Hard Praise

Praying comes easy. Farmers and ranchers spend a lot of time praying. We pray for rain, sun, health, help, and harvest. Praise doesn’t always come as easily. It is sometimes difficult to praise God during a trial, but I’m learning that’s the time I need to praise Him even more.

A few weeks ago, the Cross-Dubya experienced our yearly visit by armyworms. These carnivorous little creatures can wreak havoc on a lush green pasture, turning it into a brown, inedible mess within days. A type of cutworm, they feast on tender blades of grass; taking needed forage away from our cattle. When the August-September timeframe comes around each year, we begin our watch. There’s only been two years since starting our ranch that we haven’t had to fight this nasty pest.

As soon as the first brown patches of grass appear, we go on high alert. While it looks like drought damage, armyworms can cause significant damage to grass and some vegetables. They only come above ground to feed during the cool of the morning or late evenings, which is the only time you can exterminate them. We determine the extent of infestation by how many worms (larvae and caterpillars) we find in a square foot of grass. Insecticides aren’t sprayed until we see three or more caterpillars per square foot of land. Smart farmers have their spray equipment ready to go in case the late summer invasion occurs.

As a licensed personal pesticide applicator, the use of restricted use pesticides (RUP) is something that we must weigh carefully. While non-RUP pesticides are available, they are less effective and are “contact kill” only. With any pesticide application, there are lots of factors to be considered. Using the right product to achieve desired results, potential damage to plants and other animals, and environmental risks, are all considerations. A major factor in applying any pesticide is the potential for drift, which is how far the droplets from the spray head (the nozzle the liquid comes from) travels. A simple way to think about drift is the higher the wind and smaller the droplet, the more the potential for drift occurs.

With winds varying from 15 to 24 mph, spraying insecticide for the armyworms was out of the question. So what do most folks do around here? We pray for God to calm the wind so we can safely spray the pesticide and eliminate the threat—minimizing the damage these pests can do. Once I discovered the worms, this is what I did. “Lord, calm the winds so I can get out and spray these little buggers before they eat my pastures.” It was a sincere, honest, heartfelt prayer. For three days, my prayer went unanswered. I kept praying that same prayer several times per day, as I watched more and more of my pastures turning brown and lifeless.

On day three, it was still windy when I went out to feed around 7am. “Lord, why ain’t You hearin’ my prayers? And why haven’t you helped me out, Father?” I raised my handheld anemometer and faced the wind. Twenty-seven miles per hour! “Lord, You know I can’t treat these buggers in wind like this. I need Your help here Lord.” About then, I felt my spirit stirring. It led me to look around.

In doing so, I noticed a large flock of barn swallows and other birds where all walking around my western pasture, feasting on armyworms. I shook my head in amazement that I hadn’t noticed God’s answer earlier. Focused on praying for what I wanted (less wind), I never even noticed God was answering my need in His way and not mine.

How many times have we missed a blessing because we’re focused on what we want rather than seeing that God has given us what we need? Click To Tweet

At that moment, I bowed my head in prayer to ask His forgiveness. How long had those birds been at this? I didn’t know. Next, I lifted my hands in praise and joy in my heart as I began praising God for answering my prayer in His way. I marveled at how many birds were gobbling down worms. They weren’t flittering about, chirping out their songs. Instead, they focused on eating as many of the caterpillars and larvae as they could.

When I looked at my other two pastures, then the neighbor’s fields, I saw the same thing. “Thank you Abba for taking such good care of me.” As I was laughing to myself, I told Bubba the dog that I’m not sure if all these birds will get off the ground. “There’s so many worms out there, they’re gonna be too fat to fly buddy!” He just wagged his tail and reached his head for another rub.

The birds continued to eat worms for two more days until the winds got below 10mph. As soon as I could, I sprayed my and my neighbor’s land; ending the 2021 invasion (at least this one). There’s always a chance they can come back until the end of October or so, but we seldom get more than one major infestation per year. I’m praying this year is the same.

The lesson I’ve taken from this is how important praising my way through trials is. I focused so much on God giving me the answer to the problem I wanted that I became oblivious to the fact that He had already answered my need. Not the way I wanted, but the way He chose to bless me. Yes, prayer is important, but we can’t forget our need to praise God amid our troubles. When we do, we may find the blessing has already arrived.

Praising God during our trials helps us focus on the blessings He’s already given us. Click To Tweet

Because I praised Him for His answer, God continued to pour out His blessings upon me. In the week that followed the horrific loss of much of my summer grasses, including my new crop of summer forage, God brought two-and-a-half inches of rain. Unheard of in north Texas in August, the much-needed rain has reinvigorated my pastures and the lush green Bermuda grass has mostly returned.

