Give me a Song to sing, and I will Sing it to you God!

If you’ve been to a church service you can assume that there will be singing of some sort. It will usually happen at least twice, once in the beginning of the service, and once at the end. It’s a time to worship the Lord through song, and to sing praises to Him. Now for me this time was always awesome because I just love to sing, even when I wasn’t a believer I just loved singing so much that I would go to church just to sing. However at the time, like I said I wasn’t a believer at the time so the songs meant nothing to me, but the music was always amazing. It’s interesting and hear the songs that I heard as a child and teen, and listen to them now and understand them, and love them. They were such awesome songs that clearly displayed the gospel, that I’m often shocked as to how I never became a believer, and walking with the Lord until college. It was really just that at the time  I didn’t care to hear the gospel so I didn’t. However that’s not what this blog will be about, instead it will be about the intimacy in worship. So get ready!

I’ve been on this kick recently in wanting to understand how God really is intimate, and He created us for relationships. That relationship stretches to every aspect of our walks with Him, from to prayer, to reading our bibles, and for me especially through worship. I got the amazing opportunity to co-lead worship on my summer project. I got to co-lead with a guy named BJ and it was always a fun process in picking music to play because one thing that we wanted to do every week was to clearly paint a picture of the gospel through song. Now another hard part of that was also finding music that matched whatever the lesson would be on, and making it all tie in and tell the story of the Gospel. To say it was challenging some weeks would be an understatement.Oh and did I mention that we only had one night to practice and plan all of this, because that’s when we would find out what the lesson would be on! So ridiculous, but it didn’t matter because we always knew it would work out.

Now through planing worship with BJ I always got to see his heart in it, and I envied that heart. I saw that he was never picking songs because he knew he could play the guitar really well for one, or that his voice worked perfectly with one song. No instead he would pick songs because they displayed Christ, and the Gospel perfectly. No matter how difficult the songs were, or how little time we had to learn them, we did them because it’s where we felt the Lord was calling us to do. Like I said this was unlike any worship experience I had ever had before. Because growing up I was thrown into the choir because my grandma wanted me to enjoy church, so I got the solos, and the front row all because I could sing, but I never really understood what I was singing so it wasn’t worship. What I did on project, that was worship. We would always take 5 minutes before beginning family night to go and pray on our own, and ask God to work through us and bless the time of worship, and to not allow it to be for ourselves but instead for Him.

There are two specific places in scripture that point out how awesome worship through music is, and naturally they’re both in the Psalms! The first one is Psalms 98. Verse one of this Psalm, King David is talking about how we should make a joyful noise to The Lord because He has done marvelous things. Singing worship is a form of praising God, so why wouldn’t you use that Marvelous thing that He’s given us called a life and worship him through it. Now I want to take a slight side note and say that Id don’t for a second believe that David was just meaning this in a form of singing worship, but instead life worship. Worship the Lord not just through song but with your life. Worship is not limited to music but also through service, and submission, and most importantly Love! You can serve the Lord simply by loving others like He does. Also the word Joyful to me means that it’s not fake. You shouldn’t be doing this all because God wants you too, because then it’s fake, not genuine, and the one’s you’re loving and serving are just projects, and not people. So make it real and do it honestly. God gave us life, so we can definitely serve Him in this way.

Now the next verse is very common when it comes to worship, however I want to once again take a deeper look at it. This one also comes from Psalms, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the shortest sections in the bible but it’s packed with so much truth, that I just love it so much, and I believe it is so worth sharing!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

Now to start of this section begins with same phrase as the last, “Make a JOYFUL noise to the Lord”. Once again King is still writing this, and I really believe that he means this in just a way as music but also in life, so lets keep that in mind. However this verse really outlines all that I said about the last verse. Verse two of this passage says to serve the Lord with Gladness. Now I would even add, “and a willing heart.” if we were reading from the Brooke vesrion of the bible, did you get what I did there :). But once again we’re not just singing praises and serving the Lord because we know it’s what need need to do, but also because we want to. It allows us to love God, and show His love to others. Verse three now specifically brings in doing it through music, but also adoration! “Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God!” Not just are we stepping into His light and praising Him, but we are also acknowledging why He should be praised. He gave us life, and one worth living, not to just sit idly and watch it pass by! We are then called to enter into that time of praise with gladness, and thanksgiving. This is where the true intimacy comes out. This time is You and God, no one else. When I would co-lead worship I always wanted to still be worshiping while I was up there. I didn’t want to just be singing and not have the heart in it. I still found a way to make that a time of me and God, where yea I had BJ standing next to me and about 50 people staring at me, but I still wanted it really be just me and God. Many do this through dancing, singing louder, closing their eyes, anything that they’re comfortable with. Some forms are more expressive than others. For me it was always closing my eyes, and imaging being at the foot of the throne, and just praising the Lord! It is the MOST FREEING feeling in the world for me, and that is what I believe King David wants us to find in worship. Freedom, not just what we get when we choose to follow Jesus, but abundant freedom to worship however we like!

