Archive | July, 2012

Through the Roar

28 Jul

Surely, I am with you always.  Matthew 28:20

The woods were quiet as I ambled down the path toward the creek.  The air, as crisp as the leaves under my sandals, stirred a little, then fell still again.  Perfection.  Not too hot, but not chilly; beautiful blue sky and sunshine; brilliantly lit orange leaves from the ground to the treetops.  Autumn was waking up my senses.

Far away an intermittent roar broke through the idyllic afternoon.  Surrounded by the deep forest, I looked around each time I heard it, but the source remained a mystery.

Out of the edge of my peripheral vision a large swooping object made me duck instinctively and whirl around to face it.  I laughed out loud!

Glorious color floated not too far above the treetops as another roar escaped from the burner throwing flames into the billowy balloon.  I’d never been this close to one before.  Seen from a distance, their silhouettes float across the sky in peaceful silence.  But above me a bulbous craft creaked, broadcast its riders’ voices, and roared.

Now that the balloon was directly overheard the roaring dominated everything– my peaceful walk, the chatter of the birds, and my thoughts.

I was in the woods to spend time with God.  His creation always draws me closer to Him.  Apparently so do hot air balloons, as He began to speak to me through the roar.

I’ll share three insights from that day with you.

1.  The burner stayed with the balloon. 

(I know this is one of those ultra-obvious statements, but being aware of the basics, what is often taken for granted, is what makes the light bulb snap on over my head.)  The source of freedom, progress, and power was right there within reach.  All the captain had to do was reach his hand out and turn the valve.  Instantly, the roar heated the air inside the light-weight nylon, and the balloon gracefully responded.

2. The captain didn’t wait for the balloon to get into trouble before letting the burner roar.

The roars didn’t last long.  Sometimes just a few seconds, sometimes a full minute.  All totaled, the time the burner was lit was probably a fraction of the entire flight.  But frequent bursts were necessary to keep the balloon from crashing into a treeline or listing all the way to the ground.  To run the burner for the same amount of time it ran during the trip before it took off would have made for a very short run.

3. From a distance, the burner is unnoticeable.

I mentioned this earlier.  Previously when I’ve seen hot-air balloons, they have been a long way off.  From my perspective they float effortlessly and beautifully– without roaring.  But, of course I’m just not close enough to hear the burner blast power and the balloon skyward.  Physics and chemistry turn into art and magic.

God spoke to me through these, and many other parallels that day in the woods.  Reminding me that He is always right with me; that I need Him all throughout the day, not just at the beginning; and that He combines many, many relationships and situations to create a wonder for others to see that is my life.

I went out to commune with God through His creation – and He spoke through the roar of a propane and silk ballet.


Ready for Sunday

Every follower of Jesus needs both long drinks at His well (much like filling the entire balloon before a flight) and short sips throughout the day.  Especially as worship leaders, however, we can’t do what He’s called us to do without both.  I know that!  But how do I make it a regular practice… instead of waiting until I’m in trouble?  How do I become so desperate for God, I can’t go on without Him?

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Accountability to someone who asks me hard questions (I’ve given her permission to do so) is part of my strategy.  How have you made these practices part of your life so your relationship with Him propels you forward with His power in order to lead others toward Him?


Be back next week

23 Jul

I have succumbed to the creeping crud over the weekend.  I’ll be back by the end of this week.

Blessings as you worship Him!

Bread and Water

14 Jul

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

My phone was eligible for an upgrade – so off to the store I trotted, birthday and Christmas money saved for months safely stuffed into my pocket.  I was a little incensed that the clerk opened the box unceremoniously in front of me.  Part of the fun of buying something new is opening the box and being the first one to handle the pristine item.  The feeling passed quickly, however, as he expertly transferred all my contacts, and presented me with my sleek, new super-phone.

The new phone has some cool features, but my real reason for upgrading is the camera.  I’ve become fascinated with phone/app photography.  I was excited to show my new tool to friends with the same interest.  Raised eyebrows and nods of approval all around.  Except for someone new to the group.

“Why didn’t you wait for the next model coming out in 3 months?  The camera will be even better, the storage capacity enormous, and the processing time next to nothing.”

I knew about the upcoming product, but I’d decided the wait wasn’t worth it.  I was happy with my new camer… I mean phone!  Still, a little wistful feeling crept into my happiness when I realized that my brand new (quite expensive) purchase was already outdated technology.


Dissatisfaction can be a good thing.

Our bodies need replenishing.  Yesterday’s manna is gone (or moldy!), and we need to eat again today to satisfy our hunger.  The water I drank before sitting down to write this post has been absorbed into my hydration-thirsty cells.   I need more to satisfy my thirst.  (Right now.  brb!)  Bread and water.  Hunger and thirst.  They are part of our human condition.

Jesus contrasted the living water He promised the Samaritan woman with water drawn from the public well.  The Greek word for well in the passage, more correctly translated cistern, describes “a receptacle for water conveyed to it; distinguished [from a different Greek word, translated spring], which denotes a place where water rises on the spot.” (1)

Because rainfall was extremely scarce in Israel (much like in the Midwest this summer!), people had to dig cisterns to collect every bit of rain in order to have water during the dry season, while those who lived near a spring had an endless supply of fresh water, no matter what the weather or season.

Water in a cistern would sustain life, but spring water was far more preferable.  Cisterns dried up, the water they held was stagnant or muddy and lukewarm, and pride or self-sufficiency replaced dependence on God.

Living water from a spring was sweet and clear, cool and refreshing; it flowed continuously from deep within the earth without the aid of human back-breaking labor.

