Worship Your Heart Out

One of the people in my band last week told me "I want to see you worship your heart out." I wonder why that sounded so revolutionary to me at the time. A few years ago, I didn't know there was any other way to worship than with all of your heart.

It's a challenge, being a worship leader at a large church, to focus your heart on God. When I led worship for 50 people every week, or 30, or just 10 good friends, I wasn't afraid to be transparent, to lay everything before God and my brothers and sisters. Analyzing that time, I realize that I wasn't leading worship so much as I was playing the guitar and worshipping with my friends.

At a big church, that isn't necessarily the case. Being a worship leader is much less about community, and much more about staying out of the way. I realized that from a worship leadership standpoint, I talked way too much back then. Even today, when I look out in the crowd, I look for a friend to worship with... someone who will understand where I'm coming from when I sing, so that I am unafraid to "worship my heart out". Otherwise, the stage I am standing on can seem pretty lonely.

I imagine, when you have no one to connect with, the place you are standing can seem just as lonely.

I am so self-conscious now of the things I say and do... and this is for good reason. I am learning how to be a better worship leader, how to lead without distracting. I just need to remember to be a worshipper, as well. Perhaps it is time to be open, transparent, if not with my words than with my heart. I've been taught recently to keep my eyes open when I'm worshipping, to connect with people. I think I'm realizing what that means.

C.S. Lewis says that we are looking for someone who sees the "same truth" we do, someone with whom we can say "You too!?!"

So this is my goal... to worship my heart out, with my eyes open. If our eyes meet, know you aren't alone... that we are worshipping together. I see what you see. I feel it too.

Destructive (Return of the Angry Sunset)

Destructive to self. Destructive to others.

What drives us to destroy? What is this sickness inside of us, that brings us to the point of hurting others? Is it true malevolence, or simply a misguided attempt to ease our own pain for a split second?

Tragedy. It is a tragedy. It is tragic that selfishness has infiltrated a Creation once affirmed by the Creator as "very good". It is particularly painful when this brokenness shows up at your proverbial doorstep, tugging at your heart and making everything just a little darker with it's very presence.

Being on staff at a church, I am perceived to be a leader, and as a result I am often expected to be much wiser than I am. I could write an entire post on the inadequacy I have felt over the past few days, but that is not the point of this post. Suffice it to say that I feel wholly inadequate as a judge of my peers.

See, when it comes right down to it, I'm destructive as well. My outward reactions may be straight out of the bible, while my inward thoughts look more like a Quentin Tarentino flick, with a desire to make witty and cutting comments on the absurdity of those around me while slapping them each individually upside the head until whatever is broken inside of them is fixed. If you are any different, and if you are an inner sanctum of peace in the midst of pure broken human absurdity, please teach me your Jedi ways.

The thing about being destructive, especially in the process of solving a problem, is that it is NEVER a good idea. It's like kicking a broken car. Nothing will be fixed, your car will be worse for it, and you will most likely hurt yourself in the process. A friend told me that his anger was a gift from God, that it drove Him to follow God more and have no fear of the devil. He told me the devil was afraid of him.

I imagine at that point, the devil was laughing his head off and hearing nothing but a squeaky voice and seeing a tiny, puffed out chest.

But still... our bitterness, anger, and selfishness drive us to act in ways that tear others down. They make us drunk with their insatiable thirst for destruction, and destruction lures us in with the deceptive promise of relief. We don't know or care what our words or actions do to others, only that we "need" this.

It's the basis of what we talked about this weekend. It is "Treason". This destructiveness, this brokenness that takes us down that dark path... it cares not who is right or wrong. It only cares that it is satisfied, that it's demands are met.

When we let the sun set on our anger, it drives us down this path. We get angry, and we do nothing about it. Everything good inside of us is broken down, rotted from the inside by this anger that has become bitterness, a cancer in our very being. We carry around this weight, and determine that we should not be the only ones. Others must carry what we carry. They must know our pain.

God calls us to lay it all down at his feet, to see Him as our all-surpassing pleasure and source of life. He calls us to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, to leave it all behind and carry nothing else. When He sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, He told them:

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep...

...If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your word, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.
This is the only way to not live with bitterness and anger in this world. Take nothing with you to start the journey, and continuiously leave behind everything that threatens to hinder you.

