Tag Archives: Singing

“HELLO!?? Yo! Tom!! I’m RIGHT HERE!!”

“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
2 Chronicles 6:18 (NIV)

On Saturday morning I woke up to find that Wendy had already gotten out of bed. In our house, this is a rare occurrence. 99.9% of mornings I am the first one out of bed. I got up and found her on the couch in the living room, writing in her journal.

There was nothing wrong, she explained. She had woken up and, in her spirit, heard God’s Spirit inviting her to spend some time together. So, she grabbed her journal and headed out in the quiet for a conversation.

For anyone who is not an experienced follower of Jesus, this might sound totally weird. One of the things that Jesus promised to His followers, however, was that He would send His Spirit (whom we refer to as Holy Spirit) to indwell those who believe. Jesus said that God’s Spirit “lives with you, and will be in you.” Once I learned to be in relationship with God in me, then experiences like Wendy had on Saturday morning aren’t that strange. I also have mornings when I wake and hear God’s Spirit whispering to my Spirit. “Grab your journal and make some coffee. Let’s spend some time together.”

This is one of the radical paradigm changes that Jesus ushered in through His death and resurrection. In sending Holy Spirit to indwell all of those who believe and follow, God is no longer “out there” or “up in heaven” but right here, right now, inside of me, and one with my spirit.

In today’s chapter, Solomon prays at the dedication of the Temple he built for God. Solomon’s Temple was dubbed by historians as of the “Wonders of the Ancient World.” The dedication of the Temple was a big deal and the Chronicler records Solomon’s dedication prayer. Time and time again in the prayer Solomon repeats the phrase “hear from heaven.” The paradigm is that God is “out there” and the plea is that God might incline His ear to hear. Yet, even Solomon’s father David wrote in the lyrics of one of his psalms “Where can I go from your presence?” and then described how no matter where David went, God was already there. So, if God is everywhere, then why would He have to “hear from heaven?” Why can’t God just “hear from here?”

Lately I’ve been noticing how even in my local gathering of Jesus followers we say we believe in the indwelling of God’s Spirit and we say we believe in what theologians refer to as God’s “omnipresence” (presence everywhere), but almost every week when we gather to worship the things we pray and the things we sing communicate the opposite. We ask for God to “be with us” even though Jesus clearly told us He would never leave us. So if He never leaves us, why do we need to ask Him to join us? If we believe Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer then why do we sing Come, Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Spirit right here, right now, indwelling us and connecting us?

I’m imagining a SNL like sketch comedy where I’m praying on Sunday morning “God, bless us with your presence,” while God stands right next to me rolling His eyes saying “Yeah, I’m right here. Remember?” As if not hearing God I continue my prayers. I beseech God “please be with me” and sing my pleas for His presence. God gets more and more sarcastic, waving His arms and shouting “HELLOOO!?? Yo! Tom?! Dude, I’M RIGHT HERE!!”

I know may be splitting semantic hairs. I have been, however, truly reconsidering and exploring this whole notion of God’s presence. I’m coming to the conclusion that what needs to change is not God’s location. If I truly believe what I say I believe, then God does not need to “hear from heaven” and move His presence from point A (heaven) to point B (where I am). What needs to change is my acknowledgement and awareness of my reality. What needs to happen is that my every day, every moment reality needs to match up to what I say I believe.

Chapter-a-Day Ezra 3

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Image by Kurt Christensen via Flickr

All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.  Ezra 3:11-13 (MSG)

As I read about the loud, demonstrative worship of the Israelites in today’s chapter, I asked myself when I’d felt such a rush of emotion that I felt I had to scream. Just recently I got the call that my sister’s cancer was in remission and her PET scan came back clear. That created an instant shout of joy from the depths of my soul. Sports probably creates that rush of emotions as much as any other common human experience. I remember the miracle on ice in 1980 and watching the gold medal ice hockey game with my dad. It was perhaps the only hockey game I’ve watched in its entirety in my life, but I remember screaming for joy and jumping up and down when the United States won.

From the intensly personal issues of life and death (a family member with cancer) to the things that are trivial in the grand scheme of life (a hockey game), we can feel things with such intensity that we have to let it out. I wonder why it is that over the centuries we’ve stuffed the most critical and eternal spiritual matters into a box of social propriety.

For much of my faith journey I would describe my weekly public worship experience as exactly what I was taught as a child it should be: proper, cerebral and emotionless. Then, about ten years ago or so, God started a work in me. It started with tears. Each week I found it more and more impossible to stop the tears from pouring out of me during worship. Then came singing. Not just the stand there and mumble along singing, but the “sing it at the top of your lungs with your whole heart because you want God to hear your voice all the way up in the throne room of heaven” kind of singing.

Not every worship experience is intensely emotional, but I’ve learned over time that authentic worship of God requires all of my being. Not just my posterior in the pew and mental engagement, but my entire body, my spirit, my mind, my emotions and my voice. The more I fully engage in worship, the more meaningful it becomes to my daily journey.

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