This week, I had the privilege to share my story with our church in context with our 24/7 Series on Worship. It was a great experience on the message preparation side of learning how to manuscript (thank you, @toddcullen!) and create an outline for our message notes. Although I serve on our Message Prep team here @hhichurch, it was definitely a twist to be playing and singing in the band and then communicate right after that! I think Todd enjoyed the tables being turned this week in our Thursday evaluation time...I'm usually the one DOING the evaluation!
The coolest thing for me as a Service Programming Director was to weave the songs I chose into the context of my outline. Todd and Cody do a great job connecting with that already, but it was cool to see how to pull the ENTIRE service together with what I said and what we sang.
Thank you SO much to my @hhichurch family for all your prayers before and your encouraging words after each service. It was DEFINITELY something I was nervous about doing (mainly because I didn't want to say anything that Todd would have to clean up the next week!) Stephanie led worship SO well and the band just played AMAZINGLY! Here was our service order:
"Rise and Sing"
"Glory to God Forever"
MESSAGE (You can listen on our podcast! "24/7:Here I am")
My prayer was that as I shared my story that the concept of worship being an outward expression of an inward faith would really sink into people's minds. I struggled for SO many years with looking good on the outside but not really living it on the inside. I know I will always have the struggle, but I'm so thankful that I have "given up" on what I want in life in general and have decided to surrender to God's plan for my life.
I blogged a few weeks ago about our Miracle Offering at the Island Campus and being a part of something amazing...CLICK HERE to read the update from Todd on our Island blog.
The verses that keep coming to mind as we walk this unbelieveable path of faith are ones that confirm God's promises to to provide.
"Commityourway to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this." - Psalm 37:5 (NIV)
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart...in all your ways acknowledge Him and HE will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5 a,6 (NIV)
My faith as a Christ-follower has increased in ways I have never experienced. I truly believe God is guiding and leading in ways that only HE can make a way. It will not be in any human strength. His power alone...and this is a GREAT place to be!
There is something inside of that desires to break out of the predictable, mundane, and planned part of our existence. We long for an unexpected windfall, a suprise, even a miracle. Francis Chan, in his book Forgotten God, says this about miracles...
"Miracles are never an end in themselves;they are always a means to point to and accomplish something greater."
That is what we want...to be a part of something amazing...to say we were there when"it" happened...to play a part in something greater than ourselves and our time...to leave a legacy.
Church planting is miracle territory. As think back over the last four years that Todd and I have been on Hilton Head Island, there have been a lot of miracles...experiences and situations that fit all of those things I mentioned. However, this Sunday at the Island Campus, we are stepping into some major miracle territory. I do not want to diminish any of the amazing things that God has done over the last four years - they are all miracles! From locating our first temporary facility to finding our first permanent facility to where we are today...embarking on purchasing our first permanent facility. These are just examples in one category!
There are the people miracles...changed lives...people who were far from God who are now in a daily relationship with Him...these are miracles.
There are personal miracles in the life of my family... a brother-in-law who is cancer free, the ability to purchase a home for our family on the Island, and financial recovery from some tough days in our past.
I long for the miraculous. I desire to see the unpredictable and the unplanned happen. I am an organized person in my job and with my family life because it is out of necessity (trust me!). However, I feel the most alive when the unexplained becomes reality -when common sense says, "That's impossible."
Mothers are required to be realists (I think it's in a handbook somewhere.) It's my job in our home to be "the dose of reality" when it comes to our family schedule, chores, budget...you get the picture. I think it is because of that role that I play in our family, that I long for any opportunity to dream and say "Wouldn't it be great if..." That is what I love about church planting. Yes, you have to have a dose of reality in the mix, but for the most part, this is ALL unchartered territory! You can't put a formula to every part and in fact, I think God probably gets a chuckle at all our stats, strategies, and formulas for church planting!
Maybe this whole idea of wanting something amazing paralyzes you as a person. You are ok without being a part of miracles. Maybe you have never seen one and so you don't understand what all the buzz is all about. Maybe you have seen a miracle, but you have forgotten what it felt like to experience it. Are you afraid to dream because "God might not come through?" Read this quote from Forgotten God...
"I think the fear of God failing us leads us to "cover for God." This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more. We even convince ourselves that we don't want more - that we have all the "God" we need or could want." - Francis Chan, Forgotten God, pg. 47
I want to see more, be a part of more, experience more, and be blown away by the Creator God who by very definition is creative...unpredictable, original...and wants to do something amazing in me and through me.
