True Worship

In November of this past year, I was formally hired to be the Worship and Music Director at my home church.  The past few months have been filled with some incredible experiences, but I have found there is nothing more important than my role as a worship leader and worshipper of God. 

A few weeks ago, the women in my Bible Study and I looked into some of the Psalms.  We talked about how the Psalms have come to mean so much to each one of us.  Page after page, the Psalms move from lament, to praise, to prayer— reflecting the true heart of a worshipper.  Many of the Psalms are written by David— one who had been anointed as the king ofIsraelbut lived in fear of King Saul.  He was a musician and shepherd, and these elements can be recognized in his writings.

That day in Bible Study I made a comment to the women; “I wonder what it would have been like to hear David sing and to play his harp for the Lord.”  We marveled at the fact that he could often worship God in even the darkest of times.  He would cry out to Him in heartfelt honesty, not mincing any words or holding back in His pleas.  His words of praise after God’s deliverance would often leap off the page with pure joy, and we were encouraged by this display of adoration.

It made me think even more of my role as a worship leader and worshipper of God.  I even contemplated my role as a songwriter.  I have only written one song that had any potential of becoming a corporate anthem, and ever since, I have felt this pressure to write another song that could be used within congregational worship.  I had found little or no inspiration, even in the pages of Scripture, until that day in Bible Study.  I found the lyrics and lines of the Psalms sprang up new hope inside of me, and I started to pray that He might start to work through me again in my songwriting.

I am finding that my heart has changed toward worship as a whole.  If the past few weeks have taught me anything, worship is a time to communicate; the worship team needs to communicate with each other, which in turn, leads to communicating with the congregation as they worship.  Finally, true communication can begin with the Father in worshipping Him corporately.  I am praying that my time in the Psalms can bring me to the place of true and honest worship.  When I am personally invested in bringing Him praise, I can then lead the congregation before the throne out of the wellspring that overflows from my personal time of worship.    

The Little Things

I was irritated, and I couldn’t even explain why.  Do you ever have days like that?  Well, a few weeks ago, I definitely had one of those days.  Nothing seemed to go my way, and the things people said and did seemed to annoy me at every turn.  I found that for the most part, I was being forced to encounter my pet peeves.  There is nothing that bothers me more than people making excuses and complaining about meaningless factors of life. 

But before you start to think that this post is all about the things that bother me, think again.  I was reminded recently that we shouldn’t concentrate on the things that irk us.  This leads to complaining, and in large part, a sense of discontent.  Instead, we should concentrate on the little things that might give us the opposite perspective.  Instead of looking at the pet peeves in life, maybe we should call them pet faves.

Now, I can’t take credit for coining this phrase; a deejay from Air1 Radio talked about this very concept on his radio show and it piqued my interest.  I started to think about my pet faves as individuals called into the radio show to relate their own.  Many of the callers talked about the little things their spouses did to brighten the other’s day.  Sometimes such an act would be as simple as laying out the spouse’s clothes for the next day or starting the coffee in the morning.

Now I might not have a spouse, but I work with two incredible staff members, and Joan and Pastor Tim are as close to family as I can claim right now.  I see these two on nearly a daily basis, and I am so grateful for their friendship and camaraderie.  It’s the little things that these two do for me that make my day easier and brighter and I’d like to tell you about these pet faves.

Joan is the secretary, and she will often leave the most recent monthly calendar on my desk where I can see it soon after she’s made them up.  She’s also been willing to enlarge random sheet music, create cheat sheets for services at a moment’s notice, and has even been known to clip my fingernails before a guitar lesson.  Most of the time, I never have to ask Joan for a favor.  She is ready and willing to serve humbly to make my day just a little easier. 

