Petrified to Worship


Being a Christian worship leader has never been more terrifying. I told my pastor what I wanted to do to change up our routine for one week. I got the green light, which should have filled me with joy. I mean, my idea didn’t get shot down which meant my attempts at risky obedience to Jesus could be pursued further. 

But instead, when I found a quiet moment to myself, I closed myself off from family, and had a slightly unfounded panic attack. I am a part of an evangelical church which, in every way, could not be more loving. I have found my home amongst these gloriously redeemed Earth-misfits, and it’s awesome. But we like our comfort, myself first and foremost. We like our routine … For goodness sakes, up until I met my husband, I didn’t know spontaneity could be fun. 

And, as a worship leader, it’s so much more comfortable to give comfort and routine. Four songs, a segue in between, at least one hymn (because it’s a good idea), then a prayer, aaand we’re done. Over and out, Houston. Another week in the books.

However, a month ago, God met me within my silence and seemed to be asking my spirit one very harsh yet loving question: If “my people” — myself included — didn’t have music, would our hearts still worship? Over the weeks as I cautiously pursued His question further, I added questions of my own: 

Is it wrong that I feel reading scripture loses people’s attention during a worship “set” so I don’t do it? What does it say about my heart as a leader that I can’t change things up because I don’t want to rock the boat? What if God’s movement is in rocking the boat amongst people who love each other? What if this entire war is only in my head and I have nothing to fear?

And then, I was hit with the hardest reality of all… worship as a whole (not just the music on Sundays) will not change my life until it becomes my life. Until that happens, I will struggle to “lead” others to a deeper understanding of the joy which comes in loving God in silence, in prayer and praise, and in everything I labor over through the week. 

Reviving My Song

The day I stopped singing, people started asking me imposing questions. “What’s wrong?” “Who hurt you?” “Why’d your song die?” Being the ever-ready, people-pleaser, I tried — I really, really tried — to sing just to get the people off my back. I tried smiling while I sang my favorite hymns. I tried faking having a song in my heart. 

I couldn’t do it, though. The song was dead. At 20 years old, I no longer found a reason to sing upon waking up. There was no joy. There was no peace. Jesus felt like a childish figment of my imagination. Every powerful, Christ-centered truth I had relied on throughout my childhood was very much paralyzed in my life. My song had died. I felt helpless in my attempts to act as if it had not. 

Sin is not a placid monster to play with. My life had become proof that selling your soul to a lie takes away every ability to experience peace –let alone live in it. My heart’s joy and peace were once upon a time so abundant I couldn’t help but sing everywhere I went. It was in music I found intimacy with Jesus which took my breath away with its beauty. Living in sin killed that intimacy. 

Once, while standing in a empty wooden cabin, my comrade within the sin mockingly told me to, “… sing something and make [him] believe I meant it.” All I knew were hymns, and somehow, all I remembered from my childhood was “Amazing Grace.” As my tongue struggled to remember the words, my heart pled with my mind to treasure the joy.

I couldn’t. It was just a song. It was merely an exercise to test the acoustics in my friend’s cabin. I had wandered away from the Lord, and my song did not follow. 

Yesterday, seven years later, I stood with fellow Christians singing “Come Thou Fount.” 

Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above. 

My heart nearly burst with the memory of the dead joy in such a song mixed with the current reality of my redemption. My song is back. My Lord is not dead. God has finally revived my heart’s song. 

These songs hold sweeter truth simply because I understand the price paid in order to bring me Home. 

Beautiful Fear, Bearable Pain

I was 16 the last time I witnessed to a nurse in the operation room.

It was 4:30 in the morning and right before he put me to sleep for my third and final brain surgery, he asked me if I was scared. Apparently, when I answered that I “couldn’t be,” that was enough to delay the surgery for a few minutes while I explained the power of Jesus. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he responded to the Gospel truth.

I just remember realizing my pain was a beautiful gateway to Hope. I had to come to grips with the fact that the sleepless nights, tears and unknowns were being woven together not so I could benefit, but so that I could be available for someone who I’d never see again. 

Three days ago, I went in for what was basically a low-end emergency surgery. The implanted technology that manages my epilepsy treatment was as dead as a doornail. The medical team could either replace it now, or I would go without treatment for up to three months due to scheduling complications.

I’m not usually a skittish person when it comes to surgeries. I’m skittish about other things like love, careers and the idea of motherhood, but emergency surgery? Meh. It happens all the time. I’ll be fine. Only this time, my fiancé and I had 12 hours to process the news of the surgery, let everyone know, fill out the paperwork and get to the hospital on time. We didn’t have time to breathe, think, or process.

This was also the first time I was leaning on my abundently-capable future husband for something completely out of my control. I trust him, but can I have a girly honest moment here? No one wants to have a memory of looking at their fiancé and saying, “You’re my primary emergency contact. No big deal. Nothing’s going to happen, it’s just paperwork… but, um, since you’re basically my spouse, you, um… I love you?” (It’s especially awkward when you’re making these statements at 5:30 in the morning.)

Three days ago, fear was incredibly present. 

When the lead technician came to investigate my implant, she acknowledged my tattoos, trying to get me to relax. Somehow, we went from talking about ink to talking about how she wants a tattoo that will remind her not to waste her life. “I’m just sick of wasting everything, ya know?” 

She was a genius medical technician, and she felt as if her life was worthless. Immediately, my fear left me as I reached for my fiancé’s hand. My life wasn’t wasted. My life wasn’t pointless. I was facing unknowns, but my pain had led both he and I into that room that very early morning for a reason.

We were given a very real moment to silently pray for a woman who felt invisible. That gave me hope. My pain has never been more beautiful.  

Feet Showed Me Jesus

I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet. 

Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable. 

But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet. 

She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been? 

Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore. 

Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.” 

I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”

It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.

So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet. 

Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool? 

What if God got it wrong?

Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving? 

My Battle With Shame & Jesus

There’s unspeakable shame in being disabled. No one would ever say that, but every disabled person struggles with not believing the lie. (My dear friends, it is in fact, a lie.) Every time their body leads them to a hospital, sleepless nights, scary conversations, backing out of responsibilities, or even merely asking a friend to help in an otherwise simple task, their tears can be summed up in one word:

Shame.

It’s hard to understand the shame; as it should be. When loved ones whisper to their disabled family member, “You did nothing wrong,” all that’s said in return is, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Sorry for inconveniencing, sorry for causing worry, sorry for being a burden…

The shame leads to fear. I wish it didn’t, but it does. Questions like, “Why do you love me?” become mental thermometers to that person’s value because, well, obviously no one would want to be be coupled with the “perceived shame” of a disabled person. The best effort is made in making sure the discrepancy is never seen, or if it ever is, only through the veil of humor and lighthearted playfulness. 

Battling that shame as a Christian is a minute-by-minute battle. I cling to passages like John 9 when Jesus declares that the man in question was born blind in order to show God’s glory to those watching. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. Somehow, God uses those imperfections to make His name famous. He doesn’t make mistakes.

… I’m not a mistake…? When my body forces me to need my closest companion, I sure as heck feel like a mistake. 

1 Corinthians 12:22-25b says, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

No one wants to be the “weaker link.” We often laugh at that concept because we want to tell ourselves we aren’t the “weaker one.” But when we are… this passage becomes simultaneously comforting and terrifying. 

It’s comforting because we’re constantly reminded that God sees us. Its terrifying because we have to come to terms with the fact that our  “discrepancies” are more for the benefit of someone else rather than ourselves. If God gave us these limitations in order to sow the body of Christ together in a more genuine way…

How dare we feel shame?
 

Heavenly Minded, Patriotically Shifted

I’ve never told anyone who I’m voting for. Inasmuch as my Spiritual gifts call me to confrontation (attempting to do that always in love), I hate rocking the boat. Declaring I support one person over another hurts at least one side of my circle of friends. I wept in anxiety with people afraid of Hillary and I mourned just as bitterly the idea of Trump taking office. 

That’s not the point. I wish it was. As deeply troubling as both sides of the spectrum are, neither of those approaches are what takes up my mind’s time. 

I’ve known almost all my life that American Christianity is weak. I do not, whatsoever, believe that our chances at a relationship with Jesus Christ are any smaller or less important than any other nation’s. Once saved, always saved… no matter what your nationality. But we… we just don’t get it most days. 

In America, Christianity is a label that makes us feel good. It is not, on the other hand, always a sobering call to sacrifice and love for the betterment of others as it was meant to be. (John 15:13) Often times, we as protected American Christians decide christianity is best for us when we ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and we like the answer for one reason or another. 

Wrong. 

So, just a thought: What if, now that we know Trump is taking office, these next four years are God’s way of purifying the American Church (nationally as a whole, not small affiliations)? Because some of his proposed policies will make us reevaluate what it means to love (protect?) our neighbor, Christianity may possibly be taken to the firing squad. 

Within our American Christian circles, we often use the phrase, “Go all in for Christ.” What if God’s sovereignty allowed Trump as president because God wants us to start putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak? We’ve become too comfortable in our concept of Christianity. What if we’re being called to so much more? 

Terrified Truth-Speaker

I have a shepherd’s heart that comes to life when I write. There are a million things I could write about to challenge thought and prayerfully provoke change in our failing world. But I don’t. There are just as many things I could cut up into a four-part series and feed to you bit-by-bit to increase my readership. But I don’t. 

Why? 

Because we now live in a world where when truth is spoken, we feel attacked, undervalued and demoralized. When truth is spoken, we don’t often change our respective lives to rise to such truth. Instead, we shut our ears, close our eyes and scream, “That’s not nice! That’s not nice! I thought you liked me!” 

And before you turn me over to the firing squad, please know I’m the worst of the worst. I may have a shepherding heart, but I absolutely detest getting corrected, challenged or criticized.

I used to rub shoulders with homeless druggies, drunks and all around God-haters (yay, job!). In those circles, I had no fear blatantly sharing truth. They were so desperate for help, they welcomed the times I willingly adopted their rhetoric but spoke truth. They weren’t “nice” in their responses, but it was obvious truth went soul-deep.

I’m more hesitant to share truth with a fellow Christian because of how they’ll respond than I ever was calling a meth addict to attention. So, because my skin has been bruised by a follower of Christ a time or two, I’ve stopped sharing truth that needs to be heard. 

It’s funny, really. Up until this week, I blamed everyone but myself for how weak American Christianity has become. But the fact is, I’ve stopped heralding life-changing truth because, well, because I want to be liked? Crap, maybe I’m a part of the problem.

So, for that, forgive me. I seem to have slipped up and forgotten what being a Truth-speaker is all about. Truth — actual truth — is a conduit to soul-deep change, which honestly isn’t fun at the onset.

But oh, hallelujah, it’s a glorious thing when a sinner like me sees God’s Son despite my wretchedness. Writing simply to tickle your ears isn’t worth you missing out on seeing the same miracle in your own life.

Put It Away, Kid

I had two little boys between the ages of four and six live with me for right around a year. I am not, by any means, anything now but an amateur idealist when it comes to being a good mom after that experience. A year of playing their referee, jungle gym, nurse, teacher and caretaker (caretaker came first… usually… I think) taught me a lot and yet taught me nothing. 

One thing I learned was giving them broad instructions didn’t work. I learned to say things like, “Boys, by the time Auntie comes in there your socks & underwear, shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, dinosaurs, etch-a-sketches, paint brushes, 8-balls, tools and books better be on the shelves where they belong.” 

As their forced angelic voices wafted down the hall, “O’taaaaaay, Auntie Tassie, we do dat,” I flew through a mental catalogue of everything they had. Inevitably, they’d come tromping into my kitchen with a toy and the innocent question, “What we do wit’ dis one, Auntie? You didn’ say anytin’ about dis one.”

I spent an entire year trying to learn the right amount of patience, enjoyment, and training to teach those boys life skills. I wasn’t very good at it, but somehow their grins and inquiries usually made me want to hug them rather than scold them. That was my momentary taste of parenthood.

Fast forward to today. I’m no longer an “auntie” to two rambunctious boys and I no longer micro-manage my household just to keep it standing one more day. I am, however, finding that at 27 years old, there are days, weeks and months where I identify deeply with those two boys. 

