Monday Morning Meditation: Waiting Well

At the time this is published, I will be 1 day shy of 39 weeks pregnant.

I wish I could say that pregnancy has been all roses and silver-lined clouds, but it hasn’t. It’s been 9 months of waiting and dreaming and at times dreading what is to come.

After 2 difficult births including a c-section, after walking with friends who have experienced babies born still, after losing one of my children to miscarriage, I know all the possibilities of what could happen over the course of these long months.

Baby Girl at the mid-pregnancy ultrasound

Even now, with a child still in my womb as I type this, I know that the next few days and weeks and months of this child’s life are in many ways out of my control. I don’t know how the birth will go. I don’t know if this child will have severe food sensitivities like her oldest brother, and how that might impact what and how we both eat. I can only pray she’ll be healthy and that things will go smoothly.

But there are no guarantees.

All the fears and doubts I’ve wrestled with during this time have brought me to the question:

How do I wait well?

What does that look like?

I can tell you what it doesn’t look like because I’ve been doing a lot of that. Moving 500 miles 6 months into the pregnancy likely didn’t help! Waiting well does not look like worrying and doubting and giving in to fear. It doesn’t look like allowing your imagination to run wild with all the things that could happen and focusing on those things. It doesn’t mean giving in to the depression and anxiety that at times comes so naturally.

Yesterday, as I didn’t wait well, these verses came to mind.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

What are we waiting for, anyway? In any period of waiting, while we might be waiting for something specific to happen (like the birth of a child), what we are really waiting on is The Lord.

One way we wait well, as demonstrated by the psalmist, is by putting our hope in His Word.

I realized upon reflection that I had been putting my hope in things turning out a certain way, and not only is that not beneficial, that clearly wasn’t working for me! I was reminded that the only real secure hope I have is God, and one way to rejuvenate that hope within me was to reflect on His Word.

I knew I need to fill myself with His truth, and I chose to do that through worship. You may put your hope in His Word by reading the Bible or listening to it, listening to sermons, or reading a Christian book. I pulled out my guitar and started to sing.

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord

This oldie but goodie has carried me through many a challenging time, and I went on from there, singing songs as they came to mind.

How can you fill yourself with truth today? In your present circumstances, what would it mean to hope in God’s Word?

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.”

Psalm 130:7

Worshipful Wednesday: Can’t Get Enough of You

For much of my life, I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of the walls that I’d so carefully constructed falling down around me.

Fear of trusting God and having Him disappoint me, too.

Though I had worked through some of this, I carried much of this fear into my marriage. I would at times ask my husband not to go out without me, such as an occassion where he was going to hear music with friends. I was totally gripped by a fear that something would happen to him while he was gone. This, thankfully, happened very infrequently, but when it did, it was as real and oppressive as anything I could remember experiencing.

In 2004, my husband and I were involved in an amazing church plant. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It really felt like this was how the church was supposed to be: real, welcoming, warm, convicting – just full of Jesus. I was the worship leader, and personally, I felt as if I was finally walking in the fullness of my calling: to use my songs to glorify God and to lead people to Him. I signed up to attend a local worship conference with Andy Park, Rita Springer, and some other well-known leaders.

Just weeks before I was scheduled to attend this conference, the church plant closed when the pastor chose sinful behavior (a sin that he had struggled with for years but had had several years of victory over) above his calling.

I went forward with my plan to attend the conference, though I had no idea why. It felt as if all my dreams had come crashing down, once again.

The conference was amazing, but on the morning of the last day, that dark voice began to beckon: You need to leave. Something awful is going to happen. You need to go home NOW or something will happen to Roy.

I called Roy, sobbing in my car, telling him I needed to come home RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter that there were only a few hours left in the conference (something Roy pointed out). I replied, “Right! There’s only a few hours left! I might as well just leave, so nothing horrible happens! It won’t hurt to miss a few hours!”

