How Are You, Really?

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How are you? Let me guess. “Good?

Well, what if you’re not good? Are you going to say it?

When we ask people how they’re doing, are we prepared for them to say something other than good?

Lately I’ve been bothered by how we don’t even take the time to really answer this question. Part of me wonders if we even know how to answer it. Do we take the time to stop and think about how we are actually doing throughout our day? I find myself so busy that I get caught off guard when someone asks me how I’m doing. I honestly don’t even know how to respond most of the time. My first thought is, do they actually want to know how I’m doing? Because if I’m going to be honest, I don’t want to be judged for it. My second thought is, do I even know how I’m doing? If I truthfully answer this question, it’ll take a moment for me to know how to respond. Maybe it’s that moment of our time that not many of us are willing to give.

I wouldn’t say that we don’t want to be real. I think that we have forgotten how to be real. We may have even forgotten what is real. I know I find myself struggling with all this and I sometimes wonder if it bothers others as much as it bothers me.

Maybe we’re trying to keep up with what our profiles are saying. Our Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat stories are painting a portrait of a perfectly happy self. I think there’s this idea in our heads that everything has to be good, or better than it is. It seems like we live in a comparative culture and everyone is working to highlight their lives, not showing what’s really going on.

Maybe we don’t want to be known as a negative person. We don’t want to burden others with what we are actually struggling with. Crazy thoughts in our heads may be saying, “I’m feeling depressed or I’m having a bad day, but everyone else around me seems fine so maybe theres something wrong with just me. It’s not worth sharing.” We believe these lies that we aren’t allowed to say what’s really going on.

Maybe we just don’t take the time to do so. I’m especially guilty of this one. People will ask me how I’m doing in passing and all I have time to say is “good” and by the time I get the words out, they’re half way down the hall. It frustrates me because I feel like if you don’t care, then don’t ask. It goes both ways though. Sometimes when I ask people how they are doing, I don’t even give them enough time to think about it and respond. I’m realizing it’s time to change this habit because who am I to get upset about something I catch myself doing too?

I’m not buying into this whole “everyone is always good” phenomenon.

I’m sick of this fake “good” and I want to start thinking intentionally about how to be more real. It’s time to learn what is real and how to be that. If you’re actually good, say what is good! If you’re not doing well, say what’s really going on with you! Let’s encourage one another to take off our masks, stop trying to put on a face and lets talk about what really matters.

We need to be freed from living a surface-level life. The only way we can overcome the darkness in our lives is if we bring it to the light. What is kept in the dark will continue to have power over us. If you’ve got a lot to praise about, don’t hold back. Share what God is doing in your life! By holding things in, we are feeding into this fake culture. We can’t just continue to hide behind shallow responses. We need to start caring. We need to start loving. We need to give people the time of day.

How great would it be if, when we asked how people are, we actually cared about the responses?

It starts with you.

How are you, really?

Worship Beyond the Songs

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This past summer I really put a lot of thought into worship. For me, worship had become a routine. The same songs, the same words, over and over and over again. It felt so empty. I felt like something was wrong. Something was wrong with me. Not just me, but also the people around me. Do we really mean these words that we are singing? Do we really believe that God is who we are saying He is? I feel like worship has become a time where people just slip into the routine and all of a sudden it is time to “praise God.” Yet, we don’t take the time to think about Him or spend time with Him outside of the worship service. I feel like I look around at the people worshiping and think to myself, “Do they even know who Jesus is?” I look at the lives around me worshiping this God and I don’t see the reflection in their lives. I didn’t see it in my own life either. Do I even know who Jesus is? What sets me apart from these people? I’m here too. Singing the same songs. Doing the same worship.

