Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thinking About Songwriting...

I am a Twitter snoop. I don't have my own account. I mooch off of other people's accounts to get into the thoughts and business of people I know & don't know, but greatly respect. There. I've made my confession public.

Tonight I ran across a Tweet from Brian Johnson from Bethel Redding asking worship leaders to post their set worship list from this morning's service. Upon reading people's responses, almost everyone had similar to identical worship lists. Most of the songs were from Bethel Music or Tim Hughes, who might as well be a part of Bethel Music! :) I enjoy both of these by the way, and also lead much of their music at Redeemer. But, what I was seeing is that across the country or maybe across the world. the same songs were being offered all over the place. I'm thinking this could be one of two things: either unity across the church or a deficit in creativity in the church.

I don't know how it goes for other leaders or musicians, but I find songwriting to be SO difficult. It doesn't come easy to me at all. In fact, up to about a few years ago, I avoided it as much as possible due to my own insecurities. I was convinced that I didn't have song lyrics or melodies within me worth singing. Now I know that this is a lie from the enemy. God has put within my life, and yours, a story that needs to be shared and sung. God commands us in Psalm 33:3 to "sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts." The Hebrew word for "new" actually means "rebirth, restoration, renewal." God wants us worshiping with new songs that bring about rebirth, restoration and renewal.

Lately I've been listening to the radio, instead of my worship-music-only-iPod. I'm interested in the sounds that are currently being produced. In all honesty I find very little that is creative, new or worth joining in with. It all sounds the same and after awhile of listening, is pretty monotonous.Lady GaGa, in all of her claim to creativity, sounds the same as many female artists that have gone before her...there's nothing new under the sun in her music.

It is making me think about the church right now. From what I see, as a whole, we are severely lacking in creativity as well. It's interesting, though, because we have direct access to the Creator. We should have the cutting edge on songs being produced. But what I find (and I'm just as guilty) is that we worship leaders spend much of our time hunting for the newest band, singer, or worship leader that we can copy. Now, I don't think at all that we should erase this method is good to learn from one another and to gain from one another. But, I guess I'm feeling convicted to write more. I have direct access to the Holy Spirit who desires for me to hear the sounds going on in heaven. It's the easy way to copy others. It takes relationship and abiding (far more time consuming) in Christ for me to write new songs of rebirth, restoration and renewal. Jesus said in John 15 if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit. Fruit produced will be unique to an individual's union with Him. For me, I'm thinking, that part of my fruit produced on this earth will be new songs. I want God to hear a great collage of sounds coming from worshiping hearts...not the same songs over and over. I know He's pleased either way because He loves when we love and adore Him.

So, if there are any other musicians or worship leaders out there that actually read my little blog, how do you go about songwriting? I want to learn more about how to do this. After my CD, Created to Worship, was finished last year I felt this relief come over me of, "WHEW! I won't ever have to do that again!" Hmm, I think that is hogwash complacency! More abiding for me...more Presence...more listening for His voice and heart...more fruit coming.

My Kids

I know the title of my blog is "The musings of a worship leader," but today I'm really thankful for the other part of ministry that God has given me and that is my kids at Redeemer. Today 3 of my kids (and 1 of Redeemer's youth) were baptized during our church service. A few weeks agos, one of my girls stood in front of the church and shared a prophetic vision that God had given her for our church. This morning as we worshiped, the front of the sanctuary was filled with kids dancing, singing and laughing. I'm so excited about what God is doing in them!

