Sunday, December 6, 2009

Solitude

Solitude with You
Brings peace, love, tranquility
So I come to sit
Only to find
Interruptions
Distractions
War
Work
Wailing
All fighting to stay

I shut the door.

They pound and insist
Knocking and cajoling:
PLEASE LET US IN
WHY HAVE YOU SHUT US OUT

I remain silent
Focused

The voices gradually fading away
As I am drawn into
Solitude
With You
Where there is
Peace, love, tranquility
Where Your voice plays
Over the strings of
My heart

Strengthening me
Giving me space
to listen
to hear
You speak

Solitude.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My friend Erin

I read my friend Erin' blog this morning and my heart filled with thankfulness for this one the Lord placed in my path many years ago - first as a youth in our church's youth group, then as a youth leader during my husband's youth pastor days, and now as a dear friend who walks through life with me.

This December we will be concluding 4 years of Mexico trips together.

The first one was during a season of transition for all of us, but particularly Erin. Erin had come home to Texas after spending extended time away doing various ministry-related jobs with YWAM, Flywheel, Muskoga Woods. She was uncertain where her next season would land her. Our church was in transition as we had a new pastor (Bob) and were working through the process of establishing relationships and learning how to do ministry together.

Bob decided to take a small team to Mazatlan, Mexico, and Erin signed up to go. So did I.

We were roomies, and she was the only person on the team who knew about my recently discovered pregnancy. We look to Emily's age to help us remember how long our church has been involved in Mexico.

Not long after that trip to Mazatlan, Erin and I began walking weekly together, sharing life's struggles and triumphs, discussing theological ideas, planning Mexico trips...and in the midst of walking, God built a friendship.

God, thank You so much for that.

There's so much more I could say about our Mexico trips together, the art symposium we spontaneously attended, Advent paintings, coffee...and perhaps one day those stories will be blogged. But for now, in an unpolished way, I just want to say how thankful I am for Erin, for our friendship, for the many ways she has led and pioneered how our church does missions in Mexico, for her consistency, her trust in Jesus, her willingness to think creatively...for the grace with which she walks out transition.

And today we will go shopping for shoes for kids in Mexico, and we will plan our last (or next-to-last, as they would say in Spain) trip to Mexico together. We will reminisce some about last year's shoe trip and think through ways we can improve and create a more fluid experience for the team we'll be leading. It will be memorable, I'm sure. And it will mark the end of one season for Erin and the beginning of a new one as she transitions into new things this next year.

Erin, I'm so glad you invited me to walk with you and look forward to the wonders this next season brings as you faithfully look to the One who has called you according to His purposes. It can't be anything but glorious.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks to the Lord

The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
"He is good;
his love endures forever."
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God."
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 emphasis mine

This passage overwhelms me with longing. Oh to experience the Presence of the Lord in this way! Somehow in this moment, these Old Testament worshippers touched the heart of God. Their praises, their voices lifted in thanksgiving and unabashed declarations of His love and goodness, brought the tangible, visible presence of the Lord into their midst. The temple was filled with the cloud of the glory of the Lord and the priests couldn't serve. They couldn't DO anything. They just had to experience and worship in the Presence. They could only BE.

A similar occurrence happens two chapters later at the dedication of the temple:
"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,
"He is good;
his love endures forever."
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 empahsis mine

This time there's fire and glory: fire that consumes the sacrifice and glory that fills the temple. And the Israelites response? Faces to the ground, worship and praise flowing from their lips as they declare the goodness and the love of the Lord.

Thanksgiving.
Worship.
Fire.
Glory.
More worship.

These worshippers in Chronicles lived under the old covenant, and the glory and the fire filled a building made of wood and stone. Their worship brought down the Presence in a tangible, visible way and their response was to just worship. To cease activity and to fall on their faces and express the goodness and love of the Lord.

As children born under the new covenant, we ARE the temple of the Lord, the place where He has chosen to dwell. We are the vessels that He most desires to fill with His glory. We are also His priests, chosen and appointed to minister to Him day and night. How much more should we who have been given open access to the Throne of God through the blood of Jesus experience the tangible, visible Presence of the Lord!

As you offer sacrifices of praise to the Lord, as you rejoice and remember the ways the Lord has blessed you, kept you, surrounded you and defended you. As You remember how He's provided, poured out His everlasting love, faithfully shown you His amazing goodness. As you thank Him and praise Him and declare His love and goodness...

May you be filled with the cloud of His glory and the fire of His presence.

May your hearts be drawn to just sit at His feet, to gaze at His face, and to hear His voice speak Your name.

And with faces to the ground may our response to His tremendous outpouring of Love and Goodness be to worship and declare loudly and passionately:
You are good!
Your love endures forever!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Teach the Child - Charlotte Mason part 2

Day 2 of the Charlotte Mason workshop I attended in San Antonio was just what I needed. It was the "how-to" portion and gave me great tools and ideas for how to implement Charlotte's ideas in our home. Most of all, though, I was reminded to "teach the child, not the curriculum."

My children are unique individuals with distinct callings on their lives. They need regular contact with God's creation, free time to process and explore and study independently, short (emphasis on short), structured lessons to give them fodder for thought and most of all a mom who can relax and teach her children instead of the curriculum.

In my opinion, one of the biggest pitfalls for me of a prepared curriculum is the self-imposed pressure to do everything "by the book." And I do mean everything. Most curriculum I look at tells you to not try and do it all, but to pick and choose, according to the individual family needs.

But I don't want to miss anything. And I sure don't want to leave out something important because it all is so very vital to their growth and development. I might scar them for life if I don't do it all exactly as written and suggested. That one thing I chose to skip might be the very piece of information they needed for success and I didn't include it.

Can you feel the panic mounting?

If anything this weekend workshop helped me to stop, take a deep breath, and relax. To be reminded first and foremost that God cares infinitely more about my children, about me, than I have come close to grasping. I really can trust Him to lead and guide me in our family's education journey. I absolutely don't have to stress about doing it all or covering every base. He is faithful. Always.

God used the time to help me see more clearly the path to this gentle way of teaching my children and I look forward to facilitating what the Lord is doing in each of my children as I smooth the way for them to experience Him in all we do.

Isaiah 40:3-5 comes to mind and I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message:
"Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God's bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flame of Love

a response to Richard Rolle's The Spiritual Flame:

Flame of love burn bright in me
Consume my earthly fears
Restore to me passion and purity
Light the way as I go

Be to me the obsession of my life
Let me not turn away
May all I do and all I say
Come from this place of burning love

Refresh my heart, renew my mind
Keep me ever focused and true
Put Your heart within mine
Let them burn as one

Do not abandon me to my desires
My life is in Your hands
Draw my eyes to Your heart of fire
Envelope me, O Flame

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On my nightstand

This month, I have several books going on my "nightstand" (proverbial as I don't do much reading in my room these days). My mom would say I get this from her as she often has multiple books going on at once. I don't do that often as I prefer to work through one book at a time, but for some reason (most probably due to DNA) I have gravitated towards having many started at once.

I've been working through Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, and, boy, is it shedding light on areas I don't trust God in. I say "ouch" several times a page, but it's worth every word. I usually read this one while I'm on a bike or eliptical machine at the Y in the early (for me) morning. It's exercises my brain while I exercise my body and becomes food for thought all day long.

