Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When Christmas fails to sparkle

Somehow, we think Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time. We should feel happy, because there are presents, and family, and cookies, and candlelight services, and holiday lights and shopping, and....and all of these things are supposed to make us happy. They are all good things, and its a blessing if they do. But what if they don't?

What if the season fails to sparkle? What if we don't feel the light shining in the darkness? What if
Christmas traditions fail to instill warmth, and love, and joyfilled nostalgia when we sing those old favorite Christmas carols? And we find ourselves feeling more like the Grinch than the Giver and we just can't get ourselves in the Spirit of Christmas?

I think it happens more than we want to admit. The world weighs wearily on us as we miss our loved ones, ache for lost jobs, stress over deadlines and bills that need paid. And it's ok. Life is hard and it can really knock the wind out of us somedays. Or everyday.

I wonder if Paul and Silas felt like that? Paul cast out a demon - and he and Silas were arrested for it. They did something that brought healing into the life of a woman, and yet they were thrown in prison. The Bible doesn't say if they moaned and groaned over the darkness of their situation, but it wasn't a good place to be. I'm pretty sure that Roman prison wasn't like prison is today. I'm pretty sure it was dark, and cold, and there wasn't a lot of food. Certainly, there were no work out rooms, televisions, or online courses to take. They were in a pretty dire situation (See Acts 16:16-40 for the full story).

I don't really know what they were feeling at that time - were they afraid? Were they sad? Were they mad? The Bible doesn't talk about their feelings, but the Bible does tell us what they did. They prayed and sang songs to God in the  middle of the night while the other prisoners were listening in. Then there was a great earthquake, and all of the jails opened up and the prisoners could have simply run away. The prison gaurd was ready to commit suiced at the thought of it. His fate would have been horrific had the prisoners run off.   But they didn't. And because of the actions of Paul and Silas, the jailer believed in God and cared for the two of them in his own home until they were set free.

My hope for you this Christmas is not that you get everything on your Christmas wish list. My hope for you is that you experience the bigness, the kindness, and the love of God to the point that you cannot help but worship Him even on  your worst days. Paul and Silas knew that God was bigger than their hardship. They knew that bad things in life pale in comparison to the goodness of God. And no matter what they might have been feeling - cold, hungry, sick, or tired- they worshipped God on that night just the same.

I hope that as you prepare for the rest of the Christmas season, as you arrange songs for the worship team, or practice anthems for choir, or listen to children's musicals, or practice riffs and licks, that you can experience the love of God who came to earth to be Emmanuel, God with us. I hope that no matter if you're a new Christian or a seasoned one, that everything, good and bad,  pales in comparison to Him and His love for you. Even when you're missing out on Christmas joy, I hope that you just can't help but worship Him.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Worship Tip: The challenge of Christmas Carols

Oh how I love Christmas carols. The air almost seems to sparkle when I hear those old strains of ringing, jingling, heart-melting, happy Christmas tunes. Joy and nostalgia intertwine thickly in my soul as the radio practically bursts open with cheer. Car rides, cleaning, and Christmas shopping are a lot more fun when heavily soundtracked  with Christmas crooners. Seriousy, I could listen to Chrsitmas music all year round. (Please don't hate on me for that - anything, but that). But what about in worship?After I've heard "Joy to the World" 437 times while Christmas shopping among the throngs of overworked and overstressed folks, is it still sacred when I sing it in the worship service? 

Well, that depends. 

It's no wonder that worship artists constantly seek new ways to sing our favorite songs, trying to preserve the original essence that made the song special while updating it just enough to keep the words fresh in our souls. It's an impossible task, it seems, to keep Silent Night true to tradition so that we don't lose what we love about it, while reframing it just enough that it touches are hearts all over again. Sometimes, we try too hard and what was intended to be a little originality becomes a congregational singing train wreck. So what do we do? How do we offer these beautiful carols, sung by generations of Jesus loving people, without getting stuck on the hump of nostalgia?

I'm not sure that the answer to these kinds of questions will ever change. Because it's less about song choice and stylistic nuance and more, much much more, about the status of our hearts. Of course, we'll do our best to be creative in our orchestration, functional in our implementation, and hopeful in our demonstration. Anything to help the congregation sing. We'll work long hours making Christmas Eve services as special as we can - because we love to celebrate the birth of our Savior and He deserves all of the specialness that we have to offer. But when it comes right down to it, no perfectly planned worship set, no carefully articulated lead ins, and not even the best Children's Christmas Pageant, no matter how adoring and adorable, can make us worship. Only God can call us to Himself, and only by knowing Him as He is, can we worship with any music, even at Christmas time. 

I hope you'll take this as a challenge - not merely the challenge of making meaningful music this Christmas season, but the challenge of spending time with our Emmanuel, our God With Us, so that each and every word we sing rings out in praise and worship of and response to Jesus, Our Savior, King. Keep the sacred in Silent Night, not by the newest, freshest arrangement, but by keeping in sync with the Savior.  Enjoying those precious memories of Christmases gone by is a gift all by itself to relish and savor. But if you truly want to make this a memorable Christmas, spend more of it with Jesus. Then you and your music will radiate with the joy of Christ during the Christmas season, and that's what makes Christmas music as good as it can ever get. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Monday Blues: healthy Alternatives for coping

It seems like Mondays are disproportionately longer and more frequent than all the other days of the week. I feel like I drag myself through the day, getting kids fed, and dressed, and  off to school, backpacks tagging along behind, blankets and stuffed animals strewn about the house, bedroom floors littered with stray socks and legos. I'd love to say that I started Monday with a great workout, an exciting time of Bible study and prayer, and a healthy breakfast.