We've had a tradition at Redeemer since I was a child where we call the kids up to the steps every Sunday morning and pray for them before they go on to their classes. This is always one of my favorite moments on Sundays. This morning as they came running up, my heart felt overwhelmed with how wonderful they all are and the greatness that God has in store for them. Our assistant pastor, Josh, has said many times that our ceiling should be the floor of the next generation...meaning everything God gives us will be their starting point in their walk with Him. I truly think this is happening with our wee ones. I've loved growing up at Redeemer. I'm so thankful for our elders and founding members who have gone before me and trained me up. As good as it was, the kids coming up now have an even greater advantage, as will the generation that comes after them. What an honor to give to them what God has given me, to watch them excel in knowledge I've only recently grabbed a hold of. Sometimes I feel like the "old woman who lived in the shoe with so many children she didn't know what to do!" I wonder if I have enough to share with them and love them. But more often than that, I feel like Will Ferrell in Elf (sorry PJ!), in that I don't realize my size and just join in the fun of the little people! Someday I'll grow the meantime, I'll just keep leading and playing with some of the mightiest young warriors in His Kingdom! Not a bad job!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Heart is Missing!

This building is a great place to play hide and seek!
It's missing because the people of Linden Avenue Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio have stolen it! The thieves! :)

I'm back home sweet home and thinking a lot about the people I've met this week. God is the Rescuer and I just spent 4 glorious days with people who have been rescued from much for Much. I met former alcohol and drug addicts. I met former prostitutes. I met people who are wholeheartedly seeking after God's plan for their lives who yet struggle with addiction...people still crying out for freedom from their old life. I met servants, humility, hospitality, teachability, generosity, vulnerability, gentleness...real people in touch with their weaknesses and need for a Rescuer. I was in good company. I need a Rescuer, too.

I don't ever want to forget what God has saved me from. I never want to become desensitized to my moment of salvation. We all have sinned...we all have fallen short of God's incredible glory and holiness. What a God I have that would provide a way through Jesus for me to rise to the condition I was intended for...His glory. I don't ever want to lose the wonder and thankfulness over this truth. More importantly, I want to look at other people with this same wonder and thankfulness. All of us are on a journey of Christ-likeness. No one has arrived yet. All that God is and can do is available to us but we have not achieved living in that fullness yet. And so each day that I exist is to be spent stepping further into the fullness of God that is available to me now. Every day I exist is to be spent learning how to put aside my dead self and how to live as a new creation. What an amazing life! What an amazing God that He doesn't leave me in my old condition. I want to spend my days thanking Him for this and looking at others around me as "un-arrived" people on their way to living in the fullness of God. This requires the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13 (Pastor John is preaching on this at Redeemer this Sunday! Can't wait!). It requires patience, kindness. It requires that I not be envious, boastful, rude or self-seeking. It requires me to be always hope, always believe, always encourage.

Father, today as I tune into Your voice, teach me how to walk further into the fullness of who You are and who You've made me to be. And may I view others in this same light. PS...bless the beautiful people of Linden Avenue Baptist Church and may today be a day of freedom for the oppressed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hamster Wheel

If I lived in a hamster wheel, this is what it would look like!
I am still in Dayton and yesterday was a very full day...filled with wonderful God moments, coffee, Despicable Me, and good conversation. I spoke twice at Linden Avenue on worship, intimacy and identity. I preached my first "sermon" during a Sunday morning. I think it was preaching...I don't know the difference between preaching and teaching. I guess I should take Pastor John's class to find this out!

I had prepared something specific to give to the congregation before I arrived in Dayton. However, early yesterday morning I woke up and immediately felt like God had something different in mind for me to say. This was fun for me because it means He loves these people so much to give them something straight from His heart that day and it means that He loves me enough to use me to speak it. On top of changing my sermon around, I also felt like He gave me a few prophetic words for 2 people whom I've never met (prophetic meaning comforting, strengthening & encouraging...see 1 Corinthians 14:3). I saw their faces in my mind while sitting on my hotel bed. When I was called up to speak, I saw both of those men sitting in the pews. HA! I love how God works!

Last night I spoke on how worship is our birthright and what we are created for. God calling us to be worshipers is about two things: living our life to magnify, to make Him bigger AND living our lives as worship leaders for others to come along to do the same. This is the same as "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength AND love your neighbor as yourself." Every follower of Jesus is meant to be a worshiper and a worship leader. I'm not talking about music/song leaders. Every follower of Jesus is given the high privilege and calling of living daily to glorify God in such a magnificent way that it is contagious to those around them.

