Thursday, March 31, 2011

Worship

I'm linking this post to Mary's blog, Giving Up on Perfect, and am writing about subjects that she's chosen for the next seven Thursdays:


March 10 – Baptism
March 17 – Wedding
March 24 – Funeral
March 31 – Worship
April 7 – Bible study
April 14 – Prayer
April 21 – Communion

I had been struggling for a while during church services. I attend a church where many people compliment the quality of our choirs. Please don't misunderstand me...I like the beauty of the voices and bells intermingling during the service but that isn't why I attend church.

I had also been struggling finding meaning/inspiration from the sermons. Some mornings I would leave and think, "What am I supposed to take away or do with what I've heard?"

Then I heard something that made me stop being the person who was disappointed in my worship experience, blaming everyone else for not "living up to my standards." (Sounds pretty pretentious right?) Primarily, I heard that worship is not their obligation or to be based upon the performance of others (choirs, preacher, etc.) but worship is my responsibility. My time to worship God. To be devoted to Him.

Wow.

It was tough "climbing off my high horse" and to stop blaming others and situations and take responsibilty for worship myself. It was humbling and freeing. Worship isn't about me and how I feel. Worship is about God. My relationship with Him. I am to focus on worshiping Him.

From a heart overflowing with gratitude, we will want to honour and glorify God by gratefully offering back to Him the many good gifts He has bestowed on us. We will not go to church to be entertained, to see "what we can get out of it" for our own private gratification, but rather to praise and worship the triune God of grace and glory.
Anonymous

Worship is the intentional attitudes and actions of focusing on God. It is the life-discipline we ought repeatedly to exercise and develop. It grows out of the foundational motive of deep and wonder-based gratitude to God for His salvaging and sustaining us.
Byron Spradlin

I realize that worship doesn't only take place in a church. To be who God wants me to be is to worship Him throughout my days. Not only on Sundays.

The church is never a place, but always a people; never a fold but always a flock; never a building but always a believing assembly. The church is you who pray, not where you pray.
Anonymous

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness, the nourishment of the mind with his truth, the purifying of the imagination of his beauty, the opening of the heart to his love, the surrender of the will to his purpose.
William Temple

The purpose of this Christian society called the "Church" is, first: to glorify God by our worship. We do not go to church just to hear a sermon. We go to church to worship God.
Billy Graham

Ouch.

So I've come to the realization that worship isn't about me. It's not about how wonderful the choir sounds or how "good" the sermon is. It is me using my life with deliberation to worship God. To praise Him.

In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you're pretending or putting on. It's got to be an overflow of your heart.....Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God.
Matt Redman

Joshua 23:8 says, "...cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now." NLT

That is how I am moving forward in my faith and changing my thinking and actions about worshiping God. I am clinging tightly to Him and focusing on a deeper relationship with Him. I am thankful for His grace and mercy in "teaching this old dog, new thoughts tricks."

Thank you Mary for choosing today's topic and for challenging me to dig deeper in my faith.

Please visit Giving Up on Perfect to read what Mary and others have written about worship.

Do you have a memory or some thoughts you'd like to share about worship?

Monday, March 28, 2011

One Thousand Gifts (112-119)

I have been reading A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp's blog) for a year. Every Monday Ann adds to her list of One Thousand Gifts and today I'm adding to my list too.

 
 

#112 - #119 on my list of One Thousand Gifts. I'm thankful for:
 
112. an honest car mechanic
 
113. busy days at work
 
114. an electric garage door on rainy days...OK, every day :)
 
115. listening to a mom's excitement about her son attending his high school junior prom
 
116. listening to a co-worker tell us that her father's cancer has spread to his brain
 
117. listening to Terri tell me about her daughter-in-law's pregnancy and miscarriage

118. God for continuing to teach me to listen
 
119. my faith in God and praying for people during their celebrations and tragedies
 
Turn on your speakers. Read, enjoy, and thank God for His blessings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Funeral

I'm linking this post to Mary's blog, Giving Up on Perfect, and am writing about subjects that she's chosen for the next seven Thursdays:

March 10 – Baptism
March 17 – Wedding
March 24 – Funeral
March 31 – Worship
April 7 – Bible study
April 14 – Prayer
April 21 – Communion

For many years, I didn't know how to express sympathy to someone who had lost a loved one. I didn't know what to say. So I said nothing. I would occasionally send a sympathy card and sign my name. I would steer clear of the person because of my lack of knowing what to say or do.

