Saturday, December 24, 2011

treasure . . . ponder . . .

According to the clock on my computer it's been December 24 for 2 minutes right now. Christmas Eve. How did it get here so fast? Seriously. I'm sure that it was just the beginning of December a couple days ago! Things in life seem to be going by so fast lately.
When I stop to think and realize how fast time seems to be going, I find myself starting to wonder if this is how life is really supposed to lived? I mean, did Jesus come to earth as the promised and long-awaited Messiah for us to just try to fit Him into the busy-ness of our lives? Is life meant to be so busy we feel like days or weeks or months have just disappeared?

I think we miss a lot when we just allow life to pass us by. But sometimes that seems like all we can do as we try to keep up. And then when we do stop for a moment, we realize that far too much time has passed us by and we don't even remember how we used that time.

I wonder what things would be like if we didn't allow time to pass by as we were busily running from one thing to the next. What if we took time to stop and savour every conversation with someone? Every sunset or sunrise? Every night sky? Every moment of beauty we see? What would life be like then? I don't think we would so often stop to find that days just seem to have disappeared.

It makes me wonder if Jesus' birth was one of those moments for Mary and Joseph, for the shepherds, for the wise men. One of those moments where they did stop to take it all in. It was a world-changing event. God come to earth in human form. Scripture tells us that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19, NIV). It seems to me like Mary was taking the time to really stop and notice all that was going on, rather than just allowing things to slip by.

It's something that has come up on more than one occasion for me in this last month. Those words from Luke 2:19. Maybe there's a reason. Maybe I need to stop and do the same thing as Mary did. Maybe, just maybe, I need to stop and treasure the moments with family and friends, the beauty that surrounds me where I live, the incredible gift from God that we're celebrating during this season.

After all, I have much reason to thank God for all He has given me:
-for sisters and brother-in-laws that are all here to spend time with
-for parents who love all their kids
-for laughter with family gathered around the table
-for a job that I love most days
-for a church that I can be involved in and a church family that cares
-for friends that make my life better just by being a part of it
-for a good place to live and more than enough food
-for freedom to worship and follow God
-for a God that loves us all enough that He would stop at nothing to reconcile us to Himself
-for the gorgeous part of the world God has provided for me to live in
There's so much more I could add. And so much of that I don't even notice in a day. The moments that could be treasured are passed by without a second thought.

But, the good thing is that can change. I can choose to treasure and ponder those things. And so can you. We may not always get it. We may get caught up in the busy-ness of life from time to time. We may take things for granted sometimes. But, when we find ourselves doing so, we can choose again to treasure those moments, to ponder the significance of them. We don't have to stay caught up in a life that passes us by without us knowing it. We can choose a different way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

christmas music

I've never really been a fan of Christmas music. Just ask my former roommates my reaction if they played or sung Christmas music before December 1. But over the past few weeks, I've found myself choosing to listen to more of it than I have in the past. It's prompted me to think about why I'm not really a fan of Christmas music.

I think one of the big reasons comes from being in band from grade seven through to grade twelve. We started working on Christmas music by the beginning of October. Long before the Christmas concert date came and very long before Christmas actually came I was tired of the same songs. I don't think it helped that we seemed to play the same songs in band every year - just different arrangements of them most years. And even though the selection of songs was limited, I just grouped everything into the same category.

But ten years past my last band Christmas concert, I would hope I was over the majority of that. (But, if I hear "Carol of the Bells" more than once over the Christmas season, I will still run screaming from wherever that place was. I can still play that one in my sleep. I don't know if I'll ever get over being tired of that song.) So I've been pondering to see if high school band was the only reason for my dislike of Christmas music.

I've noticed that while I'm listening to more Christmas music this year, it's all of a limited portion of the Christmas music options av available. I'm still driven crazy by the songs about Santa or what we want for Christmas or white Christmases or things along those lines. I have nothing personally against any of it, but there is so much more to Christmas than that. The songs that don't drive me crazy and that I enjoy listening to are the one's that speak of Jesus' birth and what it means for the world that the Messiah has come. There just seems to be something to those songs that the other songs don't have in them.

Surrounded by a world that focuses on materialism and getting what we want at this time of year it's easy to lose focus on what we're actually celebrating as followers of Christ. And music can easily turn our thought - sometimes without us knowing it has done so. That's why I think I get so easily frustrated with Christmas music. Music definitely influences my thought and I want them to be focused on the right thing at this time of year.

I've never understood some of the really sappy songs that come out at Christmas either - some from Christian groups and some not. I don't understand how they fit. Sure it's a time we often spend with those we love and care about. Maybe I just don't get it because I spend time with my family year round and feel the same way about them all the time. I don't know. That part of Christmas music just doesn't make sense to me.

So, I guess I don't really dislike all Christmas music as much as I thought I did. I just don't like some of it. And maybe I don't need to try to avoid it like the plague for as long as possible as Christmas draws near.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

God is with us

I'm not usually a fan of Christmas music. I tend to get tired of it pretty quickly, but for the last week or so, there has been a song that has stuck in my head and I have listened to it over and over again. It's called "God is With Us" and it's on Castong Crowns' Christmas Album "Peace on Earth".

The message of the song is the same of lots of other Christmas music, but for some reason this song has struck me and stuck with me in light of my great-grandmaother passing away almost a week ago.

"God is in us. God is for us. God is with us."

That's a truth to hold onto when life brings the unexpected your way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I had intentions of having a series of posts that followed the different Sundays of Advent, but as is clear because there is no post from two days ago, that is not happening quite the way I expected it to. Sometimes life gets in the way of our plans.

The Sunday that we lit the candle of peace at church was also the Sunday that my great-grandmother passed away. It seems almost fitting in an odd sort of way. After 98 years of life on earth, my great-grandma is ultimately at peace.

I know I have been lucky to have great-grandparents in my life for so long. They may not have always understood my world, but they loved me nonetheless. Every time I saw them, I never doubted that they cared about and loved their entire family's, including me. I heard stories of life in a world I could only imagine. And I was inspired to follow God in my own life by their example.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Today was the first Sunday of Advent. For the last few years I haven't thought much about the significance of these weeks leading up to Christmas. I guess growing up in the church it just seemed like we did the same thing every year and I lost some of the significance of it all. But last night when the first Advent candle was lit, something stuck with me.


That's what this candle was all about.


Something our world needs.


Something we hold onto tightly in many of life's circumstances.


The expectant desire of something. In this case, the expectation of the coming Messiah. Today, we know that Jesus came and all that He did on our behalf to reconcile us to God. But, I've been thinking a bit about how it would have felt to be an Israelite waiting for the Messiah to come.

Prophets had predicted His coming. Yet, in all these years of waiting, the Messiah had yet to come. The Messiah was their hope. And they had hoped for years without seeing the Messiah come. Proverbs says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. If I had been an Israelite then, I think I may have had a hard time holding on to hope for all that time. I would have gotten discouraged and begun to doubt if what the prophets had predicted was really going to happen.

And so to day was the first Sunday Advent and the candle of hope was lit. Hope. We all have it at times. And I would say we all need it in our lives. Without hope life can get depressing. But, when our hope never comes to fruition it can be demoralizing. But, we have to hold onto hope. In many ways it keeps us moving forward.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

dreams on hold?

A couple of days ago, I read a quote that challenged me and made me think. It talked about putting dreams on hold when we have things to work on in our lives.

