Worship Wednesday – Prayer

to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” and “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion

We could easily worship someone and never have a conversation with them. It happens all the time with celebrities. But. If you worship someone – wouldn’t you WANT to have a conversation with them? My God is a God of relationships. He WANTS to have conversations with us. He doesn’t want us to be distant or intimidated by Him. And prayer is our vehicle for that conversation. Yet I often find my prayers are of the “vending machine” variety.

“Dear Lord, please help this conversation go well.”

“Dear Lord, please give me energy.”

“Dear Lord, please heal, please give, please help….”

I think God wants to hear our requests and desires but I think those requests should be tempered with a desire to want what He wants, a desire to know Him more. Too often my prayers revolve around what I want, whether that’s “interceding” for someone else or just looking to minimize – or eliminate – discomfort in my own life. But if my prayer life focused on WORSHIP, if I spent my prayer time revering and praising and thanking God, how would my perspective change?

Worship Wednesday – Distractions

I truly believe one of Satan’s most effective tools against the Jesus follower is distraction. I can attest that’s true for me.

Whenever I think of worship, Brother Lawrence comes to mind. I had really only heard of him in passing and always associated him with making the act of washing dishes an act of worship. That was about all I knew. So I downloaded “his” book “The Practice of the Presence of God” (not an affiliate link, just for reference) It’s not difficult to read. The concept is actually quite simple…and yet incredibly difficult. I have, admittedly, not read the whole  book yet. I got about halfway through and got…distracted. But what I have taken away so far is that his entire life, physically, emotionally and mentally, was centered on Christ. Every thought was submitted to Him, every action. And when he realized it wasn’t, he IMMEDIATELY returned to that practice. Nothing in the book indicates that this easy. The title even indicates it’s a practice. But I was overwhelmingly impressed with his dedication to it.

I feel like this practice of abiding (now THERE’S a word Christians have taken over) fully in God’s presence all the time is the key to true worship. We can’t “regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” if we are not focused on the object of our worship. Regard. Consider or think on, gaze at steadily in a specified fashion, pay attention or heed. How often during your daily tasks do you regard God? I know I don’t very often. I’m pretty good about it first thing in the morning, while the rest of the house snoozes and I sip my coffee with a cat in my lap. I’ve made a habit of stopping during the day to pray about specific requests that comes to my attention. Yesterday I had a moment of overwhelming gratitude for my job and I paused to thank God for it. (That’s not a daily occurrence by the way. I love my job but I’m rarely overwhelmed by that.) But while I’m planning or cooking dinner or helping my kid with his horrendous math homework or in the gym…I am not filtering those activities through conversation with God. Because those very activities can be a distraction or they can be a vehicle to worship the God that grants me the ability to perform those activities.  And right now, they are a distraction.

Right now (always), I’m easily distracted. I committed to focus more on God and immediately all these shiny thoughts hit my brain to draw me away. Even while praying this morning, my mind kept drifting to my grocery list…the grocery list that I hadn’t even considered before I started trying to pray!

I don’t have the answer or solution. But I think Brother Lawrence did. Practice. And as soon as I realize I’m not practicing, start again.

Worship Wednesday – More than Music

If you are firmly entrenched in the western Christian culture (the only one I can honestly speak on), when you hear the word “worship”, chances are you think of Hillsong United or Elevation Worship. Or maybe you think of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Or…I don’t know…Gaither? It depends on your generation but generally, when we say “worship” we mean “music”.  Our churches hire Worship Leaders specifically to stand on a stage and lead the congregation in a sing-along. Sadly church, or church like events, or concerts, are pretty much the only place where a room full of people will burst into song. Except maybe an Irish pub. I would love to start a movie theater or restaurant sing along…without getting kicked out or arrested. Alas….

Merriam-Webster defines worship as “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” and “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” I find it interesting that both of these definitions are verbs and nothing is mentioned about a group being involved. In other words, worship should be something we DO whether we are with other people or following someone on a stage or not. So yes, singing at church (or in your car) can totally be worship…if it is to honor or show reverence to God and not as habit or entertainment. But worship can encompass so. much. more. What I don’t think it is? A feeling. Music is so intricately tied to our emotions that it’s easy for me to think that I have to be “moved” to worship. But can driving to the grocery store be worship? Grocery shopping? Any of the mundane every day tasks?

