NOEL – Fearless for Him

Carols Weekend 2018 is here.  I am looking forward to the weekend and sharing with the thousands who have tickets and who will watch via the web and television (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

This year has had more than its share of challenges.  This is my 38th Carols (out of 49 total) and the challenges, at times, have been staggering. But, I was reminded last night in a conversation with a long time choir member, that this is not about us.  Not at all.  And if we lose our excitement in the pettiness of circumstances that surround us, then we have completely missed the point of why we lead worship (for we are all “worship leaders”) be it for Carols or on Sundays.

I do believe Carols is a time of worship – always have – and though there are performance elements to Carols (and for Sundays, for that matter), my personal conviction is that this is not a show or performance or maybe even a concert. It is a worship service and I try my best to treat it as such in how I spiritually and emotionally prepare. And no, I am not always successful because I am human and I allow myself to get distracted and derailed by circumstances that surround me.

nativity.jpgStill, I want to “be fearless in what sets my soul on fire” and that is to use the gifts I have been given to tell others about Jesus in the best way I know how (which frankly, my gifts may be interpreted by some as just being BOSSY!!).  This year I have had a chance to mentor some amazing young adults and often we have talked about this very thing, using the gifts God has given them fearlessly in pursuing their life goals – what truly has set their souls on fire.IMG_0325

I am praying for those participating, those coming, those leading, those supporting in countless roles, those extending the invitation to follow Jesus – that we will not be distracted by circumstances but will, instead, be fearless in sharing His Story from the fire that is within us.  Truthfully, we are going to be digging deep at times because Carols is physically draining but the JOY in sharing this gift with the community and the world WILL sustain us as we share what is on our hearts.  And because it is all for HIM then we should be without any kind of fear for He lives in us and sets our souls on fire if we allow Him to do so. I also pray that we will express this in how we approach each other and by what is seen on our faces and heard in our music.

Here we go. Lord, please show us the way and give us the courage to be fearless for You.

Still choosing joy!






It is Carols by Candlelight season again.  Countdown to dress rehearsal (December 5th) is 8 days. As always, there is much to be done – details done now so that worship can occur without disruption.

Perhaps, at times, we lose perspective when in the details.  True, we are dealing with some things this year that in 49 years have not been influencers or considerations. Yet, why we do Carols should not be impacted by that. The Story has not changed. The Message is constant. We must not allow WHY we do this to be buried in emotions and minutia. We must be prepared, thus focused – spiritually, prayerfully, physically, mentally.

While working with Annerin Long to prepare this year’s prayer emphasis for Carols Week, I looked back through the devotional book we published last year for Love Came for Me. It was good to revisit the scripture, to be reminded that our God is Sovereign, in control, not surprised by anything, wants the best for us as individuals and corporately, accessible.  Our problem, often, though, is that we look to Him last rather than first, put our desires ahead of His desires, turn away from Him rather than seek His face. Why? Because we are human and He allows us to make choices. He also reminds us, that there are consequences of those choices. I am charging myself to stay focused on Him. How can I share His Story with others who don’t know Him if I am not looking at Him?

The devotional thought I wrote last year was based on JOHN 1:16-17 – I thought I would share it here as a reminder to all of us (and especially me) that this is not at all about me. It is about Him!

For God loved the world in this way:He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Love Came for Me– how could that ever happen? Growing up in a small Mississippi town in the local First Baptist Church, we were taught early on that Jesus loved us and that we were to love Him. During Vacation Bible School in 1965, I gave my heart to Him. It hit me that day that His love was so strong that He chose to not only come to earth but to die for my sins as well. Love, Jesus, came for me.

Jesus is “That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5). Later John restates this when he says: “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” (I John 1:5). Jesus did not just have love in His heart – He is love. Nothing Satan could throw at Him stopped His love for us, stopped His purpose in coming to earth as that tiny baby in that cold stable, stopped His facing harassment and condemnation we still cannot imagine, or stopped His facing the most horrible death imaginable.  Love Came for Me.  

