Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My take on Sunday mornings

I follow Jon Gabriel on Twitter (@exjon) and I read his articles and found his perspectives on the music and architecture of American modern churches interesting enough that I found myself thinking about my own take on this subject.  I don't disagree with him because he is coming at this subject from the sum of his own experiences and mine are very different.  I thought I would just explain why I think some modern churches look and sound they way they do.

I grew up in Assembly of God and Southern Baptist churches with fairly subdued architecture and the music you would expect: mostly hymns with a few modern choruses.  I probably never even thought about architecture until I went to college saw our university "chapel" for the first time.  It was an awe inspiring experience, but I can't say I felt closer to God because of the surroundings.

pic courtesy Saint Louis University
About that time, I also began hearing stories about craftsmen that spent their entire lives carving birds in cathedrals knowing they would never see the project completed.  They did it anyway because they were carving those birds in an act of worship.  My church today looks like many modern nondenominational churches, didn't take a century to build and doesn't take your breath away the moment you walk in but I believe that it was built in the same spirit.  When I walk around my church, there aren't bird carvings or mosaics but there are large photographs of church members taken by artists.  There are furnishings and sets designed by interior designers.  I believe these people are participating in the same act of worship as the bird carvers.  They are using the talents God gave them to create a place that fits in our neighborhood, our culture, our time and that serves our community well.  Many churches today aren't just used for traditional services but as a meeting place for the community and their more blank canvas lends itself more easily to multiple purposes and changing themes. I love the grand architecture of traditional cathedrals but I believe that it is okay for the church to reflect the style of their surroundings.

I also believe there is also some real intention poured into the way modern churches are designed that benefits its members.  Our pastor in St. Louis pointed out that they deliberately made the stage low because they didn't want the speaker to look elevated as if they were better or closer to God.  There are also a lot of technical reasons for stages to be laid out the way they are to enhance the sound to the listeners and to the other members of the worship team. The stage was designed extremely wide at our St. Louis church when they built the new auditorium so that the team could come back on stage while our pastor was finishing his message and they wouldn't distract anyone while they walked back to their places.

Addressing the aspect of modern worship music, I'm sure there are some worship leaders out there who do not have honorable intentions and are there to glorify themselves more than God.  But in my experience, many times when a member of the worship team takes off and doesn't follow the words on the screen, they aren't auditioning for a reality show.  They are truly singing spontaneous melodies in response to a God too big to fit in a pre-written song.  It is also usually a chance for those in the service to also respond with what is on their heart.

As for the more performance driven times of worship, I prefer them.  When I hear someone enormously talented pour their heart out to God in a song that is expertly performed, I praise God for the talent He has given to them. I can focus on the words and who He is and just respond to who He is in those moments. I love hymns and choirs but like the architecture, I believe we are the church and as we change throughout history, what our weekend services become is going to change. It always has and it always will. If anything, we need to be on the cutting edge and drive the culture rather than just becoming a secondhand reflection. We have to be in the business of reaching the lost while because firmly planted in truth and that may manifest itself in a variety of outward appearances but as long as those appearances aren't compromising our mission, the variety and modernization looks pretty good from where I sit.

Taking all that into consideration, this is still hilarious.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Baby Step 3!

So thankful for the decision to take Financial Peace University and start coming around to Dave Ramsey's way of thinking!  As many of you know we finished Baby Step 2 of paying off our non-mortgage debt late this Spring and did our debt free scream live in Nashville in August:
Here's my little crew in action:

Now we have finished our 3-6 month savings today and we are moving on!  So thankful for Dave and his teaching!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Follow me on Bloglovin'!

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Trip to Gatlinburg

I'm still catching up the blog from this last Summer and thought I would share our family vacation.  This was really just an excuse to have something else to do in Tennessee after we saw Dave Ramsey but now I can't wait to go back!

We rented a Town and Country minivan from Enterprise to drive from DFW to Tennessee and it was amazing.  We could pack all the "stuff" under the seats and had so much room.  It was my husband, myself, my mom and 3 kids and we were all comfy.  My older kids in the back had the wireless headphones and could watch movies the whole time.  My mom couldn't get over how quiet of a road trip it was.  We went through Arkansas to get there but on the way back we took the southern route through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to come back.

We rented a cabin from Cabins for You after checking out several and they gave us a great military discount.  We LOVED our cabin!  It was so cozy, had everything we needed and was close to the heart of Gatlinburg.  We had three bedrooms and three bathrooms and didn't feel on top of each other.  It will be hard to ever go back to staying in a hotel after this!
I plan trips out to the nanosecond so we had everything lined up on an itinerary.  Day one was Dollywood and none of us had been there before.  It is such a clean, friendly theme park!  The cinnamon bread was so amazing that I am going to try to make it from a recipe on Pinterest.  The rides were fun and the show where Dolly's family sings was great.  The most magical part was that we happened to be there on a day that Dolly was actually there!  She rode through in the parade!  

