Sunday, October 30, 2005

Never Underestimate God

What I'm listening to: Rich Mullin's A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band

I was so nervous this morning. And I never get nervous. Not when it comes to leading worship, anyway. When I first started to lead with my guitar, I was a little nervous, but not like today.

Actually, it was more worry that nervousness.

They installed part of our new sound system this week. The mixer's still on back order, but everything else is pretty much done. So that was simply an added question mark on what worship was going to be like this morning. Because this was the first Sunday morning service I lead worship with an entire band behind me - three guitar, four vocalists, a keyboardist and a drummer. But that's not what made me worry. What I was worried about was what the congregation response was going to be.

They knew it was coming. We'd been rehearsing for the last couple of months, and we led worship for the youth programs' fall kickoff last month. But having all those people up there was going to be a new thing. And this is a very traditional church.

Meaning, it was just a few years ago that they were still leading worship with a lone guy at the pulpit with an organist backing him up.

But today? Today was the pinnacle of all my sweat and tears (lots and lots of tears). I was hired to change the music from traditional to contemporary. And for the last few years, I'd prayed for a guitarist and a drummer. So I took care of the guitarist part. I learned to play myself. Then finally, I heard about a jr. high kid who was taking trap set lessons. Now, 2 months into his freshman year, he is the backbone beat of our group and I couldn't be more proud of him. And now, a year and a half after I learned to play guitar, I have three guitarists. And I have another trap set player. As Hudson Taylor once said "God's work, done God's way, will never lack God's supply."

And in this one moment, as I stood up there with my guitar (an instrument I always found intimidating, but I learned anyway - and if you ask I'll tell you the story of why I learned how to play) and I was leading this group of musicians, once again I felt the responsibility I'd been entrusted with weaken me a little. But also in the moment did I finally realize that all I'd been envisioning, all my heart and soul, everything I'd wanting for this church to become alive in worship, had finally come to fruitition. The sounds of all the voices - a humble 200 or so - was the sound of worship. A sound that honors God. It was great to hear that sound.

And as we sang It's rising up all around, it's the anthem of the Lord's renown (from Holy is the Lord by Chris Tomlin) I realized this church could rise. That this stubborn church I'd been prodding along all these years might actually let God step in and change things. That they were finally ready for God to do an amazing work with them, and that work starts with worship of him.

Well, I didn't have an angry mob come after me once the service was over with. Nor did I get "Wow, worship was great this morning!" either. What that means, I don't know. But my worry was unnecessary. Because God took care of it. He provided, he blessed, and even allowed us to have some fun.

Here's to many more Sunday morning services like today's.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Answering the Call

What I'm listening to: Tait's Empty

My friend Shannon is in Budapest - she left last month to join the YWAM mission group there and I'm thrilled for her. She sent me these great pictures this week of her new apartment and roommate. She just had a birthday and as I looked through her photos of how she spent that day, her birthday, in a strange country with a person she barely knows, I was simply in awe of her.

Back in 1996, I dedicated my life to the ministry. At the time, I thought I knew what that would involve. When that didn't work, I accepted what God's plan was and that was for me to be here. Years later, I'm enjoying my simple life. My life filled with love and friends, music and bible study, graphic design and the guitar... just simple things. Lovely things I've settled into, an environment I love and that make my life the abundant life God has promised.

But am I settling?

Let me back up a bit.

Several months ago, I was feeling directionless in my role as worship leader at my church. So much so, I was wondering if it wasn't time for me to move on. And I almost missed it: God's purpose. I realized I was feeling directionless because my church was also. We were without a pastor for about a year and during that time, God revealed to me what was/had gone wrong within our church. Things I couldn't see before. Maybe I wasn't ready to see them. And it took being without a pastor for many of us in leadership positions to step up and make things change. So I've been taking an active role in making that collective vision happen. It's scary, but as my friend Lindsey said "You've answered the call." Sometimes the enormous responsibility I have weakens me, but I rest in him who is able to keep me from falling.

