I need your worship

worship picture by jenna burgess

I don’t know her name (yet). But I’d know her face anywhere.

Or even more, I’d recognize her moves.

She sits on the front row, left side, with our church on Sunday mornings. She’s a tall, graceful African-American woman, maybe early 60s.

And I love this woman even though we’ve never spoken.

Because she inspires me to better worship.

I have a different perspective these days. For years I sat face-forward on pews, seeing backs of heads only, minus one set of eyes (the song leader’s). But now I stand with a choir and look outward as we sing about Jesus.

And oh my, the things I see!

  • I see when a teen boy, normally coolly nonchalant, is thoroughly engaged in worship after a week at church camp.
  • I see one pastor close her eyes and lift her hands; another quietly bend his knees in worship.
  • I see both arms of a young woman raised high in praise as she beats back the darkness of day-in, day-out disabilities.

And I see this same woman on the front row, week after week.

She’s not showy, but she’s not shy. She sways and sings from somewhere deep. And if I ever feel the words drying up in me, I glance at her and remember why I’m here. For Someone bigger than me. Greater. Higher.

I get all that when I watch her worship.

And my worship revives, too.

* * *

When we worship together, we do it to give God the honor he’s due. The joy is multiplied in community. Does someone else’s worship inspire you to worship God more, too? I’d love to hear your stories.

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39 thoughts on “I need your worship

  1. floyd

    I’m somewhat reserved, but I too am moved by the worship of others, the ones that you can see the light of God shining in their faces.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      And I realize we can’t always tell what’s going on in a person’s heart just by their outward expressions, but yes, it is a blessing when we CAN actually see “the light of God shining in their faces.” Thanks, Floyd.

  2. [email protected]

    Yes, yes, Lisa!

    I’m thankful for those God has put on my path who modeled the freedom and joy that comes from a heart that overflows with adoration. And a body that’s not scared to respond.

    The older I get, the more I long for this deepest connection with my Savior. Thank you for this piece this morning.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Me, too, Linda. The older I get, the less restrictions I want to place on myself with my worship. “A body that’s not scared to respond.” Love your phrasing there!

  3. Joe Pote

    Oh, yes!

    Though I’ve never been to your church, I know the woman you’re talking about…or at least I’ve caught a glimpse of kindred hearts in other churches.

    There is nothing like seeing the face of someone truly engaged in worhsipping our Holy God!

    I’m reminded of one the churches I grew up in…a small Assembly of God Church in the small rural Arkansas community where my mother still lives…and still attends church. They didn’t have many fancy furnishings, nor much talent. But the singing was led by a lady named Frances Murdock…and oh, the look on her face as she sang those old gospel hymns. There was no doubt to anyone there that she loved Jesus with all her heart and that her singing was a pure expression of her love for Him.

    Miss Frances is gone to be with Jesus now…I can’t wait to see her and other loved ones singing before the throne of God!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad you’ve seen this woman, too, Joe. 🙂 I’ll look forward now to singing with Miss Frances myself around the throne one day!

  4. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! What a new perspective! You are gaining a lot of insight, just by changing your seat.
    I had a very similar experience years ago. I was reading Scripture for our Good Friday observance, and could see the people in the pews well. One woman’s attitude in prayer touched me so deeply. She is a little younger in age than me, but I couldn’t help but think that she was lightyears ahead spiritually.

    She wasn’t flashy at all, but you could see her sorrow for Christ, and her shining eyes of faith. I still remember her to this day. We are now in the same summer bible group. She is a wonderful and faithful person. God works in great ways!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it interesting how changing positions can totally change our perspectives as well? Hmm…we should do that with more things more often…

      How wonderful that you’re now in relationship with the woman who had moved you earlier. Yes, God does work in wonderful ways. Love this! Thanks for sharing, Ceil.

  5. Sharon

    Yes, there is this one woman in our church whom I so admire. We’re part of a small congregation, so I know her. She’s elderly, and I know that she suffers from debilitating pain in her back. But, when we sing, there are moments when she raises one gnarled hand to the sky – and I am hushed. She makes me take another look at the words that prompted her to worship this way. And I am blessed, for I see in her a glimpse of our Savior…

    GOD BLESS!

    (You have got to make your way to that woman some Sunday…!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you mentioned that it makes you take another look at the words. I find myself doing that sometimes too! I love seeing what moves people the most (or the least).

      It’s even cooler that you do know this woman in your church and her pain; makes you appreciate her sacrifice of praise even more.

      Yes, I do need to meet my woman soon!

  6. Sherrey Meyer

    Oh, Lisa, I’ve seen this woman too, but not in your church. Years ago as a young girl attending church with my grandmother in an Old-Fashioned Missionary Baptist Church in the South. There were many there that morning swinging and swaying, and there were multiple hallelujahs and amens. At the time I thought how silly it all was, and today I want that kind of worship spirit.

    Today I sit near two young boys who are well taught at home about Bible and hymns, and where I hear Aiden and Ethan sing out LOUD on Sunday morning I wonder why I’m so shy and quiet! The children always remind me of how I should be worshipping!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This woman gets around, yes? 🙂 I’m glad you’ve seen “her” too, Sherrey. I’m like you–in my younger years I wouldn’t have appreciated this type of more open worship, but now I totally get it. Love the examples you get each Sunday from Aiden and Ethan. They’re starting out well. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    I love the moments when I get so lost in the worship that I kind of forget where i am for a moment. I will open my eyes when the song ends and think, “Oh, yeah, I’m at church”. I can’t imagine what it will be like when all our voices are lifted in His presence in heaven!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can’t imagine what it’ll be like either, Heather. In those moments like you mentioned, when God’s presence seems so thick and other-worldly, we’re getting a small taste of how wonderful it will be!

