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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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How Do You Worship?

Four simple little words. Four words that may seem simple, and a question that is anything but. Four words that, if you really stop to contemplate them, can change your life.

800px-Jars_of_Clay
Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo, Wikimedia Commons

I have a concern about many of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters and their use of the word “worship.” It has become a Christianese alternative to the word music. Instead of bands, we have worship teams. Instead of singing, we have “gettin’ my worship on.” Now, I have no problem with using music for the worship of God, but if we only use the word worship in relation to music.

While I understand that language evolves and changes to suit those who speak it, the path we are on can be rather dangerous. There is a long history of using music for worship, but worship encompasses so much more. We are called to worship God in every aspect of our lives. There is no “worship box” that we get to jump into and party every once in a while. We need to realize that we should never get out of our worship box. This might sound hard, but it becomes very simple after a little contemplation.

Let’s look at a few other ways that we are to worship:

1. How We Work

We live in a world where many of us define ourselves by our work. One of the first questions that we ask after meeting someone new is usually, “So, what do you do for a living?” It isn’t a bad question, but it is indicative of how obsessed we are with our jobs. We also have a tendency to keep our jobs and our faith separate. Sometimes this is because we are discouraged from talking about faith at work, and sometimes it’s because we are afraid to be laughed at for our beliefs. So, how do we worship as we work?

We need to work like God is really in charge. If we really believe that God is boss of our lives, we need to live that out at work. Integrity (like not stealing from work, either work supplies or time, working hard, helping out) should be paramount as you conduct yourself at work. As a representative of your faith, people are watching how you do life. If you are no different from those around you, what does that say about the power of your God? If we consistently go above and beyond what we are asked to do, people may take notice and wonder why.

In addition, God has gifted and called us to do certain things. This may be creating art, or it may be running a business, or it may be sweeping floors at a local diner. In each of these situations, God can be glorified and worshipped if we put everything we have into our work. Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century monk, worshipped God by washing the dishes and serving in the kitchen of the abbey. His book, The Practice of the Presence of God is still widely read for its usefulness in finding God in our day-to-day life.

2. How We Play

What do you do with your spare time? We may have less and less unused time, but how we use our downtime is vital in how we worship. We are definitely supposed to enjoy our time (God didn’t make Creation just to watch us toil), but our enjoyment should still be for His glory. Before we engage in any particular recreational activity, we need to ask, “Does this glorify God?”

I love movies. I love stories, and movies are one of our greatest forms of storytelling in the West. I get great enjoyment out of watching good conquer evil and the boy getting the girl. But I’ve had to start asking myself: “Does watching this film bring glory to God?” If I can draw something out of the story to use (either on this blog or in writing my own stuff), then I can say that it does glorify God. Yet, there have been times where movies that I would otherwise like to see have very little content that I felt would bring me closer to God. In these cases, I’ve realized my time would be better spent elsewhere.

3. How We Treat People

Like I said above, to many people we come across, we are ambassadors for our faith. This can be great when we are able to talk about what we believe and why. It can also be awful when we realize we just blew up in anger, solidifying common stereotypes about religious people. If we are really called to love one another, perhaps that should be a common theme throughout our day.

This isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. There are times I don’t feel particularly loving to people, but my worship to God is in treating them lovingly anyways. We often think of love as an emotion, but the heart of love is sacrifice. Love is easy when we care deeply about someone. Loving someone who just gave us the finger as we drove to work is much harder. Yet, this is where worship lies.

4. How We Treat God

Finally, our relationship with God is our overarching act of worship. We draw nearer to our Creator to worship Him. We grow in our love and trust in Him to worship Him. We study and learn about His ways to worship Him. This relationship is the foundation upon which we build the rest of our worship.

This can be nurtured in many ways. Quiet time in meditation, reading Scripture, going to church. Whenever we take time to reconnect with our God, we are saying to Him, “I love You and want to worship You.” He will answer by showing you how best to worship Him in your life.

Which is vital to remember: everyone’s worship is going to look different. Mother Teresa worshipped by serving the poorest of the poor. A corporate executive can worship by ensuring his or her company is run ethically. The artist can worship by being loyal to the calling that envelopes his or her life. We can help each other find and refine our worship, but we shouldn’t jump to judgement just because someone else is doing something different from your worship.

There is much more to say about worship, but I will save it for future posts. I hope you all have time this week to think about your worship, and how all-consuming it should be.

So, how do you worship?