Then in 1992, my father died.

He was 54 years old and I was 31. I had been married for 10 years to Wonderful Husband and our children were five and two years old.

I remember Terri bringing over dinner and it was not only delicious but I needed not to think about preparing a meal for my family. A blessing.

We lived in Maryland and I flew to Texas to be with my mother, sister, brother, aunt, and great uncle.

I remember my dad's funeral like it was yesterday. It was in the church where I had been married. I felt comforted by the worship tradition and remember listening to the bell choir and thinking that this was what heaven must sound like. God was with me.

There were many people crowded into the mid-sized church and I noticed that when I was introduced to many people that I didn't know, there were some who knew my father yet most knew my mother and were there to offer their condolences and show their sympathy to her and to us.

I remember being the "good middle child" during the time I was in Texas. Being helpful and supportive of everyone else and stuffing my sadness deep within my soul.

I remember being at the airport with my brother and watching people walk by when an older couple caught our attention. My brother said he was angry seeing them since our parents wouldn't have those years together. I remember thinking that I couldn't begrudge someone more time together.

The most embarrassing thing that happened was that after holding myself together through the airplane trip, keeping my head down and reading a magazine and willing the plane to get me back to Maryland faster, please faster...we finally landed and a woman that was seated in my row chose the time when we were almost ready to make our way down the aisle to ask me if my trip to Texas was "business or pleasure."

My eyes welled up when I said, "Neither. I was there for my father's funeral."

Ackkkkkk! I have to think that she's probably never asked that question again. I felt wretched.

I came home to a lot of sympathy cards which I still have to this day.

Here is what I learned from my father's death and his funeral:
  • One purpose of the funeral was to remember my father's life and for others attending to show their love for him and their love for those of us still alive.
  • The only words that needed to be said were, "I'm sorry for your loss."
  • A hug is appreciated.
  • Allow the grieving person to talk about whatever they want to talk about.
  • Don't try to "make them feel better."
  • Don't tell them your thoughts or experiences of death.
  • Listen.
  • Let them be free to say whatever they want.
  • Don't judge them because grieving people can be a bit wacky. (I know from personal experience. Read: me.)
  • Years later I learned there are five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, resignation, and acceptance. There is not a particular or a correct order and the other person(s) grieving probably won't be at the same stage as you are, and it's ok.
  • Receiving words from others is wonderful. Receiving sympathy cards is a blessing because during the days, weeks, and months ahead, cards are tangible gifts that can be read and held when other people continue living their normal, and the one(s) left behind are still trying to adapt to their new normal.
  • One thing I learned from my five year old son was the simplicity in teaching him about death. He would go play, come find me to ask me a question or two about Grandpa or heaven, then go and play. He dealt with death in small increments instead of getting weighed down. He didn't try and carry it all as one large burden. God blesses the young with wisdom. 
  • Lastly, I believe that God is sad when we are sad. He mourns with us and is there to help us find our way back from grief. I am grateful for my faith.
Do you have anything you'd add or subtract (or multiply or divide) from the list? (Math joke :)

Do you have a memory or some thoughts you'd like to share about a funeral?

Thank you Mary for choosing today's topic.

Please visit Giving Up on Perfect to read what Mary and others have written about funerals.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Thousand Gifts (100-111)

I have been reading A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp's blog) for a year. Every Monday Ann adds to her list of One Thousand Gifts and today I'm adding to my list too.



The calendar said 'The First Day of Spring' yesterday so Wonderful Husband and I began working in the yard and I looked hard for some indication that spring had sprung. (Yes, I am a multi-tasker.)


Oh forsythia! You've been busy and I can't wait to see the pop of yellow color in our yard. Stay tuned!

#100 - #111 on my list of One Thousand Gifts. I'm thankful for:

100. celebrating our daughter's 21st birthday with dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill with Young Sweetie and her boyfriend. (It's amazing how she keeps getting older and I don't. Ha!)

101. Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's with whipped cream and a cherry on top

102. my great uncle and great aunt celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

103. watching Ann Voskamp on 100 Huntley Street and her passion for Christ

104. noticing the crocuses blooming on the drive home from work. Spring!

105. new skylights. So clean and weather tight! Yippee!



