Category Archives: Worship

Day 4. What I Learned By Leading Worship.

My husband said that I should blog about my recent experience as a temporary worship leader at my church.

This is a pretty fresh subject for me at the moment, and I’m not really sure I can sort it out enough to write about it just yet, but I’ll try.

Basically, the story goes like this:

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Girl (me) learns to play guitar at 17. Loves to sing. Scattered experience leading worship over the years including Bible studies, mission trips, and rarely leading for church service. But mainly just loves to worship alone or with hubby or sisters.

Over the years girl starts to feel pretty wary of being a worship leader. Doesn’t want to get caught up in the science of leading worship well. Wants to worship whole heartedly. Afraid of self-worship.

Girl is not serving at church and wrestling with that fact. Struggling to know how to serve with nursing baby and tantrum-prone toddler. Some one is always either napping or nursing.

Worship leader at church leaves and there is a huge need for both an interim and a permanent worship leader. Girl prays for a new leader and doesn’t consider filling in. After all, the Lord knows she has no idea how she could pull it off.

A couple people close to girl challenge her to consider serving by leading worship. Girl reminded gently by sister that gifts are given by the Lord to bless the Body of Christ. Girl prays about and considers it, and because she feels like she ought to, she brings it up to hubby. Hubby also has no idea how it would work out with the kids. Subject shelved for the time being.

Holy Spirit proceeds to “nudge” girl about it. Girl goes to hubby again and asks him to pray about. All the while, girl is uncertain that she is even fit to lead worship. It’s not like she’s had much time to play her guitar in the last 2 years….

Hubby decides to move forward on it and goes directly to Senior pastor at church. Girl is dumbfounded by that. Pastor calls girl to discuss it. Girl begins to lead worship.

Girl leads worship, out of obedience only. Girl ends up enjoying it much more than she ever thought possible. However, she also learns some lessons (more about that below).

Full time worship pastor hired, and he will start next Sunday. Girl is overjoyed to not be leading anymore!

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So that’s the story. As I’ve shared in my Day 1 post, I’m a people-pleaser. And not only that, but one with rather thin skin sometimes. I wish I had thicker skin, but if it’s going to happen without bitterness, it has to be a process that can only take place as I choose to listen to truth and through the Lord working in me.

Serving as a worship leader definitely exposed some of my unrest over the idea of displeasing people. Our church is small and it’s not uncommon to get immediate feedback. Although the feedback was usually positive, there were definitely suggestions. Occasionally the suggestions were not presented to me in the gentlest manner. The Lord reminded me that my aim was to please and praise Him — no one else. At the same time, I also wanted to help our congregation move into a place of worship as quickly as possible and not be distracted in any way. I learned to listen to and consider suggestions but to also be able to say “sorry” if it meant that I would not be able to lead well. This was not easy for me.

We also had all kinds of sound issues and I learned a lot about that – what a time sucker that can be! There were many times that singing a capella without worrying about mics, guitar pick ups, or words on a screen sounded heavenly to me. I reminded myself often that we could easily be worshiping in another country with none of those things (or with A/C!) and be just as content and joyful while worshiping the Lord. Sometimes, I wished we could scrap it all just for the sake of remembering that worship is an act of obedience and not about whether or not we “felt” like worshiping.

One of my favorite songs that I played was the song Behold Our God (you can listen to it here). Such great, true lyrics that have resonated in my mind over the past few weeks. Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed, I would think to myself “Behold our GOD! He is seated on the throne, and there is NOTHING too great or too hard for Him!” It was a reminder I needed constantly. And I think that is one of the perks of being a worship leader, if you happen to pick really great songs with good theology– the songs will minister to you throughout the week as you sing them while practicing.

In the end, I’m glad the Lord allowed the experience… but I’m also glad it’s over.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Hope is in Christ

Our kids were both dedicated this morning at our Christian church. Before the congregation, we pledged to pray over and to train up our children in the Lord. This is not a requirement in any way for the Christian parent; it is simply a special time devoted to praying specifically for our children as a church congregation, as well as an opportunity to publicly declare our intention of raising our children to know Christ.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for months. It wasn’t so very long ago that we were wrestling with infertility and the daunting thought that we might not ever be parents. How I cried out to the Lord repeatedly, reminding Him about Hannah and Sarah (as if He needed to be reminded) and some other barren Biblical women who were blessed with children. God certainly doesn’t promise us children, so I didn’t pretend to believe that we would be parents someday. We just didn’t know what would happen, and as the years went by and the likelihood of needing a hysterectomy went up, we lived with a lot of pain and turmoil.