Shannon is halfway across the world, sharing the light of Christ. She has stepped out in faith and taken a path few would take. She left her family and friends here in Nebraska to follow God's call. And all I could think about is how lonely I would be if I was doing the same thing. There are many things I admire about Shannon's faith and her willingness to go where called. And while I know God has in no way called me to Budapest, I can't help but wonder if I could even do it if I was called.

These lovely things I surround myself with are just benefits from having a stable income and remaining in a place for 5 or so years now. I go through highs and lows in my walk with Christ, I get to see my family almost every week, I lead worship at a church I love, I have friends who I trust and who are there for me. Not thousands of miles away, but here. So I'm not let down, I'm not out of my element, I'm not lonely. I'm comfortable.

My life is abundant. I may have answered a call, but it seems so easy. It's almost like what I've been called to do is like breathing, an extension of myself. I guess I'm being brave, not like Shannon, but brave nonetheless.

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Peace? and What Heart?

...when you least expect it...

I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned what it means to strive for excellence, not perfection. And I finally know and have experienced the raw power of God’s peace.

A friend of mine once said, “I make the little decisions with my head and the big decisions with my heart. After all, that’s where Jesus is.” I’ve often pondered that statement - wondering if this was just a way to make decisions based solely on feelings or if there is a great truth in her words. I fear our society is one that often relies on feelings only - the mentality “If it feels good, do it.” This mantra is all around us - it has damaged us emotionally, physically, deep down. And Satan has so deceived us we don’t see and realize it’s happened.

But Christ does live in our hearts. He does in mine. I struggle with making it a home for him - because my heart is hard at times, it’s been let down my friends, family, co-workers, professors, bosses. And I’ve let my own heart down with my sinful actions, my words, my thoughts. But I still want my heart to be a place where Jesus feels welcome. And I’m big on Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I believe we should be careful who we give our hearts to - who we trust and love. Who we allow into our lives. Because our hearts are precious. That’s why God wants our hearts. It is the wellspring of life.

I've realized I felt as though I’ve been waiting for my life to start in the last couple of years. Then words from the old John Lennon song came into my head “Life is what happened while you’re making other plans.”

Then I remembered the story of the book of Ruth. The story of a woman who was so in the centered of God’s will she followed her mother-in-law for no other reason than she knew it was what God wanted her to do. And God blessed her for doing that. And others also saw the honor in what she did.

Ruth 2:11-12

Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband-how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD , the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

When you are in the center of God’s will, there is a peace that overcomes you. And I’ve had the head-heart struggle in the last several months. My head was telling my “It’s time to leave this town and move on.” And my heart was saying, “Don’t go. I want to be here.” And I really wanted to stay. But I didn't want to ignore my head.

Then God directed me to Philippians. The peace of God transcends all understanding. I’ve probably read that verse a thousand times. But the other night I discovered something new about that verse. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Phil 4:7) I took out the appositive and the full force of what God does hit me right in the chest.

“The peace of God will guard my heart.”

I said this over and over, almost in disbelief. The two issues I’ve been stuggling with I didn't think had a connection, but somehow they were connected. And God showed this to me. His word transformed me. And now I see that the center of his will is what will keep my heart at peace. For there is no other place I want to be.

What I'm listening to: Renee Fleming's Under the Stars

Sunday, October 23, 2005

At home with the huskers

Friday, October 21, 2005

Never Underestimate My Ability to Doubt Myself

What I'm listening to: Chris Tomlin's Arriving

I've been hearing a theme in my everyday life lately - fear.

"Fear not" is the most frequent instruction God gives us in the Bible. Probably not a coincidence. Fear can sink fast - without you even realizing it. Bad fear is when trust isn't there. Good fear is when it keeps you from driving like an idiot.
Is my fear a lack of trust in God? I'm not sure. I know my fear most certainly is for lack of trust in myself. I've screwed up enough that I'm too scared to do something - because I'm just sure I'll screw it up. I know myself well enough. I'm really good and ignoring all the warning signs God provides - all the instruction he give me and just messing things up.

