Monday, July 31, 2006

Everlasting God

...is my favorite new song. It's been with me since I first heard it. That never happens to me.

Watch New Song Cafe on the song here.

Listen to it here

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

An Assignment - Discuss

Discuss what is important for children, students, young adults, young parents and beyond to know, feel and do as followers of Jesus Christ and beginning to assess how to get them there. With that, to also assess if there are areas where ministries overlap and where there are gaps between our areas of importance and areas of practice.


Yowza.

This meeting is tomorrow night?

To Know:
The first thing anyone needs to know as a follower of Jesus Christ is that he loves them, just as they are. After that follows the basic outline of what it means to be a Christian. We've all sinned and that separates us from God. We are unable to earn our way into God's approval, so God sent his son to the earth to live, walk among and teach the gospel. He then died in our place. His death was the perfect sacrifice and allows God to see us through his blood that covers our sin. Our free will to obey him or not still exists, and once we've understood the sacrifice he made for us the expression of that is living our lives for him.

To Feel:

This is a little strange to me because who are any of us to say how people should feel? I guess a feeling of thankfulness for Christ's sacrifice would be one. Feelings of love for others is another. I guess a big one for me would be that you feel passionately. Be passionate about who he is and who he's created you to be. Be passionate about loving and worshipping him. Be passionate about sharing him with others. The best gifts to the world are born of a passionate soul created to love God.

To Do:

Shall I get the book of Leviticus out? That will confuse everyone. To make it simple, do what Jesus says to do. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself."

How do we get them there?

This issue, I believe, is one of the core competencies of the church. It's one thing to know all "the facts", it's quite another to live it out. The struggle with this area of active Christianity needs to be a core competency the church leads with, but we also must recognize that we can't "make" people get to that point. Sounds weird (or just weirdly worded), but stick with me. I'll get there.

Living out the gospel first requires a change of mind. Then it requires a change of heart. And no one but God can change the heart. We can teach and talk until we are blue in the face, but two facts remain: 1.) People won't change their heart unless they want to 2.) God and only God will be the one to step in when they make that decision.

So I've struggled with what I can do to shape hearts of worship in the church. I don't believe we as leader are called to shout directions from the sideline like a football coach. (Come on, I had to get one football analogy in here - I'm from Nebraska!) I believe we are like the quarterback - in their with the team to lead them.

I also believe God meets us where we are. God met me in a disparaging state of heart because I was ready to give mine to him. I knew my way just wasn't working. Before that, I was given all the facts about being a child of God. Sure, those facts supported that decision, but if I didn't see the lives changed in the people who taught me those facts, I don't know that I would have understood what I needed to do without that example. And not just what I needed to "do" - but what to do to be happier.

But I think it's important to point out there are two elements to this decision. #1 Belief. #2 Faith. We can believe that God's way is better than our way, and that his way will ultimately make us happier. But what comes along with that is a faith he will carry it through. A faith through the dark times that God's has a plan that's better than the one we may want for the moment. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. says the proverbs. I don't think this means God is Santa Claus, planning to hand us the desires of our hearts because we made our bed each morning this year. I believe it means that God will reveal (i.e. give) what those desires are to us.

There is so much more to this topic, but I have to stop sometime.

Monday, July 24, 2006

An Assignment - #3

How did you learn to do what you do in serving others, particularly in your area of ministry? (hands)

How do any of us learn to serve?

Is it something learned? It doesn't seem like it could be. I don't know why this is my first answer to this questions without thinking about it first. Hm.

My crazy friend Angie sent me this email on Friday with the subject "One word game". The object was to reply to the message and use one word to describe the person who sent it, then forward to your friends and be surprised at what you got back. Being the masochist I am, I sent to a few friends quote curious to see what they'd say. I was looking forward to being able to reply back to them, so I could say in an email something I'd never said to friend before. Today, I got a reply that I didn't expect to get at all.

MMMmmmm....servant.....yup, I think that would have to be my word for you.....the one that we all try for, but you just seem to embody.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend.

Now that I did not expect.

You see, I am constantly feeling selfish that I don't do enough. And like most women, I never feel good enough, and what do many women do to overcompensate for these feelings? They do more.

