Thursday, December 27, 2012

Forgotten Hope.

I haven't been walking on this earth for too long.
In fact, today marks 23 years of mistakes, grace and love.

That means I don't know too much. But I think I know a little. (Think being the key word.)

Tonight, I went to dinner. Amongst dinner conversation, the subject of choosing joy and happiness came into the conversation.

One thing I know for sure is that experience leads to wisdom in smart folk. And I also know that young folk are full of fire. And when the two are mixed, you find a very influential person. That's one reason why the Body of Christ exists. We share these two things with each other to create influential people.

But tonight, I saw someone with all the experience that should lead to wisdom. However this experience had turned to bitterness, as none of the fire of youth was mixed in.
In defending the pursuit of happiness, I was told by this bitterness, "Courtney, you're too young to know, but life isn't a fairy tale. Sometimes it doesn't all work out."

And of all people in this world, I have been blessed substantially. I've also been around quite enough to know and see that it doesn't all work out. You don't always get what you want.

Maybe it's my youth, but I'm more inclined to think that it is the Holy Spirit residing in my heart that screams back that statement,
"No! It doesn't all work out. But that does NOT mean that God isn't working! Just because your plans failed doesn't mean that His promise of 'abundant life' isn't applicable to you anymore! You're not allowed to give up on being blessed and being happy just because your life took a dirt road!"

And as I thought about this, I thought of one very famous passage. Particularly, one part of one verse.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,
 always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

It always hopes. Always perseveres. It never, ever fails. 
As I thought about these, I figured out that the fire of the young is the hope that things can change. Jim always tells me that he keeps me around because I'm just dumb enough to think that things really will get better. But I'm not dumb enough. I'm hopeful enough! And because I hope, I make things change
As I thought about this in regards to life situations, and finding joy and happiness in life situations, another verse came to mind. 

From Psalm 34:
"Whoever of you love life 
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it."   

What these verses, and many like them, say to me is that we are armed with hope when we know the Lord. But like most things, if we don't earnestly remember and seek it, we will forget it, or worse, lose it.

So many people I know have lost hope. And they blame it on God, or whatever situation they're in.

But I want you to know that even though you're struggling and it stinks, God hasn't abandoned you. And just because your life took a dirt road for a while, God hasn't given up on getting you back on track! You don't have to live there. All you have to do is "seek peace and pursue it." You're not too lost, too old, or too whatever for the promise in John 10:10:
"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
There's no age cap or, in fact, any limitation on this verse concerning to whom it applies. 

Remember that love will NEVER stop hoping, so you shouldn't either. 
It will also always persevere, just as you will when you trust in it. 
Remember that you must seek peace. It won't always just come to you.
Love will also never, ever, ever, ever, ever fail you. It may not look the way you want it to, but trust in the Lord. He knows what's best.

It honestly broke my heart over the past few days to see so many hopeless people, so if you're a little low on hope, find someone who has plenty! They'll always share. 

Jesus didn't promise us the road would be easy. But He did promise abundant life, that He would never leave our side and that He would provide the strength to walk this life. Even on the dirt road.
Last week, December 23rd, we sang:
"Heaven Fall Down" by Phil Wickham
"Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)" by Chris Tomlin
"O Holy Night"  
"When Hope Came Down" by Kari Jobe (my favorite new Christmas song!)

I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Dead Horse.

Alright. I know that I'm in the church world.

And in the church world, Christmas and Easter are beaten like the dead horse that's starting to attract flies.

This morning, someone asked a large group of church members if they were experiencing "Advent Fatigue". They all answered with a resounding "Yes!"

I understand the sentiment. My legs are sore from shopping for last minute stuff. My hands still have paint on them from the homemade manger I painted so that baby Jesus could get born into JD's house under the budget of $10 for a nativity. (By the way, don't paint your own nativity set! Mine is super ugly but he won't take it down because he's afraid to hurt my feelings. I told him my eyes were hurting from looking at the ugly thing.) I know that the pile of presents waiting to be wrapped is as large as the mountain of groceries I've yet to buy.