Thank God for my patient husband. He talked me down, and we hung up. And as I remember the story, I sat in my car, crying out to God, weeping, so desperate for Him to show up.

And at that moment, this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, flowed out of me. It begins:

I come to You in desperation

On our last Sunday at our beloved church in Virginia, I was asked to lead worship, as our regular worship leader was out of town. I lead the congregation in this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, for many reasons. For one, I have lead worship numerous times at the church, and it is a team and a congregational favorite. And I sang it for myself because of the special place it holds in my heart: in times of desperation, in places where I am stepping out in faith, the song reminds me of God’s faithfulness. I needed to be continually reminded, is times of ease and trials, of Jesus’ wordsApart from Me, you can do nothing.

My husband captured this video on his iPhone. The lyrics are below, as well as a link to the chords.

Can’t Get Enough of You
By Brenna Kate

I come to You in desperation
I wait for You with expectation

I wouldn’t want to take even one single breath without You
I don’t want to make even one little step without You

Without Your touch, without Your breath, My life is meaningless
I need Your power, I need Your love, I just can’t get enough

I just can’t get enough of You, more of You
Lord, You’re the one thing I desire
I can’t get enough of You, more of You
I need Your passion and Your fire

God, take me in Your arms and fill me with Your love
My heart wants more and more, I just can’t get enough

© 2005 Unveiled Faces Music

Here’s the chord sheet: Can’t Get Enough of You in C#m. I wrote the song in B minor, but it seems to be easier for the congregation to sing in C#m.

I also want to mention that this was the last time I had one of those dark episodes. God is able.

Worshipful Wednesday: Breathing the Breath

I’ve always found breathing a very spiritually-centering activity. Not in some sort of new age, emptying one’s self sense. But in a way that reminds me of who gave me breath in the first place.

When fear, doubt or anxiety threaten to overwhelm me, having a seat and taking a few deep breathes reminds me that the same God who breathed His very breath into me to give me life can handle whatever concerns I am facing today.

Several days ago, I read the following about prayer in Oswald Chambers’ devotional My Utmost for His Highest:

We think rightly or wrongly about prayer according to the conception we have in our minds about prayer. If we think of prayer as breath in our lungs and blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we are not conscious of it, but it is always going on.

You can read the rest of the day’s devotional here.

That’s how I’ve begun to think about prayer. As a mom of young kids who works outside the home, I began to be frustrated concerning my prayer life. No matter what I did, I seemed to lack a set-aside chunk of time to devote to prayer. I needed to think outside the box and get creative. I’ve learned to make prayer more of an all-day activity.

Sometimes, I just say the name of Jesus as I go about my day. I’ve even been known to say, “Holy, holy, holy” under my breath – though I realized it wasn’t really “under my breath” when my then 5 year-old started to do the same one day in a store! I realized that prayer is simply a recognition of Who is in control, a day-long conversation with the God who is able.

Today, I’m sharing a song entitled “Breathing the Breath.” It’s a Matt Redman song.  This song has become especially meaningful to me since losing an uncle to complications related to COPD, a condition which makes breathing difficult and for which there is no cure. The song recognizes that much of life is a “giving back” to the God who gave us everything in the first place, even in the very breath we breathe.

Here are a few of the lyrics:

We have nothing to give that didn’t first come from Your hands
We have nothing to offer You which You did not provide
Every good, perfect gift comes from Your kind and gracious heart
And all we do is give back to You what always has been Yours

Lord, we’re breathing the breath that You gave us to breathe
To worship You, to worship You
And we’re singing these songs with the very same breath
To worship You, to worship You

You can listen to the whole song on YouTube.

 

Worshipful Wednesday: You’re My Everything

For a while, I’ve wanted to use this blog to share some of my songs, for your use and encouragement.

A friend and I were chatting back and forth last week, and she sent me this verse as encouragement, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

I thought, “Hey, I wrote a song with that verse in it!” And decided to make a recording of it.

