worship

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Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

Published September 21, 2012 by joypatton

It’s the first ever Free Advice Friday on my blog!  Every Friday I’m turning this blog into an advice column.  Ask me anything from dating (didn’t date much, but have lots of interesting opinions), marriage (been married 15 years), parenting (have 4 kids), friendships (have had some good and some bad) or spiritual life (I have one).  I’m not sure that I will have great answers, but I know Someone who does.  My hope is that together we can carry our burdens into His presence and lay them at his feet.

Last week a friend texted me this question and I thought it was a good start for Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

My favorite worship album right now is Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark.”  I bought it because I heard the first song “Remind Me Who I Am” on KLove Radio in Nashville.  “In the lonely places when I can’t remember what grace is, remind me who I am to you.”  This is my new theme song.  When I get stuck in my Ice Queen and Orphan thinking, I need him to remind me that I am His Princess, his beloved.  “I’m the one You love.”

Another one of my favorites is “I Will Find a Way.”  In the beginning it talks about a woman is who so broken and afraid that she has shut the door of her heart.  “How should I come to the one that I love?  I will find a way.”  He loved her so much that he found a way to reach her and come into her heart.  I’m reminded how much the Father has loved us to send His only Son.  My other favorites on the album are “No Thief Like Fear,” “Nothing is Wasted,” and “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard.”  You can see why this is a great album for all my Orphan girls out there.

Another song that must be on this list is “One Thing” by Kristian Stanfill. “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  When we sing it in church, it sounds almost like a chant.  When I’ve messed up, I need to believe that his love is there, no matter what.

The problem is that when I mess up, it’s really hard to believe that God still loves me.  This exposes the lie that I believe that God loves me because of what I do.  Because I obey him or because I serve him or because I read my Bible and go to church.  None of those are the reasons that he loves me.  He loved me before I knew how to do any of those things.  He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  So now that I’m “righteous,” has his love grown or changed?  By no means!  God’s love has no levels, no more and no less.  It has always been and will always be 100% plus infinity.

If Satan can get me to believe that God doesn’t love me, he can keep me from the cross, the ultimate sign of love.  When I doubt God’s unconditional love for me, then I am slow to repent because I don’t believe he even wants me back.  Eventually I stop repenting all together.  I stop going back to ask forgiveness again.  I stop bringing the things I did in the dark into the light.  And then I’m right where the enemy wants me, isolated, alone, in despair because I have no remedy for my sin.  This is the place where he is able to steal, kill and destroy this little lamb of God (John 10:10).

But when I am reminded of his great love, that his love for me remains, then I am free to run back to the cross and repent.  When I confess and agree with God that I messed it up again, he is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  I can agree with Satan that I am all those horrible things he has called me, “weak, pathetic, unworthy of love and disgusting.”  BUT GOD loves me!  I don’t know why, and I know I don’t deserve it.  This is the great mystery. But I do know that he loves me.  Because I know his love, I can trust that my sin is forgiven.

When I mess up and repent, I invite God in to be the solution.  I can ask him to show me the patterns that keep putting me in tempting situations.  I can ask him to show me the root beliefs that drive my sinful behaviors.  I can invite him in and ask him to heal those wounded places that I keep trying to heal myself.  I can live in the light and be in relationship with others because I know that I am deeply loved.  There is power in repentance because I admit that I am powerless over my own sin, that I cannot save myself, that I need Someone bigger than myself outside of myself to rescue me.

So my beloved, dear Princess, beautiful child of God…know that you are deeply loved today.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

What songs have helped you when you have messed up?

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, email me at joy@joypatton.com.  If I answer your question in my blog next week, I will send you a copy of my book The Myth of Enuff.

The Wall and the Window

Published July 31, 2012 by joypatton

She stands at the wall and sees no way around it, through it or over it.  The wall stretches for miles in both directions and towers above her head.  There is a small window in the wall, and when she stands on her tip toes, she can see all the way through to the other side.  It is beautiful and full of sunshine and life.  She sees it perfectly poised on the other side.  Her heart leaps with joy at the sight of it, and she knows she must have it.  She stretches her arm through the window, but alas the wall is too thick and the other side is simply out of reach.