Just another lovely side effect of low self esteem.

It's happening slowly - I can feel it. I have since last spring. God knows me well enough to not hit me in the face with it all at once. He does it in pieces - so I can get used to the idea. So when he hands me the last piece, it will make sense.

Sometimes I wish he would hurry it along. I guess I just need to trust (there's that word again) he will reveal it to me when I'm ready.

I guess I just want to be ready now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

may i wear black?

What I'm listening to: Don Chaffer's You Were at the Time for Love

coffee and daylight obscure my senses as the sun goes down
my eyes travel across pages with words i do not want to face
i want to be put away
where no one is bothered by me
where the corner of a room is my haven
and the color black is not of death, but of hiding

is there a difference?

my ears hear the low rumble of trains in the distance and traffic in midtown
the smell of expresso beans and paper reach through
all at once i want to be everywhere and nowhere

to know more life
to be more who i am (or who i should be)
am i enough?

but my shame overtakes my heart
i wear the black sweater of fear
the back of the room welcomes me

the whispers in my ear...

you are meant for more than this

i have no faith in me

but i do

the walls of self-protection weaken

but may i still wear black?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Don't Shoot Me Because I'm A Mac Person

What I'm listening to: Aimee Mann

Man, do I catch a lot of crap for being a Mac person.

In this sad little PC world, I actually find myself seeking out Mac people. And when we find each other, it's like there's this weird little unspoken connection between us. We don't have to say it, or talk about it, we just know. It's like we've got this little secret the rest of the world doesn't know about.

We just know. We know it's better to use a Mac for many, many things. We know it easier to use, we know the logic of the operating system makes so much more sense than a PC, and that the answer to every solution isn't "ctl + alt + del". Mac users rarely have to reboot - and when they do, it's not because of the hardware, it's because of the user. My PC? I'm rebooting every other day.

And what's with never being able to find anything on my PC? It's like when I'm working on something - where it gets saved off in neverland. I never wonder about that with a Mac.

But don't ever tell a pro-PC person this or they will talk until you are converted. I've actually be afraid for my life when confronted with a fanatical PC person.

And I love that I'm sitting here listen to iTunes - an apple product, btw - while I'm typing this. Windows Media Player? Are you kidding me? Who owns the twisted mind that came up with that program? Drag 'n drop - give me iTunes anyday. And what could be better than a program that lets me, at the click of 1 button, listen to all my Waterdeep music for the next 3 1/2 hours?

I'm lovin' me some iTunes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

When did I become an adult?

What I'm listening to: Soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou

I still remember sitting in my AP English classroom in high school, filling out my applications to college, repearting my S.S. # over and over again, wondering where I'd end up next. I was so sure I'd be in New York City or somewhere exciting - just because I thought I deserved it.

I have a cousin who believes, more or less, in socialism. That the poor and less fortunate deserve help from the government simply because they are poor and less fortunate. Then there are all those crazy people who believe the bible says, "God helps those who help themselves." Believe me - that's no where in the bible. But my unskewed vision of the world I had back at the age of 17 trusted in that ideal - that if I worked hard, I would get ahead in life. I would deserve the success that comes with an honest day's work.

The reality of paying bills, shopping for cars, houses, and health insurance has turned me into an adult. And I resent it.

I just spent the last 4 days with my family. When we used to get together, our conversations consisted of, "Man, my alegebra teacher sucks." and "I passed my driver's test on the first try! Woo-hoo!" now consists of talk on the private mortage insurance required if you don't have a down payment for a first-time homeover's loan, or how our commute to work sucks.

I miss the days of being irresponsible - that days of poofy bangs, green legwarmers, pink mini-skirts, blue mascara and when my biggest concern was the latest rumors floating around school about my best friend.

