Sunday, January 29, 2012


This is an honest confession from a worship team member.

"Will you be there next Sunday?" asked Cherie. "There are a few songs that have a lot of violin in them. I'll give you a CD so you can hear. But I know you can take it and make it pretty like you always do."

Well, what I always do is try to hide up there on the chancel and just...worship on my violin. Sometimes it doesn't feel like much, but it's what I've been given. I don't usually use music. I just fill in as we go along. It's an offering from my heart, and a way for me to give back to my church family.

Playing what was on that CD certainly fell within my skill level. But for some reason, I found myself being incredibly intimidated. Maybe it's because I *am* a little intimidated by the talent of the other musicians. They're so good at what they do. I'm a renaissance woman musically, but they astound me with the things they do.

So I played my special part, and immediately sought affirmation from Eddie and Cherie. (After the worship team finished and exited to our room where we listen to the sermon.) "Was that ok?" "Did it sound right?" "Were you happy with it?" They quieted my fears, but I still resolved (to myself) to do better during the next service.

And again I played, and it went well, but I still found myself hoping for reassurance...or I'll be honest, for praise.

And then God spoke to me by way of a song. More precisely, by a guitar lick.

I'm not kidding! I was sitting on the couch in our little room, over analyzing how I had just played, and a song intro just popped into my head. It took me a few seconds to remember the first line of the song, but then it came: "For the praises of man, I will never ever stand..."

I sat there, convicted and humbled, and reminded that it doesn't matter. If I played just like a CD, or if I played something beautiful and new, or if I played as well as the incredibly talented musicians there with me, or if my playing impressed someone or made someone happy or anything else. Yes, I need to do my best, and approach every opportunity I have to play with excellence and integrity. But the most important part is having the correct posture of the heart. *Why* am I doing this?

Of course I like to know that I'm being a blessing, and I've been genuinely encouraged by different comments from members of my church family. But once that encouragement becomes something I seek -- a requirement to determine if I played well enough on any given Sunday morning -- my heart has changed.

It can be a fine line, but that morning I crossed to the wrong side. I confess. I let my perfectionism and insecurity get the better of me. I was hoping to get praise instead of giving it. I'm thankful for that still small voice (guitar intro?) for reminding me why I play, and who I'm playing for.

May these words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord. (Psalm 19:14)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10)

Saturday, January 21, 2012


A package came in the mail for me yesterday. It was a crown (or more properly, a circlet) that I ordered to wear on Saturday to the Renaissance Fair. My sister and I dress up every year, and I finally decided to accessorize my dress with some jewelry.

So I put it on for the first time, and I felt so regal. My sister and I stood side by side and checked ourselves out in the mirror and just couldn't stop smiling. We physically looked the same. Our outfits hadn't changed (I was in my business casual garb, my sister in jeans and a t-shirt)...but our demeanor had. Even now, I'm at work and I'm sitting a little straighter because I have a crown at home. I'm regal even if people here can't see it. Then it struck me... how is today any different from any other day?

As children of God, being adopted into his family....we are royalty. How would your demeanor change if you were wearing a crown? (Wouldn't it be cool if one came down from heaven as soon as you got saved?  All the girls say, "Amen!") The point is, remember who you are. Walk a little straighter. Remember all the resources you have at your disposal (and be a good steward of them).  Remember that even if you can't see it, you have a crown.  But most of all, be aware of the amazing love that wanted you to be part of the family.


A rediscovered thought from my old Xanga blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

House Call

"Those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Usually when I've heard this sentence, I've thought about the act of calling out to God. Saying his name or whatever. But it struck me that the phrase "to call" also means to come and visit.

People used to "call" on each other. Young men asked a young woman's father if he could "call" on her. Doctors made house "calls." Thinking of "call" in this way changes the implications. Motivated by either need or desire, someone intentionally sets time aside to spend quality time with someone else. The afternoon visitor wants to simmer in the moment and maybe enjoy a cup of tea over news. The doctor comes to examine and probe, to get to the root of the problem. The hopeful suitor isn't rushed because they want to get to know the other person... because they're falling in love with them.

"Those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Do I spend time with God? Do I let him probe and get to the root of my proplems? Do I try to get to know him? Am I purposeful...and unrushed about it?

Just a thought for today.

