Guest post

I am honored to be able to guest post on Clothe Your Neighbor As Yourself’s blog. This organization is run by a friend of mine from church. He is the type of Christian that truly inspires me. He lives his faith rather than just talking about it.

A few years ago, he felt called by God to reach out to the homeless. So, he sold all he had, bought a van, and lived on the streets. His stories of how God provided and how he was able to reach out to the homeless are just incredible. You can read his story here. His life, to me, exhibits true worship.

I’m honored to have even a small part in this organization.

Nit picking

I might have a serious problem.

Some days I am just looking for something I don’t like in worship. I walk into the service, just waiting for that little thing to present itself. I set my expectations (too high) and am quickly let down. So I just shut off, throw my hands up in frustration and think (all too dramatically), “Well, let down once again…”

I realized this the other week when I got hung up on a “typo” on the powerpoint.

The lyrics said “Alleluia.” The worship leader sang “Hallelujah.”

I could feel myself shutting down to worship, and then a little voice inside me screamed, “REALLY?????”

Part of this is what I call the musician’s curse, where my finely educated musical brain (riiiiight…) picks up on such trivial things. Like my number one singing pet peeve (it’s “without YOU,” not “without CHEW.” Enunciate people!!!), sometimes it’s impossible to ignore. But I’ve realized it’s one thing to notice it; it’s another thing to obsess over it.

I can just about guarantee that I am the ONLY one who picked up on that “typo” that morning. Because it was ridiculous and didn’t make a difference. Honestly, the words mean the same. I even googled it.

So what is my issue? Why do I continue to nitpick little things in worship?

I think it’s my too high expectations. I’m trying to enter each church service without judgement. This takes a LOT of effort on my part. Some days I don’t even know how to go about it.

But I suppose admitting I have a problem is the first step.

Question: Is there something silly you’ve nitpicked in worship?

Why just music?

Why has our culture of Christianity turned worship into merely music? Sure, we preach about living a lifestyle of worship, but do any of us really know what that looks like? I’m barely beginning to figure it out. When it comes down to church worship services, it feels like music is the narrow path that churches are herding us down.

I love music. I get why music has become the be-all end-all of worship. Music is an emotional experience. It reaches down into our hearts and tugs at our emotions. It causes us to feel things that some of us didn’t know was possible. In my experience, a song can capture an emotion that I’ve been feeling. It puts struggles into words when I just can’t possibly seem to do it. I can finally feel at peace when my feelings/struggles/etc have been so perfectly captured by another in song.

So it makes sense that music has become the picturesque way for us to worship God. Songs capture the emotions we want to express to God. They’re an avenue to get at that worship.

What about people that don’t have that emotional connection with music? I remember reading a comment on the blog Stuff Christians Like one day. I wish I could remember the exact blog so I could give credit to the commenter and quote him exactly. It was a really thoughtful comment. Here was the gist of it:

I don’t connect with the music part of worship in church. I’m just not a musical person and it’s not something I relate to. I just sit and wait for the music to be over before I can engage in the service.

This is sad to me. How many people are being left out because music is not the best way for them to worship? What other ways is the church reaching out to them?

Years ago, my church started a new service. It thought outside the box and didn’t always use the typical worship formula. It was a sensory service and tried to engage all of the senses in worship, not just the ears. Graphics were used throughout the sermons to engage the eyes (this helps me tremendously to stay focused). “Giveaways” were used some weeks to engage touch. One week we talked about Jesus being the Living Water, and everyone walked out with a water bottle. Another week we talked about being washed clean and everyone was given a bar of soap. We even engaged the sense of smell. While talking about Jesus being the Bread of Life, bread machines were strategically placed, causing tummies to rumble all throughout the service.

One week, I unfortunately missed, but heard about from others. A local artist was invited to come. While music softly played in the background, she painted a picture. Everyone watched as the visual interpretation of her worship came to life.

Worship is more than music, so how can we incorporate that? Any ideas?

John Wesley’s rules on worship- penned in 1767

I grew up in the Methodist church. I have a fond appreciation for the Doxology, the traditional version of the Apostles Creed, and the blue Methodist hymnal that pokes up out of it’s little pocket on the back of the pew. One day, years ago, while flipping through the hymnal, I ran across this:


I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III.  Sing all. See that you join the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV.  Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V.  Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one melodious sound.

VI.  Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it.  Do not run before and do not stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow.  This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing.  Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

                                      From John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761

I must admit, when I first read these, I burst out laughing. I get the feeling that John Wesley was a strong personality, one who told things like they were and didn’t sugar coat them. I think I would have liked him.

I confess that I have wanted to run screaming from congregational singing lately. However, I know that despite all my struggles, it is still important. Though worship should be something daily lived, that weekly ritual of lifting our voices to God is sacred and special. I think his rules address some of the issues I often have with congregational worship.