Most of the songs I share will be recorded on an iPhone, so they won’t be studio quality. But you can download them for free, and I’ll include the song sheets if you would like to play them.

The PDF:

You’re My Everything

If you look at the chords, they appear way more complicated than they actually are. That is the summary of the notes being played for times I played with other instruments.

So let me explain in my best guitar-ese, remembering that I am not a trained guitar player.

Despite the complicated-sounding chord names, “You’re My Everything” consists of the same 2 chords, repeated over & over. Here’s what they look like on the guitar neck:

 

IMG_8279

You’ll notice I have my fingers on the two middle strings (D & G) on the same fret, and then I move up one fret in the same position. The first chord is the 6th fret, and the 2nd chord is the 7th fret.

Enjoy!

Monday Morning Meditation: Undistracted Devotion

This weekend at church we sang:

I don’t wanna talk about You like You’re not in the room
I wanna look right at You, I wanna sing right to You

We sang these lines as part of the song, “You Won’t Relent.” When I looked up the lyrics, I realized the lines are actually part of another song entitled “Dove’s Eyes.” It’s quite mellow and introspective compared to the passion (and volume!) of the other song, but there’s another line in the song that grabs my heart.

Give me undistracted devotion to only You

Oh, how easily I am distracted from my devotion to God! Every worry that comes my way, everything that’s not part of my plan, every stumbling block and obstacles takes my eyes off my Lord and on to my troubles.

It’s Monday. I hope you gathered with other believers this weekend. I pray you dove into the Word of God and soaked in His Spirit this morning.

Many things will cry out for my attention this week. The cry of my heart is to have undistracted devotion to my Lord, that my response to all else will be tempered by my love for Jesus and my passion to know and serve Him.

Will you pray for undistracted devotion to God today?

Freedom Friday: The God Who Sustains

We are back from the conference! It was an amazing time, refreshing and yet tiring (I’m sure being in the car 24 hours over the course of 3 days added to that!). There is a lot to think about & reflect on. In addition to that, there are several situations within my circles of family & friends that require lots of prayer & attention.

Yesterday, as I leaned against our chest freezer, wondering what to make for dinner, I became keenly aware that God alone is my Sustainer. I went to a Bible search tool to remind myself of Scriptures that speak to this.

I came across a gem:

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:35

Since returning home, Holland Davis’s words on the last night of the conference have been at the forefront of my mind (he lead worship). He reminded us that the devil comes to kill, steal & destroy, and prayed that we would not allow him to take away from us what God did in us at the conference.

So I’ve been praying for myself and others, that whatever God spoke and/or called us to at the conference, that we would stand firm and tell Satan he has no power in our lives. That we would obey what God has called us to & the areas He may have challenged us in.

But I was missing an important piece.

I am now also praying that God the Sustainer would fulfill His Word, being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it (also translating “carry it on to completion”) until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

The God who leaned down to earth, who stooped down, to rescue us & make us great.

God is our Sustainer. But we need to accept His gift of sustenance. We need to allow Him to maintain and nurture those things He’s deposited into our hearts.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7

I need to be reminded that Satan wants to steal God’s best out from under me, just like he did in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s power is limited; God’s power is unlimited.

So my prayer for all of us today is that we would continue to cling to Jesus, that we would allow God to sustain and preserve the good work He has begun in us, that we would be aware of the work of Satan, but not intimidated by him.

God is Sustainer.

Read these Scriptures. Pray through them. Memorize them. Devour them. Soak them in.

Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 89:21
My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.

Psalm 119:116
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Psalm 119:175
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.

Psalm 146:9
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 147:6
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Do Today’s Christians Idealize the Early Church?


Some friends and I have been discussing a blog post of John Piper’s entitled Don’t Equate Historically Early with Theologically Accurate

I am neither endorsing or not endorsing (what’s the opposite of endorsing? rejecting? disapproving? anyway…) John Piper or what he has to say in his blog post. But it got me thinking:

Do today’s Christians idealize the early church?

