Friday, April 29, 2011

Beautiful Roomie

My roommate's name is Rachel.  We met our freshman year in a class called MOMM, an acronym for the honors program core.  She is a nursing major, a diabetic, and a former home-schooler.  I never thought I would be her roommate, but during our second semester when we got to know each other better, we started to entertain the thought of being roommates.  We talked about our likes and dislikes, what we have in common, our sleeping/study habits, and anything else roommates should know about each other. Sometime in April she said, "You know, if we room together I would not mind if the whole room was decorated in pink. Pink is my favorite color."  That's when I knew we were soul sisters.  This past year she has been incredibly supportive as I've journeyed through HeartSong and has been a huge encouragement to me, and I love her with all my heart.

The Monday night before Easter break, we had a rescheduled Green Team rehearsal that lasted until about midnight.  After a long and exhausting day I came back to the room to a distressed Rachel who told me that she would probably be transferring colleges.  Where she would be going she could get free tuition and would be closer to home and her job, and she would graduate college debt-free, which is something her parents wanted for her and something she wants, too, if she ends up as a missionary nurse overseas. She had come to that decision earlier that day and was worried the entire afternoon how I would react.  I was so tired and suddenly so sad, but it was my turn to encourage.  I gave her a huge hug and reminded her that God's plan is bigger than ours.  In the same way that I left all my friends at Camp Carl for HeartSong, I told her, God was calling her to leave Cedarville for the bigger plan that He has for her life, and if she ended up transferring I would be okay.  I could tell she was feeling a lot better when we went to bed.

But I woke up the next morning sad.  In fact, for the next two days I was just really down and out of it.  I was asking so many people for prayer, that maybe her application wouldn't go through or God would provide the money so that she could stay and be my roommate again.  But I felt so selfish praying that way after what I told her that night; if God was calling her to follow His plan, why should I pray that He would change His mind and have her follow my plan instead?  My friends were faithful in praying for peace for the two of us; they prayed that God's will would be done in our lives.  On Wednesday night as we both packed for our Easter Break choir tour, I was feeling a little better and had committed not to think about it over the break.

Thursday morning 23 of us from the Concert Chorale and the Men's Glee Club left for New York City.  We spent the break in NY, seeing the sights, getting to know each other, and spending way to much money.  The highlight, and the reason we were there, of course, was when we rehearsed in the mornings with composer JOHN RUTTER and then on Easter Sunday performed Rutter's Gloria and a Gloria by Monteverdi in CARNEGIE HALL!!  We celebrated Sunday night with a dinner cruise around Ellis Island with the rest of the performers (but being the only college-age group there, we hung out on the "quiet deck" away from the crazy high schoolers and taught each other to swing dance all night).  Rachel and I spent almost every moment together, shopping and sightseeing and being with our choir friends, taking so many pictures with both of our cameras for a scrapbook we decided to make together so that we can each take a copy with us if she left.

This past week was rough in several ways.  With assignments due, Facebook back in my life and eating away my time, group presentations, and trying to help Rachel through all her busyness and this emotional journey, I am sitting here completely drained.  Rachel is away for a couple days visiting her new school and is about 99% sure she will be there next fall.  This week I kept thinking about my friend Laura, my best friend in junior high who moved away just as we were starting high school, and how when she left we gradually lost touch.  I was worried that would happen to Rachel and me.  I also kept thinking about my roommate for next year.  I could never find another "Roomie," and I don't want to; I don't want anyone to take Rachel's place because she is so beautiful and precious to me.

But when I stop and listen to God's voice, He reminds me to surrender.  He reminds me of when I left everything I loved in Camp Carl to follow His call to try out for HeartSong.  Just like Jesus' disciples.  In Matthew 4:21-22, two brothers named James and John are getting ready to go fishing with their father; this is what they did, how they found their identity; they were a part of the family business and were comfortable that way.  But Jesus calls them to follow Him, and they just stop what they're doing and follow.  They don't stop and think and pray about it; they don't even talk it over with their father first!  They just leave their father there to fish by himself.  James and John did the right thing; when God called them, they followed, leaving everything that seemed comfortable and right for something much greater than they could ever anticipate.  I feel a little like their father right now; how can they just leave him there without thinking about how hurt he would feel or all the work he would have to do by himself?  Their father had to let them go and follow that call to a much greater plan for their lives than they could have found comfortable or profitable.  In the same way, my boss and coworkers at Camp Carl had to let me go and follow God's plan to be on HeartSong, and already He has done so many things in me and through me that never would have happened if I did not follow Him.  And in the same way again, I have to let my roomie go, because God has a bigger plan for her than I could ever have, and he orchestrates His plan so that we could be "for the praise of His glory."  How could I ever stand in the way of that?

