Friday, December 31, 2010

Praying the Prayers of Others

I did not grow up in a tradition that used or truly valued the use of prayers written by others. The only exception would be the Lord's Prayer which was used because, of course, it was written by Jesus. The spontaneous or "unique" prayer was what I was taught, learning to pray in public, putting my thoughts to God into words to be spoken, on-the-fly aloud in a group. Although I don't think anyone actually ever said this to me, I grew up thinking that this type of praying must be superior to reciting prayers or even pre-writing a prayer to pray outloud at a later time. And this type of thinking has engendered a type of pride within me because I know how to pray aloud, on the spot.

Not pretty.

Today as I was listening to an interview with N.T. Wright, something he said nailed me between the eyes regarding this pride that's been growing in my heart over the years. He says that to use the prayers of others is actually a sign of humility, allowing someone else's words to express some longing within my own heart and learning from them. He further encourages that if the Holy Spirit helped them to pray in that fashion, why not "ride in on their coat tails." [1]

These "old" prayers can serve as a structure, not that restricts or boxes in my prayers. Rather, they give me a framework from which to start, a springboard into areas of prayer and meditation that might not have occured to me before, offering me a fresh perspective of the Lord and His work in my life. The very speaking of them become a form of praise as I join in with another's expression of worship.

In these last couple of years, I have been discovering these ancient prayers and their writers and have been so blessed by them. But, to be honest, a part of me has struggled with using their writings and prayers in my "quiet time" because somehow I felt like it was less authentic since it wasn't spontaneous and uniquely from me.

Like a good friend of mine says: "We sing other people's songs. Why not pray other people's prayers?" I am looking forward to this next year, to discovering the prayers of the ancients (anyone older than I am) and being blessed by the move of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

1 "Reclaiming Worship: a training interview with N.T. Wright"

Who We Worship

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The Trinity is one of the greatest mysteries and most important tenants of the Christian faith, and I am becoming more aware of how that Community and my understanding of it impacts the community I am a part of here.

As a worship leader, it is important to become “a prayerfully and thoughtfully informed Trinitarian” [1] through study and meditation of the character of God. I am reconciled to Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For most Christians who we worship is obvious: God. But by God, who do most Christians focus on? Father? Son? Holy Spirit? Depending on your particular church, you will probably find an emphasis leaning more towards one or the other, and yet to worship God is to worship all 3 Persons of the Godhead.

In the Trinity, each Person who “abides in the other, remains uniquely what He is…Each has a unique role to play in redemption and should be praised for His unique work. To lead the Church in worship, the worship leader must join with the persons of the Triune God in praising them according to their unique glory and work.” [2]

In the West, we tend to be very individualistic in our worship, in our faith practices, but God shows us the value of community by revealing it within Himself. It is not the Father alone, nor the Son alone, nor the Spirit alone. It is all Three working in community with each other: “the three persons, in perfect harmony, giving without reservation to one another, independent, bound together in love, all involved in a celebration of life, love, peace and joy.”

How does this play out in leading worship? First and foremost, I must choose songs that resonate the truth of the Trinity. The songs we sing are more often than not remembered far longer than the sermons we hear. As such, it is vitally important to choose songs and write songs that accurately depict the Triune God.

It also means that the way I participate in community will reflect my understanding and view of God as Triune. [3] Just as the Trinity works together without fear, competition, condemnation or shame, so I need to learn to live and work with those around me in a spirit of love not fear, being all I’m called to be while encouraging and supporting others in being all they are designed to be.

1 “Leading Trinitarian Worship” by Berten Waggoner, Inside Worship.
2 ibid.
3 “Who Is the God We Worship?” by Dr. Don Williams and Brenton Brown, Inside Worship.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Is Worship?

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

What is worship? Is it music? Is it dance? Is it songs? When we say "let's worship" we typically mean something to do with music, but worship, in it's most truest form is so much more than that.

Worship is expression, prayer, compassion, proclamation. It is practiced within our relationships with family, friends, strangers, our culture. It requires character growth and holiness and a pursuit of truth. It resists compartments and embraces wholeness at every level. Worship invades every aspect of our lives and reveals who it is we are focusing on because we become like what (or who) we worship. [1]

As a Christian, I worship God. And I can only worship Him as He chooses to reveal Himself to me. He loves me, and I get to love Him back, pulling from the love He deposited within me. Worship belongs to Him and I can only do it out of what He has given me.

It's not a show to impress Him, to let Him see how hard I can work. It's a healing, restoring, beautifying experience that He initiates and I respond to. It's my whole life living in response to His love for me. [2]

N.T. Wright says that it is the task of humans to relect God into the world like an angled mirror. [3] Then I get to reflect back to God the "inarticulate praise" of the inanimate creation by articulating it through prayer, song, dance, art, words...

Matt Redman says that the revelation of God is what fuels the fire of worship. Without revelation there is no worship. [4] It is my responsibility to press into God and to watch for Him to reveal Himself to me. I must determine to keep my eyes fixed on Him so as not to miss the revelation, particularly in challenging circumstances when the temptation is to turn my eyes to the challenge and try to figure out a way to work things out. Worship means keeping my eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and trusting Him to strengthen and deepen my faith, praising Him and declaring His eternal attributes of faithfulness and goodness, knowing that He will work all things together for my good and that He will lead and guide me in the way I should go.

As I purpose to do this day in and day out, intimacy with God grows more intimate. Relationship with Him is the real adventure of worship and is never boring or dull. Brian Doerksen says, "Real intimacy is real adventure." Amen.

