Liturgy : The Journey of Worship (Part 2)

We’ve talked about liturgy, but what does a modern, liturgical worship flow look like? I’m going to dive into ours and explain what, why and how we do it. I’m not sure where I first heard the term, but I like to describe our worship style as Ancient Modern.

In my last post, I discussed some background to liturgy and presented an analogy for the relationship found between God and us during worship. Technically a “work of the people,” the originally secular term of liturgy actually has a lot more to do with God’s work when applied to our Christian faith and worship. We definitely take part, but it takes place in God’s house and through His amazing work of faith creation and salvation.

Our church is part of the Christian denomination known as the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod (LCMS). Many LCMS churches (including ours) have an organ-led service with hymns and a choir, which incorporate even more historically liturgical elements. I lead our band-led service, which employs current and traditional music, a liturgical flow and feels much like a modern worship service. If you’re interested in supplementing your current worship flow with liturgy, there are things here that can be easily added to any worship flow. Let’s take a closer look our Trinity Sunday service from earlier this year.

Pre-Service Song : Today is the Day (Brewster, Baloche)

We begin about 3-4 minutes before the service starts, so that we can get focused and prepared to worship. The song is sometimes thematic, and sometimes it’s just a chance to get our hearts and heads in the right direction.

Welcome

The music comes to an end and Pastor explains our theme for the day. Pastor welcomes and encourages the congregation to shake a hand and share God’s peace with each other. The Apostle Paul encouraged all believers to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” but our American culture usually prefers a handshake or hug!

Invocation, Litany, Call to Worship
Pastor: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
P : Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity;               
Congregation : Let us give glory to Him because He has shown mercy to us.
P : Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!
C : The whole earth is full of His glory!
P : The Lord be with you.
C : And also with you.

P : Let us pray… Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The band begins a background synth pad and/or the beginning chords of the next song. Pastor and the congregation exchange spoken lines (litany) which prepare our hearts for worship and what we will be learning from God. A thematic prayer is usually a part of this as well. The Invocation is spoken, which is important because it invokes (or calls on) the name of our triune God to remind us that we have been baptized into His family through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are clothed in the righteousness of His name.

A song of Invocation and/or Confession : Holy Holy Holy (traditional hymn)

The music flows directly into the next song. A powerful, trinitarian hymn proclaiming God’s 3 distinct persons, but yet fully 1 God immediately reminds the congregation of the focus for worship. It is an extension and affirmation of the Invocation.

Confession

P: Let us come before God seeking His forgiveness and turning back to Him in repentance…
C: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all people, we admit and confess our sinfulness. We have turned away from You and others in our thinking, speaking and doing. We have treated others poorly and not done the good You command. We repent and are truly sorry for the sins we’re aware of and those we’re not. Have mercy on us, kind Father, because of the obedience of Your Son, Jesus Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, move us to serve You faithfully. Set our feet upon the new path of life and build Your kingdom here on earth through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Music continues quietly from the last song as Pastor leads the congregation through a time of silent, personal reflection and a corporate prayer of confession. We must remember that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Our confession is more than stating our wrongs. We repent (turn back) to God and reaffirm our need for a restored relationship with Christ. That redemptive work leads us to sing joyfully with cleansed hearts!

Absolution/Forgiveness

Pastor: The God Who calls us is the God Who created us; the God Who formed us is the God Who forgives us. We are God’s new creation.  As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the (with hand making sign of the cross) Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Amen.

It’s the Pastor’s responsibility to speak on behalf of God. As the music begins to grow, Pastor speaks the words that Jesus spoke to many people while He was on Earth. It’s one thing to sing about Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf, but when forgiveness is spoken over you in the name of Jesus, the power of His Grace is overwhelming.

Song of Forgiveness/Praise : Our God Saves (Baloche, Brown)

This is the moment to celebrate and shout for joy! It’s a cathartic moment each Sunday when you verbally state your sin, your need for forgiveness and receive undeserved salvation. How can you not sing and praise in response? This song is perfect because it praises God for His forgiveness as well as His divine Trinity.

Words of Institution :

P: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.
C: Amen.

