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Two Sides

19 Jul

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I like to clean. Or, rather, I like a clean house when I’m done cleaning. Everyday I touch most of the doorknobs in our home several times (more than ever right now since we have a puppy and leave doors closed to keep her out of certain rooms). I don’t look at them or give them a second thought. My brain is engaged in more important task of remembering what I came into the room for in the first place.

But when I clean I do notice doorknobs. They don’t discriminate. Everyone turns them, whether their hands are clean or dirty. When I clean, I see the dirt, and I remember that touching them spreads germs. The rest of the week, I don’t notice the dirty build-up, but when I take the time to look, there’s no denying that a good cleaning is needed.

Several passages in the Bible hit me the same way. Or maybe they don’t hit me. Common passage that we all have memorized disappear in the text, hiding in plain sight.

This week I read through Revelation 2 and 3 – the Letters to the Churches. You probably have Rev 3:20 is addressed memorized: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Those of us who attended Sunday School as children remember a teacher holding a picture of Jesus standing at a door and knocking, while she told us how to ask Jesus into our hearts.

But that’s not what this verse means.

Looking at the context, we see that Jesus said this passage to a church, not an individual. Because the letter is written to a church, the implication is that individuals in the Laodicean church had received Christ. So why is Jesus knocking on the church door? If not for salvation, for what?

Because of their unrepentant hearts. The church had become proud, not needing anything. Not even Jesus. He was standing outside their church, knocking to be let back in. They didn’t realize they were poor, blind, and naked. The emperor had no idea he had no clothes. But Jesus did.

The church has the power, the ability– and the prideful audacity– to leave Jesus out in the cold, to adopt an SOP: of self-reliance, doing ministry out of its own human resources without the wealth offered by Jesus.

And so Jesus knocks, giving us the choice: do we invite Him into our church, opening the door with humble repentance, and enjoy sweet fellowship around the table?

Or do we leave Jesus outside?

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

What if I substitute “worship team” for “church” in the above? Is Jesus inside or outside the door of our worship team? Do we lead out of our own resources? Or is our leadership humble, repentant, and reliant on Him?

The wonderful promise we have in Jesus is that although His resources are costly, He gives them freely:

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.”  Isaiah 55:1-2

 

 

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We GET to….

18 Apr

Img_2599 cropIf you serve in a church (many of my readers do), you have had quite a week. You are undoubtedly tired, maybe exhausted, going into the church’s highest weekend as we celebrate our Savior’s death and resurrection.

The irony isn’t lost – we are tired because our greatest celebration and THE reason we do what we do takes the most work, sacrifice, time, energy, patience, planning, and ____. (Fill in your week’s reality.) Actually, that’s the way it should be!

Sometimes in the celebration, however, it’s easy to forget the why, to lose focus, and begin to resent it all.

At least it is for me.

Since I’m enjoying a couple hours of respite before kicking everything into high gear until mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday, I had time to read this link a co-worker sent me after our long night yesterday.

I’m happy (relieved after reading the post!) to say that we both had good attitudes last night as we locked up the church after working all day, and an hour beyond when the last person left dress rehearsal, to be ready for tonight.

I wish I could say that is always the case for me.

Next time, Mike’s exhortation will be ringing in my ears.

We GET to do this!

And I’d honestly rather be doing NOTHING else this weekend than keeping the stones quiet.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:15-16

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Every note, every fader, every strum, every cue, every light, every word… everything is for one reason.  It’s all for you, Jesus.

All of it.

 

 

Unchanged and not the Same

5 Apr

Highpoint wall

The chapter and verse don’t matter.

During the morning I read a friend’s sermon and planned the songs to close out the worship service later that night.

My cell vibrated just as my friend started preaching. I left the room to take the call from my son. Family trumps ministry for me. (Or maybe I should say that family is my first ministry.)

He was upbeat as he shared he didn’t have a hernia. Instead he has cancer.

We talked a little about treatment and insurance. Since he had just came from a series of medical appointments, he didn’t have many details yet. But he does have cancer.

I went back to the service and to the sermon– the same sermon but not the same.

It could have been any chapter and verse. The point is that my circumstances changed, and I was now listening to the same sermon I had read a couple of hours earlier from a different perspective.

