Being Brave in the New Year

 

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Interrupt Anxiety with Gratitude…
Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. THEN you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. Some very key people in my life have needed me to open my mouth and to help them through some things. I grabbed God’s lifeline and for these various events, friends, gatherings, encouragement-sessions, what-have-you… I found the strength to speak out against what plagues me… because others were hurting, too.

Have you EVER met ONE Christian who can do all those things? I have not.

God has told me that every disease that plagues us doesn’t melt away instantly, although he is the Healer. Some, he uses to define you, shape you… so you’ll share with others.

I broke down and cried right in the middle of leading the congregation on Sunday. As my heart wept, my voice cracked and I backed away from the mic, down to a whisper in total weakness and brokenness. To me that’s not a failure… but a victory. I claim it as victory when the Holy Spirit moves on the hearts of his worshipers and whispers gently, I don’t love you in bits and pieces… but gave my life to save you. You’re everything to me… would you give everything back? Stop holding all your fear and anger and hurt inside. Let it out. It’s okay to let your guard down with me. I am the Lord your God.

I’ve definitely been walking through a season of dark depression and unexplainable anxiety.

The word cling in the dictionary means:
a : to hold together
b :  to adhere as if glued firmly
c :  to hold or hold on tightly or tenaciously
2a :  to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence
2b :  to remain or linger as if resisting complete dissipation or dispersal

I’ve written God’s word all around my home, office, and car- to encourage myself! This morning I spoke at a breakfast study. I encouraged the other ladies to do the same: posting encouraging scriptures all around them, to see God in every situation. That’s why I’m posting my thoughts from our study today.

See.. if you put good IN…. good will come OUT.

Max Lucado said, “God says don’t worry about your future. He is the author of your story and He’s already written the final chapter.”
If you recount God’s victories in your past, you can KNOW there’s triumph in your future, just like Moses and God’s people did in Deuteronomy 6:1-13 (NLT):

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. {Then… what will happen?} →
“{THEN}: The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and serve him.

Being brave. “The giant in front of you is never bigger than the God inside of you.”

Like the nation of Israel was promised the Promised Land, and they feared the people that lived there… we sometimes fear the very things that God has promised we’d overcome. (Numbers 13)

Sometimes we make a habit of telling our all-powerful God how powerful our enemies are.

Yet we serve Jesus… who stared death in the face and won. We have nothing to be afraid of. We can take his power into our daily lives, with us. Whatever struggles come our way we can know God will protect us, sustain our energy to complete the task, and remove obstacles– in his way and in his time.

I’ve come to realize that in life: I have got to live inside my head, with my perspectives. If I worry about where my life is going, I’ll feel like it’s going nowhere. However, if I grab a hold of my my life like an overcomer, brave & courageous- know the Lord my GOD is with me wherever I go… I can do anything- through Christ who gives me strength.

That’s why I decided for my Christmas gift this year, I wanted to tattoo this scripture upon my left forearm.. the arm I see every time I play or hold a mic:
Exodus 14:14 (NIV)- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
the lord fights for you
Even when you’re just not doing all right… you can cling; adhere as if glued firmly: to God and His promises. This will enable you to be brave.

 

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God’s voice tears down Anxiety

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I was learning from one of my favorite Pastors and leaders this morning in my quiet time. Steven Furtick from Elevation Church. He drew a connection I had never realized before. At the beginning of time, God spoke, and the earth came into being. He spoke, and it was GOOD.

In Isaiah 55 God says:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me {He’s SPEAKING again!}, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.”

The parallel that Steven Furtick drew was this: What God speaks HAPPENS. It DOES.

For me, suffering from anxiety that feels like an ocean that I’m constantly treading water in: with no help from a raft or a life jacket… this fact from God about Himself IS a life jacket. No, better. It’s a huge boat with a life-line.

It’s the best news ever. If God SPOKE that I can listen to His words and promises because they’re TRUE… then I don’t have to fear.

If He promises protection… it WILL happen.

Steven said:
-Suffering from Anxiety & Fear? Combat it with the promise that God says, “He will.”
-Suffering from Insecurity? Combat it with the promise that God says, “I AM.”
-Suffering from Shame and Condemnation? Combat it with the promise that God says, “He HAS.”
-Suffering from Discouragement? Combat it with the promise that God says, “I can.”

This is from his sermon series and book entitled, “Crash the Chatterbox”.

I’m so relieved someone isn’t afraid to talk in a book or on TV about the fact that we as humans hear negative voices all the time. The battle, as Steven says, is the battlefield of our MINDS. We need to shut the voices of fear and condemnation UP!

I’m learning so much more from the explanation of this passage than ever before.

Sometimes churches are too nervous to approach the topic emotional and mental disorders. Regardless… the sheep are still suffering from it all the same. That doesn’t mean they don’t love the Shepherd. Those sheep are scared because afar off they can hear the wolves howling from the safety of their pen. That doesn’t mean they don’t know their Shepherd is strong and powerful enough to save them.

Why don’t we all as Christians tear down our walls of ‘fake’ and just level with each other: we all hear those wolves. We all get scared. A ton of us suffer from chemical imbalances that cause emotional and mental instability.

Now… that being said.. let’s take the Word of God and fight fear … together! Let’s hit these tough topics… like GOD does! He speaks of fear and anxiety all throughout his Word.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Worship Leader, Don’t Take Yourself too seriously

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A big lesson I’m learning is not to take myself too seriously. Nothing is ever going to come out perfect, so why work myself into a tizzy about it?

Lean on God, the Rock. He will get you through.

Laugh at yourself. I don’t mean: beat yourself up or become the brunt of every joke. Just always come prepared; but: if you mess up, laugh about it! People don’t want a perfect leader… they want a human who draws in the same air they do.

