Archive | August, 2012

Public and/or Private

29 Aug

Jesus answered, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31


During a staff meeting we discussed an email from someone in the congregation who felt inhibited while we worshiped God on Sunday morning.  We moved from this particular situation to our personal philosophies.

The conversation was brief– with more observations and questions than answers.

I could identify with the email-er.  Using my entire body to worship God forces me to keep my attention on him.  That’s why I love to worship through sign language.  The individual signs are so meaningful and expressive!

However, I feel that when I am signing, I am a distraction to others.  I never want people to be focused on me or what I am doing instead of worshiping God!

So I do one of three things:

  1. I don’t sign in a corporate setting
  2. I make really small signs in front of my body to minimize the distraction
  3. I go to the back of the room and sign with my heart and hands

Another person in the meeting couldn’t identify at all, however.  She shared that she thinks only of her Lord as she worships him, not the people around her.  She has a very authentic, but also undistracting way of worshiping God.

So this week as I prepare my heart for Sunday, I have more questions than usual:

  • Is corporate worship different than private worship?
  • Worship IS all about God, but can we honor him without considering our brothers and sisters?
  • If I only have Him in mind, even if I am distracting others, will that encourage others to worship more authentically?
  • If I am thinking of others while I worship God, am I truly and wholeheartedly worshiping Him?
  • Do the two greatest commandments relate to these questions in any way?

I continue to think about these questions, especially on how this affects a worship leader.

Help me out… please comment!

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Wednesday is the New Saturday

25 Aug

Effective this week I will be publishing on Wednesday instead of Saturday.

See you then!

Northernness

18 Aug

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
   so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
   for (D)the living God.   Psalm 42:1-2

Starting in my chest, an undefinable longing slowly rose until it grew so acute I could taste the yearning.

Last night I was editing photos from a trip to my hometown on Lake Superior, and my soul was there – not just imagining, but really standing on the beach.  The crisp lake air pushed ripples toward the the shore, over the smooth pebbles and down into my heart.

C. S. Lewis called it Northernness.

He had several experiences as a child he couldn’t describe his heart was so overwhelmed.  “Later in life he would call this sensation Joy, which he defined as ‘an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.'”

As and adult, waves of Northernness crashed over him as he read ancient Norse legends (hence the directional nature of the term).  “I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote)…. Pure Northernness engulfed me [with] a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of northern summer.”

David called it thirsting.

He so yearned for more of God that he used a most desperate metaphor from his desert culture – a panting deer.  A deer pants for one of two reasons: either it is overheated (deer hide out in the forests during the day to avoid the heat) or the deer has been running (again, not a common occurrence, because deer are smarter than to unnecessarily run in the heat of the day).  The implication is the deer is stressed and super-desperate for water.  The sun is either blazing down excruciatingly, or the deer was forced to run – most likely from a predator – and must have water now instead of waiting for dusk.  In both life-threateningly grave situations the deer cannot not seek out water.

God uses his creation to speak to me.  Ankle deep in icy water, I hear His voice through the splashing waves, and my heart aches, flying free and twisting into knots at the same time; undefinable, but definitely not elusive.  Thirsty Northernness pushes me into His arms–  the only place my soul is satisfied.

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Ready for Sunday

While I can cultivate a desperateness for God in my relationship with Him that comes close to the overwhelming moments described above, I don’t think I can “make them happen”.  I’m sure these are “deep calling to deep” – His Spirit inside me calling to Him.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t pursue Him!

Nowhere in Psalm 42 does David pine for the royal courts or the accoutrements of being King of Israel.  What he longed for was his God, and specifically, to lead others in worship.

My prayer is that I would be so desperate for Him, the living water, nothing else will satisfy my craving.

Lewis quotes taken from C. S. Lewis, An Examined Life, by Bruce Edwards, pp. 254-55.  Edwards is quoting from Surprised by Joy, The Shape of My Early Life, by C. S. Lewis.