For me being able to close my eyes, and sway back and forth, and do whatever else I do when I worship is such a freedom calling! The Lord works through us in the moments if we allow Him to, and I think that is the most intimate parts. For the recent conference that I attended I found a lot of my time in worship being me sitting in my eat and just crying, and talking to God. That was the greatest worship I’ve ever experienced! It was being able to sit, and be humbled by the Lord, and just being with Him. I was taught so much, and I knew that God was with me in those moments not just because I was worshiping but because I fell before the throne and cried out to God, and grabbed onto that intimacy and relationship that I have with Him, and I let it live out. That is the beauty in worship through music!

Now one last story about worship on summer project, but first a side note, I have extreme allergies when there is salt in the air. For that my voice and body as a whole suffered this past summer, but for some reason I was always good when it came time for Worship on Wednesday nights, that’s just because God is so good! But back to the story, so it was our last family night on project, and I knew it was going to be an emotional one so we prepared a set that would allow for that intimacy and relationship to really reign over the night. One song that we picked specifically was the hymn, “Before the Throne.” This song is so beautiful and it’s very much how I came to Christ! One of the Chorus’ says, “My name is graven on His hands, and my name is written on His heart!” Talk about intimate and personal! That part of the song brings me to tears about 90% of the time. Unfortunately for me that’s the first chorus of the song. Now I was very fortunate to be on a project that was blessed with a worshipful bunch and when that song came I opened my eyes, and looked at the crowd and saw every person truly worshiping the Lord, and more then just the chorus of that song, instead it was that beautiful sight that brought me to tears. We were all super emotional because we were getting ready to leave our family that we had made over the last 70 days. So there were a lot of tears, but in that I truly feel that those tears came from feeling the comfort and love from our Heavenly Father. They came from Him who created us to love each other, and truly bask in the awesomeness of that summer, and in that bask in His glory.

That night will be one I will never forget, not because it was the last night on project, but because I know that forever more God gave us all a peace. He gave us all a quick glimpse of how truly awesome our summers were. And I know that for BJ and I getting to experience the joy of truly listening to the Lord on which songs to pick all came through in that moment. We knew that every song that night was truly picked out by God, because each one of those songs was chosen because God wanted to use them in someone’s life, and for that I feel truly thankful!

I have recently been listening to the Will Reagan and United Pursuit album called, “Endless Years.” On this album the very last song is called, “Through and Through.” I’ve actually been listening to it for the duration of writing this blog. This song is absolutely incredible and I highly recommend the album to all. United Pursuit as a whole are really amazing with their lyrics, and I love it! This song really just repeats the line, “You see me, You know me, and You love me Through and Through.” This line is so true of our relationship with the Lord. Through every thing He loves us, he is always intimate, and personal with us, and for that I praise him daily!

Advertisements

You are what you are because He is who He is

Every year CRU holds a conference in the Mid Atlantic Region called Radiate. I have now been to this conference twice, and each time my life has take a radical turn that only the Lord could orchestrate. Last year the theme was, “Be Free” and if you read this blog enough you know that I love freedom and that it has played such a huge role in my life. Well this year the theme was “restore”, and boy, I can’t even begin to explain why I needed this conference this year!

Restore, by it’s very definition means to fix or make new. Since leaving the Ocean City Summer Project I have felt so new, and loved, but I’ve also felt lost, and alone because I was not constantly around all of the amazing people from my project! All of those amazing people really impacted me, and some of which I have already told you about here on this blog. However I could never really go into how each and everyone of them truly impacted me. To be back at school and not have them with me really hurt me. Now I do a great job of covering up the truth, and putting on a facade that everything is ok. I did it so well that really no one actually knew how messed up I really was since coming home from project. I just withdrew ever so subtly from community, and would only be with people whom I was truly friends with. I wouldn’t branch out, I tried, but not very hard. I was really rude, and would give off this attitude that I didn’t really want to listen to others, and once again I wouldn’t even notice it. It is something that I really am sorry for, and that I really apologize for if you ever felt that I did this to you.

So in short I needed some restoration from this last semester. To say that it was awful wouldn’t be completely true, because at the same time it was an amazing semester! Being an RA has brought me some of the craziest trials I never thought I’d have to fight. My amazing project director, Shelby Abbott, was completely correct in saying that returning home from project wasn’t going to change my sin. It would be right where I left it, and it would be waiting for me, and that’s exactly what it did. Everything that I had struggled with was waiting for me the second I returned home, and then to school. It didn’t just leave because I did. However it took me some time to realize that. So for that I just went on as though nothing was wrong and continued to act like it was all ok.

