Monday, December 30, 2019

2020 Clarity

Having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. Other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision, contribute to your overall visual ability. (From

Thursday, June 1, 2017

When What's New Isn't Shiny

Numbers 16:30 (KJV)
But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that [appertain] unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.

"If the Lord make a new thing..."

My entire life "newness of life" seemed the most marvelous and magical occurrence. I grew up in a church-community, so "newness" meant the drug addict was cured! It meant the sinner was saved! It meant the destitute had family! 

As an adult I am STILL stumped by how downright awful, "newness of life," can be.
When newness comes it is unsettling. All that was comfortable and known vanishes. It's akin to physical therapy for the body... What used to come naturally requires deliberate effort to parts of the body maimed. And many times, like Jacob, we never walk the same again. 

A couple of years ago, about this time, my neck locked. That was only my third visit in my life to a chiropractor. I never have problems with my back, or neck. But it was a difficult time, and I obviously didn't roll with the stress of it well. The chiropractor was a man in his mid-thirties, and I felt so sorry for him. Every time he would touch me I would start crying! It had NOTHING to do with the pain. I was just nervous & my emotions were especially tender. Touch triggered emotions, not pain. He, of course, didn't know what was going on in my head. He would take my face and head in his grip, I'd tear up, and he'd drop his hands to his side with a sigh! I was so embarrassed. I kept trying to breathe deeply and calm down. I finally took his hands in mine & told him, "You have GOT to ignore my tears. They mean NOTHING. You are not hurting me in any way. Just go for it!" But, he was too affected by my tears to help. I can't remember what he sent me home with, but he didn't adjust me. He couldn't. 

I pray that in all of my LOATHING of change and newness, God doesn't respond to me like that chiropractor. I NEED every adjustment my Jesus sees fit to give me. I NEED every loss. I NEED each new lesson. Newness isn't always pleasant. Sometimes we've chosen wrongly what seemed delightful, and we have to give it up. We have to let him swallow it up & bury it. Going on without what we held so dear is not easy. Learning to find new pleasures (for me) is not enjoyable. Learning to live in new territory without the old "security blanket" is not jolly, or magical.

For some of us we have to learn to live without relationships that should have been dependable. For others we have to learn to live with new health conditions. For others we have to learn to break bad habits and start new ones. The list could go on, & on. It does go on, & on. And your newness is on the list. But we can rise to the occasion and do this! 

My personal prayer today...

"Please, Lord, do not withhold newness of life from me because I cry, because I fear, because I express concern. My earnest plea is that you utterly do exactly what you want in, & through my wisp of a life. Spare not for my crying, Father."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Take Your Child To "Work Day"

In the church community we call the day the congregation gathers to spruce up the interior and exterior of the grounds, "Work Day." Some congregations do this more often than others, but it's a needed effort, even when a congregation can pay a maintenance staff to work throughout the year. Going to Work Day the last time does not aleviate your needed hands, and mind, and help this time. Your own house needs constant "this time" help. So does God's House! 

It’s Work Day at my church, but I’m in Missouri for a wedding. Habits HURT when they are broken, and it is our habit to be at Work Day! I say "our," because I’m thinking about when I would take 2 and 3 year old Morgan and Madison to Work Day.

Parents with small children, I KNOW it’s stressful, and even feels like you don’t get much accomplished, but I promise the couple of hours you put in FAR OUTLIVE the time you and your children were on site. It does far more than the "partial jobs" you might contribute because you’ve had to leave it to wrangle a wondering child. When you do this stage properly (by building Kingdom-first habits) you get to BASK in my present stage of being the mom of young adults who habitually weigh all their decisions by God's scales! I am living out such goodness right now in my 18 and 20 year old children! 

Do you know WHY our (carnal) world/society came up with, "take your child to work day?" It is because even they know how longterm-productive such a "non-productive" day is! If they have that much insight, shouldn’t WE? 