Yeah, right. It's more like hitting the snooze button until the kids are pouncing on the bed (or the noises coming from their bedrooms are becoming startling loud and investigation-worthy). Grabbing coffee, and pulling some clothes on in the dark, hoping they mostly match. A little eyeliner and mascara, yeah, that's a good idea, too. Forget the hair - just throw it in a ponytail and be done. Then we're pouring bowls of cereal - Lucky Charms if the kids are exceptionally lucky that day - and sweeping up at least as many spoonfuls off the floor as are in their hungry little tummies. Then it's run to the van and buckle in 6 wiggly, giggly, racuas kids.... oh wait, I forgot my coffee.  Oh wait, one forgot their lunch. Oh wait.... is it really morning already? What happened to sleep?

There just isn't time for a great start to the day, and I'm too tired anyway, even when I turn in early on Sunday night. So I try to find a few healthy alternatives to being cranky and miserable so I don't needlessly terrorize the rest of the people in my house with a bad mood.  Monday is a day to give myself a little kindness, get my little ones off and running for their week, and try to squeeze in some work where I can.

Coffee. That's a given! No day starts without coffee, and Mondays need a little extra.  Maybe you don't do caffeine - that's ok, it just means more for me.

Vitamins. I like Confianza by It Works!  (you can order it from my website here and I'll get a little comission): - http://thebeautifulblog.myitworks.com) It's a daily supplement to help your body deal with stress. I think it works wonders for performance anxiety, as well.

Starbucks. I know, there's controversy. And yes, it's way out of my way. And yes, it's expensive. But sometimes a peaceful ride in the car for a great tasting latte really improves my mood.

Music. Usually something along the lines of Matt Maher both soothes my soul and energizes me.

Essential oils. I'm only just beginning to understand the benefits of essential oils, but I have found that diffusing them (even in your vehicle) can help ipmrove your mood, give you energy, improve focus, and promote feelings of well-being, depending on the oils that you choose. Some enhance meditation, memory, or promote feelings of peace or family.  I became a Young Living Distributor so I could explore this avenue more - and I really like the combination of lavendar and peppermint to help me feel more calm and focused, and I also like the roll-on version of Stress Away - it seems to relieve my tension headaches.  (You can also order that from me and I'll receive a comission - youngliving.org/afurbeck).

Comfort foods. For me, these are sometimes treats (dark chocolate, anyone?) or health foods - Go Picnic lunches, Larabars, or just something special to look forward to.

Quietness. Mondays are a great day to practice self-care and soul care. I work pretty hard to coordinate naps so that I get some quiet time all to myself. It doesn't always work out like I want it to, but when I do get a little alone time, especially to write and to hang out with Jesus, it soothes the nerves and refreshes me better than anything else. On Mondays, silence is solace.

What works for you on a Monday?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm on fiverr

Need an inspirational message or a short devotional? I'll write one just for you! Check me out on fiverr.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Free Sheet Music for Thanksgiving

Like a blur, Thanksgiving is suddenly upon us. And between the ilk and ire of Halloween and the bigness and busyness of the Christmas season, the season of thankfulness gets lost on me.  I see my friends 30 days of thankfulness posts of Facebook, and I think, oh how nice! But I haven't taken the time to make my own.

One day is not enough to be thankful for all that God has given us, is it? I know that I need to be more consistently cultivating an attitude of thankfulness, contentment, and gratitude. I know the journey leads to joy, so why I am stuck along the road with this flat tire from greed and "if only...?" 

I am thankful for many things - and I know I need to slow down and appreciate them, rather than rushing off to the next shopping expedition. I know I need to write it down, so I can remember them the next time I feel stressed, or worried, or I don't know what my future holds. I know I need to share them with my children, so they can learn to be thankful. I know I need to share it with my church, so they know I am grateful for them. 

A friend showed me this terrific little book - it's a great place to start looking for gratitude, or a great gift to give a friend who could use a little love. It's called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.(Yes, I get an itty bitty commission if you purchase the book here - so thank you!).  

If you need something for your worship set, or special music, or a super easy song for your choir to learn, check this out. It's a little tune I wrote many years ago, and it's a quick learn for choirs big or small: Oh, Lord How I've Been Blessed. 

A limited number of folks can download it for free here:Oh, Lord How I've Been Blessed 
But if you really love me, you can spend $1.25 here, and make as many copies as you need for your church: Oh Lord, How I've Been Blessed

Happy Thanksgiving! 
May your turkey be tasty and your rolls be buttery, but most of all, may you know the loving presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thought for Thursday

What does God think about me? 

"Though our feelings come and go, God's love for us does not." -C.S. Lewis

"There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." -Corrie ten Boom

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion." -Brennan Manning, Abba's Child:" The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wednesday Worship Tip: Apps for worship planning

I have a few favorite apps that I use when I plan worship service music. Since I typically use my iPad for most tasks, apps are key. But many of these apps will also sync to your home or work computer, making them an invaluable cross-platform resource. Here are a few apps that I seem to use the most.

 Evernote. I love using Evernote for worship planning, admin tasks, and just about everything else that needs to be organized or filed. In high school, I had a wire notebook for every subject, with the topic clearly labeled on the front with a Sharpie. Evernote is the digital counterpart to a host of notebooks. With it, you can create pages or notes that contain text, photos, media, and web clippings. These notes can then be grouped together in notebooks, according to subject. You can copy, paste, share with others, chat, and organize just about everything. I have a notebook for worship planning that contains notes for each month. I list all the pertinent details as they come to me: topic, preaching  pastor, Scripture passages, etc. Then I prayefully fit the music needs into the framework like a puzzle. I also use Evernote for everything from household chore lists, doctor appointments, my personal prayer list, as well as corporate needs. The simple notebook system ensures that I don't lose anything!

I also love to use Dropbox. Dropbox is great because I can upload any pertinent file - such as a music file - and save it on to Dropbox. Then I can access that file from anywhere, any computer. I just need my login information. I often use Dropbox to keep music files for the week so that I can easily retrieve them or share them with another musician - it's great for PDF's, photos, MP3s, etc.

Another fav app is simply YouTube. With YouTube, I can create playlists of worship songs for the praise team to watch, or share videos of techniques, worship services, and devotions. Plus you can learn to do just about anything if you can search for it on YouTube.

