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Saturday, July 19, 2008

God is not a microwave.

This morning, in my quiet time, I was reading Habakkuk 2:3, "But these things won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed."

Honestly, I think I like yesterday's verse better. The "God is going to do something amazing in your own time " verse. Many times God has moved swiftly in my life, doing incredible things in a short period of time. It is easy to respond with praise and exultation when God is working bigger and faster than I expected. It's when He behaves according to Habakkuk 2:3 that the doubts start to creep in. It can be so hard to see God's hand when He is moving slowly, steadily, and surely.

I seem to expect God to be quick - like a microwave. However, today I was reminded that He is not on my time table. Today, I have been contemplating the vast scope of His vision for the world, the nations, and all of time. I tend to expect God to do big and amazing things in my life, and when He is working slowly, I become frustrated and discouraged. I lose sight of the fact that He is doing something big and amazing with the entire human race and I am but a teeny-tiny part of the vision.

I want to develop a walk with Christ where I am okay with Him working slowly, steadily, and surely in my life. A walk where I can wait patiently for the fulfillment of His vision. A walk that is not about me, where God's goodness and activity level is not measured by the incredible things that are going on in my own life. I want to keep in perspective that God is doing a huge thing with the universe, and I am but only one piece.

God is worthy of my praise all the time, regardless of how He is working in my life at the moment.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Be amazed!

This morning in my quiet time, I was reading Habakkuk 1:5, "The Lord replied, Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it.'' (Now for those of you who are strict theologians - yes, I am aware that this is in the middle of a passage about judgement of the nations and I don't really care.)

For the rest of you, this is how God spoke to my heart.

How long has it been since I've been amazed? How long has it been since I stood astounded as God moved? How long has it been since I've seen God do something unbelievable? I want to be able to say that I have been astounded! I want to be standing in the middle of wherever God decides to reveal Himself next. When God begins to pour out His power and presence on His people, like rain in the dessert, I want to feel it splashing all over my face. I want to be soaked with His rain. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am desperate for Him. I am ready. I can hardly wait.

In my head tonight God sounds like the cheesy operator of a roller coaster. "Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts. Keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times. Get ready for the ride of your life!" Ready, Crossroads? Here we go!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I am stinkin' rich!

No, I have not inherited a large sum of money. Donors have not sent us multi-millions. But tonight as I sat at the dinner table, I was overwhelmed by just how rich I am. Many months ago when God began to call us into church planting, we were so concerned about our finances. We begged God to just keep food on our table so that our children would not be hungry. Tonight as I gazed across the table at all the food, and looked at the friends who had joined us at the table, I was moved by how much God has blessed us in recent months.

He has provided for all of our financial needs. We have so much food that we have to invite people to come help us eat it. And then best of all, we have lots of friends to invite! I am loving having people in my home at all hours of the day and night, hungrily seeking God and loving each other and reaching out to others. The excitement among our friends is almost tangible when they begin working together.

Tonight two women were on my couch, working out children's ministry details. They were excited about Sunday, about worship, and about church! On my piano bench was a young man, trying to show me the song that God had placed in his head when he woke up this morning. And we all know how much I love that kind of thing. All around us were children running like mad. In other words - absolute chaos! And it was BEAUTIFUL!

When we followed God out of obedience into church planting, I had no idea that this is what it would be like. Hard, yes. Long hours, absolutely. Amazing, you bet. I am so blessed to be called, and more blessed to be able to share that calling with incredible friends. I am stinkin' rich!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Whining is not a spiritual gift

I feel a long, rambling story coming on - so for those of you who are only interested in the bottom line, here's the point - "Whining is not a spiritual gift and discouragement is not a fruit of the Spirit." That's it, all done, now the bottom-liner people are free to return to their internet surfing.

For those of you who enjoy a ramble now and then, here's the story. I must admit that it's a bit embarassing to confess my issues with pride, but that's all a part of the tale.