I must add the impressions we leave on our teen offspring when we take them to a non-kingdom event though the church has something scheduled. It says to them, "You can pick-and-choose your faithfulness." Perhaps your family needs a family-away day. If your teens know you're ALWAYS at EVERY church event, and they see and hear your lament at being forced to choose another event, I think that's fine. But it should be so rare it doesn't happen more than once a year. It's not as if the church calls all-hands-on-deck for a Work Day every week. I would suggest spending the first hour of the family day contributing at the Work Day, before heading out to enjoy family time. It instills in very impressionable teens: kingdom-first (kingdom-first, of course means, God-first.) I often hear great men and women of God say about their upbringing (if they were raised in a church community) "My parents were at the church every time the doors were open!" They do not merely mean "when the doors were open for a worship service." They mean their parents modeled for them how to WORK for God, give their talent and time to God. This has been the example I have tried to follow because I want Morgan and Madison to be THAT in the Kingdom of God. "That" doesn't just happen. It's cultivated by parenting on and with a purpose. 

Today, with my adult children who are still fluttering about my nest, we will have a conversation after the wedding here in  Missouri, about how our contribution at Work Day was missed. We will talk about how much we would have benefitted, and how the Work Day would have benefitted by our three sets of hands and feet. We are out of state, but God's House's to do list is not out of mind.





Why? Because habits HURT when they are broken, and these kinds of habits will be a safeguard in our babies' lives as they go through the many stages and trials life brings.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why Old Songs Are Important

Emotions are important in our worship experience. God Himself is very emotional, we find in scripture that he felt (feels) & expressed jealousy, anger, compassion, joy, even what we'd describe as romance! It's incorrect to describe "all that emotion" we express in a worship service as "just" emotion. There's nothing minimal, or wrong about expressed emotion. Emotions are the gateway to honesty. A person may stand stoic, without expression, and lose everything and everyone they love. Whereas, if they succumb to the emotional intensity in their soul, out explodes tones of voice, facial expressions, sometimes even tears, all of these giving the hearer the opportunity to see the honesty of the soul. Relationships are often saved because someone took their guard down and through emotional expression the reality of matters could be seen. Through emotional expression, the hearer knows how happy, or angry, or broken the speaker is. 

If a person comes to a worship service determined not to be emotional, they typically find church boring. (They also, typically, are callusing and hardening their heart). But if they'll allow themselves to feel and express their emotions toward God, those people will greatly benefit from attending church. Open emotions signify open honesty. A person may be very guarded in their daily lives, but all guards should come down before our Creator. 

Music is emotional. Sounds can be emotional triggers. When personalized ringtones first came into existence I spent a bundle having a ringtone for each person close to me. Even still several people have their own text-tone, & ringtone. But, as I transferred phones or carriers I would sometimes lose a tone. If I am, today, in a public place, and someone else's phone happens to use a former ringtone for someone I may not be as close to anymore, then my heart skips! If someone calls or texts that I haven't heard from in a while, the ringtone alone causes my heart to race! If I hear music from my teen years that is connected to slumber parties, or concerts I attended with friends, my adrenaline races and my soul longs for those people I enjoyed that music with. 

Songs within the church trigger the same emotional responses. When we sing a hymn, people aged in their fifties and older are quick to their feet, arms in the air, tears staining their cheeks. Their typical response about styles and genres of songs is that God is more "in" the hymns than in modern music. The hymn was at one point "modern music." But as with all fads, they've been shelved and have made way for new modern music. As a music director, I positively delight in scheduling music for different generations and watching the "popcorn" jump up response across the auditorium. Just as the fifty and older crowd respond emotionally to the hymnal, the thirty to forty year olds have their trigger songs as well. They now call them, "the old songs," but I taught them the songs when they were considered modern music, pop songs played on the christian radio station. The responders were sixteen to twenty years old when I taught the songs. Now that we've moved on to even newer music, when they hear their "old songs," that they haven't heard in five to ten years, their emotions are triggered just as the older generations is triggered by the hymns. Then we sing a worship song currently playing on the radio and those aged thirteen to thirty-five respond the most greatly. During this kind of music the older ones in the congregation respond out of self-discipline and unity, but not because they feel any attachment to the song itself.

