So a friend of mine paid me a rather interesting compliment last night. We were texting back and forth about something and he said, "You've gotta be one of the most loyal people I know."

Loyal? Wow... What do you say to that?

I'll admit it, at first it felt a little like the friendship version of "she's got a great personality..." Lol. Loyal... I mean, really, am I a cocker spaniel?! But as I thought more about it, I thought, no, actually, this really is something for which we should want to be known...

What does it mean to be loyal?

Webster defines it as being "unswerving in allegiance," faithful to someone or something to whom fidelity is owed. So a loyal person is someone you can trust, depend on - someone who will be there no matter what.

That's the kind of person I want to be - and a trait for which I'm glad to be known, by at least one person anyway. :) But as I've been thinking about it today, it occured to me that as much as it means to know that my friend thinks this of me, it would mean so much more to know that God believed it to be true of me.

So, Lord, my prayer this day is that You would find me to be loyal to You always. Make me that kind of a girl, God. Amen.

responsible song writing 101

As a worship leader, I pay pretty close attention to what the words of our songs are actually saying. Songs are interesting things. With the possible exception of annoying restaurant birthday songs, they generally have the potential to be extremely meaningful - or to drive us crazy. Ever turned off the radio just because that song came on again? Or turned it up because "oh, i love this song!!"

It is no different on Sundays - or Monday nights. And part of my job (which is really difficult) is helping our community to create a song culture that reflects good theology, is incredibly singable, culturally relevant, and... well - a lot of things, really, but right there - "culturally relevant..." Put two people in a room and you already have two cultures. Try it with ninety and see how far you get finding a song that they'll all love. :)

So we do our best.

One of the issues that came up early on in my worship leading career was the fact that I'm a woman. (um, surprise?) No, actually, it wasn't the women-in-ministry debate - it was simply that I'm naturally a first soprano, but guys can't sing in those keys. So over time I've become an alto, and I sing everything way lower than is comfy at times, but it's helped our guys to connect a little better, so losing my upper register was worth it. But I think it's because I'm so in the habit of thinking about how to help the guys in our group encounter the Lord through music (tricky as many of them claim to be joyful noise-makers), this video really caught my attention. What do you think about this?

the end of the masquerade

One of my favorite movies - possible the favorite movie - is Ever After. If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it. A "real life" Cinderella story, complete with masked ball... does it get better than that? Oh, yes, it does. There are gypsies and a swordfight. (And those of you who love this movie as much as I do are reliving the best scene right now.) The rest of you need to go rent it. Yes, it's a chick flick. And their French is terrible. But it's a good story. And did I mention there's a swordfight? (Cinderella wins.)

So there's a scene towards the end of the movie where Cinderella goes to the Masque - the ball the King is throwing to celebrate the engagement of his son to ... no one knows whom. The prince and Cinderella have fallen in love, but she can't marry him under false pretenses, so Cinderella goes to tell him the truth about who she is - and the conversation goes horribly wrong. He isn't listening to her, and she's betrayed by her family in front of the entire court before she has the opportunity to explain the real masquerade that their relationship has been up to this point. He is understandably upset, and allows his pride to overshadow his love for the girl... they do patch it up and live happily ever after eventually, but it takes them awhile to get there, and it's pretty awful in betweentimes...

I've been thinking about that whole masquerade thing all week. A friend of mine, when I told him about that dream I had last week, basically said, "Hap, don't read more into it than is there, but look at the message - you're afraid of the consequences of being seen for who you really are. Your whole life you've played so many roles based on the expectations (or perceived expectations) that have been placed upon you. Over the past year, you've done a lot to step out of that masquerade and to just be yourself - but since you've been burned in the past for it, of course you're starting to fear that it will happen again." (He said it all a lot better than that, and I am kicking myself for not writing it down earlier.) He had a point. And, I suspect, a direct line to heaven on that one. There's a lot of truth to that, and I run up against it in the oddest places sometimes.

Tomorrow my friend Stephie is preaching on fasting, and she's interviewing me and another friend of ours about our experiences fasting. I'm glad she asked because it is a discipline that I really love (I know that sounds funny, considering prior things I've written about that, but God has so changed my heart about it), and the opportunity to make the discipline of fasting personal to someone (as in, "Oh, well, this person I know has managed to fast, and this is how it went, so maybe I can too...") is exciting - but there's also this weird zone attached to it that I am really wrestling with...