But then God blessed us; not with one child, but two. We don’t deserve children, but He had mercy on us.

How grateful my heart was this morning, thinking that we could have arrived at church this morning still barren. Still fighting endometriosis. Still having surgeries. But we didn’t.

And yet, it’s not all about having children, or raising children, or being a mother or a father. These children of ours are wonderful and grant us great purpose for a time. But children are not our hope– our hope is in Christ! And how we thank him for His tender mercies on us.

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Our families came alongside to worship with us this morning and to pray over our children. After the service, my brother in law took our family picture outside the church. I’m still amazed at the color of the plants behind us!

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Hebrews 6:19-20: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (NIV)

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Filed under Baby, Endometriosis, Infertility, Worship

Pain

Ah, pain.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life to become better at dealing with chronic pain. But I just haven’t. It gets me every single time. I get to a breaking point, a time of despair. I pray, I cry, I ask for healing. Sometimes I am healed and sometimes I must keep living with it.

I feel foolish for saying this, but it never occurred to me that I’d be dealing with chronic pain while pregnant. Not even a remote thought went that direction. What I actually thought was “for once I’ll be pain free, since my endometriosis will be in remission!” (HA! I’m laughing right now.) For three straight weeks I have been dealing with right lower abdominal pain. I don’t have a clue what it is. Maybe adhesions wrapping around my bowel or endometriosis? I don’t think my doctor has a clue, either, other than that the “baby is squishing everything down there.” All I know is, it’s there and it makes me miserable most days.

I find my character tested again and again through chronic pain — and for the last three weeks I find I am facing a new test. How will I respond to this pain? For the things that I am fearful of (first, that it won’t ever go away, and second, that it could be something serious) — what will I do with those fears? Will I look to the Lord and say “Your will be done?” or will I become depressed and feel sorry for myself?

I have great admiration for people who have looked chronic pain or lifelong disabilities in the face and have learned to find joy and contentment in the Lord despite it. Joni Erickson Tada is one of those people. And there is a blog I follow (www.mundanefaithfulness.com) about a mother of 4 children who recently went through a horrific time of breast cancer treatment and is once again facing more insidious cancer. You would think the idea of leaving 4 young children behind would literally cripple her, but it’s not, because she’s not letting that happen. When the fears and sorrow start to creep in, she’s immediately putting those same thoughts to death. And that’s how I want to be when I am facing chronic pain and the fear of living with it daily, because I have learned that despair and fear can be more insidious than the cancer or chronic pain itself. I want to put those life-sucking thoughts to death, and trust the Lord to give me grace for each day.

Today we went to church and as we sang songs with words of truth and praise for our Savior, tears of sweet relief slid down my face. Ah, to get my focus off my pain and onto my Lord — this was truly the best medicine for my heart and my soul. And not only that, but then our pastor had those in the congregation who were struggling with pain to stand up because he wanted to pray over us. My husband nudged me (his way of saying “stand up!”) and I was prayed for. It was such a wonderful time– my burden being lifted off my shoulders and placed on the One who lovingly carries it for me.

Have you lived with chronic pain? What helps you keep your perspective and focus on the Lord, and not on your situation?

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Filed under Disabilities, Endometriosis, Pregnancy, Worship

As We Enter a New Year — Figuring out Changes in this Household

It’s the coming of another new year, and with that comes many changes in my life.

I decided to change up the design of my blog and cover picture. I got a new camera for Christmas (thank you hubby and all my family members!) and have been enjoying taking pictures whenever I get a moment. Taking pictures was a favorite past time of mine until about eight years ago, when my nice Nikon N65 camera got stolen out of the trunk of my car while I was at work. That being said, I am looking forward to beefing up my picture-taking skills once again! Here’s a shot from our backyard…

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The past nine weeks have been incredible. This endometriosis diet that I was initially skeptical of has really changed my life for the better. My gut rarely hurts anymore, and I’ve dropped about 7 pounds. I got off my all of my stomach meds.* I feel “good” all the time now, and it is a real treat to be feeling better after being miserable for so many months. Additionally, this diet has forced me to cook — A LOT. Every day I’m in the kitchen trying out new recipes and foods I’ve never cooked with before. I have found that my love of cooking is growing daily, which was a real surprise to me after feeling like I’d been stuck in a cooking rut for so long.