She slumps at the base of the wall into a sobbing mess.  “Why would God let me see it and then make it so impossible to grasp?” she silently complains.  She lets out a sigh and her head drops to her knees.  God has bigger problems to solve than trying to help her get to the other side of the wall.  She should just be happy where she is and not complain.  Maybe this side of the wall is all that God has for her.  She feels guilty for even looking through the window in the first place.  She tries to list all of the good things on her side of the wall, but she can’t help but think how much better it would be on the other side.  But she can’t sit in this Orphan frame of mind any more.  She pulls herself to her feet and looks through the window again.

The other side is still just as beautiful as it was last time.  “Why would God let her see it if he didn’t want her to have it?”  She decides that she must do whatever it takes to get to the other side.  She walks for miles in both directions looking for a gate, a door, a giant crack…anything.  She finds nothing.  She contemplates building a ladder to get over the wall.  But that would take too much time.  She decides to climb over the wall and pushes her fingers into the cracks until they bleed.  But she drops to the ground and screams in frustration.  She furiously kicks and pounds the wall.  She tries to dismantle it brick by brick, but it will not budge.  Even the Ice Queen can’t find a way through the wall.

“I am here,” he whispered in her ear.  “I will be with you.”  She steps back and confesses that she has forgotten that God is present with her on this side of the wall.  “But I want to be on the other side,” she says to him.  “I know,” he says full of love and compassion.  She turns toward him and thanks him for being with her.  She thanks him for everything that she has on this side of the wall.  The two of them sit shoulder to shoulder looking at the wall and being with each other.  She remembers that she is His Princess and that she is with Him.  Her heart wants to be with Him more than anything on the other side of the wall.

This is a picture that my mentor Mary Grace Birkhead taught me a few years ago.  It has stuck with me whenever I see something I really want, but can’t get.  Sometimes it’s a perfect pair of black boots for my fall wardrobe or curtains for my bedroom.  Sometimes it’s children that actually obey the first time or something I want for our marriage.  But at this moment, the thing on the side of the wall is a publishing deal and speaking engagements.

Last weekend I went to She Speaks, a conference for Christian women speakers and writers, in Concord, NC, organized by Proverbs 31 ministries.  In January, I wrote this down as one of my goals for the year.  I saw it through the window, but standing between me and registration was money.  But God provided through generous friends who gave me the registration as a birthday present.  But then I hit another wall when I went to register.  No spots left.  Seriously, God?  I thought the wall was gone.  I signed up for the waiting list hoping against all hope that this wall would go away too.  And I waited.  I couldn’t push or make the wall move; I just had to wait and try not to let my Orphan thinking take over.

At the beginning of the year, I would have gone to the conference ready to promote myself, my book, my speaking ability, etc.  I would have shoved a business card on anyone I met hoping that it would fall in the right place.  But because of the walls and rejections that kept coming this spring, I barely believed that I could write or speak or have anything anyone would want to hear.  I wondered if I had been looking through the wrong window.  I had little self-confidence left and no desire to promote myself to anyone.  I was crumpled like an Orphan at the base of the wall.

But then the call came that there was a spot for me.  The sessions were full, and I was put on another waiting list for a writing group.  God had a spot for me there too.  As I drove all the way to North Carolina, I was thankful for the places God had given me and ready to receive whatever he had for me.  When I asked if there were openings in a speaker evaluation group, God placed for me in a perfect group.  When I asked if there were any openings to meet with publishers, God had a spot for me there too.  I had to wait and trust God with everything, every step, every meeting, every opportunity.  It was not my job to promote myself, it was my job to receive more of Him.