No one will ever take Rachel's place; there won't be another roommate that I could spend so much time with and invest in so much as I did Rachel.  There will be many road trips, many late-night Skype dates, and many future memories for the two of us (for instance, we already decided that when we graduate she would be a nurse in NY and I would play piano on Broadway and we would live together in an apartment on Park Avenue and be roomies again).  My new roommate will have to go by the name "room buddy" or something else endearing but not "Roomie," because that's Rachel.  I will miss her so much next year.  But God's plan is bigger than mine, and thank God that it is, because I would be so lost without Him.  He knows what He's doing, and I can surrender my roomie over to Him because I know that He cares for her and has better plans for her than I could ever have.  I am looking forward to seeing how God uses my beautiful roomie next year for His glory.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genuine Worship

Fight the night, run to the Light
Lord, You're the only thing to me that's real tonight
You know me better than I know myself

Oh, the blood of Jesus shed for me
What a sacrifice that saved my life

Let hope rise and darkness tremble in Your holy Light
Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised

Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us!

HeartSong chapel was this past Tuesday these are some of the words from some of the songs we sang.  This was a chance for us to show the rest of Cedarville what we do, to play for them some songs from our new album, and to praise and worship our God together.  This whole experience has been very emotional for me; I went from being pretty upset at the end of our final rehearsal to being so overwhelmed with joy by the time the chapel was over. What a crazy couple of days it has been!

The day before our chapel we met at 2 to set up the stage for our sound check at 4.  Set-up went so much faster than we thought, so I was able to make it to my 3:00 class.  Sound check/rehearsal needed to start right at 4 and end right at 5 for a variety of reasons, but of course we started a little late.  I actually had to leave at 4:30 to teach a piano lesson, so I ran to grab the music for "Better Than" for one of the other keyboardists to play for sound check.  Teaching that lesson was a bit distracting just because I would have rather been out rehearsing (even though I do love teaching!), and it didn't help that we could hear them rehearse through the walls during the lesson. :)

When I got back at 5, they were done rehearsing music, but we still needed to run through transitions and all those types of logistics.  But to my frustration, I walked back into rehearsal to Jim scolding everyone for not being focused, to not taking our rehearsal time seriously.  For some reason, I got really worked up and upset when I heard that.  I thought, here I was having to miss rehearsal and wishing I could be there and focus only on HeartSong, and there were some people who were unfocused and showed that they would have rather been somewhere else.  I was still thinking about these things during the HeartSong CD listening party, and even later in the evening during our last concert for the Concert Chorale.  But my sister cheered me up when she came to spend the night in my dorm, and we had a great time being goofy together and watching my roomie roll her eyes at us.

The next morning my team met a little before sound check to run through "Better Than."  After that all the teams had our final sound check and some great prayer time to focus our hearts before chapel started.  And the chapel service went great!  All of the songs sounded "CD-quality" according to Jim; even our impromptu service change by adding a song at the end went smoothly!  After chapel I got to have lunch with my family before my next class.

But that afternoon I couldn't shake those thoughts I had Monday night.  I sat down after class with my computer and blogged about it.  About a paragraph in I realized that I probably would never publish that post, so it turned more into a private journal entry.  I wrote and wrote until I had before me a huge mess of unorganized emotions that I desperately wanted somebody else to see and understand.  After finishing that post, I felt almost as upset as I had been the day before and couldn't get my act together to concentrate on my homework.  I e-mailed a copy of the unpublished post to Jim asking him to read over it, telling him that before I publish it I wanted to make sure he was okay with what I had blogged about HeartSong.  But now that I think back on it, I realize that I didn't want him to just "okay" that post or make a couple of changes.  What I really wanted was an excuse to talk to Jim, to let him know how I was feeling and to be able to talk through those feelings with him.  I didn't start feeling better until Jim e-mailed me back to set up a time to meet on Wednesday to talk through my post together so that he would have a better idea of where I was coming from.

After about an hour of talking with Jim (which still didn't seem like enough), I felt a little silly for what I had said in that blog post.  I was complaining about what I saw other people doing on HeartSong; I was condemning them. But how often do I do the same thing?  How often am I unfocused in rehearsal or unappreciative of the time I have with my teammates on HeartSong to worship our God together?  What right do I have to be upset about what I see in others if I'm not willing to admit that I do the same thing myself?  It's easy to condemn others; it's harder to condemn myself.