A rediscovered thought from my old Xanga blog.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


It's one of the most poignant and heart wrenching scenes of the final Harry Potter book. Harry stands at the edge of the forest, gathering his courage to face his final showdown with Voldemort.

He has known for a while that a lot was going to be asked of him. But now the true enormity of his task stands before him. He believes this meeting will cost him his life. Because now he knows he's more than just "The Boy Who Lived." He knows that he's more than simply "The Chosen One." And knowing the cost, he still chooses to make that walk.

His only request? It's as poignant as the situation itself: "You'll stay with me?" He asks to make that walk with the spirits of Lily, James, Sirius, Lupin...his loved his side.

[Abraham] said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Genesis 22:5-8)

I've always read this story and thought of what it must have cost Abraham. But today, I'm moved by the faith of his son.

After all, the passage portrays a shared faith between Abraham and Isaac. It says "we will worship." Isaac was committed to his relationship to God. Committed enough to travel three days away to worship together with his father. And he must have known it was a significant journey. Abraham knew the whole time. He knew. But Isaac gets to figure it out.

Have you ever had a moment when you realize you're in for more than you thought you originally bargained for? There's nothing quite like that feeling. Your stomach drops. The blood drains from your head. The world zoom in and zooms out at the same time. It's an epiphany of the most unique kind.

There's a choice to make in that moment. Maybe there's a way out. How committed are you? Do you believe in this thing as much as you thought you did? "Is this a hill worth dying on?" my old teacher might ask. Because if it's not, now is the time to bail.

If there's no way out -- if you're in-for-an-inch-in-for-a-mile, there's still a choice to make. Do be dragged along, or to accept the new insight and be driven by it. However scared you may be, do you take that step into the woods with commitment and purpose?

I wonder when Isaac's suspicions started. When he started to realize there was more to this trip than his dad was letting on. I wonder if he knew the answer to his question before he asked.

"Where is the lamb?"
"God himself will provide."

I wonder if it all clicked into place. If his stomach dropped through the ground. If a million thoughts and doubts and and questions and options raced through his mind.

All I know is this:  The two of them went on together. Isaac took one committed step after another. Believing this meeting would cost him his life. But having his father at his side.

"You'll stay with me?"
"I will be with you, even to the end." (Matthew 28:20)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the generosity of strangers -- and a whirlwind drive to Williamsburg and back -- I arrived at a friend's house on Sunday evening and gleefully unpacked an addition to my menagerie of musical instruments:  a shiny, new-to-me mandolin.  I picked it up, held it close, and strummed.

Woah!  ...I immediately cringed and stilled the strings.

It was pretty obvious that this little beauty had been waiting for action for some time.  (Translation:  It hadn't been tuned in forever and sounded it horrid.)  So I pulled out my tuner and started tightening.

And tightening and tightening.

The strings weren't hanging loose, but they certainly had a ways to go to be in tune. And for the lower strings, I wasn't too worried.  But as I got to the highest pair, I wasn't feeling very confident.

"Please don't break."  I kept saying out loud.  "Please don't break."

But even though I knew I was asking a lot from these little strings, I kept on tightening.  I was just so excited about playing my new mandolin for the first time.

And sure enough, as I nudged the highest string closer and closer to the right tone, it finally had enough and gave up.

I knew I should have let it rest.  Those high notes require a lot of tension.  And that's a lot of change to ask from a tiny string in one big push.

I knew better.  But I was impatient and tried to do it all at once.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.  About being out of tune and being tightened and needing to rest along the way.  Especially in the "higher things" and in the areas that have been out of action for some time.

Because if I expect immediate perfection and try to go all the way in one go, there's a real risk of ending up broken in the process.  (Not permanently broken. But set back just the same.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Little Word: "Fast"

Ever since a friend introduced me to the "One Little Word" challenge, I've found it a simple but powerful way to focus on an aspect of my character I wish to improve upon over the course of a year. 

In 2010, my word was tenacity.  Last year I didn't really choose a word, but over the course of the year one was given to me.  Generosity.  In ways that continually stretched me, I had choices and opportunities to be generous with my time, my space, my finances...with many things.  I'll have to write more about those sometime.  It's amazing, but consciously looking for ways to be generous (and being obedient to that little voice that tells you to give when you don't think you have anything to spare) will reveal just how much you have.

