Category Archives: worshiping

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

Five Songs

If you could only listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?

My friend, Angela, read this prompt to me last weekend, and it immediately sparked interest.

Oooo, yes! Let’s do that right now. Let’s list and share our songs with each other and then listen to them.

I began thinking and writing in my journal. Music is what inspires me and brings me hope. It makes me feel most alive. Music is where I find encouragement. So in choosing only five, I went with songs that remind me of truth when I am struggling.

I am curious, Dear Reader, if you have five songs, or even one song? What are your go-tos that inspire, keep you going, or are just plain fun to dance to?  What is music to you? It can be any style, not just worship or inspirational! Share in the comments!

Here are my five songs.

Enjoy!

Because

Because you are my Shepherd, I have all that I need.
You allow me to rest in beauty.
You guide me in peace.

You renew me when I am weak, direct me to where I must go.
You are close when I feel afraid.
You protect and comfort me.

When I am surrounded by enemies, you prepare for me a feast.
You anoint my head with oil.
You overflow my cup with blessings.

Your goodness and love are not only available, they chase me down.
You are with me all my days.
You take me to live in your house forever when those days have passed.

Forever.

Because you are my shepherd.

 

Just What I Need

Departure was difficult. Waves of sadness crashed over me when I let them. All morning an eight-year-old girl stole moments to sidle up to my desk and press herself into me, looking up with big, sad eyes.

I’m going to miss you.

I’ll miss you, too, Little One.

It’s hard for me to fathom being missed, but I believe it from the comments and conversations overheard at home and school. I choose to believe it in the midst of unbelief.

I will also miss.

Saying goodbye to my love triggers deep, deep feelings, long buried, yet tapping me on the shoulder for attention. Painful goodbyes and long distance separation belong to our story. My well-crafted walls, once easy to put up, are beginning to crack.

I purposely chose an airport away from a metropolis with lots of people and traffic. The smooth hour and forty minute drive south allows me time to think.

Starbucks’ Chile Mocha doesn’t rival Shenandoah Joe’s Aztec, but it’s not bad. I bless my husband for his encouragement to drive through Starbucks and for giving me money to try this new seasonal drink.

Self care looks like stopping to use the restroom when I have to. Baby steps. Not gonna lie. I go inside.

The airport is quiet and empty. Security is a breeze. I sit and wait.

Now I can allow my mind to fully unwind and wander. It goes right to the earbuds I forgot to borrow from my husband. I choose to use money gifted by my inlaws for snacks to buy a pair.

The music pumping into my ears throughout the flight makes every dime of that purchase worth it.

Flight one is late. My smooth plan is hitting a snag, and countless checkings of my connecting flight information is not speeding this flight up a bit. I keep checking.

Prop planes are another part of my story. Lots of puddle jumping. Still the loud rattle outside of my window is jarring.

Why does it feel like a lawn mower is pushing me up into the sky? I focus on pressing my back into the seatback and imagine I am getting a massage.

Wednesday is chapel day. Was I really just sitting in chapel with my class this morning singing Good, Good Father? It is not lost on me that the worship song Mr. C chose for this month has been another thing preparing my heart for the road ahead.

It is work to truly believe my Father’s goodness, and that He knows just what I need, even if it is uncomfortable or hard.

It’s hard to sit on a late flight and wonder where the connecting gate will be in the airport. It’s hard to think that just what I need could involve missing it.

And that would be okay.

There is a level of tension and expectancy as we crowd the aisle waiting to funnel off of the plane and wait for our carry-on bags. This is why the flight attendant firmly admonishes us that under no circumstances are we to go beyond the propellers.

I want to dash back and grab my bag and run into the airport to find my gate. Instead I wait like everyone else until the cart wheels up. All of us have places to be. Mine is gate B4. I am in concourse E.

Grateful for my daily Dewey workouts, I begin the dash. And dash it is. And focus.

You know just what I need. . .

You’re a good, good Father. . .

I am loved by you.

The words set my pace.

It takes an eternity and several moving sidewalks to traverse concourse E and try to locate B. It draws closer as other letters branch off and shops begin to appear.

Piano music fills the air as concourse B comes into view. A young man sits at a grand piano playing.

My ears hone in on the tune in disbelief. It really can’t be.

Can it?

I want to stop and fumble through my bag for my wallet to dig out some cash to drop in the tip jar if there is one. Is there a tip jar? I have no time. I must get to gate B4. I must stop in the restroom.

I offer up a prayer of blessing, instead. It’s all I can do.

