Lost for Words

Some of you may be aware that I took a bit of a break from “Cassie Contemplates” for the summer. During that time, I concentrated on moving, turning over leadership at the camp I direct in Madison, and making my health and wellness a priority. So after a three-month break, I am starting to find my routine again. It hasn’t come without struggle.
On the way home from a doctor appointment, my friend and driver for the day asked what I would be writing about in Cassie Contemplates coming up on Monday. I told her I had no idea. I confessed that nothing had struck me yet. She asked me then when I usually could expect inspiration for my weekly posts. I told her that it varies. Sometimes, I have posts already written and waiting in a folder on my computer; but other weeks, like this one, there is nothing waiting to be posted.
But for this morning, I had nothing… absolutely nothing. I began to wonder why I seemed to have nothing to say. But that seemed unreal. I had just walked through a very active week. There was a doctor appointment that made me extremely nervous because I was faced with an unknown outcome. Then there was the long Wednesday at work from 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. There was rehearsal with a new musician on the worship team and some planning ahead for a few weeks down the road. And then there were the plans for my big birthday bash.
It was such a crazy, busy week, that I hadn’t taken the time to just stop and reflect. So it was that day, on the way home from the doctor appointment that my friend and I found ourselves singing along to the radio. An old song by Nichole Nordeman blasted through the speakers and I just let go. I sang along at the top of my voice, engaged in full-blown worship of my Savior. Thankfulness burst from my heart as I sang in gratitude for his faithfulness. The report at the doctor had been satisfactory, and I now knew how to deal with my very treatable condition. My birthday was on the horizon, and I was excited about the worship service coming up on Sunday.
I was lost for words, and that’s when I knew that I had to share the experience with all of you. Many of you know that I am talkative and can get quite animated in a circle of close friends. Being quiet is something that is hard for me to do. It is far too quiet at home sometimes, and I just need to engage in the sounds around me. So for me to be singing that day, but yet quiet in spirit, was a meaningful time for me. I was worshipping with my whole heart.
So today, I encourage you to look around you and marvel at the little things— the reasons you have to be thankful— and simply worship Him. Maybe take a moment, turn up the radio, and belt it out. Kneel down in prayer and praise Him for His grace and faithfulness. Just take a moment to get lost in Him. You don’t need words to worship Him; just give Him your all and He will be honored in that offering.
Blessings, friends!

Training Camp

It all began early this summer when things were turned upside-down in our worship department at the church. In order to enhance communication and strengthen bonds of unity, our pastor took our existing worship teams and mixed them up so we were given the opportunity to work with new instrumentalists and vocalists every week. The prospect of the following three months terrified me! I had built such a strong connection with my OneVoice girls that I felt completely out of the loop. It was disorganized, messy, and stressful!
As the summer went on, I found opportunities to embrace new relationships, but most of the time, I found myself reverting to the safe and comfortable. If I had the chance, I would reach out to those I had led worship with before and fall back into a typical format. It felt great— almost normal. But then I realized I wasn’t fulfilling what Pastor had asked us to do. He was praying that we would reach out to others and build a strong community. But sometimes, it was just too hard. I cared deeply for the others in our worship department, but sometimes I just wanted to throw in the towel. There was no way we could win in the face of these challenges if we didn’t work together, and I was one of the weakest links in the equation.
At the end of the summer, we held a worship department meeting, and a fellow worship leader immediately addressed the relational struggles that had happened over the past three months. She talked about the pre-existing relationships and how introducing new team members here and there had been difficult because those people were walking into an already-pre-existing structure. That’s when this wonderful woman brought a football analogy into the equation.
“It’s like when Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, completes a pass to wide receiver, Jordy Nelson. They’ve developed a relationship, a connection. They trust each other because they’ve been working together for a long time. Now what if the rookie comes on the field— someone who hasn’t played that many games— and he thinks Rodgers is going to send the ball his way? Well, there’s a great deal of trust and hope that needs to happen there. Rodgers has to have faith that the rookie is going to catch the ball. But let’s be honest; with Jordy Nelson on the field, it’s a no brainer. He’s going to go to the target he’s most familiar with and knows has his back.”
I thought about that analogy for a moment. It made perfect sense, and it summed up my feelings of stress and despair over the summer. I realized how difficult it was to make new connections and truly trust new people. It felt a lot like we had just endured our own little training camp of sorts. We had been thrown into situations that were new and uncomfortable but also valuable learning experiences. We had pre-existing relationships on our teams, but there was room for more valuable players. True, we played music, not football, but the end goal was the same. We needed to work together to make something happen.
At the beginning of the school year and the start of football season, our worship teams have entered a new normal. We have returned to our regular schedule and structure but with a few changes. We are no longer calling ourselves by our group or band names; instead, we are identifying ourselves as one whole team of worship leaders. We have welcomed in a few new faces— our rookies— if you will, and we have shuffled a few musicians around to help out in groups that need it. In the end, I think our struggles over the summer have created a stronger team— willing to embrace new relationships with a united goal. We have banded together as one to worship the One true Christ.