Then there's Repenting of Religion by Gregory Boyd. I've barely cleared the introduction, but I can tell that it will be surgery performed on my heart. And just in time. God's been bringing this particular topic up quite frequently of late and the first few lines I read yelled out: Confirmation! Read me now!. I've only had this book for almost a year, and it's not like me to not start a new book right away, but looks like the timing is just perfect.

Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk has me on round 2. If you are a parent, you should read this. If you are not a parent, you should read this. So, so good. I will blog about it at another time, but suffice to say it is the best parenting book I have read to date. Or maybe it's just timely for me. Either way, go read it.

I have been savoring Holy Spirit Revelation and Revolution by Reinhard Bonke for a few months now, ever since I won the freebie contest on a blog. Lots of meat there. Chew slowly, at least 20 times each bite.

I picked up Princess Bride (yes, the one the movie came from) at the library on a whim the other day. It's fun, light reading...and it's actually the only one on this list actually on my night stand as I've taken to reading it before going to sleep. So far I haven't gotten past the author/abridger's introduction. It is fascinating or at least very interesting. I never used to read the intros to books...always skipped straight to the story. I must be getting older.

Finally, I am every-so-slowly moving through Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith. I discovered this book through the Essentials Green course I took last spring. What a treasure it is. There is a virtual group of us reading selections and dialoging about them every 2 weeks or so. This week's selection is by Richard Rolle of York who lived from 1290-1349.

Look for my thoughts on that tomorrow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Negativity Fast

A couple of weeks ago, the words "negativity fast" were dropped into my spirit and subsequently confirmed in a variety of ways, so last week I started "fasting" from saying negative things to my kids.

It's hard.

I have been more and more convicted of how I correct much more than I praise my kids. They could have the whole room picked up and vacuumed, and I never mention what they have done well. Instead I zero in on the one sock left on the floor or the miniscule piece of trash still on the coffee table. I point out the crumbs they missed on the kitchen counter and the spot still on the bathroom floor. Sigh.

Now, I value a job well-done and part of the correcting comes from that desire to see them learn to do all things well. But when those words are 90% of what they hear from me, I fear that the message I am sending them is not so much about doing a job well but about not ever being good enough.

And that is a terrible burden to be asking them to live under. I need to change the way I'm communicating to them.

My focus this last week has been on appreciating their work and affirming their efforts. I have not been without my share of slip-ups, but over all I can feel the kids relaxing (particularly the older ones) and the atmosphere in our home shifting more to the side of honor and love.

Which is my ultimate goal. I want our home to be full of love and honor for one another, for the things we do and the ways we serve to flow out of a place of desire to love and honor and not from a place of fear of correction and punishment.

These next several weeks, I am shifting the bulk of my communication with my family from words of correction to words of love and honor. Care to join me? Just leave a comment and in the days and weeks ahead, we can encourage one another with testimonies of how God is using this season to rebuild and renew communications within our families.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Psalm 66 - a variation

Shout with joy
Sing the glory
Say to God:
Your deeds are awesome!
Your power is great!
Your enemies cringe!
Come and see what God has done...
He has set my feet on a Rock and placed a new song in my mouth
He has turned my mourning into dancing
Given me a garment of praise and a righteous robe
Praise our God
Let His praises BE HEARD from our lips
An audible sound
A loud sound
A sacrifice of praise
Look at what He's done!
Preserved our lives
Kept our feet from slipping
Tested us
Refined us

I will come with my offerings
In Your presence I will do what I've vowed, what I promised to You when I was in trouble

Come and listen!
Let me tell you what He has done for me:
I cried out to Him
Had praise on my tongue
I chose to turn from unbelief and offense
I did not hold bitterness, unforgiveness and anger in my heart
I refused to cherish sin because He would not have listened to me if I had
But He did listen
He listened and He heard my voice.
He acted on my behalf.

Praise be to God who has not rejected my prayer
Praise be to God who has not withheld His love from me!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Released for more

Thanksgiving always releases more freedom. When I cease focusing on what I can't have, on something gone awry, on perceived lack in my life and instead practice thanksgiving and focus on the good that surrounds me, I am no longer tethered to the dead weight of ungratefulness, negativity and pessimism. I am free to fly on the wings of possibilities with God. I am free to bask in His goodness and to rely on His faithfulness in every situation. I am released for more laughter, more joy, more trust...more God.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Perspective

My prayer today is to become more aware of the intensity and determination of God's commitment to me. He is more passionate, more aware, more concerned about me and my loved ones than I could ever be. I can rest in that, in His everlasting love and His continued faithfulness to me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Charlotte Mason

I'm attending a Charlotte Mason seminar this weekend. Charlotte Mason lived in the 1800's and had a "revolutionary" philosophy of education that continues to make waves in educational circles and bring people back to the heart of learning/teaching. I was wondering today if she had any clue when she wrote her 6 volumes on education that her work would still be speaking to people nearly 100 years later.

So, here's quote of hers that I heard today on the importance of forming good habits in ourselves and our children:

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with children.


Habits, good ones, that is, are an investment that pay huge dividends on down the road. It is not easy to establish them, and it may seem "easier" to just let habits form themselves. But "easier" today spells lots and lots of hard, hard work later on down the road that could be avoided by taking the pains to form good habits today.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is my main take-away from today's seminar. Tune in tomorrow for another Charlotte Mason update.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Becoming God's Friend

This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing worth of honor and desire.
~Gregory of Nyssa from Devotional Classics (Foster and Smith), pgs 126-127.

Leaning into love a little more today than yesterday, becoming God's friend.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just one sentence

I felt the Lord say to me today: "Write every day. Even if it's just one sentence."

In You I put my hope all day long. My salvation comes from You. You alone are my Rock and my Foundation. I will not be put to shame. Because You love me, you will rescue me and place my feet upon a rock, on Your Rock of peace. I have nothing to fear for Your love has rescued me and brought me to a spacious place. The boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places.

~prayer from various Psalms

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do Not Worry

Reading through Matthew and noting the commands that Jesus gave is not an easy task when you are paying attention to what He is asking. In my last post I mentioned the one about giving. I'll follow up now with the 2nd command that jumped out at me in the first 9 chapters: Don't worry.

I used to think that anxiety/worry wasn't an issue for me. And it probably wasn't in some more obvious areas. But in smaller, more insidious ways, it was.

Sometimes still is.

Like the time I bite my kid's head off when they ask me something or even talk back to me, but my reaction is way out of proportion to what is actually going on. Usually a sign that I'm anxious.

Or when I tear through the house like a crazed woman looking for that piece of paper that is so incredibly important that I ignore the fact that dinner should've been served an hour ago. Another anxiety marker.

And what about when I start sorting through the piles of books I need to make decisions about and I start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the task...anxiety.

For me all of these things and countless others that I haven't even begun to list indicate an anxiety factor in my life that is rooted in the fear that God won't take care of me. Or that I have created too big a mess for Him to manage. That this one problem is beyond His capacity to be God in my life.

What a pack of lies that is!

I've found in preparing for this school year, particularly in regards to entering into that awesome responsibility of teaching my high schooler, that I am incredibly worried. Deep down it's a belief that says that God won't lead me...that He won't continue to be faithful like He's been these past 14 years that I've been a parent.

Argh. Why do I go there again?

Of course, He is faithful. He never changes. And He sure hasn't stopped speaking to me or guiding me. He has no shadow of turning. He's what He says He is. Faithful to the core.

So I'm back to following His commands tonight. I'm throwing all of those things I'm anxious about back at His feet. I'm trusting Him to lead and guide me, to be my children's teacher, to love them like only He can.

I'm believing God.

