Trusting God in the Battle Against the Fear of Failure

After high school, I moved to Fort Worth to go to college at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was studying a Bachelor of Music, mostly just because I loved singing more than anything, and my favorite place to be was in worship.

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Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX
I went to school there for three and a half years when God called me to transfer to The King’s University in Southlake. At the time, the school had just launched an Associates of Worship Leadership, and a Bachelor of Music and Worship. 

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The King’s University in Southlake, TX
When I went to apply for King’s, the option to apply for a Bachelor of Music was no longer there. I applied for the Associates of Worship Leadership, assuming that there must have been some sort of error since I had talked to the school about the degree plan less than two weeks prior. Unfortunately, in the two weeks it had taken me to decide to apply, the school had decided to revamp their Bachelor of Music program. I was encouraged to pursue the Associates of Worship Leadership since most of the credits would be needed for the Bachelor of Music anyway, and they were hoping to start it again in a year and a half.

Well, it has been over two years since I transferred, and there is not going to be a Bachelor of Music. I am graduating with an Associates in Worship Leadership this semester, and a Bachelor in General Christian Studies in the Fall. 

It would be really easy for me to grow bitter, and angry about how everything turned out, but to do that would be to ignore what God has been doing in the middle of all of this.

He is the one that called me to Southwestern. He gave me a powerful foundation in history and theology while I was there, and opened my eyes to see his love for all music – classical and contemporary. I had amazing professors who prayed with me, cried with me, and believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

It was a difficult season in many ways. People would constantly come and go, and I was consistently reevaluating my belief system. I was challenged academically far past the level that was typical of my age, and through sleepless nights, and many procrastinated assignments I learned how to overcome the obstacles set before me.

God used Southwestern and the many people that I met while I was there to transform me. I look more like Jesus now, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Although transferring to King’s made no sense whatsoever, I’ve learned that the best treasures in life are found when I follow God somewhere that makes absolutely no sense. I never would have chosen to do an Associates in Worship Leadership, but God knew all along that what I would learn, and the amazing people that I would meet in this program was exactly what I needed.  I never would have chosen to do a General Christian Studies degree, but through it, I am taking these awesome counseling classes and practicums that I never would have had the opportunity to do otherwise. God is building my character through the journey, and I know that He will not waste a single piece of it.

I have been so changed through these classes and found so much joy and love in this community. God took everything away from me that I thought made up my identity, and then He showed me how He sees me; how He placed value on me when He sent His Son to die for me, and how He created me specifically for a beautiful purpose. I never would have learned to know myself or to listen to my heart if I had never come here. I have learned practical things about leadership and team development, ministry, theology, worship, humility, obedience, friendship, identity, and trusting the Lord even when I don’t know the reason why or the next step.

Which brings me to where I am today – I don’t know what the next step is. I don’t know what I am going to do after I graduate, and after six and a half years of preparation, I have a lot of fear that I am going to epically fail, and it will all have been for nothing. To believe this, though, would be to ignore the most important lesson that He has taught me through all of this; He has a plan, and it’s magnificent. If He were to tell me the next step right now, then I would never live in the present moment.

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If I strive, control, or strategize my way into the next step in my life, then I will try to take credit for whatever it is that God is about to do. I have to learn to trust, let go, and surrender. It feels like failing. It feels like I am not taking responsibility for my life, and that I might never be successful.

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It’s like falling off of a cliff, but knowing that His hand is right below you the whole time, and He will catch you at just the right moment. But right now, I just have to enjoy the sensation of falling. Take a moment, look around, and take it all in; because it only lasts for a moment, and then you can never be in that place again.

So, I’m choosing to trust. I read this, this morning, and it was like Jesus was speaking it directly into my situation,

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things[a] shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:22-34

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As I meditate on this passage, what sticks out to me is the line about the lilies. Lillies are so beautiful, and there is such a variety of them with so many different colors and intricate details. God cares about these things. He loves beauty, and He loves details. He loves me, and through the journey of my life He is drawing out each detail of the beautiful and intricate way that He has created me. So, even though surrender can feel like giving up, I choose to let go, because I know the joy and love I will feel when He catches me is worth it.