The flow and transition of music continues and helps guide the journey of worship throughout the liturgy. Pastor speaks the words that Jesus spoke on Maundy Thursday at the very first communion. We prepare our hearts and minds for our closest touch with Jesus this side of Heaven. Many churches celebrate communion at the end of the service as the highest point, which is difficult to deny! We also switch it around and do that at times, but I also love the imagery and experience of receiving God’s spoken forgiveness and then immediately partaking in the meal which is the sacrifice that made the forgiveness possible. It’s a powerful connection to make for the worshippers and flows well in the journey of our faith.

Communion & Song : Remembrance (The Communion Song) (Maher, Redman)

In our case, the band goes up for communion first, while the keyboard player stays and plays some instrumental music. The band returns, picks up smoothly from the keyboardist (who goes up for communion) and continues on with the song. Many of you are familiar with this process or something very close to it.

Offering & Song : Holy is the Lord (Tomlin, Giglio)

The music comes to a close as Pastor speaks a prayer of blessing over the congregation. Pastor explains that we give in response to the ultimate gift, which was His death on the cross for us. Many churches receive an offering after the message in response to the Word of God proclaimed in the sermon, but there is nothing Biblical either way. We give because He gave and He has called us to give. In Hebrews, our songs are called a “sacrifice of praise,” so I remind the congregation that as we sing, we are giving another part of ourselves to God in song.

Prayers & Song :

The music flows into either synth pads or a song of prayer. The prayer time is enriched with praise when a song is incorporated throughout. The congregation sings one verse or chorus of a song and then the band continues to play the song instrumentally while pastor prays specific prayers for the church. There are usually 3-4 cycles of this process. It’s a beautiful flow of prayer and praise.

Lord’s Prayer

There’s amazing power found in the prayer that our Lord and Savior taught us. The music ends just as the Lord’s Prayer begins. There is reverence and honor in giving Jesus’ own prayer its own space without music.

Scripture Readings

The congregation is seated and Bible passages are read which pertain to the theme and message of the day. For much of Biblical history, the Torah and other writings were read publicly in the the temple daily. They were discussed and shared for the learning and faith growth of the people. Today, we read scripture in small groups and the pastor may (depending on style) preach from the Word or read a few passages to support the message. Having a longer set of verses read publicly provides context and allows God’s Spirit to speak through the Word into the hearts of the people. Traditionally, we would have an Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel reading each Sunday. This can vary depending on the church or theme of the week.

Creed : Athanasian Creed

A creed is a statement of faith. It’s something that is used to unite the Christian Church and state publicly what we believe as Christians. Stating these weekly keep the clarity of our faith firmly on our lips and in our minds. The Athanasian Creed uses human words to attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, which is a concept that only God fully understands. Other creeds used regularly are the Nicene and Apostles.

Message Song : Praise the Father, Praise the Son (Tomlin, Cash)

Our message song is the most thematically accurate of the morning, because it’s used to focus the congregation toward the topic of the day.

Message

Announcements

Benediction

There are a number of blessings/benedictions in the Bible. Some pastors reword them into their own language and others speak them as biblical leaders did. Here is a good list and short explanation of their use.

Sending Song : Not to Us (Tomlin, Reeves) + Doxology (Praise God from who all blessings flow…)

Many times this song is thematic, but other times it speaks to what we are to do as we leave the church building. We are to be active in faith, living it, being sent out by God into the world, sharing love and being Christ to our neighbors. Let’s not let this wonderful experience of worship end at the pew, but let it live through us all week long.

_________

We should never stop challenging ourselves to create worship services that lead people to see, hear and receive God’s love in powerful ways. Liturgical elements remind us of the relationship we have with our Savior and provide opportunities to participate even more fully. This example above is definitely one of the longer services of the year, but it includes all the liturgical elements (except for a Baptism or special celebration) you’d find throughout the year. Let me know if you have any questions about this and I’d love to chat about ways you could incorporate aspects into your current liturgy. Let the journey of worship be always on our minds!

