Prisons, Pits and other God Awful Places

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About Me

Things I always am-
Christ-follower,wife,mother,grandmother, friend
Things I frequently am-
Worship singer, writer, director
Things I often am-Insecure,fearful,learning,waiting,curious
Things I never am-Confident,driven,demanding,nasty

Blogs I follow:

Theme by: Miguel
  1. Savior in Our Own Stable

    As a little girl I would gladly visit any church if I was invited. The beauty and holiness in the stained glass windows of Blessed Sacrament & St Roch’s, or the stark simplicity in Dickenson’s Methodist & Brighton Height’s Reformed-I love the closeness of God and the feeling of family. I loved going to church.

    April 11,1976, Jesus Christ, baby in the stable, Savior on Good Friday and Risen God on Easter exploded into my life in much the same way a fiance might claim-“When I saw him it was like a lightening bolt!” Jesus sought me, called me and with what seemed like a shout of SURPRISE!! at a birthday party - He came bursting  into my life and turning it upside-down & inside out.

    Then began the journey of following and surrendering one’s life, desires, and dreams to another person. A person filled with love, forgiveness, cleansing, wisdom, strength, kindness, happiness, goodness and grace. And of course comfort. In the places I most needed healing, HE would freely give all the comfort I could ever need.

    On that same day, I began another simultaneous journey. Trying to live with and in the body of Christ or more to the point THE CHURCH. It’s a really good thing that no one prepares you for this. Not even growing up in a church prepares you for what will happen to you as an adult. I believe it’s probably wise that it is not explained to “new believers” or “old believers”. You really need to be of sturdier stuff before church begins to happen to you. And happen it will. If you stay at one church for a long time or even if you go to a few different ones for short stays-it’s gonna happen. I lived in the bubble of denial for many, many years. Of course, I heard people say- No church is perfect. I would nod my head in agreement. No church is perfect-that makes sense. God is the head of the church and no one church can possibly meet and satisfy all our needs. I gave this truth all the mental assent I could muster and was happy as a clam for quite awhile.

    Then…it began.

    A never ending, ever changing list of principles were added that was proof positive that you were in fact “serious with the Lord”. It mattered little that clergy and staff was exempt. Member value was determined by their giving record. Cashed up people were given leadership positions. Family was hired. Godly people fired. Pastors found in immorality disappeared in the night. Church discipline over minutia, and flagrant sin over looked because the person was needed. 

    You can choose to stay and live out your christianity in ”no church is perfect mode” or keep your distance so as to never get close enough to be used or abused again. But which ever way you decide to cope with the problem of church-there will be a problem with church. Leaders hire who they like, hire friends from college,  grad school or from their last job. Staff members use those with the same taste and opinions. Sure, there’s praying going on. God help us, show us your will, give us the mind of Christ, but in the end, a human being has to make a decision. Humans drive every department- sunday school, missions, outreach, music, deacons, elders. Even if these are sincere men and woman, it’s deep in the race to surround yourself with people who will support your vision or lack of vision. Really, who wants someone who’s telling you “You need to do better”, “Last week was tight but this week, you were on autopilot”  So we hire and advance people we like and if we just don’t particularily like them we use the always popular-“I don’t think they have the right attitude, I question their motives”.

    When people realize this they either stay in CHURCH because it’s their lifestyle and their friends are there. Or, they throw up their hands in disgust and leave declaring christians are all fakes, phonies and unfortunately they have proof in spades. We all do. Sad but true.

    For years this filled me with doubt and dispair. Then a few months ago I had had enough. So I loudly asked God “Why would you do this?” “Why would you deliberately set up YOUR CHURCH this way and leave it in our deceitful hands”? “God, THIS was the best way to spread Your gospel”?  “Why leave Your reputation in the hands of sinners-saved yes, but still, the perfect God with the perfect redemption plan carried out thru the perfect Savior, left in the hands of the very people who need Your redemption EVERYDAY? I’m sorry God, this is crazy-we are always going to fail. You’ve entrusted perfection to imperfection.” Beauty for ugly. Wisdom for wickedness. Selflessness for self-absorbtion. Strength for stress, Sinlessness for sanctimonious sinners. Divinity for dung.