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Where is Worship Music Going?

One of my favorite subjects to study is music history, and in my study of music history I have made a fascinating observation; music is always changing. If a new style is not created, the younger generation will revamp an old trend. I believe that this is happening today. “Trends change too quickly to give a balanced or complete overview of recent music. But it seems clear that there is a continuing tension in all types of music between finding a niche of committed listeners whose support will endure and finding a broad audience.” This is the struggle contemporary worship leaders find themselves in. I love contemporary worship music, but for it to endure, it must change and grow with the culture.

My generation is searching for a sound that they can use to make their mark on history. And with the secular world of music reverting to the trends of the sixties, young Christians will either return to a liturgical pattern of worship or create something new that they can identify with. I see this happening among my friends in rapid fashion. There is a flood of young people moving towards liturgical worship. Some have started experimenting with a more atmospheric approach to worship, while others are attempting odd fusions of both styles.

The most recent worship music, contemporary worship, is not changing very much. For that reason, I believe it will not last as the popular worship style for more than twenty years. In an article in Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer describes a third style of worship that is emerging in the church today, “Some of these churches are intentional about not being predictable or appearing to come from a traditional mold. Their band may have an electric guitar, but it might have a cello and clavichord, too . . . The music may include a mix of modern worship songs. Many older hymns will have been updated. Theological depth is expected in the songs.” There is a newer group of young people that are trying to find a sound beyond contemporary worship patterns. It is not a developed and established style yet, so this movement is often disregarded, while it grows under the radar.

Overall, there is a trend in the church towards informality that has been developing over the last couple of decades, and will likely not change. While there is a growing number of young churches that are using more hymns, this movement is fueled by a desire of authenticity, so the formality that liturgical churches have often been identified with prevents these young people from attending denominationally liturgical churches.

When Matt Papa visited our Worship Leader as Team Builder class, he mentioned the underground movement towards liturgical worship styles. He predicted that the movement would continue to grow as the millennial generation became more prominent among church leadership.

There are so many trends, and there is no telling how long each will last, but music is powerful, and it is what we have to express our hearts to God in this season in history. It is important for the worship leader and the songwriter to ponder these things, whether there is a conclusion or not, it is too important to ignore.

Procrastination

Somehow, I always think that in the last hour before a paper is due I’ll get this crazy adrenaline rush and be able to finish it time. And yet more often than not, I am exhausted from cramming it all in at the last minute, aand I turn in my assignment late because I would rather take the late deduction than not turn in a quality paper. 

I’m ridiculous.

Why didn’t I write this four days ago? 

Ugh. It’s so frustrating when you think that you’re finally getting a grip on this whole discipline/managing time well/excellence vs perfectionism thing. Then without fail, midway through the semester, something trips you up and the cycle of procrastination and paralyzing stress overwhelms you again. 

I can’t do this, this time. I don’t have time to be immature or disorganized. Too much is at stake now. 

Father, help me manage my time well. Every second I surrender to You. Have Your way in my life. Guide my conversations, and order my steps. I trust that You know what is best for my every moment, and I ask that You be in the middle of it all speaking life, truth, peace, and love. In Jesus’ name I pray. 

“Things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.”

You are not going to be able to get all that you want out of life. It’s impossible. And the sooner you accept that fact the more effective you will be at accomplishing what you really can do.

We shouldn’t stop dreaming, and we shouldn’t lower our expectations, but we need to accept that some dreams are for our life on the other side of death. I have seen too many people become depressed and give up on life because “things didn’t turn out the way they thought they would.”

Life is too short to allow disappointment and failure to hold us back from fulfilling the purpose that we were created for. Life will never turn out they way you expected it to. It is a painful and mystically beautiful truth. Accept it and move on.

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I am a dreamer. I have dreams for my personal success, dreams for my friends and family, and dreams for the church. I have come to realize that not all of my dreams can be accomplished by me in this life. That doesn’t mean that I should stop dreaming. God is so much bigger than my life, and the dreams that He gives me are not just for me, but to inspire the people around me, and generations to come.