While I still don’t have a publishing deal or speaking engagements, I do have more of Him.  He reminded me of his great love for me and that I am still qualified, still called, still wanted, even on this side of the wall.  I don’t know whether the things I see through the window of the wall will ever come to pass.  I don’t know if he will make a way through the wall or if he will keep giving me more of himself on this side of the wall.  But I do know that he has called me to be His Princess.  At the wall, I can’t take the posture of the Orphan lost in despair or the Ice Queen full of self-determination.  As a Princess, all I can do is step back and worship Him.

Question: At this moment, what is on the other side of your wall?  What has your posture been at the wall?

Clear the Stage

Published June 11, 2012 by joypatton

This past spring has been a blur.  Two baseball teams, a flag football team and a gymnastics class have kept our kids very busy.  Andrew and I had additional things to keep us busy: newlywed community group, teaching pre-k Sunday School, running cameras at church.  He also worked two full-time jobs, and I finished writing a book.  Many times I said that I was grateful for my great full life.  In the past, we had felt the need for expansion (can you tell??), but now we feel the need for it to get smaller.  But what should go and how do you decide?

Jimmy Needham has a new song on his most recent album titled “Clear the Stage.”  The song talks about true worship.  The picture is that we have a lot of other things that have crowded the stage in our lives.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the real star is.  We have other things that have taken center stage.  Sometimes the other things are godly things, like teaching Sunday School or leading Bible studies.  Sometimes the other things are good things, like baseball and flag football that help our kids grow and learn.  Sometimes the other things are bad things, sin patterns, bad habits and character flaws, that we refuse to surrender.  Nevertheless all of the other things, godly, good or bad, are simply idols.  They are other things that take our affection and devotion.  There is no longer room on the stage for the One who should be the center of it all.

At the end of our ragged spring when we went down to one baseball team, flag football ended and Hope decided to stop gymnastics, I told Andrew I felt it was time to clear the stage.  However I did not know it would cost so much and hurt so bad.  I look back at our year so far, and see it filled with loss.  This year started with the loss of Andrew’s mom.  She passed away last December, and I was in a fog most of January.  I’ve also lost a close friendship because I’ve been hurtful.  I’ve tried to find a way to mend it, and yet it remains broken.  My best-laid plans have been lost.  I’ve lost a position I thought God had for me, but obviously He didn’t.  I’m on a long waiting list for a speaking conference I was planning to attend this summer.  Last weekend I lost my hard drive with the latest revisions of my book.  Obviously not all the losses carry the same weight, yet all are losses that bring sadness.

In it all, I see God clearing the stage so that He can take his proper place.  The idol of reputation has been kicked off the stage.  I’ve had to step back and let God defend my reputation, let Him protect my name.  The idol of self-effort has been banished as well.  My self-effort has reached a dead end.  It has accomplished nothing.  I still have a broken friendship; I have still been disqualified; I am still a bad mom who yells at her kids.  In spite of my efforts and all of my trying harder, my heart remains the same.  The idol of control and planning has been sufficiently removed.  I’m in a place I didn’t plan to be.  In years past I’ve always had a plan for the fall by the beginning of the summer.  I can honestly say that I don’t know what the fall holds.  The only thing I know is what God has given me to do today…and some days this week.  (It’s His grace that gives this Type-A planner some type of working plan for the week.)  My eyes are open and my heart is asking who are the people He has given to me to serve this week.  All I can do is take the next step and trust Him more, extremely difficult and sometimes painful for this melting Ice Queen.

When it’s time to clear the stage, all I can do is surrender the stage.  He is the One who moves the pieces where they need be.  He is the One who decides what goes and what stays.  The stage of my life belongs to Him because He bought it with the precious blood of His only Son.  I want him to have the stage because he will make it beautiful.  When I have the stage, I tend to mess it up because I’m not perfect.  I want him to be in the center because he is perfect.  He is the Creator of the universe, sovereign over all, reigning in love.  I am merely a piece of that stage for him to use to tell His story.  Whether I have a big part or a small part is all up to the Director.  So let the clearing continue!  God…what else has to go?  All I want, all I need, all I have is You.

So how is God asking you to Clear the Stage?

Click here to see a video of Jimmy Needham’s song, “Clear the Stage.”

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