How cool is it that when we gather, we can encourage and spur each other on in our worship, crying out to God and calling out to one another as we praise?
She came in just moments before the lights dimmed, just as the band was taking the stage. She sat on the aisle seat and two others who seemed to be friends sat next to her. As the first song began, she stepped out into the aisle and ever so slowly turned all the way around, taking it all in. I was in the seat right behind her, and I watched her curiously as I sang.
She lifted her left hand high in the air, fingers together, pointing toward the screen where her eyes were reading the words her lips were mouthing. A few minutes later, her left arm went down and her right arm went up. One arm was in the air for the entire duration of the worship set.
I've never seen her before, and it didn't seem like she had been there before either. Maybe she's been there for years, just always at a different service from me, I don't know.
What I know is that she worshipped beautifully. I couldn't help but smile as I watched her. In a church where we sometimes forget to clap after a song and we mostly stay politely quiet and hands are rarely raised, I loved her brave audacity to worship proudly. I loved her unapologetic hand in the air, waving as she turned, pointing upward to heaven. I loved the smile on her face as she sang sweet words to the Lord. I loved the extra large print King James Bible with wrinkled pages that she pulled out when Psalms was read aloud between songs, just so she could follow along. I loved the way she nodded along to the pastor as he spoke. I loved watching her worship. I don't know her, and I didn't even get a chance to introduce myself, but I'm grateful for her.
In the middle of my wishing we danced a little more, I'm grateful for the reminder that worship isn't about who's around me or who's watching. I'm grateful for the reminder that the Lord created our hearts for worship-- brave and beautiful and unapologetic worship. I'm grateful for the reminder that our hands are for raising in praise and clasping together in prayer and tracing words on wrinkled Bible pages. I'm grateful for her and for her heart of worship.
I wish we danced a little more. I wish, when the drum sticks click to give us the beat, we all started tapping our feet. When the melody starts, I wish we swayed with it, feeling it coursing through our bodies and responding intuitively. I wish we raised our hands when the words stuck chords in our hearts, wish we clenched our fists when they hit us in the best way. I wish we let our bodies be part of the worship more than we do.
We stand still, poised and polite. We sway slightly but mostly stand still. We stare ahead, singing along if we know the words, silent if we don't and silent if we just don't care.
I wish we danced a little more. I wish we spread out into the aisles so we all had room to breathe, and I wish we moved. I wish, when the voice from the stage sang loud, we sang back just as proudly. I wish we responded in a way that made it all seem like a glorious dance, like a swirling, twirling, twisting dance of words and limbs and songs of praise.
I wish we felt more free. I wish we weren't so aware of the hundreds of eyes around us, so worried about what those hundreds of minds might think. I wish we just moved as the Spirit moves.
I wish we shouted "AMEN" and declared "Yes, Lord!" as the message was given. I wish we murmured our assent more, nodded our heads more, clapped in affirmation more. I wish we raised our hands more, fell to our knees more, laughed out loud and cried more.
Inside of me is a girl wanting to break free and dance wildly around the sanctuary's chairs. Inside of me is a girl wishing to worship wholeheartedly and freely with voice and dance and every beat of my heart. Inside of me is a girl who feels just a little bit stuck in her own skin, more afraid than she should be to worship her Creator as she desires. Inside of me is a girl who wants to shake the standards off her shoulders and shatter the stereotypes and just let it all go at the feet of her Savior.
Isn't that what worship should be? An outpouring of love-- heartfelt, pure, true, expressive, wholehearted, honest, authentic, all-we've-got for all-You-are kind of love?
I wish we worshipped a little more wildly. I wish we danced a little more.
Grab your favorite hot drink, wrap the biggest and best blanket you own around your legs, and take a little break in your busy day to check out all the things I'm loving from all around the internet this week!
5 Down to Earth Instagram Accounts to Follow. // because don't we all need a little more down-to-earthiness in our Insta feeds?
These chocolate chip chickpea blondies // made these this week and was so pleasantly surprised by how delicious they are considering they are made with two cans of chickpeas. I don't think a healthier blondie could exist honestly. But YUM.