This intimacy allows me to have a life formed by Jesus that is at peace whether He is speaking or is silent. It allows me to be confident in the light or in the darkness because regardless of how it feels, I know that He is with me, actively loving me. It enables me to carry His image into the world and to show compassion in practical ways that change culture, establish justice, redeem brokenness, and free captives. Intimacy is the fount from which worship in spirit and in truth flows from me to the Father, Son and Spirit, relecting His image to the world around me. [5]

1 What Is Worship? a DVD Training Experience. Dan Wilt. 2006 Vineyard Music USA.
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The formula for worship

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

One of the things I have absolutely loved about my experience at has been the absolute gems that are the course spines. Amazing, thought-provoking, deep and wide...I wouldn't have discovered them otherwise as they weren't even on my reading radar.

For e*b Certificate level, I had the choice to read Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright or Worship by Evelyn Underhill. Sometimes an overachiever, I am choosing to read both at a slow and thoughtful pace. As I said in yesterday's post, I've finished Surprised and will be writing an essay (sounds so bookish and official, like I'm back in school or something) on it as soon as I process a bit more.

Wright I "met" last year and now want to read everything he's written. Evelyn is a brand new friend, and I think I'm really going to like her. She writes with great depth and passion on my greatest passion: worship. I am taking small bites and chewing many times, so I've barely made it past the intro.

"Worship," says Evelyn, "is the response of the creature to the Eternal." [1] God shows up. I respond with worship. If there is no revelation, there can be no worship.

So often, though, worship gets wrapped up in me: my posture, my position, my thoughts, my heart. That's called self-focus, and however holy it may seem to "examine myself", it's about the farthest thing away from worship. Not that a realization of that within me which is not right won't occur when God shows up. But that should never be my focus. If anything, it should bring me to a realization of the goodness and greatness of God, creating a desire in me to draw near to Him so that I might be more like Him, leaving that old stuff behind and embracing His holiness and righteousness that He has placed within me to make me more like Himself.

About 9 years ago, while pregnant with baby #4, I attended a conference in Fort Worth. The worship leader was gifted and anointed to lead us into the presence of God. People were freely worshiping all over the auditorium, all the way right up to the stage. The first night, I sat about as far in the back as I could get...up in the balcony on just about the last row. I found it terribly difficult to engage with the Lord in worship, so I examined myself, was found wanting, and focused on what I had done wrong and needed to do better.

The next day, I sat closer to the front. Engaging was a little easier, but again, I was focused on the things I had done wrong and needed to do better in order to be a more worthy worshipper. I remember very clearly the moment the Lord broke into my reverie: "Who is worship about anyway? Why don't you try looking at Me for a change. Go up front and focus on Who I am."

In an instant I realized the subtle deception I had been under, thinking that somehow I was worshipping by recounting, and even repenting, of what I had done wrong. Now, repenting is not wrong, but I and the things I have done wrong should never ever become the objects of my focus. That, pure and simple, is idolatry. The Lord revealed the lie. Replaced it with His truth. Repentance came. My heart turned and focused on the One. And as a physical act of the change in perspective my heart had just undergone, I went up front, and I danced before the Lord.

Such freedom! Such glory! What a Saviour!!!

Evelyn says it well: "'I come to seek God because I need Him,' may be an adequate formula for prayer. 'I come to adore His splendour, and fling myself and all that I have at His feet,' is the only possible formula for worship.'" [2]

God revealed Himself to me that day. I flung myself at His feet, and in His light, I saw light. [3] I worshipped in spirit and in truth, and I have never been the same...because all of that stuff that had captured my attention before was turned to beauty by just one glance of His eye. [4] I don't need to look at it. I just need to look at Him, and then, and only then, will I find myself being increasingly transformed into His image, from glory to glory [5], a new creation washed and made clean by the power of the blood of the Lamb, made perfect through His perfect sacrifice.

My eyes fixed on You
Revealing Yourself to me
I'm changed by what I see
in You

Your glory fills my heart
Worship flows
from the start
It's You
I see You

I see You
I am new

May my gaze
be ever fixed
on You

May revelation
ever continue
from You

May worship
ever spring forth
to You

1 Evelyn Underhill, Worship (USA, Harper & Brothers, 1937), 3.
2 ibid, 9.
3 Psalm 36:9 NIV.
4 Evelyn Underhill, Worship (USA, Harper & Brothers, 1937), 6.
5 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV, NASB.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

I'm back in the Essentials courses, this time for university credit. Seriously the best "thing" I've spent my time and money on in...probably ever. And it just keeps getting better and better. I can't say enough good things about the people over at, and I'm continually amazed at the quality program they have put together for such a great price. I know I sound like a commercial, but this is totally unsolicited praise.

If you can carve out 6-8 hours a week for 4 weeks, head over to and sign up for a course or 2. Or talk to your worship pastor about signing your church up. They offer a great church-wide subscription that make it possible for anyone in the church to take 1 course or 6 courses. Essentials courses have deepened and broadened me in ways I didn't think possible, but not in knowledge (although that's been good and abundant) or information. It's been in depth of understanding of the goodness and greatness of God, and it's caused me to draw near to Him, to long to sit at His feet, to relish the privilege that it is to be His favored daughter...

End accolades.