The two passages I come back to over and over again on fasting are Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6: 16-18. I've written a couple of times about Isaiah 58 and how significant that passage has been to me. But I'm suddenly finding that actually standing up in front of people and talking about it is really hard! Fasting is such a personal and private thing, and the things for which I have been fasting and praying this year are so intensely personal - and I'm just not sure how to talk about it and still be vague enough to guard my privacy yet truthful enough to communicate that there are actual situations in which this discipline has proven effective - how to talk about how sweet it is to throw yourself in the gap for someone you love who needs God to intervene on their behalf and to let your hunger drive you to a deeper hunger for the Lord and for His kingdom to come... without actually explaining the situations themselves. How to talk about Isaiah 58 when God continues to use it to change everything... And I'm being vague....

It is simply that in learning to say Kaddish this year, I have discovered that part of God's purpose in calling to me to fast the way I do is to "loose the chains of injustice" over my life... and that "not turning away from my own flesh and blood" (Isaiah 58:7) isn't just about the past but about the future too - and that "the glory of the Lord" being "my rear guard" means that God's got my back and that He can redeem my past to help others become free - but that in order to do that, He needs me to tell the truth - the whole truth - about me. My story. Everything. Probably not all at once...lol. But bit by bit. And while blogging has done so much over the past two years to help me start doing that... the call is to people I can see as well as those of you who are kind enough to read these ramblings...

So I guess it's time to break character...? Tomorrow will be interesting anyway. (insert wry grin here) I wonder what I'll actually say...

...and am hoping for a happy ending. Pun so absolutely intended.

a rather strange dream

So a couple of nights ago I had what I've been terming a nightmare, but now I'm really starting to wonder. I can't shake this one. And last night I was telling a friend about it and she had a little bit of insight into it that made me think, you know, maybe there was more to this than I knew... so I thought I'd throw it out there, as best as I can remember it, and see what you all thought...

At the beginning of the dream, I am someone else, and I am married to this guy named Andrew. Andrew and I are in the backstage area of a theatre owned by a magician, who is walking with us onto the stage. The floor is the traditional black, and the backdrop is charcoal gray, and all around the edges of the stage there's this mist - there is nothing to see in this dream world but the stage area - very much like the concept in Shakespeare's As You Like It: "all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players..."

The magician leaves, and Andrew and I find ourselves alone on the stage, exploring a bit (although there is pretty much nothing there) and suddenly I can't find Andrew. And I am calling and calling, and he doesn't answer, and I start to panic. And then there's a series of people who come onstage and they're all playing a part but they won't talk to me and they won't tell me their names and they won't answer my questions or tell me where Andrew is, and they all have this blankness to their expressions. You can't meet their eyes because there is nothing behind them - they say our eyes are the windows to our souls? These people didn't seem to have souls... They were just empty shell people, like on Camazotz.

At one point there is a little girl playing stage-right and I go over to her and I start talking to her, thinking maybe because she's young I can get her to break character and talk to me, and I am trying to get her to tell me her name. "Patricia," I say, feeling like I've been given this insight. "You look like a Patricia. Is that right?" And then the girl's "mother" comes over, and I don't remember what was said, but I think it was probably something to the effect of, "you need to leave her alone and we're not supposed to tell you our names, so stop asking all these questions" and then Patricia asks me, "well, what's your name?" (And it's like this has been the plan all along, that the two of them would trap me into answering this question, and the magician is behind it and I can sense this.) But I stop and I look at her, and I step out of character and just get real, and I look straight into her eyes and with great sincerity and compassion I tell her, "My name is Happy." And the woman gets so angry and she (or it? or something?! there was this silent roaring sound - yes, i just said silent sound... i really don't know how to describe this) just reached in and took my identity. I was still me, somehow - but she took something very essential to who I am, and there was this teetering moment, like it was possible this was how you became an empty shell person, and I could have in that moment, but I was fighting it and refused to do it, even though I'd lost something so valuable to me.

And then I woke up, shaking, terrified, feeling really gicky, and I had such a hard time waking up. Even just wandering around my apartment, I was still half-asleep but trying to wake up so that I would not fall asleep and find out what happened next. I didn't want to know.

So that's the dream...

My friend found it significant that the only person in the dream whose name I knew for sure was Andrew. She said that "Andrew" means wisdom. I actually looked it up today in a couple of places, and maybe it does, but what I found is that it means "manly" or "warrior." I'm not sure that isn't just as significant. "Patricia" is the female form of "Patrick" and means "nobleman" (from the word "patrician").

So in the dream, I've can't find the person who's supposed to fight for me or defend me, and I turn to someone who seems like they should be the sort of person who does what's right...? in a "world" controlled by someone known to be a master of illusion...