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree."For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think . Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed.They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them. "So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines—Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God." - Isaiah 55:8-13 (MSG)
Sydney and I have been playing monopoly for about the last year. Just recently, she has really started to understand it and it has been a lot of fun. I was thinking as we were playing this weekend how she buys property every time she lands on it until I have to tell her, she doesn't have enough money. She doesn't care about holding on to her money or if she runs out, she just loves the game. I, on the other hand, am very careful with my purchases and pretty much worry through the whole game if I am going to go bankrupt.
Now I know the point of monopoly is to OWN everything and take everything from the other players. However, watching her play and just enjoy the game, regardless if she won or lost was so refreshing. Just pure enjoyment. I was thinking about how much as I get older, I forget to just enjoy and not worry. I know that with age comes responsibility, but as I watch my children, I see so much more of how Christ wants me to respond to Him as His child. I thought about this passage in Matthew 6...
30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." 9 (MSG)
Our kids teach us truths just by being kids. I'm so thankful for the monopoly lesson. So who was teaching who to play?
She talks in the first couple of chapters about how the post modern world is "indoctrinating our children into believing everything is about them." As a parent, I confess that there are times that I contribute to this problem. In my attempt as a parent to "connect" to my children with their unique personalities and passions, I go overboard at times. It's very important to be in tune with our kids, but at the same time, we have to help them understand that the entire world does not revolve around their happiness, life being fair, or getting everything they desire.
In context to worship, we have to teach our kids that worship is about God and not about them. "Worship is one-directional. Worship is focusing on God and giving all glory to Him only, alone, singulary, totally - just Him," she writes. Even as an adult, there are time that I forget that when I worship, I am focusing my heart and mind on God and Him alone...not what I need or want...just Him. To really teach our kids to worship God, it has to start with them understanding it is not about them.
Kathleen quotes Ken Hughes, Senior Pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois saying...
"The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today's Christendom is that worship is primarily for us - to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment-focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who silently grade the performance...Taken to the nth degree,this instills a tragic self-centerdness."
Wow. That hit me. How many times do we do this? We rate our corporate worship experience on how much WE liked the worship leader, the song choices, the message...the stuff. Our kids are listening and learning what worship is by the way we talk about it. Are we teaching them that we worship because worship is really about them? or about God?
As I reflect on this New Year's Eve on the past year, I have several things that I learned that I think are worth sharing here at cheval glass. I know that we all look at the beginning of a new year as the opportunity for a fresh start and new challenges. But I think there is a lot to be learned by reflecting on the past - good and bad - and taking those lessons into your future. As Socrates said, " The unexamined life is not worth living." So with that, here we go..
1. Time is the greatest healer...the more time that passes from hurtful circumstances and situations that have occured in my life, I truly feel healing and restoration growing in my heart and mind. The memory is there, the scar may always be visible, the wound closes as time passes. I am thankful for what I am forgetting now more than ever!
2. I control my time and priorities...I allow things to "take over" and consume me - no one else does this to me - it is my decision what I allow to be the priorities in my life everyday. It's my choice.
3. Who I am in Christ will always be the measurement of my worth. The longer I am in full-time ministry (16 years so far!), the more I find peace and affirmation in my heart from this and this alone. As a worship leader, people like the songs I choose or people don't like the songs I choose. They have strong feelings about which campus I lead worship each week ( it's very sweet when I am missed...thank you!) I change my hair and people like or don't like that I changed my hair. I gain weight, I lose weight...all of this is SO unpredictable - it never lands anywhere. I am SO thankful that my God never changes and my worth to Him is not wrapped up in song selections, hair color, weight gain or loss, or meeting expectations. I am HIS child and that's where I am safe and secure.
4. There is nothing better than a good night's sleep. I have struggled with panic anxiety disorder for years and sleeping through the night is a luxury in different seasons of my life. I have had four or five great nights of sleep this past week on vacation and I feel like a new person! I need to do less in the evenings so that I can wind down sooner...that definitely made a difference this week!
5. Treasure every moment with those that mean the most to you. I have watched my sister and her family battle cancer with my brother-in-law and she has done this to the best of her ability. I have watched her make the most of moments at cancer treatments in NYC with her children and with her husband. It has made me more grateful and appreciative of those I love.