My kids can't wait to go back.  The next day we did the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and Ober Gatlinburg.  The views of the Smokey Mountains were breathtaking in both places.  Roaring Fork was such an incredible little trail through basically one breathtaking picture opportunity to the next.  We put the XM bluegrass station on and just pointed through the windows and each rushing stream or mountain majesty. Ober Gatlinburg gave us an incredible military discount (I think half!) and we rode the sky tram up the mountain to the alpine slide and other rides for the kids.  It was a blast.  I'm not a huge fan of heights but it was worth the nerves. We also went to the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and it was amazing.  Probably one of the best aquariums I have ever experienced.  The kids really enjoyed it.
The last day we enjoyed some shopping in Gatlinburg and Dixie Stampede.  Our favorite store turned out to be Santa's Claus-et in the Arts and Crafts community just outside town.  We did pictures with Santa (who was so sweet) and got some decor items for the holidays.  The owners were awesome and there was even live Bluegrass music on the front porch.  We rested and then headed to Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge for dinner.  We had been to the one in Branson and this was equally great.  It is as much fun to watch my kids watching the show as it is just to watch the show.  The food is very good and you get so much.  I hated for our little trip to end.

The best travel tips I learned from this vacation were :

  • We packed our own food.  We stopped at rest areas and little parks with our cooler there and back.  The kids could run around, we saved money and we ate more healthfully.  
  • We also used the Red Box machines.  We could grab a movie in Texas, check it back in at a CVS in Arkansas and get totally new movies for the rest of the trip.  
  • We also kept our packing simple by everyone taking just a backpack full of their clothes.  We didn't take suitcases, everyone just had their own bag and it made it easy to know whose was whose.  
  • We  took the all in one laundry cleaning sheets and washed all of our clothes the last night so we came home with bags of fresh, clean laundry.  
  • We bought healthy snacks and had a easy to reach snack basket in the middle of the car.  
It was such a fun trip and we can't wait to go back!  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Celebrating God's Design in your Marriage

Have you ever seen the movie "War Games"?  You know the Cold War thriller-lite with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy?  Its one of those movies I can't help watching if I flip by when its on even though I have seen it a million times.  One of the scenes, actually the first scene, hit me last night as a very odd metaphor in my marriage.  To launch the nuclear missile out of the silo, there were always two guys on alert.  Both had to turn the key and the keys were so far apart that there was no way one person could physically do it.  I think in a very weird way this is like my marriage relationship.  I am the one ready to fire on any great adventure I see on the horizon and I'm thankful that my husband is God's failsafe in my life, always there to slow down my crazy enthusiasm.  He is thankful that I push us into new frontiers and adventures though.  Its just a beautiful way God has balanced our family.

In Genesis 2:18, "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." God knew that my husband would be more cautious and that I would be more impulsive and through miracles that I will never understand this side of heaven, He allowed these two wacky kids to meet and form a family.  We honor God's design for marriage when we celebrate and rejoice in our differences and use them for His glory rather than being frustrated by them.  

What metaphors do you see in your marriage?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Easy Summer Wreath

I know this is REALLY late since it is already Pumpkin Spice Latte season but I wanted to make sure I got it up here for inspiration.  My friend and I wanted a fun wreath for Summer that popped so we headed off to Hobby Lobby.  We spray painted grapevine wreaths and made the banner with the help of my Silhouette machine and twine.  It could have easily been done with some scissor skills and letter stickers.  She made the pretty bows and we hot glued on the flowers.  Easy Peasy!

We Are Debt Free!

So that picture is the result of a two year journey.  Two years ago we realized that our finances were out of control and decided that the best way to fix it was to try Financial Peace University.  It was life changing.  We started with $39K in car and student loan debt and a snowball (monthly debt payment) of less than $200.  It seemed so impossible and overwhelming.

But like a snowball rolling downhill, it grew. It kept going until every month, it was $1000-$2000 and before you knew it, we had done it!  It was amazing and God did all the heavy lifting and to Him be the honor and glory.  We put every "3rd paycheck", tax refund, and any other windfall into this to get it done.  We skipped vacationing, cut down on extras and eating out.  YNAB also was an incredible tool that managed our budget every month.  We learned so much in the process about self-control and knowing God's will and I'm so thankful for the journey but even more thankful it is done.  So now what?  We finished Baby Step 2 (paying off consumer debt) in April and went to Tennessee in August to do our live debt free scream.  Now, we are almost done with Baby Step 3 which is 3-6 months expenses.  It has taken us exactly 6 months which is mind blowing.  

Regarding knowing God's will, my husband had the revelation early on that if we didn't have the cash for something you could pretty much reason that it wasn't God's will for you to have that object you desired.  So that was our litmus test of every "want" that came up.  Do we have the cash?  Can we sell something or find the money?  If no, then the answer was to wait.  Most of the time, the desire went away or it worked itself out.

One of the main goals in this was not only to get financially healthy for just the basic reason that it is the smart thing to do but to ultimately take the next step of faith we feel God is calling us to. More to come..but just to confirm what you are all thinking: yes, the treats in Martha's Place are really that good.  Nothing like a salted caramel cupcake to celebrate!