The most wonderful gift I’m discovering on this journey called my Christian walk is that I never stop learning as God continues to pour His lessons into my life. I pray you also find things to praise and ways to grow in your journey.

God’s blessings,

 

Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

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62 thoughts on “Hard Praise

  1. Oh, those army worms. They have been the talk in our area too, but I did not think about the devastation to the pastures. I love how God answers in unexpected ways. Your story is a perfect example. Praising sure beats worrying. It brings our eyes up and with them, hope.

    1. Amen; it sure does Ms. Patty. Not sure why I, and maybe others, viewed praise as something we give after God gives to us, but that’s not how it’s supposed to be is it? We forget that every morning we awaken is a gift from God, and He is worthy of our praise not because of what He’s done but for who He is! Praise brings hope! I’m writing that one down! 🙂 Thank you ma’am.

  2. “I never stop learning as God continues to pour His lessons into my life. ”
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful lesson with us.
    Again, we learn with you from the Cross-Dubya.
    Praise God for the new growth He has given you and like He said, He takes care of the birds.

  3. Yes, too often we forget to praise God when the times get tough, and that’s precisely when we should, J. D. I love how the Lord answered your prayers in His way and time, and that He blessed you so amazingly. I found your story here today so inspiring, my friend.
    Blessings!

    1. Shucks… thank you Ms. Martha. God has a way of humbling us while teaching us to love Him more doesn’t He? I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post ma’am. It’s a good lesson for us to remember.

  4. I love your insight. “…He had already answered my need. Not the way I wanted, but the way He chose to bless me.” Good words to remember. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Ms. PJ. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post ma’am. It was a good lesson for me. We must praise Him because He is good, and worthy, and God. Not because He gives us what we want. Prayer and praise should go hand-in-hand, not as a follow-on to answered prayers.

    1. Mine too Ms. Edwina. What I’m learning, sometimes much more slowly than I should perhaps, is that praising God in the midst of a trial both honors Him and lifts me up. It helps me to focus on the good and not the bad. Thank you so much for sharing my sweet friend.

  5. I’ve never heard of army worms. Maybe we don’t have them in MO??? Thank you for another insightful devotion from the ranch. I love the reminder to take of the blinders that keep my focus so narrow. Isn’t it so amazing to realize God is at work, even when we can’t see it? And YAY! for two inches of rain!

    1. Yes ma’am. It sure is Ms. Karen. Thank you sweet friend. Am finding this applies to so many parts of my life. Not just farming and ranching, but writing, relationships, and every area. God’s blessings my friend. As for armyworms, I’m not sure, but can ask my neighbor, who moved here from MO. Am pretty certain y’all have other kinds of cutworms though.

  6. JD, sometimes we are so fixed on the way God should answer our prayers that we miss what He is doing already. Here’s a good reminder found in Matthew 6:7&8 (ESV)

    7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

  7. This is a fascinating coincidence. We never knew about army worms back in VA, but yesterday, we got a notice from some lawn care people to be on the lookout for them here at our new home in TN, so thanks for another science lesson. Aside from that, I am reminded again that it’s easy to transfer our trust from God to other things, like insecticide–or our bank account–or our professional connections, etc. I love the way you pointed out that our Father reminds us of whose really in charge when it comes to answering our prayers. God bless you, my friend for an informative and inspirational piece. Now I’m off to check out my lawn for army worms.

    1. So glad to be of service my friend. If you find them and need help, let me know. I don’t think you’ll need my 250-gallon spray rig and tractor for your lawn, but a pump sprayer might come in handy. That, or a few hundred birds. 🙂 Of course, that might leave you with another problem. God’s blessings sir; and thank you for the kind words.

  8. Oh yes – He doesn’t always give us exactly what we ask for but always gives us something even better and just what we need. Lord give us eyes to see You working in our lives!

    1. He sure does Ms Ann. In this case, God not only met my need while continuing the gusty winds (for reasons only He knows), but fed lots of birds in the heat of summer. 🙂 What a mighty God we serve!

  9. Wow. God is so GOOD! I can almost imagne Him chuckling when sending those birds and looking at you out there with your “finger” (wind calculator) in the air with a panicked, disgusted, hopless look on your face. “Look West, young man,” He might have said over and over until you finally looked and saw Him taking care of you AND the birds. Wow.
    PS: I have those dreaded cutworms in my lawn sometimes too, and I spread on the granuals.
    Love you, J.D. and how God uses you to teach us!