What I found was that the Truth remained unchanged. Even though I heard it through being in a different place in life, the foundation was still solid.

Nothing about my new circumstances changes the Truth of God.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In a world where changes happen faster than anyone can comprehend, this alone is reason to worship God.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Before leading a song about God’s faithfulness that night, I shared my news – not for shock effect (although people were shocked!), but to give glory to God for his unchangeable truth even in– especially in– my changed circumstances

Interestingly, the sermon text was John 17, specifically he was on verses 1-5 about giving God glory. I came back from my phone call to hear my friend say: “You have to choose to give God glory. Jesus didn’t receive glory for his own sake, but in order that the Father would be glorified. If we don’t choose to glorify God, we take God’s glory for ourselves.”

When all else is upside-down and backwards, giving God glory turns me upright. I focus on his power, not my situation, putting my sites on his unchanging Truth when life is disorienting.

Much like a lighthouse anchors every direction in a ship captain’s soul when waves have turned the ship around and tossed the compass overboard, God is steady. He is with us through the turbulence, and he is also above the chaos.

I worship him for this. And even when I am wind-whipped, I can lead others to him.

He is constant.

Alleluia!

 

Dissing Unity

29 Mar

???????????????????

Hobby Lobby. World Vision. Westboro Baptist. Noah. Chik-Fil-A. Duck Dynasty.

Is anyone else tired of talking about all this instead of Jesus? I know I am.

About mid-week my heart was so heavy, I wanted to scream: STOP IT! Of course no one would have heard me among all the other voices, so instead I thought and pondered, asking myself if there was anything positive I could do in light of all Christian messes in the news lately.

My search took me to John 17 – Jesus’ last words to his disciples. Jesus prayed for himself, for the ones surrounding him, and for us– those who will believe.

“I do not ask for these (the disciples) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”  John 17:20-23

In his last moments with his friends, Jesus prays for unity. Why? Not so they will all feel good about each other and their relationships. Not so they will be emotionally healthy and fulfilled. Not even so they would have peace.

He says it twice: so that the world may believe and know God loves them.

Jesus could have said any number of things knowing that he would be arrested in a few moments. He chose unity; the if-you-missed-everything-else-I-said-get- this.

Christian unity is a big deal.

The main reason my heart has been so sick over the news stories lately is that more than the issues themselves, the disunity is what the world is noticing– the opposite of what Jesus prayed for right before going to the cross! Even in that moment he knew we would blow it, just as he knew Peter would. Yet he went forward to Golgotha for Peter… and for us.

Every facebook status, every blog post, every news report about these stories makes me ask: How can I be part of the solution? I’m not a player in any of these events. But I definitely have a part to play in the greater story. And so does every Christ follower.

Remember the principle in the Sermon on the Mount? “You have heard it said… but I tell you….”

Several times Jesus refers to the Law, then takes the issue further into the soul.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

What does this have to do with unity? Jesus repeats this pattern in Matthew 5 indicating that he is concerned with all heart-attitudes not just the few examples he gives. He starts the New Covenant ball rolling expecting us to keep it in play.

External obedience is not enough. Not if we claim to follow Jesus.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Unity isn’t a problem for worship teams…. right?

No one is ever jealous of another’s ability or opportunity.
No one ever thinks he/she could do a better job than someone else.
No one checks out what someone else is wearing on stage with a critical eye.
No one ever talks badly about another team member.

Especially not the worship leader.

Christian unity begins in the small interactions of everyday.

Team unity is a big deal. If we aren’t unified, will those in the congregation sense the love God has for them or be distracted by a spirit other than The Spirit?

And as the leader, I set the tone.

 

 

Cross Purposes

22 Mar

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Yesterday spring found a chink in winter’s armor.

My cheeks are still warm from a full day of sunshine, reminding me on this 35-degree morning that yesterday was really real.

Wanting to be outside and last fall’s undone garden chores intersected beautifully under the blue sky. I like working hard, especially when I can step back and see results, so I plunged in with a happy heart.

The first to go– dead stems from the perennials that will grow anew and be covered in color again this year. Next up were the branches pruned by the blades of the fierce windstorms that blew through the midwest this winter. The ruthless gardener had not been neat, and they were scattered cattywumpus all over the yard, on the roof, in corners by the chimney, and inside the shrubs.

