Tag Archives: church life

5 Things I Learned in September

5Things - student ministry

1. I can survive a high school ministry lock-in as a leader. And though I may be a little more tired than usual for the following few days, I can love every minute of it because I love them. From the Amazing Race to the GaGa ball tournament to the straight up Gospel presentation at about 1am to the fabulous conversations, we couldn’t have asked for a better night!

2. All “Johnnies” pretty much talk the same. I’m reading “Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World” by N.D. Wilson (who obtained his masters degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD) and it sounds just like having a great conversation with my big brother (who obtained his undergrad degree from St. John’s).

3. Speaking of reading, I’ve discovered how much I really enjoy being a part of book launch teams. Three books in about six weeks (just wait. two more book reviews are coming over the next couple of weeks.) may have been a bit much, but still, all kinds of fun. Working with such generous and genuine authors and having the opportunity to read and share about good books is pretty much a win all the way around.

4. All of my commitments have come under serious scrutiny this month. Basically because I may have slightly over-committed and needed to scale back before I burned-out. So I’ve learned (or maybe I’m still learning…) that what I say “yes” to is important, but what I say “no” to is often equally as important.

And so although it makes me feel a little sad and a little left out, I’m saying no to writing another 31 Days series this October (previous series can be found here and here).

I’ve got a lot going on right now (including going back to Guatemala for a 5 day mission trip next month. woot!), and this is a necessary “no” for my sanity and restedness.

5. And this became one of my favorite songs:

“Our Deliverer. You are Savior. In Your presence we find our strength. Over everything. Our redemption. God with us. You are God with us.”
– God With Us (by All Sons and Daughters)

What did YOU learn in September?

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*linking up today with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as her community shares different things we learned in September*

Beyond What I Could Ask or Think

I came home from a ministry meeting tonight with an absolute assurance that I had been in much more than just a meeting.

I was in the very presence of the Lord in that place.

beyond what I could ask or think

And I want to be intentional about capturing and remembering the beautiful and affirming moments that make up this life every bit as much as I want to honestly acknowledge the hard moments.

And this moment was beautiful.

As we all stood in a circle around that table to spend several minutes praying over a new season of ministry and new leadership, though it certainly wasn’t a flashy moment, it was a Holy Spirit filled moment.

It was good and it was powerful.

This summer has been hard. The Lord has been teaching me, stretching me, and growing me in ways that sometimes I’d rather He just not.

But this right here?

This new season of ministry, this new opportunity to serve?

It is nothing other than an answer to a series of prayers and desires I’ve had over years (years!) that I have often been too fearful or hesitant to even name as future hopes, let alone speak into actual requests.

But even that makes this answer in God’s perfect timing that much sweeter, that much more precious, that much more HIS.

I say it often – even when life doesn’t make sense at all – but y’all. Hear me say it in the good times, too.

God is faithful and God is good and God is sovereign.

And while I am quick to claim the truth of those statements … those promises … when life is hard and challenging (because it often is), I want to be just as quick to claim the same truths when life is good and all kinds of exciting.

And this is exciting!

Because in those precious moments of honest prayers from a roomful of fellow leaders who love the Lord and want more of Him and are willing to pour themselves out into the lives of others, I knew I was there for this.

This is what I was made to do in the right now of today.

And I didn’t get here by analyzing the heck out of my circumstances, or perfectly executing a five year plan, or having a clear idea of what this would look like.

I got here because seeking the Lord without an agenda (or much of the time even a clue!) allowed me to obediently say “yes” when the opportunity was presented.

And that is amazingly, beyond what I could ask or think, beautiful!

And this has only just begun.

God is so good.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Graffiti Summer: Opposition to Victory

During this fourth week of Graffiti Summer Study and Do, we took a closer look at the opposition Moses faced when obeying his God-given call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt as recounted in Exodus 6-14. The Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and it took 10 intense plagues before Moses was able to begin walking in the victory he had been promised.

By reminding us that life is full of opposition and struggle even when we’re stepping into serving exactly where God leads, Alene challenged us to share our struggles with others instead of hiding behind an “everything is fine” mask and to remember that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.