I think sometimes I try to rationalize my dreams and stop dreaming because I recognize that the journey to see those dreams become a reality is never easy. I’ve seen people close to me walk through some really difficult things, and become depressed or give up on their dreams because things didn’t turn out the way they thought it would.

Giving up won’t change anything. There is nothing you can do to change the past, but God has given you dreams for a purpose. Ask God to breathe new life on your dreams. Take action to see your dreams become a really. If you don’t see how to get there, ask God for the next step.

Grieve the dreams that have died, and then start dreaming again. Don’t dwell on the negative. There is too much potential around you. Every person is completely unique and has the potential to make a specific impact on the world that no one else can.

 

Numbingly Entertained

When you watch a character die on screen, what do you feel? When you watch a car blow up in an action scene, what are you thinking about? No, it’s not real, but we have taught ourselves to not respond to tragic scenarios, and as a result, we avoid responding to the tragedies happening in the world around us. We make up excuses because despite the atrocities we believe that if we ignore it, it will never directly affect us. When has ignoring a problem ever solved it? We have become so numb! As a result, we are not only unfeeling towards the things that break our hearts, but we are jaded to the only feelings worth living for. We are numb to the love of God. We believe that we can control our own lives better, and we can function just fine without His peace. We long for happiness, but wouldn’t know joy if it hit us in the face.

We demand the same of the church leaders on a Sunday morning; we desire to be numbingly entertained. We don’t want real encounters with God; it would be too much, we would have to open our hearts to feel again, and we don’t want to deal with all of that pain. Oh, but what a waste of a life! To never feel that oh so beautiful sorrow, and God’s hand of peace in the middle of it. To never feel the overwhelming love of God that brings joy unfathomable into every ordinary circumstance! I mourn for the people who acknowledge God, who have met Him and refuse to become more than acquaintances.

Entertainment itself is not bad. I am not proposing that we all toss out our televisions, and never go to a movie theatre again. But I challenge you to open up your heart! To not watch horrors that if you allowed yourself to feel would bring you to your knees. Don’t ignore what is happening in the world, but instead allow God to use the pain you feel to create a burden in you for something you can change. Make a difference! Allow passion to propel you towards your purpose. Come before God, and open your heart.

 

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you, your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Let this be your prayer today:

Heavenly Father, I need You. I need all of You. I need You more than entertainment. I want You more than money and materialism. I repent of my ignorance and complacency. I want all that you created me for. All you created me to do and to love. Open my heart to feel. Soften my heart again, make it new. Give me Your heart for the people around me. Fill my heart with Your love. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray. Amen

Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia: abnormal fear of snakes

For as long as I can remember I have been terrified of snakes. And not just your average, “Ew, gross! Get that thing away from me!” But like an actual paralyzing paranoia that I hid from people for the majority of my life.

  • I scream when I see snakes on television
  • I fold my sheets under my feet at night so snakes can’t sneak into my bed
  • I have extreme difficulty walking across empty fields; it’s almost impossible if I’m alone
  • As a child, I didn’t want to play in my backyard because I thought there were snakes back there
  • When I went to visit my mother recently, I ran from the house to the garage for fear that a snake might catch me in the ten feet between each door.
  • I enjoy hiking, but I will typically scream three or four times at least, because, “I thought I saw a snake!”
  • I get pretty freaked out when I see snakes at the zoo. I usually just try to walk past them as quickly as possible and pretend they aren’t there.
  • Throughout my life I have had incredibly scary nightmares about snakes surrounding me, giant snakes eating me, and more recently people turning into snakes.

It’s bad. Really bad. I didn’t even realize it until after I got married. Up till that point, no one had been close enough to notice just how bad it was.

