Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cinderella? I Don't Think So.

I went to a women's conference last weekend and one of the speakers, Angela Thomas, asked the the book Cinderella....what character are you? Wow what a powerful question. I sat there for a long bit and thought about my answer....I chuckled softly to myself....I know I would not be Cinderella....I am not beautiful enough. I don't think I would be the wicked step-mother....I am not that mean.....and certainly not the wicked step-sisters....cause I am not that feet aren't that big never occured to me to be the fairy god-mother.....and I knew I wasn't the mice, the coachman, the pumpkin (although that was a thought) who would I be? Then it came to me. All my life I have suffered from poor/low self-esteem....I am an almost paralyzing state. I would have been the other girls at the know...the ones who stood at the wall....wishing the prince would ask them to dance.....and when it did not happen....going home with my girlfriends....talking about all the other people at the dance. Yep, that would be me....the no-name characters.....the ones you never see....or know. Let me tell reality....that was my life. The only people who thought I was pretty....were my parents and God.....and my parents had to love me....and I thought God needed glasses. I can remember asking God....why can't I be beautiful God? Why can't I have a cool name God? Why? Why? Why? Then one day it dawned on God's eyes....the one who created me....I am just exactly like he wants me.....and I am beautiful. The problem is....I don't look in a God mirror everyday....and I don't see a beautiful person....I see every single flaw. I remember a particularly hurtful time in high school....when the captain of the football team....asked me to a party. ME! He asked ME! His name was Mike...and I was hopelessly in love with him. I remember sighing every single time he passed my locker on his way to class. How silly we are as teenagers....anyway...I am digressing. Mike asked me to this party. I, of course, said yes.....the only thing I did not know....was that it was a joke...his friends had dared him to ask me. I was the brunt of a joke....fortunately....God intervened....Mike picked me up for the party, we went out to dinner first, then took a drive....(we were supposed to arrive last)....somewhere during the drive....God took control of the wheel and Mike....we never made it to the party....and we dated for several turned out...Mike thought I was funny.....and loved to hear me sing....which...if a radio was on.....I did. He took me to Phipps Park....and we swang.....and danced under the moonlight. It was probably one of the most romantic evenings I ever experienced. It was not until after I graduated from high school that Mike owned up to the lowness of the behavior. Kids can be so cruel. I am....many years later....learning to be pretty....still struggling with an anorexic struggles with eating. The coolest thing I have an the word GUIDANCE. Guidance is my special time with someone who thinks I am is that time when God is in the room....and we dance. It is that special moment when He puts His arms around me....and tells everyone else...."Hey, this is my baby girl....." Wow! It is at that exact moment that He invites me to dance the dance of my life with Him. He does not make me be a Wall Flower....He makes me a strobe light......Guidance....God U and I Dance....and oh what a dance it is. I may never be Heather Whitestone in my eyes....but it is ok....because in God's eyes....I am His....and that is all that matters.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God's Favorite Music

I love XM Radio. I have it in my car and spend my drive time flipping between Channel 7, which is 70’s music and 32 which is The Message. I really like the kind of music they play on XM32, The Message. It’s contemporary. It’s catchy. And it’s Christian. Maybe I should just tell you….I love music….I love to sing. I sing when I am happy, sad, depressed, worried, it does not matter…I just love singing.
I was listening to my Ipod the other day to one of my favorite songs by Mary Mary. The song is called “Shackles” and trust me….when it comes on….I can hardly stand or sit still…The words talk about the corners of our minds where we just can’t seem to find a reason to believe that we can break free….cause we have been down for so long, feel like all hope is gone…but as we lift our hands we’ll grow to understand that we should praise God through each circumstance. It seems that everything that can go wrong seems to go wrong at one time. There is so much pressure building up in us that sometimes it seems we might lose our minds….but we should know that God wants to see if we will hold on through these trials….the only thing is, is that we will need Him to lift this load because we can’t do it on our own!....The song then asks Jesus to please take these shackles off my feet so I can dance….I just want to praise you…..I’m gonna praise You….You broke the chains so I can lift my hands….set me free….so I can praise you…... And all I want…today….and everyday is praise you Lord.
I am telling you….I love that kind of music... But I am also intelligent enough to know that not everyone does! The truth is that we don’t all like the same stuff. When First United Methodist in Alex City started the Arbor service….which I am a part of… there was no organ and we began to worship with the hottest contemporary music of ten years ago, many people said, "Wait a minute! I miss the classic hymns! Where’s "In the Garden? Where’s "Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying?" Where’s "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms?" Those songs made me think! They had depth! And substance! And power! And they can touch my heart like no other music I’ve ever heard!" So let me ask you. Are the songs in the hymnal the only kind of music God blesses? Does God have a favorite music?"I believe that the Bible can teach us about the kind of music God appreciates. Number one: He likes variety. Psalm 150 mentions 9 different instruments!
Psalms 150: verses 1-6 says
“Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness; Praise with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; Praise him with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute; Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah! “
And Colossians 3:17 mentions psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
“ And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. “
The early church was very creative. They took psalms from the Bible and put them to music. They created praise choruses. They even wrote new hymns from scratch. Philippians 2:5-11 is a good example. Verses 5-8 tell us to “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 continues with “Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”
We have no idea what this stuff sounded like. But we do know that there was variety in the early church.Since the Praise and Worship service started at the Arbor 10 years ago, I’ve been to polka masses, contemporary worship services with massive bands, and with combos, churches with full blown orchestras, and traditional services. And I can truly say that I was blessed at each one. As a matter of fact….every Sunday for the past two years when the Arbor service concludes….I jump in my car and drive to Waverly United Methodist where I am the pastors wife at a church where the mean age of the congregation is over 60 and they love those old hymns….and we recite the Apostles Creed….and I love being part of this too. God doesn’t prefer one music style over another. He prefers that we worship him in Spirit and in truth. No matter what style of worship we choose.In the late 1980’s Saddleback Community Church in California decided to play contemporary Christian rock music And within a year of that decision, the church literally exploded with growth. And now they have almost 20,000 in worship each week. 20,000….can you believe that? Waverly has almost 40 members….First Church Alex City has 1000….but I can’t even comprehend.....20,000.But….just as Saddleback exploded with their contemporary plan… down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, near my home town of West Palm Beach….you will find Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church…this church made a decision to stick mainly with traditional pipe organ music. And God is blessing them, too! Today, they have over 10,000 members. Sometimes, people go to church ….any church….just because the music scratches them where they itch. Does it really matter what got them there?.....I think what God wants….is just for them to be there….whatever kind of music floats their boat. The point is that God uses all kinds of music to reach all kinds of people for Jesus Christ. Our God is a God of variety.Another thing that God likes is new music! Psalm 33:2 says "Sing to the Lord a NEW song. Don’t just sing the same tired old tunes over and over again! Let’s try something different! Let’s speed up the tempo! Let’s add new instruments. Let’s be open to a new working of the Holy Spirit! Let’s get the blood flowing!" One of my favorite traditional songs…is Be Thou My Vision….and Amazing Grace……but I also love Chris Tomlin’s version….Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone. I cut my teeth on traditional music…but have matured my soul with a music blend.In Exodus 15, after God brought the Jews out of Egypt, the first thing the community did was to celebrate by singing a new song! "I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and rider were thrown into the sea!" And in Judges 5, when God delivered Israel from the harsh rule of the Canaanites, they wrote another new song.Did you know that every major revival in the history of Christianity was always accompanied by new music? When Luther broke away from the Catholic church, he wrote a new song called "A Mighty Fortress is our God." And when Charles Wesley wrote "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" in 1739, the Great Awakening was just breaking out in America and in England. So new music is not a sign from the devil. It’s a sign of new life! And creativity. A hint that there are better days ahead for the people of God! Another thing that God likes is passionate music. Sometimes when people sing hymns, they sound so dreary. (sing wearily) ’Happy Day. Happy Day. When Jesus washed my sins away." The way people sing it, it doesn’t really sound like a happy day. It sounds like they didn’t want to get out of bed…..but let me tell you…I love how the black churches sing. They could teach us a little something about passion. (with passion and clapping) "O Happy Day! O Happy Day! When Jesus washed, my sins away!" Psalm 33:1 says "Sing joyfully to the Lord" You’re singing to the one who saved you from sin, death, and hell. And changed your life for the better. So sing like you mean it! God likes music with Christ centered lyrics. It’s not the music that makes a song sacred. It’s the message that makes it sacred! The most powerful songs ever created are songs that give glory to God. That’s why I love Psalm 150: "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary. Praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tamborine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals. Praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath PRAISE THE LORD! Praise the Lord." The most important thing about Christian music is that Jesus Christ is praised. It doesn’t matter if the song is rock. Or Bach. If Jesus Christ is glorified in the lyrics, then the song is sacred.That’s why I like the Christian rock band Apologetix. They’ve taken some of the worst secular songs I’ve ever heard. And by given the lyrics a Christian perspective, they’ve turned them into some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. They took Eminem’s filthy song "The Real Slim Shady." And they turned it into a song about Jesus Christ now called "The Real Sin Savior." And I can’t even listen to that song now without crying. It’s so incredible. And it touches me deeply to know that some of the secular songs that used to be so dirty have been redeemed for the glory of God.And let me just give you two quick pieces of advice about music in the church. First of all, be open-minded. We can no longer assume that the only kind of music God is blessing is 150 year old organ music. God is bigger than any one person’s musical tastes. And he can use any piece of music he wants to bring glory to himself. When my son, who is now 38 was 5….he attended Bible School…..that is not a big thing really….my kids went to bible school all summer at every church in town. I had more bible school crafts than Heinz has varieties…but…one particular bible school stands out….the first day…he came home singing a song he learned in bible school…it went something like this….”We have a King who rides a donkey, we have a King who rides a donkey, we have a King who rides a donkey, early in the morning….I had a fleeting moment….of recognizing the tune….but not the words….and I blew it off…until later in the week….when I found the lyrics to the secular song that the innocently sweet bible school song came from….it was rewritten from an Irish pub song….called “What do you do with a drunken sailor.”….Talk about God using music….to get His message across…that was a profound lesson.
And number two: besides being open-minded….you must Be tolerant. Romans 15:7 says "Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you." God accepted Tom Balliew even though he’s a little bit country. And God accepted me even though I’m a little bit rock and roll. And we should accept each other.Ten years ago….when the Arbor service began…. I heard my church argue over the issue of traditional versus contemporary music. There was a group in the church saying, "We want modern church music! We’re tired of singing the same old hymns that have no melody! We have to modernize the way we do worship. We have to stop pretending that it’s still 1953. If we don’t start looking at ways to change things, then the church is gonna die!" And there was another group in the church saying, "Wait a minute! This church has done fine the way it is for all these years! There’s no way you’re going to make us sing those lightweight choruses that repeat the same phrases over and over again like a broken record. The hymns are much more meaningful. If you don’t like it, then you can go to another church." Fortunately our pastor at the time was a man of great vision….who had a love for both services….And this is what he said: "I’m interested in serving the entire congregation. Not just the side of the street that agrees with me. Let’s leave the 8:30 am and 11:00 worship services alone. And let’s start a third service at 9:30, as an outreach for the community members who won’t come to traditional service…let’s go out and disciple to them….in a different way.” By having both a traditional service and a contemporary service, we were able to reach people for Jesus Christ that we weren’t able to reach before with the traditional service. Remember: God’s favorite music is not bluegrass. Or country. Or even rock and roll. God’s favorite music is anything that brings honor and glory to Jesus Christ. And nothing would bring him greater honor than for you to come back to Him this morning. And repent of your sins. And ask for forgiveness and salvation. That is truly God’s favorite music. It is music to his ears. When His people bow down….and talk to Him. So make sure you take some time today to pray....even if it is just a short blurb in the car at the stop light.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Lesson On Loss

My cousin Judy sent me a profound email today and I just feel I have to share it with you and speak on it. The email read as follows:

To realizeThe value of a sisterAsk someoneWho doesn't have one.
To realizeThe value of ten years:Ask a newlyDivorced couple.
To realizeThe value of four years:Ask a graduate.
To realizeThe value of one year:Ask a student whoHas failed a final exam.
To realizeThe value of nine months:Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.
To realizeThe value of one month:Ask a motherWho has given birth toA premature baby.
To realizeThe value of one week:Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realizeThe value of one minute:Ask a personWho has missed the train, bus or plane.
To realizeThe value of one-second:Ask a personWho has survived an accident.

To realize the value of a friend or family member:
Time waits for no one.
Treasure every moment you have.
You will treasure it even more whenYou can share it with someone special.

Hold on tight to the ones you love

Now for Karen's Comments on this....I lost my brother when I was almost ten. I hear people talk about how much they hate their brothers and sisters...or wish they were only children. Trust me...that is not something you want. I would give anything to have a brother to fight with....or to share the burden of my parents with right now. But I don't. As for a sister. I guess Amanda, Terry, Linda and Missi are the closest things I have to sisters biologically and Mary would be the closest thing to a soulmate sister....but they are still NOT full blooded sisters. Advice to those of you who are out there wishing away your siblings....don't do it!

When I married in 1976, I never thought I would see the day that I would become a statistic....yet, in 1998....I did. After 22 years of marriage....I walked out of the relationship. It was my choice....but even with that being was devastating. I wanted to die for a long time....I thought I would for a long time...and one day I came out of the darkness, met a wonderful man, learned to live again, and life did go on. But it was not an easy chore.

I have both a bachelors and masters degree. I worked long and hard to get those pieces of paper that hang on my wall. They were worth every penny. I did not realize how worth it they were until I had to support myself and put my daughter through college. I am so glad I went to school. I would do it again if I had too.

I learned one life you win some and lose some. I also learned that same day that whether you win or lose the outcome is a learning experience that makes you a better person.

So, today, if you read my blog or not....I hope you will take time to appreciate all you have and those in your life that are special to you. In the blink of an can and might lose something that is near and dear to you....I know...because I have.....but the one thing....I can never lose....that is always with me....every single day I draw breath is the love of God....for that I will be eternally thankful. Bless you this day, Karen