Monday, January 25, 2016

Our Mission Field

Whether it is in China, Texas, or Mexico, I think it is safe to say that our church has a heart for missions. I never realized how much missions can play into someone’s life, and I am the perfect example of how it can make a huge impact.

I have been on multiple mission trips in my life to many different places; Myrtle Beach, West Virginia, and Mexico just to name a few. When our church first started talking about mission trips to China (2015) I was intrigued. I attended the first meeting and soon came to realize that my dream of going to China was not going to be able to happen that year due to school and other things in my life. I told myself, ok, next year (2016) I will go to China. As the first trip came and went I grew even more excited to go on this what seemed to be amazing trip. Michele Cordray and I started talking a lot about the work they do in the orphanages and how they help with ICC. My excitement kept growing and I couldn’t wait till the next trip.

It was finally time for the church to start planning the second trip to China and I was the first to tell Michele that I wanted to go and I once again went to the information meeting all wound up about going to China. As I found out more details about the trip, I came to realize that I was once again not going to be able to go on the China Mission Trip this year. I was disappointed and somewhat heartbroken, but I tried to tell myself that it would all work out and maybe there was a reason I wasn’t meant to be on this trip.

As we know, the China team is there now spreading God's love to many people. I love seeing all the posts about how happy the children and workers are to have our fellow church members there to help. Even though I was happy they were there I was also bitter because I wanted to be in China this year helping and loving on the children. I had been praying and praying for God to show me the reason I was not on this trip and I was quite honestly getting upset because to me it seemed like I would have been doing a lot more in China for Him then I am here.

That was when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why did I have to be in China to witness and share Gods love? I DIDN’T. God had a plan all along to keep me here these past two weeks and now I know why. I have a dear friend that invited me to dinner one night and over for a girl's night just to catch up. As always we had a great time and when it came time to go to sleep she just looked me dead in the eyes and started asking all these questions about God and The Bible. I was completely shocked when she started asking me these questions. I have been praying for my friend for a long time, that she would realize she needed to become a follower of Jesus Christ. As the questions and answers kept coming I soon realized that this was MY mission field for these couple of weeks. God had placed me there at her apartment for what we thought was going to be a normal girl's night and yet it ended up being a chance for me to witness and show God's love to one of my dearest and best friend.

I want us all to think about “our mission field” and how can we share God's love here.  We don’t always have to be a long way from home to show how God has impacted our lives. I would also like to ask if you would help me pray for my friend and pray for me and others that are sharing God's love to her. Hopefully she will realize she is lost and will come to know Jesus as her personal savior. 


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lord is My Strength and My Song...

As I sit to write, I find myself at a loss for words. I had an entirely different plan for today’s blog and have had it for quite some time, but “Life Happened”.

My grandmother passed away this morning and while it was expected, one can’t quite numb the emotion that comes along with the death of a loved one. She lived a long life, and she knew Christ. Those things bring me joy, but sadness still exists.

Today, as I prepared a few songs for her funeral Exodus 15:2 came to mind. 

"The LORD is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father's God, and I will exalt him.”

In my 33 years, the Lord has been my strength nonstop in the midst of impossible circumstances, but I never thought of him as my song.  I sing for him and love to do so, but I never quite thought of him as the song itself. His entire existence is filled with such wonder, power, beauty, love, and grace; why would I have never viewed him in this way?

I sing because he loves me. I sing because he died to give me life. I sing because he gave me the ability to do so. I sing to bring him honor and glory. So of course He is my song!
As I prepared the hymns I am to sing, I received such comfort. With tears pouring down my cheeks, I offered him my praise. I received peace as I sang “It Is Well with My Soul” and I received joy as I sang “How Great Thou Art”. My heart hurts, but I had joy. I realized that I had taken the ability to receive such comfort immediately from Christ through song for granted. 

How powerful the gift of music is and how blessed I am to be able to share that with a hurting world. I am honored not only to sing as we lay my grandmother to rest, but I get to share the gospel with my lost family members in a powerful way.  I get to belt out that Christ is returning, that he has provided peace beyond understanding, and that He gave his life so I can live.

It is my prayer that you all understand the love Christ has for you. Your world may seem dreary and filled with obstacles... but Christ is your strength when you can’t seem to get through them on your own. You may have heartbreak that you think can’t be mended…but He is your Song in those times of grief. He loves you and He is for you. Stand firm in His promises and share Him with a hurting world.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Should the Church Be Writing New Songs? Part 2

A few weeks ago, I blogged about whether or not the church should be writing new material.  In my mind, I decided yes, write new music with the focus being on Jesus and with a taste that your congregation enjoys and can engage in.  If you come to the same decision that I did with this, then there's the next step: actually writing the song.