"One of the lessons I have learned in six and a half decades of life is that very few dreams should go on hold while you improve the shortcomings of your life. ... To be sure, there are times when you need to stop what you are doing and focus on conquering a flaw. But of you wait till all your shortcomings are remedied, you dreams will die. All our advances are with a limp.
If you wait till you are beyond criticism to pursue your dream, you will never do it. You won't marry or stay married. You won't decide to have children or raise them. You won't take your first job or keep it. You won't go into missions or stay there. ... Few things paralyze people more than their own imperfections. And there are always people around to remind you of your flaws and suggest you can't move forward until you're better." (John Piper, Bloodlines)

When I read that, it seemed like all my excuses for not pursuing my dreams were shot down in a couple of paragraphs. How often do we do exactly that? We have a list of things in our lives that we feel we have to fix before we can even begin to think about pursuing our dreams.

And the reality is that when we think that way, we often don't ever get around to pursuing our dreams. We just continue to have more things we need to work on. Or the time it takes us to feel like we have actually fixed anything is just long enough that we lose enough of the excitement for our dream that we don't follow through on pursuing it.

The sentence from the quote that seemed to jump off the page at me was: "All our advances are with a limp." There is incredible truth in that statement. We don't move forward in life perfectly. As we pursue our dreams, we will make mistakes and we discover things about ourselves that we need to change or "fix." We do move forward with a limp. The important thing is that we do move forward.

What are your dreams? Are you pursuing them? Why are you not pursuing them?

Those are some of the questions that have been running through my head since I read that quote. Maybe they can challenge or encourage you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

first snowfall

Yesterday was the first snowfall of the year. And it was more than just a dusting of snow. The drive home from work was a slow drive on slippery roads. It would have been easy to be nothing but frustrated with the snow and the challenges or inconveniences it can bring.

This picture is from Jan 2011.
I didn't have my camera yesterday.
But, I was struck by something as I was shovelling the snow off my steps. I don't mind shovelling snow - as long as it's just a small space I have to shovel. Even though there was vehicles driving on the roads on both sides of the house, the only sound I could hear was my shovel scraping on the steps. In a world that is so busy and noisy all the time, it was a refreshing few minutes.

It reminded me of why I love going for walks in the snow so much. The layer of white on everything looks so peaceful and the silence that it seems to bring to the world. I enjoy the escape that it brings. When I'm out walking in the snow, for some reason it seems easier to leave the rest of what is going on in my life behind.

It makes me wonder how to find those moments in life more? How can we create those moments where we leave the busy-ness and noise of the world behind and just enjoy the silence?

Monday, November 14, 2011

random thoughts

Well, for the last couple of weeks I have had a few thoughts in my head that have never made it to a blog post. Partly because I was not sure they were coherent yet. And partly because my computer died, and I'm boring my sister's netbook. The keyboard is significantly smaller than I'm used to so typing is a bit of a challenge, but at least I have a computer to use until I get a new one.

Since the retreat I went on last weekend, I have been thinking about the masks we often wear when we're around church people. We've probably all done it at one time or another - we go to church event and we paste a smile on our faces and tell everyone we're fine no matter what is really going on in our lives. But, something I've seen happen at the last few retreats I've gone to is that the masks come down. In that environment it seems like, at least to some degree, we stop caring about what others think of us. I wonder if we need to learn to take that feeling of being free to be ourselves from retreats into the rest of our lives. Hiding behind our masks is not a healthy way to live. I know I enjoy life more when I take down the masks, but it does not always come easy.

Do you ever wonder what you would do if you didn't have to worry about money? Have you ever thought about what you would do? A couple of people have asked me this question in the last couple of weeks. It's more difficult to answer than I thought. The world tells us we should be practical and plan for the future. We don't dream big. Or, if we do, we don't admit it to anyone. But being asked this question has made me think, made me dream. What about you? What would you do if you didn't have to think about the cost?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I spent the last weekend at a women's retreat. As I was reflecting a bit on the weekend tonight, it seemed like a poem fit the way I would describe it.

Friday night at the retreat
Laughter and conversation rings
There's an excitement in the air
Just the beginning of some time away
With girlfriends and with God

Late night, laughter, games
Dance party in the games room
Everyone gets involved
No expectations or judgement
Let's just have some fun

Time in worship and in prayer
God is the reason that we gather here
"God we want to hear from You -
Pleas meet us here?"
We come with expectation

The lives we have at home
The things that fill our hours
Are left behind for hours
So we can hear from God
And grow together in His Word

Sunday lunch comes too soon
It's time to head back home
Conversations, prayers, and tears
Have made up our weekend
They go home with us

God did show up amongst us
He drew us close to Him
He drew us close to others
Our lives changed if we allowed it
Because God has been at work

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

proverbs 3:5-6

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

I have heard these verses quoted many times and in many situations. I can say them without really thinking about what they actually say. I have done so, but when I read them today, I found myself stopping to meditate on them - asking myself whether the words of these verses were true in my life and what it would look like if they were.

Do I trust in the Lord with all my heart?
What does it look like to trust the Lord with all my heart?
Or am I leaning on my own understanding?
What does it mean to lean on my own understanding?
Am I acknowledging God in all my ways?
What does it look like to acknowledge God in all my ways?

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a passage of Scripture that is pretty straightforward in what it says, but I wonder if that can mean we don't take the time to reflect on them as carefully as we would a passage that is more difficult to understand. But I would say that living life in this way is probably more difficult than it seems like it should be.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, October 17, 2011

questioning another's salvation?

I read something in this last week that really got my ire up. It seemed as though the author was questioning whether someone struggling with sin was saved. The way it was written, a person reading it would feel as though their salvation was being questioned if they struggled in that area. I found myself disagreeing with that way of looking at things immediately when I read it and now a few days later, I still feel much the same way.

When a person is struggling with sin in their lives we have the responsiblity to challenge them on it and encourage them to turn from it. But, I do not feel that it is appropriate to question whether they are saved. That is not our place. God alone is the One who knows whether or not a person is truly saved, and it is not our place to try to determine that.

Scripture gives us examples of how to and tells us that we should go to fellow believers and confront them on sin we see in our lives. And we should do this because we love them. But, no where in the Scriptures do I see them saying that we should question whether someone has received salvation.

Matthew 18:15-17 is probably one of the passages of Scripture that I have heard used most often when it comes to this topic. I talks about going to the person and confronting him about his sin, first privately, then with a couple of others, and then with whole church. After all of that, it says to stop feloowshipping with the person if they are continuing to live in sin and refusing to repent of it. No where in this passage do I see Jesus saying anything about questioning someone's salvation. What I see is Jesus teaching His followers to confront the sin they see in another believer's life - to deal with what they know is true and observable.

1 Corinthians 5 is another passage where confronting the sin of another. But, again, it is speaking of confronting the sin and taking the steps necessary for the person to come to repentance, not of going to them and saying, "Are you really saved?" That is something we cannot know.

We are not to tolerate and ignore flagrant sin within the body of Christ. We should confront and challenge one another on it, and hopefully that confrontation and challenge will lead to repentance of sin. And if it does not, then the person living in the sin should face the consequences of their sin in not being a part of the fellowship of believers. But, no where in either of these passages do I see anything that teaches that we should try to decide whether or not another person, who claim to be a believer, is actually saved. That is not our job.

I would be the first to admit that confronting sin in another's life is hard. It is not something to be taken lightly. And, we do not tend to do it very well in our churches these days, but that does not mean this is not the way God intends for it to happen. Just because we do not want to say anything to someone about the sin in their life does not mean that we should change our ways and beign questioning their salvation.

Now, I know that I have probably opened a can of worms, so to speak, with this topic and all reading may not agree with me. Since I do not claim to be an expert on this, I am okay if you do not agree. If you explain why and how you disagree, I will listen to (read) your thoughts. The only way to grow is to be challenged on what we are doing and on what we think or understand about things related to our faith.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

transparent? vulnerable?

