Category Archives: A New Year in a New Place

Week 52: Facing the Future

It’s here.

Four more days.

It’s finally here.

And…

 I. Can’t. Wait.

We gathered together last night to discuss our hopes, fears, anxieties, and all things considering our first pre-launch service for The Vine this coming Sunday…March 11. Prayers that chaos would be at ease (it will exist) and that we would have an expanse of peace covering us were lifted up; prayers that the hearts of those in St. Louis Park and the surrounding area would be opened and that they would come if God would allow it; prayers that no matter the number that day that His Spirit would still be present…and that it would move…were spoken.

Personally, I’m excited. Two years ago, Pastor Rick asked me if I would join them in planting a church in Minneapolis. This was long before the church had a name; long before any vision had been put in place; long before any specifics had been given. I was at a point in my life where I was ready to move on. I felt that I had nearly outgrown my role at church and I not only physically wanted more, I spiritually wanted more.

When I graduated from college, moved to Sioux Falls and landed a job I wasn’t sure I would like, I had decided that I would give Him three years there. My roots had been planted in Brookings, so not planting many in Sioux Falls was easy. I had just hit my two year mark when Rick placed that question on the table. The decision was easy. I knew that I would be leaving…I was just waiting for God to open a door (or that window) to let in a little fresh air.

And there it was.

The fresh air…streaming down from Minneapolis…and I didn’t even need to fret over where God would place me next when it came to His body of believers. He had given me a church home. He had given me a new purpose. Not only am I “just the keyboard player,” I am so much more. He’s provided a place on the leadership team (which is scary because it comes with more expectations) and with hospitality, encouragement and mercy being the top three gifts He’s given me, I’m sure He’ll put them to good use, but until we’ve been blessed with those who can handle what I’m not gifted with, I’ll be wearing multiple hats.

I’m okay with that.

It will be uncomfortable. It will be nerve-racking. It will be challenging.

I expect to grow immensely as I’m challenged in all aspects of my life the foreseable future.

The God we serve is such a good God. His will is perfect. His timing is perfect. I believe that He will do something magnificent in the Uptown area of Minneapolis and I can’t wait to see what that is…even if it occurs outside the parameters of my lifetime.

The following scriptures have given me so much peace the last two weeks – know that He is good.

Peace I leave with you; peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:25-26

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you are called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Week 51, Part II: How He Loves

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

I can remember singing and playing the melody to the song “Jesus Loves Me” when I was a child. It was actually one of the first songs I taught myself to play…I barely remember it; my hands smaller than the expanse of two keys on the piano and my delightful giggle when I figured out the next note. Oh, how I loved that song.

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong.

Let me ask you this: Do you truly, completely, whole-heartedly believe that?

This morning, my crew from The Vine Community was given another opportunity to lead worship at MN Teen Challenge. Imagine a room full of men and women singing praises to God at eight in the morning. Oh, what a beautiful and heart-rendering sound!

God has a tendency to surprise us…we were headed in one direction with the message topic, which had probably been chosen weeks, if not months ago, when He chose to send us down another path. The topic changed and another song was added to the mix; a new version/take on God’s love…something fresh…something beautiful: How He Loves.

The song started out with a blast of the bridge….singing how much God loves us at the top of our lungs…and it seemed to go on. I wanted to stay in that room forever; to stay at His feet forever.

One lyric in that song reminds me of Exodus 24:14 (NLT): …for the Lord…is a God who is jealous about His relationship with you.

The first time I read that verse, I cried. I’m not talking about just one short whimper. I’m talking flat out “I’m a mess!” crying. He is jealous for me…love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

My challenge to you today: Be overwhelmed with His love for you.

He loves you more than you can fathom.

He loves me more than I can imagine.

He loves us more than we deserve.

Week 51, Part I: Chaos

Twelve days.

Twelve days.

Twelve.

That thought ran through my mind multiple times last night as we set up and tore down our equipment twice last night at our current home location for The Vine.

We launch in twelve days.

Time’s going to fly.

My schedule has gotten fuller and more hectic the last couple of weeks. I went from leisurely (although it was a struggle at first) enjoying my free time…the most I’ve had in over a decade…to instant chaos. It took a couple of days to adjust to the screaming insanity in my head. What happened? I love being busy…or at least I thought I did.