Worship: Preparing for the future

Originally posted on Seth Gehrke:

Every 3 years the LCMS puts on a Worship Conference focusing on preaching, worship, singing, and music primarily.  What I can gather from mailings and online info, is that it focuses extremely heavily on the new hymnal, traditional liturgy, hymnody, chanting, handbells, choirs, and formal instrumental ensembles.  Is there anything wrong with that??  NO!  I love all of those things and I feel they are an essential part to praising our Lord.  They should be done well in order to heighten the congregation’s ability to worship our Lord fully in a service.  A conference is a great idea!  I want that to be said before I make my next point:  what are we doing to prepare our (LCMS) church body for alternative styles of worship beyond the hymnal?  Some people may call this style contemporary, but I’ll blog about my issues with that word some other time.  Yet, despite my…

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Liturgy : The Journey of Worship (Part 1)

I’ve noticed a lot of talk about liturgy lately. The only problem is that it’s become very philosophical and some people are just dancing around what it is. You can read some excellent books on the historical and theological background for liturgy, but it becomes too much for quick blog snippets, worship magazine articles and our short attention spans today. Just being honest. I’m right there with you. It’s easy to then get defensive for your style of worship and prove which one is right. I’m not going to go there either, because many forms of worship and flow are leading people to Christ everyday.

Here’s the thing I’m realizing… some people like the idea of throwing in some old chants, songs, rewritten hymns or scripture to liturgicalize (new word alert) their worship. Then others are looking to understand why we use a liturgy and how they could practically apply it to their worship services for the faith strengthening and growth of their congregation.

There is nothing wrong with the first group, because adding into your worship service tried-and-true music and lyrics that the church has sung for generations doesn’t ever hurt. They’re beautiful and scriptural. But, I have to ask. If you’re going to do it, shouldn’t you know why?

If that’s you, let’s dig a little deeper and look at two things in this blog:

  1. A quick background on liturgy and how it began.
  2. An analogy for liturgy: a journey or relationship of worship.

History

The English term liturgy comes from the Greek word leitourgia. Its roots are leos (people) and ergon (work). Basically, it means public work or public service. The Greeks who translated the Hebrew Old Testament began using the term to describe sacrificial rites in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was a service of the people to God. Over time, it became common use in both the secular and religious sectors.

After Constantine opened up Christianity to the Roman Empire, Christians were free to bring their liturgy to the streets. This “work of the people” became a journey of worship through their loving relationship with The Creator. They literally walked from place to place based on that location’s reminder of what God has done in their lives. It may have been a sacred place, a statue which reminded them of God’s grace, a baptismal font, a painting that reminds them of their need for mercy, etc. Later, those works (which symbolized many scriptures telling the history of God’s relationship with His followers) became songs, hymns, spoken creeds, prayers and portions of our common liturgy. NOTE: Despite being a secular term, some Christian theologians have also translated liturgy to mean “work FOR the people,” because of God’s work of salvation and affecting the lives of the worshippers through His Word and sacraments in worship.

The Analogy

(The specific part of the liturgy is listed under each section of the analogy story.)

You go over to a friend’s house (God’s house), but you don’t just walk in. You greet each other by name and embrace your friend. Then you discuss what you’re excited about doing together that day. (Welcome, Invocation  and Collect)

There are times when you and your friend may have had a disagreement or there’s tension. We’ve all been there before. You want to work it out before really getting comfortable to avoid having to keep your distance throughout the night. You share your concerns humbly and your friend forgives you. That relationship is restored.  (Confession and Absolution)

With the air cleared, your heart feels lighter and you can kick on some tunes and really enjoy yourself! (Praise and Thanksgiving Songs)

Conversation begins to grow and you start sharing more about yourselves: your life, your joys, your fears and your stories. (Scripture readings for the day, Congregational Prayers from the Pastor, Responsive Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer)

If your friend has shared something important with you, that relationship is strengthened when you publicly affirm your acceptance and support of your friend. There’s a commitment to the relationship and others witness it. That’s a powerful thing.  (Historic Christian creeds/statements of faith: Athanasian, Nicene and Apostles.)

You may bond over a meal. We know that food always brings us together. (Communion – the ultimate meal)

You get into deeper conversations and truths about your lives. Now you can wrestle with these ideas and speak love and wisdom into each other. This is where the analogy falls apart. God is the one speaking through the Pastor. We are listening. (Sermon/Message)

With a relationship so rich as this, how could you not be moved to give gifts to your friend? You’ve shared so much, the desire just pours out from your thankful heart. (Offering)

You leave feeling filled, forgiven, encouraged, warmed and with the inspiration to share the same so that others can know what we have experienced. So you thank your wonderful friend, who sends you on your way with their love. (Benediction)

There is so much more to say about liturgy, it’s use, history and more specific parts, but hopefully this gives a good overview of its power in our worship lives. Liturgy helps us live out our redeemed relationship and journey with God each week in a beautiful way.

