Unlikely Worship

Congrats to the winners of Renee Swope’s new book A Confident Heart. They following gals need to email their home address to me at [email protected] pronto! Dawn Ashwood, Sandra Ashely & Chris Sanders.

Where do you worship?

How do you worship?

Is worship a place, a posture or a purpose of the heart?

My earliest memories of worship were sitting stiffly in a dark wooden pew, my itchy tights beckoning my fidgety legs to hold still. Not holding still brought ‘the look’ from my mother and insured there would be no stopping at Sully’s drive-in for a burger once the service was over. So my brother and I, we sat.

I loved to look at the stain-glassed windows and the unusual hats of the church ladies. And I loved the stories of Jesus. They came to life down in the basement as I squirmed and viewed them on the flannel graphs in the front of the classroom. (The church ladies downstairs allowed for a little squirming, unlike their staring cousins upstairs.)

Then, suddenly, church was gone. For two or three years, there were no stories. No colorful, soft flannel pictures of Jesus. No worship. I’d lay in my twin bed at night and stare at my lavender-colored walls and try to talk to God, but I didn’t know if He could hear me when I wasn’t at His “house”.

Later, a fourth-grade teacher noticed a little girl from a broken home needed to worship. And that she liked to sing. This teacher’s off-duty passion was being the children’s choir director at a country chapel.

So, another church. (This one with padded pews and just a short walk across an open field.) More worship. This time with God at His other house. (I soon discovered He has lots of them). Here we recited words written in the ‘bulletin’. The preacher man didn’t wear an ugly suit and sweat beads on his brow. He wore a flowing robe and a gentle smile. His wife played the organ. Very loudly. I learned to worship here too.

Later on a youth retreat with that church when I was 16, I discovered that worship doesn’t mean a gathered group in a “house’ of God. I truly worshipped that night at a fire bowl.

Understanding. Counting the cost. I surrendered.

Since that day, there have been lots of ‘houses’ with worship at them, and sometimes, worship all alone. And worship on the phone with a true friend. Or on my couch with my family. Or at a park with my husband.

I’ve belonged to churches who’s services were stuffy & formal. Others who were loose and loud. And some, in between.

And at all, I have worshipped with other true worshippers.

Last night—hang with me now—-I worshipped at the Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. No, it wasn’t a crusade or Christian concert. No Bible teacher’s traveling spiritual show.

My husband and I celebrated part of our 25th anniversary gift from loved ones with a trip to see the American Idol tour. (I know, I know…I hate the name ‘idol’ too).

As we sat enjoying the music of this amazingly talented group of kids (the top two placers both vocal Christians and fabulous country singers), He spoke and I worshipped. For I feel God is not confined to only the houses that officially bear his name. He can speak where ever He wishes. And just last night, he did.

You see, lately I have been contemplating just how much Christ did for me and how often I, in turn, let Him down.

Although there are times I feel I’ve grasped His giving His life willingly to buy my way to heaven, in our cushy-Christian culture, where we often focus on the trivial, we do not fully comprehend what our salvation really cost Jesus who was both fully God, yet fully man. He willingly endured a painfully gruesome death so I could enjoy eternity.

He suffered. But I am unwilling to experience a little suffering to be done with sin and more like Him.

He laid down His life; purchased my pardon.

And how do I thank Him?

Not very well sometimes.

So last night, as one contestant sang out these words (please know I am only commenting on the content of the words as part of our culture, not endorsing a singer or their lifestyle, okay?) Well, I was in tears.

“Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash
You tossed it in the trash, you did
To give me all your love is all I ever asked
‘Cause what you don’t understand is

I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya

I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same”

As the number ended with the vocalist, dressed totally in white, kneeling front and center on the stage, the bright white lights now turning vivid crimson red, well…I was undone.

And, I worshipped.

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4: 1-2

How do you worship? Where do you worship?

But most importantly, why?


  1. What a GREAT testament to the reality that we can WORSHIP God wherever we are–thank you for pointing this out in so many wonderful examples! He is such a PERSONAL God and meets us where we are–literally and figuratively! How sad the times we have missed Him because we weren’t looking for Him–we had Him tucked away in a little box somewhere else! :(
    Blessed be the Name of the LORD!!! Praise His Holy Name–He alone is Worthy of our Praise!!!

  2. This moved me to tears…thank you, Karen! I’ve often read and heard ‘secular’ love songs as being songs of love Jesus sings…great to be reminded of that.
    Yes, worship. How: with all of me; where: as the Spirit moves, but also as a sacrifice of praise; why: Jesus!

  3. Via email: Karen,

    My 10 year old daughter likes the song you spoke of in your “Unlikey Worship” blog. I have been discouraging her from this feeling. No more.

    You put a context around it that totally redeemd it for me. My only real exposure to the song was its music video (which I’m sure we both know rarely has anything to do with the song being lip synced). Based on that video, I had a very negative view of the song, hence my discouraging my daughter from liking it.

    Now that I’ve seen the words in ‘print’ and read of how it ended at the Idol Tour, I will no longer steer her away from it. Rather, I will encourage her to view it from a different perspective. I may even search out YouTube for a video of the performance you saw.

    If your written words can move me to tears, I definitely want to see what you saw, and then share it with Marisa. Pleases continue to write about things such as this. A person’s perception is often their reality, and sometimes it needs adjusting.

    Love in Christ

  4. Thanks so much for this post, Karen! What a great reminder! I, too, have been learning the last several years that worship is about GOD, not where I am or what I am doing. We are to do everything to bring Christ glory – so that is worship! I love music, love nature, love people, love His Word – it’s all so GOOD!!! Blessings to you and yours!

  5. I work Sundays now, so I am unable to go to His house to worship Him on a Sunday morning. Being worship is where He is able to reach me best, I quickly had to find a way to worship on my own. Honestly, I’ve found a renewed passion for writing. I have blogged –a lot. I have found my writing has become my form of worship. I can lay it all out there, and allow Him to help me work through things in this setting.

  6. Oh! My! Word! I am sooooooo printing this out to share at Celebrate Recovery tomorrow night!!! If I weren’t at work right now, I’d be crying my eyes out – I AM on the inside!!! What a picture this paints – an all-too-vivid, very uncomfortable picture of how I treat Him so much of the time without even being truly aware!!! I must go now and ask His forgiveness, yet again, and move on from this point.

    Karen, thank you so much for sharing this – you described it so well – it was (and is) very vivid in my mind. Exactly what I needed at this time. But, of course, God is good like that!

    Love ya!

  7. oh Karen
    I am so happy to read this post from you today. I do this all the time with songs. In fact on my blog I do a weekly post on Tuesdays involving a song that as caused me to think of Jesus. Not necessiarly a worship song. I love to find God in unusual places. Of course now I’ll have to wait to use this song since you just used it, hahaha.
    Anyway thank you for this, it confirms in me that it’s ok to do what I do.

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