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!

Cille

 

 

 

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!

Cille

Herding Cats (Again)

carols2015-choir-and-heralds
Carols by Candlelight 2015 – photo: Judy Rushing

‘Tis the season! You can interpret that in several ways but for this topic, the “season” referenced is Carols by Candlelight.  For the 47th year, First Baptist Jackson will present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community and to the world through a celebration of music and worship using everything from dance to painting to video and probably some things/circumstances we don’t yet know about.  In 2016, the cast, crew, Worship Choir and Orchestra, focus on answering Why? Why did Jesus have to come?  I have seldom been a “why?” asker but in this context, the question is so very valid. The question and how it is answered or how you respond to it has eternal implications. For ticket information, go to carolsbycandlelight.org. It will also be streamed from the First Jackson website and later televised.

My primary role with Carols is to get the choir ready logistically.  I do my best to place them with a friend, where they can be comfortable physically, where the musical balance and perspective is right (voice parts matter!), where a new participant can “follow the leader” with someone who has done this before – really take care of the sweating the small stuff so they can be prepared musically and not have to think to much about other details – I point, stand them up, sit them down, give instructions relative to right now, changes, being flexible, etc.  It is a journey, for sure, and it requires a couple of fairly tedious rehearsals before folks are going with the flow and we begin to lead in worship rather than be bogged down in the details.

The first “nuts and bolts” rehearsal  is on what we call “Wednesday on Tuesday” – the Tuesday night of Thanksgiving Week. This is the night we assign folks their Carols positions and walk through the processional. It is also the night we join the Worship Choir regulars with our Student and College friends who are part of this ministry. It can be (and usually is) somewhat chaotic (and fun). And as I have shared several times over the years, it is like “herding cats” – according to Wikipedia, “an idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic” and best represented by EDS in their award-winning commercial: Herding Cats. (Disclaimer: I also identify with this because professionally I am a technology project manager!) This, for the record, is not my first “cat rodeo” as I have been a part of Carols and the Worship Choir since 1981 (my 36th) and have been the logistics guru since 1988 (thus my 29th).

I am by nature a perfectionist and this is never a perfect rehearsal (or process). I am going to miss something. Some change is going to have to be made to adjust for spacing, microphones, height, someone not being there, someone I left off the list (it happens) – and I have had to learn over the years to Get.Over.It. God is honored by what I do for Him – not by my frustrations!

I answered Why? when I was nine years old. During Vacation Bible School, the pastor asked us to personalize John 3:16 KJV: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His instructions were to replace “the world” with your name. Boom! I recall the exact feeling today that I had 50 years ago. God sent Jesus to save me. As I grew, I realized that His coming was not all and not enough. Jesus also had to die for me and come out of that earthly tomb to live again so that I could live with Him forever. And I accept, without question or reservation, that He will come back again.

So pray for us as we get ready to share with 15,000+ about Jesus. Pray that we can help others to answer that question of Why? for themselves.  Not being disrespectful, but I suspect God knows a lot more about “herding cats” than I do.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:10-12 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil and the Details

As in many projects, with Carols by Candlelight, the details are what make the difference. And in this effort, especially this year, there are thousands of details.  Our theme is “Changed” with our focus on lives changed for Eternity. To clearly present this message, a lot of things had to change for FirstJackson and, in reality, for each of us.

We were challenged to be a part of Forty Days of Prayer for Carols. Many were. It is obvious. So many people praying specifically for 500+ lives to change sent Satan into overdrive trying to stop us.  We all know that Satan loves sound equipment. He’s been messing with that stuff for years.  He has hopped into lighting in a big way at times, as well.  This year – traffic – tape -safety lighting -traffic (did I mention that already?) are taking a beating. He has worked over the altos – a virus and the flu and family illness. He started in on the sopranos today with the same. And poor Chip Wilbanks (Sanctuary Choir President) has a huge trial that is going into its third week starting Monday and he is vocally wasted.

He has stirred the pot on some other issues as well. Plus with every change we have attempted to make to more openly share the Gospel with our community we have experienced pushback from some quarter. If you know me, you will not be surprised that my response to this is “get over it – it is not about you. It is ALL about HIM!”

So as we complete the i-dotting and t-crossing this afternoon, continue to pray for every effort. We are tweaking. It is like a bunch of busy little beavers all over the church pulling wagons, pushing carts, installing last-minute lighting, watching the painter get ready for tonight (great story he has), moving costumes, cleaning up stuff, checking our lists, checking them again.

Pray for the new traffic flows into the building to work. Pray for a welcoming environment in the FHE Carols’ Coffee House. Pray for the ministry groups that are coming in tonight and that they will clearly hear the message. Pray for each other as we share the gifts we have been given to tell the story of Jesus.

Pray as well for flexibility, for the ability to listen quickly, and for your senses to be heightened to the needs of those around you. You never know who is watching you. You never know who God will pair you with when someone has a specific need (happened to me already this week).

I love and respect each of you. More importantly, God loves each one of you far more than I ever could. Count it all joy to serve Him this weekend and every day.

My favorite Christmas scripture is from the prophecy of Micah: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,from the days of eternity.”  Therefore He will give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has borne a child.Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord,in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain,because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace. (Micah 5:2-5a NASB)

“This One will be our peace.” What a promise. What a Savior! I am changed. Are you?

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

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Cacophony

No – I did not make this word up. Yes – it is a word that my sister just younger than I would have asked my Mom to make me stop saying when I was a kid (she would call it a “fifty-cent word”).

Cacophony per Merriam-Webster means “a harsh or discordant sound.” And frankly during Carols especially when sight-reading and even more so when brass players sight-read something really difficult such as the arrangement of Procession of the Kings we are singing this year. I am not being critical of our brass playing friends – I played low brass (trombone) from 6th grade through my years at Ole Miss. I read music. The stuff they are reading looks like some weird foreign language to me!

By the time rehearsal ended last night, the brass players had it worked out (again – seems like a foreign language to me)! It is a majestic processional of the wise men as they present themselves to the Savior.

Still the first playing stayed with me. Compared to the worship of Holy, Holy, Holy, the wonder of Silent Night, and the singing of a lullaby of hope by the earthly parents to this Boy who is King in Someday, it just caught me off guard.

I have thought today that the worship, wonder, and hope of heaven is in such sharp contrast to the chaos of hell. Cacophony is the music of Satan. Chaos in our lives – regardless of its source – is of the devil. Through chaos, however, God can refines us if we allow it. How we react when the cymbals are clanging and fires are raging and people are hurting and discord tries to overwhelm us, is what people remember about us.

Tonight we will share with a number of people who may work for First Jackson, as well as others, who may know about Jesus but do not know Him in a personal way. More likely, they see the way we treat each other and how we use (abuse) the resources that are at our disposal. If not careful, we present a very mixed message, a chaotic one, a cacophony.

Some thirty-three years after His birth in Bethlehem, Jesus faced chaos unlike any we will ever face. He knew He was going to die for each one of us. His hope was in His knowing that God was with Him. His faith spoke volumes. He was the calm in the middle of a storm unlike any we have known.

Matthew 27:24 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Surely He is the Son of God. He changed me. He lives in me. May I live in such a way that every minute of every day others will see Jesus in me.

Still Choosing Joy

Cille