Occasionally, I wonder what my condition would be had Jesus chosen not to come for me. Talk about lost and wandering! Really, it is beyond what I can now comprehend. Yet in my world today, and likely in the circle of influence of Carols by Candlelight, there are going to be those in the room or who happen to watch on television or other media that will wonder what in the world we are talking about? Surely, they are just putting on a show or retelling a fable. May that never be.

Following Carols one of the early years in the present Sanctuary, we determined that a young man who sat in the seats behind where the “boxes” are today, gave his life to Jesus. He tragically died in a car accident before Christmas that year and before anyone could follow-up with him. Since then, I keep that young man in my heart knowing that Love came for him, too. No matter what I am asked to do, no matter how tired I am, no matter even how many times things have to change for one reason or another, none of that is as important as that young man being with Jesus today or that there are others listening who need to know Him, too.

Jesus, thank you for coming for me. Thank you for a chance daily to tell others about You – all about You – Your coming, Your living here on earth, Your dying, and that You are coming again. Thank you for loving me enough to come for me. Amen

This year our theme is NOEL. Merriam-Webster defines noel from the French as a Christmas carol and from Latin natalis or birthday – in other words it is a carol about a birthday. What more important birthday will ever be celebrated than that of our Savior. I hope as we count down the days, deal with the tasks, learn the music, prepare ourselves in all the ways necessary, that we will indeed focus on this birthday of the only King that matters. Noel, noel, noel, noel; Born is the King of Israel!



Where I Belong

It has been a while since I was this excited about the fall kickoff at First Baptist Jackson.  We have lots of cool stuff going on in many areas of ministry.  As anyone who follows me knows, I serve most of my time in the Music Ministry. I sing in the choir. I direct logistics for the choir.  I am wrapping up a project (with the help of many many others) of reorganizing the Music Library and our major storage areas. I am a student of the Academy of Arts (I am a #celloplayer!). And this fall, I am am serving as the Administrator of the Academy of Arts.  I even have goals (playing in the orchestra in 2019)!

What a way to tell others about Jesus! I know there are many ways to do this but music touches something in all of us, especially when we sing and play and support the singing and playing through technology and media. With that in mind, if you can, join me #whereibelong this fall. Want to sing? There is a place for you. Play an instrument? Our orchestra is amazing and contributes to so many areas of worship leadership. Have a tech bent or even skills like graphic design and media development?  We have a place for you, too. And service – we have many many opportunities to serve in our community and around the world.

Come. Be a part. Bring someone else. Tomorrow night we start at 6PM in the 3rd Floor Atrium.  We will have great food, great fellowship, meet the Music and Media Staff, spend some time worshipping, and even give you a taste of what it is like to prepare to lead on a Sunday at First Baptist Jackson.  Come on.  I will be looking for you. I want you to be a part of this and sense the excitement we all have to tell others about Jesus!

Where I BelongScripture9D8771C0-26D0-4603-A11B-64267A759519

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2 NIV

Still Choosing Joy!


One Body

Lately I have had the opportunity to talk to others about gifts. It seems to have followed me this summer along with what “investment” means these days.  I mentioned this in an earlier post about some things recently learned a week or so back. Sort of came up in some random conversations that evolved into discussions about gifts.  I have always been alarmed when I hear or see people try to bypass what is so apparently a God-given gift to try to do something else just because they believe it may take them further. I am even more alarmed (and sometimes frustrated) when I hear things like “I’m not smart enough to do that!” or “Why can’t I do what you do?”

The scripture that most often comes to mind is I Corinthians 12. This is another passage  (and probably the most familiar one) about spiritual gifts. And the entire passage is far too rich and long to even remotely explore in this post. There are several verses, though, that stand out. The ones included here are from the New International Version.

Verse 11:  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Verse 14: Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Verses 18: But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (Emphasis mine.)

Verse 27:  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Do you see a pattern here?  Trust me – there is one.