    The seasons brought another Christmas, a live nativity reveals His wisdom. Christmas lights and choir members outside in flurries as in a snowglobe. The old carols sung thru frozen lips. The perfect story, read from the ancient scriptures. Kings and innkeepers. Angels and shepherds. Expectant girl and expected God. He left everything behind to wear our flesh. He indwells the dark corner of our souls. He embraces the depth of our loneliness. Baptized into our brokeness. The divine in the dirty stable of our hearts and minds. Purity in the perverse. An intentional God entrusted the church with this story. We are the reality that The Creator still is born daily in HIS creation. We keep the beauty of the incarnation alive, everyday, in every imperfect follower of His Son. In every imperfect church. He is, to this very moment…Savior in our own stable

  2. Excellent message at New Hope Community Church - Consider it All JOY - Paul & Silas in prison.

    Life can be brutal…HE knows how scary it is to be us

                              Or Do Yourself No Harm…We are All Here

    Music & singing had a huge impact on my childhood. On monday afternoons when the kids in the lunchroom talked about Bonanza-I was clueless because my family watched the Judy Garland Show. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Because my father was a very, very early riser, some of my fondest memories of childhood are laying in bed, in my attic room, listening to my father sing along with “Come Rain or Come Shine”. Even during the grieving process involved in the sudden loss of my mother, my dad sang at home and at church.

    My singing came much later in life not because I didn’t want or need to but my voice was captured in an excruciatingly shy vessel. That’s why my ministry verse is IICor.4:7 …we possess this precious treasure in frail vessels of earth, that the grandeur & exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and NOT from OURSELVES. When God started to show me that singing His story was the way He wanted me to go, that verse was what I held onto every time I sang anywhere. To this day, even to last night at choir rehearsal, that truth sustains me in the flood of insecurities & doubt. If you & I could be transported back to my home on Rockaway Street, I could show you the exact spot I knelt and made a pact with God. After I told Him the many reasons I was sure He was wrong for asking me to sing about Him, He firmly told me-You sing from the fact that your voice is limited and I will do all the rest. People will be moved because of ME and NEVER because of you! That was our deal, still is.

    He also taught me immediately that what ever song I sang, that became my devotion & He would speak to me personally about the truth of the lyrics. If I sing, wearing my heart & devotional life on my sleeve, the Holy Spirit would move, convict & comfort. There are songs that I have sung many, many times. He never fails to move, convict & comfort ME anew every time I repeat a song.

    The first time I sang- I Bless Your Name, I did my devotions around the scripture on which the song is based-Acts 16:23-29. Paul & Silas in prison.That song brought me to the place of surrender & honesty. I would sing from the prison in my mind, & I would glorify God even in the midst of pain, grief, shock & betrayal. He is worthy of that kind of worship even when life is brutal. I sang & shook & sang & cried. Again He held up His end of our bargain. It was my choir director that asked “Didn’t you see what happened?” I shook my head no. My worship director said “That was the most annointed song I’ve ever seen”. God came thru again. I remember saying “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me.” Spontaneous praise broke out, the congregation completely on their own had stood up in adoration. No worship leader had instructed them on how to express their gratitude. It was just an explosion of His worthiness. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. I was a quivering mass with jelly legs. If some how projected behind me, the church could have see a steady stream of snapshots, my private hall of shame & failure, if in living color every person could have seen my life of fear, abuse, rejection & sin they would know for certain- if God would stoop to forgive one such as me, He could love anybody.

    Months later I was asked to repeat the same song. God was faithful in His promise and this time showed me something completely different from the same song & same verses. The jail Paul & Silas sang in had 3 chambers, the courtyard, the outer cell, and the inner cell. The two followers were held in the third, far from the outside with it’s torches. Even bright sunlight didn’t reach the inner jail. After the quake that shook the chains loose & knocked the doors off their hindges, no one ran out. The other prisoners didn’t run either. That must have been some tune they sang. Maybe it was the beauty of the song or the shock of the earthquake but they stayed. The captor assumed that his captives had left. Paul, realizing the guard would certainly end his own life for such a prison break with end with the execution of the guard-He called out…”do yourself no harm, we are all here!”

    Life can be brutal, unfair and down horrible. Our lives can become like pits, deep, dark & lonely. Pits we fall into by accident, pits we jump into after ignoring all the warning & detour signs, and pits we are pushed into by no fault of our own.  By whatever means we end up in those dismal pits or prisons, whether innocent or guilty, The One who sets the captive free holds the keys and He says the same words to us. “Do yourself no harm, we are all here” Don’t harm yourself by hiding in sin, doubt, fear or insecurities. Don’t harm yourself by keeping secrets in the dark of your pit. We are all here. Do yourself no harm by hiding who you really are because of the fear of being misunderstood & judged or disliked & rejected. He knows how scary it is at times to be us. We are all here. You are not alone in your problem. People around you are in the same prison, the same pit. They need help out.