Blessings

Life Lessons from Community Natural Foods

Sometimes in life, we need to pay for things. Simple, necessary things, like school, a mortgage, food, or a car. In order to pay for these nice things, most of us need jobs. Some are gifted with a job that is right in their chosen career path, while others of us need to work a simple, menial job just to pay the bills. I have been in this situation for the past three years, working for Community Natural Foods, a health food store in Calgary. While there are days that I complain about not having my dream job yet, I am often floored by the incredible blessing that this company has been to me. It has taught me several important lessons that I really want to share with all of you today.

1. The Value of Work

This is going to make me sound really old, but I have found much satisfaction in just going to work each day.This is definitely a lesson I had to learn through experience. I have been working since I was 13, but always thought of it as a necessary evil, something to avoid if at all possible. It has only been in the last year or so that I have been able to enjoy work for its own sake. There is a simple joy in the small tasks that I perform day in and day out. The work itself isn’t particularly satisfying, but bringing home a pay cheque to provide for my family is. While stocking shelves and moving pallets may not be incredibly important in the grand scheme of things, having work to do is a blessing for me and my family. Not everyone is employed (I was unemployed for three months before this job) and having the option for my wife to say home after our son arrives is great.

This seems to be a lesson that many of our generation need to learn. We have been told since we were young that we can do anything and that we should do what we love. However, we have not been taught that sometimes we just need to do what needs to be done until that job we love shows up. Life isn’t going to hand us our dream job right away (even though we worked really hard in university for it), and waiting for it isn’t going to help either. Sometimes, we just need to get ourselves out of bed, make money, and slowly make our way into our perfect career. It takes patience. We need to remember that.

2. The Importance of People

I work with an amazing group of people at Community. We come from all walks of life, from high school and college students to retired teachers and restauranteurs. For those days where the job itself isn’t energizing, the people will most certainly breathe new life into me. I have been able to talk freely about my faith and listen as others articulate their own. We are challenged by each other, encouraged by each other, and loving of each other. We are tolerant of others’ viewpoints (no one has killed anyone else yet…) yet we aren’t afraid to disagree as we dig deep into spiritual, political, and social issues. I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many of my coworkers, many of whom stop me daily to ask how my wife is feeling in late pregnancy. It’s little things like this that make life amazing.

Is it always easy? Of course not. Sometimes it gets a little awkward when we hit a subject that someone is touchy about. But jokes, challenges, and secret missions are always just around the corner. You don’t have to love, or even like the people you work with, but the job becomes so much better when you do. Try making a new friend next week and see what happens!

3. The Stewardship of the Planet

This is really just Christianese for looking after the Earth. I’ve learned so much about the importance of organic, ethical food practices and their impact on our ecosystem and the human population. This may seem obvious, considering it’s a health food store, but it’s more than just hippies and yoga instructors in our store. Our location is in the suburbs, and we cater to more soccer moms and yuppies (young, urban professionals) than you would think. The movement away from cheap and easy food sources towards organic and local has the West more aware of where its food is coming from and how it got to its shopping cart. As someone who has always been interested in the environment, this is a really cool development in our society. I certainly hope that it continues.

4. Faith is Lived Out Everywhere

Finally, I’ve realized that for many of my coworkers, I am one of the most visible Christians in their lives. Sometimes this is obvious: I work with a woman from Israel who has dubbed me her official source of Christian thought and history. Yet other times it is not. I was stopped by one of my coworkers (who is also a Christian) to tell me that her faith has been bolstered because I talk so freely about faith at work. I had no idea, but the affirmation was really cool. Sometimes it’s hard, especially when I realize that my work ethic and how I treat people influence what my coworkers think about my religion.  Sometimes it’s exciting, because people feel free to ask me blunt and difficult questions (probably because I’m training to become a pastor).

We are ambassadors for our faith. I understand Buddhism through the lens of my Buddhist friends. I learn about Islam through my Muslim friends. I examine atheism by examining my atheist friends. This is probably not the most scientific way of going about studying religion, but it’s what we all do. So, how are you showing your faith to those around you? Do they even know what you believe in? If not, why not?

And so, for those of you currently in a job that is not in your career path, what are you gaining from it? If you are currently unhappy with your work situation, I suggest looking for ways to make it better. I don’t suggest leaving, because I don’t think that will necessarily help. But can you look for ways to find joy in your little tasks at work? Can you make good friends with whom you can laugh and struggle together? Can you connect to the mission of your workplace, or realize your position as ambassador for your faith? Try it out, see what happens. Maybe you will make a friend along the way.

Blessings

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