To Worship You I Live

To Worship You I Live

Long ago… in a galaxy far far away… I was a teenager. Well, I guess I can even go a step further back and say I was a kid. My parents divorced when I was a baby and I went to my dad’s on the weekends. He took me to church and we were there every Sunday for morning and night service, every Wednesday night, and for anything else that he could come to pick me up and take me to during the week. If the doors were open I wanted to be there. Church was a safe place, a place where I had friends, and a place where I just wanted to be. I remember there was this girl who was in her early twenties that used to sing “specials” on Sundays behind that wooden pulpit, into the corded mic with the huge lime green foam cover over the top of it. 

When she sang, even though I was only eight, I used to just feel such peace. I didn’t know what that was at the time, but she just had something special about her voice. She was bubbly, fun, and sweet as can be. I admired her so much and I thought she was the coolest, most awesome person in the world. Another girl my age mentioned in passing that she was about to be taking voice lessons on Sunday afternoons from none other than the most awesome, bubbly, fun, amazing person in the world. When I found this out I immediately asked my dad if I could take voice lessons. He said yes, but I think he was surprised because I was (and still am) a very shy and backward person. My main reason for wanting the voice lessons was to hang out with “awesome, bubby, fun superstar girl” because I thought she was the coolest person ever and I just wanted to be in her presence and I couldn’t let my friend weasel in, and take her attention all to herself. The singing… eh… I’d try it… 

Basically all our “voice lessons” consisted of was her bringing some of her accompaniment cassette tapes for us to pick from, we’d choose a song and sing it for her and then after we got ready, we’d get to sing a special on a Sunday. I remember learning “God Loves People” by Point of Grace and thinking, “This is the best song I’ve ever heard.” I bought the cassette tape of their whole album on one of my frequent trips to the Bible Outlet with my dad and I wore that tape out in my walkman. 

I don’t remember much about singing my first “special” other than the mic shaking in my hand and people telling me I did a good job and they couldn’t believe I had done that because I never even talked, let alone sing something. Shortly after that is when I got saved. I remember that night going to my friend and my voice lesson instructor and saying “I just got saved.” I can still remember how proud they were of me. I felt God’s presence with me even at a young age and I fell in love with singing, but more importantly worship.

Fast forward to the “I was a teenager” part. Over time I discovered many Christian artists that I enjoyed listening to. Christian music in the late 90s and early 2000’s had some gems… it had some… interesting things… to say the least. I advanced with technology and bought CDs of Jaci Velasquez, FFH, Avalon, DC Talk, and Nicole C. Mullen to name a few. (On a side note when “I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES” hit the scene, that was something… let me tell you. That song could about lift me off the floor…) I also enjoyed some… well a lot… of soul music… gospel music… some Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers, Yolanda Adams, the Winans… man… that was what I was rocking out to in my car all alone. I remember though around the time I was graduating High School, I went to a conference with my youth group and discovered Israel Houghton and the New Breed. Modern praise and worship meets gospel, it was all over after that. I burnt CDs of every song he had and that became literally all I listened to for a while. One song, in particular, became so special to me. “To Worship You I Live.” The verses are a little wordy, but the chorus is just, “To worship You I live, to worship You I live, I live to worship You.” It was so personal, so beautiful. I just fell in love with that song.

To tell my whole journey, life, testimony, however you want to label it, will take much more than one blog. But several years later from the time when I was belting out Israel Hougton in my car, I was a young wife and stay at home mom to a toddler and a college student who didn’t know what they wanted to be or what classes to take. I wanted to complete college and get that job that was going to help us get out of that little apartment, but nothing was fitting right. One night at my computer while I was choosing my classes for my next semester I had an encounter that I will never forget. The Holy Spirit entered not just the room, but my heart and I submitted to what I had been fighting for years, I was called to lead worship. If I wanted to lead worship, I didn’t know what that was going to look like, but whatever it was going to be I wanted to do it to the best of my ability so that meant, for me, majoring in music, learning to play piano, taking voice lessons, devoting that time in my life to improving my craft and being the best singer I could, because if I was going to do it for the Lord I had to do my best. 

After realizing I was going to take piano lessons, I bought a book. A book of piano music for an album by Israel Houghton, in that book was the sheet music for “To Worship You I Live” among many others. As soon as I started my lessons I would practice my piano music for a while every night after tucking in my daughter. My husband worked nights then so it was just me and the piano and then after I worked on my stuff for my lessons I would pull out that book and piece by piece, note by note try to dissect that song. And I dunno if you have ever heard Israel Houghton play the piano… but he is good… like real good… the chords were funky and complicated, they had all these frilly notes in there that sounded great when he played it, but were overwhelming to a starter piano player whose teacher was teaching them out of a children’s piano book cause… yeah… I’m not a great piano player… I just so badly wanted to learn that song and be able to just sit and play and sing that song and just pour my heart out.

I never did learn to play the sheet music in that book, life got busy, I got my degree and didn’t have to practice piano every night anymore. I did learn to play a SUPER SIMPLE version by chords and I got to play and sing that song at a Women’s Worship at our church a few years ago. During women’s worship I was reminded about all the nights alone in our apartment practicing that song. Today I was sitting here thinking about what to write in this blog. I turned on an instrumental soaking worship YouTube video that’s almost four hours long. The first instrumental that came on was “To Worship You I Live” and here I am typing this blog out. 

I’ve been in a little of a spiritual identity crisis I guess you could say. Some days doubt creeps in, the questions, the why’s, the what if’s, the how’s. I get “weary in well doing.” I get overwhelmed. I forget who I am, whose I am… I have to remind myself that I live to worship. I live to bring Him glory in all I do. Not just on the stage with a microphone, not just as I built sets for the worship team… 

Webster defines worship as: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power. To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.

So as I make breakfast for my family on a crazy school/work morning because I love them and am so glad I have them, I want to give them my “best me” as a thank you to God for answering a prayer I prayed long ago to be a mom and wife. Do I always? No. But each day is a new day to try again. I show devotion to Him by stopping in the middle of a busy day to study the Word. Do I always? No. But each day is a new day to try again. I show reverence, love, and respect when I push a worry aside and quote the Scripture I have on my bulletin board and trust He is good and sovereign and will take care of me. Do I always? No. But each day is a new day to try again.

It’s easy to get caught up in life, caught up in work, school, and even ministry. Sometimes we try to figure out our purpose, why we’re on this earth, and what we’re supposed to be doing. At the core of it all, we are made to worship. Not just on Sundays at church, not just as we listen to a moving song in the car, but in all we do, all day, every day. I know I’m nowhere near perfect and I won’t always walk with a thankful heart and show honor to Him in all I do, but each day is a new day to remind myself what I was created to do. To worship.

I was created to do that thing that I did when I was eight years old with a corded mic in one hand and one hand lifted to the sky. That thing that gave a self-conscious little girl peace and made her feel purpose, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Not purpose because I was singing, but purpose because I was worshiping. Adult me needs to be reminded of that all the time. 

To worship You I live. To worship You I live. I live to worship You.

-Ashton Banes