Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anxious Death.

Several weeks ago my closest friends and I determined to read a book together and discuss via facebook message chapter by chapter. We chose a book called So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. I was reluctant to jump on the Beth Moore bandwagon, but I will tell you that I am pleasantly surprised by the blessing this book has offered my life. The funny thing is for a typical female, like me, who is plagued by the abundant amount of insecurity that this culture slathers on with airbrushed beauties begging me to buy more and weigh less, there were times while reading that I felt even more insecure simply because I was reading a book on insecurity. Sounds maniacal, doesn’t it? Welcome to my world.

This morning I received my daily text from my dad. Every morning I count on hearing from him with a weather report and an “I love you”. I treasure each message and I admire that my retirement age daddy uses texting on his phone like a teenager with tendonitis. This morning the message was a little different. It read, “Good morning Sweetheart. Beautiful day, beautiful clouds with a sunrise shining through. God is in control and we experience the beauty. My sister is getting ready to go and be with HIM. The years have been so short from Eskota (TX) to now. Make memories and treasure them. I love you. Because HE always lives! Dad”

Yesterday, I let anxiety control me. Every second of my day was consumed with worries, which lead to panic, which lead to anger. Moments that should be shared with my sweet children stole away with my arrogant demand for control in my life. This morning, I regret yesterday. I regret allowing anxiety to control me. I regret making anxiety my God. I regret making ME my God.

My dad faces the death of his sweet sister with hope and with joyous memories of a beautiful rich life. My dad leans on the everlasting arm of the Father in the face of the biggest trial of life, our earthly goodbye. Yesterday, I spent my day with obnoxious concerns over the economy and a grumpy persons ill temper when ahead what waits is the glorious bountiful eternity that my family will reach one day. I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I wasted my time.

I don’t know about you, but when I give anxiety and insecurity the steering wheel of my life, I become mean. I place blame on others. I lose my temper. I lose sense of reality. I lose time, sleep, and fingernails. I give in to my human need for control and end up frantically clawing my way through life leaving scars on everything and everyone I come in contact. I make MOUNTAINS out of molehills and stomp around like my four year old on his way to a time-out.

Here's what I've come to: Insecurity and anxiety are intentional steps taken to slap God's promise of faithfulness in the face and say "I don't trust you to take care of me". If we let insecurity and anxiety control us, we make ourselves miserable and end up stressing every relationship we have.

The blessing of a family of believers is this: There is no fear in death, only peace. The blessing of having a believing father is this: peace in a death when other anxious and non-faithful souls revel in hysteria. The blessing of having a provisional heavenly FATHER is this: He is God and HE has me and all whom I love in HIS hand. God is God and we are not, and that, my friends, is peace.

When you live a life of anxiety and insecurity you are clinging to death. With every fiber of your being you scream I want earth! I want this life! I want control! When you embrace insecurity you willingly let the evil one control you. When you embrace anxiety you make YOU and YOUR plan more important than God’s plan.

I don’t want that. I want real life, a life controlled by the Father. I want a life that allows me to hold my head high and walk away from the craziness and hysteria of imaginary control. I want a life of leaning on the arms of the Father and relinquishing control to HIM, the maker of heaven and earth.

I will not fear death. I will not fear life. I will not fear people who attempt to control either. My God is in control and my family is on their way to meet HIM. When I get there these trivial annoyances, these pebbles in my shoe will be a distant and painless memory.

I pray that I am reaching a point of spiritual maturity that my daddy reached a long time ago.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD in the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in HIS temple.

For HE will hide me in HIS shelter in the day of trouble;
HE will conceal me under the cover of HIS tent;
HE will lift me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:1-5

How silly of me to think that I should be insecure! Look at my Father! Look at what HE has done! He has paid the check, made me beautiful, and taken care of my enemy. He took on anxiety and insecurity and snuffed them out with a renewed breath of life in HIS SON! He has made it so not even death is anxious. Goodbye death! HELLO LIFE!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Words on Worship.

When raised on the mission field chances are you either hear your dad preach every Sunday or, if you are like me, you hear him preach and lead singing every Sunday. Lucky for me my dad is not only an excellent public speaker, but a very gifted musician. My best memories of my daddy are not only listening to him lead singing, but watching him sing. You see, he doesn’t just pay attention to the key signature and notation, although he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t just wave his arm around and mark time. He believes what he sings, and you can tell by watching. His heart is in the music. His heart is in worship. There is no where that my daddy would ever want to be, than singing his heart out to his heavenly Father. I love him for that example.

