Worshiping Today

“I worship at the altar of today’s circumstances, thinking they’re the most important and most pressing of all.”

-Lore Wilbert

I just came upon that quote this week and the magnitude of it struck me pretty deep. You see I think that’s become the norm for our lives, myself included. I cast aside the reminders of faithfulness, obedience and truth for today’s stuff. It may be a home renovation, encounter with a coworker (or your boss) or the lack of evening plans.

Whatever it may be, today’s calendar and the circumstances those don’t often capture become our intent focus. We lay every bit of it at the altar to those, all of ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts and our focus right there in front of today. We have slowly but very easily given up the long-run for the short-sighted of now, right this minute and immediacy.

As believers, we know a different time frame. One that looks at the long run, the marathon, the eternal. Our hearts yearn for it but our culture, our lives rush to be at the feet of today. It leads to doubting God, not taking Him into every circumstance and instead asking Him to rubber stamp our plans, actions and words. We rush to judgement, to pickup lines and to dinner. Instead we are called to be in presence with Him, to fully engage in relationship and conversation, to consultation and discernment, to the holy of each moment.

Y’all, I cannot tell you how I long for the holy of each morning, of time spent breathing in Him, His goodness and truth so that I can then breathe out His love, mercy and grace. The holy of time spent seeking His direction and will rather than my own, time engaging with people rather than ticking them off my to-do/to-meet list, to seeing the heart of the eternal in each and every person I interact with daily, from coworkers to strangers to my roommate.

Just for today. Maybe this weekend or even through the remainder of Lent can we lay down the idol worship of today for the invitation of the eternal into the present? Can we choose to give up the immediacy of our lives for the ever-guiding will of God in each circumstance?

Just for today, y’all.

Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.

The Wrong Question

Often it’s not that we are asking a question, but that it’s the wrong one.

 

I am a member of a satellite campus of a larger church in Nashville/Brentwood area. Often times I listen to our Senior Pastor’s sermon via podcast during the week. It’s really insightful to see the various ways God uses individuals to speak about Scripture.

This week’s y’all…I have listened to Mike’s sermon three times…THREE. Because it’s just that good. I’ll probably keep it archived so I can come back to it again and again.

Here’s the rub…it’s about asking the wrong question. We can ask, we just ask the wrong thing. So let me just let Mike do the talking here.

 

In His Presence

We have some pretty spectacular sunsets and sunrises around Nashville. You’ll know it (if you don’t live in these parts) by the flooding of social media with people capturing the moment. I am known to do it too. It’s just too beautiful, too breathtaking not to share with the world. If you’ll indulge my sentimentality as well, it’s also where I often hear God loudest…where He gives a wink or a nod to something I have been praying through and a scene of a sunset reminds me He’s heard me, He’s got it. I can release my worry or fear and just rest in the knowledge of Him.

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Taken in March 2011 at Maryville College.  Photo owned by Sara Stacy, do not copy without permission.

It takes a certain level of presence of the moment to see it though. To be fully present I can’t be distracted by a phone or thoughts of tomorrow, I have to be fully aware of the moment I am in. I find in seasons that I am really present in the moments, each and every one ticking by and then other seasons I find that I just can’t quite bring myself fully into the present because I am dwelling in the past or creating worry for the future.

Lately it’s been the latter. There’s been unfounded worry about this, and created anxiety about that. It’s pushed out where my focus and my heart should be, in the present, pursuing His voice in the noise of it all.

This week I was able to see Hillsong United and Lauren Daigle in concert. My  heart’s prayer as the lights dim was a plea to be present. It came on suddenly and it was breathtaking. It was a cry from deep within to no longer dwell in the fear of something happening or not happening. It was a song to Christ of trust and reliance, toward God. I want to trust and release it all because He is there in the future, He’s in the past as well. He extends before and behind, something I forget all too quickly when I am not in the present.

So I felt this pull to the present, Christ’s arm extending to draw me close, draw me near to Him and trust the present to be. He does that when we allow Him. When we make ourselves available to the Presence of Him. The sunsets, the worship, Scripture and quiet. All of these bring me to His Presence in the present if I choose it.

Many times I don’t. I choose busyness, social media, television…all distractions simply because being present is work. It’s difficult sometimes and it’s much easier to relax into a comfortable posture of procrastination and distraction than pursuit of Presence. But I desire that Presence especially in my present. If I desire it, and it’s aligns with His will, doesn’t He promise to give it?

Y’all, He does. He gives Himself to us if we but desire it with all of our self. If we pursue His Presence in the moment over the other, over our self as well. Sometimes it’s worth not capturing that sunset simply because He meant it for you in that moment. Desire to receive the present, a gift of His Presence.