But all of that is not making me miserable. 
It's not making me fatigued.
My to-do list is consuming my mind, but so is the joy that I get to host people and give to people things that they want and need. I know that last week, I even talked about some of the Sticks in the Mud that I'm getting frustrated with for Christmas. But even though they threaten my joy, they have not stolen it.

I think the idea of "Advent Fatigue" is because we're beating the dead horse. Now, I'm all for telling people to remember the love story of Jesus coming to earth this holiday season. But I'm also all for having fun. Presents. Cookies. Elf on the Shelf. Santa. Christmas lights.

So this week, if you're experiencing Advent Fatigue, I'm sorry. I can't imagine what kind of pressure so many people are under during the holidays. I know some holidays can be sad.
But I also know that a good dose of fun will get you out of the funk. It'll get you out of the idea that maybe you're not celebrating Christmas fully enough.

Turn on the A/C and light the fireplace so that it feels Christmas-y down here!
Watch silly Christmas movies.
Let the kids hang tinsel. On their siblings.
Empty your gas tank by going to look at Christmas lights in other neighborhoods!
Do all the fun stuff that stuffy Christians will point at and say "Jesus is the reason for the season!"And then you can look at them and say "I love Him. That's why I'm having fun!"

Last night was Monday date night. We went to Subway and ate it in the car while driving to see The Hobbit. I didn't really want to go see The Hobbit (even though I enjoyed it thoroughly) but I figured it would be good for me.
Three hours with no way to check off anything on my to-do list.
Except for the one present I bought on Amazon Prime while waiting for the girl to butter our popcorn.

So go do something non-Christmas-y.
But don't let this season rob you of your joy. It's about Jesus, yes. But all of our "non-Jesus-y" traditions point to Jesus. Practicing hospitality (having relatives over). Giving (an Xbox to our brother). Feeding folks (with delicious cookies).  Having fun! Loving people!

I know that's not the most profound blog post I've written, but I know a lot of people that I just want to shake and tell them to lighten up! This season is fun. No one will judge you if everything isn't perfect. If you have joy to share, everyone else will find theirs too.

This week in NewSong, we sang:
"Angels We Have Heard on High" off of Chris Tomlin's Christmas album
"A Mighty Fortress" by Christy Nockels
"White Flag" by Chris Tomlin
and for the offering,
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews.

"Not For a Moment" has quickly become one of my favorite songs. As I hear the many stories of people struggling right now, including the shooting this past week, I can sing all of these songs in faith. But "Not For a Moment" really settled into my heart while praying for all of these people all week.

So! I will see you all on THURSDAY at the Christmas Communion Service. It's at 6:30 in the gym, so bring your family and friends!
Merry Christmas!

P.S. - For all you woman-type-folks, here is one of the great articles that got me thinking on this. In Defense of the Christmas Rush . Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sticks in the Mud.

I had the most interesting conversation the other day. I was talking to my older sister about this upcoming Christmas and her arrival at home when she said,

"You know, I'm excited this year about Christmas. It didn't sneak up on me. I'm really ready and excited for it this year. I didn't miss it."

There's nothing that brings joy to my heart like hearing someone say that they're excited about Christmas. You guys know that I love this time of year. Lights, carols, blah, blah, blah. It's all awesome.

In fact, I got this sweatshirt in the mail today from the boyfriend. He knows me all too well.   -------------------------->

And this year, I felt like I was ready for it too. Thanks to early preparation, and free two-day shipping courtesy of Amazon Prime, I was really knocking out my Christmas list. Boyfriend's house is almost ready for his family to get here. My parents have our house looking fantastic. (Turns out that when you don't carelessly fling ornaments onto the tree, but instead take the proper time, it turns out better! Mom was right. As always.)

