In The Midst of Tragedy

As I write this blog, I can't help but feel emotionally drained, and yet still feel the wave of emotions rising back up in my soul. There was a mass shooting at a high school in our county, a high school that was only 10 minutes away from the house that I grew up in. 17 people died. I first heard about it from my sister through our family group chat—"shooting at douglas."

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but when I first read the text I didn't think or feel much about it. Don't get me wrong—I hated that it happened. It's just that we hear about this kind of thing all the time. And I'm ashamed to admit that I'm one of the people that has become desensitized to it. However, recently I've been asking the Holy Spirit to not just fill me, but to let my mind and body be His. He is, after all, the only person of the Godhead Who calls us His dwelling place.

As the day went on, I started to feel a deep burden for the victims, families and friends of the victims, and the countless people who were undoubtedly going to be encountering anxiety and fear in the days and weeks ahead. I started to think about what it would have been like to be there. And I really started to think about the fact that some of these people don't have a relationship with Jesus, and therefore have no hope.  

How sad. How tragic. How utterly devastating. And what in the world can we do about it? 

Well, there are lots of things we can do. But the truth is that anything we do apart from the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit will not bear nearly as much fruit as it will when we are being led by Him. We need to be completely surrendered to Him and willing to do whatever it is that He asks us—whether it feels like too much or too little.

So what do we do when tragedy strikes? What do we do when it hits our homes and families? What do we do when it didn't affect us at all, yet we feel an urgency to do something about it? The very first thing we do is call out to God (Acts 9:31 tell us that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter). He is our ever-present help in time of need and the One who directs our steps.

The second thing we do? Grieve. 

When we grieve, we are actually experiencing a part of the Father's heart. Yesterday as I was watching videos taken from inside one of the classrooms, I felt the Lord remind me that He was there. He was in the hallways, the classrooms, the closets. And He was weeping the entire time.

I KNOW that the Father is weeping over this tragedy and that it breaks His heart to see so many people hurt, scared, hopeless, and lost in darkness. Multiple times throughout scripture we see that Jesus was moved with compassion and grieved with those who were grieving—in John chapter 11, Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. And since we know that the Father desires for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, we know that grieving a tragedy reflects the heart of the Father.

So don't feel bad for grieving. Don't feel weak. Don't feel embarrassed. Grieve. And then ask the Spirit what He wants you to do in response.

Praise God that we have the hope of eternal life with our Heavenly Father and Savior. Even in the midst of the most awful tragedy and deepest mourning, we can still hold onto this promise—that one day we'll stand face-to-face with Jesus and know His unending love for us in a way that's truly incomprehensible. There will be no more sorrow and no more tears. 

Until then, I'm beyond thankful for the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you know and understand His supernatural peace and comfort as you grieve alongside with Him.

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

 

Matt Rodriguez is our Midtown Campus Worship Leader, Resources overseer, and teacher/Discipleship overseer at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. He is an incredible worship leader, mentor, disciple maker and friend. Matt loves community, coffee, and a good challenge.

Vocal Health

Being a musician, speaker or teacher can have a lot of demand on the voice. I’m here to offer some tips on how you can bring health and build endurance to your voice daily. Today, I'll speak from the standpoint of worship leaders, although these points can apply to anyone who is looking to keep their voice healthy!

If you’re a worship leader, you probably have a demanding schedule; back to back meetings, weekly rehearsals, long weekends and on top of that, busy personal lives. And, you may even have to sing when you're ill. 

The following tips are broken into five main points: considering vocal training, warming up, maintaining physical, spiritual and mental health, supporting your speaking voice, and lastly, cooling down the voice.

Remember, there are other factors that play a role in the health of your voice. I’ll list some but won’t go into detail today. If you’re interested in tips for specific ailments, comment in the section below and I can dedicate a blog to it! 

Some simple and more common factors include, acid reflux, post nasal drip, allergies, thyroid issues, singing at extreme ranges for long periods of time, smoking, drinking, yelling, whispering, chronic fatigue, hormone imbalance and habitual throat clearing.

 

Consider Vocal Training: I highly recommend investing in private voice lessons. When you learn how the vocal mechanism works and you develop the technique to sing effortlessly, quality is gained in the voice without push or strain.

Private voice lessons can give you tools that build strength, control, and a specific language so that you can guide other vocalists. As you build on your strengths, you improve weakness. This is accomplished through tailored exercise regimens and songs to apply a new technical approach. 

The value is worth the investment if you find a teacher that’s right for you. As a voice teacher myself, I find that the empowerment, encouragement, and breakthroughs are not always just in the voice but more importantly, in the mind or in the soul. From there, true communicators come alive and the impact of the gift God has given means more than just being a good singer. 

You can rest and you relax in finding your own voice. Each person has something unique to offer in the very tone of their singing voice and lessons can be part of that discovery. You can ease the frustration to push your voice to sound like someone else and instead bring health to the voice by singing in your own unique range of strengths.