  8. June

    Great to hear the perspective from someone in the choir, Lisa! I find I have to close my eyes when I worship. I get too distracted by what’s going on around me. Not those worshiping necessarily, that can be inspiring as you say, but there are always people coming in or going out, or looking around for their family, etc. I suppose if I sat closer to the front I wouldn’t see all that, lol! Have a blessed week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Eyes closed is very helpful to me too, June. I can focus more clearly. Our choir director has told us worship with one eye closed and the other eye on her. 🙂

      It’s funny you mention that about the noise in the back. I remember my old church was so distracting in the back with all the comings and goings and chattering constantly. Just last Sunday I sat in the back at my (relatively) new church during the sermon and leaned over to tell Jeff, “I love how quiet it is; people are listening even back here!” 🙂

  9. Paula Gamble

    I like your story! I use to get into worship, but now it’s all a bit confusing for me. I’m not sure how much was real and how much of it was trying to make myself worthy enough for God and look good to others, when really I was dying inside. I think worship for me right now is just a really good cry.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you shared this, Paula. Worship can look so different from person to person, and even from season to season with the same person. A really good cry could be an awesome act of worship! Connecting with God in the moment can be very emotional and bring all kinds of things out of us.

  10. Jody Collins

    Lisa, I too get to help lead worship once a month or so and I LOVE the view from up front. I am so inspired–my friend Elizabeth waves her tattooed arms in the air with abandon and it just inspires me. My African sister Esther breaks out in song and her bright, colorful dress moves as she sways. It all just makes me smile at the many ways we can worship the same God. It’s the best.

  11. Elizabeth

    I have a mental picture of you in the choir and of this woman encouraging you by her worship. I think true heart worship is like a fire that spreads from God to our hearts and then to others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re making me think of the tongues of fire on the believers’ heads on the day of Pentecost. 🙂 A nice visual image of what’s going on still inside us today–a burning fire to help keep each other shining for the Lord. Thanks, Elizabeth!

  12. Emily

    Yes! I sit front and center because it’s hard for me to focus and pay attention otherwise, and when all those voices are lifted up behind me? It’s impossible not to be pushed into worship. And our pastor…you can hear him from anywhere in our large-ish sanctuary and he worships as though it’s just him and God. He’s a great example for the rest of us 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, isn’t it wonderful to have pastors who lead by example? I’m thankful for the ones we have who do that as well. It really helps!

  13. Jerralea

    Yes! I know what you mean. There is a little lady that started coming to our church. In bible study, she sits with her eyes downcast and never says a word. But during worship, she stands in the back row with her arms raised, eyes closed talking to Jesus and swaying to the music. She does it every time, the whole time.

    When I see her, I want to worship more.

    THAT’S the power of corporate worship. I believe that goes to the very heart of why we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Because our worship not only touches Him but encourages others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This is it, Jerralea; you’ve said it well: “Because our worship not only touches Him but encourages others.” So grateful that it works that way! Thanks for sharing about your little lady. I can picture her myself.

  14. Beth

    There is, indeed, something so, so beautiful about seeing authentic worship in others. I’m starting to give myself the freedom to do the same … to be moved by the Spirit into any kind of position. You are right, too, to label this “I need your worship” because oh, how we need each other. Each praising in his or her own way. Thank you, as always, for linking at Unforced Rhythms.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Giving ourselves freedom…yes, Beth. When we’re not used to that freedom (even in church!), it can be awkward and even intimating. But as we grow into it, we never want to go back to being shackled again.

  15. Janet

    I used to love watching the congregation from my seat in the choir – all those things! Your woman reminds me of a description by Patricia Polacco in “Chicken Sunday” – ‘her voice was like slow thunder and sweet rain…’ It has always stuck with me as worship.

  16. Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    Lisa,
    Popping over from Holley’s link up. I was raised in a very traditional Presbyterian church and used to think (when I visited other churches) that people who raised their hands in worship were…well…a little too over zealous. Now, in a contemporary Christian church, I can’t help but raise my hands in praise to a God who has been so faithful to me! He deserves all the glory and a little hand raising praise too! Thanks for a wonderful post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear exactly where you’re coming from, Bev. My heritage is a very stoic worship setting as well, although I believe it’s changing little by little, but now being in a more open atmosphere of a different church has been such a breath of fresh air.

  17. Shelly Miller

    I often admit that sometimes God uses the people worshiping around me more than the sermon to speak to me. You’ve just said the same thing here. I love the vantage point.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, sometimes what sticks most are the other people I saw worshiping. But that’s okay too, right? 🙂 This morning I went with my daughter to an early morning prayer/praise session, and I enjoyed watching her worship. Does a mama’s heart good!

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  19. Sarah Donegan

    I loved watching my Mom! She would raise her hands, she sometimes spoke in tongues, and other times she would sign the words as a friend had taught her sign language. Mom was moved by the Spirit and didn’t care who was watching. I wish I could be free like that!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a beautiful memory you have of your mother, Sarah! I grew up in a very conservative tradition, so I didn’t see anybody doing anything like that. Back in the day I would have thought it weird. Now I see it as amazing! Yes, more freedom for all of us please.


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