Over the last several years, music has become a great, often consuming, passion in my life. When I wake up, I am thinking about music, I think about it during the day, and even sometimes dream in music instead of pictures. It has been my great privilege to participate in worship for over 24 years. I began playing the piano in church on a regular basis when I was 9. Sometimes I was the only pianist, but other times I just filled in occasionally. Over the years, I have definitely grown as a musician. Sometimes this growth has happened through the teaching of others, or through conferences, and even a couple of times through quantum leaps of sorts that occur overnight after much prayer.

In the last year I have become very frustrated that I have hit another "wall" with my musical ability. I feel as though I have not been able to grow very much this year and have become rather stale. I have spent a great number of hours on my face in prayer whining about this issue. As I have continued whining, and focusing on what I am not able to play that I wish that I could, discouragement has gradually crept in. I have been fairly successful in fighting off the discouragement until just the last few weeks. I have had the awesome opportunity lately to spend time listening to musicians in other churches who are very capable on keys and have allowed myself to become convinced that I am inadequate to fulfill the role in worship that God called me into.

So this morning in the shower, I was really quite upset about the whole mess and was whining obnoxiously about my lacking ability and wallowing in my discouragement when God spoke to me. (You know - my first thought was - "It's about time, I've been complaining about this for a year!") Now, it was not a loud, audible voice, but it was certainly a very loud, clear thought that interrupted my pity party. "Whining is NOT a spiritual gift, and discouragement is NOT a fruit of the Spirit! Shut Up and focus on ME!"

Now I would love to end this story with a happily ever after, that God incredibly showed up and helped me to achieve the new techniques and styles that I would like to learn. However, I don't know yet if that is a part of my story. I do know that focusing on myself does not lead to great and mighty things and is simply wounded pride disguising itself as humility.

God reminded me this morning that worship is not about me, and my ability. Worship is about Him. I am blessed simply to be redeemed and allowed into His presence.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How do I find the beauty?

Today I was reading another article in Paste about a DJ named Diplo. I must confess that I really don't understand what he does exactly, something about taking music apart, remixing it with other music and sounds, and playing it at large parties? There were lots of recording terms and technical stuff that I didn't understand. However, the cool part is that this dude travels all over the world searching for new bands, new sounds, and stuff that he can use. The article described it as "he finds beauty in places nobody else is looking."

I was mulling this over and thought "AHHHHH!" That's a great description of Christ - HE finds beauty in places (and people) where nobody else is looking. Obviously I am not Christ, so I seem to have a harder time seeing beauty in everything. Some things are easy - a sunset, my children, my husband. But other things are much harder. I would like to be able to see beauty in places nobody else is looking. So the question I have is, "where is nobody else looking?" I like the idea of challenging myself to ask in hard situations, "what is the beauty of this?" and learning to see and find the treasures that have been overlooked.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The power of music

For mother's day, Shawn subscribed to a music magazine for me called Paste. I have been anxiously awaiting it in the mailbox and my first issue finally arrived last week. I have been slowly and patiently absorbing the articles, but my favorite thing is the CD that was included. August's issue is a sampling of interesting things happening internationally with music. It has been so refreshing for me to hear something unique and different from the usual Top 40 on the radio. I have absolutely loved hearing the different sounds used in the songs.

That's a long tease into what I am blogging about - the extraordinary power of music. In August's issue of Paste, I read an article about Emmanuel Jal, a musician whose past in Sudan is one of horrorible pain. I love his quote, "Music moves my emotions because music loosens me up, That's where everything starts. Music is the only thing that can speak to your mind and heart without your permission. I don't know what you can compare to music. If there was no music, this world would be mad."

I've thought a lot about that statement today. I am intrigued by the depth of passion that musicians experience world-wide. Music is an international language that closes barriers between races and people groups. Music is definitely the inroad into the soul. Music has extraordinary power to create moods, emotions, and to release whatever is in our soul.

