Worship. Over the past year, I’ve been able to do a lot of thinking, learning, and growing on this topic. I wish I could say that my thoughts are in some sort of order, but they’re not. I also wish I knew if the title above is correct, but I don’t. I’m not necessarily confused but I’m not sure the exact way to state things. Some people sit down and write out what they’re going to blog before they actually all type it in I think. Or maybe they type it in and then wait a little bit and edit it and all that jazz. I don’t do any of that, which is why my thoughts may come out as a jumbled mess or me rambling a bit. My goal in doing this blog is that you would hear my vulnerable and raw thoughts and emotions as I type. I want people to see that it’s okay to be vulnerable and raw…to drop the masks that we all wear at times… That being said, I do make sure I’ve thought things through on a topic before I ever blog about it. More importantly, I make sure I’ve prayed it through. I don’t ever want to be a hindrance to someone. I want to make people think, question, do some more thinking, and then realize that none of it really matters unless God is the center of it all.
So since we’ve moved I’ve had a lot of thinking time. I think it goes with the territory of being the new kid on the block. Over the past year I’ve had time to think and reflect on worship-what should it look like in the church, what is my role in worship, what does God want from me and for me. Worship can be looked at in so many ways I think and it often gets a little confusing, especially if you are a musician like me.
I think many times people hear that I am a musician and that I love worship and automatically think of worship as creating music that gives glory to God. There is that level to it. That’s worship as a noun, I think. 🙂 As someone who feels called and led to lead others in corporate worship, that brings a whole other line to the area of worship too. But worship isn’t about just creating worship. It’s certainly not about performing. It’s not about singing songs at church or raising your hands or dancing in the aisles if that’s what you love to do when you worship. All of those things are just the outward appearance of what your heart and mind and soul proclaim-at least they should be. Worship is a daily, constant way you live your life. It’s a verb. An action word.
I wish I could say that I walk in a state of worship 24-7. Seriously, how I wish that. But the truth is, I daily find something else to worship other than my Lord and Savior at one point or another. Something becomes more important to me than the great I AM and I allow it to take all my focus. It may be for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few seconds-but I do it. It doesn’t have to be a golden calf for you to be an idol worshiper. It could be your favorite television show that you just cannot miss (I’ve been guilty here). I’m honestly embarrassed and can’t help asking myself, when’s the last time I just could not miss 2 Kings?? I’m sad to say it’s not as often as the tv show. It could be worrying about what others think about you. It could be cleaning your house. Honestly, whatever takes all of your time, thoughts, emotions-if that’s not God, it’s an idol.
I’m reading through the Bible right now. Aren’t you impressed?? Hah! Don’t be. I’m suppose to be doing it in 180 days, and I am so behind. By tomorrow I should be halfway through Proverbs. I’m almost done with 2 Kings. Yes, I’m not proud of how I let it slip away from me (my discipline) but I am still continuing and have not given up. I’m holding out hope that I will get caught up and finish on time. One of the things I have noticed in my reading and studying is how quickly the people of the Bible were to make an idol or worship another god, or themselves even (King Nebuchadnezzar??). When we think God has forgotten us, or left us out in the cold, we quickly turn to something, anything that might make us feel secure, or important, even if for just a moment. And the truth is…it is just for a moment if it is not centered on God. It is fleeting.
There’s more though. The other thing I am taken with is to what great lengths God went to in order to get those same people focused and turned back to Him. Seriously, the Tower of Babel, parting of the red sea, fire from heaven, and let’s not forget King Nebuchadnezzar being cast out of the palace and living like an animal for seven years! I know there are things in our own lives that God is doing so that we would turn our focus back on Him. We often blow those things off as coincidence or put it in a “this too shall pass” box, but God is the same today as He was then. He wants our full attention, our devotion, our worship. And by worship, I mean the way we live our lives.
Because that is what worship is…It is a way of life. It is keeping God in the center of every step and move you make. It is keeping your thoughts on Him and giving Him glory in everything you do. It is hard. I wish I could say it is easy, but it’s not at times. It is, however, full of joy (which is not the same thing as happiness). A joy that runs so deep you didn’t know it could exist. My prayer is that you will know that joy-yes, even if you are in the midst of some pain. You can feel both at the same time. This past year (and more I think) has been teaching me that.