One of the speakers at one of the conferences I attended recently talked about these two words as being different from each other when it comes to interactions with others. And it started me thinking. Then, at the next conference there was another session on vulnerability that kept me thinking about it.

The first speaker described being transparent with others as being honest at a safe distance. That made sense to me - I have done that in my own life. It is easy to let others know the truth about our circumstances or even about how we felt about something that has happened.

She then moved on to define being vulnerable as allowing someone to get close enough to tough you, and possibly even hurt you. Being vulnerable means we let people into our mess and letting them see what goes on beneath the surface of what we portray to the world around us. This is much harder to do - especially if you have been hurt doing this in the past.

The speaker at the second conference who spoke on vulnerability talked about three fears we have to overcome to be vulnerable: 1) the fear of being rejected, 2) the fear of being embarrassed, and 3) the fear of feeling inferior. The possibility of those things happening can definitely keep us from being vulnerable in any situation.

As I think more about it, I am beginning to wonder if being vulnerable with others is more vital to our lives than we give it credit for. We know that we were designed for community, but that community does not happen well when we are only transparent with one another. True community happens when we are vulnerable with others - when we take the chance of being hurt by others because we let them get that close.

So, I find myself evaluating my own life. Am I vulnerable with others? Or just transparent? Does something with this need to change in my life? What about in your life? Are you vulnerable with others? Or just transparent?

Friday, October 7, 2011

information overload?

In the past three weeks, I have been at two different conferences. There is so much stuff running around my head that I have not been able to write anything that is remotely coherent. Even now, I am not sure I have a lot to say. There is still so much to think through and figure out how what I heard at these conferences needs to affect my life.

This has made me think about our culture as a whole. There is so much information available to us all the time. We do not have to go find a book to look it up or even go home to our computers to look something up. We just pull out our phones and find the information right there. And not just information if we are curious about something. The news is at our fingertips too.

Are we suffering from information overload? Is there something to be said for having a break from access to all that information and news all the time? Do we need to make the choice to step back from this information overload?

Monday, September 26, 2011

how do you pray?

My question is not so much about the practice of talking to God, but about physically what prayer involves for people. I guess, what I mean is whether prayer involves getting on your knees or your face before God, or praying with a group of people, or a specific place to pray, or whether prayer involves walking through a space for any given person.

I have been thinking about this for a while. I know all the things that prayer could involve that I listed above are good things. I would say, even necessary things. There are times when it is most appropriate to be on our knees or on our faces before God in prayer. There are times when we pray with others. There are times when we need to withdraw to a quiet place to pray. There are times when we may feel that a prayer walk is most effective.

And we will all have ways that we choose to pray more often than others because they are a way that works best for us to talk with God. That is a good thing. We are all made differently and we will all talk to God and hear from God best in different ways.

I was reminded this weekend that for me I talk to God best and hear from Him more clearly when I am walking through nature. I went for a walk through a park near my home and for the first time in a while felt like I was really able to have a conversation with God about things.

What about for you? Is there something you do or a place you to go to where you have the best conversations with God?

I do think that a problem arises when we try to tell other people how they have to pray - whether that be a specific time, place, way. Each person is different and that needs to be acknowledged and reflected in how we approach prayer. We need to allow for each other's differences.

Now, in saying that, I am not saying that we should never pray in a way that is not how we best communicate with God. I am not the most comfortable with prayer in groups, but that does not mean I never pray with others. I still make that a regular and important part of my life. But, it does mean that I am not going to choose to pray with others all the time. And if someone tries to tell me I have to, I will probably not be very happy about it and I will push back. There are times when I will pray in a group with people and there are times when I will still be in prayer about the same things, but I will choose to separate myself from the group and pray in a way that I feel I can best pray at that time.

We need to respect that everyone prays differently. And not try to force them to pray the way we do. We can encourage them and challenge them to try praying different ways - whether that be in a group or on a prayer walk or in a quiet place - but we must try to get them to conform to what we feel is best for us.

So, that leaves me with a question that I am still pondering: how do you pray?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

i just don't get it

"I just don't get it."

Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought that? I know I have many times. I know it's important to read the Bible and to learn what it says, but sometimes that can be difficult. It's not always clear what is meant or how what it says will help in our lives.

"I just don't get it."

I don't know about you, but for me that has sometimes been an excuse to not read the Bible. I reason that if I don't understand all of what I'm reading, then it's not worth my time. I want to understand what I read right away.

"I just don't get it."

What if there was a different way to go about it? What if instead of walking away from all of it, because we don't get part of it, we decide to instead obey what we do get? What if we started to pay attention to what we do get and obey it? Maybe then we will better understand more of what the Bible has to say. I know that has worked for me, when I've actually done it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The other day I can across a poem I wrote on September 11, 2001. It seemed unfinished, until I reflected on it today and wrote a bit more. I have been a little reflective in light of it being a decade since that fateful, ultimately, world changing day. Life is certainly different now, than it was then.

September 11, 2001
The day the world changed
Four planes hijacked
Two towers crumbled
Thousands lost their lives
It seemed so far away
And yet it seemed so close

September 11, 2001
Nothing will ever be the same
An act of terror changes all
What once seemed impossible
Is now reality in my corner of the world
A safe place seems safe no longer
The world is forever changed

September 11, 2011
Ten years later
The world is a different place
Forever changed by one day
That no one can forget
There is no going back
To what it was before

September 11, 2011
The events of a decade ago
Still etched on everyone's minds
As if they happened yesterday
So many heroes died that day
As they tried to save another
They will not be forgotten

Just a little while ago, I came across this link to a video that was a moving tribute to those on 9/11.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

my dad

In the past few months I have had many opportunities to think about my dad and to reflect on the fact that I am lucky to still have him in my life. I have written about most of the rest of my family - my mom, my sisters, my grandparents - on this blog, but my dad has been absent from most posts. This has not been intentional, but it has been unfortunate when I reflect on it now. I still have my dad around and in my life regularly, but I know far too many people who do not, and I do not want to take that for granted.

My dad is a man who works hard to provide for his family. I have always admired that in him. And yet, as a little kid, I still remember the excitement my sisters and I had when he came home from work each day. We would run to greet him and he would quickly have his arms full of three kids. I do not know if that was the best part of the day for him, but it was for us.

Involvement at church was always modelled as important. My dad has always been involved in something at church. And I grew up feeling that it was something that was an important part of life, because my dad made it a priority in his life.

Growing up, life included a never-ending series of water fights and throwing nerf balls or other stuffed toys around. The right comment at the right time would bring laughter and something thrown. Or in the midst of a water fight, a bucket of water dumped on my head.

I guess I sometimes find it so easy to forget about all these good things about my dad, because we do not always get along well. We have our differences and they have ended in fights more than they should have. And then I do forget about the good stuff. It seems easier to focus on the bad stuff in relationships, but the last few months on many opportunities I have been reminded of how lucky I am to have the dad I do.

I know that my dad does not read this blog, and will probably never know what I have written here unless I show it to him, and maybe I will one day. I am proud to call my dad, my dad. And, even in the times when we are not getting along I would not change having him as my dad for anything. I know that when it gets down to it, he will be there when I need him, no matter what, and I know that he loves me. I could not ask for more.

Monday, September 5, 2011

failure? or an opportunity to learn and try again?

I was struck by a quote that I came across the other day.
If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. (Mary Pickford)

From my experience, I would say that much of the time our world defines failures as it something not working the first time. Even the dictionary defines failure this way: "an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success; nonperformance of something due, required, or expected." But, maybe this definition limits us and holds us back from things.

