Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

A Post from Allana

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

“Where are you headed?” He asked.

“To Florida,” I replied.

I’m sure he was looking for a specific answer, but he let it slide.

“Is this trip for pleasure?”

The question hung in the air while I tried to find the right words.

“Um, something like that.”

He really didn’t need to know. I am sure that the look on my face told him that wasn’t completely true, but for the two minutes it took to look at my passport and check my boarding pass, he let that answer be enough.

I moved through the rest of our time in the airport, on the plane, the drive to the hotel, and even as we sat down for a late dinner much like a robot. Trust me, it was way easier to walk through that day numb than to do the type of sobbing my heart longed to do. The truth is. My dear mother-in-law was dying.

From the time of her diagnoses two months ago, her health slid downhill faster than any of us expected. Just last weekend, Sam’s brother, Paul, said that he thought Dorothy only had about two weeks left. Sam had already been down to see his parents a couple weeks ago and spent a significant amount of time with them both. “She probably has like two weeks…” came as a major surprise and yet when I asked Sam if he wanted to fly down to Florida to be with his family, who had all gathered there, he declined saying that he already had time to say, “Goodbye.” However, on Thursday, Sam came home from work and told me that he really felt that he needed to go tomorrow to Florida and he needed me to go with him.

As any mother would, my brain frantically thought through all the logistics. When did Samantha need to be at work throughout the weekend? What schoolwork needed to be focused on? When would I get groceries and do laundry? Would my mom be able to take off work to stay with my three girls? You know that kind of thing. Yet, one thing screamed louder than anything other thought – my husband needed me to be there with him, so I was going to be there with him.

Being the empath that I am, these very intense high emotion moments can be difficult for me to handle sometimes. Not only do I have my own sadness, but I can also feel the sadness that everyone else is feeling too. Yes, it can be overwhelming indeed. I have found through the years that I do better when I find a quiet-ish corner and daze out as I need to.

Throughout Saturday I watched my three beautiful sisters-in-law float easily throughout the house, caring for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. At the beginning, I have to admit, I felt like a major loser. Thoughts ran through my head like, I should have just stayed at home. Sitting in the corner barely moving wasn’t helping anyone, not even Sam. I could disappear and my missing presence wouldn’t even be noticed. You should be more like them and get off your behind and go do something helpful, and yet there I sat motionless.

Saturday evening, Dotty’s breathing became more strained and she was responding only through moans, and even that was becoming less. Sam, our son, his wife and I were getting ready to head out, but the hospice nurse came just as we were leaving and Sam wanted to hear what she was going to say, so he told Robert and Jen to go to the hotel and we would meet up with them there after the hospice nurse left. The very sweet and quick like adopted family hospice nurse moved about with much love and care carrying out her medical jobs. When she was done, she told us that our dear mom had about 24hrs left, and we should spend as much time as we could with her. My heart sank to the floor and my emotions whirled around in all different directions. Thoughts like I would never get another hug from this woman who gave such caring hugs. I would never get another of her encouraging cards in the mail. I would never see her like or love another post on Facebook. I also thought about how I just wanted Jesus to take her home as soon as possible so she didn’t need to suffer any longer. My thoughts turned to thankfulness as I thought about the great love she showed me. I also thought about all the times that I had allowed my insecurities win and I believed the lies they whispered to me often that Dotty didn’t like me.

When the hospice nurse left, I stayed in the background to let Dotty’s husband, Norm, and her children surround her. However, they quickly called me over to share this moment with them. Truth is I was scared. I was scared of being that close to this woman in her fragile state. I was scared that my emotions would flow over and I would fall into a heap and I would uncontrollably sob. Debbie told me that I could touch her, and with everyone watching me, I put the bravest face I could muster and I touched my mother-in-law’s soft arm. It was like the air was sucked out from my lungs at that moment, and yet, as I breathed in I just felt a sweet peace.

We all sat around her bed with worship music playing. There were tears, and I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who cried a mix of happy and sad tears. As my father-in-law held the hand of his beloved wife of 58 years, my heart broke for him. This was going to be a difficult journey of grief. None of us got much sleep through the night. But for me, there was an ‘air’ of peace.

Throughout the next day, Dotty became more and more unresponsive. Around 5pm, I saw Debbie stand up and lean over my mother-in-law. I noticed right away that her breathing was quieter than it had been since Sam and I arrived the day before. I got Sam’s attention, and others must have noticed my signal because we all got very quiet and waited for a few seconds, then we all gathered around mom’s bed. We watched while her breathing slowed but had become easy. At 5:45pm it was almost as if she smiled, her face full of peace she took her last breath. We put our arms around each other and took time to cry. After a few minutes we all went outside to call our children while dad took some time alone to say goodbye to his beautiful bride.