    A man was walking one day, and thinking about his life, fell into a hole. And as he stood to his feet, began calling out for help. A doctor walked by, stopped, looked down at the man and wrote out a prescription and threw it into the hole. Next a reverend walked by and seeing the man in the hole, wrote out a prayer and threw it in. Finally, as the man despaired his situation & gave up, his friend walked by, saw him and the next second was in the hole with him. Are you crazy, now we’re both in this hole, why did you do that? With all the wisdom that comes from a shared humanity he replied  -  “I’ve been here before, I know the way out.”   Life CAN be brutal, HE knows how scary it is to be us. HE was, after all, US for 33years.  

                                  Do yourself no harm, WE ARE ALL HERE

  3. A serious CAUTION for EVERY PERSON on the PLATFORM-w/ or w/out a TITLE

    Poet and musician, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop… you know. They sink lower – become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.-C.S.Lewis

  4. The FACE of worship

  5. My friend Nancy is beautiful, inside and out. She is thoughtful, gifted and completely selfless. She is happiest when she is busy doing huge things for someone else. As Sting sings -‘Every little thing she does is magic!’ But by far, she is THE most lovely when you watch her worship.

  6. Now I know we are supposed to close our eyes when we worship or at least look at the ceiling like we’re seeing heaven but believe me if you saw her worship, you wouldn’t blink. Her form of corporate worship is dance. If she’s dancing to even I familiar song, it’s like you never heard the lyric or melody before. But it’s so much more than her expressive hands, her fluid, flowing, musical movement, it’s the sheer love for her God and Savior.She has the gift of manifesting her private worship and desire to glorify God into her public worship. Sometimes it’s so intimate, so personally extravagant, that you feel like an intruder in someone’s private lovelife. She has learned the secret of a sacred romance and we get a peek at the courtship. I’ve seen her surrounded by other dancer,s her face lit with His love…it seems the spotlights are always on her face.

  7. I’ve been doing alot of thinking about corporate worship. Honestly corporate worship is something I guess I’ve taken for granted. Corporate worship has been the icing on the cake for me. Actually, sunday services are all icing for me. The ‘meat’ or ‘cake’ of my spiritual life is mine monday thru saturday, every week day. I know I’ve hear people get filled up on Sunday morning to get thru the week but for whatever reason, that has not been my experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I like my icing but I LOVE my spiritual cake.  

    I’ve been challenged to rethink my views and opinions of corporate worship particularly over the last year. Thru circumstances out of my control, I’ve had to check my heart, recheck my calling and be a grown up about rejection and not receiving approval. I know in my early years of following the Christ this would have annilihated my confidence and certainty. But thru His grace and absolutely nothing in my own strength or personality, this has been another opportunity to pick up my cross, deny myself or more to the point-die to myself. Painful stuff for sure but when your living with the prospect of storing your furniture and living in your father’s old car…things become very CLEAR.

    Last week was the anniversary of September 11th. Lost some amazing, much too young friends that morning. I think anyone who lost a friend, parent, spouse or child that horrible day felt, like me, shell shocked as we walked into church sunday morning. I’ll be honest, I was looking for some corporate comfort and holy hope. I was not alone. There is a man in my local body whose story from 9/11 is maddening and mind-numbing. He lost a son that day. He was practically a kid. My friend waited over a year to recover any body part from the death dust of the towers. Finally they found a fragment of his thigh bone, so they buried what was left of his baby boy. This poor dad who was already riddled with his own health problems, received a call a year later that they had made a terrible error. The DNA was wrong, the remains were not his dear son’s but someone else’s dear boy. He had to pay for the remains to be dug up. Money he didn’t have. He is back to an empty coffin, empty grave. And here comes another September 11th.Lots of people think 9yrs is enough time to grieve. Live goes on. Live for the living. We’ve got things to do. Goals to reach, churches to grow, people to reach. True. I guess it’s different if you weren’t born here or live and work here. But the skyline of our city and our hearts is FOREVER changed. NYC is still the FACE of pain and that’s OK.