Matthew 6:25-34
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I love the way the Message paraphrases verse 34:
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

Philippians 4:6-7 :Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Cost of Nondiscipleship

I've joined another great web class put on by the incredible folks at Essentials Team. We're going through the book Devotional Classics which we used for a portion of the Essentials Green worship theology course. We all loved that aspect of the course so much, they added these Spiritual Formation calls with Dan Wilt which have been just amazing. By the way, the next essentials course kick off starts on September 11th. I can't recommend it enough.

This assignment's reading comes from a selction by Dallas Willard on the cost of nondiscipleship. He defines it this way:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding govenance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10)


I have been contemplating this definition for several days, concluding that if I'm lacking any of those items in his definition, there's a pretty good chance it's because I'm not submitting to the disciple-making process in an area (or perhaps several) of my life.

At the end of the reading, the suggestion is made to read through the book of Matthew and list all the things Jesus commanded us to do, giving us a "mosaic of what the basic Christian life should look like according to Jesus."

I've only gotten through chapter 9 of Matthew, and already I am squirming. I notice that the commands I'm feeling most uncomfortable over all have to do with anxiety (subject for another post perhaps) and giving.

Giving, as in, if someone sues me for my tunic, give them my coat as well. Give to those who ask. Don't turn anyone away who asks to borrow.

You mean give? Just like that? I don't have to figure out if I have enough? Or if it's fair? Or if he/she is going to use it wisely or take good care of it or pay me back? Really?

That just doesn't seem *wise* somehow. But whose wisdom is that anyway?

Biblical scholars may have a way to explain a way around these blanket commands Jesus made, but I am struck with the simplistic nature of the one command.

Give.

My reluctance to give like Jesus commanded, though, is potentially costing me a lot: peace, abundant life, hopefulness, power...But deep down I'm afraid that giving like that will cost too much. That there won't be enough left over for me.

Which brings me back to a previous post on C.S. Lewis's writing on "Giving All to Christ." If I look at it from the standpoint of my natural self, when will I ever have enough to give?

The truth, though, is that when I give as a disciple of Christ, it can come from a place of abundant living in Christ, through being His disciple, obeying everything He's commanded (Matthew 28:20). Will it cost me? Most undoubtedly. Will it be easy? I hardly think so.

But will it be worth it? My head knows that the answer is a resounding "yes!" so that's the answer I'm going to give. My heart, though, is whispering a much more timid "I think so."

Lord, help me to give like you commanded! Help me to be Your disciple through and through. Let my head and heart come into unity with a confident "yes!" in Your promises and faithfulness.

Only 19 more chapters in Matthew to go...care to join me?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I am God's treasure

Since 2005, I have been a part of taking teams to a colonia in Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, TX. I take my kids with me. This July we took a team of 19 from the Vineyard churches in Arlington and Rowlett.

Our theme this summer was "Soy el tesoro de Dios" which translates to "I am God's treasure." We imparted this message via the movie "Finding Nemo" following up with 3 parables from the Gospels: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

One day as I was handing out slices of fruit to those coming through the food line, I greeted each person with the words "Eres el tesoro de Dios." Adults and kids alike. I tried to make eye contact with each one. Some looked at me and smiled real big and repeated back to me "Soy el tesoro de Dios!" remembering the lesson from the day before. Others looked a bit surprised and gave me a shy smile. And there were a few who didn't look up at all.

The enemy is relentless. At every turn he attempts to undermine God's beloved creation with the lies that make us believe we are anything but God's treasure. We have a hard time believing that we are valuable much less valued.

We got to counteract that this past week. We spoke into the lives of many children and adults the truth that God loves and values them. We released the presence of God and invited the Holy Spirit. We prayed, worshiped and prayed some more. We fed the hungry and gave drinks to the thirsty.

We prayed with a mom who had abandoned her children and given herself over to drugs and prostitution. She returned to her parents' home one day last week, just in time for us to deliver the message that God loves her and that she is His treasure. A smile spread across her face as that truth sunk in past the grime and filth of bad choices made over the years and the shame that kept her in chains.

We prayed for her and with her. Freedom from sin and death. Salvation and restoration.

She received a new heart; she became a new creation. God's lost treasure found.

She immediately began devouring the New Testament we gave her and when we returned the next day with a book of daily devotions for her, she told us she was keeping the New Testament close to her under her pillow and would be reading the daily devotional, not one day at a time as prescribed, but as much of it as she could get through in one sitting.

This mom has a hard row to hoe. Drug-addiction is not an easy bondage to come out of. She was sick, feverish and achy, but intent on leaving behind that old life and embracing the new life that Jesus offers. We can pray that she stays firm in her resolve, strengthened by the Lord and the Holy Spirit who now resides within her. We pray for those who are there to come along side her, to reinforce the truth of God's Word to her and to disciple her as she learns to walk with Jesus, the Lover of her soul.

She is His treasure. She was lost but now she's found. He searched relentlessly until He found her, and He sent us to be His hands and feet. What a privilege.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Natural Self

I've picked up Devotional Classics again and have just re-read the first selection by C.S. Lewis taken from his book Mere Christianity. He expounds on the question "How much of myself must I give?"

"But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on. Because we are still taking our natural self as the starting point." (p.7)

He goes on to say that if I try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, I will not have enough to live on. So true.

And so many times I live like that. I look at a task, a ministry opportunity, a chore, whatever...spiritual or not...and decide whether or not I should do it based on the natural self. Do I have "enough" in my natural self to get the job done.

These days, the answer would most often be no. My natural self is tired. My natural self wants to stay in bed and sleep all day. My natural self prefers to not do anything at all. It's just plain worn out.

And the reason I'm there (or here) is because I've been operating way too much out of my natural self. God wants all of me so that He can give me all of Him. That way, I don't run out. He never fails. He always has enough. If it's Him in me, the fountain overflows continually.

"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be 'good.'...That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals..." (p. 9)

Yes...I do that. Not on purpose, most of the time, but I do see where I am resisting giving ALL my wishes and precautions to Christ. I hold on to them as if I could do a better job of taking care of them, of protecting them. So follows the "real problem" where I am stampeded first thing in the morning by the wishes and hopes of the day, making demands on my natural self.

No wonder I want to just stay in bed.

But then Lewis says that "the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." (p. 9)

Yes, out of the wind. So often I try to push through the wind or let it carry me wherever it blows. Which is fine when it's the wind of the Spirit, but I don't think that's what Lewis is referring to here. It's the wind of demands being made on my natural self. And God is offering me a place of refuge, a place where I can come in out of that wind and tap into that "larger, stronger, quieter life" that comes flowing in.

It flows in and brings clarity of thought, perspective, love, and peace. It allows me to rise above and see from God's perspective, to breath and be breathed upon.

I want to be better at allowing the life of Christ to flow through me rather than beside me. I want to stop using my natural self as the starting point. Instead I want to turn away from the clamoring and press in to the voice of the Father, resting in His Presence, receiving direction from His life flow.

"Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well a those you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'" (p. 8)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

e*g ... final week



For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt


Well...the end is here. This is the last week of the 15 week worship theology course, the impetus for this blog. I have plenty of material to blog about for a very long time, but without an imposed deadline by someone other than myself, this may be the last post for a while. If you've enjoyed reading my thoughts here, you can say a prayer that I'll stay inspired and motivated to continue writing.
Essentials Green has focused on core values in the Vineyard: Intimacy and Integrity, Accessibility and Cultural Relevance, Kingdom Expectation, and Spiritual Formation.