This is my 3rd run with Essentials Blue (e*b). Yes it is my favorite...well it was until I did the courses on worship leading, song writing and spiritual formation. It runs a close 2nd with spiritual formation. I've already done all of the basic course work for e*b, so this go around I'm doing the extra assignment for university credit which is to read Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. It's a little more cerebral than Simply Christian but oh so good.

It's been a gentle breeze that has blown away some of the fog that slowly and stealthily accumulates whilst unbelief is a part of our household. I don't even know it's there until someone like N.T. Wright comes along and blows a little. The fog moves and I realize: "Oh, I can see more clearly now." And so I step full on into the wind and allow it to relentlessly tear away the bits of unbelief that have tried to intertwine with my thoughts.

The book is done and it's time to put pen to paper to summarize my thoughts. Check back soon. Meanwhile, go to and check it out. Be sure to tell them Heather sent you.

Friday, September 3, 2010


After the joyful celebration of our son's 13th birthday yesterday, we received news of the tragic loss of a young man (now married and a father) who we had the privilege of serving as children's pastor and youth pastor during our staff days at church.

I remember one particular time when my son was about 2 years old. Some of the youth were joking around and said, "You better watch out. Your son might turn out like E," indicating this young man. I was tempted to join in the banter, but instead turned to him and said, "You know, actually I would be happy if he turns out like you."

Smiling, surprised at my response, this young man said, "Really?" and walked away, his head a little higher, his step more confident.

And looking at my son, I see he does share some of the same qualities and characteristics of E. Loving and kind, compassionate, a friend to those in need, just to name a few. We are stunned that he is gone. Pray for his family: wife and young son, mom, sister, and countless others who were impacted by his too-short life.

Come quickly, Lord
Angel legions to our aid
This tragic loss
Assails our souls
And questions bring more grief

There are no answers
To our whys
And so to You we cling
The solid rock
In this life's storm
The refuge that we need

Rise up, O Comfort
Come with speed
Wrap in Your strong embrace
The shattered hearts in deepest pain
Struggling to believe

You are the light in darkest night
The One who bears the pain
You hold and love
Console and catch
The tears of those who weep.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

HFC Syndrome

HFC [Home-From-Camp] Syndrome is a term my sister came up with to describe the days post-camp when one suffers depression after so much fun, food, and friends at camp.

Well, we have it. Full force.

How could we not after such a glorious week at Laity Lodge Family Camp where I had no need to plan or fix meals or keep my children occupied? The wonderful staff at Laity Lodge took care of all of that for me. I just had to show up, eat, participate and have fun.

So the question is: How do I continue in that spirit of being relaxed and having fun with my kids while I return to my responsibilities of official meal and activity coordinator?

I don't quite know. It's a difficult balance for me to maintain. And this very moment I am having to constantly remind myself to cast my cares on Him. He really does care for me and cares that I walk in rest and peace.

It's important to Him that I have fun with my kids in the midst of running a household and coordinating school. He desires for me to have abundant life outside of family camp and to thrive in my role here at home. His plans for me are good.

I'm holding on to those truths this week as HFC lingers and we get back into the everyday rhythm of life. In all honesty, though, I am already looking forward to going again next year!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"My Dream"

Worship is my passion. Loving God, ministering to the Lord with music, dance, art, my life…it’s what I was created for. The greatest delight for me is to see others discover this same passion and freedom to live every aspect of life out of the overflow of a life-giving relationship with Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.

I dream of a day when the church is so engaged in loving and worshiping God with their whole lives that entire neighborhoods, cities, states, countries are transformed by the Presence of God.

I dream of a day when believers set their faces like flint towards the Lord and unbelievers are drawn to the light of His glory. I desire to create environments where people can experience the manifest Presence of God and be awakened in their hearts, souls, minds and spirits to what it means to be truly human: reconnecting with all of the aspects of God’s image that they bear and then turning and calling out the same in others. As people become more fully alive, they enter into worship in spirit and in truth, creating a worship “vortex” that draws all to Christ.

I dream of a day when worship happens spontaneously on the street: at the store, in the parking lot, in the market place, in homes, at church… As we love Him and love each other, the atmosphere of Heaven invades our hearts and minds, the sound of the Lord is released in our midst, and we see people healed, saved and delivered through worship.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spiritual Formations: Lengthen Your Stride

The Essentials In Spiritual Formation Worship Course with Dan Wilt

Apparently, God has it a top priority that I continue the process of becoming fully human. This theme keeps turning up over and over again wherever I turn. Some days it seems too risky to pursue. It means mistakes and looking messy.

It also means I become more fully alive, more "in my element."

I was out walking a couple of weeks ago and decided to jog a few yards. As I started out, I heard the Lord tell me: "It's time to let out your stride and not hold back any longer." So I quit mincing steps and took my full stride and instantly felt the freedom come to run. I didn't run far...maybe 1/4 mile, but it was a physical experience that has forever etched in my mind what it means to live in my element, to stretch out and go.

In keeping my stride in, I thought I was conserving effort. Once I let my stride out, however, I realized it took more energy to keep it in than it did to let it out.

As does living my life by a list of shoulds, restricting movement as an act of self-preservation, trying to be perfect and meet expectations that don't match up with who I am.

Still pondering this one. Just some unfinished thoughts here, but I think I'm onto something, at least for me personally...a shift in season as I become more aware of what it feels like to move freely as God created me to.

Friday, July 23, 2010

... and it's midnight again

I really should get to bed, but I just can't get settled tonight.

