FAITHFUL

I must pause.  My heart is overflowing because in the midst of struggle, I have to stop and I’m drawn to my knees because of this one thing:  GOD IS FAITHFUL!!!

Things change.  People lie.  People leave.  Unfaithfulness is all around me.  I am surrounded in brokenness.  I walk along a very broken path that is rained upon by tears and blood.  BUT HE IS FAITHFUL.  UNCHANGING.

“When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: ‘Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.’  This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remainSince we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe, for our God is a devouring fire.'” Hebrews 12:26-29

Scars and struggles on the way 
But with joy our hearts can say:
Never once did we ever walk alone 
Never once did You leave us on our own 
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Definition: Faithful: Loyal, constant, and steadfast.
This doesn’t even begin to describe the God we serve.
He never leaves us.  Think about this.  No matter what has happened, or what will happen, he’s not going anywhere.  He is faithful.  It’s so comforting thinking through the events of my life, just in the past 3 years, let alone my whole life, seeing that he has been there.
I’ve faced some dark days.  I’m not about to sit here and tell you everything’s great.  It’s not.  In fact I’ve walked a road the past few months I never EVER wanted to walk.  But I’ve decided that following him is so much better than walking away from him or disregarding what he tells me to do an where he leads me.
I have to apologize too, to my friends.  I’ve been consumed.  And many of you, most of you in fact, I have not let you in about this.  I’ve just been working through it all and been…. self consumed.  Please, forgive me.
Not only is God faithful and with us, but we all have each other. Surrounded by grace to spread the good news to this broken earth.
He is good.  Never once.  Never once have we ever walked alone.
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worship

I tend to forget how “new” the concept of congregational singing in worship really is.  There’s lots to be said about the history, but part of Martin Luther’s stand against the Catholic church was the initiation of singing in a language that the people understood (the Mass is in Latin, and at that time, most people didn’t speak or understand Latin), but also to include the singing of the people in worship services.  Then again, Martin Luther at the time also thought that organs were basically an instrument of the devil (some would probably still say this is true today!).  🙂

Anyway, John Wesley was actually an important person with the protestant development of congregational singing, and he urged worshipers to stand while they sang hymns.  This was in the 18th century, not really that long ago, in the scope of time.

John Wesley also gave some pointers and guidelines for singing, “Sing lustily and with good courage.  Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan” -1761.

I’m not sure what he means by the songs of Satan, but maybe we could apply that to secular music today?  Gosh there are LOTS of great songs on the radio that are songs you just sing out without any fear (unless the window in your car is down)… so why should our worship be quiet on Sunday mornings?  And why are we always “half dead or half asleep”?  This is a call to let our praise be loud, exciting, and full of DRUMS I say!  (Interesting but here’s a fact about faster music, “Some churches use drums in worship; a beat slightly faster than of the human heart enlivens a group of people, gets them on their feet, and unites them into one vibrant body” -Gail Ramshaw).

Anyway, just a few thoughts to share with you all.

Hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

leavin’ on a jet plane

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A week from today, I will be finishing my packing, saying last good-byes, and getting ready to go to the airport.  It’s so weird, honestly, and in many ways it still seems really far away, just because there is so much to do between now and then.

I’m filled with so many emotions, and my heart is pulled and torn so many ways.  I knew this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier, and it doe

sn’t make the future seem any clearer, it just gets scarier and makes me more afraid, to be honest.  

I’m also confronted with questions about God, his character, and who he is.  I know that he is so good, and scripturally we know he never will leave us, but I question his involvement in our lives, free will, and how much control he really has in our lives.  I think these are healthy questions to ask, and frankly I don’t have answers for them.  I believe that there are a number of paths to choose for my life at this point, but I do want his best, and I suppose in faith I need to trust in the leading of His spirit inside my heart, and trust his voice.  I knew that peace and his voice when it was time for me to come to Thailand, so I need to trust for that same peace when looking at the future.

Easier said than done.

 

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Confessions of a former faker.

This past week I had coffee with Joni, my good friend and wife of the Youth Pastor at our church here in Thailand.  Her and I are quite similar in many ways, but through her friendship I’ve really gained some perspective on who I once was.  Not so long ago.

Growing up in the church and with your parents being important people in the church and in ministry, it’s so easy to be fake.  You have to.  Or you think you have to.  You think you have to pretend everything is great and perfect so they will think you’re a perfect PK, then you quote all the memory verses you learned in AWANA, and of course if you didn’t sing the hymns during church that meant that you were rebelling and so that wasn’t allowed either.  I was so fake.  I’ve really begun to see this more clearly just recently since coming to Thailand, because the fake-ness continued in college.  And for that I must apologize.

I realized at a young age, 13 to be exact, that I was called to do ministry.  I can’t really explain that call, but God definitely put it on my heart.  That was also the same age I became involved in worship teams and being up in front of people.  Our Youth Pastor always encouraged us as the band, that we especially needed to be right with God.  I think for some reason that filtered to me with a translation saying “you need to be perfect.  you can’t let people see your struggles.  you can’t let anyone see your weakness”, though I know that’s not how it was intended to be. 

I believe in college, those walls began to come down, but I really feel in some ways it got a bit worse at times.  This is my confession as a former faker, and for that I believe I owe hundreds, maybe even thousands of people apologies.  