We spent our honeymoon at a beautiful and romantic cabin in Colorado. My adventurous husband and I embarked on our first hike together, and to my complete and utter terror, he asked me to stray from the trail and climb the side of a hill. It wasn’t a grassy hill either; it was just dirt! In an attempt to continue the facade that I was as fearless as he believed me to be, I tried to climb the hill. It was very slippery, and with each step I took it seemed like I just slid further down, and then bugs started flying out of the dirt! My fear overtook me; I ran away from the hill, crying and defeated. I could not conceal my fear any longer.

Shock, hurt, and confusion ran across my husband’s face as he realized just how terrified I was at the possibility of encountering a snake. He felt like I didn’t trust him to protect me, and I felt like he didn’t understand, and was just trying to push me too far out of my comfort zone.

We’ve been married three years now, and a few weeks ago we were talking about my fear of snakes on the way to church. It started out as a joke; I’m not even sure how it got brought up. The tone of my husband’s voice changed, “Seriously, though,” he said, “it holds you back. I want you to be free to do the things that you love. You love being outside, and this irrational fear of snakes is holding you back.” It was a sobering statement. I had not taken it seriously, and for the rest of our drive to church, I sat quietly contemplating whether or not it was a fear that I could overcome.

We arrived late to church, found our seats, and blended our voices into the congregation’s praise. At one point in worship, I sat down, and held my head in my hands, trying to drown out the distractions, and meet with God. I heard His voice; He greeted me kindly. Then He showed me my heart. He pointed to my fear of snakes, and said something along the lines of this, “You ask Me to take away all your other fears; fear of rejection, disappointment, failure, death, and mental illness, but you refuse to surrender this part of your heart to Me. When you do this, you are refusing to surrender all of your heart to Me; you are instead saying that you think you can take care of yourself better than I can. You think that you don’t need to surrender your fear of snakes to Me because you feel like your fear will protect you. You have made fear an idol because you have trusted it over Me. Therefore, fear has become your master, and that is what has ruled over your life.”

I realized the truth of these words and acknowledged that they were in line with Scripture. I was deeply humbled. I repented of my sin and surrendered all of my heart to God; all of my fear, even the fear of snakes. Peace washed over me.

The following weekend my husband and I went to a large ranch with his family to celebrate the Fourth of July. We did all sorts of outdoor activities, and while a little bit of the fear was still in the back of my mind, it didn’t control me anymore, and I didn’t let it hold me back.

What is your will submitted to? God or fear? Are you walking in surrender? Have you surrendered every part of your heart to God? Or are there still a couple of rooms you want to keep to yourself?

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Psalm 37:3

“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Midnight Contemplations

What is holding you back?

However you answer that question, there is probably a root of fear connected to what is holding you back in life.

I have a love/hate relationship with nighttime. I guess I always have. I love that its quiet enough for me to be alone with my thoughts. The culmination of the day’s events causes me to reach new conclusions about how to live tomorrow. As I lay my head on my pillow and sort through my day, I attempt to bully my flesh into submission – as if by somehow being critical enough of myself, I will change the decisions that I make. Renewed motivation that I take with me to bed, and somehow misplace within my dreams.

I enjoy the creativity that can come to life at night. Without all the distractions, I’m somehow free to paint, write songs, and dance in an intense sort of fearlessness. Then somewhere in the middle of it, anxiety strikes. I have an enemy who attacks me when I am weak. Although I would love to be awake through the night, God created me for rest.

Somehow, fear always finds me at night. And when I finally begin to give into sleep, I’m reminded that it feels like death; that my vain critiques of the events of my life are silly when faced with the intensity of eternity.

It frustrates me that I will spend a third of my life asleep, but the more I have thought about it, I’ve realized that it is so I will know that I cannot depend on my strength. People can go a very long time trying to sleep, but not achieving real rest. I believe that to rest, you have to surrender yourself to God. You have to have faith, that everything is going to be okay long enough to close your eyes and sleep. Sleep reminds us that God is in control; whether we recognize it or not. It is beautiful when you think about it that way.

What is holding you back? Because it matters. Life is short, and if the answer to that question is fear of death, I urge you not to waste your time there. Fear is not trusting God, and if you trust that He is good, and He is in control, then you can rest in Him, and embrace glorious surrender.