I understand all too well what it’s like to not quite get life just yet and being in need of a God to help me through ridiculous, clarifying questions. He patiently reinforces His command to “trust and obey” really does mean with every corner of my heart over and over again.

But still, I have to ask, “Yes, so God, you said trust You with my future, but what about my future in regards to…? What if this crazy situation happens and I’m left with a broken heart? What then? Do I have to trust you then, too?” 

My whimsically imaginative heart can almost picture God chuckling, kneeling down and whispering, “Kiddo, put your worry where it belongs.” Somehow, His enjoyment & patience in seeing me work out my salvation never ends & He’s never too annoyed to give me the same assurances He’s given me my entire life. 

This is the grace the teaches me to love even when I can’t get my mind around how it gives my life purpose. 

Afraid to See Again

The surgery-induced blindness in my right eye is going away. After 10 years of learning to laugh at myself when I walk into pillars, people and posts, my 15% vision is finally gaining strength. According to the optometrist, I currently have somewhere in the zone of 35% vision. I should be excited about that. 

I’m… not. I’m not excited at all, actually. 

Logically, my random vision increase helps in unfathomable ways. Driving will soon not be a terrifying prospect. Most assuredly, it’ll be nice to see what my crazy cerebral palsy impacted right hand is up to all the time. Blindness isn’t convenient. 

So why do I care?

I hate my vision coming back because I’ve gotten used to the darkness. I’ve gotten used to living in such a way that compensates for the inconvenience and pain. It’s a lot easier for me to act as if I didn’t see things that hurt my feelings, gamble away my trust, or helps the people in my life think they got away with a lie. 

As weird as it sounds, living in darkness is comfortable. As my sight increases, I’ll get over it, though. 

I’ll get used to seeing the sun come in my window, and I’ll learn to love it again.  But first, I have to trust the difference. I have to trust that I really am seeing the silouette of a friend and the differences between green and red. If I don’t let my eye try to perform differently, I’ll lose vision again. 

How many times do I do the same thing with my sin? How many times does God whisper to my heart, “I turned your heart away from that habit a long time ago. Stop acting as if you need it more than you need Me”? But instead of agreeing and living in freedom, I act like I don’t know what freedom tastes like because I’m too used to my chains. 

…and the chains are comfortable.

How much of our sin nature exists because we’re too afraid to take God up on the promise that life can be different? What would happen if we trusted Him enough to try?

When The Holy Surprises

I only write about things that ultimately feel real. Which is why, until last night, I kept my engagement off any projects I was working on. It just didn’t feel real. And then, we had our first “chat.” Chats are usually amazing when done with the guy that stole my heart. But the laughter was more overwhelmed and nervous than it was giddy last night.

The questions of, “How do we manage storage? How much will that apartment cost? Can we handle living on a college campus for two more years if we’re only seminary students?” 

The big decisions, and the frustration on both of our faces, made it feel real. Every dramatically real decision discussed made the ring on my finger mean a little bit more. I laughed every time my fiancée and I answered a topic with an authoritatively affirmative, “I don’t know, Babe.” 

In our mid-twenties and trying to start off on the right foot, we are most assuredly still looking for an “adultier adult.”

As I hit the pavement yesterday to process alone, I laughed for real as I realized how much God had transformed my heart in the last two years. Two years ago, the “I don’t knows” would have scared me to death, possibly even made me angry. Now, though, I can’t help but anticipate the surprise as God weaves together a story I wasn’t looking to be a part of three years ago.

I chuckled even harder thinking about how very against surprises I’ve always been. Up until a year ago, I liked surprises as long as my twenty questions were answered when I got wind that a surprise was being planned. Now, surprises still make me nervous. I am, after all, a journalist. I was born to ask questions. But, I’ve had to learn that sometimes the surprises aren’t about me.

We often view the phrase, “Wait and see” as God’s frustrating approach to sanctifying us. And it often is. But, I have to wonder: Is it possible, that at times, God quite literally says that because He knows how to love more deeply than we do? Is it possible His command to “wait and see” is because He knows that by trusting Him and letting Him essentially surprise us , He’ll be able to show us a level of love we wouldn’t understand otherwise?

Surprises take trust, trust takes faith, which is basically the backbone of believing in Jesus Christ.