DO Assignment: Engage in authentic conversation with someone. Share struggles from a deeper level to give others freedom to do the same.

graffiti summer - opposition to victory

For the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of leading two other women from my life group at church through a discipleship study on Monday nights over dinner at Panera. We finished up our study this week, and while there were several things I loved about our time together, one of the things I most appreciated was the opportunity to just be real about some of our faith struggles.

During our study on fellowship within the body of Christ, the Church, that led us to recognize the unique and valuable role of each member, we were challenged to consider if there was someone within our local church community that we had a hard time loving. The study asked us to consider the reasons why it was hard to love them and how we could overcome those reasons.

I was extremely honest in my workbook when I answered these questions in preparation for our meeting, but verbalizing them during our discussion? I wasn’t so sure.

But recognizing the opportunity that was presented, I did ultimately share my horribly immature and self-serving answers. And the brief conversation that resulted, in which we realized that ALL of our answers lacked Christlikeness and then shared truth-filled Scriptures with one another to counter those answers, was both productive and Christ-honoring.

We may not have come away with a perfect answer or perfect attitude, but the authentic conversation that led to countering opposition with the absolute truth of Scripture was more than worth it.

“I Will Sing Unending Songs…”

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord…”
Psalm 102:18 (ESV)

unending songs

This weekend, I will spend Saturday morning and Sunday evening recording a live worship album with the worship ministries team at church.

I’m only one small part of the second row of a large choir (plus orchestra, rhythm section, praise team, tech team, children’s choir, and student choir), but I am so excited to be a part of this recording project. I do not take this opportunity and responsibility lightly … to be a part of leading others (both present and future generations, both in my city and around the world) to worship in spirit and in truth and to praise the Lord’s name!

While we’ve been diligently preparing and rehearsing for several weeks (probably more like months…) now, this past Wednesday evening was obviously a particularly long and intense rehearsal as tempos were being nailed down, harmonies were being fine-tuned, rhythms were being locked-in, cut-offs were being sharpened, and all of the moving parts were being tweaked to come into their final places.

No doubt there will be a few additional tweaks throughout the multiple day recording process this weekend (and beyond) as well.

But beyond the logistics and the technical aspects of the music, the lights, the sound, etc., it is such an honor and privilege to serve alongside this worship ministries team under the leadership of a worship pastor who values and prioritizes Biblical worship.

Even the most intense rehearsals are Christ-centered and worship-focused.

I love that!

Now I’m not really much into visions. In fact, I’m probably more on the side of the skeptic when it comes to receiving some form of a vision from the Lord, but I also believe that God can and does still work that way when His people are willing to listen and see.

So what I’m about to say, I take incredibly seriously, but know I likely won’t be able to do the moment much justice at all. But it’s too rich not to at least try!

As we were nearing the 2.5 hour mark on Wednesday evening, as I was feeling more fatigued by the minute and rather at the end of myself, during our final worship set, a medley of four songs all about the eternal song of praise in heaven, the Lord allowed me to catch a hazy and fleeting, but oh so powerful, glimpse of the reality of heaven.

Not in a clear photographic vision sort of way.
Not even in a clouds-parted-and-I-literally-saw-heaven sort of way.
Not at all.

But with the house lights down, the spotlights bright, the many exit signs glowing, in the fogginess and dimness of that moment as we were literally singing the words,

“Every eye will see the coming of the King…”

I saw it.

A hazy, fleeting, barely-for-a-moment glimpse of That Day when all eyes will be focused on the Center of this eternal reality … the light and truth that is our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh. Wow.

I’m speechless just thinking about it again!

It was as if for that very brief moment, I was able to step outside of myself, aware of the powerful and heartfelt worship coming from the entire team around me, but somehow removed from it and able to catch a glimpse of what this looked like from the outside.  Somehow able to see this grand light – Jesus Christ on His throne – that we were all singing towards, that our hearts were all directed towards, that our eyes were all looking towards.

Every eye seeing. Every knee bowing. Every heart worshiping.

And y’all.

It changed my own heart in an instant.

At the end of myself, the Great I AM stepped in and re-directed my heart to the unending, awesome, holy, and wonderful Glory of His Son.

While still physically exhausted, my worship was transformed following that moment … renewed, energized, passionate, and true.

Eternity is a reality. Heaven is real.

And THE eternal song of heaven begins now…

“Holy, Holy are You Lord, God, Almighty!”