What if we began to see failure as not getting up and trying again when something does not work. Maybe, like the quote above, we need to see things as mistakes and seek to learn from them and try again. How would that change things?
When I read that, I found myself reflecting on what it is that I call failure in my life. Do I see failure as the times when I try something and it does not work as I hoped it would? Or do I see failure as the times when I try something and it does nto work as I hoped it would, but I get back up an try again?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

friends . . . are we really honest with one another?

Are we really honest with our friends? Do we really want them to be honest with us?

When things are going well with our friends, it can be easy to be honest with them. When things in their life seem to be going along smoothly being honest with them does not cost us anything. And the same works in reverse. When everything in our lives is going well, it can be easier for our friends to be honest with us.

But, what about when being honest could cost something? Are we honest then?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

judging worship

Have you ever been in a church service and found yourself judging whether you like the way the band was playing the songs? Or whether you liked the songs in the first place? Or whether you thought the musical interludes were too long?

I will admit it, I have. I still do that sometimes. Although I wish I did not. And my guess would be that most people have had these thoughts (even if only briefly) at one point or another - even if they would never admit it.

Lately, I have been wondering how harmful this can actually be for us. When we are doing this, we are not worshipping God in any way. Rather, we are setting ourselves up as the authority on worship. And we are moving away from God, not closer to Him. The attitude of our hearts is in need of a change when we find ourselves doing this.

"It's helpful to remember that the world, the devil, and our flesh actively oppose our desire to give God the glory He alone deserves. The real worship wars aren't about music styles, forms, and practices. They're secretly waged in our hearts, as idols try to rob us of our passion to exalt God above everything. If we aren't aware of those worship wars, we'll have a difficult time understanding or experiencing worship that honors God, no matter what it is we're doing on the outside." (Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 3, Dec 1/05)
Satan wants to get our minds off of what they should be in worship. One of the easiest ways he can do this is to get us thinking about our preferences in relation to what the worship team is doing. Corporate worship choices may not always line up with our preferences, but we should still do our best to keep our focus on God and not get distracted by what we like or do not like about it.

If our problem with worship comes because it is not biblically or theologically correct, we need to seek the proper channels to deal with that with those in leadership. But if the problem we are having is because of personal preference, maybe it is our hearts that need changing, not what the band is doing or the songs being sung.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

why do we emphasize the emotional response is worship?

I have done and I have heard other do the same - we evaluate the worship during a church service by our own or others' emotional response to it. We evaluate worship by how much energy the music had or how many people responded publicly with a request for prayer or with tears. There is nothing wrong with any of these being a part of our worship, but they should not be how we evaluate it. God can be just as present in a service with none of that as in a service with it. And He can be just as absent from a service fill of emotion as from a service with no emotion. Our emotional response is not an indicator of how "good" a worship service was.

"Each time we meet to worship the triune God, He should be the all-consuming center of our attention and affections. His greatness and splendor should become bigger in our minds, hearts, and wills. His desires and commands should become more precious to us. Jesus Christ and His atoning work should become more glorious and amazing to us." (Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 2, Nov 30/05)
These things can involve an emotional response, but it is not required. The important thing in evaluating worship is that God was glorified and exalted through that time spent together singing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

worship in church services

A couple of week ago I wrote a blog about what worship is. That blog was in response to questions about what worship is that I was mulling over. I came to the conclusion that worship is a response to God and encompasses much more than just singing songs.

In the days since I wrote that post, I have found myself thinking more and more about the part of our church services where to do what we commonly call worship - or in other words, singing.
  • Why do we call that worship?
  • Why is singing so important to (most of) us?
  • Why have we taken a word that encompasses so much and used it describe just a small part of the time we gather as a community of believers?
I once again, do not feel like I have the definitive or the only possible answers to these questions. The following is only my thoughts and the insights I have gained from conversations with others and things I have read.

The first question of why we call singing in church services worship is the one I have had running through my head the most. I was reading some more on the Worship Matters blog and came across some attempts to answer this question that are written far more succinctly than my attempts to say much the same thing.

"But, why do we sing? Let me suggest three reasons. We sing to remember God's Word. We sing to respond to God's grace. We sing to reflect God's glory." (What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 6, Feb 7/06)
"Singing is meant to be a tool that help us remember those words - God's deeds, attributes, promises, and warnings." (What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 7, Feb 8/06)
When I think about it, I learned a lot about God and the Bible as a child from the songs we learned in Sunday School and at summer camp. Even today, I still remember Scripture better if it is in a song.

Music and singing is one way express our worship to God, but it is only one way we do so. As much as it is an important part for myself and for many others I know, I am glad it is not the only way we can worship.

Which brings me to my next question: Why have we taken a word that encompasses so much and used to describe just a small par o the time we gather as a community of believers?

To quote Worship Matters again:
"Worship doesn't begin when the singing starts, nor end when the music stops. We don't 'do worship' in a meeting, nor compartmentalize it to the singing section. Romans 12:1 clearly says that worship is about what we do with our lives." (What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 16, March 1/06)
It is easy to call the time with music and singing in church worship and it is accurate, as long as we are not limiting it to that. All of the time we are gathered together as a community of believers can be worship - whether we are singing, or praying together, or listening to someone preach, or sharing testimonies, or sharing conversation and getting involved in each others lives over food.

We must be careful to not limit our understanding of worship to being only singing by calling the music worship, when all of it can and should be worship.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

late night (or rather, early morning) thoughts

I have been thinking a lot about family these days. I spent the last two months living with them, and then they spent a day off from work helping me move and assemble my furniture. Sometimes I think I can take them for granted. I just assume that they will always be there.

But, in the last week, I have been thinking more about how short life can be. Friends of mine lost their father in an accident. This is far from the first time I have walked with friends who were facing loss or faced loss myself, but it is the first time I had the contrast of my family all being there to help me when I needed it while the news of my friends' loss was still fresh in my mind.

My family drives me up the wall sometimes - especially when I live with them - but I cannot imagine my life without them. I do not want to take for granted that they are there and that they will help me out when I need it. This past week has been a reminder that it can all change in an instant.

(OK, total change of thought direction here)

I have sometimes wondered if the emphasis on needing or wanting your own space in our culture can be a negative thing. It seems like people think you are strange if you have roommates for years and are more excited for you when you move into your own place. I have often thought that if community is a good thing and something God created us to need, then maybe this ideal of living on your own is not such a great thing despite what our culture may tell us.

But lately I have been thinking that living with other people is not required to be living life in community with others. A lot of it comes down to attitude. If our attitude is that we do not need people in our lives and we can do it all by ourselves, then maybe having a place of our own is not a good thing. But if our attitude is that we still need people in our lives and we make it intentional that we have other people in our lives, then maybe there is nothing really wrong with having a place of our own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


So, I"m sitting in my new place surrounded by boxes of my stuff knowing that I really need to go grocery shopping before I can eat lunch and I have this urge to write a blog. I don't think I have anything specific to say today. I kind of wonder if this just seems more relaxing than anything else I need to do right now.

It has been a busy weekend. My cousin got married on Saturday and I moved yesterday. Today is supposed to be an unpacking day so that I know where all my stuff is and can relax after work the rest of this week. Most of yesterday was spent bringing in boxes and putting them in the room the stuff goes in - maybe I should have thought a little more about what I put in each box as some of them seem to have a couple items for every room - and assembling furniture that I had found on sale. Honestly, I'm not sure I ever want to move again. I'm pretty sure that it will take a lot more than a few loads in the back of my Dad and brother-in-law's trucks to move me out of this place.

Well, since I don't seem to really have anything to say and I'm not sure anyone will still be reading this, I'll quit writing and get the things I need to done.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

worship - what is it? why do we do it?

My apologies - this is a long post, but I could not figure out a way to shorten it and still say everything I wanted  to.