  8. All of this brings me back to the FACE of worship. More distinctly corporate worship. Corporate worship is completely different than private worship. I know Nancy has a beautiful face when she corporately worships because of her private worship. But when we are in church, when we are up-fronters, when we are musical leaders, when we reflect the Levites singers who went first to the battle which way do we FACE? When the old testament singers went into battle, and sounded the trumpet of God which way did they FACE? If they faced the congregation of God, they would have walked backwards into battle. I think we are in danger of the same back-peddling in church if we don’t ‘FACE’ the right way and minister to and strictly for the congregation. After all, that’s who we FACE when we are on the platform. Just like Nancy, the worship dancer, or any choir member, musician or leader, we bring all our private worship to our local body…the audience of ONE is always listening but in corporate worship we FACE our broken, bloody, needy, neurotic brothers and sister and any seeking soul who visits. We FACE all of them. If we worship from a private perspective, even though we physically FACE them…we actually turn our spiritual FACE away from them.

  9. Of course it hasn’t always been this way in His church. At the start we sang looking at each other in homes. The orthodox church put choir lofts behind congregants as they sang down as a great cloud of witnesses. A few churches put the choirs in the congregation up front but on the sides facing each other. This practice of worship leaders and choirs that FACE forward is relatively new in the history of the organized church. All the more reason to make sure that when we FACE our local group of fellow ‘narrow-roaders’ we are doing it for them, with them in our mind and in our hearts. FACE them in their pain. Don’t deny it. FACE them with singable songs. Sung in keys they can sing. FACE them with melodies easy to sing, almost like they must have heard that new song before. FACE them with a song set that honors they’re needs and even their wants. Recognize the FACE of the holy family looking back at your face. If we don’t FACE them in acknowledgement, it risks becoming performance and we can use His holy place to exhibit our personal likes and ideas or worse, showcase ourselves and our friends.

  10. Take care not to worship for the FACE you wish to attract. If those faces change in years to come, you can always change your worship songs for the new FACE you see. Individually, in their hearts, your choir, leaders, singers and musicians can remember their private worship for the audience of One and bring their week of worship with them to church. Let’s FACE it…we are there for them. Not for ourselves. For them, we FACE. Otherwise, we should stand in them, with them with our microphones and FACE forward, just like the rest of the congregation.

    FACE forward or FACE them. If we FACE them…serve them, FACE all…for them.

    Corporate worship. Which way do we FACE? Which way should we FACE?

                                           The FACE of WORSHIP.

  11. Our Gethsemane

      show  As I abide in the garden of Gethsemane during this season leading up to Good Friday, I keep seeing more amazing insights into the God who is alive in the tiny details. Gethsemane means ‘an oil press’. During the long night leading up to His betrayal, was there ever a time Jesus was more ‘pressed’? The pressure was so great He broke into sweat filled with blood.
    1. The oil press in ancient times was a three step process. First the olives were put under a circular millstone and cracked. A donkey was tied to the stone to move the heavy ‘memel’. Memel means silent or mute. Jesus was silent before His accusers Matt 27:12-14

      Second, after the breaking open of the olives, they are placed in an ‘aqalim’. This is a coarsely woven basket of burlap or rope. Aqalim means path. The weave would allow a path for the precious oil to escape. Ps 16:11  Thou will make known to me the path of Life.

      Lastly, the bags or baskets would be stacked one on another and a large column would be placed on top. A huge stone weight would be put atop the column. This resembled, you guessed it - a cross. At the base of the bruised, crushed olive baskets, a chiseled moat of stone would send the precious balm into containers.

      Olive oil was very precious in biblical times. Only royalty or the government owned presses. Oil was used for light, healing and preservation.

      Our royal King willingly ‘pressed’ into service for us. Silent, in His defense. A chiseled Path of Life.

      Our Light in the darkness of self. A healing for our confused minds, our broken bodies, our sin sick souls.

      He preserves our forever. He preserves our today.

      Beloved, ‘press on’ in your Gethsemane. As He asked His followers to ‘stay and watch’ with Him in the garden, so He stays and watches with you in your Garden of Gethsemane

  12. Leadership

    This is someone’s thoughts on leaders style’s that hurt people - it is EXCELLENT. It speaks truth, even if it makes you uncomfortable 

    when leaders can’t lead

    As I considered what to name this blog, I vacilated between using the word “can’t” and “won’t.” I suppose that the word “can’t” implies the inability to do so, either through lack of knowledge or resources. The idea behind “won’t” is that someone has the knowledge and resources and willfully chooses not to use them in their leadership role. Once this blog is finished, I will leave it up to the reader to decide which term may be the most appropriate…

    How many times during the course of one’s career do people observe a leader who continues to do things that defy the imagination? How one treats people…the decisions one makes…the policies one enacts…the lack of decisive action when needed…the inapproriate comments and behaviors…the unwillingness to listen…the unwillingness to use people’s passions and gifts…the stupid things one says and does…and like most of the other lists in my blogs, this one too could go on and on.