Accepting Obedience

I was not an obedient child, at least not instantaneously. Oh I would eventually do as I was told (mostly by my mom or sister, because I was a good kid to everyone else), but not without some fussing and fighting on it. There were tears, there were hurt feelings, there were defiant stances and stuck out lower lips. I was not one to go quietly, nor easily when it came to obedience.

I think the same holds true many times in my relationship with God. I will war and wrestle with Him on what He has asked me to do. After much struggling, and lessons learned I will go obediently about His business. As we study God’s Unfolding Story at church I was drawn into the small narrative of the Passover today.

I am familiar with the story, and the significance it has within the larger context of both the Jewish and Christian faiths alike. It is a ritual that reminds us of the captivity, bondage and saving grace of God. But I had missed parts of this story before as I dwelt in the meaning of the Passover within the confines of the story of Moses and the slaves.

Moses has just gotten Word directly from God. It’s a good word, but it’s also very specific in instruction. They are to go and bring a lamb into their home to slaughter. The blood is to be drained and then painted upon the doorposts and lintel of the home. This will save them from the destroying angel. They cannot leave their homes until morning. They were to share the story with their children, as they performed the ritual each year then. But nestled right after all these words is two sentences that have wrung me out…

So the people bowed down and worshiped. Then the Israelites went and did [this]; they did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.

After being given instructions to save their first born males, after being told specifically to paint in blood on their homes they accepted and submitted-worshiping God for His command. They fully accepted His word as truth, going forth in obedience and did. They didn’t argue, they didn’t wrestle with the decision, they didn’t try another way before giving in to that way as the answer.

\No, they are the picture of what God wants from us. When He speaks (and He does, we choose other things to hear many times) He desires for our hearts and minds to follow Him. That we would openly submit, worship, and obey. Until seeing that the Israelites worshiped in the midst of their obedience, I hadn’t thought of it being significant.

But it is y’all. Worshiping is submission and obedience too. It is giving God His glory back, pouring back our praise on Him for His goodness towards us, His love outpouring on us to guide us and lead us in every aspect of our lives. It’s saying we are lesser than, recognizing that He is greater….than any and every thing else. When we worship in our obedience, we are submitting to Him who we are and asking for Him to use us for whatever means and whatever ways.

When we accept obedience without pouting or fighting, we are praising Him for His sovereignty and goodness. We are faithfully obeying a God who will do whatever He needs to do in order to save us, and that to me is worth accepting and obeying all that He asks of me.

These Hallelujahs Be Multiplied

I make no secret about how much I am a fan of NEEDTOBREATHE. One glance at my albums on Facebook or the wall in my living room will attest to that. I counted on Saturday night as we waited in line to get into the Woods at Fontanel for their show and I realized it was my 8th show.

I just need to share this morning the beauty that was Saturday evening’s performance. For those who were there, I think you would agree. They have had a rough last year as a band and a family. Part of me can understand as over the last 12 months I have found it to be the hardest time for myself. Sometimes journeys need to be taken in order to bring about beauty. For we don’t seem to acknowledge the amazing when we don’t experience the truly terrible.

Rivers in the Wasteland is such a call to my heart in so many ways. I am forever grateful for those men of the band writing each song, even through the difficult circumstances that had to bring them there. In the crafting of their words, I find myself. I find the call from God in so many ways. It’s funny how He will use means only we can notice some times. Special nudges or instances that I know are from Him and Him alone. This album continuously reminds me of that. Of His whispers of love, calls to return, and the hope of a new day.

There I stood on Saturday night, in the middle of a field, watching this band that has impacted my life in such profound ways play the songs which speak of their struggle and return as well. Understanding the year that was in such a different way, in finally seeing that God needed to get a message through to me in the mess in order for me to let go of long held anger and beliefs not founded in Him. To let so much joy and love flow out. It was the capstone of reminders and smiles from God that I had felt throughout the week-even in the roughness that was the week prior, the year prior.

This song, which I have shared before, I felt something release when they sang it. I was surprised, honestly, that they performed it but I am ever so thankful they did. It was glorious. For me, I think that’s a glimpse of heaven we all got to share on Saturday night. Maybe you need to let go. To rejoice in them that do rejoice. Maybe you need to be reminded of His love and how it fills us beyond all things. I know for me, He pursues me with a relentless love I can no longer ignore in my daily life. One that overflows and bursts through in hallelujahs.

Let the Music Get Down in Your Soul

As you all know, I’m a music nut. Junkie. Whatever you want to term it. Music speaks to my heart, my inner self in so many ways. Those of you who are like that get it. It’s hard to describe because you just feel it. I cannot sing, I cannot play an instrument. Yet I appreciate the art. I could go on but I shall stop.

I realize it’s Wednesday (Tuesday’s post needed to be written and posted for reasons…) but my question for you today is

What speaks to you? What specific thing or art speaks to you directly in a profound way?

And let me share my favorite song (and band) with you…