Subtitled: Co-Mission

Over the last year, Apex Community Church, a home for me since my freshman college days, has been in a season of significant transition. From the top down there isn’t a single thing that hasn’t been affected in the course of the last twelve months (except for the legendary orange carpet, but that is for another blog.) The future landscape of Apex and its ministries have been discussed at length and continue to be fervently prayed over.

This weekend they begin the rollout of the new mission and vision statements and the “strategic goals” that have come about. As I watched the “Mission/Vision Promo” tonight and looked at the new Mission Statement that was printed out, my mind kept wandering to one word which has had great significance in my life: commission.

According to Webster’s, a commission is: a formal written warrant [document] granting the power to perform various acts or duties. Probably the most well-known commission is found in Matthew 28. Jesus has died, risen back to life, and is having a heart to heart with His closest of followers.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (16-20 ESV)

A few years ago as I pondered the word commission and this passage in specific, I was struck by a new thought that revolutionized me. This commission of Jesus to His disciples (and in turn, each of us) is really a co-mission (misspelling intentional.) The plans and work that God has given to each of us are not something we enact alone. The missions given to us are really co-missions because they work only in tandem with the Spirit. Let me re-read verse 20, Christ said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Though there may be times in life when we feel we are on lone islands, there is a mission partner with us, living inside us. When the task ahead feels as overwhelming and ridiculous as counting grains of sand, as Christians, we can celebrate because God is the God of the overwhelming and the ridiculous.

In most scripture memorization of “The Great Commission” we lose verse 18, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” Jesus is the very foundation of all we do. We have the power to go, make, baptize, and teach only because Jesus has authority in heaven and on earth. Sure we can sing, “All the world for Jesus! Let each one pray and give, until remotest nations shall look to Him and live” but actually doing it, actually reaching all the world for Jesus? Wow, what a mission.

But we do it as a co-mission with Him who has all authority. We do it as a co-mission with the Spirit who gives power to accomplish the Father’s Will. We do it as a co-mission with fellow believers who come alongside and carry the banner when our strength is failing. Whatever the future looks like for Apex, for you, or for me: we can move forward with bold confidence because we do it as co-missioners.


I Celebrate God

It started so unexpectedly. On Saturday, November 5, 2016, I went with about 20 others ladies to see Sandi Patty in concert. She was a blast from my childhood and I thought it’d be fun to go down memory lane. Then these five guys walk on stage. I think to myself, “Wow – didn’t remember Sandi Patty having so many sons.” Google quickly came in handy as I discovered before intermission that they weren’t her boys, but a group called Veritas and I was instantly obsessed. Shook hands with them as we left the venue at the end of the night and even got a selfie with “one of them!”

That night and for the next few days I was insatiable! I needed to know who these guys were and more importantly how I could hear more from them. Fast forward to me driving 4 hours (each way) to Marietta, Ohio to see the exact same concert that I’d seen three months earlier but this time I was going to see Veritas (oh and Sandi Patty happened to be there too.) It was fabulous and shockingly, I made a few friends.

Fast forward another few months, I drive another 3 hours (each way) to see them film promos at Asbury University. Whilst I didn’t make any new friends here, I did very briefly chat with James (the group’s baritone) about the movie collection they have housed there including Harry Potter memorabilia.

Fast forward another few months and I’m sitting at my computer looking at an email inviting me to join the new album release team. I was elated. Over the course of these nine months I’d gotten to know about this group and their music really, really well. I thought the best part of the experience was going to be listening to the new music before everyone else and being able to review it online. And don’t get me wrong, loved that – it was fantastic, but alas the shocking part, I made lots of new friends.

Gosh, even as I write this I’m amazed at the connections I made with these people – diverse in age, in geography, in backgrounds, and yet united in their love and passion and belief in the music of these five guys. We bonded over the course of 6 weeks in a way that I never dreamed possible. Became “Facebook friends” with several members but merely calling it that doesn’t do it justice… I just didn’t realize that until last night though.

