farmers or factory workers, whether we are doctors and nurses or store clerks we need rainy days to praise God. We need the rainy days to force us to rest and remember that God is our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.
On rainy days, we must work to keep our focus on God. When we focus on God, we are moved to praise him because we see this world through his eyes. We see the needs of others before we see our own needs. We see the beauty around us rather than the muddiness in our lives. How do we praise God on rainy days? We do just that—praise him! We turn to the Bible for the words as we find them in Psalm 104 today:
31 May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
32 The earth trembles at his glance;
the mountains smoke at his touch.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will praise my God to my last breath!
34 May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth;
let the wicked disappear forever.
Let all that I am praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
We may face more rainy days this month, this year; but we know that God is good and has a purpose for everything. Our purpose is to see the world through God’s eyes and to serve. With that focus, we praise him, even on rainy days.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We see the glory of your world all around us even in the rain. We have complained about the days lately, but we also know that the rain is so vital for this earth. We thank you for wrapping us up in such autumn days when the splendor shakes in the trees and the smells waif through the air and the sun lets all your radiance glow. Forgive us for our lack of focus and for our whining, but thank you for the words of the psalmist to open our eyes to your loving care. –Amen