ForScore is a great app for music reading. I keep copies of all my scores in ForScore so that I can pull them up at a moment's notice. With this app, I can create set lists, organize, rearrange, and save music. I can annotate PDF's just like I would mark up a score in pencil. I can share these scores, print them, and add notes, genre, key, and style information. This cool app includes a built in metronome, dark room for taking pictures of other scores, and works well with blue tooth capable pedals such as the AirTurn.

I like the Tempo metronome app, the Pearl Guitar app which turns your iPad into a guitar, and Pages for writing sermons and song intros. The next app I intend to try is "Remind" - an app that lets you text reminders to your team's cell phones without divulging your number. Naturally, I would be lost without my calendar, messenger app, Safari, and Facebook. But the best app of all - the one I need to use the most- is the NIV Study Bible App, complete with reading plans, additional translations, and lots of great notes. With the power and flexibility of all of

these apps, I rarely need my actual laptopo anymore.

What about you? What apps do you like to use for worship planning?

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Monday Blues: Is this how Wile E. Coyote feels?

I lay in bed, pretending my alarm is not about to shriek its awful chorus into my ears, imagining that 6 my children have not already greeted the day with their excited chatter and and the pounding and bounding of many small feet in the bedroom over top of my head. I drag the covers up, wishing I could hide in this warm blanket cocoon until Tuesday. But Mommy duties demand attention, and hungry little tummies need nourishment, lunches must be packed, and little shoelaces require double knotting. I escape from beneath my cozy, purring kitty and test the chilly floors with my toes. And then it hits me.


Suddenly, I'm aware of every aching joint in my body, a heavy weariness that not even my morning java can dislodge. I feel as if I dreamed all night of being Wile E. Coyote, victimized by anvils crashing on his head. It's going to be a long day. "Dear God, " I pray, "Help me. Help me, please."

As the fog clears, I see it for what it is, the Church hangover, the Monday blues, adrenaline dump. What bothers me the most is not the physical symptoms, but the emotional: the pervasive feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. It's ironic, feeling this way after a Sunday of serving God and the church, because without Him, we are worthless and hopeless.

I can't shake those 'feelings' so I call them what they are: feelings, not facts.  Feelings will pass, and tomorrow I'll be back to feeling like myself, optimistic, hope-filled, energetic. For today, I'll look for truth - what does God say about me? A few verses come to mind as I think about how God thinks about me, about us. I'll try to focus on these things - God's love, His care, His plan - rather than my weariness, as I pour milk into cereal bowls, change diapers, and begin to work on next Sunday's worship music.

Psalm 139:13-16 NLT
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Romans 8:37-39 NLT
 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Romans 5:6-8 NLT
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

John 10:10 NLT
The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

How are you feeling today? What Truth is God pointing you towards to draw you closer to Him?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday Blues: To work or not to work?

Monday always comes. Whether you are a pastor, musician, volunteer, or church-goer, Monday comes. And if you've been 'on duty' Sunday, you'll probably feel some level of exhaustion. Maybe depression. Maybe crankiness. Maybe numbness. Lack of motivation. Lack of a good attitude, perhaps? Your post-Sunday feelings don't reflect how good you are in ministry or how spiritually mature you are. Many of the most famous, well-known and gifted pastors and evangelists have shared their bouts of depression and difficulty. We should not be ashamed of being worn out after a day of ministry; Monday Blues comes and goes with the work of ministry. It's our bodies' responses to the hormonal fluctuations that come with Sunday's spiritual warfare.

So what to do with Monday? Is it a good day to work? Or a good day to take a day off? If you're bi-vocational or a volunteer in ministry, you probably don't have a choice. You pull your boot straps up, put on your hat, and away you go to your day job so that you can pay your bills and afford to do ministry. It isn't easy, but you do it anyway because that's what you have to do for your family and your church.

 But if you're in ministry full time, what do you do? Some folks find that making Monday their day, so they can rest and recoup,  works best for them. They can chill out on their day off and get ready for a new week. But others feel like that's selfish -it takes away a good day from their family time and leaves the family with the worst, most unhappy part of the week. If you take off  Monday, do you work Friday and Saturday?

If you take off of work on Saturday, can you compartmentalize enough to avoid thinking about work to concentrate on family? Or do you need to work Saturday to prepare for Sunday?

My question is this: do we plan our weekly schedule around the feelings that we know are going to happen on Monday, around the needs of the church, or around the needs of our family? Or somehow find a way to balance all three?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thought for Thursday

"Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. 
God does not tell you what He is going to do; 
He reveals to you who He is."
-Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

Worship Tip Wednesday:When the Feeling Doesn't Flow

I would love to say that every worship service we all felt perfectly in tune to God, delightfully communing with Him, feeling His presence, His peace, His love. But the reality is, we are all human. And sometimes, the feelings just don't flow.

Worship feels empty. 
Or maybe dry. 
Or void because we don't like the songs. 
Or maybe we are caught up in the songs and forget to worship. 
And our feelings for God just don't flow. 
Maybe we're tired or stressed or distracted by the hard notes or the verse we just forgot. Or maybe we had a fight with our spouse, yelled at our kids, forgot to charge our tablets and ran out of coffee for breakfast. Maybe we are grieving the loss of a job or a loved one or we are losing hope. And those feelings of worship just can't flow. 

But it's ok.

It's ok to feel that way, because we are human, And it's ok to feel that way because we have a great big God who can carry all those troubles. And it's ok to feel that way, because our feelings don't change God. No matter how we feel, He is worthy. No matter how big or small, happy, sad, dry, or filled up we feel, no matter how dispassionate or passionate or utterly confused we might be feeling, God is worthy of our praise. 

So it's ok. It's ok to stand up and sing with tear-stained cheeks, or a broken heart. 
It's ok to stand up and sing when you feel empty because is still the one who fills us up and He is worthy. 
It's ok to feel lonely. Tired. Dried up. Burnt out. 
Because God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. 