“Worthy is the Lamb!”

“Jesus is the Lord!”

“Blessing and honor and glory and power, forever!”

“I will sing unending songs…”

My Top 3 New Favorite Songs

my top 3 new favorite songs

1. Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher

“Lord I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.”

It’s not often that I buy a new song as soon as it’s released. But the first time I heard this one, I knew it was one I needed to add to my collection. These lyrics slay me. They reach some inner part of my soul that is crying with desperation for the Lord to be near and fill me. Because I just can’t live this life without Him. The verses are every bit as powerful and truth-filled.

2. By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty

A modern hymn with a celtic flair. I love how each of the verses build on one another to tell such a powerful story of walking by faith and not by sight.

3. The Word of God Has Spoken – Travis Cottrell

We’re learning this song as a choir at church right now in preparation of an upcoming worship ministries recording project. I first heard it quite a while ago when I purchased the album, When the Stars Burn Down, but had sort of forgotten about it. I have no idea how, though, because when I realized which song it was, and as we’ve been rehearsing it, it has quickly become one that sits on repeat while I’m writing. This message of freedom never gets old:

“We are running to salvation, we have been delivered.
The Word of God has spoken we are free.”

What are some of your current favorite songs?

Actually Be…

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves … the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
James 1:22 & 25

actually be a doer

It’s easy to say from the safety of my church pew on a Sunday morning that I’m ready and willing for encounters with people that provide opportunities to love and serve like Jesus.

It’s much more difficult to have that same mindset when I’m walking through the door at Starbucks (or better yet, going through the drive-thru), mentally reviewing my to-do list, just wanting to get my coffee and go.

But I think James makes it pretty clear that we’re not supposed to just agree with Scripture in theory.

We’re supposed to agree in action. We’re supposed to actually be doing.

Yes, Christ took time to pull away from activities… to spend quiet time alone in prayer, to listen to the Father, to be refreshed and restored in His presence … so the hearing part is important.

But then He poured all of Himself back out on others. He invested in the least of these.

Not by just doing for the sake of doing. But rather, by doing out of obedience to the Father and genuine love.

As I was sitting in the choir loft listening to the sermon during the second service on Easter morning, I caught my mind beginning to wander. Realizing that I was having trouble focusing, I thought, “How do I make it look like I’m engaged?”

No sooner had the question entered my conscious thoughts than I knew the answer: “Actually BE engaged.”

And I think that’s what James is getting at…

Want to look like you’re serving? Actually be serving.
Want to look like you’re invested in the lives of others? Actually be invested.
Want to look like you’re excited for others’ good news? Actually be excited.
Want to look like you’re grateful? Actually be grateful.
Want to look like you’re more loving? Actually be more loving.
Want to look like Jesus? Actually be like Jesus.

It’s not enough to just know the right answer, to hear the Word and agree in principle, or to give the appearance of a life lived in obedience to Christ. It’s not enough to just know the Word intellectually or intend to do something about what it says later.

Don’t just be a hearer of the Word. Actually be a doer.

Crazy Love

crazy love

And just like that, with a weekend trip to Northern Virginia and some poor planning thrown into the mix, this supposed-to-be-up-on-Friday post turned into a Saturday post.

But before I headed the 6.5ish hours north yesterday, one of the Bible Study groups that I’m in this semester met Thursday evening to discuss chapters 5 & 6 of Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

Towards the end of a great discussion about the central themes of the chapters including following Christ with our all, desiring an intimate relationship with Him first, loving Him above all else, being willing to give up everything in pursuit of Him, and selflessly serving and loving His people as a result of our love for Him, as our conversation shifted to acknowledging we can’t do any of this on our own, someone said this:

“Asking God to help you love others is a really scary prayer.”

And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since.

Yes, asking for God’s help to love others is scary. Because we know He’s a God who hears and answers our prayers.

And praying that particular prayer requires much of us. It requires that we set aside our own selfish desires for His glory, and it requires a willingness to obey when He makes His answer obvious. But scary or not, oh, how I want that to be the prayer of my heart. I want to love well and love more. And I need Him to do it.

“Is loving God – and, by extension, loving people – what you are about? … Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.” (Crazy Love, p. 102 & 104)