Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Singer

12
Dec
11

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

I used to like Burl Ives. Really, I did. I anticipated the Christmas season with great fervor and started each season off with Emmy Lou Harris’ “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’.” The impetus for this Christmas unveiling when I was a young adult was the first cold snap when I had to light the pilot light in my furnace. I would stand over the grate in the floor and as the heat rose up, I would sing along with my Emmy Lou Harris Christmas album at the top of my lungs. It was glorious. It was always the first Christmas song I played; it was always the first Christmas song I heard each year. I controlled how Christmas was doled out because years ago, merchandizing had not started cramming it down our throats. I was very selective with the music and reserved it for the Christmas season only, the one and only exception being this annual personal heater lighting ceremony.

Now I’m afraid if I hear Burl Ives sing “Holly Jolly Christmas” one more time, I will pummel the next five shoppers I see. The song brings out the Scrooge in me. I don’t want to buy gifts anymore. I don’t want to be within ten miles of a mall or even the grocery store with the incessant sound tracks playing. I just want to be with my family and friends. And most of all, I want to worship the Christ Child. The Savior of the world. My Savior, my God and my friend.

It is our job as worship leaders to cut through this squandering of Christmas. To put right the aberration of the purity, the simplicity of the story of “God who came to live with us.” We may be tempted to entertain the people as they walk in the door for their twice-a-year trek to church. We may be tempted to stick with tradition and not dig too deep into abandoned worship. We may be tempted to go easy, so we won’t scare them off.

But what do you think those shepherds did in that stable? Do you think they sang some four hundred year old song about the promised Messiah? God was laying right there in front of their eyes. Angels were splitting the sky open with their celestial praise; the glory of the Lord filled the atmosphere. I think they were dumbfounded with a standing in awe kind of praise that erupted in earnest and spontaneous thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure it was not very holly jolly at all. I’m pretty sure it was profound.

Don’t get me wrong. Christmas is light-hearted too. The Light of the World banished sin and death and brought us new life. We absolutely need to celebrate the birthday of the King. Throw Him a party! Dance and sing! But do it from a place deep in your heart that screams out “I love You! Thank You for coming to save me!” Then take time to usher in the Holy Spirit, the Wonderful Counselor, the One who heals and comforts and reveals all truth. And be contagious about it. Drown out the sounds of the world that tells us we can buy Christmas. Drown out the lie that we can “have ourselves a merry little Christmas and all our troubles will be out of sight.” Minister to someone whose circumstances contradict any hope that their Christmas will be holly jolly.

The bottom line: Worship this Christmas. As you sing the words to those traditional carols, full of truth, full of theology, full of life, MEAN them. Spend time with your family reading prophecy and its fulfillment. Spend time with people that need your faith, need your spirit, need your joy. Make the season holly jolly for real.

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24
Aug
11

It’s Time that All Ages Praise

Exodus 20:6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

When you are at a church as big as CBC, the majority of our ministries and methods are specialized and departmentalized. This works really well on one hand because as a staff or even a volunteer, we are afforded the luxury of getting to focus on doing what we really do well and leaving the things we don’t do very well to someone else who does it really well. And since excellence breeds excellence, the church grows because people are drawn to excellence and the church improves because we have a larger pool of excellence to draw from. This is a very good thing.

Seldom, though, do we get to be a part of multi-generational events. I gave up worrying about missing the small church fellowship feeling about ten thousand members ago. But last month, as I sat in a multi-generational recording session, I felt it. I had dear friends beside me and in front of me and several rows over. I had Kids Choir kids that followed me in like I was the Pied Piper and we worshipped together. I thanked God for the teens that were there to praise – that keep their walk with the Lord constant – that have grown into mighty God lovers. I experienced adult choir members that are core CBC worshippers filling up the choir room with yet another round of praise. And I thought to myself “I love these people. I love this church. I love my Savior who binds us all together and is the reason that we sing”.