106. Wonderful Husband taking skylight installation pictures

107. pink nail polish. Hey, it's Spring!

108. Wonderful Husband playing golf on a Friday afternoon

109. being able to encourage a mom who is sending her firstborn daughter off to college in the fall

110. Maria and meeting her for Saturday morning coffee. Talking about church, God, Bible Study and family.

111. Nancy's spinal surgeries and sending her a card filled with prayer for healing and recovery.

Turn on your speakers. Read, enjoy, and thank God for His blessings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wedding

I'm linking this post to Mary's blog, Giving Up on Perfect, and am writing about subjects that she's chosen for the next seven Thursdays:

March 10 – Baptism
March 17 – Wedding
March 24 – Funeral
March 31 – Worship
April 7 – Bible study
April 14 – Prayer
April 21 – Communion


I haven't been to many weddings. In fact after searching my memory (always a challenge) I realize that I have attended eight weddings and one of them was my own. The lack of weddings simplified my thoughts by not having a lot of memories to sift through. And since my memory is what it is, I decided to focus on the most recent wedding that I attended and how I learned to lean fully on God.

Our nephew John was getting married in July 2009 to a lovely woman, Meg. The excitement had been building with the younger generation having their bachelorette and bachelor weekends away, and a bridal shower that had included the older generation. (Read: I was included with the older generation festivities.)

Life seemed to be gliding along when our other nephew Gregory received a diagnosis of adrenal cancer.

Gregory and John are cousins and had grown up together to be like brothers. Gregory has three siblings, John has two siblings.

Gregory was all set to be the best man at John's wedding but the timing... oh the timing was working against him. Gregory had major surgery and was hoping to attend the wedding but was still recovering. We (the rest of the family) had been "wrung through the wringer" of receiving encouraging reports about Gregory's condition followed by discouraging reports.

I believe that God had His hands all over the timing of events.

We needed some joy during this time.

We needed to shift our focus toward two people who were starting their married lives together.

We needed a celebration.

We needed God's grace to hold our weak parts together while witnessing the beginning of two lives showing their love for each other.

It was a day filled with blessings and a reception filled with happiness and love. Thank you God!

I leaned heavily on God that day and He took care of me. He took care of us.

(As a post script: God knew what was coming when Gregory died in December 2009, yet He continued to hold us together so we could celebrate Gregory's short life too. Thank you God!)

Thank you Mary for choosing this topic for today.

Please visit Giving Up on Perfect to read what Mary and others have written about weddings.

Do you have a memory or some thoughts you'd like to share about a wedding?

Monday, March 14, 2011

One Thousand Gifts (89-99)

I have been reading A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp's blog) for a year. Every Monday Ann adds to her list of One Thousand Gifts and today I'm adding to my list too.


This weekend Wonderful Husband and I went to visit our son in Virginia. We arrived on Saturday and decided to go to Washington, D.C. for a visit.

The Washington Monument

Our son is a giant!

The Capitol
Ultimate Frisbee
 
Where we live in PA, we're told not to plant
anything until Mother's Day because of possible frost.
Obviously not the case four hours south of us.

#89 - #99 on my list of One Thousand Gifts. I'm thankful for:

89. colors and textures of spring in Washington, D.C.

90. teachers who go to work every day and educate this generation

91. Daylight Savings Time. We "lost" an hour of sleep yet it is lighter later!

92. the U.S. government and the honest leaders who try to do what is best for our country and citizens

93. the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (which was first on the scene in Japan to provide aid after the earthquake and tsunami) and the other 48 countries and volunteers who will provide aid for the survivors of this tragedy

94. a windy day walking The Mall in Washington, D.C.

95. the Metro rail system providing safe and stress-free travel in and out of the city

96. seeing my first game of ultimate frisbee and realizing I'm too old to play that too!

97. a clean hotel room and a continental breakfast

98. gold flecks in a black faux granite breakfast table

99. God being omniscent. He knows everything. I am comforted that He knows the past, the present, and the future.

Turn on your speakers. Read, enjoy, and thank God for His blessings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baptism

I'm linking this post to Mary's blog, Giving Up on Perfect, and writing about subjects that she's chosen for the next seven Thursdays:

March 10 – Baptism
March 17 – Wedding
March 24 – Funeral
March 31 – Worship
April 7 – Bible study
April 14 – Prayer
April 21 – Communion

I have always said that I was born and raised Presbyterian.