My talk with Jim kept coming back to talking about grace.  We had some good discussion about two different responses to grace.  First, there is an attitude that says, "Since it's inevitable that I'm going to sin, I might as well embrace the sin and just keep getting grace."  Romans 6:1-2 asks this same question: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  The answer: "By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"  Another attitude toward grace says, "I messed up again. I can't stop sinning; there must not be any hope for me."  Romans 5:1-2 had a good response to this; it says, "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."  We can only know the true feeling and meaning of grace when we can embrace both a deep desire to be like Christ and a realization that we will consistently come up short.  That is when God steps in and bridges the gap, giving us way more grace than we could ever need, no matter how much (or how little) we have sinned.

Talking with Jim was also a great chance for us to get to know each other better.  He mentioned to me that he always thought I was the type of person who communicated more efficiently through writing than verbally, and that that must be why I am so quiet all the time in HS meetings.  After talking with me, he realized that the opposite was true; I would much rather communicate with people in person, talking face-to-face, complete with all the inflections and facial expressions that come with that.  Every time I write a blog post, I reread it to make sure that it sounds like me, that I don't use any idioms or phrases I wouldn't use in real life, and that what I say comes across exactly as I'm thinking or feeling.  The problem with the post I sent to Jim was that I didn't do that; I didn't double-check that everything I said wouldn't be read the wrong way.

The heart of what I really wanted to address was the idea of worship. Sometimes I think that all of us in HeartSong spend too much time worrying about the music and the ministry and not enough time worrying about whether or not our focus is remained fixed on Jesus.  We talk about what makes a good worship service, making a list of things like atmosphere, moments of silence, Scripture, familiar songs, or any number of things.  But honestly, we don't really need any of these things to genuinely worship God. Worship doesn't equal music; worship is lifting up the most important thing in our lives.  Worship could be sitting quietly in the dorm reading the Bible, or sitting in the basement of a store with 5 other people praying silently because praying out loud or singing might get you arrested or executed, or offering a friend a favor or committing to pray for them, or getting our homework done early so we can get enough sleep so we can have energy the next day to serve our God even better.

But because worship is something we do all the time, we could also worship anything and everything but God.  Worship could also be checking our phones or Twitters all the time, or spending every spare moment with our boyfriend/girlfriend, or becoming engrossed in our work and in getting stuff done, or even sending out tons of encouragement cards so that maybe at least one person will thank you for it later.  Worship could also be worrying about the service order or the atmosphere or the transitions so much that it takes any energy away from worshipping the One we are singing to in the first place.  It's humbling to think that at every moment I am worshipping something, and that in most of those moments it is not God that I'm worshipping.

Wednesday night in our all-teams meeting Jim talked more about worship, showing us different places in the Bible that talk about worship.  A lot of these stories didn't even involve music!  And one story, about David curing Saul of his demons, involved music but not worship.  Worshipping our God should start with humility; it is a response to His grace and is made evident through our obedience to Him.  Maybe it was because Jim and I had just talked about this issue earlier that day, but I was alert and paying attention for most of the time (which unfortunately doesn't always happen for me).  I think that hearing this perspective on worship, remembering that worship is not equal to music, was good for all of us to hear.  God's grace is here for all of us who would accept it, and when we do we respond with genuine worship, living out the Gospel through our lives and through our music.

"HeartSong Ministries exists to communicate the livable reality of the Gospel as seen through genuine worship."  This is our prayer: that God would continually give us grace so that we can live out the Gospel and serve Him in genuine worship, whether it's through music or in another way.  I am so in awe and so thankful for the opportunity to be on HeartSong and pray that God would save me from ever taking it for granted, and I pray that as four of our teams travel this summer, God would work in us and through us in such a huge way that our only response is worship.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CU Friday: A Mini-Blog

Of course, the end of the semester is near, and I am once again behind on my blogging.  But real quick, I want to share with you about last Friday, when our team played for the welcome session of CU Friday, our campus's name for the big visitation days for prospective students.

