“Brothers and sisters think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:26-28
A mixture of blank faces and passionate worshipers staring at me while I’m singing so loud and so hard that my side hurts. I’m sweating. I’m exhausted. I’m out of breath. I look up and gasp for air in a moment off the mic just to keep from collapsing. Then I turn back once again to a stoic crowd, while I scream-sing til my voice is brash and bruised.
Most of the feedback I receive about my sweaty Sunday singing is positive. However, I occasionally receive puzzling looks and questions as to why I would be so demonstrative in worship.
It’s “foolishness” to them. It's wasteful. It's showy. It's juvenile. Well here's a little secret courtesy of the blonde scream singer on stage: it just doesn't make sense yet. This foolishness doesn’t come from immaturity, rebellion, a lack of intelligence. It’s a “foolishness” rooted in something that is both magnificent and mysterious.
My demonstrative displays of worship erupt from a very genuine part of my heart that knows Jesus (period). Jesus has not only changed every part of my life and lifted me from the depths of my despair; HE is beautiful beyond measure.
As I discover more of who Jesus is and experience His wonders in my life, I'm finding it harder and harder to give anything less than passionate shouts, knees on the floor, tears down my cheek, and sweat...lots and lots of sweat. Simply said: my heart is experiencing Jesus, and everything else is just the overflow.
It's not the physical mannerisms that are important in worship; it's where our heart is. Have we really allowed the Lord to reach us at our very depths? Are we really pursuing the lengths and breadths of who Jesus is? Or are we merely satisfied with the shallow end of grace and the former wonders dwelling on the surface? Friend, there is grace upon grace available to us. There are wonders upon wonders to be found in the person of Christ today!
I am meant to lead my community to the place where God still moves, a place that looks “foolish” to the world. I am meant to break the ground that they, with time, will someday walk in. It seems foolish now, but someday “every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.” Someday EVERYONE will be a little “foolish” before the Lord.
Now, dear reader, it is with all love and sincerity that I urge you to first experience the fullness of God for yourself, but also to understand that YOU are meant to lead your community to this place of encountering God and His life changing love. Though you might look a little “foolish” in the process, you can take comfort knowing that it is GOD who chooses the "foolish things to shame the wise".
Your gifts are needed, your heart is needed, your efforts are needed, and your prayers are needed. You have been given divine gifts to illuminate the story of Jesus in this world and carve out of the part of the human heart that has always existed for Christ alone. You may end up in spheres that are beyond you. You may be surrounded by people with more clout and talent. Yet, God chose YOU to be the vessel of His glory.
So...may we have the COURAGE to be the first to be a little foolish for the things God has done for us. May we have the STRENGTH to be vulnerable enough to show the depth, length, and breadth of the work Christ has done in us. May we have the GRACE to know the little that others give may be the best that they have right now. May we continue to EXPERIENCE the love of Christ and PURSUE Him even when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable. And may we be willing to GIVE our all and give our best, regardless of what others give, because we know the great lengths we have been saved.
It was a typical Tuesday afternoon at the office when these not to typical thoughts were flying through my mind.
“I wonder how many times people let their greatest masterpieces stay hidden from the world. I wonder why humanity doesn’t always push forward their best work or lets it dissolve in the dark before it can be fully appreciated. And I wonder if we will discover people’s passive wonders in a thousand years to come.”
Perhaps I should explain these rambling mid-work thoughts.
I was logging onto my email account when I noticed a web article that caught my attention. Normally I am very resistant to online articles and ads, because they are often the spawn of Satan trying to spam their way into my world. But for some reason my usual precautionary web roaming defenses were down while I scrolled over the article that read “2,000-year-old computer discovered”.
“What?” I thought to myself. “That can’t be right. We’ve only had computers for a few decades, not a few dozen centuries.”
The article continued to explain that a few decades ago, a Greek archaeologist found a gear of a wheel embedded in a rock as he was examining an old shipwreck. Upon recent re-examination, researchers discovered the mechanism in the rock to be a very complex and very ancient analog computer. Not only was I shocked that something like that existed thousands of years ago, but I was even more shocked to learn that a mechanism that complex wasn’t known to be used until the 14th century, over a thousand years after it’s existence.
