Do you ever get the urge to just lift up your hands and praise?
Yesterday I decided to go walking on a track nearby that is more secluded with parts of the track seemingly hidden near one side of nearby woods. It was a beautiful night out. I felt the anticipation rising as I walked nearer to the track knowing that this was going to be a special walk. As I put my feet on the track, joy began to rise up in me. I looked around and felt captivated by what I was seeing and experiencing. The sound in my ears played the music of what seemed like the voices of angels singing (and no, it wasn’t me singing either); the football field next to me gave off the scents of freshly cut grass, the sunset in front of me displayed yet another original masterpiece of God’s fine art and all I felt like doing was…lifting my arms up as high as they could go in praise, adoration and thanks to the One who made all this!
What do you think? Do you think I did it? Well, almost…I kinda lifted them for a second and then pretended to be that walker that is like the “Footloose” dancer, dance walking. There was no one around and I thought to myself, “Why can I do this in church with others around and yet, right now, with no one looking except the One who this praise was designed for- I can’t fully do it?!” which really made me think more about this issue of praise.
Praise. We all do it. It is not just church folk either. Take for example the last live sporting event you went to or some sort of live entertainment. When the people who you want to do well, do well…what do we do? We clap. Or if you are a Kansas University Alumni like I am, then you would even see some of the basketball fans actually raise their hands at certain players and coaches. But, think about clapping your hands? That is a funny concept. Have you ever really thought about how silly it looks, or the concept of putting two hands together when we are excited about something and smacking them together? And, what if clapping your feet together was the acceptable way to show praise? We wouldn’t look down on it, would we? Try it and let me know how it goes (and if your friends will ever take you to a game with them again).
I remember the first time I encountered clapping in church so clearly. I was a freshman in college and was invited by my really cute Christian R.A. to a campus bible study. I was not a Christian at the time (and yes, he was definitely missionary dating) and naturally I was going to accompany this fine-looking fella to any meeting without of course letting him know any of that last bit of information. I was expecting a small group of around 10 or so, and walked in to a meeting of a few hundred people! Wow. Didn’t even know there were that many Christians out there! We find a seat, the meeting begins with people that were all so foreign to my volleyball-sport world and then the next thing I knew we were all standing about to sing songs! Sing songs?! I used to sing songs in groups only when all my relatives and their friends would get really drunk and sing old Lithuanian songs from their past. And, the next thing that happened, I remember it in slow motion, people began to C…L….A…P….! The guy I was with was clapping so I felt to be respectful I needed to, but with each movement, I was felt like my hands were the size of boxing gloves awkwardly coming together and I felt so strange. But, the wild thing was that little by little, I began to like it. And good thing they only sang a few songs ending soon after, because I was ready to show some of my dance moves too to impress my friend. And, that was my first experience of clapping in…church-type setting. (Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, ALL peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy”)
And, what about the whole ‘lifting your hands’ thing? Why is it ok to do it at a live event, or when blocking a volleyball, or even stretching, but can be so awkward for some to do this in a church setting? The first time I saw someone raise their hands in church, I just couldn’t stop staring at them. And all sorts of questions and emotions went running through my head. I just never had seen anyone do that, well, except the little old ladies at the Catholic church who were viewed in my mind, super-spiritual and were brave enough to half raise their hands during the reading of the “Our Father”. But, I was seeing people doing this while singing all types of songs. A part of me wanted to do it also, but just left like there was no way I could. Sunday after Sunday I saw people dancing, clapping and raising their hands in such joy that my confidence and desire grew more and more to be able to express those same emotions that were built inside of me to be released in praise of God. And, one Sunday- I did it. Slowly and maybe some would have mistaken it for me stretching, but in my heart, I did it. It felt so good too! The next Sunday, instead of stretching-praise, I was doing the ‘I am cradling a baby’ arm raise, but loved it. And then the next Sunday and the next- more praise came and it also came more confidence and joy in being to express my excitement, my joy, my thanksgiving, love and praise to God. Praise was designed to make God’s heart happy …and also ours. (Psalm 63:3-4 “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips will praise you. So, I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.”)
My encouragement to you…Be free in your expression of thanks and praise to God for all that He has done for you and for the amazing creation He has gifted us with all around us! He is worthy.
Some extra scriptures on this (and there are so many more…www.crosswalk.com):
Psalm 30:12 “that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever”
Psalm 119: 48 “ And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on your statutes”
Psalm 134:2 “Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord”
Psalm 143:6 “I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land.”