I think the answer to that is “yes”. I know it is. I’ve heard it preached a million times but what does that LOOK like? I suspect it looks like inviting God into those every day moments. I suspect it looks like putting His glory at the center of everything. I suspect it means that if I sing passionately on Sunday morning because the music, not God, moves me then I’m not worshipping. But if I buy milk with a reverent mindset and aim to be a beacon of light to every person that I cross paths with, then that is worship.

Somehow I don’t feel like I’ve really clarified anything. But it gives me food for thought…and something to be aware of. I’ll report back.

 

Worship Wednesday – What is this?

What is Worship Wednesday?

That’s a very good question. And honestly? I’m not 100% certain what this means. For a few weeks now I’ve been feeling this…compulsion…to write. Write more. Write meaningfully. Write with purpose. But really? When do I have the opportunity to sit down and write? And what content do I have to offer right now? Psh.

Last Monday I started to feel a low level current of anxiety thrum through me. I felt as if I was waiting for a shoe to drop, for something to fall apart, like I was forgetting something that was going to have severe consequences. Last Wednesday it finally occurred to me to sit down and pray. Since it had taken me two days to get to the point of focused, deliberate prayer it is probably no surprise to hear God immediately saying “When is the last time you spent time with Me?” Ah. Ah-ha. I thanked Him for the insight and hurried on with everything that needed to get done. The feeling of doom was mostly gone but I still scurried about that evening with a slight nagging sensation that something was missing. (I know. I KNOW.)

Last Thursday we had a (three hour) division meeting at work. And it was focused on….the daily practice of prayer. And writing.

I am not even kidding. Also, I am a little dense and apparently needed to be trapped in a room for three hours to “get it”.

I returned to my desk and downloaded an app for “guided” prayer/praying through Scripture two-three times a day. And then I honestly asked God what this writing piece was supposed to look like. And the phrase that came to mind was “Worship Wednesday”.

So here we are. For now I will be writing about what worship is, and specifically, what it looks like in my life. I have no idea how that will play out. But I guess God does.

 

 

You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit

I have never had reason to describe myself as a “morning person”. I have re-arranged my schedule at various times of my life (including this one) to be up early but it’s never been my natural rhythm. So when my wide awake brain popped my eyes open at 4:30am (30 mins before my alarm), I jokingly thought to myself “Well…this is an act of God.” However, when I sat down with my Bible app for an extra half hour and “randomly” stumbled upon a verse that I’ve read a million times but suddenly jumped out at me with different implications that spoke directly to something that has been nagging in the back of my mind for a while now, that thought suddenly didn’t seem so much like a joke.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37:4 NLT

I had been wrestling a bit with this concept that God should be enough, that my joy and contentment should come from my relationship with Him, that if I never board another airplane or my body never cooperates again, I can be okay – even happy – in those circumstances. Except I wasn’t. I’m not.  I want lots of travel and supernatural healing, just to name a couple of things. And doesn’t the Bible say right there in Psalms that I can have what I want? I’m not sure how to “delight in the Lord”. Some days I “get it” better than others and it’s something I pray for daily but some days, delight is not the word I would use.

But I realized that morning that the verse isn’t saying I can get whatever I want. It’s saying if my focus is on my relationship with Jesus, He will give me the actual desires. Not what I think I want – He will actually give me the desires that line up with Him.

Now I’ve HEARD that general concept before. I’ve heard it preached from the stage and in various podcasts and in this devotion and that study and blah blah blah. But for some reason, it made sense this time. And there was a bit of a relief in realizing that it’s okay to “give up” a dream or desire. I don’t have to keep striving for something just because I “always have” or it’s “my thing”. God might, quite literally, be removing a dream or desire from my life and replacing it with something else. And that’s okay. It’s good.

That being said – I still wouldn’t mind a plane ticket and supernatural healing.

Let it Go! Let it Go!

Last year “on this day” (such a fun feature!) I posted on Facebook: NineTEEN days from now I’ll be on a plane to the Philippines! We’re in the teens people!

After that last trip, I finally admitted that my heart and passion is really with the people and ministries in Navotas. I still LOVE my sisters in the Wipe Every Tear safe houses and the ones that haven’t made that choice. My thoughts, feelings and opinion of the Wipe Every Tear organization has not changed. But I’ve always been drawn to hungry/homeless ministries. Drop that in the middle of Manila (figuratively speaking) and I’m smitten.

Tomorrow, at 5:00am, a team from World Family Missions start their first flight to Manila. The leader, a wonderful woman by the name of Sarah, mentioned the possibility of this trip to me back in March. And I was certain – CERTAIN – I would be on that plane. No doubt in my mind. I was SO sure of this that I basically informed my husband instead of asking his input and I didn’t even really pray about it…unless you count telling God all about my plans.