It all just felt so meaningless and pointless. The part that gets me most is that as soon as the worship service is over, everyone just leaves and goes on with their lives and no one actually has conversations about how they experience God. The praise ends as soon as the songs end. It feels like no one praises God unless there’s a song to sing to. To me, it felt cheap. It felt like we were getting it wrong. The worst part was that it kept me from being able to worship. After awhile I just couldn’t get myself to sing the songs. I believe that God deserves more than just empty words being sung just simply because everyone else is singing them. I had to take the time to separate myself from the crowd and actually think about what I’m doing. I left my freshman year torn over worship. I went up to work at a bible camp over the sumer and this is what I wrote one day as I was reflecting on things:

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- This is your spiritual act of worship.” I read that and thought: Okay, this is talking about worship being more than the songs that we sing in church. Actually, It has nothing to do with the songs at all. It’s our lives. But, living our lives as a sacrifice? How am I supposed to do that? I don’t have anything figured out but maybe I’m starting to get there.  I’m thinking, How can I live my life as a sacrifice? It’s so weird to think about. Then again, didn’t Jesus do just that? Maybe I’ve been making this worship thing way more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus Lived his life as an example for us. Yet, I haven’t taken the time to actually think about it or even read about it. I’ve just been going along with things. Even all summer, I haven’t been taking the time I need to be to spend time with God. It has taken me awhile to realize that. I love having those quiet times in the morning and during my free time, but it doesn’t stop there. I can be praying throughout the day, whether it be in my head or just to myself when I’m walking somewhere. I’ve been doing that more lately and I’ve noticed God more.

The other night, my campers were all in bed and I had to walk over to the building. All the lights around were out and as I was walking I saw the stars and they were beautiful. I always love seeing the stars, especially up north. Anyway, I asked God to reveal himself to me. Immediately, the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen shot across the sky. It was like a sparkler. I’ve seen shooting stars before, but none like that. It was almost in slow motion. It was as if God really wanted me to see it. I was almost in tears. It took my breath away. I thought it was pretty cool, but if you think about it, stuff like this happens all the time. God is always present and had I not been praying or talking to God, would I have been able to recognize it as Him trying to reveal Himself to me or would I have just walked right by and thought of it as just a cool shooting star?

Ive been missing prayer. I’m always asking for things and praying selfishly, but I need to be praying for more than just what I want. I need to be praying for others and also moments. Unless I’m talking with God constantly, I’m not going to realize Him all the time. He is always there! But how often do I see it? Now, worship can be a powerful thing but it has turned into something I’ve settled for: something to just to check off the list. I’ve been conforming. Romans 12 continues on and in verse 2 (a very common verse) it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (The pattern of just singing maybe?), But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So how do I transform? By renewing my mind? How do I do that? Well, I don’t have all the answers but God does and I’m praying He’ll renew my mind.

Maybe I shouldn’t stop there. I’ve been really lazy. So what happens if I ask God to renew my mind?Do I just expect it to happen? Maybe. Or maybe there’s more because maybe God expects something out of us. And that’s a relationship with Him. What’s that? Well, maybe that’s what I need to be working on. I need to be building this relationship with Him by constantly praying. See? It all comes back to that! And by being in prayer, maybe my mind will be renewed. Maybe my life will be lived out differently, more like Christ who was the perfect example of a sacrifice. This leads us back to worship. Worship is a spiritual act on how we live our our lives. It’s not just the songs! So I’m working on breaking free from that pattern of just singing. How do I do that? Maybe it connects back to prayer. Do I show up and just sing and that’s it? OR, am I putting thought and prayer into it? Worship is about praising God, but what am I praising Him for if I’m not recognizing Him in my life?

If my life is empty, then so will my worship be. Empty. So what am I going to do? Not tomorrow, but today. Well, I’m going to keep reminding myself about sacrifice; and what does that mean? Well it means it’s not about me. So how am I going to live that out? Well, I’m going to start by thinking about how I can be putting others first. How can I be serving them? I don’t want to serve in a way where I’m seeking recognition, but in a way to be a living sacrifice: to be serving as an act of worship. James 2:14 says faith without action is basically dead. “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?”

