when the building gets in the way

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There once was a place where we’d go 

to take in a heavenly show 

but that marvelous sight 

has been blocked by the height 

of a building- causing me so much woe ;( 

For the last (almost) 16 years, my husband and I would drive into Charlottesville and park in a special spot to watch the sunset- A busy parking lot with a million dollar view. There are two park benches that overlook the city with a perfect view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This has been our “spot” for years, and I have lost count of how many times we have gone there together to worship God’s creation.

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In this spot, we have bonded over talks about our kids, reminisced about our past, dreamed about our future… and we have praised God for His many blessings. In this spot, we have gone over all the crazy “God” things that happened to cause us to move to Charlottesville all those years ago.  I remember the first time I drove down route 250 heading into Charlottesville- it was as if God told me I was home.

And now a rather large church building has changed the skyline where we used to sit to watch the sunset.  Kind of ironic that a building for people to worship God has physically gotten in the way of the view of what makes this city so beautiful.

But that has got me to thinking…

Has a building gotten in your way? 

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Now that the church building is closed due to the pandemic, I see how a building has gotten in the way of being the “church”.

So much of the church has been focused one one goal-  Sunday mornings!

But now that we are unable to use the building to gather, I see how narrow minded my view of  “church” at times had become.

Over these last 6 weeks, our world has drastically changed- but I can see how resilient the church has become- and it’s inspiring!

-I see pastors of all denominations and all ages putting themselves out there on social media- making videos, sharing devotionals, encouraging people, actually BEING the church- and reaching far more people!

-I see people donating food to food banks, making face masks for healthcare workers, delivering groceries, generously supporting small businesses and helping one another.

-I see people being more intentional in their relationships- writing and mailing cards, actually having phone conversations, texting, FaceTiming, and even Zoom-ing.

-I see countless churches offering online worship services- making worship accessible to everyone at anytime!

-I see people not waiting until Sunday morning to “have” church, but people BEING the church every day!

And I have hope.

Maybe this is what Church was supposed to look like all along.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

1 Corinthians 3:16

the missed list

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I miss seeing the random smiles 

of strangers 

striking up conversations of 

commonalities and enjoying a 

moment of connection 

I miss the warm embrace of 

a friendly hug- the one that makes me 

instantly feel like you’re a part of

my  family 

I miss the naiveté of going about 

our daily lives without

thinking that we may infect someone 

by simply breathing 

I miss coffee shops

thrift stores

restaurants

lunch dates with friends 

having the house to myself 

but most of all- 

I miss worshipping together on Sundays

and being with my church family-

the fellowship, greeting one another, 

the buzz of joyful energy and

conversations in the cafe

singing, praying, 

and praising the Lord 

in one accord 

…but JOY comes in the morning- Psalm 30:5 

Deep in December it’s nice to remember…

Back in my college days, we sang a beautiful song called “Try to Remember” from the musical The Fantasticks. It’s such a lovely song, with a melancholy melody and lyrics that sing all on their own.  I woke up thinking of this song and remembering what happened to me this past Sunday…

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After I finished leading the music for the worship service, I sat down in between my husband and my daughters.  There’s something so special about sitting with my family in church- it felt like heaven!

I admit that I was more focused on the presence of the Lord than I was on the sermon that morning. But the most wonderful thing happened- I started to remember last December and how absolutely miserable I was.  For the last 12 years I have been dealing with allergies.  My symptoms started off pretty minor, and I would lose my voice for a few weeks in the first few years.  And then each year my symptoms increased- as did the amount of time I was plagued with a cough and laryngitis.  And unfortunately, these symptoms have always been the worst during the Christmas and Easter seasons- which are the BUSIEST times of the year for anyone involved in music ministry!

Last year around this time,  I remember feeling so defeated.  I even questioned if He really wanted me to keep singing for Him.  I am embarrassed to admit that there were many Sundays after church when I cried- feeling like I had let Him down, feeling like I embarrassed myself (by something I said, or by my voice cracking…).  I am embarrassed to say this because it made worship all about ME and not Him!