    When I observe these types of behaviors in people who have been placed in leadership positions (note the difference between leaders and people placed in leadership positions) I do not know if they are incapable of acting in a manner that for all intentional purposes is the exact opposite of what leaders should be doing - or if they choose in the moment to wilfully act in that manner. It does not make any sense to me that a mature person, who has the ability to read and observe other leaders, would behave in such a manner that would be degrading to individuals and harm an organization. I am not talking about leaders making mistakes - that happens all the time. I have lost my temper…I have made bad decisions…I have acted in my own interest rather than that of the organization…but I beleive they are few and far between - they are, what we would call, lapses or mistakes. What we all observe from time to time are those people in leadership positions who consistently and wilfully make decisions that hurt people and the organization. And for most of these people, I assume (and I could be wrong here) that they have been told about these behaviors, and yet they stil continue to function in this manner. Someone please help me understand this phenomenon…

    So here is what I think - and then I will share what may be done:

    • I think that many people move forward in their careers by behaving badly, but that it does not hurt others or the organization because either a) they are so low on the organizational chart that no one notices or cares as long as the work gets done; or b) they are lone rangers who are incredibly successful and their organization (or industry) is afraid to hold them accountable for fear they may leave
    • I think that often times people are rewarded for results, and that the bad behavior becomes tolerated, which then becomes part of the culture, which then becomes institutionalized. How can a leader who behaves badly be called to account when that is the way other people in leadership positions behave within the organization?
    • I think that some people just don’t know any better - they were treated this way in the past and that is the only way they know how to function in a leadership role (we all know of parents who abuse their children because they were abused as a child)
    • I think for many people in ledership positions it may be scary to change their behavior - they have built their reputation on a certain way of behaving (and many times wear it as a badge of honor) and to ask them to change seems to them an impossibility

    So what can be done?

    • Leaders need to be held accountable - when they behave badly someone needs to stand up to them and hold out the mirror. If the person holding the mirror needs protection, then the organization should provide that in some shape or form
    • Leaders need to learn - no one shuld be beyond improving their leadership skills and abilities. I wonder how many leaders who won’t/can’t lead have attended serious leadership training and development courses recently?
    • Leaders need to focus on people - while those in leadership positions are held accountable to results, they should also be accountable to people. At the end of the day, all an organization has is it’s people - and they need to be taken care of and handled in a way that builds them up and uses their gifts
    • Organizations need to know the results of a leader’s bad behavior - when someone leaves an organziation because of bad leadership, that person needs to let the organization know - so that others may not need to suffer in a similar position.
    • Build a culture that holds leaders accountable for their actions, not just their results - if an organization believes that people are important, then those in leadership positions need to act in a manner that supports that value.

    All this being said, there are those leaders who often “suffer in silence.” Because they play by the rules…because they put people first…because they do not bully others…because they are making decisions that are for the good of the organization AND its people…because they are constantly learning how to improve themselves…because they can say “I may be wrong”…they often get overshadowed by those who can’t/won’t lead. I believe that these leaders need recognition for what they do - and for who they are…they should receive the necessary resources needed for their departments…they should receive the acknowledgement that they deserve…they should be listened to more closely than others…and they should be the ones of whom it will be said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

  13. The Face of Worship

    My best friend Nancy is beautiful, inside and out. She is thoughtful, gifted and completely selfless. She is happiest when she is busy doing huge things for someone else. As Sting sings -‘Every little thing she does is magic!’ But by far, she is THE most lovely when you watch her worship.

    Now I know we are supposed to close our eyes when we worship or at least look at the ceiling like we’re seeing heaven but believe me if you saw her worship, you wouldn’t blink. Her form of corporate worship is dance. If she’s dancing to even I familiar song, it’s like you never heard the lyric or melody before. But it’s so much more than her expressive hands, her fluid, flowing, musical movement, it’s the sheer love for her God and Savior.

    She has the gift of manifesting her private worship and desire to glorify God into her public worship. Sometimes it’s so intimate, so personally extravagant, that you feel like an intruder in someone’s private lovelife. She has learned the secret of a sacred romance and we get a peek at the courtship. I’ve seen her surrounded by other dancer,s her face lit with His love…it seems the spotlights are always on her face.

