My Year of Changing the Way I Worship

worship

I remember it so distinctly. I was at a conference that my church puts on yearly, in different cities around the world. I had flown in to this particular city to serve on team, the people around me, unfamiliar. Opening night I was stood at the back of one section and as the lights dimmed for the beginning of worship and Taya’s familiar voice filled the arena, I heard someone excitedly whisper, “oh, here it is, it’s THE SONG”.

“You call me out upon the waters…The great unknown where feet may fail…”

They were so excited about hearing this song that was sweeping the nation, in churches and radio, in person! And, to be completely honest I was sort of annoyed. Did they not understand that yes, this song was beautiful and Taya slays it, but it’s so much more.

“And I will call upon Your name…And keep my eyes above the waves…When oceans rise…My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine…”

Worship is personal, so I asked myself why it bothered me. I mean, who am I to judge? But, it was that moment I realised that it was the Holy Spirit gently making me aware of how often I sing songs in church, that barely touch my lips, let alone my heart.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…Let me walk upon the waters…Wherever You would call me…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Saviour…”

That was October 2014. I was officially graduating from my MSc in a couple weeks and soon to start a new job (I didn’t know I was hired yet, and nor did I know that 2015 was going to be one of the most blessed, fun, horrible, tumultuous years of my life). But that night I decided that if I was going to worship, I would do it with all my heart. That I would change the way I worshipped. If I was going to lead people in worship then I had to lead myself first in the way I worshipped.

So, I gave myself a bit of a rule. If I wasn’t in “the mood” to worship, I would stop, pray and refocus, as much as I needed, to keep my heart continually focused and in the right place. I would sing because I meant it, I would praise because He deserves to be praised. I would worship because I am a thankful. I wouldn’t sing words, I would sing prayers. Practically speaking I also listened to more worship music than I have ever listened to. I changed my alarms to worship music to remind me to start the day thankful and appreciative. I took moments, turned off all distractions, put on songs like “It is Well” or “We Dance” and literally stood, sat, danced…I let myself be romanced. (no, not in that freakish “I am dating Jesus” way, but in the allow-the-Holy-Spirit-To-wash-over-You kind of romanced.

Yea, so that’s not as easy as it sounds. Like any habit in your life it takes a lot of practice and discipline. A lot.

It’s crazy. I wish I could say that this conviction brought me into some existential, blissful existence, but if you remember, a couple of paragraphs up I mentioned that 2015 wasn’t so hot.

You see, when you prayerfully sing “I will call upon Your name…Keep my eyes above the waves…My soul will rest in Your embrace…I am Yours and You are mine…” God tests you. And tested over and over again I was. And over and over again I vowed to keep my promise to practice this new habit.

And thus began an aspect of 2015 that I haven’t shared with anyone. I guess I never felt ready or wasn’t sure, or maybe it’s that it’s still a daily practice that I haven’t perfected. Much like my commitment to going to the gym 6 days a week. I know it shows results, but it doesn’t mean I am always consistent.

Full disclosure: My nearest and dearest will know that I have had times where I was still a wreck and worried, fretted, cried, but it was a lot less than other trying times in my life. 

So, before this post ends I will share what my year of worshipping prayerfully brought to me and my relationship with God.

Peace. When my heart was continually focused on His promises, Who God is, on worshipping Him, I didn’t have space to worry.

Hope. When I sang words like “My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine” I was reminded of all the times that He carried me, blessed me, moved my life forward even when I was less than deserving.

Joy. Your grace abounds in deepest waters…Your sovereign hand…Will be my guide” When I reminded myself, over and over again, that His grace abounds, that I am saved and made free, I could remain joyful in times of sorrow and pain, even when the world felt like it was collapsing around me.

Patience. When I couldn’t see my next steps, I sang “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me…You’ve never failed and You won’t start now…” I reminded myself of all the times before that He held me up.

