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 :-)