Friday, March 20, 2015
This professor was, by no means, good at using scripture in context, or even the right scriptures. He was incredibly biased, and this showed through in his writing and his interpretation of scripture. (If you really want to see what I mean later, look up his second article. His first is just opinion, not trying to be based on scripture.) I even called him "stuck up" to Michael when he eventually got home from work and wanted to discuss the articles. I am equally biased on my side, but that's not what I want to get in to today.
My church is a church that, during my 15 years of attendance, has gone from singing just hymns with piano accompaniment (vocals mic'd), to just contemporary worship songs with an acoustic guitar, piano, and some heavily-contested percussion (all mic'd) as accompaniment, to a fairly even balance of hymns and theologically sound, word-rich contemporary music from places like Sovereign Grace, Chris Tomlin, and the like, with acoustic guitar, piano, percussion (no longer contested), bass, and on alternate Sundays violin or flute (all mic'd). For years my church has been trying to find an acceptable medium where we can incorporate some of the great contemporary songs, and yet enjoy the steadfast richness of the old hymns. We have discussed and changed how loud we have everything mic'd. We don't want to overpower the congregational voices, but we do understand that some people don't enjoy singing if all they can hear is themselves.
I've been a part of this process since 2007, listening and contributing to the conversation. Because of this, I can see what this professor means when he says that he doesn't know if contemporary Christian music can compete forever with the richness of hymns. I understand what he means when he says that it's hard to write lyrics that are "theologically sound, but significant, profound, appropriate, memorable, and edifying (not to mention metrical)." This he says points (in part, there's more in the article) to the decline of contemporary praise music. Another thing he mentions as part of the decline is that you have to have a praise band to accompany contemporary praise music (I've hear some wonderfully simple piano-only versions of contemporary praise songs. This transitions us to his second article, where he attempts to use scripture to point out why a praise band is "not quite biblical".
This was the article that got me the most riled up. I felt backed into a latice-worked corner with his use of scripture, with his use of the phrase "not quite biblical". This is the article that got me really thinking. In it he details what's wrong with the praise band and why it shouldn't (and probably won't continue to) exist. The way he details what corporate worship (or corporate praise) should be is spot on: "Corporate praise . . . should be congregational, together, and vigorous." I agree with this, completely. However, he mentions that if you're using the praise team and no hymnals, people are bound to be more hesitant to sing because the words are printed on the screen without music in front of them. He also mentions that, with a praise team, people can't hear each other which, diminishes both the "together" part, and the "vigorous" part of how we are called to sing our praises to God.
Here's where I get to why I titled this post as I did. One of the things this article challenged me to do was to listen more carefully to the people in church singing around me. The professor made it seem like if your church played music too loud to hear the congregation around you, your praise band was "not exactly Biblical". So, in a small act of rebellion, I determined to listen to the people around me to prove to myself that what my church was doing for worship was okay.
(As a side note, let me just say that technically "corporate worship" should be any time a body of believers is meeting together to glorify God, whether that is through song, listening to the word, prayer, or even service. I, however, am using it specifically in the context of music and song.)
The past few months, I have been blessed. The article that got me riled up, and still does if I read it thoroughly (all my arguments with it are argued by other people in the comments; you can read them there if you wish) - this article has lead to my biggest blessing yet. In my defiance, I came to realize that my church sings. They don't just stand there and hope that the praise team knows all the words. If they are unsure, they listen to a verse, and then try with all their might to hop in to the song. If they know the song, they really sing. They sing loudly, and with gusto. They put their heart and soul into singing their praises to their Creator, their Savior, their Redeemer, their Father. As I look around each Sunday (because having been on the praise team for so long, I know most of the words), I rarely see people just standing there staring at the screen. Even those who aren't certain of their voices know the value of making a joyful noise, and this blesses me.
I have come to realize that corporate worship is so important, if only because you have the chance to look around and see all these other people from various backgrounds and families and situations all proclaiming that God is God, and He is good, just, sovereign, etc. There are so many Bible verses where we are exhorted to worship together, and I'm starting to learn why. Each Sunday I want to stand up in front of church and say "Thank you for singing! Thank you for praising God in my presence and blessing me!" Except, I can't, because you know, order. So this is my thank you. If you go to my church, if you sing, thank you. Thank you helping me see my Savior better. Thank you for showing me different facets of His beauty. Thank you for showing me that God is trustworthy because you trust him. Thank you for showing me many more things about God that I don't have time to list here.
The beauty of this revelation is that this can happen anywhere. If you can see people singing, if you can hear them singing, no matter what your worship style is, whether it's no instruments, or some instruments, or all of the instruments, if you can hear the congregation singing around you, you can hear people praising God for everything. God shows himself to us when we praise him together. When we glorify God, even if it's only the best way we know how, we show him to those around us.
