Keep on the Sunny Side: Mrs. Julia

Before the era of Netflix, live streaming, and YouTube were available, we were entertained by cable, for those of you who remember. The local Channel #2 television station we had as children was dedicated to airing information of community events and advertisements. It never ran a formal “show” per se, and we never really considered it a true channel.  Instead, it kept on loop a cadence of sliding local announcements, alternating brightly colored backgrounds with terrible fonts rolling in and out, to the easy listening rhythm of stereotypical elevator music. But Sunday morning was a different story.

Every Sunday morning, hour-long slots were purchased by local worshiping congregations to air celebrations of worship and praise. They played everything from old hymns (led by a solo guitar player in jeans with a deep southern twang)—all the way to highly trained pipe organists (robed with matching choir, live from the “first” church downtown). Regardless of church name or denomination, Sunday mornings on Chanel #2 were altogether different from the weekly loop and were always filled with praise.

Psalm 150 is the climactic conclusion to the book of poetry and praise tradition attributed to King David. This psalm, like the five preceding it, both begins and ends with the exclamation: “Praise the Lord!” Eugene Peterson translates it “Hallelujah,” or in the Southern vernacular, “Y’all Praise the Lord.” It’s a call for the whole community. What I love about this psalm is its inclusiveness and its expansiveness. One commentary stated that this psalm lists every known musical instrument of ancient Israel. All of them. Not one instrument known to the community was left out. The message is clear: Everyone, everywhere, in every way, with every instrument or dance, is to offer praise and thanksgiving to the God of Israel.

A mentor and dear friend, Julia Wilson, is finishing her journey in this life. This faithful and kind woman has been a light in our community, encouraging discipleship of young and old alike for years, and will be sincerely missed. Julia and I became good friends when she shared her love for Lake Junaluska, the arts, music and all things out-doors. Our friendship was sealed when I visited with her one summer afternoon; she wore her favorite Duke basketball hat and I told her I was a Carolina Girl and hers was the ugliest hat I’d ever seen.

Mrs. Julia has lived a life that echoes Psalm 150. Her joyful demeanor, hopeful outlook, zest for life and most especially her gratitude to God in Christ demonstrates her passion to praise God in her everyday, ordinary living. Over the past few weeks her faith has continued to inspire me. She always has a song, a hymn, to sing every time we visit. Even now, as her body fails her, she keeps a tune on her lips. She is ever singing praise to Christ her King—even lying in a hospital bed. She has given thanks to God for every step of her journey, and those of us who know her give thanks to God for the opportunity to know her. She has given us an example of a praise-filled life.

As we enter this holiday season of thanksgiving, I challenge any Christians who read this column to pause and offer genuine praise to Christ. Brothers and sisters, don’t just “be” thankful; act thankful. Write a note of gratitude, sing a song of praise, pay for someone’s meal, rake your neighbor’s leaves, give generously to someone in need, offer a hug, forgive your co-worker, or let someone in front of you into the traffic line. Be joyful always. Let your attitude and actions be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Like Mrs. Julia, live out your faith in such a way that no one can deny your love for Christ. Now, ever and always, Praise the Lord and keep on the sunny side of life.

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