My creative project is a painting of a woman, pregnant with these values. Here's what I wrote about it in my class:

I know that, essentially, the creative project is meant to be something to bless my community. I don't know how many people in mine will actually see this painting. A few will catch it on Facebook or on my blog. Few will probably be impacted by the painting itself. But what's working within me are all of these thoughts and yearnings awakened over the weeks of Essentials Green (and Red and Blue). I feel pregnant. I feel like this woman contemplating her growing abdomen, amazed at the new life forming inside. And I think that I am God's creative project...after these thoughts have a chance to settle and work their way around my being, something is going to be birthed. I'm not sure exactly what, but I'm going to the next level. As in the birth of each of my children, new challenges arise with adding yet one more. And God has always equipped me for each new adventure. There will be something similar with this "birth." Challenging, definitely full of adventure, this spiritual formation has the potential to multiply, to replicate...to not just affect me but to go out and affect the world. Wow. This painting somehow captures that for me. The anticipation of good things to come. Yeah, God!


I'm not sure where things will go from here. Life is busy and without an externally imposed deadline and structure, many of the things I've enjoyed about taking this course will probably take a back seat for a while. It's just life. But I have so enjoyed these intense 15 weeks of diving deep into worship theology and look forward to the work God is doing in my life as a result.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"I Believe" Easter Presentation


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Course Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

This past Easter, 3 of my friends and I performed the piece I wrote for the Essentials Blue worship theology course titled "I Believe." A couple of months ago, I posted my rough version. Here's the tweaked version we recorded on Sunday.

I don't really know how it is that I was able to write this piece. Originally it was a response to the hardest discussion question I've ever had to answer in my life. It required digging deep and finding words to express the essence of what I believe. It caused me to groan under the weight of wordless thoughts and emotions as I wrestled to make them come into a tangible form. I struggled with the way it was written in comparison to the other classmates. This was supposed to just be the notes for a nice and neat 5 paragraph essay. But I could never get it into that form.

And I'm glad.

It morphed from my discussion question answer to my creative project to a presentation we did on Easter. My heart's desire is that in some way this humble offering would bring hope and healing to the despairing and diseased, plant life and truth into the hearts of all who see it, and bring glory to My God and King...this worship expression of one walking down the path of becoming more fully human, more fully glorifying to My Creator.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm thinking about Accessibility and Relevance - e*g Week 2

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Being a leader can sometimes leave your head spinning. How do you meet the needs of the many individuals with their varied backgrounds, tastes, maturity, etc.? How do you touch on the places of need without leaving anyone out? How can you be accessible and relevant all at the same time?

A pastor told a story once of a worship intercession gathering he hosted at his church. Having attended a few of these myself, I know first-hand that they are not geared to be "seeker-sensitive" in the human sense of the word. Strange things sometimes happen. Songs are not posted on a wall nor in a song sheet. No one explains much of what is happening. Those who lead are simply passionate about worshiping God and giving Him their full attention.

This pastor noticed someone there who looked like it was his first time. Come to find out, not only was it his first time, he had no idea what he had been invited to. Upon further conversation, the pastor found out that the young man was in a homosexual relationship and was not a believer. He told the young man to consider this place like God's living room, to have a seat and to just observe what was going on.

Within half an hour, the young man had found someone to pray for him.

Another fifteen minutes and he was giving his life to the Lord.

No one had specifically purposed to be accessible and relevant to this young man in the ways that these terms are most often understood. They had, however, made themselves available to God, spent time with Him, ministered to Him and loved on Him. His presence came. This young man found Jesus.

And don't you know, God is the most seeker-sensitive of all of us.

So, how does a church become more accessible, more relevant?

By fixing our gaze on Jesus, by soaking in His Presence, by declaring His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven, by being sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing and then leading people to that place where Heaven and earth overlap.

And just maybe, we'll become accessible and relevant to those we serve, to our communities, our cities, our nation. I'm not against practical ways and methodologies. I just believe that those ideas work most effectively if they flow out of an intense focus on God and a life lived in His presence.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm thinking about Intimacy - e*g


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

I love/hate the facebook classroom for the Essentials Worship Course I've been taking these last 10+ weeks. Connecting with worshippers/worship leaders/artistic people from all over the world has filled a need I have to connect with others who share the same passions I do.

The downside has been that it's a virtual connecting with little-to-no chance of an actual physical meeting.

I mean, I would L-O-V-E to be able to call up my new friend Melissa U up in Canada and ask her to grab a cup of coffee with me or get together see what new creative venture we could dream up together. Virtual is nice, but it's just not the same as face-to-face contact.

I keep wanting to say that "well...I guess I'll see ya in heaven," but after e*b and the realization that Heaven is wherever God is...I'm left speechless and a little turned on my head as I think about being with God and somehow being with my Essentials friends right now as well. Just wish I could reach out and give them a squeeze.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

e*g Honor and Integrity


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The themes this week are intimacy and integrity in worship leading. I think our church has been extremely blessed by a worship leader who models integrity at every turn. Here's what I said about him in my class post:

Our worship pastor is a man of great integrity. He has steadfastly modeled what it is to cry out to God and go deeper with Him in the midst of great trials. He consistently “elevates God as the central figure in our worship expression” and is infinitely “more concerned that God become famous through our platforms and actions than…[being] regarded because of our visibility and words.”[1]

Integrity is the foundation from which our intimacy with the Lord flows. "Our interior foundation must be able to bear the weight of our spiritual responsibilities." [2] I want to honor Robin and say that he is one of the most humble men I know. He exudes integrity. He has not wavered in ensuring that His interior foundation derive strength from personal time with God. He has relentlessly pursued intimacy with God and his leading flows increasingly from a yielded heart that is responding to God's love.

I am honored to serve under such a leader.

1. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Leadership, 8
2. Dan Wilt, Inside Worship Magazine, "The Sound of Your Life"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Essentials*Red Creative Project


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

When week 5 roles around, it's always a little stressful around the essentials hallway...I've known for 4 weeks that I would have a creative project due in week 5. Ideas linger in the back of my mind...but nothing really comes into focus that is "easy." And easy would really be best for me in order to fit it in with daily life. I take a deep breath and try to figure out what exactly to create that is unique and will draw someone closer to Jesus.

Bear with me as I am somewhat vulnerable here...I have this bent in me that pushes me to do something different than everyone else. Most write songs. Really amazing songs. But since I don't fancy myself that great of a musician/songwriter, I'd rather not put myself up with all of those who are truly incredible (and this course is full of them!) It feels safer, I guess, to do something different. Then there's no one to compare me to.

But when I assessed how much time I thought I could devote to the project, the idea I had originally decided to go with (a silk painting with a Communion theme) would take too long...too many steps involved that required lengths of uninterrupted time (very hard to come by at my house). As I fought the panic of the encroaching deadline, I opted for the "easier", less-complicated (read: fewer actual steps involved) song-writing idea because I couldn't think of anything else I could possibly do.

I opened up my Bible (or Biblegateway as the case may be) and read through the Scriptures normally read for Communion. This is the sacrament that has most captured my attention during Essentials Red and the one my original project would spring from. Almost immediately, a song began forming in my head that went with the image I had wanted to paint. The way it fell together was amazing and God-breathed for me.

The funny thing is that once I finished the song, the other project fell together as well. The one I thought would take too long. For some reason, He wanted both of them, but had to withold the one in order to get me to the song. He knows what it takes to get from us what He put in us.

