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 reflect in our humanity God's characteristics. To be just, relational, spiritual, and 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.


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...
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.



To God be the glory.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Purpose - 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

(note: I'm going to grapple with some mystery here, so please bear with me as I work it out some in this post.)

I had a revelatory moment this week as I was reading Simply Christian: Jesus had to "discover" and work out His divine purpose through relationship with the Father.

Maybe it's just me, but I had always had this embedded theology that said Jesus was born with an innate complete knowing of who He was and what He was here to do.

But if I'm to take seriously the fully God and fully man scenario, then Jesus would've had to discover His purpose here on earth just like any other human being has to.

I'm not calling into question His divinity in the least. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin, come to redeem mankind from that dreadful rebellion in the Garden. I also believe that when He came, He came as a human. He put aside His kingly rights and privileges and limited Himself completely in the human flesh.

He modeled what the normal Christian life is to be like. One where we are completely dependent on God for our every direction, for our meaning and purpose. After all, Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. [1]

N.T. Wright puts it this way: "Jesus was aware of a call, a vocation, to do and be what, according to the scriptures, only Israel's God gets to do and be." [2] He was aware of a call. Just like I am aware of a call. We all have a call written on our hearts, but we have to discover what that call means...what the purpose of the call is.

"[Jesus] was sustained not only by his reading of scripture, in which he found so clearly the lines of his own vocation, but also by his intimate prayer life with the one he called Abba, Father."[3] He found His purpose through relationship with the Father. He got His clear direction and His sustenance through staying connected to that relationship at all times. He could stay rooted and grounded in His calling because at every turn He was plugged in to the Father.

What does this mean for me?

It underscores the importance of my relationship with the Father. I need Him to define my purpose, to clarify that calling that is in my heart but is oftentimes nebulous at best. I need to stay in His Word and continue to cultivate my prayer life. I need to stay plugged into the vine. I need to remain in Him.

When I find myself floundering, I remain in Him.

When I can't figure out who I am or what I'm here for, I remain in Him.

When I have clarity of purpose and know what I'm called to do, I remain in Him.

It's what Jesus did. Because in the mystery that is the incarnation of Christ, He needed to remain in the Father in order to fulfill His divine mission as Savior of the world.

How much more do I need to remain in Him to fulfill mine.

1. John 5:19
2. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 118.
3. ibid, 119

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Worship and Justice

Last week in my Essentials Blue course, I read about 4 different echoes of a voice in N.T. Wright's Simply Christian, one of them being the echo of justice.

My sister and her husband are ones that don't just talk about justice, they act on it. About 2 years ago, the adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. You can read more about that journey on their blog .

While picking up Elias in Ethiopia, they visited an orphanage dedicated to the care of HIV+ children called AHOPE. Every year for Christmas they sponsor 1-2 children in the names of family members and each year they've done this, those sponsored children have been adopted before the year is up. My sister has even been able to contact some of the adoptive parents to let them know that their child was being prayed for before being adopted. God is good.

This coming up Sunday, my sister is running in a half-marathon with a goal of raising $2000 for AHOPE orphanage. If you're interested in participating in helping her reach that goal, click on this link. It's amazing what this place does for some of the most helpless in Ethiopian society.

Definitely a worthy cause.

And if you want to read more about the AIDS crisis in Ethiopia, pick up a copy of There's No Me without You. What a tremendous story.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

e*b week 2 - The Kingdom of God

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

This week one of our assignment in the Essentials Blue Course was to read part 2 in Simply Christian by N.T. Wright and discuss how our understanding of the theological phrase "Kingdom of God" was shaped or challenged.

We also read the second section in Dan Wilt's Essentials in Worship Theology on the Nature of God, and I had to choose the one I felt has the most importance for worship leadership for the next 10-20 years. Below is my response. In a later post I'll share my "unassigned" thoughts on worship this week.

A: For the past several years, God has been renewing my mind and uprooting embedded theology with regards to His Kingdom. This section of Simply Christian on the Kingdom of God has served to strengthen the work the Lord has been doing in my heart and mind and has given me new language and images which have enriched my understanding.

I appreciate the definition N.T. Wright gives for heaven: “God’s space as opposed to our space” and the ensuing explanations of the different options regarding how God’s space and our space relate to one another [1]. Truth be told, I have probably held a view that’s been a mixture of options 2 and 3 with a move towards the latter as God has been revealing His truths to me.

As I pray “Kindom come on earth as it is in heaven,” my perspective will be different now as I view heaven and earth as interlocking and overlapping [2] instead of two separate spheres. I will now envision God creating a “thin place” [3] making His Kingdom visible in my sphere, heaven invading earth [4], influencing and changing me and those around me accordingly.

B: I believe that God as Trinity (the God who relates) has the most importance for the next 10-20 years of worship leadership, followed closely by God as King (the God who reigns). By in large, the western mindset is logical and rational and limitedly mystical. We tend to think compartmentally instead of wholistically.

Now, I believe that the Father and Son are much more than our minds could ever grasp on a logical and rational level, but we have done a good job (or so we think) of describing and being “comfortable” with the Father and the Son. The Spirit not so much. There are many songs in Christiandom that sing to and about the Father and the Son but curiously leave out the Spirit. Is it because we don’t understand? Partially. Is it because the Spirit is less definable? Probably. We’ve come a long way in the Vineyard towards bridging that gap, but there’s still work to be done.