My parents and my grandparents and their grandparents were of the primitive Baptist denomination. In their tiny communities, church was the defining institution, but more importantly, the Lord was the defining King of their families. I can remember watching my granddaddy lead the hymns – there was no paid music director. He was the postman – the only postman of the community who knew every person in the town – where they lived and how they lived. And every Sunday he led them all in worship. Young and old, poor and poorer (no one was rich where they lived), saints and sinners – they all worshipped together.

I thought about my granddaddy last night. After the session ended, Ray Jones mentioned – not once but twice – that we need to do more intentional multi-generational worship events. We had already planned on featuring the Kids Choirs with the adults in October and our new middle school choir Ignite with the adults in November. We have some Puresound high school choir dates with the adults on the calendar as well. And as always, kids will sing at Christmas and Puresound at Easter. But we will be even more intentional, featuring families and more multi-generational choirs – not just adding a single age group choir to the adults. Who knows? We’ll have to hang children from the rafters and maybe build some temporary staging – don’t know what it will look like or when it will happen, but the Spirit is stirring us. There is a need for us to come together to honor God.

I tell my children all the time one of the reasons they walk in blessing and favor is because of my ancestors. I tell them all the time that they better marry girls with generations of obedience to the Lord backing them up. I pray my sons are listening for my future grandchildren’s sakes. I am so thankful for the legacy that my family has left for me.

What I can do now is continue to teach these future generations the ways that they can worship and the how of how to live. The Spirit is stirring and it’s time to listen.

Ephesians 3:21 To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

28
Jun
11

There are People Out There Who Need Jesus – For Real

My nephew graduated high school in north central California and our whole family went out for a week to celebrate. Things California has that south central Texas doesn’t have: cool summer weather, beaches AND mountains, In and Out Burger, and MC Hammer. We got to meet MC. For real. His son plays on my younger nephew’s baseball team. My brother-in-law is the coach. U can’t touch that.

Besides MC, (now a pastor along with other endeavors) and my nephew (whom we led to Christ two years ago) I am not sure if we encountered any other Christians. I’m not being judgmental or high and mighty. It was just an observation that hit this little Bible belt girl square between the eyes. There are people out there that don’t have a clue who Jesus really is and could care less. For real.

I didn’t think that was possible in America. My sister and brother-in-law and apparently none of their friends go to church. We spent an evening with two of my first cousins that I haven’t seen in perhaps ten years. One of them sends his daughter to a Catholic school and they unapologetically claim “non-religious” as their faith. When I tried to slip Jesus and what He means to me into the conversation, I got looks that ranged from “you are a fanatic” to blank stares that said (without saying) “I have absolutely no basis of reference for anything you are saying.” Needless to say, I have a heavy burden for my cousins, their children, my aunt and uncle and basically, the whole state of California.

I have several things to ponder concerning all this.
1) Would anyone know I am a Christian if we hung out some Saturday afternoon and we couldn’t talk about my job or my church? I hope so. I think so. I know in my head I filter everything, EVERYTHING, through my faith, through the Bible, through obedience to the Lord, but does Jesus come out in my words, in my actions, in my laughter, in my appearance to the world? For real?
2) As a song-writer, I am prompted to write songs full of truth, full of Jesus, full of life-giving light and hope and peace that aren’t for the church. At all. Songs that don’t have words like redemption, Lamb of God, and righteousness; songs that don’t talk about “how miserable I was before I met Jesus,” because they’re not – THEY’RE NOT – they’re happy and successful…for the time being; songs that reveal the character of God to a world that has no clue that God is personal, that God is reachable, that God is desirable. God commands us to sing a new song to Him, so, yes, I will still write songs of worship to praise the God I love. But I have a new objective to write Christian music for non-Christians that will make sense to them. Because what we say and how we say it doesn’t make sense to them at all. For real.
3) Since I grew up in the south with a church on every corner, in a family that went (and still does) Sunday morning, Sunday evening and to prayer meeting on Wednesday night, since my momma taught me how to worship, my step-dad is a pastor and my daddy says “thank You Lord” as a response to almost anything, since I work in a church, and all my friends go to church, and I really don’t have much of a life outside of church, for real, I don’t realize that there is a whole other world out there with absolutely no Jesus, no concern about their eternal destination, no apparent need for God in their day-to-day lives. What am I going to do about that? I know that within my ministry I’m doing exactly what God called me to do, but it’s not enough. I am compelled to tell about Jesus where it is uncomfortable, where it is unwanted, where it is not solicited to people who don’t even know they need Him. For real.

