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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Stretched

February 1st, 2010

When’s the last time God stretched your ideas of what worship can look like? And whatever your idea of worship style is, when’s the last time you experienced something completely different?

Perhaps more importantly, when’s the last time God stretched your thinking about how He can speak to you?

I grew up in a Baptist church in small town Iowa. It was great and I wouldn’t trade the experience. There was a familiarity about it. The service order never changed. Prelude. Call to Worship. Two or three songs from the hymnbook; first, second and fourth verses only. The offering. The sermon. Closing hymn and benediction. And I can still hear Margaret Franks playing “Take The Name Of Jesus With You” on the organ as everyone headed for the door.

Worship style was piano and organ and hymnbooks. I liked it fine and now that I’m much older I realize the excellent theology I learned from those old hymns of the faith. Yet my worship perspective was severely limited.

Fast forward a few years after college. I flew to Los Angeles to visit Charlie, a college buddy from my Northwestern days. On a Friday he took me to a worship night at the Anaheim Vineyard Fellowship. I knew it was going to be an interesting evening when walking through the parking lot I saw the church custodian’s white Chevy pickup. On the door and side panel, painted in red letters it read, “Anaheim Vineyard Fellowship …Where The Real Angels Play”.

A full rockin’ band was already deep into a set of uplifting worship. Looking around the room there were people standing and singing. Some were sitting on their chair, heads bowed in prayer. Some stood at the front, hands raised. Others lay flat on the floor.

The music was amazing. Rich worship that pointed me to God. It was an electric experience for me. Not that anyone could tell by my expressionless midwestern demeanor, but inside I was moved. On the outside I wasn’t moving at all. Growing up Baptist like I did, if you move too much people might think you are dancing. I may have looked like a statue, but this worship experience is definitely stretching me.

The pastor gave a brief meditation on worship. He was a big guy. A former New York Giants offensive lineman who’d gone on to seminary. He quoted Jonathan Edwards and cautioned against judging people in worship by what you see on the exterior, because God works on the heart.

Then the band kicked in and the pastor started moving through the congregation. He got closer to me and my grip on the chair in front of me tightened. There was no one sitting in the row ahead of us. Moving past Charlie, the pastor stopped right in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders.

Understand, guys from the midwest need about a 36″ buffer zone in their personal space or we will explode. This guy’s infiltrated my space big time…and he’s got his hands on my shoulders.

He didn’t even ask if he could pray for me. He just started praying. It was an incredibly encouraging prayer. And in the prayer he prayed about things that there was absolutely no way in the world he could have known about me. Specific things that were going on in my life at that moment, issues that I was wrestling with God about. This guy didn’t know me from a bale of hay, yet he was praying for me like he’d been looking in on my life.

He said, “amen” and moved on. I was stunned. How could this night be any more stretching for me?

Over my shoulder I noticed a 20-something girl come in. She looked like she’d just come from dance class. The spandex outfit and skirt, hair pulled back in a pony tail. She carried a canvas tote bag. Reaching in, she pulled out a pair of toe shoes. Ballet shoes. After putting them on and tying them up, she slipped to the open area at the back of the room and began dancing. Elegant, graceful, skillful ballet moves. I was transfixed.

Turning back toward the front I said out loud to God, “I am so not in Iowa anymore.”

If all that we are familiar with is what’s familiar to us, we are missing out on beauty and blessings God wants us to experience. When we step out of the comfort zone and allow God to stretch us, we see more of Him. And since God is infinite, there’s a whole lot for us to see.

God is so much more than what we are familiar with.  He wants us to experience Him fully. It starts with going beyond what’s familiar to us. Let’s allow God to stretch us. In our worship style. In our thinking. In our ideas of Who He Is and how He relates to us.

Simply put, let’s allow God to define Himself and His relationship to us by His terms…and not ours.

“…I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com