The Power of Choice, in Love and in Worship

It's a song that stops me on my scroll through radio stations every time I hear it. I'm fairly certain that if my husband and I were getting married now, instead of 15 years ago, it would have been the song for our first dance.

I Choose You by Sara Bareilles.

Is it caught in your head just by seeing the title in print? It's a catchy, sweet, and fun melody, sung by a voice I love. But more than any of that, I love this song for the lyrics

My whole heart / Will be yours forever / This is a beautiful start / To a lifelong love letter / Tell the world that we finally got it all right / I choose you...

She's right, even though I'm not sure she meant all of what I see in the lyrics. The best start to a commitment of love is to recognize that love is a choice, not just a feeling. After 15 years of marriage, I see that more clearly each day.

After all these years, there are many days when I still have butterflies,warm fuzzies, and any other greeting card sentiment you want to use to describe what happens in us when we are flooded by feelings of love. But there are other days, when we are fighting, or I am frustrated, or life feels overwhelming, when love is more of a choice than an emotion.

I think that's a good thing, actually. If love were based soley on emotions, I don't think I would have as much freedom to be honest, really honest, about how I was doing. I would be too worried about how my feelings would upset my husband, and how I would need to keep making him happy in order for him to stay with me.

Our love has grown deeper and more real the longer we have kept choosing one another.

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My heart, O God, is steadfast;
   I will sing and make music with all my soul. - Psalm 108:1

Like a song that stops me on a scrool through the radio, the word steadfast catches my attention. It sounds so churchy. I can't remember the last time I've seen the word steadfast in print, unless you count other passages from the Bible.

The Hebrew word is kuwn. The first time kuwn is used is Genesis 41:32, when Joseph is interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. Joseph tells Pharaoh he had two dreams because what was going to happen had been firmly decided by God. God was trying to make it clear to Pharoah that the years of plenty and famine were going to happen, no matter what. 

David's heart had firmly decided to worship God.

We tend to think of our hearts as the center of emotion. The Hebrew people thought of hearts as more. Since hearts are the source of lifeblood, the they thought of them as the source of both emotion and thought. They understood something we often forget: sometimes emotion precedes will, and sometimes will precedes emotion. Commitment means an intertwining of both.

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I've sometimes use concepts like steadfast as platitudes. My life sucks but I won't admit it, because I am firmly committed to worship and have joy, no matter what.

When I think of a steadfast commitment to worship God, I think of it not as an empty religious cliché, but as freedom.

I have decided to stick with God no matter what, as He has already decided to do for me. I don't need to worry about keeping God happy so He will stick with me. I don't need to balance myself so I don't overwhelm Him. The security of our relationship is not dependent on unpreditctable emotion.

I can come as I am because we are commited to each other. We choose each other.

Sometimes, I have sing worship lyrics with the fullness of meaning ringing through to my toes. Other times, I sing with longing, hoping the act of worship would draw me closer to the feeling. Still other times, I sing with quiet trepidation, feeling the hypocriticy of words coming from my lips whose sentiments are not echoed in my heart.

No matter how I feel, I keep showing up. Honestly. As me.

I choose God. That is the start of our lifelong love letter.

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This post is part of my #PsalmsJourney, my posts going through the Psalms one at a time in order. Read more about it here. Grab the button and post a link to your post in the comments if you'd like to join me.

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Calling on the Name of the Lord

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;     make known among the nations what he has done. – Psalm 105:1 (NIV)

What does it mean to proclaim the name of the Lord?

At best, it sounds like the formal and churchy terminology found in many worship songs. At worst, it creates an awkward picture of someone standing on a street corner shouting the Lord’s name at random people passing by.

Either way, it doesn’t strike me as very personal.

When I look at the Hebrew for proclaim, the word is qara’, which means to call out. But that is not all.

It also means to “encounter.”

When I think about the name of the Lord, I look at Exodus 3:14, when God proclaims the identity Yahweh, “I AM.”