    1. I’m certain I give God lots of “comic relief” my friend. Not that I’m “bull-headed” at all, but I’ve got a tenacious streak that runs deep. I have to stop and wonder how many blessings I’ve missed in my life because God had already answered my prayer, but He did so in a different way than I was asking for. Still learning here my friend. Thank you so much for your kind words and your Christian love. God’s blessings.

  10. I can attest to the failure to praise in the middle of tribulation. And I can witness to the care Abba distributes when I pay attention. No army worms in the NY mountains or the SC upstate, but I now know what to look for, birds!! Happy week, kind sir.

    1. Good to know I’m not alone in learning that lesson Mr. Warren. I was sharing with another friend about how to spot them little critters. I told him, “If you see tiny white moths flittering about, you’re too late, they already transformed and the damage is done.” Great points sir. Thank you.

  11. What an inspiring story of God’s mercy and grace. Isn’t that just like us humans–we beg for one thing, but God has a better plan in mind all along. He sent an army of birds to vanquish yhe armyworms. As a farmer, I’ve witnessed many years when our crops were destroyed by disease, fungus, insects, and a multitude of animal varmints. We persevered, but we never had God’s army of swallows to help us out. Thank your for this uplifting message, my friend.

    1. The amazing part is that even though it looked as though my entire stand of Sudan grass had been lost (only planted less than 90 days before), some of it is already coming back; thanks to God’s nutrient-rich rain. I thought about “Farmer Bob” as I was writing this, knowing that he could’ve sure understood how much we pray, and need to praise. Thank you so much for your comments ma’am.

    1. Yes ma’am. God has long answered my prayers, but it is only recently that I’ve been noticing them while in process (WIP, if you will). For most of my life, I acknowledge them after receiving them. I’m sure God appreciates my being “one of the ten”, but I think He rejoices when I’m praising Him during the trial instead of waiting for Him to deliver me. Thank you for your encouraging comments ma’am.

  12. What a wonderful and powerful lesson! Amazing to think of how His answers to our prayers may be right in front of our eyes. Too often we look for the answer we think or expect, but God knows best what we need. Great post!

    1. He certainly does Ms. Joanne. Sometimes we get “tunnel-vision”, seeing only what is in our field of view. Am learning that Spiritual Awareness, what is going on in the spiritual realm surrounding me, is every bit as important as my Situational Awareness of what’s happening in the physical realm. My SA is slowly becoming SA-SA. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am ; and thank you so much for joining in our conversation.

  13. J.D.,

    I love this lesson and can almost hear you chuckling as you talk with Bubba. I’m praising God for His provision as cutworms are nasty!

    Thank you for directing my eyes heavenward today.

    Blessings,
    Tammy

    1. The blessing was mine Ms. Tammy, but so glad I was able to share it with you sweet lady. Yes, Bubba and I have many conversations, much the way God and I do. I’m grateful God’s a better listener though. Sometimes I think Bubba is just waiting to hear the word “Cookie!” 🙂 Thank you so much my friend.

  14. J. D., I appreciate you sharing this truth you learned. Our human minds dream up what we think is the “right” answer—I know mine does. His ways and thoughts are much higher.

  15. Talk about be alert and stand strong! Wow. I love your example of how sometimes God answers in different ways than we expect or think we need. Let’s get rid of those spiritual armyworms!!!!

    1. Absolutely Ms. Kathy. Those spiritual pests show up unexpectedly and can cause great damage. I think they are most often in my roots and I have to plow deep to bring them up to the surface so I can deal with them more effectively. Amen my friend! And congratulations again to you and Mr. Larry for your recent book award.

  16. So many of the Psalms are about praising God no matter what is going on around us. It does put our focus on the provider instead of the problem. I’m glad your issue was solved and your pastures were protected from further annihilation. Blessings, J.D.!

  17. Thanks JD for the reminder that it is not always about us. God knows what He is doing and we must trust Him even if it feels like He is not answering our prayers.

    1. Absolute truth Ms. Yvonne. I’ve long believed that God answers with “Yes, No, or Wait because I have something better.” In this example, He taught me to add “Look Up!” What I didn’t realize until that morning was that God had already said “Yes”, but because I was so focused on Him answering it the way I asked (calm the winds Lord), He directed my eyes upward to see that He was already working to solve my problem and at the same time feeding His birds. I wondered how many blessings (i.e. answers to my prayers) have I mistaken as “No” answers because I was so focused on what I wanted and not what God wanted me to have. Great thoughts ma’am. Thank you so much for adding to our conversation.

