“Perspective changes everything.”
The true measure of success is in eternity. We can’t accurately calculate the success of our actions and pursuits because we won’t live forever. Every promise won’t be fulfilled in our lifetime. Hebrews 12:39 says, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.” That verse comes right after the famous Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 that outlines the stories of men and women in the Bible who walked by faith. It teaches me that my motivation should be pleasing God, not receiving a specific reward or outcome.
I found a note I’d written a few years ago around July 2021 that says that we won’t see everything that we are believing God for come to pass, and that’s ok. So I guess this is something that keeps coming up for me. Our hope is in Jesus, and our faith challenge is trusting God to fulfill His promises in His own time.
Reflecting on God’s unchanging, immutable, and eternal nature today with these scriptures –
“For I am the LORD, I do not change…” – Malachi 3:6
‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
The song “Same God” by Elevation Worship has been meaningful to me in recent months when I need a reminder of God’s stability in an increasingly unstable world. This version by Lisa Nicole is beautiful so I’ll share it here for your listening pleasure 🙂
God’s presence is EVERYWHERE all of the time.
I’ve been thinking this week about the reality of God’s presence being everywhere, even in the day-to-day simple things. There really is no way to avoid God’s presence.
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” – Psalms 139:7-10 NLT
Allowing and making space to be aware of God’s presence is an awesome privilege that we have as children of God. Making time to sit still and just chat with Him about the day, or to acknowledge Him and praise Him for who he is and what he’s done, that’s a daily goal worth meeting. All of the other things will fall into place.
I love worshipping through song because my mind can be overly active at times. As with most people, I have so many this and thats happening around me that it’s literally nonstop input and stimulus. But singing and carving out space to worship through music and song helps me focus better and give God my full attention with my mind, body and spirit.
Have you ever felt like God’s hands are tied and he can’t do anything about your situation? Like he’s just too busy to be bothered with your questions and issues or like he’s just too far away? On my drive back home the other night after a long and busy day, I felt God speaking to me that sometimes I treat him as if he can’t handle what I’m dealing with and that I sometimes treat him as if his time and resources are limited.
Whoa! Not me…?
I even act like he doesn’t have the capacity to help me with my questions, and I pull back when there’s a lot happening outside of my control instead of leaning in to him more.
I was challenged by this realization so I repented and asked God to help me see areas where I’ve limited him, and for his help to release these areas as he reveals them to me. I’ve also been praying for God to help me see him more as a loving father and king, one who is unlimited in his resources AND love for me, and one who I can access any time day or night. He reminded me that he ALWAYS has time for me, and I can come to him with everything.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “ Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
So as a testimony from this week that I hope encourages you, I found myself communicating with God even more for random daily stuff in my life – inviting him in to mundane tasks, saying thank you and showing gratitude when he helps me, expressing child-like freedom in asking questions (i.e. – What should I wear today? Should I drive or take the train? How should I respond to this…?) and I’ve had more peace and clarity even as activities and deadlines really picked up in my schedule this week. I’m learning not to add a self-imposed time limitation to God as if he’s a department store Santa Claus and I only have a few precious moments to sit on his lap before I’ll be ushered off by the elves for taking up too much of his time. Learning not to limit God.
This morning I was walking along the beach thinking of how hard it’s been for me to share my ideas and creative thoughts. It used to be that whenever I got an idea I’d honestly be afraid to share it with other people, as if that act would poison it and kill the idea. So I preferred to hoard my ideas in my own head to wait for the perfect moment of release. I’d save, save, save and save some more until eventually there was no good time and the idea died out on its own because I didn’t nurture it or take action. And to make matters worse, the fear of sharing ideas was also blended in with this other irrational thought that if I write it down and share, then that will be all that I have and nothing new will come to replace it so I’ll just be giving everything away.
But somehow in this activity of walking on the beach this morning, I had a thought that it’s holding on to the ideas that keeps me from having more ideas. I don’t need to be afraid to let go of creative ideas or to be afraid of expressing myself creatively. More will come. It doesn’t make sense for creatives to be hoarders – we can share freely. Something about seeing the waves repeatedly crashing against the shore reminded me that God never holds back.
The waves just keep coming one after the other, some larger than others, but they just keep coming. More ideas will come. More inspiration will come. When I pour out what I have, there will be more that comes. The verse that came to mind is from Matthew 25:29 (this is from NLT):
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”
As I keep stewarding and releasing what I do have, my capacity and output will increase! Yes and Amen! That’s my word for the day!