  1. Don’t try to out-sing the people around you. No one cares how well you can sing during worship time. (I have probably been guilty of this in the past. My sincere apologies.)
  2. Stop changing the songs to make it “yours”. No need to add extra syllables onto the melody line. Kind of like when people sing Amazing Grace and it takes them seventeen minutes to sing the first line. Keep it simple, diva. The congregation can’t keep up with your vocal aerobics.
  3. Stop singing like this is the last place you want to be. Put some energy into it. This is for God, after all. He might be kind of put out that you’re more excited to watch Modern Family than worship Him. (I’m totally trying to convince myself that this one does not apply to me at all and I’m failing miserably.)
  4. This is for God. NOT FOR YOU. So get over yourself. (Again… finger pointing straight at me… sigh.)

Serving to worship

This is Lori.

Lori is in my family of choice. My husband and I have lunch with our family of choice every Sunday. Last year, Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer. She bravely underwent surgery and chemo and the hair loss that came with it. When her hair began falling out, she decided to shave her head. In January, we had a “coming out” party as friends gathered around her to cheer her on. Several guys shaved their head in support of her (one even leaving a mohawk in for a week on a dare). The girls and I weren’t willing to do that, so we opted for the reverse.

We grew our hair out to donate it in honor of her.

My hair had already been growing out, so with an extra year added on, it got pretty long.

One of my co-workers began calling me Rapunzel.

Three of us met one Saturday to chop it, and Lori joined us for the fun.

We got our hair sectioned…

…then it was time to cut!

I felt five pounds lighter!

Between the three of us, we had a lot of hair to donate.

I’ve grown out, cut off, and donated my hair three other times. It’s one of those things that I enjoy doing. God has gifted me with a thick head of hair that grows fairly quickly. If it can be used to help people, then I’m happy to donate it.

In my worship struggle, I am looking for other ways to connect with God and worship Him. I know that worship is more than inspirational words on a powerpoint and catchy melodies, but sometimes I forget to look beyond that. Serving is one way I’m finding that is a real way to worship. We’re told to be the hands and feet of Jesus… why not the hair too? (Okay, that was cheesy…)

I was more than happy to grow my hair out in honor of my brave friend Lori. She was blessed by it, and some woman struggling through chemo will now be blessed by it too. And I believe God was blessed in the process too.

And I got a cute new do out of it.

Thanks, Lori, for being such inspiration!

(Good news: Lori is now cancer free and doing awesome!)

All or nothing

I love yoga. Not for the creepy, Eastern-type religion, your-body-is-a-tree-rooted-to-Mother-Earth kind of stuff that Christians often fearfully associate with it. I love it because it’s great exercise and it helps me to relax and calm my body and mind (and that is something I desperately need).  I love how my body feels when I finish.

This past year, I encountered some ear problems. It felt like there was water in my ear that just simply wouldn’t come out. Or my ear needed desperately to pop and it couldn’t. I went to my doctor and an ear nose throat doctor to ensure that it was nothing serious. I was told it was probably just fluid stuck in my eustachian tube. Nothing serious, and it should clear up on it’s own, but way annoying.

During this time, I found that some yoga poses seemed to aggravate my ear. Poses like downward facing dog (one of my favorites) sometimes made my head feel like it would explode. So I decided to ease off those poses in an effort to let my ear heal.

Unfortunately, I am an all or nothing kind of person.

Since I couldn’t do some of my favorite poses, I essentially gave up on my yoga practice. Which is ridiculous, because there are plenty of other yoga poses and stretches that don’t involve my head being upside down. I could have easily altered my routine and made it work for my current situation.

But I didn’t. I just gave up.

Sometimes my worship is like that.

Since worship music is not connecting with me anymore, I’ve almost given up on worship altogether. Which is stupid. I know that worship is not just limited to music. And yet, I can’t seem to make the effort to alter my life to connect with other types of worship. I shrug my shoulders and just go about my life, simply going through the motions. I don’t open my life to the gloriousness that it could be if I would only let myself worship in other ways.

I need to remind myself of the ways that I can worship. Just because music isn’t “doing it for me” anymore does not mean that I walk away, saying, “Sorry God. I tried.”

Here are some other ways that I can worship.

  • Long walks and soaking in God’s creation.
  • Journaling.
  • Serving others. I have countless opportunities to do this, and if I see it as an act of worship, I will (hopefully) do it joyfully and not begrudgingly.
  • Turning off my TV and soaking in some quiet.
  • Loving my husband and being a good wife.
  • Taking time to be thankful for my life rather than focusing on the things I’m not so happy with.

My goal is to make an effort to focus on all the ways I could be worshipping.

Question: What are some non-musical ways you worship?