I felt ready. I know that you caught that past tense.
I felt ready until I started getting really honest about the things that were worrying me a few nights ago. After pushing my worries and fears into the back of my head and heart, they finally came out. Turns out I was a little more worried than I thought about everything going well.

But as I talked through everything that was worrying me, I realized that most of it had nothing to do with Christmas. It had much more to do with relational tension that I know I'm going to face. It had much more to do with my frustration towards people not doing what I felt like is right thing to do and going with the flow.

I was very convinced that they were sticks in the mud. I'm still pretty convinced of that, but as I prayed, I prayed for two things.

First, I prayed that people who need the Lord would experience Him this season through the hope, joy and peace found in our home. I prayed for their hearts to be soft and open to the working of the Lord. I prayed for a miracle in their lives, stepping out into the faith of so many before me who have prayed for miracles during this celebration of the most miraculous event, Jesus coming to earth.

And then the second thing I prayed stung a little. I prayed for my heart to softened to those sticks in the mud. I prayed for my mouth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And I prayed that if they're not going to be nice, I need an extra outpouring of peace, patience and love from the Holy Spirit this season.

You see, I can pray for healing and help in other people's lives. I can pray that attitudes change and that good things come. But I realized that I need to be praying for myself too!  

If they aren't open to the Lord's speaking in their souls, then I need to be speaking from the Lord! How will they know His patience and understanding if I don't model it? How will they know His grace and forgiveness if I don't extend it? How will they see anything positive this season if I just sit in a corner and pray for their attitudes to change but don't show them the love of God?

So this season, I'm not missing Christmas. I'm a bit of a hard head anyways, so I'm treating Christmas with the same kind of determination as most things I tackle. I'm not going to quit praying until I've found the Lord in this chaos. (And by chaos, I mean the number of packages mysteriously landing on my doorstep, with no effort from me. Not the mall traffic. Amazon Prime, baby.) I'm not missing it because I'm walking with the Lord through all of it. We're here to celebrate Him, even with those stick in the mud knuckle-heads that we call our family.  And after they leave, we'll be still here. We'll still have the Lord to celebrate with and for.

So if you're frustrated or broken-hearted about something this Christmas, brighten up. You're doing it right. You're not missing Chrismas. Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning "God with us." He's with you when you're frustrated and broken-hearted. So talk to Him and seek Him. He's in control of all of it already. Which basically means that He's the planner of this party, not us.

This Sunday, Jim will be preaching on Family Rejection. That sounds worse than it is. As I talked to him today, he'll be talking about how to get along with and get through a Christmas with family tensions. It will be much more practical than this blog, so make sure that you're in worship this Sunday at 9:15 or 10:40!

Here are the songs that Landon led last week in NewSong:
"Sing to the King" by Candi Pearson Shelton
"Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground" by Chris Tomlin (from his Christmas album, Glory in the Highest)
"Jesus, Son of God" by Chris Tomlin
and for offering, I sang
"Already All  I Need" by Christy Nockels from her new album called Into the Glorious.  And I tell you what, if you like good lyrics and a good groove and an overall good album, Into the Glorious is awesome. I can't stop listening to it!

So I hope to see you there this week! Worship will be great! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Twinkling Lights.

Happy December!
Merry Christmas!

I'd love to say that I fasted from blogging for the month of November. It sounds so very Christian-y.
But that'd be a lie! I just haven't sat down to write in far too long.
So I'm back!

In case you didn't know, I love Christmas.
Not just a little.
Like, a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot! It may have something to do with my birthday being on the 27th of December.

