four minutes with God: Luke 24:27, 30-32

the Word:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?””
Luke 24:27, 30-32 (NIV)

my Prayer:
Lord, please open my eyes. Please open the Scriptures to me. Please teach me how to encounter Christ in every corner of the Bible. I can’t do it on my own. I desperately need your Holy Spirit to help me decipher what I read, but I also need teachers and books and other resources to point me to Christ in every measure of your Word. PLEASE Lord, don’t ever let me passively use or numbly accept others use of Your Word only as supporting material for moral living or motivation for charitable service – without an unmistakable declaration that apart from Jesus Christ, moral living and charitable service are empty, temporal pursuits. Please Lord, never let me settle for an assumption of Jesus. My desperate prayer is that I would never forget that JESUS is the single common thread that runs through every book of the Bible. Lord, never let me forget that without JESUS, the Bible is just a historical document. I want to see Jesus in Scripture where I’ve never recognized Him before. Jesus, please show me YOU. Please help me point others to You.

a Quote:
“ABOVE ALL, PREACH CHRIST…I got lost in the details of the text and didn’t have time for the most important part. In the mail came a letter from this lady saying, ‘I could have heard that message in a mosque.’ Ouch. Sometimes the best input doesn’t come in the easiest packages, but she was right. Nobody needs preaching that gives the testimony of God but doesn’t scope down to the Son of God and the gospel. That’s gotta be in our messages somewhere every week, that God loves fallen people, that they can be saved from their sins and find the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If I never get tired of preaching it, God’s people will not wear of rejoicing in it.”
Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be.
by James MacDonald

the lyric.
“Chains be broken. Lives be healed. Eyes be opened. Christ is revealed.”
You’ll Come by Hillsong United

four minutes with God: Exodus 33:15-16

the Word:
Then Moses said to Him “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?
Exodus 33:15-16 (NIV)

my Prayer:
Lord, I don’t want to go – or STAY – anywhere if you aren’t there. I pray your forgiveness for finding long lasting delusion and comfort in places that only hold the appearance of dedication to You. Forgive me Lord, for being satisfied with serving others instead of abandoning my will and my ideas of what service looks like and allowing YOU to use me – however you see fit. Please forgive me for settling for appropriate and acceptable instead of wholeheartedly and unashamedly living out my faith in Christ, even when others see my thoughts, feelings and ideas as inappropriate, insufferable or naively dismissive of cultural norms. Forgive me Lord, for allowing the disapproval of people who don’t know me to dampen my enthusiasm and derail my dedication to live a life examined through the filter of Your Word. Forgive me Lord, for allowing so much time to pass before I found the courage and motivation to honestly face and process the reality of my surroundings and circumstances. My affinity for your people blinded me to the growing undeniable evidence that You are more an icon than THE reason we exist and gather. I want to be where You are. Please God, lead me to that place.

a Quote:
“Whether you are 15 people around a candle and a coffee table or 150 people in a tired building trying to turn it around or 1500 people on the rise with plans for another service – regardless of size: if you don’t have the thing that makes us distinct, you have nothing, no matter what you have. And if you do have it – what we were made to long for; what makes us a true church of the one true God – you have everything you need, no matter what you lack.”
Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be.
by James MacDonald

the lyric.
“I don’t want to go somewhere, if I know that You’re not there. ‘Cause I know that me without You is a lie. And I don’t want to walk that road, be a million miles from home. ‘Cause my heart needs to be where You are. So I don’t want to go.”
I Don’t Want To Go by Avalon

an ego smackdown. straight from God.

In Kari Jobe’s album version of Revelation Song, the fourth verse builds and the word “mystery” is held for about 18 seconds. (It starts at the 4 minute mark)

I couldn’t do it.

And I really, really wanted to do it. For over a year, the worship leader didn’t even go near it. Then, one night at rehearsal, when I didn’t know it was coming, we held it out the extra beats.

Twice.

I was hooked.

