More Lessons Learned From a Dog

I had a rough week. Like nothing crazy… I was just sick with the flu, we were both out straight busy, and my dog injured himself, got stitches.. and then tonight- he ripped out 1/3 of the stitches while we were out on a date. And it feels like it has been a really long time since we just went on a “real” date. Ugh. Have I mentioned how much I hate blood?

Sometimes small rough patches we go through can teach IMMENSE things about our inner self that God always intended for us to know. Kingdom things.

I grew up with a belief that God would punish me if I did anything wrong. Anything. I know… It’s silly when I think of it now, but somewhere, burnt onto the crust of the bottom of my heart- that belief still lies down there, and churns up from time to time.

After the week I’ve had- which again, I know is small-potatoes compared to real suffering.. I felt like I was drawing up empty. I wasn’t really connecting with God, or sharing my junk with Him. Deep down I thought maybe God was letting Rex get hurt, allowing me to be sick, some things I’d hoped for to fall through – all to get my attention. A lot of well-meaning folks have used that line before. “God is trying to get your attention, Brittany. That’s why these things keep happening.”

I know that God isn’t the author of sadness, pain, and confusion. I know that’s satan. I know satan hates worshipers of God. Yet from deep within an inner child hangs her head in shame and says, “God isn’t happy with me. If I had/ hadn’t done _____… then all of this wouldn’t have happened. It’s my fault.”

And satan’s lies are so believable aren’t they?

So back to my small-potatoes chaos. I was so mad at our dog for costing us over $1300 in one week… and so of course, being a mama’s boy, he hid his face from me. He can sense it when I’m upset with him. So an hour later or so, when Jonathan wasn’t around, I held the dog’s head in my hands and told him I was sorry. (Yes I talk to my dog like he can understand me. I’m a little crazy.) I told him, “Rex, it’s not your fault. You know I have always loved you, and I will always love you. There’s nothing you could do that would make me love you less--”

And I stopped. Healing tears began to fall. God was smiling and gently whispering, “that is how I view you, Brittany. Daughter. You don’t have to do or to be anything for me to love you. I always have, and I always will. And there’s nothing you could do or say that could make me love you less.”

I sat there looking at this bewildered, injured dog that I love so much… and God whispered to me “Oh Britt, how much more I love YOU.” He watched over this little accident-prone dog all the times he has been injured, and to boot, some unexpected money was deposited into our account tonight just as we were at the vet freaking out. God loves me enough to care for the things I love. Kind of different than how I started the night. Hm.

He’s showing me just how much he loves me this week. And let me tell you.. I have not been lovable. I have royally messed up more than anyone could count.. and even blamed God – like He was somehow the author of all this madness. 

He is protector during- and out of the madness. 

He loves me so much more than I am aware. And all those times I felt tormented and alone, He was there with me. He even shed a tear for me in my pain. 

He has always loved me- and He always will.

There is nothing I could do or say to gain His gaze upon me, His approval. His love. He is already smiling down upon me with love, as a father holds his newborn daughter. That tiny child is helpless to do anything to bring joy to her parents, yet the parents’ eyes are full of joy and love for that wee one. 

Even more than that – God loves me. God loves you.

{Coy Marlar.. when are you going to write your book, “Lessons Learned from a Dog”..?}

Homecoming Praise 

There’s something new and beautiful about a homecoming & yet a new beginning, all in one. Pathways are reopened in the heart with a new outlook, and beautiful memories lie and wait in the remembering… the walking down old roads as a completely new person, in Jesus. 💕

As I drive these old roads, ride the old trails, smell the old smells … something is different, and it’s me. 

I was afraid that living where I grew up would somehow make me feel small, like a child.. or remember things I wish I could have done differently- a widescreen video of the outtakes from my past life- footage of the  mistakes I’d made. 

Instead… I have nothing but worship in my heart for the God who enables me to remember all the sweet memories of what made me, “me”. 

