So the other week I was running late for church, those who know me are saying “yea, what’s new” as it seems that even with an 11:15 am service I usually find myself crashing through the door either just as or slightly after the worship band has started the first song. One of the disadvantages of running late is that once the worship space lights go out it’s harder to see the open seats. Such was the case the other week, I slid into an open seat near the entrance just as the band was beginning to play. It was then I discovered who was in the row next to me.
Margaret (not her real name) immediately leaned over to me and introduced herself and asked me my name. The initial introductions done a full series of follow-up questions immediately followed. Where was I from? Was this my first visit? What church did I used to attend? Could I see the screen OK? I swear that Barbara Walters could not have interviewed me deeper if she had asked me what kind I tree I would be. My first reaction was one of polite but short answers after all the worship band was playing and we were in the song portion of the service. Then it dawned on me, I was sitting next to the crazy church lady.
Be honest, you have one in your church too, we all have that one person who is just a bit more outgoing and volume ups just a tad bit more. You immediately have pictured someone in your mind from your own congregation, yup, you have identified the crazy church lady. And that’s not a bad thing.
Thankfully the song changed to one Margaret knew (as she immediately proclaimed to me that she “loves this song”) and her focus shifted from me to the signing at hand. And sing she did. A solid half measure ahead of the band with full hand motions and body sways to round it out. The Temptations had nothing on her. She was totally captured in her singing experience and didn’t care who saw or what was going on around her. She was in the moment of true worship and complete immersion in signing praise to our Lord. She was crazy worshiping. When Pastor Dan began his message her Bible was even more highlighted and marked than mine and was overflowing with sticky notes and margin notes from verses she had read and notes from what must have been a solid years worth of weekly sermons. It was crazy.
And I wished I was more like her.
“And take care of yourself, that you present yourself perfectly before God, a laborer without shame, who preaches the word of truth straightforwardly”. 2 Timothy 2:15 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
I was raised in a very formal and strict worship environment. Conservative Baptists from New England in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t exactly smack of cutting edge worship environments. There was no worship bands, no drum kits, no guitars, no pastors with tattoos and nobody every dared to show up in shorts and flip-flops. We had the choir in full robes and the same hymnal week after week and we all dressed up in good dress clothes to go to church. Nobody clapped or shouted out or dared to talk back to the pastor during the sermon. Nobody cried, nobody laughed, nobody did really much of anything now that I think of it. It was a full 180 degrees and a world apart from my current church home to be sure.
And it was boring and set a foundation of some terrible worship habits and church prejudices that I am still fighting today. I wish I could be more like Margaret and fall into worship with a who cares who is watching attitude and just lose myself in the songs. I wish I was a better note taker from sermons and that I had more highlights and underlines and margin notes in my Bible. I know I’ve added more in the past two or three years than in the prior two decades combined, but I still could do more.
I recently got sent a copy of Ken Copeland’s New Testament. Not his study Bible with commentary and added material, this is a copy of his own personal KJV Bible and has his own personal highlights, underlines and margin notes throughout it. There is not a page that does not have something for a mark on it, often several various notes and marks. It is a study in an extended immersion in the scriptures. In this age of “there is an app for that” where you look around in a church service and more and more people are reading the Bible on their phones, tablets or I-Pads the experience of holding the printed word of God in your hands and physically marking and noting it gets lost in the translation. Technology has given us easier access for certain, but are we sacrificing part of our opportunity to connect in the translation? I myself have found that using my Kindle with the Bible and my sermon notes loaded on it is far easier than juggling a Bible, note papers, bookmarks, what have you in the middle of a service.
Which brings me back to Margaret.
Often as a new year begins we like to make resolutions and set goals for improvements and changes we want to make in our lives in the coming year. This year I want to read and study my Bible more, not just reading for the sake of turning pages, but reading for true deep intimate worship and spiritual discovery. This year I want to find myself lost in the worship experience on Sunday. To steal a phrase from one of my favorite worship leaders Chris Tomlin, I want to dance on God’s great dance floor like nobody is watching. Check that, I want to dance in spite of everyone watching.
I want to be crazy.