Lovely people

Last week, my church hosted the African Children's Choir, a ministry that is near and dear to my heart. The choir comes to perform a 90 minute program, and in return, the church pulls together the many small details including school classrooms, host families, and meals.

I was asked to help with the details, which I gladly agreed to do. I have pulled out of most service at church lately, as I work through my resentments and gunk. But this I was more than happy to help with.

I gave a short announcement at church a month before the choir came, asking for volunteers in various capacities. The response was overwhelming.

Not only was every single volunteer slot filled, but I ended up with extras.

At the concert, it was standing room only. The offering was bountiful, to say the least. The church staff jumped in and helped with last minute details that came up. And when I asked if they could help me love on the chaperones, they didn't even flinch. They got a car for the day, and one of the pastors delivered a much needed devotions to them. A generous host opened his home so the chaperones could have a child free night filled with grilled steak and America's Funniest Home Videos.

I was overwhelmed by the love and generosity of my church.

Cynicism sweeps over me and carries away any grace or love I might have inside me. I angrily narrow my eyes at the committee decisions I don't agree with and cross my arms in front of me, refusing to allow anyone inside. I assume that the entire church world is out to get me.

I get bogged down in stupid things like music that I'm not fond of or sermons that don't fully engage me. I become so caught up in those silly details that I lose sight of the simple fact that my church is filled with some lovely people.

So, I am sincerely sorry for the judging that I do far too much. From here on out, I vow to do my best to drop my guard and let people in.
do my homework for me
And I hope the only crossing of my arms is from being chilly in church.


My Utmost for His Highest = My kick in the pants

This is my 1970s version of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

In case you can’t get the full effect from the picture, that is a metallic silver cover with gold, embossed lettering. It is classy.

I found this in the summer of ’98, when I attended Creation Festival (a huge Christian music festival) in Pennsylvania. That summer marked the real beginning of my faith walk, when I decided I was going to be serious about this God thing. While browsing through one of the makeshift stores under a tent, I ran across a book table. I unearthed this copy of My Utmost for His Highest. I had heard great things about the book, so I bought it. I think I paid $4 for it.

After a couple years I began to read it daily. Once I started, I was hooked. This book has fed me more than any other book or devotional outside the Bible. I tried a different devotion one year, but it just wouldn’t cut it. I always seem to come back to good ol’ Oswald. After years of reading it, something new still hits me.

Here’s what’s hitting me this year.

It convicts me waaaay too much.

I’ve gotten out of the daily habit of reading it. I have lots of excuses. But the real reason?

It makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of the Christian I so want to be and am so far away from being.

It still inspires me, but I hate that uncomfortable feeling when a phrase hits me straight to the gut. I try to read around it, ignore it, say that it really relates to someone else. But when it comes down to it, that convicting phrase is all about me and the ways that I am failing.

So I avoid reading it. It’s easier to stay in denial than to face the truth head on.

This year, my husband and I are making the effort to read the devotional together every day. And those hard to read phrases are hitting me hard. But I vow to keep reading and to do the best I can to work on those things that I need to work on.

Part of this whole faith thing is coming face to face with the not so pretty parts of me.

Have you ever had a book, devotional, or Scripture that painfully spoke to you?

Worshiping even when…

It’s been a rough year for me. Through it all, I’ve fluctuated between firmly believing God is in control to pity parties because I’m so flipping miserable.

My health has been the issue that tends to throw me into a downward spiral. I’ve shared briefly in the past about an issue I’ve been having with my left ear; a constant feeling of pressure that will not go away. In the last year, I’ve had blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, allergy tests, steroid prescriptions and a minor surgical procedure done. I’ve spent more money on doctor visits than I ever have before.

After all that, I was finally (properly) diagnosed. The problem was given a name: Pulsatile Tinnitus. (I’ll let you google that if you’re really curious.)

Even though it was a relief to finally know what was going on, I was crushed to hear that there was nothing that could be done for it. Luckily, it’s not life threatening or painful. It’s just really annoying to live with.

I’m left wondering, “Why, God? Why? You’re the great healer, so why not fix this?”

And maybe He will. I have faith that He could. But He’s not fixing it right now. For whatever reason, I’ve been plagued with this weird ailment that sometimes makes me dizzy and exhausted.

I’ve thrown my pity parties. I’ve been angry at God. I’m annoyed that He gave me this thorn in my side.

But what good does that do?

I know that God does not always give us wonderful days and easy times. I’ve known that from the start of this whole Christian journey. So why should I be surprised when things don’t go my way?

When it all comes down to it, He is always faithful and still deserves my worship. If I only worship Him when things are going well, that makes me a pretty shallow person.

So I’ll continue to thank Him for all the good in my life (because there is plenty) and tell Him how awesome He is. Even if it’s just a little prayer eked out here and there because that’s all I have energy for. My worship right now won’t be big and energetic, but that’s okay. It’s coming from where I’m at; low energy and tired, but still trying.