We can praise God no matter what, because God's Word tells us how good He is, because His past work in our lives reminds us that God isn't finished with us or our lives, or our friends and our families. We can keep on singing - even when we don't feel it - because we know that God is good, and He will be faithful even when times are hard.

My prayer for me, my prayer for you, is that when we don't feel like singing, when we don't feel like worshipping, or leading the congregation, or when everything feels tired and dry and you can relate more to zombies than angels, that God will show us His grace. I pray we see His unending, undeserved grace to help us rely on what we know about God so that we can worship Him on the good days and hard ones. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Psalm 116

Sometimes we forget that being a believer in Christ means living a life of spiritual warfare. It's no wonder Sundays make us tired! We're not just 'doing church' but also fighting a spiritual battle to praise, worship, spread the Word of God, and be together as a family in the name of Christ. And Satan wants nothing more than to thwart our every attempt at drawing near to God. It's the best work of all, but it's hard work. It's worth it, but it's wearing on our hearts, our souls, and our bodies. So just stop, take a minute, and read Psalm 116. The Psalmist may have been weary from physical battles but he knew there was a battle for his soul, as well. Remember that the Lord hears your cries and has compassion when you're facing physical and spiritual battles. It's Monday, but the Lord hears you in your weariness.  Call on him. And then return to your rest, soul.

Psalm 116, NIV

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Worship Team Helps by Paul Baloche

Can't make it to a worship team workshop? Great news - YouTube brings it to you! I happened to find a neat resource on YouTube to help your worship team get even better. Orchestrated by Paul Baloche along with other well known worship leaders, this set of videos is great for a range of beginner and pro worship teams. They focus on everything from vocal warm-ups and breathing techniques to mapping out songs for the band and vocals.

The vocal video is long - 2 hours - so you might want to pick and choose the things that your team needs most. But it is definitely worth watching for your own professional enrichment!  Check it out here: https://youtu.be/DZ1LjkdxBuE?list=PL5Yc6HcnI4MdTzwVivl1MgHmvAPgqEVBK

and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Spiritual Formation: Van Devotions

I have a confession to make.

I have a really hard time finding time to do devotions. And that's mostly because I have a really hard time finding a place and a time to really get alone with God. My husband and I have 5 small children. Clearly, I cannot even use the bathroom alone. And since they are all typically awake before 6am, getting up before them is not really feasible. So more often than not, if I want to have devotional time, it's in front of children.

Do you know how difficult it is to have a magnificent, meaningful, spiritual moment of time alone with God in the presence of 5 small children? If you have any children, or know any children, I'm sure you've got a pretty good idea. I love my kiddos  - they are fantastic, amazing, interesting, fun beings who are jam packed with laughter and energy. Meditation is not in their vocabulary. Often times, the best I can do is load them in our mini-van with snacks and electronic devices and sit in a park with my Bible and attempt to concentrate. It's not ideal. It doesn't feel spiritual, especially when I have to holler towards the back of the van to stop the fighting, screaming, and pestering.  It feels frustrating. Annoying. And a waste of time.

But the truth is, it isn't.

God's Word will not return void. It is alive, powerful, and active. And these things are true no matter how spiritual I feel at any given moment. It is God's Word and it has worth in and of itself. So if I faithfully read even when my situation isn't perfect, God will faithfully reward me with Himself because HE IS PERFECT. But there's more.

When we pull up to our favorite park, where snacks and electronic babysitters have become the norm, something else has normalized, too. One of my toddlers inevitably asks, "Mommy read Bible now?"

Yes, darling. Just for a few minutes, Mommy will read her Bible now.

And even though it's hard to concentrate, and it's impossible to feel 'spiritual,' and I get cranky at times when I'm trying to do devotions in my van, my little ones are learning the importance of my Bible, God's Word, no matter what my situation says. I may not be able to get time alone, but I can still make time with God a priority. I might not be able to create an atmosphere that feels spiritual, but God will still meet me there. I might get distracted and have to begin again, but God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. So I'll offer a little extra grace when my children get bored, and give myself some, too, when I get a little bit out of sorts. And focus on what's important: seeking God through His eternal Word.

Let the van devotions begin.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend: The Prayer of St. Patrick

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Prayers/Catholic/Morning/The-Prayer-Of-St-Patrick.aspx#CQROwbdgsobsuQAv.99

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thought for Thursday: Comforting others

What do you say to a friend in pain?

There is a saying that kind people tell one another - that God will never give us more than we can handle. I hate to turn down a comment said with kindness, because I think people really mean well when they say it. But I don't think that statement is correct, it needs to be updated. I don't believe that God sits up in heaven randomly throwing painful things our way because "we can handle it." On the other hand, we do live in a world where bad things happen to all people. If we want to make that statement to be true, it would read, "God will never allow anything to happen to you that HE can't handle." But if I truly want to comfort someone in pain, why say anything at all? A hug, a meal, a listening ear are much more soothing than a pithy statement, no matter how wise. And an earnest prayer is our most effective means of helping others. Who can you give comfort to right now?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spiritual Formation: Technology and Intercessory Prayer

How many times this week have you told someone that you would pray for them? Maybe it was a Facebook message, a passing conversation, or a telephone call in which someone stammered out a painful problem or stressful situation. Regardless of the situation, I often catch myself replying, thank you for telling me - I'll pray for you. And do you know what happens next? I either pray for them, or shamefully, I forget. My intentions are good, but my harried pace doesn't always lead to remembering things well, even my prayer list. 

I don't want prayer to become a meaningless reply that I use when I don't know what else to say. 

I don't want to use the topic of prayer to end a conversation that I'm trying to hurry out of. I don't want prayer to become something that I say because I don't know what else to say or because the conversation is heading in a difficult direction.  I want to mean it when I tell someone I'll pray for them. 