I believe one of Satan's biggest strategies is to get us to obsess over obsess over our thoughts, struggles, shame and turn inward only seeing the small scale of our little world. One of God's biggest callings on us is to get us to turn outward, to obsess over Him and to see and know others. If the enemy can keep us on the hamster wheel of self obsession, he knows God will not receive our attention that He is so worthy of. If we are not giving God the attention He is so worthy of, then the enemy knows that we will not be loving others in the ways that God reveals to us.

Today, and every day, my challenge is to look outside of my unrenewed mind and give God my attention and obsession. Out of that I will love people. Out of that I will love myself. God's hamster wheel is so much more delightful and effective than the round-and-round of the enemy's. Doesn't it feel good to be on the right team? :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On The Road Again...

I'm sitting in a hotel in Dayton, Ohio. I love hotels. For some reason, they make my heart happy! Even though I'm technically still in the midwest and only a few hours from home, I am in a constant state of giddyness when I'm on a road trip.
The coolest picture of Olivia EVER!

I'm here with Olivia Wantz and her family who are pastors at Linden Avenue Baptist Church. Olivia went to our ministry school this past year and leads the worship ministry at Linden Avenue. I am going to be teaching on worship, identity and intimacy over the next 3 days. I'm excited to meet these people tomorrow morning. God has filled my heart with compassion for them and I believe He is going to do great things in them. I know He is going to speak to them. Why not? I believe God speaks to us today. I believe God wants to speak to us and has many things to say if we will but lend an eager ear and quiet our mouths long enough to listen. I love telling people how much God loves them and what He thinks about them...He only thinks good things. He is only happy over us. I know this is true because He poured out every last bit of wrath over sin upon Jesus when He was crucified. He has none left...which means He is completely free to do nothing but enjoy us and delight in us. If that doesn't move your heart to love Him and worship Him, what will? I get to share these things starting tomorrow and I'm excited to do this.

Tonight Olivia's dad, Doug, grilled the best hamburger I think I've ever had and then topped it off with strawberry cheesecake. This will lead to interesting dreams in hopefully a few minutes in my hotel room bed. Insert sigh of contentment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fill in the Holes

Last night I read a story that has me thinking today. In fact, its directing my prayer time because I'm wondering if God would want to do a work in me this morning as I meet with Him. This story is out of a book I'm reading about a woman who has questions very similar to my own. This portion of her story went like this:

Naomi was re-locating from a rural town, where apartment rent is cheap and affordable, to San Diego, where you can get a 300 square foot studio for triple its value. Finding a place that would fit her budget and accept her golden retriever, India, was proving to be a challenge. Finally, she found a place renting an apartment over a garage, which meant sharing a lawn with the landlord, an older woman with a meticulous lawn. The landlord reluctantly agreed to accept India on a trial basis. Naomi and India moved in immediately.

The next morning, Naomi woke up to find that India had dug, not a hole, but a pit in the middle if this perfect lawn. Scared that her hopes of being home were dashed, Naomi went to apologize to her landlord. Her landlord met her with grace and filled the pit back in with the dirt that India had carefully placed all over the yard. The next morning, Naomi woke up to the same problem. She apologied again and was met with the same grace as before. This happened a few more times with the same result.

At the end of the week, Naomi left for few hours in the afternoon to run errands, expecting to come home to the same problem. She was positive at any moment she and her pit-digging dog would be kicked to the curb. However, when she arrived home, she saw that in place of the pit was planted a beautiful tree that made the meticulous lawn more attractive than it had ever been. It was so pretty, that it made you wonder how the lawn had existed without it for so long. The landlord said, "Isn't it a wonderful way to use a hole?"