I rehearsed the rest of the week, and that Sunday, just before we were supposed to lead Revelation Song, the pastor lost track of the fact that we had one more song to do and began speaking.

It was scheduled again on a week with a guest worship leader. It took me THREE breaths to get through it. THREE.

I had taken it to my vocal coach and worked on it for weeks. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how many times I vocalized and repeated those particular voice lessons along with a CD, I couldn’t master those stupid 18 seconds. I achieved a whopping 50% success rate. On a good day.

Time and time again, I ran out of air after 15 seconds. If not sooner.

I took Revelation Song to the recording studio and was relentless. In the end, I was able to hold it every time, but only by holding my hands straight up in the air as far as I could reach. Whether it was physical or psychological, I seemed to make room for more air that way. But I held it. Made me lightheaded every time. And it had no building power. It actually got softer.

A thought occurred to me and I pushed it aside. For two weeks, I ignored what I believe now was God trying to tell me something.

Finally, two days ago, I told God that if I was trying to hold “mystery” out of pride, I wanted to fail.

Haven’t held it since.

Not once.

Of course it’s possible that I’m freaking myself out. But more likely this is an ego smackdown straight from God. This is one of those failures I can’t overcome by working harder. Have to let it go. Counter-intuitive.

I told two other people on the worship team this ugly little truth and one of them immediately came back with this verse:

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Colossians 3:5 (NIV)

ouch. That’s kinda harsh, dontcha think?

I like this one better:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Colossians 3:23

Isn’t that prettier? I told my husband that it kinda felt like putting lipstick on a pig. His response?

“It’s a cop out if you ask me.”

Ugly but true.

Colossians 3:23 is a goal. Something to strive for. Colossians 3:5 is about acknowledging sin. Big, fat, ugly, lipstick covered sin. And who wants to see that? I certainly didn’t.

Don’t.

So ugly I didn’t even want to put that pig picture on this post.

But there it is.

I’m leading Revelation Song on Sunday. And I’m planning on taking a breath in the middle of those 18 seconds. If God doesn’t think I’ve been humbled enough, I asking him to make me need TWO.

four minutes with God: Ephesians 4:29-32

the Word:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)

my Prayer:
Lord, there’s something liberating about an unresolvable situation. It forces me to remember that on my own, I can do nothing. YOU can do anything. So, when I reach an impasse with another person, when I face the undeniable fact that there’s absolutely nothing I can do to resolve a situation, the only thing I’m left with is prayer. Thank you for helping me realize and accept that all my own human efforts will pale in comparison to what YOU can do. If you choose to. Talk and actions may result in temporary manipulation, but long-lasting, fundamental change will come when YOU speak and move. Thank you for reminding me that while Romans 8:28 promises you will work all things for good, sometimes, in my own life, that looks like failure. Thank you for helping me accept that sometimes, in my own life, giving grace means walking away, even if it means walking away from something I love. Please comfort me as I let go. Please encourage me as I seek your will to fill the void this loss will create.

a Quote:
“Jesus washes our feet for two reasons. The first is to give us mercy; the second is to give us a message, and that message is simply this: Jesus offers unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace. The mercy of Christ preceded our mistakes; our mercy must precede the mistakes of others.”
JUST LIKE JESUS by Max Lucado

the lyric.
“So who says he’ll forgive you? And says that he’ll miss you? And dream of your sweet memory? God does. But I don’t. God will. But I won’t. And that’s the difference between God and me.”
God Will by Lyle Lovett
(what? cut me a break, I’m still working on it…is this better?)
“Well I find that I’m just not agile enough, to balance the weight of all of this stuff. It’s a cumbersome task that demands too much and it’s gettin’ me nowhere fast…As far as the east is from the west, these are the things that I must forget. I’ll lay down my anger before the sun sets, I will forgive. I will forget. I will remember not, I will forgive. These things that tear my heart, I will forget. I will forget.
Remember Not by Susan Ashton (click HERE to listen)

“Fair” is not when everybody gets a turn.

Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.

When I was in college, one of my friends, a member of the same singing group I was in, angrily told me it wasn’t fair that I got so many solos “just because I sang better than her.” She said she “couldn’t help it that she couldn’t sing as well as I did.” She said “God had just given me a better voice than her.” She had been shortchanged and she was disappointed. And ticked off. At me. And she let me know it. This particular time she said it out loud while looking glaring me in the eye, but most of the time the message was sent through her sulking body language and mopey facial expression every time I got assigned a solo or actually performed one.

Fast forward 20 years. I joined our church’s praise team and after a few months, all the vocalists were put on a rotation. The theory was that it would be easier for the musicians if they didn’t have to make a weekly commitment. Less burnout. I told the worship leader I didn’t want to be on a rotation. I wanted to sing every week. Why?

  1. I needed the accountability; preparing for a mid-week evening rehearsal and Sunday morning service forced me to sing EVERY day. If I didn’t work every day, I wouldn’t be as prepared as I wanted to be.
  2. I needed to build up my stamina, increase my vocal range and improve my breath control. Consistent daily work – on all three – was the only thing that was going to get the job done.
  3. I was being exposed to, and challenged by, a new style of music that I was instinctively gravitating toward.
  4. The mental challenge of memorizing a boatload of lyrics was exponentially increasing my memory skills. I was being forced to employ abandoned memory techniques I had learned years ago.
  5. The weekly exposure of being in front of a large group of people during the praise and worship service was slowly nicking away at the stage fright that had crept in during the 10 plus years I had taken off as a serious vocalist. I was once again becoming comfortable, more at home on stage.
  6. The worship leader’s easy dismissal of my screw-ups was leading to more self-confidence and as a result, I was taking more risks vocally and stylistically.
  7. I was experiencing emotion when I sang and I was gradually allowing myself to feel it. Rare for me to experience it. Unthinkable to actually allow it. Inconceivable that I didn’t feel compelled to retreat.

Every week I was gaining experience and growing stronger. I began asking for a DVD of every service and I watched the “game film” every week. That DVD is unedited; the vocals are unmixed. I heard what was going into the microphone, not what was coming out after I got a little help from the sound guys. I heard THE HARD TRUTH. Every week, I meticulously listened to the quality of my voice, my harmonies, and whether my phrasing and breathing matched the worship leader’s. I forced myself to evaluate my appearance and my stage presence. I relentlessly critiqued myself. I was determined to identify my weaknesses and work on eliminating them. I found a vocal coach and started working with her regularly. I was rehearsing 10 to 20 hours per week and I came to rehearsal as prepared as I possibly could. I had to make some hard choices to give up some good things in my life to fit in those 10 to 20 hours.

I was working my butt off.

And then another vocalist caught me off guard with a simple question: “Why are you so special?”

I was dumbfounded. “What?”

They said, “Why do you get to sing every week?”

I heard, “It’s not fair. You get to sing more than me.”

I was stunned. Since it wasn’t a real question, they didn’t really expect an answer. They just wanted me to know I was getting undeserved special treatment and they didn’t like it.

I learned a long time ago that when I’m faced with criticism, I really need to strip away all the emotion and acrimony and bravely look for a grain of truth. Special. Was I getting special treatment?

Yes. I sang every week. I was excluded from the rotation.

I found myself thinking about these two interchanges from my past multiple times today, and it led me to this video. Check it out. Only 1 minute and 2 seconds.

As soon as I watched that commercial on youtube I knew it was true. Both of these people from my past were making excuses. Both of them assumed that my voice was just a God-given gift and that I didn’t have to work for it. I was their scapegoat. Their guilt-free pass to rationalization and self-delusion. It was easier to blame me for hogging all their opportunities than to work hard for what they wanted.