At first I had a hard time determining which branches were legitimately part of the bushes and which were dead windfalls from the tree above. They looked practically the same without leaves to tell them apart.

A crooked branch caught my eye. I looked more closely and found lots – enough for a good start for a bonfire! The bush’s branches were all going the same way–  from main stems toward the sky. Dead windfalls were scattered in at cross purposes with the bush’s branches– ones that would soon welcome spring for real by putting out tiny pink flowers.

Being involved in church life, and specifically worship ministry, is never dull! Glorious times of worshiping God together are interspersed with difficult situations – criticism, arguments about musical style difference, and others’ expectations. It’s easy to get discouraged and give in to distractions that lead away from the main thing.

Last week I overheard someone say that not every difficulty we face is spiritual warfare. I’ve been thinking about that comment, and I’m not sure I agree.  We live in this temporal, physical world, which does make seeing what’s happening in the spiritual world difficult, but the heavenly world is just as real, and vastly more crucial to every situation, than this one. Everything in this world – every conversation, decision, thought, situation – is also intrinsically of eternity.

Everything is spiritual warfare. Not every difficulty is demonic or a spiritual attack, but every situation is part of eternity. Until we are in heaven, there are opposing values, ideas, and perceived realities in conflict.

If you’ll allow me a pun in the midst of a serious thought… the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven are at cross purposes.

One is interested in self, the other in Jesus.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

In the big conflicts of life it’s easy for me to discern which kingdom’s value structure is driving the situation. In re-thinking everything– even the more mundane and seemingly inconsequential– from an eternal perspective, it’s tougher.

  • In a conversation with someone from the congregation who doesn’t like the musical style of our worship– what is really going on? Self-centeredness?  Further conversation and several questions often reveals that there is a lot more to the story. Sometimes, however, it was simply a thoughtless remark.
  • Making a decision about which songs to sing on Sunday– do I choose the one I just wrote or go with a well-known standard? What’s my motivation– self-aggrandizement or allowing people to worship God with Truth. Maybe my song fits better.

These are just two examples of many, many ordinary opportunities for me to have a positive affect eternity as I live in both kingdoms.

The question is: how do I discern what’s going on?

How can I be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work”? 2 Timothy 2:21

The answer: look for direction.

Is the heart-motivation going toward Jesus? Toward the cross of selflessness?

Or is it a dead, crooked branch that will be lifeless come spring, and only good for a bonfire?

Everything pointing somewhere besides the cross has to go. The first part of 2 Timothy 2:21 calls us to be cleansed from everything that is dishonorable.

Direction is everything.

One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Sing Sing Sing

15 Feb

Last week a few high-profile followers of Jesus put forth their thoughts on whether we should “go to church”. Donald Miller began the conversation with  I Don’t Worship God by Singing… and his follow-up Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often. Ed Stetzer posted his thoughts on Miller’s ideas: Should I Stay, or Should I Go Now. Carlos Whittaker responded to both with To GO to Church or BE the Church. These are all worth a read, and the comments are (mostly) civil and also worth at least a skimming.

The original post by Miller, in short says that he doesn’t connect with God by singing and being in a large group. That for him, worshiping God is better done in nature instead of listening and singing since his learning style is kinesthetic.

Even before these posts showed up in my reader, I had been thinking about these aspects of worship, because I have a similar way of deeply connecting with God – in nature, reading the Word, by myself. Last week we talked about the large group aspect. Today the topic is singing.

Greenwood Festival

Last week’s closing paragraph:

Even severe introverts who want to run screaming from a room filled with lots of people cannot deny the power that emanates from a large gathering, especially when each individual is engaged in the moment doing the same thing as every other person in the group. In the 1980s I remember a news report in a secular paper on the Promise Keepers’ gathering at a the local stadium. Thousands of men singing Amazing Grace could be heard for blocks. Their unity demonstrated by singing together was noticed and noted.

Why singing?

Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to worship God by singing.