While David is not listed as the author of Psalm 42, the commentaries I read to find the author’s name believe David wrote this psalm while he was hiding from his son Absalom who was trying to usurp the throne.

The Voice

11 Aug

“I am the good shepherd;I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  John 10:14


At rehearsal this week we learned a song written by a team member that has a tricky instrumental bridge–  three pairs of two hits that aren’t on the downbeat, but somewhere between one and the and of one.  I couldn’t analyze or notate it.  I had to listen and let it sink in until it became a part of my musical soul. _____________________________________________________________________

I’m in a season of soul-listening to Jesus.  Not because I don’t know His voice– I do– but because other voices around me are so loud and insistent, and my soul gets fractured trying to attend to so many different sources.

And I miss The Voice.

The Ministry Voice incessantly chatters a long list of “shoulds” that assault my soul like water-torture droplets on my forehead.  The Good Shepherd reminds me that He didn’t meet every need while He walked the earth, but He did accomplish all that the Father asked.

The Perfection Voice clucks its tongue with the slightest imperfection and screams, “Loser!”  The Good Shepherd asks me to do the best I can with what He’s given me for His glory, and lovingly whispers, “Well done.”

The Righteous Voice reminds me of my rights, especially the right to be offended when others don’t honor my rights.  The Good Shepherd draws me to Himself, nodding His head and assuring me He understands.

The Self-Interest Voice rises in pitch indignantly as circumstances and people’s needs creep into my agenda.  The Good Shepherd lovingly teaches me that He came to serve (not to be served), and that I am not above my Master.

_____________________________________________________________________

By the end of the rehearsal the team was tight because we listened to the songwriter until we each knew the progression.  Then we practiced it until it was collectively ingrained and unconscious.  We were able to get past the mechanics of the rhythm and give our attention to Jesus.

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Ready for Sunday

Today I am having one of those “DUH!” moments.

  • How can I lead others to the Shepherd if I’m not listening for His voice?
  • And why do I listen to the other voices?  Their goal is too enslave me; the Good Shepherd wants to set me free!
  • He has made my spirit to connect with Him at the deepest of levels.  “Deep calls to deep!”  Why to I settle for a shallow shadow?

So what needs to change?

Time spent with the Good Shepherd, at His feet, listening to His voice– to the exclusion of all others.  When I am thoroughly saturated in His truth, the lies become clear and lose their hold on me heart.  Fakes fade in the presence of The Voice.

He knows me.

I listen to Him.

Full stop.

Glory from the Mud

4 Aug

Psalm 40:1-3

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
.    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
.   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
.   and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
  a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
.   and put their trust in him.

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.  I come back to it again and again for many reasons.  When there are difficult things in my life, especially.

I don’t think the Lord took David’s difficulty away.  Before David was king, he was a nationally hunted fugitive.  King Saul sought to wipe his perceived competition from the King of Israel contest.  Samuel had been to see David, and anointed him king, but from David’s perspective, nothing about his life was royal.

Except his love for and commitment to God.

This psalm was David’s heart cry during some of his darkest days.  That’s why I don’t think God removed his troubles.  So what changed from the slimy pit to firm rock?  I believe it was David’s attitude and renewed strength in the Lord.

Verse 3 takes on a very different meaning in light of this.  What did people see that made them put their trust in God?  A godly man who, because of the bedrock foundation he had in his God, was able to rise above the desperate circumstances he found himself.  This is the new song David sang to God.

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Ready for Sunday

When stuff is tough, my default response is to run away, not worship God.  But when I think about it, people expect my to praise God when everything is going well.  No one really takes notice then.  When life is hard and I praise Him, however, that gets people’s attention – and God gets the glory. 

There’s also that bit in the Word about God’s power being made perfect in our weaknesses.  Again, one of the best ways for people to see God’s glory is when my life is a mess, and I continue to praise Him.

Our church has been through a hard time.  Through it all, we have continued to praise Him, turn to Him, and trust Him.  Where else could we go?  He is the firm rock.  We stand on Him alone.

To Him be ALL the glory.

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