Restoration (Part 2)

What I’m listening to: “Restoration” mix of the following songs:

Time-Chantal Kreviazuk
Beautiful-Bethany Dillon
The Space In Between Us -Building 429
Find Me In The River-Delirious?
Much Afraid-Jars Of Clay
Do You Dream Of Me?-Across The Sky
Close of Autumn-Caedmon’s Call
Cry A River-Amy Grant
Stars-(From Les Miserables)
This Road- Ginny Owens
Who Am I-Casting Crowns
My Father’s Crown-Charlie Peacock
Pour Me Out-PFR
Still The Cross -FFH
Be Still, My Soul- Ginny Owens
I Wait For The Sun-PFR
Waterdeep-Don & Lori Chaffer & Hey Ruth
Tea And Sympathy- Jars Of Clay
The Worst Is My Being Alone-Don Chaffer
Refine Me-Jennifer Knapp
Wait For Your Rain- Todd Agnew
She Stumbles Through The Door-Sarah Masen
Save Me- Kevin Max
I’m Afraid That I’m Not Supposed To Be Like This- Waterdeep
Rain All Day-Flemming & John
Love’s As Strong As Death (from “Canticle of the Plains)– lead vocal by Kevin Smith
Constant-Out Of The Grey
Missing Love-PFR
Damaged -Plumb
The Chasing Song -Andrew Peterson
Phobic- Plumb
You Say-Vertical Horizon
The Mountain-Steven Curtis Chapman
Hold On-Sarah McLachlan
Dare You To Move-Switchfoot

Each one is significant to this theme of restoration I’m exploring.

It’s going to snow tonight and I can’t wait!

Now that I have that out of my system…

As I continue to reflect on the idea that Christ came not just to rescue me from sin, but to restore me, I have a feeling I’m about to go on an amazing journey. I find myself experiencing things I’ve never experienced before: a new eloquence when I speak about my walk with Christ, and a new confidence in who I am. I’m cherishing experiences more, I’m loving my friends even more than before, I’m understanding why I feel the way that I do. Because God designed me that way.

Sin has ravaged our bodies, our hearts. The fall didn’t just create a gap between us and God, it broke our hearts. When sin entered the world, everything changed. And the fall has broken my spirit. My own sin has destroyed my soul.

You see, I thought it was just me that felt inadequate. That felt unsure, shameful, guilty, not good enough. I thought I was the only one longing for someone to chase after me, catch me, and love me. Sin has brought all these feelings upon us. Not just me. These are the feelings God wants to restore. He wants to lead me to a place of joy and love, and out of this place of despair.

Healing an injury is usually a big inconvenience. We want so badly to be the way we were, sometimes we try too soon to go on as usual. And in the process, we re-injure it, having to start all over. His restoration of our souls should be treated the same way. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him

I have a feeling there will be much more on this topic… For now, I leave you with lyrics from song #3 on my list:

Look at my heart again/Look at the mess I’ve got it in
I’m trying to trust in You/To know that you’ll see me through
Through my pride/Through my shame/Into Your love /Into Your grace
I’m not looking back/Till I see Your face/And I’m running straight to You
Because all I really want to do is to fall into
The emptiness that is the space in-between us/To break this division
All I really want to do is to fall into
The emptiness that is the space in-between us
Erase it and bring us together again

The Creepiest Light I’ve Ever Seen

I work at a lighting company and a new product we’ve introduced is one-of-a-kind glass art pendants. He hand-blows them, signs each one so it really is like getting your own piece of art. And I really like the artist. A lot of his work is beautiful and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever talked to on the phone, but this pendant? Creeps me out.

Restoration (Part 1)

What I’m listening to: Tenth Hour Calling

I’ve been broken and beaten down. In many ways, over many years. By many people.

Mostly, I’ve just never dealt with the brokeness. Time has done well to heal some wounds, but never have I taken time to confront the hurt head on, to open it and exposed the wound so it could heal. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was out of unconscious need to squelch that hurt, perhaps it was I didn’t think it was necessary.

But I have a feeling it was because of my fear of what might be exposed.

To have our pain exposed – to one person or the whole world – is nothing anyone seeks out. Our culture has taught us vulnerability = weakness and those who feel pain simply don’t know how to handle the real world.

Was I afraid of being weak? I think so. But I was more concerned to acquiesce the status quo, accepting pain wasn’t an option,and in doing so, I wouldn’t be weak. That somehow ignoring it would make me stronger.