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After lots of prayer and encouragement from my Christian friends, I resolved to worship and praise Him- even if!  Even if my voice was gone, even if my cracking, coughing, weak voice would embarrass me- I would STILL sing His praises and be obedient to sing!

Well, after the Christmas season last year, I decided to finally visit an allergy doctor.  After going through the testing, he determined that I was having reactions to nearly all of the 60 environmental things I was tested for.  After trying other medications to help alleviate my cough and other symptoms, I decided to try immunotherapy- allergy shots.

I have been doing them since May, and I have FINALLY reached the “maintenance” phase.  It has been a long process, and it’s been quite time consuming- 2 visits each week, 3 shots each time.  I have prayed and prayed that this would help and that I was not wasting all this time!

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But Sunday, as I sat there with my family in the service- He reminded me of all that He has done for me over this last year.  He has taught me so much about worship… how my skills and talents are useless without His power. How being an “instrument” is not for other people to pat me on the back, but to glorify Him!  And usually by September, the coughing begins…but praise the Lord- the cough is almost non-existent!  I am so grateful and thankful!  I wanted to stand up and shout on Sunday when He reminded me of what I felt like last year compared to now!

So whatever trial you are going through- no matter how big or small it is- try to remember all the things He has brought you through, and keep on praising Him!

 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

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art and worship

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I had my boundaries stretched this past week.  I love how God turns my thoughts upside down and takes me out of my comfort zone.  We all have ideas in our head about what it looks like when people are worshipping– whether we are engaged in the singing or intently focused on the pastor preaching the message during a Sunday morning service.

“Mom, do you think I could bring coloring pencils and color while the pastor is preaching?” my older daughter asked me this past week.  She explained that it is hard for her to focus, but that during her classes at school, she “doodles” and that it helps her listen better.

I admit- I didn’t know what to say at first, because she’s not so little anymore. I am ashamed to say that part of me worried about what other people might think if I allow my (almost) 13 year old to color during the service.  But, I love to doodle- and I can definitely say that it helps me to focus, too. So I told her she could- as long as she was discreet and as long as she sat beside me and LISTENED to the message.

After I finished the last song during the music part of the service, I sat down beside her.  She quietly took out her pencils and began to fill in the little patterns. I was mesmerized watching her, and part of my own creative brain longed to color with her! As the pastor led us to a time of prayer, I went back to the piano and played.  When we were finished, my daughter had already put away her things and was all smiles.

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My daughter’s colorful creation

I began to think- coloring with your hands isn’t all that different from me playing the piano.  During almost every prayer I am “doodling” on the piano keys (which I like to call “noodling” around).  And for me- that is absolutely worship!  I am praying silently as I am playing- and I always feel more connected to Him through the movement of my hands across the keys.

Afterwards, I quizzed her in the car.

“So, what was the message about?”

She remembered everything- even the three main points of the sermon.  Seeds had been planted- and for me, that’s the most important thing of all.

So, can art be a part of worship?  Absolutely. I think anything we do can be an act of worship- even coloring – if our mind and heart are focused on the Lord.

I’m proud of her for not worrying about what other people would think. And I’m a bit disappointed in myself for caring too much.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1  Corinthians 10:31

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Burning embers

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like burning embers 

 the daylight flickers and fades

calming the night sky

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This is where “church” is for me-

anywhere there is an open sky and and a grand view of nature…

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For many years, church was a place I went to spend time with God and to be filled up.  Church service was the only place I sang Christian songs, and the only time I earnestly prayed for much of my life.  I was a Sunday Christian.

Now I am overjoyed to be used by Him- to be serving Him and leading worship every week. It’s an awesome thing that now I “get to” serve and help lead others to worship and be “fed” after all those years of being a “consumer” of church…

but after a Sunday Service, I am often left feeling empty and completely drained.

So when I need to “recharge”, I spend time in nature… this is “going to church” for me now.

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Last Sunday evening I jumped into the car and found a perfect spot to worship.  I turned the radio up loud and sang as the colors glowed in the sky.  I felt a peace come over me, and every care I had faded away with the daylight.

And the intimate evening sunset “worship” service was spectacular 🙂

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  for our

“God is a consuming fire.”  