Now upon getting ready for Radiate I was so excited because I knew I was going to get to see my amazing project family. I knew I would feel happy again, and I knew I would feel the illusion of wholeness again. I was calling project friends everyday and planning our lives at radiate because I knew I wanted to spend every waking moment with them. I was fortunate enough to get to actually room with one of my project friends because she came with my school to the conference. Getting to be with Ellen everyday was so amazing, and refreshing. Getting her to radiate was another story for another blog, so look for that! But I knew that getting to be with all of them would just feel right.

So that’s exactly what I did. i spent every moment with them, and in pretty much all ways rejected my own campus, which is so wrong! I would get every meal with project friends, and spend every minute of free time with them. I only saw members of my campus when I was in my room with the two amazing friends and roommates that were with me each night after the day was over. But in all reality that was it. I rejected them and spent as much time with my project family as possible. That’s not right. I am seen as a leader on my campus, and for me to completely step away life I did was just wrong. And believe me I payed for it in the end.

It is tradition on our campus to have a reflection time at the end of each conference and just be together and talk about how the conference effected us. Well this year naturally I was late for this time, and upon walking in I got to hear these stories of growth, that I unfortunately, but by my own choosing missed out on because I stayed with project friends the whole time. I heard stories of people finally surrendering to God, and how their lives were being changed because of how awesome God is. Then I felt it, I felt God pulling me to apologize, and admit my wrongs. I felt that heavy pit in my stomach, and the headache coming on, and the sweaty palms so I got up, and I spoke my heart. I apologized to my campus for walking away, and making myself unavailable this last semester. I spoke on how I was avoiding certain people, and pulling away from others because of the brokenness I felt since leaving project. I told them of the heartache I had felt all semester, because of leaving project friends, and because of my job as an RA. I begged for their forgiveness, and asked for them to hold me accountable for my actions. If I ever looked, or acted as though I was pulling away, call me out! Don’t allow me to just walk!

I told them about the story of my tattoo on my back that says, “You Make Beautiful Things”, I had to be reminded of why I got that tattoo, and the love that I was feeling when I got it. The day I got it the artist looked at me and said, “So do you make beautiful things,” and I answered with more strength and confidence that I had, had in months and said, “No, no I don’t but, I am one!” I got that tattoo because I wanted that reminder that Ocean City didn’t just happen, it was put in my life to help me grow, and be challenged, and learn from my past. It was not put in my life to put me in a way of bondage, but instead to redeem me in a way that only Christ can do.

From telling my campus that story that I finally felt as though I could move on, and I could be free from the feeling that I would never feel true joy again, like I did on project. I finally felt as though I could walk with my head held high and tell people about how awesome that project was. I could look at pictures and not cry. I could leave my friends knowing that I wasn’t really leaving them, but instead we were going to continue the mission that God set out for us! And that was not just in OCMD, but instead it was the world! Wherever we go missionally we will always have that summer, and that house, and those memories. They will never leave me!

In the time since then I have finally felt that assurance that I needed that I would never lose that family. I am not sad about project ending anymore. I feel the restoration that took 5 months to find, but none the less I found it. I also found that restoration is not a one time change, it takes a lifetime. It takes days, weeks, and months of time with God to find the true beauty that is in all of us. And I know that wherever God sends me from here on out, is exactly where he wants me! And through it I will always have my amazing family at school, from project, and everyone else to be with me, and in my heart forever.

Project happened, and I think that is what has kept me from making that step was I never wanted to have the feeling as though it didn’t. I never wanted to lose that joy, love, and peace that I felt. I wanted it to forever be apart of me. And since getting those feelings off my chest of loneliness, and of being lost I know that I wont ever lose Ocean City. It is forever apart of me, and it is always with me. I am not lost, I am finding my way everyday. I have Jesus with me always and that is what I needed. Nothing more and nothing less! This is my mission, this is my life. Matthew 28:16-20 is not just a verse or a call, but a lifestyle! That is something that I will take with me wherever I go!

So in closing, I am nowhere near being completely restored, but I have totally started the journey, and I know I have an amazing family beside me always! The Lord has great plans for me in my life, and for that I am happy, and I am free! I know I am blessed for the love, and joy that I felt this summer, and though it took me 5 months to truly find that joy again I know I will not lose it from here on out! Restoration is possible, and that is my goal!

“You are what you are because He is who He is!”- Tim Henderson: Radiate 2012!

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

-Psalms 30:1-5