Tag Archives: church

Holy Week

It’s Holy Week. Passion Week. A week full of preparations, where all the believers are preparing their hearts, homes, churches, and communities for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For someone who works in a church, it means a lot of extra hours on the clock, organizing, preparing, checking and double-checking. But after a wonderful Palm Sunday service this morning, I was obviously exhausted (because Sunday) and sat down to pray about the week ahead.

You might think I was praying that I wouldn’t be stressed out or that I’d keep my eyes on the prize of a gorgeous Easter Sunday together with the congregations of our church. But no. What I was led to pray was this: I ask not for help with earthly preparations, though they are certainly important, but instead for a heightened awareness of You.

A heightened awareness of a God who has drawn near, a Jesus who has taken away my sins, and a Holy Spirit who leads me and nourishes me in my day-to-day. I prayed to be floored, taken aback, mystified again by the willingly-given sacrifice. I prayed to be constantly reminded of why we celebrate this week, going through our motions of beautifying and preparing the way of the Lord in our own church buildings and services.

He has indeed given us more than we deserve – a holiness we could never achieve, but one we have been granted through Jesus. Any praises we bring to the table this week could never be enough to truly merit what should be given – and yet! AND YET, the beautiful conundrum is this: they are absolutely, entirely, perfectly enough because we have been predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:30) by a Savior who was all of those things in our place! Bring your tired, weary, unworthy selves to the altar on Sunday morning with CONFIDENCE because He will be there as He is each and every moment, doling out grace and mercy with LOVE (Heb. 4:16) and without requiring anything of us but faith in Him.

May we go through this week with a heightened awareness of the God who sees us as holy – as holy as His Son, Jesus, who rode on the donkey through a crowd singing, “Hosanna in the highest!” As holy as Jesus who healed the blind and the sick, pardoned promiscuous women, and opened his heart and his lap to the meek little children. As holy as Jesus who hung there, on a terrible cross, proclaiming that He would do the Father’s will, no matter how much he suffered, and still asked for our forgiveness.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who has given much and loved much.

 

 

If you’re local (to central NC) and you need a place to be on Easter Sunday, feel free to comment or email me! I’d love to have you at my worship service.

What Is Worship?

This post originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

Worship. What does that word call to mind when you hear it? The songs that you sing at your church on Sundays? An organ and a choir, donned in jewel-colored robes? Your friend playing an instrument in the praise band? Perhaps you attach the word worship to the entire service on Sunday morning. Or maybe it’s something more.

Worship can actually be something we do day in and day out. It can be a heart posture. It can be an offering of praise. There is corporate worship: what we do when we are gathered together, in God’s name, singing, praying, reading/hearing scripture, receiving God’s word through a gifted preacher, and taking communion. There is personal worship – and it’s much more vague, or all-inclusive, depending on how you look at it. Worship is our response to our Creator, a dialog between us, a celebration on our part of all He has done. Worship is how we ascribe to Him (as it suggests in several psalms, and in 1 Chron. 16) the qualities of such a perfect, loving, forgiving, worthy God.

Worship can be asking Him to open our hearts and minds to be in tune with His will. Worship can be confession, and finding forgiveness. Worship is an expression of awe, wonder, and love. Worship can manifest in many ways; we aren’t all musical. Worship can be resting in His presence, praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17), shouting from the rooftops, or being silent. Worship combines exalting Him (Psalm 99), exulting before Him (Psalm 68:4), and offering our bodies as living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

Worship is heart work. It isn’t just singing the words, or even raising your hands. Isaiah 29:13-14 says this: The Lord says: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”  The worship God desires from us is communion with him – letting our hearts be open to His bending and rending. He wants to give us His kingdom! To “acceptably” worship Him with reverence and awe should be our natural response (Hebrews 12:28).

So when you wake up in the morning, or as you go about your day today, or when you walk into church on Sunday, take a moment to turn your heart to Him. Take a moment and ask Him to help your every move be worship. Truly ask Him to open the eyes of your heart. Let yourself see His wonders, see how He is working in your life. Thankfulness and acknowledgement of His goodness are acts of worship that you can do anytime.

Call It a Win.

Our church used to have this banner in our worship space that read “Seek, Find, and Win for Christ”. I never really liked it, mostly because for me, it called to mind a crusade-style jaunt into foreign places to force them into being Christians. I know that isn’t how they meant it when they hung them up, but for some reason, that’s what it conjured in me.

