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.

Hope

If we don’t protect it, hope can feel like a balloon, filled to maximum capacity for a moment then let go to float into the air, sputtering, and flying unhindered.

Hope is so much more precious than this. I wish it were easy to tie the knot and seal it in all cozy and safe but even inflated balloons lose air over time.

There is only the constant application of pressure to save us. In the pressure, we stretch and hold firm to what we know. God is able. We are not alone! We can stretch farther than we think.

Don’t let gravity, the environmental circumstances of everyday, the pin-hole leaks in our defenses, deflate you. Keep your tank full! Let breath and air fill your lungs and your spirit. Lean in and believe.

Each breath is a moment in time lost once it’s accomplished. Steady your breathing. You can do hard things! And when it’s too much and you feel like you might burst, remember He is stronger than anything and He’s fighting with you and for you.

Breathe!

Crank up the Music

Have you ever read something and you just can’t stop thinking about it? Saturday morning, I read a passage of Scripture, I’ve read probably one hundred times, but I never saw it. I’ve spent a lot of times studying the book of 2 Kings. I have a profound fascination with Elisha. I have even considered writing a book about it but I haven’t done it yet….maybe soon. Still, despite the many times I’ve read this, I never noticed this simple little thing hanging out in 2 Kings chapter 3.

I’m a musician, as many of you know. I have been involved in worship ministry in one form or another for the last 40 years of my life. I’m only 43 so it’s pretty obvious that music and worship have been instrumental (no pun intended…okay maybe a little intended) in who I am.

In 2 Kings 3, the king of Israel, Joram, and the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat have teamed up and are going to battle against Moab. Side note – I’ve always liked saying Jehoshaphat! It’s just fun. I feel like Buddy the Elf saying “Francisco” over and over again, “Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat”, but I digress. They decide they should ask the prophet of the Lord what they should do. Good idea Jehoshaphat! So they go to Elisha, who honestly, isn’t thrilled about the idea of helping them at all. He isn’t a big fan of Joram, who is still doing evil in the sight of the Lord and says in verse 13, “I want no part of you. Go to the pagan prophets of your father and mother!”

Still, despite Elisha’s attitude toward Joram, he agrees out of respect for…wait for it…Jehoshaphat. See it’s just fun! Anyway, the thing I never saw is in verse 15. Elisha agrees to ask the Lord for them, and in order to do that he says, “Bring me a musician.” 2 Kings 3:15. “Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” 2 Kings3:16.

The outcome here isn’t what I want to emphasize. What I can’t stop thinking about is that when Elisha’s own attitude was not in a space to find the word of the Lord, he knew how to pull himself out of it and into the presence of God. He knew that in in worship, God would reveal Himself. The hand of the Lord moved as the musician played.

I was talking with a friend recently who said they cannot stand the “worship” part of church. She meant the music. She just doesn’t get it and doesn’t understand why it is so repetitive etc. I get it. I also acknowledge that everyone has a different style and various worship expressions are necessary because we are all different and God speaks to us in different ways. Still never underestimate the power and impact that worship and music has on the lives and spirits of mankind.

If the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah through worship and he, Elisha, the man with a double portion of the anointing of Elijah needed them to call for a musician to change his attitude and hear from heaven, then it only makes sense why I fundamentally need music in my life. I am designed to absorb music. I feel it deeply. I sing loudly. I feel the atmosphere shift around me through melody and rhythm. It’s a part of me. It’s obviously a part of others as well and it’s in me so I can help others find and hear from heaven.

My point is two-fold. Number one, if something is in you, let it out! It’s in you for a reason. I’m a singer for a reason so I better SING! Whatever you have to offer, don’t keep it to yourself. Be who you are! Go out and change the world. I know it sounds cheesy, but do it anyway. God created you for a purpose and it wasn’t just to hide in the shadows. Live BIG!

Number two, if you’re struggling today, crank up the music and see what happens. Allow God to speak to you. Meditate on His word and listen. You never know what He will do. Crank it up! Dance! Sing! Listen! God is always speaking, not always how we think He will. It may be through music. It may be through a butterfly flying by your window. You never know, but if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, He will reveal Himself to you. Don’t miss it!

Words, Words, Words

Words

Words are a powerful thing. With their assistance we brave daunting emotions and weighty issues. We express our inmost thoughts and our deepest fears.