It's a 2-for-1 :-)

You can listen to the song and access the chord chart by clicking here.

To view the silk painting, you can go here.

And I highly recommend checking out the other creative projects in Essentials Blue and Essentials Red. There aren't any yet for Essentials Green, but check back in about 5 weeks.

Leave comments! I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Statement on Worship History - e*r week 5 discussion question


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Studying historic worship practices enriches our present worship experience, helping us to be more intentional in our worship and to receive greater revelation of who God is. It is easy to fall into the trap that the present revelation is the only right one. But since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever [1], it behooves us to glean from the past, to see and understand past revelations and their responses (worship practices) to those revelations because we gain insight into our present and future [2].

Historically, the church has approached time with great intentionality. The Christian year provides an amazing framework which allows freedom and flexibility while providing a common rhythm bringing unity to the body of Christ. It is a means by which we can be constantly mindful of what God has done for us, drawing us into deeper intimacy as we remember Him. [3]

Appreciating the value of crafted prayers allows us to draw from the theological riches, “perspectives, personalities, times and places” [4] of those who have gone before. We also become aware of our responsibility to craft prayers as a legacy for those who follow us.

The public reading of Scriptures also serves to help us remember Him. My father memorizes large portions of Scripture and often presents a long passage in dramatic monologue. These long recitations of Scripture at first glance to a modern-day Christian may seem boring and tedious, but the power of the spoken Word quickly draws in the listener as the Word comes alive and transforms the hearer.

Remembering Him through the sacraments prophetically speaks of the God who transcends time and space yet willingly confined Himself to it so that we might be restored to relationship and abundant life. “They remind the worshipper inwardly that God has acted to save and restore them, and is at work to reveal His new creation in their very lives.” [5]

Art and music, particularly of the liturgical or communal kind, make “visible that which cannot be seen with ordinary eyes.” [6] They are effective instruments that the church can use to freshly apply historic worship practices to today. Music can turn an ancient prayer into a song that lingers on in the memory of the singer/hearer long after it has been sung. Art can turn the perspective on an ancient sacrament and make it new again to the participant. Art and music serve to help us remember Him through multi-faceted worship practices, drawing riches from the past into the present which are then built upon and invested into our future.

1. Hebrews 13:8
2. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship History, 3
3. ibid, 5
4. ibid, 17
5. ibid, 24
6. James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press), 116

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On art and music - e*r week 4 Discussion Question


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The class administrators removed the blog post requirement from the Essentials Red course. Seeing as I've been sucking wind in this race called life lately due to my dh having to be out of town more than usual, for now, I'm just posting my discussion question answers until I have time to blog about the other deep thoughts this course is encouraging me to have. Here's what I wrote for this week:

“Art has the capacity to bypass the critical faculties of the mind and to speak directly into the soul of the observer.” [1]

This past Advent season, the staff at our church decided to try something new and pull a few visual artists together to collaborate on a project for Advent. There were five of us with the common theme of a seed sprouting into a fully formed flower. Each artist took a different stage of growth and interpreted it on canvas as it related to that week of Advent. Each Sunday of Advent, the piece that corresponded was displayed in the Sunday morning service.

There were many God stories from that process for me personally as well as amongst the group of artists. But one of the most striking stories came from a congregant who took time after the service to go and look at the paintings and ask God to speak to him through them. God spoke directly to this man’s soul and confirmed the work He was doing in His heart. He felt encouraged and strengthened.

This project was realized because our church staff took initiative to call out a few artists, to give us a framework to work within, and to release us to create. Because they took a “risk,” we the artists were greatly blessed by the unity that God wrought in our paintings, and the observers were blessed as God spoke to them through our creative processes.

Artists of all kinds need to be nurtured, called out, challenged, and embraced (to name a few) by church leaders and then given the freedom to create without fear. In this environment, new art can bring forth fresh expressions of the timeless truths that we seek to celebrate in the Christian year.

1. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship History, 31.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On Baptism - e*r Week 3 Discussion Question


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

I attended a small Evangelical church in Spain in the early 90's. I remember being struck by the high importance they placed on baptism, particularly the preparation period leading up to the baptism. Something about the depth of thought and length of time that they required their members to go through before taking the step of baptism and the great celebration that followed each one drew me in to a greater understanding of the seriousness of this sacrament and made me want to participate in it again, even though my own baptism when I was younger had been utterly sincere.

I’ll never forget one of the baptisms I got to attend at the Lake of Banyoles. An all day affair, we ate together (communion), prayed and worshiped together, celebrating the lives of those being baptized. We gathered down at the shore as one by one they went in, rejoicing as each one came out of the water representing new life in Christ. The crowning touch was the enthusiastic flamenco-style guitar playing as people broke out into worship at the end.

What’s the fresh application for today? Maintain the depth of meaning of baptism, move it out of doors on occasion, eat and fellowship with one another, and celebrate! The old is gone. The new is here!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thinking about Advent (I do know it's Lent...) e*r Week 2


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

I realize it's Lent, and I'm sure I'll talk some about that next post, but right now, I really am thinking about Advent.

Our course text for Essentials Red is Ancient Future Time by Robert E. Webber. Amazing book dealing with spirituality throughout the Christian Year.

What is the Christian Year? It's "life lived in the pattern of death and resurrection with Christ" (p. 21). It's the ordering of our days, our lives, so that we are constantly reflecting and purposefully meditating on the greatness of God and His redemptive work in our lives and in our world. It's a pause to stop and think about what it is that God has done, is doing and will do in our lives.

Since the bulk of our reading for this week covers Advent and Christmas, that's where most of my thoughts lie.

Webber says that Advent is the time when we long for redemption, when we inventory our lives and recognize those places where we need redemption...places where bad habits, faulty thought patterns, incorrect ways of thinking/behaving have lodged themselves and underminded our becoming fully human. He warns, however, of allowing that process to be only intellectual:

"One of our greatest problems is that we make our decisions intellectually without recourse to the deeper side of our personality. Obviously the mind must be engaged in our decisions, but decisions of life tthat are primarily formed in the mind without the pain of a gut-wrenching longing that results in sleepless nights and moments of deep anxiety are too often dismissed with the wave of the hand or a rationalization that seems intelligent and acceptable." (p. 51)

I once went to a series of seminars by an incredibly gifted Christian counselor who made the observation that decisions to change patterns of behavior are only lasting if made in a state of heightened emotional awareness. In other words, in order for change to take place, it has to be much more than an intellectual decision. The mind, heart and soul must engage in order for this change (be it good or bad) to take place.

Advent is the perfect time to allow that state of heightened emotional awareness to be a catalyst for lasting change as I allow God to redeem those areas He brings to light.

"Perhaps before God can really break in on us we need to identify someone in need and give to that person or group in a sacrificial way. How can we expect God to pour out a spiritual blessing on us when we are stingy withour abundance? Clinging to our earthly goods only arrests the flow of God's love through us and back to us again. Perhaps the intensity of God's presence in our lives this Advent season will matchthe intensity with which we are willing ot love a creature of God who is less fortunate than we." (pg. 46-47)

That gave me great pause for thought as I reflected over this past Advent season...with just a touch of panic as I wondered if we had even given thought to giving to others less fortunate.

Then God reminded me: Mexico.

About 3 times a year, my kids and I go with teams of people from our church to a small colonia outside of Reynosa, Mexico. Our December trip is focused on shoes. We go in October and trace the feet of as many children in the colonia as we can. People sign up to purchase shoes for all of these feet and we take them back to the colonia in December and deliver the shoes door-to-door.