The diet has been a success and is something I believe I can live with long term. What’s not so easy to navigate are the other components that accompany the diet — essentially cutting out all forms of estrogen from sources other than just food. The idea is to cut out as much estrogen as possible because endometriosis is spread by estrogen. This involves xenoestrogens, which are industrially made chemicals that have estrogenics effects on people. They’re found in plastics and canned food, and if I’m to comply with this then this means no storing (or microwaving) food in plastic. Additionally, I’ve read that I should also be cutting out all parabens (found commonly in skin lotions, makeup, face wash and shampoo), because they also mimic estrogen in the body. Now I know that in general, chemicals are bad for our bodies, but it’s hard to know how extreme I need to be to stay ovarian “cyst-free.” If I don’t cut all these xenoestrogens and parabens out, will I need surgery again?

My husband and I have had numerous conversations about this. He is worried about me taking this to the extreme, and I don’t blame him. It comes down to the fact that he is paranoid about me becoming a “health freak” and I am just as paranoid about the idea of having to have another surgery and the possibility of losing my ovaries for good.

It’s funny — in life, we can make an idol out of just about anything. It can be as simple as wanting to be ultra-healthy in everything, or not wanting to give up your comforts. And so my husband and I have to work this out together, keeping in mind the interests of each other. What this means is that I will probably not be buying paraben-free makeup, and he will probably be eating more healthy that he prefers to be. We give and take, as any couple has to do to help their marriage flourish.

And so for this upcoming year, I’m praying for an unbroken gaze on Christ. I’m praying my marriage to be strengthened and for a surgery-free year. And no matter what happens, I will remember how Christ has held me through past trials and past surgeries. I may not know how to navigate through these issues right now, but I do know that I want to live for Christ and not for myself, whether this means having good health or not.

May the Lord bless and keep you as you enter into another year!

* I had to share what “meds” I was on because it is truly amazing to me that I was able to get off of all my meds within a month of being on this diet. Here’s what I was taking:

  • Protonix twice a day (Protonix is a proton-pump inhibitor that decreases the amount of acid released into your stomach over a 24 hour period. My MD told me that this is the same dosage and medication they would have had given to a patient hospitalized in the ICU with a bleeding stomach ulcer),
  • Ranitidine extra strength (Zantac) twice a day
  • Gas-X (simethicone) with every meal or else my gut would immediately blow up.
  • Tums
  • After several months of this, I still managed to get worse and was literally drinking Mylanta out of the bottle to help with the severe heartburn.

As you can tell, I went from being a complete mess to feeling great in less than a month!

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Filed under Endometriosis, Infertility, Marriage, Worship

Not My Will, But Yours, Be Done

When I was attending Bible college, almost 5 years ago now, a dramatic change in my thinking occurred. Up until that point I had always believed that God would allow limits to my suffering. I tended to see God more in light of Him being my Father, which would somehow spur Him to want to alleviate as much of my pain and suffering as possible. Part of that is true– He is my Father, but He’s also sovereign. He works in ways we often can’t understand at the time. While at Bible college I began to read the biographies of many Christians or missionaries who had suffered in horrendous ways. They had lost their children. Endured starvation. Some were tortured and then martyred for their faith. Many endured great trials and tragedies.

At this point, I was pretty frightened, as I was considering entering the mission field myself. Christians are still being martyred today. Many still endure great pain and suffering. I realized that I was not immune from any of it, not if I truly wanted to follow the Lord. I thought of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24). Deny himself. I wanted to do everything within my power to keep myself safe and to live a careful, calculated life. But I couldn’t, not if I wanted to follow Jesus.

Last night my husband and I had a long discussion about how man’s modern philosophies and the Lord’s commands just don’t mix. “Just do what makes you happy,” a lot of people will say. Or, “You have to do what’s right for you.” In our world, success is defined as reaching our full potential, our self-actualization. But nothing could be farther from what the Lord desires of us. He wants us to be obedient, to live to give Him glory in all things. In fact, reaching our “full potential” in the Lord is being completely surrendered to Him, obeying Him in all things, even if it means we suffer or die as a direct result. Even Jesus, fully man and fully God, prayed to the Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). The Son of God laid down his rights and his life to be obedient and to glorify his Father. Nothing could be a more powerful example of obedience.

And so I consider my own life, and the fact that we are still childless. I pray and ask God for children, but if I am to be wise I must not count on it happening. Just because the desire for children is great doesn’t mean that God will necessarily allow it. He may have other plans for us– better plans. So I strive to be obedient, to be courageous in this life, children or not. To follow the Lord even if it means never being a mother. Even if it means great suffering. He is faithful to me and will always call me His own. And I will be satisfied because I will be doing exactly what I was made to do. I will be worshiping my Creator.

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Filed under Infertility, Missions, Worship