Words can cut through the soul to the inner man bringing both healing and harm. Words can be followed by joy, embraced by laughter or lost in sorrow.

There are words we set to flight that we’d like to grab back quickly like the bug the fly snatches mid-air with his rasping, sticky tongue.

There are words we could repeat infinitely and still never exhaust; the “I love you’s” whispered, yelled, proclaimed, declared and given freely.

In the inexhaustible I find a sweet malady. When I’m struck with more emotion than I could possibly utter. Those 2 a.m., “watching the baby sleep” moments. I’m there grasping internally for a way to describe the sentiment and find myself empty but so incredibly full.

How do we pinpoint love on a page? Many have tried but is such greatness definable?

Rest

It’s no wonder the heavens declare the glory of God because we would never be able to scratch the surface of the topic. We are so limited in our vocabulary, with our finite minds and detail-oriented natures. Yet there He stands, incalculable, boundless, limitless, vast and grand. And we should be in awe. We should stumble and wrestle with our verbiage in attempt to bring Him the praise He’s due. We do this not because we know we will succeed, but because what else is there?

Moonlight

We bound through life tossing words around like confetti, littering the landscape in an effort to bring joy, excitement, inspiration and meaning. Let us also fill the air with words of thankfulness and praise like the stars that paint the heavens as each word floats on frequency to the ears of one who hears it all.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Words are a powerful thing!

Sing me a Song

I’ve been singing and playing music in church most of my life. I wrote my first song when I was three and my mother insisted that I sing it for everyone. I clearly remember refusing to do so unless she held my hand…she did. It was my solo debut. To answer the most commonly asked questions, yes, I still remember the song. No, I won’t sing it for you, but here are the lyrics (bracing for the embarrassment…remember I was only three)

Jesus, I love you

Jesus, I want you to be my friend

Jesus I’ve heard about you

How you hold the future in your hands

Jesus, I love you

Will you live inside my heart forever more?

I’m guessing it was adorable! That was all it took for me to decide I was meant to sing and sing I did…constantly.

We lived in Houston, TX for a while when I was four in a pretty rough apartment complex. I remember three things about Houston: my boyfriend whose name was Jesus (he thought all of our songs were about him), the SWAT team coming through frequently to collect whatever maniac was wielding a firearm that day, and getting up at 6 AM every morning, standing on the balcony and loudly singing to the world “See the bright light shine, it’s just about home time. I can see my Father standing at the door”. For the record, the neighbors didn’t think I was quite as adorable as everyone else did.

I was the “song leader” for my Daddy’s church when I was six primarily because we didn’t have microphones and I was the only one who could sing loud enough to be heard above everything else. I have always loved to write music. I am working on two new songs right now. We just played a new original of mine in church last Sunday. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, just laying a little groundwork to let you know that I am very passionate about worship and music. It’s a part of me.

What I’ve realized, however, is that the thrill of operating in my calling is absolutely nothing compared with watching my daughters operate in theirs. I mean NOTHING! They are now teenagers (13 & 16) and play in the youth band at church and are on the worship team with us in ‘big’ church. Sunday, as we played the newest song I’d finished writing and my daughter’s bass guitar was ‘rockin’ it’, I was caught up in the moment. It’s a great thing to operate in your calling. It feels amazing to let God take over and use the gifts He’s given you to minister to others. It feels even more amazing to see your children or others that you’ve poured into, use their giftings to further the kingdom of God.

Proud Mama

My pastor has told me many times that I should always work myself out of a job. The best thing we can do as believers is to find someone to come alongside us that we can pour into, mentor, minister to, teach and encourage. After all, the things that will matter in the end are the legacies we leave behind. What footprint did we leave on this earth? Did we use our time to further our own agendas or did we use our time to leave a lasting impact on another person?

Parenting gives us a unique opportunity to impact another human being. Sometimes the impact our parents make on us is positive, sometimes…not so much. As I think back on my life, some of the most profound influences and inspirations in my life were people other than my parents. There were the sisters in Christ who arranged “gigs” for me throughout my teenage years. There was the pastor/worship leader who would push me to reach higher, sing louder, let go and go for it. There was the dear sister who told me the phrase I still think of every time I step out to lead worship or write something a little extra personal; “Don’t hold back”! My grandfather inspired me to play guitar. My best friend has spent countless hours with me writing and playing music, polishing lyrics and trying to discover new chord progressions. My parents definitely inspired me, but these people spurred me on into my calling.

