Meaning What I Sing

I love to sing songs to God in church. Not all songs, certainly, and not all verses/refrains in any particular song. I feel very strongly about meaning what I say, and sometimes I stop singing when I’m not quite sure I’m on board with a line or two in a worship song.

In particular, some songs bring up a lot of tension for me as an introvert. They may have their root in scripture (or they may not), but I have some difficulty singing them if they haven’t been contextualized for our modern day and if they seem rather extroverted on first look.

Verses like:

Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses…

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Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen

A number of years ago a friend loaned me her copy of Henri Nouwen’s the Return of the Prodigal Son. It, along with a few other great books I read around the same time, opened my eyes to the depth of relationship that is possible with God. It also addressed how my deepest insecurities often distract me from that deep relationship I simultaneously long for yet am afraid of. In The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen shares insights from years of study and thoughtful reflection (his own, his friends’, and fellow scholars’) on the familiar parable through the lens of Rembrandt’s famous painting.

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The Half-Scorched Tree

I love trees. They speak to me metaphorically, providing significant analogies and life lessons about growth and beauty and provision and purpose. I can sit for an hour pondering my life (a form of meditation) in the vicinity of trees, and I’ll almost always walk away with new insights.

I’m also drawn to Bible verses that refer to trees and plants as a symbol for a person’s healthiness and vitality, or lack thereof. Psalm 1:3 is a prime example of this. Referring to those who meditate on God’s word, it says, “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever they do prospers” (New International Version, 2011).

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Will God Save Me from This?

There’s a particular area of my life in which I am extremely unhappy. It reduces the quality of all the other areas of my life, too. Every day I ask God to save me from this thing, and every day that I am not saved from it I am faced with the question, “Is God going to save me from this thing, or am I supposed to save myself from it?” How much of this is in God’s hands, and how much of it is in mine?

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Streams of Living Water, by Richard Foster

One of the most eye-opening books I’ve read about my faith is Richard Foster’s “Streams of Living Water.” In Streams Foster describes six different ways that Christianity has been lived out over the centuries, each of which he asserts is as biblical and valid as the others. This came as a surprise to me, as I’d grown up in one of the six that seemed to assert that it was the only right expression of Christianity.

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Illegitimate Guilt

Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between a legitimate feeling of guilt and an illegitimate one. What I mean is, when someone I respect or love disapproves of a choice I make, I feel so bad about disappointing them that I start to feel like I’ve actually done something wrong. Even if it’s not wrong, just something they don’t like.

It’s even worse when they bring God into the equation.

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Mountains of Decisions, part 3

Prologue from part 1 and part 2:

I am not a hiker. And though I appreciate the beauty of green and flowering things from behind the glass of a window, I’m not even really that fond of being outdoors. So I was surprised to discover that the image that came to me year after year as an analogy to describe my life, was a mountain. Complete with hiking trails.


The last time the mountain imagery came to mind I was at a major crossroads in my life instead of my ministry. Well, it had something to do with my ministry in that I was considering leaving it.

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Mountains of Decisions, part 2

Prologue from part 1:

I am not a hiker. And though I appreciate the beauty of green and flowering things from behind the glass of a window, I’m not even really that fond of being outdoors. So I was surprised to discover that the image that came to me year after year as an analogy to describe my life, was a mountain. Complete with hiking trails.


The second time this mountain imagery came up, I had already decided to sign on full time with the ministry I’d been part of for 6 years. I’d been offered the choice to move to another city in a nearby state, or to stay at the campus I knew and loved. They asked me to pray about it, and when I did, the same mountain image emerged from my subconscious. Only this time, there were two ways up the mountain.

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Mountains of Decisions, part 1

Prologue:

I am not a hiker. And although I appreciate the beauty of green and flowering things from behind the glass of a window, I’m not even really that fond of being outdoors. So I was surprised to discover that the image that came to me year after year as an analogy to describe my life, was a mountain. Complete with hiking trails.


The first time this mountain/hiking imagery graced my life I was a college senior asking what I should do after graduation. More specifically, I was asking if I should intern with the campus ministry that I was part of in college. As I asked, this picture unfolded: it was me walking up a trail, starting at the base of the mountain where the incline was gradual, continuing to more steep sections, and occasionally stopping to enjoy the view and to survey how far I’d come. There was a sense of satisfaction that the hard work was well worth the vista point. And there was a deeper sense of God’s presence and his promise that he would always be with me, in the easy aspects of ministry and in the difficult ones, on the days that felt like accomplishments and the days that felt like failures, and that his hand would reach out to help me up the steeper parts of the climb.

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God Told Me We’re Getting Married

I used to think that people who claimed God had spoken to them were crazy. With some people, I still do, depending on what they claim they’re hearing. But over the years I’ve rubbed shoulders with all sorts of Christians and gleaned from them what makes their faith so vibrant and relevant. Those whose faith I came to respect the most are the ones who both speak to and hear from God on a regular basis. And so, taking many of my cues from these spiritual mentors, I tried learning how to cultivate that ability to hear the voice of God.

Early on in this process I learned that extra wisdom and caution is necessary in the areas of romance, money, and power. When we want one of these things we tend to want it so badly that we can easily superimpose that desire over what God is actually saying. The desire itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a misinterpretation of God’s will regarding that desire can lead someone to do or say something really stupid. That’s why sometimes a random guy will walk up to a girl he doesn’t know claiming that God just told him that she is his future wife. I mean, some girls go for that, but most rational women will object. One of my favorite responses I’ve heard to that line is, “Well, he hasn’t mentioned you to me!”

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