When I was a senior at Graceland College (1983), I lived off campus in a little alley apartment downtown. Lamoni is a tiny town in Iowa. Because I had just graduated in December, I didn’t know where my first teaching job would be. I decided not to go home to Oregon for Christmas. I planned to work in Lamoni until the last day, take a bus to Independence, and spend Christmas with my grandparents.
The night before I was going to leave, it snowed. A LOT! There was so much snow, the bus to Lamoni was not running. I had no way to get to Independence. All of my friends had left town for the holidays. I didn’t know anyone in town well enough to invite myself over!
I was feeling very sorry for myself and feeling like it was hopeless. Of course, it was not a matter of life and death. But, I had never been away from home at Christmastime, let alone by my myself! It seemed like a very dark hole to me.
I was having a nice little pity party, when I thought of what my mother alwasys says: “Praise the Lord in all things.” I certainly didn’t FEEL like praising God. I couldn’t see anything to be praising Him about. But, I decided to try. I started in slowly. The only thing I knew to do, was to sing. I started singing, “Praise ye the Lord, 'tis good to raise...” through my tears. I moved on to other songs and the tears stopped. A feeling of peace and hope had taken their place. Pretty soon, I was skipping around my apartment, praising the Lord with a loud voice and joy in my heart!
Hmmm. I didn’t know why I should call Charlie. He was a friend of mine living in St. Louis, on the other side of Missouri from I where I needed to go. But, the thought persisted. I gave Charlie a call. This was way before cell phones, so it was Charlie's home phone that I called. Charlie didn’t answer the phone. I was surprised to hear my friend Marc on the phone. He was in St. Louis visiting Charlie.
We chatted and I told him my little sob story. Then he told me something amazing! He had forgotten all of his Christmas presents in his apartment in Lamoni. He was planning to drive through Lamoni (which added more hours to his trip!) on his way home to Kansas City the next day if the roads were clear enough! Obviously, I asked for a ride and he was happy to give me one.
I believe that because I was able to take my mind off of myself and focus on the Lord, I was able to hear His voice.
It is kind of like a one way glass. When we focus on ourselves, all we can see is our own selves staring back at us. But, when we turn around and focus on Jesus, then we can see clearly and can hear his gentle directions and feel His love. Praise is the path to returning our focus to Him!