Tag Archives: worship

Dance Before the Lord with All Your Might

Worship Hands Raised Stained Glass Window Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It was the early seventies. I was 20 years old. In simple math, a long time ago. I’d been invited to a dance. A first date. I bought a new tangerine silk wrap dress, for the occasion. I wore a pair of strappy heels, that hurt terribly, proving I’d achieved sexy. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

My date arrived in his 1971 Volkswagen bus, dressed in Levis, a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, completing the iconic image, with messy hair and mutton chop sideburns. We conversed in “first-date-ESE,” each asking the other prepared clever questions. You know, like, “What’s your sign?” Or “What band do you groove on?” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

When we arrived at the Broadway Grange Hall, he excused himself, pointed to the punch bowl, and joined his buddies across the room. It was one of those moments when mundane tasks feel awkward, like standing, selecting a facial expression, or breathing in and out. Looking around the room, I noticed the crowd was, different. Then I remembered… my date works at Yakima Specialties, with disabled adults. He failed to mention this is a dance for his clients. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Just then, a young man in plaid pants and platform shoes approaches, asking if I’d like to dance. The dance floor is empty. The song is Jim Croce’s, Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown. I want to say no thank you, but instead say,

“Sure.” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

As I practice the dance of inconspicuousness, my partner multi-jives, using arms, legs, feet, hands, head, utilizing every inch of the 20 by 40 foot dance floor. Looking back, I realize now, his dance was brilliant, ahead of its time and exactly what people strive for today. But, being the age of “everyone is looking at me,” I was embarrassed, wanting to disappear. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Contrary to the insistence of my inner narcissist, no one was looking at me. My date was engrossed with his buds, talking shop, or sports, or who cares what. Before I can slip away, the next song begins, enticing a fellow in a ruffled tuxedo shirt, to join us on the floor. Moments later, a girl with a rhinestone tiara, pushing a walker, and a few others boogied onto the scene. By the fifth number of the night, Elton John’s, Crocodile Rock, the dance floor is packed with non-couples, dancing free style, not only to the beat played by the band, but many others, as well. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It took longer than it should, but I came around. Who could resist? They were free, real, alive. They trusted the music, the moment, the calling. They exchanged uptight for “out of sight.” That night, they set me free as well. My self-absorbed fears melted away, leaving me worthy of my partners. We tapped, river danced, dosey dohed, and did the alligator on our stomachs. I witnessed a pirouette, and an impressive leap across the floor. It was exhilarating.

          Unadulterated joy!

Fast forward, 30 years and much life, good, bad, and ugly, to the year 2001. I walk through the doors of the Vineyard Christian Church, the same as I attend today. I’m late, uncertain I want to be there. The service has begun. I choose a balcony seat, in the corner by an exit, where I can keep watch over the entire church.

The music is unlike any I’ve ever heard before. I’m fascinated with the interaction between it and the people in the pews. Many are standing, hands raised, swaying, eyes closed. Others remain seated, eyes open, one or both hands outstretched. Some weep. All, appear at ease, or at least content. Mid-investigation, to my surprise, I feel tears streaming down my cheeks. Good tears, comforting, like warm water when you’re chilled. The kind that shows up at reunions, weddings, and births.

I didn’t know what to think.

Back then, I thought people sang in church for the same reason they joined a Barbershop Quartet or rang doorbells with Christmas carols. I must have heard it referred to as worship, but did not make the connection. After witnessing worship, and having been introduced to the Holy Spirit, I hung around. Like a starving cat given a bowl of milk, I wanted more, and knew where to find it.

The mysterious tears continued to show up in the balcony, dripping down my face. Eventually my fascination with the worshiping lessened, and my own desire to praise grew. My familiar enemy, I call, oppression, kept my arms dangling awkwardly at my side. One day, I ignored the nagging oppressor, shooting my arms straight up. I laughed out loud, because for a moment, I thought I might fly up through the air with my limbs. Such bliss, beatitude, joy!

Freedom to praise, love, honor, adore, worship my Lord, in MY way. I’m not saying, animated worship is for everyone. For some, sitting still, basking in His presence is THEIR worship mode. I practice this style as well. But, one of God’s coolest traits is knowing each of our hearts, style, idiosyncrasies… our nature. I was trapped in a safe mode of worship, by fear, not choice. It suits me, to raise my arms, sway and sometimes dance. It’s fair to say I’m a David, when it comes to worship.

“And David danced before the LORD with all his might.”

When worship sunk in as a verb, I was set free to show my heart to the Lord. I pray all will find the place of worship that unlocks the boundless praise, longing to escape.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150:6 | NIV

In Spite of Us - Chapter PreviewCheck out our book in progress. Read a sample chapter here. Sneak Peek Chapter 14

How Do You Choose A Church If You Don’t Know What You Believe?

Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Yakima Vineyard Christian Fellowship

While vacationing on the Oregon coast in the dearest cottage by the sea, we found ourselves with the dilemma of choosing a church for the fast approaching Sunday. Not wanting to drive out of town left three choices.

  1. Yachats Community Presbyterian Church preschurch

My personal top choice, based on the brochure that reads: “The Church of Agate Windows, ” not because Sandy thought it might be a Pizza Hut.

  1. Yachats Baptist Church bapchurch

Maybe a better choice since choosing a church for the building is rather lame. Then again, I have a tainted view of the Presbyterians, based on childhood profiling, gained from a few sporadic visits. I assumed they were cranky because they had to get all dressed up to sit still and quiet on hard, slick pews. I see from the sign reading: Come As You Are,” they’ve fixed that problem.

  1. Little Log Church and Museumlogchurch

The most intriguing choice, but there’s a slight glitch- they don’t actually have a service. It’s just to look at… hmmm… sort of like owning a Bible for display only.

Over the years, while away from home, we’ve crashed a few random churches, but we are far from experienced shoppers. Choosing a church for a single hit and run Sunday service is not a huge task, if you are strong in your doctrine and faith and believe God will be there, if you seek Him. Worse case scenario, you walk away grateful for the church back home. Contrarily, if you’re searching for a church to call home, you’d best put some thought into it.

I’m grateful for God’s hand in my church hunting expedition, which began with a list of six churches in Yakima, Washington, (our home town), recommended by various concerned friends over the years. It was some time in September 2001, before the collapse of the Twin Towers that brought hordes of new and returning temporary relief seekers to church. Keep in mind, at the time, I, like many who walk into our churches today, was ill equipped to know what I should be looking for. How do you know what doctrine to adopt if you’ve never read the instruction book? Maybe, like myself at the time, you weren’t even sure the Author existed? What then? I knew one thing only… I was hurt, broken, out of solutions and the only thing I hadn’t tried was church.

I entered the first church on my list, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Yakima, donning my best “I’m invisible, better back off” suit of armor, slipping through the doors undetected. The building itself was my ideal, thus holding the number one place on the list. It was built in 1904 using huge impressive looking stones. Inside, under a domed ceiling the stained glass windows provide a kaleidoscopic light show of jade and gold dancing round the mahogany columns, beams and majestic 24 foot tall sliding doors.church4

That day I climbed the stairs to the balcony, studying the angelic crowd below, with their seemingly perfect lives, born into idealistic Christian homes that made the right decisions, day in, day out. I wondered if they could see or sense the mess of my past, and shuddered they might have some kind of religious telepathy, capable of hearing the non-pure thoughts renting space in my head. I was confident they wouldn’t have the nerve to throw me out, stone me or point fingers my way, mouths agape. I figured they must have been taught this behavior is considered poor etiquette in “Being a Good Christian 101.”

Fast forward 12 years. The second church on my list still has no check mark next to it. Much has changed, and I’ve learned a few things. One being that, the angelic looking people that first day had some messes for God to work on also. Another, being that although the building is worthy of awe, it’s what’s inside that counts, or rather who’s inside.

At the time of my first visit, Wayne Purdom was the pastor, whom later ushered my husband into the fold with his down to earth sincere concern and genuine interest in others. Four years later, God moved the gifted Purdom family cross state to plant a new church and bless others. That left us a church in a lurch. I had one foot readied for escape as I pictured some worn out constipated-looking guy alongside a screeching soprano “everything is hunky dory” type wife, abducting our cherished “come as you are” church family.

Much prayer and several months later, no one answered the call. With a tremendous team of church leaders, our church body suffered no neglect, but time was ticking with no potential candidates in sight. Then one Sunday, a surprise announcement was made… Jimmy John Morris, our talented worship leader, would be stepping up as senior pastor.

Honestly, we were concerned. He was a super guy, remarkably talented musician, devoted worship leader, and he was funny. Even so, he didn’t seem like an obvious shoe in for this position. We asked God to show us what He planned to do with this young man, but frankly, doubt is a noisy occupant, and neither of us could hear any kind of response. So, we made a pact with God and ourselves to stick it out and see if He would show us more than a great guy with a good sense of humor and a hillbilly name.

The following months, we sat stiff necked with arms crossed in a defensive pose, but we kept our promise to suit up and show up. Neither of us could say when or how it happened, but shortly after the initial shock, we recognized the man standing at our pulpit was undeniably anointed to pastor this church. We’re grateful God didn’t ask our advice, knowing who would best serve His church. Today we’re blessed with Jimmy John and his wife Donna, who vigilantly seek His guidance under the care and protection of the Holy Spirit. Whether enjoying a season of prosperity or one that appears hopeless, they practice the positioning statement on our Sunday program “Love God, Love ALL People.” A tall order for some of us… well at least it is for me. I know… I know… it should be easy, but our church is all about authenticity, so get over it.