I have been struggling lately with worship. With what it is. With why we worship. With whether there is a right way or a wrong way to worship. None of these questions are easily answered and I am not sure how complete of an answer I now have, but I have to start somewhere with trying to answer them.

For me the questions first began to arise in church one weekend when I realized that I was not singing anymore - I love music so this is rather strange for me. I was not even standing with everyone anymore. I was sitting down and I had been thinking about my grocery list.

That was when I began to wonder if what we call worship in our church services is what worship really is. If that is all that worship is. If there is more to worship than reading words on a screen as we attempt to sing along with the worship team on stage in front of us. This is not the first time I have wondered these things, but it is the first time the questions just would not leave after a few hours or days. Weeks later, I am still wondering these things.

A couple of days ago I stumbled across a blog called Worship Matters. While I was looking around, I came across a short series of posts titled, "Defining Worship." Reading through the series encouraged and challenged me and left me with some thoughts to ponder about what worship is.

"We want to be mastered by the objects of our worship. And indeed we are. We worship whatever rules our time, energy, thought, longings, and choices." (Bob Kauflin, Defining Worship, Pt. 1, Nov 4/05)
"Christian worship is the response of God's redeemed people to His self-revelation that exalts God's glory in Christ in our minds, affections, and will, in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Defining Worship, Pt. 3, Nov 8/05)
"Biblical worship is God's covenant people recognizing, reveling in, and responding rightly to the glory of God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Defining Worship, Pt. 4, Nov 9/05)
The author of the blog also quotes some authors who have things to say about what worship is that continue to challenge my thoughts about it. As well as, increase my understanding of worship.

"Worship is the believer's response of all that they are - mind, emotions, will, body - to what God is and says and does." (Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship, pg. 26)
"Worship of the living and true God is essentially engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible." (David Peterson, Engaging with God, pg. 20)
"Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose - and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin." (William Temple (1881-1944), Readings in St. John's Gospel)
"Christian worship, then, is the happy blend of offering to God our Creator and Redeemer through Jesus Christ both what we owe to Him and what we would desire to Give Him." (Ralph Martin, Worship in the Early Church, pg. 17)
The more I have pondered these quotes in relation to my earlier questions, the more I have come to see that worship is not just a part of a church service. Worship is a response to something greater than ourselves. Singing songs in church, spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, listening to sermon, doing something to help another person - these can all be acts or worship, along with many of the other things we do each day.Whether something is worship or not depends on the attitude with which we do them.

Scripture is full of examples of people worshipping as a response to God. One of the ones that comes to mind is in 2 Samuel 6, where David is worshipping freely and with no concern for what others may think as the Ark of the Covenant is brought to its rightful place. David's worship was not a specific action he did; it was worship because it was the response of his heart to God.

In Romans 12:1 Paul says:
"Therefore, I urge, you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (NIV)
Paul is calling his readers to a response of worship because of God's mercy on them. It is not some specific action they have to perform. It is a lifestyle chosen because mercy received from God.

I guess the conclusion I come to after all of this is that worship is important. And the songs we sing in church are definitely one aspect of worship in the life of a disciple of Christ. But church services and singing are far from the only places or ways we worship.

I still find myself wanting to know more of what worship actually is. This seems to only begin to scratch the surface. But, I guess I now see that if there times in a church service that I am not singing that is okay. I just maybe need to focus my thoughts on something other than my grocery list.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

calling evil good

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Isaiah 5:20

When I read that verse earlier today, it seemed to jump off the page at me. I immediately found myself thinking about how our culture tries to do exactly this thing. Things that are evil or dark are called good and light all the time.

But it does not seem to stop with just our culture, it comes into our lives - even as followers of Christ. We try to justify the things we do or say by telling ourselves it is not so bad - even though we know that it is wrong, and ultimately evil. But we want to keep doing it so we do our best to justify it to ourselves and to those around us.

As I reflect on my own life I see those things. I have had a couple of questions in my head since I read this verse that have challenged me and I hope they challenge you too.

How are you doing at living according to God's standards?
Are there areas of your life where you are trying to call evil good? Or call darkness light?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

sometimes you can't make it on your own

I was stopped by the lyrics to a U2 song the other day. It struck me how they spoke so clearly against what our culture tells us. We do not have to go it alone and try to make it on our own.

The first few words of the song are what really stuck with me:

Tough, you think you've got the stuff
You're telling me and anyone
You're hard enough

You don't have to put up a fight
You don't have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches
For you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don't have to go it alone

How many times have we gone through life telling others we are fine and can take whatever is coming our way no matter what it is? How often do we try to make it on our own?

We were not meant to try and make it on our own in this life. We were meant to journey with others through the big stuff and the little stuff. Community is more important than I think we realize sometimes, because sometimes we cannot make it on our own.

Monday, June 20, 2011

grad reunions and moving on

This weekend was my 10 year grad reunion. When I first got the invite I could hardly believe it had been that long already. I was not sure I wanted to go. It just seemed strange to want to go back to something that seems like another lifetime. And I had no idea if anyone I would want to see would be there.

In so many ways, it felt like we were back in high school for that night. Brief conversations with lots of people and really catching up with just a few - those people you actually hung out with most of the time in high school. I found it interesting who came and who did not. Some of the people I really wanted to see were not there and some of the people I never expected to show up were there. It was a good night no matter who was there.

Since Saturday night, I have been thinking about what I saw in different people that night. Some, it seems, were still stuck in the groups of "popular" and "not popular" from high school. And, others did not seem to care about those lines anymore. It was a good night. I ended up glad that I went.

At the time I was in high school it seemed crazy that the way things were then is not how it would be for the rest of life. The world as it was then seemed to be just fine. And yet, looking back now, the world of high school is so small and does not really reflect what the rest of the world is like.

High school was not my favourite place and so I surprised myself when I decided to go . . . by myself. I purchased that ticket without even checking to see who else would be there. And the afternoon before the reunion, I found myself facing those same insecurities that I had every day in high school.
  • Would anyone talk to me?
  • Would I have people to sit with?
  • Would I spend the entire evening alone?
I really did think I had moved on from those thoughts, but there they were right in my face again. And I almost did not go even though I had already paid for it.

As I was driving to the dinner, I realized that those insecurities may have been trying to get me, but I handled them differently this time. Instead of allowing them to push me into hiding and keep me home, I went anyways - determined to have a good time at a nice dinner, even if I decided to leave early.

And that is when I realized that sometimes our growth as a follower of Christ comes, but it does not look the way we wish it would. I thought those insecurities being gone would mean that I would never face them again, but I have realized that overcoming those insecurities makes a difference in how I respond when they surface again - not that they never surface again.

I think that is what growth looks like in much of our life as follower of Christ. Growth means we handle things differently when they surface, not that they never surface again.

What about in your life? What are those things that you really wish would never surface again - the insecurities or doubts? How have you responded in the past? Would you respond differently today? Or do you need to allow God to bring some healing and growth in that area so you can respond differently?

Monday, June 6, 2011

when God interrupts

Well, after a couple of crazy months where I did not feel like I had time to think something through enough to write a blog on it, I am back. Hopefully, back to more consistent posting on here - although I make no promises as to how much (or little) I will post.

I was reading in the book of James recently and was struck by how God can interrupt and change our plans. James 4:13-15 says:
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this that." (NIV)
It is an interesting few verses to read. In light of some recent occurrences in my life, some challenging verses to read as well.

At first glance, it could appear that James is telling his readers not to really make any plans for the future, because you cannot know what will happen. What James is actually saying is the plans we make should be held onto loosely so God can come in and rearrange them at any time. We do need to make plans. That is the way we live life on this earth. But, our plans should not be so set in stone that we miss God coming in and trying to change them.

