Playing music because–music

I’ve spent time off and on in worship bands in ELCA worshipping communities over the last 25 years or so. One of the toughest things for me about playing in an ELCA worship band is that this kind of playing just doesn’t happen very often.

It isn’t so much the skill of these two men–it’s the pure joy they have at just playing their instruments together and exploring what they can do. As a church musician, I’ve found too often we turn music into an utilitarian exercise. Music is a means to an end. Musicians are there to lead the congregation in song. Musicians are there to not draw attention to themselves. Musicians must do whatever it takes to stay out of the way.

But as a musician, music just moves me. It is not a utilitarian exercise. There are rules and rudimentary skills, yes. However, there is so much more to what music has to offer you and me. Music is one of the ways in which we can experience God.

I remember being asked, “Can Christians sing the blues?” The answer is yes. And Christians can sing Hard Rock, Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical, Pop, what ever music comes up–Christians can and I would argue should play the style.

In fact, I think we need to spend as much time gathered together as Christians enjoying where music takes us as we do following the little black notes in the hymn book, sheet music, chord chart, or choir music. Exploring music for the voice of God in big and little ways in the midst of the way the sounds of music move us.

Let’s play music because—music.

Stop Helping Everyone

nonprofit-storytelling-featured-imageNow that I have your attention, one of the hardest things to learn in ministry is discernment.  Discernment is the process of figuring out what Jesus is calling one to do.  You might call discernment “holy decision-making.”  Sometimes discernment calls one to say no to really great ministry in order to say yes to what is really the calling of God.

Christy Wright’s suggestion is to ask:

So what would Jesus do?

Jesus stopped and prayed.

Jesus sometimes said no.

Jesus went away to be alone.

Jesus rested.

Jesus didn’t follow the need. He followed His assignment.

So what does this hard work of discernment give us?

This week, let’s stop trying to be the hero. Instead, let’s pray and lean into what God is asking of us.

We may find that when we stop being busy trying to help everyone everywhere, we will find more energy, joy, fulfillment and success. Then we can focus on the needs we are called to, the situations we are assigned to and the people we are appointed to.

Something to think about

From Discover Your Windows by Kent R. Hunter

A man walked into the pastor’s office and said: “I want to join the church.  But don’t ask me to do anything. I don’t want to be part of any organization.  I don’t want to do any work.  I’ll come to church when I feel like it, but that’s it.”

The pastor replied:  “I see.  Well you’re at the wrong address.  Here, go to this address just down the road.  They have exactly what you want.”

The man left and went down the street until he came to the address which the pastor gave him, and was shocked to find himself at the entrance to a cemetery.

Faith takes action.

Vic Halboth


I’ll Pray for You

child-praying-hands-gray-praying-hands-hiIt’s almost a Christian cliche:  I’ll pray for you.  It often comes dangerously close to becoming that throw away greeting, “How are you?”  Do you really want to know how the other is? Probably not?  Why are you offering to pray for someone else?  The next time you offer to pray for someone ask yourself these four questions:

Are you praying because you feel awkward, uncomfortable or anxious in the moment?

Are you praying in order to escape the other person’s sorrow?

Are you distancing yourself from relationship with them by appealing to God to just fix them?

Or worse, are you trying to demonstrate that God heals through you, thereby making yourself the center of attention?

Prayer is communion with God and through the Holy Spirit with each other.  When we use prayer as a crutch to avoid walking with and truly listening to the other, we cheapen it and drain prayer of its power.  When we find ourselves and other Christians misusing prayer–may we be bold enough to say:

Please do not pray for me unless you are willing to walk with me.

Know me. Hear the depths of my fear or anguish or whatever it might be and let it affect you.

Then let us bring our (not just my) most profound needs vulnerably before God. Please do not try to escape that vulnerability. Because if you do, you have left me, and that is not prayer. It is not communion with God through Christ by the spirit.

And if you have no words, that is okay — more than okay, in fact. It’s an invitation to sit with me in the awfulness of my predicament and silently wait upon God together.


Get to Work?

Another Pastor Matt had this gem on his blog today:

Prayer is so powerful, so amazing that it cannot help but change us. Prayer invites us into the mind and heart of God himself… and then sets us on a path to do what God desires. To bring it all together, true prayer is the revival of the Holy Spirit in us that compels us to do something and get busy

In Lent worship we have focused on bringing our prayers before God through our lips.  How can we bring our prayers before God with our hands and feet?