Blog Post for Cornerstone WLA: A Biblical Response to “You do You”

This pandemic has shone quite a spotlight on our deeply embedded American mentality, “You do you.” We have seen how painfully unloving and detrimental it can be when self and entitlement are at the core.

My latest blog post for Cornerstone WLA shows us through the example of Jesus how to approach the “You do you” mentality in a more loving, healthy way.

You can read the blog post here.

Why I Must be Thankful for What I Do Not Have

I woke up grumpy on Thanksgiving Day. The dog gnawed incessantly all night at his hot spot and I hadn’t the heart (nor the courage) to curse him with the cone of shame. So I wrapped his tail with a light towel to cover the hot spot. He’d wake with a start after an hour to peel it off and gnaw again. The sound shot shivers through my spine and woke me upright. We repeated this numerous times. Between this battle and an uncomfortable dream, I woke up grumpy, irritable, far from sentimental, less than thankful.

I celebrate Thanksgiving Day not primarily because my heart naturally overflows with gratitude, but because I need to practice expressing gratitude more. I mastered complaining early in life, on my first day outside of my mother’s womb to be exact. I am ashamed of my ability on some days to walk away from acutely ill patients after 12 hours at work, feeling full of frustration at their neediness rather than deep gratitude for my own health and ability to serve them. Oh my soul. I celebrate Thanksgiving Day because I need to practice expressing gratitude more.

I need to practice gratitude for the basics, which I can really only even call “basic” because I still take them for granted that much, forgetting that I fall within the top 3% of the wealthiest in the world, simply because I have them.  Salvation, life, health, shelter, a car, food, belongings, education, a job, a dear husband, dear family, dear friends. Each of these alone merit a lifetime of thanksgiving.

I need to practice gratitude for the things I do not have. Perhaps they would incline my heart that much more towards vanity, and distance me all the more from those beloved friends in poorer countries who showed me once what a purer contentment looks like. Perhaps they would crowd my life and attention with their need for maintenance, stealing my energies from things more eternal. I am not currently suffering without those things. What more do I truly need?

I need to practice gratitude for the challenges and hardships that have come. They teach me about the need I have for my community to save me from a lone island mentality. They teach me about my weaknesses so that I do not die a more painful death from my pride. They magnify the mercy, comfort, hope and compassion of my Savior who Himself entered into our suffering in order to ultimately deliver us from it one day. They give me perspective to save me from a shallow, superficial existence.

I need to practice gratitude for the forms of suffering that I have not personally experienced. I need to practice this so that I might actively remember there are others who are enduring tragedies, which I am called to do something about in all my comfort and power and wealth, as an expression of the hands and feet and heart of a loving God. I need to practice this so that my spirit does not become overly entitled. I need to practice this in hopes that others might practice it with me as well.

I celebrate Thanksgiving Day because I need to practice expressing gratitude more. Won’t you celebrate and practice along with me this day, this season, and in this upcoming year.

when my mess tumbles out and God comes in

In all the 20 years that I have been leading worship in music at church, I still get nervous every single time. It’s more than stage fright, though that remains a significant component. It’s anticipation, longing. Wanting more than a sentimental musical experience. Wanting something real, something deeper. Creating a space with the music for people to go beyond words in bringing their hearts, their hurts, their fears, their doubts, their shame, before a God who says to every broken soul, “Come to the cross, I will not turn you away there.” Creating a space where the heart is opened and everything tumbles out in the mess that we often feel we are, and we try so hard to contain our mess and apologize that we didn’t get it together before we came before this Holy One. Only to find ourselves caught up in the embrace of the Father who ran to us while we were still a long way off and says, “Welcome home.”

I long for this as a worship leader. For this real exchange to happen. For people to find themselves found by God, because of Christ. I am afraid of getting in the way with too many words, not enough words. Awkward pauses. Wrong notes. I’m afraid of a Sunday with a weak voice, an off voice that doesn’t inspire others to proclaim, “I am His beloved, and He is so good.” I used to think that quality and skill in music didn’t matter that much as a worship leader, but particularly after going through John Piper’s series, “Gravity and Gladness,” and reading Bob Kauflin’s book, “Worship Matters,” I am convinced that quality and skill do matter. Quality in music, quality in leadership style, skill and discernment in both. I don’t think I can take the ministry of worship in music too seriously. I am leading people, through song, to come before a holy, loving God. The Creator and King of the universe. Our Life-giver. He is holy, holy, holy. I tremble with this, every week. I don’t want to sing flippantly to this God who sees my heart of hearts. I want to be used by You, God. I don’t want my pride to get in the way. I don’t want my fumbles to get in the way. Give us Yourself. We need You. No one brings life the way You do. Not me, not my music. Give us Yourself and help me not to get in the way.

There is a deep joy I share with my fellow worship team members. I love musicians who offer what they have to worship the Lord. They get it. They get that the backing off with an instrument is a humble expression of worship, a humble act of service to the church family, just as much as the loud strums and beats. I don’t have to play, to be heard, to be recognized, all the time, because it’s not about me. We’re creating a dynamic with our music, the rise and fall of our hearts when we hurt and we hope and we fall and we get up, when our brokenness robs us of our words before God and when our joy can’t be contained so we have to sing and shout and clap. There are certain Sundays when we know that the Lord has been gracious to us in our time of music, He has been there. The weight of His glory lingers even after the benediction has been given. I exchange glances with other worship team members and we just know, He has glorified Himself through our offering, and our hearts are so glad. Sometimes, I have trouble talking with people afterwards because I feel so amazed that He would give us this gift of Himself, our little broken but beautiful church community. He is what we have longed for. We need Him to go with us into our traffic and our housework and our tense relationships and our Monday morning blues. Give us Yourself, God. As you always have, would you now, again, graciously give us Yourself.