In 2011 in one of my articles I wrote 'I love music. I listen to it, I compose it, I study it, I use it to wind-down, to stir myself up, to think and to worship; generally I'm either making music or listening to it'.
Four years laterânothing much has changed. Often I bring my guitar with me to the dinner table, and yes, I have even been known to play my guitar when in the bathroom. I am fascinated by sound. How the organisation of notes can bring such joy to people, or organised differently the same notes can make people cry.
God has created this brilliant landscape we call sound, and we do our best to map it out with music notation, group it into genres, and sell it in neatly packaged albums.
But music has to be so much more than just organised sound. Is it just neatly arranged notes that move a person's emotions? If I were to play more major chords, would that bring a ray of hope to someone cloaked in sadness? Or would more minor chords move someone with sorrow? No, I don't think it's in the notes alone that people find such emotive qualities in sound; I believe it's in the heart of both the writer of the song and the player.
Years and years ago I recall travelling on a choir tour, and I saw this concept gradually transform our choir from an average choir to a world class vocal ensemble. At first we started with just sound and words, begrudgingly learning these songs that we had to sing. But soon we learnt a lesson that I will forever hold relevant to all I do. We learnt the difference between 'have to' and 'want to'.
No matter how good our singing, if we didn't want to sing those songs, if our heart wasn't in it, they would always be missing something. But when we understood within ourselves that this was a form of worshipping God, that's when we tapped into an innate desire that transformed ordinary sound into stirring music. When we committed our performance to Him, that's when our singing actually meant something beyond just the sound, and the perspective on the inside dramatically changed the performance on the outside.
Instead of following rules and instructions that were being given to us we had the conductor's vision inside of us from where it came out with such passion that epitomised God's creative creation. And I believe God was in the sound that came out of our voices, He was in the movement, He was in the performance. Because we committed it to Him and praised Him with what we had, God used it. That remains true.
God's presence inhabits the praises of His people; and where His presence is, there is freedomâthe most crucial ingredient to creativity. The change must first take place within where a desire defines the actions that come out drenched in overt praise for our Creator. That's when we're at our best.
Sure, our voices blended better and we knew our notes and lyrics more confidently but with those things perfect it would still be missing somethingâlike a computer program playing Mozart. We put our hearts behind the words that we sung and then took it even deeper and worshipped God in our performance, thus inviting His supernatural presence to add what we couldn't.
Worship isn't just a slow song at the start of a church service. It can manifest in any form, it has everything to do with the heart. Cleaning toilets can be worshipping God, running a business can be worshipping God, indeed, singing a worship song can be not worshipping God. He knows our intention which is unalterably tied to our actions.
So whatever you do, whether it be musical or non-musical, do it with all your heart and do it as worship to God. Then your actions will have human meaning and spiritual significance, and that's when the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Daniel J. Mathew is a musician and writer living in Los Angeles.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html