When God became man, walked the earth, what was it for? I’d always been taught it was to save the lost. The bridge the gap, created by our sin, between us and him. To enable me to stand before him completely justified, sinless. His blood does that for me.

But what about the rest? I’ve been rescued. That’s what the work of the cross was did. But was that all? When Paul encountered God on the road to Damascus, did God rescue him only to let him lie in the road? No. He sent Ananias to restore Paul. To heal him.

Why should it be any different for us? A loving father wouldn’t rescue his daughter from drowning only to leave her by the side of the pool. God’s plan of salvation is more than just saving my soul. It’s about restoring it.

Isaiah 61: 1-6
Announce Freedom to All Captives
The Spirit of GOD, the Master, is on me
because GOD anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
GOD sent me to announce the year of his grace–
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies–
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by GOD to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of GOD,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.

I Will Not Live For Anyone Else

What I’m listening to: Sara Groves’ Conversations (In particular, This Journey is My Own, which is such a great song)

So, I talked to an old friend tonight. Someone I haven’t really seen or talked to in well over a year. We still live in the same town, he’s just not my neighbor anymore. When he was, I saw him 3-4 times a week usually and as a result, we become (what I thought was) very close friends. And after almost 5 years of friendship, he disappeared from my life. When he moved, that was it. No more neighbor who came knocking at my door at 11:30 at night just to talk. No guy to walk to TCBY with on a warm summer night, no more…well, no more friend.

Which, obviously, hurt me. He mentioned many times in the last few months of our friendship about how close we were and how he didn’t know what he’d do without me. If not for that, I simply would chock it up to a season of friendship that passed it’s time. That’s common in my life, because hurting people tend to seek me out and when the healing is done, they tend to move on. I assumed that’s what would happen with him. But as he continually told me how important I was to him, the assumption that he would leave went away. I believed what he said.

Several years ago I decided being friends with men was just not a good idea. Not that it can’t be done, but it just gets so incredibly complicated. And every past male friendship I’d had just wasn’t worth those complications. So when he and I first met, I made a mindful decision to stay away. However, that didn’t work. He continue to pursue my friendship, and with my spiritual gift of mercy, it was hard not to help this guy who was hurting, who was going through a tough time spiritually, was dealing with a death in the family, moving to a new place and trying hard to make friends.

So I let my guard down. I trusted him. I believed him when he said he was very loyal to his friends and stuck by them. I thought this might be the one male friendship that would prove me wrong…that it was worth it. Then when I went though the most difficult time of my life, (last summer/fall) suddenly he wasn’t around. No more pop-ins, no more of him anywhere. The last time we spoke was the night I found out 2 pieces of really bad news and he knew I was hurting. He knew I need a friend. And then he was…simply…gone

So much for the “I don’t know what I’d do without you” overtures, right?

My best friend Lindsey knows the whole story and several months ago said to me, “Don’t let what he’s done harden you, okay?” And I was so startled by this comment. She knows me well enough to see that in me, to know if it’s coming. And she was right to warn me. If I let what he did (or actually, didn’t do) get to me, it would change an important part of who I am. The part of me that can help those who are hurting heal. And that part of me, while it isn’t easy, is something I don’t want to loose. It’s something God gave me for a reason and I trust that even though it can be a burden, there’s a greater purpose for it. And having this in my life, means I must be so careful who I live for. Who I let have my heart. Who I trust. Who I let hurt me.

When I sat down to write this tonight, I had no idea what I was going to end up writing about. I usually don’t. But it’s extra appropriate I’m listening to the song I am.

When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone
This journey is my own
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval
This journey is my own

Why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
What does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

So much of what I do is to make a good impression
This journey is my own
And so much of what I say is to make myself look better
But this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now
This journey is my own
Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down
It was breaking me down

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life
And you can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain
I can’t even judge myself, only the Lord can say, ˜Well done.’

Oh, this journey is my own

But I think James said it best: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

So talking to him tonight was awful and uncomfortable. What did I learn from knowing this guy? I may never know, but I know that my heart is worth more than how he treated it. God has shown me that.

Never Underestimate God

What I’m listening to: Rich Mullin’s A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band

I was so nervous this morning. And I never get nervous. Not when it comes to leading worship, anyway. When I first started to lead with my guitar, I was a little nervous, but not like today.

Actually, it was more worry that nervousness.