Last weekend at my church, I spent the time to make those “seamless transitions” we all drool over as worship leaders. My pianist who plays keyboard needed some more interesting parts to play, and we had no second keyboard to fill it in on pads, or electric to swell between songs and make those sticky key-transitions work.

So, I improvised! I recorded 4 measures in each song up in my office, at the beginning and end of every song, and added a “transition” track to all the beginnings and endings of songs. That way, when I clicked the midi controller for the next song, no one heard the song stop. The momentum in worship this created was gorgeous!
I was pretty worked up and excited about it.
I even faded out before the bridge our invitation song, so that by the time the ministers sat down, we had the ability to end the song when we wanted- because the backing tracks gradually faded out (we have some tracks that play through the house alongside our live band).
I told the band, “Don’t worry! We can use backing tracks this week during the invitation!” (We usually don’t due to the abrupt sound it creates ending the tracks in the house.)

THEN, as is the way in “church world”… we ran out of time to practice the invitation. But it’s all good… after all, I saved it, right? it faded out, right? The band knows it, right?

Well that last one is true. The band is awesome and nailed it. I, however…

So it gets all quiet, the preacher ends the sermon by beckonong people to come and pray. I say a word, and we sing. And sing. And sing. I don’t hear my tracks fading. Oh well, I think, it’s coming here in a sec... The ministers all sit. We finish the chorus, and instead of a fadeout… when I hit the “stop” click– to my dismay, the tracks blaze on to the first chord of the bridge of “My Heart Is Yours”. You know the one. On K-Love. With the full drive on electric guitars, plus distortion, 45 different keyboards, auxiliary tracks, bass, (B3 organ?!)… you name it. One chord: and then BAM. Silence.

I smile. Gots’ ta move on in the service. Talk about breaking an awkward silence! 

Later I laughed and told the band, “I guess I didn’t save my fade out under the proper name. We’ll try again next week.” But they didn’t look so sure!

When I heard the chorus did NOT fade, I immediately knew it was headed toward a train wreck. People noticed… but it wasn’t like they all lined up against a wall and took turns laughing and spitting at me!

You see, worship really happened that day. And although people noticed the abrupt song, they don’t remember that! They remember the worship and the sermon!

But guess what? I’m human! It happens. Someone will always need you at the last second before a service and you don’t get that final check.

No use beating yourself up about it.

Failures aren’t forever failures.

The following week, I tried the fade out again (why do I do this to myself?! I’m stubborn I guess).

And guess what? It was awesome. It was the best invitation yet– because we still had full band with backing tracks like the higher quality of the rest of the service. And I tested and saved it- under a new name so I KNEW it would work.

Fellow worship leaders… God’s grace IS new every single day for us. Don’t waste time mucking around depressed about yesterday.

Next week always comes, and there’s no way you can get worse if you practice & pray. God is on your side. You can only get better.{Tweet!}

Having one of those days?

Having a rough time?
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God says we can cast our cares on Him… then like David, we can say this:

“But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31

We shouldn’t look so hard at our problems that we lose sight of who God is. He can take care of us.

Beautiful Hardships

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.14.29 AMToday as I sit trying to get a good picture of our year as a church… I begin to take inventory of some of our music. August to August… I start marking the recent service dates by the hardship that was occurring when we chose these songs together.

Sadness filled me as I thought, “Oh this song was picked through many tears…”, “This one happened when, _______…”.

But these times of hardship as church- marked in the annals of our software- have taught me something about God’s love.

He was there then… and we got through it. One foot in front of the other, as a church. He is here now as I write and reflect.

As I gaze over these dates, songs, prayers, lighting and audio notes… I realize that back then, something amazing happened. People on differing sides of arguments agreed to disagree. We ALL held hands during “the Lord’s Prayer”… and even hugged and cried together.

We all bowed the knee at the altar together.

Why can’t our software depict these moments?

As I make my list…. I just had to stop and remember this major monument to God’s grace and goodness in our lives. FBC… I treasure this year with you. I treasure the things God has done, the times we hit the ground in prayer together, shaken by hardships. These are beautiful hardships… because God is found there.

God never said we would always agree. He never said the entire Bible is black and white… our theology may sometimes not line up, leaving frustrations and questions. Relationships were never easy in Bible times, and they’re not now.

But we know in our future, we never have to go it alone…. God will be there in the future just like He is now.

The only difference will be that our FAITH will be bigger next time around.

We can smile and have joy, through tears, knowing God never changes.

Dream Big, Sustain that Joy.

I think that joy is different than happiness because happiness is circumstantial.

Joy is hard to sustain. It just plain is.

I want to encourage you today that when surrounded by negativity… don’t miss a beat. Don’t fixate on the negative you hear. Just keep personifying joy through trials. {Tweet}

Focus your efforts on who God says you are; because, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Draw Near to God, He is already Near to You

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Recently I thought I had too much on my plate. I exercised my ability to say “no”, and took my day off seriously. Looking to the future: I tossed the idea of cutting down my hours at work. I wanted to work on future details of our family, make our house a home, and visit my family back home more.

None of that was the plan, for now.

In a recent turn of events I was asked to take on more of a leadership role at the Church, with more responsibility, with pay cuts and budget cuts all across the board for our church.

So. I dropped my plans and fell on my face before Jesus. He has been my Rock. I have peace. I have joy. I am brave.

I know God will make it possible for me to plan our future as a family, cook, clean, plan visits, have people over, take care of our pets, enjoy life… all while taking on this important calling. I just need to listen to His voice.

I’m ashamed to say in these times of turmoil… they are the sweetest times of worship for me.

Why can’t I seem to be this close to my Lord during the good times?

I realized today that I find the most peace and joy in the trials– not because God has changed, but because I have. Tweet this.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you {HE IS already close by}. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8