Motivated Spirituality

It’s so easy to slip into the trap of thinking that “worship” = “singing.” Don’t get me wrong—music is a popular and powerful avenue to worship, and I, for one, love being in worship bands and choirs! But worship also takes many other forms. Consciously broadening our definition of “worship” (an act that can itself become a form of worship) helps us to broaden our experience of the great richness and beauty of our Creator, leading us in turn to more and deeper praise of Him.


In this YouTube clip, performance artist Brian Daniel silently demonstrates one of the primary ways that he worships. I’m fascinated as I watch him transform a piece of corrugated paper with only his hands and a single can of black paint. Daniel’s choice to use his hands instead of a brush heightens the impact of the performance: nothing separates his body from the paint and the paper. (As a graduate student in English, I find this especially helpful, since I focus so much on words that I tend to forget physical aspects of worship.) Daniel isn’t holding back, trying to keep his hands clean. The way he throws his whole body into his worship visually reminds me of holistic spirituality.

Daniel’s costume reveals another important part of his worship: humility. We never see his whole face in this clip, because he turns his back toward the audience so he—and we—can look at the image taking shape. His dark clothes allow him to blend in with the constantly changing black lines on the paper. His movements are graceful, not self-conscious, reinforcing (and being reinforced by) the music. These choices reflect a desire that God be the one to draw attention here, not Daniel.

The finished painting is powerful, but the process of getting there is a worship experience in its own right. The performance models a crucial aspect of process spirituality: we don’t have to wait until the end to appreciate the beauty of what the artist/Artist is crafting now. Instead of seeing a static picture, we wait and watch in anticipation of what is taking shape. The image of Jesus becomes more and more clear. Slowly, we see him reach out toward us, as if he were moving and extending his arm at this very moment. It is said that Italian Renaissance sculptor Michaelangelo described his work as freeing his sculptures from the marble encasing them. Similarly, in this video an image of Jesus seems to reveal itself in the corrugated paper as Daniel works.

While all of this is going on, Michael W. Smith stands by and offers a strong and passionate rendition of “Above All.” In 2002, Smith won a Dove Award for this song, but during this particular performance he, like Daniel, dresses in black and allows himself to fade into the background. Meanwhile, the simplicity of his song and its instrumentation both inspires and frees the audience to think about the Christ-narrative being portrayed, rather than the people portraying it. Together, these two artists point to the value of corporate worship. The combination of their work illustrates how beautifully different worship-gifts can support and enhance each other. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, as both seek to glorify God above all.

Motivated Audio & Video

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Reflections to Consider

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Motivated Publications

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Publications

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Motivated Music

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Music

  • River of Love

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
  • I Am Nothing

    I stutter when I tryTo speak the language of lifeI want to shout out loudBut I just cry insideSometimes it Read More
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Motivated Reflection

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Audio & Video

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Favorites

  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • What is Good in a World that Defies Hope: a talk by NT Wright +

    This is the second part of three talks by NT Wright at Harvard University in November, 2008 on the topic Read More
  • The Stream, the Lake and the River: NT Wright +

      Acts 2.1-21; John 7.37-39; a sermon at the Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost, 11 May 2008, by the Read More
  • Jesus in the Perfect Storm by NT Wright +

    Zechariah 9.9-17; Luke 19.28-48; A sermon for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, In the University Chapel of St Salvator, St Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Christ is a Great Savior: a review of the movie Amazing Grace +

    Amazing Grace is a historical drama about William Wilberforce who was elected to British Parliament at the age of 21 Read More
  • Wilberforce, Hollywood's Amazing Grace, Charlotte Allen +

    William Wilberforce's relentless campaign eventually led the British Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a Read More
  • Making Beauty out of Ugly Things: Grace by U2 +

    Grace, she takes the blame She covers the shame Removes the stain It could be her name Grace, she carries Read More
  • The True Nature of Grace and Love: a movie review of the Soloist +

    The 2009 movie The Soloist is based on a book by the same name, written by Los Angeles Times columnist Read More
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