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Posts Tagged ‘worship’

The clock was nearing midnight when I felt the seize. I well-knew what it meant, but not that it would be the longest and largest muscle spasm of my life. It was thirty-six hours before I could really move again, twenty-four more before I left my house, and an extra twelve before I dared get in my car to head to Belfast. But I would not stay away.

I had been asked to lead worship for my mentor’s church, so away I went  with heat-pack blazing behind me as I drove. It was gorgeous fall drive and practice went very well. My spine seemed surprisingly healthy. Right before service–feeling a touch of asthma–I took a couple puffs from my inhaler. Apparently a bad move… I also sucked an unknown particle into my lungs. The second I tried to sing the first song of the morning, I knew my voice was going. My eyes started to water at even the most basic notes as my throat cried out in pain. I had to quit and make the congregation sing a cappella so I could take a drink of water, which allowed me to make it (still crying) through the rest of the song. Ugh. Definitely not the way you want to start a worship service at a new church.

Well, if that was not a good way to remind me that worship is not about the musician but about God, I am not sure what is. Nevertheless, I was feeling frustrated. And when I feel frustrated my ears start to burn. So I was pretty much a wreck (inside. Outside, people said they never would have known). After a chaotic, yucky week I had really been hoping that I could do one thing well–that I could prove to myself that even Lyme couldn’t keep me down anymore. In an instant, that hope seemed to be fizzling away.

Then we come along to a couple of verses that I had picked out on the car-ride down. I had pulled into the parking lot of Hannaford’s, yanked out my computer, and (with mad typing-skills that earned me at least one very strange look from a grocery shopper) began typing out those verses. Now, in the middle of service as I’m feeling like a complete mess-up, I get reminded of the very Scripture I had thought would encourage others.

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:29-31a)

I love that God notes that even young people are going to get tired out from time to time. Not ‘I’ve-studied-for-midterms-and-drank-too-much-coffee’ tired. No. The bone-weary, heart-wrenching, broken kind of tired that makes you wonder how you’ll ever get back up. Even normal young people. Not just ones with Lyme Disease. So maybe the back spasm and the weird lung problems were actually not as bad as they seemed–or as uniquely awful as they felt. Maybe chaos is an uncomfortable but necessary (and educational) part of life. Maybe there is a great value in remembering that ‘they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.’

I could long for instant answers to the questions and the many trials of this week. But I take comfort in the promise that God will renew my strength.

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This weekend Maine Bible Quizzing hosted its District Finals tournament. At it, the teens compete to see who goes on to the Regional tournament. Some of the kids who got busy and dropped out of the program return and at the end of the evening have a banquet (which for some of our homeschooling seniors is about as close to prom as they can get). So this was not a tournament I could miss. Yet I had conflicted dates. Sunday at 1:30 my friend was having a bridal shower in Virginia—fourteen hours away.

I settled on staying at the quiz until 3ish and then heading to New York. Sunday morning I got up and drove the rest of the way to the bridal shower, arriving a whole ten minutes early. I am really glad I made those arrangements. I would not have wanted to miss the quiz.

The youth were so much fun. I was an official, working with an old rival and friend–Scott. From Veggie Tale questions to Disney questions together we tried to make the time when the kids were not competing as much fun as possible. What came out of it was this gorgeous flower chalk drawing (I do not know who to give credit to, but it was one of the teens) that is reminiscent of the one in Disney’s Tangled. Props to whoever is responsible.

But as much fun as all that was it paled in comparison to the worship times we had. Usually I lead a singing time on Friday night with my guitar. This quiz we squeezed in two additional opportunities for the kids to worship in song. The last one was at lunch time. I pulled out my guitar and started playing. Instantly, the youth started to move in around me. Though they only have 40-ish minutes for lunch, they spent more than half of it in praise of God. To hear their voices willingly raised in worship of the Creator was incredible!

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The last time I was set to release a book, my chosto chondritus symptoms were just beginning to make me miss classes and lose some common emotions–like excitement–as I switched into survival mode. This time around, to be able to feel the thrill of Xsardis’ near-publication is invigorating. I had a meeting set with my illustrator for later this week, but he called and asked if I would come see the draft of the cover today. I was able to take with me not only my mother, but also my sister Kate (who has a VERY artistic eye). It is beautiful. Ande Binan has clearly captured the feel I want for my books and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

This weekend I spent at the Maine Bible Quizzing Kick Off at a campground in Winthrop, Maine. I was an official for the novices, eventually getting to coach the Blue Team’s first year quizzers while my good friend V coached the Red Team’s. It was a very good duel and the kids did great (the Blue Team won!).

But beyond the competition, it was an incredible weekend. It was my first Kick Off as an adult. The kids studied all of 2nd Peter (as did I). They studied, they quizzed, they ate, they worshiped, they learned and–while doing it–all they fellowshiped. They were filled and surrounded by the Word of God. The impact I saw in their lives and that they testified to on Sunday morning was inspiring. I led worship with the help of another guitarist and an amazing djembe (a drum) player. I love worshiping God with people I know and love.

There were ups and downs to the weekend. Even so, sometimes I wish I could just stay in that Christ-moved fellowship, that God-centered worship, that Scripture-filled time forever…

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One of my friends asked me to lead a short worship time for her team at Quiz Retreat (the guitar and my voice are the last traces of the musician inside me… I can use these tools often but not always). Of course when I went to retrieve my songbook I found that I had left it at home. I managed to figure out two songs that I could play with guesses and memory. Then I found one more of chords more in my guitar case. That song was Come Thou Fount.

Usually I would not play a hymn that I thought no one would know for a bunch of teenagers without song sheets, but I pressed forward. And as I played I realized a thing or two about the song. The first line goes, “Come Thou Fount of every blessing; tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” I taught a few guitar lessons this semester and the difference between my instrument and my student’s amazed me. I could not tune hers nearly as quickly. It seemed to fight me at every turn. It was the same with the violin. I needed to know my instrument from the inside out, to feel it almost become another appendage. To hear each sound, no matter how small, and understand what it was saying. To comprehend how each string would interact with each other string and how the smallest change on one of the pegs could change the whole sound of the instrument. Such is the understanding that the author of Come Thou Fount meant when he called on God to tune his heart. It required a willingness to be open with God, to allow Him to see every failure and strength and then to make the whole product better. And just like any musician, God’s intent is to make us better, so that we can do the incredible job He meant for us.

The last verse talks about being ‘prone to wander’. And yes, this is true of my guitar. The strings are all too easily knocked out-of-place, by cold, heat, time, or use. It is up to the musician to perpetually re-correct the instrument. But I am rather bad at being corrected. I do not like being tuned, though I love the results. Even though God sees the truth about me whether or not I acknowledge the truth, I tend to try to avoid the tuning and the re-tuning.

The fact is that an instrument is a finely-crafted masterpiece, created with a specific purpose. It needs tuning, and only with tuning can it share its wealth of beauty and skill with others. It has a unique relationship with its owner, its master. They are a pair like no other. And these things are far too wonderful of blessings to be wasted upon a stubborn instrument. This is what I learned at Quiz Retreat. To look at God’s direction and discipline as the gentle tuning of a musician so that the instrument, so that I, can do what I love to do, what I was meant to do.

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