In his parachute-panted hip hop heyday, MC sang “Oh my Lord, thank You for blessing me.” For real – those are lyrics from “U Can’t Touch This.” MC knew Jesus even if he didn’t always show it. Just like the rest of us Bible belters. We don’t always show it. But we need to. For real.

15
Jun
11

School’s Out – Time for Rest

School has been out a few weeks and with two trips already behind me, the summer looms large, ripe with potential. I love summer. Schedules are loose, commitments are breezy. But being an adult, it can’t compare to the feeling of “school’s out.” I remember the first summer I was on a church staff, I realized with much consternation that though the calendar said “June,” I was expected to go to work each day. That summer felt like prison. I had made it to 27 being a student or a school teacher. I did not think I would live through that summer. No one should be inside a building in July. Really.
The other day when I picked up my 8th grader from school on the last day and watched him dance around in the car like a crazy man, I knew he was celebrating many things. Summer. The end of middle school. The thought of 2 ½ months stretching out in endless abandon. I turned to him and said “You know this feeling that you feeling right now? This pure joy, this reckless gift of freedom? Adults never get that.” I’m really not a pessimistic person, but I am having a hard time with this. With family scattered, my vacation gets eaten up spending time with all factions. It’s wonderful, but never truly restful. I need to be alone, perhaps. I think I need a sabbatical.
Oh dear, that word comes from “sabbath.” Secular dictionaries describe it as “a day of rest and worship.” Another concept that I have a really hard time with: say it’s Sunday. I worshipped today. So then I come home and try to rest. And doing nothing is, well, boring. My brain won’t stop planning, creating, sorting. If I’m not producing, then what good am I? I want to produce good fruit for the Kingdom, for my family, for myself. “Be still and know?” Hardly possible. But is it?
God created the whole world. Then He stopped. And He rested. And He called it holy. What would I give to be able to stop. To say “It’s good. It’s finished.” When you think about it, God didn’t have to rest. God never sleeps nor slumbers. But He gave us the example we need. He said rest was necessary, mandatory, HOLY. Set apart, perfect, blissful. No matter how busy we make ourselves, we will never be finished with our work here on earth until the day we are standing at the throne with our mouths agape. So we might as well quit trying to be so darn effective and try being a little more playful, a little more lackadaisical, a little more like an 8th grader on the last day of school.
I’m going to spend this summer perfecting rest. And it’s going to start, for real, Sunday by Sunday. Sabbath by Sabbath. School’s out. Rest is only a holy moment away.

22
May
11

The Next Generation

Psalm 78:4 We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.

Psalm 79:13 We will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.

I love verses about raising up the next generation. I am a spiritual and musical product of my grandparents and parents, my aunts and uncles pouring into me the truth of scripture and the power of worship. Obviously my former pastors, choir directors, and Sunday School teachers did the same, and I am very grateful to them all.
When I see generations come together to lead worship, it thrills me. It gives me great hope for the future. It is the reason I do what I do. I love working with adults, but seeing worship come alive in a child and experiencing worship leading from a teen is life changing.

At CBC our worship ministry is based on these precepts. Teach someone else to do what you do. Start them young and give them authority to lead when they are ready. Multiply yourself. As I stood onstage at Easter with Puresound, our Youth Choir behind me, the significance was not lost on me. Most of the youth leaders are a product of a Kids Choir ministry. All of the dancers except the two oldest professional dancers grew up at CBC dancing in Kids Choir worship events. It’s working…
I usually hold a recital for piano and voice students at the end of a semester. Last Christmas instead of a recital, I took students to a nursing home to play and sing Christmas carols and worship songs. This spring I took it a step further and my students will lead worship at a CBC multi-site. At the rehearsal they sang with conviction and excellence in pristine three part harmony. They will boldly worship, some will speak out about their love for the Lord, some will play instruments, some will ad lib, some will pray. They will all lead out on a song. I will even have one of my own sons come with us to sing (the other has a baseball tournament…) It’s working…

Psalm 71:18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Thank You, Lord.

