Monday, February 10, 2014

Heart Stretching Worship

I'm not an arm-stretcher. You know, the person standing next to you in church on Sunday with their arms reaching so far to the roof you're afraid their arms are going to be dislocated? I was raised Baptist. You know the type. Arms down, hands folded properly in front of waist, hymnal balanced on the back of the pew in front of you, and enough of a poker face to win at least a few rounds and definitely not show off any spirit or rambunctious worship.

The first time I visited a church where a lady raised her arms so high and then waved them left to right, I thought maybe the people on either side should consider wearing helmets to church. I stared, all ten years of me, and wondered what on earth the woman was doing to try to bring so much attention to herself instead of to God.

It was in later years, I would discover the various forms of expressive worship. What I saw as a distraction and just outright rude, another saw as an open embracing of God's majesty and complete, utter abandon.

Psalm 95:6
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Worship. It's something that is so misconstrued from denomination to church to campfire to quiet place in our room. There's a right way--or a wrong way. My mom was confronted when I was a kid because she didn't speak in tongues and therefore had never and could never experience true worship. Heaven help us!

God calls us to kneel before Him. Worship is the act of utter submission and offering up glory to One more deserving than ourselves. Worship isn't a prescribed order, a litany of rules, uncontrolled abandon, or even necessarily the waving of ribbons and flags. Worship is coming into the THRONE ROOM of God. Joshua fell on his face, as did David, as did other heroes of the faith. In the end, I'd dare to challenge that the ultimate physical display of worship is face planting prostrate before GOD.

Have I learned to break the Baptist barrier and raise my hands in worship? Ok, maybe every now and then my fingertips hit the height of my chin. But I'm still comfortable poker-facing it, looking bored, and maybe a tad cranky. It's my way of worship...I CONCENTRATE hard. Which probably leaves people around them thinking I'm ready to club someone. I'm really not a hard core Baptist, just a hard core focused worshiper who doesn't crack a smile.

On the flip side, I've stood next to Anne, her arms popping out of their sockets, reaching for the face of God with everything in. And shockingly enough, she can hold that stretch for the duration of an entire worship song! Oh man, there's dedication to worship.

I dare to challenge us all, to enter worship unconcerned with anything but heart stretching worship. The kind of worship that internally takes you to your knees. (don't really fall to your knees in church because you'll probably crack your chin on the pew or chair in front of you and need stitches). The kind of worship that moves your arms up or sends your hands to your pockets. WHO CARES!!! Worship Him with your whole heart today...stretch it...hold him...and HONOR HIM!


Jaime Wright - 

Spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Youth leader. Professional Coffee Drinker. Works in HR and specializes in sarcasm :) - Represented by: Books & Such Literary Agency

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  1. Beautifully put. Yesterday's worship was one of those reach out and grab you fall to your knees kind of service. Loved it. <3

  2. "I CONCENTRATE hard." I love that Jaime. I do too. And for the record, you all know I grew up Mennonite, same stance, arms down, hymnal in front of me, four part harmony. As I've grown up, I've found I have to close my eyes for much of worship to concentrate, to keep from being distracted by those around me, to keep my spiritual eyes on the throne of the Almighty, the reason I live-the One who stretches me!

  3. I'm like you Jaime, straight laced Baptist. Although many in my Baptist church now raise their hands in worship, I still have a hard time letting loose. Our pastor made a statement once that raising our hands to God in worship is like a little child raising their hands to their mom or dad in love and need to pick them up. I've thought about that a lot. I once noticed a lady at our church during a ladies conference raise her hand to God using the sign language symbol for I Love You! Maybe one day I'll let loose and do the same. In the meanwhile, I know that God knows in my heart I'm raising my hands and kneeling before Him (my poor old aging knees with arthritis, not to mention past surgery, won't allow me to actually kneel, and I wouldn't be able to get up anyway, LOL) so that's all that matters to me!

    1. LOL Gail!!! Yes!! God reads our hearts!!

  4. Wonderful post, Jaime - I can identify with you in that I grew up in the Baptist church. I let a bad marriage cause me to stop attending church for a number of years - God used a musical/drama Passion Play, on the life of Christ, to draw me back to Him. I moved out of state, to a tourist town, to become a cast member of that ongoing Passion Play and started attending the church whose pastor was the founder of the Passion Play (the church services met in the theatre where the play was performed and tourists were encouraged to attend, an altar call was given during each church service, and also at the end of each performance of the Passion Play) - the church was non-denominational. I felt very much out-of-place at first - due to the hand raising and waving, amens, speaking in tongues, etc.. But as time went on, I realized that I felt God's Spirit in these church services, and in my daily life, more deeply that I ever had before. When I decided to retire, and move back home near my aging parents, in 2007, I felt an immense loss (and less presence of the Spirit) when I returned to the Baptist church in which I had grown up. I have considered switching to a non-denominational church again, but feel the need to attend the Baptist church with my parents for now (my father has stage 4 cancer, my mother is having memory problems - I don't know how much time I have left to be with them).

    I can identify with Anne, in that I find it easier to worship - and less distractions - with closed eyes, also. I can also relate to Gail as my arthritis prevents my kneeling and getting up from the floor, also, as well as extending my arms upward for more than a few minutes at a time. In the end, it's just as you said - Jaime, worship is that which draws one nearest to his God. No matter what form it takes!!

    1. What a great story of worship, Bonnie!!! WOW!!!! And God can bless and enrich your worship even in a place where it isn't your "ideal" setting.

    2. Wow, thanks for sharing that Bonnie. I'm sure God blessed you with that experience for a season such as this one and many others, that would sustain you.

  5. Yes! Anne described it wonderfully. I am conservative worshiper also, always have been. It is nice in a way that our church does not have arm raisers - no distractions for me then. We all concentrate on our singing and worshiping Him from our hearts. It is common to hear from visitors that they cannot believe how loud and harmonious we sing. It makes me wonder if other churches have people who don't sing their hearts out?!


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