Tag Archives: worship

all things new

I suffer from stage fright. I have for as long as I can remember–well, at least back to my days of violin lessons. One of the objectives of Suzuki method is to get children used to performing by frequent recitals starting at young ages. Since I started at age 9, maybe it was already too late for me. Playing in groups was fine, quartets, great, no problem. Duets…well, uncomfortable. But solo, even with accompaniment, was difficult. As I’ve gotten older, it’s only gotten harder, probably simply because the opportunities are not as great.

This past Sunday I served on our music team at church. This is not unusual; I serve as a vocalist every 4-8 weeks. I enjoy it immensely. I love to harmonize and see myself more as a vocal instrumentalist than a song leader. I don’t think this is how our worship leader has seen me. The past few times I’ve served, he has designated that I should sing X part on X song and asked me to work out with the other female vocalist who will lead a given song. I have always practiced my part and deferred to the other female vocalist. Then came the email for last Sunday. First off, I was the only experienced female on the team. The other woman is completely new. I knew I was going to have to take more of a front seat singing.  Next, there were 3 brand new songs–lots to learn and become competent on. Then came the note attached to the brand new song, “All Things New: “Lisa, I would like you to take the lead on this song.” Bam. Bye-bye peace of mind, hello turmoil.

I applied myself to learning the new music, and Nicol Sponberg’s song especially. All Things New turned out to be an unexpected gift to my preparations. The chorus goes:

So we watch and we wait and we hope and we pray
You will come and make all things new
And we won’t be afraid as we long for the day
You will come and make all things new
Come and make all things new*

As I practiced it began to dawn on me that stage fright is not something God wants me suffer from. I certainly have a lot of responsibility in this area–I need to prepare my voice, learn the music, be able to sing my part when other voices and instruments are assaulting my ears. Then what? I need to rest in the preparations that have been made and ask God to deal with the unnecessary anxiety.

On Sunday, I warmed up my voice, listened to the new music again, drank decaffeinated tea with lemon and honey and prayed “Lord, I’ve done all I can. Please honor my preparations.” During the service, the Lord brought together how I had prepared, His truth about who I am and how pleasing my sacrifice of praise is to Him, and his gracious presence.

At the offertory, I began singing “All Things New.” After a nerve-wracking start (those first two phrases are low!), the truth of Nicol’s words connected with the Lord’s presence within me. Suddenly I had confidence–confidence made possible by my preparations, but coming from Christ’s glorious presence causing me to proclaim the truth of who he is in the offertory song.

Gracious God, thank you for making ME new today. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Let me continually seek the newness of your abundant life in this twisted life here on earth, even as it is perfectly manifested in heaven. Amen.

*Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/nicol-sponberg/all-things-new-lyrics/#WdvTiCzfKJALLVPi.99
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Bringing Our Worship

This is a re-post of a blog entry I did for Church of the Ascension, in Elmhurst, IL.

What are you offering?

What are you offering?

In small churches, our sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence (or absence) can seem erratic. One week we have a “top of the world” worship experience, the next week, we wonder if we imagined it. In a larger church, the sense of the spirit can seem more consistent–either in a positive or negative way. But in a small church it sometimes feels as though we ride the roller coaster of the Spirit rather than turn our sails into the wind of it. Why is this so?

My pet theory on this difference is that it has to do with us, the parishioners. Are we gathering expecting worship to happen, or are we bringing our worship to the gathering?

In Anglican liturgy, after the Peace, we have the Offertory. This offering isn’t just about paying our dues so the bills get paid. It’s about bringing a tangible offering to God in response to all he has already given us. Just like the Israelites offered doves and lambs, we bring gifts of money, our praises, our thanksgivings–and some of us have the privilege of making and bringing the bread and the wine. The Offertory takes place in the middle of the service so that we have a chance to respond to God’s Word. It is actually the beginning of the Eucharist, or the Great Thanksgiving.

What makes this important? It’s a matter of orientation. When we have the attitude that worship is something that happens to us, we simply show up on Sunday and expect God to be there. When we have the attitude that worship and thanksgiving are a response to what God has already done for us, we come to church already in an attitude of worship. And when we come already in an attitude of worship, we bring God with us when we gather…and that makes a huge difference in a small church.

Are you always going to be able to do this? No, you’re not. But if enough of us take on some kind of rite or preparation before coming on Sunday morning we will even out the erratic spirit that can affect a small church and potentially carry a brother or sister who truly needed worship to lift them from where they were at today–just as good worship should.

What can you do to prepare your worship?

  • Make sure you have a quiet time before church.
  • Lay out your clothes ahead of time and dress nicely (just have grace for those who can’t!)
  • Get up by a certain time so you aren’t rushed to get to church.
  • Read the Lectionary ahead of time and mediate on it.
  • Write your check prayerfully, thanking God for his provision this week/month.
  • Sing your favorite worship songs in the car on the way to church.
  • Eat breakfast so you’re not focused on dinner during the service.

What helps you prepare for worship?

Mystery and Unity

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 17: 20-26

I am sitting in the convening convention for the formation of our new diocese and I have been reminded of Jesus’ words to his church for the second time in two days. They are words of mystery and unity. Mysterious because we cannot know how this takes place–that we are a part of Christ and that gives us access to the Father and his own presence within us. Unifying because Jesus says that as we become a part of him, we are caught up together in him to the Father.

Just because Jesus says it is so doesn’t mean we understand it or feel it. Yet this morning, sitting in this “business meeting” of the church, we have had a time of worship where the Lord has been lifted up, has been glorified and I know unity–that it is not simply a theological construct or something known with the mind, but perceived and participated in with my spirit resonating with the Holy Spirit.

