The blazing, California sun bore down on my already flush neck, and I heard it announced in the distance, “Micah Cole Rizzzinger!” They never could correctly pronounce my last name. I marched up to a penguin-shaped administrator who offered me a cordial smile and a leather diploma as black as night. With great enthusiasm, I snatched the certificate, and frolicked back to my plastic seat. I remember thinking, “No more school! No more teachers or grades or essays or books! Free at last!”
Five years have passed since that day, and I merely chuckle at the thought of my former anti-academia. Today, I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, GA. Many of the same ingredients from my last graduation were present: family and friends cheering, identical black cap and gowns, leather diplomas, exhausting speechs about who-knows-what, and of course, Pomp and Circumstance droning on in the background. Please don’t mistake my description for complete jadedness on my part. I’ve actually come to appreciate such formal occasions; especially the history and substance behind them. I deeply respect the measure of discipline it takes to earn an achievement like a BA degree. And along the way, I’ve collected a few valuable seeds, which weren’t always learned via exhaustive textbooks or everlasting lectures. They are the seeds of open communication, healthy relationships, self-discipline and a lifestyle of dying to self.
I do not have these seeds (or values if you wish) planted firmly in my own life, but I try each day to cultivate the soil for them, water them, and let Light shine on them. And over time, I have come to see the bountiful harvest they produce in the kingdom of God. As I transition into my graduate studies at seminary, these are areas in my life that I will continue to ‘cultivate the soil.’ I invite you to join me in planting these seeds every day. This could be lending an open ear to a student who perhaps thinks she has lost her voice, or developing a relationship with a wise teacher whom I respect and trust to learn from, or practicing much needed solitude away from campus to be alone with Abba, or spending time at the local prison with an inmate who doesn’t normally get visitors. Doing it in love; always in the resurrective name of Christ Jesus.
May you be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry that you might display a beautiful image of the God who hears the cry of injustice and breathes life.
May you lovingly break bread and drink together with your brothers and sisters, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you.
May you constantly remember the Shabbat and keep it holy, find solitude with the Spirit in your prayer closet, and follow YHWH in the wilderness wherever he may lead you.
And may you offer yourself as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God each moment as you realize His presence.
Grace and peace to you from God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three in one, forever and ever. Amen.
Recently, I had to write a paper on three different “styles of worship.” There seemed to be a lot of room for interpretation on what the paper could be about, but nonetheless I figured the professor was referring to the weekly gathering of the church (usually on Sundays). Here is an excerpt from my paper:
Once there was a man named Jacob, who was traveling across the desert to find a wife. One night, after journeying through the blistering sun and scorching sands, he rested his head on a stone and dreamed. He saw indescribable images that can be likened to angels ascending and descending a ladder or stairway. Suddenly, God spoke from above the ladder; assuring Jacob that He was the God of his ancestors, and that one day the very land he was sleeping on would be inherited by his descendants. Jacob woke up and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” Jacob had a realization. He had been in the presence of God without even knowing it. Later on, Jacob used the stone he had slept on to build an altar to God, and called it, “Bethel” (which translates to “House of God”). Jacob realized he was in the presence of God, and responded by worshipping him.
This is the story of Jacob in Genesis 28, and it carries a theme that surfaces over and over again with the story of God and His people. The idea that worship is the spontaneous response to the realized presence of God. With this mentality, every moment of life is an opportunity to worship God. Paul seemed to have the same idea when writing to the church in Rome, “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…” Life is to be lived in worship to God; that we should submit to the Spirit’s transformation of our mindset and perspective that we may realize and see God dwelling with us wherever we go—even in the desert. However, God knew people would need a reminder of who they are to worship, of who is in control of the cosmos. It says in Genesis 2:2, that God “rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” And later on He tells His people, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” A reminder that God is the one in charge; that he is operating in the universe. Therefore, we not only worship God ourselves, but we gather together to remind each other of that truth and of the story. We come together to celebrate that God is present, and we did not even know it. Over time, people of faith—the church—have come up with ways to remind ourselves of this truth. There have been many ideas and many disagreements, but what the church can agree on is whom they worship: God.
With all that in mind, I have included three different styles of worship that I have come across in my recent past, but all of which operate under this unifying idea of realizing the presence of God and worshipping Him.
I owe a lot to my dad. He composed this definition of worship, not me.
Worship is the spontaneous response to the realized presence of God.
I’ve adopted this same mindset of worship. It just makes sense.
I don’t always live this way, but by the grace of God and power of the Spirit, I strive to do so.
It takes a constant asking of the Spirit to create an awareness in me of the presence of God.
May the Lord open my eyes to realize his overwhelming presence all around me that I may walk humbly with the Lord wherever I go.
May He open my ears to hear His words that I may come to recognize His voice.
May He open my mouth to taste His goodness all the time that I may speak the truth in love.
May He open my nose to receive His breath of life each and every moment that I may breathe life onto those around me.
May He open my hands to receive His grace, peace, and love, that I may continually sacrifice all I am to Him.
May you wake up to realize that God was in this place, and you didn’t even realize it.
From a few kids listening outside the classrooms to a ton of kids dancing and singing for joy about Jesus in a manner of seconds. #AmazingThingsGodDidInAfrica