All that aside, I think I learned the most about servanthood from two particular friends I had in college. And I honestly did not expect to think of them as I type. But they both come to mind.

One was a guy named after a hazelnut that grew up in a church that didn't believe in using instruments in worship yet he played the drums. He had this way of anticipating what you needed even before you did. He could read your body language, your eyes, the look on your face and he jumped right in to help. He listened. He loved. He made me laugh. He was so practical, so guarded sometimes, but more than anything he taught me how to be selfless. For that I am blessed.

The other is someone who was always there for me when I needed him. Although we've lost track of each other, there is a place in my heart for my strange little friend with the incredibly loud laugh who once told my mother he was taught to clean out the dryer lint after each load (o this day she thinks that's the weirdest thing she's ever heard). Somehow, he would find me each time I was on the verge of tears and even though I was angry and upset, he just sat with me. He held my hand to comfort me and loved me for who I was. He was the only friend I truly had a hard time saying goodbye to when I graduated from college. The night before graduation he came to my dorm room with a book wrapped in newspaper and we cried together because we knew it was the end. We knew our friendship was a season and I never once regretted the years we had together. Never in my life have I had another friend like him. Completely selfless, a kindred spirit, a big heart with no agenda, and an ability to bring joy to everyone who came into contact with him.

These two old friends are my earthly examples of what a servant should be. I love you both, Brad and Ryan. Wherever you are.

This Made My Day

Do yourself a favor and read the first two questions under "Less Frequently Asked Questions" as you scroll down the page of this link. It will make you laugh.

Friday, July 21, 2006

An Assignment - #2

In continuation of my assignment due for the next Ministry Team meeting, let's explore #2.

What shaped how you think and feel about God and church and ministry (heart)?


This is a loaded question if I've ever heard one - one that cannot just be answered simply but must be answered extremely carefully. Not for fear of offending anyone, but for fear of being taken the wrong way. Yikes. Here goes.

What shaped how I think and feel about God?

Well, to be frank, the world did. God is not a being I can talk to face to face and see his reactions to the questions I may have for him. I cannot have a two-sided conversation about politics with God. I cannot debate him about the state of the church (although I've tried). So, how I think and feel about God has only come through revelation - general and specific. How I feel about God is through seeing what he created. That is the greatest insight we have into the complicated nature of his spirit. What a person creates - in music, art, writing - tells you who they are. God is no different. So my general revelation of him (nature) and my specific revelation of him (his word) shaped my heart towards God. The world and what he created taught me what to think and feel about him.


What shaped how I think and feel about church?

Crap. We are actually going to discuss this at church? I'm so screwed. *Deep breath*

There are three major influences:
1.) The people (which includes, but is not restricted to, their actions, policies, and leadership)
2.) How God himself originally set the church up to be through Paul, Peter and the other disciples.
3.) And if I'm being completely honest, "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren.

The interesting thing about these influences is that they come from what appears to be opposite sides of the spectrum. One leads me to think negatively about what the church has become, the other wistful for what it should be, the other excited of what it could actually become.

What I think and feel about the church is a post for another time.

What shaped how I think and feel about ministry?

Actually experiencing it is a big factor for me. God gave me the "okay" to step into a ministry position, and how he's used that experience has shaped my heart towards it's purpose. My experiences have completely altered any preconceived notion I had about ministry. What I didn't expect is that people in ministry must be tough as nails with Mother Theresa compassion. We're not allowed to show our tough side (Heaven forbid! That would be rude!. We must be tenacious but willing to let go, thick-skinned yet completely aware and sensitive to others, stubborn yet flexible, driven yet servant-hearted. You must be able to fix everything, make up your mind on the spot, continually push forward even when many are pulling you back, and you must, at all times, remember it's not about you or them, but about God.

That's a tall order. To have one face for the ministry and another to God. I don't think that makes people in ministry hypocritical, and I don't really even mean that it's about having two "faces", either. There are certain emotions and thoughts you should not show to those you are in ministry with (especially if you are their leader) as well as those to whom you are ministering. As an artist, I have no trouble saying that it's not fun to hide. It's not fun to have to scold people with a reminder that it's not about them and their personal preference or even their level of comfort.