But I love the twinkling lights. I love the cold weather (which will hopefully come soon!). I love the red and green and fat Santa faces all over the place. I like that people dress up their houses in such funny ways, just bring cheer to a passerby.
I love that we celebrate God in a way that reminds unbelievers to believe, and reminds us all why we love the Lord so much. He truly did humble Himself and come down to the earth.
And I love Christmas music! As a child, taking piano lessons, I played Christmas carols year-round on the piano. My parents quickly got me an electronic piano with special earphones so that I was the only one who could hear myself. Clever, those parents of mine

This Christmas is different for me than all other Christmases. You see, I'm a woman of tradition. If we put Santa's cookies on the blue plate last year, we better put them on that exact same blue plate, in the exact same spot this year too!
But this Christmas is my second Christmas with my boyfriend, JD. And this year, he moved into a big enough house of his own for his family to come for the holidays. And in case you haven't ever met a man before, sometimes they just don't realize how many towels they actually need, or that women like to have mirrors.
So since Thanksgiving, instead of spending all of my time decorating my house with my parents, we've bought two trees. One for their house, one for JD's. Everything has been double. I've been working at their house to decorate and shopping for things to decorate his house with. It's been fun! And stressful.

I know that I work at a church, so I'm supposed to have the right Christmas spirit and be focused on the right things. It was all going well until I had been decorating for far too long on Friday. I might as well have had a pitchfork, red skin and horns out of my forehead, trampling over people in WalMart to get the right toy by 5 pm that night. I had just gone to the store to get lights for the front porch of JD's house when I started looking at houses on my way home and got to thinking,
"Their decorations look so much better. I want mine to look like that! Why don't I have ten thousand dollars and thirty more years worth of experience so that JD's house can really look like Christmas, like theirs!?"
I promptly got to JD's house and was working on setting up a bed in one room when he came in and asked me to come eat the dinner he had made. I turned around and yelled at him! I yelled, "I'm working on this room and once I'm done, I'll feel better! So let me finish and just hold off on dinner! Can't you see that I'm trying to get Christmas together?!"

The Lord should've struck me down right then and there! I had completely lost it. I started looking at other people's houses, thinking that theirs somehow determined how JD's should look. I started looking at my list of voluntary to-dos for him as greater than JD himself. I screamed at my boyfriend for making me dinner, and a really good  one at that! As JD (so graciously) gave me a hug and said he'd wait, I prayed immediately for forgiveness.
I had gotten everything mixed up. I'm supposed to be the one to remind people that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."  (It doesn't matter that I hate that phrase) But I got so caught up comparing, that I forgot what I was decorating and fixing for. I'm not putting up Christmas lights and putting new sheets on the bed because I want to impress people. I'm putting them up so that maybe it'll feel like home, so that maybe they'll feel welcomed, comfortable and taken care of. I'm putting them up because we're supposed to be hospitable as Christians. "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:9.
So it looks like I have a little work to do, but as I've prayed and worshiped and seen before, I know that Lord can even work on this ol' heart of mine.
I know reasons to be joyful for this season. I'm working hard to remember them while I worship and pray. So I encourage you this season, if your red horns start to poke through at some point, step back. Sit down and have a Coke. Pray and read through your Bible app on your iPhone. Remember that you love the people who are coming over and that truly, you just want to celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given with people you like to make it more special.

So here are the songs from Sunday, December 2nd:
"Set Free" by Chris Tomlin off of Passion:White Flag

"Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)"  by Chris Tomlin from his Christmas album Glory in the Highest, which is a great worship album for Christmas time! I love it!

"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord" by Matt Redman off of Passion:White Flag and Matt's album, 10,000 Reasons (another great worship album!)

and for the offering, Landon picked out an incredible song called
"Winter Snow" by Audrey Assad from Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest 

I know that it was a great Sunday of worship for me as I continued to focus my heart toward the birth of Christ! I hope to see you all again next Sunday as we continue to celebrate my favorite season of all! Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thrill Seeking

Since fall has arrived, I decided to watch my fall movie: Harry Potter. I know it's a weird choice, but true. So as I was watching my favorite fall movie, I noticed something that I had never really noticed before. As Harry is flying on a hippogriff (non-nerds, stick around. I'll speak normally in a second) he decided to let go and enjoy the ride. It looked like this:

And I realized that I would NEVER do that. I thought, "How weird. What is he doing?! Put your hands back on!!!! You're going to fall off!!"

