Nothing to Say, But Can't Shut Up - haha! That's what I thought I should call my blog! What I write here might not mean a thing to you and I'm pretty o.k. with that. However, I have an active mind and like to sort things out out loud, so to speak. I also like to have deep conversations so feel free to jump in and comment. I'm glad you showed up and took the time to read. Welcome!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Singing in Church

Wow - there is just really so much I can say about this - good and bad. One of the first thoughts I have on the subject is the time a pastor said (only 1/2 joking) that he was pretty sure when Satan fell he fell in the choir loft. I knew just what he meant. Singing can be such a pride trap. It's often self-serving and individuals, yours truly included, get caught up in the performance and leave true worship behind. Often I can spot right away the ones who are there for themselves, probably because it's familiar to me, and I have very little patience for them. Some times I'm just plain old fooled into thinking someone is the real deal only to discover they're not.

I remember my first solo. I was 16 years old at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC. We'd just come back from a retreat and the Youth were asked to lead the service. Someone asked me to sing the first few lines of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and the rest of the church would join in. Trust me - I had no self-serving goals here - I just didn't want to ruin the service for everyone. I made it through but still clearly recall the nerves.

But somewhere along the way, I got derailed. After having enough people tell you you're good at something, you buy into it. We were in a church that was televised and I started having strangers greet me and tell me they'd seen me sing one thing or another and like it. Wow, it felt good. Because t.v. was involved I began to care (a lot) about what I wore on solo Sundays and if my nails were done cause you know, the camera would zoom in and that really mattered. (ahem) And then it was about the dress and the hair and the makeup... and choosing just the right song...to show off my voice.

Now hear this loud and clear. I don't think there's a thing wrong with looking your best for church and/or t.v.  There's nothing wrong with nice nails, dresses and makeup. However comma there's a lot wrong with doing it all for the wrong reasons, trying to impress people and forgetting why you're really there. I thought singing was my spiritual gift and that it was my great ministry donation to the church. MANY MANY singing types believe this even if they don't admit to it. And that's when things start to go wrong.

I wish I could tell you exactly when God got a good hold of me and turned this around. I remember accepting a leadership role for a women's retreat and saying yes to leading their music (oh, so proud!) without ever praying about it and having to go back and retract my "yes" knowing God had not led that decision. That was plenty humbling. But really, I suppose it became quite clear when I finally studied what the Scriptures say about spiritual gifts and realized that singing in the choir wasn't on the list. hmmm. What now?

I studied the Word and it became clear to me that the Holy Spirit had gifted me with exhortation and teaching. SO ... I now had a new understanding of my role in church and it wasn't singing per se, although there's nothing wrong with singing either. Are you getting my drift? I, like you, had ministry responsibility that involved using those gifts in my weak, flawed self and letting the Holy Spirit work through me. I began studying the Word more and teaching Bible Study (after some time learning to study) and encouraging people to step up to the line and walk according to the Word. And... when I was asked to sing, I sought songs that did the same thing. Songs that were based soundly on the Scriptures and encouraged me in my walk. And ... when I sang I was humbled by the request and sought to help us as a church fix our eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Each time it became less about me and more about God ... in MY heart. And I believe that has made me a better singer.

I've seen great vocalists who weren't that worshipful - even though they did all the right moves. I've also seen marginal vocalists who were incredibly worshipful even though they did nothing noteworthy but humble themselves. BUT, I've also seen fanTAStic singers, with great hair, nails and makeup who were totally humbled before Christ and not full of themselves at all.

This singing in church thing is a tricky deal and we who sing must be aware. We can get caught up in the flattery of it all and lose the worship just. like. that. Pray for me, for I love to share the music God lays on my heart. Sometimes the Lord pours out an extra blessing on me and brings my voice up a notch (or several). I pray that I always remember how hard I have to work to sing good notes (No, it's not easy for me. I tend to sing flat and push too hard.). I pray that I always seek to glorify God and lead people to look at Jesus not me. AND I sincerely pray, that if it becomes about me, God will remove me from that ministry. It's not worth it. Worship is not music alone. Some of my most meaningful worship happens in a silent room with no one but me around.

Today, I had the privilege of singing at my new church home for the first time. I started falling into some old traps because I want everyone to like me yada yada yada. I yielded that to the Lord in prayer, but had another problem. My body was flat worn out and I'd chosen a flashy HIGH song to sing. Fearing a great humiliating "performance" I planned on the way to church to change songs to something less demanding. My voice was just too tired to do the work required. I went into rehearsal and offered the first song (because it was relevant to our study in Revelation) knowing I'd probably have to change songs. However, the moment I began to sing, I knew that the Lord's blessing was on it and I'd have the high notes when I needed them (it wasn't that way in the car, trust me). I KNEW I didn't have this in my own ability, but God provided in a big way. I got such a personal blessing seeing afresh that He can do things we can't imagine. If you're not a believer this might not make much sense to you. I just believe He wanted us to be reminded of His great majesty which is what the song is about and decided it was worth it to Him to help me along. I know I do not sing like that on my own. What a blessing! No temptation to get the big head when you know your limits. Thank You Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Next Step

What makes you happy? What makes you secure? How do you handle your life? How do you keep yourself productive? 