The thing about ministry is that it's not always going to feel good. I feel the same way about worship, also. The best, most God-honoring worship is not the kind that makes you cry and/or puts a smile on your face. It the kind of worship that brings you close to God, your sin is exposed, and the desire to change to be more like him is brought to the forefront of your life. While this may not be the purpose of worship, it is one of it's side-effects. And that's not comfortable; that's hard. But it is honoring to God. Other types of ministry aside from worship can have the same effect if our hearts are open. That's what shapes how we think and feel about God - and ultimately, ministry.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Assignment - #1

For the past seven years of leading worship, I've also been on our church's Ministry Team committee. Composed of all the leaders of each ministry at Westmark, we meet about every other month. Most meetings consisted of an assessment of where each ministry was headed, what events were going on and as a committee, we existed to schedule events together in order to avoid a significant amount of overlapping. Our new pastor is thankfully taking it to a new level, a little of which I posted about here.

So, our next assignment, received via a reminder email this morning:

I had asked you what made you who you are in the areas of your head, heart and hand. To be more specific –

· How/where did you learn what you know about God and Christianity (head)?

· What shaped how you think and feel about God and church and ministry (heart)?

· How did you learn to do what you do in serving others, particularly in your area of ministry? (hands)

· Discuss what is important for children, students, young adults, young parents and beyond to know, feel and do as followers of Jesus Christ and beginning to assess how to get them there. With that, to also assess if there are areas where ministries overlap and where there are gaps between our areas of importance and areas of practice.



So let's explore the first, shall we?

How did I learn what I know about God and Christianity:

Mostly through study. Of the Bible, of books by respected and unrespected authors, by listening to sermons, by feeling music written by those who'd been where I was and was going to be, by sharing myself with others, by watching my fellow humans - their behavior, words, emotions. I study, study, study and with so much more left to learn it's intimidating to know how many books on my bookshelves I have left to read (and that just of those I can afford to buy, not even counting those I can't! But honestly, I only learned what I know because God allowed it. When my heart was finally open to hear and learn about who he is, he took me and ran.


Where did I learn what I know about God and Christianity?

In classes is where it began for me. That's where I learned the facts, the basics, the theology, the history. But it was in the relationships with others I began to see God's wonder. It was through art that his majesty was revealed to me, it was worship where I saw myself to be who I was created to be, it was through the words of friendship and family love I learned who God is. Why? Because each person is a reflection of God. He created them and every person I meet knows something I don't know but need to know. It's my job to learn from them.

"Where" is a word that has no limit because God has no limit. While I admit I didn't learn much about him in church as a grade-schooler or teenager, he was still there. At that point in my life, I was simply struggling with the idea that God could even exist at all despite what all my Sunday School teachers told me. I had no rock-hard evidence, no solid proof offered to me. And when I asked God for it in those juvenile ways we all do: "God if you exist, will you move that piece of trash in the street?" and he didn't come through I thankfully never wrote him off. What I learned years later was that God will prove his existence to my heart in order for me to "get it". It may not be that way for everyone, but for me I only knew God existed when he changed my heart, not when he moved a piece of trash. The church did not teach me. Though I have fond memories of my Sunday School, Bible School and Youth Group days, and while I did have scarce encounters with God through these venues, I learned nothing profoundly deep at that time in those places. To be honest, I didn't even know what the word "salvation" meant until a professor asked point blank in a class what the most famous verse of salvation was recorded in scripture. When I didn't know the answer, that was when I knew the church failed me, or I had failed at that education. I attended Sunday School my whole life and never knew until I was 19 years old. There is something wrong with education in the church today.

_______________________________________

Huh. I didn't expect that to come out of me, and I'm not even done. (And I thought I could get through one a night.) I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and read what I just wrote. It always looks different in the daylight.

What I'm listening to: Ginny Owen's Live from New Orleans
What I'm reading: The Leadership Baton by Rowland Forman,Jeff Jones, & Bruce Miller

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Perfect Storm

Times of testing seem to come without warning, don't they?