For over a thousand years that piece of equipment was submerged under water, in the dark, eroding away. “Did the architect know that over two thousand years later that I would be reading about this little invention on a Samsung computer with another micro computer (aka cell phone) in my pocket? Did he or she know how far their work could have gone had it not been sunk under the sea? Could their invention have sped up humanity’s technological progress by a thousand years?”
This story is down-right remarkable. Humanity eventually got there. We use computers in a variety of ways in our everyday life; but could we have gotten their faster? Did that individual’s work see it’s fullest potential? No. Because it only saw the sea.
Now I wonder, what works are submerged in my being that I haven’t let see the light of day? Perhaps they once seemed insignificant. Perhaps I am too afraid of what others will think. Perhaps they once seemed too costly or time-consuming to complete.
Well, perhaps it is time to rediscover the brilliance inside of me. And perhaps it is time to rediscover the brilliance inside of you. Don’t let your best work sit around collecting dust. Don't let it decay in the dark. Take a risk today and let the world see your submerged brilliance.
“It’s not what you have; it’s what you GIVE to what you have.”
William Larry Swift
My parents pastored small churches for most of my life.
I, to my great surprise, began to follow in their ministerial footsteps by becoming a youth pastor at a young age and later attending a Christian university. I went into college with a few years of ministry under my belt, and I assumed I would finish my college career only to go back into youth ministry a sharper, well equipped pastor.
However, during my time at my university, the Lord began to shift my heart and unfold a new and unexpected plan for my life. After graduation, I was still wrestling with my calling and searching out this shifting
My friends seemed instantly successful. They launched into their, artistic and business endeavors with what seemed like, at least from a distance, sheer ease.
Those who didn’t jump into their career were traveling, getting married, or getting their Master’s degree. They all seemed to be breaking ahead of me, leaving me in the dust.
I began to feel “late” to every dream in my life as I watched others break ahead. I was like a rocket, ready to launch but with no place to go: aimless.
While experiencing my quarter-life crisis, my dad offered these words, “Jen, it’s not what you have; it’s what you give to what you have”. It’s that sort of Dad-like advice that always comes in in the clutch.
What made these words especially impactful to my restless heart, was that my dad lived this very sentence out every day of his life. I watched him toil tirelessly for the faithful congregants who sat in those blue Sunday morning church pews. I experienced his relentless care and provision for our family.
And now, once again, my dad was caring for me in the way my heart needed most. His simple statement and effortless wisdom changed my view of success for the rest of my life.
Greatness isn’t found in my following, it’s found in my character and care of others.
The deep work the Lord does in me will eventually be a deep work He does through me. And deep work takes more time. I want my life to be swimming in the depth of God and His purposes rather than the shallow end of my own expectations. So, I’m becoming okay with the detours from my dreams and the longer routes to greatness. And I am incredibly grateful for a father who can show me the way.
It’s Friday morning which means I am keeping a checklist nearby of all the tasks that I will need to accomplish before the day is over. I keep running over again in mind what groceries are at the house. “Do I have enough eggs to get me through till’ Monday? What meal can I prep for the next few days?”
When I get home from work tonight, I’ll do the laundry, clean my bathroom, make dinner for the next three nights, and make sure the house is (mostly) clean. Why do I do all this on Friday night? Because Saturday is my SABBATH day.
SABBATH is a spiritual practice that’s been around for thousands of years but somehow, I’ve began to stumble into this weekly routine only a few months ago.
The truth I have found is: we weren’t built to run without rest. Eventually it catches up with us.
If you don’t practice SABBATH or know much about it, let me give you a brief rundown. SABBATH is most simply stated as a day of worship and resting from labor. It was typically observed for a 24-hour period on Saturday and was a central to Jewish life in Bible times.
SABBATH reminds us of who God really is, and it affirms our identity just as it did for the Jews in the book of Exodus ("a sign between me and you for generations to come" Exodus 31:12-17). SABBATH reminds us that we are dependent beings in need of God. It also reminds us that God is actively taking care of us and the world around us. I have found that my SABBATH DAYS so beautifully encourage my connection with the Lord as I discover repeatedly His care for me, His Sovereignty, and His longing to be known by me. To my surprise, I have also discovered more of who I am and developed a sort of centeredness I was craving for years.