I'm just not one of those people!

If you wanted to find a thrill seeker, you wouldn't come looking for me.

Sky diving sounds like a cool way to die.
Riding a roller coaster sounds like a good way to get your organs all out of place or your arms cut off.
Bungee jumping sounds like a super fun time, until you splat. And in my mind, you will splat.

In all honesty, I spent the last two days thinking about this and what it has to do with my life or the Lord. I came up with nothing, but I still thought it was cool and wanted to share it. :) Plus, it's Halloween and Harry Potter is very Halloweeny, so I get a pass.

There are a few ideas rolling around in my head about why this stuck out to me, but mostly, I'm thankful for Harry Potters who do crazy things like that. And another mostly, I'm content that the Lord built me to be a person who convinces my friends that jumping off of the roof into the pool really isn't a good idea.

Here are the songs we did that last two weeks in NewSong!
October 21st:
"This Is My Father's World" is an old hymn that we re-did. I loved it!
"Here For You" by Matt Redman
"Forever Reign" by Kristian Stanfill
"The Earth is Yours" by Gungor

October 28th:
"Set Free" by Chris Tomlin
"Alive in Us" by Hillsong
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong - love this song!!
For the offering, we watched a video called Free that a number of people talked about. It's a great video and this may be illegal, but if you want to watch it again, you can watch it on the company's website that produced it right here! We, unfortunately, cannot give you the video! Hannah said a number of people had asked for it. But you can watch it on the internet again and again!

Have a great week and I'll see you all soon!
Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Redesigning the Grocery Store.

**Note: I'm terribly sorry about the weird spacing issues going on. I promise I don't double and single space at weird places on purpose. If you can't see them, then YAY! But I can't seem to fix them since I'm not an internet wiz. So if one of you is an internet wizard would like to help me, I'd love that! But for now, you'll have to ignore the tricks that the silly internet is playing on my blog.**

Just call me the late night blogger.
It seems as if every inspiration for a blog comes when I'm trying to go to sleep.
I suppose tonight it was because I was counting my blessings.

Tonight was Wednesday night. Therefore: NewSong band practice night! Wednesdays are long since we practice in the evening, but my favorite days. The folks in the band are so cool and not only do I like playing with them, but I like hanging out with them! Since Sundays have a a few more things grabbing my attention, Wednesdays are the best days for us to catch up as a group.

This week, Landon is leading worship!! I always love when he leads because
1. He's so good at it.
2. I get to sit back a little and let him take charge.
3. He picks cool songs!
And this week is no exception to all three of those.

But also, this has been deemed

The week of the bassists.

It just so happened that all of our bass players were available this week. I was determined to not let that hinder them from serving so I rearranged them and asked them to do things a little differently. One is playing bass, another is playing acoustic and the last one is playing drums! Talk about talented.
As we practiced tonight, it was definitely different. We have a good group of folks that rotate in and out, but there are a few that like to serve every week. And those people who serve every week had been moved around so it was all the same people, and a brand new sound. Not significantly different, but different.

And at first, in all honesty, it threw me off my game. For the first run-through, it was little walking into the grocery store right after they've done a store-redesign. Same place, same things, same people, but you're totally lost. Then you start realizing the cool things about the redesign. The noodles are finally by the sauce. The sandwich stuff is near the chips, you catch my drift.
Tonight, I started off a little confused, but then I heard the cool things happening. The acoustic, being a bass player by trade, was keeping a really tight beat. The (drum)set player was playing the djembe as a perfect compliment to the other bass player that was playing set. One of our electric players had taken a break for a while but he was available this week. Hearing him get back into the groove was so cool. It was like pent-up creativity was coming out. 

