I want to be an escapee. There are some things I want to escapee and some things I should escape. The problem is how I escape sometimes.
I love worship. I can remember standing in church as a little girl, before I could read, clapping my hands and singing at the top of my lungs, “Victory in Jesus”. I knew all the words by heart (I still do), “Victory in Jesus, my savior forever, He sought me and He taught me, with His redeeming blood….” I’m not sure I knew what the words meant but I loved Jesus and I loved His house (the church). And I still love worship. If you check my playlist, 97% of the songs are worship songs. My husband the worship, musician, prophet psalmist, told me the other day, “You only have 37 songs on your iTunes.” That seems like such a small number of songs to him….he probably has 1200 songs. Every one of my 37 songs are really good.
Last night, I had an impromptu (not planned in advance) girl’s night out. My sister, Judy, my sister-friend, Kimberly and I went to The Deep, a worship service hosted on the first Sunday Night of each month at LifeAustin. We heard that our friends, the Ragsdales were going to be there. You can check them out here. I didn’t really know what I was getting into but I knew it would be good, because I trust these pastors. It turned out that it is a worship service…the focus being on worship and not on a message.
Yes, our church has worship every Sunday but we are also a church plant which means we only have our facility for a few hours on Sunday morning. Which usually means we have 4 or 5 worship songs and then we move on to a message. There have been times in my life when I would have my own worship service at home and that is certainly ideal. The reality is, it doesn’t always happen. A service that is just worship with no other agenda…that’s like water to my soul and it washed over me. They didn’t even take up an offering.
As I sat (because they let you sit during worship there) and sang along with John Ragsdale singing, “You are Holy, Oh, so Holy, You are Holy, Lord on High…” As He sang, it was like Zephaniah 3:17, God rejoicing over us. Worship is like that. We sing to Him and He rejoices over us. I felt some walls in my heart begin to melt away. I was surprised because I didn’t know I had walls.
I’ve often written about growing up in church and how it was from my perspective. I grew up in a Pentecostal church. You may think from some of the things that I have written that I despised that place but I do not. I know that some things were not “right” or even accurate but that place laid a foundation for my life. There are times when we receive a message that wasn’t exactly taught; the non-verbal message. The message taught or words spoken and the message received are not the same. Here is an example. Growing up in church, I believe we did not have the understanding of the Holy Spirit that we have today. We believed you had to speak in tongues to be saved; That was the point of salvation. It was my understanding that if you spoke in tongues one time, you were saved and you may not speak in tongues again. There were a few people who you would hear speaking in tongues in the prayer room (I miss churches having prayer rooms), but they were usually prophetic type people. So they were consider a little “spooky-spiritual” and they were also put on a pedestal. There seemed to be some criteria for people “getting touched” 1. The Holy Spirit mostly moved on Sunday Nights. 2. The Holy Spirit mostly moved at church. 3. The person who “got touched” had to “do” something…for example, they had to step out, they had to go to the alter, they had to raise their hands, cry. And 4. When it happened, somebodies’ hair was coming down. Chatting with the girls, we found out the phrase, “they shouted their hair down” was pretty exclusively Pentecostal or UPC. Apparently, the charismatics didn’t use it and didn’t understand what it meant. Let me explain. If you were Pentecostal in the 70s or 80s and you were a woman, you had very long hair. For the most part, you wore your hair pinned up either in a bun or some intricate updo. When the Spirit moved, someone was sure to “shout” which really meant dance but we were not allowed to dance so we called it shouting, although no yelling was involved. It might not make much sense unless you were there but bobby pins were flyin’. I am going to look for some pictures to scan in…it will be fun. What we believed and what I found was true were different.
When I was filled with the Holy Spirit I found that I could “be touched by God” at any time and anywhere. It wasn’t limited to church, I didn’t have to do anything other than talk to Him. I didn’t need a pastor or special speaker to pray for me and I didn’t have to dance my hair down. God was much closer than I imagined. God’s still small voice is sometimes a whisper. Don’t get me wrong…I understand people liking to be zapped and it feels great when you get a powerful word and all of that. But to really change, requires every day communication with God. Paul wrote about it in I Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 14:15
I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
After walking this walk for many years, my belief is that we need to communicate with God daily and our spirit needs to communicate with His Spirit daily. Full access is available to us. We have full access to the living God! Take the time to pray today.
Back to Sunday night and the walls. I was worshipping and feeling the walls begin to thaw. And found myself praying and telling God, I don’t want to have walls that need to thaw.
I want to be open that what God is doing.
The thing about walls is people build them, not God. We build them to keep something out or we allow others to build them in our lives with their words. Either way, the walls that perhaps meant to keep something out usually turn out to be the walls that keep us in. That’s right, the walls we allow others to build, the words that define us, become our prison. The walls we build to keep the pain out or to keep other people out, become the cell that we seek to escape.
What are the walls to your prison? Something someone said? There was a season in my life when it seemed I couldn’t “get it right”. I had friends who I thought were like sisters to me who exploded and walked away from our friendship. I was told I was a toxic person…I was mean….I was rude. At the time, I became focused on “Why did this happen? What did I do?” And I failed to look around at all the successful relationships in my life. I began to allow those words to define me. It became harder to let people in…I began to lay bricks on top of the words that had said. I agreed with some things they said that were not at all true. The truth in my life is I am a “people” person and God intends for me to love people and be transparent and to allow others in my life all things which are hard to do with the walls that had been erected. Once the walls are built or in process it doesn’t take much to complete the project. And then one day you look around and the walls are closing in on you with no way of escape.
But we try to escape. We try lots of things to escape….tv, movies, books, alcohol, drugs, sex…so many bad things in the world are just people trying to escape.
What I knew, but needed to be reminded of, is the greatest escape artist on the planet; Jesus was waiting to bust me out of that prison. Worship used to be my escape. Not music necessarily but worshipping God. I cannot keep my walls up when I worship Him. He makes me free. I cannot hold back the tears (by the way, they are not tears of sorrow but tears of thanksgiving for all He has done in my life).
I want to remain an escapee. If I can, I want to help you become one too.