    I’ve been doing alot of thinking about corporate worship. Honestly corporate worship is something I guess I’ve taken for granted. Corporate worship has been the icing on the cake for me. Actually, sunday services are all icing for me. The ‘meat’ or ‘cake’ of my spiritual life is mine monday thru saturday, every week day. I know I’ve hear people get filled up on Sunday morning to get thru the week but for whatever reason, that has not been my experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I like my icing but I LOVE my spiritual cake.  

    I’ve been challenged to rethink my views and opinions of corporate worship particularly over the last year. Thru circumstances out of my control (losing our home & my ministry) I’ve had to check my heart, recheck my calling and be a grown up about rejection and not receiving approval. I know in my early years of following the Christ this would have annilihated my confidence and certainty. But thru His grace and absolutely nothing in my own strength or personality, this has been another opportunity to pick up my cross, deny myself or more to the point-die to myself. Painful stuff for sure but when your living with the prospect of storing your furniture and living in your father’s old car…things become very CLEAR.

    Last week was the anniversary of September 11th. Lost some amazing, much too young friends that morning. I think anyone who lost a friend, parent, spouse or child that horrible day felt, like me, shell shocked as we walked into church sunday morning. I’ll be honest, I was looking for some corporate comfort and holy hope. I was not alone. There is a man in my local body whose story from 9/11 is maddening and mind-numbing. He lost a son that day. He was practically a kid. My friend waited over a year to recover any body part from the death dust of the towers. Finally they found a fragment of his thigh bone, so they buried what was left of his baby boy. This poor dad who was already riddled with his own health problems, received a call a year later that they had made a terrible error. The DNA was wrong, the remains were not his dear son’s but someone else’s dear boy. He had to pay for the remains to be dug up. Money he didn’t have. He is back to an empty coffin, empty grave. And here comes another September 11th.

    Lots of people think 9yrs is enough time to grieve. Live goes on. Live for the living. We’ve got things to do. Goals to reach, churches to grow, people to reach. True. I guess it’s different if you weren’t born here or live and work here. But the skyline of our city and our hearts is FOREVER changed. NYC is still the FACE of pain and that’s OK.

    All of this brings me back to the FACE of worship. More distinctly corporate worship. Corporate worship is completely different than private worship. I know Nancy has a beautiful face when she corporately worships because of her private worship. But when we are in church, when we are up-fronters, when we are musical leaders, when we reflect the Levites singers who went first to the battle which way do we FACE? When the old testament singers went into battle, and sounded the trumpet of God which way did they FACE? If they faced the congregation of God, they would have walked backwards into battle. I think we are in danger of the same back-peddling in church if we don’t ‘FACE’ the right way and minister to and strictly for the congregation.

     After all, that’s who we FACE when we are on the platform. Just like Nancy, the worship dancer, or any choir member, musician or leader, we bring all our private worship to our local body…the audience of ONE is always listening but in corporate worship we FACE our broken, bloody, needy, neurotic brothers and sister and any seeking soul who visits. We FACE all of them. If we worship from a private perspective, even though we physically FACE them…we actually turn our spiritual FACE away from them.

    Of course it hasn’t always been this way in His church. At the start we sang looking at each other in homes. The orthodox church put choir lofts behind congregants as they sang down as a great cloud of witnesses. A few churches put the choirs in the congregation up front but on the sides facing each other. This practice of worship leaders and choirs that FACE forward is relatively new in the history of the organized church. All the more reason to make sure that when we FACE our local group of fellow ‘narrow-roaders’ we are doing it for them, with them in our mind and in our hearts.

    FACE them in their pain. Don’t deny it. FACE them with singable songs. Sung in keys they can sing. FACE them with melodies easy to sing, almost like they must have heard that new song before. FACE them with a song set that honors they’re needs and even their wants. Recognize the FACE of the holy family looking back at your face. If we don’t FACE them in acknowledgement, it risks becoming performance and we can use His holy place to exhibit our personal likes and ideas or worse, showcase ourselves and our friends. 

    Take care not to worship for the FACE you wish to attract. If those faces change in years to come, you can always change your worship songs for the new FACE you see.  

    Individually, in their hearts, your choir, leaders, singers and musicians can remember their private worship for the audience of One and bring their week of worship with them to church.

    Let’s FACE it…we are there for them. Not for ourselves. For them, we FACE. Otherwise, we should stand in them, with them with our microphones and FACE forward, just like the rest of the congregation.

    FACE forward or FACE them. If we FACE them…serve them, FACE all for them.

    Corporate worship. Which way do we FACE? Which way should we FACE?

                                           The FACE of WORSHIP.   

