Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Breaking Habits

When a person becomes a parent, I believe that God is able to teach them things so much more effectively. After all, God is our Father and we are His children. As we are raising our own kids, the parallels and analogies to our relationship with God pop up on a daily basis. Lately, I  have been thinking a lot about Brokenness. Particularly as it relates to the passage in Isaiah 51:

15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise. 

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.

Before we can truly worship God, we have to realize that there are some habits and ways about us that get in the way. Now I'm not saying that we can't approach God just as we are with all of our struggles and problems- quite the opposite. God wants surrender, not perfection. But it's important to understand that we are limited by our pride, our rejection of God's authority, and our stubbornness. 

My kids are 2 and 4. During my first 4 years of parenting, I have come to realize that there are a lot of inherent habits in children that need to be broken and also a lot of learned habits that need to be changed. From not wanting to sleep at night, to picking noses, to refusing to use the potty...the list goes on and on. As a parent, it is my responsibility to recognize habits that need to change and begin to teach my children better habits. Sometimes the habits are easy to change, but other habits die slowly. It takes constant vigilance on my part as a mom as well as complete receptiveness and cooperation on the part of my child to break these habits. Sometimes, I have to use strong disciplinary measures when my children are not willing to submit to my authority or are in total rebellion against changes I see as necessary. Other times, I can gently, lovingly model correct behavior for them and they instantly want to emulate that behavior. It takes a mixed bag of methods to change habits as a parent. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence on both my part and the part of my children. And in the end, when they are purposed, effective, God-loving adults, I hope they can look back and say, "Mom, thanks for not giving up on me." 

The beautiful correlation is that God is very much doing the same things in our lives, even as adults. We are loaded down with junk in our lives that He lovingly, and sometimes forcefully wants to chip away. He wants to strip down all the "sin that entangles" and free us from ourselves. He wants us to submit to His authority because He knows that His way is the best way possible. He wants our cooperation, to partner with us by the gift of His Holy Spirit, constantly guiding us in the direction we should go. To resist that guidance is just like one of my kids giving me that defiant look that says "No way am I going to do what you are telling me- I don't want to! I want to do this BY MYSELF!" And what a shame that is, both when our kids do that to us parents and also when we do that to God. As a parent, I know what's best. As our Father, God knows best. And brokenness is best. My favorite part of correcting my children is when they realize the error of their ways and have that look of understanding on their faces. Sometimes they walk, but other times they run into my arms. And I hold them. And they say they love me and that they're sorry they were wrong. And then we can begin anew, strengthened by the shared experience and changed for the better. I like to think that's God's favorite part of us giving in to brokenness as well- when we run to Him, with the look of understanding on our faces, when we cry out to Him in honest apology and promise to choose a better way with His divine leading. I like to think He holds us and cherishes those times just like I do with my own children. 

We all need to think about where we are in our relationship with God, our Father. We all need to thank Him for never giving up on us. In times that I fail as an earthly parent, I always take comfort in knowing that God, my heavenly Father cannot and will not fail. Ever. He will always lead me and love me perfectly. We need to give up on our own stubborn ways and surrender- trading our opposition and pride for a willing spirit of cooperation. We all need to go deeper and find the beauty of brokenness. When we do these things, our lives begin to take on more significance and our hearts are more in line with what God is doing right here, right now on this earth. We'll worship more deeply, love others more fully, and most importantly, live a life pleasing to God. So this week, I encourage you to think, as I have been, about what it means to be broken and, if you're brave enough, tell God that you want to cooperate with His plan for brokenness in your life. It may not be an entirely pleasant experience, but in the end, you'll find yourself embraced by our heavenly Father and know that He does indeed make all things work together for our good. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Music Factory

It's a regular songwriting bonanza around here this week! And I'm not the only one in the house- I shared this on Facebook, so if it's redundant information for you, please skip to the next paragraph. Cohen was sitting on my bed early this morning and said, "Mommy, do you see this song about a train in my ear?" And of course I looked in his ear and pretended to see it. He's going to be so confused about what music is when he gets older as a result, but that's ok. It was super cute. I love that he loves music so much and that he's always got a song in his mind (or in his ear as the case may be).