Last Thursday was pretty relaxed for me; I had a class cancelled, which gave me a good part of the afternoon free to do some homework and encourage some friends.  I was all ready around dinnertime to eat and then go to rehearsal when I found out that instead of ending rehearsal at 10 like normal, we would start rehearsal at 10!  And instead of a normal rehearsal, we were going to wheel all our equipment from the storage room in the DMC to the theater in the SSC (outside, with no trailer) and set up/ sound check for the CU Friday welcome session.  Well, I e-mailed my RD first of all to tell her I would probably be out past our 12am curfew.  Then, I spent the next few hours relaxing and getting more homework done.

Setting up is never too bad on a normal church stage.  But on a theater stage with a play in progress (which is why we started at 10; we needed to wait for the play to be over), we were playing in a living room, and it was difficult to get our staging just right and make sure that we weren't touching or breaking anything from the play (although I'm pretty sure Dexter ended up playing bass sitting on the living room's couch during rehearsal).  THEN, we needed to have two wireless microphones out for the speakers, so for some reason we had to bring a ton of equipment from the Generation room that had wireless capabilities, just for two wireless mics...By the time we were set up and sound checked, it was 12:30, and Dane was going crazy.  Jo and I walked back to Maddox for a few short hours of sleep.

Friday morning we were there around 7 for a final sound check.  Dane was going crazy again, this time because the CU Admissions computer wasn't playing nicely with our computer or system.  Finally, we got the two computers to be friends just in time for all the prospective students to come in.  We played a few upbeat songs, and to our surprise there were people standing and clapping, at 8 in the morning!!  When we were done playing, we snuck out to get some breakfast in Chuck's before we tore everything down and wheeled it back to the DMC, in the rain, in a hurry, so we could make it to chapel on time.  Dane, Dex and I all collapsed on a pew in chapel right as it was starting, and Dane and I looked at each other with a "We did it!" look in our eyes, relieved that all the stress of the morning was over.

So, it was a crazy 12 hours, but as much as some HS members would complain about CU Fridays, it was fun for me.  The first time I ever heard of HeartSong was at a CU Friday (and I figured out later that Rachel's fiance Taylor was on the team that I saw), and it was a great pull for me to want to come to Cedarville, even though being on HeartSong wasn't in my thinking yet.  We were the first students that these visitors saw that day, and I was excited for the chance to represent my university well and help to promote Cedarville.

Tune in next time for a blog update about HeartSong Chapel!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Team Time, More Tour, and No Shoes

Well, this blog post might as well be three blog posts.  That's why it has three titles.  But since this all happened within a week and a half, I figured it would be better to put them all together as one long post rather than three short ones.  I'll save the every-other-day-type blogging for the summer.  :)

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Team Time

Surprisingly, since our last weekend out together I have gotten to know the members of my team more than I ever have.  A couple of Wednesdays ago, all of HeartSong took the DISC personality test as a way to get to know ourselves and each other better.  It was interesting to see that our team has no one in the "I" category.  Since then, as I've been communicating with my team members, I have been intentional to ask questions and encourage them with a spring-board off of their personality type.  The Wednesday after that, we talked about community and different ways to apply the Gospel to the way we interact with each other as a team; we also found out we will be sharing our life maps with each other before the summer comes.

The Saturday after our last tour, it was time to go shopping again.  This time around, it was so much easier and so much more fun than last time, because now we all know each other and what we like so us girls could suggest things to each other better.  I got some shorts that actually fit me well, and some new TOMS shoes (more about that later).  The Thursday after that we tried on our outfits for Jim before our rehearsal, but we came to find out that a couple of the guys grabbed the wrong type of shirt, so they didn't fit as well. It was a bit humorous.  But no worries; they will exchange them.  :)

Our rehearsal last week was hang-out time for our team.  We talked for about two and a half hours about HeartSong and encouraged each other the same way we did after Fall Break tour.  I LOVED being able to encourage and be encouraged after knowing my team for so long.  It is so refreshing to be able to be more comfortable and more open with my team.  I am so excited for summer when we get to know each other even better as we become more equipped to serve as a team.

Last Friday was so fun for me!  First, it was April Fool's day, and I played one of the cruelest/greatest jokes on Tommy.  Then, after my last class I met up with Dexter for coffee to hang out and talk a little bit about Rob Bell. Dexter is the one person on my team I feel like I know the least, so it was so cool to hear about his life and get to know him at a deeper level.  Later in the evening, I also met up with Rachel to "do homework" at her house...but we ended up just talking for a few hours.  She shared a song with me that she had started writing the night before with our team in mind, and she asked me to help her finish it.  I was so excited to get back into writing again, and I think the final song is a great fusion of our two writing styles.  I went to sleep Friday night very content and thankful to God for the wonderful team that He has blessed me with.

