Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Too Busy to Worship

As we prepare for Summit 2, I have been compiling a lot of different information about worship since the theme for Summit 2 is The Journey:Every Step is Praise. I've been working hard lining up set lists, emailing reminders, questions, concerns, and ideas. I've been ordering art supplies. I've been working hard!  The reason I'm cranking through all this is we go on vacation this week too, so it all has to come together! I'm full of anticipation for both the vacation and the Summit, but if I'm being honest, in the midst of all the busy work is this little nagging feeling... You see, I think I've been so wrapped up in my work that I've forgotten who I'm doing the work for.  As I was falling asleep (very late) last night after working on Summit 2 things, I realized I sure had been working hard on seeking information ABOUT God, but I had not been very diligent about simply seeking God.

This happens to me on a different level on my kids' birthdays. Let me explain. I tuck them in bed the night before and then wake up early on their big party day. I clean, I cook, I decorate the cake. Jarrod whisks the boys away to some other area of the house so that I can get my stuff done without interruptions. I don't really see the birthday boys all day long because I'm so busy with the preparations. When it comes time to blow out the candles, it suddenly hits me! Uggg! What have I been doing all day long? I forgot the most important thing of all! Enjoying my kid on the day of his birth! I've had 4 years of this now and I've finally come to the realization that the person is way more important than the party. So anyone invited to this years' festivities, I will apologize in advance- it's going to be way more thrown together this year and all years after this. There may even be...dare I say it...a store bought cake (gasp!) and I can guarantee that the invitations will be something I can throw together in less than an hour...no individually hand-crafted invitations that take a month to make. Sorry, but I am not being overtaken by the madness anymore. I love my kids. I want their day to be special. But I also want to enjoy the time with them instead of focusing on the work. 

A lot of times in our relationship with God, we run into the same trap- forgetting that the person(Jesus) is way more important than the party (life).

Sometimes we get so busy doing ministry work, or just work in general, that we lose focus of the big picture. I am so bad about this lately. I work and work and am so busy that I forget that my heart's deepest desire and purpose is simply to be with God. To know Him. To be still. Do not be deceived to believe that being busy is equal to being spiritual. This is probably one of the biggest tricks of the enemy. It's kind of ironic, isn't it? The Director of Worship being too busy to worship? But it happens. To ALL of us. So what can we do about it? 

There is a perfect story in the Bible about this very subject in Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

On the flip side, I think sometimes people could use this passage as a way to get out of work. I mean, honestly, in ministry or in life you can't just hang out all day loving Jesus and leaving the details to everyone else- there is work to be done! But I think the point of the passage is that our attitude and our mindset about the work that needs to be done is important. Are we, as Martha was, distracted by all that needs to be done? Are we obsessing about details that don't matter? Are we playing the "Martyr card" (woe is me...I'm doing ALL this work...feel sorry for me!) I want everything that I do in ministry to be done with excellence and I want to work hard, but I also have to balance it out with the necessary time spent at the feet of Jesus- listening to Him, learning from Him, and loving Him.  

When's the last time you just stopped DOING and started BEING in God's presence? I know for me, it's been way too many days. Friends, seconds turn into minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, and years into lifetimes. I want my life to be defined by a deeply abiding love of Jesus- not all the work I did in His name. Although the work we do, no matter what it is, is important, it's not the most important part of life. Jesus wants our hearts, not the work of our hands. Without the heart, nothing else matters anyway. 

Be encouraged that though your life is busy, your heart doesn't have to be. Rest in Jesus' love. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) Don't be distracted by details that only matter to you anyway. Choose "the good portion, which will not be taken away from you". Work hard, but love God even harder and let every bit of effort that you produce in your life bring glory to Him. This is what worship is all about. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Honest Responses in Tough Times

The LORD makes firm the steps
   of the one who delights in Him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
   for the LORD upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

This is another key verse for Summit 2, The Journey: Every Step is Praise. 

Sometimes it's hard to read a verse like this when you're in the midst of a crisis situation and actually believe what it says. So many times when troubles come we feel abandoned by God. What does God expect from us in times when we feel like we're far from being upheld with God's hand? I think He expects raw honesty. 