 

Vocalizing 10-20 Minutes Each Day: In regards to keeping a healthy voice, getting into a basic routine of warming up and vocalizing each day will be like going to the gym for your vocal cords. You don’t start a run without stretching and slowly working up your heart rate first. The same goes with singing. You work your way up to a workout. Stretch, walk, jog, run and then cool down. 

Think of it this way, like anytime you decide to start going to the gym, you may find it hard to get the momentum to do it. Your body is weak in the beginning stages. You’re tired, excuses run wild in your head, the temptation to quit rears its ugly head but then you find you’re gaining more control in your muscles, things are getting easier, you see results and begin to enjoy the process. 

So, you have to look at vocal training the same way. Getting into the habit of warming up and stretching out the voice before you start your day not only extends your vocal abilities, but builds endurance. You learn you can do more by just warming up, and then you set yourself up for a less frustrating work out. As I said earlier, taking lessons can bring you a tailored regimen for your specific needs, but I’ll give you a basic idea where you can start.

First, it’s important that you remember that you stay relaxed and let your voice “wake up” and “find itself”. Be mindful of how loud you are. It’s better to have a natural speech level volume then too loud, or you’ll be tired before you even get started! 

Start in your head voice by simply sighing so you’re finding your voice, not reaching for notes. I like to have people start here, because it’s light and natural just to sigh. It’s most important for males to open up their head voice because you never get into that space the majority of the time. 

Start humming in a comfortable range without squeezing or pushing. I like to hum on short slides or walk up and down on a five tone scale. This is just to get the cords to vibrate with ease, move away any mucus that builds up at times, and find a good balance of airflow.

Next, you can do lip rolls or rolling your tongue on slides from the bottom of your range to the top and then from the top to the bottom. This helps stretch and relax the vocal cords, opens up the throat to release muscle tension, and gets an energetic breath engaged.

Start doing sounds that require opening up the mouth. Sounds like "goo" or "hoo" help access your upper register. It’s best to start with sliding so that you can focus on relaxing the throat and releasing any heaviness you may feel from the bottom register. Again, this opens up the head voice with more focus and intention. You don’t want to move on until you can do a slide on "hoo" without your throat constricting. 

Walk up and down your range saying "muh muh muh." Letting your voice ease into each part of your vocal range. Don’t think about hitting notes but instead, inflecting your voice as you ascend and descend. A good example of inflection would be when you get excited about seeing someone, you may say “Oh hi! It’s so good to see you!” You want the same approach when you ascend in pitch. If you approach it this way, you avoid bringing a tightness to your throat in an attempt to reach, and instead you simply find the notes. Lastly, you can start humming, lip rolling or rolling your tongue (like rolling your rr in Spanish) on the melody of a song. This prepares you to sing intervals in a melody so when you go to sing the song, it’s already easier!

 

Hydration, Rest, Healthy Diet, Exercise and Stress Relief: With any instrument, the way you care for it is going to determine the longevity and quality it gives you. Some simple rules; if it hurts, don’t sing, if you’re sick, don’t sing, but if you absolutely have to sing, then sing with what you have, and not with as much as you usually give. Change the key of song if it just doesn’t feel comfortable. Be kind to yourself, have compassion on your voice, and don’t bully or manipulate it to do what it’s not ready to do. Hydration is key, so if you don’t like to drink water, add cucumber, mint, lemon or oranges to make it more desirable. Use steam or take showers before you have to sing to hydrate externally. When you’re dehydrated, the muscles don’t move as smoothly and comfortably.

Get plenty of quality rest! We have four main phases of sleep, the third and fourth being the most regenerative. According to the National Sleep Foundation, if sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Your voice is an actual mechanism of tissue and muscle, so getting to those phases are necessary for daily restoration. You may notice the voice may sound and feel weak, fatigued or slightly hoarse after a late night. Try to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep.

Feed your body with foods that keep your body running. Run your body to clear your mind, discipline your urges and gain a more functional system. Most people know by now that a healthy diet and exercise can help you loose weight, feel better and de-stress. I think it’s a really important step to keeping your voice healthy. When you eat foods that feed your cravings instead of your body, your body gets inflamed, you can fall pray to illness, you loose energy, can get depressed and all these things show on your voice. 

The voice is so special. It’s an instrument that carries a message with it. Because the voice is a literal part of us, it can reveal the state of our soul, mind, and body. So, we must nurture all three so that we can truly sing with ease and honesty. When you’re excited, your voice has a life to it. When you’re scared it can lock up, shake, or even change in pitch. When you’re sick, the voice can become hoarse, weak and fragile. When you’re stressed, your whole body tightens up, you’re not mentally present, you may lose sleep, the body breaks down into illness and because of this, you’ll find your voice is affected. It’s so important to find ways to alleviate stress through prayer, worship, exercise, sleep, breathing techniques or doing any activity that calms you. Have you ever noticed that on super busy weeks, singing isn’t as easy?