However, this week my century-old church launched its third campus, its second remote (in comparison to the original church building) worship venue. This has been over eight months in the making, including hundreds of people working, volunteering, making calls, donating money, crunching numbers, designing spaces, planning (and planning, and planning some more) and finally executing our first public worship service in the venue this morning. It was a beautiful thing to behold, all our work, prayers, and hopes for the project actually coming to fruition. I knew that God had shown up. He had shown up by preparing the space. He’d shown up by preparing hearts, working out kinks, bringing new people into our space, and just showing up there, in the moment, present in our worship and our teaching, in our conversations and prayers.

After I had time to slow down a little bit, and think on the morning, I was reminded of that banner. I think that for the first time, I felt the sort of victory that the banner had intended to depict. I thought of our advertising we’d been putting out over the past couple of months, preparing a community for a new opportunity in their area to get connected and hear about Jesus – the seeking of new people to come alongside us in our journey. I thought about people who told us they came today in response to invitations of current members, or those who came as a result of a radio ad or a Facebook sponsored post – people who had found us and would now hopefully be wooed by their Savior. I thought of the wonderful morning. A morning wrought with hard work and months of planning, but a morning that went off mostly without a hitch, a well-attended and genuine worship service that planted its first few seeds in a community, in a group of peoples’ hearts – indeed, a win for Christ.

Because, as our pastor mentioned this morning, Christ is center of our services, and of our lives. He’s the reason we do what we do. He’s not just the reason for a season or a guy we idolize because there are some cool stories about him. He’s the reason we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Everything we do should be about him, even if it’s just raising our kids, going to our job, ordering coffee from the barista, or getting our groceries. Building his kingdom is what everything’s about. And if I had to guess, I’d say that he would consider this morning a win.

Thanks to Elaine Garrison for this amazing photo!

A Good Friday Prayer

Tonight, I helped lead worship at my church’s Good Friday service, as I’ve done for the past few years. It’s a truly beautiful service, somber, quiet, slow… but not without hope. Our pastors do an incredible job of planning this evening full of dramatic lighting, powerful songs, and the last words of Jesus as he prepared to give his life, and as he hung on the cross. It’s haunting.

When I got home, I was still in the mood the service had left me in. I was lost in thought, as I had been on and off all day. Good Friday has always been a sobering day for me. But as I put my youngest son to bed, I started to sing him one of the songs we had sung in the service. It’s appropriately called “Passion Song”, written by some friends of our worship pastor. (Click that link. It will bless your soul to hear it.) It’s based on John’s view of how Jesus’s last week went down. The pastor who spoke just before the song presented it perfectly, emphasizing how Jesus was John’s very best friend, the only person who had ever known him so completely. Here are the words, so you can see the powerful emotion packed in them…

I was with Him when He rode into town
And the crowds gathered round Him like a King
Their smiling faces joined a sea of branches waving
Though they were masquerading in the end

And my heart rose in my throat
When I heard them sing
Hosanna in the highest
Oooh oooooh oh

We went upstairs broke the bread and drank the wine
From the only living vine that we would taste
And I watch them take Him up the mountainside
Where He was crucified though innocent
And they mocked Him and cursed Him with their mouths
And told Him to come down if He was God

And my heart broke in my chest
When I heard Him say
Forgive them it is finished
Oooh oooooh oh

I remember in the garden
When He sweat like drops of blood
And how He begged the Father
Just to let Him pass the cup
I can still feel the anguish
When they pierced Him in the side
And how the ground beneath us shook
Upon the very moment that He died
Oooh ooh oh oh oh

Three days later we found an empty grave
And the stone was rolled away where He had been

Tears of joy streamed down my face
When the angel said
Oh fear not He is risen
Oh fear not He is risen
Oooh ooh ooh oooh oh oh oooh

You can see how this song would be lingering in my psyche, right? So I’m singing it to my son, as I’m settling him in for bed. And when I finally wipe the (my) tears away, and get to his goodnight prayer, I began to pray like always, and for some reason, I was led to utter the words, “…and thank You for giving Your Son. I could never give my son.”

And I cried some more.

You see, the sacrifice is beyond what any one of us could do. In the Old Testament, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. Whether he would’ve (or could’ve) actually gone through with it we’ll never know. There was a ram in the thicket, and God was preparing, even then, to give His very own son to save the world. Jesus willingly gave his life to pave the way for us to enter into fellowship with his Father. One of our pastors this evening titled it “a beautiful exchange”. His life for ours. What else could possibly be a better exchange for us?