The bombardment of thoughts and negativity will come whenever my focus shifts to myself and away from God. When I focus on my own shortcomings and what I am not, or the times that I have failed, or the times that I have a let myself down and others down, then these thoughts will make me feel disqualified and I will feel rejected. But that is not the truth. My thoughts are not the truth.
Fortunately, God looks at the heart – not at our talent and whether others approve or accept us.
He doesn’t disqualify me because of other people’s opinions of me.
I like to think and observe, I like to plan, build and create systems, I like to find patterns and study how they can impact what’s to come, and I also love music. I also have a way of making others feel comfortable and seen.
I have never been, and probably will never be, a big personality or an extrovert, but that’s OK. If God needed me to be loud and big, then he would’ve made me that way. I am who I am.
Just because you try some thing for the first few times and fail badly, that does not mean that it is something that you are not supposed to do. Especially if you are passionate about it, keep trying, don’t be so hard on yourself, make little improvements each day, and then in a few years when you look back you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come along and developing that skill or passion.
This means that I get to think about what’s happening on the stage at our venue, and help coordinate everything from audio and lights to visual presentations. After watching and participating in church services through YouTube for roughly a year and a half, being back together feels great!
In recent weeks, we’ve been getting back into the rhythm of Sunday worship services at our venue, a public school in midtown Manhattan. And very soon, I’ll have a meeting with some volunteers who are interested in serving on the Stage Team! I’ve been thinking a lot about how the meeting will go so that’s the topic I’ll write about today to help me process my thoughts a little more…
I was thinking of starting the interest meeting with a quick discussion about service – what is it and why is it important? We are called to be servants of God and it’s a term we hear a lot, but what does that even mean?
A common definition of a servant is someone who waits on their master/boss to tell them what do, then they go off and do the job by themselves. This cycle then repeats indefinitely throughout ones time of servitude. Servants work for their masters. Is that how we should see ourselves?
The most insightful perspective I’ve read on the topic comes from a book called, “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King. Right at the start in Unit 1, there’s a section in the workbook called “Learning to Be a Servant of God” (page 17). The author says, “My understanding of a servant is depicted by the potter and the clay”…
In Jeremiah 18:1-6, we read about the potter and the clay –
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.“
The clay (that’s us!) has only two things that it needs to do – and both of them are in response to the potter (this is God). The author put it this way:
- The clay has to be molded. It has to be responsive to the potter so he can make it into an instrument of his choosing.
- The clay has to remain in the potter’s hands. When the potter has finished making the instrument of his choosing, that instrument has no ability to do what it wants. It has to remain in the potter’s hands to be effective.
God’s servants don’t work for God, God works through his servants.
My definition of what it meant to be God’s servant (especially in the context of serving at church) didn’t line up with God’s. My approach wasn’t life-giving because it was centered around me and what I can bring to the table or get from the exchange. It was a whole lot of, “me, me, me” – how can this help me meet new people, how can this help prepare me for new work opportunities, how can this make me feel good about myself, God must be happy with me because I’m putting so much time into all this serving…. Ummm, no! Honestly, before being challenged by this new framework of servanthood, being a servant of God felt frustrating and unsustainable to me – like how are we supposed to do this (and do it joyfully) every day for the rest of our lives?
The memory verse for the unit ties it together –
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
God is the one who shapes us into an instrument of his choosing, and then he accomplishes his works and his will through our lives.
He’s not a celestial taskmaster endlessly barking out orders for us to work, work, work… He’s calling us to relationship where as we walk closely with him, and from this place of relationship He transforms us and uses our lives to impact others. We don’t have the ability to do it ourselves. It’s God who works through us.
So as God’s servant, I just need to remain moldable and stay in God’s hands.
Outside of that place, I can’t do anything. In that place, the possibilities are limitless because whatever God can do, then I can do. It’s God who is accomplishing all of the work, doing what He wants to do THROUGH my life and obedience.
So what does all of this have to do with church and specifically church production?
Well…in planning for the in-person worship experience after going for nearly 18 months with no in-person gatherings, I can already see that my view of what a church service should look like and feel like has changed.
It’s easy to generate a nice, long to-do list of all the work that needs to be done with setup/tear down each week. And I know these lists will definitely have their place (I LOVE lists!) But I’ve also been thinking of ways to create a space where the volunteers are growing (being molded) as they serve, and developing a team mindset that is life-giving and continually pointing us back to the potter – not our own skills and abilities or what we can do for the church.
I’m also thinking about what God wants to do in New York City. I don’t think the foundational answer to that changes much whether we are in a pandemic or not – He wants people to come to know him, the lost to be found, for us to experience him, walk with him daily, and put our faith in him. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to bind the wounds of the broken, to redeem…
So why then do we have to go through the whole routine of setting up the lights and sound equipment and going through all of the trouble from week to week to produce a church service? What does all of that work have to do with all of this?