I always tell the band that I just give them chord charts and an mp3 as a reference to what we'd like to happen. Though by day they are doctors, students, engineers, mechanics, teachers, supervisors, etc., when they play music, they are true musicians. Some of them are meticulous and play every note like the recording and I love that about them! The preciseness of their playing keeps us all on track. Some of them are complete creatives and I never know what they'll bring for worship. Some of them play by ear and some write out their own music by hand. They're all different.
And it's amazing.

I think that's what makes the band good. We don't all play together every week. But when each of the members brings their style to the table, whatever style that may be, we get to create something beautiful for the Lord and as a service to help other people worship. You'd think that a melting pot of styles would produce chaos, but it produces a new, beautiful sound.

The church is the same. You'd think that with artists, scientists, teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home-moms, insurance guys, students, newlyweds, oldyweds, singles, teens, athletes, intellectuals, etc., combined, you'd get large group of people who disagree. 
But when combined, we become the body of Christ.

 "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." 
Romans 12

In God's grace, we make something beautiful. 

This week, maybe God is calling you to get outside of your norm for a minute, to redesign the grocery store. It doesn't have to be forever, but maybe a small change would rattle you enough to realize the beauty of life outside of your regular instrument. 

 Just by the way, if you'd like to serve by singing/playing in the NewSong band, please email me at . I'd love to talk to you! We always need more of every instrument/voice!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hello. My Name is Martha.

I don't know how many of you will give me an "Amen!" on this, but I'm a Martha.

That's where you all say, "Hello Martha!"

Not literally. My name is Courtney. Like in the web address.
But I'm a Martha out of Luke 10.

"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'"

The first thing I notice about this passage is that Martha is a tattle tale. 
I may or may not have been one of those in school. 
But mostly, I relate to her because I'm a preparer.

Now, most of you know that I (thankfully) live with my parents! Since I'm 22 and still in college and working full time, they let me live with them. 
Not really "let me". I stay because they cried too hard when I told them I was moving out.

That's a lie. It'd be a celebration. That's a lie too.  

I may have demanded that I'm staying. (I mean come on! The church is a half of a mile from their/our house! I could practically walk.. If there weren't HUGE hills...) 

But this means that apart from my dorm years, I don't have a house to decorate and call ALL my own. So naturally, I decorate vicariously through (super-patient) JD. He recently upgraded to a larger house and I've been decorating it while he tries to ignore it. But the gauntlet was thrown down a few months ago when his grandparents decided to come for a visit. 
Mom always taught my sister and I to stuff our guests full of good food, entertain as long as they could handle it, stick them in a too-comfortable bed and have bacon ready when they woke up the next morning. 
Now I, being Martha, went into full time preparation mode, months in advance. New curtains were hung, a new bed was bought, we painted, I made canvases, I bought two new sets of towels for their bathroom (the first set wasn't good enough!), I made JD gravel the driveway that was bumpy, we bought groceries and a water jar for their bedroom in case they got thirsty, etc., etc., etc.,. I was still decorating and preparing the moment that they arrived. I literally broke out because I was so stressed about having not-my-family over to not-my-house.

And I did all that to make sure JD was prepared to do exactly what Mom taught me. And let me tell you.. that house is spectacular! He could easily run a B&B.
 I did so much preparation that by the time they got to his house on Friday night, my feet already hurt from running around all day preparing. We hadn't taken a weekend off to enjoy in weeks. Every weekend had projects. I had worn myself, and probably JD, out in the preparation period. I was so tired that I had a hard time keeping up all weekend to help entertain them when they were actually here. 

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Sure, the prep work was needed. And they loved the towels. (a lot.) There's nothing wrong with being hospitable. In fact, we're supposed to be hospitable! But I ran a fine line between being hospitable and being consumed by hospitality and not the people I was with. Luckily, his grandparents were so fun to be around that they kept us entertained!

 I do the same for the Lord, ya know. 