  18. “Lord, why ain’t you hearin’ my prayers?”

    What a lovely testimony to the personal relationship you enjoy with our Father. I love this story. Too often, I’m fixated on what “I” think is the right answer to my prayer. Thanks for the reminder that His way will not always be my way.
    Blessings!

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. I’m certain yours is even stronger my friend. I appreciate knowing that I’m not alone in learning and re-learning this important message to praise our way through the storm. I think it’s because we’re still human that we focus on the waves of the storm and not the one walking on top of them. Well said dear friend.

  19. There’s always something, isn’t there J.D.?
    Praise is certainly an underrated source of power in our walk. What a miraculous way the Lord answered your prayer – a natural phenomenon with supernatural timing. Praise His excellent greatness! Thanks for sharing your blessing with us.

    1. Yes ma’am. What a mighty God we serve! It honestly shocked me to see all those birds; they weren’t making a sound, just busy eating. Am glad you enjoyed ma’am. Thank you.

  20. Praising our way through trials — yes, sir, it’s such a vital thing to do but can be so hard to make happen. Thank you for the reminder to take my blinders off and look around for all the ways God is working, even when I think He’s not listening.

    1. You are so very welcome; and thank you Ms. Leigh for dropping by ma’am. It’s always comforting to know that I’m not walking along this journey in faith alone my friend, because sweet folks like you have helped blaze the trail. God’s blessings, and thank you again for your encouraging words.

  21. I had to chuckle at your story, brother J.D. Isn’t it just like the Lord to answer our prayers in the most unexpected ways.? Just goes to show that His ways are always wiser and better than ours, no matter how logical or clever we think we may be. It’s a humbling experience that brings us to our knees in thanks and praise.

    1. So very true Ms. Karen. I think God takes great delight in watching us struggle in our own power. I often imagine Him shaking His head and smiling as He brings me home, saying, “Child you brought Me so much humor, but life would have sure been easier if I hadn’t always been your last option.”

  22. This is an amazing story of God’s goodness and wisdom. I sometimes pray offering God help in how I want Him to proceed in the situation, as if I can help the Almighty. I know the Lord wants us to ask and pray specifically, but he doesn’t desire we place our plans above His ways.

    1. Amen Ms. Karen. So many times, I offer my solution to God, somehow forgetting that all wisdom comes from Him. He doesn’t need our help, but deserves our praise. Well said my friend. Thank you; and God’s blessings.

  23. I like the question you ask, about waiting for the answer that we want. Some people seem to think that if you pray enough, all prayers will be answered in the way that you asked for. If you haven’t gotten the thing you wanted, it’s because you didn’t keep praying and/or your faith was not strong enough. I think we have to remember that all things are *possible* with God, but we are not *entitled to* all things.
    I wonder…have the armyworms always been part of life in Texas, or are they an invasive species? Here in SC, we have a problem with non-native Bradford Pear trees.

    1. Great insight Ms. Robin. Many of us get so focused on praying for what we want, the way that we want it, that we completely miss that God answered our need long ago. We’re just to short-sighted to see that. It isn’t how often we pray for something, but in how we pray and how we listen. God always answers. As I shared earlier, I’ve learned that there’s three answers to prayer: Yes, No, Wait for something better, and Look up I already gave you what you needed. It’s sad perhaps, but many of have to be reminded that God already said “Yes!” Have a blessed week little lady; and thank you for commenting. As for armyworms, I think they’ve been around since the fall of man here in Texas.

  24. I especially love this post, J.D. It made me want to go straight to my prayer chair and lift my hands in praise. Oh, how we need to do more and more of that. I like to think there is a sweeter aroma of praise when it is what you call hard praise. Adopting the mindset that God knows what is best and how to do it, gives me the freedom to focus more on praising Him for who He is and the mystery of His ways. I think I will head to that chair now.

    1. I love that thought of “leaving the details to God.” We should be focusing more on praising Him for the blessings He gives, not in how they get here. Amen Ms. Karen. Wonderful suggestion ma’am. I’m going to try and remember this ma’am. God’s blessings.

    1. Such kindness. Thank you Ms. Kathy. Your words are such a blessing ma’am. Sometimes I think the most difficult thing about being a writer is overcoming the feeling that you bare your soul (to one degree or another) with everything you write. We live in a state of vulnerability. I thank God for wonderful, encouraging friends like you who make it feel safe to share life with. Thank you ma’am; and God’s blessings.

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