Sometime this afternoon, I hit a wall. I'd gotten very little sleep and was feeling taxed by the pull to be mommy to my kids whilst caring well for my mother-in-law. It seemed the two roles were at odds throughout the day.

I keep reminding my kids that we are privileged to be able to care for their GeeMa, that we don't know how much time we will have like this with her at her house, that we need to embrace the moment and trust God's working all things together for our good. There are sacrifices we make along the way because it's a divine opportunity to serve the least of these.

And it is, but today was hard.

I know of others who have cared for aging parents or other sick loved ones over a much longer period of time than the 2 weeks we've been doing this. I think of my aunt's friend who's been caring for her dad for quite some time, first in her home and now in a facility, trying to juggle her four young kids, husband and household. There's also my friend whose son has had multiple health issues since birth. I've watched her walk through some of the challenges of trying to care for his needs while meeting the needs of her other 4 children and her husband. Not to mention trying to take care of herself.

These people are my heroes tonight. I am awed by how they are sustained in a difficult task with little or no reprieve. I know it's the Lord. I know each one of them have been prepared for their moments just like I have been. And I pray tonight that they will sense His Presence in extra measure. That in those moments when they are crying out for mercy and strength, they will find themselves enveloped in the strength and power of Jesus. I pray that those intense times of caregiving will always be accompanied by an increased awareness of the arm of the Lord upholding them, loving them, empowering them for the tasks at hand.

And I pray that they would continually run into people who are Jesus to them in the moments when they most need that touch of human kindness.

You, my heroes, are the hands and feet of Jesus. May you feel His smile of delight and the joy that He has for you. May it strengthen you and give you peace. May you find moments of rest beside the still waters and find food to sustain you in this season.

Spiritual Formations: Why I'm blogging at midnight.

For: The Essentials In Spiritual Formation Worship Course with Dan Wilt

Six months ago, my mother-in-law Bonnie fell and broke her hip. After hip replacement surgery and a stint in a rehab hospital, she was 2 weeks from being strong enough to come home again with my father-in-law. That plan was derailed when she contracted aspirated pneumonia (a complication often associated with Parkinson's, which she has), and a 3 week hospital stay virtually erased all of the progress she had physically made since surgery.

With benefits running out and her strong desire to return home, we arranged for caregivers to come assist with her care and brought her home (to her house) 2 weeks ago. We did not fully anticipate the amount of time and restructuring of our home life this has required.

To complicate matters, my father-in-law Dick had to be hospitalized most of last week, requiring one of her children (by birth or by love) to be present 24/7. He got to return home last Friday. But today, after going for a routine visit, he was told they were going to keep him a couple of days.

And so, unexpectedly, I find myself spending the night tonight in their home with time to blog and reflect on the importance of spiritual formation.

What does all this have to do with spiritual formation? Well, about 9 months ago, I felt strongly impressed that I needed to start getting up much earlier than was my custom. Having tried and failed before, this time I wrote it on my calendar. Mysteriously, that is what it took to get me to wake up early.

This early time was for spending alone time with Him and for getting in a work out. The one sounds spiritual, the other not so much, but both have come into play these last 2 weeks.

In those early morning hours, I meditated on Scripture, journaled, read excerpts of writings by C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Gregory of Nyssa, Richard Rolle, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Madame Guyon, Dag soul was fed on the richest of fares. And I was strengthened.

Then I would typically go for a 4+ mile walk or to the Y to work out - some sort of cardio and some weights. I signed up for a session with a personal trainer and put a plan in place. And I was strengthened.

I find myself today needing to remember that the Lord has prepared me for this intense season that is requiring so much physical and spiritual/emotional strength ~ where there is no "plan." Where my day, my week, my month is, out of necessity, dependent upon the needs of my in-laws and I must draw from the strong center the Lord built within me these past 9 months.

See, the Lord is not surprised by the things that surprised me today, yesterday, 2 weeks ago. He has been preparing me for this moment, preparing me and my family to serve in this way for at least the last 9 months...almost certainly longer.

Now, my mother-in-law is one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people I know. She does not complain. She is grateful and thankful. She is humble. It is an honor to serve her in this way. But, to be honest, it's not how we planned to spend July. It took us by surprise.

But since the Lord has been strengthening the core of my being through physical and spiritual exercise, as the need has arisen, so has the joy and the energy to sustain the change in direction of this portion of our lives.

I am tired and it's now closer to 1 a.m. than midnight. I will need to wake in just a few hours to start the day with Bonnie, but because of the Lord's great love, I will start the day knowing that God has my back, that His strength is at my core, that His power is made perfect in weakness, and that in His presence I have no lack.

He has given me everything I need.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Quench your crankiness"**

I recently read a Reader's Digest article that mentions a study done on athletes who were given water workout during practice versus those who weren't. Those who didn't drink water had mild levels of dehydration like you or I might have if we forget to drink enough water during a busy day. The "no water" group of athletes experienced more confusion, anger, tension and mild depression than those who drank water.

Huh. So maybe when I'm feeling cranky I just need to drink a glass of water.

And maybe I am experiencing more than just a bit of physical dehydration. Maybe my crankiness is also due to dehydration of the spiritual kind. Maybe I've gone through one-too-many practices without being sure I'm drinking in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I've tried to quench my thirst with busy-ness or good activities or some other alternative that may take the edge off, but never truly quenches my thirst.

So, what about you? Feeling cranky? Not drinking enough pure water?

