In the Morning …Running with what you’ve got

So, my mornings are always morning before morning should be allowed

I’m not a morning person…working on this…

But in anticipation of tomorrow, I plan.

I pack lunchboxes and clean and lie clean clothes on racks and hooks, and find shoes lost by minions (small people I’m charged to raise)

But, unfortunately, sometimes I dread the day ahead.

I’m not proud of it.

And I think if His mercies new every morning and the blessing of parenthood and employment and a life well lived.

But in reality, I go to bed knowing my alarm will sound the horror bell of having to wake up when I want to sleep.

Still, there’s a blessing when the coffee and the day kick in.

When sunlight brings possibilities that I haven’t imagined.

So I ride before the sun and do it again and again.

This life doesn’t have to be brilliant or awesome in the light of day but it has to continue to bring meaning.

So today leads to tomorrow and every moment, even the mundane, leads to greatness.

Will I be remembered for the lunches I pack and the jokes I wrote in sharpie on ziplock? Probably not. But will I be remembered for my perseverance and strength? I hope so.

Wake up tomorrow and do it again.

Just go!

One foot in front of the next, in excellence. It’s all anyone can ask and it’s more than enough.

Two cents from the routine.

Two cents to manufacture a million. Just RUN!

Two cents for the hurting and blubbering worship leaders

I’ve done a lot of research lately. Call it the consequences of a lifelong nerd falling down a rabbit hole. Alice would be proud!

An almost lifelong friend recently “deconstructed” from the Christian faith. I have a lifetime invested in this faith, part of which, I walked along side this friend…closely. So I wondered…

What causes someone to give up a lifetime for a new lifetime? Is there anything that would possibly convince me to walk away? What reasons, what heartache, what analytical study, what abuse, would separate life from life and truth from truth?

For me, the answer is nothing. I’ve firmly established my convictions and beliefs and cannot be persuaded of anything contrary. But I get it. I really do.

I despise spiritual abuse! It is abhorrent! And I believe a Jesus would be in the midst of it with chords turning tables and agreeing with me. There is no excuse. I despise the notion that anything, power, ministry, or money, could be more important than the rights of a victim! There is no excuse.

But this does not disqualify the gospel. And there are far too many thoughts swirling in my brain tonight to make this fully cohesive.

For tonight, I will say that I’ve seen multiple posts surrounding the idea of Christian worship that are grating at me. I’ve been leading worship over half of my life so this inherently bothers me.

They say that worship music is manipulation preying on the emotional response of the congregant. That the music is derived in such a way as to inherently initiate an emotive response and is, therefore, manipulative by nature.

I take issue with this on multiple levels but tonight let me give you an experiential example.

Yes, music is moving. Music speaks to the soul. No one can deny this. Why it is supposedly wrong to incorporate this with our faith traditions is lost on me. Even in scripture, Saul calls for a musician to soothe him. The musicians went into battle before the army. There is precedented truth to the power of music to inspire and transform. Why is that wrong?

The criticism is that worship music inherently coerces an emotional response and we, worship leaders, manipulate with chords and progressions designed to elicit said response from the hearer.

I couldn’t help but think of a moment in our worship services this past Sunday when we sang the song, “Hymn of Heaven”. The lyric to the second verse says, “And every prayer we prayed in desperation. The songs of faith we sang through doubt and fear. In the end, we’ll see that it was worth it. When He returns to wipe away our tears”

For reference, I was on stage performing this song. So don’t think for a moment I wasn’t involved? But, in the moment, I wasn’t feeling the emotional resonance of chord structure and performance. I was caught up in the lyrics, the truth of my life this year and the prayers “I’ve prayed in desperation”, and the “songs of faith I’ve sang through doubt and fears.” And the beauty of what God has done in my life recently.

I lead/backup vocal worship almost every week of my life for the last 30 years and this few months, I found myself reaching for life at the wellspring of hope because life isn’t easy. You don’t know my journey, but if you did…

We aren’t immune to suffering.we aren’t promised tulips and roses.

Sometimes we get prayers of desperation. Sometimes, there isn’t sense to be made of the chaos. And my full story is a song for another blog post…

But as I sang this song from the stage on Sunday (along with others equally as beautiful and impactful), tears filled my eyes and I had to be “that girl” on the church’s livestream pulling myself together while my tears fell.

Because if it weren’t for the gospel…

If it weren’t for truth…

If it weren’t worth it…

I wouldn’t be here.

Someday I will share the whole story. Someday, I will explain but for now…I hear the naysayers calling “manipulation” and I praise God above that He is REAL!!! He is TRUTH! And He is enough for me.

I’m truly sorry for the voices lost to spiritual abuse. My heart breaks for you more than I can express but I please don’t judge God on the horrible injustices of people who call themselves his. Find Him. Reconstruct to the true and loving God who is so infinitely valuable and faithful!

Two cents for the hurting…how can I help? I’m listening.

Hidden

Maybe there’s something poetic about hiding in plain sight.