Whatever happened to my hopes and dreams about the exciting, lovely life I was planning to lead?

Not that I'm unhappy with how things are now. I'm really not. It's not always easy, but I know God has called me to this specific place in this specific time. I don't know how long he'll keep me here (which is another things about growing up I don't always care for, but my obedience to him is more important than my life simply being "easy") but I'll stay as long as God wants me here. When I was a kid in a situation I didn't like, I just cried my way out of it. I can't do that now. Oh, the crying still comes in droves, but I still am required to trudge through it. I trudge through the mud, and I must accept that no matter how fast I spin my wheels, I might be stuck until it's time for me to move on.

So maybe that's what being an adult is about. Showing patience and grace while trudging through the mud.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Misplaced Obsessiveness

What I'm listening to: Plumb's Beautiful Lumps of Coal

So I'm innocently shopping at my hometown Hobby Lobby - a little against protest, not because I hate the store, but because the last 7 days of my life were overtaken by a scrapbook my mother I insisted I make for my grandmother. (Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to do it for my grandmother, it's the "in 10 days" part I have trouble with, as her surprise 90th b-day party is this Sunday.) Anyway, I'm innocently looking for the paper I need, I turn with my cart around the corner and I see her. This annoying girl I used to be friends with awhile back. She studiously ignores me, as I equally studiously ignore her. But what happens? Tons and tons of stupid thoughts run through my head - thoughts that remind me of how good women are at obsessing about the relationships in their lives.

This girl was truly annoying. Looking back, I have no idea why I was friends with her. She had the most negative attitude I'd ever seen. Never once did I eat a meal with her where she didn't feel compelled to rattle on endlessly about someone, something in her life irritated her. I'm not an overly positive person - ask anyone who knows me - I'm moody as Simon Cowell during PMS week, I really am. I'm outgoing, yes, but completely introverted in every other way and most of the time, just want to sit home and hang out with my best friend of something. So truly, I have no regrets about the way our friendship ended. She used to call me once a week, usually a Tuesday (she liked a set schedule - another rapidly annoying habit), wanting to hang out. Then all of a sudden, she quit calling. So after a month of no word, I called, left a message. A couple of days later she called me back, we caught up, she said she'd call later in the week and we'd have dinner. She never did. At that point, I was feeling relieved not having to "be the bad guy". But her birthday arrived a few weeks later, and I felt obliged to drop off a present. (After all, I'd known her for 3 years, and began to hang out regularly for the last 2) We talked for about 2 minutes - both of us were on lunch breaks and didn't have time.

Not a word since. Not even a thank you for the gift. But again, I was relieved there was no weekly phone call and a feeling of obligation to hang out or be friends with this girl. A few months later, I shoot her an email. No response. So, I figured I made contact enough. Ball's in her court - if she wants to continue the friendship, fine, but as long I didn't really care for her company, I saw no need to attempt any more. That was about a year and a half ago and I have not seen or heard from her. I know I did nothing to hurt her, but if she felt I had hurt her in some way, I'd like to be told so I could make it right. Reconciliation is biblical and I have no fears of it. I would truly hate it if she felt I wronged her and I couldn't in some way make it right. But I can't do that if I don't know what hurt her. If anything even did. For all I know, she went through the same thought process as me and just decided she'd had enough.

If so, why the blatant ignoring? We were milling around the same area, so we crossed each other's paths 3 times. I just found it weird. Women are obsessive about their relationships, be it family, friends, guys, whatever. God made women relational creatures, it's part of our genetic make up. We can't get around it. But in this case? Why am I wasting my time? It's over, done with, I'm glad it's over and done with. Yet still I think "I wonder what I did to make her act this way?" I don't miss her, and when it became clear the friendship was ending, I did have to find new friends. Which was awesome, because now I have the most amazing group of people I hang out with and I couldn't ask for more.