They installed part of our new sound system this week. The mixer’s still on back order, but everything else is pretty much done. So that was simply an added question mark on what worship was going to be like this morning. Because this was the first Sunday morning service I lead worship with an entire band behind me – three guitar, four vocalists, a keyboardist and a drummer. But that’s not what made me worry. What I was worried about was what the congregation response was going to be.

They knew it was coming. We’d been rehearsing for the last couple of months, and we led worship for the youth programs’ fall kickoff last month. But having all those people up there was going to be a new thing. And this is a very traditional church.

Meaning, it was just a few years ago that they were still leading worship with a lone guy at the pulpit with an organist backing him up.

But today? Today was the pinnacle of all my sweat and tears (lots and lots of tears). I was hired to change the music from traditional to contemporary. And for the last few years, I’d prayed for a guitarist and a drummer. So I took care of the guitarist part. I learned to play myself. Then finally, I heard about a jr. high kid who was taking trap set lessons. Now, 2 months into his freshman year, he is the backbone beat of our group and I couldn’t be more proud of him. And now, a year and a half after I learned to play guitar, I have three guitarists. And I have another trap set player. As Hudson Taylor once said “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”

And in this one moment, as I stood up there with my guitar (an instrument I always found intimidating, but I learned anyway – and if you ask I’ll tell you the story of why I learned how to play) and I was leading this group of musicians, once again I felt the responsibility I’d been entrusted with weaken me a little. But also in the moment did I finally realize that all I’d been envisioning, all my heart and soul, everything I’d wanting for this church to become alive in worship, had finally come to fruitition. The sounds of all the voices – a humble 200 or so – was the sound of worship. A sound that honors God. It was great to hear that sound.

And as we sang It’s rising up all around, it’s the anthem of the Lord’s renown (from Holy is the Lord by Chris Tomlin) I realized this church could rise. That this stubborn church I’d been prodding along all these years might actually let God step in and change things. That they were finally ready for God to do an amazing work with them, and that work starts with worship of him.

Well, I didn’t have an angry mob come after me once the service was over with. Nor did I get “Wow, worship was great this morning!” either. What that means, I don’t know. But my worry was unnecessary. Because God took care of it. He provided, he blessed, and even allowed us to have some fun.

Here’s to many more Sunday morning services like today’s.

Answering the Call

What I’m listening to: Tait’s Empty

My friend Shannon

is in Budapest – she left last month to join the YWAM

mission group there and I’m thrilled for her. She sent me these great pictures this week of her new apartment and roommate. She just had a birthday and as I looked through her photos of how she spent that day, her birthday, in a strange country with a person she barely knows, I was simply in awe of her.

Back in 1996, I dedicated my life to the ministry. At the time, I thought I knew what that would involve. When that didn’t work, I accepted what God’s plan was and that was for me to be here. Years later, I’m enjoying my simple life. My life filled with love and friends, music and bible study, graphic design and the guitar… just simple things. Lovely things I’ve settled into, an environment I love and that make my life the abundant life God has promised.

But am I settling?

Let me back up a bit.

Several months ago, I was feeling directionless in my role as worship leader at my church. So much so, I was wondering if it wasn’t time for me to move on. And I almost missed it: God’s purpose. I realized I was feeling directionless because my church was also. We were without a pastor for about a year and during that time, God revealed to me what was/had gone wrong within our church. Things I couldn’t see before. Maybe I wasn’t ready to see them. And it took being without a pastor for many of us in leadership positions to step up and make things change. So I’ve been taking an active role in making that collective vision happen. It’s scary, but as my friend Lindsey said “You’ve answered the call.” Sometimes the enormous responsibility I have weakens me, but I rest in him who is able to keep me from falling.

Shannon is halfway across the world, sharing the light of Christ. She has stepped out in faith and taken a path few would take. She left her family and friends here in Nebraska to follow God’s call. And all I could think about is how lonely I would be if I was doing the same thing. There are many things I admire about Shannon’s faith and her willingness to go where called. And while I know God has in no way called me to Budapest, I can’t help but wonder if I could even do it if I was called.

These lovely things I surround myself with are just benefits from having a stable income and remaining in a place for 5 or so years now. I go through highs and lows in my walk with Christ, I get to see my family almost every week, I lead worship at a church I love, I have friends who I trust and who are there for me. Not thousands of miles away, but here. So I’m not let down, I’m not out of my element, I’m not lonely. I’m comfortable.

