Praying with chickens

Praying with chickens February 5, 2016

What is the Doxology Project?

Doxology is a hymn of praise to God.  It’s Greek: doxologos–“word of glory”–in other words: praise.  Doxologies are sprinkled throughout the New Testament, short, sparkling snippets of praise to God.  A doxology is sung at the high point of the Catholic Mass, when the bread and cup are raised in consecration.  In Mennonite circles, The Doxology is old #606, the harmoniously complex Praise God from whom all blessings flow sung at national church gatherings, funerals, and Goshen College soccer games.

In Romans 11:36, the Apostle Paul wraps up the massively dense doctrinal section of his letter (who is Christ and what has he done?) with a doxology:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

I always thought of this verse as a hard stop.  End of section one.  Please insert disc two to continue.  There’s even an amen.

Then chapter 12 begins with:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

But I noticed something.  The chapter 11 doxology and the chapter 12 call to “living sacrifice” are in fact deeply intertwined.  This is what the Apostle means when he talks about our “spiritual worship.”  Worshiping God leads to a worshipful life.  Doxology leads to doxological living.

Here’s what I understand: as followers of Jesus, we’re called to craft our lives as offerings of praise.  We make decisions about what glorifies God, and what does not.  We seek to heal rather than to destroy.  We bless rather than curse.  Our life itself becomes a praise to God–every action, every word, every breath.  Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6).

On top of that, we do regular sorts of things with an eye toward praise, a Godward orientation.  We offer our lives as praise to God in lots of little ways.  For instance, I sing when I take out the trash.  I pray when I hoe weeds.

And I pray with chickens.

I mean, it’s not that I wrestle them down and force them to endure my contemplation like some sort of feathered icons.  No sir, nothing like that.  I just pray, and our little flock gathers around me on the bench, clucking, preening, scratching, pecking.  I should really say that the chickens join me in prayer.

All of this is my attempt at the doxological life, which is a life of praising God in the midst of the ordinary, of attending to God right where we are and in whatever we’re doing.  It’s what Brother Lawrence was getting at when he talked about the “practice of the presence of God.”  It’s Ignatius of Loyola’s ad maiorem Dei gloriam.  It’s what Eugene Peterson means when he says that following Jesus is “a way of living deeply and fully with the people here and now, in the place we find ourselves” (The Jesus Way, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p.33).

This is my hope: to make my life a living doxology–all of it–family, play, work, prayer, song, chickens.

That’s my doxology project.  It’s really just following Jesus.

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