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Free to Worship

We have been talking about the spiritual disciplines and how we (ordinary people) can put them into practice.  If I'm being honest, some have been more difficult than others to embrace.  This week's discipline is worship, which is one that comes more naturally to me.  Worship is defined as devotion or the feeling of profound adoration. If you have ever been to a live concert you know that people adore their favorite bands.  Eyes full of tears, voices screaming, hands raised, all to express one feeling...adoration.  Now, I'm just as "fangirl" as the next for my favorites but it is important to keep a sacred space in our hearts solely for God. That sacred space is how we practice this discipline of worship.

Since the earliest civilizations, humans have been drawn to worship.  Evidence of places of worship have been found from the Mayan ruins in Central American to the valley of temples in Greece.  So the question is not DO we worship, the question is HOW do we worship?  How do we make room to worship God in our daily lives? First let's recognize that the practices that we have been discussing over these past several weeks are all ways that we can worship God.  Prayer, mediation, giving, fasting, and confession are all ways we worship. So as we allow these practices into the rhythm of our lives we are in fact worshiping God.

In both the new and old testaments we see examples of a lifestyle of worship.  The practice of worship was in the rhythm of Christ's life; one of our first encounters with Jesus is him as a boy worshiping in the temple (Luke 2). But the examples that speak the most to me are from the Psalms.  The psalmist says in Psalms 42: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God...?"   Again, what the psalmist describes here--that irresistible desire we have towards worship--should both encourage us and caution us because we are naturally drawn to worship something.  

Worshiping together, like at church, is important , but how can we also maintain this practice on our own?  If we have been taught anything over the past several months it is that we must hold this space both publicly or corporately and individually.  And if we have developed the practice individually, I find that it is so much easier to participate in a corporate setting.

I love the warm feeling that I get when I sing.  It's like something on the inside of me gets switched on and emits toasty, gooey goodness.  I'm just an average singer, I know a little about music and I know how and when to harmonize and so I do my best when others sing with me.  
The very few times that I lead entire songs I speed through the verses to get to the chorus so that the group can join in. The pressure of leading makes me feel exposed, makes me feel like I'm alone, makes me feel too vulnerable. In those times when I am feeling anxious,  in order to calm my nerves I ask myself, "what is the purpose of me leading this song?"  Usually, I find comfort in the answer,  "I am helping to lead people into worship", when I remember this, I can muster up the courage to continue.

When I find purpose, my pride and judgments take a back seat and it's just me in that sacred space.  When I am there in that free place, I often see an image of myself dancing and singing without boundaries, without limitation and fear.  There I am completely free.  But it is always me looking in seeing that free girl, wanting, longing to join her but I always feel like something is holding me back.

What is holding me back, what is holding us back? Often we tell ourselves, once I reach this fitness goal, educational goal, or career goal then I will finally achieve total happiness, I will finally be totally free. Setting goals is a healthy practice; however, when setting goals looks more like putting obstacles in our path, we are not enjoying the right now and we certainly are not free.  Instead of being free, fear and pride hinder us and all that joy and freedom God intended for us is exhausted.
 
I realize that one the most intimidating things about participating in a musical worship service is singing out loud around people, strangers even. That "exposed" feeling that I spoke of before can be both awkward and silencing.  However, singing together unifies us, it bonds us together as a body and fills our hearts with a common purpose.  Participating in this type of worship can be both transformative and solidifying.   Singing to God is an important part of corporate worship but it is not the only way we can express devotion to God.  If you find yourself  apprehensive about singing out loud around other people you can start with clapping or standing or by just simply focusing on the lyrics and what they mean to you.  

The most common translation for the word worship literally means to bend over, or pour out.  This translation offers a word picture of what we are doing as we make this discipline a practice in our lives.  As we bend our own wills to sit quietly and allow the clam of God's presence to wash over us in meditation; or as we physically bow and raise our hands to God and confess as we sing in adoration, we allow our confessions to shape our hearts.  

The most important thing to remember from any of the spiritual disciplines we have been discussing over the past several months, is that they are a practice, and they need to be incorporated into our daily lives.  Practicing worship by making room for the sacred in our daily rhythms will keep our hearts in this poured out posture and, like the psalmist, will cause us to thirst for God and seek him.

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