Ten Months Later

July 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

It’s been over 10 months since I’ve updated this particular blog. Outside of school papers, I haven’t written much of anything anywhere.  There are a lot of reasons for this. It may be easiest to explain it by simply stating what has changed in that 10 months:

I have completed one year of seminary. And in the course of that year, I decided to leave the Masters of Divinity program and pursue a Masters of Arts in Theology instead. I attend a different church community now…with my HUSBAND! That’s right, I went from girlfriend to wife in 6 months flat.

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The best way I can describe these last 10 months is disorienting (and of course, magical).  The time that has gone by has been necessary, but I sorely miss being a worship leader.  This blog has been dedicated to reflections of the worship life of Real Life Fellowship.  With some encouragement from dear friends, I’ve decided to re-enter this world of reflection in my new context.

My hope for further writing is to reflect on the worship life of the Church in the broader sense of the word. So if you are reading from RLF, don’t go away! I believe this could still speak to you and the fellowship.

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Let’s talk soon, ya?

lalalove,
Chelsea

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Beginnings Are Hard

September 11, 2013 § 3 Comments

Partway through my Old Testament class yesterday, my professor stopped and said, “Beginnings are hard.”  We had been discussing thoughts and ideas that were new to most of us, she sensed the unrest in the room.  Assuring us that what was important was not agreeing with everything, but to simply begin considering.  And that beginning will be hard.  She read us an excerpt from Chaim Potok’s In The Beginning which introduces us to a young boy being assured over and over again that it’s ok, “beginnings are hard.”

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The academic year brings many new beginnings.  New schools, classes, lockers, people, expectations.  You might even notice small things in your life changing to fit a new rhythm of life, and even the small things can cause a little unrest.  Just this past week I found most of my worship planning taking place in the margins of my school notebook as God spoke throughout my day.  At the end of the day I would think deeply about what that meant for us and the service.  It was a slower, newer process.  Usually, it all happens in a little notebook you see me carrying around on Sundays in a very particular order and flow of thought.  But this week was different, the notes didn’t land in that notebook until later, and that’s ok!

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God really blessed me last week in that little new beginning.  It may have been hard to accept a new way of doing things at first, but in the middle of all these classes and homework and life, it slowed me down.  What are some of the new beginnings in your life?  Do you find them difficult? Are you looking for the blessings in change?

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Beginnings are hard.  Change is challenging.  Be open to considering the goodness, the gifts in it all.  God loves you so much.

Blessings as we continue to work through new and hard beginnings this week!

I love you,
Chelsea

Faith And The Unknown

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

The following was written by our dear brother, David Webster.  David has blessed us for the past several years with his drumming, passionate presence, and heart for worship.  No longer living in West Michigan, David is still very much a part of our community with a beautiful journey.  Join me in listening to and cherishing his story. 

-Chelsea

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When Chelsea asked me to write this entry, I immediately knew that I wanted to write about how being a young adult is scary, that facing the wide open ocean that is life can be a bit terrifying in its vast uncertainty. I’m about to enter into grad school at Purdue to learn how to be a rocket scientist. My girlfriend is going to IUPUI for her fancy Master’s degree in nonprofit management. Shortly after we both graduate, the plan is to get married and start a life together. Exactly where in the county that ends up being is about 40,000 feet up in the air. It could be in Texas, it could be in Colorado, it’s probably not going to be in Europe, but who knows!

This is all very new and exciting and stressful in a big way, but literally everyone goes through crazy times in all stages of life. My father moved to Texas a few months ago after he and my mother got divorced. He had a job and a dog, and moved halfway across the country after spending the past 20 years in mid-Michigan. If we’re talking abrupt, brutal change, my dad makes me look like a bubble boy.

Yes, being a young adult poised to join the workforce is scary. But change itself is unexciting. I will go through it constantly until the day I die. It is what God does with change that is wonderful, heady comfort.

I refer you to my parents. Dad tells me all the time about how happy he is, and regales me with tales of the cool pups and people he met with Mia at the dog park. He’s searching for a church, he loves his work, he grills, he is filled with joy where some people would be terrified and bitter, throwing up walls and hiding behind them.

Mom is going back to school to get her masters in musical composition. She’s writing a memoir of her comical and incredibly sad upbringing in an impoverished, unstable household in Port Angeles. She’s going out with my sister to Tiger’s games in Detroit. She’s working through her grief via the creation of art, beauty, and knowledge.

God is setting off fireworks through my parents. The wrenching end to their struggling marriage has been redeemed by the infinite Love. Change is ugly and boring and uncomfortable without Him. With him, it’s a wet, happy dog snoozing on the couch in the sun. It’s a muse that has you writing a dozen pages a day. It’s a marriage long waited-for going down without a hitch.

In about two years, I will be a Fully Grown American Man® who pays taxes and owns a weedwacker. Right now, I’m still in beta. There are tough times in store for me during the coming months, but God provides for me. The book of James says to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Endurance is not a pretty thing. It is sweat and gritted teeth, and it is mostly appreciated in hindsight. But God is at work through it all the same. Through every new thing tacked onto a schedule, for every new, unasked-for responsibility, God picks us up by the scruffs on our necks and drags us through.

In about two years, I’m going to be a very different man, shaped by the challenges of grad school and maintaining a healthy, pure Christian relationship from first meeting to marriage. Through every tiring day, God will take me, because God thrives on change.

-David

Soak It Up

July 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

This Psalms journey is going fast.

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Realizing that we are 1/3 of the way through the 150 Psalms already ignited an interesting emotion in me: I want to slow down.

