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Lest anyone misread, I want to clarify:

I wrote the last post at the end of a long day, but I was inspired to get something down. When I came back this morning and re-read it, I was a little shocked. Here is what I did not intend.

I did not intend to imply that I am or ever was some sort of super-pastor. Nor did I intend to imply that God doesn’t care when we are tired, hurt, or less than whole physically or emotionally. Oh my sweet Lord, that is so not the case!

What I hoped to say, and failed, was that I don’t have to “praise God with my whole heart” as the song says. He is just as willing to accept the praise of my un-whole heart.

It is also important to me to note that most of those examples represented times when I did not feel very worshipful. I often had a very bad attitude about having to go to work to do this job to which I was called. The beauty of worship, though, is that it transcends me. God almost always used us most powerfully in corporate worship when we were sniping at each other behind the scenes, playing the music poorly, making mistakes in presentation like the wrong slides with a song, or so tired or sore that we were practically phoning it in.

Every time that happened, I was humbled. The lesson I learned, and the one I wanted to communicate on Monday, was that I could still worship and lead at worship when I wasn’t at my best. I didn’t have to wait until I felt like it. God feels like it all the time, and that’s more than enough for me.

Tired praise

Probably the most important lesson I have learned as a worship leader is that I do not have to “be ready” to worship. When I apprenticed at Hope Church, I often drove over the mountain at 5 am. When I worked at Center City, there was one summer when I was so sick, I didn’t get out of bed for a month for ANYTHING–but I went in to lead worship every Sunday. When I was at The Journey, I propped my surgery-booted foot on a chair and led from a stool.

God is ready for you no matter where you are emotionally, physically. I just drove in from Las Vegas (where I have been without wireless access for nearly a week) and I really wanted to just go to bed and save my next post for tomorrow. But even when I am tired, I can find something that is praiseworthy to mention.

Las Vegas is a nasty place, and about three hours into our drive away from there this morning we finally started seeing some beautiful red rocks and living cactus. My driving buddy and I sang along with Celine Dion at the top of our lungs for miles on end. At sunset, we were near Grants, New Mexico, and we watched the changing colors in our rearview as well as on the mesas ahead of us, while the sun filtered through the clouds in a huge spray of light across the interstate.

How can I have a fun day with a good friend and see so much beauty and arrive safe at home and not take twenty minutes to post a blog that gives some praise to the day’s creator?

Every breath of this fresh, cigarette-free air is heavenly. The thought of sleeping in my own bed causes a warm-snuggly visceral reaction! And my sweet pup was just wiggling with joy when I came in the door. Life is good.

Tired body, check. Good time with God today, check. I can recognize the song of my heart even as my eyelids droop and my fingers begin to mislead me on the keyboard. Sweetest of dreams.

Bringing Art to the Church

So the conversation after the MONOTATION workshop (check out the cool new pix being added every day) was whether art could be better incorporated into a worship service and if so, how. I have lots of ideas on this topic beginning with the resounding “Yes, art can be incorporated.” As to the ‘how,’ well, it’s a process.

I don’t really want to dwell on the process, even though I have had years to think about and practice it. What I want to do is offer reflections on every day worship, provide some teaching opportunities, and maybe create a library of practical ideas that can be implemented in services or cohort meetings or gatherings or conferences with a minimal amount of effort. I understand how important that is–simplicity of ideas always makes them easier to implement. And a busy worship leader might want to do more than music, but where will the time come from? As my good friend and mentor Ken Green says, “Music isn’t magic.”

Instead of trying to redesign worship every week or squeeze something in to an event that might not otherwise fit, a first step might be to find ways to experience other art forms in our own lives. By other, I mean “other than music.” We can tend to focus so much energy on our music that we forget that we love to visit museums or pull out our cameras.

This is why I took on hosting a MONOTATION workshop. I’m no photographer (just take a look at the two sad little pictures I’ve posted on the community site and you’ll agree!). But getting out of the house with my camera and looking at the world around me with a different perspective was immensely rewarding.

So for this week I challenged myself with taking some pictures, and next week maybe I will visit the Episcopal church again to soak in the liturgy (which is very artistic to my mind) and perhaps the week after that I will LISTEN to carolers sing (instead of insisting on being a caroler myself). I want to write, I want to paint, I want to create a computer game. And if I can’t be a part of the creation of some new art, then I should be still and allow someone else’s art to inspire and uplift me.

And in that activity or passivity, I will look for the worship opportunities that are all around me.

(Aside: I hosted a simulcast of Spencer Burke’s MONOTATION Creative Workshop in Albuquerque yesterday. The experience has left me wanting to once again embark on this thought exercise we call blogging. I hope, with help, to make this a useful site.)

When I was a kid, I was so mentally quick I was always frustrated with other people. Somehow I became obsessed with efficiency, and my mother would say, “You can’t be impatient with people. You have to give people a little grace.” For my 8th birthday, one of my presents was a button that read “God give me patience – RIGHT NOW!”

Well, life has a funny way of teaching us patience and that story is not going to take up space in this blog. But here I am more than 30 years later realizing, as I often begrudgingly do, that my mother was right about something.

Things don’t always work. Yesterday’s workshop was a study in “things not working.” I couldn’t find a hotspot, Spencer couldn’t find a hotspot, one of the video cameras’ batteries started dying, I didn’t receive the text message from my group telling me they were running late…and yet. And yet, when we got the web cast going, it was a very fun experience. When I went out alone with my camera, I had a wonderfully worshipful experience in spite of my inability to take a good picture. When I finally connected, after 12, with the folks who I was supposed to meet at 11, they extended a great deal of grace to me.

It is in both the good and the bad that we worship. It’s not a schedule on the church’s bulletin, nor is it music, nor does it relate to our physical location in a church building. It’s the moment when, walking through Old Town plaza I hear a joyful laugh and know that laugh belongs to someone I’m meeting, even though I’ve never met that person before. It’s getting to the hamburger joint and realizing they don’t take plastic just to have the youngest and quietest member of our group offer to pay for us all. Worship is the woman sitting in the park meditating, and the kids playing basketball, and the elderly woman whose car is leaking anti-freeze.

Worship is opportunity. It is active, participatory, every-day life. It can happen in the midst of complete silence, and in the throes of utter chaos. All we have to do is recognize the opportunity when we see it.

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