Hope Overflowing

A few weeks ago, I became the proud owner of an adult tricycle. For quite awhile, I had been looking for transportation alternatives to walking and I was eager to consider the tricycle.
The first full day after getting my bike, I hopped aboard and set off for the post office. I thought it would be easy going, but it was hard! I couldn’t seem to get up the last hill no matter how hard I pedaled, and I could hear a loud scraping and dragging sound from one of my back tires. Upon arriving home, I discovered that I had a flat tire.
The previous owner had informed my father that one of the back tires on the bike had a slow leak. He just hadn’t told us that within 24 hours of the bike being in our possession that the tire would be completely flat.
This scenario came to mind as I heard an illustration at a recent retreat. We were hearing about hope overflowing and how fulfilling it is to be overflowing with God’s presence in our lives. But there are times when our “hope tank” is on “E…” empty and draining away. When despair takes hold, it is easy to give ourselves over to temporary and fleeting pleasures. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, etc to try to obtain some measure of comfort. But in the end, all we are doing is draining ourselves of vital life and joy.
Like my leaky bike tire, our spiritual lives sometimes spring a leak. We fill up on momentary pleasures only to be drained of what is truly important. Instead, we need to think of the opposite perspective of being so filled with hope that we are bursting at the seams. It would be like eating Thanksgiving dinner, only to be invited to partake of a second feast meal again mere hours later. If presented with this second feast, I think I would be inclined to push my plate back and respectfully decline, “No thanks; I’m full.”
It would be like the times when Satan tries to tempt us with those empty and life-draining pleasures: sex, drinking, drugs, food, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if we could call on the name of the Lord Jesus in bold confidence and say, “No thanks; I’m full… full of hope in the Lord Jesus”?
To be so filled with hope that the temporary temptations of this world don’t matter is an incredible challenge to me. So often, I get bogged down with the menial details of life. I become focused on my own comfort, and I find myself panicking when something goes wrong— the computer crashes, stress takes hold at work, or something breaks down at home. I need to remind myself that this life is brief and I need to maintain an eternal perspective. It is only then that my “hope tank” can be filled to overflowing.
My bike tire was eventually repaired, and once air was pumped into the tube, I was able to ride again. I’ll tell you, it was much easier to pedal up that hill with a pumped up tire. In being filled up with Christ’s hope, I am similarly able to tackle the hill-like challenges and temptations in life. I choose not to let my bike tire— or life— for that matter, run on empty air.

Eye Contact

It happens often when I am shopping. I make sure I stay close to the person who accompanies me, but it seems I always get separated from them. I might be distracted by a cool pair of shoes or trying to read the ingredients on a food label. Either way, I turn away from my companion and find that I am lost. Sometimes I am prone to panic. Why can’t I find him or her?
Something similar happens to Peter in Matthew 14. When the disciples see Jesus walking toward them on the lake, they are terrified because they don’t recognize him for who He is. Peter, seeking confirmation, tells Jesus to encourage him to go out to Him on the lake. When Jesus says, “Come” Peter walks out to Jesus. But when he sees the violence in the wind and waves, he cries out in fear for Jesus to save him.
Why was Peter so afraid? Well, the scenario is similar to the times when I get separated from my friends in the store. I take my gaze off of my companion and instead focus on some temporary distraction. Peter let the fear of the moment overwhelm him so much that he took his eyes off Jesus and began to flail in the waves.
Jesus communicated to Peter that he had little faith, and this struck me profoundly. I think I can say that I understand this thing called blind faith to some extent. Since my physical sight is limited, I can spiritually visualize a God who is unseen but yet very present.
It is like the moon when it is full. You can see its brightness and immense beauty, but what about when the moon wanes in the days that follow? You can no longer see the light from the moon, but it doesn’t mean the moon doesn’t exist. A person needs to have faith in the fact that the moon isn’t visible but it will eventually be seen again.
When the clouds of fear and doubt obscure the light that is God in our lives, we need to be reminded that He is always there even though He isn’t visible. We can’t lose eye contact with our Savior, or like Peter, we will start to sink. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2).