This year, in lieu of a big Christmas at our house, each of our kids went shopping for shoes for a child in Mexico. They each helped to select the style of shoe, some socks, toys, etc. to put in the box. Since we go so often, we know some of the kids we're buying for which heightens the excitement as my children pick out things that they're sure their friend will like. You can go to my friend Erin's blog to read more about that trip if you're interested.

The very cool thing for me, as I am remembering Advent, is the recognition that we didn't really miss the big Christmas. And I think that the spiritual blessing poured out on our family was "contentment." We really are content with what we have. My younger kids expressed a little sadness at the few presents, but when I asked what more they would've wanted, none of them could really think of anything.

I'm thrilled to find that even though I wasn't studying Advent like I am now God was still leading me and my family in practicing the principles embedded in Advent. It's like He's written His law on my heart or something...

And so it is with Lent. I'll be reading about it next week. I expect I'll recognize ways I'm already incorporating Lenten principles as well as discover those new ancient ones that will enrich the journey in following the Christian year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Value of Communal Public Prayer And the Public Reading of Scripture - e*r Week 2 Discussion Question -


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

“This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls…” [1]

The whole idea of ordering my life around ancient paths appeals to me. I like the rhythm and the discipline that they offer me, the chance to plumb the depths that gave the ancients staying power when trials and tribulations came…the types of which I have never experienced. Yet, I long for the depth of character that they produced in those who have gone before, that anointed them to create lasting patterns of worship that draw all to Jesus.

Robert Webber asks how we can “participate in a present spirituality that is rooted in past events and anticipates a future event.” He answers that we do it “through a worship that continually orders the pattern of our spirituality into a remembrance of God’s saving deeds and the anticipation of the rule of God over all creation.” [2]

The public reading of Scriptures is an important aspect of remembering God’s redemptive deeds of the past and anticipating that redemption breaking into our day as well. We bring glory to God when we celebrate those deeds.[3] In a contemporary worship service, I can envision a Scripture passage being read, proclaiming God’s saving work. Next, I see someone coming forward to share a testimony of God’s current saving work in their own life, revealing the “now” of the passage as well as the “things to come” as we believe God to continue His acts of redemption.

Communal Public Prayer is another powerful means to worship that has been used throughout the ages. I love the simple yet deep prayer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”[4]. I was first introduced to this prayer when I attended an art symposium in Austin, TX last April. If my memory serves me correctly, first we recited it together and then we sang it together. The whole experience, the bringing of this ancient prayer into my present via word and then song, impacted me deeply and stirred up a hunger in me for more of these deep, rich, profound prayers found in the old ways.

I am challenged by the idea, however, that I would have the same potential to write something as lasting as, say, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” [5] In that, I am soberly reminded of my responsibility as a present-day worship artisan to be mindful and intentional in creating thoughtful, accurate songs, prayers, liturgies, etc. using the enduring truths of the Word of the Ancient of Days in the event that they become an “ancient” source of worship for those still yet to come.


1. Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
2. Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 27.
3, ibid, 29.
4. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship History, 16.
5. ibid, 17.

Friday, February 20, 2009

e*r Week 1: Time and Space


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials RedOnline Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt



Essentials Red has officially begun and it promises to be ever bit as profound, thought-provoking, and life-changing as Essentials Blue has been.

I'm still processing much of what I read, what I learned, and I'm certain that much of what impacted me from e*b will bleed through to e*r as continues to do its work in me.

This first week in e*r, we are looking at the "worship languages" of time and space...how time and space have shaped who we are as worshippers today.

It is intriguing to me how much these 2 "languages" have been a part of my worship history without me ever giving much thought to them. And now that my heart has been awakened to their place within my history and therefore within my present, I am trying to put words to this "new" idea being presented to me.

Time: praying before meals, praying before bedtime, celebrated holidays like Christmas and Easter, a morning quiet time (or evening as the case may be)...events or rituals, if you will, done at a certain time each day, week, year.

Space: the place I go to do my quiet time, the building I attend on Sundays, the space I create during our Come to the Chamber gatherings (women's worship).

In talking about the aspect of time, James F. White in Introduction to Christian Worship says that "Christian worship is...a kind of worship that relies heavily on the structuring of time to help it fulfill its purposes (pg 23)." With regards to space, he says "Christians have always found it convenient to organize space to shelter and to enable their worship (pg 23)."

I'm looking forward to unpacking these ideas over the next few weeks as we delve into Christian worship history and begin to plumb the depths of how today has been shaped by yesterday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Serving

I often compartmentalize. I box myself into categores like mom, wife, daughter/sister/friend, missions team leader, worship leader, artist, teacher, etc. They do overlap some in my mind, but I was really challenged when I read this post by Jennifer at Conversion Diary . It's caused an acceleration in this perspective shift that's been happening in me these last few weeks.

She quotes from the book He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, a priest who went to serve in Russia and served 20+ years in a prison after being accused of being a Vatican spy:
Our whole purpose [in Russia] -- as indeed in our whole lives -- was to do the will of God. Not the will of God as we might wish it...or as we thought in our poor human wisdom it ought to be. But rather the will of God as God envisioned it and revealed it to us each day...His will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. [...]
Whatever I'm doing, whether it's making supper, changing a stinky diaper, grading math tests, making lesson plans, or ministering at church, it's service to God. I'm getting away from the attitude of "I've got to hurry up and get this (menial) task done so I can go serve in a bigger way over there" and find contentment in the fact that this task, whatever it is, is the way God has called me to serve right now in this moment.

Jennifer says all of these things and more much better than I could, so I'll leave it at that and let you go read her post. Potentially life-changing...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

e*b Creative Project - Part 2



For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt


video
Here's the final part of my creative project for spring 2009 Essentials Blue module. To view the pdf of the project script and notes, go here . I chose 3 people to perform this piece as a reflection of the Trinity. The first 2 stanzas as well as the last 3 have movement to symbolize the different aspects of God. We start off in a single file, representing the Oneness of God, and break off into the 3 parts to represent the invidivual persons of the Trinity. We open and end with similar sequences of movement with the intent of visually symbolizing the Trinity's unity as well as uniqueness.

This is a rough idea that I hope to refine over the next few weeks and possibly perform for Easter. With that in mind, I welcome input, creative suggestions, constructive criticism, and fan mail ;-) If/when we perform this in public, we would have it memorized. Thanks to my wonderful friends Erin (center stage) and Tami (left) who graciously met with me today so I could create a video.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

e*b Creative Project - part 1


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

This is the final week for Essentials Blue . It is actually overlapping with the beginning of Essentials Red. It's tough for me to keep up with the pace, but I'm going to give it a go. I'll continue to update this blog as I go along.

In this final week, we were assigned a creative project...something that would spring from things we learned or that impacted us in such a way so as to overflow in artistic expression.

I decided to take my answer to week 4's assignment and turn it into a dramatic reading of sorts.

My hope is that the words coupled with the visual aspects of interpretive movement at the beginning and the end will help to draw the listener/viewer into an encounter with God.

As it is an expression of me becoming more fully human, I pray that it's affect on the listener/viewer will be that he/she becomes more fully alive or, at the very least, has the desire to become more so.

Go here to view the written portion of my project. Check back soon for the video as the written won't make much sense without the visual.