Hebrews 12:28-29

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His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.

I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.  

Jeremiah 20:9

 

Deactivate my what??

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Flowers- the last item on our shopping list!

In search of the perfect shrug to compliment our Easter Sunday outfits, the girls and I headed out to the mall yesterday. Shopping with my daughters is always an adventure- one that I often have to give myself a “pep talk” to do. Gotta have a planned route, set clear expectations, and we buy absolutely NOTHING that is not on our list…okay, I mean the imaginary list that is in my brain because even if I did write one, it would be lost within seconds of finishing it…

Anyway, we arrived at our first destination, and much to my delight, the return I had to make first went off without a hitch!  I quickly found the perfect shrug for myself and made the purchase.  It was almost too good to be true- no lines, no hassle, girls were as good as gold…. and then we proceeded to exit the store.

As soon as I passed by the tag sensors, the alarm went off.  Boy is that thing loud!  I think it’s even louder when you are the one setting it off.  My face turned beet red, and the girls were mortified. I stepped back, and at that same time an elderly lady was walking towards the sensors with her bag in hand.  We stepped through at the same time, and sure enough- it went off again.  The elderly lady shot me a disapproving look, and I quickly went back to the check-out counter and they checked my bag.  Nope- no sensor tag. I tried to exit the store a third time, and once again, the alarm went off.  The sales associate waived me on, and the girls and I journeyed onto store #2.

They walked far enough behind me that I could tell they didn’t want the horror of being stared at if we set off another store alarm.  I approached the sensor of the next store, and turned to smile at my girls. Surely it wouldn’t go off again!

Much to my horror, it did- this one seemed even louder.  I noticed people were staring at me and my face started getting red again.  I walked through the entryway and someone asked me if they could help me.  I said I needed to find a shrug for my girls to wear, and oh, by the way– I keep setting these darned sensors off!  She was baffled, too, and said not to worry about it.  Another sales associate approached me and asked me if I was wearing Ann Taylor Loft jeans.  What a strange question…why yes, I was wearing Loft jeans…

“Sometimes there is a sensor in the jeans that set off our alarm system.”

“Well, that’s crazy!  I’ve had these jeans for ever and they have never set off any alarms!”

“How about you follow me- I can deactivate it for you.”

“You mean deactivate my butt?” I asked her, trying to stifle my giggles.  The girls were completely mortified at this entire situation.  I followed her to the register and began feeling up and down the seams of my jeans.  She waved her magic wand up and down my sides and backside, with no luck.  So, I did the only thing I could think to do- I reached down into my pant legs and much to my relief- I found the culprit.  I turned my jeans down and she cut the tag out with her scissors.

There were way too many people staring at my backside at this point, and all I could do was laugh. Even the girls were hysterically giggling and hiding behind clothing racks.

So the next time you set an alarm off in a store- be sure to check your backside… you might just need your butt deactivated!

Ice walk

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a winter wonderland

ice-layered trees

sing for joy

unveiling their frailty,

revealing their beauty,  

 and declaring their

devotion

to the Son

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“Momma, I don’t feel like myself today.”

We all have days when we feel out of sorts.  A Sunday morning at home always leaves me feeling like something is missing.  Due to the snow and ice, the girls had been home from school for a week, and we were all going a little stir crazy. And then church was cancelled, too.  That, alone,  always leaves me feeling a bit “off”.

“Baby, neither do I…” I lovingly told my daughter.  “We are all a little stir crazy and out of our normal routines.”

Since church was cancelled, I decided to take a long walk.  The girls and I bundled up and headed out. We didn’t say a word to each other.  We walked in silence as we took in the ice-transformed landscape.  All we could hear was the sound of ice crackling, water dripping,  and birds singing.  It was nature’s symphony, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.

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I am so thankful that I don’t have to be at church to be in His presence.  I am thankful that I don’t even have to utter a word to spend time with Him.  It’s usually me that’s doing the singing on Sunday mornings- what a treat it was to hear His creation singing for joy!  It was the perfect time for me to be still and silent before Him.  He knows just what we need to feel His peace again.  He is always faithful to meet us wherever we are- and He did just that on our ice-walk!