I want to become the best servant I can for Him. But I can't get consumed by wanting that. I have to remember who I serve. And I have to spend time with Him, both in His Word and in prayer. I can't get busy doing work for Him and forget that He wants me, not only what I produce. 

That's why worship every Sunday is so important to me. I worship Him everyday, but when I get to sing with my brothers and sisters, it forces me to be Mary. Every week, we get to spend time worshiping the Lord, hearing from Him through His word and being near to Him. By the time we get there Sunday, no more preparation can be done. All we can do is sit at His feet and converse.

This past weekend, October 14th, we sang:
"All My Fountains" by Chris Tomlin (I mean, really, does it get better than this song?! Hallelujah!)
"God is Able" by Hillsong (I love that song. So much.)
"Holy, Holy, Holy (Savior & King)" by Gateway Worship (probably my favorite hymn)
and "My Hope" by Paul Baloche (off of his incredible worship album that I wrote about here.)

So this week, I challenge us all:
When we gather to worship on Sunday,
let's set our Martha tendencies aside.
Don't worry about your hair or the fact that you were late.
Don't worry about your kids in the nursery. I promise they are being taken care of. 
Don't worry about the fact that you haven't prayed since last Sunday.

Let's pick up our Mary tendencies.
Sit and wait for the Lord to speak to you.
Don't let the hour go by. 
Take advantage of the time that you've set aside to be with the Lord. 
If you'll settle down for chat, He'll talk.  

See you Sunday!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Disco Ball.

Disclaimer. Usually when I write "we", "Christians", or "us", I mean "I" and "me". 

Raw. Honesty. Truth telling. Exposure.

All of those are words that probably made 80% of you not want to read this post anymore. Ha!

Those words make us uncomfortable because saying the absolute truth is an uncomfortable experience. I can think of a few instances even today where I wish I would have spoken up to say what I was thinking or believed about a subject. Not to prove that I was right, but so that I would not have been run over. None of the instances today were matters of life and death, truth or error, or even will matter in the long run. But the little moments that I let pass me today will add up after a while.

Little places where I feel as if someone has wronged me will end with resentment if I'm not careful. Little places where I avoid speaking up for fear of being wrong will lead to fear because it's been so long since I've spoken up.

I think when our soul cries for us to speak up and we don't, it damages us. 

My concern with this idea comes from reading the Bible recently. For a class assignment (I'm still working on my undergrad.. gotta get that diploma baby!) this week, I was assigned to read 2 Chronicles and relate it to worship. But as always with God's word, it spoke not only to worship but, like a disco ball, all of the other aspects of my life. One text reflected into a thousand pieces on my heart and soul.
One of my favorite parts was in chapter 20. Jehoshaphat was king of Judah and the Moabites and Ammonites were coming against them for battle. He was very scared as their numbers were double of his army. I don't know about you, but in places where I feel like I have authority, (such as being a 22 year old white girl) pride tends to creep in and I don't want people to know when I don't have a clue what's going on. As I've gotten older, I have realized that there are lots of other people in this world who know much more than I do. And the best ones remind me of that fact. Enough about me: Back to Jehoshaphat. He was afraid. As king of Judah, he should know all there is about war and unlike our presidents stand in front of us with confidence, he was scared and admitted that he didn't know what to do. He stood before his people and asked the Lord what to do. He humbled himself in front of his people. Incredible. Then he prayed and asked God what to do. The last line of his prayer blew me away.

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." 
2 Chronicles 20:12

I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud when I read that. I was in a coffee shop so it was little embarrassing. But for all the pride we see in our world, King Jehoshaphat humbled himself by plainly saying "I don't know what to do," in front of a lot of people, people he was supposed to lead.

When was the last time that we were that honest? Maybe it's because I'm opinionated and I know lots of opinionated people, but we like to always have an answer. I've never asked somebody about an important situation in their lives (job, marriage, etc) and heard them say, "I have no idea. But I'm waiting on the Lord." We always have an opinion about what we'd like to happen or a guess at what is going to happen. 
But when Jehoshaphat prayed this, the Spirit of the Lord came upon a man in the assembly and he stood up and said, "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde[army], for the battle is not yours but God's." (v.15) He went on to tell them that they would win and the Lord would be with them. And all of it was true!