 

Supporting The Speaking Voice/Vocal Naps/Avoiding Overuse: The majority of people who use their voices more than the average person aren’t aware that the amount they speak throughout the day impacts the quality and health of their vocal cords. It may be necessary for you to schedule vocal rests depending on what your day looks like. If you have back to back meetings, try to speak less and listen more. You may need to give yourself at least 10-15 vocal breaks in between daily events. Look at your schedule and plan out silent breaks. Try this for a month and see if it makes a difference. Sometimes it’s a challenge to speak less, but I promise it will be a humbling experience. There are different reasons why some people speak poorly. For some, it’s speaking way too heavy (their voice sounds dark and far back in the throat), some speak on shallow breaths, others just speak too loudly. Whatever the case may be, a speaking or singing style that strains the voice causes swelling, which overtime turns into callouses if not corrected. 

 

Cooling Down And Resetting Before Bed: Lastly, but most importantly, it’s incredibly beneficial to get into the habit of cooling down the voice. Think of it this way, when you finish an exercise regimen you don’t just stop and sit for the rest of the day. You walk to decrease your heart rate and stretch to aid in the restoration of your muscles. Think of moments where you may speak for long periods of time, perform or practice a song, vocalize the voice (doing specific sounds on scales that strengthen the voice), or have a long stressful day as the “exercise regimens” for your voice. Basically, cooling down from these moments restores your voice, mind, and body to a relaxed state while aiding in restoration. 

There are a lot of ways to cool down the voice, and when you find a few that really work to relax you, you can stick with those. I’ll teach you a couple that you can start with. The goal is to go from full effort to gradually no effort at all.

Assuming you know what lip rolls are (rolling your lips like a baby, the sound of a motor boat, a continual bububuh), start with just falling down from the very top of your range to the bottom. Then without stopping the slide, ascend with a fast paced slide then slowing down the pace and tapering off the range as you go. I picture this like a car that shuts off while you’re driving it. Slowly, the car looses speed and continues to slow down until finally, it completely stops. By the end of this, you are hardly giving any effort to make the sound and you’re relaxed to the point of going to bed.

Next, do a couple sighs and effortless hums while massaging your neck and jaw. It’s important that you’re not trying to prove something here. Focus on releasing any weight you may feel on the throat and tension anywhere in the body. Sighs are good to do because you’re not trying to “produce” or reach for a note. 

This last one might be strange, but this is a go to for me personally. It’s a light easy laugh either with my mouth shut like a "hm hm hm" or open like a "ha ha ha." I like to massage and pull down on the muscles under my chin and throat while doing this. Sometimes when tension builds up during the day, it’s hard to do a light laugh. If you hear a slight crinkle or vocal fry in your tone, that’s a good thing, but no need to force that to come, or again you’re still trying to produce something. 

Lastly, just take deep slow breaths in, hold for a few seconds, then exhale all of your air out (keeping your throat open and relaxed like a yawn), wait a few seconds, then take a new breath. Repeat this and focus only on your breath coming in and going out. Finish with a yawn and a sigh! You’ll be ready for bed or de-stressed for the day! 

If you’re consistent in the care of your voice, body, mind, and soul while being mindful of these things; ease in your speaking voice, gaining knowledge through voice lessons, warming up with a specific vocal regimen, and cooling down, then you’ll find that your voice endures! 

Check out the links below for further reference! 

Duke Vocal Care Center:  https://www.uu.edu/dept/music/library/safety/VocalHealthInformation.pdf 

Swelling Test: https://www.voicedoctor.net/therapy/vocal-overdoers-and-benign-mucosal-disorders

 

Myriah Jones is a voice teacher and head of the Vocal Department at Oceans Edge School of Worship. She is an amazing singer, worship leader, teacher, mentor and disciple maker!

Creating A Culture Of Honor - Part 2

Last year I had the opportunity to share some of the revelation that God was showing us regarding creating a culture of honor. (Scroll down to view Part 1). As we step into a new year, we wanted to bring attention back to this topic in order to dig in a little deeper. As we consider this topic again, I pray that we will allow God to evaluate and transform us in this area of thinking, as He reveals more of the fullness of His will for our relationships with one another. 

As we first examined the concepts of Biblical honor, we learned that honor is having “this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5) It is having the same love, thoughts, behaviors and actions toward others as Christ has for us. In light of this, honor should be the foundation for how we form our actions, words, thoughts and decisions in our relationships. Seeing others through the lens of honor requires an entire mindset shift about the position we hold in relationship to one another and the kingdom of heaven. Receiving and understanding the position of honor that God has granted us is necessary before we are able to give the same honor away. And when we actually do fully receive the position of honor that God has granted us through His Son, everything is touched by it’s effects.  

