In a recent email from one of my friends, she was recounting her plans for the weekend. As with most mothers, and especially with working moms, she had a gazillion errands and projects on which to work, but it was this sentence that caught my eye:
Sunday I'll have my traditional morning retreat to my patio with my radio tuned to a jazz
station, a cup of tea and a book. It's heaven, I tell ya!
Upon reading this, I was jealous. But then I self-righteously thought, well I CAN'T do that because I'm in church! But for the past three days, my mind has travelled back to Joannie's weekly retreat. I've placed myself in a white wooden rocker on my girlfriend's brick patio, surrounded by the flowers that she plants and tends so lovingly. I imagine the cool of a late Spring or early Summer morning when the sun is not yet high in the sky and the light all around is a pale yellow. The sky, of course, is bright blue, but not cloudless. The clouds are perfectly white and dancing around the sky in a fluffy ovals. And I am sitting in this perfect morning, enjoying everything God has placed around me. I am in a true place of worship.
But instead, I will be in church. Although we have structured Sunday mornings so that they are not totally frenzied, there is no time for quiet reflection. Our morning is busy as we prepare for church. Church is busy as I serve at church and help to instruct our boys in the practice of worship. But it is not a time of quiet reflection. I don't take the time to notice the nature surrounding me, or experience the peace of a summer morning. I try to be active in worship. I try to focus on the message being given and the allow the words of the music to teach my soul. I'm a music person, so I let the music minister to me and lift my spirits. But it's not a time of quiet where I am just in God's presence, experiencing fellowship with Him in a quiet and personal way.
When visitng my sister's church last year, the worship leader had someone read an excerpt form a worhsip book by Matt Redman. He spoke in the book about how his church had distorted worship and come to a place where they had to strip away all the trappings of what we call "worship". The instruments and even the music went away. He wrote that, at first, it was ackward and seemed unnatural. But as the congregation came into the presence of God on their own, but in the setting of corporate worship, it became such a beautiful experience. Eventually the music and the instruments returned but everyone had experienced worship in such a real and personal way that it was never the same again.
I realized today, as I was imagining myself on my friend's patio once again, that what Joannie experience's every Sunday is true worship. It is personal. It is quiet. It is a time of awe at the creation of The Creator. In some ways, it is more worshipful than what I do for a few hours on Sunday morning.
The Word says, "Do not give up meeting together." And I certainly am not proposing that I should forgo church all together and go sit on a patio every Sunday morning. BUT I am planning to incorporate more of what my girlfriend experiences while sitting on her patio while I am sitting in the second row of the right hand side at Eshcol Brethren In Christ Church. I am going to cease the business of worship and participate in the quiet and the reflection, and the acknowledgment of the beauty around me. God has shown me true worship, if only in my imaginings. I plan to pursue it until the experience matches the day dreams.