  14. 9/11 - Dressed as an Angel

    Nine years ago we were attending a church that sponsored an outreach called ‘Heaven’s Gate, Hell’s Flames’. It was a group of people that used the talent in each church they went to, and within hours taught them a huge production that showed many different people living their lives, not realizing eternity was so close.

    No matter who came out to be in the production, everyone was used. My daughter volunteered, she was 15 at the time. She was cast as a wild, rebellious,drunk druggie. Quite the opposite of who she was. Thru make-up and costume she was unrecognizeable. A fellow choir member, Lillian Caceres was cast with her but her part was as an angel who welcomed souls into heaven. Lillian was a small, beautiful woman. She was a soprano with a loud and strong voice. The outreach lasted for many days. Sunday night was supposed to be the finale. But the popularity of the outreach was so that leadership decided to add another night. So many people walk forward each night, the audience practically became empty.

    So monday night, my daughter and Lillian were to do the last night of the outreach. As was their practice, every night when their parts were finished, Bethany and Lillian would sneak upstairs to the second floor room where the spotlights were manned. They would stand in the blackness, holding hands and praying. As they watched people come forward to learn more about the Savior, they applauded. Lillian said they were just like the angels rejoicing as souls were saved. They both stood crying and laughing with joy as they watched lost lives  become found. The young saint and the older saint united with the overwhelming delight of being used by God and blessed to see the fruit of their grateful service.

    They went downstairs to the altar to pray with anyone who needed it, only to leave after they were sure every needy person was touched.  With only a few hours sleep, Lillian went to work. Bethany, being homeschooled was able to sleep in. I kissed my daughter as I left for work and she stayed for school. Lillian kissed her daughter as she left for work and she left for school.

    When my daughter came downstairs to start her school work and Lillian’s daughter emptied her backpack at school…Tower 1 had already been struck.

    Lillian was gone.

    Hours before dressed in white wings, welcoming souls into their reward…now hearing…’Well done thou good and faithful servant’…’Enter into your reward’

    Lillian…a welcoming angel.

    Welcomed home.     

  15. The Expendables

    Early this summer a movie was released starring alot of “action stars” from the 80’s called The Expendables. They are all in pretty good shape considering their age.  The movie is basically about a group of mercenary types that no one believes have any vital use. They get together and decide to do the hard jobs that their younger leaders have deemed not important enough to waste their own unwrinkled flesh on.   

    In hollywood, age is the ultimate deciding factor for what movies get made & what movie stars are bankable. Men have a much longer “shelf life”. Cary Grant starred as the love interest of Audrey Hepburn when he was old enough to be her grandfather. For woman, their “expiration date” comes at lightening speed. As soon as an actress hits 35, the countdown to 40 starts and the press constantly reminds her that her biological clock has all but finished ticking. This fascination with youth has permeated every area of American life. The biggest selling artists are children. Children hardly equipped to handle high school & dating, are the role models for “cool, hot & relevant”.

    And THIS is in the church. In an effort to “raise up the next generation of leaders”, “offer a relevant, seeker, young family friendly church” or at the very least, stop the hemoragging of kids fleeing hypocritical houses of worship intent on self promotion & perseveration, we now in the local church, worship youth. In response to this bleeding, a very popular book has been written, by high schoolers, and has become the new mantra in many church involving all aspects of leadership.

    If we give high schoolers leadership & make them “up-fronters” they will do hard things and stay in the church. I believe if a child reads that book and becomes a servant or starts a non-profit or just on his own decides to rake his neighbors leaves, that book has served an eternal purpose. But to then turn it into a movement and philosophy for ministry, we are forced to ignore what the scriptures describe as qualities that one MUST have for leadership. By using the scripture where Paul tells Timothy “let no one look down on your youth” permission has been granted for church sanctioned child leadership. Anytime you read an idea surrounded by one verse, BEWARE! Read the entire chapter before and after, maybe the entire book of 1Timothy to make sure the author hasn’t had a great idea and proved it with a verse or two. This is how cults & bad doctrine start. And that is a mis-use of Paul’s letter. My concern is that it will, in the future, produce an anemic local church. The very thing we are desperate to keep alive.

    Another startling trend is teens & twenties mentoring new believers. How did this happen?  Discipleship or mentoring used to be done by parents or someone who has spent many years on the narrow road & has been proved o’er and o’er, as the old out dated, rarely sung hymn extols.