I arrive at my gate just as standbys are being called.

My bag must be checked, and I surrender it at the end of the ramp before boarding. I breathe my way onto the plane.

Sinking into the window seat, I allow the tears to roll down my face.

Dear Young Man playing Good, Good, Father on the piano in the Charlotte Airport,
Thank you for the gift of worship in the chaos of travel. Through you, the Father gave me just what I needed to get to my plane on time. May the God who sees in secret reward you openly.

Angered by the Call

Sometimes I wonder if I have changed, am changing, will ever change. I look back over the blog, read old entries, and think, really? STILL?

Sure, things are not exactly the same, but they are eerily similar. I found one such gem after looking through some old posts from the private blog. Sitting in my drafts folder was this memory from three years ago, almost to the day.

It is a different kind of hard that we sit in. We are always sitting in the hard, and maybe that is what I need to remember and learn as I sit in this Saturday afternoon between death and resurrection.

From March, 2013

It has been a hard day. Week. Season.

Life is so very full, which is a good thing. We are blessed. Work stress means there is work. House mess means people are living. Serving others means we are able-bodied.

It’s still been hard. Tiring. Draining. Exhausting. 

I had been looking forward to Good Friday.

Not in a, “I gave up caffeine for Lent and can’t wait for coffee on Easter” kind of way but in a, “I can’t wait for the school to be closed and to get to sleep in and have coffee with Steve” one. I was looking forward to hanging out together. 

Good Friday morning, Steve woke up and something was wrong. He was sick. It was his turn for the stomach bug that has been passing through our family for weeks. The violent, let me tear through your system and leave you languishing, stomach bug.

And I was angry.

Angered by the call to sacrifice my agenda and desire to have things my way. Angered by the call to suffer, because, after all, now I was going to have to do EVERYTHING myself and how is that FAIR? Can’t I even get a BREAK? A day OFF?

On Good Friday, the day set aside to remember the One who sacrificed his life entirely, the day I am on worship team for a special service, the day I am called in a minuscule way to lay down my own life and suffer and sacrifice for another, and my response is anger.

Not love.

Not Christlike.

Not taking up my cross to follow. Not even on Good Friday.

Only the painful, tangible, heart-rending reminder of why all of this had to happen.

For me.

Breath

I woke this morning thankful for breath. The ability to breathe in and out without obstruction or stress is a gift. The growth in the ability to breathe through obstructions and stress is also a gift.

Spending time in Psalm 104 this morning, I was struck by the vastness, the greatness of God. Reminded of the good gifts that He gives to all living things, to us, verse 29 stood out to me.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

I am so grateful to still have my breath, even in the hard. Even when I feel like I can’t, or don’t want to, go on, there it is. In. Out. Reminding me of the one who loves me and sustains me. Reminding me that I am still alive.

I am also grateful for music and for Fernando Ortega’s version of Psalm 104. Breathe in the goodness and enjoy!

Deliver Me

Deliverance is the theme today, and as I embark upon an uphill year, I’m asking for that from you, Father.

Deliver me.

These words were journaled hastily this morning. Today’s Bible reading plan took me to Job, 2 Corinthians, Psalms, and Proverbs.

Really? Job? The first weeks of school?

I trust that where I am is where I need to be. Full confidence.

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.
On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
2 Cor.1:10

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!
Psalm 40:13

The second verse I write on an index card to keep with me through the day. Not exactly sure why, I just know that it’s what I need.

Deliverance.

Quiet time is one of my favorite parts of the day. I don’t say this in a holier than thou way or in a prescriptive way but just in an honest way. I treasure my time being still with my Bible. Listening. Drinking that first cup of coffee.

Time is short and morning rolls along at breakneck speed, as we work to get everyone out of the house. By a stroke of amazing kindness, I am left alone at 7:20 with fifteen minutes to spare.

Dewey whines in his crate. I’m not alone. I decide to give him a quick walk up around the block before leaving him for the day. Grabbing a plastic bag, I release and leash him. We leave the house at a quick pace, my heart rate rising to keep up with him.

Around the block and to the top of the street and around that block and, oh no, another dog.

This dog is big and not leashed and barking and jumping at me and Dewey. It’s not a mean dog, and it has an owner that can’t be seen even though the house door is open, and I am loudly trying to get the dog away from mine.

Why did I think this was a good idea? Is running through my head. Really? My fifteen minutes for THIS???

I sweep Dewey up into my arms and carry him off. The dog follows on my heels, jumping occasionally. A girl is waiting on the corner for her middle school bus, and I ask if she knows whose dog it is.