Secular music listening was always looked down upon growing up, so when high school hit and all my friends listened to secular music, at first I thought THEY were the bad ones.  Then I started listening to it and hiding it, like it was some huge sin I was hiding.  I’m not condoning secular music, nor condemning it.  It’s like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ – but not everything is good for you.  And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything”.  What matters here to God is our hearts.  Our hearts are easily drawn to things that seem to look pleasurable to the world, but we must always ask our own hearts if this will cause the eyes of our hearts to look elsewhere, and away from the LORD.  I would apply this to other “grey” areas that seem to exist in the church today, such as alcohol, eating, hobbies, and anything else that takes up a significant amount of time in your day.

So, back to the faker I was.  I think my walls began to come down around the time I went to India, and more around my Senior year at Simpson.  So many Christians are just like me, like I was.  It’s much easier to pretend like everything is just fine than face cleaning up the mess that you dump in front of everyone.  These lessons have so much to do with worship leading for me, because in my mind, YES, as a worship leader you must always be even more sensitive the LORD’s voice, but that does not in any mean: 1) you are better than everyone else 2) you have no need to take extra Bible studies or 3) to be fake all the time because everyone is watching you.

I’m not sure what my ultimate point is, BUT after talking with Joni yesterday she encouraged me in several ways as I go on beyond GES to whatever is next.  Because of the way I’ve been brought up, I need to recognize that my first instinct is almost always to serve, and not to be served in ministry.  But as I’ve seen first hand here, if you have nothing to give, you end up much more dry than you were before, which leads often to confusion and burn out.  

My prayer for the future is that I will be filled continually through God’s word, worship, fellowship, confession, and truth.  So this is me, I am a former faker.  But by God’s grace I will continue as I have learned and experienced here in Thailand, and be OPEN about who I am and the things God is doing in me and teaching me.

love.

“In my weakness I find that your strength knows no bounds, 
and in my loneliness I find that the everlasting arms surround me.
Even with this fragile heart
I find a place to rest here, safe where you are.

I am falling into grace again
I am running where mercy never ends
Lord I’m learning that your love can cover me
You are teaching me what a child is meant to be”

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve begun writing several blogs, each with only a few sentences.  There’s so much I could say about my experiences here in Thailand on a completely superficial level, but there are always many sides to any experience, and there has been so much God has been speaking to my heart.

I’m learning what it means to love God.. and let him love me.  Seems simple, right?  I thought so as I began this journey, but it’s been difficult.  I want to desire God, and I want to love him, but so much gets in the way each day.  So much competes for my affections and my attention.  But only one, really truly deserves that attention.  

I sing “I surrender”, then I sing “I love you Lord…” but what does it look like?  How do I know when I’ve finally come to the place of learning this lesson and moving onto the next?  Or is that how the journey of a Christian goes?  

I’m a pretty liner thinking person, I think of things in order, and things consists of a beginning and an end.  But the person of God.. has no end and no beginning.. and our journey, with it’s many lessons and dynamics continues throughout our time on earth.  

God pursues us.  Every day he pursues us.  He wants our full devotion, and our full attention so we can hear his voice, and know who he is.  The more I learn about God, the more I realize I don’t know about him.  Can we ever understand this love?  

Human love… falling in love.  Now, I can’t say I know from experience, but when you are interested in someone, you want to know everything about them.  The more you learn about them (hopefully) the more you fall in love with them (although we all know my friends that this isn’t always the case)… BUT, as we learn more about who God is and truly use our minds to engage in this thinking, everyday we can draw closer to him, because we’ve seen more of who he is, and seen more of his heart.

There’s a song that makes me cry nearly ever time I hear it called, “Only Love Remains” by JJ Heller.  Listen to it if you get the chance, it’s an amazing prayer for our lives.

Scenes of you come rushing through you are breaking me down,
so break me into pieces that will grow in the ground.
I know that I deserve to die for the murder in my heart,
so be gentle with me Jesus as you tear me apart.

Please, kill the liar, kill the thief in me,
I know that I am tired of their cruelty.
Breathe into my spirit, breathe into my veins,

Until only love remains.

You burn away the ropes that bind and hold me to the earth,
the fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth.
I begin to see reality for the first time in my life,
I know that I am a shadow but I’m dancing in your light.

Teach me to be humble, call me from the grave,
show me how to walk with you upon the waves.
Breathe into my spirit, breath into my veins,

Until only love remains.

 

That’s all I want.  I want him to take away everything that means nothing in my heart, until all I have is love for him.  Each day, part of loving him is surrendering the things in my heart that I’m holding so tightly too.  I’m such a classic first-born child.  I have dreams, and I have plans.  Sometimes I’m not afraid to let God know that “I’m sorry, but this wasn’t in my plan”.  

Letting go.

Loving him with ALL my heart.. not just part of it.

In 1 John 5:21, the very last verse, it says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” 

This will most likely be continued at a later time, but for now here are a few songs on my playlist “LOVE of GOD”:

“Love Song” by Jason Morant
“Divine Romance” by Phil Wickham
“If I Have Not Love” by Matt Redman
“Saving Grace” by Hillsong United
“Captivated” by Vicky Beeching
“Glance” by Misty Edwards

May you experience his love with each breath he has given you.  May you return to your first love, or maybe for the first time experience his love.  Let him love you.  Let him pursue you.  Let him take the darkness and the heavy loads you hide deep within your heart.  Return.  Love.