Grateful worship leader

Set #11

I’m one of a few people rostered to lead worship in our church. A few weeks ago, it was my turn.

It was different. Some noticed that I used 6 songs instead of the usual 5. But that’s not it.

I have a rough pattern that I usually follow, not that it’s a formula or rule, but there are reasons behind it. That week, I changed the pattern. The tempo and mood of the songs dropped very rapidly, and built up from there. It seemed to fit the bible reading that the pastor had chosen for that week. It seemed to fit the circumstances of a few people I know and love. It also reflected how I was feeling personally, with some challenges and tough decisions, both at work and in other aspects of life, and where I needed to set my thoughts.

Anyway, it was different. I think it was appropriate. Maybe no-one noticed, but the point wasn’t to be noticed. I just hoped it was helpful.

Guitar & drumsAfterward I felt particularly appreciative toward the worship team that day: the backing singer, who willingly joined us, and carried the melody at times; the bassist and the drummer, who not only played well but have become quite good at hearing where the music and the worship are going, and working together. I don’t think anyone knew I had chosen a path that wasn’t easy or comfortable, but they came with me. I’m grateful.


Set #12

Last week was my turn again. The pastor’s theme for the week was “joy” so he specifically requested there be joyful songs.  I wasn’t entirely sure about my choice, felt no particular inspiriation in preparing, and made a number of changes during practise on what seemed to work and what would flow reasonably.

A couple of times during the worship, I sensed a nudge from the Spirit to change from the standard arrangement / order of verses, choruses, repeats etc. The second time I actually followed through. Then came a nudge to stop singing and say something. Sometimes I plan to say something during or between songs, sometimes I don’t. Either way, it’s odd for me as I’m not that talkative, but sometimes something just starts pouring out in worship, and it seems to draw me and at least some other people more deeply into God’s presence. That happened.

Thinking about it, I am so grateful that God accepts our simple worship. That he blesses tiny steps of obedience. That he leads me when I need leading. That he welcomes us into his presence.

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little pictures

FramedThere are some things I will never see the same way again.

On a recent “Journey of Compassion” to India, there was a lot to see. Some of it is common to most of human history, though strangely alien in 21st Century Western living. Some things I have seen pictured, others mentioned in text where I can only guess how they looked. I now have new pictures in my mind.

Photography was limited out of respect, as we were there to give and serve, not to make spectacle of others.  I’ve started this list with things I saw, but ended with things I saw myself doing!

  • A man carrying a heavy load (Matthew 23:4). I’ve seen Indian villagers carrying great loads, hanging balanced on a pole carried across the shoulders, or in a basket on the head. The load could be lighter, but then they’d have to walk all that distance again..
    In the same village, some have motorbikes. A strong sense of caste, or social class, means the best tools often don’t  do the greatest work.
  • A fisherman sorting and mending his nets (Matthew 4:21)
  • SANYO DIGITAL CAMERABeasts yoked together to pull a cart. Steering is done by whip. If the beasts are “unequally yoked” (2 Cor 6:14), they’ll walk in circles, or the driver will be constantly whipping one side.
  • Visiting a village, and being welcomed into someone’s home (Luke 10:8-9)
  • Women covering their head to pray (1 Cor 11:5). Not just the fact of being covered, but the act of re-arranging a shawl or sari over the head.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Caring for the smallest in the flock (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Meeting someone at the well (John 4:6-7).  The wells I saw were metal pumps on concrete pads, and each village we visited had more than one, but they were still communal resources. We sat down in the village and talked with people as they came and went.
  • Going up onto the roof of a building to rest, sleep, pray, or sit in the cool breeze (Joshua 2, 1 Samuel 9, Matthew 24:17, Acts 10:9)

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  • Going out into the streets and laneways, inviting all people, “come to the celebration!” (Matthew 22:9)
  • Being interrupted by children seeking a blessing (Matthew 19:13-14)
  • Being sent, two by two, to heal the sick and proclaim “The Kingdom of God is near you now” (Luke 10:1-9).SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then I saw a bigger picture; a picture that contains:

  • Generous (though sensible) giving where there is need
  • Acceptance and love, regardless of caste
  • Broken families repaired and restored
  • Suicidal people rescued, finding hope and reason to live
  • God being honoured publiclyteam small
  • People working alongside each other, in spite of different cultures and personalities, valuing unity and honour above their own plans preferences
  • Compassion and care → lives being changed
  • Miracles → lives being changed
  • Invitation → Salvation → lives being changedsewing graduates
  • Literally doing what Jesus told his disciples to do

To me, it’s a picture of the Kingdom of God. It’s not complete and perfect, but it seems a much better illustration than anything I’ve seen before.