For me - it's having a plan. Sure, plans are filled with all kinds of false security, but oh the (false) confidence of having one. My online buddies and I sit around on the computer and plan out our days all the time. We talk about where we're going, what we'll do when we get there, how we'll get there, and what we'll eat along the way. We talk about long-term and short-term plans and the impact of the unforeseen on our carefully laid plans. I like a plan. A to-do list. Goals.

Suddenly, and you might have picked up on this, I find myself unable to make any long-term plans. Our life is in this odd-feeling limbo land. And though, none of us really knows what tomorrow holds, I'm now more acutely aware of that fact than ever before.

So, what am I doing? I'm taking the next step. When something comes my way, I'm stepping out and saying, "Yes" unless there's a good reason not to. I have no idea where my path is leading or when I'll get "there" (whatever that means), but I'm finding a bit of freedom in letting go of the plan. I don't even know my work schedule until a week before.

Here's what I do know, based on the authority of the word of God:

God knows my next step and where I'm going. Just like a difficult hike or river trip often needs a guide, I need a guide for my life. I don't have to know the details if my guide is trustworthy. I just take the next step.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future." Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where I Live . . .

Some of you have been here, some of you have heard about it and some of you have no clue. If you're not from the South, it might be hard to put it all together and fully appreciate it; I don't know. All I know is, it's where we live and how things are.

I live smack-dab (that's the way we say it here) on the Georgia/Alabama state line. Those of us on this side of the line nearly always give thanks for that great blessing. I don't know how the folks on the other side feel about it, except one of my family members who lives smack DAB on the other side, in view of my house, and gets tired of us giving so much thanks for living in Georgia. I watch the sun set in Alabama (from the Georgia side) every night and it's quite beautiful, so maybe Alabama has some blessings too. I don't know for sure, but maybe. ; )

Anyway, they call the place where we live "The Backwaters". Sometimes it's called "The River" (pronounced "Thuh Rivah") and sometimes it's called "The Lake". Everyone pretty much knows what you mean when you say it. It's a lake ON a river - created with a dam.

The Cabin
We call the home we live in "The Cabin". It's not a cabin; it's a house. We call it the cabin because it used to be a cabin before we tore that down and built the house and truth be told, it wasn't really a cabin then, it was more like a shack, but not trashy, just very humble. We loved it. LOVED it. Spent nearly every vacation there. Had all our big family gatherings there. Taught our kids to love it. Loved it so much that when we built the new house, we kept the term "cabin" because it's so special to us and brings up all the wonderful memories that go with it.

Up on the main road, before you hit all the back roads, coming from town there's a little establishment that sells necessities you might not want to drive 25 minutes into town to pick up. Ice, beer, soft drinks, bacon, butter, bread, gas - it's called "The Store". Once upon a time "The Store" used to be across the street, but then they moved. Next door to "The Store" a little business opened up that sold hammers and nails and pine straw and plumbing parts. It was called "The Hardware Store".  It sold recently and they sell trailer hitches now. I don't what they're calling it these days. We have a little shopping center with a homecooking restaurant, a bar and a few other things that go in and out of business and that's about it anywhere near us.

Our kids on a vacation at The Cabin
When you exit the interstate from the north side to head to the backwaters, rivah, lake there's a 4-way stop and there at the 4-way stop is a cinder block building painted top to bottom with, frankly speaking, the most awful mural I've every seen. It's the woods and deer and such all over it. There's a dirt parking lot of sorts and that's it, except for the little yard sheds out back. This establishment is called "Hunter's Pub" and for years (and YEARS) when we arrived in town for our vacation and drove past this awful looking place, my dear and darling would say "We oughta give that place a try sometime." Every time I'd cast my eyes sideways, scrunch up my face and say something like (I can't remember exactly how it went...) "Are you out of your ever-loving mind? I am NOT going in there. We have no business in a place like that! I can't believe you'd even suggest taking me in THERE." Something like that, I'm not really sure. Every year, for YEARS.

Finally the day came when the darling little cabin became ours and we tore it down and built the new cabin which is a house called a cabin. Some time during the building process our builder suggested we should all go get a steak some time at that place by the interstate. My husband's eyes got a little bright and I bit my lip or something. "Really?"  asks dear and darling. "Huh." I say. "Oh yeah. Just not on a Friday or Saturday, cause you'll never get in." "Interesting" we both say, but in different tones I'm pretty sure.

A good stretch by Two Tree Island
Needless to say,  we gave it a try and have been back numerous times since, most recently last night. At Hunter's Pub you can get the best ribeye you ever tasted, grilled mahi mahi topped w/ a huge crab cake that actually has crab in it and that's about all that's in it, fried lobster tail that will make you want to slap your mama, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and killer sweet potato fries. And though the place might be filled with hunters, you'd never know it for sure, cause they're all sporting polo shirts and khakis. While there, you'll notice that the inside decor isn't much better than the outside and you might be surprised to find that the potty walls are camouflaged. There's some trophy bass on the walls, pine sprigs, and even a little lace as I recall. While dining you might realize that it's just an old gas station re-done for dinner and while you're there Jeff Foxworthy and his own personal estrogen ocean might walk in. 

And I guess that sums it up. . . I live on the backwaters and though we might not impress you, we like who we are and HOW we are. And we know good food. Don't mistake our humble demeanor for lack of smarts, taste or money 'cause, honey, we got a little bit of everything up where I live.