So often in the book of Psalms, we read David's honest words as in Psalm 69:1-3 

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." 

Or my personal favorite Psalm of desperation, Psalm 35:22-23

"You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!"

Think about what David's saying in this Psalm! He's accusing God of being asleep! The Message Bible states it this way: 

"Don't you see what they're doing, God? You're not going to let them Get by with it, are you? Not going to walk off without doing something, are you?  Please get up - wake up! Tend to my case. My God, my Lord - my life is on the line."

David is saying, "Wake UP God!!! Where are You when I need You the most? Don't You understand what's going on???"

David is known as a "man after God's own heart" and yet he's questioning God vehemently in these and lots of other passages in the book of Psalms. Here's the key- God's not offended by our questions, but He wants us to trust Him for the answers. When we're going through a rough time, God has not fallen asleep on the job, He still possesses His omniscient, omnipresent powers, and He knows what's going on. What's difficult for our finite minds to comprehend is that He works infinitely on our behalf. A crisis situation today may be the moment we look back on in the future and recall as a Spiritual turning point. The point is that WE DON'T KNOW what's going on completely. But God does.

So bring on Your questions. He's big enough to handle them. Keep trudging ahead on the path, even if it seems hopeless. God surely has something amazing for you as you climb upward toward His help and His glorious presence and intervention in your life. 

Another Psalm to keep close to your heart when things are not going well is my all-time favorite: Psalm 121- A Song of Ascents. Songs (or Psalms) of Ascents are thought to be psalms that were sung by the people on the ascents (or going up) to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16) or by the kohanim (priests) as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Source: Easton's Bible Dictionary) Ascent...Summit...I think I see a connection here :) 

I'm praying that as you read Psalm 121 the peace of God will invade your life. That you will truly believe that each step of Your journey towards His heart is worth the effort. And that even when the steps take you through painful places, you still choose to praise Him. 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

   From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,
   who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
  the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time forth and forevermore.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He Will Direct Your Path

Make me to know Your ways, O LORD;
 teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
 for You are the God of my salvation;
 for You I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:4-5

This is another key verse for Summit 2. If you are reading this and don't know what the Summit is, it is a quarterly worship experience at my church (Lancaster Community Church). I have the honor as Worship Director of LCC to coordinate this worship event. The first one absolutely blew me away. God revealed Himself to us in the time we spent together that night, and we responded with hearts surrendered to Him in praise. It is a moment I will never forget. Summit 2 is coming up and so I'm spending the next couple of weeks blogging about the concepts we'll be covering at our event which has the theme, The Journey: Every Step is Praise.

This Psalm took on even more meaning for me today as I was sitting at my parent's house gazing out into the woods while my boys played nearby. I saw this gorgeous flower on the edge of the woods (I've had an intense fondness for flowers as long as I can remember). The flower had dark, rich green foliage and then this burst of tiny white flowers in a globular shape at the tip of the stem. Really breathtaking (if you're into that sort of thing). I stepped off the porch and walked closer to the base of the hill so that I could get a closer look and as I came closer, I realized that there were a few more behind it, and then several more behind that cluster, and then I realized that a great majority of that section of the forest was densely dotted with these beautiful flowers. But I had to walk a ways to view the full splendor of the scene before me.

This made me think about how our journey with God plays out. We get this beautiful glimpse that propels us to continue on, and then with each step closer to Him, we see even more. We respond with adoration and thanks to each attribute He reveals and each glorious interaction with Him. This ties in so nicely with Psalm 25:4-5. So often we think that knowing God or studying the Bible is difficult, but we have to understand that He leads us each individually and at the pace that He knows is best for us. He reveals to us what needs to be revealed, when it needs revealed. He's never going to lead us into more than we can handle and we can trust His path because His understanding of the future is complete. Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path."