Now, if you are going to be a part of the Hale family (my family of origin), you must sing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must sing well, although I’d say most every one of my relatives can sing beautifully or play an instrument or at the very least pretend (like my Uncle Richard). Music, and the appreciation thereof, is a big part of family life and memories for me. I’m trying to pass that love down to my children.

My husband’s first awkward encounter with a Hale music-fest was while we were dating. Bless his heart, he tried. He must love me, because that man sat through duets of A Closer Walk with Thee, trios of the Ivory Palaces, and my dad’s relentless music education till my sweetheart was red-faced, exhausted, and certain he had entered the twilight zone. He had to know the truth about us though before the wedding certificate was signed and the bank accounts merged.

In my family we sing. We sing, and we love it. It is a little weird to the outsider, but we accept our weirdness with pride and beautiful harmonies. For this reason, our worship in song is more than a big deal to me, it is my edification, my weekly renewal. Just as I watched music breathe life into the relationships within my family, I believe music can breathe life into the body of believers and unite one hundred different souls into one glorious chorus.

Growing up in the faith, having opportunity to live in six states, and sharing in communion and praise with my European friends, I have witnessed a lot of variance in worship styles. I have preferences because I am who I am. I don’t think you can separate someone from their worship preference any more than you can separate them from their eye color. I will confess that I get homesick for my preference sometimes, and I grumble. I also confess that my surroundings often dictate my worship behavior which, personally, I believe is much worse than grumbling about my preferences.

Today we sang a song in praise that touched my heart, My God Reigns. The chorus of this song speaks to a worship without shame and shouting to proclaim that God indeed reigns. The verse of this song claims that there is no other place that I’d rather be than in worship with the Father. I wonder how often that is true with believers like me, the life-ers.

I’m going to be really open here and say that I bore easily. Routine is comfortable to me, yet mundane. Life seems to just plod by and if it gets too repetitive I stop thinking about intentionality or purpose. My mind drifts and I get easily frustrated and malcontent. God forbid that Sundays fall into a miserable monotonous purposeless routine!

I understand that worship is a week long function. We worship God in all we do every day, which is why how we live is so significant. Because, after all, how we live reflects the Father. I believe with all my heart that worship is a daily occurrence.

However, often we lose sight of the vital significance of corporate worship and praise. In the biblical texts the pattern of the people in the Old and New Testament was to set aside a specific time to worship God with physical acts of worship. The old law of sacrifice is a physical act of worship and renewal. The Lord’s Supper, in the new law, is another physical act of worship when a body of believers come to praise and remember the Son. We have examples in scripture when the first century church came together with the purpose and the intent of worship.

There is a time for corporate worship and it is not meant to be our leftovers. Rather, corporate worship should be our first fruits of the week. It is not only a time of mutual edification. It is more importantly a time of love, praise, and thanksgiving to our Creator. He doesn’t need our worship for even the rocks cry out to proclaim Him. He deserves our worship. We offer Him our best, not our routine.

You see, worship acts as a horizontal edification tool when the vertical praise to the Father occurs. People who are invested in worshiping the Father are an encouragement to those around them. If you are missing the vertical, you are probably missing the horizontal. And unfortunately, if you are missing the horizontal, it might be time to ask some hard questions about the vertical. I believe this is God's plan for worship; to be praised and to encourage those in praise.

Here’s the heart of the matter: God wants your heart. He wants you to give all you have. Just like you want your kid’s attention sometimes; GOD wants your attention, and your reverence, and your praise. He doesn’t want your “just a minute” or your “when I’m ready” or your “I don’t feel comfortable”. He wants your heart, your whole heart.

Music has this uncanny ability to draw people out when they participate fully. I believe primarily God chose music for this reason as a means to worship. Ask any soprano; music is an intimate thing. I studied classical voice for eight years and taught for three, and I promise you that the voice is the most intimate instrument. I think that is why God loves it so much when we sing. It is an intricate part of who we are and singing out often requires our submission, our authenticity, and our vulnerability. When we reveal our heart to God in worship, He is set high above in our submission. He is compassionate and nurturing in our authenticity. He is all-powerful, almighty, and triumphant in our vulnerability. What you may think of as scary, lonely, or embarrassing, God sees as beauty and wonder. He sees your heart.

My questions for you today are these: Have you let routine dictate your heart in worship? Have you let a legalistic past determine your commitment to attending corporate worship? Are you fighting to maintain control or are you submitting authentically your vulnerability to God the Father?

My God Reigns.

There’s nowhere else that I’d rather be
Than dancing with You as You sing over me
There’s nothing else that I’d rather do
Lord than to worship You.