My current on-repeat playlist. // this is the kind of worship music that makes me turn the volume up and dance around my room wildly and freely and wonderfully.
The Letter Link-Up from Mr. Thomas & Me. // you know I love writing letters, and you know I love any idea Amber has, so you know her new link-up is my new favorite thing.
RVA people: go here. Order a dirty chai (pictured above). You're welcome.
At 90, She's Designing Tech For Aging Boomers // don't you want to be that awesome when you're 90?
Parenthood. // There are just two episodes left of this show EVER and I just don't think my heart can handle it. All the feelings.
This video. This brand. This mission. // all the yes. this gave me chills.
2012 was beloved.
2013 was commit.
Do you sense a trend in the last two years? Commit: to do, to carry into action deliberately, entrust. Devote: to commit by a solemn act, to give over to a cause, enterprise or activity. Strong verbs.
But now, it's 2015, and I'm going in a totally different direction.
2015 is selah.
Selah: stop and listen, to pause and praise, to exalt, to lift up.
My prayer for this year is simple: selah. My prayer is that every day, in every season, despite every changing emotion, I would pause and praise. My prayer is that this year would be defined by stillness, rest, reflection, worship. My prayer is that my devotions wouldn't be rushed or hurried or just another thing on my to-do list, but that I would truly stop and listen. My prayer is that I won't be too busy or too hurried or too worried to stop, to pause, to lift up. My prayer is not that I would rely on my own strength, but that I would exalt the strength of the Lord, exalt His glory, exalt His name. My prayer for this year builds on the prayers of the past two years-- I'm committing my year and devoting my year to the pausing and the praising of my Savior, Creator, Redeemer, my Abba.
Last weekend, my church held a soul care retreat for group leaders, and it was a morning of silence and stillness with just me, my Bible, my journal, and my God. If ever I was reminded of how refreshing selah can be, that morning was it. For more than two hours, I didn't say a word, didn't look at my phone, didn't see anyone else, wasn't distracted by anything. For hours, I was able to pause and to praise.
This was what spilled onto the page that morning:
Abba-- may this morning bring selah. May this day be about pausing and bringing you praise. May I be still, be silent, be at peace. May I rest in Your presence and let all chaos settle before You. May I breathe in Your grace and breathe out Your praise. May I reflect on all You've done, putting aside all my to-dos. May You be at my center. May You be at the core. May You be at the forefront and in the spotlight. May all my strivings cease. May You be Christ alone, May You be my Cornerstone. May You be Lord of all. May You invade, disrupt, bring to the light, unsettle, and stir up in me the places where idols reign and You have been replaced by my pride and humanity. May I leave this place today looking more like You in a way that is lasting. May silence be a practice I carry with me. May stillness refresh what is weary within me. May Your goodness overcome all my wretchedness. May You come. Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come, flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by Your presence, Lord.
May 2015 be full of selah.
To learn more about #OneWord365, visit their site here!
June, you were good to me. You brought challenges and goals and a little thing I called New June, you brought the start of a new project and brought new friends and faces into my world.
Hi, July, I'm ready for ya. I have a good feeling about what you'll bring. I don't have a list of resolutions and ambitions this month, but I have a renewed sense of focus and clarity. I'm finding that there are themes that are running through my days and weeks like little currents, and I want to give up my fight and let the Spirit work through them to carry me where He will.
"I wanna live with abandon, give You all that I am, every part of my heart, Jesus, I place in Your hands. I wanna live with abandon."
Who knew a Newsboys song on the radio this morning would put new words to the same things I was writing in my journal last night. I want to love recklessly, wholeheartedly, radically. I want to live boldly, intentionally, freely. I want to give selflessly, unashamedly, sacrificially. I want to celebrate joy and life and beauty.
Summer is all about soaking up-- the sun, water, memories. I want to soak up Jesus this summer. I want to spend time in His sun and I want to be changed inside and out by my time spent with Him.