To check out the other creative projects from Essentials Blue, go here

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Worship - e*b week 5


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

wor•ship [\ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\ ]
noun 1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power ; also : an act of expressing such reverence 2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual 3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
verb 1: verb to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion [1]

Webster points in the right direction, but the meaning of worship can hardly be contained in the few words of a definition. Like N.T. Wright says, “The best way to discover [what worship is] is to join in and find out.”[2] It must be lived out, day after day, as we tell the Kingdom Story in compelling ways through worship - exploring justice, creativity, relationship, and spirituality. It is declaring the worth of the One and responding with a flow-of-the-heart to the love the Father has lavished upon us.[3] Worship is what I was created for. It transforms me and makes me more fully human, more like the One whose Image I bear.[4] Worship is a celebration of the One who is Creator, King, Trinity and Savior.[5]

There is something about the creative arts that helps our spirits, souls and minds to connect in worship. When I see a piece of art or hear music or participate in an event where my senses are enticed to engage on many levels, that moment becomes much more a part of who I am than if it were solely an intellectual or physical exercise. When music and art are used in worship, the heart, soul and mind are invited to engage and experience the character of God, to become more fully human, more fully alive. The truths of Who God is and Who I am in relation become more firmly embedded within me when I sing about them, dance them, paint them…express them with whatever creative expression God has called out in me. Scripture is full of examples of creative forms of expression. One of my favorites comes from Psalm 95 (The Message):

“ 1-2 Come, let's shout praises to GOD, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let's march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!
6-7 So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!”

As I respond to God’s love in worship, others are also drawn to Him. Directly or indirectly, whether from the pew or the stage, at home or at work, I influence those around me through worship. When I choose to offer a sacrifice of praise, lifting my hands and my voice, choosing to proclaim the goodness of the Most High whether inside my heart is doubting and hurting or dancing and rejoicing, I pave the way for someone around me to experience greater freedom in worship. When I celebrate Who God is with all that is in me, I am partnering with God to create a space for my own encounter with God as well as an encounter for others.[6]

We as humans have the role of “lead worshippers of the created order.”[7] As a worship leader, I have the awesome responsibility of participating with God to open doorways for people so that they can step through and be who they are made to be: a new creation.[8] First and foremost, though, I must live a life of devotion. “The quality of the water in the basin will have something to do with the quality of the leader’s secret inner life with God.”[9] The more I cultivate my relationship with God and discover Him in the secret place, the more authentically I am able to lead others into worship, the greater the space I am able to help create for others to experience God.

As we become more aware of what it is we are called to, who we are truly meant to be, we reflect God’s glory with ever increasing brightness. People are changed simply because we choose to worship. When we all join together in worship, when we purpose no matter where we are to worship God with wholehearted devotion, the space for encounter with God is greatly enlarged and the not-yet-believing stumble into it and find themselves in the Presence of Truth, Beauty, Royalty, and the ultimate Relationship.

And they begin to worship, become more fully human…and the Kingdom Story continues.

1. Webster.com
2. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 143
3. 1 John 4:9
4. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 148
5. ibid, 149
6. Dan Wilt, e*b wrap-up call
7. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology, 64
8. Dan Wilt, e*b wrap-up call
9. Dr. Peter Fitch, “Inner Living, Outer Giving” (Inside Worship Magazine, Master All), 141.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Still More Alive - e*b week 4


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

This week's discussion question was another struggle. Just the magnitude of the possibilities weighed on me. I had to write a Christian "worldview." Distill all this information into a concise explanation of who I believe God to be and who I am in His Kingdom.

Concise? How?

I kept wondering how I was going to be able to put all of my thoughts into cohesive sentences and paragraphs, how I would be able to narrow down the vastness of the subject into a few measly words???

I did my usual - check out what the others are posting, look at their format, how long, what style, etc. I figure that if I can see theirs, then I can get an idea of how to write mine to conform somewhat to the status quo or at least figure out what it is the teacher "wants."

[That last bit hearkens back to school days when the grades were given more on whether you could give the teachers what they wanted (i.e. the "right answer") instead of what your true thoughts might be.]

But I couldn't come up with an essay that pulled it all together. All that kept coming to me were bits and pieces...words and phrases...of what I had read over the past few weeks, thoughts about God and His Kingdom, heaven and earth, Jesus, me, being fully alive.

As I jotted them down, they began to take shape in the form of a poem or some sort of prose. Definitely not your 5 paragraph essay.

I thought that maybe I'd take these thoughts and from there get to an essay because, goodness, no one else had just a somewhat poetic list. (Except for one fellow student who started in beautiful poetry and ended in magnificent paragraphs.)

The more I tweaked and read through what I had written, though, a growing satisfaction began to fill my heart. I pushed through the inconvenient feelings that I might not get the answer "right" to the reality that whatever my answer, it needed to be mine, however it might look.

Just before the midnight deadline, I went to my facebook classroom to post my answer, and this lightness continued to expand inside of me. I hit the "post" button and took note that I had just become more fully human. I had decided to not try to get my answer to look like someone else's (the reality is they are all so very different in content and style; there really is no such thing as "status quo"). I had allowed myself to just be me.

I think I might just have experienced increasing freedom.

Whoohoo! The corks off!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Believe - e*b week 4


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

God
Creator of the Universe
Just and True
Triune and Relational
Savior

The great “We”
No beginning and no end
Sovereign and Holy
Loving and Kind
Spirit [1]

Completely His own category [2]

He created humans in His image
And placed them in a garden
Gave them a choice to love and walk with Him forever
They chose to walk alone
To become less human

But God was not surprised
He set His plan of redemption in motion
Even while the world He created
Became broken and lost

All throughout history
He pointed the way
Through lambs and sacrifices
Covenants and blood
Towards One who was coming
To reign as King and Lord.

This One came: Jesus!
Fully God and fully man
He worked out His purpose
Found His divine vocation
Stayed connected to the Father
Guided by the Spirit [3]

He showed us what it is to be fully human
He lived life fully alive
Only doing what the Father did
Freeing the captives, opening blind eyes
Healing the sick, raising the dead

Teaching
Healing
Relating
Saving
Living
Dying
Living again

And because He lives again
The story is told [4]
How He lived
How He died
How He rose again

His resurrection is the reason we tell the story [5] [6]
The reason we are a new creation
Why we are image-bearers with a purpose
To be agents of God’s renewing-the-earth plan [7]

We are part of His Kingdom
Ever increasing, ever expanding [8]
Putting that which was wrong to right
Restoring brokenness with beauty
Releasing freedom to the captives
Exploring spirituality
Bridging gaps and forming relationships [9]

As we worship and reflect God’s glory in ever increasing brightness
We find our way back to being fully human [10]
Becoming all He’s created us to be
We become intersections of Heaven and earth
A place where the two overlap
And God is made manifest [11]

We are
SubCreators
ImageBearers
CommunityBuilders
SalvificStorytellers [12]

Living in the present
As a people called to the future
Of earth and heaven as one [13]

By the Father
Through the Son
In the Spirit

Amen

1. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology, 43.
2. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 67.
3. ibid, 107-108, 118-119.
4. C.S. Lewis, “Voices on Resurrection and New Creation” (Inside Worship Magazine Master All), 313.
5. Don Williams, “Cross and Resurrection” (iTunes U.)
6. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
7. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 191.
8. Isaiah 9:7.
9. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 189.
10. ibid, 148.
11. ibid, 132.
12. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology, 43.
13. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006),218.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Course Is Hard

Harder than I ever imagined it would be.

There's so much to read, watch, process...then there's the discussion questions.

