Thursday, February 28, 2008

Memorable Worship

I would be interested in hearing from readers about the most meaningful worship experience they remember. It doesn't necessarily have to have occurred in church. This needn't be anything long (unless you feel like being very detailed), but I would be curious to know what made the experience so powerful for you.

Personally, I can think of several, but I'll limit my comments to this one:

Fifteen years ago I was asked to sing a solo for our Easter service. I decided to sing "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" from Handel's Messiah. I had several week's advance notice,and I worked very hard to prepare this piece.

As I was working on it, my Grandmother found out that her cancer, which had been in remission, had returned for the third time. She was 83 years old, and she just said "This is what is going to get me, and I don't want to spend my last days feeling rotten from the treatments." So she just decided to go unmedicated and take things as they came. And, actually, she felt pretty good for some months, so she had that time to enjoy her life and her family.

Grandma had been a very active person, and, like me, a locally active singer. She wasn't really singing anymore, but she was always very encouraging to me about my singing.

Anyway, the day came for me to sing. As I started the piece, I looked out into the congregation and saw that my grandmother was staring at me intently. I can't quite describe the look on her face; but somehow I felt that the words of that song were a connection between us.
"I know that my Redeemer liveth...And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God!" There was no question that I sang that statement of faith the best I have ever sung. I sang it for her. I knew that that opportunity was engineered for me by the Holy Spirit, to encourage my grandmother, and receive encouragement for myself. Though I had believed those words intellectually for a long time, for the first time I internalised them. I don't think I have ever feared death since.

What about you? When have you really connected with God in worship?


Michelle said...

Hi Joyce! It took me a few minutes to read all of the entries I've missed, but I'm caught up now!

Matt let me see pictures of your graddaughter, and she is absolutely adorable.

You're interested in memorable worship experiences, eh? Well, I have two:

1. One was in your son's living room for Bible study in 2006. We were all praising God and praying, and all of a sudden I got hot. I was so embarrassed because I was sweating uncontrollably, even though it wasn't very warm outside. Then the Lord shared some visions with me and led me to pray for a young lady who needed it. Although I didn't know her well at the time, everything I prayed was incredibly detailed and right on point. God is cool like that; he uses folks to speak exactly what we need to hear when we need to hear it.

2. The most powerful praise and worship experience I've ever had in church happened in 2004. My husband tired of being my spouse and a father, so he left us in February of that year. I was ashamed that everyone knew he didn't want me anymore. To say that I was heartbroken doesn't quite seem to capture the devastation I felt. My pastor at the time asked, "Does anybody have a testimony?" Well, I didn't think I could utter a word without bursting into tears, but I had a song in my heart and asked if I could "play" my testimony instead. As soon as I hit the first note on the piano, I knew I had to sing too. "I will sing alleluia / I will sing, O Lord / I will sing alleluia, O Lord! / For you are the source of my supply / Lord, I praise and I lift you high / I will sing alleluia, O Lord!" It was worship, not a performance, and God began a healing process in me that night that has ultimately led to where I am today. I sang despite my tears, and although my voice was quivering, I think He liked it.

I still have some "owies" (as Janel calls them), but I'm much better than I used to be. My Mom and Matt have both mentioned that I've "mellowed" over the last year, and I give God credit for that.

I have learned to worship Him even when I didn't think I could lift my head, and in the process the Lord has blessed me. Sometimes the best worship happens when we're at our lowest points.

One area that needs improvement, though, is how often I make my private time with God a priority. Yes, I read my Bible and pray, but I used to sing to God every morning. Now, I am a bit sleep-deprived due to having several jobs, but I am going to try harder to start every day with the Lord.

Thank you, my dear sister in Christ, for giving me such an awesome reason to reflect upon the goodness of the Lord!

May God bless you and keep you always. I hope something I've shared has blessed you. Love, Michelle Stoutamire

Joyce said...

Michelle thank you so much for sharing such personal stories. but I guess they would HAVE to be personal, if they were really worship! The Lord loves to meet us exactly where we are.

CYNDY said...

The first time I really felt God's unmistakable presence I was in high school. It made a teenage girl speechless, which was no small feat! I was in a traveling choir that went to different churches all over the US and we were allowed the priviledge to sing for 3000 church musicians at a conference in Ridgecrest, NC. We were scared because it was the biggest audience we had ever seen from that side of the stage and they would without a doubt know if we monked up. Long story short, God took hold of our voices and used us as an instrument of his glory in electric fashion. We all were blown away that we seemed to sing every note right, but we all knew with no doubts that it wasn't our talent, but God's desire to make himself known. By the last song most of us were in tears at the thought that not only was God there with us in a real way, he used us for his purposes! Backstage afterwards, it was almost silent. I wasn't the only teenager speechless after facing just how amazing God is!

C. Marie Byars said...

Hi, Joyce. Glad you visited. You might acutally prefer my other blog on Christian Nature Poetry.

A very meaningful worship experience lately was my mom's funeral. I actually played the music & sang part of "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" from Handel's Messiah. My husband gave a wonderful sermon. The readings all reflected strongly the (eventual) resurrection of the body---too many modern Christians think you just shed the body & live as a spirit forver. And 2 of my brothers and me read meaningful things: one read the Beatitudes; I read John Donne's "Death Be No Proud", and another read his own composition.

Joyce said...

C. Marie Byars-Thanks for your post! Isn't it amazing that praising during a time of grief can become so healing? I guess it's a good example of "acting in the opposite spirit". He turns our mourning into dancing.

And Cyndy! Sometimes it's been like this on Sundays in our choir, but I guess if it happened EVERY week we'd lose perspective. But the special times sure are special.

Shannon Hodgins said...

Hi Joyce,

Thanks for stopping by! We go to music class at our church every Tuesday, and it's one of Lio's fav things to do. He loves "Carolers." They do a session with Jan, the music leader and learn wonderful songs and then have a puppet show, craft, and lesson. Snacks always rock his world too......he actually gets to eat a treat as Mama is pretty strict on that.

Nice to "blog" meet you! Shannon

Joyce said...

Oh, I want to go to "Carolers"! Why don't grownups get snacks and puppets at choir practice? I'll have to see if we can do something about that!

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

I'm not sure if this counts as worship, but I was lucky enough to see Beethoven's Requiem Mass peformed live at a local symphony. Beautiful! It was one of my first dates with my husband, too, so it holds many warm memories.

Joyce said...

I think if hearing the Requiem made you exalt God in your heart, then it was worship. And having a great guy to share that with wouldn't be a bad thing either!