The most important thing to understand about the Christian journey is that He is the one guiding us and He knows where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. Externally, God leads us by His word while internally, His Spirit guides and teaches us in all situations...IF we will surrender and allow that to happen. And when we do surrender and allow Him to lead us instead of charging ahead like an insolent child, we see His beauty and glory revealed in ways that we could never experience without Him. For some of us, we're just at the start of the journey catching a glimpse of the beauty ahead while others of us are climbing into the most beautiful territory we've ever seen. Still others are hanging on, vicariously grasping the rocky precipices, holding on for dear life. But all the while, no matter what stage of the path, He is leading us. And that is all that we need to know for our journey. 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Lifestyle of Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

I'd like to spend the next couple weeks looking at the Core Scripture Verses guiding the theme for Summit 2- The Journey: Every Step is Praise. I would love to hear from you about what each verse means to you.

For me, this verse is the definition of Worship. In the Jewish culture, sacrifices were their means of being justified before God. After the death of Jesus, that all changed as He was the atoning sacrifice for everyone. But still, the idea of a sacrifice was fresh in the culture of that day's mind, even after Jesus' death. So Paul says- give your entire body, your whole life as a sacrifice. Lift it up to God and say, I am Yours. Take me and use me as You see fit.

This concept goes against our Western Culture mindset though, doesn't it? We are seemingly destined to be self-absorbed, self-centered, self---everything! But to live a life of worship, we have to die to our selfish desires and offer up that which costs us the most- our very lives...our will...our plans...our dreams for the future...our selves. 

Pastor Matt shared this past Sunday the story of David being offered items for a sacrificial offering in 1 Chronicles 21. Essentially, David needed to offer a sacrifice to God to atone for something he had done wrong. A man named Ornan offered to give David all he needed for the sacrifice free of charge. 

David said, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing." 

For a sacrifice to truly be a sacrifice, it has to cost us something. 

It costs me nothing to sing the words during corporate worship while my mind drifts to what's for lunch.

It costs me nothing to tell someone I will be praying for them and then dismiss or forget the idea completely.

It costs me nothing to keep my Bible stored in my car for when I will need it on Sunday morning, but not bother to turn it's life giving pages during the week. 

It costs me nothing to quickly down my communion juice and bread while holding a grudge against a neighbor or not thinking about Jesus and His sacrifice for me. 

It costs me nothing (literally and figuratively) if I decide to not give my tithe because I want to buy something else in it's place...something that will surely see rot and decay in my lifetime. 

It costs me nothing to put on a happy face at church on Sunday and automatically morph into the ideal wife and mother, but then go around the rest of the week mistreating those who I cherish the most. 

Sacrificing anything for God is serious business. God deserves a personal and full response to His glory and authority in our lives. If our lives are truly lives of worship, they will also be lives of sacrifice. A lifestyle of sacrifice defines our worship, our giving, our relationships, our respect for spiritual disciplines, and our submission to those in authority over us. It does cost us to align our plans with God's plans. It takes commitment and trust to say to God, "I surrender!" It hurts to ask Him to break away the sin and strongholds that have captured you...it hurts A LOT! But to truly live lives of worship, those are the things that must happen. 

But in our life now and most definitely in the life to come, THE SACRIFICE WE MAKE NOW IS SO WORTH IT! 
So today, I urge YOU, as we have all seen the way that God has shown us His love and mercy, to respond with a life of sacrifice...your entire life one long response to His greatness. This is what true worship is all about. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Corporate Worship is Important

The thing I love most about corporate worship time is that it gives a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. The Bible references the scene that has been going on, is going on right now, and will continue to go on in Heaven several times. 

Isaiah 6:1-4
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 

Revelation 4:6b-11

 And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures,full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

   "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
   who was and is and is to come!"

 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
  "Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
   to receive glory and honor and power,
   for you created all things,
   and by your will they existed and were created."

It is clear from these two passages alone (and there are many more) that Heaven is a place where honor and glory are reserved and given only to God- praises are continually spoken, people are lying facedown at the thrown in awe and reverence. No distractions, no strongholds keeping us from true worship. Only us and God- He's right there in front of us! The only possible response in that situation is worship. 

If you think about the many disciplines that we as Christians adhere to (or should adhere to), like tithing, worship, service to others, fasting, solitude, study, prayer, confession...the list goes on and on... worship is the one that stands out to me as the main one that will continue in Heaven. Many of the other disciplines will cease to exist because there will not be a need for them in Heaven. But corporate worship will remain. To me, that is a clear sign that we need to embrace it now and learn as much about it as we can because it will be an eternal occupation. 

