I grew up in a house spilling with music. My dad and brother were trumpet players. My mom played guitar and always sang in the church choir. My brother was the star in lots of school musicals and I devoted years to learning to play the piano. That love for music has also become contagious for my three daughters.
Now I rush to church on Sundays mainly so I can get there in time for the worship music. The strings, the keys, and the voices have a way of ushering me to the throne like nothing else in my week.
For the month of March, I decided to focus on worship as a spiritual discipline.
In college, I was a part of two distinctly different choirs. One was a women’s choir where we spent hours reading sheet music, practicing parts, and listening to the enunciation of each word in romantic languages. My part was only as important as blending my voice with the other women. The other choir I joined was the Gospel choir. Our director wanted us to sing loud and with feeling. My classically-trained voice struggled to free itself, to take flight. I learned to love the energy, the mix of music and the new friends from different backgrounds who gathered to sing. These two choirs taught me to embrace different styles of worship.
The strings, the keys, and the voices have a way of ushering me to the throne like nothing else in my week.
I believe worship can and should be experienced in a variety of ways. I have heard the most amazing ensembles lift their voices a cappella in Haiti. I have worshipped with indigenous friends in the hills of Guatemala using handmade instruments. I have sat on the front row at concerts, raising my hands in praise with thousands of others beneath the lights. I can’t wait to get to heaven one day and experience the diversity of worship God has created playing out all in one place.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites made worship a part of their celebrations and daily rhythm. After passing through the Red Sea, Aaron’s sister Miriam took a timbrel and led the women in song and dance to praise God for rescuing them (Exodus 15: 19-21). David showed how music has the power to speak peace and comfort when he played his lyre over a troubled Saul and the evil spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:23). After the rebuilding of the temple in the book of Ezra, the people took trumpets and cymbals and offered thanksgiving to God as King David prescribed (Ezra 3:10-11). All these serve as examples of how music was used to worship and thank God, and remember His faithfulness.
Changing our posture in everyday tasksWorship is an opportunity to make our day, our life into a prayer. What I discovered this month is that worship is not limited to formal choirs and Sunday singing. In fact, worship is so much more than music. Worship involves changing our posture to one of kneeling before and pointing toward God in everything we do. As I went through this month I continued to ask myself this question: How can I use my lips and my life to bring God glory?
This question challenged me to find ways to worship even while doing everyday tasks. I can worship Him while taxi driving my kids to school and activities. I can worship Him while I fold laundry. I can worship Him while I cook dinner. I challenged myself to enter into a posture of worship even while doing my least favorite household task: washing dishes. Those who know me well know I despise dishes. As I was growing up it was a rule in my house that if you cooked the meal, you didn’t have to do the dishes. You better believe I learned how to cook.
Ask my former roommates and they will tell you great horror stories about how I used to leave dirty dishes in the sink and the green stuff started to grow. Today, I don’t have the option of leaving the dishes for long. We all know what happens. They stink. I have to walk through the kitchen every time I leave the house. If I leave the dishes, I smell the dishes. Often. I decided to redefine washing dishes as a time of worship. I made myself a playlist of songs on Spotify, and I started to scrub. What I discovered is there is something therapeutic about washing the grime off pots and scrubbing residue off silverware. This became my time to talk to God. I sang praises and thanks to Him with soap and water.
I know that in the same way I have to attend to the dirty dishes, I also have to be intentional about carving out time to worship. I can leave God alone for a few days but after a while my attitude starts to stink. That space between my shoulder blades begins to pull tight when I start running through my to-do list. I have less patience for dealing with my kids. When I give myself space and time to worship, I worry less about my present and my future; my eyes and heart are fixed on Him.
Praising Him in the stormThis past year my family has experienced much suffering and tragedy. When my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer in May, I had to rethink the purpose of worship. I was reminded again and again that God calls us to worship especially in our suffering and grief. This is the way we enter into His Presence. I am challenged by Job’s response to suffering. As the story reads in Job 1: 13-19, he loses all his oxen, donkeys, sheep, servants, camels, and then a mighty wind sweeps over his home and all his sons and daughters are killed. Job tears his robe in grief but then he immediately falls to the ground in worship: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:20). This shows me that one way to endure the pain and hard circumstances is to get into a posture of praise.
I cared for my husband for months as the cancer spread throughout his body and he physically endured much pain. Watching him suffer felt like torture to me. The only thing that brought me out of despair in that season, and now while my girls and I grieve the loss of him, is to worship. I have to choose to change my posture to worship in practical ways. I keep a running list of gifts as a way to thank God for the little graces He gives me on the journey, and to trace the glimpses of His glory. I also have learned to seize every moment I can to sing to Him. Whether in the kitchen or the carpool lane, you will find me singing. This is the way I preach truth to myself. This is the way I spend time with my Maker.
Worship involves changing our posture to one of kneeling before and pointing toward God in everything we do.
It’s Friday night and all I can think about is getting in the kitchen to scrub the pots. My week has been long and my shoulders grow weary, but I am actually looking forward to my time of worship with dishcloth in hand. It’s a miracle in me, a discipline now.
Worship has truly changed my heart.
**The original version of this article was published at Self Talk the Gospel.