    Church leadership seminars are now exculsivley teaching business models for growth & community strategies. Twitter & other social media are flooded with lists declaring these are The Top Ten Young Leaders. If you are nearing 40-your name is NOT there.Take a look at your staff at church. How many paid staff are over 45, over 55, saints preserve us, over 65. My father sang his last solo when he was 82. His voice wasn’t as strong as it was when he was able to sing and fill a church without a microphone but in an older vessel his faith was more powerful. Everyone in choir & the congregation cried because only a weathered face and heart could make the words come to life.

    Now, look at your congregation. Who are the faithful, who are the servants, who are the volunteers. **On a side note, I hate that word volunteers, we are all MINISTERS -we just aren’t paid.**  Beside the kids from Jr high you make show up for the car wash, where is your strength, where is your power, where is your tried and true, where are those who’ve been thru hell, suffering, death and disappointment and are still ALIVE & FAITHFUL?  They are right in front of you. Their acne has cleared up years ago, they don’t wear size 0 or even size 6. Like the velveteen rabbit, their hair has be love off and they may be alittle droopy & alot slower but they are worth their wisdom, patience and hope. They are worthy because they have walked a long time on the narrow road and are still alive and are quite willing to stand shoulder to shoulder on that road with a new, younger saint.

    Are the younger saints walking alone because they are leading the way? Are the older saints walking alone because they are no longer needed? No longer leading? No longer valued…expendable?

    Who are your Expendables?   

  16. “Seen”

    There’s a musical called “Chicago” it might still be on broadway, I know it was made into a movie a while back. It’s set in the 1920’s filled with speak-easys, bathtub gin, flappers, dirty cops, crooked lawyers and showbiz. In the middle of this bawdy musical, a very pitiful character comes on stage and sings Mr Cellophane.

                               Mr Cellophane, Mr Cellophane shoulda been my name

                               Mr Cellophane. ‘Cause you can look right thru me,

                               walk right by me and never know I’m there.

    The song is really sad especially for anybody that has ever felt invisible. And who hasn’t felt that way a few times in life. At school never being picked for a team or no one making room for you on the bus. That horrible feeling can follow us thru life. If our parents have felt this way-it easily passes on to us just like eye color or left-handedness. 

    When this happens in church, well, this is absolutely the worst feeling. After all, this is the house of God. All God’s children should be “seen”. My mother-in-law felt invisible her whole life and with good reason. Rejected by parents and family, sent to live in children’s home, she suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse. She never recovered, never healed, never felt valued and visible. Unfortunately every church she visited, the pastor never saw her or even shook her hand. She didn’t imagine this. She was not seen. That was until the last year of her life.

    God had moved us out of a church with a large congregation to a church with only a handful of people. A new Pastor preached the same day we started attending. We were all going to learn a big lesson about seeing and being seen.

    The new pastor was big guy with an even bigger voice, deep, warm and inviting. His former church was very large but suffered a sad split and he was collateral damage. Maybe that’s what made him so insightful or perhaps he was just naturally that way but for whatever reason-he saw EVERYBODY! The one rule he lived by- “Sheep may bite but shepherds never HURT the sheep”. He would literally block the door so no one could get by him before he could shake their hand, touch a shoulder, or give them a bear hug. For a whole year before she passed, my mother-in-law was hugged, squeezed, visited and “seen” by him and the church followed his example. She finally felt accepted. No one looked thru her or passed her by.

    In our former, large church, there was a deliberate separation between clergy and congregant, staff and layperson. Friendships with pastors were discouraged so care and compassion became the exception not the rule. Many people felt used or just invisible and unimportant. Hearing how wonderful being in the family of God was and yet experiencing the opposite just made you feel something was wrong with you if you weren’t experiencing it.

    During our time at this tiny church with the new pastor my husbands back problems had escalated to the point that he was losing feeling in both legs and with frighteningly increasing frequency, he was collapsing to the floor. He had scheduled surgery but in the meantime had to continue working as an exterminator for the pest control companying he had just started. That big, sweet pastor begged my husband-“Let me come to work with you, I’ll be your legs, you can sit and tell me what to do and how to do it”. It was surprising and amazing. My husband had been “seen”. Not because of what he could do for the church or the pastor. He was seen just because he was. And being seen changed him.

    My husband knows the names of all the immigrants in our neighborhood. And all the names of their kids. He is invited to their church for their celebrations. He finds jobs for them when he can. He sees them. He’s helping one friend find help for a serious injury at work. They try to help him speak spanish, he helps them with english. A few days ago they called to thank him. In spanish they told him “You are seen as our angel”

    "Seen"

    Maybe we can be over-looked at church but…

    "Seen"

     where it really counts.