Sometimes our corporate gatherings feel a little less than heavenly though, right? And why is that? There are many reasons, but I would say chief among them is an unyielded heart. When you are really in love with someone, there is no way you can keep that silent. Everything you do is motivated by that love. You think about them day and night. You ration your time, money, belongings, your entire existence really, around the love you have for that person. The same should be said of God. If He really is your main priority, then all that we do and all that we have should be leveraged for His glory. We should reflect that passion for Him and obedience towards Him in our own lives and in our corporate gatherings. 

At our LCC Staff Retreat this past week, I posed the question- What would it be like if everyone came to church already full of God, not in need of a Sunday fill-up? What if they had been seeking Him and already worshiping Him throughout the week? The results would be incredible! People would come in to our corporate gathering already full, and the corporate worship and teaching time would then cause them to overflow. They would carry that overflow into their own spheres of influence and their adoration for God would spill out onto all they came in contact with. 

But that can only happen (and it definitely CAN happen) when we stop viewing church as a convenience store where we can get our God fill-up for the week. Our relationship with and worship of God has to be a daily process that we all choose. It is a choice- unfortunately, one of a gazillion choices. But if we make that choice, then our corporate gatherings truly will be a place where God is deservedly honored and adored. Where our hearts are set free to take on even MORE of His love- love for us and love for the world. Imagine all of the work we could achieve if we harnessed that kind of love! Imagine the deepened understanding and love of God we could have! Imagine the change we could be in our world! Imagine getting to Heaven and seeing it as a continuation of the life you lived on earth! 

But let's not just imagine it- let's do it! God has called us to live our lives for Him. All day, everyday. With or without music. Let everything we do be about Him and for Him. Amen! 

I encourage you to write down or print out the verse below and post it somewhere that you can read it every single day:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.   -Romans 12:1-2

Friday, May 20, 2011

Looking Back: Where We've Been and Where We're Headed

My sons and I watched old home videos the other day for an hour and a half. They loved seeing themselves as newborns in the hospital, their first birthday parties, and hearing themselves talk in cute baby babbles. I enjoyed it too. It seems like the time has gone really quickly, yet at the same time I can't really remember those moments as well as I'd like to-it's as if it's been forever since I've had little tiny babies in my house... It's a strange paradoxical situation.

I love watching my boys grow and change. I love looking back on days that have gone past far too quickly. It's awesome to see them learning more about God and seeing my oldest son take on the characteristics of a strong leader, while my youngest son delights in music, prayer, and helping others. They will make a formidable team someday :)

Watching those videos with them made me think about how different life is from year to year- how much we grow and change, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. God wants that for all of us. He wants us to change, to learn, to flourish and grow in Him.  God wants to see us grow in those areas, not only individually, but also within our church bodies. Ephesians 4:11-15 says,

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I also love watching my church, Lancaster Community Church, grow and change. I think back on the journey we have taken as a worshiping community and I am humbled and awed by what God has done and is doing. He has truly been with us every step of the way, even in times of uncertainty and difficulty, He has been there. I love seeing new faces week after week and hear the stories of lives being changed, chains being broken, lives being healed, eyes being opened as Christ is revealed. God loves it. He desires it. From the Ephesians passage above, we read that He wants us to put off childish ways and to grow up into Christ, equipped and effective, and held together by His unchanging love. 

I believe that as time goes on, we're going to see even more amazing things happen at LCC. By the power of God's love and walking in the ways of His truth, we will be a source of change in our community. We will begin to be students of the Word. We will live out our calling to worship Him in all we do and with all that we are. We will contribute daily to the Kingdom work and calling that God has for us. We will not forget the orphan, the widow, and those who are oppressed. We will be the hands and feet of Jesus in our family, our workplace, our world. I can feel the change happening right now. We're going from people who hear and know the Truth, to people who LOVE and LIVE OUT the Truth.

