Sunday, February 1, 2009

Snarky Church Lady

It takes nerve to write about her. But I was convicted today, because she was me.

I always go to church pumped for the worship music and fellowship. But today was different. I got a call last night that our praise band leader was ill and we’d be doing the traditional service rather than the contemporary format. I run the projector with the song lyrics, so it was just a heads up.

Or was it a hearts down?

My participation, interest, and thus my deepening of faith really ramped up when we started doing contemporary worship. For 5 years now, it’s been rockin’, jammin’ praise. Music I can sing to where nobody notices that I can’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. Or that I’m really doing the Milli Vanilli trick because, yes, I know all the words to all the songs, but dare not let my voice drown out that of my perfect-pitch husband. The few traditional services I’ve attended since then have felt rote, boring, and have left me less than passionate about worship. That always felt wrong, and provided me with some well-earned guilt. I should have it in my heart to worship and praise God no matter the environment.

But I needed a catalyst and I found it. Or rather, He met me where I was.

So here I sat, back in Old School church. On the way out the door, I made some snarky comment to my husband about going to the Adams Family service because that’s what organ music reminds me of. I wanted guitars, drums, and keyboards. Organs do nothing for me. In my mind, organs are made to be donated. I saw Chris Tomlin perform less than 36 hours ago. Don't give me organ music.

The words of the first song hymn brought my horrible attitude to a screeching halt:

“Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Hear us children when we pray…”

Immediately the vision of my Grandma B was in my mind. She loved that song. I loved her homemade bread, her sugar cookies, and the look on her face every time I walked through the door of her dilapidated, but immaculate house. My heart and my attitude softened.

But the part I really wasn’t going to like was yet to come – the liturgy. Though the words are straight from The Word, we had sung the same ones for so many years that they had become rote and meaningless and it wasn’t a part of the service I ever enjoyed.

“This is the Feast of Victory for our God…”

I was moved again. This time I was taken back 27 years and literally felt my 3 year old daughter standing on the pew next to me in her ruffle-butt tights singing at the top of her lungs:

“This is the feast of Hickory Dickory Dock….”

And I was barely able to flip to the next slide because my tears were blurring the screen. I was reminded of how far I’ve come in my faith walk. These old hymns were really a part of who I am and a stepping stone to where I am today. My preferences for worship have changed, but the God I worship is the same. He never changes. There’s a mouse in my hand and a monitor in front of me, but during the hymns, I’m doing the same “baby sway” as only a mother with a sleepy toddler in church knows how to do, even decades later, with no baby in her arms to sway.

“Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine.”

Little Miss-Smarty-Pants-Too-Good-for-Traditional-Worship was convicted.

And the thoughts of selling the church organ on eBay quickly passed.


sherri said...

WHat a beautiful thought Candy.

I think the words of these old hymns become cliche' after hearing them for 60 years, and lose their meaning. Then, with just a bit of music change or emphasis, we are once again reminded of their deep meaning.

I am asked to sing AMAZING GRACE accapella at funerals, festivals, prayer sevices, special events, and young and old will be wiping away tears. I think the song represents memories for many people; maybe a time in their life that was more innocent, or hopeful.

Your story of today reminded me again why these songs are still so important to all of us.
ANd what a good lesson for all of us not to limit God and how he chooses to move , or what avenue he will travel down to visit us.

Your heart was open and receptive to Him. That's the important thing here.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

@sherri - you should have seen my tears hearing Chris Tomlin sing Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone on Friday! Oh my. We sang it at my dad's funeral many years ago and that's all I can ever think about. Thanks for your sweet comment.

katdish said...

Music is such a powerful thing. It can prepare hearts to worship God. It can also be the scapegoat that can split churches. My dh grew up in a non-instrumental church. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you understand that it is a personal preference and not about being more holy or scriptural than churches that use instruments. Having served in creative arts ministry for the past 11 years, I can tell you that there are few things that get people riled up more than what type of music is played.

You are spot on Candy. You can sing the most stirring hymn or beautiful contemporary ballad. If your focus is on yourself or the people gathered to worship, it is simply empty notes and words. We must always remember the purpose of the songs we sing. It is an offering to The Audience of One.

Helen said...

Katdish is right about how music preferences can split churches, which is really very sad. I don't think the angels prefer harps and organs to guitars and drums, and vice verse. Then again, maybe I am projecting. I love when Mass begins with something contemporary, switches to a traditional hymn in the middle, and ends contempory. Or vice verse. But old people and young people alike will gripe about the choices the music minister made, and I am thinking, we were all praising God with the saints and angels. Isn't that more important than whether we use organs, guitars, accordians, or mariachi (yes, there is such a thing as a polka Mass, and a mariachi Mass. Our parish does more of a mix and Mass contempory traditional Mass. )?

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing this, Candy. Always a good to be reminded that worship is about GOD and not about us. I have to pray about that an average of 17 times before each time I lead worship. Because it's STILL something I'm learning.

The memory of your daughter reminds me of my own (4 1/2). She can sing louder than our entire church!

Annie K said...

I think that's what 'Heart of Worship' was written about... getting down to what worship is really all about.

heartafire said...

This is precious.

Yesterday in church we sang "Onward Christian Soldiers," one I remember from childhood, and both my girls (unprompted) got their own hymnals and sang along.

I love what CS Lewis wrote: "The two things the devil hates most, are music and silence." We get a lot of both in church.