Robert and Jen offered to go get dinner for everyone. While they were out Jen texted saying that she could see a rainbow, so we all ran outside to see and sure enough, there was not only one rainbow, but a double rainbow right over top of the house. Then the sky changed from beauty to beauty for the next few hours. I think Heaven was rejoicing at this beautiful saint coming home.

I am going to greatly miss my mother-in-law. We didn’t talk all the time, but she was a part of my daily life on Facebook. She ‘reacted’ to just about every single one of my posts. She often made loving comments on pictures or posts about my children. Dorothy Guidry has left a great legacy. I am so thankful she was able to watch her prayers for her children be answered, as each of them came to a personal relationship with the Savior of the world. When Norm and Dotty’s pastor came by to minister to the family, he mentioned what a blessing it was that their faith has been passed down to their children. Norm looks over at Sam and said, “Yes, it took some longer than others.” It was a very funny moment.

It truly has been an absolute blessing to be accepted into this family. I will never forget the first time I met Dotty in person. I was nervous because most of Sam’s family was all gathered together in Boston after celebrating his grandmother’s 90th birthday. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Dotty ran out the door, passed by Sam and ran over to me and gave me a huge hug. I was baffled and yet the welcome continued to be just as sweet. I was no longer just in love with Sam; I quickly fell in love with his entire family. They have always brought so many joyful moments! When I started my cancer fight, each of the Guidry’s poured out so much love out to not just Sam and I, but our children as well. I am grateful to not have any idea what friends are talking about when they complain about their in-laws. My continued experience has been so opposite. Norman and Dorothy have been such an incredible witness of Jesus’ love and that continues to trickle down through their children.

Mom, I am going to miss you! However, I am so thankful that I know without a shadow of doubt that you are free from pain and sorrow because I know that you loved Jesus with all your heart. I love the vision I had of you when you passed away from this earth into your eternal home. I saw you running with ease and leaping into the arms of your Savior. I saw your smile bigger than I ever saw it before. I saw tears of joy and awe as you marveled over the immense beauty that surrounded you. I am so thankful that you are free from pain. I am so thankful that you are being rewarded for your faithfulness to the Father. I am so thankful that I know there is a heaven and that you are there. And I rejoice that I will see you again. Yes, I will miss the loving cards that you would send. I will miss the sweet butterfly reminders that showed how much you cared about me. I will miss seeing your reactions and reading your comments on Facebook. I will miss your great genuine hugs. Thank you for lovingly accepting me into your family.

This is why death for a Christian is different. We put our faith in something that cannot be seen with human eyes, but is instead felt with spiritual ones. You have a strong knowing that when you enter heaven’s gates, there is freedom. Death didn’t win. My mother-in-law lives more deeply than she ever did here on earth. Cancer didn’t steal Dorothy from us… no… God welcomed her in to the place she belonged. Yes, it’s true, I absolutely hate cancer… but when a person dies from cancer, God doesn’t fail. He always heals, it may be a healing here on earth like I have had, or it may be a healing He chooses to give in heaven. God is good.

Allana G.

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Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

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June 18th

Another great piece by my wife and ministry partner Allana.

5 years. It’s a big deal. It’s a little surreal being here in this moment. Isn’t it funny how when you are walking through the thick mud of life that it can feel like it’s inching along, but then it seems as though you blink and you are standing on the mountain top and you just marvel at how far you’ve come.

I knew from the moment that I was diagnosed with leukemia that the road would be a difficult one to travel on. But I wasn’t the least bit ready for HOW difficult and to be very honest, how lonely this road would be.

FightThe fight inside yourself between who you used to be, who you want to be, and who you are is extremely tiring. This is real. I’m going to be totally transparent.

I’m thankful for every single person in my life who reached out to me during that time. The love and support, from so so so so many helped me through! I will be forever grateful. Even to those who never spoke to me and yet still prayed for me and my family. Each one of you made the way a little easier.

A few have continued to be an active part of my life through these years of cancer and transplant recovery. You know who you are. Thank you so much for supporting me, loving me, praying for me and endlessly cheering me on. Thank you for caring enough about the old me to press through to love the new me…. even when it took me SO long to accept and grow to love the new me too.

Thank you for seeing me as strong and courageous, even though those who are closest to me saw my very strong and very real battle against sever anxiety. You didn’t judge me. You just loved me where I was, yet continually giving me messages of God’s truth. For this I am grateful because it has helped me heal from my fear.