In the Old Testament:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
.    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
.    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
   shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Psalm 98:4-6

And the New:

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

There are many other ways to worship God mentioned in the Bible (raising hands, playing instruments, shouting, among many others). However, like last week’s post, it’s not an either/or, but both/and. Some of us may prefer raising our hands to praise God, and we are also instructed, not exempt, from also singing His praises.

It’s clear that in the Bible God asks us to worship him by singing. But we haven’t answered the original question: Why singing?

Since I don’t know what was in God’s mind when He inspired the writers of Scripture, I can’t say for certain. But thinking about the qualities of singing may give us some hints.

1. Almost everyone has a voice to sing God’s praises.* We can all participate. Some are more skilled than others, but everyone has at least one note! This isn’t true of many activities. I can’t ride a unicycle, though I know several people who can. I am not strong enough to split wood with an ax. Though I tried while on a cheer leading team in high school, I have never been able to do a cartwheel. But everyone can sing.

2. There isn’t any special equipment required. No fancy amps or expensive instruments or specialized training needed. Singing crosses every line – socio-economic, race, gender, background, and nationality.

3. Since our voices are always with us, singing can happen anywhere – an impromptu offering or a carefully planned program. Voices are convenient and portable, always on stand-by for whenever someone wants to praise God.

4. Everyone can join in. Individuals, a handful of people, and large groups can participate in singing God’s praises. One person can sing on the side of a mountain, and thousands can sing in a cathedral. Singing is individual and corporate at the same time. There are very few other activities where this is true. I can sing a song at home by myself, and I can sing the same song as an individual in a large gathering, and my small contribution magnifies the corporate singing like the PK gathering mentioned above.

We’ve all been involved in a game with a set number of players when someone wants to join in. Three people can’t play chess. The third person either has to wait for the game to be over to play (and then one of the original players has to sit out), or she has to find someone else to play with. Singing doesn’t exclude.

5.  Each person can be present– in the moment– with every other person. When a large group sings together, everyone is essentially doing the same thing and unified as God is worshiped. Every person is engaged and needed.

6. Singing covers the gamut of emotion and intention. The tenderest lament can be whispered and the grandest proclamation can be declared in song. While emotions don’t determine our relationship with God, they help us connect with Him as we worship, and music can be a vehicle to help give them (literally!) a voice.

Several years ago we hosted a group of Christian men from a closed country in our home. After dinner, they asked if they could lead us in worship– they had learned a couple of songs in English just for us. They lead us straight to the throne of God in a matter of seconds and we stayed there the entire time we sang. In America we sing; these men SANG! Every atom in their bodies praised Jesus, and I’m sure anyone walking by outside on the sidewalk could hear us singing.

The men didn’t pause in order to decide whether or not they would best connect with God by singing. They just sang from deep within their souls. Their worship spilled over on us, carrying us with them as we all forgot ourselves and became lost in the presence of God.

God desires is that we sing to Him en masse.

He has asked us for this.

Why would we withhold it from Him?

———-
READY FOR SUNDAY

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:15-18

Abraham did not withhold his only son – his special gift from God.

As worship leaders what do we hold onto? Our renown? Our voice? Our preferences?

Throughout Scripture God’s blessing is pronounced on those who surrender it all. How can we expect the blessing without the sacrifice?

Lord, I withhold nothing.

———-
*I have several deaf/mute friends who use their hands instead of their voices to sing.

Replacement Strategy

11 Jan

Last weekend the snow continued to pile up defying the angle of repose until there wasn’t any definition between the chair slats.

chair snow

A perfect demonstration of increasing measure. Just look at the overflowing abundance!

Each chair slat held its own pile of snow, and as snowflakes continued to fall, little bit by little bit was added until the chair held a snowy cushion. If I had tossed a shovelful of snow on an empty chair, very little would have remained on the slats. The secret is the steady adding of little bits to build up strength and continuity and integrity.

In our society integrity is perhaps the cardinal virtue in church leadership. Even the world recognizes a lack of integrity in the church. I don’t always recognize whether or not a worship leader is suffering from a lack of integrity, but I can tell that something is off. We have all been there, too. We’re going through the motions (and thank God he can work in spite of me!) but something isn’t quite right.

There are times when I know what my problem is; those are easy to understand, if not easy to make right. But what about the times when there isn’t any known sin, disobedience, or clarity?