20
Apr
11

Big Platter of God

I saw a Pier One Imports catalog today with a whole section of ‘tiny taste’ serving pieces. There were tiny spoons and tiny bowls and tiny plates and tiny domed serving pieces and tiny cups. This was for your ‘tasting party’ or ‘mini brunch.’

I think the whole concept is weird. For one, I don’t have time to prepare 35 different items for a party. And two, I grew up in the south and we EAT. Mountains of mashed potatoes, messes of greens, second helpings. My kids had me buy bigger, stronger paper plates because the generic foam ones are “too small mom.”

It made me think about having a tiny concept of what God can do for us. Some Christians sign up for the “just enough God” program. “Just enough” to get them into heaven; “just enough” to slap a Christian label on their not so different lifestyle; “just enough” to be able to call on God in time of crisis. “Just give me a tiny taste of God” they think. “Don’t be messing with my everyday life.”

Nope, that’s not for me. I want God to mess with my job, my family, my home, my sin, my habits, my waking, my sleeping. Psalm 139 closes with: “Search me and know my heart O God, test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

I want to feast from his banqueting table and get full. I want to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” I want every blessing, every trial, every circumstance that brings me closer to Him and gives glory to Him. I want the big platter of God. And a second helping.

21
Mar
11

No. I Don’t Live At Church

I ran into a fourth grade kids choir student at a department store a while back. She looked at me with incredulous eyes and didn’t have to open her mouth for me to know what she was thinking. “You…mean…you…have…a…real…life? I had just finished a work out and was buying pillows. “You…mean…you…have…a…family?” I spoke with her grandma and tried to converse with her but she never spoke a word. “You… mean…you don’t sing songs and jump around and pray and write me speaking parts seven days a week?” “No” I laughed inside. “I don’t live at church”.

Being in the worship ministry, just like any other ministry, is all-consuming. Someone has to lead worship every single weekend. We can’t decide to go to the lake on a whim. We can’t sleep in just because. In the summer we’re planning Christmas and in the winter we’re planning Easter. With all of the CD projects we have going, I am constantly writing, arranging, rehearsing, or recording. I mentor songwriters and young worship leaders. I love the pace. I thrive on the energy. But you can’t go full blast all the time. So I am teaching myself to unplug.

On my days off I don’t check email and I rarely check Facebook. I take work home, but I do the things that energize me, not the things that drain me. I recognize that I am truly an introvert, so I need alone time. When I’m doing housework, the house is silent. When I garden, I listen to the birds and let my mind wander, or pray, or sing. I go to bed at a reasonable hour every night. I start every morning with Bible study and prayer. I schedule ‘on purpose’ time with friends and family. My weight training sessions are on my calendar and are non negotiable except in emergency.

This winter has been exceptionally busy and I have found it harder to do the things I just I said. Recently, I heard Chris Emmitt preach about the rhythm of life. I realized immediately that I suffer from ‘arrythmia” – it’s not a word – I just made that up. My weekly schedule is so packed, with so little wiggle room, that I am running on high-gear. All the time. I don’t know how to function on “low.” My rhythm is off. I am impatient and unsettled; I feel guilty for relaxing because there is so much to do. I always have to do the things that must be done, so there is no time left for the things I want to do. I need to learn how to just ‘be’. I need to be able to shift from high to low and not be derailed.

My 16 year-old had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and I have cherished the time I have had with him caring for him, doing homework, watching movies and driving him around. It’s been really nice. Sometimes the hard things are the good things. He even said “Mom, do you think part of this is that God wanted me to spend more time with you?” Pretty wise for what could be a self-absorbed teenager. I could learn something from him.

“No, I don’t live at church.” Ministry comes from a well-balanced life. I’m trying my hardest to find that place.




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