Neither one of them came to rehearsals prepared, having learned their own individual parts ahead of time. Neither one expressed interest in voice lessons. To my knowledge, neither one recorded and listened to themselves. Neither one made adjustments to their commitments or schedules to allow extra time to work on their vocals. Neither one sought out and encouraged honest feedback about their vocals, instead depending on the polite comments of friends as justification that there was no room or need for improvement. Both of them garnered support through whispering campaigns, resulting in high tension and drama. I spent a LOT of time with my college friend and I never, ever heard her rehearse or vocalize outside of our weekly group rehearsal.

Each of those two people, because of their unwillingness to strive for continued improvement, prevented each group from rising above their lowest common denominator: Them.

Is it possible these two people might have put a tremendous amount of work and effort into becoming stronger vocalists only to discover they don’t have enough core talent? Possibly. But neither of them will ever know. They had dreams, but dreams without action are just wishes, not goals.

Wishin don’t make it so.

And fair isn’t when everybody gets a turn. Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.

But I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair. And these two people from my past are by far not alone in their belief that fair is when everybody gets a turn. They are by far, not the only people who feel entitled to opportunities they don’t earn. And those opportunities are continuously provided to people who don’t work for them because it’s easier than having the difficult and honest conversation that will most likely hurt their feelings.

It’s not limited to music, it’s everything. Everywhere. So when an opportunity I continue to work so hard to earn is given to someone less qualified in the pursuit of fairness, I’m left with a choice.

Take my ball and go home because it isn’t fair? That fits me worse than pink clothing.

Be less because someone else can’t or won’t be more? Not gonna happen. I refuse to give God less than my best. I refuse to stifle the gifts He’s blessed me with.

I will be the best steward I can possibly be – of all He’s given me, even if that stewardship leads to resentfulness and jealousy and leaves me with significantly diminished opportunities.

My kids are paying attention to how I handle this. I’m not wavering from what I’ve been teaching them their entire lives: “sometimes, we have to do what’s required.

Ab workout AND entertainment.

10:33pm.

Shoulder Devil: “It’s late. You did the HIIT training. Skip the rest.”

Shoulder Angel: “There’s still an hour and a half left in the day. Don’t listen to him. If it wasn’t for me, your body fat percentage would still be 51%”

Shoulder Devil:: “hhhhhh. okay, fine. then just do the plank. Skip the strength training. You’re tired. You can do strength training tomorrow.”

Shoulder Angel:: “He’s right.”

Shoulder Devil:: “I am?”

Shoulder Angel:: You should do strength training tomorrow. You should do tomorrow’s strength training tomorrow. Do today’s strength training today.”

Shoulder Devil:: “no, that’s not what I meant…”

Shoulder Angel:: You don’t have to do the Power Half Hour, just do one of the 10 Minute DVDs” .”

Shoulder Devil:: “Don’t listen to him, he’s a fanatic. He’s talking about 10 Minutes. What’s the big deal about 10 lousy minutes?”

Shoulder Angel:: “EXACTLY my point.”

Shoulder Devil:: “NO! That’s not what I meant…”

Shoulder Angel:: “HEY! remember that FIRM 5 Day Ab workout from the 90s? Do that! Day one is only 6 minutes!”

And that’s how I ended up with this video in the DVD player tonight.

(and you’re welcome. this video clip is so blurry you can’t see that the shorts on the guys in this video are WAY too short. T. M. I. and ewww. and again. ewww. and who says “supine? My whole life I’ve never said the word “supine.”)

It’s Not the Least We Can Do, It’s the Best We Can Do.

(a short excerpt from the book I’m writing – and WILL eventually finish)

Why is it that when faced with a problem, my first inclination is to do something? To take action? Why is it that my knee jerk reaction is to throw myself into problem solving mode? Then, when I’ve expended every effort, when I’ve explored every possible option, only then do I pray? Why is it so counter-intuitive to pray first? Why is it that I, more often than I’d like to admit, see prayer as a last resort in a time of crisis instead of a first line of defense?

This is not something I’m proud of, nor is it something I can rationalize or dismiss. What I want to do when faced with a challenge or crisis, is immediately, intuitively go to God for help, but instead, time and time again, I find myself at the end of my own abilities, begging God for direction and ideas – and supernatural intervention.