Not 100% of the time, but more often than not, it’s because I’ve stopped pursuing becoming like Christ in increasing measure.

Getting re-started is easy once I’ve figured out the issue. For me it begins with my mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Romans 12:1-2

Deciding. Deciding to move toward God intentionally.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

As soon as I decide to make a course correction, it’s easy to see what is off. It’s usually an attitude.

My next step is to ask God for a plan– usually something simple that involves replacing a bad attitude with a godly one – and deciding what that is before the next opportunity to go wrong presents itself. For instance, if there is a situation that or someone who pushes my buttons, I ask God for a good response to use the next time to replace the wrong attitude.

Just like the strong man who needed to be bound, and the demon who had been cast out that came back with lots of his friends to reoccupy the soul that was swept clean in Matthew 12 – replacement is the key.

Decide, plan, replace. The strategy of little bits that add up… in increasing measure!

Increasing Measure

4 Jan

snow fall

Winter has arrived in the Midwest. Snow storms and sub-zero temps create a frozen wonderland using tiny crystals of the most common compound on our planet– H2O. Water.

Water frozen in the air is full of artistry built on 60 degree angles. Starry geometric masterpieces-in-miniature, almost undetectable by our eyes, construct massive structures that defy natural laws.

The Angle of Repose combines the properties of material being piled and the force of gravity (and a LOT of geometric equations!) culminating in how high granular substances can be piled before sliding to the ground. When snow is shoveled into a heap for instance, different types of piles can be formed depending on the snow’s moisture content. Heavy, wet snow can be piled almost straight up… or rolled into balls that can be piled to make a snow fort!

But when temps are as cold as they are today and the snow is very dry, snow shoveling turns into snow throwing as the snow’s angle of repose is very shallow. Tossing a shovelful on top of the bank only creates a cascade that flows back into the driveway. Sigh.

On a still night when the wind sleeps, however, the six-pointed flakes slowly pile up as if they’ve never heard of the angle of repose. Like a reverse game of Jenga, the formations grow by micro-inches and macro-wonderment.

Even when the wind is awake, it drives and pushes the snow stars into arching walls that stand tall on their own. Their fine edges sculpted by windy fingers pinching the edge of a hat brim from one side to the other. These artistically detailed drifts belie their strength. They are densely compact and hold their shape even as a shovel removes large sections.

—————

More than any other time of the year people are looking toward the future– setting goals, making resolutions, wanting this year to be different. And our Western-enculturated mindsets want it now! We want to scoop up the snow and toss it into an instant snow-fort. We want our one hour of shoveling to produce a sparkling sculpture with razor-thin curves.

That’s not how snowdrifts and straight-up piles are created. They take time and one-at-a-time snowflake placement.

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8

In increasing measure. One-at-a-time snowflake placement. That is how beauty is constructed– not with a shovel tossed beside the driveway. Ever increasing toward becoming like Jesus. One tiny bit, followed by another, and another.

—————

READY FOR SUNDAY

Tomorrow people walking into our worship services will have already failed at their resolutions. Maybe you are one of them. Becoming like Christ apart from God’s power is impossible.

As we lead others, we must rely on Him for these qualities to increase in our lives in order that what comes out of us when we’re leading, and when we think we’re not, people see God and His deep love for them.

Interestingly, the very people we lead will mostly likely be used by God to transform us into His image. Look for the opportunities – most of them will be small, hardly noticeable, and within the common events of ordinary days. Some days will seem like a blizzard, others a gentle dusting. In both cases the small changes over time will add up to incredible beauty and glory for God.

WAR!

21 Dec

Seeing pastoral nativity scenes every December fills me with a warm Christmas glow and almost lulls me into a sentimental stupor in which I conveniently forget what really happened the night Jesus was born.  What took place in the spiritual realm when God was born as a human baby reads more like the plot of a sci-fi fantasy-thriller than a nostalgic Christmas card:  A red dragon pursued a woman giving birth while his dragon-army fought Michael’s angels in heaven.  The dragon, not able to overpower Good, was hurled to the earth where he chased the woman and her Child.  Then, frustrated that the pair escaped, he turned on the rest of her offspring—“those who hold to the teachings of Jesus”.   His demise, foretold long ago, was accomplished by the Baby who crushed his head, but not before the serpent struck the baby’s heel.

