teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name... psalm 86:11

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

lessons from a christmas concert...

Last night I went to a Christmas concert. Actually, it was a regular concert in this awesomely decorated warehouse by a band that I hadn’t heard in years. This band has a passion for writing/singing songs about their own experiences of how Jesus has shaped their lives, and they mixed in Christmas songs too. They didn’t do this just because it’s the expected thing to do this time of year… they did it because the lyrics of some of the carols we sing every December are so beautifully profound in the way they describe the paradox of divinity meeting humanity. And I was so thankful for last night because in the rush and busyness of this past week, I was craving time to just pause and be and dwell. As the band passionately sang these carols, not as Christmas jingles, but as heartfelt praises to their Savior… I was moved. The lyrics came to life in a different way than usual.

There’s something universal about carols- no matter what your background or faith stance, you probably know at least some of the Christmas classics. Seeing crowds of people singing together in unison about Jesus is one of my favorite things about Christmas. But it got me thinking last night… if people realize what they are singing? If they are allowing themselves to take in the weight of the words or if they are just repeating them by rote?

Do they know that “His law is love and His gospel is peace”? Have they experienced it for themselves?

Do they know that their “hopes and fears of all the years” are seen and understood?

Do they know that “in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in,”… that Jesus is there, ready for us to acknowledge His presence and invite Him into our lives?

This question isn’t just for Christmas songs either… I started thinking last night about how many times we sing ANY song about Jesus, but allow there to be a disconnect between what are mouths are voicing and what our minds are thinking and hearts feeling. We allow this musical element of worship to become mindless repetition sometimes.

It brings to mind the warning in Ecclesiastes to “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth; do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Are we paying attention to who we’re singing these songs to, for the promises and proclamations we declare? Are we listening for His truth amongst the lyrics or are we just babbling along in auto-pilot?

I don’t write this as a guilt trip by any means… but rather as an encouragement, because here’s what I’ve come to learn- the times when I am conscious of what I speak (or sing) before the Lord are the times when I am most blessed by His presence and His promises. The more aware I am of engaging with God, the more He pours His love, grace, and truth into my life.

As we enjoy the final days of Advent and prepare ourselves for Christmas, I pray this for anyone who might stumble across this little blog… that within the songs and traditions, you would be aware of your Savior, and that you would be aware of His presence in your life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I think I may have found my theme verse for 2012…

See, every year I choose a verse to summarize where I’m at and how I hope to grow. This past year the verse I claimed for myself was Isaiah 43:18-19… because it was a year of releasing things & people that I deeply loved without quite knowing what was ahead. This verse spoke of hope and newness and God’s faithfulness in the next chapter of life.

For this year, though, I want to shift the focus off of myself and my circumstances, and dwell more on the glory of who God is. And I found the perfect verse to encapsulate this while reading the story of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. In a dialogue between herself and her sister, Mary is quoted as saying…

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”
. luke 1:46-47 .

It was the word “magnifies” really that caught my eye. Such a lofty word… In old school days it simply meant to praise, but in recent times it’s taken on the connotation of enlarging your perspective of something. Honestly, I like both definitions.

It reminds me of Biology class long ago when we would get plastic slides of something that seemed like nothing, but under the eye of the microscope that “nothing” came to life as intricate, fascinating, living, moving creatures. What was invisible to the everyday eye was magnified so we could appreciate what had been there all along. When our perspective changed, it allowed us to see new & incredible things.

So I think my focus and prayer for 2012 will be to magnify and rejoice in the Lord. I want to see God where I would have otherwise overlooked Him. I want to comprehend Him in new depths that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. There’s something profound that happens within us when we allow Him to be magnified. I recently read “One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to live with a shrunken understanding of God, a shrunken soul.” Not only do I want my own view of God to be magnified, but I want to be a lens through which He is magnified to those around me too… that their perspective of who God is would be heightened… that they wouldn’t live any longer with a “shrunken soul”, but instead become alive with wonderment for this God that loves them with a crazy, fierce love.

As one year comes to a close and another one begins, may we seek to have a greater vision of who God is… and may our lives magnify to others the extraordinary God that we worship and serve…

Friday, December 9, 2011

written on His hand...

In the whirlwind of post-it note reminders and long to-do lists… especially in this crazy holiday season… there is this golden rule: If it’s REALLY important, you write it on your hand. Papers get lost in the shuffle or accidently thrown away, but that sharpie on your skin will last as a permanent reminder. {and beware- it might show up on your face at some point if you like to sleep with your hands up by your cheeks at night… just saying…} Things of the utmost importance belong written on our hands…

One of my favorite verses lately has been Isaiah 49:16… It comes from a chapter that speaks of the restoration that God brings, and after it states the fact that God does not forget His people, we read this:

The word engraved literally means tattooed… God has your name tattooed on His hand. Of course it’s a poetic description not intended to be taken literally, but it paints this picture that we are always in God’s sight and close to Him. We are loved and important in His eyes. He remembers us... and I think that’s why I like this verse. It reminds me that I’m never forgotten and always close…

This fits with the theme of this advent season… that God is near us and that He loves us with an extraordinary love that He goes to extremes to show us. Out of this love He sent us Jesus… Immanuel, God with us... who's hands would one day be pierced and nailed to a cross for us.

May we bask in this extravagent love and find peace in the knowledge that we are written on God's hands...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the great pursuit...

Our church is spending this month reflecting on the true Christmas story, the arrival of our Savior, by viewing it through the different perspectives of those who experienced it firsthand. When we think of that momentous night and the events that followed, usually we get a picture that slightly resembles a Hallmark card. We’ve beautified and simplified an event that, in all reality, is hard to wrap our minds around… The infinite, holy creator of the universe stepped into our world… to bind, fix, heal, and reconcile… but He didn’t come with power and pomp, He came as a vulnerable infant during a lonely night in a dirty stable. It probably wasn’t the prettiest of sights as Mary gave life to the Giver of Life. But it happened…

I think we lose sight of the fact that these Bible stories we’ve heard all our lives are real… they happened… and the people in them were real people, with families and jobs and pasts and dreams and insecurities and doubts. So I like this exercise of thinking about events through the lens of how the people there must have felt and what implications these divine moments of God intersecting with their everyday life had on them.

Our pastor started out Sunday by asking- “How many ways to God?”
To which the church answered- “One way… Jesus.” [Hillsong would have been proud!]
But then he asked- “And how many ways to Jesus?”

The answer… as many ways as there are people. Because Jesus is a pursuer of souls, creative and unlimited in the way He accomplishes this. For some like the shepherds, they weren’t even looking for God… they were just living life, doing their thing… and then God shows up in a big miraculous display that they couldn’t deny. Immediately they went to see this Messiah they’d been told about and they were never the same. The Magi on the other hand had spent their whole lives searching for truth and divinity but it always escaped them. On a hunch, following a star, they embarked on a long journey across hundreds and hundreds of miles. The journey came to fruition when they finally entered the presence of Jesus. They too were never the same.

The advent candle this week was Hope. And this is the hope we have- that we have a God who loves us enough to not leave us where we’re at. He goes to any length to bring light into our lives if we would just receive it.

And while God is pursuing us, we are invited to be pursuing Him. It’s ironic that the invitation this season brings was spoken by the one man who missed it completely… King Herod encouraged others to go and carefully search for Christ, to seek Him intently, and then to go tell others about Him without ever accepting the invitation himself. [Matt. 2:8]

May we not miss it too… may we keep that invitation on the forefront of our minds as we make our way through this advent season. May we seek Jesus with everything in us, and may we be blessed when he meets us on our journey in unexpected ways.