If you are a born-again believer in Christ, I want to continue by reminding you of a few things. You have been given a brand new identity. (2 Cor. 2:17) You are no longer dead in sin, you are now alive in Christ. (Col. 1:13) You are no longer bound to sin, you are free from it. (Rom. 6:6) You are no longer a mere man or woman - living for yourself; You are a chosen ambassador for the kingdom of heaven on the earth - His life living through you. (2 Cor. 5:20) I remind you of these things because we will never be able to stand in our true identity and purpose unless we first know and receive them from God.

As the body of Christ, we are the glory (or expressed knowledge) of God on the earth. When God originally created man, He put His very life (breath) in man. We were designed to be an exact reflection of His heart and kingdom on the earth. Man’s sin marred this image, but when Christ took sin upon Himself and overcame death, He restored God’s image back to those who put their faith in Him. These truths help us to understand WHY honor must be a foundational practice and mindset in all of our relationships. Loving one another through honor is a primary desire of God’s heart for His people because it is a natural reflection of Him. The cultures we develop at our churches, homes, friendships, on our twitter feeds or trips to the grocery store are to literally mirror heaven, as His life is lived through us. 

Colossians 2:6-7 says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” I want us to take this passage to heart and respond in obedience in this area of loving one another through honor. Will you join me in purposing to develop a culture of honor in the relationships around you? If so, it is going to take intention, faith and surrender.  

Intention:

Actively pursue the knowledge of God and His kingdom by studying His Word and spending time talking with and listening to Him. If we are to reflect His heart, we must know and understand it!  

Faith:

By faith, put on the new image we have been gifted through Christ. Choose to believe that you are appointed, able, and purposed for the giving of His kingdom to the world. Receive His love for you so that you can give it away to those around you in like manner.

Surrender:

As we walk by faith, we allow His life to be lived through us. Enjoy the miraculous grace that comes from swift obedience to God’s promptings in your heart and mind concerning your thinking, speech and actions toward others. Continually surrender your own life to His life in you. 

The process of learning about Biblical honor has taught me that I still have a lot to learn, but I know that just means that there is freedom ahead! My mind is in need of renewal, therefore I have learned to continue in the pursuit of understanding while Holy Spirit is transforming me. Will you join me?

We would love to hear what God is speaking to you in this area. Please let us know what He is showing you and how you are applying it in your own life!

 

Jessica Busboom is the Director of Oceans Edge School of Worship, and the Worship Leader for Eikon, both ministries of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. She is an amazing wife, friend, sister, daughter, and mentor to many. 

Soul-Keeping In Ministry

Mark 6

He was surrounded by a large crowd of people, and Jesus sent them all away. He turned them back. The sick, the hurting, the hungry, and the needy were turned away from the Savior and sent back to where they were from. This doesn’t sound like my Lord, is this really in the Bible? Why would Jesus do that?

There are some weeks that seem to end only a moment after they’ve started. The time in a day flies by, and it’s easy to feel as if only a portion of what needed to be done has been accomplished. And while responsibilities need to be maintained, the people in our community have countless needs that still haven’t been met. There are lost, broken, discouraged, and lonely people yearning for community. There are young believers waiting to be mentored. Add into that equation the invitations to get-togethers, parties, catch-ups, and Bible-studies that make their way onto the calendar. Amidst all of these things, we somehow find the time to eat and sleep, but tending to the human soul is often the area that is overlooked. That’s because the warning signs of an unhealthy soul are often hard to detect, but a soul unkept will lead to a life ineffective for the work of the Gospel. 

Jesus said Himself in Matthew 20 that He came "to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." His purpose on this planet was to give Himself away. But our Lord knew that without a healthy soul, He would be ineffective in His mission. All throughout the Gospel, we see Jesus stepping away from the masses in order to spend time with His Father, rest, and prepare for the next opportunity to minister. Though His heart for the people was perfect and unconditionally loving (something we can’t say about ourselves!), the greatest act of love He could offer them at the time was to say no, for a better yes at a later time.

1. Every time we say “yes” to one thing, we say “no” to another.

For some people, it’s just hard to say no. We like to give, offer ourselves, and be available at any moment. But for every yes, there is a no. An effective worker for the kingdom of God isn’t someone who fills every hour of the day. Though a busy day leaves me feeling accomplished, a healthy and successful ministry is not about squeezing into every moment an action or interaction. Jesus had relationship with His Father and listened to Him. He is faithful to tell us when to commit, and when to decline for the sake of doing the better thing. In Luke 10, Mary was found at the feet of Jesus, worshipping Him. But the Word says that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” Oh how such a good thing can keep us from the best thing. When we serve the Lord and one another, we reflect His heart. But don’t miss God’s call to step away and refuel when He calls you.