This definitely rang true for me in the last few weeks. At the end of May I moved out of the apartment I had shared with friends for the last three and a half years. I thought I had a place arranged to move into and found out at the last minute that I did not, so I moved back in with my parents. When that became my option, it was not my plan. But, now that I have been here for a week and a half, I can see that it was God's. As much as I never thought I would want to move back to my parents' there is something comforting and relaxing about being "home" for a time. And that is something that I need right now, after a very busy May.

I can also see where I allowed God to interrupt my plans in the past too and rearrange them to be His. One of those other times came towards the end of my second year of college, when God had in mind to send me to the prairies for two years at Bible college. In many ways it would have been easier to just stay where I was, but God had things in store for me at Bible college and I needed to go there for that.

Of course, there are also times in my life (more than I wish to count) where I have been stubbornly committed to doing something my way, no matter what God wanted.

What about you? What plans in your life have you held onto so tightly God could not come in and rearrange them? Where have you allowed God to come in and rearrange your plans? Are you currently holding onto plans tightly? Or are you holding onto them loosely - knowing where you think you should be going, but open to allowing God to change them?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

God calling

God, that's too big; God, that's too hard;
God, I'm not qualified to do that!
God, are You sure You got the right person?
Over and over, those words - my response
To the things God tells me to do.

But, He keeps on calling - He just won't give up -
Calling me to do what seems too big and too hard;
What I feel unqualified to do.
Why does He want me for that job?
Why does He think I can do it?

Just trust Me, He says, I'll help you to do it.
I made you, remember? I know you can do it!
With Me by your side - you won't be alone.
You can do big things cuz I made you that way;
You just have to follow and trust and obey.

OK, God, I'll follow and trust and obey.
I know I can't do this all on my own.
I need You beside me each step of the way.
Where You lead I will follow and trust and obey.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

change, dreams, the next step

It is only four days until my sister will be married and less than two weeks until I have to move, so I am sure there are more productive things I could be doing at 11 at night (like sleeping!), but my mind is turning to my blog and what I want to write. I am not sure I have more than a few sentences about a few different topics that are only somewhat related, so I have no idea what this post will hold.

Change . . .  that is the big thing in my life right now . . . and to be honest I am not a fan of change. But life, it seems, is full of it. Big changes, little changes, hard changes, easy changes, good changes, bad changes. The one consistent thing is that life brings change. As much as I do not like change, when I look back on my life, sometimes the biggest growth has come out of the times of the biggest changes in my life.

Sometimes I look at all that is coming between now and the end of the month and I wonder how I will get it all done. There's still a lot of boxes to pack and a lot of cleaning to do. I wonder if sometimes in life we get so big in what we look at that we get overwhelmed. That is definitely what is happening with moving. If I look at all that is left, it seems impossible. But if I look at just the next task that I need to get done, then it seems do-able. Life can be that way too. We look at the big picture - the big dream we have of what we could do or be - and it seems like we will never be able to do it. But if we stop and just look at the next thing we need to do to move toward that dream, it becomes much more manageable. We need the big picture to give us the excitement, the passion to move forward. But then we need to move to just looking at the next step, so that we can actually move toward the dream and make it a reality.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

a couple of songs i've enjoyed recently

I have been listening to a couple of songs recently that have challenged and encouraged me at the same time. I do not have the time or energy at the moment to write much about them, but I wanted to share them with you.

"Blessings" by Laura Story

"In Your Hands" by JJ Heller

Saturday, May 7, 2011

God is able

God is able
I say I believe it
An intellectual nod
My head tells me it's true

God is able
Does my heart believe it?
Do I actually live it?
Does it change my actions?

God is able
It should transform my life
If I really believe it
It just seems too hard

God is able
I do want to believe it
It makes life much easier
To live like God is able

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

when life gets crazy

I just noticed that there was a lack of posting on my blog last month, and if this month is actually as busy as it looks like it will be there will be a lack of posting this month as well. My sister gets married and I move this month. Needless to say, I probably will not have a lot of time to write.

Friday, April 22, 2011

another year of life . . . again

So, my birthday has come and gone. All in all, not a very eventful day. Work, dinner with my mom, my sister and brother-in-law arrive for a visit. But a good day.

I went back and read the post I wrote around my birthday last year. I was reflecting on where I was in my journey with God. This has been another year of life where I can say that the journey I'm on with God has continued. I am in a different place than I was this time last year. And yet, there are many things that are the same too.

I still have the same job . . . and I still love it most days. I still have the same great friends as roommates - for a while longer at least. I still have the same great family I did then - and two great brother-in-laws added to the mix.

Both other things have changed. In a short time I will be moving - staying in the same city, but in a different place to call home. I've started to feel connected at church again - in a place that I never thought I would, women's ministry. I thought of women's ministry as the place my Mom and my Grandma were, not where I belonged for so long. But, this year, it really has begun to feel like the place I should be - a place where I look forward to being a part of things.

And my answer to a request to describe what my journey with God has been like lately is different. I no longer feel like I am in the midst of a dark, overgrown forest where all I can see is the next step.
I feel like I have made my way out of that forest into the light - into the open area beyond it. A place with colour, and light, and streams running through. A place where I can just enjoy spending time with my Lord and hearing from Him, rather than clinging for all I am worth to the little I can see.
It is a much different place to be. I am not sure it can be said that it is a better place to be to, because I can see now the growth of the time when I could barely see the next step ahead. It is a different place to be. A place I know I probably will not stay forever, but a place I will enjoy for every moment I am here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a few totally unrelated thoughts from my life recently

Apparently I have been neglecting my blog for the last three weeks. My first clue came when I had to try to remember my log-in because it had been so long since I had actually had to use it to get in. The last few weeks have been busy and as much as I have kept meaning to come by here to write a post, there never seemed to be enough hours in a day. I have no specific thing I have been thinking about a lot recently - mostly it's been a few smaller things that have been running through my head. So this post may be a little bit random.

Last weekend I was at a conference at my church. We were using Beth Moore's Loving Well teaching for the weekend. I was challenged by her saying that we cannot love others well until we accept that we have been well loved by God. Our love for others must come out of the overflow of God's love for us in our lives. If we are only seeking love from the other people in our lives, we will easily become burnt out on loving people. The love we receive from other people should be a bonus, that comes after we have been filled up with God's love. We must continue to seek to be filled with God's love as we pour out love to others.

My sister will be here in a couple days. That is something that I am really looking forward to. Six months without seeing her is too long! I think at times I have taken for granted how much I enjoy spending time with my sisters. But in the last year I have come to a greater understanding of how special our friendships as sisters are. To this day, my sisters are the ones who can drive me the craziest and frustrate me the most. But, they can do that because of our relationship. My sisters are also the ones I have laughed the most with, cried the most with, and have the best memories with.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

crossing the lines of age we draw in the church

I borrowed a book from my Mom a few days ago that looked really interesting. And upon reading it - definitely has been an interesting read. The book is called Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith . . . and How to Bring Them Back, by Drew Dyck. There is much I could write about the book, but that's not what prompted this post.

I read a few sentences in one of the chapters that jumped off the page at me because they resonated with something I have wondered about for a while. I have often wondered whether our division of the church according to age was a good thing.
"According to Smith's research,* one key indicator of whether or not young people stick with their faith was intergenerational connections. Basically, those young people who had relationships to older Christians, whether their parents or other faithful congregants, were far less likely to abandon their faith in their twenties." (Generation Ex-Christian, pg. 177)
I guess having grown up in a church that my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were active members of, I was incredibly blessed to have those intergenerational connections happen naturally. But, I also know of many other people in the church of other generations who took an interest in my life, and still do. Until the last few years I have taken that for granted. I realized how blessed I was in a conversation with a friend who came to follow Christ as a young adult and really only knows other young adults at church well.