Finally, Closer. You know that God only wants the best for you? And that whole “be careful what you pray for?” Ya well when you pray “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Savior…” HE ACTUALLY DOES IT. And that’s just one example. I began to realise that the more I prayed prayers that taught me to seek God, to seek the characteristics of Christ that would lead me into deeper, closer relationship with Him, it truly infiltrated all areas of my life. Yeah, a lot of it really hurt, but it was beautiful when the words I once sang as prayers of a desired relationship, became words that described my relationship with God.

And to be honest, it simply brought honesty back into my life and relationship with God. Worship isn’t always an idealistic, focused time with God. Just this Sunday my blood sugar was so low, my mind was elsewhere and worship was okay. It took a LOT of effort to focus. A year ago I would have gone through the motions and left. Instead I reminded myself why I was there, WHO I was worshipping and refocused. I think it’s what they call conviction (wink wink). It’s not about guilt, you can’t build a relationship out of guilt, it’s about an honest, no holds barred, sincere relationship with God.

And dang it’s amazing.

 

 

 

 

An Unapologetic Year

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“You know what attracted you to me? The way you don’t apologise for who you are”

That was 4 years ago and somewhere between that conversation, all the moments, circumstances and conversations past, and the present I changed.

Sure, I tried to get it back. Half-heartedly really; I even began 2015 with a drive to kick some butt. I even wrote a blog about it. I said I wouldn’t be afraid to sing again…

Now, it wasn’t that I completely lost myself, I even took a few steps forward. I got a bit of my backbone together again, I took a huge step in my health (and constantly need to remind myself of that), I achieved a few good bits.

But when I look in the mirror I noticed one thing.

I lost the light in my eyes.

I was looking through some old photos and wondered what was different. Yeah my hair was different, but that’s not abnormal. I am thinner now. Okay, fine. But what? It was deeper, it was in my soul. Cue dramatic music.

Seriously though? What was it that took away my drive? What was it that made the shine disappear.

And then it came to me…quietly. 

I allowed people to affect me. 

I allowed rejection to overcome me. I allowed other’s opinions take over. I allowed other people’s standards to affect mine.

I put less emphasis on the way I wanted to live my life and the dreams I had, the goals I set for myself to be determined by “them”.

oh the dreaded “them”. Who is that? Well,  it can be what we believe others think of us. It can be the parent who doesn’t seem care enough or the boyfriend who breaks up with you. It can be the girls’ at the gym who stare. It can be the boss that tries to bring you down because of his or her insecurities. It can be standards of the culture or world we live in.

Except that years ago I chose not to live by the standards of others. I chose to live for God, with excellence, with grace & forgiveness. 

“Never apologize for having high standards. People who really want to be in your life will rise up to meet them.”

Well, somewhere along the line I started to apologise.

And somewhere along the line the shine in my eyes started to dim.

We all go through ups and downs in life. The darkest times do often bring the brightest lights, but it’s when we allow those moments, those people to define us, then we lose our way.

No one is perfect all the time. I love the fact that I am a really hard person to read, that I have high standards, that I can swear like the best of them one minute, but then have a philosophical discussion on the existence of love in this world the next. I like the fact that I am not like everyone else and that I live with a hope greater than this world. This world is hard and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

And I miss the girl who didn’t give a … (ahem)

Because that girl got sh*t done and I have pushed her away for too long.

And I have one life. One moment to make my mark. Why am I allowing anything, anyone to stop that?

No longer.

I will find my focus. You find yours. I will not apologise for who I am. I will be more vulnerable. I will dream more. I will take time to do what I need to do. I will say yes and I will say no. I will not allow fear to overcome me but instead remember that I have been given a spirit which overcomes fear. I will sing. I will dance. I will watch obscure movies. I will kiss more. I will worship more. I will be me. Can you be you? Because I love it when you are you.

So, here is to 2016 and letting that light shine.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ‘A Return To Love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson