Trees are pretty amazing if you think about it. Every single one of them is different.
Consider their shapes. Their heights, types of foliage, and position of their branches all vary from tree to tree. Everything about them is unique.
Like trees, we are all very different from each other. How glorious is that? All of creation reflects a very creative God, so it only makes sense that we would as well. All humans were created in His image (Genesis 1:27), which is beautiful and mysterious. Forests may sometimes look full of identical trees, like uniformed soldiers in formation. But, when studied closely, their unique identities shine through.
We were each created to bless each other in different ways, and through unique gifts. We each contribute to our families, communities, and world in beautifully different ways. And like a beautiful forest, when gathered together we can strengthen, support, and flourish side by side.
My church congregation is preparing for our third Arts for the Kingdom event on October 5th. These events celebrate the artistic talents of our congregation through painting, photography, crafts, music, spoken word, and culinary creations. Each event has a theme, and this upcoming evening will center around the theme of “Shalom”. Sometimes translated peace or flourishing, shalom has been a lovely meditation. Our time together is sure to feel like a celebration of who we are together in Christ. I look forward to that time very much.
If you would like more information about these Arts for the Kingdom events, especially if it sounds like something you would like to introduce to your own congregation, please contact me! It is one of my favorite things to talk about.
Something else I’ve noticed about trees is how they reach heavenward. Their branches extend like arms, lifted in continual praise to their creator. What a beautiful example given to us in this world.
I’ll be honest that lifting my hands in praise in front of other people hasn’t always been within my “comfort zone”. However, when I allow myself to forget about the watching eyes and let the words of worship dive deep into my heart, lifting my hands feels as natural as taking my next breath. Leading worship has become my favorite thing to do because I get to help others hear and feel the weight, joy, lament, and promises in each song. Engaging and encouraging hearts through music is such an honor. May my leading always point heavenward.
I had the opportunity to write quite a few psalm settings while our church worked through the Book of Psalms in recent past. Psalm 134 is a gloriously fun and short little psalm at the end of the Songs of Ascent. This particular song was likely used to close a festive gathering as it closes with a blessing.
When our worship pastor assigned the psalm to me, I quickly noticed the call to “lift up your hands”. Uh oh. Could we? Should we? Would they? So much doubt surrounded the idea of lifting our hands.
Understand that our congregation gets teased on occasion for not knowing how to clap. We even start some songs with a quick “clapping 101”, modeling the movement and timing from the stage before we begin. One of my friends even admitted to the pastor we met in Germany last winter that we could be named the “frozen chosen”. Fitting, especially in February. So, when we got ready to tackle this psalm together, we encouraged everyone to lift their hands during the chorus. And you know what? The “frozen chosen” lifted up their hands, and survived. We sang the psalm together, hands lifted, to bless the Lord. It was gloriously good.
The setting was a fun melody to write and even more fun to play with a team. Many of my songs feel like that. Written in my little house in the woods, on my keyboard, they feel a certain way. Adding guitars, drums, a string section and hundreds of voices changes everything. Thankfully, this recording caught a taste of that because it features Joel Stamoolis and John Rogers playing guitar. So, enjoy the break from my piano bench, and enjoy the music!
…and now I feel like going on a walk through the forest. Care to join me?