On the same journey, Mark Virkler wroteI have believed for 38 years there should be more to “church” than I had experienced. Now I have experienced the “more” and I never want to go back.

I have seen, I must concede, a transient picture as I visited villages in another country on a very short healthcare & evangelistic mission. How do I come home from that?  How can I remember, and find or build a similar picture in the place where, by God’s grace, I live?

See other entries on this journey: Related articles

Stepping out, jumping in, being pushed?

We often have opportunities in front of us that require just a little faith, a willingness to try something new, the courage to step out of our own personal comfort zones.  Some of these have the God-ordained potential to profoundly change someone’s life. Some can lead to our own maturing. Some can be the first step in a whole new adventure.

When Jesus speaks to people, he knows where they’re at:

  • To the weak and weary he says “I will give you rest. Take up my yoke.. my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
  •  To those who would follow: “Turn from selfishness, take up your cross, and follow” (Matthew 16:24)
  •  To those who recognised him: “I will make you fishers of men”  (Matthew 4:19) See what follows: “At once they left their nets and followed him. [James and John also] left their boats and their father and followed..” They must have recognised there was something much greater ahead, if they dared go.

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We knew our “Journey of Compassion” with  Impact Nations would be challenging. It would present many opportunities, but first we had to commit the time and money, and surrender ourselves to a different life, albeit for only 2 weeks. We were warned of of long days, different food, potential illness, and lack of western comforts (like toilets). What wasn’t explicitly stated: we would be put on the spot, invited and expected to keep stepping out in faith.

children

SteppingAt an orphanage (additional visit, prior to Journey): “The children are all here. You can speak to them now.” Oh, we’re expected to address them as a group?

SteppingOn the first day, after orientation and teaching, clinic opening was delayed. “Go to the people who are waiting.”  No chance to watch someone else apply their field experience, just go heal someone. Um, ok.

SteppingOn the same morning, I was part of the prayer team tasked with walking through the village and praying, healing, evangelising. Those who know me know that I’m not a good conversationalist.  I don’t engage people easily without an existing common interest.  Seeing our group of four contained someone experienced in such outreach, I figured I could watch and learn before having to apply. No. We were split into pairs. My partner spoke Telugu so we didn’t need a separate interpreter, but then I couldn’t understand what he said as he greeted people and initiated conversation. Then he wanted me to join the conversation, and also to start praying for people. Take a deep breath..

Man can raise armPractise helps. Once you’ve prayed for a dozen people, and seen healing actually occur, it gets a lot easier. Fun, even.  Then comes the next step. Healing is a gift from our Lord, Jesus, the Son of God. He is also interested in healing hearts, and changing lives. I said I’m not a conversationalist; I consider myself a most awkward evangelist. Our next responsibility after compassion and healing is to tell the good news of the Kingdom of God. Take another deep breath…

Curious fact: people who have been miraculously healed are quite interested in finding out about the source of their healing. So are their friends and family!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday, our small groups were distributed to various village churches. People would be called on to give testimony of what they’ve seen God do lately, to preach, or to explain the 5-step healing model we had been following. For me the choice was simple: 5-step model, as I wouldn’t have to decide what to talk about, just how to speak in terms an interpreter can easily translate. It’s still a role I hadn’t exercised in the church for considerable time, but in this place I found it a fairly easy step.

SteppingFor the following service, another group member was struggling greatly with this same step, having also held back for some years after a hurtful experience. We talked and prayed briefly, and are both joyful that she did step out, and teach.

It was in some ways a big decision to join this journey, but it was so clearly God’s plan. I am thankful for the many wonderful opportunities we found to put faith into action, and then to find that faith growing. The opportunities came thick and fast. We often addressed the challenges with “this is what we came for”.  There was usually encouragement nearby. I think I see why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1).

Now I hope and pray to keep hold of that faith, recognise the less-obvious opportunities in “everyday” life, and find ways to encourage others to take a step…

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When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tested your faith? If it’s been a while, perhaps you should join a Journey of Compassion !  

See all entries on this journey: Related articles