Cup your hands and ask the Lord for a drink from His Living Water. Wait for Him to satisfy that (or those) dehydrated place(s) of your soul. Take time to drink deep. Then make sure you carry around that glass of Living Water with you throughout your day. Refuse all substitutes. And while you're at it, go grab a glass of H2O and as you drink it, picture the Holy Spirit quenching your thirst, both physical and spiritual. Thank Him for His refreshing presence and commit to staying hydrated today.

Jeremiah 2:13 "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

John 4:10 "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"

**title borrowed from Reader's Digest article in June/July 2010 issue pg 97

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Worship without Props

For the Essentials In Worship Leading Online Worship Values Course with Dan Wilt

I was at Jesus Culture last week with my oldest 2 kids. It was 2 1/2 days packed with worship, speakers, workshops, outreach...all of it extraordinary and life-changing. One of our sessions was with Jake Hamilton where he talked about the importance of worship without props.

Since we are to live our lives out of a place of worship, can we worship with no music? no instruments? no fancy band? no stage? Can we worship when things are hard? When we don't understand? When the music's not to our fancy or the lyrics are repeated too many times? Can we still worship when it's hot, when it's cold, when we're uncomfortable, hungry, thirsty? Will we still worship when God seem silent? When we don't feel like it? Will we choose to lift our voice in praise when offended? Sick? Tired?

Wednesday night while at Jesus Culture, something curious happened with my guitar and the bridge spontaneously began to pop off, warping the front, causing a crack to form. My guitar is now in the shop getting fixed, and I find myself without my main "prop" for slowing down and entering into an attitude of worship. More than once today and yesterday I've found myself missing my guitar and wanting to spend some time in worship, but I have moved onto other things since my guitar is gone.

Not having my guitar is a small thing in the scheme of things. I'm waking up to my own dependence on this prop of mine and have determined that tomorrow, or maybe even tonight after I finish writing this post, I will worship without props. It's not much of a sacrifice of praise, really. But it is good practice for the days when the props such as health and comfort are not around to put me "in the mood" for worship.

I can't help but think of the Matt Redman song "Heart of Worship." (lyrics below). May we all choose to cultivate a heart of worship, being willing to live a life of worship with or without props and to continually bring to Him who is Worthy of all our praises our simple offerings.

"Heart of Worship"

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worhip
And it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus

Verse 2
King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Essentials in Songwriting and The ongoing struggle of identity

For the Essentials In Songwriting Online Worship Values Course with Dan Wilt

Identity and significance are an ongoing struggle for me in this journey to find my place in the arts.

"What?" I can already hear some of you responding. "You? Struggle?"

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And one of the main reasons the struggle is ongoing is this insidious tendency I have to compare myself to others.

I know I've counseled many to not do that very thing, but I am as guilty as you. It's part of the internal voice that goes something like this:

"Look at that person. They can _______ better than you. You might not get an opportunity to _______. Who are you anyway? Where do you fit in? Are you even good enough? Why do you even bother to try?"

Stinks. And what stinks even more is that, sometimes, I start to believe that maybe this voice is asking valid questions and making valid points. The insecurities rise full-force to the surface and before I know it, I've just about thrown away the word of the Lord to me:

"Heather, you are an artist. You are My artist. Use your stick figures and paintings for My glory. Sing your songs. Play them on guitar. Play them on piano. Wave your flags and dance your dance for Me. Do it even when you feel insignificant. Do it even when you are afraid. Do it for My Kingdom in full display. Do it when there's no one watching to assess their merit. It is enough that you do it here for Me."

Staring over the precipe of the lie, I realize once again the importance of reviewing the things the Lord has said to me over the years, strengthening myself in Him, and grounding myself in His that I don't succumb to the tempation to believe a lie and enter into an agreement with the enemy of my soul who would like nothing more than to see me lose confidence in the One who sustains me and teaches me all things.

Michael Hanses says this in his article "The Measure of a Songwriter": "Buying into a lie of what success means is a costly mistake. You start to look at other songwriters as the competition...You forget that we are one Body with many parts, that our Father has just the right place for each one of us according to His design."

The Lord has a specific place in His Body for my feeble artistic offerings. No one else's fit just there. His design for me is unlike the design He has for any other, so to enter into the comparison/competition trap, is to desire something that I am not created for. I'm not designed to be anyone other than Heather. I can look and learn from others, of course. I can view their work and listen/watch for tools to incorporate into my offerings.

But I can't be them. To be them would be to be less me. And to be less me would not bring God glory.

And I want to give Him all I can.

So I commit again to struggle through, to not give up, to embrace my continue to offer up whatever artisic offering these hands or this voice or these feet of mine create.

I choose to believe, by faith, that God fulfills His plans and purposes for me. I choose to listen to His voice, to receive the sustenance of affirmation from His hand, and to stop listening to that deceiver.

I choose to create and, in the creating, to find my true significance, my unique identity in the One who created me and knows me better than I know myself.