I’m planning to explain the background and use of many of these liturgical pieces in following blogs, as well as practical ways you can include them in your services right now. I will also be outlining our modern/liturgical style of worship flow.

NOTE: You can also find this post at The Church Collective, which is a wonderful collaboration of worship leaders who are sharing their love, passion, wisdom and experience with the church at large.

A new song for Em.

I thought I would make a quick recording of the song I wrote for Emily on Valentine’s Day. I hadn’t written her a song since the one I used to propose over 7 years ago, so I figured it was time! Enjoy.

You’re the One
copyright 2013 Seth W. Gehrke

Verse 1
You’re the one I always longed for
You’re the one I dreamed about
And right after that first call
My heart had no doubt

verse 2
Our family has sure grown
We’ve got a puppy and a boy
From the cold to California
With you there’s always joy!

Chorus
You’re the one who will forever
Share in my deepest dreams
I couldn’t ask more than that babe
You’re the one that mends my seams
And I’m still trying to figure out while it spins inside my mind.
How could God bless me so much, with a woman who’s so kind.

Bridge
We’ve had our ups and our downs
But never have we fallen
Through moldy walls and traffic laws
Our team goes on and on
We laugh about our sleep walking
And are together when we cry
I never could imagine when
The day comes to say goodbye

Verse 3
I’m not quite sure what’s next Love
Put it all in God’s strong hands
I know there will be adventure
I can’t wait to see what’s planned!

Chorus 2x

Reckless.

This morning I heard a song on the radio (which I’ve probably heard a dozen times) for the “first” time. You know that moment when a thought or line or moment makes an – impact. on your heart.

The line is sings: “His (Jesus) kind of love is reckless for us.” (by Group 1 Crew)

I had never thought of God’s love as reckless, but in the eyes of the world, it definitely is.

Webster defines reckless: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences.

There are many times when we calculate our risk in forgiving or helping or assisting someone based on our time, relationships, money, health, safety and just overall willingness.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not God and we need to be safe, but we forget that even though He is God, He still feels, hurts, loves, creates.

When He loves He goes all-in. He bets everything. He uses no caution, no temporary words or smalltalk to sidestep a confrontation or relationship. That’s reckless.

He sent His only Son to live a human life full of temptation, rejection and foreseeable death. That’s definitely careless of the consequences. That’s reckless. To us.

Not to Him. It was worth it. It’s still worth it. We’re worth it. Not because of what we’ve done, but because we are HIS creation. HIS love. HIS.

It may be difficult at times to imagine loving others fully with reckless abandon. It makes sense, we’re sinful people. But, with the Holy Spirit’s power, we can do our best to love HIM with reckless abandon and through that process let Him challenge us to love others beyond where we are today.

Because He’s worth it.

The obligatory greeting paragraph and…prayer?

You know that friend or co-worker who gets so into their “stuff” or “work mode” that they remove all personal connection and interaction from their communication?

Hypothetical example… Subject line: copies   Body of text: Can you make those copies of page 17 by 2pm?

I mean, not even a “Hey There!” or something like that. Just slam into the request. It’s even worse when it’s on the phone. But, many of us have gotten used to the lack of personal touch and implied focus on being efficient. I catch myself doing it very often when I’m running to class and have a question to pose to a co-worker as I dash off. You can’t always take the time. I understand that.

We all probably have been in this situation though… You’re writing a private Facebook message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or have to make a phone call to someone that you know has the answer, but you just haven’t had the opportunity to connect in a while. There is the obligatory “catch up” paragraph or 5min update. Come on, admit it, you’ve written it thinking, “I just need the information, but I don’t want to be a jerk.” It’s because we care. We really DO want to catch up, but at that minute, you’re focused on the task at hand. Maybe the short tidbit can tide us over until we have more time. I think that’s courtesy and we all appreciate it. I know I do.

But should we do it with prayer? I just had a prayer request sent to me a few minutes before this post and I just stopped my work at my computer, jumped right in with the request with God and spilled my guts about it.

Then I paused.

I imagined myself standing in the presence of my almighty, powerful, creator-of-the-universe, loving God and I just jumped in without at least saying, “Hey God…” I felt like I should’ve at least adored Him for His GREATNESS and kindness for even listening to me. Or maybe I should catch up a bit on the things I’ve forgotten to tell Him lately…

Then I remembered a poster that I asked Emily to create for me a couple years ago. It says, “Pray Continually: God is Faithful” and it’s based on 2 verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  |   Isaiah 62:6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD.