I'm thinking about this story. I feel a contradiction in my life. Jesus says that all His fullness is within me and I in Him. Yet, in some areas of my life I feel nothing but gaping wide pits, lacking of fullness. These pits are ugly to me and wounding. It feels like nothing good can or will ever come of those places. But, the truth I know about God is that He,makes beauty from ashes. If I abide in Him long enough, it's an inevitable occurrance that I will see. Where I see a hideous, shameful hole, He sees a place to plant life and bring forth fruit. My prayer this morning is, "God, what kind of life do you see birthing out of this lack and how can I partner with You to tend it?" Jesus said that He came so that I might have life abundant. How literally can I take Him at this word? Thank God I'm a work in progress and not a work finished. Because, in Him today there is hope for more transformation into the identity of the Life Giver and more hope that beauty will arise and surprise me.
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Psalm 97

This summer I have given an invitation to my worship team to join me in studying the Psalms. We've been taking one Psalm a week and meditating on it each day. When God speaks, we email it to the whole team to share with them what we're learning. This week we're focusing on Psalm 97.

I've been reading and reading Psalm 97 this week. To be honest, I'm having a hard time getting past verse 1! I feel really challenged by this verse: "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad." God is challenging my level of rejoicing. I should be the most joy-filled person ever to walk this planet. The God that I serve is in absolute control and calls me "daughter," "beloved," "friend," and "priest." Not only does our God reign over all things, but we've been given the highest rank, greatest titles and most beautiful position under this all supreme Ruler. In confidence of this, I should be prancing around on this earth like I own the place...because I do. All that belongs to God has been given to me. Verse 11 says, "Light is sown for the righteous and joy for the upright in heart." If God has sown light and joy, then reaping light and joy should be the way my days are spent. I am learning that joy is not so much a state of being. Joy is a decision. Rejoicing is a verb. I need to make better decisions!

PS...verse 2 "Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him." I think this is interesting because in Revelation 4 it describes the greatest rainbow light show surrounding the throne ever created. How do clouds and thick darkness surround Him while Rainbow Bright is exploding at the same time??? I'm curious.   

A New Mindset

This week has been so good for me, and yet a struggle. Since December, it seems like life has been go, go, go! It's been such a busy, wonderful season of God opportunities. I enjoy busy because busy allows me to ignore the things spinning around in my head, most of which is filled with thoughts negative in nature. My mind is a war zone, quite often...the fight over which Kingdom I'm going to set my mind on: God's or the enemy's. This week started a couple month season of rest for me. I have the fewest obligations on my plate that I've had in a quite a long time. I had few human conversations and so much time to read. It was great...and hard at the same time because I was left alone with much of me! It's amazing how quickly loneliness can overwhelm and take over when I'm not at the top of my game.

But, God is so good! He is so faithful to meet me and encourage me. What would a day be without His voice? I have been thinking often about promises He has spoken to me. Some of them, one in particular, are so incredible that it feels impossible to wait for it to be seen. I'm a toddler. I want fulfillment now and within my tantrums I will show God how serious I am about that! I believe my Father taught this toddler something this week. He wants me to have a new mindset. Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will obey My commands." Obedience doesn't come first to gain love. We obey His commands, or His word, out of a heart of love for Him. Intimacy comes first. Obedience is the fruit of intimacy. When God gives us a command, it isn't necessarily like He's giving us our marching orders. His commands are invitations into partnership to fulfill His desires. It dawned on me this week that His promises are the same thing.

When God gives us a promise, there is process between the promise and the fulfillment. The process stinks! It's hard to wait. Process pulls everything impatient and evil out of your system. Process reveals who you really are by how you respond to God in the waiting. I hate process, but I thank Him for it at the same time because process is changing me to be more like Him. Promises &  process are like commands...they are invitations into partnership to fulfill His desires. When God conceives a promise into your life, there's a choice to be made as to whether you accept that conception or abort it. Accepting it means that you are wholeheartedly throwing yourself into the preparation it takes for your life to be able to support the fulfillment. It's an opportunity for obedience. Active preparation while waiting is a bold declaration of faith that you believe God has spoken. I'm thinking of Joseph who decided to marry pregnant Mary, knowing he wasn't the father. He put his entire reputation at stake as a declaration of faith that his wife was truly carrying the Son of God. How ridiculous in the world's eyes for Joseph to do that. Active preparation is risky, crazy, ridiculous. Active preparation is bold and against the cultural norm. Noah built a boat because he believed God spoke a promise. Abraham left his entire family and all things comfortable because he believed God spoke a promise. Moses opposed the greatest governmental leader at the time because he believed God spoke a promise.