Not that knowing ahead of time would make it easier, but sometimes a little heads up would be nice. To steel myself against the dark valley of despair, the brace my soul for the jarring potholes ahead, the put my mind defenses up to keep the distractions of life far away.

It's been two years since I was tested like this. Two years since the tears I expressed so wracked my body I could no longer sit upright. Two years since God had my full-blown attention so much so I don't even remember what I did at work today. Two years since every sense was heightened, every word had meaning, every piece of art touched me deep, every song written was just for this moment.

The simple fact that God never changes but the rest of the world does at a lightning pace makes me long for a rebirth. Bathed in the tears of my own sin and sorrow, I promise to be nearer, closer to the one I am meant to be. May I also promise to accept my serious limitations and understand I can only do my best to overcome them. My rebirth, through the cleansing of my heart, is the only peace I can aspire to for now.

This storm is meant only for me. I know that now. At first I thought it would be for - well, I don't want to get into that. But this storm, where the wind blows in the opposite direction of where I've already been, with my tears hitting my face just as the rain would, maybe, just maybe, this storm might let me walk on water.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been

I watched the proverbial sunrise coming up over the Pacific and
you might think I'm losing my mind, but I will shy away from the specifics...
'cause I don't want you to know where I am
'cause then you'll see my heart in the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.

Stop right there. That's exactly where I lost it. See that line.
Well I never should have crossed it. Stop right there.
Well I never should have said that.
It's the very moment that I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talk to absolutely no one. Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I'll soon blow up.

I heard the reverberating footsteps synching up to the beating of my heart,
And I was positive that unless I got myself together
I would watch me fall apart.
And I can't let that happen again
'cause then you'll see my heart in the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.

Who I am hates who I've been.
And who I am will take the second chance you gave me.
Who I am hates who I've been 'cause who I've been only ever made me...

So sorry for the person I became.
So sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.


Thanks to Relient K for articulating my heart.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Heart of an Artist

So I've spent the last two weeks thinking. A lot. And I've spent the last two weeks sheding many many tears.

I've never really thought of myself as a negative person. In fact, I've ended two significant friendships because their negativity having such an affect on me I knew I had to get away for fear of being sucked in. But when at rehearsal last week our keyboardist seemed unusually frsutrated with me, I asked a fellow team member when we had a moment alone if I was difficult to work with. I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong, and naturally I assumed it was me, and I wanted to know what I could do to prevent it in the future. What I didn't expect was the answer I got.

I have to change who I am. 'Cause what I am's not good.

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Just change who I am.

But it's who I am. And whenever I think about that, the tears come.

That's not okay with me. Who I am is who I am.

Can you just wake up one day and decide to be a different person? It's one thing to change a habit - like vowing to drink only 2 cups of coffee before 8am, eating more vegetables, going to bed earlier, keeping the house cleaner... But how do you change how you feel? How do you change your mannerisms so other people don't take you the wrong way? How do you change the everyday tone of your voice so it makes people happier? How do you change the frustration you have for no one understanding who God made you? How do you change who you are?

So steal my heart and take the pain,
And wash my feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak,
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
My sin-soaked heart - make it yours
Take my world all apart
It takes all I am to believe
in the mercy that covers me.


I discovered this article the other day and I felt like the author had a recording device in my mind.

Artists have great strengths—and extremely complicated weaknesses. It's part of how God created them. They feel things deeply and therefore can craft moments that tap into what others feel but can't seem to express. Yet this very strength—feeling things deeply—can drive artists to self-doubt, perfectionism, and fear of failure.

Single-mindedly devoted to their craft, artists can slip into self-absorption and lose sight of the big picture. It's rare to have a simple conversation with artists or a simple decision about approach and ministry. Artists often see the world in shades of gray rather than black and white, and they resist quick or simplistic conclusions.


Why is this so hard for non-artists to understand? When did feeling things deeply and passionately become taboo in this bizarre little sub-culture the church has created for itself? Did we fall somewhere between the line of being a professional faker and a honest human? And why isn't the latter appreciated more than it is?

Where do I find the balance between being the one who is "enough" because God made me who I am and being the person God created me to be?