What makes you tick? When your alarm goes off in the morning, what is something you can instantly think of that makes getting out of bed somewhat tolerable?
I know that for a lot of people, it’s coffee (me included). For others of you, it may be knowing its Friday or having a day off from work/school. Sometimes it’s knowing that you are going to a super exciting place that day like Disney Land or Six Flags.
For some of you, waking up in the morning is not at all a big deal, but for others, it’s excruciating! (for the latter, I feel your pain!) Even if you have the greatest, most joy filled job or time at school, EVERYONE has days where they would rather hide under a rock or stay under the covers than face the challenges of the day.
There are so many times where I personally need a reality check in my life. I often forget that my time is not owned by me and not just my time, but my belongings, my money, my talents, even my loved ones! My entire life and existence is really a song of praise to my Creator!
EVERY part of my day should be an act of worship to my King and Redeemer. Notice, I did not say that every part of my life IS an act of worship to my King and Redeemer. The first sentence is the goal. The second sentence is the reality.
Most of the time, we think of worship as something we go to, hang out or participate in for about an hour, and then take off and get on with our life. What would happen if we changed our view of what worship is? What if it became the very essence of who we were, how we lived, and how we treated people? What if it changed the way we viewed ourselves as a person? What if it effected our driving? (Okay, the last one may be a stretch, but is it?!)
Worship is a constant conversation between God and us. God always begins the conversation and in turn, we respond. Our response is what evokes a state of worship and this can take place anywhere. Take note that worship should be more than singing songs during a worship services and even listening to them in the car during the week. This is good, but worship always includes action. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” -James 1:22. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” -James 1:27.
Worship is a parent patiently carting their kids around to and from school and activities. Worship is having difficult but necessary conversations with people or making unpopular but right decisions. Worship is forgiving a friend, spouse, acquaintance, or enemy and praying for them.
Are any of these examples something you immediately think of when hearing the word, “worship”? Sadly, they don’t for me, but it is something that I am striving to keep in the forefront of my mind. If our only time worshiping Jesus Christ is for an hour on the weekends, does that really sound like a lifestyle to you? To me, it kind of sounds like a hobby. Don’t get me wrong. Regularly attending corporate worship (worshiping with other people) is beneficial, necessary in the Christian life and something that we are called to do, but don’t just stop there! Let’s begin allowing that Sunday morning corporate worship to take root in our hearts and minds and spread to all parts of our day to day lives.
Worship is a lifestyle. When we fold the laundry for our spouse or empty the dishwasher for our parents with a joyful and willing spirit, we are giving glory to God- active worship! When we teach our children the difference between right and wrong and make sacrifices for them, we are glorifying Christ by being responsible with whom He has placed within our care. This kind of worship is something that should saturate our very being and overflow into the lives of those around us. If your view of worship begins at the start of Sunday morning’s service and stops an hour later at the end, you are missing out on some of God’s richest blessings in your life as well as failing to bless people who God has specifically placed in your life for you to serve and love.
Next time you hear your alarm go off in the morning, think about how getting out of bed and being faithful to your God-given calling in life is an act of worship to Him. It may not always be easy and it certainly is not always convenient, but you know how many things go, the more you practice the better you get. We will never be perfect, but the more you look at your life as a constant state of worshiping our Triune God, the more you will begin to see His mark on everything in your life and His hand in everything within the world around you. Our Sanctifier has given us a beautiful gift and that is conversation with Him. Use it. Share it. Worship!
Family. When you hear that word, what kind of emotions do you immediately jump to? Excitement? Frustration? Pride? Disappointment? Love? Loyalty?
Okay, now think of that word again and what kind of memories instantly come to mind. Lots of laughter? Lots of fighting? Both? Awkward conversations? Hilarious conversations? Both again, possibly?
No matter what kind of family God has placed you in here on this earth, there will always be mountains and valleys. In some families, there are more of some than others, but for the most part, I would say that every family experiences its fair share of rollercoaster rides.
Now, imagine taking one of these crazy, loud, messed up, loving, and caring families and combining it to another family that is almost identical in how crazy, loud, messy, loving, and caring it is. They have their similarities, but also their differences.
This was something that I am getting to experience firsthand in my life right now. As my family and my fiancé’s family are beginning to join in festivities, it has been amusing to watch the interactions! All the previous emotions play a factor in conversations during these family functions. It is wildly evident that each family brings their own character and preferences. Points of view differ, experiences vary, and yet, these two families have put many of their personal preferences aside to get to know and learn more about one another. They have even begun to make a point of getting together to do things with one another, even without Geoff and me present!
This past weekend, my best childhood friend, Rachel, threw me a BEAUTIFUL bridal shower. I was so honored and humbled to see Geoff’s family members travel to my childhood home to attend and it made me beam with joy when I saw how lovingly and welcoming my family embraced them. It was really fun watching not only the women at the shower enjoying their time conversing with one another, but also the guys (even my dog Pluto) hanging out talking and laughing before they headed out to a brewery together.