This is not something I can explain–I can only acknowledge the mystery. But I thank God that I don’t need to understand it to participate in it and let it refresh me for the next leg of my journey.

CCFrEirikSignsFor more on the Convening Convention, visit www.midwestanglican.org.

 

words and The Word

Dee was right. There are no words.

Last week I was meeting with her and another friend and out of my frustration, I asked for prayer. “For what?” Dee asked. “I don’t know.” I said. “I just know I’m not hearing from God right now and I’m not very happy about it.” Dee prayed and I could tell she was having difficulty understanding what she was trying to pray for. In the end she explained that she had a cat who was very ill. They gave their cat infusions to try and help it to feel better. The cat did not respond well; it was in pain and Dee was making the pain worse. “There was no way I could explain to Kato why I was doing what I was doing. There were no words I could say that he would understand. There are no words for what you are experiencing right now.”

I took this suggestion not only with a grain of salt but with a tablespoon of resentment. I have been very happy with my relationship with God. What is he doing messing it up? As the days have passed, I have only been able to continue to express my frustration to the Lord and confess my resentment, trying to do morning prayer, trying to pray, trying, trying trying.

This morning as I sat with my journal open to a fresh page I realized this was what my Bible was like right now–a book with no words. Yet I am saturated by words every day; words beat me down by their frequency and weight, words I use, to style, to convince and cajole, to “communicate.” There’s also all the internal words, the things I tell myself for better or worse, the conversations I rehearse, the strategies for saving the world I concoct and dismiss. Maybe God is not employing words with me because they have become too common, not rare and exotic enough to explain to me the hurt I am going through right now.

So today I am in a place of acceptance: there are no words. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Along with the words go the conventional forms of meeting with God. Morning prayer’s not doing anything but making me frustrated, prayer times are filled with curbing inner monologues. What’s a Christian to do? Worship the Lord with what is left when you bypass the mind: pray in body & spirit. Almost daily in the last week I have awakened with a song of joy on my lips and heart, despite the resentment. This morning it was a hymn we sang at church on Sunday, which I don’t know very well, which has subsequently come out as “My soul blah blah, the greatness of the Lord! Blah blah, blah blah, blah, blah blah blah blah blah.” The fact that I can’t remember the words hasn’t stopped my soul from singing it! I guess it’s time to pull out the collaging supplies, colored pens and art boards and give myself the space to meet the Lord in the way he’s suggesting: without words.

Another song I’m singing right now, minus a few words.

First-fruits

(c) Lisa Traylor, 2012. Do not use without permission.

The glory of God displayed in nature.

I’ve been ruminating on this quote recently–it is a rich one. it’s reframing the way I see tithing, moving it out of the realm of the obligatory into the scope of worship. It’s helping me to see more clearly that those things I do in service to the Lord and my neighbor are also acts of worship–and a giving of my first fruits. As a bonus, it speaks to my soul about creative acts and how in creating, we imitate our creator. 

 

 

“Man offers the first-fruits of his labour to the Creator of everything in the universe, stars and cornstalks and grains of dust. This is not to say however that man is simply a brutish breaker of furrows, but he labours well in a variety of trades also, with stone and with loom and with oar and with hard and with law-book and with sweet ordering of words and with prism, towards some end which is likewise a kind of harvest. Well he knows that he could not call himself man at all unless he labours all his time under the sun to encompass the end for which his faculties were given to him. This end, whatever the nature of his occupation, is his harvest time; and he would be a poor labourer that would not wish, among all that broken gold, to offer back a tithe or a hundredth into the hands that formed the original fecund dust.”

George Mackay BrownMagnus, as quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer, pg 747.

Lord, let me to see you so clearly as I labor in this life that I cannot help but worship you, imitate you and give you back a measure of what is yours to proclaim your glorious name. Amen.

Big fish

Today in my quiet time I was reflecting on a recent time of worship at Nashota House with Upper Midwest Anglicans who are seeking the Lord about forming a diocese for Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. During the recessional, we were singing “The Churches’ One Foundation” and really belting it out. It was beautiful and exciting and joyful. I asked the Lord if he had anything further for me in this memory. As I stood there with my arms outstretched to receive whatever the Lord offered me, he dropped a big fish into my arms.

WHAT?

“It’s a fish,” the Lord impressed on my mind.

I can see that, I thought, ruefully. (I should mention that this happened imaginatively, not literally.) I’m not sure what kind it is, but it’s huge and oily, head and tail in tact and fully cooked. Maybe it’s oil poached. You’d think it would be breaking my arms, but it’s not. What do you want me to do with this? I wondered. Feeding people was the obvious answer, but a fish? This fish would be a feast for all those gathered there with plenty leftover.

“Kind of like the loaves and fishes,” the Lord slid in.

Except this is one huge fish, not two wee little fush.

“Details,” with a cosmic head wag.

So I’m supposed to feed people. That’s not a surprise. Isn’t that a call to all of us? But why fish? The Lord reminds me of another story, where Jesus is teaching on prayer and tells us that when we ask for eggs and fish our heavenly Father will give them to us, not snakes and scorpions. Then comes a reminder of Hebrews 5–that to survive on spiritual milk is to remain immature. That solid food is needed to grow strong.

So the fish is for these people gathered together here, for those ready for solid food and there’s more than enough to go around.

The Lord remains enegmatic on this point, but I think I hear him chuckling.

I hope what I am offering you is solid food to you. If you have any further insight on why a giant fish has been dropped into my arms, I invite your comments.