2. Just because you’re filling a need, doesn’t mean you’re filling it the right way.

Offering an unhealthy “you" could be robbing someone of the ministry God has prepared for them. When I’ve neglected my time with the Lord and my moments of rest, I’m much more prone to dropping all those fruits of the Spirit. Peace leaves first. Patience quickly follows. And joy jumps ship like a coward soon after. I’m more prone to answer back in frustration, lose the love of what I get to do, and grow weary in the process. Though I’m present for the need, I’m filling it with a leaky bucket. Washing a car with dirty water may make it wet, but it certainly won’t end up clean. Take time to allow Jesus to switch out your filter and wash you in the water of the Word (Eph. 5:26). 

3. You cannot advertise a cure to something that you yourself are dying from.

When we minister to those around us, we preach a Jesus that makes our yokes easy and our burdens light. We sing songs of healing, peace, and rest. And perhaps the people that need to sing those songs the most are us! I wouldn’t accept cleanliness tips from someone that doesn’t bathe. And I wouldn’t take financial advice from someone who’s broke. Our message of rest is hypocritical and loses value when the message hasn’t even done its work in us. A worship leader, pastor, or ministry worker who doesn’t take care of their soul is a classic example of the blind leading the blind. You’ll certainly lead them somewhere, but not every destination is a green pasture by still water. You cannot bring someone somewhere that you haven’t been. How can we advertise a cure to something when we haven’t truly found it ourselves? 

How are you at soul-keeping? The Lord may be calling you to do less for the sake of the better thing. He truly cares for your soul. The Messiah-complex of “saving everyone who needs help,” will only mislead people, and burn you out. Plus, if the Messiah himself needed to retreat from the masses in order to spend time with His Father and be renewed for future ministry, then it seems as if we need it as well. Sometimes it can seem impossible to keep up appearances, fulfill man’s expectations, and finish our own daunting checklist. Drop the appearances, let go of those expectations, and let the Lord tell you what the day holds.

 

Bobby Bemis is the Fort Lauderdale Campus Worship Leader here at Calvary Chapel. Bobby is an incredible songwriter, singer and musician, teacher of the Word, and worship leader. He also loves ice cream!

Nurturing Creativity

NURTURE: To care for and encourage growth or development.

Here are three things we need in order to nurture a community of creativity:

1) WE NEED A START

I know this seems obvious, but without a spark of inspiration or a small idea or thought, we simply don’t have anything to nurture.  

A couple of years ago, I was in the market for a new car. After a time of scouring AutoTrader.com and looking around town, I found a Hyundai Sonata in my price range that looked like a fancy Jaguar. What I began to notice after purchasing it and driving it around was that A LOT of people have them too. The point is this, before buying my car I had never seen one before. Correction, I had seen them, but I had no need to pay attention to them. 

This is very much the same as the beginning of songs, once we set our minds and hearts to ‘seeing’ ideas for songs, we see them everywhere. Just like my Sonata. 

I once heard these initial elements called “Song Seeds” and I loved it! These seeds can be found anywhere and they primarily come in 5 forms:

Lyrics - these can come from prayers, reading, sermons, books, movies

Melody - a series of notes played in succession

Rhythm - could be a groove played, or a rhythm of notes you like

Chords - can come from another song, or playing/practicing, creating a new sequence 

Concepts - these are themes we would like to write about, e.g. love of the Father, God has sustained us etc.

Each of us usually has one specific Seed that we see most often - mine are lyrics. But all of them are the right way to start a song! Collect often, pray for them often, and allow yourself to catch that spark of inspiration no matter where it comes from. 

2) WE NEED TO INVEST TIME

I touched on this in one of the last blogs I wrote, but often we water a seed, we spend time on it, we add to the melody, chords, lyrics, etc., but sometimes it is hard to see the growth come quickly. We may find ourselves getting stuck and/or frustrated. I can honestly say that I’ve been there and struggled to come back from it.

But here is what I have learned; every time I invest into a song, even if I think nothing has come of it and it seems the same at the end as when I began, I choose to think that I am thirty minutes closer to the song being finished. I might have three hours of approaching the song and leaving empty-handed before it grows into something beautiful, but I have to see the process through, and even see the empty handedness as okay and not get frustrated by it.

3) WE NEED OTHERS

For me, the best way to nurture creativity is through community. We as humans were built by God for community. We need each other! We need the wisdom of others, we need other’s strengths to meet our weaknesses, we need to receive words of encouragement and we need to give them.

I know that sharing the things you have created with others can be frightening. What we have to do is trust that the product of a healthy creative community far outweighs and outshines the product that can come from us alone.

We have to remind each other that we are all on the same team, that we are all fulfilling the commandment of “singing a new song to the Lord”, we need to celebrate one another, and rejoice in every song seed, every thirty minute 'empty handed’ session, and sing aloud each others triumph in completing a song.

