It was only when I realized I had failed that I realized I had finally passed the test.

I had been a worship musician traveling between various towns and churches for over ten years. I had played every kind of venue there was – the famed, the dive, the tiny, the nostalgic, the coveted. I could credit to myself many accomplishments during those years. I could name off the cool people I had met, the opportunities I had had, the names I had opened for. My band had been on TV in literally every country in the world. But I was tired of it and I didn’t know why.

I figured it was just time for a break. I figured I was just over the thankless hours and hours of work that go into those brief cool moments. But I was wrong. And it wasn’t until I finally took that break, absolved the band, and walked away, that I figured out what the problem was. I was tired of me.

I had spent the better part of those years relentlessly pursuing the accolades, the affirmations, the fame, for lack of a better word. Oh no, I didn’t want to be famous, I would say. I just wanted to be known (what the difference is, I couldn’t tell you). I was over it all, finally.

So when I took a class at my church on what worship is all about, I was shocked to learn about Lucifer. Lucifer just happens to be the most glorious angel of the Bible – you know, the one who turned into Satan. I was shocked to learn that Lucifer was the chief worship leader. He was beautiful. He was wonderful. He was gloriously talented and gorgeous. And God gifted him with all of that for one reason – His glory, not Lucifer’s. And perhaps Lucifer started off understanding that. But somewhere along the way, he started receiving those accolades. He started believing the praise. He started needing it.

I know this because so did I. When people would say, “Gosh, the worship was so anointed this morning. I haven’t experienced worship like that in a long time,” I took it upon myself as if I were the one who made that happen. I believed that I was gifted with something just a cut above the rest. And I believed that gift made me better. Don’t get me wrong – I gave God the credit. I would always say that God had given me those abilities.

Sure, God, You gave it to me, but I made it cool!

I’m ashamed to say, that’s really what I thought. I may have given God the credit, but I was taking all the glory. It’s a fine line, a tightrope. But there is a difference. And it’s the difference between life or death.

When I received that glory for myself, I also took on pride. In heaps. Like drinking my own poison. Like fueling my own fire. And it wasn’t until I realized that I had been failing miserably that I had finally passed the pride test.

I am so thankful that God, instead of letting me keep going down that road, let me get sick of what was going on long enough to take a break and evaluate the situation. I am so thankful, so grateful that He knows me better than I know myself. I am so thankful that He didn’t give up on me, when Lord knows He should have.

That’s what grace is – loving me despite my unlovability. Loving you despite your unlovability. And that grace has set us free.

Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to step back into worship after more than a year on hiatus. It’s an opportunity I didn’t see coming in a million years, but one that only God could bring about. But this time, I know where I stand. I may be the conduit, but HE is the GLORY. HE is the maker of all things beautiful, all things glorious, all things of grace, mercy and love. And I stand with my arms high, my heart submitted saying, “Lord, to Your name be all the glory. Forever. Amen!”

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

, , , For everything, there is a season

Recently, my husband and I made a huge decision. After several years (yes, years) of praying, considering, questioning, and praying some more, we decided that it’s time to say goodbye to the band, Lately. I’ve been playing in a band since I was sixteen years old, starting off in my little youth band at the Baptist church I grew up in. A band is a lot like a marriage – a lot of ups and downs, a lot of good times, a lot of struggles, where communication is crucial and emotions have to be the caboose, not the engine. We have had a lot of fun over the years and learned a lot of lessons along the way. But after ten years as a band, it is time to say goodbye.

I want to make it clear that this is by no means an indication of issues or problems. We didn’t split up because we just couldn’t take it anymore. Quite the contrary. As I said before, we prayed over this for two years because on our selfish side, we didn’t want to give this up. It is a lot of work and lot of thankless hours, but it’s awesome, believe me. But we knew that God was leading us somewhere else in each of our personal lives. As for me and my family, it’s a new season for us – a season of diapers and bottles, family time and precious memories. It’s a time to focus on the new challenges God has placed before us – namely parenthood and its accompanying mysteries.

I will still be writing music (I can’t help but to write). I will still be releasing music. I will still be leading worship. It’s just not going to be the driving force behind every decision I make. It’s going to be something I do as the Lord leads, when the Lord leads, how the Lord leads. The easiest way I can put it is this: previously my focus was God first, music second, family third. It’s time to prioritize to God first, family second, music third. That’s how it should have been all along.

So here we are, facing a brand new chapter of life. And I can think of no more fitting scripture to commemorate this exciting moment.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Here’s the to the future,

, , Just Believe, Somehow

A few years ago I lost my dear friend, Stacy, to a blood clot that led to her sudden passing during childbirth. This is America. Things like that just don’t happen very often thanks to modern medicine and all its marvels. So needless to say, we were all shocked. We wondered how something like this could happen, especially to someone who was bringing an innocent little baby into the world – a baby that will never know his own mother. It was a tragedy to say the least, and in the midst of it, I wrote the song Somehow. You see, Stacy was a born again believer in Christ. And she wasn’t one of those “go to church on Sunday because I’m supposed to” kind of Christians either. She was a died in the wool, sold out, all or nothing kind of believer. So I knew that in the midst of my tears and questions, she would be saying to me, “don’t worry about it, just believe.”

I want to share with you that song and the story behind it as a little piece of encouragement. We have all experienced loss in some form. My prayer is that this will touch your heart, bless you, and pass on to you a little piece of the legacy of faith Stacy left behind for those who knew her. It’s what she would have wanted, after all.