My life is abundant. I may have answered a call, but it seems so easy. It’s almost like what I’ve been called to do is like breathing, an extension of myself. I guess I’m being brave, not like Shannon, but brave nonetheless.

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave

What Peace? and What Heart?

…when you least expect it…

I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned what it means to strive for excellence, not perfection. And I finally know and have experienced the raw power of God’s peace.

A friend of mine once said, “I make the little decisions with my head and the big decisions with my heart. After all, that’s where Jesus is.” I’ve often pondered that statement – wondering if this was just a way to make decisions based solely on feelings or if there is a great truth in her words. I fear our society is one that often relies on feelings only – the mentality “If it feels good, do it.” This mantra is all around us – it has damaged us emotionally, physically, deep down. And Satan has so deceived us we don’t see and realize it’s happened.

But Christ does live in our hearts. He does in mine. I struggle with making it a home for him – because my heart is hard at times, it’s been let down my friends, family, co-workers, professors, bosses. And I’ve let my own heart down with my sinful actions, my words, my thoughts. But I still want my heart to be a place where Jesus feels welcome. And I’m big on Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I believe we should be careful who we give our hearts to – who we trust and love. Who we allow into our lives. Because our hearts are precious. That’s why God wants our hearts. It is the wellspring of life.

I’ve realized I felt as though I’ve been waiting for my life to start in the last couple of years. Then words from the old John Lennon song came into my head “Life is what happened while you’re making other plans.”

Then I remembered the story of the book of Ruth. The story of a woman who was so in the centered of God’s will she followed her mother-in-law for no other reason than she knew it was what God wanted her to do. And God blessed her for doing that. And others also saw the honor in what she did.

Ruth 2:11-12

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband-how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD , the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

When you are in the center of God’s will, there is a peace that overcomes you. And I’ve had the head-heart struggle in the last several months. My head was telling my “It’s time to leave this town and move on.” And my heart was saying, “Don’t go. I want to be here.” And I really wanted to stay. But I didn’t want to ignore my head.

Then God directed me to Philippians. The peace of God transcends all understanding. I’ve probably read that verse a thousand times. But the other night I discovered something new about that verse. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Phil 4:7) I took out the appositive and the full force of what God does hit me right in the chest.

“The peace of God will guard my heart.”

I said this over and over, almost in disbelief. The two issues I’ve been stuggling with I didn’t think had a connection, but somehow they were connected. And God showed this to me. His word transformed me. And now I see that the center of his will is what will keep my heart at peace. For there is no other place I want to be.

What I’m listening to: Renee Fleming’s Under the Stars

At home with the huskers

Never Underestimate My Ability to Doubt Myself

What I’m listening to: Chris Tomlin’s Arriving

I’ve been hearing a theme in my everyday life lately – fear.

“Fear not” is the most frequent instruction God gives us in the Bible. Probably not a coincidence. Fear can sink fast – without you even realizing it. Bad fear is when trust isn’t there. Good fear is when it keeps you from driving like an idiot.
Is my fear a lack of trust in God? I’m not sure. I know my fear most certainly is for lack of trust in myself. I’ve screwed up enough that I’m too scared to do something – because I’m just sure I’ll screw it up. I know myself well enough. I’m really good and ignoring all the warning signs God provides – all the instruction he give me and just messing things up.

Just another lovely side effect of low self esteem.

It’s happening slowly – I can feel it. I have since last spring. God knows me well enough to not hit me in the face with it all at once. He does it in pieces – so I can get used to the idea. So when he hands me the last piece, it will make sense.

Sometimes I wish he would hurry it along. I guess I just need to trust (there’s that word again) he will reveal it to me when I’m ready.

I guess I just want to be ready now.

may i wear black?

What I’m listening to: Don Chaffer’s You Were at the Time for Love

coffee and daylight obscure my senses as the sun goes down
my eyes travel across pages with words i do not want to face
i want to be put away
where no one is bothered by me
where the corner of a room is my haven
and the color black is not of death, but of hiding

is there a difference?

my ears hear the low rumble of trains in the distance and traffic in midtown
the smell of expresso beans and paper reach through
all at once i want to be everywhere and nowhere

to know more life
to be more who i am (or who i should be)
am i enough?

but my shame overtakes my heart
i wear the black sweater of fear
the back of the room welcomes me

the whispers in my ear…

you are meant for more than this

i have no faith in me

but i do

the walls of self-protection weaken

but may i still wear black?