And then there is Pastor Tim.  On cold mornings this winter, he would often open my office up before 9:00 to start my heater and get the office warmed up before the workday or a Bible Study session.  He has also been known to fix random computer glitches when they come up and to make helpful suggestions for how to carry out music for a worship service with the obvious presence of my visual impairment.  On a Sunday morning, one would think he would be busy preparing for his sermon and seeing to last minute details in the sanctuary.  But instead, Pastor Tim can often be found unwinding microphone cables and setting up my boom mic stand just the way I like it.  When I told him that he didn’t have to help out if he didn’t want to, he replied with the humblest of responses; he told me that he simply felt the need to serve.

I am so grateful for the little things and the staff members who make an effort to bring simple joys to my day-to-day service at the church.  I only pray that I can give the same joy and gifts to those who have been so good to me.

So as I close, take a moment to think of your pet faves.  Maybe then, the pet peeves of this life will seem far less prevalent.  

This Little Light of Mine

I was reminded of a simple children’s song a few weeks ago as I contemplated the meaning of prayer.  For the past few months, a group of young women and I have been studying about the meaning and purpose behind prayer.  We have dug deep into our role as followers of Christ and how our prayer life mirrors who we are as believers. 

But it was at the Maundy Thursday service at my church when I finally came to grasp the real importance behind prayer.  You see, when Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took His disciples with Him to bring to fruition his last few hours on earth.  But as they prayed, Jesus found that His disciples were falling asleep and He encouraged them to pray that they would not fall into temptation. 

Our pastor used the image of a light bulb to bring this concept into focus.  He held up a lamp in front of the congregation and asked what we needed to do to make the light work.  Immediately, someone spoke up and said that the light needed to be plugged in.  So Pastor Tim plugged in the lamp, and just like that, there was light.  Pastor talked about how we need to be plugged into our prayer life and in communication with God before we can begin to bear fruit in our lives. 

This fruit can be seen when others notice something different about us and question about what it is that sets us apart.  If we are connected in prayer with our Father, others will be drawn to that light— a light only God can place inside our lives and hearts. 

But what about the times when we “fall into temptation” as the disciples did on that memorable Thursday evening?  Well, think of it this way: when a person is disconnected from their relationship with Christ, he or she is probably not actively participating in their prayer life.  When the connection is broken, there is no way to ward off the advances of the enemy.  I’m thinking of the children’s song again where the lyric says, “Don’t let Satan blow it out.”  Some renditions of the song actually have the children making a blowing noise with their mouths here.  It’s a simple expression of how easy it is to be driven away from our communication with the Father if we’re not connected to the life source: Christ.  When we are connected, it is much easier to ward off those sneaky tactics of the devil. 

Since music is the easiest way I know to explain what I’m trying to say, I am posting a link to a song by Addison Road that incorporates the children’s song “This Little Light of Mine.”  Enjoy!

My Ransom

The season of Lent has always been a meaningful time for me; in fact, it is my favorite period on the church calendar.  It is a time in which the people of the Church reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the dead.  Every year, I take part in the worship services over the Easter weekend, and at each service, I am struck with something new amidst this amazing outpouring of God’s grace and mercy. 

This year as I provided music for many of the services, the lyrics to a modern hymn continued to speak to my heart.  The lyrically stunning “How Deep the Father’s Love for us” by Stuart Townend reminds the worshipper that it was our sin that held our Savior to the cross until the act of redemption was complete.  Now, in growing up in the church, I have always been aware of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross on what we have come to know as Good Friday.  But truthfully, it wasn’t until this Easter weekend that I fully comprehended that it was my sin that nailed Jesus to that cross.

Jesus went to the cross carrying a heavy burden of sin— the sins of you and me.  You see, He knew each one of us before we even came to be, and He knew we wouldn’t measure up.  After all, to sin means to miss the mark, and that’s what you and I do every day of our lives.  Yet, even though we often repent of our sins, we continue to grieve our Heavenly Father with our faults every day.  We are stubborn, willful people, and there is no hiding from the reality of our indebtedness to Him.