Overall, I would say that it’s a neat experience watching so many of the most important people in your life getting along, sharing thoughts, listening, laughing, enjoying one another’s company while getting to know each another better. I loved every second of being home this past weekend and getting to catch up with family and friends, but what I liked doing even more was just observing.
Sometimes, I think that’s how God may feel when He looks at us. I would like to think that there are times where He can sit back, look at His people and love the way they are interacting and supporting one another.
When I look at our church, Shepherd of the Hills, there is going to be an enormous joining together of families. These families consist of multiple ages, races, preferences and experiences, yet, they all worship the same God. It is exciting yet terrifying all at the same time. Yes, we are one church body, we are one in the body of Christ, but this congregation will truly be ONE as we move together into ONE worship space and appropriately so, as we worship ONE God.
As members of this great family called Shepherd of the Hills, and even members of the Church at large, we have some choices to make. What kind of people are we going to be in situations that are uncomfortable for us or may be different than what we are used to? How are we going to act when our own personal visions do not become the reality? How are we going to treat and speak to fellow members who we may not see eye to eye with?
Speaking about Shepherd of the Hills, nothing about this upcoming building project is going to be easy. Believe me, I’m sure you could ask Pastor and he would tell you that nothing about it up to this point has been a walk in the park! But God calls us to “step out of that boat!”. And this relates to everyone. He calls us to serve, give, love, commit, and accept, to build up and not tear down, to LISTEN, and to lead by example. God has called us to be ONE in Him. John 12:5 “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Just like families joining for holidays and celebrations, there will inevitably be chaos, disagreements, and irritations, but there will also be great joy, appreciation, and bonds made that will last even into Eternity. So don’t lose focus of where God has placed you at this time in your life. You may have many different “families” in which you belong; I know that I do. Your immediate family is important. Love them, care for them, cherish the time you have together, even the difficult times. Your church family is important. Worship together. Pray together. Eat together! Forgive each other and build one another up. Accept and embrace with open arms.
So, next time someone brings up the word, “family”, I hope that it not only reminds you of the good times you have had with your immediate family, but I hope it also makes you think of the ways in which you are interacting with and loving the Family God has placed you in at this point of your life.
I Corinthians 12:13-14 “ For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
I Corinthians 12:25 “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
“In the end, we are all a bunch of fruit.” – Gus Portokalos (father of the bride) My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Tell me, what’s next? What is this “big plan” for my life and how is it supposed to unfold? Where I am I headed? What is that amazing “purpose” I was created for? Did I miss it? Did I make a horrible mistake and now I’m doomed for failure for the duration of my life?
Do you ever catch yourself asking questions like these? I do. All the time. And as I was brooding over them one evening, in self-pity and doubt, my wise, handsome and brilliant fiancé, Geoff, asked me this simple question: “If you met Jesus, do you think that you would know it was Him?”. “What?” I asked. “Yeah,” he continued, “if He was in some way unrecognizable, do you think that you would take the time to listen or help out while you’re right in the middle of something or rushing through your day? Would you take the time to talk with someone who just needed someone to talk to?”.
Okay, this was totally not a fair question, especially coming from a guy who basically has an unlimited supply of patience and has dived head first into every volunteer position possible within our church since arriving in December. Alright, not every position, but he seriously could be a saint. He KNOWS that my level of patience is probably one of my worst qualities. I time everything. Absolutely everything. I don’t know if it’s a competitive thing for me, or what, but I’m always on a schedule. Going into a grocery store with Geoff is a patience exercise for me in itself. You see, he makes friends with anyone. He not only is an easy talker, but an even better listener. He makes new best friends at Costco while I’m just standing there like, seriously?! We are NEVER going to get out of here and most importantly, we are definitely not going to beat my record 11.24 minutes from last weekend!! When I go shopping on my own, I literally put my head down, bolt from aisle to aisle as fast as humanly possible, and never veer from my meticulously pre-planned grocery store road map (of course keeping in mind all of the best sample locations). I have a problem, I know.
As the evening went on, I continued mulling over Geoff’s question. It really struck me. If Jesus truly visited me in some sort of unrecognizable capacity, would I even notice? Or am I too busy looking at myself, MY goals, MY dreams, MY time-table for everything to even realize something or someone right in front of me needing my attention.
I think that his question could potentially be valid for anyone. We all have interests, hobbies, passions, or obsessions that may take a little bit too much of our focus away from those God has placed right in front of us.
What if when that one person who irks you more than anyone else says something absurd and all you want to do is slingshot a cutting remark back at them, you instead pause. You think about this person as a human being who, just like yourself, has a multitude of problems, frustrations, and stress and you realize that maybe they could really use a word of kindness instead. Or maybe saying nothing at all would be the most appropriate response all together.
I am chief of sinners when it comes to nonchalantly asking someone how they are without really thinking about how they are going to answer. I was caught off guard one Sunday morning as I asked this of someone. The gentleman paused and looked at me and just said, “not well”. Of course, that was not the answer I was looking for and honestly, not the answer I wanted! But how SELFISH of me. Of course, I am not saying that we should never check in with one another to see how things are going, but I’m talking about being intentional. Maybe I should learn how to seriously take the time to listen, take the time to talk and know the difference of when to do one over the other.