I choose to continue on this journey to be
fully human,
fully Heather,
fully alive in Christ.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Without Wavering

I want to be like the ancients
Who held onto faith
Without wavering through unbelief
They believed what You said
Held onto promises
Through generations

Without wavering

I want to know how to
Hold onto promises
Hold onto Your truth
Hold onto Your word
Standing in faith
Though I never see You come
Though my circumstances never yield in my time

Let me believe
Help me stand strong
Your Word is true
To You I belong

Without wavering

Friday, May 21, 2010

Holy Boldness

Keeping in time
to Your heart
to Your voice
Walking in step with You

Always brings adventure
Stretching me
Honing me
Stirring me

To greater heights
Greater measures
Weightier glory

Though I cannot see
Though my mind cannot comprehend
Though emotions swirl
And I feel upside down and uncertain

You are strong
You are faithful
You I trust
You I hope in

For You do what You say You'll do
You are Who You say You are
You go beyond all I can hope or imagine
You are extravagant and holy and awesome

And You are bringing an
Unprecedented Holy Boldness
On Your people
to change the world
to bring Your Kingdom here on earth
as it is in Heaven

Blow, Spirit, blow
Open hearts
Ready to receive
Willing to do Your bidding

Shake us
Make us
Mold us
Fill us once again

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Songwriting and a "Blue-Sky Mind"

For the Essentials In Songwriting Online Worship Values Course with Dan Wilt
A few years ago, when I began my journey as an artist, I found that the biggest hindrance to creativity was internal dialog. I would start to create and then stop because it didn't look right, I wasn't talented/gifted/creative enough, who did I think I was anyway...

And I would stop before I had even started.

Somewhere along the way, God revealed to me that I needed to turn away from that voice, press through, and create. Anything. It didn't matter if it was a stick figure. Creating was the point. Not the product.

Dan Wilt calls it "having a blue-sky mind."

I love the image that brings me: a wide-open space, deep blue and beckoning me to enter its depths. It's the process of turning off the internal editor and allowing thoughts and feelings and ideas to flow uninhibited over the pages of my heart, not judging or condemning or assessing. Just being and flowing.

I haven't painted or created much of anything in a while. So as I pick up the songwriting craft in a more purposeful way, I'm going to cultivate a blue-sky mind, expecting creativity to come forth filling the wide open spaces with an abundance of thoughts and ideas to play with, to create from, to explore...

How about you? Join me! Turn off that internal editor. Pull up a blue sky.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm back...

I've been AWOL for several weeks, and it's taken another Essentials Course (on Songwriting to be exact) to get be back on track with writing here. That, and a friend asked why I hadn't been blogging which made me think that maybe I should be.

After reading back in February about a week-long internet fast that Jennifer @ had done, I was finally pushed to do what I had suspected I needed to do for quite some time: spend less time online.

I took Lent as my starting point and committed to stay off of email and Facebook and severely limit internet access for 7 weeks, with breaks on Mondays and Thursdays to take care of online obligations. As Jennifer recommended, I set boundaries for those breaks: only after 9 p.m. when the kids were in bed and only for 30 minutes to 1 hour. I also allowed myself to briefly look up information during the day, but I tried to make a list of what I needed to do and then do it all at once during the "break days."

Let me just say...those weeks of Lent I found myself much more productive on the home front and much more in tune to the Lord without all of that distracting noise that the internet creates in my life. Instead of escaping to email/facebook/websurfing when things got intense around here, I would find a chore to do, read my Bible some, play guitar, worship, etc.

So, now I'm back online and struggling to find a reasonable rhythm for my internet activity while maintaining the perspective I gained during the fast. It's not easy, but I'm committed to figuring it out and breaking from the internet regularly.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll churn out some thoughts on songwriting and having a "blue sky mind."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's your value?

Thoughts from reading William Temple's "The Church's Impact upon Society."

I have so far to go. I am convicted as I read this selection from this week's reading for the Spiritual Formations call with Dan Wilt.

How often do I look at myself or others truly as God sees them? Not often enough. So many times I place myself as the "center of reference," using my values, my grid, to determine worth. I put myself in God's place which, according to Temple, is the basis of original sin. Bingo.

My thinking, my values and grid, must originate with God, not myself, or else I am prone to faulty thinking and a misguided value system that stems from the law, not grace. I get caught up in being "concerned with people as they are, not with people as they ought to be."

TRUE value is not worth based on self. No. True value comes from what we are worth to God, and I must train my mind to view myself and others with His purposes and destiny in mind.

You are my Portion

It's quiet here. And it should be. It's early in the morning, at least for this household, and a good time for solitude, pondering, blogging.

Today my thoughts lead me towards Psalm 16:5-6. I love how God's Word comes alive and jumps off the page at me in new ways. I love having Holy Spirit for my teacher.
Psalm 16:5-6
"O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

Here's what jumped out at me: The Lord is my portion.

I know, you've probably heard it and/or sung it in its various forms a million different times. I have. But I had never stopped to think about what that actually means.

The Lord is my portion.

I don't know about you, but when I hear the word portion, I think of it as being a part of a larger whole. And because of my still-not-wholly-renewed mindset, any portion I would receive should be relative to what is my due, what I've earned, what I've deserved.

The definition of justification by grace that I was taught growing up is essentially that I don't get what I deserve because of what Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the grave purchased: a clean slate, a new heart. As my dad would say, it's "just as if I'd never sinned."

So why do I still operate out of a poverty mentality (for that is truly what it is) and act like my portion is based on my performance? God, help me break free!

If the Lord is my portion, there's no bigger portion out there to be had. I have the biggest portion available. He's my inheritance given to me, completely undeservedly, through the cross.

He's my cup, my lot in life. It doesn't get any better or bigger! And from that perspective, the boundary lines certainly are in pleasant places - they are infinitely good as they encompass, if that's even possible, my good, loving, just, holy, true, awesome and powerful God who gave Himself freely to me so that I might be given back to Him as His inheritance.