I personally believe (and this is what helps me serve when I don’t feel like it – hahaha!) that what we are doing is preparing a place in the city for people to meet with God, learn more about him, worship him, sing to him, pray to him, and to get to know one another too! We are building a tabernacle and place of worship, a place that invites in and welcomes the presence of God. And we are doing it in community.
All of the miscellaneous production things aren’t necessary for God’s presence to be felt among us, but they do help in providing a more distraction-free worship experience for the community.
Have you ever wanted to sing along to a song that everyone was jamming to, but didn’t know the words?
Have you ever had to sit in the back of an auditorium or large space and you couldn’t hear the speaker well? (This happened to me a few classes in college)
Have you ever listened to music that seemed to be out of time and out of tune?
Yep, I have too. These are just a few of the scenarios we’re trying to avoid and why we take time to think about church production and preparation.
So we set up the giant speakers and sound system, and the worship team rehearses and develops their musical skills, and we create visually-pleasing media presentations with the lyrics and sermon notes because it helps us offer our best and it helps others who are new to feel like they can be part of what God is doing too in a practical – right here, right now way.
While we are setting up lights, and connecting microphones, and assembling the projector screen – we are here because God is up to something, he wants to meet with us. We are helping create an environment where more people can join in and be invited into the worship experience, and ultimately start their own journey of knowing God personally.
My heart is that the Service Teams volunteers (Stage Team + People Team + Kids Team) will see their service in the church as an act of worship and obedience. God is working through us to reach this beautiful city we call home.
Subtitle: Thinking about my personal testimony
It’s all a process.
Life is a process.
I’m a work in progress, and it’s not over.
I am becoming more aware and (by God’s grace) more intentional each day about getting to know God and spending time with Him. He is my reward, the lifter of my head, and the one that holds it all together. My love relationship with God is the foundation of all that is good in my life, and the true measure of any success I may stumble upon.
Without him, I go back-and-forth constantly with my thoughts. I quickly become indecisive and easily overwhelm myself with a myriad of decisions day in and day out. These decisions ultimately leave me paralyzed in fear and discouragement because I feel like I don’t know anything, I don’t know what to do, and I have no direction. And that’s when feelings of hopeless and loneliness tag team in the fight. It’s like my mind gets cloudy and all I want to do is sleep because it’s the only way to stop the barrage of overwhelming thoughts.
But when I spend time with God every day, I gain clarity. I begin to shift my focus and not be overwhelmed with the bigger picture of life and all of the things that are out of my control. I am then often able to discern specific next steps for my day – even if it’s just spending time with him, or following up on an idea or project, even reaching out to someone to see how they’re doing – He leads me and guides me.
I have to admit that I don’t always get it right.
When things are busy and I’ve got a lot on my plate, weeks can go by without my stopping to spend time with God. And the first thing to suffer when I get busy is my relationships. I don’t stop to make that phone call, or to send the text. I enter into survival mode.
While in survival mode, I still have my gospel and worship jams going in the background as the soundtrack to my overwhelming life, and I’ll often read the daily verse that pops up on my phone, but over time these placeholders to really spending time with God begin to fail at the task of withstanding my anxiety and the pressures of life. I’ll eventually find myself in a rut of feeling overwhelmed with circumstances and things that are happening around me – it can feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Eventually, it breaks me down and I have to go back to God and say, “OK, God I’m sorry I got off track. Let’s just spend some time together, thanks for being there. What are you up to these days? Where have you been moving? Oh, oh yeah, hmmm, how can I get to where you are? Please help me with this, this and this so that I can move with you instead of going this way I’ve been going. And I keep having this thought, so can you help with that too?”
I’ve found He’s always faithful to come through and meet me where I am. He gives fresh insight and ideas, He brings people in my life at the perfect time, and even lets me be a support in other people’s lives at the perfect time when they need it.
Trusting in God will never grow old (even though I get older with each trip around the sun). It’s a beautiful relationship, and one that I look forward to growing deeper in for the rest of my life.
I’m thankful for the years that I’ve had of walking with him even though they have not been perfect, I know that all things are working together for good.
God is doing something beautiful in me, and doing something beautiful through me and I can trust that as long as I’m walking with Him that I am still a work in progress – and the same goes for you. We don’t have to feel discouraged when I fail or miss the mark, because it’s not over!
I just came up with a simple series of filtering questions to help me personally answer the question, “Is God speaking to me?”
1) Is this thought comparing?
2) Is it condescending and dishonoring?
3) Is this thought inciting fear?