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More Tour

I supposed I lied when I said I was done touring for the semester, although I was done touring with HeartSong.  Last weekend, the Concert Chorale went on tour to the wonderful city of Akron, Ohio: my town.  I was SO EXCITED to be able to go to my home church to minister with the Chorale and stay at my own house for my host home.  The strange thing was seeing my roommate Rachel and my friends Jan and Emma sitting in my family room and around my kitchen table.  It was a weird fusion of realities for me.  But I was so happy to show them my home and my church and to see my parents and all of my good friends from church (and impress all of them with my high C).

That was Saturday night and Sunday morning; on Sunday night we sang at a church in Massilon, OH, and stayed in host families there.  It was very strange being in a host home with 5 other girls that weren't used to touring, but it was so fun to get to know the young couple we stayed with and talk to the wife about Cedarville.  It was also fun to stay in their guest room with my friend Kara and have a chance to talk to her about my life a little bit.  The next morning, we packed lunches and were on our way to Mansfield Christian School.

The school ministry was so fun!  This is something I haven't been able to do very much with HeartSong, but I really love being able to reach out to kids in their home environment and to bless them by performing with them and giving a little master class.  We sang for three different choirs of different age groups, and all three had very different responses, which was actually pretty cool.  We ate lunch with some of the kids before we headed back to Cedarville, just in time for me to teach a piano lesson.

Touring with the Chorale was so different from touring with HeartSong, but I could see the same passion for music and for God in my friends from Chorale as I see in my friends from HeartSong.  It was a good reminder that these passions are something we all share, and that someday all of these friends will be together in Heaven praising Jesus with one voice.

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No Shoes

Yesterday, April 5, was National One Day Without Shoes, sponsored by TOMS shoes.  In the past, I haven't paid much attention to this cause (or any cause like this, really).  At Cedarville, I am bombarded everyday with propaganda about different ministries and causes that need our time and our money. There is nothing bad about any of these; the problem comes when they start feeling like commercials and I just want to block them out like I do commercials.  But recently, especially after I started sponsoring a child, I have been intentionally paying attention to these different causes and organizations, praying for wisdom to know in which causes God would have me invest my time, money, and passion.  God has given me a heart for the people of South Africa and Lesotho, where my sponsor child is from, and particularly the problem of HIV/AIDS there as well as the problem of kids not having shoes to wear.  This is why I have chosen to sponsor with World Vision, who focuses on HIV/AIDS-affected communities, and to buy a pair of TOMS shoes, because for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, they give a pair to a child in a country like Lesotho who needs shoes.  Last Saturday, while I was shopping with HeartSong, I chose a pair of TOMS as my casual pair for that very reason.

When I found out that TOMS was sponsoring One Day Without Shoes, and that Cedarville was endorsing it as well, I decided I would try it.  I don't normally go barefoot; I'm usually running around summer camp in my tennis shoes.  I knew it would be a stretch for me, that it would be hard and uncomfortable. But I did it to raise awareness.  Actually, I didn't really go without shoes to raise awareness in the people around me who asked about it.  I was raising personal awareness.  I wanted to know what these kids go through every day: building callouses on their feet, getting cut up and sore from rough surfaces, and having some of the most disgusting feet.  By the end of the day, I had gone almost everywhere on campus without wearing shoes, and I was very aware of my sore, gross feet.  Today, I spent the entire day in my new TOMS, remembering that by buying these shoes, there is a child, maybe in Lesotho, who will soon be wearing new shoes as well.  I was very excited that I had made a real difference in that child's life.

God has given me a passion for the kids of South Africa who live in communities with high levels of HIV and AIDS or who don't have their own pair of shoes and go everywhere barefoot.  I have committed to spending my money and my time giving to these kids, either by sponsoring, buying TOMS, or in another way.  I was encouraged by a friend of mine who said that she was inspired by my wisdom to choose the causes that I would support and my passion to pursue and support these causes.  This wisdom and this passion come from my God, and I know that He will work through me to change children's lives.  I continue to pray for all the different causes and ministries I hear about on campus, that God would bless the people who choose to invest their lives in those causes and give them the same passion that He has given me.  When we are committed to following Christ and being used by Him, He will give us the passion He would desire us to have.  Then we must live it out!

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I hope you have enjoyed my three mini-blogs!  I am so excited to get to share what God is doing through me and through HeartSong; may He alone receive all the glory and praise for what He has done!  Soli Deo Gloria!!