As a music director I feel it's important to sing songs from every generation so that each age group has opportunity to worship emotionally. I mentioned before that worship can be done out of a discipline, and for the sake of unity. If we only worshiped when we felt emotional, that'd be very spiritually immature. It is cleansing for us to worship emotionally. God created our brains to respond to music. God is not at all put-off by our emotional expression in worship. When we feel emotional in God's presence and allow ourselves to express it, God takes advantage of our guard being down and can do a beautiful work of healing in our souls.

As a music director I urge every generation present at a worship service to worship and praise regardless of the era or genre, worship simply because God is worthy. Physically engage during a worship service. Also, for the sake of unity, physically engage by clapping, singing, raising your hands, standing, kneeling, etc. Powerful things occur, not because of what kind of music is playing, but due to unity!

I urge music directors to have a steady stream of music for all generations in attendance. In my church we do a hymn every Sunday morning. Every Sunday night we do songs for as many generations as we have time for. And every Wednesday our music is typically geared toward those thirty and younger. I encourage music directors to kindly nod knowingly and smile the next time an elder tells you that there's something "more special" about the ancient songs than the modern ones. Let them enjoy and brag on their first-love without you needing to defend the new musical-love affairs being made by the new generation. And, don't forget, when you're an old music director, keep modern music coming, even if you feel it's immature, or simple.

Remember that every generation deserves to have a bridge extended to their soul through the power of music in a worship service. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Borders of A Country From My Perspective

When I was in South Korea I experienced something very poignant to what I'm experiencing as an American citizen; I met a ninety-plus year old man and his wife. I was honored to meet them as I felt great awe that I was talking to humans who'd survived both WW2, and the Korean War. They'd also endured the Japanese colonization.  If I were meeting he and his wife on the street I would have been honored to merely meet their persons. But it was a HUGE DEAL to me, double the honor, that I was in their home!  I quickly learned, however, that this was considered HIS home, not "theirs."

I had brought them dinner. It was literally my ticket in the door, which I gladly paid as I was greatly desirous to meet them. But this gave me no rights in his home. His fifty year old daughter instructed me where to sit, but he had me move to a different seat. (It wasn't clear why.) He  corrected his adult-daughter from having me address him by his easier to pronounce first name, to the more proper (but very difficult to pronounce) family name. I held no rights over the dinner that I had brought into the house. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and I sat passively until he signaled permission for us to partake. 

The truth is, I completely enjoyed myself. I didn't mind one inconvenience I experienced there. (Only "inconvenient" in that it was different than my habitual culture.) I cleaned the table after eating and washed the dishes. I was in awe of his survival and experiences. I was honored to be in his home, I quickly acquiesced to whatever I was told, and further still, I looked for ways to serve.

But, it did take me a bit off-guard when this man who was lord and high-king of his apartment-castle expressed his lordship over the borders of MY country! How could this man who so firmly believes in the borders and walls of his home not "get" the borders and walls of a country? How could this man who'd endured the terrorism of the Japanese invading their borders and way of life not "get" that the United States of America must protect its own borders and way of life? He certainly "gets it" when he thinks about Japan & North Korea.

I'm going to guess that he didn't put two and two together because he's inundated with left-wing news media who is blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. I'm betting he only gets information from sources who has no more wisdom than to believe that open borders is "kindness," when in fact, we're welcoming wolves in refugees clothing. I do NOT believe all refugees are wolves. But I do believe that in the same way I'm going to be careful about who I let in my house (the place where I protect and comfort my children) our goverenmemt should be just as diligent about protecting our American way of life. Let those who need help come labor with us. Let those who will (as I did in his house) sit where we say, speak as we say, and respect the rules of "this house," these great Untied States, come on in!