Shake the dust off your feet. Get rid of that which threatens to hinder you.

Anger, ultimately, is limited. Destruction is only selfishly pleasing while there is something left to destroy. The bloodlust in bitter, angry, sin-soaked hearts is insatiable.

"Why not rather be wronged?" said James.

Our hearts must be clean, and free from that which hinders us, even the littlest specks of dust. We must be willing to let go of our anger, and trust God to heal us (and not simply because He promises some sort of vengeance.) We must be willing to be 100% love, leaving no room for hatred, envy, malice... even selfishness.

Love conquers all.

Aviod Angry Sunsets

I am about to give you the secret to destroying me.

The quickest way to mess me up, the most efficient way to hurt me...

...is to ignore me, to stop communicating with me.

I would rather be yelled at, or punched in the face, than be ignored.

In the Bible, we are told not to "let the sun set" on our anger. We are told to deal with it then and there. But many of us are taught that it is okay, even admirable in a strange way, to bottle everything up and act as if nothing happened.

But people like me can't do that. And I know it's not just me.

I can't live with unresolved anger, especially toward me. I want to fix it. I need to fix it.

We weren't meant to live with unresolved anger. It destroys us from the inside, whether we know it or not. It changes our friendships, our relationships... it changes the way we see the world.

"Blessed are the peacemakers" says Matthew 5. I think God says this for a very important reason. I think He knows we live in a broken world, where we won't be able to fix everything. I think He's provided a way for us to right the wrongs in our relationships, because it is in our relationships with those around us that this world will see what this world was supposed to be in the first place. Every argument, every angry moment, is a chance for a redemption story, a small-scale Calvary.

And every angry sunset takes our eyes off of the cross.

Music and Lies

What does music do for you?

One of the worst moments for me is when I learn one of my favorite singers or bands does not write their own lyrics. I hear their voice, and something rings hollow. The songs aren't their own. They haven't lived them. They don't mean them.

Am I any different?

I lead worship, but I have a hard time singing some verses of some songs.

See, I can't sing a line that is a blatant lie. If a song says "falling on my knees in worship" but I can't fall to my knees, I don't want to sing it. In fact, this week, I will not sing that verse because I don't think it applies to what we are doing.

But those are the blatant lies. What about the sneaky lies? The ones that aren't so obvious?

The songs we sing make some pretty strong claims.

"My heart and my soul, I give You control."
"My whole life I place in Your hands."
"With everything we will shout for Your glory"
"I want to know the sound of Your heart. I want to live for You now."
"I pray to see Your love become our cause."
"All I am is Yours."

If we were to take seriously every line that was sung in every song during our services, what would our lives look like? Would they look at all the way that our lives look now?

What if, instead of just creating lists of what not to do, we started being "moved into action"? I have found in my own life, that when I sit still is when it is the hardest to still keep a "following" mindset. It is hard to follow when you are still.

I've been thinking about this for a while. What a challenge that would be... to live the words of every song sung during one service.

Because if we don't live the lyrics, isn't each song simply music and lies?

Jesus Is Your Boyfriend? A Valentines Rumination.

I remember those girls who seemed almost perfect, when I was a young Christian. I was 19, maybe 20, and they were there at my church, or in my bible studies, or hanging out with my group of friends. I admired their wit, faith, and perspective... and they were beautiful (hey, I notice that too :-P).

I, or one of my friends, would find them incredibly attractive, to the point that conversations routinely turned to dating. This is where things often got awkward.

See, at this time, and perhaps still now, it was extremely popular to say that Jesus was your boyfriend. Girls would talk about how He fulfilled their every desire, and how they couldn't even look at another guy romantically because they didn't measure up. Some guys would keep the conversation going, trying to find a way around the impenetrable Jesus wall. I usually just gave up, though.

I mean, who can compete with the Creator of the Universe? Seriously... it's one thing to look for Christ-like traits in a guy, but it's another entirely to claim our Lord and Savior as your Significant Other. I couldn't keep on trying to talk with those girls. I mean, if a girl was willing to cheat on JESUS with me... I don't think I'd want to be with her anyway.