Blows. my. mind.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

fully human (part 2) *eb week 3

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

"We are caught on a small island near the point where these tectonic plates - heaven and earth, future and present - are scrunching themselves together. Be ready for earthquakes!" [1]

I don't mean to make light of the situation in Haiti by referring to earthquakes, although I think there is an analogy here to be explored another day, but this quote from N.T. Wright grabs me because I feel the turmoil of tectonic plates in my life as I've committed myself to the pursuit of being fully human.

Last year while doing Essentials Blue for the first time, I was blown away by the notion that heaven and earth overlap within me and that I am a place where people can encounter God. This possibility of God-encounters only increases as I become more fully human, more Heather.

I always thought I had to be less Heather to be more like God, but come to find out I need to be more Heather in order to most accurately portray the image of the One I bear. To say this has caused upheaval would be an understatement.

But in the earthquake that has rocked my miniscule part of the planet, old structures (faulty, embedded beliefs) have fallen, treasures of the deep have been uncovered, natural resources have begun to grow again, and I am finding a pace and a peace that draws me nearer to God and releases me to glorify Him more completely.

As we become more fully human in our recognition, acknowledgement, and full acceptance of who we are uniquely created to be, may our lives make this declaration:

“God rules in this place. God’s goodness, love, mercy, kindness and grace are your shield and protection – offer your allegiance to this benevolent Sovereign who will rule us with mutual joy!” [2]

1 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 161.
2 Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology, 29.

fully human - *eb week 3

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

creative. relational. just. spiritual.
not compartments or boxes
rather uncommon threads woven in and out
a tapestry of grace
bearing the image of the Master

recognition brings understanding
the creation
wholly reflecting
the creative
One who made me to be
like Him

in form and fashion
healing the sick
raising the dead
opening blind eyes
setting captives free
freedom for the oppressed

through music
and dancing
and art

through action
and service
and work

through parties
and gatherings
and meals

through prayer
and silence
and being

who He created

fully me
fully human

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is God in control?

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

I've been wrestling for some time now with embedded (things I've just believed without really thinking them through) theology regarding God, His power and authority, and whether or not He is really in control.

We sing about it. We talk about it. We end conversations with "Well, God is in control," as if that somehow is the answer to the struggle of why some things happen the way they do.

But I don't really think God is automatically in control of anyone or anything other than Himself. He gave up that option when He designed free will into creation. Often times when we say that, it is (watch out, I may step on toes here) a cop out when what we really need to be doing is seeking the Lord to see where we need to bring His authority and to repent of where we might have dropped the ball.

Now, before you start throwing things at me, I don't have this all thought out perfectly. I wouldn't mind some good discussion on the topic. I don't want to really argue about it, however. So if you read my blog and you disagree with me, feel free to present your thoughts to me in a kind fashion. I'm really not a bad person.

That being said, allow me to think out loud a bit.

I do believe God is all-powerful. I believe He could step in at any moment and take control. I also believe He has all authority and that He has placed in our hands a large portion (more than we realize, it would seem) of that authority with which we are to rule the earth as He would. I also believe He is all-knowing, loving, just, kind, true. I believe that everything the Bible says about God is true.

I think, though, that Scripture indicates He limits Himself first through giving us free will and then through choosing to work through His creation, through His people, through me. I and others like me are what He plans to use in His renewing-the-earth plan. In a sense, He's placed control in my hands.


N.T Wright says it this way: "...he acts from within the creation itself, with all the ambiguities and paradoxes which that involves, in order to deal with the multiple problems that have resulted from human rebellion, and so to restore creation itself. And he acts from within the covenant people themselves, to complete the rescue operation and fulfill its original purpose." [1]

He acts from within "the covenant people themselves." That's me. And that is some of you. I don't understand how it works, but somehow God is at peace with letting a lot ride on what I do or don't do. And with all that responsibility, He lets me know that He works all things together for my good and that my mistakes (and there are many) are not beyond His redemptive power.

So with these thoughts is this dawning of understanding of the utter importance of believing that I am who God says I am. I need to fully know who I am in Christ so that I can be all He has called me to be in this time and place and not be double minded.

He created me and fashioned me and purposed me to bring His authority into every situation, to reestablish His rule and reign on the earth, to recognize that I have the Spirit of the Most High residing in me. That makes me a place where Heaven and earth overlap, a vessel through which God desires to execute His rescue operation to bring things back under His control and authority.

And for this rescue operation of God's to really work, His covenant people can't just sit back and say "Well, God is in control" and just expect it to all work out. I mean, it does work out in the end, but I want to be a part of it working it out because He's asked me to. He designed specific parts of the mission just for me to do!

I want God to so control me (and it only happens if I choose to give Him the reins, wouldn't you agree?), I want to be so completely and willingly possessed by the Holy Spirit that everywhere I go His Kingdom shows up and puts that which is wrong to right...puts God back in control, in authority on earth as it is in Heaven...

I hear God enjoys a good wrestling match. You'll know me by my limp ;-)

Grace and peace.

1 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York: Harper Collins, 2006) 75.

Essentials Blue...Here we go again!

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

I couldn't resist another round of worship theology with my friends Dan and Will over at So when Essentials Blue came around again this January, I had to jump in and swim again in the "ungrippable waters" (thanks, Dan!) with the learning community made up of worship leaders from all over the world.

Although I have read and written about the material before, there is so much to delve into, I could take this course every year for 10 years and still find new gems to hold up to the light, turning them this way and that, watching the light catch the different facets and gaining new insights and an even deeper understanding of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

I can't recommend it enough.

