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The rippling effect of praise. Praise cannot be contained in a box. Praise cannot be held back by the one who has been affected by a dramatic change in his life. Praise is infectious. Praise connects us. Praise has this cascading effect to it, mainly because when we offer praise over an act of kindness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, blessing, or any other merit that was beyond our expectation, others join us in praise because they too can testify to the blessing that we have received.

This past Saturday, we launched the Christ Church Center for Spiritual Nourishment. It is an innovative idea that is geared towards helping us deepen our own spirituality and provide safe spaces where we can all be vulnerable. More importantly, it is to help us connect with God and each other in ways that we have never done in the past.

I joined the Spiritual Direction group. Before it even got started, I said this to Kathy Simms and Carol Abbott: “Don’t we all need directions in our lives?”

Carol Abbott, our Spiritual Director, led the session and invited us to meditate on the Story of Blind Bartimaeus in Luke 18: 35-43. Among others, this story helps us understand what it means to join others in offering praise - for a particularly good deed that has come their way.

A few verses back, the same people who joined Bartimaeus in his praise to God, were the same people who rebuked him because he wouldn’t stop screaming the name of the Son of David who was passing by. Bartimaeus wouldn’t stop asking for mercy - you could say that he had perfected the art of begging to the point where a rebuke by others didn’t make any difference to him.

Think about the number of times and the number of people he had begged over the years. Think about the number of insults he may have endured from the rude and the scornful. Think about the number of times that others had ignored his pleas. Think about the number of times that others have said no. Think about the number of times that others may have responded positively and given him some money.

Bartimaeus, we would say, was used to being rebuked because he had been rebuked all through his life and one more rebuke wasn’t going to stop him.

What do you think would have happened if he had stopped screaming because of the rebuke from others? He wouldn’t have had his eyes opened, nor would he have experienced that one gift that he needed the most - that he may see again.

As I reflect on the rebuke of others and the ways I have also rebuked others, I invite you to reflect on the many times and ways in which you have been rebuked or rebuked others. It may have been overt, like the people who rebuked Bartimaeus, or it may have been subtle - where the rebuke wasn’t recognizable, but it was a rebuke, nonetheless. Think about what that rebuke did to you, your spirit, your dignity, your sense of pride and love for yourself. Think also about what your rebuke did to others.

I have a friend who, a few years ago, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and is yet to have reconstructive surgery. She shared with me that she dislikes her body and doesn’t like to see herself in the mirror. It was heartbreaking to hear that. And I felt it was also a rebuke. In an unfortunate way, she’s hampered by what used to be and isn’t as open and welcoming to what is.

What is, in my opinion, a testament to a second shot at life.

I was surprised at her words because I saw more than what she probably saw. Whenever I communicate with her, see her, or say a prayer for her, all I see is praise. Praise to the God who saved her. Praise to the God who healed her. Praise to the God who has given her a second chance at life. I praise it because not every woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer survives it.

I remember telling her, "Don’t be upset with your body." After all, if you are upset with your body, who else would you expect to be happy with your body? Embrace the body that you have, as unsightly as you think it may be, embrace it, love it, pamper it, and enjoy it because that is where your praise begins. And the point of your praise becomes the point of all who join you in praise - because they can also attest to what God had done in your life. 

Praise doesn’t only spring up because we have experienced some healing, but also because there’s been some significant achievement in our lives. Praise springs up because of a milestone. Praise springs up because of an undeserved blessing. One more thing, praise grounds us because we come to appreciate the One on whom we depend.

For me, my praise is about a ministry over these last twenty-five (25) years. A quarter-century of service for the common good. I am not exactly sure how it happened, but I am full of praise. I am not exactly sure how I got to where I am, but I still praise. Like many aspects of our lives, there’s been more highs than lows. But whether high or low, I still praise.

Like my friend, I have more than a few scars of my own, but I still praise. The good thing is I do not look at the scars and become fixated on them as if they by themselves alone, offer a redemptive story. Yes, they do tell a story about the valleys and shadows of death that we once experienced, but I for one try not to be trapped by them. To do so is to minimize the grace that holds me, sustains me, and assures me of God’s abiding presence. As a wise person once said, “I always look at the bright side of life.”

For me, scars only remind me of what the Lord has done. And for that one reason, I cannot hate what the Lord has done.

To praise, then, is to look at those scars and to exult - not because you have them but because they remind you of something bigger than yourself. To praise, then, is to remember where you used to be, what you were dealing with, and when your world came crashing down. To praise is to look at the new beginning that has been made possible because, like Bartimaeus, Jesus heard you. Not only that, but Jesus also set you free from all the things that inhibited you and denied you of purpose. 

Remember, praise has a cascading effect. People like to join others in offering praise. This Pentecost Sunday, May 19th at 10:00 a.m., I invite you to join me in praise.

Like all those who joined Bartimaeus in his praise, please join with me in offering praise to the God who invites people like me, undeserved and unfit, to tell the story of His love. 



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