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;

    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord…

Psalm 96

Connected

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Sometimes I wonder

what it looks like down under

beneath the ground’s soil

they run

The roots intertwine

they mingle and wind

connecting-

becoming as one

IMG_3449We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:5

I went on a wild goose chase the other night. I found a web site that talked about Pando- the world’s largest single living organism- a forest of trees all coming from the same under the ground root system. Trees have always fascinated me.  But here’s a little secret fear I have- roots.  The thought of roots deep in the ground, growing and intertwining creeps me out!

So my husband saw me reading about Pando and he was intrigued.  He already knew all about the Pando, but he was so curious-  Why was I looking this up and how did I find it??

I kind of chuckled.  It made total sense to me how I got there… but I had to back-track the steps-

-I took these pictures of trees from a friend’s yard

-I wondered how old they must be

-I thought about their ginormous, scary roots under the ground

-then thought about how the roots of all these old trees must be connected to one another

In order to de-sensitize myself from the horrific images of roots in my mind, I looked up pictures of roots…

and then popped up Pando on my google.  Made perfect sense, right?

FullSizeRenderI started thinking about family trees and how we can trace back to the “roots” of our heritage. I have a wonderful family, and I have been blessed with some wonderful friends whom are like family to me as well.  My family is like a single tree- and those special friends of mine that are like family- well, I guess you could say that all of my friends have their own “family trees”, but our “roots” are connected under ground.  Our “root” connection is Christ.

Our intertwining “roots” are more like veins in the body of Christ… except it is His blood that brings life to the Body.  We are but little blood vessels and by the blood He shed for us, His Spirit flows through us.

And here’s another little secret- connecting with people is a little scary, too. For so long, I shut myself off from people because of fear of rejection.  But I have learned to let Him be my guide.  In order to connect, that requires a little bit of reaching out- and a whole lot of “Son” light.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

And as always, He brings the trees, the roots, and the connections full circle-right back to Him!

Perfect Church

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I longed to find the perfect church,

but flaws were all I found

looking for the perfect fit

I searched for Holy ground

nothing more than walls and doors

each church was much the same

until the day I heard His voice-

 I heard Him call my name

and praise the Lord, I knew right then

I’d never be the same

The heart is where the home is

And Jesus lives in mine

I know his light is with me

And I’m gonna let it shine

His Holy Spirit, His perfect love,  

 lives and dwells in me

And in Jesus Christ, we all become

one big “church” family!

 After years of driving by this lovely little church, I got my youngest daughter to take a drive-by photo of it.  Every time I pass by it, I am reminded of the little school house “church” in Little House on the Prairie. As a child, I longed for a little school house church to go to every Sunday.  From a very early age, this is exactly what I thought a perfect church should look like.  I longed to find a church family, but after years of searching, I had given up.

“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

we will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!”

This is one of the many hymns I remember being sung on Little House, in that little church.  A place where people gathered and praised God for their harvests, for their simple lives. People came together time and again to help each other and to meet each other’s needs.  After all the churches I had visited over the years, I doubted I’d ever find my church “home”.  Then one day I realized –

I wasn’t searching for a place– I was searching for Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

I was never going to find Him in a place…He was right there with me- in my heart all along.  

And once I found Him, that picture of a perfect church vanished.  No longer was it a place to meet my needs- it was a place to give, to love, and to serve.  There is no perfect church- but there is a perfect God who perfectly places us where He wants us to bloom.  I am forever grateful for all He has done for me- and I am humbled and honored that I “get to” serve Him and lead our church in worship each week.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony-  Colossians 3:14

At night His song is with me

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Our church silhouetted against the evening sky

Like liquid gold, the sunlight shone

and glittered in the sky

the church stood silhouetted 

as the night was drawing nigh

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The sinking sun over Carter’s Mountain

how marvelous, how glorious

watching daylight turn to night

In awe of His creation-

In Him I take delight!

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By day the Lord directs his love, at night His song is with me—

a prayer to the God of my life.  Psalm 42