Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ups and Downs (Mountains and Valleys)

I've been reading in the Psalms for the past couple of months. I think I have read that entire book a couple of times before, but you know how the Word is living, right? And everytime you read it, you hear a new message. And each time the message is deeper and wider than it was before? I love that about the scriptures. It isn't like reading the same story over and over again (or in my case mostly, like watching the same movie over and over again). Every time you read it the story is fresh and new!

But anyway, I've been reading Psalms. Some of the other things I read about leading worship or being lead worshippers is that you should be reading in the Psalms - so I have been. When I read scripture, I try to put myself in the mindset of the author. A large portion of the Psalms was written by David.

Now besides being the youngest son of Jesse, slayer of the giant Philistine, king, musician and songwriter, he was a worshipper. Many of his passages and phrases are embedded in songs we probably sing every Sunday at church. Try these on...

Just from Ps. 8 alone comes "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" heard in the song How Majestic Is Your Name. And this opening line from God With Us by MercyMe, "what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" from verse 4. I Will Call Upon the Lord has strong ties in the first verses of Ps 18. Ps 42 gives us "as the deer panteth for the water." So the Psalms are full of songs written by worshippers.

Obviously, David wrote Psalms like Chapter 18 when he was feeling very thankful and blessed. He says things like, "The Lord is my Rock" and "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters...He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights." David is feeling very connected to God here I think. He feels like God has been there at every turn to show him the way and that he really trusts God will take care of him. I love this. I want this feeling.

But then you read some of the rest of the Psalms and you hear a very different song. Flip to Psalm Chapter 13 and David says, "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" Yikes, major change in perspective. David feels alone, empty, lost. He doesn't know where to go. He doesn't see the path. He feels like his enemies are pressing in on him.

And so David's song goes. A constant up and down. Sometimes he feels like he is on the right road and sometimes he feels like he's lost in the wilderness. Man I can identify with that. We want that constant contact with God but as we see, even with David who was "a man after God's own heart", there are going to be mountains and valleys. Times when God feels far from us. Why? I wish I knew. Maybe we let sin in. Maybe we are the ones walking away. Maybe like the parent who is teaching a child to ride a bike, God just has to take the training wheels off a bit and step back to see if we are going to fall or ride on this time. Whatever the reason, it is a stretching and preparing for something better, bigger. And just like in Psalms 42:5, we will yet praise again!

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Ps 42:5&6.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

7 Hebrew Words for Praise

I was at a conference in July and one of the speakers was Jeff Deyo. He is the former lead singer for SonicFlood and now he tours with his own band and is a fantastic worship leader (or lead worshiper as he would call it). In one of his sessions he commented on the fact that in Hebrew, from which much of the bible was translated, there are a lot of words that ultimately got translated into the word praise. Another way to explain it, the Hebrew had several words that dealt with what we might consider praise, but since we only had one word to translate them too, some of the detail got lost.

This is very interesting to me. As a worshiper and a worship leader, I struggle with what praise to God should/could/would look like. I hear all kinds of opinions - worship should be traditional like it has always been (which really means "always been in my memory"), people should praise in any way they feel comfortable (which usually means as long as I feel comfortable when they do it in my presence) and many more opinions.

I try to go to other churches and see how they praise. I see a huge spectrum of differences from church to church which really makes this idea that there is more than one way to define praise seem believable to me. I am no expert on this but I'm beginning to dig a little deeper into what the word "praise" should really be saying to me when I read it in scriptures.

Jeff Deyo has a couple of podcasts on this topic that are interesting. You can find them here. Here is a summary of the words he talks about:

1.BARAK – baw-rak – To kneel or to bow.
2.YADAH – yaw-daw – To worship with the extended hand.
3.TOWDAH – to-daw – To give worship agreeing with what has been done or will be.
4.ZAMAR – zaw-mar – To worship with instruments.
5.SHABACH – shaw-bakh – To address in a loud tone, a loud adoration, a shout!
6.HALAL – haw-lal – To make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate.
7.TEHILLAH – teh-hil-law – A spontaneous new song. Singing from a melody in your heart by adding words to it.

So I guess when asked is praise raising hands, the answer is Yes. Is it kneeling? Yes. Can it be shouting? Yes. Can it be quiet and reverent? Yes. Can it be crazy and exciting? Yes. It opens up a whole new way to examine yourself and others as you worship. Definitely has me thinking...