6. Have fun even if you don't have time. I took a few trips with my sister, family and friends at different times this year and I am so glad that I did. It was difficult with my job and the responsibilities I have, but I am glad I didn't allow that to keep me from being with them and making some great memories.
7. I love to blog and I'm ready to jump back in this year. I started blogging in 2006 and I have had good years and not so good years. This was one of those years that I let it sit on the back burner for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that I love doing it. I have truly missed sharing moments of my life here. Honestly, some of it was intentional because I truly needed a year to be unplugged. Some of it was just not making it a priority. However, I know that this is vital part of my journey and a discipline that I need to embrace again in 2011.
8. Watching my children grow up is the greatest gift to me as a mother. Sean was riding his brand new bike this afternoon and I can't believe he will be four in a few weeks. I am so thankful that I have the privilege to remember giving birth to him and now watch him ride a bike. Sydney has been journaling so much the past couple of months. I am so thankful I have the privilege of remembering when she couldn't write her name and now she is writing pages and pages of her thoughts. Some moms and dads do not have the privilege to see it happen. I am so thankful that I can.
9. It takes two, baby. Marvin Gaye was right. My life does not work without Todd. We are a team in every aspect of the word. For those of us parents that both work outside the home, it's the only way to survive. We each have our strengths and weaknesses that we bring to our relationship, but we are truly confident in what we bring to our marriage and to our family. It works for us and I am so thankful for the partner that God sent me 15 years ago. We are not the typical family with typical roles. We are different and I am so thankful that God chose the perfect man to live with me! One of my favorite memories this year is when I picked Sydney up from school on a Monday (as that is one of my days to pick up) and three cars behind me was Todd...to pick up Sydney...yeah, he thought he told me he was getting her that day "to help me out." But it all works out...I'm sure there will be a day that neither of us picks her up...thank goodnes for Amy Cunningham who helps us out!
Well that's about it. I don't want to ramble. I hope your 2010 has taught you some things that you can take with you into 2011. I leave with you a quote from one of my favorite authors as you leave this year behind and embrace the future.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
My absence over the last few months from cheval glass is not a reflection that there is nothing to share with you. My days have been busy and filled with family and ministry that have required me to be less engaged in the contemplative life. I've missed being here. So tonight, while my son is playing chicken shoot with my Dad, my daughter is playing dress up in the "rainbow room", and Todd is...well, I don't know what Todd is doing. I thought I would take a few minutes and share why I am so thankful.
I have a loving husband who has been a part of my life for 18 years...15 of that as my soul mate. I am so thankful for his friendship, loyalty, kindness, and patient love for me. I understand more every day how "two become one."
I have a beautiful 6 year old daughter who made it through tonsil and adenoid surgery last week like a champ! She accepted Jesus as her Savior over this past year, loves to dance, writes stories, read books, and create beauty wherever she is.
I have a tenacious 3 year old son who loves life, loves people, and has the early signs of being a very talented drummer. He is confident and strong, but loving and sensitive. I'm enjoying every moment as I watch him grow.
I am blessed with a wonderful mother and father who love me and my family with not just words, but deeds. I have two crazy sisters who I love with all my heart. I can't imagine how boring my life would be without their frienship and drama ( you heard me :)...I love you guys!)
I have an amazing church that I have the privilege to serve as a staff member. I am overwhelmed at their generosity, their love for each other, and their servant hearts toward those who are in need and who do not yet know Jesus.
I serve everyday with an amazing group of artists - musicians, tech stewards, singers, graphic artists, producers - that inspire me to find the most creative expression that celebrates who God is and what He has done for us.
I am so thankful for a God who loves me enough to send His Only Son to die for me - to reconcile the debt of my sin - so that I could be restored to Him in this life and in the life to come. I want my life to be a testimony of the thankful heart that I have for what He has given me. His unconditional love and mercy continues to overwhelm me. I love what Paul the Apostle told the Colossians...
"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving." - Colossians 2:6-7 (THE MESSAGE)
Todd and I were asked to lead a couple of sessions at Hilton Head Christian Academy's Upper Middle School Retreat yesterday at New Ebenezer Retreat Center in Rincon, GA. This was the first time Todd and I have been asked to do something like this together. I've led worship for retreats for about 13 years, but this was Todd's first time to speak at a retreat with me leading worship. Todd actually had more "stuff" to bring than me! He brought all kinds of props for illustration purposes and since I play the acoustic guitar now, he didn't have to drag my keyboard with us! It was definitely a first for our family. We brought Sean D with us and he had a blast having all these girls saying all day "he's so cute!"