I don't know. Still not sure what to make of it. Could have been a nightmare. Could have been prophetic. (a prophetic nightmare?) Or it could have been the pizza... No idea. Thoughts?

prayer request for Life

There is a little girl named Life who is fighting for her life. Please pray for a miracle, and for continued grace and courage for her parents. You can find her story beginning here. I don't know these people at all, but I started reading their story today and I am so inspired and blessed to see the way this family is turning to Christ and being a light for Him in the midst of so much storm. God has already done such great things, and I believe He will continue to do so.

Blessings to you, Matt, Lauren, and Life. May today be an amazing day.


So the Torchers - well, a few of us, anyway - went camping this weekend. Let me tell you, it was a unique experience! We went somewhere we'd never been, but billed as an RV/tent park, the online maps made it look fairly spacious. There were a swimming pond and a couple of fishing ponds, and a trail - so we were expecting...well, what you'd expect, I suppose.

It's a campground. You sort of imagine it to be in the woods....


So we get there, and there are, you know, a few trees here and there, but we are definitely NOT in the woods. And our sites? oh, yes, smack in the middle of the RV park.

Comment from random RV camper guy: "You're tenting it? Here? Really?"

Yes, yes we are...

Some of our neighbors had decks and well-established flower gardens.

Not quite the secluded rustic experience we were anticipating. So we just went ahead and had worship around the campfire next to the road and did our best to keep it quiet enough to not bother anybody, and that was Friday night.

Saturday, after a short night, I was up around 6:00am, and as there was really nowhere else to go, had my quiet time at a picnic table in the middle of our camp. Around 8:00am, all of a sudden it started raining. And I don't mean a light shower. It pretty much just poured. A few people, including one unfortunate tent without a rain fly, got flooded. The rain stopped, we all came out and had breakfast in the pavilion (someone had had the foresight to bring an electric gridle so we were all good.... being in an RV park there was power, so that worked out well. Lol.) and then we had our first session - an excellent message on John 15 - which was interrupted once when it began raining again - and we're talking sheets of rain - and the din on the tin roof was so loud our pastor, who can shout when he wants to, could not make himself heard.

Then the sun came out. We closed in worship, and took off for various activities. A lot of people took a trip down the "lazy river." Fortunately they were in swimsuits and didn't mind being wet, because the blue skies vanished for awhile as it sheeted rain again and then became - again - a beautiful sunny day. I spent most of the afternoon either walking and talking with people one on one or holed up in the pavilion with two of my best friends, just reading, and talking (when we could over the rain) and simply being. After dinner we had another session (during which most of us were eaten alive by mosquitoes), and then a few of us took off early for warm showers and soft beds. All in all, a good weekend, if slightly... damp. :)

It was the conversations that mattered most. This was not a weekend of idle fun and socialization, though that did happen at points. This was true fellowship, chock full of the real stuff: confessions, struggles, heartaches, hopes, and prayer. I have to say, it was pretty sweet. Restful. Significant. Real.

I am so blessed to be a part of this community.

3:00am musings on a couple of things

Tho I think it's actually closer to 3:30am now...

Absolutely no idea why I'm up, kind of wishing I wasn't as I can feel that I'm tired and would prefer to be getting a decent night's sleep because I can... but there it is, and here I am, and we'll see what happens next....

Been kicking a lot of things around in my head lately - which could be part of it, I guess. Maybe my brain has decided it's time to sort through some of it so it can rest properly...lol. So Thing 1 - I'm going camping this weekend with about 25 other people from Torch; should be fun. "Fun..." I love that word. As it can mean all sorts of things, including the opposite of itself. ;) Hoping the mosquitos haven't noticed it's been raining half the week and have not multiplied inexplicably (again). Taking bug spray. Lots. I do like camping, actually. I'm just rather anti-insect. I'd personally just rather go camping in the fall when you can bundle up at night and be relatively bug-free during the day.

Thing 2 - God's Word. Can I tell you how much I love this Book? Erin posted very honestly a few days ago about some of her struggles in reading it, and her post (including some of the interesting conversation following it) has gotten me thinking about my own journey with the Book. I was very blessed as a relatively new Christian to be given a Bible by two staffers from the summer camp at which I came to Christ. These two guys has pretty much pulled an all-nighter, praying for a few of their campers, and asking God to lead them to verses that would be particularly helpful to us throughout our lives. They labeled it the "Emergency Scripture List" and wrote it out on the back cover, and let me tell you, I could probably fill a book with how much each of those verses has come to mean to me since then...

Something one of them wrote towards the middle of the ESL has really stuck with me: "God's Word takes a lifetime - an eternal lifetime? - to experience."