I am encouraged to begin studying and seeking greater understanding of God as Trinity. I am convicted by the “disservice [I am doing to my] own theological thinking and that of others by not defining our words well in worship expression.” [5] In my own personal worship experience, I want to begin to incorporate worshiping and praying to each person of the Trinity individually and, thereby, pursuing a deeper relationship with the God who relates. I hope this will eventually spill over into coroporate worship gatherings where I have opportunity to lead.

1. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 59-60.
2. ibid, 63
3. Dan Wilt, Essential Worship Theology: God as Creator, King, Trinity and Savior (audio)
4. Bill Johnson
5. Dan Wilt, Online Studies in Worship Theology and Biblical Worldview, 18

Saturday, January 17, 2009

e*b week 1...on worship and spirituality

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

So...I'm taking this worship theology course

And I wasn't sure what to expect

But here's what I've found:
deep, refreshing pools of

At times they leave me overwhelmed and frustrated when faced with my human limitations and the many responsibilities that are mine ~ a household of 8 to run, meals to fix, laundry (and this week there's been way more than usual due to a case of pinworms run amuk...ugh!), errands, bumps and bruises, sibling squabbles, lesson plans... I look at these pools inviting me to jump in and plumb the depths and realize that I just have time to dip my toe in or brush my hand through.

Don't get me wrong. I do love my job of chief mom of many. I just haven't yet discovered how to fully integrate and schedule life in such a way that dips in pools is as high a priority on the list as loads of laundry.

There is that one day, though, when I asked the kids for some quiet study time, shut the door, and sat down to read and contemplate for an extended time. Oh...the swim my soul enjoyed! Here are a couple of dips I took:

"...the worship leader must cultivate an on-going relationship with the God who he or she is leading others to worship."[1]

This is one of those "duh" quotes, but it underscored the importance for me of being sure I do this first and foremost...even before the laundry. You see, my primary role as worship leader is in my home to my children. They see it quicker than anyone else if my time with God is lacking and inevitably I don't model the kind of worship lifestyle I want them to emulate.

"Live creatively, directing your life and others' lives toward God. Worship with your creativity, serve others with the language of the souls God has given you, and allow Jesus to 'draw all men' to Himself through the sacred ingenuity He has placed inside of you." [2]

Yes! This is it. This is how I intertwine it all, how I decompartmentalize and live wholistically as a worship artisan. Once again, at home is where I live this out the most. Creatively. That's how I must live. And in doing so, I am pointing the way towards doesn't matter if I am painting on canvas, playing my guitar or fixing a spaghetti dinner. I can serve others with what God has put in me and through THAT, God draws my children, my husband, my neighbors, my friends, my strangers to Himself.

I so get it! Thank You, Jesus. Help me to cultivate my relationship with You so that I might live creatively, wholly worshiping You and pointing the way to LIFE.

I'm loving this course...

1. Dr. Peter Davids, "Importance of Scripture Study for Modern Worship Leaders" (Inside Worship, Volume 48, October 2002) 8.
2. Dan Wilt, "Sacred Creativity" (Inside Worship, Volume 50, June 2003) 10.

Friday, January 16, 2009

e*b week 1 - Echoes of Spirituality

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

This first week in the Essentials Blue course, we've been reading Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. The first 4 chapters explore the idea of four "echoes of a voice: the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty." [1] We were to write about the one echo that most resonated with us as well as reflect on how well current worship music addresses each of the four echoes. Below is my answer:

As N.T. Wright explores four echoes as evidences of God’s reality, I deeply connected with the one he terms the “quest for spirituality.” As a westerner from a cessasionist background living in the Bible Belt, the concrete-covered springs were my reality growing up. The stark landscape that church and society offered me did much to shape how I viewed God: stern, rigid, demanding.

In my late teens, a forced change in profession for my dad thrust our family into the very “controversial” Vineyard movement where we all discovered the living springs which had hitherto been hidden beneath the surface of the concrete of our church and social experience.

Since childhood, the echoes of the God of justice,of beauty, and, at least intellectually, of relationship have formed a part of my understanding of God. But it has been the echo of spirituality that has woven the four together for me into an understanding that is living, breathing, organic, and deepening…revealing the unfathomable dimensions and facets of His amazing character. It keeps me ever looking, ever watching, ever searching, ever hungering for more of Him and more of His Presence.

With the tremendous variety found within the body of Christ, I have not encountered much difficulty in finding songs that put words to the echo I perceive the Lord to be moving in most strongly in a given setting.

As a worship artisan, I lean towards songs that embrace the truth of who God is and make declarations of His goodness and His love for us. I look for songs that lend themselves to facilitating others in singing a new song of response back to God and to creating space for the prophetic song to come forth. I have moved away from songs whose main focus is my depravity because I feel they cause me to focus on myself rather than on God and have moved towards songs that declare truth about God and bring my gaze to His…which is quite simply, where I want to stay focused forever.

1. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (Harper Collins, 2006) x.