So here's song 2 for the week. It's tough to give the full context and explain musical stylings and melodies with language. Until I get savvy enough to record the songs and post them on here, you're just getting lyric content. But I can tell you that the music is upbeat, driving, lots of good drum ideas (Shawn will love when I say, "You know like, budda, budda, boom, boom, boom, duh-duh-duh") But I  can hear it all in my head and it all just came zipping right out onto the page and I'm just really pumped that the songs are flowin' again.

This song is sort of a reflection/summary of Isaiah 55. You should read it because it's a great passage.


We are thirsty
We are nothing without You and Your faithfulness
We are seeking
We are finding
_____(mad libs worship lyrics-something will be here, I just don't know what yet)___

Who is like You God?
There is no other
Who can know Your mind?
Your ways are higher
But still we draw near
And you see our hearts
Your Word marks our way;
The truth that endures---forever (or Your truth will endure---forever)

(No idea yet-it's always the bridge that stumps me)

That's all for now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Song

I am so incredibly excited today. In past years (before having kids) I devoted a lot of time to songwriting. I just had to put it on the backburner for a while, and I think in doing so, I sort of lost my abilities in that area. I've been really praying about what God wants people to sing to Him right now and I believe He has answered. I sat down at the piano today and these words just flowed out onto the paper (and a few tears in the process also dropped onto the paper!) It's not done yet, but I'm really excited about where it's heading. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share. I also need a bridge, so anyone with any songwriting ability, if you want to contribute any ideas for what that could look like, have at it.

You held me, You knew me
Before I began to breathe
You called me, You loved me
Before I began to see
Your love for me
Your unfailing love for me

Jesus you have been
And always will be
My everything
In my life I've seen
Again and again
Your plan for me

Verse 2
You hold me, You hear me
Whenever I call Your name
You heal me, You mend me
My life is forever changed
By Your love for me
Your unfailing love for me

So I give all that I am to You
I give all that I am to You

It's really simple, but I think sometimes we try to say too much. I'm so thankful for these words and for the beautiful, pensive melody that goes with it.  Really excited to see how it's all going to come together!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Books

I've been thoroughly enjoying two books simultaneously. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan is a study we're doing for our small group. It's life-changing stuff. The second book, which I just started reading yesterday is Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin.  More life-changing stuff. At first I thought these books would have very little in common, but as it turns out, I was wrong. I think I have cracked open a gaping problem, certainly in my own life, but most likely, in the lives of many "average" Christians as I have been reading these two books. I just want to share with you today what I am processing through as I am reading these two books.

First of all, we have neglected the Holy Spirit in our churches and in our lives. I would highly suggest that you listen to the message from my church this past Sunday if you want to hear some solid, biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit. It should be online within the next couple days. You can do so by using the following link to LCC's messages: http://yourlcc.org/messages/
I think there are a lot of misconceptions in my own mind about the Holy Spirit because of my church history and background. There are some strange things going on in churches today being done in the name of the Holy Spirit. In my lifetime, I have seen people "pass out", falling backward in a stupor because a pastor touched them on the forehead. I have seen people run laps around a church building. I have seen people laughing and rolling hysterically on the floor, acting completely intoxicated. One time a guy who was "drunk in the Spirit" tried to get a drink at the water fountain in the entryway just off of our sanctuary and the water just fell right out of his mouth and he laughed and laughed, came into the sanctuary and spit it all down the front of his shirt. This, supposedly, was the work of the Holy Spirit.