So much for syrupy “Baby Jesus, meek and mild” Christmas stories—this is war!!

Easter is the ultimate triumph, but not the incredibly amazing part of the story.  At least, not to me.  If Jesus really is God, what is so surprising about Him rising from the dead??  I would expect God to be able to do that.  The part that devastates me is that He would set aside all his glory, privilege, and power to become a helpless, finite human baby; that He, the Creator of the world, would so completely reduce Himself to pursue me.

As He entered the world, the time-space continuum and all other realities couldn’t help it; they erupted in strange behaviors.  A supernaturally bright light burned in the sky; prophecies converged in fulfillment; heaven was ripped open; angels spoke to shepherds; and then all was quiet.  But everything was different.

The curse was broken; the dragon defeated.  Hope became tangible.  Our slavery-yoke of sin… shattered.  Light put out darkness.  God was approachable.  And people were drawn to Him.

He came to us so that we could come to Him.  And although He ascended to the Father, He still promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.  The book of Job contains a concept of what that looks like: Leviathan, the great creature of the deep, is covered with scales so near one another that no water or air can come between them.  They are so close that the two most pervasive materials on earth cannot sneak in.

The red dragon is still at war with us, but his Vanquisher is our Champion:
Immanuel.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

The above post is from my ordinarygirl blog. It continues to challenge me and is appropriate for us as worship leaders, especially at Christmastime. There is a place for quiet, Silent Night, moments during this time of year, yet they often come out of hard-fought war. War on cultural Christmas. War on my own expectations. War on busyness. And war on the enemy.

The hill we must take this Sunday is Awe and Wonder, the awe and wonder the enemy has stolen from us that keeps us doing and thinking anything else but worshiping God. Failure is not an option, for there are many who will be in our services this weekend who have stopped fighting and have no human ally who will fight for them.

———-

The snowflake kaleidoscope above is made from a paper cutting of a dragon crafted in Hong Kong. It represents both the red dragon and the scales of Leviathan—a reminder that with Jesus’ birth, the dragon is defeated, and that we can be so near to Him nothing can come between us. Luke 2:8-18; Matthew 2:9-11; Revelation 12; Genesis 3:15; James 4:8; Job 41:15-17; Isaiah 9:1-4

God of the Shadows

14 Dec

IMG_7986

Seeing God in the blaze of a sunset or a still afternoon as snowflakes float straight down or in the deep, clear eyes of a newborn child is easy for me.

I think it’s easy for most people to sense God in the moments that take our breath away. Transcendent glory breaks into our existence and our spirits soar– exhilarated and enthralled– thrilled and captured by a moment so real all else seems inconsequential.

But  life spans the gamut– from peak to valley and every place in between. Most of life is much less.

Or is it?

Finding joy in the ordinary transforms common moments into divine. Again, this is attainable for most people, although it does take practice and intentionality.

And then there there are the Dark Places. Valleys so deep there are no mountain tops. Empty aches so crushing life stops, stands still without release.

“In a place of faithlessness and doubtfulness and godlessness, God gives God. The God who can reveal Himself wherever, whenever, to whomever; the God who is never limited by lack or restricted to the expected; the God who is no respecter of persons but the relentless rescuer of prodigals; the God who give the gift of faith in the places you’d most doubt. That is always the secret to the abundant life; to believe that God is where you doubt He can be.” (1)

Breathless moments wait in the shadows, too.

God is harder to see in the dark; but when my eyes adjust and He becomes visible, dark is destroyed.

And He is all I see.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

The holiday corridor from Thanksgiving through New Years is a really tough time for many people. Expectations are high. Everyone, it seems, talks about wonderful family times painting a Norman Rockwell scene. TV ads display the perfect Christmas that everyone else is having….

The distance between the darkness that some are in becomes that much darker in the presence of so much gaiety and celebration.

While I greatly enjoy the glimpses of God through the wondrous, His unmatched Glory is all I see when surrounded by dark. When I see Him where I doubted He could be my spirit flies.

Some in our gatherings tomorrow will need a reminder and help seeing God in the shadows.

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1. The Greatest Gift; Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voskamp, p. 101-02

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