Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gungor And Friends

If you've been around here for a while, you may remember this post, where I pointed out my own personal oddity of not really listening to much music.

I know, I know. Even saying it, I feel like this:

That phase my friends, is so done. And boy, can I say I'm so freakin' HAPPY about that!?

There is so much good music out there. And so much of it is solid Christian stuff, which is basically all I play. I thought this lovely Sunday evening would be a fine time to share some of my favorites lately, in no particular order.

Songs for Nations - I just started listening to this album today, and I'm loving it. Specifically it's heart, and the heart of Sean Feucht: Missions & Worship ("If missions was my calling, then worship was my weapon."). Wow. I mean seriously. This man has a powerful heart for Christ and he is truly living a modern lifestyle of biblical worship. (2 Chronicles 20:20-22 comes to mind.) I've enjoyed his other work, and I also value his ministry of the 24/7 Burn Rooms. This album, Songs for Nations, is 12 original worship songs written in the nations they are interceding for. Astounding! (Full album available on Spotify; one song here on Sean Feucht's YouTube)

Michael Gungor is another favorite artist. I am captivated by his creativity and excellence in skill. This man knows how to make complex, worshipful music. The Beautiful Things album is definitely one of my favorites. But I've been known to play his music for hours at a time--he's a go-to background-doing-life artist for me.

I also really value his lyrics. Good things to be singing, listening too, absorbing when you aren't consciously focusing on the music--something I really value.  In their own words, "This is a group that believes listeners are intelligent enough to appreciate lyrical metaphor and allegory along with intricate time signatures and somewhat uncommonly paired instruments." Here's my playlist of Beautiful Things on Grooveshark. 

I listened to Will Reagan & United Pursuit's album Live at the Banks probably 100 times. At least. I'm talking well over a month on repeat. This is such beautiful, raw, real worship. I love that it is easily incorporated into contemporary corporate worship, too. I truly love lifting high the name of Jesus with these songs.

And then when I discovered their latest album, Endless Years. My face fell off in excitement. After passionately loving the original Set A Fire (Fantastic video. Watch it. No, seriously--watch it.), the remake on Endless Years floored me. Wow. So much talent glorifying God. I love living in this generation of accessible worship! (Listen to my playlist of Endless Years on Grooveshark here.)

Other artist's that really deserve at least a paragraph of wonderful words about their fantasticness include Israel Houghton & New Breed, Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, IHOP Prayer Room, Rend Collective Experiment, Kristene Mueller-DiMarco, Jon Foreman, Bethel Music and The Brilliance. (It's almost breaking my heart to not write about these people for you right here, right now. But I gotta stop somewhere.)

My favorite thing about all of this music is that it constantly pours into my relationship with Christ. I'm not anti-secular (aka non-christian) music. But I have become acutely aware over time how my mood stays more positive and God-focused the more worshipful music I pour into myself. In seasons where I don't make enough room in my schedule to spend quiet devotions with Jesus as much as I should (Let's be honest. Or at all, because that happens too.), I honestly believe my faith is carried by the worship of these fellow believers, and I'm so thankful. Their worship, time and energy carries me, and I wouldn't be the same without it. 

Here's one of my go-to playlists, which is aptly titled Gungor and Friends.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Life as a Church Administrator, Pt 7: Rollercoaster Continued

This can stand on it's own, but it is the second half of a two-section story; if you missed the first half, catch up here.

I remember many a staff meeting, discussing finances and wondering how in the world God would provide. I remember saying “no” a hundred times to fixing things, replacing things, or buying simple things to make someone’s serving position at church easier because we just couldn’t afford it. I remember spending so much of our staff meeting time in prayer asking for God’s perspective.

One staff meeting in particular still stands out to me. It was during one of the lowest lows, and we all knew we just needed to get in God’s presence and get His perspective. Mark, our Pastoral Assistant and Youth & Children's Director, went and grabbed his guitar, and we just worshiped and sang together. It was so powerful to experience God take our low and turn it into a beautiful moment of trust and rest in Him. We all got something from this time, and I remember what God told me vividly: He said we were on a motorcycle with Him, and we were coming up to a big curve. When you are in this situation, you need to slow down and lean into the curve. If you hit the brakes or if you try to gun it through, you’ll wipe out. He was telling us to trust Him and lean into the curve and not fear because from our perspective everything was slowing down and tilting drastically--that this needed to happen for us to speed ahead around the corner.

So we moved forward in faith, and Pastor began his series on tithing.

God showed up (like He is always faithful to do). That fall, beginning a few weeks before the series, attendance began to rise. And then it continued to rise. And the finances shot up. It was amazing and awe-inspiring to see that the Holy Spirit had clearly been working ahead of us, softening people’s hearts and using this series to bring people to new levels of freedom in finances. We got so many testimonies of God’s provision and people wanting to share what God has done in tithing, that it took months to let everyone share who wanted to!

I remember in December, being so thankful for all God had done. We had begun looking at the yearly financial reports, and we realized that at this rate even though God had moved in amazing ways and we were no longer in danger of making more cuts, we had not received enough to make up for the low months earlier in the year. Because like any business, we make our budget for the next year based on the past whole year, we were a little discouraged that we would still have to hold back on some of the goals God had put before us. But overall everyone’s tone was completely positive--God had clearly provided and gotten us out of that rut and back on much more stable ground.

And then the miraculous happened. In the last few offerings of the year so much came in that we were shocked and completely dumbfounded. Looking back comparing 2012 to 2011, we received...get this: over 10% more than in 2011.

WHAT!? I wish you could have seen the rejoicing that went down in the office of New Day Community Church that week! It is amazing to have a job where you see God move, in big ways, when you least expect it.

My friends, stick around for the end of God’s story in your life. If you’re in the season where it seems God is making promises and not following through on them, don’t give up. If you’re in a high right now, racing forward, make note of the testimonies you’re gaining right now so you can coast right through the next low season that may come. No matter what: don’t give up.
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