She was the same lady who just a few years later would be used by God to minister to me on the night i invited Christ into my heart.
Mrs. Edith knew something about the ways of God --- and she shared.
She sat with the hymnal open in her lap --- i copied her every move.
She sang out clear and loud, as if the trees outside needed to hear our song --- i did too.
She closed her eyes as she sang --- i did not (who can play copy-cat with closed eyes).
She opened her hands, turned them palm up and held them tenderly in front of her ---- i did too.
But in my playful mimicking i wondered what we were doing.
After church, i asked "why" --- and while i do not remember verbatim all that she shared, i remember her message to me.
She said she closed her eyes so she would not see what was in front of her, but instead so she could imagine that she was singing to Jesus. She would imagine Him in front of her. No one else - just Him.
And about her open hands --- she said when people keep their hands all closed up as they're singing to God, it sort of represents their heart, their mind, their soul --- all closed up. But if we open our hands up and bear the soft palm of them to God, we can imagine our hearts are opening up and flowing out to Him. When we do that --- God will respond and pour back into us -- into that exposed, soft place. If we can sing with our hands opened up to Him, then we're working towards opening up the rest of ourselves to Him. And that's what He wants. The song doesn't really matter; the openness of our hearts to Him does.
Years later, i sat behind a young teenage girl in church. I never saw her face. But her soul... yes. When it came time to worship, i was moved to tears as she lifted her hands high and visibly gave everything inside herself as she sang to our Father.
Covered in chills at her beautiful display of love, i looked down at my open hands held in front of me with elbows locked to my side and wanted to worship Abba --- more.
She was completely "giving" herself to Her Father --- and HE was pouring out His love on her. It was tangible. She adored Him and He adored her ---- right there in front of me.
None of her friends worshiped in the same way -- and that was perfectly fine. She was neither expectant of them to copy cat her nor was she hindered in her outflow of love to her Father. She was solitary before her King. But the way she worshiped --- drew me towards my Father. If she could worship Him so deeply and sweetly, then i wanted to as well. And so i began to try.
To be certain - there is no one "right" way to worship God --- and in no way am i implying that everyone must/should worship with hands held high. But --- for too many people, they limit themselves in the "way" they worship --- because they are worried about what others might think or they simply are not focused on God while they are "singing". These things matter --- most of all --- to God. God made us for one reason ---- God made us to worship and glorify Him. Period. We can do that in many ways. But do it ----
Who in scripture is noted for pleasing God with their worship?
King David ---- who even danced without his robes in the streets as he worshiped God. His own wife turned on him out of embarrassment over his display --- but David would not be hindered from worshiping God fully. God was pleased with David's worship. God was pleased with David.
"Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; He is holy." Psalm 99:5
Exalt - to raise in rank, power, or character - to elevate by praise or in estimation - to glorify - to raise high
God spoke to my heart that night --- sitting behind the teenage girl ---- who pleased Him so much.
He whispered something like...
"donna - when you sing, when you worship, when you offer a song to me ---- i care most of all that you come to me with your song - fully. i don't really care how it sounds. i don't really care how you look. i don't even care what people around you are doing or what they may think of you - you should not either. When you offer me a song --- abandon yourself and come to me in the song. i want you. i adore you. i do not want to be sung to --- i want to be worshiped ---- by your soul. Close your eyes --- see only me ---- and reach for me. I'm reaching for you."
When worshiping ---- i close my eyes, just like Mrs. Edith taught me and i imagine Christ is in front of me. And when i imagine Jesus standing in front of me ---- He is never distant or aloof or formal or proper. I imagine His grace filled eyes and eager scarred hands.
Yes - if Christ were standing in front of me --- i believe, He would be reaching for me. Why would He die on a cross for me ---- but not reach out to me?
And so --- when i worship Him --- i want to reach for Him ---- i want to respond to His greatness by reaching for Him -- with my heart first, and with the words that come out of my mouth, but also with my everything.
Christ surrendered His heart to a dying world.
Christ gave us words of life from his own mouth.
Christ gave up everything when He spread His arms and opened His hands.
is at its best -----
when eyes are closed ------
and Heaven's heartbeat reaches down.
"The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
Psalm 25:12-15 (the Message)
"My question: What are God-worshipers like?
Your answer: Arrows aimed at God's bull's-eye.
They settle down in a promising place;
Their kids inherit a prosperous farm.
God-friendship is for God-worshipers;
They are the ones he confides in.
If I keep my eyes on God,
I won't trip over my own feet."
Psalm 25:12-15 (NIV)
"Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare."
Photos taken by Austin Martin (of Maggie) and Jana Jackson (of Clarissa and Mark Gibson)