I realized in reading this issue of Paste that I tend to think of music in isolated segments and in terms of how music applies to me. For example, "When am I going to have time to practice the worship set for next week?" It is indeed humbling to contemplate the passion and the level of extraordinary talent around the world. I have to confess that I certainly am relieved that my passion for music is not crazy, while at the same time I certainly feel that my level of expertise is quite inadequate and dissatisfying.

Church Planting? God are you sure you're talking to me?

Church planting is a huge adventure! I have never been so excited about ministry. At the same time, I have never been so scared! One church planter's wife described it as, "Dancing on skyscrapers."

It is unbelievably incredible to see how God has continually added to our launch team. God has brought along very uniquely gifted people to help us get off the ground. The way that they love each other is absolutely beautiful. God is constantly opening doors with individuals for us to share about life in Christ. This is the fun adventure part!

The scary part for me is the unknown. Meeting new people, starting a new job, selling our house and moving into a new neighborhood - These are all scary things for someone like me who is shy and prefers to be invisible. I have to admit that at first I tried hard to convince God that he had "dialed the wrong number" when he asked me to be a missionary's wife. However, it is amazing to see God revealing himself to me in new and incredible ways as I am walking alongside Him in this new journey. I can't wait to see what will happen next!

The Gospel According to Abby

God often uses my children to show me truths that I have not quite fully grasped. Recently he used my 2 year old daughter, Abby, to remind me that there is nothing in my life that is hidden from HIM.

So, here's the story:
I am slowly weaning Abby from her pacifier. She is not excited about this new phase of her life. We were in the kitchen and she spotted a pacifier that had somehow ended up on the floor. She immediately grabbed it and hid it behind her back. (which was turned towards me). Then she turned to face me and said, "No, I not got my binky. I not know where it go." And proceeded to dash down the hall (once again with binky in my plain line of sight as she is facing away from me again.)

God used that moment to immediately convict me that I do the exact same thing. He continually leads me away from sin. (like I am leading Abby to give up her pacifier) However, it seems that I often spot an opportunity for sin, contemplate it carefully, engage in it, then tell God I didn't do it. Much like Abby telling me that she did not have her binky, even though I could plainly see it.

So - here's the point - I am praying that I will understand God's viewpoint and try harder to align my life with Him.

Verbal tipping - Is it a God-thing?

So today I was talking to an awesome friend in the food industry who was joking about verbal tipping. You know what that is, right? The customer says, "Hey, the food was awesome, you're the best waitor ever," and then leaves you a couple of bucks or better yet, a gospel tract. Of course, in this example, the verbal tipping is not such a great thing.

However, I got to thinking about this and realized that as believers, we could certainly stand to practice more genuine verbal tipping with one another - giving each other heartfelt, genuine compliments. About 6 months ago, I noticed that I was really struggling with gossip - not being intentionally mean or unkind, just getting carried away in my conversations with friends. There it is - I said it out loud - I have confessed to you all. (Does anyone really read this stuff?) Then I began to listen in on other people's conversations and heard a lot of, "Did you hear that... ", and it was almost always followed up with a negative comment.

So I have gradually felt convicted and tried to start practicing verbal tipping. It has had pretty mixed results. On the negative side, people are not sure what to say back when you give them a real compliment - more than "I like your haircut." They also seem to be uncertain about whether I am being genuine or not and sometimes even seem embarrassed that I am impressed by them. On the positive side, I have found that even people who portray tons of confidence and have great talent need reassurance that they are being noticed and appreciated. They in turn feel wanted and valuable. The verbal tipping has opened so many doors for me to be able to share God's love with others and to be able to hear people's doubts and uncertanties and pray for them.

I don't know how long it will be before my new habit of verbal tipping replaces my old habit of gossip. I've heard that old habits die hard and this is one that about the time I think I've won, I catch myself doing again. And I do know that the verbal tipping certainly has to be genuine and heartfelt so that it doesn't seem fake and overdone. However, I want to attempt this challenge of loving people with my words. I want to learn to see other people's strengths and how God values them.