I just began reading the book of Acts again (prior to that, I read all the gospels), so this question really hit home for me.

I think many Christians do try to “reclaim” the early church by trying to create a church service or environment that looks like what they perceive the early church to have looked like. So they meet in homes, sometimes without a formal leader, focus on the book of Acts and the epistles, abandon a lot of the structure and programs that have come to mean “church” today. I’ll be upfront and say I am not at all “anti-house church”. Not at all. I am aware of some of the dangers (many do not have strong oversight and accountability, for one) as well as the benefits (many don’t have a set leader, so all input is valued, family worship is encouraged, to name a few).

But I think trying to recreate the early church environment is missing the point.

I have been reading about Amy Carmichael, and something she said really struck me (if you follow me on Twitter, I quoted this a few weeks ago):

I don’t wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.

Those who idealize the early church seem to want to live church as the early church had church, but they don’t want to live lives as the early church lived their lives. I don’t mean we have to live on a commune, having no possessions of our own and striving to figure out what it means to have “everything in common“. But we often are not willing to live our lives generously, sacrificially, reaching out to others often with the truth of the Gospel.

That is what identified the early church – not what their meetings looked like, but what their lives looked like. Read the book of Acts to get a full picture of what the early church looked like, as well as the epistles, to get an accurate idea of the challenges they faced.

May we commit to living lives that glorify God and put Him in the center, sacrificially, generously, devoting ourselves to the Word, to fellowship, to prayer and breaking bread, caring for each other and bearing each others’ burdens, as our early church fathers did.

He is Jealous for Me

“He is jealous for me.”

A line from a song by John Mark McMillan, made famous by Dave Crowder and the Jesus Culture.

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14

“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 4:24

Words spoken by God, made famous by Moses.

A jealous God. An all-consuming fire.

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalm 24:3-5

Idols of today are not likely statues or little gold calves. They may be a nice house, a fancy car. A relationship. A certain body size. Food, sex, power, romance. Making God’s unconditional forgiveness & love conditional. Refusing to accept that you are created in His image. Shame, condemnation. Hiding from His love.

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…..An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought…. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods

“He is jealous for me.”

As we sang this song today in church, I thought: I want to live a clean life. Pure. I want to be holy, as He is holy. I want my life to be uncluttered, my mind to be clear and confusion-free.

Because He is jealous. Because He is good. Because all I want is all You have.

Regional Conference Update

What an amazing conference we had this past weekend! Union Center Christian Church could not have been more warm and welcoming. They had an amazing crew of volunteers (140+), a truly talented music team for me to work with (you guys rock!), and a great turn-out (as of Friday night, including walk-ins, 215+ were registered for the conference). And Joe Dallas was encouraging and challenging as usual. My testimony was well-received, and I got a ton of great feedback about the songs I shared.

One of my favorite things about Exodus conferences is reconnecting with old friends! You know who you are 🙂

For those of you who are looking for the lyrics to the songs I wrote, here they are, including one recording (I hope to have the other 2 up soon – will let you know when they are posted). If it’s easier to just download the chord sheets as a document, I have some of my worship songs posted here. They are free for your use, but please do give me credit, as they are protected by copyright.

And here is an iPhone picture from the rear lobby, where my husband Roy was sitting with the baby, and the words of my song on the big screen. Fun to see 🙂

Exodus North Atlantic Regional Conference This Weekend!

If you follow my posts on the Exodus International Blog, you know that the Exodus North Atlantic Regional Conference is this weekend! In fact, my family & I will leave tomorrow to attend an evening music rehearsal. Pray for us! My kids don’t always love the car 🙂 I’ll be leading the music, as well as sharing a re-worked version of my testimony, entitled “What’s in a name?” I’m quite excited. I’ll definitely share the testimony either here or over at the Exodus International Blog – I’ll let you know 🙂

Hope to see you there!