Baptism is one of only two sacraments recognized in my denomination, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Most of our baptisms are of infants. I don't remember my own baptism since I was an infant. Both of our children were baptized as infants too. Young children and adults can be baptized too of course.

Baptisms take place during our worship service. I've listed a brief part about our baptism below.

The parents are asked, "Relying on God's grace, do you promise to live the Christian faith, and to teach that faith to your child?"

We don't have godparents but sometimes have sponsors who are members of the church and promise "through prayer and example to support and encourage" the child "to be a faithful Christian."

And later the congregation is asked, "Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture" the child "by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church?"

(All quotations above are from the Book of Common Worship...For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).)

I love that parents, sponsors, and the congregation participate in every baptism and are responsible for supporting, encouraging, teaching and learning alongside one another. My eyes fill with tears when our pastor carries a baby down the center aisle to introduce him/her to us.

Have I lived up to my promises during baptisms?

Not all the time.

Yet I am striving to do so now and know that I can do better with God's help.

Thank you Mary for choosing this topic for today.

Please visit Giving Up on Perfect to read what Mary and others have written about baptism.

Do you have a memory or some thoughts you'd like to share about baptism?

Monday, March 7, 2011

One Thousand Gifts (79-88)

I have been reading A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp's blog) for a year. Every Monday Ann adds to her list of One Thousand Gifts and today I'm adding to my list too.


This past Saturday we celebrated my mother-in-law, Lenore's 80th birthday. There were 24 of us at the party.

There was plenty of food:



There was cake (and other desserts):




She is a wife of 61 years. Mother of 4. Mother-in-law of 4. Grandmother of 10. Great grandmother of 3. She is a soft-spoken and honorable woman who cares deeply for all members of her family. And she is an awesome mother-in-law. Happy Birthday Mom!

#79 - #88 on my list of One Thousand Gifts. I'm thankful for:

79. my mother-in-law who gives much and loves deeply

80. family gatherings and joyful celebrations

81. warmer temps to go outside and pick up small tree branches, spring cleaning beginning outdoors

82. anticipating the installation of a new back door

83. silly things (like #82) that make me happy

84. reading Leviticus 23:3a, "You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly." (NLT, emphasis mine) On any Sunday that I debate attending church, thinking about this scripture, knowing I should be a part of the holy assembly, and going with a worship-ready attitude.

85. doves coo-ing early in the morning

86. rain that isn't snow (What can I say? It's been a long winter!)

87. completed reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts and knowing I will re-read it over and over again

88. a weekend nap

Turn on your speakers. Read, enjoy, and thank God for His blessings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Work in Progress Through Conflict

On February 13, I was thinking about conflict.

Why are there problems and heartbreak in life?

What can I learn from experiencing conflict?

It occurred to me that through conflict, change will happen.
Only by identifying that there is a problem can a solution be found.
Only through experiencing hurt can healing happen.

Change occurs through conflict.

When life is speeding along, happy-go-lucky, there is no change. No need for change. Yet when a problem (read: speed bump in life happens) life slows down and my attention is focused on looking for a solution.

It's a realization that a change needs to happen.

I've joked for years that "Change...is good." There was a time in my life when I was surrounded by people who were being buried alive in conflict and some were in positions of authority to make changes.

Sometimes I adapted well to change...sometimes I struggled with change.

Many times I wanted to have a vote whether the change was a good solution to the conflict.

I realized that my frustration would boil over when others made changes that affected me, but I had no say in the matter.

Then my sarcasm gene would explode and I'd say, "Change...is good." (Read: Not!)

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says, "Everything is permissable --but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissable but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

I accept change more easily when I can determine it is beneficial and constructive not just for the one person in authority...but beneficial and constructive for the group as a whole.

I know you can't make all of the people happy/satisfied all of the time.

But after a situation arises, I try not to react in a thoughtless, knee-jerk, half-cocked way.

I.Need.To.Stop.

Think the conflict through, surround myself with wise people (not "yes" people).

And pray.

Pray hard. Because if I'm listening with my heart, God will provide His wisdom.

Because when I work through conflict, I learn from it and grow stronger in my faith.

Then I can take action in a calm manner which will lead to a beneficial/constructive solution.

I am working on this in my professional and personal life.

I am a work in progress.

How do you see conflict at work in your life? Is it beneficial?