The wall and the vetting is resonable. I appreciate those who are speaking on behalf of refugees and immigrants. But wisdom says, "Lets have a conversation before I let you in my house." The Bible tells us to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. We are in danger of annihilation if we're only harmless as doves. I'll leave the topic of arms to someone with more guts than I. But I'm not afraid to say that we should be wise as serpents in our goodwill efforts to welcome and host strangers. The Bible also

tells us that we should host strangers, for they may be angels! I believe "angels" is both a symbolic word, and a reality. But, regardless, we need to know if they are with us, or against us before we give them equal reign in our "home." For the safety of our children, for the security of our way of life, for the peace of our nation, we must know!

The southern border wall is a no-brainer to me. The wall is the equivalent of a visible home. It's an honor to enter someone's home. Those who want that honor should approach the front door, not sneak into the back window.

Let the church minister to the needs of pilgrims and strangers, and let the government protect.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fresh Start

It's January. The month when Walmart puts storage bins, and other organizational tools in the section that is packed with plastic eggs at Easter, romaric frills at Valentine's, and gift sets at Christmas. The reason the industry highlights what is typically boring, uncelebrated items is because during January, households all over the country have a well-intentioned woman resolved to start the new year with an organized home. Closets get purged. Kitchens get de-cluttered. Creative under-bed storage commences. All because it's the first month of a new year.

During this first month of the year we also resolve to get fit, and to read more, and to be wiser with our finances. January brings our dreams to the surface for consideration. But, some people are, quite frankly, sick of it. They've attempted the newness every January for so often, only to be at a total loss in a mere thirty days. The lack of accomplishment in these few areas overshadows everything else, and they end up feeling like losers. Then they do the worst possible thing that can be done; they give up the process altogether.

We should never give up, no matter how often we fail. Failure is not the end, it's the beginning! Failure is not the finish line, it's the starting line! Failure is not failure. Quitting is failure. There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with failing.

Our feelings about this is locked into our mindset. We don't recognize that every start makes us better at the skill than the time before. It takes multiple strikes across a flint to start a flame. Every strike creates friction and molecular changes that are necessary to get to the point of a flame. It's not a failed flint that doesn't produce a flame as every strike is necessary for the outcome. We need every start the "failure" gifts us to get us to fruition.

Exodus holds an inspiring story of how multiple fresh starts bring us to fruition. Every time Moses went to pharaoh he left with our definition of "failure." But every "failure" was in fact another strike of the flint. And these flint strikes didn't happen over the course of ten days, which is how I always pictured it in Sunday school. Moses was not operating in a simple plague-a-day. I've googled how long the plagues took, and as of now I've not found a guesstimate. But I did a little investigating the possible endurance of just one plague; that of dead fish. 

One google search told me about a place that had a "fish kill" situation which took at least three weeks to clean up. ( I have to point out that these dead fish in the related link didn't remain in the water until they stank, as it occurred in Exodus. Disposal of fish is standardized according to the simple search I did. I doubt Egypt had such a system. Even if they did, three weeks can feel like an eternity when rotting fish is your daily existence. Also, it's unclear how long God waited between plagues to tell Moses to go back to Pharoah.

My point is that striking the flint to get to the point of fruition doesn't happen overnight, even when God is ordaining every step in detail. 

So, chill out about your "failure." Because IT ISN'T FAILURE. It's a step forward. It's progress.

Then, they (finally) reach their goal; Pharoah released them to leave. And in so doing God basically told them that it didn't matter what calendar the rest of the world used, they were to call a do-over right then, in the middle of the year! For us in our Gregorian calendar, it'd be like getting to April and saying, "I declare this day to be JANUARY!"

My friends, set your goals. Fail at your goals. And then start your goals again. Rinse and repeat. Because this behavior gets you to fruition. 

Then when you get to your goal you need to do something important. You'll need to declare all the work and labor to get there as the past. And you'll need to declare a new start. Because there will be more greatness to excel to! There will be loftier goals to achieve! 