I felt like I needed to clarify what worship is-or should be-before I went on with the rest of my thoughts. While I have been pondering what worship really is and looks like, and growing in that area, I have also been pondering what that looks like when you do worship as an area of service in your church, or even for a living. As a musician who is a Christ-follower, I have a lot of friends, and acquaintances, who fit in this category. They do what they are made to do (worship) and lead others in worship for a living and as a service and because it is what they are made to do. Can you see how it can get confusing? Or the lines may get blurred? If you add into that the fact that most musicians love just doing music in general, love perfecting what is also their art and craft, the lines get blurred even more. It is clear even more that God has to be the center of EVERYTHING you do (not just for musicians), because without that, it is easy to put yourself first and become just like King Nebuchadnezzar.
My music background from the very beginning is in an area of performance. I was trained from a very young age to perform. Add to that the fact that it was in a classically trained area (opera) and you have now added the perfectionism aspect to it. I became a worker bee very early when it came to music. My goal was perfection at all times. My ear needed to always be on point as did my voice. I worked hard to be good. But I didn’t ever think about keeping God in the center of my music. Music was just something I did, I loved to do, that He had given me a talent for. I never gave it a second thought that I was actually supposed to be using that talent for Him, to give Him glory, to worship Him. All I cared about was performing, getting better, having people notice me, and furthering my career.
Then I got to college. I went to Dallas Baptist University. I didn’t want to go there to be honest. It was a small school. I wanted to be in a big school with an amazing performing arts department that blew your mind with their performances, and more importantly, their connections. What then, was I doing at DBU? I got in to other, larger, more well-known, schools. But DBU gave the most money, so it’s where I went. I believe this is one of those times God was doing something to get my focus centered back on Him. I thought I was saved. I thought I already knew what it meant to be a Christian. It wasn’t until DBU that I realized I didn’t know anything except how to give lip service. It took me years to walk that particular journey. While at DBU, I put Jesus first in my life at the end of my sophomore year. That’s the most important thing that happened to me there. I also started to learn about putting God center in my life and my music. And that worship, and leading people into worship, was a completely different world than performing.
The next 10 years would be a journey that would blow my mind at times and be full of pain and joy. All of it teaching me what worship, true worship, looks like. I learned to let go of all the different masks (and there were soo many of them) that I wore with people. I learned that I could change, and was very good at doing it, to be whoever anyone wanted me to be at the time. But I also learned in that self-realization, that in doing that, I was not being authentic and who God wanted me to be, and therefore I was not worshiping fully with my life. I was keeping myself, and what others thought of me, at the center. And I was performing ultimately in every area of my life. Learning worship was hard for me. I had been raised to be a performer, trained to be that way. Learning to live my life as a worshiper was having to relearn how I lived and acted and reacted. It was scary. And so rewarding.
Because of this journey, I am constantly questioning myself as a musician and a worship leader on why I do the things I do in the area of music and worship. I am also acutely aware of the musicians around me, how they work, why they do things. I’m a music educator now. I want to make sure that I am teaching my students to be great musicians and to work hard, but that without God in the center, it means nothing. I want the musicians around me, the leaders around me, to not blur the lines (although we all do at some points) and walk humbly, amazed that we are even given the breath to sing or the strength to play an instrument. This moment is just a vapor after all. Such a short time in reality and you never know when it will be the last time you sing or play.
I started leading worship 10 years ago because someone found out I could sing and asked me to help at a Wednesday night Bible study. I said yes because I loved to sing and sing anything. The person who asked me had no idea that I wasn’t really saved. I didn’t even know it at the time. I had no idea the journey I was starting, the people I would work with and learn from, or that I would even come to care about worship someday and the importance of it separately from it being a form of music. Now, I worship and desire to lead others to worship because I want them to come to the throne of God in worship, yes. But more than that, I want them to live at the throne of God. I want them to know that worship is not something you do just on Sunday mornings, or just when you’re singing praise songs. I want them to learn that worship is what you are made to do. I want you to know and learn that lesson too. There is such great joy and freedom when you put the Almighty God at the center of everything you do and lead a life of worship.