Stand Up Straight, God is Watching!

By: Christine Salazar, Director of Music
“Stand up straight. God is watching!” Sound familiar? Didn’t you grandmother say that to you when you went to that little church growing up? Can you picture it? You’re five years old. This is before the days of children’s church. You sat in church with your parents or grandparents. You wished you could see what was going on outside through the stained glass windows. Instead, you watched the light filter down and the dust particles float up. The air conditioning didn’t work or was non-existent, and oscillating fans blew that dust around. The guy in a suit or a robe talked forever. Then you got to sing. You picked up a hymnal and grandma helped you find the page, and pointed to the words as you tried to read them. You hunched down over the hymnal. Then, grandma poked you HARD in the back and told you to stand up straight.

I think grandma was on to something. First of all, from a choral perspective, when we stand up straight and sing, our abdomen and diaphragm are open and able to take in more air, and better able to support and project, making a louder, more powerful sound. But during Covid-19, science tells us it’s not safe to sing. So what, then? Posture doesn’t matter anymore?

I have notoriously bad posture. But I still have this subconscious, sometimes conscious ability to adjust my posture when it matters. We all do! When an athlete wants to instill fear in their opponent, they stand straight, shoulders back, arms out, and fists clenched. Knees are bent and the athlete is ready to move at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, when someone seeks to ask forgiveness, the posture is completely different, shoulders and head bowed, hands open and humble. Maybe even with a knee bowed.

If you google the word “posture,” you’ll find the following: “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting. A particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude.” I believe that the first definition is tied to the second. An athlete would NEVER approach their opponent with a posture of defeat. And someone seeking forgiveness would NEVER approach the other person with their head cocked and their arms crossed over their chest.

Posture is the outward expression of what’s going on inside. Last week, I wrote about the attitude of the heart in worship, even when we can’t sing. This week, I’m going to discuss what our outward posture says about what’s in our hearts.

First, let’s start with an experiment. Pick a simple chorus or hymn you know from heart. Here are a few well-loved suggestions: I Love You, Lord, Amazing Grace, or I Surrender All. First, cross your arms over your chest and sing your song right where you are seated reading this article. Sing it again, but this time stand up, put your hands out, palms up, and lift your face heavenward. Now, sing it once more, and if you’re able, kneel down and bow your head. When you changed your posture, did your mindset change? Were you able to find a deeper, soulful meaning to the song with the second two postures that was inaccessible in the first posture?

Let’s look at some examples of physical posture reflecting spiritual posture from David, the writer of the psalms and one of the most famous worshippers in the Bible.

Psalm 95:6—“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”

Psalm 63:4—“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”

Psalm 26:12—“My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.”

Psalm 47:1—"Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”

But it’s not always so positive…

Psalm 28:2—“Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.”

Psalm 143:6—“I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.”

Psalm 3:3—“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

David was not perfect. His psalms reflect the turmoil of his life and the story of God’s redemption even when he walked “through the valley.” But in every occasion, he expressed his inmost heart, whether in praise and filled with joy, or thirsting for God and seeking his mercy. David allowed his posture to reflect that heart, and he wrote about it, acknowledging time and again that reflective posture in worship is completely normal.

Can we take the example that David sets forth for us, and allow our posture to come forth in our worship? We have an amazing opportunity as one of the only churches in our area that has opened its doors for people to gather in worship. We are taking every precaution for the safety of our people, and that includes not being able to sing. We can’t sing, so what can we do? Using the model that David lays out in the Psalms, we can explore other postures of worship, and know that God sees our worship, even though it’s non-vocal.

So, I’m going to challenge you this week. If you are thirsting for God, spread out your hands. If you experience the glory of God as a shield around you, lift your head high. If you are experiencing joy, clap your hands. There are so many ways to worship God. Allow your heart to open up to expression, and let your worship pour out.
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Marcy Olhausen - September 22nd, 2020 at 2:18pm

So helpful!! Thank you, Christine for something tangible we can do to assume a posture of worship while we cannot sing our praise and thanksgiving to God in public!!

Deb Kiebbe - September 22nd, 2020 at 6:08pm

Thank you for those uplifting words Christine! I am looking so forward to the time where we can all be in the loft again and singing as a whole congregation!