I personally have a few like-minded creatives around me that I run everything by. I trust them, their opinions and their unique gifts. I also trust them to hold me accountable to my creativity. It is in this atmosphere that my creativity grows and is nurtured to a greater level then it could have ever been by myself.

 

Jennie Reynolds is the Artist Track teacher at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. She is an excellent teacher, music artist, musician, wife and friend. Learn more about Jennie

Balancing Home Life With Ministry Life

Have you ever noticed something out of order? Maybe it’s not alphabetical, or not color-coded in the right way - whatever it is, it sticks out because it’s not ordered correctly.

God has a created order for us, and it’s good. We can trust it and rest in it. That doesn’t mean there is not going to be tension, but in the tension we can understand our priorities in the areas God has blessed us.

If you have a family and are blessed to be a leader serving others, you know the tension of leading your marriage and family well, and leading a ministry area or non-profit well. The beauty is in the pursuit of balance. Our home life and ministry life are not enemies, and don’t have to be at war with one another, but we are stewards of both, and at times one may require more attention than the other.   

Balance is a constant struggle, and sometimes feels like an unattainable goal. So instead of balance, look for health. God has set our marriage above all other earthly relationships, and our relationship with our kids next. Scripture tells us to look for and empower men and women who have healthy homes and marriages. When a family is right in their relationships, we can trust those same leaders to steward health in the family of God.

Problems arise when we treat home and ministry as independent entities, when they should be intertwined. If our spouses and children are bought into the mission of the ministry, they will embrace the community of the Church and that creates relational health! But if home isn’t right, and leaders continue to serve the church, they are careening down a path towards a destroyed home and marriage. If I’m not first serving my spouse and then my kids, how can I serve the Church-the very Bride of Christ?

I’ve created a short list of questions to ask yourself if there is health at home. Honest responses will show you where God is calling for growth, repentance or change!

  1. Am I, my spouse and children personally connected to Christ through His Word, through prayer and the Spirit?
  2. Is my home under the covering of God through my local church? In other words, do we sit under the teaching of a pastor’s pulpit, embrace the accountability in community and submit ourselves to pastoral authority?
  3. If you asked my spouse or kids where they ranked in importance compared to the ministry, what would they answer?  
  4. Who gets your best? Home or ministry?
  5. When I’m home, am I fully present or am I disconnected from my family while being around them?
  6. If there’s a conflict of time or attention, who usually wins? Home or ministry?

I pray that you would hear the voice of the Lord in these questions - His heart for us is health and wholeness. He doesn’t call us to sacrifice our marriages and kids on the altar of the Church. He wants our marriages and families to be healthy, so we can serve others and be an example to the believers in Word and deed!

 

Andrew Wooddell serves as the Worship Pastor of Calvary Music and Executive Director of Ocean's Edge School of Worship. He is an excellent musician, and a loving husband and father. Learn more about Andrew.

What To Do When Your Church Is Not Responding

Picture this; you, the Worship Leader have spent hours planning and praying through your worship set to make sure you have the right songs for your church in the right keys for your team. From there, you’ve spent even more time rehearsing with your band to get all the transitions and other seemingly minor but essential details squared away. But now you’re walking off the stage after worship asking yourself, “What just happened? Why wasn’t anyone singing? I didn’t even do a new song!”

I believe we can all identify with this situation. We've all been there! And if you are like me, you instantly question everything you thought you knew; your gifting, your calling, etc. But I have good news for all of us, it doesn’t have to stay like this.

I believe that participation in church comes from, and is dependent upon, the health of the relationship between a church and its worship leader(s). And just like a relationship between a close friend or a spouse, a healthy relationship only comes from meaningful conversation and intentional time spent with one another. In other words, you need to know a person and be known by that person for a healthy relationship to exist. So that means, participation from your congregation starts in the hallway, the fellowship hall, or wherever it is that the church is together and interacting with one another. Without meaningful conversation with your church body, you cannot fully lead them.

Now, I understand that this can be a daunting concept. Whether you lead worship at a church of 15 people or 15,000 people, initiating intentional conversation can be difficult. Let’s be real, the numbers can scare us! If you’re an introvert like me, you might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to have meaningful relationships with everyone in my church?!” The answer: one at a time.

North Point Pastor Andy Stanley puts it this way, "Do for one what you wish you could do for many." The weekly challenge I have set for myself is to have one new intentional conversation a weekend. As each week goes by, I continue building relationship with those I have previously met while also being intentional to meet another person. By doing this I put aside the overwhelming and impractical pressure to meet everyone in a given weekend.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to go and spill your guts to every member of your church (that can come off as insincere and a little needy), but you do need to have conversations that go beyond the small talk that we often find ourselves defaulting to. A few ways to do this are:

1)   Keep the conversation moving! Ask questions that warrant more than a “yes” or “no” answer.