This whole time I’ve had this faith, but I’ve stopped living it out. I’ve been living it out, sure, but not in the right way because my heart hasn’t been there. Nobody would be able to tell that by looking at me, but I know it’s not there. So I’m starting to realize that and make the changes. I’ve got to stop focusing on who I want to be and focus on who I am. A really thought-provoking quote I heard was, “God is much more interested in who you ARE rather than who you want to be.” I’ve got to be focusing on today. Not just think about it once, but all day long. I gotta keep thinking to myself: Love God, love others. I have to do so by remembering: It’s not about me. It’s time to serve. Live as a sacrifice. It’s time to worship.

I will I worship beyond the songs! Right now. In every moment of every day.

Now, you can see I’ve put a lot of thought into worship. I can tell you right now that I’ve come a long way since I wrote that note. God has revealed Himself in so many ways, it’s just a matter of recognizing Him more. It’s so easy to miss if you’re not going out of your way for Him. Living as a sacrifice is by no means easy, but it’s worth it. Since last summer, I’ve been praying about everything. I’ve seen God answer more prayer in the last 4 months than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. If someone told me that I had to go a week without praying, I would not be able to do it. Heck, I don’t think I could go a day. I’ve been so dependent on Him and He has continued to challenge me all the time. I still fail each and every day. I am never going to be that person to put on a face and say that everything is just fine and dandy when in reality, it’s not. We have to be willing to be honest about where we’re at.  In the past I have lied to myself about where I’m at, but I’m so done with that. That has never gotten me anywhere. So, I’m actively seeking Him out and have been going out of my way to get to know Him. Not because I have to but because I want to. We shouldn’t force our relationship with God. That never works and He deserves more than that. It truly does take a change of heart and the renewing of the mind through prayer. I can honestly say that my relationship with Him is growing. Right now, I have a desire to actually know Him: to fall in love with Him. I love God, but am I in love with God?

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m in love with God. But that’s where I hope to be.

I hope to get to a place where I can be in love with Him. Some people might think I’m crazy for admitting that. How could someone who is a Christian say that they are not in love with God? I can say that because I am willing to admit where I am in my faith. I can tell you right now that, one day when I get there, when I can say I’m in love with God it will be because I actually mean it. I won’t say I’m in love with Him just because everyone else does and that we need to be in love with Him. I want to be in love with Him. God deserves my heart. Not empty words. What does being in love look like? When someone is in love, they always think about that person. They get excited about the thought of that person. They crave time with them and could spend hours at a time talking with them. When people are in love, they know that person better than anyone. They are the most important person in his or her life. Their face lights up when someone brings up the name of the one they’re in love with. They can’t help but smile when they talk about them. I want to know God fully and love Him for who He is. I want to actually know Him. He’s always been there for me and I’ve had faith for many years, but for the first time in my life I am seeking to fall in love with Him. I’m not there yet. It’s a process. It takes time and patience and investment to get there. I’m willing to be honest with where I’m at.

My point is, I feel like I’m surrounded by people who don’t do that enough. What needs to happen is we need to be more real about our faith, and real if we even have a faith. We need to actually be vulnerable with one another. More importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves as well. God knows our hearts and He knows if we really mean what we say. When we are singing songs of worship, He is fully aware whether or not we actually mean those words coming out of our mouths. I have learned to worship more authentically. I have learned to worship in new ways: ways beyond just singing. Yes, it’s okay to go to worship services and sing. However, it is crucial to think about where your heart is when you are worshiping Him. You don’t have to go to a worship service to worship God. Worship Him through your life: through acts of serving and putting other people ahead of yourself. Worshiping doesn’t start and end with the songs, otherwise the songs mean nothing and you might as well just not even sing. Let your life sing for you. I challenge anyone who is reading this to take the time to think about where your heart actually is.  Do you worship with the way you live your life? Do you worship beyond the songs? Be real.