How Should We React to Tragedy?

Due to the convenience of modern media, we have been made constantly aware of the tragedies that are happening all around the globe. It wasn’t that terrible things were not happening before, but people just didn’t know about it nearly as fast, or many times they would never hear of it at all.

I have often struggled to know how to react to tragedy. On the surface level it breaks my heart, but then I think about it for a few minutes, maybe talk to a few people about how horrible it must be for those people, and then I move on. But what else are we supposed to do? Should we react any differently?

We cannot grieve every terrible occurrence that happens in the world, but should we just acknowledge it and move on? I hear about something terrible in the news, and I feel so unaffected, and yet like I really should be affected by it. Not that grieving the tragedy will do anyone any good, but it seems like there should be more emotional involvement. We cannot volunteer for every tornado clean up, or donate money to every cause.

What I can do is pray. I can pray. Although we all say “pray for these people, or this area,” when tragedy occurs; how many of us actually get down on our knees, either alone or with others, and mourn for these people. Do we ask for God’s divine intervention on behalf of people who have lost homes, loved ones, businesses, a sense of security, and possibly a lot more than that? God is good, and He loves to answer prayer.

It is so easy to look around at our comfortable lives and forget that we are in a battle. We become so focused on ourselves, and our problems, that we do not take the time to pray for others, even if we say we will pray for them! There is something beautiful about humbling ourselves before the throne of God and mourning for those we do not know. It keeps us humble. It gives us a reality check; that this world is not forever, and we are such a small part of the story of the Earth.

I believe that to have a healthy self-image, you must get your focus off of yourself. You must humble yourself before the throne of God, and pray that He gives you His heart for others. Our whole society has become so numb. The church is so disgustingly unengaged in the spiritual battle that rages around us.

It does not take an excessive amount of time to take a moment, either alone or with friends, and pray. Just five minutes maybe? Grieve the loss of others. Pray for God’s hand to move in these people. To provide. To bring light to the darkest places. If you know that you should pray, and you struggle to know what to pray for; turn on the news. Think beyond yourself.

Father, my heart is so broken for the people that have lost their homes and loved ones in the tornadoes that hit Dallas the day after Christmas. God, they have lost so much, and at such a terrible time. Bring light to these dark days. Surround then with people who can love them and carry them through this time of grief. I pray for incredible provision for these people. That people would look back to this tragedy and see how You moved in such a powerful way bringing beauty from the ashes. I pray that these homes would be rebuilt quickly and that every person would be provided for. I pray that through this people would draw nearer to You. That person who do not know You would look to You. I pray that You would break down the lies of false security and comfort and that people in this area would see their need for You to be their hope, security, and comfort in this life. In Jesus’ name, I pray.

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An aerial image taken Sunday, December 27, 2015 shows the path of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. Violent storms ripped through the North Texas area late Saturday, spawning tornados that killed 11 people. (G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News)

 

 

“… and a happy new year.”

Christmas is over. I feel like Christmas comes like a tornado every year, and when it leaves, we end up staring at it in awe as it fades into the distance. Now we are left to pick up the pieces of the storm. To move on, and in five days prepare our hearts for the prospect of a new year. December fades into the distance with all its chaos and dark clouds, and January begins with a clean and bright beginning.

I need a new start. I need a new year. This year has been hard, and I’m so ready for this storm to be over. Does it every go away? Or do we just have to try and find the sun through the dark clouds and constant rainfall? Maybe we will never clearly see it, but we must still believe that it is there, and just by imagining it feel the warmth of its power and light despite the circumstances surrounding us, and the Sun’s seeming absence.

Father, fill this new year with Your presence. Help me to see You through the clouds of doubt and fear. Give me the strength to be brave. Show me Your truth, and give me discernment about how to share it led by Your Spirit. I want to see You, God. I want to hear Your voice. Show me who You are through Your Word. Give peace and purpose to my friends and family as we enter into a new season. In Jesus’ name, I pray.