2)   Keep it specific! Ask them about their passions. What do they like?

3)   Listen first, speak second. No matter how awkward it may feel, don’t make the conversation about you.

4)   Give them your undivided attention! Make eye contact. Put away your phone! This shows that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say!

One thing that I have found to be beneficial in this journey is to include my team in it too. In doing this, we as a team are capable of meeting and loving on more people than any one person ever could. Every once in a while, we have a couple people in the green room share who they have met from the congregation recently, and they share something they learned about that person. We then get to celebrate the things God is doing in our church together.

Know that none of this happens overnight. We need to remember that in ministry, we’re playing the “long game”. We’re not looking for the shallow relationships that come from quick temporary results, but rather, we are holding out for healthy and lasting relationships that in time will stretch far beyond the four walls of the church.

God has placed you both physically and geographically where you are to love His people. No one else is exactly where you are, and no one has greater potential to influence the people God has put in your church. Let’s love His church well! Let a unified and involved worship experience be the byproduct of a church that loves each other well.

 

 

Zach Reynolds is the Worship Leader at the Calvary Boynton Beach Campus. Zach is an excellent leader, husband to Jennie, musician, songwriter, and he also teaches at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. Follow Zach on Twitter.

 

 

A Matter Of Time

Psalm 139: 7-12

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me,

And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”

Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,

But the night shines as the day;

The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

 

As a child I used to play hide-and-seek with my parents. I remember racking my brain in search of the most ridiculous, inconspicuous, and dangerous inlets and corners within the house to stump my parents. We weren’t a family of abundant means, but a child cannot always assess distinctions between a 1,500 square foot apartment and a medieval palace – especially when the powers of imagination are at work.

I must say that I made the most of that space. I remember performing all sorts of crazy contorting feats with my tiny body to elude my parents, from scaling the harrowing shelves of Mt. Linen Closet, to shrinking down to near microscopic size to fit into my entertainment center cabinet. But no matter how much creativity I could muster, there were only so many possible hiding places and only so many positions in which I could place myself. They always found me. Being found out was my fate. Of course, it never stopped me from trying. I was always willing to push the limits, even though it never ended in surrender from my parents.

Okay, corny analogy alert: in many ways, I still feel like that little boy hiding from my Dad. I know that He has me; I know that He knows me better than anyone else, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to hide my weaknesses. I often think to myself, if God is invisible and if He normally doesn’t audibly reply, then why is it so hard to tell Him the truth? Am I doomed to repeat the cycles of inauthenticity and complacency in my spiritual life, just so that I can remain comfortable?

The truth is, the love of God is so magnetic that it is inescapable. In Psalm 139’s grand exposition, David gives us insight into one of the most beautiful mysteries of God. In Romans 8:39, we find that no power in heaven or hell can ever separate us from His love. This means that as His children, even our straying and our weakness puts us on a collision course with the divine. We are constantly heading toward the very thing our flesh pushes against; the transformative love of God.

Does this mean that we sin in hopes that we might be closer to Him? Does this mean that we purposely wander off because He will inevitably find us? The answer in scripture is a resounding “no”. In Romans 2:4, the Apostle Paul poses an important question: “do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” The truth is that when our spirits truly acknowledge that this is how much God loves us – when we truly grasp this reality – it compels us to do nothing else but respond. That is the space in which we meet God. When I was a near-atheist a few years ago, I reached a point where I had to earnestly ask God to show Himself to me objectively. He revealed Himself from every angle imaginable; using people, science, and the experiences I knew to draw me back home. This is why the Gospel is such amazing news for us. We can be assured not only that we always have a path home, but also that God Himself meets us on the path and walks us back to safety.

Where do you find yourself today? Do you feel as though God is detached and unconcerned? Do you feel that you are hiding yourself from Him, in fear of the pain of vulnerability? Maybe you are a Christian, but feel lost beyond the point of being found by the love of God. My prayer today is that the Holy Spirit will lead you to the pursuing, relentless love of Christ that pulls you toward Him at every step. May you be encouraged in knowing that the hand that holds you will not let go.

 

Vagner Lage is our Plantation Campus Worship Leader. He graduated from Southeastern University and is an avid fútbol fan, a great musician, husband, and friend. Follow him on Twitter.

Song Story // Still You Are Good

And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” -Exodus 15:21

"As good as this song is, how much better it would have been had it been sung before the Red Sea parted, had it been sung by the children of Israel before they were rescued." - A Pillar By Day, June 11

This is an excerpt from a devotion that was sent to me last year - I’ve attached it at the end of this post because it truly is a beautifully written invitation to us, and the invitation given is where the song ‘Still You are Good’ came from.

Exodus 15 - its the song sung by the Israelites after they have walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. We read their joy, their praise, and their gratefulness of the miracle that they have just experienced, that once again their God was faithful and that their deliverance came. 