My life in comparison has been a weak display of faith in God's promises and I'm so thankful that this week He has raised the bar. He's given me some active things that I can do to prepare for fulfillment...which means that despite how long I've been waiting, the waiting hasn't been in vain. He will do what He has spoken. It's time that my life reflected what I believe in the present so that I am ready for fulfillment in the future.

"No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised." Romans 4:20-21

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Common Thread...

I spent this past week in Green Lake, Wisconsin with many people from Redeemer. We travel there every year for the Holy Spirit conference where our worship team leads worship. It's always a great week. The grounds are stunning, peaceful. We all cram into one house together for all kinds of family time...finding out who snores, who's loud, who doesn't like loud, eating good food, watching Pastor John giggle around midnight, etc. Good times.

This year, Randy Clark and Rachel Hickson were the main speakers. It was good to see Randy again and this was my first time to hear Rachel speak. She's a dynamo. I loved her heart and her obvious passion for intimacy with God. She challenged and encouraged my heart. I felt strengthened after listening to her.

Rachel spoke much about the process of waiting on God for promises fulfilled. She talked about the importance of continuing to persevere, to keep going, to keep your head up as a son/daughter of God. It seems like I've heard this topic on waiting come up at almost every conference I've attended. It's in many books that I read and on many teachings I follow on Podcasts. When Rachel spoke about this, I found myself feeling very encouraged and frustrated at the same time, to be honest! It's encouraging to know that, if so many people recognize this kind of season, I must be on the right track. It seems like a process of waiting on God to answer must be some sort of rite of passage in the Kingdom. He must know that I can survive and succeed at this. However, it was frustrating to hear because I don't want to hear one more person talk about the elements of process. I'm at a place where I feel done hearing and reading about it...I want God to finish this season so badly. Feeling encouraged and frustrated at the same time makes me feel bi-polar in my head. I used to beg God to show me what I had to do to end this season of waiting. I'm starting to figure out that there is nothing I can do...but wait and trust. It seems so simple in words, but this is the hardest thing I've had to do in my relationship with Him. I feel really weak and vulnerable to absolute failure...and yet He is so faithful to hold my head up and keep me moving forward in him. I have a love/hate relationship with process. I hate the pain and the buttons it pushes in my heart, but I wouldn't trade it for anything at the same time. I have learned so much about what true faith is and there is no other way to learn faith, but through unanswered prayer. I have learned that His goodness is not conditional on whether or not He gives me a "yes" for the desires of my heart. His goodness just stands on its own merit. I would not have learned this any other way. I am learning that hope does not disappoint and I am learning that God is true to His Word. These are all concepts I have read about in Scripture. Now I know them by knowing Him.

Tonight I am feeling really frustrated by the process God has me in. But frustration can never keep me from adoration of His goodness. My spirit is echoing the cries of David in Psalm 42:5, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." I don't care what happens or doesn't happen in the days and years ahead of me. God is worthy. If you have an unanswered prayer or an unfulfilled promise and you're wondering why, more than likely you are in a process. God has something to teach you that is bigger than what you're asking for. His teachings are gifts, healings to wounds, and treasures beyond imagination. He's a good Father who knows what we need before we ask Him. If you're feeling the birth pangs of process, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, bless Jesus today. Because, just as a women in labor, there is no turning back in our walk with God. We're in this until something is birthed in our lives...and birth is inevitable.