First, I wonder what it was like to be that man. The guy who stood up and answered the prayer that the king had just prayed. He answered the KING! If his wife was there (hypothetical, of course), I bet she wanted to say, "Sit down. Sit down. Sit DOWN. Don't you answer the king. You think you have a word from God? You're going to have a word from ME if you embarrass me!" But when the Spirit spoke to his soul, he spoke up. Second, I wonder what it was like in the room. Jehoshaphat expressed that he was going to trust the Lord, but I'm sure worry was rampant amongst the people. Then Jahaziel (the guy who spoke up) stood up and sent away every fear with a word from the Lord.

So maybe if we started being really honest with each other when we don't have a clue, even about the important things, the Holy Spirit would be free to move amongst the people around us, to speak through them, to reassure us and guide us.

I told you in the disclaimer that I really meant "I" and "me"!

This week as we worshiped together, we sang,
"Heaven Fall Down" by Phil Wickham (new, awesome song!)
"Savior's Here" by Kari Jobe
"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin
for offering, "Do Everything" by Steven Curtis Chapman (a review of that whole album halfway through this post.)
and for Communion, "Your Great Name" by Natalie Grant.

So this week, I encourage you to 
1. Read 2 Chronicles 20, or the whole book. There are some amazing stories of God's faithfulness. Probably one of the most encouraging things I've read in a while since I read all 36 chapters in a few days.
2. Be honest! Speak up! When your soul says to speak, don't tell it to be quiet. Your soul is the essence of you. Don't quench it for pride or fear. God is ready to speak, but you have to give Him the opportunity, and that includes talking to other people honestly!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Heart and Flesh

My soul longs, even faints for, the courts of the Lord.
My soul longs, even faints for, the courts of the Lord.

Oh my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. 
Oh my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

And I am satisfied, satisfied in You, Lord.
And I would trade it all for one day in Your courts.
Lord, I am satisfied. 
Oh I am satisfied in You.

Oh my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.
 "Heart and Flesh" by Starfield

That's just like me. And the people next to me laughing. 

You know how some people look ridiculous singing and dancing in their cars? Well. I'm one of those people. I sing and dance in my car a lot.
A lot.
So much that I got my windows tinted (probably a little too dark) so that people couldn't see me singing and dancing in my car.  I like to think that since I lead worship every week, people shouldn't make fun of my singing in the car. I'm practicing for Jesus. 
But my dancing: that's fair game to laugh at.

The song above was my latest inspiration for my criminal dancing in the car. I love the simplicity of the song. And it reminded me of a conversation with Jim this week about his upcoming sermon. It's titled "It All Counts" and he's going to talk about how we make every day moments count in our relationship with God, not just the hour devotion. I loved talking about it with him because I know how much my soul, my joy, my happiness and my peace depend on my time with the Lord and Him filling me. But sometimes, honestly, I don't have two hours to sit down and read my Bible everyday. So this song reminded me that I desperately need the Lord. And my conversation with Jim reminded me how easy it is to invite the Lord into every conversation and every thought.
Last week, Landon led us in worship and he did a fantastic job! Here are the songs we sang on September 29th:
"Like a Lion" by David Crowder
"Desert Song" by Hillsong
"Awakening" by Hillsong or Chris Tomlin
and for offering we sang an awesome song called "White Flag" by Chris Tomlin.

Word on the street (or in my office) is that we'll be singing "White Flag" more often in worship so drop by iTunes and pick it up! 
This coming Sunday is going to be awesome. I can feel it my bones. The worship is going to be different and fun and Jim's message is going to be great. So if you ever wanted to invite someone, it won't be like this funny scene: (click here)

Have a good week!