Prayer is seriously underrated. We tend to keep it in a nice, neat little box, taking it out only when we need it. In the words of Robin Williams as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin:

“Phenomenal cosmic power! itty bitty living space.”

I’ve found that when I’m actively committed to consistently spending time with God, the tendency to handle things on my own is automatically diminished. When I’ve already spent time with God on a given day, reaching out to Him as a first response when something happens later in the day is much more intuitive. I’m also less easily discouraged because when I talk to God first, my approach to a problem is much clearer and calmer. I’m not saying that every time I bring a problem to God I come away with a crystal clear approach to successful and immediate problem solving.

I wish.

But in the great debate of whether prayer changes God’s mind or our hearts, chalk this one up to a changed heart.

claimed or counterclaimed.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” C.S. Lewis

Either I’m on track and Satan is ticked and trying to derail me,

or

I’m off track and God is relentlessly trying to get me to see that He’s answering my prayer for direction.

and so I pray.

because I desperately want to be claimed by God.

I can’t let the negative feedback of man push me to the bench to sit and do nothing, waiting for God to tell me what to do. I can’t let the negative feedback of man discourage me from my ministry, especially after experiencing what I sincerely believe was a powerful interchange of the Holy Spirit with God’s people. I can’t ignore the possibility that Satan is ticked and wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Since that big fat liar is no match for the Holy Spirit, he chooses to attack God’s people, planting doubt and sowing discouragement.

I’m going to stay diligent on my path until God slams into me like a linebacker and knocks me off of it.

I’m hardheaded that way.

Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord.
Zechariah 4:6

This old song is creeping into my memory today.

I’m going to stop being discouraged and be awesome instead. True Story.

I haven’t exactly been sad. But I’ll admit. For the last few weeks, I’ve been discouraged. I found myself in the middle of a new work group dynamic and the results have been . . . discouraging. Actually, it’s an old dynamic that I allowed to resurface. I should have known better.

I can’t be discouraged anymore. It doesn’t work for me.

I’m not going to hold back my best anymore to try and accommodate someone who is uncomfortable with my strength. It’s been like breathing through a pillow.

I can’t intentionally incorporate their work product into my work anymore. The addition is eroding the quality of my finished product and my peace of mind. If they can add to the finished product, that’s great, but I can’t continue modifying my work to include inconsistent contribution and incompatible components.

I’m not going to be less because they aren’t more. It hasn’t helped them be more. Affirming them hasn’t made them stronger, it’s just wiped me out. Giving them attention doesn’t satiate their need for attention, it just feeds it. It’s never enough.

Like feeding Seymour.

I’m going to go back to what I was doing before I allowed this situation to get out of hand again. I’m going to pray for them. And for me – That God will either change the situation or change my heart.


CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.

step away from the puppy.

Warning: Sometimes, emotional bullies wear puppy suits.

wounded puppy suits.

And when you pay attention to them, the whimpering doesn’t get softer,
it gets louder. and louder and louder…

They require more and more of your time and attention. You can’t make them happy. You aren’t the reason they’re UNhappy.

But if you don’t give them the attention they want, they make sure everyone thinks you’re a puppy beater. “Look at that face. How could you be so mean to such a sweet little puppy?”

Communication fails, because if you don’t agree with them, you aren’t different, you are wrong. You’ve misunderstood them. You don’t appreciate all the sacrifices they make. You’re being mean to the puppy.

The constant whimpering is extremely distracting.

and mentally exhausting.

and apparently, I should not play poker. I don’t have the face for it.

I’ve decided to take the puppy beater title over the distraction and mental exhaustion. My strategy for self-preservation?
a·loof (adj.) Distant physically or emotionally; reserved and remote. Does that make me seem heartless?

yeah, I know. I’m praying the puppy tires of me and moves on to other food sources.

But Daffy understands.


CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.