Take some time today to think about where you are. Look back on where you've been. And then look beyond your current circumstances to the future- the beautiful prospect of what could be. Then prayerfully take some steps to make sure that a year from now, when you look back, the place you will be Spiritually leaves you awestruck and filled with praise for what God did in your life.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who Has Inspired You Spiritually?

Louie Giglio, founder of the Passion movement and now Pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA has done more for my spiritual growth than he will ever know. This is a guy who thinks big. I mean REALLY big. This is a guy who loves Jesus. REALLY loves Jesus. At a time when I just wasn't quite sure what church was all about anymore in my college years, God truly worked in my life when my brother, Eric, bought a Passion CD for our family for Christmas. I fell in love with the songs right away and then began to explore the heartbeat and the organization behind the movement- and that was when we found Louie. Throughout our college years we were avid members of the Passion Movement. We once loaded up a van of friends and drove straight to Atlanta for a single evening service called "Passion on the Hill". 10 hours of driving for a 2 hour service! Totally worth it! We were at Oneday. We went to the Thirsty Conference 3 years in a row. We represented the Passion music label, sixstepsrecords. Passion was a huge part of our lives and God truly used it to form us into the worship leaders and Christ followers that we are today. 

In years when Jarrod and I were feeling called to ministry, in seasons when those ministries didn't work out  and we were feeling clueless and without a church home to anchor us, Louie was there, speaking God's truth and driving a passion for God deep into our souls. 

Last night, Louie's new church opened it's doors. Seriously, take some time to look at the pictures in the link below. Absolutely brilliant. Louie has served as an example to us about excellence in ministry, living a life of worship, living a missional life in our culture, and mostly, he has embodied what it means to really love Jesus. He has spoken into our lives for 12 years now and I pray that God blesses his new church beyond what anyone could ever imagine. I pray that Passion City Church equips and releases countless workers for the Kingdom, and that they would continue to be inspired and to inspire an intense passion for God to all they encounter. 

So inspired. So blessed. So amazed. 


And if you've never heard Louie teach before, or even if you have, you should listen to his messages here:


"Yes Lord, walking in the way of Your truth we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and renown are the desire of our souls.” Isaiah 26:8
-The guiding verse of the Passion movement.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. 

This is something I am learning slowly. I wouldn't come right out and say that I'm a Drama Queen, but I think some people would :) I like that author Beth Moore admits that she is a drama queen- "If you and I had the lives we keep asking God for, they would be so boring. If someone were reading them in a book, they would be put to sleep. This life is a place of drama. As you can imagine, I have been called a drama queen more times than a few, but I've got a drama King!" 

I'm not really good with sickness for either myself or my children. I remember the first time Silas got a stomach virus when he was 2, it was like the world was literally going to end. I was devastated to see my child sick. And he was sick for a couple weeks with it- off again, on again. And to add to the troubles, I was nursing a 6 week old baby. And then Jarrod got it. And then I got it. And I still had to nurse a 6-week old baby and try to hold everyone else together. We have awesome family members who got us through that bleak couple of weeks in November of 2008, but I still can recall the negativity and despondency that gripped me firmly throughout the whole ordeal. I was pulled down into the depths of misery. But looking back, I realize that I was the one pulling. 

We want someone to blame. We want to believe that God is in control, but then that thought leads to the question, "well, if He's in control, then why does He allow me to be sick?" So then you go to the other extreme, and say that Satan is to blame. I've been struggling with this idea and I think I have a good grip, at least for now, on what's going on in the midst of illness and suffering. 

It's simple really. 
1. When Adam sinned in the garden, illness, death, and sin came into the world. Being a citizen of the natural world and a descendent of the original sinner makes me vulnerable to illness and pain. 

2. Satan wants us to be miserable, but I have a hard time believing that he's going around injecting us with germs or forcing our hands to touch a germ-ridden spot. I certainly believe he can oppress and mess with our health (Have you ever read the book of Job?) but I don't fully believe the idea that every time we get sick it's the devil out to get us. I will say though that I believe how we deal with rough times is either going to give him the victory overall, or give God the victory. Our response determines who gets the game point. 

3. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Not a single moment goes without His stamp of approval-including moments of illness and pain.  This is a hard truth to swallow. God knows my kid has been throwing up all night. We have prayed, we have asked, we have faith that He can instantly heal. But for whatever reason, my kid couldn't even keep a couple sips of water in his body all night. So does God not care? 