To finally and fully make that connection that Christ want to the cross for me and paid that debt in full for me— I was overwhelmed with this tremendous sense of awe and wonder.  The message was nothing new to my ears, because like I said, I had grown up in the church and knew all about the true meaning of Easter.  But this year, I was able to comprehend a much deeper meaning. 

I think this new perspective comes from witnessing deep, spiritual growth in the lives of many of my friends.  I see the wonder and experience their joy when they make a new discovery or connection in the scheme of God’s story in their lives.  And as I sat in the pew and led music from the piano this weekend, I thought about what it must be like to be in their shoes during this meaningful week on the church calendar.  It just reconfirmed to me how incredible it is to view a well-known story and set of truths through new eyes. 

It is finished!  The debt of sin has been paid in full; His wounds have paid my ransom!  What a promise to hold to as we move beyond Holy Week and into continual service with Him.  Even though Easter Sunday has passed, may we never forget what took place on that Resurrection Sunday. 

A Servant

There is a towel draped above my bookshelf in my bedroom; it is white with a simple emblem stitched into the fabric— a purple crown with the words: Crown College Servant Scholar.  I had the privilege of graduating with my Master’s degree fromCrownCollegeinSt. Bonifacius,Minnesota, and upon graduating, I was awarded this memento.  It symbolizes the graduate’s commitment to go out into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ as a servant leader, and every time I see that towel, I am reminded of the Great Commission and my role as a servant of Christ.

Just this past week, I was reminded twice more of this concept, and it gave me the incentive to write about what it means to be a servant of the Lord.  In our hometown, we have a group called the Silent Messengers; they are primarily a group of young people who act as mimes and portray the life of Jesus in a truly unique fashion.  Their presentation is set to music, and the participants pray and give up their voices to God before the performance begins; at its conclusion, they pray and take their voices back.  It is simply incredible to watch this presentation year after year as Easter approaches.  Each time, my heart is drawn to something new, and this year was no exception. 

About halfway through the drama, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet prior to the Lord’s Supper.  In this particular scene, the young man playing Jesus goes from one disciple to another— moving down the line and washing their feet.  As this is happening, a song is playing, and the disciples are actively portraying its message in their miming.  The song is one that I have known for years, an old Sunday School standard called “Make me a Servant.”

For some reason, I was particularly drawn in by the lyrics of the song when I attended one of their performances last week: “Make me a servant, humble and meek.  Lord, let me lift up those who are weak.  And may the pray’r of my heart always be; make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant, today.”  As I watched and listened, I was focused on Jesus as He moved from one disciple to the next— kneeling before each one and humbly washing what must have been very dusty and calloused feet.  In Biblical times, people walked from city to city wearing only sandals; for Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet meant that He was taking on the task of a servant in that it was a duty that servants took upon themselves when visitors would enter a home.  He was truly humbling Himself before them in washing their feet.

I can’t begin to imagine what that moment must have been like for both Jesus and the disciples.  As of yet, the disciples were not aware that their Teacher would soon be led to the cross and crucified for the sins of all mankind.  But Jesus knew what was to come, and in that moment, he exemplified true servant leadership. 

We may not need to wash our feet before entering a home in today’s modern society, but the picture of servant leadership still stands.  What would it look like to humble oneself before another and truly serve?  What would it look like to come before Christ with the same servant’s heart, willing and ready to give Him all we have to offer?  How can we reach out to others and draw them to Christ with no other motivation other than Salvation?  To truly serve, we must be willing to set aside our own personal agenda and advancement to seek after the purposes of the Master.  To truly belong to Him, we must come ready to serve.  In taking on this servant role we may not see a reward in this life, but our reward is so much greater as we look to eternity.

As we move into Passion Week, the time in which we consider Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, may we remember His servant heart and seek ways in which we can truly serve Him.  As I close, I leave you with these verses from Philippians chapter 2, which speak of Christ’s humble service to His father in Heaven.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).