It feels good knowing our home church, with our family of incredibles, is a safe haven with sound doctrine, an incubator for hurting souls not knowing what they need. Number two on our shopping list may never happen – so much for comparison shopping.

We still need to make a decision for this Sunday since we cannot drive 339 miles back to Yakima. For fun, we put the choices to a vote on Facebook. Phew… not the best idea I ever had. I didn’t mean for it to become a yay or nay on any given denomination. In retrospect, I see my error and apologize for the lack of thought given prior to posting the ballot. I don’t regret what I learned from this.

Whether a mature Christian ready for solid food or an infant needing pablum, the church you select should serve healthy portions of Love.

1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

As it turns out we attended both church services, consecutively. When your faith and beliefs are strong, you can give glory to God under the roof of any church. I don’t think he’ll mind if you raise your voice and heart in worship, even if you disagree with the doctrine. Granted, it may be best to find another choice for your home church.

On the other hand, if you’re a new believer shopping for a church, your first task is to read your Bible and test what is being taught based on His word. Look for someone you can trust to help. A good pastor will be more than happy to answer questions and find you the help you need to gain understanding.

 In the meantime, whether a newbie or not, keep seeking Him.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

Have Teens Crossed Over into the Twilight Zone?

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into…

The Twilight Zone?      TheTwilightZonePoster1

Nope… you’ve entered into a Christian youth group such as the one on Wednesday nights at Vineyard Christian Church in Yakima, Washington.

If you’re like me, you approach teenagers gingerly, or not at all. When God tugged at my heart to support my husband’s decision to help with the youth group I replied…

“Really?”

I get God choosing my big-hearted hubby to work with youth… he’s just like them only biologically challenged. But me? Please. I had already survived a couple of teens. Why would I do that again? (Note: My teenage grandson gets a disclaimer because… well… I know him. He’s a great kid, different from all others. He’s… mine).

God ignored my whining. He’s had a lot of practice with that – i.e. the Israelites. My first night I climb the metal steps to the designated youth zone, deafening noise blasting through the door, I wonder what heinous acts of mischief are underway.

teen8I’m expecting huddles of teens practicing eye rolling and sulking techniques while jabbing at each other with verbal sticks. If I had a tattoo it would read SKEPTICAL across my forehead. After all, at their age, I’d already involuntarily ridden in a cop car and could have penned the book “Smart Mouthing for Dummies.”

Walking through the door, I catch them, inhibitions set aside, getting their goofy on – carefree as toddlers in a room full of balloons. They pause mid giggle when a new youth walks through the door to shout a welcome and usher them into the zone with non-verbal cues saying, “it’s okay… check the annoying awkwardness at the door. You won’t need it here.” teen7

Baffled, I settle in as the youth leaders, who need badges so they can be identified as such, gather the group for worship. Not ready to trust, I’m incapable of entering into a time of worship myself, so I study each face. Some sing freely, ethereal in stance. Many rest in quiet reverence. A few, like me, witness, question, contemplate. Later I learn that the group is a hodge-podge of faith – ranging in time – cradle to not yet – and depth – deep to highly doubtful.teen9

A tear drop surprises me when it splats on my hand. I sop pools from the worry lines on my face with a tissue. My thoughts travel back to a pizza parlor buzzing with cheerleaders and jocks from my junior high days. Feelings of shame and embarrassment surface along with the details of my failed attempt to join the group with a simple “Hi.” My moment of courage swiftly shot down with bullets of mocking, finger pointing, name calling and snobbery. Wanting to show indifference and prove myself unscathed by their attack, I pull a fat cigar from my purse, (stored for just such an occasion?) and flipping the Zippo lighter open, puff away Clint Eastwood style. The audience review? The Good the Bad and the Ugly – minus the good part. I stared them down in a “go ahead, make my day” manner. Smoke swirling round my face as I sent a subliminal scream across the room, “I don’t need any of you. Not now, not ever.”

Is that when my heart hardened? That vengeful day puffing away on the cigar? I don’t really know. Maybe.

I continue searching faces finding nothing to discredit the sincerity of these young people. The spirit of worship remains as they divide boy/girl for prayer groups. Emotions shaken, I choose a safe place for continued scrutiny.

One by one the girls share, trusting that their personal package of hurts will be handled with care. They speak of divorce, abandonment, abuse, bullying… dreams crushed… innocence stained… hateful words tossed their way… trust shattered. Hands touch shoulders, stroke hair, pat knees.  teen3

The leader, a Mom with a big life of her own, tenderly guides them along. Her soft voice speaks words of hope and encouragement to willing, open hearts and ears. Heads are bowed. Names lifted. Prayer received and given like wise Moms partaking before passing an oxygen mask to their child.. breathing in life, before giving it away.