Whenever it's appropriate, I stop what I'm doing and pray right then and there. The words, "May I pray for you right now?" are surprisingly powerful. Those words alone can soften hearts and words and needs. If I don't know what to pray? Well, I just say that in my prayer, because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray. Usually, the person in need just tells me and that's how I direct my prayers. 

If it's not appropriate to pray at that time, I make myself a note. An Evernote, to be exact. I use my iPad for everything, so it isn't crazy for me to use it for my prayer list. I keep an extended prayer list on my iPad using the Evernote App. This app is a gem for organizing your life - you can create individual notebooks (ie personal, sermon ideas, song ideas, worship planning by month, etc). And then create individual notes in each notebook. 

I have one single note for my prayer list, and I have it divided up into 4 sections: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (otherwise known as the ACTS method). Often, I'll come up with an idea for the adoration section during my Bible reading time, from a story I heard, or just from my own daily life. I write it down, and read through it every time I pray (It's getting rather long!) and it helps me focus on the attributes of God and the blessings of God. In the Thanksgiving section, I write down answers to prayer, blessings - anything big or small. Sometimes I'll add dates. It helps me remember all the prayers God has answered, and all the times He has been faithful in difficult situations. And I make sure to thank Him as I read through the list. Then, of course, we have Confession. It's not easy to write down the ways that I sin, but I try to name and seek forgiveness for the things that I do wrong - this section is the smallest, but some of that is because I seem to miss the mark on the same things over and over again. And lastly, we have supplication. This is by far, the largest section. Here is where I write down all of the prayer needs that I have heard or seen or received. And I pray for them as I read over the list. When the prayer is answered, I move it to Thanksgiving. Otherwise, it stays on the list until it's 'expired!' My iPad is always with me, so I can jot down a prayer request at any time. 

If you don't use the Evernote app, any note taking app will do. In fact, if you have a recent iPhone, you can tell my BFF Siri to create a new note - and then tell him/her what you would like to have written down in this new note. You can add alarms and reminders so that you don't forget to pray and add this request to your regular list. 

Does it seem like this technology takes the mystery away? For me, it allows me to be more consistent when I intend to pray for others, and it also helps me see how God has answered or is answering those prayers. And this fuels me to pray all the more, when I see how my prayer time can make a difference in someone else's life. It also helps me remember to check up on those who I'm praying for. It means so much more when I remind someone that I'm praying for them and ask for an update so I can continue to pray. 

I want to be faithful to my words, especially when I say that I will pray for someone in need. The Bible says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective; if I'm not praying, then I am failing to show love to the person who truly needs it. What techniques do you use to stay on top of your prayer list? 

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Monday Blues: Preaching to Myself

Yesterday, I preached a sermon from 1 Kings 18 and 19, where the prophet Elijah experiences an amazing miracle of God on top of Mt. Carmel and falls into despair afterwards. As I worked on the message, I couldn't help but think that this might be the first ever recorded case of the Monday Blues - adrenaline dump! And then Elijah ran away and hid under a bush - some Mondays, that sounds like a marvelous idea!

It's a pretty amazing story - how Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a duel. Each party prepares a sacrifice to their god, and then calls upon their god to light the sacrifice on fire. Of course, Baal's sacrifice didn't burn. Elijah's sacrifice, which was drenched with water, burned up completely, including the wood, stones, dirt, and water. Then Elijah had all 450 prophets of Baal killed. When the King and Queen failed to turn their hearts to God after this miraculous event, Elijah felt like a failure. Even though Elijah had experienced God's power and miraculous works first hand, he still became tired and afraid.

There are so many things we can learn from these 2 chapters - how God tenderly cares about our discouragement and depression, how He graciously met Elijah on Mt. Horeb even though Elijah had taken a detour from God's plan. We learn that God doesn't always speak through miracles - sometimes He speaks to us in that still, small voice. Always, He speaks to us in His Word and we can depend on it to be His Words. I learned that God is faithful to us, even when we aren't totally faithful to Him. And I learned that God is not disappointed in me when I think I've failed.

Something else that I learned from this passage is that even superheros of the faith are just ordinary people like you and me. And if they fail, if they get weary after a ministry event, if they need time to refuel, and if they need to hear the voice of God, how much more do I need those things? God knows our humanity first hand. He knows our weaknesses. He knows when we wake up Monday morning, exhausted. Even Jesus pulled away from the crowds from time to time to rest, refuel, and spend time with his heavenly Father. I think Jesus had the right idea, How do you? What do you take away from 1 Kings 18 and 19? How has it touched your heart today?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

The Prayer of St. Francis 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope; 
where there is darkness, light; 
where there is sadness, joy. 

 O, Divine Master, 
 grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
 to be understood as to understand; 
 to be loved as to love; 
 For it is in giving that we receive; 
 it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
 it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Celebrating disciplines

In college, I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline and Dallas Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines. I loved them both - in theory. But I found the practice difficult. I pictured the disciplines as dry, lifeless, a sacrifice that the Christian must undertake to get to God. Somehow, I lost the point.

Fast forward a few years, a happy marriage, a gaggle of kids, and a lot more schooling, and I discovered Nathan Foster's book, The Making of an Ordinary Saint. And now I am inspired. To me, The Making of an Ordinary Saint is Nathan's autobiography of his attempts to put into practice the disciplines that his dad talked about in Celebration of Discipline.  And this time, I got the point.

Disciplines are not magic formulas, but rather, a training ground in which to cultivate our relationship with God. It is an opening of ourselves to the ways of God, of letting Him have His way in our hearts. It is a pruning session, to get rid of the things getting in the way, and a growing session, to become more Christ-like. Some disciplines are hard, revealing the junk we try to hide away in our spirits, but they bear fruit that only God can give. Disciplines take a little effort, a little planning, and a little elbow grease, but it is a wholly different than I tried to make it in my early days of undergrad study.