So rejoice, be glad, rejoice, O my soul!
For the Lord, your God, He reigns forevermore!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!
So, rejoice, be glad, your Father and your Friend
Is the Lord, your God, Whose rule will never end!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!

My God reigns and I dance the dance of praise!
My God reigns with a shout I will proclaim!
“My God reigns,” and I worship without shame!
My God reigns, and I will rejoice, for my God reigns!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Minister's Wives.

I did not get to go to worship today. I have a kid at home who can't seem to stop coughing and may visit the doctor tomorrow much to his chagrin. As I snuggled into the couch this morning with my sickly son and his eerily pale younger brother who no doubt will also be coughing by tomorrow, I thought about you.

Sundays, for me, are tough. If your husband is like mine, he is on call all through the worship service which means you pretty much single-parent it through the entire morning. Our congregation has children's worship hour, of which I am so very thankful because I get to actually participate in the service and hear the sermon. I have been in congregations though with little ones without children's worship, and I know how hard that is, believe me. Regardless of your kid duties on Sunday, it is a busy day for ministering families and unfortunately a work day.

I want you to know that I said a prayer for you this morning. I am blessed to have a lot of friends who are minister's wives, and I tried my best to remember each of you this morning and ask the Father to bless you and your family.

For so long I fought this role of minister's wife. I confess to you, I even resented it. I watched my mother in some rather unhealthy situations as a minister's wife and frankly those memories left some scars and bitterness in me. I'm still working through that. Today, I can tell you that I am glad to be a minister's wife and I love my husband for what he does and who he is. Today, I can't really see myself in any other role. I do wonder occasionally why in the world God chose to put me in these shoes as I really struggle with compassion and I have a huge bubble around me of required personal space. I generally avoid huggers. Nevertheless, God gave me these shoes, and I have decided to wear them with pride and the ever present humility that a ministering life provides.

I want you to know that I am thankful for you. I want you to know that I am not the only one who is thankful for you. You see, you may never hear a thank-you or an I appreciate you, but people do love you and appreciate you. I firmly believe that ministers wives are watched with a certain curiosity and questions of "how does she do it?" I also firmly believe that ministers wives are judged for crazy things that no other female worshiper is judged for. I would be lying if I said that doesn't bother me, but at this point in my life I am capable of leaving those worries behind to some degree.

Here's the thing: It is easy to look at our husbands and think God only called him to work for the church. My friends, some of the best words I ever heard spoken were at a minister's wives conference and the speaker shared in no uncertain terms that we were also called to this role as ministers. There certainly is no greater, or more obvious, call than to be married to the ministry. I mean, you definitely won't find justification in scripture for divorcing a youth minister simply because he is a youth minister, although some of you may have looked. I guess, I've been more like Jonah in running from this ministering life than accepting it. I don't want to run anymore, friends. Frankly, I am afraid of deep water and living in a fish for a few days does not sound so appealing no matter how much I love sushi.

It is time to own it. Do your best in this role in these shoes. Protect your children and raise them to know the Father. Stop trying to fit in with everyone in the congregation, because it just won't ever happen. Be there for people. Be there. Listen. Lead. Stand up for the cause of Christ, and stand up for your husband. Be flexible, and remember you are there to serve not to be served.

I know it can be hard. I know. I know it can be exhausting. There are days when I get selfish and I think when and where do the ministers get ministered? Find a way. Go to a lectureship or a conference. Get filled. Don't catch yourself running on empty. Because your family will pay for your weary heart and, in turn, the congregation you serve will also suffer. Don't grow bitter because you let yourself reach burn-out. You are responsible for your spiritual health, not your husband, not your church family, not your mom. You. You are responsible to commit to a relationship with the Father.

More than anything, I want you to pray. I want you to protect that relationship with the Father. Sometimes it is easy to get so busy with everyone else's faith struggles that we forget our own. I prayed today that your faith will also grow. Please don't sacrifice that. Someday, we'll all be retired from paid positions of church work, but our faith, my friends, never must retire. This relationship with our Father is long term. You may move one hundred times over the next ten years, but your Father is unchanging and won't be moved unless you walk away.

Please know, that it is a wonderful comfort for me to consider that all over the world today I have friends in the same line of work. I have friends singing the same songs of praise and communing together in memory of our Lord today, perhaps right now as I type these words.

I love you and I am so thankful for you and all that you do. Your work does not go unnoticed and the choices you make to live your life today for the creator and for others will have a lasting impact that will reach farther than our imaginations.

God chose you for these shoes. He chose you because you could do it. He chose you for your frailty. He chose you for your giftedness. He chose you.

Be blessed as you bless others.