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The Least of These

My church talked about what worship means today. And that got me to thinking about the different ways churches I’ve been part of have viewed it.

There are many ways to look at worship. People who teach primarily from the Old Testament talk about worship as a series of postures, attitudes and sounds. David danced naked before the Lord in worship. You’re supposed to raise your hands. Kneel. Clap your hands. Dance, shout, and if you’re a little Charismatic too, shout or sing in tongues.

The Old Testament is all about the rules and having a theology of worship based on the Old Testament will give you a legalistic, rule-based worship model that can feel very chaotic at times.

I attended a church like that for a while. When I attended this church, there were several times when revelers took me aside and scolded me for not being “worshipful” enough. One particular incident occurred when a woman pulled me aside — actually taking me outside the building — to talk to me about how I was sinning because I wasn’t dancing and she wondered if I was “really saved” since I was living in such rebellion. I am a contemplative person. Worship aerobics is not my thing. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off does not bring me closer to the heart of God. It just doesn’t.

John 4:24 says  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” I don’t claim to be a great theologian, but my understanding of that verse is that God is saying that He wants our worship to be honest. If we want something to touch the deepest part of the Spirit of God, it needs to come out of the deepest part of our hearts. Wild gyrations and screaming at the top of my lungs isn’t in the deepest part of my heart and my behaving that way in worship does nothing to sway Him because He hasn’t put those things in me. If I did those things, I would be allowing myself to be manipulated into being something someone else wanted me to be instead of being who God created me to be. I don’t think God responds to or cares for manipulation or worship birthed out of manipulation. Most of the time, I was adamant about not participating in this ritual because it did not feel genuine to me.

I moved to my current location 7 years ago and the culture here is so different. No one cares what I do in church. For the longest time, I would find myself bawling in church because I had the freedom to be who I am. No one cared if I raised my hands. No one cared if I clapped my hands. It was pretty normal to not dance or gyrate or holler in church, although sometimes it happened. But no one expected it and no one cared one way or the other. It was a very liberating experience for me because I was finally allowed to be myself in church. It was a beautiful thing.

If those things are your thing, then by all means, knock yourself out. Not literally. But, if God made you a dancer or a shouter or a tongue-speaking screamer, then by all means, you just do you. No judgement from me. I love to see how people are different. Everyone is unique and no one’s personal worship style is wrong or bad, unless it contains things like murdering children or seducing or raping people. I draw the line right there. Treat yourself and everyone else with respect and you’re good.

But, as I was talking with a couple of friends about this today, one of them asked me what I think worship is. If screaming and jumping around isn’t your thing, then what does it really look like?

And I said, “I have no clue.”

I mean, I probably could have thought of something if I had had more time. But in that moment, I wasn’t coming up with anything. This is what I came up with later:

One of the verses discussed in the sermon follows:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1 (NIV)

True and proper worship involves offering your bodies as a living sacrifice. Once again, I am no great theologian. The original scripts are Greek to me (and probably everyone else too, since I think that verse was actually originally in Greek) and I can only draw my conclusions from English translations. That’s the best I can do. To me, offering yourself as a living sacrifice involves sacrificially loving and serving those around you. It means going without something you might want so you can provide for someone else’s need. It means taking two minutes to sit with a blind person and describing the sunset so they can experience it too. It means taking a minute to tell a child who can’t talk that they are so very important and so very loved. It means sitting with an elderly woman who lives with dementia and is terrified because she can’t remember. It means buying lunch for a homeless person or sitting in silence with a mama who has just lost her unborn baby and doesn’t have words to describe her grief and hopelessness. It means sometimes taking a minute away from those needs to attend to your own needs so that you can be a truly living sacrifice because if you run yourself into the ground, you might be sacrificing, but you’re not truly living in the process. Self care is actually a service to God. Taking care of yourself is worship.

I got to thinking about my work. I truly have the best job in the world. I get to sit with a sweet little boy all day and play and read and have dance parties and sometimes we just work really hard at breathing, because sometimes that is a very hard thing to do. A lot of times we snuggle and share lots of love and stories and music. Sometimes we talk about all the things that matter most, like life and love and happiness although his part of the conversation is hard to understand sometimes since his language is smiles and giggles and grunts and moans and moving his arms and legs. But we talk, and everything he says matters. Everything he does is noticed. We giggle together. We talk. We sing and we just have fun.

And all of it. All of it. Everything I do with him is worship.

I was reminded of this passage:

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (NKJV)

And the awesome thing about it? None of it is hard. It comes out from the deepest part of my heart and it blesses my little guy. It blesses his family. And it blesses the Father, who put that kind of worship within me with the intention of seeing it flow out of me from morning until night, every day of my life. He didn’t put crazy, boisterous stuff in me because “the least of these” that I am around every day don’t need boisterousness as much as they need gentleness and kindness and attention and love.

True worship….It’s being who you are and loving those around you.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James 1:27 (NKJV)

 

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Posted by on June 3, 2018 in Current Events, Profundities

 

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His Love Restores

Do you know how it is that I can find so much joy in caring for a child who doesn’t speak, walk or do anything for himself?