Or maybe it’s weakness.

Or maybe it’s strength to stay composed while the world crumbles and stirs around you.

Maybe it’s survival. Maybe it’s faith.

Maybe I’m not hiding at all! maybe I’m standing.

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15

Hero

I have all these heroes in the faith..people who shine bright amidst the noise and impact the world with light.

Tonight I wonder if I’m a “hero”.

Can I be one who shows a glimmer of light in darkness? Am I beacon to someone holding on, trying to breathe when the air seems thin?

Is it enough to live and love? Is it enough to show up everyday?

I think it is. We don’t need megaphones, we need presence. We don’t need lights and applause. Maybe a smile is enough.

Think about who impacted you the most on your journey. Did they need accolades or were they just there?

The beauty in life is in showing up in the small things. The big things are great but the small things are magic.

Shine when the light is missing. Shine when the dim overwhelms.

Be, unapologetically, you. You were born for this!

It is Enough!

This post is a little different from my standard posts. I’m sharing with you what I wrote this morning while reading my Bible. Last night was a particularly difficult night for me. This morning, Is brighter because His word brings life and hope. Hopefully, you can glean something from it that will encourage you today. If you’re unfamiliar with the stories I’m referencing, read I Kings chapters 18 & 19.

It is Enough!

God showed Himself mightily through Elijah. In I Kings 18, he proves himself by sending fire to consume the sacrifice and turns the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Then he hears the “sound of abundance of rain” and prays until the clouds form and outruns Ahab’s chariot. Still, he (Elijah) was under a tremendous amount of pressure and adversity. By chapter 19 of I Kings, he’s running for his life from Jezebel, and it finally overwhelms him. He prays in verse 4 that he would die, “It is enough! Now Lord take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” He is tired and feels like a failure.

How many times in my life, have I felt exactly this way? The heaviness of it all gets to me from time to time, no matter how hard I try. I don’t think Elijah was suicidal. He wasn’t trying to hurt himself and if he really wanted to die, he wouldn’t have bothered running from Jezebel. He just needed to rest and find the voice and peace of God in the middle of the pain.

God was there and shows up to sustain him, just like he always does for us. For Elijah, he sent an angel to tap him on the shoulder and feed him. The angel says to him in verse 7, “The journey is too great for you”. God know what we can handle and when it’s too much for us. He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own or in our own strength. He is there with compassion and provision when we don’t have the strength to keep going. His provision strengthens us. Elijah went, “in the strength of that food” all the way to the “mountain of God”.

“What are you doing here Elijah?”

God could have been asking him this because he should have been somewhere else and he was hiding out in a cave instead, but I think God asked him this because He wanted Elijah to see where he was. He wanted Elijah to see his purpose and who he was and who God is.

“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” I Kings 19:11-12

When Elijah heard the “still small voice”, he wraps his face in his mantle, the symbol of his prophetic authority and “went out and stood”. “What are you doing here Elijah?” It’s then, when Elijah knows why he’s there and recognizes who he is and that he’s not alone, that he goes back and follows the instructions of the Lord and continues the work of the Lord.

Sometimes this life, these trials, are too much for me. I lay down just like Elijah and pray “It is enough!” God is there for me as well. He sees and provides and leads me through. I need to lean in. I need to trust Him. When he says, “Arise and eat.”, for me that means devouring the word of God and letting His word sustain me. I need to realize that though the winds, and earthquakes, and fire, break the rocks into pieces, He is still, unmoving, constant. The seemingly smallest of things contain the most meaning. I need to lean in and steady myself in that! I need to remember who I am.

Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle, his purpose. My purpose is to glorify God in and through everything…to show Him to the world. When I remember why I’m here, I can stand up.

Like, Elijah, I also need to remember I’m not alone. God has placed people around me strategically to fight alongside me. I don’t have to find alone, and I can rest in that. Still, Elijah had to go out and appoint and anoint them. I need to stop being afraid of being vulnerable and be willing to reach out and accept help and support. That’s a tough one for me, but I’m working on it.

Why I’m Choosing not to Teach my Children “Tolerance”

Tolerance

The collective voice of our cultural paradigm can be heard from sea to shining sea. We are reminded that hate is never the answer, that bullying is prevalent and tragic and that our differences should be celebrated rather than used for purposes of division or judgement. The most well-known passage of scripture at one time was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Now it is, “Judge not lest ye be judged”. I would list the reference, but let’s be honest, the majority of those who quote this scripture often, don’t know where to find it in the Bible, just that it’s in there somewhere. 

