Famous Last Words

"Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." Psalms 150:6

Praise the Lord!, as the ancient Hebrews would shout...Hallelujah!, was the last word spoken in the original collection of Golden Oldies of Praise and Worship. Dr. Vaughan, my former professor of New Testament, was fond of telling us that Hallelujah was the greatest word in the English language, even if it was Hebrew. The psalmist must have felt that his famous last words were extremely important. He mentioned praise 13 times in six short verses.

I have to admit a certain fascination with famous last words. What a person says just before he passes a baton to another or utters from a death bed carries a peculiar significance. What people write on an epitaph as the last words or thoughts of a friend or family member often reveal a gem about the dearly departed. I search the web for famous last words, or books of quotations that have mined farewell addresses, or old cemeteries. What I discover sobers me and at times amuses me. How so?

  • Boot Hill Cemetery of Tombstone, Arizona carries an epitaph of a man who came in second in a gun fight. HERE LIES LES MOORE SHOT WITH THREE SLUGS FROM A .44, NO LESS NO MORE.
  • One urban legend claims an epitaph. I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK.
  • Who can forget W. C. Field's chiseled comment...I'D RATHER BE IN PHILADELPHIA.
  • Jeff Foxworthy's line about famous last words of a Redneck...WATCH THIS!

Praise the Lord! The famous last words of the psalmist found in Psalms 150 leave behind a much more valuable vapor trail of wisdom. They are balanced with a ring of urgency and the weight of importance. From the first to the last, they point out the need to praise God anywhere we go (v.1), for who He is (v. 2), with everything at hand (v. 3-5), and with all the breath we have (v. 6).

Praise is not about the style of music. Nor is it an itch to be scratched by our claws of personal preference. No style of music holds God's attention any more than another. It is much more than that. It is a matter of the heart. It is an absolute focus on God as an audience of one and expresses an attitude of awe and gratitude. It includes thanksgiving for His works, but it is also a an admiration of His character. Mining the riches of the Psalms reveals powerful words that provide priceless clues about who He is.

Those who continue adding fuel to the flames of worship wars are going to be surprised at what real praise sounds like when they get to heaven. Some are convinced Bach, Beethoven or more contemporary artists are the only source of sacred praise. Others envision Peter, James and John waiting at the Pearly Gates for the next Texas turbo tenor to round out their Southern Gospel quartet. It would just be like God to have these people room together in Heaven and spend the first 1,000 years in choir practice until they all got it right. But I digress.

The famous last words of Psalms 150 reveal praise is for anyone that has breath in their lungs. I remember meeting with a former NASA engineer to help me take stock of my life. He described a walk with God as the next 20 seconds. When I heard those words my whole perspective of praise changed. He continued to talk, and I continued to nod my head respectfully at all the right places, but I couldn't tell you anything else he said. Kinda like church.

He could have said any number of things. Read the Bible through in a year. Attend this three day conference. Fill out this notebook. Memorize a Scripture a day. Listen to this sermon. Read this book. Meet with an accountability partner. If he had done so, I think I would have collapsed in despair or thrown up my lunch. My walk with God had become like a bone in the throat and a rock in the shoe. I was not sure if I was tired of it or just tired in it. I was coughing and limping through an endless series of personal, and professional crises. They were not the kinds of things that called for all night prayer and fasting. I could get my game face on for huge challenges. Most days it was the steady drip or the relentless grind of having more bills than bucks, driving in traffic that never moves, lights that never change, tires that go flat, cars that won't start, dishes in the sink, kids at the doctor, people on the phone focused on whining not winning. It had all begun to choke and cripple me into a poor role model of man with a walk with God.

When I left my friend's office, I got in my car with the thought, "My walk with God is the next 20 seconds!" How hard could this be. I have that much breath in my lungs. It gave me joy for the journey home. However, the gauntlet of rush hour traffic, just mile down the road, was about hit my new walk with God with an unexpected road block.

Some idiot (Bless his heart!) tried to merge his over sized pickup into the go-kart sized space in front of me. I honked my horn, raised my voice, and pounded the dashboard. I slammed on my brakes. My little car was no match for him. His trailer hitch was now even with my eyes. The sound of his glass-packed pipes drowned out my Maranatha Praise Band music. I didn't give him the international sign of contempt, but I did think about it. If I had been equipped with a rocket launcher on my VW I would have turned his truck into toast. Bless his heart. Note to self: Just because you say, "Bless his heart!" doesn't mean you can say anything you want. I know people do it at church, but people reading this actually want to walk with God.

"My walk with God is the next 20 seconds!" came to my mind again. I refused to wait until my powers of rationalization started making excuses for my behavior. I didn't search for another dysfunctional believer to agree with me that what I was doing was the normal Christian life. I just simply admitted to God what I was thinking and saying was not right (Exhaled). I asked him to forgive me (Inhaled). I practiced this breathing exercise all the way home. It has served me well for the past 22 years. It gets the tiny bone out of my throat and the irritating grain of sand out of my shoe, the little things that can kill my walk with God. Walking with God is as simple, but as crucial as exhaling and inhaling are to breathing. Excuse me a minute. Its my cell phone.

The local police called. There was a gas leak in our neighborhood and all homes had to be evacuated for the day. Before I left, I saved a draft of this so I could come back to it. BTW: When I went out to start the car it was dead. Yesterday, I spent $490.00 to get it "fixed." I'd like to fix that mechanic. Bless his heart! Sorry about that. I still have flashbacks and choke and limp from time to time in my walk with God. The good news is when I get the breath knocked out of me I know how to get it back. Exhale. Inhale. Don't quit. The joy is the journey. I take a breath and praise the Lord. My walk with God and yours is the next 20 seconds.

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Psalms 150:6

P.S. "Halitosis is better than no breath at all." Anonymous