SABBATH enables us to see the goodness of the Lord in THIS season. It slows us down to see the things that the Lord is doing around and within us. When we are running at a breakneck pace during the week, it’s all too easy to miss where the Lord has been at work. In fact, I spend about an hour every SABBATH journaling about my week prior to recount my week’s activities and encounters, identify any themes, and discover what the God has been speaking to me over the last six days. This has truly been LIFE-CHANGING for me! It’s made me aware of God’s very active presence in my life, and it has kept me present to the now instead of always living for the next.
SABBATH pushes against our anxious hurry, our nagging consumerism, and our tight grip of control on life. When I started the practice of SABBATH, I didn’t anticipate these being a by-product of my Saturday routine. However, I have found time and time again the restless anxiety drain from heart as I spend quiet, task free hours with the Lord. I have also seen my compulsive need to be in control in a new light, and have found that compulsion begin to fade from my being. Most alarmingly, I have discovered that the American consumerist culture has had an affect on my time and mind in ways that I no longer want to partake in. SABBATH has caused a shift in my heart towards contentment, and it’s a wild experience.
I highly recommend SABBATH to anyone and everyone. I think it is a bit of a dying practice in our culture, but it is gold for the believer. It is of tremendous worth and value; however, I realize that defining what “work”, “rest”, and “worship” are for us individually can be difficult. So, here are some tips and thoughts about SABBATH.
SABBATH tips & thoughts:
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Sitting in a quiet anti-mall at the end of a dimly lit hallway in the opening hours of this very hipster Northern California market. I can hear the echoes of a hustling and bustling coffee shop down the way as I read about the “food and drink” miracles Jesus performed in the Bible. One such miracle is known as “the feeding of the five thousand” found in Matthew 14.
This a very famous miracle in the Bible. So. as I read this passage, I’m trying my best to get a sense of the hunger and thirst that the crowds and disciples must have felt in these stories; however, this is admittedly quite difficult for me as I sip on this strong and quite rich espresso. I finally set the coffee cup down and try to feel the frustration and weariness of the disciples as they are hand over some kid’s lunch to Jesus. I try empathizing with the hungry crowd who were probably shoulder to shoulder as they gathered around Jesus to hear Him speak.
If you’ve heard about this miracle, you know that Jesus remarkably feeds over 5,000 people with only a few loaves and fish. However, it may come as a shock to you that the crowd didn’t come to Jesus that day for food. Their spiritual leader, John the Baptist, was just murdered. So, these people were probably experiencing mourning, crippling emptiness, and intense grief. They were looking for answers, for comfort, for guidance. But Jesus didn’t address their grief-stricken spiritual hunger alone; He met their most practical need before getting to their deepest suffering.
The extraordinary truth for us in these passages comes to us in a humble sack lunch from a boy: Jesus rarely does what we expect Him to do. Sure, this is a down-right amazing miracle, but it isn’t what the people were after.
Far too often, I am intensely focused on what I think is my most urgent struggle. It clouds my mind and I can’t see anything else no matter how hard I try. “If I could just get this fixed, all would be well”. So, I bring my cloudiness to the Lord expecting Him to meet me in a very particular “a,b,c as easy as 1,2,3” sort of way. Instead, He usually meets me in ways I would have never expected nor asked for. I then proceed to walk away from these experiences baffled and scratching my head. Because while my “urgent need” seemed to go unaddressed by the Lord, I am somehow full.
Jesus is after wholeness in our lives, and He knows what we need. But what Jesus is really after is us, and us knowing Him. He isn’t just after our relief; He’s after our hearts. Jesus doesn’t want us to experience miracles for experience’ sake; He is always trying to show us more of who He is. In every season and situation of our lives, Jesus is working to deepen our relationship with Him.
So, when we are caught in the mystery and messiness of life, let’s simply come to Jesus. Let’s trust that He is for us, and that He is the best person to take care of every part of our being.
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.