Prayer time ends. Laughter and chatter return. Volume cranked up.

I feel odd… as if something broke… not busted into pieces, but blasted open, exposing light and air. My thoughts return to the pizza parlor and the faces spitting mean words my way. I look closer. They’re young… fragile… hurting… scared. I see God’s children living in a shattered world. My heart breaks… for them… for myself. I’m grateful for groups like this one where our youth can be safe and real with each other. A place where it is more cool to be kind than cruel.

We live in a world where beauty and ugliness coexist. Blessed lives… cursed lives… joy… sorrow. A place where acts of kindness and unimaginable horror live side by side. Where the unthinkable occurs – children are murdered… children commit murder.

What do we see when we look at our youth? Or anyone, for that matter? Do we have expectations of light? Or darkness? Do we expect, imagine, judge based on our past hurts? I know I did…I know I do… I hope not to any more.

STAR DUST FROM OUR HEAVENLY FATHER

momblog
Mom

One tear sways a stream, as the perpetual Seattle mist merges into a downpour.  I pull off  Highway 412, just past Greenwater, feeding  a CD to the slot. A doe and her fawn remain close by under an umbrella of pines, even after I open the windows to share Nat King Cole singing my Mom’s favorite song, “Star Dust.”  The hyper-alert doe keeps watch. As the rain sprays through the window, mixing with my tears, I say goodbye to my Mom.

Januarys end with her birthday, and this month more than any, she is on my mind. She left memories all over the place, like a child scattering toys around for the rest of us to trip over. The slightest tickle from any sense – an image, a voice, an aroma. A whiff of southern fried chicken and she’s before me wearing a crinoline apron in high heels, laughing at Dad, impatiently waiting on a drumstick.

That surreal, misty fog of a “say goodbye day,” married two polar feelings – pain and joy. Earlier that day, the doctor flipped the switch from on to off, as my sister and I kept vigil, witnesses to the air-brake hiss of the machines last breath.

The doctor said it might be hours, or even days before she passed. I don’t know how either of us would have remained standing had we not had our belief in a loving God. Even so, we were reduced from grown women to helpless, lost, scared children. Months of prayers, hand holding, tear dabbing. Hours of Bible reading to a silent Mom whose eyes never open. We have faith, but right now, it resembles that nagging mustard seed. Sisters wanting to be strong for each other, we keep our desperate prayer a secret – the one begging God to let us know that our Mommy will be okay.

A cup of  tea might stop the clock, at least for a moment. Shaken, we start down the hall toward the cafeteria when we realize we’ve both forgotten our purses back in the room. We opened the door to find Mom, smiling… eyes, not only open but seeking. Instinctively we turn, looking for what she sees. Our eyes fail to see more than a white wall, but through her eyes… joyous anticipation – promises fulfilled  – kingdom majesty.

Moments later, she stopped breathing and left the room. A lights out feeling… yet, there we stood, my sister and I, smiling, giggling, rejoicing. Oh, what a loving God indeed.

Enjoy listening to Star Dust at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjU6ZjrQulc

STAR DUST LYRICS

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that were apart

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

WHAT MY DOG TOLD ME ABOUT GOD

My dog worships God, does yours?

Picture this–

Husband, Sandy, is downstream skillfully casting his line, content. Meanwhile, further upstream, I’m fighting to untangle my line, irritated with the bush that grabbed it from behind me – (don’t ask). A mere ten minutes since we arrived at our favorite fishing hole, I dare not ask for help, not yet. Waving and smiling downstream, masquerading as competent and relaxed, I shield the frazzled scene with my back,  tackling the lassoed bush. Victorious, line free,  I check for snakes (a common ritual), and select a log, facing the TARGET fishing hole.

Slipping on rubber gloves, thinking of Sophie’s Choice, I select the unlucky worm, destined for surgery by hook. Scoping my cast target, I notice Gabe, our yellow lab, standing midstream up to his belly, gazing purposely, nose upward. Through his big brown eyes, I see the magnificence of the rock striations, the wonder of the trees, the brilliance of the sun’s light show, and the splendor of the breeze tickling his ears. Even the birds chirp praise while circling above him, nearly a halo, fearlessly aware that this Kingdom moment overshadows his desire to chase.

My eyes wide open, I join in worship, watching Gabe wag his tail for God’s sake… literally. I know the many faces of my dog –  a special face for hungry, lonely, playful and the distinct look of shame when guilty… but this look? Praise to God almighty.

Isaiah 11:6   The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.