Due to Hurricane Harvey the album release concert was moved from Houston to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Many of my new friends were going to be in attendance. I was going to “listen vicariously” through my selfie that I jokingly told them to tape to a pew or the floor. I sat at the computer in my home office balancing my check book (so glamourous) awaiting any photos or live video feeds when suddenly I see this message…. “Dear ones, though I’d hoped to share video with you from Gulf Shores, it’ll have to wait…right before the guys went on stage, Jordan had a [medical emergency]. He is okay now, praise the Lord, but is at the hospital having tests run. Please lift him and the Veritas family in prayer! The concert will be rescheduled.” For the next three hours there was a flurry of messages between all of us.

As we sorted through our shock and grief together I realized that these strangers of a few months ago were now friends that I could laugh and cry with. People I’m considering flying south to meet in person at one of our beloved Veritas’ concerts.

And in a way, this is a miracle.

You see, all of this is a very long introduction to my main point that, God can use very unexpected things to grow us and stretch us out of our happy little comfortable boxes. I am an extreme introvert. (Yeah, it shocked me too!) When I was in seminary I had an experience which forced me to figure myself out rather quickly and come to find out, whilst I can “play extrovert” very well, at the end of the day I am a true and total introvert. Though I have a very loud voice and can command a room, I like quiet. I always overthink things and take way too much to heart. I’m not into big crowds because I like my personal space. Coming home to a fireplace, a cat, a book, a fluffy blanket, and English Breakfast Tea is heaven. And I am horrible at making friends.

Part of it probably comes from my formerly nomadic lifestyle (I’ve lived in well over a dozen houses…) but friendship was just not something I was good at. The fear of walking up to someone unknown paralyzed me. I needed to have a connection beforehand, some reason to start a conversation. But alas, how do you have connection or a starting place if you don’t know someone. It’s a total catch 22.

Over the last year or so, Veritas has become my connection. Other than God, my family, Christmas, or Seahawks, they are the thing I am most passionate about. I have no shyness when it comes to talking about “My Boys” and their amazing music. I’ve gone so far as to have a custom made “Veritas 5” window decal on my car! Even more, the “Veritas Family” that I have had the privilege to become a part of has given me a perspective on the community of God. People, diverse in age, in geography, in backgrounds, and yet united in their love and passion and belief and worship of Him who created us and lavishes grace upon grace upon us.

This year has grown and stretched me in so many ways, and while I will always be an introvert and prefer my quiet nights in, I celebrate what God can and will do through me (and all of us in fact) when we step out of our ordinary lives. I celebrate what God can and will do when connections are made and community is formed. Today, even if my heart and mind are heavy with sadness and shock, I celebrate God.

Subtitled: Sing Once More

Music has always been a passion of mine. From a young age I was singing or playing a brass instrument. Later I learned chords and could “play piano.” Music was always there – it was my order when all else seemed chaos. A few years ago I encountered a situation that broke my heart, total disappointment. For a full month I couldn’t worship in church – I’d just sit on the back row and cry. Eventually though the words became songs again, and I felt “me” return. Fast forward two years.  New heartbreak but this time my world seemed to shift on its axis. Everything I thought I knew, everything I trusted was a shattered illusion. Musically, this time was so much worse because I continued to sing, I continued to listen to music, but it was all empty. Instead of giving myself the freedom of tears, of emotion like last time, I turned numb – completely and utterly numb. Church worship – merely white words scrolling across a black screen. Office music – just background noise. The piano in my living room stayed closed for a long, long time.

I can’t pinpoint a moment when passion came back but eventually it did. Worship was truly worship again. Music was enriching again. I sat at the piano and felt emotion again. Fast forward a year later. I’m driving home, listening to the newest album from my beloved Veritas. The 5th track is a song by Ronnie Freeman called “Come to the River.” Truthfully, I didn’t like this song at first! It is one that musically has such elongated words and phrases that I just kept thinking: chop, chop! We need to move it along! Ironically the song itself is all about slowing down and enjoying the things in this life that God has blessed us with: play, laughter, dreams. But then came the lyric that gutted me, “Say goodbye to everything that silence the songs you love to sing.” In an instant I saw myself sitting in the back row crying. In an instant I saw myself sitting up in my customary second row singing empty worship songs. In an instant I saw my piano covered in dust. And for the first time I realized that those dark periods of silence was me letting Satan win.

You see in that moment I understood, that music is what God uses to love on me. It is what He uses to speak to me. It’s what He uses to bring light into my life when this world can be so very dark. And so when those valley moments in our lives come, of course Satan is going to attack where it is most effective. This is not a dumb force we’re fighting, and he is going to use weapons that weaken our defences. In my life, if he can silence the music, he can silence God. And twice I have let him.

But not anymore. I’m saying goodbye! I know your schemes Satan. I see your tactics quite clearly now and you’re not going to win. You can take the music, but you can’t take my God. I am sure there are valleys to come. I am sure there will be times when the music is hard to sing or when the tears will flow, but God is still God and He is still on His throne. And to quote Julie Andrews, “My heart will be blessed with the sound of music, and I’ll sing once more.”

Subtitled: Squeeze Tight

I have a friend who is not a hugger, at all! Unfortunately for him, his daughter is. Sometimes she’ll walk up to him and say, “Hug!” so he’ll do it. This is most often followed though by the daughter saying, “Squeeze tight!” You see there are moments in life when we just need to be held.

Maybe it’s just me, but there are times that I picture myself sitting on God’s lap, saying “Hug, squeeze tight!” I confess to Him that I really really don’t know what He is doing, but acknowledge Him as Father. A Father that really does know best. Even though our finite minds can’t fathom the craziness sounding us, that doesn’t negate that it makes perfect sense in the grand design.

It’s been a rough few days for me. Since Sunday afternoon I’ve been trying to process the phrase “You give and take away” from a praise song I’ve sung many times but am only now beginning to internalize. The next phrase says, “My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name.” Sure, it’s easy to praise and sing when He is in the giving stage. But what does our heart truly say during those taking away portions of life? I’m not talking about the “they had a good and long life” taking away though that is painful as well. I’m talking about the freak car accidents, the medical procedures gone wrong, etc. – what do our hearts say then?

Tonight my heart simply says, I’m hurting. Squeeze tight. But despite the tears and heartache, I know that He is the Father who loves and works for good. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. But I trust it. “Blessed be Your Name.”

As I drove home tonight I tried processing the events of the last five days and two separate hurting families I know. I realized I had to write because this is my therapy (along with the ice cream in my freezer!) So if you’ve read this far, please know that if this blog spoke to you then Praise Him, but in truth, I wrote this one for me.

Subtitled: Do I Trust You?

Looking back over the last year it’s been, well a lot more valleys than mountains: friends moving away, church shake ups, fires, car accidents, injuries, cancer, even death. All of this offset by a beautiful baby niece born in December. As I sit on my back deck on a gorgeous July afternoon I realize though, all of life is offset by a baby that was born in December.

There is a song that starts “sometimes my little heart can’t understand / what’s in Your will, what’s in Your plan / so many times I’m tempted to ask You why.” But through all the unknowns, life comes down to this simple question, the title of that song: Do I trust You? When family and friends are far away… When people disappoint and circumstances break hearts… when health seems to be unattainable…. Yes, even when loved ones die – Do I trust that God has His best in mind? Do I trust that Jesus will lead and guide and protect me always?

The second verse of the song goes, “I know the answers I’ve given them all / but suddenly now I feel so small, shaken down to the cavity in my soul / I know the doctrine and theology but right now they don’t mean much to me / this time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know…”

Sometimes we know the answers, but we haven’t paused long enough to remember them. As I look over my life, I see the arc of His faithfulness. Even when things didn’t go my way or make sense at the time He was always in control. Mercifully in control. When I stop and look back, I can refocus and say yes Lord, I do trust You. I don’t always understand you. I don’t always like what You’re doing and the way You do it, but I trust You.

“He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.” Psalm 23:3-4 (AMPC)

So while I keep looking for this particular crazy season to end, I continue to trust in Him because He always has been, always is, and always will be faithful.