This is the context of the offer Jesus made to the woman at the well.

Of course she wanted living water!

Walking to the cistern everyday to get water was hard work and the water she collected was sub-standard– warm and muddy from last month’s rainstorm.  She definitely wanted the water upgrade Jesus offered!

But Jesus shattered her mental water jar on the nearby cliffs.

He wasn’t talking about water at all.  This Living Water fills on a more basic life-level.  It truly satisfies and also causes a deep yearning for more and more of the same.

Jesus wasn’t saying that she, and we, only need one drink from the spring of Living Water to be satisfied, but that once we know where to get a drink, the desire to go back to the cistern evaporates like a puddle on desert clay at noon in July.  We no longer thirst because now we know where to find the Living Water.

But just like the lesson of the Old Testament manna,  taking an extra-big drink of Living Water won’t last through tomorrow.  (You will have to get up during the night, though!)   Carrying home an extra supply of water in a jar also won’t last until tomorrow because it won’t be fresh – it will stagnate.

The spiritual parallel supports two main points:

  1. a holy dissatisfaction with substitutes for our relationship with Christ; and
  2. a daily (or hourly) need for relationship-building with our Lord.

Our thirst is satisfied in Him, the Living Water, and yet we are also unsatisfied and thirsty for more of Him.  We have tasted the fresh water and know where it comes from– so we can’t help but return.


Ready for Sunday

Sometimes when I get focused on a task or a project, it feels very inconvenient to stop and eat.  I can keep going for a little while, but when my energy begins to dry up, I wish I’d stopped earlier to fuel my energy.  How many times have I continued to forge ahead on my own, when I know where the Source of my strength lies?

Why do I wait until my tank is on E before stopping for a long, cool drink?  And why do I trade the stagnant water of my own efforts for Life-giving Water?

As worship leaders, it also goes beyond you and me.  Not only is it impossible to lead others to the spring if we haven’t been there lately, but if we travel without stopping for Living Water, we will shrivel up in the heat and not be able to lead anyone.

The condition of my parched yard and gardens in the hottest and driest summer in a century is a graphic reminder of what I am on my own.  Desolate.  And the day lilies I water everyday, that exists in the same harsh summer, display the glory of the One who satisfies the thirsty.


(1) Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary quoted in the cistern article on

Applecart Upset

7 Jul

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected…  John 12:4

Wherever Jesus went he upset the applecart of tradition and man-made religion.  He turned over extortioners’ tables in the temple twice.  He said a man must be born again to enter the Kingdom.  Common fisherman were His chosen disciples.  Jesus forgave sins, healed on the Sabbath, and didn’t answer the Pharisees’ questions the way they wanted.

Jesus took on the religious legalism that prevented an authentic relationship with the Father.  Jesus knew what He was doing in each case and how much of a stir His actions and words would cause.

His good friend’s sister, Mary, probably didn’t stop to think how disturbing her actions were.  Mary was simply loving her Lord, but her actions also sent shock waves through that same controlling establishment.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders had carefully arranged the minutia of Jewish life to honor God, and they were vigilant in protecting their meticulous masterpiece.  Their perfectly formed apples made an impressively symmetrical pyramid within a solid cart.  Jesus upset such carts on purpose.  Mary obliviously knocked them over in her hurry to fall at Jesus’ feet.

Every time Mary’s story is told in Scripture she challenges the accepted status quo.

  • When Jesus and His followers came to dinner, Mary sat at His feet listening to Him teach.  Women belonged in the kitchen (and probably barefoot and pregnant, too!), not at the feet of a rabbi.  Martha named the social faux pas elephant in the room, and Jesus corrected Martha’s correction.  Everyone in the room got hit with apples exploding off the well-ordered cart because of Mary’s devotion to Jesus.
  • After Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died, their friends consoling Mary assumed that she was going to weep at his tomb when she left abruptly.  Instead, she ran to fall at the feet of her Lord who had asked for her and the gathering crowd saw her devotion.  Through her sobs she cried: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  At first it sounds as if she chastised Him for taking too long, but she deeply moved Jesus’ spirit.  Her words were as much a confession of faith that Jesus was God as they were a distraught elegy of her love for her brother.
  • While Jesus ate with His disciples, Mary anointed his feet with pure nard in a room where only men were welcome with perfume that stank so bad it surely ruined their appetites.  Judas, disgusted by her actions, missed her devotion, complaining of the obvious waste.  Again, Jesus admonished propriety and commended Mary’s actions and intentions.

Mary’s love for Jesus encourages me.  I don’t have to think about the implications of my worship if my heart desires only Him.  Whether others are stirred up to follow Him more closely because of my devotion to Him is His business, not mine.

in everything

in everything i am,

and every breath i take

in everything i do,

and every word i say


everywhere i go,

every single day

in everyone i see,

and every prayer i pray


be the center of it all

let me hear Your gentle call

to give myself

completely fall down before You


i wonder at Your love

that beckons me to stay

in spite of what i ‘ve done

in going my own way


You know my wand’ring heart

is longing to obey

but there’s no good in me,

so at Your feet i lay


be the center of it all

let me hear Your gentle call

to give myself

completely fall down before You

(c) 2004 Cathy Howie


Ready for Sunday

Am I worshiping Jesus everywhere and in all things, or just on Sunday morning?

When others worship Him with forms or postures different than mine, am I encouraged by their devotion?  Or critical?

Oh God, you know the answer to these questions and my heart better than I do.  Thank-you for Mary’s example.  Enable my worship to be pure and fit for the King of kings and Lord of my life.

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