Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Sing A New Song

Sing to the LORD a new song. And His praise in the congregation of His godly ones.
Psalm 149:1

My husband and I minister together in music on Sunday mornings.  On occasion when we introduce a new song we may hear "feedback" that some members of the congregation are finding the song difficult to learn.  This tends to happen when it is a piece with some syncopation involved. 

As leaders it is important to remember that not everyone shares the same passion or skill set that we have - so be gracious.  It is also critical to remain open so that we can better serve the needs of those we lead.

As I mulled over their comments I began to wonder ...

why are we (including myself) so uncomfortable in the world of learning?

After all we are called to sing a new song - not something we already know.

In fact, in a quick search I found approximately nine references that specifically refer to singing a new song.

It made complete sense that it would take a few weeks to sing the new song with the same confidence and gusto as our familiar favourites.

What I have come to realize is that learning requires vulnerability.

Vulnerability can be especially challenging in a public context.

Even in church we can feel embarrassed when we make mistakes.  When our imperfections are exposed it threatens our pride.  When our ego is wounded we are tempted to hide or defend ourselves by criticizing or blaming others.

Over the years I have missed so many opportunities and experiences because I failed to confront the lie that convinced me that I was not smart or talented enough to even try.

Unfortunately, when we do not excel in one area we rarely focus on all the other strengths and gifts we do have!

I have to thank my dear friend Marcia.  She has taught me to embrace new opportunities even if I do not have a clue what I am doing.

She has encouraged me to dive in, take joy in the discovery and be willing to laugh when I fail. 

That is the real issue, isn't it?

Can we trust God to catch us if we fail?

Is our security in Christ or in our own talents and confidence?

By exposing ourselves to something new this places us in a posture of humility.  

We forget that we are situated in this classroom called Earth in order to learn, not just to prove what we already know.

By putting ourselves in the midst of the unfamiliar we learn the importance of surrender.

We have become a society that celebrates self-reliance. The gospel, however, promotes something radically different. God wants us to learn to lean completely on Him.  

As disciples we must also remain curious.  This is an essential character trait if we want to continue to grow in Christ.

Thoughts For Reflection...

When was the last time you tried something new?

How do you respond when you make a mistake?  What happens when you do not understand something in a group setting?  

Are you easily frustrated and lash out?  Do you come up with an excuse?  Do you give up?  Are you afraid of what others think of you? 

Do you laugh and try again?

Do you tend to stick to things that you know you can excel at?

When was the last time you participated in an activity because you enjoyed it rather than because you were good at it?

Do you allow others to make mistakes so they can grow?

Think back to the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone to try something new - what did it spark inside of you?

Did it energize you?  Inspire creativity?
Let's take the posture of a disciple and learn something new this week.

It doesn't have to take a lot of time or cost money.   It doesn't have to be something radical...like belly dancing (yes I have actually tried this!).

Ideas To Get Started...

Try a new hobby
-Start small with a new fitness activity or receipe

Join a new community group or class
-Check out your local community centre or Neighbour/ Community Meet Up - my husband recently used this site to find a soccer group in our local community.  On this site neighbours connect (meet up) to learn and share in various interests such as careers, hiking, urban gardening, photography...etc.  With everything exercise caution - I recommend to always meet in a public place for safety!

Sit in a different place at church or at your next team meeting  
-By adjusting our routines we place ourselves in a position to view things from a fresh perspective.

Strike up a conversation with someone you do not know very well. Spend some time with someone who has diverse interests from you.

Research new innovations in your field of work or other areas of interest. 
-There are a lot of free articles, e-books, www.ted.com/talks on line.

Practise a new spiritual discipline
Rule of Life www.leadershiptransformations.org/documents/selah/thompson_soul_feast.pdf

Study a new topic or book of the Bible

Add some creativity to your devotional time
Worship Blog - Dan WiltWord transformed - Cardiphonia.org - prayers, song and art for the beauty of the church

 or...why not simply learn a new song!

I would love to hear what new course, skill, or interest that God places on your heart this week.  Please feel free to share your experience or any resources with others in the comments down below.

It is no surprise that God calls us to sing a new song - after all who would honestly want to listen to the same old song every Sunday?

Be courageous - even if someone is listening -  go ahead and belt out that new song!

My new pick of the week...
"Send Out Your Light" ~ Sarah McCracken.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Flunking Hospitality 101

“ It is not important that we recognize God in the stranger; God is there whether we notice or not!  We can just assume the fact and do the next thing – accept the stranger!"
~Benedict’s Way of Love :  Father Daniel Homan & Lonni Collins Pratt

My Rule of Life throughout the last few years has centered around exploring the communal life of hospitality.

Having our friends from Colombia stay with us has certainly been a gift to continue growing in this spiritual discipline.

I came across a post from a couple of years ago recounting some of my more humbling experiences along the way.

For those who can relate to the challenges of hospitality...this post is for you.

Flunking Hospitality 101

Have you ever desired to be truly good at something and then found yourself receiving a failing grade?

Well that is me in the area of hospitality.  
On the outside I look like an A + 

I welcome people into our home = A+

I take them to see the sights  = A+

I prepare special meals for our guests = B+
I give myself a B+ as I am not the best cook in the world, but I try!

I even have the ultimate guest basket with every delightful thing imaginable that our guests may need throughout their stay
  = A++   

I have also studied countless books on the subject - so w
here could I have gone so wrong?

This is the beautiful thing about house-guests

 - no matter how lovely they are and no matter how much you wanted them to stay with you in the first place - they have the capacity to expose the true condition of the heart.

*Note of warning to all those who want to explore the spiritual discipline of hospitality ...

you must be willing to confront the perfectionist inside of you.

Order, cleanliness and control go out the window.

As I embarked on this path, selfish attitudes I never knew existed quickly began to rear its ugly head.

The need to control my own environment, time and belongings became painfully evident.

Please… someone admit this has also happened to you so I don’t feel so bad!  

One evening I watched one of our guests accidentally spill some sauce on the wood table and rug down below.

I knew they could see the sauce, yet I could not comprehend why they would not want to wipe it up. 
Could they not see the pretty little napkins that I had thoughtfully placed on the coffee table right in front of them? 

Despite my slight irritation over the "sauce incident" I refused to let this discourage me from my pursuit to become this serene Benedictine Presbyterian hostess.

So I calmly repeated Benedict's way like some sort of holy mantra...

"Assume that God is in the stranger Nicole!"

"Assume that God is in the stranger!"

Truth be told, I still couldn't help but think to myself... could God really be this messy?

A few days later I went upstairs to provide fresh sheets and noticed that something in the room had been broken.  Although I tried to play it cool I could feel the anxiety rising up again inside of me.

What bothered me even more was when I shared these concerns with my husband.  As I looked to Ken for some consolation on these important matters he had the audacity to simply smile and shrug his shoulders.

Extremely helpful!

Much to my chagrin I knew he was right ~  you can’t control what is already done, so let it go!

Side bar ....

Let me just openly acknowledge that the phrase "let it go" is still a foreign concept to me.  That could be a whole blog series.  The Disney Frozen soundtrack, Let It Go will likely never be my personal theme song.

Back to the story ...

Our guests had made plans to be out for dinner so Ken and I were looking forward to Chinese leftovers while binge watching a new favourite on Netflix.  We sat down together and guess who decided to come home early for dinner?

Instead of being grateful to have more time together I was selfishly disappointed that our plans were now altered for the evening.

If only I could learn to fully surrender my time and plans into God's hands.
The irony is that when this beloved family returned home I missed them so much!  

The Benedictine way warns us that true hospitality

  "will entail a cost and risk of availability and vulnerability."

That is what makes Christ the ultimate host.

For our sake He became vulnerable.

He paid the ultimate cost with His life in order to graciously welcome us as His own.

Despite being the King of Kings He makes Himself available and completely accessible.

In Christ we also find true belonging.

Have you ever been somewhere where it became evident that you were not really wanted or welcome?

Have you ever been intentionally excluded from a place you thought you belonged?

Have you ever felt like you had to earn your way in order to be accepted and loved?

With Christ we are never treated as an outsider or an inconvenient interruption.

His kindness is not dependent on our behaviour nor does He demand something back from us in return.  

Christ delights to welcome and embrace us as His very own.

He graciously meets each one of us where we are at.

He offers unconditional acceptance, patience and love in our weakness.

When we welcome people into our lives it becomes next to impossible to keep up appearances for very long.  Our own quirks, struggles and imperfections become exposed for others to see. 

It is in this authentic vulnerable exchange that we learn how to give and receive the love of Christ in our brokenness.
The security found in Christ through His hospitality is the sweet spot that enables true transformation to happen in our lives.

We can be completely naked before Him.  There is no need for pretence or fear of condemnation.

Vulnerability becomes yet another precious gift from our Father above to experience the various forms of His grace.

Hospitality enables us to see Christ and ourselves for who we truly are.

So forget the Martha Stewart guest baskets and clean sheets and instead let's open wide our hearts for who God places along our path this week.

“ Hospitality enables you to joyfully make room for another inside your open heart."
~Benedict’s Way of Love :  Father Daniel Homan & Lonni Collins Pratt

Rocks Of Remembrance

"When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua,   “Choose twelve men from among the people, one fr...