Praise be!


Now that you’ve taken that picture in for a second and have hopefully stopped laughing, let me describe what you’re seeing here. That, my dear readers, is what a *free* glamour shot session at the Abbeville (SC) Career Center circa 1990 will get you. Pardon the glare on the photo. This is actually a picture of a picture. The original resurfaced because my sister found it in a closet of an old house that my grandparents owned. The original was....get this...24 X 36 inches....that’s movie poster size. My grandmother had it blown up for our viewing pleasure. Not as a joke, at least, I don’t think. My favorite part is the remnants of fingernail polish on my thumb, so strategically placed in the nonchalant-collar-grabbing pose, a standard of the 90’s. So close to being glamorous. So close. 

Once this picture resurfaced, we all have enjoyed laughing over it, including me. Something about it just makes me giddy. It takes me back to that day, parts of which I remember well. That girl was so excited to be there getting all glammed up. I remember when my mom and sister and I walked in to the house after we had finished our glamour sessions. We still had the hair and make-up but were in our normal clothes. (My hair probably had a wing span of 3 feet.) You should have seen the look on my dad’s face when the Judd sisters walked in the house inhabiting the bodies of his wife and daughters. 

I remember this encounter with my father more than I remember the shoot itself. I felt so beautiful and also so silly for feeling so beautiful, as I walked into the room to greet him. I watched my dad’s eyes eagerly for approval and praise, but also eager to laugh at the ridiculousness of that moment.  I can’t remember what my dad said now, but I know I felt like an imposter in that hair and make-up, and yet I know he smiled with me and made me feel seen. 

As we close our Summer in the Psalms series, I’ve been thinking a lot about praise. How much we long for praise from others, and also how praise makes the circle of enjoyment of something complete. The last Psalm, #150, is short and sweet:  

 1 Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

When I hear the opening words to the psalm, it takes me back to another part of childhood. Choir robes, organ music, men in suits and ladies in hats...all the trappings of “church” as I knew it growing up.

The hard part about making this psalmist’s excitement to praise feel real in my daily life is about as easy as trying to reconcile the make-up/hair of that glamour photo session with an 8-year-old’s street clothes.

And yet, like I looked to my earthly father to share in my joy and silliness that day, I think it is possible to praise God in a way that feels real and genuine, silly and longing, encompassing all that is within us. When we share in the gratitude and relish in all we have in community with others, praising God starts to feel real. After all, the psalmist is describing an orchestra, not a solo. We celebrate with laughter and tears, with instruments that may clash, in the spirit of sheer extravagance and glorious ridiculousness that is our experience here. And doing that with others, whether through the ancient Christian rituals of our ancestors or applauding the sun as it sinks into the sea, the circle of praise and joy is complete.

So, here I am, sharing my most embarrassing photo on the internet. Isn’t it strange that the most embarrassing one is also my favorite? In the end, our praise here on earth is just a picture of a picture. For now we see dimly as if in a mirror, but one day we will praise face-to-face. Hopefully in a sequined jacket.