Obviously there was a different future in store for me and I will NOT be on that plane tomorrow. I’ve cried…buckets. I’ve been mad. But in the end, God always puts together the perfect team. As much as the “Mama Rhoni” side on me wanted to be on the plane to help a pregnant leader with her toddler, God had other people – the perfect people – in mind for support. As much as I wanted to snuggle a particular little girl and her sisters in Navotas, there are other people that God wants there. I will be praying for this group, but they are not “my” team. (But I’ll probably still cry when I see updates and pictures or even when I just think about them. So apologies to everyone who crosses my soggy path over the next week or so.)

I am reading a book by Shauna Niequist titled “Present over Perfect”. Early in the book it asked the question I’ve often seen in various forms- if you had a bottomless bank account and empty calendar, what would you do. The answer is supposed to highlight your passion. My answer rang through my mind almost before I finished reading the line. Travel. Duh. But a few pages later, she asks “What are you unwilling to let go of?” That answer rang clearly and just as immediately…Nothing! But as I tried to read on, my eyes kept drifting back to that question. It continued to nag at me until I stopped to mull over it for awhile. Quietly the real answer rose to the surface….travel. And my health.

I’m not sure if I can fully explain this recognition but I’ll try. I still cling with an iron grip to the idea of being my version of healthy. In the depths of my being, I have this notion that if I just check all the boxes and follow all the rules, I can control how my body will respond. That theory has been debunked more than once and yet, still I clutch that belief. Letting go does not equal a disregard for all healthy practices. It simply means doing what I’m supposed to do, what I can do without an expectation of results.

The travel piece is easier. As soon as I realized I really was NOT going to be able to go on this trip, I immediately started thinking about and saving for the NEXT possibility. I never asked God if that is an option. I just assumed I would return. I’ve always had the intense desire to travel. That’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. But once upon a time, I was in a place where I balanced that desire with the desire to be obedient to where God called me. And as I told Sarah the other day “I think that the desire to go back <to the Philippines> is starting to supplant the desire to be obedient.” My first step was donating money I planned to save for my own trip. That’s not a humble brag on generosity. My heart was not fully happy with the decision and I most certainly did not feel generous. I needed a physical action to go along with the emotional response. I could not mentally “let go” without mirroring that physically.

This whole “letting go” thing is not a one and done act. I don’t know exactly what that process will look like but I have a sneaking suspicion it involves re-learning how to truly “be still”. That, however, is another post in itself. Because “still” is not the most accurate descriptor for me. And neither is laconic.

Thanksgiving?

I think I’ve mentioned this before but I live a charmed life. Seriously. But I don’t participate in “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or anything like that because history shows, if I commit to do something like that, I am less likely to do anything even slightly resembling my commitment. I will take pictures daily and be aware of beautiful, wonderful moments in my life…but the moment I sign up for “100 Happy Days” or whatever the flip it’s called…pft. Pictures? I have a camera?

I have been slowly becoming more aware of moments of thankfulness and more conscious of actually including God in those moments with quick prayer of thanks instead of fleeting thoughts of contentment. But recently I’ve found this dangerous irritating little voice whispering in the back of my head.

Me: “Gorgeous sunrise. Thank you for a beautiful start to this clear day. I love driving in clear weather.”

Dangerous whisper: “Yeah…but would you still have a thankful heart if there was a foot of snow on the ground and nothing but gray clouds overhead?”

Me: “I love my home so much. Thank you for providing this beautiful shelter and the opportunity to indulge in Thanksgiving cooking!”

Dangerous whisper: “What if you were spending Thanksgiving in a hospital? Or a homeless shelter? What would your attitude be like, your prayers sound like?”

This voice is dangerous because it’s prompting me to start adding a layer to my conversations with God. It’s causing me to start asking, not for more moments of contentment, but a heart and spirit that is prepared to be thankful and content in situations that aren’t beautiful, warm & cozy.

20151124_193906I am still incredibly grateful for the plethora of warm fuzzy moments that I’m experiencing. I mean seriously – this was my view while baking pies this week. A cat napping near a fireplace…it doesn’t get more warm & fuzzy than that. At the same time, I am aware that my comfort isn’t what is important…and it’s definitely not guaranteed. Would I still maintain a grateful heart and deep rooted joy even in the midst of hard times?