I'll be honest.  Being generous feels great!  And I was beginning to feel a little proud of myself.  But at the end of year when I was looking at my finances, I realized that some of my "generosity" was simply mislabeled obedience.  (After all, supporting my spiritual family by tithing isn't generosity.  It's what I do with the 90% that matters.)  I also realized that for as "generous" as I was, I was also pretty selfish too.  When I sat there and looked at how much money I spent on frivolous things -- on movies, on impulse buys, on eating out, heck, just on fountain sodas -- I was disappointed in myself.

More than that, I was convicted.  This year, my word is fast.

Part of it will be fasting food.  (That's a spiritual discipline I haven't practiced in some time.)  But I want it to be more than about food.  I want to consciously forgo some of my selfish indulgences and refocus those resources to holy purposes -- to praying, to serving, to giving, to being Jesus with skin on.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  ~ Isaiah 58:6

I love this verse for the opening phrase:  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen?  Because fasting should be a conscious choice.  It's about focus.  About letting a feeling of lack drive an awareness.

And I plan to rock my singleness for all it's worth. After all, I am the sole custodian of my resources. Every time I forgo an meal, or step out of the movie line, or hit "delete" in my shopping cart...every time I commit to spend less here to leave extra room on the plate there, I'm only inconveniencing myself.

But I do *not* plan to be gloomy this year (Matthew 6:16-18). In fact, quite the opposite.  I want to continue in my rediscovered joy of generosity.  No one needs to know the details.  But I do feel that by putting it out there as my One Little Word, I'm giving life to this commitment.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God. ~ Leviticus 23:22

After taking a moment to assess, I realized how big my field is. How much good those edges could do. And how effective I am at harvesting every little bit to support my wants and needs. I'm so blessed. And I can honestly say I was generous last year. I truly was.

But last year, I found the edges of my field on accident.  This year, I want to leave them on purpose.

This year, I'm fasting.
This year, my life will be a little bit less about me.
And maybe this year, by being a little less, I can also be a lot more.

A quick shout-out to Marie (I'll be cheering you on!) and to Katie (I know you don't participate in one little word, but your blogging consistency is an inspiration in itself).

Friday, January 6, 2012



“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. ” ― Mary Anne Radmacher

I feel like this has been my life for the past few months. With the various changes and pressures swirling around my world, the best I've been able to do is to just try again tomorrow.

Even though I'm loathe to admit it, holidays make me feel lonely. I want to courageously walk out my singleness and remember that my life is filled with a great cast of characters. But when families hunker down and share all those special moments that families have, it's a reminder that I'm not on the same path. But that also reminds me that whenever I'm feeling down, it's usually because I'm focusing on me. But as Max Lucado would remind me, it's not about me. So the little voice in my heart says, "It's ok. You had a down day. But try again tomorrow."

The end of the year puts me in a self-analyzing mode. And I'm nothing but a perfectionist and overachiever. I made some stumbles this year, and I can start feeling very guilty about my fallibility. Truth be told, those critical thoughts roar in my ears sometimes. But then the little voice in my heart says, "It's ok. His grace is sufficient. Try again tomorrow."

Over Thanksgiving, we relocated my grandparents to Maryland to live with my parents. It's a huge thing, and I've found myself in an interesting place as an adult child -- seeing just how much my parents are stressed out, and wanting to do as much as I can (stealthily or overtly) to support them. I would be lying if I said it wasn't exhausting. But every day the little voice in my heart says, "You can do it. Try again tomorrow."

Which brings to mind the Tough Mudder -- this crazy 11-mile race I'm running later this spring. I'm intimidated, and I have to fight for every fitness victory. And when I have to bail out because I just can't complete what I wish I could, the little voice in my heart says, "That's ok. Try again tomorrow."

During my training runs I just keep telling myself, "One more minute. You can do anything for just one minute." And 50 minutes later, I've gone over four miles. And that's the secret, right? To just focus on the step coming next and remember I can do anything for one minute.

I can be joyful in the presence of my stresses for one minute.
I can make good choices with my actions for one minute.
I can take my mind off the hypothetical and celebrate my beautiful reality for one minute.

And when I can't. I can remember courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is just that little voice that says I'll try again tomorrow.