I am a swayer. Find me in the back of the room and there I’ll be — swaying, baby on hip, arms in the air, chin lifted to the heavens. I haven’t always been like this – a woman recklessly abandoned in worship. I feared man and what he might say to me. But in the depths of those fears I forgot who I was – a creature who deeply loved music and felt the notes in my blood. A woman made to worship God unhindered. In this Women in the Word piece, spend a few moments with my friend, Lindsey Carlson, as she talks worship. These pieces are meant to strip away the facades of following our living Jesus and talk about how we are constantly stepping into His ways. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. But I especially can’t wait to know how you’re worshipping.

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For as long as I can remember, music has been a part of my life. Music played a major role in my parents’ and grandparents’ lives, and the tradition carried through to my siblings and me. I sang in the school and church choirs and played the clarinet in band and orchestra. I had a bubble gum pink boom box (raise your hand if you know what a boom box is!) and matching alarm clock. Said boom box is now, apparently, vintage.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

I remember many a Sunday spent listening to the Billboard Top 40 count down, eagerly awaiting Casey Kasem’s announcement of that week’s number one song. There is a song associated with most every event in my life: School dances, first love, summer nights with friends, our wedding, memories of loved ones who have passed away, the birth of each of our children…you get the picture. To this day, I can be found belting out 80’s melodies on almost any car trip, which my family tolerates graciously. Pandora is my music bestie. Music can make a bad day better, and song lyrics seem to do an amazing job putting my innermost feelings into words.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

{Photo credit: Christian Widell

Unsplash}[/caption]I grew up in a beautiful Lutheran church. Worship involved singing hymns directly out of the hymnal (“and now, please turn to page 67 and join us in singing…”). Often, I shared a hymnal with one of my family members. As I reflect on that experience now, I realized that I often focused more on singing the right notes so as not to offend my hymnal-mate rather than focusing on the words or meaning of the words we were singing. Worship was done a certain way; You wouldn’t dare raise your hands, sway, or deviate from the printed notes. There is certainly connection in this form of worship for some. For me, it was stifled.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Enter college. I began to attend praise and worship. There were instruments like guitars and the piano (And gasp! Maybe even drums!), with vocalists leading the songs. It was a whole new way to connect with the Lord. Melodies were more song-like, words were more impactful, and people were free to move in the way the Spirit led them. It was transformational for me and quickly became one of the most meaningful ways I connect with the Lord.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre.

Since college, worship through music has become a huge part of my life. I cried happy tears through almost every service in the first year that we found a church whose worship met me right where I was at in my journey with the Lord. I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me through the words of particular songs (literally…I get goosebumps and feel the Spirit wash over me. Incredible!). I began to feel the freedom to move, close my eyes, or even raise my hands in response to the Spirit’s leading.

Praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe.

{Photo credit: Unsplash

Alysa Bajenaru}[/caption]I sang freely, with joy…not concerned with singing notes exactly right (much like I belt out 80’s tunes). I was energized by the responses of others; hearing voices collectively raised in worship is one of the most powerful experiences I’ve encountered. I felt a freedom that I hadn’t felt before…to express myself and my love for Christ wholly and fully, even if those around me are not as openly expressive.

Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

When I am feeling discouraged or frazzled, I can turn on Christian music in my car and almost immediately feel a sense of connection and peace. When my heart is heavy, a song will point me toward the Lord and His promises. Music is an oasis for me; a time when I can respond and worship in my own way, being grateful for the way the Lord provides for me, even when it isn’t in the way I expected or the journey is difficult. Bonus: My kids then hear this music, too, and can sing their own praises to the Lord. Music allows us to respond to the Lord when other methods of connection seem difficult and out of reach. Through worship, I find I can more easily transition into prayer, Scripture reading, or just sitting in silence with the Lord.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

The pink boom box is long gone, but the impact of music in my daily walk with the Lord carries on in many forms. I am not a person who finds it easy to abandon convention or not be concerned with what others are thinking, but music has provided me a way to respond…to truly worship…and be in relationship with the Lord both apart from and in community with others. I am so very, very grateful.

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I’d love to hear the songs you are loving right now, currently these are on my playlist:

Sparrows by Jason Gray

The River by Jordan Feliz

Dead Come to Life by Johnathan Thulin

Great I Am by Phillips, Craig, and Dean

Even If by Mercy Me

This is Not a Test by TobyMac

Let It Be Known by Lincoln Brewster

What’s on your playlist?