I love this book because it is an honest, sincere, messy, gut-wrenching, real life version of the disciplines for my ordinary generation, for those of us with hectic lives interspersed with work, and minivans, ministry and mowing the yard, kids, technology, and an imperfect Christian walk. My struggle with the disciplines was that I thought I had to do it perfectly for it to 'work' but Foster shows another way. He shows how God showed up in his efforts, even with mixed motives, messed up attitudes, and a messy life. He showed how God changed him through his celebration of the disciplines. I laughed, I cried, I was relieved, and inspired to do this discipline thing again. And how very cool that God would carry on Richard Foster's amazing work in his son.

If you're feeling like your relationship with Christ needs a boost, if your Christian walk has become dry, if you feel like you failed when you read Celebration of Discipline,  maybe its time to try again.
The Making of an Ordinary Saint.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Almighty God, Father in Heaven,

Help us this day to praise Your great name. In our jam-packed day, our fun-filled outings, or our drowsy daydreams, give us pause to see Your hand at work in all that we do. Open our eyes to see You as You are, not as we think You should be. Open our hearts to respond to You in love, in joy, and in praise. Open our arms to receive others as You receive us.

We confess to You our brokenness, our inabilities, our weaknesses. We ask that You forgive us for ignoring injustice, avoiding the need to love those around us, reveling in our stress and anxiety instead of Your peace, and for not diving deep into Your Word. Help us to turn away from the things that aren't of You, and give us a passion for Your Holy Word.

Thank you for the gift of praise, the time to spend meditating on Your Words and Stories, and the unending hope of a forever with You.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thought for Thursday: Worship

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is—mind, emotions, will, and body—to all that God is and says and does”—Warren W. Wiersbe

".. Worship doesn't happen when a guy gets on a stage with a guitar. It happens when faith-filled eyes behold the glory of Christ" - Matt Pappa

“When you put biblical truth to the songs used in churches, you'll have the congregation leave singing the sermon. You'll have God's thoughts, things that are God-breathed, stuck in their heads. It's sad to think about a really catchy tune paired up with bad theology because that could, honestly, do a lot of damage in church " - Laura Story

“As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modern life.” - Richard Foster

Friday, May 22, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Dear God,

Thank You for hearing our every prayer, no matter how we feel.

Thank You for caring about our every need, no matter how small.

Thank You for being ever-faithful, ever-loving, ever-lasting.

In our weakest moments, help us to lean on You.

In our saddest moments, help us find our comfort in You.

In our most insecure moments, help us put our trust in You.

As we approach the weekend worship services, Lord please help us to prepare and plan well, to practice with excellence, and pray with urgency and expectancy. Lord, please use us, no matter how insecure or insignificant we feel, to give You glory and praise and help others to do the same. Help us to draw near to You, to know and hear Your voice, and follow You. Help us to respond to You in worship, and may our worship be sweet to Your ears. Please remove the distractions that prevent us and others from being focused on You.

Please pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us a we seek to serve You. We ask that You move our hearts, move in our families, move in our churches in such a might way that there is no doubt that You are present.

Dear Lord, please move me and through me.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thoughts for Thursday

"Our will is transformed by experience, not information.” —Dallas Willard

“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“We don't believe something by merely saying we believe it..." -DallasAWillard

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Do you need to become a more confident worship leader?

1. Pray. Nothing beats the power of prayer. It is mission critical to everything we do. Before, during, and after, we must pray. It is amazing how much worship music can be transformed through prayer. It's more amazing how much WE can be transformed through prayer! I don't mean just a hasty, "Lord have mercy on this music" kind of a prayer (although that never hurts!), but daily, fervent, communication with God. He delights in it!

2. Prepare. Plan ahead. Plan your set lists, your transitions, your words, your rehearsals. Plan at least a few weeks in advance so you can systematically introduce new songs and have enough time to prepare your team and yourself. Plan out what sound system needs you will have, what performing forces you will need, what overhead or bulletin inserts there will be. Do you need to print music for your team? Solid preparation removes away a myriad of worries.

3. Practice. Get to the know the music backwards and forwards. Memorize it if possible. Then help your team do the same!

4. Perspire. Leading worship is hard work. Planning and practice make it easier, but sometimes you just have to sweat your way through it, even if you don't feel comfortable. Do your best to be prepared and then lean heavily on the Holy Spirit to make up the difference.

5. Pay attention. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Follow the Spirit's lead through the entire process. The more you pray, the more you read your Bible, the closer you draw to the Lord, the more you'll be able to recognize and follow His voice in planning and in performance.

6. Pick it a part. Analyze what went well and what didn't so you can make necessary course corrections. Too many mistakes means you might need more practice. Not knowing what comes next means you need to plan better. Not knowing who is going to show up means you need more conscientious administration. Not being able to concentrate on God means that perhaps you didn't pray well or prepare well. Most of these issues can be detected and corrected, but don't beat yourself up because something wasn't perfected.

7. Put it in perspective. As a worship leader, I can't make anyone worship. My job is to create the opportunity through music to help people see God for who He is and what He has done and help them to respond to Him. I may give them the words to say or the melodies to sing, but ultimately, it us up to God to move their hearts and up to them to respond to Him. I can create an amazing experience, but people still may not worship. Or I can create a service that is a complete flop, and find that people found the worship moving and meaningful.

8. Praise God! No matter what happens, remember to praise and thank God during and outside of the worship service. No matter what we feel, no matter how the worship service goes, no matter what goe wrong or right, God is good! Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Good News! It's Tuesday! Seek God for security.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV). It’s hard to feel secure in a world where so many bad things happen. It’s hard to feel secure when we don’t know what the future holds. And it’s hard to feel secure when we experience Post-Adrenaline Depression, or fatigue, or any other kind of sadness or grief. Even the most confident among us can feel pretty insecure at times, whether it’s on a small level (am I really prepared for this song?) or a grand scale (What if I lose my job?). Sometimes, insecurity just comes.