Three days into my first chaotic week, I finally was able to breathe. The chaos and insanity hadn’t lessened, but God had calmed me.

I was flipping through Jeremiah this morning and once again read through chapter 29:

‘For I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.’ V. 11-13

God knows what He has in store for this church; this body of believers who are gathering in His name to proclaim His gospel in an unchurched part of Minneapolis. In seeking Him, I find stillness in the midst of my current chaos and the chaos that is to come. In seeking Him, He will bring forth the plans He has for us individually as well as for His body; the church.

Week 50: The Great Architect

I had plugged my iPod into the radio converter I purchased a few months back in an attempt to save money and space on burning multiple CDs, opting to listen to a steady stream of music without the ads, news or other tidbits of sometimes useless information during a brief 30 minute trip back to downtown from Blaine, Minnesota. I rounded a curve on I-94S and the skyline of downtown Minneapolis came into view, leaving me breathless, as it usually does. The road lay before me, leading into this man-made wonder.

Just as I approached the fourth street exit, a song by Owl City came on…a one man band from this very part of the state: Designer Skyline. I couldn’t help but smile and be awed by the ideas and level of creativity that God has given man.

Affection, the gifted architect
Is making a draft and beautiful design
The options and possibilities
Are endless when we connect and re-align…
Until I’m convinced these plans are picturesque
Like the mountains in the Midwest…

A city sparkles in the night
How can it glow so bright?
The neighborhoods surround the soft florescent light
Designer skyline in my head
Abstract and still well-read
You went from numbered lines to buildings overhead.

I sometimes wonder if Adam Young (the voice behind Owl City) wrote that last part about the Minneapolis skyline. Granted, the skylines of San Francisco and New York City are gorgeous too…but it pales in comparison to Minneapolis (at least in my humble opinion).

God created all that we see. He created you and… He created me. On His creation, enabled through Christ, He bestows His unfailing love affectionately. God is the Great Architect. He started with Creation, followed it up with the flood (I firmly believe that this is where the mountains and the Grand Canyon came from – just to name a few wonders on this terrestrial planet) and He continues, with each changing season. He gives ideas to men, who then work to create such wonderful masterpieces, from David by Michelangelo to the art at the Walker Art Museum, the works in the Sculpture Garden to the downtown skyline, the Statue of Liberty to the monument in DC…the list is endless.

We serve an amazing, creative God. How majestic is He!

Psalm 8 NLT

O LORD, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants
to tell of Your strength,
silencing Your enemies
and all who oppose You.

When I look at the night sky and see the works of Your fingers –
the moon and the stars You set in place –
what are mere mortals that You should think about them,
human beings that You should care for them?
Yet You made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything You made,
putting all things under their authority –
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds of the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims in the ocean currents.

O LORD, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!

 

Week 49: Time – A Season for Everything

I woke up another year older today. Crazy how time has its strange affect on us. I’m not saying that I’m looking ahead with dread on my future, but rather with hope. 2012 will be a big year for myself and many of my friends.

We’re all in the midst of growth and change; adventure and challenge. And it’s about to get bigger, better, broader, and more unfathomable than we’ve already begun to imagine. I believe that God will be doing great things in Minneapolis; all for the greater good of His Kingdom and His glory…not our own.

I was combing through some items I wrote a while back and came across the following. It fits quite nicely with how I’m feeling/what I’m facing this week.

Time. Why is it that there seems to be a sudden change, a shift rather, in the time one knew as a child to that which we see as adults? I can remember when I was a little girl, I had all the time in the world. Although the lives of my dolls lasted only a few weeks, if not days, before they too moved on to a place I called Barbie heaven, my days seem to last forever — full of freedom and no responsibilities.

As I got older, time sped up with each passing year. Then came high school. Gone were the days of boundless freedom and my carefree attitude. More responsibility was laid at my feet — a part-time job along with the family business — sporting events — concerts and drama productions — practices and such. Senior year brought with it college visits, ACTs, applications and prep. I was going to be an adult…

College flew by – there are still days that I wish I was still there. Four and half years of my life dedicated to post-secondary education. Time had been equally shared between homework, CRU, work, friends and classes…not to mention the occasional sporting event. As graduation approached, I found myself earnestly searching for a job…a full time job with benefits. I also found myself planning a moving trip…just 50 miles south of where I had gone to college.