Ah. So there's time. And I don't have to get it all at once. And if I don't understand it, it's okay because someday - "here, there, or in the air" - I will. And I think one of the things I love most about the Book is that it isn't dependent on me to understand it to be true. And you can get into all kinds of contextual and historical and translational arguments if you like - and a lot of that conversation is interesting - but to be honest, at the end of the day, I know the Book is true because reading it has changed me in a way that no other book has. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) says: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The NIV says it is "living and active" and I have found this to be true. It's gotten into my blood, into the very structure of who I am - it shapes the way I think, the way I behave, the questions that I wrestle with. Everything comes back to the Book, because it's the only thing I can be absolutely sure that God has said. And anything else I think He says, through circumstance, that quiet voice in my spirit, through other people - it all gets held up to the Book, because it says that God doesn't change, so the sort of things He would say won't change either.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that every time I sit down to read the Bible I have some sort of crazy cool mystical experience or anything. Most of the time it isn't like that - a lot of the time it's simply reading, and trusting God's Spirit to hide His word in my heart (tangent - while I was looking up the verse that idea comes from, I found all this, and it was a good rabbit trail, looking at the associations between word and heart throughout the Bible) so that when I need it, it'll be there - and the Holy Spirit does bring His word to mind when I need it - sometimes to encourage someone, sometimes to convict me about something... 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that all Scripture has a purpose (even the geneologies!). And I get to spend my lifetime searching that out, with the Teacher who wrote it, and who knows the reasons for every stroke of the pens that recorded it for Him.

One more thought... while I can look back and say how blessed I am to have been given such a personal connection with the Word at an early age - I have taken that for granted so often. There have been seasons where my Bible has collected dust, and there are days when I do not pick it up (to my detriment, I think), and there are moments when I hear the phrase "search the Scriptures" spouted as advice and want to scream because I haven't the faintest idea how to do that. But if you think about, those of us who have a Bible or the internet (and therefore access to it) are so richly blessed. There are entire nations who still don't have His Word in their language. There are people all over the world who would give anything for a copy of the Book but can't afford it, or don't have access to it... but we do.

And this love for the Book I started writing about an hour ago? I asked for it. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? But I'd been walking with God for 17 years before I thought to do it. And there are days I don't feel it. There are days I don't feel love at all - but it doesn't mean I don't love. Love is a choice, not an emotion. I like it when it comes with emotion. It's nice. It feels good. But I do love this Book, as I love the One who wrote it, and so even when I'm not feeling it, I will still act on it. I will read it. I will memorize it. And I will teach it.

One of the coolest things I've ever been privileged to experience was sitting in the Chapel at my college, and hearing three men who loved the Book tell us - from memory - the entire book of Revelation. It was amazing. And the next year, they did Romans. It was a lot of work - they met every week early in the morning for breakfast and worked on memorizing it together - but they did it, and it blessed us immeasurably. I mean, seriously, years later, here I am, writing about how hearing God's Word spoken like that affected me so deeply. Deeply enough that I want to give others the same gift. I'm memorizing Ephesians. And I have to tell you, knowing chapter one fairly well now - going back and reading it is like sitting down to coffee with a good friend by a fire on a cold winter night when there's fresh snow fall and moonlight on the lake...

So my prayer for you, on this extremely early mid-western summer morning, is simply this: that God's Spirit would breathe new life into your time with the Book today, and that you would truly come to love this Book. Amen.

incongruity (or: did that just happen?!)

The word of the day is "incongruous."

I was taking a walk on this beautiful mid-Western summer evening, and - keeping in mind that I live in the suburbs - was oinked at by a very large pig.

Our neighbors have one as a pet, and it was out in the front yard on its leash, just sniffing around by their car.

I love moments like this.

Two Conversations

"There are more colors on the palette of your soul than you have even begun to paint with."

My friend Matt said that to me years ago, during one of the last times I had the privilege of sitting in his office, learning everything I possibly could from him about how to lead worship and do it well. I can still say that most of what I get right is because Matt taught me how to do it, and I will always be grateful for that season of discipleship.

More colors....

When Matt said that, I completely burst into tears, and when he asked why, I couldn't explain it anymore than to simply say, "Because it's true!!" and I knew that it was, but I hadn't the slightest idea what he meant by it.


Last week after I preached, Mary, one of our mentors at Torch, stopped me to give me a huge hug and tell me how proud she was... (which is just cool in and of itself from someone you look up to as kind of a mom) and then she looked at me for a minute, and she said, "This is the road, isn't it?"

It is. I don't how I know that, and I'm not sure what that means, but "this" - whatever it is, and it involves teaching - is the road.

I'm kind of floored by that right now...

"Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." - Psalm 86:11