The time we spent in New Orleans attending THE seminary was a most enjoyable period for Polla and me. The city has much that would grieve your heart, but it is also a wonderful place filled with culture and history.
One of our favorite things to do in New Orleans was to go to a little hole-in-the-wall just off Bourbon Street called Preservation Hall to hear Dixieland jazz. The place is unique-nothing more than a small rectangular room stuffed with people standing shoulder to shoulder or sitting on wooden benches without backs.
At the front of the room are the musicians, most of whom are old. Trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, drums and, often, banjo players make up the group. The uniqueness of jazz is that on almost every song, each instrument improvises on the melody and in the end, they all intertwine for the grand finale. Dixieland jazz is a most creative, innovative and expressive musical genre, and it is native to North America and to New Orleans in particular.
When I read Psalm 103, I think of it as Thanksgiving jazz. David, the musician and author, sounds forth the melody: “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” With those expansive and resounding words, the tune has been laid for all to rise and improvise upon it. The Psalmist is so full of thanksgiving and praise that he cannot contain it within himself.
He then allows every element of his praise to take its turn at center stage. Each arises to give thanksgiving and adoration for the multiple benefits of the Lord God. David calls upon us to join him in counting our blessings and naming them one by one. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, compassion, satisfaction and renewal-each sounds a variation on the theme of thanksgiving.
To read these words is to feel the pulse of the music. It is impossible for a child of God to read this Psalm without wanting to take an instrument and play a tune of thanksgiving and praise. God has acted consistently and powerfully in our behalf. Every good gift comes from the Father above. We are blessed beyond description.
Frankly, far too often, our lips are filled with complaint and misguided grumbling. But at this Thanksgiving season, discouraging words should be set aside and replaced with multiple expressions of thanksgiving to our awesome God.
How long has it been since your family took turns improvising on thanksgiving and praise? How long has it been since your children gave expression to the recognition of the many acts of God to their benefit? How long has it been since your family heard you unequivocally declare your heart of gratitude for all that God has done for you?
I would challenge you and yours to stop and play a Dixieland tune of words this Thanksgiving. Make beautiful and sweet Thanksgiving jazz as you recount the mighty acts of God for you and yours.