Lungs to lips.

I was chatting with my Mum yesterday on the phone, discussing worship (specifically of the singing variety).  We were talking about song speed.  Apparently, when she was young(er!), any group that wanted to show their particularly ‘holy’ approach to worship played songs quickly.  Now, of course, the tendency is to assume that in order to show we’re holy, we need to play songs veeeerrrrryyyyy slooooowwwlyyyyyy.

I find it hard to sing certain songs quickly.  I remember some years ago, leading our youth service through a rendition of ‘When the Music Fades’ at a speed that would rival an excited auctioneer on performance enhancing drugs.  It was not my finest hour at the helm of the band, (though arguably a useful lesson in humility!).  I’ve since had countless experiences in church where I find that I’m trying so hard to keep up with the pace the musicians have set that I have very little idea of what I’m singing about.  In my conversation with Mum yesterday, I talked about words that get from the lungs to the lips without passing through the brain.  But that’s not solely because of the song speed.  It might be because I’m so familiar with the words I don’t really need to think about them.  Or I might just have something else monopolising my brain (my brain is easily monopolised – I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions from that…).  For me, the words and style of a song should help to determine the speed, because of course different songs have different focuses/aspects of worship.

This ‘lungs to lips’ problem can also apply to liturgy (which I know is why some people avoid liturgy – they feel it loses its meaning because of familiarity)  There are ways of combatting this, however.  When I say the creed, I picture my way through it, so if you ever wonder why I’m smiling at the ‘he rose again’ bit, you now know why (my frown at ‘he descended to the dead’ coincides with a difficulty in picturing this particular bit!)

However, the fact remains that I have a long way to go before I truly treat all worship as true worship.  Confused by a new tune, annoyed by odd grammar, lost in archaic terms, exhausted by the speed, or simply drifting mentally, I all too often lose my grip on worshipping.

How about you?

What makes you struggle in focus?

Any tips to keep your mind where it should be?

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6 Responses to Lungs to lips.

  1. pamjw says:

    Interesting thoughts. I’ve been thinking about what you tweeted this morning too about leading worship//playing the piano.
    Do we need to somehow personally connect for worship to go from lungs to lips via brain (or heart?)?
    I struggle because, due to my lung condition, I can no longer sing, which is a huge part of my churchmanship. How do I make “mine”, when I can’t sing it? How do I find a way in? Or is that just a reaction to no longer being the one leading, and therefore choosing the elements of, worship?
    Thanks for making me think

    • nickparish says:

      Thanks for your comment, Pam.
      This morning went ok, though having to bat my 18-month-old off the higher notes on the piano whilst playing ‘You’re the Word of God the Father’ is always a bit of a challenge 🙂
      I used to ask our youth band (previous church), “Do we lead worship by worshipping, or do we lead worship by leading?” I think it’s a bit of both. Without leading, the worship is in danger of simply following my own whims, without worshipping, there’s a danger that I’m just heading up a cheery sing-song.
      This might not work (I’ve not thought it through, just thought of it) but I was wondering if doing what I do during the creed might help – would it be helpful to imagine your way through the words if you’re unable to sing them? Just an idea… Apologies if it’s a rubbish one.

  2. Lots to think about and consider our focus.
    One bugbear as a musician is poor playing but equally the pursuit of musical perfection can get in the way of worship, because it can become performance focused. An organist in one of our previous churches was very liberal in his use of tremulant (fondly known as turbo warble) and with the clattering forewarning as it wheezed into action it sent any focus on worship for many of us straight out of the window. If you then caught the eye of the wrong person the ensuing tears would most certainly not be penitent, but the result of the efforts of trying not to laugh out loud. Yet some in that place were turbo-warbler’s greatest fans (not just his wife!)
    It is easy to lose focus if we don’t like the songs or if the person on sound desk is having an off day. Amazingly God can transcend these selfish motives and fallibilities. Up front it sometimes feels as though worship has ‘gone well’, yet there will be no response afterwards and at other times it feels fairly average and subsequently several people will say how great it was. Just when you think you’ve got it, it stops being about Jesus, so you actually haven’t got it at all really. Just love that mystery!.

    • nickparish says:

      I think you’re spot on with the ‘perfect playing’ point. It’s important to get it right, but equally it’s important to keep our focus on what we really *should* be doing.
      I’m sure you’ve heard the old story about two people leaving church at the end of the service, one says, ‘I didn’t really get much from the worship today’, and the other responds, ‘oh, I didn’t realise it was for you’.
      Obviously, this is a flawed interaction, because there is an aspect of worship which *is* for us, in God’s grace He works through us in it. But it’s a struggle to keep in focus that truth that worship is for us, and hold that (often in tension) with the fact that there are going to be ways we find conducive to worship and ways we don’t. Something I’m finding very difficult at the moment…

      • I see that your thoughts are very honest in the struggle & seeking to get to the heart of it all. And it’s that stuff deep in the heart, the questions, the doubts & the wrestling that people are generally so unwilling to be honest about.
        Over the years one of the hardest things I’ve found to unravel is that picking holes in ‘the worship’ is an easy target when people are hurting, sad or plain dissatisfied. In working through whether complaints are justified or whether it is a symptom of something much deeper in the other person’s heart, I know I have often felt like I’m hanging on by a thread. Sometimes it has been the routine of just turning up on Sundays that has kept me going at times, not terribly glamorous, but I think it’s the honest truth.
        And I appreciate the space here to think on these things….

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