Thank you for understanding that it has been a very slow process for me to even want to leave my house. After being away from my home for 100 days while in Cleveland, and that doesn’t even count all the hospital visits before that and a couple afterward, as well as the monthly trips to Cleveland over the past 4 years…. when I was home, I just wanted to be home and not go anywhere. This is for sure a new me. I know for some, especially for Samantha, this was extremely difficult to get used to. We were always busy doing something and going somewhere and it was weird to have mom just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with her family.

Yes, some of these changes haven’t been awesome like I’ve been in an inward fight that has left me more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. There has been more times than not that we get to church, I find my seat, I sit through greeting time, once service is over, I basically run to grab Nisa from the kids’ area and out to the car, barely looking anyone in the eye. I am sorry if you have been offended by this. It isn’t personal…. I’ve been tired, I’ve been dealing with things inside, I’ve just needed my space. Thank you for those who have loved me through this very strange time in my life.
I know it’s also been difficult to deal with my chemo brain – man, it is a real thing and something I’ve struggled with so much. Forgetting everything. Like really scary bad forgetting.

But, some of my changes haven’t been all bad. In fact some very good changes have come through my cancer fight and recovery.

I am more bold. I find I say what I think. Though this has been a learning curb to try to keep my sweetness while sharing something tough with someone. I’m less afraid to give my opinion. I have more confidence. I’m even more closer to God because HE has been the only ONE who has been able to walk with me through every single moment. Every single frustrated hissy fit while trying to desperately find the old me and hating the new me. He has stayed with me speaking truth to my heart when I was feeling unlovely. I’m so thankful for a personal God who loves me even when I’m being difficult and that He still finds me precious. There are no words to describe my gratitude of God’s love. He continues to rescue me and save me and this is why I cry so much through worship. He’s such a loving God.

For Sam and I this has been a very strange and difficult journey. Yet, one we both feel so blessed to have gone through it. It’s been… well… interesting…. trying to figure out our roles with each other – where does husband and wife fit in with caregiver and patient?! We both have had to go through some freak out moments and time to heal from the whole experience. Cancer changes people. Not just the patient but everyone in the family. It’s been frustrating and scary and yet exciting and wonderful to take our commitment to each other and fall in love with who we both are today. Our marriage is held together with so much Holy Ghost Duct Tape – there’s not much that could break us apart now 😍

Yep. This sure has been a journey. A painful yet joyous roller coaster journey. 5 years. There’s so much more to share…. I’ve been pretty quiet over the last couple years….. I have a feeling, that may change. 😉 I think I’m ready to start speaking again.

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Silence

When did noise become a prime value for the Church?  Certainly as human beings our capacity to create noise and maintain it has grown exponentially in the last century.  We invest in state of the art sound and video systems.  We carefully choreograph our worship services to ensure that there is not a moment of silence.  We are encouraged to soak in worship music during our “quiet” times.  I recently saw a social media post in which the author was lamenting the lack of passion that he/she perceived in the worship of others.  The comments made it pretty clear that the overall measure of passionate worship was the noise and activity of the worshipers.  I would imagine that they would find an hour of silent worship before God unbearable. (For my pastor friends perhaps this is a challenge, hold a worship service of silence before God and let me know how it works out.)  Now don’t get me wrong, making a joyful noise to the Lord certainly has its place in our spiritual repertoire, I just think that worshiping in silence does too.

Peter Scazzaro quotes Dallas Willard in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.

Silence strips us of the insulation between God and ourselves and between ourselves and ourselves.  This is a daunting place to be.  It is a place of revelation.  Ask Elijah.

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:12

The Hebrew word translated “gentle blowing” here is daq.  It evokes the picture of a think layer of fine dust.  In Exodus it is used to describe the coating of manna found in the morning.  Scazzaro asserts that this can be correctly translated as silence.  My knowledge of Hebrew idioms is not sufficient to fully agree.  However I am sure you can find some dust at home (if not we have plenty).  Go find some dust and focus on it.  Hear the sound it makes and spend some time listening to God.

 

 

 

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Priority

“What, then, is the connection between the priority of God and worship?  Worship is essentially about the priority of God.  It is predicated upon the reality of God’s being in the supreme position in relation to everything that exists in the created order.  Worship is personal, human expression of that relationship by which we honor God as supreme.  The results of such worship include a greater understanding of who this unique God is and an increased desire to make Him first in all of life.”

Bruce Leafblad

PRIORITY vs priorities.  If God is not my Priority than all of my priorities are going to be messed up.

“And he is head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy.  For God is pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things…”  Colossians 1:18-20a

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