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“Somehow” Devotional
, At Its Purest

I’ve spent the last few months pondering what worship really means. I’ve been leading worship now for almost 15 years (I started when I was 5…) 😉 and I have definitely made my share of mistakes along the way. I’ve admittedly led worship from the wrong place, focusing on my career more than the anointing. There was a time I didn’t even understand what anointing was. But as I embark on a new chapter of worship leading with Lately, I’ve been in prayer daily about what that looks like and the fruit it will produce.

I cannot say that I have all the answers today. I cannot say that I will have all the answers tomorrow or even next year. But my pastor spoke about prayer recently, explaining that prayer is about long-term faithfulness. He said that most of us have more faith that the faucet will give out hot water than we have faith that our prayers will be answered. It’s so true. And I think it’s also true for how we learn. I think we often set out to learn spiritual principles with the same mindset we had in school – memorize what we need for the test and move on. But I think spiritual lessons are really more like spiritual discipline. It’s something we learn over long periods of time – often our lifetimes. Not something we learn overnight for one big test.

My point in all of this is that my journey in worship is something I expect to continue my whole life. And my goal, when you boil it down, is to worship in the purest form possible. Not to be cliche, but “more of Him, less of me.” Really, I want “all of Him, none of me.” I want to lead worship in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, letting none of my filth taint the oil as it pours off of me and onto the audience God will place before me each time.

That’s it. Pure worship. That’s what I’m after. And as I travel down this road further, I’ll share with you what I learn along the way. It’s a journey of a lifetime and I am privileged to be on it.

, Pickin’ and Grinnin’: A Follow-up

I would like to follow up to a previous post I made about worship. I was reading over it tonight and I felt it merited a little more insight. In my previous post (Pickin’ and Grinnin’) I mentioned how God had used some of my experiences to teach me what worship is supposed to be about and what it’s not supposed to be about. So this past summer I started leading worship again for the first time in years.

I have to say that it has been such a blessing to lead worship again separate from self. It has taken worship which was once, for me, a show, and made it into what I now know it was supposed to be all along: an outward expression of my deep love for this man we call Jesus. An exciting outward expression. A fleeting moment that represents what I believe to be the tiniest taste of what’s to come in the hereafter. A chance to show some who might be curious just how awesome we think God is. A chance to share with others who already believe in our deep love for the Lord. And most importantly, one of many ways to live out what is supposed to be a life of worship.

I knew this but I hadn’t lived it until now. Worship is not the 15 minutes of music before the sermon on Sunday morning. Or the album we play on our iPhone on the way to work in the morning. Worship is our life lived for God. The music we sing is just one way of expressing how much we love Him. But it should NEVER be the only way. And if it is, we’re missing out on the incredible relationship we can only have with the Divine.

It would be like knowing you love your husband or wife, but only telling them on your anniversary, the designated day you’re supposed to celebrate your love. It means so much more when you hear it on a Tuesday than it does when you hear it on your anniversary.

And it’s the same way with God. So when I’m on that stage singing worship songs now, I’m not thinking about anything but making sure he knows how much I love him, how much I want to be with him, how much I want to show others how much he means to me. And more importantly, when I’m off the stage, I’m thinking the same thing.

And it has changed everything…

, Pickin’ and Grinnin’

I took a break. I took a break from the band. I took a break from leading worship. It was for different reasons than what I now realize I actually needed a break from. My pregnancy gave me an excuse to take a break because I was tired. But I didn’t know what I was tired from. I thought it was just drama and the sometimes thankless job of the indie musician.

But that wasn’t it at all. I needed a break from me.

I stepped down from leading worship four years ago. [blockquote align=”right”]I needed a break from me.[/blockquote] Over that time God has done an incredible work in my soul. I never realized I was doing it so wrong. So unauthentically. But I was. I was leading worship for the accolades, for the recognition. It was, shamefully, a bit of a competition for me. I was used to hearing people say, “You’re such a good singer! That was incredible! I was really moved.” I bought that and took it to heart. I believed my own hype. And it swallowed me up deep into its belly. The belly of pride. And I stewed in it for a long time.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, knew not to take it all away from me. He knew that I would just become a “victim” and blame someone or something for my misfortunes if that happened. Instead he let me get burned out and step away on my own terms. Then and only then did I realize that I was the culprit. I was the problem.

During my sabbatical I joined a church that I fell in love with. I found my favorite worship leader there. This incredibly talented person is someone whom I would never listen to outside of the context of worship. I don’t like their voice. I don’t like their style. I would never do it the way they do it. And irony of ironies, I find that I worship more authentically when they lead than anyone else who could lead me. I am moved to tears with every word out of this person’s mouth. This blows my mind. I thought worship would be better if the leader was the best. I thought worship would be more effective if the leader was exactly my style – edgy, current, whatever. As if worship is just another episode of American Idol where the best will rise above the rest. How wrong I was!

It’s all so trite when I read it back now, but folks I’m sad to say that’s where I was. That’s where my mind went when I led worship. And thank God I got sick of myself.

Tonight I step back on that stage to lead worship again. I don’t feel prepared. I don’t have that signature “I got this” attitude I always had before. I don’t think, “just wait ’til they hear me.” I am hesitant at best. I don’t know what to expect. But I know that all I hear God say to me is, “Just worship up there. Let them in on your personal time with me.” So that’s exactly what I plan to do. Get out of the way. Let God be God. I’m just going to sing to him. No frills. No “can do” attitude. No “come and see how awesome I am” pride. Just me and Jesus. Pickin’ and grinnin’ (as my dad would say).

And perhaps, that’s exactly as it should be.

[blockquote align=”left”]Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor. ~Proverbs 18:12[/blockquote]