I have sung many of those songs in my own life - financial provision, healing, deliverance - but if I am honest, I think I have yet to sing the same song when faced with an un-parted red sea. The response of the Israelites to being enclosed with a wall of sea and Egyptians behind them was panic - and that very same response is what I often see in myself. 

The grace of God, however, always invites us to make a different choice. I believe the choice for us is to praise Him before our seas ever part and to praise Him even if they never do. We know that God is Good, that He is for us, is the great I Am, Alpha and Omega, all powerful, all loving, full of grace, and full of mercy. He is also the same yesterday, today, and forever. Which means that He is worthy of praise today, worthy of praise tomorrow, worthy on this side of our unpainted sea, and worthy, if by His mercy, we get to cross it. 

So, this is the decision I want to make, to be found singing of God's goodness when it's not looking good, to be found trusting in an unfailing Hope even if things don’t look hopeful. To be found praising Him while faced with the impossible. And to confess that if not, He is still good. 

 

Daily Devotional - June 11

And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. -Exodus 15:21

As good as this song is, how much better it would have been had it been sung before the Red Sea parted, had it been sung by the children of Israel before they were rescued.

To you who are boxed in, with your back to the Red Sea, this is your moment; now is your opportunity for greatness. You see, once the Red Sea parts - once the financial crisis is over, the relationship is restored, the disease is healed - you will no longer have before you the opportunity for greatness. Then you can be grateful, but only now can you be great.

When the hour was dark, when nothing was externally right, there in the middle of a black, bleak night, what did Paul and Silas do? They sang songs of praise. And so intriguing was this to their fellow prisoners that when an earthquake caused the prison doors to open, they chose to stay in the dungeon with Paul and Silas rather than to flee, to remain imprisoned physically in order that their souls might be set free (Acts 16).

So too, you who are in a dungeon financially, relationally, or physiologically have a unique opportunity to show us greatness. And once this experience is over, you’ll never have the same opportunity again. 

“I want to be like David,” we say. “I’d like to grab some stones and nail Goliath.” You can. There’s a huge giant before you, a giant headache, a giant heartache, a giant problem. Are you going to be like Saul and his men, murmuring and complaining, depressed and discouraged? Or are you going to praise the Lord in the face of the giant who seems to stomp up and down the valley of your life day after day? Ninety-nine percent of people will choose to be like Saul. This is your chance, however, to be a David. 

The difficulties in the lives of any great man or woman in Scripture weren’t pleasant, weren’t easy. We know how their stories end - Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, Jeremiah, David, and Paul - but when they were living out their stories, their trials were every bit as brutal as your situation. Yet, they chose by God’s grace to be great, to be heroic. And we are the richer for it.

When there’s an ugly giant before you, or prison bars all around you, it’s your chance to be great. Don’t miss it, because, although opportunities for greatness come to everyone, they usually only come once or twice in a lifetime. Will your story be one of mediocrity, or one of greatness? It all depends on what you do this side of the Red Sea.

 

This Daily Devotional is an excerpt from the book "A Pillar By Day" by Pastor Jon. "A Pillar By Day" is a collection of 365 short devotions from the Old Testament books of Genesis through Deuteronomy.If you would like your own copy of "A Pillar By Day" you may click here to go to the SearchLight Store.

Song Story // Higher Than I

SONG STORY – HIGHER THAN I

 PSALM 61
1
Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
5 For You, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.
6 You will prolong the king’s life,
His years as many generations.
7 He shall abide before God forever.
Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows.

I first read this Psalm in 2013. It wasn’t the first time that I had read it, but it was the first time that the words came alive in my heart. It was a simple prayer of deliverance that I found myself uttering just as the psalmist David had done hundreds of years before.

As a songwriter there are moments we have that we long to capture in song, and this for me was one of them. The words "higher than I" to me longed to be sung. So I logged it in a book of ongoing ideas, and there it remained until April 2014.

I know the date because this is when for us at Calvary Chapel, our hearts grew heavy and overwhelmed, just as the psalm described, with the announcement that our senior Pastor at the time would step down due to moral failure. Our world was shaken, our church very much in shock, and our hearts mourning for that which we had lost.

It was not long after that some of the women from our department were offered a time to meet with Suzanne Sauder, just to allow us to express how each of us were doing and the thoughts and fears we had since the news. We gathered, we shared, and we prayed.

At the end of our time Susanne shared the verse that she had been clinging to. Psalm 61:2;

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I"

Oh how our God is in all things! He knows all things before they ever come to pass. He that will sustain us and carry us, our shelter, forever. In every season we can imagine and every one we could never fathom, still our God will lead us.

The song was finished in 2016. Start till finish, I have seen our God be ONLY faithful. He has never wavered in leading us, He is our shelter even in the unimaginable, and for that He is worthy of all honor and praise.