It makes me wonder if we have lost some of the richness of the church as the body of Christ by always segregating people by age for church events. I wonder if we need to once again become more intentional about connecting the generations in our church. After all, the body of Christ needs all of us to function as God intended it, but we cannot do that if we never talk to anyone outside of a ten year age span around our age.

There is definitely a place for youth groups and young adults ministries and seniors ministries, but there needs to be a place for ministry that speaks to more than one generation at a time. If we do not do that, we will risk losing young adults in the church. Even with the strong family of faith I come from, I love sitting around a table at the women's Bible studies I am a part of with women of all different ages and walks of life. I learn so much more than if I was to sit at a table doing the same study with all people my own age. We have much to learn from the other generations in the church.

It makes me a bit sad sometimes to sit in a church service and look around to see all the youth sitting in one area, the young adults in another, young families in another, seniors in another. Why the separation? Yes, I know we want to sit with friends or family. But, I have found that my favourite place to sit is with people who have been followers of Christ for more years than I have been alive. There is a richness to their worship that I cannot describe.

So I am left to wonder, how do we develop intergenerational connections better? How do we develop those connections so that young adults have stronger ties to the church as a whole? How do we connect youth and young adults who are not from Christian families with the older generations in the church to help them grow?

*Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005), pg. 162-163

Sunday, March 27, 2011

does our view of God limit our worship?

{Disclaimer: This post is not directed any one person. Nor is it meant as comments against worship in our churches. It is merely my wondering on the subject as I try to live life as a follower of Christ. I do not intend to offend anyone, only to challenge them to think.}

I was having a conversation with my Mom last night about worship songs that we so often sing. It's a conversation that I've had before with other people. We were talking about how sometimes it feels like all we sing about in worship is love - to the point where, to my Mom and I and to some others I have spoken with, it feels like the song is more something we would say to a husband or significant other - rather than to God. Sometimes I do wonder if we so easily get focused on God's love for us and our love for Him that we leave the rest aside.

I have nothing against songs that talk about God's love for us or our love for Him. That is incredibly important and we should not leave it behind. But, when I look back at the hymns of our faith, I see a broader mix of what the songs talk about. Yes, there are great hymns like My Jesus I Love Thee. But there's also hymns like A Mighty Fortress is Our God that talks about the strength of the God we serve and the battle we are engaged in as follower of Christ. Both are great. Both are right. And both are needed in our worship. Without one of the other something is incomplete. Yet I often feel as though most of the worship I am part of today tends toward songs like My Jesus I Love Thee, with nothing of the other.

This trend has bothered me for a long time. The more I have thought about it, the more I wonder if some of this tendency comes from our attempts - often unknowingly - to make God someone safe and predictable. Yes, God is loving - there is no doubt about that. But, He is also God and is beyond our human comprehension and we cannot make Him safe because we want to understand Him.

I think that when we focus on only one characteristic of God, we actually limit our understanding of Him to a greater extent than we could otherwise have. Just as focusing on only one or two characteristics of a person would mean that we would have a very small understanding of who they are, the same thing happens with God. Even if we do not prefer or cannot completely understand all of God's characteristics, we cannot refuse to acknowledge that which we do not prefer or understand.

As I said in my disclaimer above, I do not mean this to be directed at any person who leads worship. But, I do wonder if our view of God and what parts of God we choose to focus on have limited our worship.

As always, I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this. You can leave them as a comment on this post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

encouraging song

For the last few weeks I have had lyrics to a song I heard at church stuck in my head. They spoke so clearly about how I was feeling that night and how I often feel when I stop to think of what God has done for us.

The song is "Jesus, Lord of Heaven" by Phil Wickham.

"Jesus, Lord of Heaven, I do not deserve . . ."

That was the first line that struck me. We may not deserve it, but God offers it anyways.

"Jesus, Your love has no bounds"

That is probably my favourite line in the song. I find it easy to put bounds on God's love, either in my own life or when I look at others lives.

Friday, March 18, 2011

living in the dark

"You can't get well in the dark. You doom yourself by trying. But we try anyhow. The perpetual delusion of humanity is thinking we're better off hiding than confessing, avoiding rather than facing, clinging to our sickness instead of taking the remedy that's freely given and readily available." (Mark Buchanan, Spiritual Rhythms, pg. 231)

When I read that quote a few days ago, it jumped off the page at me. I found myself going back to reread it a few times to make sure I had it in my head and I have been thinking about it since.

How often have I tried to get well in the dark - even though I know I cannot? How often have I hid rather than confess? Avoided rather than faced? Held onto my sickness rather than taking the remedy?

Much of what we need to do to get well from a spiritual perspective, requires other people and being out in the open - the light. It is not the easy way, or even really our natural tendency, but it is the only way. We need to confess our sin, our brokenness, our need. We need to face our sin, our brokenness, our need. We need to accept the freely given and always available remedy for our sin, our brokenness, our need.

When I find an area of my life where I am struggling with sin or become aware of how broken I am on my own, my natural tendency is to hide. I look for dark places to hide, where no one can see that part of me - sometimes where no one will even notice I am there at all. The last thing I want to do is face it and confess it to God, even though I know that He holds the remedy for it and offers it to me for nothing other than my admitting I need it.

We live in a world that has bought into the lie - the "perpetual delusion" that we need to hide, avoid, and cling - that we should be independent and able to get through life without anyone. And this thinking has infiltrated the body of Christ. But, the truth is that we need one another and we need to be able to confess things in our lives to one another, so that we can help each other to face them and find our way to the remedy that God has made available.

Friday, March 4, 2011

beautiful in God's eyes

What does it mean to be beautiful? Is there a standard that makes one person beautiful and another person not? Is beauty something that can be attained? Or is it just something that one is? Does God's definition of beauty differ from the world's? How is it different? How does God define beautiful?

Those are just some of the questions that have been running through my head for the last couple of months. They were triggered by a Bible study on the book of Esther that I've been doing. In Esther 2 there is recorded King Xerxes' search for a new queen, and the search is based on finding beautiful women for him to choose from. As I read that chapter and began digging into the study, I found myself wondering if I would have been chosen if I had been alive in that time, and if I would have wanted to be chosen.

And then I moved on to thinking about what the standards for finding beautiful women would have been of this were to take place today. To be honest, that was a bit of a depressing train of thought as I stopped and really paid attention to what our world calls beautiful. In so many ways, that standard is something that would be impossible to meet for most people. And so there has developed a market for a seemingly endless supply of beauty products and large numbers of women having various surgeries to try to fight aging and look forever young.Now, before you think I'm against anything we might call a beauty product, there is nothing wrong with making use of those things. The problem comes in when looking beautiful becomes our focus and the driving force behind using them.

I think there is another problem with the standard of what our world tells us is beautiful. Sometimes I wonder if it is a bigger problem, but less talked about. I wonder if there are just as many women who look at what our world says is beauty and realize that they can never attain that. But for them, rather than go to great lengths to attempt to, they choose to run the other way - to get as far from that definition of beauty as possible. For whatever reason they are convinced that they can never be beautiful and so they do everything possible not to look beautiful in any way.

I also wonder if this thinking gets transferred into how we see God looking at us. We feel like we're not beautiful according to the world's standards and so we assume that we're not beautiful according to God's standards either. Not realizing how distorted this thinking is, it affects our relationship with God along with how we interact with others we see as being beautiful.

So, what does it mean to be beautiful in God's eyes? Is it an external thing? Or is it just something internal?