Lately, they've intimidated me and I am panicking a bit. I just don't think I'm "smart enough" or something.

Stay tuned. I have to post something profound by Friday :-)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Increasing Freedom e*b week 3


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt


What does it really mean to be fully human? I tried to tackle that question for my class and felt I fell woefully short of even scratching the depths. You can read about it here.

Over the last several years, the Lord has been renewing my mind regarding my identity in Him, bringing freedom to the places where I've been bound up in "un-humanness."

I appreciated the readings for my class this week and the depth they have brought to my understanding of what it means to be fully human, and that being made in the image of God means I need to pursue being fully human.

I had always assumed that I needed to be less human and more God-like, as if they were two opposing ways of being. So this new slant of thinking has caused me to examine myself once again for areas where I am laboring under "shoulds" or "expectations" instead of thriving and being fully alive in every area. Then, I'm not only more God-like, I'm more human as well.

See, God created humans in His own image. And He's called me (and you) to be an image bearer...to reflect in our humanity God's characteristics. To be just, relational, spiritual, and creative...to be unified in all that we do. It is not my spirit trapped in the physical body; rather, I am a unified being, called to wholistically be an image of the Most High. [1]

God's timing has been all over this course of study. Why am I surprised at how intricately woven every detail of my life is? There are no accidents. Nothing coincidental about studying this very thing right now.

Sunday, I asked a couple of friends to pray for me. I didn't have anything specific necessarily...just knew they needed to be the ones. Amber and Bridget placed their hands on me and quietly began to pray.

And God came.

Lately, Amber has felt like she's supposed to pray for joy, deep-down-bubbling-over-belly-laughing-kind-of-joy. So she started off praying that. Then our friend Tami came over to get in on the fun. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by friends and I felt loved beyond measure.

Somewhere in there, someone began praying for more freedom to be who I am created to be, to be as crazy as God has called me to be. One person even declared that no matter how crazy I got, they'd all claim me as their friend. Now that's loyalty, seeing as they have no idea what kind of craziness God will call me to.

YES!

Then at home group last night, I got a new name:

Increasing Freedom

Sounds like God's opening the way for me to become fully human.

I'll take that.



1. Steve Robbins, The Doctrine of Man and the Worship of God (Inside Worship Magazine)

e*b week 3 - On Being Fully Human


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt


The Question:

     Fully Human - What Does It Mean To Be A Human Being?

My Answer:

Being fully human means that I am an image of the Most High God. And when I worship God, when I truly focus on Him and lock my gaze with His, I am most like what He created me to be: a human.

“…because you were made in God’s image, worship makes you more truly human. When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive.” [1]

Several years ago when I first read Waking the Dead by John Eldridge, the concept of being fully alive completely swept me away. It was an epiphany moment, one that set my feet on the rapid track to becoming more alive, more fully human, as I embraced who God had created me to be.

Prior to that experience, a continual battle raged within me over what I thought, or had been taught, was true righteousness. I would down play any gifts or talents someone might compliment me on, make sure I was doing what I “should” be doing, and reject any lingering desires that did not fit into my perceived role at the time.

Then came aforementioned light bulb moment along with several opportunities to make choices regarding what I was going to believe to be true about God and about myself.

I began to believe that since God was the Creator, then it was okay for me to embark on artistic pursuits. I no longer squelched that desire within me to buy colorful pens, paints, paper. I allowed myself to doodle and to make art and to call myself an artist (albeit an amateur one). I allowed myself to admit that I was intelligent and smart and sometimes witty. I started to dream bigger and to see myself as God sees me.

I realized that I had been practicing a false humility, true humility being when I fully embrace who God has called me to be…to be fully human, an image of Himself.

Gentry talks about righteousness being right-relatedness to God and to myself. There is in each of us a desire to be great and to do great things. This is part of God’s image. So when I diminish what God has placed in me and hide it, not sharing with the community He’s placed me in, I’m walking in “non-right relatedness” with myself and with God. I’m losing my humanness. [2]

I’m supposed to share this image of God (myself) within my community so that I can then in turn experience the images of God around me and celebrate their humanness as well as my own. [3]

Being fully human means that I am more responsive to God [4], more like Jesus [5], a unified person [6], much more celebratory [7]. I’m full of life, and I’m life-giving.

“Of all people, we should be the most free, life and interesting.” [8] Let it be so.

1. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 148.
2. Wilt/Gentry (Podcast: “Two Brothers on Righteousness”)
3. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology: the Nature of Human Beings, 27
4. Dan Wilt, “Exploring Our Roots: The Contemporary Worship Movement” (IW Masters All), 326.
5. Fitch, “Inner Living, Outer Giving,” (IW Masters All), 141.
6. Steve Robbins, “The Doctrine of Man and the Worship of God,” (IW Masters All), 77
7. Morphew, “The Restoration of Celebration,” (IW Masters All) 113.
8. ibid, 162.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Other Blog

new post on my other blog

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life and Justice

I have become quite a fan of Jennifer at ConversionDiary. She is a great writer and today, I was really struck by this post, in particular by the link to another site that she mentions in her post. That link is not for the faint at heart and definitely not for those who want to turn a blind eye.

I need to figure out what to do with it now.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Purpose (part 2) e*b week 2


For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt


"Awed by His majesty, allured by His love and transformed by His Spirit, we will become the holy people God has called us to be. Sharing His character, we will share intimate fellowship together with Him as He repopulates the planet with images of Himself." (Don Williams and Brenton Brown, "Who Is the God We Worship?" Inside Worship Magazine, Volume 62, page 9)

1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

I am a worshiper. I'm a chosen, royal, holy worshiper...not because there's anything about me; rather, it's who God's said I am.

I struggle with those adjectives because many days, like today, I feel anything but royal and holy. I do feel chosen today...even if I tried as hard as I could, I would never be able to get away from my calling. It's been there as long as I can remember...
deep
deep
deep
down in the bottom recesses of my heart: I am a worshiper.

And I am a worship leader, and I struggle with that on several sides.

There's a voice that sometimes says to me "Who are you to call yourself a worship leader? You just like to be up front and draw attention to yourself."

Do I? Really? I mean, is that my heart?

I do stop periodically to ponder and examine my heart. Just the other day, in fact. And while sometimes there may be a twisted element in my motivation, my heart's primary desire is to love God and draw others to Him through whatever gifts and talents God has given me. God can straighten out my misdirected efforts as long as I continue to respond to His pursuits of intimate relationship with me.

So often I'm so busy pursuing (read: striving) that I miss His pursuit of me...and that's probably when the doubts and fears become the heaviest.

There's another voice that says: "You'll never measure up. You're not good enough." Then will follow a mental PowerPoint of the many reasons why that might be true. And they are so easy to believe.

And that's just a couple of the areas of struggle.

On a slight whim, I signed up for the Essentials Blue course. It's been way more work than I expected (lots of deep reading) and very challenging (I'm having to think about more than meal planning and homeschooling). But I'm finding as I read and ponder that I'm becoming more aware of how to more fully walk out the call on my life, how to trust God in my uncertainty, and how to stay rooted and grounded in who God has called me to be regardless of how I may be feeling or what others might think.

I'm recommitting myself to be who God has called me to be. I'm going to follow after the heart of God. I'm choosing to believe that God is Who He says He is and I am who God says I am. I'm going to be fully alive and fully present in all that He's given me to do. I'm trusting Him to hide me or raise me up according to His will.

I am a worship leader.

I am chosen.

royal.

holy.

To God be the glory.