We all have a journey and it’s rough, but Immanuel, Jesus, is God with us. He is awakening a new outlook on days gone by- because he is love, and light. He is rescuer, healer, friend. 

Today, I choose to not only love new seasons, but also to praise him for the ones I’ve already lived. 

My past embraced || My sin forgiven

You delight in showing mercy
And mercy triumphs over judgement

My past embraced
My sin forgiven
I’m blameless in Your sight.
My history rewritten

Oh love, great love
Fear cannot be found in You
And there will never be a day
You’re uncertain of the ones You choose

So I will wake
And spend my days
Loving the One who has raised me up
From death to life
From wrong to right
You’re making all things beautiful

God’s voice tears down Anxiety

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.57.10 PM

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

Remember the Miracles

This was my favorite place in our new home when we bought it. Boxes stacked high, rooms feeling huge and empty.

We had been taking trips out of our apartment with our pickup truck until it was really dark the night before. So, our first morning in our first home when we woke up, we started exploring in the light- seeing all the angles the sun hit the Windows.

I remember worshiping God in the house that day, because Jonathan and I had been through a lot. We didn’t think we’d own a home that quickly, or both be in that place where profession and passion collide. God had planned it all.

As we ran around our house in the light of day, yelling, “honey, over here! Look at this room”… I then settled into this space. No furniture. I said to him, “let’s take a moment to be grateful for the goodness of God, and vow to help each other remember it when times get hard again. Let’s vow to be satisfied with the simplest of life’s pleasures, and to help others the way people have helped us.”

Psalm 105 is all about remembering God’s miracles.

Buying a little house and both having good jobs may sound like such a first-world FACT: but if you’d seen where we’d been, and where we had come to… With how much was in our bank account, you’d be shouting ‘miracle’, too!

This is what Psalm 105 says:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

and he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.
He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom.” Psalm‬ ‭105:1-11, 17-19, 21-22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Today, just like every day, I sit in my favorite room, talking to God, knowing he is in control.

It’s not about owning a house or having jobs. It’s about Who you call upon at the first sight of trouble, Who you remember because of moments like these: God. Provider. Healer. Restorer of relationships. Giver of peace. Comforter. Savior. Friend. Dad.

What “monuments of miracles” have you set in place, to remind you of God’s goodness?

He who breathes consuming fire looks out for you 

One of my favorite psalms is the one where David calls out in distress and God bolts out of heaven in flashes of lightning to rescue him: 

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭18:6-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“… he rescued me because he delighted in me.” That same God loves you and delights in you too!

Whatever you’re facing…

In the book of 2 Kings, the Assyrian King named Sennacherib wanted to take Israel captive, and was taunting Israel’s God- the one that all the people in that day feared- knowing He had saved them from Egypt- caused plagues, and killed an entire army with the Red Sea.

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and he followed God, and didn’t worship other gods, “just-in-case” as was so common in that day. Sennacherib sent this message to Hezekiah:

“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”

Sidebar: I cannot imagine going through something like this! My troubles seem so insignificant compared to a mighty empire wanting to kill & plunder- and it’s heading toward my doorstep. Those words are scary, “don’t think for a second your God can deliver you! Have you SEEN what I’ve done to the other nations?” 

But notice what Hezekiah does:

And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “ Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: 

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him: “ ‘Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, “With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests. I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.” 

“ ‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. 

“ ‘But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.’ 

“This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: “This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. 

“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: “ ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’ ” 

>>That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies.<<

So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.”

Whatever you’re facing- trust God. These aren’t just stories… They really happened. God hasn’t changed since then… It’s our reading of the Bible and our faith that needs to change! 

‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭19:10-13, 15-37‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/2ki.19.10-13,15-37.niv

Worship Leader, Don’t Take Yourself too seriously

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 5.18.13 PM

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!}

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.

Draw Near to God, He is already Near to You

Screenshot 2015-07-08 12.34.26

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