But here’s the thing – insecurity does NOT come from God. Neither does fear. However, God gives us the antidote to these things – Himself. This doesn’t mean that if we had more faith, everything would just be ok. If we were better Christians, we wouldn’t feel this way. If we just prayed more, or better, or harder, we wouldn’t experience Post-Adrenaline Depression or any other negative feeling. I don’t agree with this at all, and sometimes, Christian platitudes just get in the way, rather than helping us grow closer to God.

The Christian walk is not to see the world through rose-colored glasses, filled with pithy sayings and trite remarks. Rather, the Christian walk is spiritual warfare. It is a fight to the finish. It is hard work. It means we will face difficulty. It means we’re in the trenches of war each and every day, but Jesus Christ is right there with us. Fighting insecurity means that rather than beating ourselves up because we don’t have peace, we instead make a conscious decision to put our faith and trust in God in spite of our feelings.

Never feel badly because you have anxiety or fear – when we read the book of Psalms, we see how much the Psalmist experienced all sorts of emotions: fear, insecurity, despair, joy, and hope…. King David was known as a man after God's own heart, and yet, he still experienced fear, despair, insecurity, and sorrow. Psalm 55:17 (NIV) says, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” King David isn’t saying he’s never afraid, but he cries out to God when he IS afraid because he knows that God will hear him. God loves it when we call on Him! And He loves it when we choose to put our trust and hope in Him even when we are afraid or insecure.

Next time Monday comes, and you feel afraid, or tired, or depressed, or insecure, don’t beat yourself. Instead, cry out to God! Make a conscious decision to put your trust in Him no matter what your feelings tell you. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Morning Blues: Insecurity

Do you ever second-guess yourself on Monday?

Feel insecure about Sunday?

Wonder if you’re cut out for this?

A little grace in a cup.
A little self-examination for the sake of improvement is a good thing, but on Monday Morning, too much self-examination easily turns into insecurity. I have to be careful about analyzing Sunday’s service before I’m physically and emotionally recovered from the weekend. I start asking myself, Did I choose the right topic? Did I select the wrong songs? Did the offertory fit the service? Did I play well or sing out of tune? Maybe I should have practiced more. Maybe I should have prayed more. Did I listen to God? Did people like the music? Did they like the songs? Did they like me? So and so barely spoke to me, did I make him or her mad? Am I in trouble? Did I do it all wrong? Why didn’t anyone complement the music? Why didn’t they sing?  Should I be doing this at all?

Insecurity isn’t all bad – it helps me realize that I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect. And someone will probably always be unhappy about something. And there is always someone who will do my work better than I could. That humbles me. A lot. But just because someone else might be better at what I do doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it all. It means I need to rely on Jesus all the more.
The problem we have on Mondays is that we sometimes let our feelings of insecurity affect our families, our relationships, and our ministries. To make sure that doesn’t happen, we need to look at our insecurities, acknowledge them, but avoid making decisions based on them. I may feel like quitting on Monday Morning, but usually by the time Tuesday rolls around, I’ve recovered from the feelings of insecurity that made me want to write that resignation letter. I need to make sure I’m not putting my feelings of insecurity onto my spouse – just because they aren’t singing my praises all Monday morning doesn’t mean they’re mad me or think I did a bad job the day before. It probably just means it is Monday, and they don’t want to face the world, either!  I also need to be careful about my relationships with people at church on Monday morning. If I’m feeling insecure, I might be tempted to strive at pleasing people more than I work to please God. Awareness doesn’t make insecurity evaporate; it helps us live out what we believe even when we don’t feel like it.

It’s Monday. A day to give myself a little extra grace, and extend it to those around me.

It’s Monday. A day to practice what I preach the rest of the week: to act according to how I believe, rather than according to how I feel.

It’s Monday. A day to practice the discipline, to make a conscious choice, of putting my security in God’s hands even when I am insecure.

It’s Monday, but Tuesday’s on its way.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Dear God in Heaven, 

We praise You because You are all-knowing, we worship You because You are compassion, and we love You because You first loved us. 

You know our every word and thought before it meets our lips. You love us. 

You know the depths of our hearts where the pain and sorrow, the joy and laughter, the beautiful and the ugly, reside together.  Yet, You love us. 

You know every thing we feel and You meet us where we are, offering comfort in our pain, hope in our despair, love in our emptyness. And You love us. 

Give us wisdom to discern the difference between what we feel and what is Truth. Your Truth. 

As the weekend gives way to worship services, we ask that You give us the presence of mind to lead, give us joy to share with others, and let us be so full of You that we leak Your love on those around us. 

Lord, give us the energy to complete our work with the mindfulness to foster relationships with others. 

Let us be effective for You, made Holy by You, and alive because of You. 

And as the worship services give way to Monday, please give us rest for our bodies, sabbath for our souls, and joy for our hearts.

We need You to restore us so that we are ready to start anew. 

And most of all Lord, we pray that in all things, we will ever seek You.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thought for Thursday: Feelings and Facts

Is Captain Jack right? 

“Emotions come and go and can't be controlled so there's no reason to worry about them. That in the end, people should be judged by their actions since in the end it was actions that defined everyone.”

Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices

“But feelings can't be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.”

Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Bob Ross taught me about leading worship

I grew up watching Bob Ross on Saturday afternoons. I loved to see him paint, but even more, I loved to listen to him talk. I waited each week for him to say that there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents. Oh, just put in a few more happy little trees. Look at the clouds - put in a few more happy little clouds. Try as I might, I could never quite get the same effect with my Crayola water colors that he could, even in such a short painting episode. He never seemed flustered, always happily painting away and creating something beautiful from a plain canvas and a few splashes of color.

What I learned from watching Bob Ross is that things in painting and things in life don't always come out the way we'd like, but that's ok, We can still make something beautiful out of what others might see as a mistake if we are willing to adjust our plans and keep our eye on the big picture.

