"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." - Philippians 4:8, ESV
In the last two summers, I have had the privilege to travel around the country and see some most-excellent things, like the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, the Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, and the Badlands. From the herd of buffalo on the wild prairie lands, to the silent doe in the cleft of the mountain, these views took my breath away. I love language and poetry and words, but no words could come close to expressing the awe I felt in the presence of such splendor. It made me feel so small, and yet so loved.
When I think of the phrase, "anything of excellence, anything worthy of praise..." I remember these moments, when all I could do was sit and stare and feel my heart pound. It's how I imagine Moses felt when he got to see God's back (Exodus 34:5-8), because it felt like I was getting a glimpse at the edges of His glory, and my whole being was trying its best to worship the only One worthy of praise. You see, these things are not excellent and praiseworthy on their own - they are the evidence of the beauty and majesty of their Creator - they are made to testify and point to and praise Him (Psalm 19).
King David was really great at thinking about these things... if ever I am at a loss for words, I go to the songs that David wrote, and I make them my own:
"...I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised... The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation... For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name..." (2 Samuel 22:2-51)
"...For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised...Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!" (1 Chronicles 16:8-36)
"...So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands..." (Psalm 63)
"Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! ... Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven..." (Psalm 148)
Rich Mullins is someone else who I think used poetry and music in powerful ways to praise the Lord: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3jGntN7hws. Some songs just capture the excellence and glory of God in a special way.
I am thankful for the beautiful places, poetry, and songs that remind and compel me to praise the Lord and tell of his excellence. But when the world does not look beautiful, when tragedy strikes, and I am weighed down by the silence of God, I need to remember the things that are excellent and worthy of praise - even then I must "Put my hope in God; for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42). He is good and constant, and worthy to be praise in all circumstances, in every season.
So no matter what is happening in your life today, praise the Lord!