A Reflection from Deeper Waters [My Week at The United Pursuit School of Worship]

“Two of the most important things in life: music and family”

I listened as this sweet, energetic, young, life-filled red-haired girl whom I’d met less than 10 minutes ago talked the ear off of our uber driver, Santiago, from the front seat. I looked over and smiled at my new friend Kittie as we both listened intently to their conversation not realizing at the time how that simple phrase she’d said would ring true. “Music and family”. Little did I know that simple phrase she uttered just to make casual conversation with an Uber driver would turn into one of the pillars of the upcoming week. Little did I know by end of that week, those two girls in my uber car would be my family. Those two girls along with 27 others, strangers nonetheless, would become my true family. Bonded by music. But of course, there was more to it than just the music. Sure, music was a huge part of it. It was a worship school after all. Every single one of us possessed some sort of beautifully God-given talent for singing, song-writing, or instrumenting. When we all came together to worship and sing, it made me think of what heaven must sound like. It was angelic, to say the least. And so there I was, sitting in an Uber car leaving the John Wayne airport in Southern California, with three complete strangers sharing a passion for music (Santiago loved his Latin Rock), unaware that any expectations I had had for the United Pursuit School of Worship were all about to be beautifully shattered.

To start off, we were not just thrown into some sort of school setting where we’d learn and eat and make a few friends. But rather we were graciously welcomed into a real home where we were drawn into the culture of the true community of Christ and blessed with phenomenal home-cooked meals while observing and learning what it looked like to pursue a true life of worship. Through this process, we also watched as an amazing new pocket of the family of God on earth unfolded.
I truly learned what a life of true worship looked like by experiencing first hand the authenticity of a lifestyle led by the Spirit alone. I felt the presence of the Father like never before.

It was that authenticity, I believe, that drew us all in. Something so hard to find in this day and age. Fearlessly authentic worship. Singing in the brokenness and in the pain. In the bitterness and in the sorrow. That’s where the purest form of worship comes from. When we are most vulnerable with ourselves, others, and God. Throughout the week I saw His work in the deepest parts of my life and that was only through being vulnerable. I allowed Him to come in and work in the deepest parts where shame was lurking.  But when He was down there working, He decided to take that shame with Him. I was able to be real with myself and with God and the people around me. I was ushered into a culture of fearless authenticity guided by the Holy Spirit alone which allowed me to heal in ways I never thought possible. It takes faith to step into that. It really does. Especially when you’ve been dealing with some of the junk I’ve been dealing with for as long as I have. It is not easy and it takes courage and strength. But I decided not to rely on my own strength and I decided not focus on my own weakness. I decided to praise Him no matter what. To be thankful and rejoice in all circumstances– even when 3/4 of the group caught the stomach bug on New Years Day (I was a fortunate soul). I made up my mind that beginning this year, no matter what He was calling me to, I was going to listen. And in doing so, I made up my mind to praise Him, exalt His name and His magnificent character above all else. I decided to look at every perfect aspect of His faithfulness I have seen in my life. I decided to revel in His beauty and majesty and wonderful mystery. I decided to look into the light and the hope that light brings. And carry it with me always. I decided to laugh out loud obnoxiously because I could not contain the joy that was filling my heart. His presence is an unstoppable flood every time we worship from the deepest parts of ourselves. Unspeakable, unstoppable joy. Deep cries out to deep. The deepest parts of the God of the universe cries out to the deepest parts of me. My soul. He wants all of me. and He wants all of you too. Just let that sink in. Soak it in. His goodness overflows. That is something to rejoice about.

So my word for this year is deeper. Because I know that God is taking me deeper than ever before. I think this word was solidified over my life when I did a somewhat prophetic act of running and plummeting myself into the freezing cold ocean at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I still remember the fear of not knowing if I was about to step on a piece of glass as I was walking down the streets of New Port beach numb legged and barefooted. It was worth it for sure and it’s a memory that will stay with me no doubt. Beginning the New Year with a group of new people you met less than a week ago is memorable in and of itself, let alone allowing yourself to risk getting pneumonia. Needless to say, it was a life-changing experience. If someone were to ask what takeaways I got from this Worship school, it might not be the expected. It might not be all about the music after all.

Something Michael Ketterer told us was that

“It’s not even about the song, it’s about the dream”.

So it might just be about getting to know people on a deep level by writing songs with them, finding the freedom to be yourself and learning to be fearlessly authentic and bold as a lion about it. Maybe it’s all about dreaming bigger than you tell yourself seems rational, praising God in all seasons of life, or letting go and letting the Spirit take over. Maybe it’s simply resting in Community. Maybe it’s realizing the truth of who we are and our identity as sons and daughters of the One True King or understanding the Father’s captivating love for us and allowing your own capacity to love God drastically expand. Or perhaps it’s the steady, strong voice you hear from way out past the shore calling to the deepest parts of you saying, “Come as you are”. I’d say those are definitely some takeaways from the week.

But wow guys. It’s truly insurmountable what all He can do when we decide to let go and hand over every piece of ourselves to Him. A good quote from good ol’ Bob Goff says it best:

“It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”

Granted, I did not explain every detail of the week and the specific ways God worked in my life, trust me, He did a whole lot. Yes, it was super cool getting to play, write, and sing with some amazing worship leaders and musicians from around the country and the world. Yes, it was incredible getting to facetime with one of my favorite artists of all time. Yes, it was awesome getting tips from a professional songwriter who used to write for the big leagues. But I loved getting to experience the Kingdom of God on earth more than anything else. The kingdom of God is family. And that’s all I really have to say about that.

Here are a few photos taken by the wonderful Micah Francisco:

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Here is my team’s song we wrote during the week. Solid musicians right here and pretty happy with the final song which comes mostly from Psalm 51.

{Happy New Year and God bless}

 

Leah

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