I believe in his ability. Maybe he doesn’t talk today. But maybe he understands what I am saying to him. Maybe tomorrow he will vocalize something. Every syllable he says, even if it’s not a real word, counts. Every sound matters. Maybe tomorrow he’ll put two letter sounds together. Maybe…. I believe in his strengths, I believe in his abilities and I believe that no one stays the same. Everyone, regardless of their ability, can grow. There is hope for everyone, even the child who cannot speak.

I also believe in God’s ability and willingness to restore us. I believe that the God who invented brains knows how to fix brains too. I believe that God knows every millimeter of brain matter in our heads and He knows exactly what to do in order to make a brain function exactly the way it is supposed to function.

Because of these two beliefs, I watch expectantly. I wait patiently. And I rejoice exceedingly at every little thing that happens that indicates growth and restoration. It can happen. Sooner or later, one way or another, whether it’s physical healing on this earth or we go to live with Jesus where all things are made new (and there’s cookies and ice cream and swings and bikes!), we will be restored.

There is hope for everyone. I watch. I wait. I play with him in ways that don’t makes sense to people who don’t believe in his abilities plus God’s ability to restore him. And every so often…. something happens….

And I have a mini heart attack. And then pick myself up off the floor as I wipe away tears….

And I pray that he does it again. And again. And again….

Because His love restores.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Current Events

 

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The Water Slide

I realize I’m a big baby.

But.

Large bodies of water terrify me.

Part of it has to do with my (extensive) past experience with ear, sinus and throat infections, the idea of bacteria growing in bodies of water and the fact that ear, nose and throat infections can lead to bacterial meningitis which can kill people.

But it probably has more to do with the fact that until I took adult swim lessons 4 years ago, the only thing I knew about large bodies of water was that if I was in them, the water was in charge and I was at its mercy.

(I might have control issues….)

But seriously…. Water is a scary thing if you don’t know how to handle it.

I didn’t get too terribly far with my swimming skills, considering it took me the entire first lesson to get in up to my waist. But what I did accomplish was…. amazing — at least for me it was! I learned to tread water — which my instructor made me do in the 12 foot section until I could do it for an entire minute without nearly drowning. I also learned the back float, which I was actually pretty good at once I figured out that trying to save yourself is counterproductive.

That was about all I learned.

But before taking lessons, knee deep was my limit.

Now, as long as my feet are on the ground, and my head is above the water, I’m OK.

Water slides are a different story.

I realize the water is only 3 feet deep.

But….

You just don’t know how you’re going to land.

Water up your nose…. ear infections…. sinus infections…. bacterial meningitis!

(I might be a hypochondriac…..)

I could drown!

Do I really remember how to tread water?

Oh, wait…. it’s only 3 feet deep….

These were the thoughts coursing through my brain as I climbed the stairs and headed for my (inevitable) demise. My favorite 10-year old had coaxed me up to the top of the slide at the local water park, and I stood there, shaking, as the (very) young attendant explained to me that it was safe and I wasn’t going to die.

Are you sure?!?!

It wasn’t so bad….

…. until I got past the first curve and then I started going faster…. and faster…. and faster….

Then I hit the water.

I was thoroughly dunked. I was as dunked as a candidate at a Baptist baptismal service.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been screaming my head off when it happened.

I’m sure you can imagine how well that went.

I pulled myself out of the pool and realized that I was shaking.

And then, said 10-year old suggested we should go on the tube slide — the one that you sit in a floatie and exit into the Lazy River.

I thought this would surely have a better outcome than my first attempt. I would have a something to hang on to, after all!

So we made our way up the stairs again, this time with big green tubes in tow, and I watched as my little pal loaded up and the slide attendant gave him a small shove.

And then it was my turn.

Again, it wasn’t so bad — until I rounded the first curve.

Basically, it was same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

Around about the third curve, I was going so fast that I almost fell off the tube when it headed precariously up the side of the slide as it rounded the bend.

The screaming wasn’t reserved for the landing this time!

It was then that I realized that this thing was completely out of my control and I was at the mercy of physics and gravity whatever else determines how fast and how hard and where and on what you land after careening through that ungodly long tuby slide thingy.

I was certain I was going to die. I think I even saw my life flash before my eyes.

The terror got worse when I rounded the 87th bend (ok, fine. It was probably only the 4th or 5th) and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The water was coming!

And who knew if I was going alight, safe and sound, on my lovely green perch, or if I’d get dunked again?

And then….

Plop.

I came to rest in the pool, right next to my little pal.

And I laughed. And I laughed. And I laughed.

I wanted to do it again.

I wanted to do it 50 more times.

Because it was.

So!

Fun!!!

My little pal just looked at me like I was a raving lunatic.

(I probably was!)

And his brother met me at the river exit with a sigh and a, “Now can we go??”

Oh, ok. Fine.

But seriously….

Why did I wait so long for such an amazing experience???

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Current Events

 

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