I realized that God wants our prayer life to be a continuous conversation. It’s not just at specific times, but it’s at ANY TIME. He’s always there and waiting. Sadly, He may become the friend we haven’t talked to in weeks or even months, but He’s unlike all the other friends who haven’t been keeping up with you. He’s been with you the whole time knowing every thought, worry, joy, experience and wanting to hear about it all.

When you imagine prayer as a time with an amazing friend, then you want to catch up and spend some time talking about life. I wouldn’t call it obligatory, but it’s definitely worth your time! Any time with God is, because He just wants to hear from us. If prayer is a continuous, daily, hourly occurrence, we’re sharing our life and God’s experiencing it all with us, so we can just jump right back into the conversation with anything at anytime. What an wonderful relationship that is.

Learning between the lines.

I found myself in an interesting situation in the first 2 weeks of school with a young student.

I’m going to call this student Buddy (B).

I guess Buddy decided to start this year off on the wrong foot. I teach preschool-8th grade music and Buddy thought that from day 1, music was a good place to do whatever he wanted. The first day B tested me at least 4 times within the first 10 minutes, but decided he needed to go full out. My kind re-directions and patient day-1 requests were not being followed, so B received the first consequence of the 2012 music classroom. We talked after class about it, but there wasn’t a lot of remorse or willingness to listen. After a very similar experience with the bigger group in choir class the next day, I was sure that I was in for it this year…or B was.

I vented with my wife (also an education major turned graphic designer) about the situation and we talked about some things I could possibly do before or during class to redirect or include him more. I thought about it and had a few ideas, but I couldn’t have planned for the opportunity that would present itself a few days later.

It was during a recess period where I saw Buddy sitting alone in the middle of the playground grass as far as possible from any other student. It was a beautiful day for a little stroll across the playground, so I decided to pull up some lawn next to Buddy. I sat down without saying anything, stretched out my legs, leaned back on my hands and let out a relaxed sigh. This is when I would normally ask something like, “So, how’s it going?” or “I see you’re sitting alone, what’s up?” or even better … “Tell me about how you’re feeling today.” All great psychological/educational questions, right? Get inside that kid’s head! However, I decided to go at it from a different angle, so I said, “Wow. Isn’t it a beautiful day? I love how just about every day in California has blue skies and lots of sunshine. Isn’t it awesome?” B agreed with a slight smile and nod. I continued, “I used to live in Minnesota and it would rain a whole lot more and make things muddy or wet, plus it’d be grey and cloudy for a bunch of days.” B asked if it’d snow too. I said it did and it was really fun for a while, but it got really cold too, which you got used to … most of the time. A younger student came over (“Hank”). I asked Buddy if they had met so I introduced them, but pointed out that B was a really cool guy and they should definitely get to know each other. Hank ran off. Then “Sally” came over to say hi to me. I introduced Buddy to Sally by telling her that Buddy very fun, so maybe they could play a recess game together sometime. She ran off as well. Buddy was just looking at me with this confused/interested look on his face and said, “Do you know what I’m really good at?” At this point, if Buddy had said training Zebras to jump over the moon, I was going to run with it. Buddy said, “Kicking a ball.” I said, “I’d really love to see you boot that ball over there.” Buddy ran over, grabbed it and (I thought – please, please make it a good kick …) sent it sailing! He got a big cheer and of course had to do it a few more times.

This is where it really got cool …

Sally and Hank returned and kind of just hung around us. Kids are still learning how to join in. Buddy jumped right on it and said, “Do you think Hank and Sally want to play?” I said that maybe he should ask them. Buddy went over and invited them to kick the ball around with us and even helped get the ball when they sent it in the wrong direction. The transformation was incredible.

So how did choir go later that afternoon? Buddy was following all requested directions, listening, participating and having a good time. I almost forgot B was there, because my eyes and attention could be used elsewhere and therefore focused on teaching the class. It was great!

This was just another reminder that people are lifelong projects. They aren’t tasks to be checked off a to-do list. Sometimes I feel like one-off consequences for kids are like giving up on a piece of a major project. If you a project at work and this one piece of it kept giving you trouble, but it had to be a part of the plan, would you push it aside for later when it might not fit with the rest of what you’d accomplished? No, you’d have to develop it, strategize, pivot, get creative and maybe mold it a bit to work where it should.