I was the exact age of these kids when I first remember God speaking to my heart about pursuing a relationship with Him. I was at GA Camp (Girls in Action, baby!) It looked very similiar to this retreat center. It was a little erie to me because I really don't feel like it was that long ago, but it was...and we will just leave it at that.
I loved middle school. I had a great best friend, Mindy, and we were both beginning to understand what it meant to read our Bible and talk to God. We shared with each other all kinds of things that we were learning. My music really started to take off when I was in 7th and 8th grade and I was practicing all the time. I think that is why I have such fond memories. I had a great friend to encourage me during that critical time in my life and my music was becoming a big part of my life. I'm thankful for HHCA and the importance that they are placing on a personal walk with God.
One of the activities during the one-day retreat was for each student to create their own spiritual journal for this year. I still have mine from middle school and I can't wait to show my kids one day when they are ready. I'm so thankful for my Christian heritage and that I had the opportunity to engage with God as a middle schooler. I wasn't perfect and I didn't always make the right decisions as a teenager. However, I did have a relationship with God, I knew that He loved me, and I had already begun to see how He had plan for my life through my music. It was an awesome privilege to be a part of the retreat, to be with these amazing students, and to have time to reflect on my own spiritual journey. It was a great day!
The last three days have absolutely been that word. More sleep than normal, good diet and exercise, almost all of of my time with my family, and time to sit, read, and reflect. Words cannot describe how refreshed I feel and at the same time so alive. I feel so blessed to have the husband and children that I have, to live on this beautiful Island, and to have the privilege of taking time away from the normal pace of life. It is in these moments that what is truly important in life really bubbles up to the surface of your thought life. Here's what I have come up with so far...
I need time to dream. I've had time to pray and ask God for what He dreams for me and my family.
I need time to read...not for work-related education, parenting, or other reading that I normally do. I need time to enjoy a great novel because I have always been such an avid reader and I truly just love to read. I love a great story that is written very well. I'm enjoying a great novel by Francine Rivers called "Her Mother's Hope." (my Mother's Day present from my kids!)
I need time to eat right and exercise - both of them at the same time. We are eating pretty healthy this week, riding bikes, swimming, and doing a lot of activity. It feels great to be able to do them both at the same time.
So this is what my first three days have produced in me. The fact that these three things need to be a part of my lifestyle - not reserved for when I can fit them in to my regular routine. As I realign my life, I truly desire to make more of an effort in my lifestyle to keep these things as a regular thing and not reserved for "if I have time." For now, I have four more days of this and I am excited to continue them and see what comes from this time. More to come...
The best part for me of being out of my daily routine is the ability and freedom to have time to reflect. It is in these moments that I hear God speak to me and teach me what I have been maybe too busy to learn or even to busy to stop and listen to Him say. Here are some thing He is saying to me right now...
1. "Cynthia, it will never, ever all get done so accept the fact that a completed to do list is not your reality any longer." This is hard for me. I think I can actually complete EVERYTHING and I get frustrated when, of course, that never happens.
2. "Cynthia, someone is always going to be disappointed in you, not pleased with you, or feels that you have let them down. You cannot change that." With all my new responsibilities at LCC, I am feeling this now more than ever. I struggle a lot between doing what I know is the right thing for me, my family, and ministry and making people happy, especially people that mean a lot to me in my life.
3. "Cynthia, I am pleased with you not because of what you do, but because you are MY child. No worship service you plan, no event that you organize, no disappointed person, no task uncompleted, and no amount of ministry will ever INCREASE or DECREASE my love for you." This last statement is where I am right now. I am dwelling on that promise and allowing it to permeate my heart and mind all this week.
You are probably working today or maybe you are taking some time off. Wherever you are that you are reading this, I hope that number three will encourage you. Personalize the underline portion and meditate on this passage of Scripture. I love THE MESSAGE version of this...
31-39So, what do you
think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't
hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition
and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there
anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would
dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare
even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life
for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for
us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us
and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times,
not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not
backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They
kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting
ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because
Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or
dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or
unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because
of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.