As I think of the impact I make in the lives of others, I’m forced to evaluate how important it is to me to take the time to make a difference in someone else’s life. It is taxing sometimes to spend hours on the phone with a friend whose heart is breaking. It is hard to put work and household duties on the back burner to go have coffee with someone who wants to get to know you better. It takes an effort to teach a guitar or vocal lesson or read over lyrics or poetry written by someone you barely know and give honest feedback that will encourage them to keep going. But these are the things that matter. The encouraging words spoken today may grow into faith in the soil of another heart. The time spent just being there for someone may make all the difference. The prayers shared together may bring just enough strength in a moment of weakness. The honest critique may birth wisdom. The lesson may inspire greatness.

We may never fully know the impact we make, but even if we aren’t afforded the opportunity to eat the fruit that springs forth from small seeds we’ve sown, we are rewarded for our faithfulness to the author of life who inspired life within us. That alone, is worth more than anything.

Memoirs of a Superhero

Image

I’ve been distracted…

I’ll admit that I’ve often been impressed with my supermom ability to be able to juggle multiple tasks at once. You moms will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s those moments when we’re on the phone, cooking dinner, cleaning up, folding laundry, watching our kid who wants to show us his/her latest amazing trick, refereeing the argument brewing between the older siblings while managing to sneak a kiss or two from our spouse. All the while, it doesn’t even seem to faze us. It’s what we do. We were designed to be perfectly capable of accomplishing multiple things at once before our “going batty” sensor starts to blip. It’s life.

Somehow in the midst of it all, we find time to spend with the Lord. We meditate on his goodness while doing the dishes. We worship in the car. We pray in car-rider line. We read the Bible daily. It’s essential to our survival; so we make sure we keep our life line stable and we’re off and running. Even more surprisingly, we manage to teach our children the value of this.

My pastor’s wife once told me that a mistake many moms innocently make is that the only time they read the Bible is when the kids are asleep. This makes perfect sense because it’s the only time there’s peace and quiet to really focus, but the problem lies in the fact that then, our children never see us reading the Bible. I’d never thought of that until then and I quickly shifted my schedule so that though the majority of my study happens before they are awake, I spend time in the word in front of them as well so they know it’s a priority in my life.

I’m still doing all of these things. My household is running smoothly. I’m grounded in the word. I’m praying. But I’ve been feeling disconnected.

I attribute this distraction to the fact that I found out about a month ago that I’m expecting baby number four. My husband and I and the kids are all excited. We know that a baby is a blessing from the Lord. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them” Psalm 127:3-5. I am so thankful. For the record, my husband is amazing! His reaction to the news was a little shock at first and then he pulled me close and prayed a blessing over me and our new baby. It doesn’t get better than that. But I digress.

I feel as though, my brain and body have been abducted by my hormones. I can’t focus. I’m so tired that I accomplish everything five times slower. My once superhuman multi-tasking skills have been reduced to blank stares and “huh?” It’s bizarre. What I fear the most is that I will let go of my life line. I remember when my other kids came along; I had to focus so much on them that I lost some of my focus on the Lord. I don’t want to make that mistake again. I’m trying to be patient with myself and realize that I’m still indeed human and God doesn’t demand that I be supermom or super-Christian or super-worship leader. He just wants my heart. My heart is His.

The scripture that I keep returning to is:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty one, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Then this morning I read this:

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble. You shall surround me with songs of deliverance” Psalm 32:7

While I am running around down here striving with all my might to keep it all together, God is in my midst delighting in me, rejoicing over me with gladness and trying to quiet me with His love. He doesn’t want me working myself to the point of exhaustion (which isn’t too hard these days) in an effort to keep everything “perfect”. He wants me to chill. He wants me to hide in His presence and find my strength there.

I’m a singer and I’m passionate about it. I long with all my heart to hear the songs the Lord is singing over me! He is singing songs of deliverance and songs of rejoicing over ME! I think instead of striving, I’m going to practice listening. Who knows, maybe someday, I’ll get to hear those songs if I quiet my heart and head enough. Either way, I choose to rest in His love. I choose to enjoy my children, my husband and this new gift growing inside of me. I’ll even rejoice in the morning sickness!

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. It’s our job to acknowledge them and rest in His presence.