If teaching had an even bigger relationship component (especially in our education and training), then I think we’d have less behavior issues and the time we have for academics may be slightly less, but much more fruitful, because there will be more attentiveness, engagement and willingness to learn. You’d probably see future payoff in the workplace when people’s team projects succeed because they know how to encourage, be honest without using sarcasm, take criticism constructively while still knowing their self-worth, and be willing to try again without crumbling because of failure. All of these things are developed through intentional relational interaction, before, during and after the instruction of the actual material like math/reading/science/history. There are so many skills learned between, under and around the lines.

As a side note: I can attest to observing and knowing many teachers who are fantastic at this and have made it a core principle in their teaching, because they inherently know it is necessary.

Some teachers may say it’s not their personality, responsibility or that they don’t have the time to add another subject. I would reply that all people desire encouragement, a personal connection and intentionality. Why don’t we weave that into every subject and interaction? We can all do it authentically with our own personal style. And yes, if we’re truly educating future citizens and leaders, it is definitely our responsibility.

Let’s all teach between the lines and help shape all of our children into empathetic, creative, confident, thinking people.

A little related news: check out a new app being developed that can help us as adults encourage and strengthen each other to be even better selves than we already are. http://blog.lift.do/post/25435255834/everything-there-is-to-know-about-lift

are you dating your food?

the first date.

“Dude! She’s calling! What should I say?”

“Say hello.”

“Uh, uh, hi! Great! How are you? Yes, that’s the place. Did you get the map I texted you? Great! Sounds good. See you soon! Bye!”

“So is it still on?”

“Yep! Dinner in 3 hours…I hope I don’t mess it up!”

I’m sure we’ve all been there.

The first date.

 The unsure, casual conversations at first and finally one of you asks the other to make the big jump to actually get together and do the real thing. You make preparations, you google them, you talk to your friends about their experiences on first dates, you research a good restaurant and maybe you even have an “in” with one of their friends to give you some tips and pointers.

A first date is fresh. new. exciting. and filled with unexpected but highly anticipated results. And the best part…they’re usually immediate! You either walk away pumped for the next one or you’re trying to figure out if you misread something or it really was that bad.

and you’re left with a question…now what?

I’ve come to realize that we treat diets just like first dates and the results aren’t so great.

 diets.

  Webster’s Dictionary has four sub definitions of the main usage of the word diet:

a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed

b : habitual nourishment

c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason

d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight <going on a diet>

It’s not until the last definition that you get to the way that most people use the word. The first definition is food and drink regularly provided or consumed.

I love the way Webster’s online dictionary explains the origin of the word even better.

from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthai to lead one’s life.

 So, a diet, literally, is a manner of living. Why in the world then do we go on a diet?

So, think back to the first date scenario. Now imagine it’s not a date with a person, but a date with a diet. You research, you talk to your friends, you’re kind of nervous, you want it to work out, you’re looking for immediate results (or quickly) and then…you usually get them! Yes! Success!

and just like the first date you say….now what?

the next step.

After the first date, you need to decide if this is something you want. Now I want to stop you right there. If you didn’t want it to begin with, why did you even start? Did you like the idea of a relationship or did you truly desire to change your current relationship status and perhaps…for the long term? Did you feel that? Yep, that tingle at the back of your neck when your brain flashed a scary word…

commitment.

A second date doesn’t mean marriage, but it means you’re ready to make some changes. So, maybe you can’t go out on the weekly girls shopping on Saturday afternoon or the guys’ poker night on Friday, because you’re choosing to put this new person first. He or she requires time, effort, continuity, your attention and yes, some sacrifice. But isn’t that what you expected?

Wasn’t the first date just the door to a new life that would improve upon the current one? Or weren’t you ready to make room for the slight adjustments that would provide a mountain of benefits in order to- how did Webster say it?- lead one’s life?

The past six months have really opened my eyes to eating. Read more about that journey here.

 I’ve realized that after I changed my eating habits I felt better, my attitude was more positive, I lost weight, I had less body aches and my tastes even changed!

It was incredible. But then Thanksgiving and Christmas happened.