May my awareness of who God is and who I am in Him continue to grow and deepen with each moment. May I be diligent to hone my craft and to be all that He has called me to be in the sphere He has called me to lead in.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Can't wait until...

Ever said that? Usually it comes out of my mouth when I am either anticipating something really exciting or presently going through less-than-pleasant circumstances.

I've determined not to say it anymore.

I'm purposing to be more fully engaged in the here and now so that I don't end up in nowhere, waiting for some future event to occur, hoping something will change.

I am going to find joy in this moment, right now.

At the very least, I can rejoice that my name is written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). And that's no small cause for celebration.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Feeling desolate?

I love, love, love Ignatius of Loyola. Of course, the very fact that he is a Spanish writer gives him extra points right of the start. I love everything Spanish. Well, almost. I don't care much for that dish "Bacalao con Tomate," but other than that, Spain is my "other country." And Ignatius' writings, although penned almost 500 years ago, resonate deeply within me, giving me one more thing to love about Spain.

The Devotional Classics selection by Ignatius is taken from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius the bulk of which he wrote after having decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, selling all of his worldly goods, only to find his ship stuck in Manresa (Spain) for a year.

Apparently, instead of moaning and groaning about plans thwarted, asking God why, or throwing in the towel, Ignatius presses into God and draws every bit out of that unexpected year in Manresa, not seeming to waste many moments, if any, having "several profound mystical experiences that led him to begin sharing his faith with others." (1)

And he wrote notes on what to do in hard times, how to prepare oneself for times of desolation, discerning what spirit is at work, standing firm with great determination. He explained that there is an evil spirit causing "anxiety and sadness" creating "obstacles based on false reasoning" and a good spirit who gives "courage and strength, consolation, tears, inspiration, and peace..." (2)

Reading those words this past week reminded me that there are indeed two very distinct spirits seeking to influence my thoughts, my day. I have a choice which voice I listen to. Listening to the voice that speaks anxiety and sadness, regret and guilt, causes me to build my day on false reasoning. But focusing on the Voice who speaks courage and strength allows me to move in freedom throughout my day, unhampered by the obstacles caused by unbelief.

He doesn't say, however, that there won't be hard times or moments of desolation. Rather, in the moments when we are pressing in to the Voice of the Holy Spirit and turning away from the evil one, we have a season of "consolation," moments of "increase of faith, hope, and charity and...interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things...inspiring it [one's soul] with peace and quiet in Christ our Lord."(3) These times of consolation serve to strengthen us, help us formulate a plan for how we will behave during any future time of desolation, and so store up strength for that time.

Desolation by contrast is that "darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptations which leads to loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of love."(4) It encompasses those moments when we are tempted with the thoughts that God has abandoned us or turned His back on His promises to us.

Ignatius advises us: "In times of desolation one should never make a change, but stand firm and constant in the resolution and decision which guided him the day before the desolation, or to the decision which he observed in the preceding consolation."(5) Excellent advice.

My time as an exchange student in Spain was actually fraught with times of desolation. It really is a miracle that I got hooked at all by the Spanish bug. But I guess working through those deep times of distress, crying out to the Lord because where else could I turn?, connected me with the country in a deeply spiritual way that continues to today.

I was 17. I was alone. I knew no one. I had 3 years of high school Spanish that seemed to leak right out of my brain the moment I stepped foot off the airplane. I had a challenging host family situation that left me mentally and emotionally exhausted most of the time.

But I had the Lord. And best of all, He had me. He brought me through that time and inspired my soul with peace in more ways than I remember. He faithfully walked with me and taught me things about Him and about myself I don't think I could have learned any other way.

Spain is the ground where the rubber met the proverbial road in my spiritual life. And in perhaps the darkest times of my life, God kept my soul alive through moments of consolations where He strengthened me and poured in the courage I would need for the next stretch. He proved Himself faithful time and time again.

Those lessons learned in that season have served me well. And Ignatius' writings remind me today to walk in God's grace daily and to make the most of every opportunity to fuel up on God's courage, strength, and peace so that on that day desolation tries to lay hold of my soul, I am ready to stand determined on the truth of His Word to me.

So, do you find yourself feeling desolate? Call out to the Lord. Remind Yourself of the Truth. Stay the course. 1 Peter 5:6-11 sums it up:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, Devotional Classics (New York: Harper Collins, Revised 2005), 193
2 Ibid, 193-194
3 Ibid
4 Ibid
5 Ibid

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jesus Satisfied the Punishment

Jesus satisfied the punishment
He paid in full
Quenched the anger
Now compasion and kindness
Released to us
Love unbound flows over us
Peace like a river washes us
We become the heirs
once cut off
now bound by blood
His forever.

We are found in Christ
No more sin
No more shame
Terror destroyed
Life and love and joy and happiness
Kingdom power and majesty
Honor and glory and strength
Are His
and become ours
as He bestows
changing our clothes
placing on our heads
A crown of righteousness

Now His ambassadors on the earth
Set free to be
Image-bearers restored
Givers of light
Lovers of men
Honoring all
Showing compassion and kindness and mercy and forgiveness
Releasing captives
Setting prisoners free
Opening blind eyes and deaf ears
Healing the broken hearted
Lifting the crushed in spirit

It's what we do
It's who we are
Christ in us
the Hope of glory
Shines through
Changes the world
bringing peace
restoring hope
lighting fires


Is 54 ff