Tuesday, March 2, 2010

All Praise and Thanksgiving

Detail-oriented perfectionist that I am, I have a love-hate relationship with goals and To-Do lists. Some might call it a dangerously codependent relationship. As long as everything progresses smoothly I'm content; but the moment circumstances even hint I might not finish something at the time originally planned, up goes my blood pressure by ten points, and out the window goes the common sense that knows regular breaks are good for you.

Although goals can be first-rate achievement tools, business experts have discovered that they have their dark side. "In many situations, the damaging effects of goal setting outweigh its benefits," noted a recent article from Harvard Business School, which recommended the practice be treated as a prescription drug--helpful when used properly, but a disaster waiting to happen if taken indiscriminately in large doses with no eye out for side effects. One of the most harmful of these is the way goal achievement plays on the human tendency toward idolatry: thousands of people have sacrificed their patience, their self-respect, their good judgment, their human relationships, and their health to a mad drive to achieve overambitious goals, a drive that brooks no interruptions in any form. It also reinforces the idea that everything depends on us. If we fail to achieve our goals, we curse ourselves for it; if we succeed, we become dangerously proud of ourselves; and throughout, we see God merely as a source of extreme-emergency support.

"A ‘success without goal setting’ paradigm... overcomes the narrow focus of goals by opening the mind to an array of possibilities and successes," advises one popular motivational speaker. "Live for the moment not the morrow.... Live by a ‘theme.’" Christians serious about the "purpose-driven" approach to life will likely approve. So might the apostle James, who had things to say about being too sure of one's plans; so also the many Bible characters, from David ("One thing I ask of the LORD... to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple," Ps. 27:4) to Paul ("I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord," Phil. 3:8) to Jesus ("seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," Mt. 6:33), who emphasized that knowing God is the one goal that the wise aspire to.

But we'll never know Him until we learn not to let lesser goals distract our thoughts from His power and glory. Why not set a goal for this month to spend fifteen minutes a day just praising God? I don't advise aiming for more immediately, if you're new to the practice; I know from experience that planning on "hours of prayer" holds the same hazards as any other "try to do too much too soon" goal. If you have trouble managing even fifteen minutes (and I still do), use your favorite Scripture passages or hymns--or the following poem--to guide your thoughts.

All praise and thanksgiving raise high to the Father,
And sing forth in worship with all of your might!
He gives us His blessing; His hand is upon us
To strengthen our cause as we stand for the right!
He heals and refreshes; our food He provides us
As He does for all of the creatures of earth;
He chose us and saved us; He cleans and empowers us;
He guides all our days from the time of our birth.

All praise and thanksgiving raise high to our Savior,
And sing forth in worship with all of your might!
He gives us His blessing; His hand is upon us
To bring us new hope through His glorious light!
He came for our freedom; His touch was our healing,
He reached out in love to the children of earth;
His death was our cleansing; His raising our raising;
And He, in His love, brought us wondrous new birth.

All praise and thanksgiving raise high to the Spirit,
And sing forth in worship with all of your might!
He gives us His blessing; His power is upon us,
And ever encouraging us for the fight!
He brings us His comfort; great gifts He provides us
To use in God’s work that we do on this earth;
His breath is our strengthening, His fire our empowering;
He guides all our days from our time of rebirth.

All praise and thanksgiving raise high in rejoicing,
And sing forth in worship with all of your might!
Our God gives us blessing; His power is upon us
To raise us on upward from height unto height!
His love is eternal, His strength has no limits,
And straight from His hand come all blessings of earth;
So let us sing praises to God Who is for us,
And Who will be bringing a new world to birth!

1 comment:

Designs by JoLea said...

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Perhaps you've already heard of it, but your poetry is phenomenal, and I thought you might be interested. It is through the Christian Writer's Marketplace.

Jo