Monday, January 21, 2013

What to Say?

1.  I'm second-guessing my idea of journaling my thoughts through Psalm 119 here on my blog.  I'm still plugging away at Psalm 119.   Sometimes I come away refreshed with a lot of insight.  Other times I feel like I'm just doing the basics...reading it, writing it, jotting down a few thoughts.  Passion for God's Word doesn't always come in a rush.  Sometimes it takes patience, perseverance, and endurance.  I'm believing, though, that if I'm faithful in reading & studying His Word, He'll be faithful in revealing Himself.

    The reason I'm not sure I'll journal everything here is that I'm finding as I'm studying the Psalm I find myself thinking about what I can share with you all here instead of concentrating what God is saying to me.  So, I'll continue with my pen & paper journal and I'll share updates on here as I feel led & directed by God.

2.  I've had thoughts about freedom in worship just about every Sunday at church.  John & I are part of a non-denominational church that could be described as charismatic.  I'm not sure what your perception of a charismatic is, because I know mine was different at one point in time.  But, basically, in our church you would see a lot of hand raising, clapping, some dancing.  There's even a lady who sometimes gets out her colorful large flags & banners and waves them during worship music.  At one point in time I would have been distracted by all this because it was so far out of my comfort zone.

I grew up in a Brethren in Christ church which, for those of you who don't know, is part of the same Anabaptist tradition as the Mennonites, Amish, & Church of the Brethren.  There are many different 'levels' of conservatism within each of these churches.  And, while our church did not require women to cover their heads or wear a certain form of dress, values like modesty, pacifism, hard work, and earnestly following God's commands were stressed.

The Holy Spirit was rarely discussed.  Of course he was honored as part of the Trinity.  But, 'decorum' during worship was paramount.  Speaking in tongues (something I still struggle to understand), prophesy, freedom in worship were all frowned upon and discussed only as part of church history as it was described in the book of Acts.  As far as I understood, all those things began & ended there.  We sang from hymnals (something I do treasure & I miss in today's contemporary services.  I'm a little sad that it's been completely set aside).  We sometimes had 'special music' from the choir or from Annette Schock, a woman from our congregation who had professional vocal training.  Clapping politely (and reservedly) after one of these special music times was about as spontaneous as it got.

I don't regret the type of worship services I was raised in.  In fact I sometimes I miss the reverence of it.  I miss the sound of the congregation's voices rising as one with only a piano or organ to accompany them (not drowning them out as our worship bands do).  And, I miss those hymns.

But, I also connect deeply with God in the type of worship we engage in today.  The music, the worship band...they do speak to my soul.  And,  I can feel God's presence moving & working.  But, because of the view I grew up with that 'charismatism' was dangerous, I don't often fully engage in our worship time.  One of two things happen.  I am held back by cynicism or I am held back by fear.

The cynic in me sometimes stands there watching those around me who so easily raise their hands in worship, who so freely dance before God.  And, I wonder if they are for real.  There.  I said it.  I wonder if  what they are outwardly expressing is truly what they are experiencing inside.  Or is it habit for them just as sitting quietly during worship was habit for me?  Sometimes when I see young children shadowing what their parents are doing in worship it raises that question even more for me.  Is it just something learned, something 'cultural' if you will?  Usually around this point I'm convicted in this...It's not for me to determine if it's heartfelt or not.  That's between them & God.  What is important is if I am responding to God as He is calling me to.

And, that's where fear comes in.  Showing that I am moved by His Spirit feels so intimate, so personal.  Even though I'm surrounded by many others who are raising their hands, I can't help but wonder what others will think of me.  Will they think I'm more spiritual than I really am?  What will my husband and children think?  If I raise my hands in worship after a week of being cranky & easily irritated, will I appear to be a hypocrite?

There are times that my hands long to be lifted up in worship, in surrender to God, but they are weighted down by these fears....and by years of training that worship is to be 'calm'.

I'm not really sure that I have a resolution to all this.  It's something I struggle with each week at church.  The interesting thing I should note as well is that I love expressing myself through movement.  Back in my darker years of my 20's when I was living in rebellion, part of my regular week involved going out to the clubs to dance 2 or 3 times a week. Music moved me.  Music worked deeply in me.  Of course, the music I listened to at that time was far from uplifting or sacred.

Another thing is, during my dark years, I could still feel God calling me to Him.  One of the places I used to go each summer was Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois.  This was a Christian festival sponsored by JPUSA (Jesus People USA...based out of Chicago).  This was definitely a more charismatic event and featured the less mainstream, more alternative Christian bands.  I remember feeling very free to raise my hands in worship while there.  Of course, I was surrounded by strangers & the event took place outside (not inside a church building).

Anyway, I guess I'm just wondering if any of you have struggled with the question of freedom in worship yourself and what freedom in worship means to you.  I suppose in the long run this is an area that God will continue to speak to me & I need to turn to him for His leading.


  1. I could have written almost every single word here, except that we're Catholic. But that same level of reserved/planned worship that's very austere and I have SUCH a hard time with freedom in worship. I always think that it must just be me, but I feel so uncomfortable in a worship situation that doesn't tell me exactly what I need to do and when because of the years of being told what to do and when. I think it's incredible and I admire those who are able to outwardly express their faith so freely and I realize that it's my own personal issues with expressing something, just like you said, so personal and intimate in a public setting. Not really helping with any resolve here for you, but I can absolutely commiserate that I think it's beautiful and amazing to see other who are able to so freely express being moved by the Holy Spirit and that I struggle a lot to do the same myself.

  2. Boy Karen, I too feel like I could have written this post. I was raised Catholic but have loved being part of our non-denominational church for the last ten years or so. I too struggle with the hand raising. There are times I feel lead to...but just can't do it. And then I feel distracted during the service with my own others think I am not as spiritual? Am I? It just doesn't feel natural to me. My husband was raised Lutheran and so he gets where I'm coming from...but, I'm so glad to read your post and know I'm not alone in this!


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