Who in your life needs your presence? Who in your life may benefit from you making some sort of compromise in your own comfort in order to better reach them? Helping people is messy and awkward. It involves discomfort on our part. It is inconvenient.
Are you capable of leaving a life of cushion for a life of discomfort? Truthfully, the answer is no. On our own, we really are not capable of anything. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is always at work in our lives, in our hearts, and in our minds. My prayer for us all is that He will continually show us where He wants us to go, whom He wants us to serve, and how He wants us to listen and to speak.
Maybe instead of constantly asking God for clues to the next “big adventure” in our lives which will magically make us feel worthwhile or validated, let’s just start living! And I mean really LIVING! Begin looking around at others and their needs. Focus on preferences of those around you. Take the time to really listen! Speak to someone that God has placed right in front of you! I’ll bet you that God will do something amazing and you won’t even realize it until you are right in the very middle of it! Happy LIVING!
Hebrews 13:2- Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
I Corinthians 12:27 - Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Poinsettias have come to be known as the official “flower of Christmas.” Every year, hundreds of these beautiful, red flowers adorn homes and churches. At my home church in California, dozens of them would be donated on behalf of a family member or in memory of a loved one. They were an enormous part of our sanctuary’s decoration in the weeks leading up to Christmas as well as weeks following Christmas. Every year after Christmas, my dad, having the green thumb that he had, (and still has) salvaged as many of these flowers as he could and planted them in our backyard.
Besides being red and shaped somewhat like a star, I always wondered if Poinsettias had any other relevance to Christmas.
There is a simple, yet powerful old legend that ties together Christ’s birth and this flower.
Once, there was a young girl named Pepita with no present to give to baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. She thought and thought, but could not come up with anything to bring with her for the Christmas Eve service that evening. Downcast, she walked to the church empty handed. Her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up saying, “Pepita, I’m sure even the smallest gift that you give will make Jesus happy, because it would be given by someone who loves Him and the gift would be given out of the cheerfulness of their heart.” As they continued walking, Pepita knelt and picked a handful of weeds from the roadside and arranged it into a tiny bouquet. Even though she still felt embarrassed that this was all that she could offer the King of the world, she continued to ponder what Pedro had said as she made her way up the aisle of the church. Slowly, she felt a sense of joy and thankfulness as she knelt and laid the tiny bouquet at the feet of the manger. As the night went on, the bouquet of weeds blossomed into beautiful, bright red flowers! They came to be known as Flores de Noche or “Flowers of the Holy Night.”
This humble story of the Poinsettia is a reminder of how God works through us. In our own eyes, we may not view ourselves as being able to offer much, but with God’s power, He turns our small offerings into an abundance. How easily we fall into the role of Pepita where we measure what God has bestowed upon us and judge that He has not given us enough to give back to Him! Even the smallest offering can become the hugest blessing in ways we cannot even fathom!
As January sets in, we think of Christmas as being over and done with, a check off our never-ending list, but I encourage you to be like my dad, salvaging and taking care of those beautiful flowers. Don’t lose that sense of celebration, awe and wonder of Christmas and what Christ can do and has done! As Pastor Steve Kline encouraged us this Christmas, don’t just let Jesus remain a lifeless, figurine baby in a Nativity set; let Him be the King of your entire life!
As you still see the lingering of Poinsettias in homes, in church and in stores, let them remind you of what Christ can accomplish through you and then watch as He opens doors you would never have dreamed of walking through. Happy New Year and may God truly bless and work through you this 2018 and beyond!
Dear Shepherd of the Hills,
I am SO excited to finally be here!! It has been quite a journey to navigate these past few months with finishing up work in California, completing my graduate school courses, packing up my house, and recently getting engaged!
These next few weeks will undoubtedly be filled with exciting new adventures and one of those adventures is getting a chance to meet all of you! I am looking forward to putting faces together with names 🙂
As I was flying here from California, I was thinking about how music has taken me on so many journeys. From attending Concordia University in Irvine, California, traveling to Italy and Ghana during college, working on my masters at Concordia Mequon in Wisconsin, and now moving to Wisconsin, there never seems to be a dull moment! I look forward to all that God has in store for the future through this ministry. We serve a mighty and powerful God and I cannot wait to see how He works through you and me at Shepherd of the Hills!
Besides music, some of my favorite hobbies include hiking and going on bike rides. Pretty much anything that has to do with being outdoors and is a bit adventurous is exciting to me! Recently, my fiancé, Geoff and I have really enjoyed taking up rock climbing. So far, there have been no broken bones 😉
Again, I am so happy to be here with you all. I pray that God will continue to direct and lead me as I serve you as a congregation and as called children of God!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Emily came from San Diego, California and joined the Shepherd of the Hills staff in 2017. She graduated with her undergraduate degree and DPM certification in music from Concordia University, Irvine and is currently working on her masters degree in choral conducting at Concordia University, Wisconsin.