These incidents from long ago have certainly shaped the way I believe the Holy Spirit works. I am very cautious and even nervous, not so much about the Holy Spirit, but of the fear that people around me will choose unbiblical ways to display what they think is the power of the Spirit in their lives. I have been very skeptical when someone says they have a word from the Lord.  I walk a fine line between discernment, being overly-cautious, and being downright critical. But I am beginning to see that I have to let these things go. I have to release my fear of what people have displayed in the past and believe that the Holy Spirit is not strange. I have to really examine what I believe and why.  This examination raises a host of questions: Do I believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to people? Yes. Do I believe that the Holy Spirit can come in power and cause people to react physically? Absolutely. But I do not believe that the Holy Spirit causes mass confusion, chaos, or reflects upon Himself in a manner that does not glorify His name and His cause. If you disagree with me, I invite you to look in your Bible and see where it says that the Holy Spirit does bizarre things that make people look like drunken, out-of-their-mind idiots. You won't find it. Dancing and celebrating His goodness with joyful singing? Sure. Working diligently to bring justice and mercy to those in need? Absolutely. Bringing a greater knowledge of who God is and imparting His attributes, character, and desires to those surrendered to Him? Definitely. I have always believed in the Holy Spirit and have felt the strong anointing and power of the Holy Spirit in my own life, but there has always been this fuzzy area of disbelief and uncertainty in relation to what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. I am coming to understand that the Holy Spirit is good and wants the best for us and for the world for which Jesus died. Only when we are surrendered to the true workings of the Holy Spirit will we understand our role in the story of God and have the power to carry out that role in an effective, revolutionary manner.

Secondly, in the book Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin talks about how worship leaders, and Christians in general, are not students. We do not study the Bible and we do not have a good understanding of theology for a variety of reasons. In my case, and I believe in the case of many Christians, we just believe what we have always been told and don't feel the need to take it upon ourselves to really understand our faith. We are largely undisciplined and lazy. We will research for hours upon hours about a new car we want to get or will study relentlessly in preparation for a degree or our jobs, but we do not devote the time to study and learn about the Word of God. I have lots of books, but I probably have one or two theology books among them. And they're really dusty. Maybe we feel like we have a relationship with God and don't need the "religious" knowledge found in theology books. To that, I would point to 2 Timothy 4:13 where Paul is writing a letter from prison requesting "the books" from Timothy. Charles Spurgeon says,

   " He (Paul) is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He has been caught up in the third heaven, and had heard things unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He has written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!"

We rarely read theology books. It's difficult. It's time consuming.  We are used to instant everything in our culture. I saw this devotional called "The One Minute Devotional" the other day. What a shame. We're trading in true, life-changing knowledge for dumbed-down, quicker than quick readings that barely skim the surface of the information we need. We don't want to have to think too hard or examine our lives too closely. As Kauflin says in his book, "Given our small minds, our absolute dependence on revealed truth, and the immensity of God, how can we think there's an easy path to knowing the God we worship? There are no shortcuts. Only a grace-motivated, steadfast lifelong pursuit of the God who created us and redeemed us for his glory." Kauflin then warns that knowledge on it's own is never enough. Our hearts are what God truly wants. "If our doctrine is accurate but our hearts are cold toward God himself, our corporate worship will be true but lifeless. Or if we express fervent love for God, but present vague, inaccurate, or incomplete ideas of Him to those we're leading, our worship will be emotional but misleading- and possibly idolatrous. Neither option brings God glory."

As I process through all of the truths I'm reading, I'm nearly overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with how I've gone all this time without a full trust in the ways and workings of the Holy Spirit. Overwhelmed with how I am willing to squander so much of my time on pointless pursuits while a treasure of information sits on bookshelves waiting to be explored. Overwhelmed by the idea that God loves me and wants to hang out with me everyday. Overwhelmed that even in my inadequate and childish thinking and ways, He chooses to work through me anyway. I'm excited to put these ideas I'm reading about into practice. My greatest prayer as a worship leader is that as I grow in my relationship with the Holy Spirit and in my knowledge of God, that maybe I will present a picture of who He is that's more glorious and powerful than any song I could ever sing. Maybe people will be more excited by my God than by my music. I couldn't ask for anything more.