April 2, 2013
I"m learning more and more that as much as I plan and organize, something will change. Someone will be late. Something will break. At our best, we are feeble, as are our best intentions.
I suppose I feel that way a bit regarding my study as of late. Time just flies by and barely stops to say hello. As a mother of two babies with at least three jobs and other freelance projects going at all times, Sunday School teacher, Worship band player, wife, yadda yadda yadda... (we're all in the same boat!)...I barely find time for anything outside what is absolutely necessary to get through the day.
And within that statement lies perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in WorshipU.
HE IS NECESSARY. THE STUDY OF HIM...THE EXPERIENCE OF HIM...THE INTENTIONALITY OF BEING WITH HIM IS THE MOST NECESSARY THING IN MY LIFE.
And because He knows this and also sees where I'm lacking, He meets me.
At a women's retreat a few weeks ago, He brought to my heart lyrics to three songs within the course of an hour. Now, these songs may never be heard by anyone else, but they were my translation to the teachings of the moment.
Leaving the season of Easter, He has impressed upon me the true cost of His sacrifice and the price of my freedom. And more loudly than ever before, the truth of our depravity resounds through my heart and head...because I see that not only did He die and suffer for me... He died and suffered for my babies...my precious, sweet, young babies who will look to me and my husband for direction, guidance, priorities.
They will see what I hold most important and most precious. And they will learn from me either that God and Jesus and our faith in and worship of them are the most important things we can ever do...or they will learn that those things are ancillary and to be incorporated in life when convenient.
See where I'm going with this?
I have been so blessed beyond anything I could ever hope to earn. I want my children to know the One who has blessed me. And so, I...starting now...am committing to be intentional--not just in study or assignments or work...but in TRUE worship.
March 12, 2013
He gets me every time...
This week at church, it seemed like everything I've been learning in Bethel's online worship university, the classroom that is my life with babies and the hard earned scars and lessons earned along the way came to a head.
After learning this week that a member of our church - whose family has been bombarded with illness - is finally free of cancer in her hip, breast and lung...but they've discovered three new spots in her brain...I was floored.
Then my husband, whose brother died of a brain tumor...and has endured my own grief and coming undone after my father was killed...shared a portion of his testimony.
And then we learned that three other people in our church or close to it have died within the past week.
After all this, I had to go teach a class on trust. Daring to trust a good and sovereign God no matter what.
I was depleted.
I read the verses about plans for good and not harm... the verses about all things working together for good...
and just found myself in tears with my class...because, leaning on my own understanding, which I know is NOT what I'm supposed to do...leaves me lost and confused and broken.
That's when I recalled the words of Christa Black when she shared a challenge - to list things that we believe about God that aren't true...and to pray for scripture to show us otherwise.
I had been onstage all morning, playing and singing as a last minute fill in with the band... and inside, my heart was crying...because as much as I know in my head that God doesn't intentionally harm us...that's difficult to translate to the rest of my spirit.
And then... I remember who this God is.
This is the God who has led me to nearly three years sobriety...
This is the God who saved my life more than once from bad decisions, disorders, harmful people and my own self destructive nature.
This is the God who gave me two BEAUTIFUL healthy children...and a husband who had EVERY right to walk away from me and chose not to give up on me.
That's my God.
And in a world where people are daily suffering from the fallout of the fall...He's not moving. He's not wavering... and I know that He will sustain... no matter what.
And like always, as long as I can just show up.
As long as I can just get the words out or play the chords...
As long as I am His child...which is forever...I'm OK.
And nothing in this heartbreaking world can change or diminish that.
At the end of the day, that's why I sing.
That's why I worship. Broken...not always pretty...but hopefully... continually transparent before the one who knows my heart and sees all the cracks within.
Feb 20, 2013
Moment of really uncomfortable truth here. I have postponed watching some of the lessons on morality because...well...it's uncomfortable.
Actually, these discussions hearken back to a very rough time in my life where things were falling apart on every end and my worship pastor called me to ask me to step down for a period of time. At the time, I was furious, hurt, dejected and bitter.
Over the years, I now see how he couldn't have asked me to do anything better for the church and for my family.
It's always been very easy for me (and I think for a lot of people) to assume positions of leadership or notoriety in some respect because it provides a red herring of sort. The more we pour ourselves into something seemingly positive, the less time anyone else may have to notice our flaws. And, perhaps even more so, it' so easy to get SO busy doing great things we just "run out of time" to address issues in our own heart and life.
I am a MASTER at this...
However, more than once God has yanked me to a standstill to stop that ridiculous, damaging cycle. One of the most dramatic was returning to a treatment center for eating disorders 10 years after my first stay...three years into a marriage that was barely surviving...and three years after my father was killed--a tragedy that wrecked me to my core.
As luck would have it, I wasn't allowed to bring my guitar. (which also made me furious...sensing a trend, here?)
The center did have a piano -- my first instrument that I hadn't REALLY touched in years. Out of nowhere, a season of creativity fell upon me and I just kept writing song after song after song...
Eventually, I was leading worship for the other patients.
If you had told me on day one that all of that would evolve, I would have laughed.
And I suppose that's where I am today.
I feel as close to God now as I have in years...yet, my humanity still leads me to stupid decisions and consequences that leave me feeling less than worthy.