I mentioned that it's a great thing to have people that you can consult with.  For me, that means getting with other people on lyrics.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm no wordsmith and if I write something totally on my own, the words sound like something a 3rd grader would write.  Actually, a 3rd grader would probably do better at this than me.  With words being the area that I need help in, after I let a few people who are better at this than me make some changes, it can become something that's actually quite usable.  I've found that some sort of group writing usually produces better results in most cases.  However you want to approach group writing is totally up to you.  When it comes to music, I'm a musician first and songwriter somewhere much further down on the list, so I have to utilize other people to start with something.

For others, they may be excellent at coming up with a great starting point for a new song, but have no idea what they want for a melody, or don't know where to start with adding music.  In those cases, they may consult with other musicians to chord the song out or come up with hook lines and such.  For me, that's the area I do well in.  My gift in songwriting may not even include coming up with any words at all, but rather arranging something that someone else wrote and creating a finished product that can be presented.  

No matter what your area of strength or weakness may be, there's one piece of advice that I've found to be extremely simple when you think about it, but so helpful and resourceful when used.  That piece of advice is this: listen to good music.  I know, simple.  I was going through an online recording class when I heard a mix engineer say that.  He was applying it to mixing final products, but when I thought about it, it can really be applied to the start, finish and anywhere in between of songwriting. 

There's a great variety of modern worship music available to us now, so it certainly isn't hard to find songs that match a style you're after.  Listen to those songs.  Find out what is working and what isn't, then apply what you've learned.  When recording and mixing, it's easy for me to get so involved in what I'm working on that I can't remember what other music sounds like.  So, if I have trouble figuring out what I want a snare drum to sound like or how I want a rhythm guitar mixed, I'll stop what I'm doing and just go listen to good music.  After doing so, I'll open my project back up, apply what I've learned, and see how it changes the sound.  I'm confident in saying that this ALWAYS produces positive results.  

So, if you're writing a song and somewhere along the line you get stumped, listen to good music.  If you decide to write something, listen to good music before you begin.  Good music that's already out there will be a great key to what is going to work and what people will enjoy.  Happy writing!



Monday, January 4, 2016

Ever Be

For my upcoming special music, Justin suggested that I sing the song “Ever Be” by Bethel Music.  As I was studying the lyrics this week, I was drawn once again to the realization that we serve such a mighty God, and truthfully, His praise should “ever be on our lips.”  Here are a few of the lyrics to this powerful song:

“faithful You have been and faithful You will be,
You pledge Yourself to me and it’s why I sing.
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips…”

Wow… Sometimes, if I’m being completely honest, I find myself angry because of everything that I have had to endure with my neck and shoulder, because I focus on the pain instead of praising God for His blessings on me!  When I was injured, if my injury had been just one vertebrae up (which is approximately 4 millimeters, 1/25 of an inch…) my respiratory function could have stopped and heart function could have ceased.  I could have been left paralyzed or even dead in that very moment, but God was not finished with me!  He has been faithful to me…carrying me while I have a thorn in my side.  Yet, sometimes, I get so worried about the “what if’s” to be able to truly give my all to Him!  That is hard to admit, knowing that He took all of my pain and MUCH more for ME and for YOU!  I must remember to praise Him in the good and the bad times.  As we begin the New Year, we will all have some good and bad times.  Let’s remember to praise Him through the highs and the lows.  I love this quote:

       “Turn your worry into worship and watch God turn your battles into blessings.” –Unknown

If we can just let go of all of our worries and let God take over, He will pour onto us His blessings.  He pledges Himself and His blessings to us, we just have to be willing to open our hearts and accept it.  In the second verse of the song, it talks about some of the blessings that God will give to us:

“You shoulder our weakness and Your strength becomes our own.”

For the past four years, although I have endured physical pain, God has shouldered my weakness and given me strength to make it from day to day.  When I would feel beaten down, ruined, and weak, God would remind me that I am His, and that He will make me whole.  No matter how much physical (or emotional) pain I was feeling at that moment, He would always be there, feeling it all with me, and taking my pain.  What a wonderful Father…His praise shall ever be on my lips.  I will always praise Him for holding me. 
And now, because of His grace and mercy, I can stand with my arms high, and feel no pain, and worship Him without reserve.  Even though this may be my cross to bear, and I may still have spasms; I don’t have to worry because I know that no matter what, God will bless me as long as I pour out my praise to Him.
We each have our own cross to bear. We each can identify some area of our life that is the thorn in our flesh.  Do not give that thorn power over you.  Let His praise ever be on your lips!  Praise Him for the pain!   Let’s all thank Him that we do not have to endure the pain that He so graciously took for each of us to make a way back to Him!  I pray in this New Year we can all praise God through whatever circumstance He sends us!

Blessings to each of you as we continue to serve Jesus together!