Never, never, never give up! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Vision Statements & Life Verses

Having a vision statement is extremely important for any corporation. A vision statement is akin to a dart board; it gives you a place to aim for. Regardless of your mood, your health, or your financial status, a vision statement keeps you on course. When your energy is low you still take strides toward your goal, even if merely lethargic strides. When you're wired and at high-octane energy, you can channel that energy into staying on course, rather than shooting off in a million directions. (I'm looking at YOU, DenĂ©e.)

A vision statement is concise. My church's is one of my favorites, "To model the Book of Acts church." With this dart board, we sit in staff meetings making sure our creative juices are channeled into accomplishing this goal. If we feel like the church needs a party, we say, "Good! But how will this party hit our goal of modeling the Book of Acts church?" The answer is to take the party out of our beautiful, air-conditioned dining room or gym, and party in a community that needs to know what salvation is, what joy looks like, and where they can find it for themselves! So, we have block parties! If we're having a dinner fund raiser, we give free meals to all attending guests that day so they can have the opportunity to get to know fellowship, and learn of Christ through our love for each other. When we live by a vision statement, we can accomplish so much more than living by the seat-of-our-pants.

I have a personal vision statement, "Live in the reality of hope, faith, & love."

I have found that when life feels overwhelming, if I channel my energies into this behavior of trusting God, everything (and I do mean everything) works out for my good! It doesn't mean I get everything I want, but it does mean that when I feel incredibly sad and despondent I behave as if everything were PERFECT. Because, in fact, IT IS PERFECT! His plan for me is perfect. He has good intentions for me. No matter what I feel, or what I see, His plan for me is perfect! So I live in the reality (not the emotion) of hope, faith, & love. This vision statement makes me behave on a reality which requires that I hope when I'd rather give in to the call of the darkness to crawl in a hole and shrivel up. This vision statement calls me to walk by FAITH, not by sight. And lastly, this vision statement requires that I pinpoint love in my life. It requires me to ensure that I'm giving it. And that even though it may not be coming from sources I'd prefer, I am a recipient of love. My personal vision statement makes all the difference in the world for me. 

Another habit of mine is that of having personal Life Verses. Obviously, the Bible is for every human on earth. But over time I've collected verses that I incorporate into my daily life. Also, over time I've retired some passages even as I adopted new ones. Every morning at 9:00am, my phone alerts me that it's time to read my life verses. Sometimes I read them silently, sometimes I read them aloud to myself, and other times I have Siri read them to me. Whatever the format, I ingest the verses each and every day. I like the privacy of the verses, so I will not share them in this blog (except one) but I will tell you about them.

One passage is a series of blessings.
One is a cry to God to hear and protect me.
Another is one of rejoicing and praise.
But the Big Daddy of them all is Ezekiel 17:22-24.

Ezekiel17 was the first Life Verse I adopted. Or rather, it adopted me. It consumed me. I'd never had a scripture overtake me as that one did. It described me perfectly; a cut down tree. And it described in detail what I wanted fulfilled in my life. I wanted to grow again. I wanted to be fruitful. I wanted to be strong enough to house "birds of every sort."

Now, four years later, I can tell you that this has literally (slowly & gradually) been exactly what God has done in me! It's been miraculous, to say the least. Not only is the verse prophecy for me, but it's also a reminder that I can't allow myself to get haughty of the things He has done in me. For He is the God who makes "the green tree whither," just as He can "make the short tree grow tall." I know that my present state of growth and health is directly related to these scriptures administering health into my life. 

As you prepare your goals for accomplishment in 2017, I encourage you to begin to create your life's vision statement. But don't stop there; keep your eyes pealed for "your personal" life verses. All of this will take time, especially your search for life verses. And like me, you'll likely retire some from your regime even as you discover new ones. 

The Word of God is life and strength even to our physical selves. Embrace it, love it, and make a habit of SPEAKING it into your atmosphere every day. 

Special thanks to Angel Craig & Morgan Richardson for editing this piece.