He is still worthy, no matter how bad things get.

Question: How have you worshiped through the hard times in your life?


I am insecure. From the time I was little, I have been shy, introverted, and worried that I am just not good enough. It’s a problem I’ve recently been able to embrace head on and slowly tackle to the ground, escaping it’s tight clenches. On good days, I shake it off and emerge a seemingly well adjusted adult.

But on my bad days, it rears it’s ugly head and I am once again that insecure, gangly teenager with braces and bad acne. On really bad days it’s hard to know how to beat it and rise to the surface of contentedness again.

Because I am insecure, I like attention and affirmation. I like to know that what I have to say is worthwhile. I leave comments on blogs just to see if people will think it’s smart, funny, or thought provoking. Some of my facebook statuses are simply for attention; to see how many comments or “likes” I get.

I just had the awkward realization recently that I use worship for attention sometimes. It’s like I need to make sure that God is paying attention to me; that He knows I’m still here and He hasn’t forgotten me. Sometimes I feel like a little kid who is tugging at dad’s coattail to show off the neat trick I just learned.

I know that God wants to fill me up and meet my every need. That includes my need for love, affirmation, and attention. He is eagerly waiting for me to let Him fill me. This is part of faith.

But this is not what worship is. Worship is about Him and paying attention to Him. It’s not about the attention I feel I need. It’s about the adoration He is so worthy of. Forget about the warm fuzzies and instead focus on the Holy One who has done so much for me already.

Perhaps if I could just pull myself out of my simplistic struggles and just give Him the attention He deserves, I might find that my cup is filled too. And the overflow helps flood away the insecurity.

Reserving judgement

Last week I shared about my Christmas Eve tradition: quiet communion with my husband. On Christmas Eve, we packed up after an evening spent playing Apples to Apples with my family and went on our way to church, anticipating our moment of stillness and quiet.

We arrived to find the lights on and janitors vacuuming the sanctuary. Confused, we wandered around the church grounds, wondering if it had ended early and we had just missed it. It seemed that communion had not happened at all this year. For whatever reason, my church decided to not do it, and we had not paid close enough attention to church bulletins to realize this.

I can’t completely blame them. To do communion required our senior pastor to stay at church until midnight, and I know he must have been exhausted and probably a bit burnt out after a very busy month and three different Christmas Eve services.

If I’m completely honest though, I was upset and a little hurt. And this thought drifted through my mind.

“Let down by the church yet again.”

My one need this Christmas season was not met by my church. It was easy to walk away feeling bitter and jaded. My husband was disappointed as well, but he made a really good comment on the way home.

“There’s something to be said for putting too much stock in something.”

We put off quiet and solitude the entire season and continued in our busyness because we were counting on that quiet communion.

In the rest of my faith life, I put off my quiet time and prayer life and wait on church to fill me. When it doesn’t, I become upset and judgmental.

I think I’m beginning to see where the problem lies.

The warm fuzzy

There is a lesson I’ve had to learn. I thought I had known it all along, but I think it’s just now sinking in.

Worship is not about the pursuit of the warm fuzzy.

Years ago in church, while I sang along with the music, there was a sweet sensation that would overtake my body. It was like that feeling when you’re first falling in love with someone. I felt all warm and tingly inside and simply overtaken with emotion. Warm fuzzies. Ahhhh…

God wants us to feel loved and wants us to love Him. Warm fuzzies aren’t all bad. Sometimes God gives us those feelings to encourage us. But when worship becomes all about the pursuit of the warm fuzzy, it becomes a problem.

All was well and good in my worship world as long as my warm fuzzies weren’t interrupted. Then suddenly, they were gone, and I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t know what to do.

I’ve known all along that worship isn’t about good feelings for me. It’s giving back to God what He has given to me. It’s honoring Him and obeying Him. It’s thanking Him for all the good things in my life, even when I don’t feel there is much good.

Even though I knew this in my head, my heart was still way confused when the happy feelings went away. Without the warm fuzzies, it’s like worship isn’t worship.

To be totally honest, I think it’s God who took the warm fuzzies away. And I think He did it on purpose. Why?

To challenge me.

To push me out of my comfort zone.

To remind me what true worship is.

So I suppose it’s time to redefine my worship. If it’s not about the warm fuzzies, what is it really about? What should I be focused on if it’s not a big bear hug from God?

Here’s a few ideas to get me started:

  • God’s goodness. Although sometimes it feels “overdone,” it’s so true, and so important.
  • God’s mercy. I am a spoiled little brat. I don’t know why He puts up with me.
  • God’s grace. Grace is a really beautiful thing.

Again, these are all things I know, but don’t… know. Trying to figure out how to focus on them is still a challenge.