She doesn’t, but listens politely as I recount my frustrating walk and try not to cry as we both watch the big dog squat to do his business. Another on my list of nevers, I open Dewey’s plastic bag and scoop up the pile.

I guess it’s like when you have kids. I say to the girl. It’s a lot grosser when the poops not your own. I hope your day is better than mine has started out being!

Dewey and I race downhill and round the corner to home.

Little do I know what is to come. Lock downs and sadness.

Deliver us.

 

 

 

 

Heart of Worship

This Sunday was an unexpected worship team week. My decision to attend community worship on Wednesday led to being asked if I was available, and I was.

Due to the unpredictability of August and the ending of stay-home summer days and transition into back to work and school, I didn’t schedule a Sunday this month. It worked out anyway.

Singing today felt like a gift. I always believe that God assembles just the right team for each Sunday, and this week was no exception. It was just what God ordained in his being worthy of worship just because and in spite of ourselves.

I have been in a hard place this summer. There was a Sunday a few weeks ago that was just rough. I sat through the singing scribbling away in my journal with tears streaming down my cheeks. What I was writing isn’t what you might think had you witnessed the moment.

Here is a glimpse into my heart that Sunday. It was not a heart of worship. It was one of cold stone.

These tears are not sad or repentant. They are angry and trapped and very stuck as we sit in a row in church as a messed-up, dysfunctional family. I am bumped into, banged, touched, annoyed. So as singing of depths of mercy goes on around me, my heart hardens further as I drift away from the very thing that is supposed to anchor me.

Have you really forgotten, Father? Because I remember every day my sins and shortcomings and pain. I am so very tired. I feel crushed. Very tired. Lost.

Poured out completely.

These are just motions that I am going through, and not very good ones at that. Please help my unbelief that you are with me. Show me that you are close.

You don’t always give us an easy path, but you give us exactly what we need. I hear the pastor pray these words and add them to the page.

What are you doing, God? I am uncomfortable and can’t feel my arms, yet, you are at work, and I need to let you just work it out.

Please work it out, Father.

God came close, reached down, and pulled me up from the mire. Not because of but because.

Because he loves me, he gives me exactly what I need. Even the very hard.

He met me in the very hard, breathed life into my heart, and nudged me onward.

This Sunday I was able to receive the gift of leading worship with the team, knowing that it was all about the one who is worthy and the freedom I have to embrace the gift that is music. I was able to lead with a heart of worship.

And it was glorious.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Psalm 30:2

Fighting Forward

This is what I have been doing these past two weeks while the blog has rested in silence.

Fighting Forward

We all have battles. There are those posted on Facebook or blogged and shared with the world. There are those shared with our closest friends and inner circle. There are those fought in silence. Alone.

There has been much going on.

A friend commented that I haven’t blogged much, lately. I appreciate that she noticed. It’s true. Not since Easter and the coloring of eggs have I posted here. Oh, I’ve written. Just not for public view. I have been present. Just not in cyberspace.

Sometimes there are seasons of private contemplation. Of one~to~one care in quiet, sacred spaces. Of removing shoes and standing on holy ground. Of work done in the secret.

That’s where I have been. In the secret. In the stillness. Fighting forward for hearts ~ my own, those in my home, those in my world.

The battle is not done.

We sang these words in church this morning.

This is My Father’s World is one of the earliest hymns that I remember learning in the small Christian school I attended at the beginning of my educational journey. I want to say that I was in second grade, but Dan Allender would remind me that all memory is fiction. I will call it early elementary school.

All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.

I remember learning what spheres were, and that they were the shape of the earth and the moon and the planets in outer space, as the teacher explained to our young selves the meaning of the song.

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler, yet.

Maybe it is because I have been battling many strong, wrong things over these past two weeks that I felt the words settle deep into my bones and encourage my soul this morning. Maybe it is because I returned from a To Be Told conference yesterday evening with more questions than answers and needed the reminder that I will be equipped for the battles I am called to fight.

Whatever it was, as we sang this hymn, I was reminded of the truth that No one person is enough to achieve the work that God needs to do. (Dan Allender, 4/17/15)

God is enough. I can rest in that as I continue to fight forward.

This is my Father’s world.

Friendship Friday ~ Love and Sorrow

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you . No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15

This is where my heart needs to be when it feels desperate to flee. Thank you, Jesus for calling me your friend. For making yourself known. For laying down your life. Help me to walk out your love for me in my love for others and in the laying down of my life for those you have given to me to love. My family. My friends.