I was older before I accepted or really even acknowledged my gifts.  I knew I was a thinker, analytical (to a fault sometimes still – with apologies to my friends!) and could get things done.  I could take something chaotic and sort it into something that made sense BUT I never saw that as a gift.  I was responsible, a finisher, had little sense of humor and almost zero tolerance for those who did not step up and do what I honestly believed everyone should be able to do. I got there on time (early), listened to instructions (who does that?) and would sigh deeply (ask ANY choir member) and repeat information I had to others who never thought about listening or paying attention! Seriously – I mean, if I could do it, why couldn’t they?

Yes – I had other interests – still do – music was and is the thing that brings me the most joy and pleasure and peace. I enjoyed teaching kids to swim and how to survive in the woods (Girl Scouts) and to be leaders. I love to GO.  I was visionary enough to take a new idea and to successfully implement it but seldom lived over the edge, risk wise – just seemed to know where the edge was. I was was an excellent “firefighter” (crisis manager) but I honestly don’t know why anyone would choose to do that.  Yet, I wanted to be something other than what/who I was because I saw myself as boring! In all honesty, some days I still see myself that way.

I certainly was in my mid 30’s before I realized that God had not made a mistake – He had “gifted” me to be able to serve Him as HE needed!! My prayers asking Him to do something different with me were answered by “Grow where I planted you” and “You are where I want you to be and who I want you to be – trust Me.” It was difficult, but I finally, after struggling, understood. I was just one part of His Body – and my role was specific to the gifts He gave me. To ignore that and turn from Him would be nothing but misery.


As I got older, I saw more clearly how I could use my gifts to help others who are far different from me in their gifts find stability in areas where they are not comfortable because I AM comfortable there. I have also learned when I do this,  I am the one most blessed.

Looking at it from the other side – those gifts I wanted but didn’t get, I realize that those parts of the body that are otherwise gifted are the ones who minister to me – be it doctors, or musicians, or teachers or craftsmen or whatever.  And just like my gifts required me to invest time and energy in developing them for His glory, so do the gifts of others.   When skimming Facebook this week, I saw this post that really brought this home.   It compares med students (lifesavers) and musicians (another form of lifesaver, in this context) but it could be comparing any different gifts.  You see, we should all approach what we are charged to do this way.  See what you think.


The bottom line: Be thankful for what God GIVES. Commit yourself to excellence in what God CALLS you to do.  Do not abuse the GIFT or the CALL.  Do not ignore it. Do not downplay it. Someone out there needs what God has placed within you to offer.

Still Choosing Joy



Not really sure why but this summer I have spent a good bit to time thinking about what it means to invest. No, I am not talking about what I might need to do to open a new account at Merrill Lynch or Raymond James or the like.  This has been about spiritual investment, the kind that Jesus described so vividly in Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV):

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I realized that while I had gone through the motions of prayer, Bible study, and the engagement of others – that is really all that was going on – motions. I had heard about folks being in a spiritual desert but I always thought, “That will never happen to me!”…..  I am sure you know you can convince yourself of anything and I convinced myself I was doing all I could or even needed to do. Wrong. I was just wandering….

I did realize the very first thing I had to do was invest again in God’s Word.  I cannot tell you how hard that was to rebuild that habit of starting the day with Him and going to Him rather than wallowing in the crisis du jour. Little by little, I am finding my way back. And in this renewed journey, I found in old familiar and favorite scriptures new revelations, and with these, new encouragement, new opportunities, and renewed peace.

The greatest surprise was how He put unexpected people in my path, folks who needed things that are my gifts while I needed theirs – sort of a mutual investment strategy. Mostly I realized I WANTED to reach out to others where mostly for a long time I had been hiding from both God and His people and that I wanted to give back AND that I still could do that.

Am I where I need to be – no, not completely. Do I have hope – absolutely. Is God done with me yet. No, thankfully, He is not. While looking for something else, I ran across this quote last night from Toby Mac’s #speaklife series.  It sums this up better than I ever could!

Still Choosing Joy!