Now, I find myself in the real world. I hold a lead agent position with a great company. Days run together so often, I find myself forgetting when a certain event/issue happened. By the time Friday rolls around, Monday seems as though it occurred eons ago. What is with that?

It’s amazing at how fast time seems to slip on by…and I have to force myself to stop just to catch my breath. Time…seamless and sometimes, seemingly endless. Adults complain that they don’t have enough of it and the young and elderly abound with it. I’m beginning to understand the first part of that last sentence…eight hours in a day are not enough to get all of my work done at times. A recent event my life brought that to a halt.

Time. We’re only promised what God’s plan entails for each human being before we’re called home — that is, for those of us who chose to believe and follow Him. I recently lost a loved one to a long battle with cancer and am reminded at what little time we and hat we are not promised tomorrow. We’re only promised this moment….now. I refuse to fall trap to the day-to-day living that I see in the lives of those around me. I’m called to rise above it…I only pray that God will guide me as I step forward on that note. It is also with a farewell (for now) that I leave you with a poem, written by the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 3
A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.
And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
I thought in my heart,
“God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed.”
I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Week 48: Soudtrack to My Life

If you could choose any song to play during any given moment of your life, what would it be? Or, rather, what would they be?

Perhaps you have your own personal list.

I do.

I don’t really think it’s all that odd to have your own personal life playlist. I even found myself contemplating mine the other day. I’ve got happy songs for the great times, sad songs for trialed times, I could go on.

Just to share a few, my list consists of:

Here I Go Again On My Own/Whitesnake
Happy/Ayiesha Woods
When Everything Falls Apart/Fee
Brick/Ben Folds Five
100 Years/Five for Fighting
You Found Me/The Fray
Secrets/One Republic
Born This Way/Lady Gaga
This is the Day/Laura Story
Free to Be Me/Francesca Battistelli
Still Running/Eastmountainsouth
Everything/Lifehouse
Storm/Lifehouse
All In/Lifehouse

What’s on yours?

Week 47: Early Spring Cleaning

I’m one of those weird people that actually enjoys cleaning….spring cleaning to be exact. There’s just something refreshing, a sense of starting over, that comes with clearing out the old. Twice a year (in the spring and in the fall), I get to go through all of my things…uploading all of my receipts and important documents from the past year onto my external harddrive (I’m going paperless…eases on the clutter…trust me on this one), shredding that imformation when I’m finished, going through my closet and getting rid of everything I haven’t worn in over six months, tossing worn out socks and more.

I started a bit early and was going through some old files on my comptuer when I came across last year’s goal list. I’m proud to say that quite a bit of that got crossed off as the year progressed. Take a look:

To Do List for 2011

  • Write up motivational quotes to post in the bathroom, the back of my bedroom door, kitchen cupboards, fridge and the door to my apt.
  • Strive to live each day to its fullest.
  • Lose 50 lbs by summer/mid-summer.
  • Get a great new job in Minneapolis.
  • Get a great apartment in the cities.
  • Get a dog – Border collie, preferably. Mid-size dog.
  • Maybe work at a coffee shop if the new job allows.
  • Write more. Finish a novel (or two). Work on my blog. Write up some new lyrics.
  • Date?
  • Take care of myself.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Not to come home and just sit at night – do something active. Go back to the gym, sit on my balance ball, or work out at my apartment. Maybe even go to the mall to walk and walk across the street to do it!
  • Print of a moving to do list.
  • Get a balance ball for the office. Out with the office chair!
  • Walk during my 30 minute and 15 minute breaks and take them in full when I can!
  • Cut back on chocolate and sweets.
  • Read more.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Save $$$!

I’ve never considered myself a long-distance goal planner. Afterall, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Why plan for something 10 years from now when all I have is today? Sure, I’ve got long-term dreams like get married, have a kid, buy a house…but I won’t be doing any of those things tomorrow or today, so I usually don’t spend what time I have focusing on those things. Yet, some people do. It’s what they live for.

God’s Word says to not worry about tomorrow or focus on the past. Tomorrow hasn’t even happened yet and the past is just that…that past. You can’t change it. But you can start now to create a new ending.

Week 46: The Art of Losing Myself

Worship.

I live for it.