This summer feels full of promise. I don't think I've ever paid as much attention to the seasons changing as I have in this past year. I think it's because so much of my life has settled into a routine, with my days looking essentially the same just with different meetings. In college, every semester brought a new class schedule, a new structure for what life would look like for those few months. Now, my life structure looks pretty much the same every day, and I don't have a few months of summer vacation to relax and travel and take a break. The seasons changing reminds me that God is always at work, making new things out of old, bringing dead things to life, making beauty in the world and in my life. That's been meaningful to me in ways I didn't expect, and it's mattered more in the midst of what could have just become monotony.
This is the first summer I've had as a real working adult, and that could have been a major downer for me, could have been something that made me feel stuck and trapped and depressed. Instead, I've been choosing to see this summer as full of promise. I chose to look at June and say that I wasn't satisfied with how I'd been living, I chose to do something about it and try to push myself in areas that needed some work.
Now, I'm choosing to look at July and see possibility. I'm choosing to fill my evenings with coffee dates and six-hour conversations on a picnic bench until the middle of the night, because those things fill me up. I'm choosing to wake up early on a Saturday morning and go explore a new park and pick berries and wander through trails in the woods, because that brings me joy. I'm choosing to open myself up to new things, to keep marching on, to celebrate and soak up and enjoy.
Summer just feels light, free, fun. I might have to sit at a desk for eight hours of the day, but that doesn't change that this season is one to dive in to and make the most of. I want to live this summer full of abandon, full of celebration.
I want to be wide-eyed, full of wonder, a whole-hearted worshiper in the wandering and in the seeking of wisdom.
May that be the anthem of this month. Here's to July: a new month full of new possibilities, hot days and breezy nights, wild adventures and honest conversations, shared meals and sun-kissed skin, open hearts and opportunities.
My Savior is alive.
All morning, throughout worship and the message at church, I was in awe of that. He is alive. Living, breathing, moving, working, healing, saving...alive. I've known this, it's not new to me. But I'm in awe of it still.
He is alive in beauty. I mean, seriously, have you seen the sunsets this past week? He is glorious. Beauty unimagined, and those fiery skies are just a glimpse of His splendor.
He is alive in answered prayers. He is listening, hearing, responding, providing. He is opening doors and creating opportunities and making a way for us one step at a time.
He is alive in community. He is among is when we gather, around fireplaces and crowded living rooms in small group, in spacious sanctuaries with the masses, around dinner tables and in coffeeshops. He is bringing us together, holding us together, uniting us as His body in the flesh.
He is alive in worship. He is in the chords and in the harmonies, the sweet melodies and the joined voices, in the tunes and the words and the simple and beautiful praises we give to Him. He is glorified in out worship, He is praised as we humble ourselves before Him, He is lifted high as we lift our voices and our hands to all that He is and will be and has always been.
He is alive in perfect love. He is our Father, loving us relentlessly and wholly and so deeply, filling every beat of our hearts and every depth of our souls in ways we didn't know possible. He is our Creator, the one who knit us together as we are for a purpose so specific and so intentional. We are His. Nobody could love us the way He does, endlessly, perfectly, with all-consuming love.
He is alive in victory. He conquered everything we never could. He went to the places we are scared to go, He went to the cross, He went to the grave, He went to the darkness and the deepest depths, and He came again in glory and in victory, conquering it all. He took our very worst and He became our salvation. The grave didn't hold him. Death didn't keep him. He defeated it. He rose. He has risen. He's alive, He's alive.
Let us, the body of Christ, come alive. Let us shake off the fear, the doubt, the worry, the apathy, the uncertainty, the excuses. Let us wake up, open our eyes, come alive again.
"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
All morning, I kept repeating as I worshipped, "You are alive, You're alive, You, my Savior, are alive." And then, the worship team played this song, and I just laughed as I sang, as I lifted my hands and rejoiced in the words and the worship and the praise of my God who is so very alive.
Christ is risen from the dead Trampling over death by death Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead We are one with him again Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave
Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night!
Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! Our God is not dead, he's alive! he's alive!