I guess if I could choose, I'd rather be obsessive about scrapbooking instead of relationships. Minus the therapy bill, I would save thousands.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hunger and Thirst

What I'm listening to: Jennifer Knapp's Wishing Well

Our physical bodies need things to survive - the air we breath, the food we eat, the water we drink. Without these things, our bodies deteriorate.

And what does our soul need to survive? Some say fellowship with other people, some say love. The soul can deteriorate like the body, but may take longer or may not be evident to the outside world as much.

I believe the God-shaped hole we are born is why our soul deteriorates - when it’s not filled the his nourishment, our soul can wither away.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
-Psalm 63:1

Our bodies and souls long for our Creator, partially because he is our Creator, but also because this world is not our home. We are aliens is this world and are called to glorify him.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. -1 Peter 2: 1-12

Only Jesus has the ability to give us the water that lasts. But do I honestly hunger for him when I have everything I need? I have a place to live, food to eat, a family that loves me, a job to go to and money to pay bills. I have love in my life - so by America’s standards I have it all. So why is it that I long for more?

Because of that God-shaped hole. A hole that knows there is something better out there for me. A hole that knows I'm complete and incomplete all at once. He made me who I am and he loves me completely.

I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
-Psalm 143:

I think to hunger and thirst for him, I must pursue. Not just feel. I must actively seek out a relationship with Christ. Not just in prayer, but in every day living and acting. In all the mundane activities of life where it doesn't seem important for let his love shine through you, but you must because you never know the when the moment will come when he can use you.

May I always seek what I hunger and thirst for - to make more of him and less of me.

May I understand that I'm made for more, but must be here.

May I know in my heart that God made me beautiful.

May I experience life the way it is meant to be experienced.

May my heart always be near his.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fuzzy Slippers and Shakespeare

You know what I've decided? That purple fuzzy terry cloth slippers are a girl's best friend.

Yes, they cost me $2, and yes they are weird off-shade color of lavender, and no, they aren't very warm, but what is it about these slippers that has me so enamored? I mean, they probably won't last 6 months, they have no way of providing warmth for my chilly toes on this breezy fall evening, and yet, I'm oddly in love with these babies.

I made my way up to the storage area of my building about an hour ago, simply to see if I could find an empty box, and all the while thinking... I love these slippers.

Not that it's at all abnormal for me to form unnatural attachments to the inatimate objects in my life. It's really not. For example, I have this box in my kitchen cabinet (for lack of a better place to put it) with tons of bizarre things...but each one of them has a memory attached to it. And in this box is a mini-sized LifeSaver Candy pack. My friend Russ gave it to me on a truly horrendous day...he ran out of his way to catch up with me, and he told me I looked like I needed it. The LifeSaver pack of 4 tiny little candies will stay with me forever, because it reminds me of how one small gesture of kindness can make someone feel better - even if it's just for a moment, and that makes it totally worth going out of your way for. May I learn to live my life like that.

I have this sticker on my guitar case. I love this sticker. It's about an inch and 1/2 wide and 1/2 inch high, you can barely even see what's written on it. But this sticker comes with a serious sentimental attachment. It sums up everything I was experiencing when I was entering into a strange stage in my life - in many ways I was starting over, struggling through an obedience I was sure I would fail at, loosing my best friend, searching for something.... anything that could get me though the rough days. So it made sense to put this sticker on my guitar case, because I play when I need to connect with myself and God and I was playing so much at that time. (And I detest seeing a guitar case covered with stupid, cheesy stickers - I don't know, for some reason that bothers me to no end). But I did it for me. I averted thoughts of "what a cliche, to put a sticker on your case..." *roll eyes* and I adding it because every time I look at it, it reminds of that time, awful as it was, what I went through and how I came through it.

"Come what may,
time and the hour runs through the roughest day"(Macbeth 1:3)

So even though it's a sticker on my guitar case, the Shakespeare part makes it a little less cheesy. I know I probably won't form the same sentimental attachments to the lavender skippers as the LifeSavers or the sticker, but still. I love these things. They're so soft.