I had the oportunity to share an original song entitled "Complete" with my church this past Sunday. Here is the 9:30 service live recording including my story about how I wrote the song. To check out the podcast of all the messages in this series on Heaven , click here.
If I had one word to describe what my 30-day sabbatical was for me, that's the word. In every area of my life, I feel that I have a "inner button" switched from where I was before my time away and where I am now. I truly went into this time with no expectation. As a highly-driven person, I probably had more fear than anything heading into 30 days of no responsibilities. Everything I did for that time was from my heart - a true desire to do it. Whether it was sitting in a lounge chair somewhere in the Carribean or sitting with my son after school to help him read...I did what I enjoyed doing.
The interesting thing is that I wasn't sure what I enjoyed doing in ministry and in a lot of areas of my life before my sabbatical. I couldn't separate what I was responsble for from what I really loved doing. I found myself just bursting with new songs I wanted to share, some I had written, and others that I was worshipping with alone. I started to "feel" again. I think I had become numb to a lot of the day-to-day of my life. I didn't realize how far I had gone down that road.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, the power of sleep can never be underestimated. For the most part, I've been consistently going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time. My new mantra my first week back has been,"Cynthia, that's enough for today." I feel like I'm treating myself like my own kids sometimes, but I have alot of unhealthy margins to correct.
Spiritually, I'm so thankful for the large amounts of time that I had alone with God. I filled the pages of my sabbatical journal and I practiced what Lance Witt refers to as "spiritual loitering." I spent alot of time wasting time with God and being quiet. I know that is why my songwriting was so rich and plentiful during my sabbatical.
Before my sabbatical, I had become disconnected to some of my life-long friends. I made plans with almost everyone of them either in person or phone during my 30-days. I am so thankful for the love, grace, and prayers they poured over me and the encouragement they were to me during this time. You know who you are...thank you for being fresh water to my soul.
I wasn't sure if I would be coming back to ministry after this time way. My exhaustion level was at my core. I laid everything on the line with God and told Him that if I needed to be done, I was fine with that. Twenty years is a long time and if my season was done, I was willing to be done. I was pleasantly suprised. Not only did God clearly reveal to me in my time with Him that I am NOT done, He renewed my heart and passion for His people in the local church. He refined my calling as I begin this next season of ministry. For the first time in a LONG time, I have a more clear understanding of how my days should be spent as a pastor's wife and a Worship Arts Director.
There were also some areas in my life that I realized were not as "jumbled" as I thought they were. Having a clear head helped me to see what was going well in my life and celebrate that! Our family vacation on a Disney Cruise just put a BIG exclamation point on my time away. Since we were not able to have a fmaily vacation in 2012 (it was scheduled for the week we moved into our new facility!), it was a wonderful treat to spend that time with them. Todd and I had great conversations during my sabbatical and we sense a true refreshment in our marriage and in our family.
I sensed anxiety and worry trying to creep in this week as I returned to normal life and then it as if the Holy Spirit just speaks to me and says, "No, we aren't going there." and it passes before it has a hold on me. I know there will be days when it wins. I'm celebrating it didn't this week!
I couldn't get this song out of my head during my time away. I think it became my heart's cry and how I want to move forward in my life...
I chose the songwriting track for Day One - Keith Getty, Laura Story, and Matt Redman. I felt as if the three of them got together (which they didn't) and talked about how they would connect their talks to one another!
Songwriting is a sincere passion in my life. I had my first song recorded by a Southern Gospel group at the age of 18. I've written songs for Christian artists. I've had the amazing privilege of writing arranging, and producing a record for our church in Atlanta with original songs from our church. I do not share all this as an accolade to myself. I share it as a testimony to how much songwriting has been a part of my life.
The last line of that paragraph is the point I'm trying to make...has been. I've allowed the busy schedule of raising kids, doing ministry, and pure laziness to invade this creative passion that God placed in my heart many years ago. Here are some things that I learned.
At its essence, Christianity is a story. Hymns
show us how to sing our faith. - Keith Getty
As songwriters, God uses the normal things in our
lives to write the soundtrack for the church. - Laura Story.
What is in God's Kingdom that is about being the BEST
at something? Being the best should not be the goal of songwriting. -Laura
What are the themes for your church right now? Ask you Lead Pastor what God is saying to him about the future of our church. This is visionary songwriting. - Matt Redman
I feel in some ways that God is rebuking me this week for not embracing this gift in my life. I feel the Holy Spirit telling me that it's time to not be a " former" songwriter anymore and embrace this calling on my life in this new season of my life at LowCountry.
The heart of these three worship leaders/songwriters was very exposed. They all have a passion for the local church which so resonates with my heart. They believe strongly in writing FOR the local church and writing songs for our own communities of faith. I know this is what God is calling me to do at LCC. Pastor Jeff has been reading my updates and has ALREADY affirmed me in doing this. I am processing this and asking God for the strength to do what I feel He is calling me to and being faithful to do it - regardless of what others think or whether these songs every leave the lowcountry. These will be OUR songs of faith as a community of believers.
The night of worship was tremendous. One Sonic Society opened (who I heard live earlier this year and LOVE), Tenth Avenue North performed, and then Matt Redman. The thing that struck me is that Matt has written SO many amazing songs that he could have lead us in only songs that he has written and WE would have known them all! But, he chose songs from others as well to lead us in worship. He lead us in worship and encouraged us as leaders to bring truth to our congregations..to teach the truth of God's Word...to sing the truth of the redeeming power of Jesus in our lives.
My name is Cynthia Cullen. I am a wife & a mother of two, living on Hilton Head Island, SC, USA. I am a pastor's wife, worship leader, musician, songwriter, church planter, a wanna-be water colorist, and a "I-wish-I-could-be" movie score composer. I oversee Worship Arts and Operations at Hilton Head Island Community Church. I enjoy anything that is beautiful.