Psalm 105
Psalm 105

What does it mean to encounter I AM?

Suddenly, what once felt formal and distant, feels intimate and powerful. And I'm reminded how so much in what prayer and praise feels like returns to how we view God.

Are we on the ground, shouting to the sky, hoping God might hear us if we perform up to the standards of a great Diety?

Or are we going about our lives while encountering the a loving God whose presence is both beyond us and with us in all things?

Jesus talked a lot about having ears to hear and eyes to see. Maybe He was calling us to the same thing as this Psalm: an intimate encounter with the great I AM.

And with that, the second half of the verse also feels completely different. Perhaps we are not telling others about what God has done in order to appease the Lord’s need to be recognized, but instead experiencing and overflow of gratefulness for the ways we have felt and seen and experienced Yahweh’s nearness to us.

Encounter I AM.

Maybe that means pushing away the noise and finding space in which you can hear Yahweh speak to your heart. Or maybe it means leaving yourself open to find Yahweh in the places you’d least expect God to be.

That was my reflection on Psalm 105. Link up with your own thoughts below. And stop back next week when Psalms Journey heads to Psalm 106.

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How can we bless God?

What does it mean to praise God?“Praise” is a common word in the church world. At this point in my life, it is a word heavy with the baggage of the last fifteen years of my experiences.

Praise the Lord, my soul;     all my inmost being, praise his holy name. – Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

On some days, it enters my mind with pleasant memories of mountaintop worship experiences. Other days it comes in quietly, unnoticed in its ordinariness. Still other days, it crashes through with questions about what kind of egotistical God demands adoration from His people.

psalm 103
psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,     and all that is within me,     bless his holy name! – Psalm 103:1 (ESV)

What does it mean to bless God?

For me, “bless” is a lighter word than “praise.” One of the main things it comes with is a question: how can we bless God? Isn’t it He who blesses us?

I was in a yoga session recently that ended with a blessing. We were lying on our backs, breathing deeply, when the instructor came to each of us and tenderly rubbed oil on our foreheads. It was personal, and the perfect close to our time together.

The first time the word “bless” appears in the Scriptures is in the creation narrative of Genesis. After forming humans, God looks at his beloveds, and blesses them. It is an intimate and holy moment.

Praise can sound like it’s more about the receiver than the giver. As if it doesn’t matter who is in the room, or what is going on with them, because the focus is on the worthiness of the Recipient to garner worship.

But a blessing, now that is personal.

A blessing says, “based on what I know of you, and what I have to offer, here’s how I want to show my love and affection.”  In order to bless someone, we have to notice him. Notice what he is good at, notice what he has done for us, notice the beauty of our relationship. Blessings can happen in a group, but their significance is intimately attached to the heart of each individual who is present.

So what does it mean to bless God? Many times, the Bible points to something pretty simple: to remember Him.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,     and forget not all his benefits, - Psalm 103:2

To remember God is to stay connected to Him throughout our days and throughout our lives. To notice the way He is with us, to see the way He has blessed us, to understand the goodness of His character being displayed over and over and over again. To bless God is to share these noticings with Him. Not because God is a narcissistic power-monger, looking for His people to tell Him why He is so awesome, but because recounting our gifts is the kind of intimate blessing we can offer to a God we love.

And over, and over, and over, and over again, what the Story of God calls us to remember and recount most often is this:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,     slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. –Psalm 103:8

That when God passed in front of Moses to proclaim who He was, that this is how our God chose to describe Himself.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, - Exodus 34:6

We bless God when we notice the ways He shows this description of Himself to be true in our lives. Maybe that’s also what it really means to praise Him.

MATT REDMAN - TEN THOUSAND REASONS (BLESS THE LORD) - OFFICIAL VIDEO HD from Yodo Creative on Vimeo.

That was my reflection on Psalm 103. Link up with your own reflection below. Stop back next week when the Psalms Journey heads to Psalm 104.

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