Some Thoughts on Evangelism.

Evangelism is something that used to scare me. In my youth, to me it meant that we would go around handing out gospel tracks, or randomly starting conversations with people, so that we could pray with them, hoping to lead them to Jesus. It had less to do with fostering a love of Jesus or a desire to worship him, and more of a way to get another tick on our evangelist’s counter.

As you might imagine, this didn’t work very well for me.

As an adult, the word still scares me a little bit, because I don’t quite know how to put my feelings into words. The scars are still there from my misinterpretations as a youth. But there is so much hope, for me and for you, to be able to overcome the scars of myself and others, and continue on into the love of Jesus in a true sense, and then share it with the world.


Recently, during my quiet time (I’ve been studying through the Psalms, in case you didn’t know) I was convicted as I read Psalm 71. I’ll put the part I’ll focus on here so you don’t have to look it up…

Psalm 71:14-18
But I will hope continually,
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.

Well, I have to begin by saying that the psalmist surely stirred up some excitement and laid a healthy burden on me to share more of the Gospel. Our mouths should tell of His righteous acts and deeds of salvation! We should proclaim His wondrous deeds and His might! It not only encourages our brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only spreads the truth of the Gospel to all ears, but it fosters our believing but sometimes wayward hearts by proclaiming and declaring what we know to be true.

Let’s talk for a moment about “proclaim” and “declare”. As a worship leader, sometimes I am moved during a song to encourage the congregation to proclaim or declare some of the lyrics we’re singing. There’s a slight difference between those words, and so it’s important to do both, sometimes. To proclaim is to announce something openly, publicly, and officially. To declare is to solemnly and emphatically say something. Another definition even says to reveal one’s intentions or identity. To proclaim the righteousness of fearsome and loving God, and the salvation attainable through Christ Jesus are things that should be proclaimed, shouted from the pulpits, platforms, and rooftops. To declare that death has been defeated, and that we are made new in Christ is a truth that can reveal our identity, and alter our intentions.

So as I read those verses of Psalm 71, and then read them again, and then prayed them then and there over my life and my vocation, I was convicted. I was reminded that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to live by his example, which was indeed proclaiming God’s righteousness and mighty acts, proclaiming His wondrous deeds to every generation and all those to come. In one of the books I’m reading (Lioness Arising. Lisa Bevere. Find it. Buy it. Devour it as I have done.) she encourages us to use our circles of influence to share God’s truths and Jesus’s words. While I’m on the platform, every Sunday, worshiping the Lord, and hopefully bringing everyone in that journey alongside me, I have even more opportunity than I allow myself (or at least remember that I have) to actually speak Scripture and truth into the congregation. I have this very site where I share funny quips from my kids and what we ate for dinner last week, but I shouldn’t neglect the possibilities this site provides for the sharing of God’s Word. I have family members, friends, acquaintances, and sometimes strangers that I can come alongside and encourage, pray for/with, and speak truth into. Why should I be scared of being an evangelist? Why should I be nervous to do what Jesus did?

His Gentle, Firm Call

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus


Through most of the year, my Thursdays are hectic. They are involved. They are also worshipful, filled with women I love, and full of inspirational teaching, meaningful connections, encouragement to last me days. I pack my rambunctious preschoolers into the car at what feels like zero dark thirty. I bring breakfast and toys to keep them occupied until their school starts, 30 minutes after my work does. I plan all week, sending emails, choosing songs, communicating with leadership, and practicing my instrument. I am thoughtful and prayerful about Thursdays as often as I can be.
Each week, I lead musical worship and do behind-the-scenes tech work for a women’s ministry at my church. It’s a part of my job I didn’t realize I’d be doing until I jumped in. My scared, insecure, and unwilling self simply said “yes” to my pastors when I started my service to this ministry two years ago. I’ll be honest: when it began, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I didn’t know the people involved very well, and technology often makes me a nervous wreck (read: it doesn’t always work for me). I felt unenthusiastic and under-qualified for the ministry, being one of the youngest women involved, and not having led many services on my own yet. But y’all, the Lord knew what He was doing when He threw me into the fray anyway. His call to do the work, this very specific work, was gentle but firm.

