What does it take to get you to a point of surrender?
Michael and I were talking the other day about church, worship, and experiencing God. Just being honest here, but it is something that lately I have just been wrestling with. I have felt dry in my spiritual life and too busy to make time to worship in my daily life. Summer at home in Texas with three small boys can be l—-ooooo—n–g and hot.
If you ask the common church goer, “What is worship?”, many would answer “When we sing the songs before the preacher speaks.” For a large chunk of my life, I would have answered the same. In my Refiner’s Fire singing youth group days I would have even been more specific and said “It’s the slow songs you sing after the fast songs.” As I have grown in my relationship with the Father and been exposed to more biblical teaching on the subject, I have learned that worship has a much broader definition than what I would have always thought. Good old non-biased Wikipedia defines worship as an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity.
So… what is WORSHIP to you?
For many, being in the middle of a large church with a phenomenal band singing current Hillsong songs is the ultimate ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to worship. As the songs build to a crescendo, the crowd is overcome with emotion. Many lift hands, some dance, some bow down, and even a few will lay face down, submitting everything to have an experience with God. To some, this is textbook worship at it’s finest. Not being a part of a large church anymore, those experiences are one of the things I really miss.
Not everyone shares those feelings. Some people don’t enjoy this type of worship. You may be one of them. This big over-dramatization may even make you uncomfortable. You may prefer to be in a more traditional setting– sitting in a pew, singing from a hymnal as one person plays the piano or organ. This reserved and more calm style of worship may be what takes you to a place in your heart where you can slow down and hear the voice of God.
But what about worshiping God outside of the actual church building? Michael and I were talking the other day, as we often do, about dead theologians. (Oh yeah, exciting conversations in my house). We love the works of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Charles Spurgeon. Back in the 1500s, 1700s, and even early 1900s– before the mega church, before the organized band, before hymnals and certainly before Pandora and iTunes– there was no instant gratification for worship. Plugging in your headphones and zoning out to Christian music during the lunch hour wasn’t possible. You couldn’t attend one of the seven services offered by the local church drop off your kids in childcare, then go to the sanctuary for a concert. Stay at home moms couldn’t sneak away to the bathroom and read a few passages of scripture on the Bible apps on their phones. No, true worship had to be much more intentional. It wasn’t something they just fit in to available open time slots. Worship and meeting the Father was something that one had to be tuned into to constantly. Life itself and every single part of it was worship. Praising God for life, breathe, family, food, provision, grace, health, and everything else. Our theological forefathers sought God in every act.
This is how Martin Luther defined worship in his pamphlet titled The True and False Worship of God233. Now the worship of God consists in this: that you confess, honor, and love God with your whole heart, put all your trust and confidence in him, never doubt his goodness, either in life or in death, either in sins or in right living, as the first commandment teaches. To this we can attain through the merit and blood of Christ alone, who has gained for us and gives us such a heart, if we hear and believe his word; for our nature cannot have such a heart of itself. Behold, this is the chief worship of God and the greatest thing, to wit, an upright Christian faith and love to God through Christ. Therefore the first commandment is fulfilled by us through the precious blood of Christ, and God is faithfully served from the heart.
What is true worship to you? How do you find that spiritual sweet spot? Outside the hoopla of church, how do you quiet your soul to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? Where do you go physically and emotionally so that you can engage in a true intimate experience with God? I think we all have Love Languages with God just like we do with our spouse. Or just like how in school there are visual, auditory, and tactile learners— I believe that also holds true to how we learn and communicate with God.
Recently we were given the opportunity to take a weekend family trip to a secluded ranch in Oklahoma. It was totally spur of the moment which is not something we ever do. I was hesitant to go at first. Knox was getting over a yucky cold. I thought about just sending my husband with the big boys so that I could stay at home with Knox and catch up on stuff. I’m sure you know where this is going. In the end, I decided to go and God used that little 48 hour getaway to tap into a big part of me that had been stuffed into a suburban box for way too long.
I always knew I loved the outdoors. Growing up in Alabama, I never lived where there was an 8 foot privacy fence or an alley for people to enter through the rear of their home. I was outside all the time. In my yard, in someone else’s yard, dodging cow pies in my Granny’s pasture, collecting locust shells off my Poppa’s pine trees, or catching fireflies under my Aunt Di’s magnolia tree. When we arrived at our destination in Oklahoma, I stepped out of the car to inhale the sweet fragrance of outside. The sight of lush green pastures and the brush of cool breezes on my face was sensory overload that took me to a place of gratefulness and awe. In that 48 hours, we only set foot inside to sleep, bathe, and prepare meals. I couldn’t get enough of admiring God’s creation. Something as simple as sitting in a rocking chair with a cat in my lap or feeding a horse my Costco organic baby carrots quieted my soul to the point of worship. Being outside, in His creation, made my heart burst of joy, praise, and thankfulness. Watching my boys have the time of their lives splashing around a simple rock bottom creek while searching for crawfish made me appreciate simple yet marvelous Creation. When my soul was at peace with my surroundings I was able to quiet the constant craziness in my head and just simply worship Him. This was not a time when I was praying and asking God for things on my never ending list of needs & wants. This was different. When my simple surroundings painted a picture that appealed to me, nothing else seemed to matter accept my love for the Father and His love for me. When the static of business was quieted, the voice of the Lord was very clear.
Sadly we can’t go to a ranch in Oklahoma every weekend. But I can be intentional about placing myself in similar surroundings that tune in to my sweet spot. I can go for a jog in the wooded trail in my neighborhood, smelling the honeysuckles and listening to the gentle trickle of the creek. I can check in on my tiny first garden every morning and notice how my plants have grown daily and be reminded of God’s sovereignty over creation and how He gave us everything we have. I can watch my children play outside in the street (yes, in the street) and be grateful for a God who chose to give me children and house to raise them in.
So what does it for you? What puts you in ‘the mood’ with God? How do you find that sweet spot? Nature, exercise, being with friends, reading the Bible, playing an instrument? I think once we can identify that sweet spot, it’s much easier to skip the fluff and intentionally give our time to God.
The True and False Worship of God by Martin Luther