Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Notice Me

I read an article in which the writer said people who raise their hands while worshipping in church are just trying to draw attention to themselves. That got me to thinking about what we notice, how it happens, and motives. This all applies to me because it's easy to think that I'm really trying hard to be noticed. The truth is more complicated than that.

One day at Mosaic we'd gotten the sound system up and running somewhat faster than usual, so Lu and I had some time to talk. We discussed how constrained worship seemed at times. Mosaic was never funereal, but we wondered if perhaps people wanted to be more expressive but felt constrained by the church culture. Some people did raise their hands, and a couple of little children would dance in the aisles, but that was about it. At the time I had no idea what worship was, but I was conveniently busy with technical things so didn't have to worry about it.

So, what is worship? Since last Saturday's sculpture, I've been thinking that worship is idolatry, the difference being in Who is being worshiped. Paying attention to, looking up to, devoting one's life to some bigger idea. Only the Living God of the Universe is worthy of this. How am I supposed to demonstrate this?

The only way I know of is by doing things. I'm defined by what I do. Sand sculpture, bicycling, being a Temple Slave. Might there be something better? Being defined by what I am? But how do you know what I am unless I do something? How do we know who God is unless we see him doing things? This is what made me stick to Mosaic like a cocklebur in the carpet: people demonstrating God's presence in their lives.

In the Bible are many examples of people worshipping God. Playing music, singing, dancing, making beautiful things. At what point do these acts turn into idolatry? I learned Saturday where sand sculpture turns into idolatry, and it had nothing to do with blatant production of art in a public place.

I was taught that having people notice me was a bad thing. This lesson was hammered in pretty well by events at home. That lesson conflicted, however, with what I learned outside of the house. That lesson was that if you live invisibly you might as well not exist. Besides that, it takes a lot of effort to be invisible.

You simply can't hide sand sculpture. I take over a large patch of the beach and put up the only tall object in the vicinity. The only way to get more attention would be to fly banners and have a carnival barker. But if you want to make sand sculpture you have to go where the sand is. Am I seeking attention? No. I had to learn how to deal with the attention I attracted. I was just doing what I wanted to do and the activity harmed no one. Many people even liked it. If I'd stayed with the old idea of being invisible I'd have missed out on a lot of "Thank you" statements from passersby.

Now, how does this work in church? I like bright colors. I like wearing a kilt. Both of these could be seen as more advertisement, like a neon light saying "LARRY IS HERE!" Many people interpret what I wear in that way, but I'm simply wearing clothes that I like. Bright colors and a male unbifurcated garment. People at Mosaic got used to this, so much so that if I showed up wearing shorts they'd ask "Where's the kilt?" Oh, did I mention the long hair? Yes, it's long, and rather curly, so it tends to spread. Even I'm surprised when I look in a mirror. One day the waitress in a restaurant came to me and said I had a phone call. "I was told to look for the guy with the hair." I don't need to show my I.D. at work.

All of this is mildly embarrassing, but I'm just trying to live. Society isn't guaranteed right, and even my mother has gotten used to the kilt.

A church really is a different kind of place. The focus should be on Jesus Christ. God's way of bringing us to Himself. But we're made as individuals, and God says he knew us before we were born. He made us the way we are, in all of our multifarious ways. He knows each of us individually. We do not fit into some bland whole. How is our diversity supposed to be expressed in church?

Lu would mix with one hand on the board and the other raised as far as she could reach. I'd keep an eye on the equipment and let my thoughts wander, floating on the music. In some areas I am easily embarrassed, so never moved much. A little, maybe.

This will probably change. God has plans. He fully intends to teach me how to love, and I'm no longer in the habit of telling Him He's nuts. If He says He's going to do something, He WILL do it. It's sort of like planting zucchini squash: just throw the seeds and run. It's growing. And love leads to joy, and other obvious signs of God's presence.

Jesus said you don't light a lamp and then put it under the bed. The only thing you see down there is dust kittens. No, you light a lamp and then put it someplace where the light fills the room. That's His intent. I don't really want to be a lamp... but being on the beach has at least taught me a little bit of what it's like.

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