Many mornings, there were (and still sometimes are) problems I couldn’t solve without help, and questions I deterred with a weary, “I don’t know.” But the Lord has been faithful, and grown not only my devotion to and love for the ministry, but also given me new friends and more confidence. He has softened my heart to the new duties. He has blessedly grown the worship team within the ministry. In short, I have seen Him SHOW UP. He is there each week, preparing the room, the team, and the atmosphere to change women’s hearts towards Him. He draws us to Himself through each detail of the morning, and we never leave discouraged.

You may think you’re being called to something that isn’t a good fit. You might be confused, uncertain, or even refusing to go where He’s leading you. But I’m here to tell you, His plan is so much better than yours. He will equip you and help you grow into the role that He’s got for you (Hebrews 13:21). He is FOR YOU, and therefore no one can be against you (Romans 8:31). He would never lead you somewhere you shouldn’t go, even if it’s somewhere that’s hard. Submit to His plan – I promise it will be great.

Getting the Picture Perfect

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!

Yesterday, I posted a picture (a collage, actually) on Instagram (@OnlyHsuman). It wasn’t your typical Easter post. There were no eggs or baskets, and the children weren’t lined up oldest to youngest on the church’s front steps. In fact, they weren’t even all smiling. Sundays for us aren’t a beautifully relaxing experience. Sometimes, I’d even call them stressful.  

For those of y’all that don’t know me that well, I’m a worship leader. That means I choose the music, sing the songs, and play a big part in executing the church service on Sunday mornings. I won’t say that I do those things by myself, or that I don’t have amazing people helping me and working with me. I do! But there’s a lot on my plate most Sundays.

In addition, I have three children under four years old, and a husband that’s also a musician. He plays with me lots of Sunday mornings, meaning our family of five is out the door and in the church by 8:45am. Some Sundays, he hasn’t gotten home until 2:00 or 3:00am, because he also plays many Saturday evenings/nights at other venues. I’m certainly not complaining – it is his passion and it helps pay our bills – but it doesn’t exactly make our mornings run more smoothly. But back to my Instagram post…

The collage above is comprised of each of my children, and my one attempt at getting them all in the same photo. (I know, you can’t even that tell my daughter is underneath my older son.) I had been up since 4:45am, because my first service had been a joyful celebration of a sunrise service at a sister church in our town. I yawned my way through the 6:00am rehearsal, and prayed that my voice would be warmed up by the time the service began at 7:00am. Our worship pastor had, earlier in the week, referred to this service as a “spiritual cup of coffee”, and indeed it was. It woke my brain, my voice and my spirit to the incredible elation that is Easter morning.

Upon finishing the earliest service, I drove back to my home church (by way of my favorite coffee spot, of course) to begin rehearsing and executing two more perfectly lovely worship services, where the Spirit moved, hearts were changed, love was experienced and joy abounded. Family, friends, acquaintances and strangers gathered together to hear the good news of a tomb found empty. My children played, sang and shared with their friends, and I hugged necks, shook hands, smiled till my cheeks hurt, and sang until I had no more voice. I couldn’t ask for a better church home and church family.

Just like most other Sundays, I got home to my family (who had left halfway through the second service to save everyone else from their meltdowns) who was nibbling on lunch and preparing for naps. Their Sunday best was wrinkled (and drooled upon, in the case of my youngest) and they were really exhausted. They had no interest in posing for a picture together (with our without me) or even looking at me as a waved my camera around, knowing I’d already missed their best moods of the day.

But instead of being frustrated because I’d not gotten an “official Easter Day picture”, I decided to let it rest. To let them rest. And to rest myself. Although Sunday is our day of early rising, quick breakfast, rushed departures and very little down time, Easter included, it’s my favorite morning of the week. I’m convinced I have the best job ever, at the best church ever, with the best bosses ever (hey, pastors!) and the best people surrounding me. On other days, I might struggle to arrive at preschool on time, and still be wearing half my pajamas while I’m working from home, figuring out dinner and wishing for bedtime. But on Sundays, if I do nothing else, I have donned my Sunday best, set my heart on the Creator, and let Him take care of the rest. The details might get lost, but the praises are sung. The Gospel is shared. Friends are encouraged. Lives are touched. Jesus’ death and resurrection have been celebrated, and his sacrifice is not wasted. He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and we are forever changed by His glory. Motherhood for me is a song of praise in itself, and I am grateful to share my worship leader life with my children, even if it makes for a messy Sunday. Because this Sunday, like every Sunday, He is risen. He is risen, indeed!