4. Of course He cares. He knows what's going on at all times. He has the power to heal or not heal but He wants us to be whole and He wants us to be well. But we have to understand as humans that there is a lot going on that we don't realize and we just have to trust and stay in tune with God through prayer and His word before, during, and after hard times come. 

Beth Moore says it really well again: "If you and I are going to walk in trust, we have to set aside all those conditional elements until we can say, "God, I just trust You. I don't trust You to do what I tell You to do, in Jesus name. I'm going to choose to just trust You! I'm going to trust that even if my worst nightmare happens, You've got some purpose. There must be some huge glory at stake, things I do not understand until I see You face-to-face." We've got to know down in the depths of our hearts that God will take care of us and that even in painful situations, He must be about a huge work of glory. There must be much at stake in the heavenly realms." 

So I am coming to realize that the event, be it sickness, disaster, chaos of whatever kind, is not of primary importance. What is of primary importance is our response to the event. 

We have to come to the place where unconditional surrender and faith is our response to trials, not an unattainable idea that we wish we could grasp. We have to believe that there is a greater purpose and that our response will weigh heavily on heavenly situations and will be an authentic signal to the world that we know where our help comes from. We have to look at each situation we face and allow ourselves to experience pain and go through the hurt, but suffering and dwelling on negative feelings is truly our choice. The drama alternative is hardly worth the effort- take it from me. The alternative of releasing the outcome and resting in the peace and hope that God is in charge is so freeing. 

Though we have a good mixture of stomach bugs and impending surgery right now, I have to say it's been a great couple of days to just relax and take it easy with my family. We have laughed and laughed this morning in the midst of all the yuck and we're going to relax together today and take it easy. That doesn't happen often enough- maybe it takes getting sick to realize what a treasure we have when we're healthy. Maybe it makes us all pull together and pull closer to God. Maybe it sets us up for a more consistent prayer life- the trick is to keep the prayers flowing even when health or stability return. Maybe it's a chance for us to see God as healer, provider, and sustainer. 

Whatever the reason, I am convinced it must be a good trade for some reason and that my response is what counts. I have hope in Him and that is all the hope I need. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Prayer

I have learned over the last couple of days the power that lies within our prayers. It has become more clear to me than ever that prayer is just as much for us as it is for God. When we bring our requests to God, it's not like we're dropping some bomb on Him that He didn't know about. The scriptures say in Matthew 6:8 that "your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." He knows what's going on and He even knows how it will all turn out in the end.

So why even bother with prayer in the first place? Well, let me tell you a little about the last couple of days in the life of the Crawford family. Without going into too much detail, we noticed something just wasn't right with Cohen as he was running about naked (as he often does) the other day and made an appointment. The Nurse Practitioner sent for the Doctor of the medical practice right away, and then he got on the phone with a Children's Hospital Pediatric Urologist right away. The Urologist cleared out his schedule for the morning so that we could come up. I knew this was more than just a little bump from a bike seat at that point. 

I used to consider myself the Queen of What If's ... Mrs. Worst Case Scenario. My mind started to race. On my LCC video segment for Easter, I stated that I was overcome by worry, but He overcame...well, I wasn't so sure that was the case. As I felt the all-to familiar waves of worry rising, I knew that this moment called for something different. I began to pray. I really just started to sink into the comforting arms of our Father and yes, I was a little nervous, but no tears were shed, no breakdowns were had. Every time a nagging thought would start to enter I would pray it out. The scriptures say that we should be "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:5) Silas started throwing up last night at midnight and I thought for a second that I would crumble- one kid scheduled to meet with a surgeon for an unknown issue that could potentially require surgery, one kid screaming, crying in pain, and throwing up. Recipe for Carrie Catastrophe.  But I closed myself in the bathroom, lifted my hands and said, simply, "God...we need You. Now." And He let us know that He was with us. 