We perpetuate this type of behavior with some of the songs we sing, though. I remember leading one that said "Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place". That line always freaked me out. There are a bunch of other songs that I'd refer to as the sloppy make-out songs for Jesus. They had the spiritual depth of an old rain puddle, but they were arranged in such a way that you felt tingles at a certain spot and felt completely spent at the end. I can't actually remember any of those songs, because their words weren't at all memorable. If I encounter any more, I'll let you know.

I don't know if there are still some out there who are "in a relationship" with Jesus, but I think we'd all be better off if we viewed God as our sustainer, provider, friend, savior, creator... heck, even husband... any of the amazing traits He explicitly holds to each of us. Taking the church's "bride of Christ" status and bringing it down to the level of a schoolgirl crush on God Incarnate is kinda gross and creepy. It is probably also quite detrimental to spiritual development.

Besides, what guy wants to compete with the Messiah for a young woman's affections? Romantic love should flow out of a healthy relationship with Christ, not stand in direct competition with Christ. You are either single or in a relationship.

Jesus is your Savior. The Church, as a whole, is His bride. He is not your boyfriend.

"God Told Me You're The One"... A Tribute.

I couldn't properly provide social commentary on the Holy Spirit of Chuck Woolery without first telling you about my friend Steve. Aside from being my first mentor, my best friend for years, and the one who got me truly started in music ministry, he was also among the most eligible bachelors among the Christian guys in my college town.

I'd probably be about 500 spots behind him, just ahead of the guy who tried to convert people in chat rooms and the guy who still had head lice.

He introduced me to the world of Christian dating, or "courting", and the social phenomenon of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", and the idea of "reaching out" (trying too hard to get a girl to like you). It is in being friends with Steve, at a pentecostal church, that I was exposed to the penultimate romantic line in Christian culture...

"God told me that you are 'the One'."

Steve had at least 5 women tell him that. Every year. Now, you've got to realize that this line is usually used by someone who is reaching well beyond their expected limits as far as dating goes. The women who would say this to Steve were usually quite... um... unattractive and/or abrasive to him. He had his perfect girl in his head (by the way, I think he's still single :-P), a blond haired, blue eyed, piano playing virgin worship leader who would come wherever He went and lead worship before he spoke.

By the way, at this time I was the one leading worship before he spoke. I suppose he imagined me as a white female on more than one occasion, then opened his eyes and saw large mexican man, and cried a little on the inside. But he was in South Texas, and he himself was a hispanic (although he was the only red headed hispanic I ever met) along with 70 percent of the population.

So these other girls never stood a chance, being compared to the perfect woman in his head. The relationships he did get into were always painful, because eventually he would conclude that they were not up to his standards, and he shouldn't "settle". The women would be absolutely crushed by this, understandably, because it was a long, slow process.

I think the reason so many Christians are perpetually single is because this idea of "The One" has become socially acceptable, and even intertwined with our faith. I once had a list, of all of the traits I wanted the woman I ended up with to have. I was going to "court" her, never take her on dates by ourselves, and never kiss her until we got engaged or married or something arbitrary like that. It is only once I began to talk to married couples that I realized how dumb all of that was. You sacrifice getting to know someone as more than a friend, learning about quirks and imperfections that will either endear them to you or completely gross you out, when you don't hang out exclusively. When you completely neglect the physical aspect of the relationship, someone will feel unwanted and distant, if not both of you (of course, boundaries are of the utmost importance). The ideas that seemed great in theory back then, just don't make sense when you really think about them.

But there will always be those who want to take it one step further, those who will kiss dating goodbye and keep looking for "The One"... until they find "The One" and get in a relationship, and are hurt when they realize that either they weren't "The One", or God changed His mind. I even have friends who are still convinced that their ex is "The One", leading to some really creepy behavior.

I was going to post humorously about this subject, but in all seriousness, don't let legalism and the arbitrary keep you from seeing someone pretty amazing right under your nose. Glorify God in your relationships, treating each other in a way that would please Him. Or else you might find yourself living at home at 40, single and still waiting for "the One".

And whatever you do, don't invoke God into your crushes, lest you hear something along these lines:

The God who told you I'm the one apparently has communication issues, because I got no such message.

That would be incredibly awkward.