I read a story this week that impacted me. You can read it here: http://specialneedsparenting.net/darkness-theater/.  A mother brought her autistic son to see a movie knowing that he doesn’t handle the previews perfectly, but does just fine during the feature. Unfortunately, they never got to the feature because after he spoke a couple of times during the previews, they were met with jeers from the other patrons requesting they leave. When the mother relented and rose to leave, they were met with cheers, taunts and even someone yelling that her son was “a retard”. Ah, how tolerant we are of those different from us…

Tolerance as defined by Mr. Webster is: “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own  : the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant”. This doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Perhaps tolerance at its core is selfish. We really desire others to tolerate us regardless of whether we afford others the same courtesy. We fight for tolerance in certain areas, but don’t want to think about it in other areas that don’t matter to us. But the word “tolerance” inherently has that connotation. “I don’t like you but I have to tolerate you so just do your thing as far away from me as possible.” Why thank you dear world. I feel the love now.

I’ve made a decision that I will not teach my children “tolerance”. Instead, I will teach them to love. Love isn’t restricted by agreeing with another. Love isn’t impacted by differences, disabilities or lifestyles.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  I Corinthians 13: 4-8

Jesus never asked us to tolerate our brother but he commanded us to love one another.

In love, we assist those with disabilities rather than worrying whether they will ruin our time at the movies. In love, we reach across religious lines and offer friendship and respect to those who believe differently than us. Rather than putting up with those around us, maybe we should try giving of ourselves.

I choose to teach my children to love others even when they seem unloveable. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

What to do while you wait

Photo Credit: Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters

The thing about being in the Potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18, Isaiah 45) is that we don’t always know what he’s forming us into. Sometimes it might even seem like we’re sitting on a shelf and waiting until He’s ready to do something with us. Isaiah 45 taught us not to argue with the Potter about the final outcome, but what should we do while we wait?

In I Kings 19, God tells Elijah to go anoint Elisha as prophet in his place. God has a mighty purpose for Elisha. We have the benefit of being able to read the whole story so we know that Elisha will do mighty works for the Kingdom of God. God will use him to perform miracles, obliterate wickedness, speak the word of the Lord. His ministry will be great.

I’m sure Elisha knew God had called him too, even before that day when Elijah showed up. He was quick to recognize the mantle and anointing of Elijah and follow him when he called. He didn’t just follow him, he gave EVERYTHING to follow him. That shows me that he was already following the Lord with his whole heart. He was waiting for instructions and activation in his ministry. God was faithful to give it.

waiting

But what was he doing while he waited?

I Kings 19:19 “He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair.”

When Elijah found him, he was plowing the field, tilling the soil, planting seed. He was already using what he had to make something.

When it feels like you are waiting around for life to start, for God to use you to do something big, why don’t you use what you have in your hand to make something beautiful. Start plowing. Plant a seed. Speak words of life to those around you. Be a smile to a hurting heart. Be a willing ear to someone who needs to let it all out. Help carry someone else’s burden. Pray with a neighbor. Talk to a stranger. What’s in your hand? What can you do now?

hands

Don’t wait around for something big to happen, start spreading life NOW. The big things will come but even if they don’t, your life is about right now. Today always impacts tomorrow so spend it wisely. Make like Elisha and grab a plow!

 

Isaiah 60:1

 

We are awake before the dawn.

The sun follows in step, divine hands pulling the earth to its place among the stars. 

Arise, shine, for your light has come!

A smile greets me.

Divine love evidenced in baby breath in the still of the morning. 

Outside my window, the water is glass.

Calm serenity proven in the peace I see…I feel. 

Arise, shine, for your light has come!

My spirit feels refreshed and renewed.

My focus, eternal, in the morning, committed in the day ahead. 

Ready to soar. 

Let the glory of the Lord be risen upon me. 

Arise, shine, for your light has come!

Isaiah 60:1

Sunlight and Stark

Doing dishes is a waste of time. They just grow back!

CleanI’ve decided that doing dishes is a waste of time. They just grow back! Especially in my house with teenagers and their smaller siblings running rampant. They hide in dark corners and conspire about how to get yet ANOTHER cup when my back is turned. And it doesn’t help that the older ones have learned to cook. I come home from work to find that they’ve become creative gourmets without the aid of a full-time dishwasher. Granted, they are old enough that I can pull the “I’m the mom and YOU can do the dishes” card. But still, the reality exists that there are always dirty dishes around no matter how many times we wash them.

Suds

 

Life is like that. We do the same things over and over. We sleep, we wake, we eat, we read our Bibles, say our prayers, work, talk to friends, drive the same roads, cuddle with our kids, laugh, eat again, pay the bills, empty the pantry, go to the grocery store, come back home, lather, rinse, repeat…and it’s wonderful. Somehow, in the midst of the sameness, there’s always an adventure. There’s joy and comfort. We humans like consistency after all.

Our spiritual lives echo this pattern. We die to ourselves daily (1 Cor. 15:31). We read the same Bible over and over and never even begin to exhaust its bounty. We pray daily and it continues to refresh and revive us. We “repent and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5) um, more than once. The cool thing is that no matter how many times we blow it and dirty things up, there’s always a dishwasher. His grace is sufficient for me! (2 Cor. 12:9)

Dishwasher

 

Okay, maybe doing dishes isn’t such a waste of time after all.