See, I think we sometimes love the idea that "God is with us", but we disregard or are ignorant of the fact that we have to be with Him also. Prayer and a relationship with God require communication and a give and take partnership. So often in the past when a problem would rise, I would just withdraw and worry myself sick. I would believe in my heart that God was in control and knew what was going on, but I did not consult Him to deal with my feelings and reactions. It's when we not only believe that God is sovereign and powerful, but that we also draw from His sovereignty and power through prayer or His word, that we can begin to face and deal with a problem head on. That is when worry can be overcome. The difference for me in this situation was that God was with me, but I was also with Him continually. 

So, Cohen ended up having a hydrocele, sort of like a hernia. It will require surgery next week on Wednesday at Children's Hospital. He will be under general anesthesia. I am not going to lie...I am a little nervous about all that. But the fact that I'm not paralyzed with fear and playing out the worst case scenarios in my head right now is truly a miracle. I don't have that pit of fear in my stomach. Every time an anxious thought pops into my head, I send it packing with prayer. And it is a great feeling to know that others are praying as well. Prayer changes situations, but more importantly, prayer changes people. It has certainly changed me. 

Be blessed friends and thank you for your prayers. They have certainly been a great comfort to me. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Deeps: A Puritan Prayer

How sad am I that I had a little leather bound book full of Puritan Prayers and lost it? Very. But how happy am I that I found a website with some of my favorites from the book on it? VERY!

We plowed our new vegetable garden last night and then I stumbled across this very awesome prayer from long, long ago. It really resonated with me as I had just watched sunbaked, weed-riddled dirt be ripped apart by tiller tines to reveal fertile, rich soil underneath. May we all have the courage to ask God to do the same work in our lives. Enjoy the following Puritan Prayer entitled, "The Deeps".

The Deeps

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Compelled to Pray


I am so excited right now about what God is doing in my church, in my life, and in the lives of people all around me. I feel like more than anything else today, God is calling us to pray- to truly seek Him and let Him know that we're open and ready to answer His call. He wants to reveal things to us, but first He wants to make sure that we're ready to respond. He wants surrender and willingness to move in step with His Spirit in our lives.

 I am inviting you to spend whatever time you can today in focused prayer. Here are some prayer points to consider:

  • Pray for an awakening in our churches- that people would authentically respond to God with their entire lives, but also by displaying outward expressions of worship when we meet corporately. That they would be able to release what is holding them back and embrace the freedom that only Jesus can give.  "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor. 3:17
  • Pray for our church leaders- that God would really stir their hearts this week for the people He has entrusted to them and also that they would be driven to their knees in prayer for the lost people of their communities. Ask God to empower them to fulfill His kingdom work in our communities- that they would truly understand and use their gifts, talents, and abilities to lead us toward Him confidently ."As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:10-11
  • Pray about your own heart. What kind of shape is it in today? Are you feeling whole? Are you feeling broken? What sins or offenses are interfering with your relationship with God? Repent and ask God to fill you with His love. He wants you to be free from your past and open to what He is doing in the present and in the future. Distractions abound, but so does His grace and His ability to free you.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,"  Luke 4:18
  • Pray for an outpouring of God's power on our entire world. It's a huge request, but we have a huge God! Pray that our generation would truly rise up and be concerned about justice and mercy in our world. So much of who we are and what we do is about our own needs, our own concerns, our own families. There is an entire world that is hurting and in need of God's love and mercy. We are the ones who carry His name, love, and mercy to the waiting world. Ask Him to equip you and to begin to show you ways that you can participate in the global calling of the church. I know for me, God has really been speaking to my heart about the millions of orphans around the world. Whether He wants me to support this cause financially, with prayer, or by actually adopting, I do not know, but I'm open and asking Him to show me what He wants. I invite you to do the same. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another,do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zechariah 7:9-10
The neediness of our own hearts and in the world around us is almost overwhelming to consider, but we have to remember that the God we serve is so great, so mighty, and so in charge, that nothing is too big or too impossible for Him. What He wants is willing people to do His work and though He does not need our prayers to do what He needs to do, I think He wants them- He wants to know that we're in step with His ways and work before He entrusts such important work to us. We've got to feel what He feels, love what He loves, and do what He does if we are going to make a difference. Let's seek Him today and see what He will reveal.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 25:4-10