Subtitled: Remembering God

Ten years ago this month I wrote for my first article as a “guest columnist” for the local paper. I wrote dozens of articles over the two years I lived in Marietta, and the newspaper gave me carte blanche in what to write but they mostly centred on events or mini-sermons. This was my “Memorial Day” article in 2008. I’ve edited it a bit for modernization but otherwise, I post it as it was written.

Today we celebrate Memorial Day. A day about remembrance. Remembering the past in celebration of the present. In thinking about Memorial Day, I wanted to do a bit of Biblical remembrance.

Noah is remembered as the man who was in the 40 day flood. What many times we fail to realize is that this faithful man of God was actually in the ark for months. Genesis 7:17 says that was how long “the flood kept coming on the earth.” The last sentence before the eighth chapter says, “The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” (That’s nearly half a year!) We’re not talking about a cruise vacation here- can you only imagine! The smells of the animals after this long period of time… the “family togetherness” for that amount of time. Yet, what did it say in the scripture- “But God remembered Noah.” God had provided before the flood and would continue to provide. He wouldn’t just leave them floating forever, but remembered them and remedied the situation. He sent wind to dry the waters, and another two months later they were able to disembark from their floating home to re-establish life on the earth again.

God remembered Noah- and God provided.

This is just one instance of many in the Bible where God remembered- and then provided. Yet, sometimes we fail to remember that the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God who watches over each of us. He will remember us- and He will provide. We just have to keep remembering Him.

Quite frankly, we’re a society that isn’t very good at remembering things. We use post-its, calendars, and even our cell phones to remember things. I keep a Google Calendar that contains all my dates and schedules in a clear and succinct manner. Even my time with God is typed into my digital calendar. Yep, God has His scheduled time slot. Once I hit my high school into college years truthfully, I had a hard time remembering God. He would get lost in just the everyday craziness of life. Not only would He get lost, but then all the blessings and answers that came along with remembering God went wholly unnoticed. God had remembered me, had provided so much more than I could ask or imagine- but I just didn’t see it.

How about you? When was the last time you remembered God? Fully stopped the hamster wheel of life and took notice of Him. Noted the blessings He had given, the answers He had provided, and the love and forgiveness which is available to all. This Memorial Day, in your time of remembering those who have served for our freedoms, stop for a moment and remember God who graced us with ultimate freedom. He remembers us in our storms and trials, our slavery and bondage, in our heartaches and pains.

We need to be remembering Him this day, and every day.

Subtitled: Loaves & Fishes

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
John 6:7-9 ESV

How many times have you read or heard the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? For me, probably dozens of dozens. And yet today as I read this story I was struck by a new thought. It comes from a tiny detail tucked into these familiar scriptures. “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him…” Never before had I given thought to Andrew, the disciple who brought the little boy’s offering to Jesus. Before this very moment his name was just a superfluous part of the story but today I was struck by his courage.

Think about it. Jesus asked Philip what He should do to fix the problem (John 6:5) and when Philip comes up with naught, Andrew brings up this preposterously inadequate meal option. Even he knows it’s not enough saying, “what are they for so many?” but none the less, Andrew brought the five loaves and two fish to The Lord’s attention. Can you just picture the eye rolling and sarcastic comments of the others? Andrew had to know it was coming. Like seriously? There are well over 5,000 people and you bring this nothingness to the Son of God Himself? What are you thinking?! And yet, despite his own disbelief, he offered up what was available to him.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

How often do we see a problem, a need and yet feel ill-equipped to help? We might feel hesitant to step in, to step up because the gifts or resources we have available seem so preposterously inadequate to make a difference. We think, “You know, if I make this suggestion, if I bring this option up, people might roll their eyes and laugh, might make snide or sarcastic comments. Maybe it’ll be better if I just stay back here in the crowd and let others figure it out.”

And yet, we must have courage. “Lord, this is all I have but what can it do?” Who knows, it just might be that God is waiting for us to bring our meagre offering so that He can transform it into a mighty miracle. Andrew didn’t know what the final outcome would look like, he even had his doubts, but brought what he had anyways. You and I may not always know what the final outcome is going to look like in any given situation, we might even have our doubts about our ability or capacity, but we have to have the courage to bring what we have anyways.

Who knows, we might have more left over than what we started with!