Thus...avoidance!!! What makes me uncomfortable, I tend to avoid.
But, with a determined, if not eager, spirit...I have watched, listened and have learned that it is my very humanity that gives me reason to worship.
Why would I need a savior if I was not depraved?
Why would I worship one who had not done everything for me?
In my weakness, He is ultimately glorified that much more.
So now, I guess the prayer is for the perspective to understand and grow from failure rather than letting it rule the day and my life.
That is reason to sing...
Feb 5, 2013
Oh, do the personal convictions never cease?
Once again, I was floored by my own depravity and humanity during Christa Black’s talk on excellence v. perfectionism. Much like her, I am a typical type A, performance oriented, achievement-driven person, intent on making myself and everything else good enough so that I will be loved.
And, much like her, it has nearly killed me more than once—literally.
I was first in treatment for anorexia when I was 15. My second round came at age 25…and today, I still wrestle with those monsters and demons—to a lesser degree, perhaps, but they’re there.
And yet, despite the turmoil and conflict within my soul and heart, God has consistently allowed me to ‘take advantage of Him,’ as Christa said. He has met me in the gym, in the bathroom, in the courtroom after my father was killed, at the funeral home…inside the darkest days of my marriage…inside my deepest shame, He has still been present.
How do I know?
I’m alive. There’s no other way to explain that.
But, how do I get to a place where letting go of ALL of my self and my control on life, love, appearance and religion itself is not only my action; but my desire…
I think it probably has a lot to do with judgment. I’ve often prided myself on how open minded I can be towards others—minorities, people with different lifestyles, etc. I have purposed to hold my arms open wide and embrace these whom others reject.
Yet, everyday when I look in the mirror, I see something lacking… Something that still needs to be fixed…I see the things in me that (apparently) God didn’t get quite right.
How can I worship from there?
I think maybe the question isn’t, How do I get to a place where these demons are no longer in my world…and then enter into true worship?...
I think perhaps the right question is, OK, God…where should I fall down now?
Because…when I fall…when I let the natural consequences of my mindset, decisions and choices play out, I see the great crevice between God’s Holiness and my Humanness…and then, I see that He sees it too…and wanted me anyway.
How could I not worship?
I don’t say or feel any of this in order to assuage my own shame or feelings of guilt…I think I am reaching this place at a point of desperation. Because in the middle of my own despair – of anyone’s personal despair – the hope we need only comes from one source. In my darkest moments, there is nothing left but Him and the hope He brings.
The world doesn’t really do ‘fragile.’
The world doesn’t really have patience for ‘growth opportunities.’
God does. He wouldn’t have sent His son to redeem me and the Holy Spirit to guide me if that wasn’t true.
If that doesn’t lead me to worship…what will?
January 28, 2013
You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have
Three weeks into WorshipU, I have been challenged, inspired and convicted…really, really convicted! And it all stems from a basic, very obvious concept—you can’t give what you don’t have.
You can’t feed a starving family if you have no food.
You can’t pay a debt if you have no money.
And you absolutely cannot lead others in worship if you don’t worship.
You can always play a guitar or sing a song of maybe even write a song with very fundamental mechanics. Anyone can do that if they follow instruction.
However, to guide others in an encounter with the Living God isn’t a task relegated to just anyone. Those who do encounter Him on a daily basis are those who can lead.
Too many times to count, I have smiled when the spotlight hits me, come up with a great harmony part and transposed and practiced my way into ‘good standing.’ Surely that’s worship…right?
Yeah…not so much.
So many times, I’ll take my time practicing and playing at my local church, writing stories for the Christian magazine I edit or serving as host on the Christian radio network for whom I work and rationalize that I have more than fulfilled my Godly requirements. My list is checked off and I’m good on God ‘stuff’ for the week.
(And believe it or not, I was surprised at the lack of Godly encounters in my life.)
It’s time for me to lay down my guitar and just listen.
It’s time for me to trust that God wants my heart and attention so much more than my busyness.
It’s time for me to truly experience, engage and grow in my own worship.
Only then can I give it away…
January 25, 2013
So here's a fun dilemma...
I have ideas for worship songs that resonate beautifully with me...and sound kind of like every other worship song that's been written.
What to do...?
Appreciated so much the session on finding inspiration for your songs...different sources like Scripture, major themes within the church, lamentations, celebrations, etc. Along these guidelines, there should be infinite words and ideas for songs. But then, trying to make them both interesting, but learnable and singable presents another dilemma, seemingly.
What makes sense and resonates within my heart may not do so for a congregation... or will it?
Maybe--just maybe--my experiences are universal enough to prick the hearts of others. Maybe there really is relevancy in specificity.
Maybe I'm not the only one who has lost someone and feels like they're now trying to wrap their arms around an empty space in this world.
Maybe I'm not the only one wrestling with the shame of my past and present.
And maybe I'm not the only one to question, have doubts, be confused by the God that I also adore.
So here's to creative expression without editing...
honesty without fear of isolation...
worship without perfection.
Because what I can offer--all I can offer--feeble though it may be and chronically inadequate though I may be--has been redeemed.
One and a half weeks into WorshipU and I'm beginning to wonder why I haven't done something like this sooner!The concept is pretty basic... lectures and classes you can access online anytime.
Caroline Lusk is editor of CCM Magazine.