It’s a little bit like visiting a dear friend and realizing your time is short, so you want to soak up every last moment to the very last second.

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A few questions I’ve had to ask myself:

Am I really reading these psalms?
Am I seeking the Lord while I read what is “assigned?”
Am I making the most of the small task of a psalm per day?

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A few suggestions:

Make a decision regarding how much time you are going to spend on the psalm before reading it. Today, I have 5 minutes or Today, I will spend my lunch break with this text. The psalm itself will not take even 5 minutes to read, so the rest of your time can be spent really reading it. Read it over and over. Meditate. Write down some questions. Just pray.

Rewrite it. Several times a week, my first voluntary act of the morning is reading the psalm of the day, grabbing my notebook, and rewriting the psalm. You do not have to be a poet or a natural writer to benefit from this exercise. It’s about taking a verse or group of verses and rephrasing it, restating it in new words that you understand. This often helps me understand broader concepts. It also helps me to pray the psalm in writing. I think I will post an example of this exercise soon.

Make it yours. There is a lot of “I” and “me” language in the psalms, which makes it a little easier to relate to (as if the human experience of it all wasn’t enough!). But when you read that “I” or “me,” I challenge you to be open to read about yourself. Consider the words your own. It can be a bit scary; sometimes we get to know parts of ourselves we would rather keep in hiding. I don’t have to tell you how important it is to shine light on the dark things.

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Keep it up, friends. And enjoy the journey.

Worship Words

July 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”  –Aldous Huxley

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While using biblical imagery and poetic phrases in worship is, well, biblical, it can also lead to confusion regarding what it is we are actually saying and singing.  This Sunday (tomorrow) we will be singing songs like All Hail The Power Of Jesus’s Name and Holy, Holy, Holy.  We will also be downright soaked in Revelation chapters 1-5.  The mix of hymns and ancient text will be lovely, but the language will not be helpful if we don’t spend time learning the vocabulary of Scripture.  Below you will find a few key words and phrases that we will be using tomorrow morning in song, speech, or text.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I hope the few things I have posted will allow you to engage worship in a fresh, thoughtful way.

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Prostrate: Stretched out, face down, in adoration or submission.  It is sign of respect and a symbol for feelings of reverence.

Diadem: a crown

Terrestrial Ball: The word “terrestrial” indicates something relating to earth or its inhabitants.  So when we sing “Every kindred/Every tribe/On the terrestrial ball,” we’re singing, “Everyone on earth…”

Exalt: to elevate, to raise high, to praise.

The “golden crowns” and “glassy sea”:  Revelation 4 gives us a glimpse into the heavenly throne room of God.  Revelation 4:6 says “before the throne there was…a sea of glass, like crystal.”  Present around this throne, among many other beings and things, are 24 elders.  These elders are wearing golden crowns, and in an act of worship they throw them off before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

 Cherubim and seraphim:  Cherubim and a seraphim are heavenly creatures.  I am not an expert in heavenly things, but I know they have some interesting characteristics and are present in biblical scenes of heavenly worship.  Seraphim have 6 wings and are mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7 and described in Revelation 4 .  Cherubim have 4 faces each.  While not mentioned explicitly in Revelation, they are found guarding the throne of God in Ezekiel (28:14-16)

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Pray, read, study, serve, love, worship.

Singing The Psalms

June 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

There are some places where the church meets that only sing the Psalms.  John Calvin believed that there were no better songs to sing than those found in the Psalter (that is, the book of Psalms), so why would we use anything else?  I don’t want to get into the centuries worth of arguments surrounding this topic, suffice to say it has been a long, angry journey to the music we sing today at RLF.  But I think because we feel we don’t have to sing the Psalms exclusively, we – and many other congregations – forget that we can sing them at all!

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The following video is Jon Foreman’s “House Of God Forever.”  It is Psalm 23 set to music, paraphrased a bit to make it more singable.  When I hear this song, I hear the psalm in a new way.  Singing scripture is powerful, there is nothing quite like it.

Psalm 23

Don’t Skip The Tough Stuff

June 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hey, how is it going? Are you reading the Psalms? I really hope so.  There is something that happens in my life when I make this journey, and I can only assume I’m not the only one to experience that.  When we set to work falling into rhythm of God’s Word, that’s when that whole “living, breathing” character of Scripture becomes really, really obvious.

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Anyway, Psalm 13 was the other day.  It’s a tough one.  It begins by implying that God has forgotten, has intentionally turned his face from the author!  That’s a pretty bold accusation.  But then something changes, transforms.  The last verse says, ” I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”  But what about those violent verses?  Psalm 12 asks God to “cut off all flattering lips.”  Ew.  And Psalm 11: “Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.”  Burning flesh?  Are we really supposed to pray this stuff??

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Ellen F. Davis has something really helpful to say in her book, Getting Involved With God: Rediscovering the Old Testament:

The Psalms model ways of talking to God that are honest, yet not obvious — at least, they are not obvious to modern Christians.  They may guide our first steps toward deeper involvement with God, because the Psalms give us a new possibility for prayer; they invite us into full disclosure.  They enable us to bring into our conversation with God feelings and thoughts that most of us think we need to get rid of before God will be interested in hearing from us.  The point of the shocking psalms is not to sanctify what is shameful (for example, the desire for sweet revenge) or to make us feel better about parts of ourselves that stand in need of change.  Rather, the Psalms teach us that profound change happens always in the presence of God. Over and over they attest to the reality that when we open our minds and hearts fully to the God who made them, then we open ourselves, whether we know it or not, to the possibility of being transformed beyond our imagining.

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So, don’t skip the tough stuff.

-Chels