So, if you stand in church, and stare at the screen, or the hymnal, or whatever you use, and just don't sing, I encourage you to listen, and then to lift your voice to the Creator who gave you the voice in the first place. It will encourage others, and it will encourage you. Not to mention, God gets all the glory, because he's the one giving you the voice in the first place.
Thanks for listening!
P.S. There are so many more reasons for the importance of corporate worship, but I don't have time to go into them now. Just know, I realize they're there and regret that I didn't have more time to extrapolate on them. :)
Friday, January 2, 2015
When I came in after most of the bleeding from the miscarriage had stopped, he did an ultrasound to make sure that everything had vacated my womb, and then before he left me to clean up and compose myself before going to the check-out desk, he sat down, asked me if my husband and I were planning on trying again soon, to which I answered "yes! as soon as possible!"
He gave me a time frame in which to let my body heal, and then, looking me squarely in the face, said very simply, "The only thing this miscarriage is going to affect with your next pregnancy is your nerves."
That one sentence has stuck with me more than I can describe. In it he said, "You're fertile. You can get pregnant again. You should have no problem carrying a healthy baby to term. This wasn't your fault."
God has been amazingly good to me this past year. In it I've experienced his goodness in the most harrowing time I've ever known. After the miscarriage he carried me, held me, comforted me, placed people in my life to comfort me, showed me how he'd experienced the loss of his Son on my behalf, and when month after month of trying passed with no pregnancy, he taught me patience and how to rejoice with other mothers. In fact the month before I found out I was actually pregnant I finally had to give my jealousy to him and rejoice with a close friend of mine. Her announcement made me cry, but for the first time, I was able to be happy with her without thinking "That should be me!"
I'm not saying I learned to trust God in every way before he opened my womb again. I'm just saying, I saw a divine peace invading my soul when I very much wanted to hold onto my jealousy and hurt.
The month God placed life in my womb again, I was fairly certain it had happened almost right away, but didn't want to hope until the pregnancy test came out positive. I wanted my hope to be in my salvation through Christ, not whether or not I was finally pregnant this month. The test came out positive and through my joy, I immediately experienced fear. Michael told me he, too, was fearful. We prayed a lot. Then we told our parents.
I had decided before I became pregnant that the next time I was pregnant I wanted to announce the pregnancy as soon as I was pregnant, because it's God's doing that there's a life in there. I wanted to give him the glory, and express my belief that life really does begin at conception. Each life should be celebrated immediately, if it really and truly is life, I told myself.
However, once I got pregnant, my fear made me want to clam my mouth shut, just in case. I didn't want to tell people and then have to tell them that I'd lost another baby. Within the first week, I let maybe 3 or 4 people know outside of family. They became my prayer community.
Fear continued to stand in the corner of the room and stare at me for the next several weeks, even after I had conviction from God that I wasn't glorifying him as I should and started telling people that I was pregnant again. Every time I went to the bathroom and saw there was no blood in my underwear, I had a small moment of worship. Each symptom that cropped up was a blessing. I thanked God when I felt nauseated. I worried when I didn't feel nauseated. On really fearful days when all fear would do was perch on my shoulder and whisper in my ear, I'd text my prayer buddies a line such as "Having a fearful day today. Please pray." and I'd get wonderful texts back saying they were interceding before the throne of God for me. It is such a blessing to have prayer warriors as friends. Fear would recede to the corner again, or sometimes leave the room altogether.
My first doctor's appointment and ultrasound were fearful events. Michael came with me. I had a blood pressure rate through the roof because I was so nervous and he talked at me non-stop while we waited. Then we saw the baby, right on track with where it should be, hear the heart beat, so strong and healthy sounding. I cried in the car, and quite a few times after that. Michael said he preferred these happy tears.
All this being said, even though I'm almost 14 weeks, there are times I realize I'm still unconsciously checking for blood. I would say fear has pretty much left the room. It's faded since the first ultrasound, but that doctor was right. The only thing I have experienced in spades, thanks to my miscarriage, is fear. Each week that I've gotten to past 6 weeks has been a small celebration. Feeling my uterus pop above my pelvic bone has been beautiful. Seeing and listening to my baby's heart beat twice has moved me to tears both times.
God has been exceptionally good, in carrying me through the miscarriage, and in carrying me through the nerves of this second pregnancy. While I would never wish a miscarriage on anyone, especially their first baby, I can say that had it not happened, I would be a lesser person today. I would love God less, I would love my husband less, I would love this baby less, I would be less compassionate.
I still have a ways to go both in pregnancy and in learning to love God, but God will be there with me every single step of the way, and so will my husband. :) I think I'm covered pretty well.
Soli Deo Gloria