 It's awfully difficult to compare our weekly service to a professionally mastered worship album or a worship concert. Worship artists spend months rehearsing for their concerts and albums, and have all kinds of technology to make their music sound even better - an average small church with a volunteer worship team just can't compare with the amount of time or technology. And that's ok! The truth is that live music is a lot like live painting on television - things don't always come out as planned. There are wrong notes, missed cues, and technological issues that creep up. But if we are flexible and go with the flow, we can still make something beautiful out of what others might see as mistakes.

Don't get hung up when things don't come out as planned, don't get stuck on mistakes. Instead, let the happy little accidents go, and keep your eye on the big picture - worshiping our Risen Lord - and He will make it beautiful.

Oh, and if you need more of Bob Ross's happy little accidents, there's a whole YouTube channel devoted just to him!Watch Bob Ross paint here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Good News! It's Tuesday: Seek God in Faith.

Good news! Tuesday is here!

"The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."
(Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT).

I need those new mercies even more than I need my morning coffee. It's time to move forward, to remember God's great love for us, to dig deep in His Word, and get to work for the week. Sometimes on a Monday, reading God's Word is a relief for my soul. And sometimes it feels like I am just going through the motions, reading the words on the page, but still feeling pretty empty in my soul from the aftermath of Sunday. But just like we talked about Monday, feelings don't give us the whole story. We need to separate how we feel from the facts so we can get a better picture of the Truth.

The book of Hebrews tells us: "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (Hebrews 11:6, NLT). It doesn't matter if you FEEL spiritual when you approach God's Word. It doesn't matter if we FEEL God's presence, or His love for us, His mercy, or His faithfulness, because feelings don't always tell the whole story.  Our feelings are important, but what the Bible says is Truth, and we can depend on that even if we don't feel it.  We can believe that God loves us even when we can't feel the depths of His love. We can depend on God's faithfulness even when we can't see it. We can be assured that He will reward us for seeking Him even when we feel empty in our soul.

Sometimes, the only time I get to delve into God's Word is sitting in my van with my children, who are eating snacks and watching a movie. or sometimes, it's late at night when i'm tired, or early morning with my eyes still bleary and the coffee hasn't even perked yet. The reality is, I won't feel like a super-Christian during these times (or ever). I probably won't have a clear enough head to truly focus on the presence of God. I don't feel spiritual when I'm passing out snacks or propping my eyes open to read just a few more verses. But the Bible is true: we have to have faith that God will reward us for seeking HIM no matter what our circumstances or our feelings might have to say on the matter.

The Bible doesn't say that God will rewards us for seeking the feeling of His presence. Or seeking whatever it is that we want God to do for us. The Bible says He will reward us for seeking Him in faith.

Today - and everyday - take the time to seek God. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
Seek God in faith. No matter what it looks like, feels like, sounds like. Seek Him.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Monday Blues: Separating Fact from Feelings

Feeling frazzled? 
One of the strategies that I use for coping with the Monday Blues is to separate out the facts from what I’m feeling. This type of logical self-examination helps me figure out if I truly have a good reason to be upset, or if it’s really just the adrenaline let down talking. And then I can make a conscious effort to extend extra grace to myself for my unhappy feelings and to those around me so I don’t hurt them.

For example, because of the adrenal let down, I might be more likely to be short-tempered with my spouse on a Monday. This translates to me being annoyed when he doesn’t live up to my expectations, or me getting frustrated or irritated at something that normally doesn’t bother me at all. Before I snap at someone else, I try to rehearse my feelings to myself first:

I feel…. But the fact is…

I feel irritated because he left dirty dishes in the sink. But the fact is, the dishwasher was in the middle of a cycle so there was no place else to put the dirty dishes. There is no reason for me to snap even though I’m feeling upset. I might still feel stressed, but at least I can stop myself from putting that stress onto someone else.

Other examples…

I feel too tired to work out… but the fact is that the endorphins from a brisk walk will help to improve my mood and give me energy. (I probably should do it anyway!)

I feel frustrated that the worship service didn’t go as planned. But the fact is, some of that was out of my control, so I’ll fix what I can this week and let the rest of it go.

I feel sad and I don’t know why, but the fact is, I felt really good yesterday so I’ll try to focus on how God worked through yesterday’s worship service. It’s ok that I’m sad, but good things happened, too.

I feel overwhelmed by the work week ahead, but the fact is that I will feel better about it tomorrow, so I’ll try to tackle some easier tasks today and save the more complicated things for when I’ve recovered from the weekend.

I think it’s important to acknowledge those feelings – feelings aren’t wrong or bad, they just don’t tell the whole story. Separating out fact and feeling helps us to deal with what we’re feeling right now without allowing it to damage people or programs.  

No matter what we’re feeling – sadness, frustration, exhaustion, tiredness, joy, or gladness or even fear – God cares. He knows our hearts and He cares about what we’re feeling no matter what the facts are.

Hang in there- it might be Monday, but Tuesday is on its way.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend: The Word

Lord God Almighty,

At Your Word, the world happened. You spoke, and life came. With Your words, You created.
You are the Author of creation, the Author of life.

You sent us the Word to dwell among us, to be with us, to be one of us. Your Word became flesh, and took on human skin, and paid the highest price so our wandering souls could be Yours again. You left for us Your written Word so that we might know You.

Your spoken Word breathed life in the beginning; Your begotten Word redeemed life that was lost. Your written Word reveals truth so we might thrive in this world and in the next.
Almighty God, there is power in Your Word.

Please draw us to Your written Word so that we might be drawn to You. Speak Your Word into our hearts, so that we might love and worship You. Enable us to live out Your Word, so we might bring Your Word to others. Help us believe Your every Word.

Thank You, God, for Your Word, and may we have an insatiable hunger for it.

John 1:1-5, NLT
Prologue: Christ, the Eternal Word
In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

Thought for Thursday: Read your Bible

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.
― Charles H. Spurgeon

“Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.”
― Dwight Lyman Moody

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
― Dwight Lyman Moody

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
 Augustine of Hippo

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