Soul Talk

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

O Lord my God, you are very great.

(Ps. 104:35)

   What is this greatness that outshines all of my earthly existence? Someone out there is much greater than I. How can I begin to understand this? All I know is what I see, feel, touch. I am the center of this discovery; it works out from me and I try to see it from here, but can I?

   My life centers on the tangible; I am survival-oriented, self-revolving. How can I see beyond me? So often it seems my graspings for this great One fall short of my own fingertips. Don't I need to go beyond myself? Don't I need to take some mystical journey on the chords of a pipe organ or the vibrato of some holy voice, or be carried into spiritual realms by the ecstatic utterances of men and angels, or take some pilgrimage to a mountain retreat to encounter God's greatness in the solitude and grandeur of His creation?

   Is it unattainable, or is it possible I could find God's

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greatness right here? Can I find it in the last, cold swallow from my coffee cup? Or on the messy desk, full of my daily ramblings — attempts at organization fallen short in the junkyard of good intentions? Can I find this greatness as I rush downstairs to the noise of the garbage truck at the neighbor's house, knowing I have just enough time to get my cans out, the ones I forgot the night before? Can I find it here in the Bible lying open on top of my unfiled folders, in Psalm 104, an ancient manuscript of a man — like me — trying to understand the greatness much greater than he? But no, not just understand it, to touch it, to know it, to have that greatness become a part of him, a part of his deepest part: a part of his soul?

   "Praise the Lord, O my soul."

   Who is he addressing here, anyway? I've heard he was a shepherd. Was he talking to the sheep — his captive audience on a clear Palestinian night? Was it the great assembly of the nation of Israel after he became king? Was he thinking of all the people who would read this when he said, "Praise the Lord, O my soul"? The pastor brushing up on a sermon late Saturday night, the clinical worker on a coffee break, the seminary student picking it apart in the Hebrew lexicon, the missionary translating it into Swahili, the nun in the convent, the senior citizen on the park bench in the midday sun, or the choirs in a thousand choir lofts of a thousand churches in front of a thousand pieces of stained glass? Was he thinking of the Praise the Lord Club when he said, "Praise the Lord, O my soul"? Was he thinking of me?

   O my soul — he was talking to himself! I'm privy to a man's inner conversations here. This is the kind of thing people can be sent away for! This man is carrying on a dialogue with himself: And so I say to my soul, 'Soul, you praise the Lord.' "

   Well, this may be a bit crazy but it is cause for encouragement, for apparently David had the same difficulties I have trying to touch the greatness of God in the middle of daily existence. He found he needed periodic discussions with himself — to issue directives to his soul.

   What kind of soul is this? If it's a spiritual soul, he could put it on automatic pilot. If it's an ordinary human soul, he's going to have to whip it into shape. Would his soul praise the Lord if he didn't tell it to? No — nor would mine. I think I like this man. This isn't someone chiseling on the rock of ages for generations

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to come, nor is it the greatest hymnwriter of all time knocking out one more tune for the Jerusalem Choral Society; this is someone like you or me simply getting through another day. This is David trying to awaken his soul to the greatness that lies in the cold coffee, the cluttered desk, and the clanging garbage truck of his day.

   This tells me that praise is not so much a "getting out of" as it is a "getting into" life. If God sent His Son into the world, then God's greatness is at hand. The kingdom of God is here somewhere on my desk and in the daily ramblings of my life. I don't have to go anywhere to get it. I only have to wake up my soul to see it.

   There's nothing mysterious about all this, no magical key that unlocks the floodgates of praise. Nor is there anything automatic — some kind of spiritual wind-up soul that runs for a few days after being wound tightly by a praise service.

   No, what we have here is an ordinary soul that needs a good talking to from time to time. Something like:

   "Soul, praise the Lord. There is comfort in the coffee, destiny on the desk, goodness in the garbage. Wake up, O my soul! Listen to me, I'm talking to you. Stop trying to change the subject. You what? You already know this? Well then, how come you're not doing it? Look, soul, are you in this thing or not? This is not a nice to-do. This is life! Praise the Lord, O my soul!"

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