I breathe it in.

Not just for anything.

For one thing.

My Savior.

Jesus.

The deeper I get into worship, the more respect I have for the worshipers that went before me and paved the way for what we call call worship today.  The longer I spend in worship and talking to others about it, the more I realize that this is indeed art at its most primal level. Even when we’re going through the hardships that life has a tendency to toss our way.

A friend of mine reminded me of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs (From the Inside Out). Each time I listen to this song, the same lyrics continue to jump out at me:

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

excerpt from “From The Inside Out” – Joel Houston, Hillsong

I’ve heard this song many times before, and each time, those lyrics touch a deeper portion of my soul.  They so clearly articulate what I believe, but never been able to put to words myself.  I’ve had people ask me why I worship, and what I do when I worship, even how to worship.  I’ve never once had anyone ask me about the art of worship. 

As a worship artist, it’s important for me to remember that worship is never about me, my style or the notes or song that comes next. Sure the talent is art, but the true art is allowing myself to be lost in God; not focusing on that moment. The art of losing yourself in worship, as the song alludes to, is a matter of getting your priorities straight first, then simply being creative in His presence:

  1. Put your focus on God
  2. Remember that you are there so others may worship
  3. Be creative and continually put their focus on God

Sounds simple enough, but it’s the creatively part where most people trip up.  Where do you draw the line in expressing yourself creatively so that it doesn’t feel like a performance?  I believe it all comes down to focus.  Performance in church has its place so long as the focus is placed on God, then it becomes an expression of the gifts you were given by God.  When people notice you more than than they notice God, then you need to seriously examine if you crossed that line.

The art of worship requires you to balance the natural tension of performance (“look at me”) and presentation (“look at Him”).  The art of losing yourself in worship requires to you to keep one eye and ear on the physical world around you while getting as deep into God as possible through worship.  The aim here is to connect the two together.  Connections require constant attention, otherwise they fall apart.  What is worship for some people, is a distraction and a struggle for others.  You need to be able to respond to the needs of the physical environment around you while responding to the spiritual promptings of the Holy Spirit so as many barriers to worship are removed as possible.

Even the best worship leaders need to practice this continually or risk losing perspective on the environment around them.  This is living art at it’s God-given best.  God rewards the faithful who use their gifts wisely and sacrificially.

Week 45: Loose Baggage

We are a strange breed… Most of us tend to want to hang on to everything…giving ourselves the typical pack-rat syndrome. We hang on to clothes, old notes, old acquaintances, and even things that bring stress into our lives. We have an issue with letting go. Period.

I know I do.

The majority of my life has been one of learning to let go and I’m in the midst of another season of letting go. Through this current stance, God is teaching me to let go, to trust Him and let Him take on this burden.

In reading my Bible this morning, I stumbled upon Psalm 25:2:

I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.

The beautiful thing about letting go is that it frees us up to share our burdens with the body. We weren’t meant to go through it all alone.

Let us remember that God is the Alpha and Omega, the Author and the Finisher of our faith. We need to rely upon him for our every day spiritual walk as well as our earthly walk among men and unbelievers. When we show forth a Godly way of living, then we will be rewarded by God. He is a keeper of his blessed promises.

Week 44: Cheers to My Secure Future

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

I’ve been reminded of that statement time and again throughout this past year. And, for good reason.  

March 2011, I embarked on a new journey; a new adventure to parts unknown (mostly, at least). I came here, to Minneapolis, resting on those verses. I wasn’t sure what God had in store for me here (other than playing keys for a new church…only He knew when that would start).

Prior to January 1, 2012, He’s filled my days with excitement, stretched me beyond what I thought possible, and loved me through it all. I’ve learned to start accepting myself as I am…imperfections and all. I’ve learned to accept the past for what it is and forgive past hurts; thus being able to let them all go.

Now, I’m looking forward into 2012. I can’t see what lies ahead, but I do know that I’m in for a wild ride this year and I can feel the growth beginning. Only God knows the plans He has for me…plans to prosper (become financially fit, forward me in my career…whether that’s with my current employer or not…and more). He will not harm me…even though the process may hurt.

Knowing that when I seek Him, I will find Him brings me so much comfort. I long to have a heart like His.

Because I know that, I have a hope and I have a future. Cheers to security in the midst of my insecurities.