I tried to maintain my healthy eating through it, but realized I still wanted to indulge in those “contraband items.” I gained a little weight back, but worst of it all, I didn’t feel good. And that’s what I missed more than anything. It’s like those loving relationships. Yes, they take work. Yes, they can restrict your “wants” sometimes. But, they make you feel so good.

I still plan to eat Oreos and milk with my son. I’m going to have a s’more at a campfire and I will definitely drink my share of beer and eat ice cream….maybe not at the same time…but you never know!

I do know one thing. I won’t go on another first date.

So, on a day-to-day basis I will choose to have a long-term relationship with quality food, for the good feeling my body receives from it. It’s worth it.I will learn about new ways of preparing veggies so that they taste phenomenal! I’ll choose water and put a lime in it instead of having a soda.

A diet will always be about “losing those extra pounds” until your relationship with food changes. And so far, I’m having a great time getting to know my food in a different way!

It’ll be an exciting new adventure where commitment tastes and feels great.

lavish.

lavish: to bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God.

That is just incredible. Mind blowing. I couldn’t stop thinking about that verse yesterday. Here’s what rolled around my head/heart…

Well I have to first start by saying that, as a teacher, I’ve always told my students I love them. As a teacher in a Christian school, I blessed to be able to say that Christ loves me and so I love them as He called me to do. That love is shown by respecting and encouraging them, and I always let them know I’ll be there for them even after they leave 8th grade if they ever need to talk, share or need some advice. I love having that trust and relationship and many have taken me up on it. I feel honored and blessed to be able to shower them with that love.

Then I had my own child. A new door was opened. I couldn’t have explained until it happened. A new kind of love.

(Most times) you can tell the difference  between an adult interacting with a child they know and then their own child. There is a connection and extra something with their own child. Although, I know this is not always the case and, sadly, some children are left feeling neglected. Those situations break my heart. Even those who have been through that don’t have to worry about that from our Heavenly Father.

I love the NIV translation of this phrase: love the Father has LAVISHED on us. Wow! What does that look like? Feel like? How would you picture an actual person in your life LAVISHING upon you love? I’m not talking about romantic love, that’s easier to picture, but not the right form in this case. The Greek word is agape, which translated can best be described as unconditional love for all. Then He LAVISHES this complete, genuine, wholehearted love all over you. Seeping into your pores, gushing into your ears, filling up your heart to overflowing.

Now go back and imagine that dad loving his little son so immensely you have no doubt it’s his child. Then multiply it by millions. billions. This scripture says that if someone saw God loving us THAT much (LAVISHLY) we should (must) be called the children of God. There would be no doubt.

The fact is: there IS NOT a doubt. God loves you not like His child, but AS His child every single day. That Love came down to earth humbly as child to become complete Love for us on a cross. Let’s remember that this Advent/Christmas Season, and live soaking up and constantly remembering that love everyday of our lives.

Weak.

I remember reading a book before our son was born (actually read a number of books!) that said people lie all the time after they first have a kid. Random person: “OH!!! How is (child)?!? Isn’t being a parent awesome?!?!” new parent: “Yeah! It’s great- its going so well.” Except you’re really thinking: “I wish I could figure how to calm my baby at 2am…I’m so tired…am I doing everything right?…I hope I’m not messing him up permanently…”

I have to say that I feel Emily and I are a great team and we felt quite prepared for Will but you still have those questions…and yet you try not to admit them or push through them or whatever.

I knew I’d have hard times but I never thought I’d be pushed to that “brink” so early you know? But after a long week or work day and you get waken up at 1am, he doesn’t want the bottle, the pacifier, to be rocked, and he has a dry diaper…but he KEEPS CRYING!!! What do you do?!?!?

I had a moment like that this week and I just felt completely and utterly helpless. To lay it out bare bones: weak. I just found myself hugging him close as he screamed and screamed while I whispered, “Help God, please help us, help God…”

Emily must have heard the screaming through 2 doors and came to me. She suggested just to try another soothing method that I had forgotten in the midst of it all. He began to calm and I told her how weak I felt- she said, “God’s power is made perfect in your weakness.”

That verse from Corinthians meant more at that moment than any other in my life and it’s one of my favorites. I remembered the simple prayer God had laid on my heart minutes before and thanked Him for stirring that trust in me.

When I am weak: He is strong.

I want my children to know that, experience that, live that, and hold fast to that. But most importantly, I want them to see their Dad showing them where his only strength comes from…our loving Savior Jesus Christ.