We've all heard 1 Samuel 16:7 about God looking at the heart, not the outward appearance many times. It's a great reminder that it's what is on the inside that matters most. But, does it really mean that the outside doesn't matter at all? Does it mean that a sort of "spiritual beauty" is all we should concerned about, rather than paying attention to a physical beauty?

The more I've thought about this, the more I have wondered about the place for physical beauty in the life of a follower of Christ. I mean, if we're not to pay attention to outward appearance - to physical beauty - why did God make beauty something we long for? We live in a world that is full of beautiful things and it is something we seek. I don't think this is something that is wrong. God created us this way, but fallen humanity has warped what God meant to be good. Song of Solomon talks much about physical beauty, but rather than holding up an impossible to reach standard it praises the beauty that is already there.

I don't find anywhere in the Bible that lays out specific guidelines for what makes someone beautiful or not. That seems to be something that is left up to us. But, I also don't see anywhere in the Bible that tells us we have to ignore beauty. The desire to be seen as beautiful - to feel beautiful - is something God created in us and we can't ignore it. We will seek for people to see us as beautiful. But, I wonder if most of the time, the best person to go to when we want to know if we are beautiful is God. His answer will be "yes" because He made us beautiful exactly the way He created us.

Yet, I know that this isn't always enough for our hurting hearts. We long to hear - we need to hear - another person tell us we are beautiful. That is true whether we have embraced all our world tells us will make us beautiful or run as far we can get from that - we long to hear another person tell us we are beautiful. Sometimes when we need to hear those words, we need to be open to them coming from a source we didn't know they would. They may not come from where we expect, but God can use someone to let us know - even when we don't expect it from them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

God's Invisible Hand

In a world where God seems distant
Or like He's just not there
It really makes you wonder
If God just doesn't care

But look beneath the surface
Watch behind the stage
God still works His plans out
In this present age

Sometimes He's front and center
Part of His plans' hatching
Sometimes He seems to quiet
You wonder if He is watching

Times when God seems silent
Then He still is working
Leading people's actions
As they go on looking

In a world where God seems distant
Or like He's just not there
You never have to wonder
If God does really care

Saturday, February 26, 2011

grad reunions, weddings . . . reminders of singleness or something more?

Do you ever find yourself at the point where you wonder where the time has gone? And how it could have gone so fast? Then you begin to take stock of your life and compare where you are actually at to where you imagined you would be at this point. Some things have gone completely differently than you imagined - some things have gone exactly as you thought - and there are still some things you are hoping will happen.

That is the place I found myself about a month ago when I got the Facebook invite to my 10 year grad reunion. I had to recheck the year, because I was sure that it could not be that time already. But it is - 10 years after a graduation in 2001, is 2011 - this year. I started to think about all that the last 10 years had been filled with - and all that was still missing that I thought would happen in this time.

The more I thought about it, the more I found the list of things I felt were still missing in my life growing. And that list grew at a much faster rate than the list of all that had happened. It seemed as though there were a lot of things in the list of what I felt was missing that seemed to somehow be bigger or more important than the things I had done.

I really was not sure I wanted to go to my grad reunion when I got the invite. For the most part, school was not the greatest for me friends-wise and so by high school I really had given up on trying to really make friends. I had people I could sit with in class and have as lab partners, but not really friends. And so I was not sure that I wanted to go to my grad reunion ALONE. It seemed that it was little more than a reminder that I was still single - long past when I thought I would get married. I had always thought I would have a husband to take with me to this event.

And really, did I need my grad reunion to be another reminder that I was still single? Last May my youngest sister got married . . . before me. And this May, my other younger sister is getting married . . . before me. I do not begrudge them at all. They have both found amazing guys that I am glad are my brother-in-laws. But I always thought because I was the oldest I would get married first. I knew the world did not work that way, but I thought it anyways. For the last 16 or so months, my world has had a lot of wedding talk happening in it. Sometimes it is good - sometimes it gets to be too much and I wish I could hide from the world.

So I have been left to wonder how I will choose to view these events. Will I choose to see my grad reunion as little more than a reminder that my life is not what I had planned? (As if my plans have any bearing on what God plans anyways.) Or will I choose to go and enjoy catching up and use the reminder that it has been 10 years to focus on all that has happened in my life, rather than what has not? Will I choose to see my sisters' getting married before me as a reason to be depressed that I am still single? Or will I choose to celebrate their love and welcome my brothers (even when they try to shove cupcakes in my face)?

I sometimes think that in a world that sets us up to always want more - always want the best - to never be satisfied with what we have, it would be easy to look at these events and see only the downside of them, to see them as only reminders of singleness for longer than I wanted. But, I wonder if instead, they need to be turned into opportunities to praise God for what He has done in our lives.

I may not have been married, or bought a house, or any of those plans I was so sure would happen in the last 10 years. But I know that I have done many things - graduated from college, found a better job than I imagined I could, moved out with some great friends - and that God has done some incredible things in me as He shapes me more and more in His image. Those are things I need to focus on. Those are the things that matter. And as I choose to focus on the things that God has done in and through me, the other things fade into the background. The desire and hope for them does not go away - and I do not think it should. But what is most important takes over the larger part of my life and other things fall better into the places they should be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

thoughts on valentine's day

*I had every intention of posting this yesterday, actually on Valentine's Day, but I ran out of time to do a proper edit before I had to leave for Bible study and so it had to wait until today to be posted.*

I have to say, as someone who has been single for all but one Valentine's day in my almost twenty eight years, Valentine's day has not always been my favourite day. Some years it has passed with a hardly a notice of what day it was, some years I've spent it with other friends who were also single, some years it has been a day I dreaded as it grew closer and then I hated the entire day.

The last few years, some of my friends have planned girl's nights for February 14, that they called "ro-tic" nights (romantic, without the man). The name may be a little bit odd, but the sentiment was that if we got together, it would be a better night for all of us than if spent it at home alone. And it was a much better way to spend the evening - in the company of good friends, food, chocolate, and laughter. We have celebrated the love of our friendships with one another through spending time together on what could otherwise be a lonely night.

At Bible college, it was renamed "single's awareness day" by those who would find themselves without a date for that night. A bit of a depressing name for such a day, but when you're still single in mid-February in a place that is commonly called "bridal college" it can be a bit of a depressing day. Especially because, if everyone was to be really honest, even if finding a husband/wife is not their primary reason for being at Bible college, it's something that crossed their mind when they were considering it, and I don't know if there were many, if any, who would have been opposed to meeting their future spouse while were there. And so it became "single's awareness day" - the day when everyone who was single felt like that fact was amplified.

Valentine's Day as a child always seemed to be an exciting day. Your envelope in the classroom at school (that you had decorated beforehand) would be filled with Valentines from your classmates. You never considered the rule: if you don't give a Valentine to everyone in the class, you don't give out any Valentines. You were just excited to get them. For me, there was always a Valentine and candy or chocolate from my parents and from my grandparents. It was, overall, a pretty fun day. I wonder if maybe, this is what Valentine's Day should continue to be like.

But, somewhere along the way, as we grew up, Valentine's Day changed . . . a lot. And it became a day filled with expectations for those who have a significant other. And a day that is hated or dreaded by many singles. Is this really how it should be? Or can we recapture some of the excitement we had about it as children?

As much as I have not really liked the name some people have for a night with friends on Valentine's Day, I wonder if the sentiment is not more of what we need on this day. A time to celebrate and appreciate our friends and family and the love we have for one another. Obviously, this includes love for a husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend - and I don't want to take a day to focus on that away from anyone. I just wonder if we need to expand what we think of Valentine's Day being about to include more than just that significant other, to include all those in our lives that we love, care about, and appreciate.