4) Is it promoting disunity?
If I answer “yes” to any of these, then I know it’s not the voice of the Lord so I prayerfully cast it down. There a lots of sources for thoughts and it’s not always God speaking… sometimes it might be coming from my own fears and insecurities, or even other people and what I see or hear around me. I don’t have to give equal attention to every thought that comes to my mind and neither do you.
I used to write music a lot, sometimes with other people, sometimes by myself. Over time I’d gotten away from the habit, but more recently the love for music and songwriting has been stirring up again. Gonna start with baby steps and try to set aside time each week to sift through old files and to organize all the new voice recordings and ideas that I’ve added in the last few months – to at least gather them all and get them in one place. I hope to one day finish all of these songs that have been tucked away.
This one starts with this one long untraditional verse, then it grows into a bigger chorus with the many voices of a choir and beautiful harmonies (unrecorded, but it’s in my head!)
“I Need You” Lyrics:
I can’t make it on my own
I can’t do this without you
I need you more now
I Need You, I Need You
Your love covers my wrongs
It makes me feel complete
I need you more now
I Need You, I Need You
You’ll never let me go
You’ll never let me fall
I find rest in your strength
In this mixed up world, you give me life
Without you it’s not worth living
I praise you
I worship you
I’m in love with you, I’m in love with you
I Need You
I Need You
I Need You, Oh Lord (Repeat)
While walking down the street this morning, I started thinking about beauty. Specifically the places and the things that I consider to be beautiful. These random thoughts about beauty were sparked in me when I walked past a patch of bright yellow flowers growing on the 85th street sidewalk. Yellow is my favorite color, so when I saw them I immediately felt happy and energized and alive. They were beautiful to me.
These blooming flowers set into motion a train of thoughts on God as the ultimate creator, one with infinite creativity.
I began to think of artists, specifically painters and their artwork. Some of the most inspiring paintings to me are those that show the beauty of nature, but even they are just capturing and putting to paper the beauty they see in the world God made. The greatest artists are able to capture God‘s creativity in such a way that it causes us to notice something we hadn’t seen before, or to feel something we hadn’t felt before.
Ultimately, great artists have a way of noticing God’s beauty and sharing it with others so they can see the beauty too.
God has created countless beautiful things that spark joy, that make us smile, and that even inspire moments of creativity within us. His creativity is endless!
Was journaling this morning and started thinking about the things in my life that have kept me from pursuing a deeper relationship with God over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a personal reflection that I think others can relate to too.
We often don’t sit still long enough to get into God’s presence and build this essential relationship with him. There are enough responsibilities, entertainment options, and concerns/cares in life to keep us distracted for all eternity. We must be intentional and purposeful (or as some say, “mindful”) in our pursuit of God. He wants us to put all of our own distractions aside and come to him.
Sometimes it feels like things are never going to change and we want to drop everything and quit. When things don’t work out, we can feel defeated and fearful and like we are ready to give up. But sometimes this is actually the best thing we can do – STOP 🛑
We can stop trying to make things happen in our own strength and we can start pressing in to God. We can seek God first and look to him for the day by day guidance. This is the only way to prevent an 11-day journey from taking 40 years.
We often doubt ourselves and our own abilities and gifts. But the beautiful thing here is that we don’t need to be able to do anything to serve God with our whole hearts – God is the one on the hook for doing the work. We just need to be available for him to use us. And to keep ourselves in a space of God-centeredness.
In relationships and life, none of us are short on having moments of disappointment and hurt. We don’t always live up to the expectations of others and we can say that others don’t always live up to ours, even those we love the most. These experiences can keep us from fully pursuing God and his invitation because we think He might let us down or we think he might disappoint us like people in our lives do. But God is not like men. When we get closer to Him he has a way of making crooked things straight. We can 💯 trust him and know that he will do what he’s promised and if he said it that it will come to pass. We can rest on his promises for our lives.
A close friend recently said I should share more. Actually, several friends have given similar advice, summed up in the words, “Tammy, you really should write more.”
“But, I’m not a writer,” I say.
“Plus, there’s not enough time in the world, AND there are already so many voices online that I can’t keep up with it all anymore, AND I like my privacy, AND it stresses me out to even think of having to keep up with creating content for my own site, but most importantly. . .I’m NOT a writer.”
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Even while writing that first paragraph I’ve squashed an argument between my (adorable) sons, watched my eldest son perform top secret fighting moves on his LEGO Ninjago game, been asked to pour a glass of milk by the littlest one, and listened to the Beyblade Burst theme song multiple times – it’s parenting in full swing.
How can I write and share my work when I’m busy working, creating, (over) thinking, parenting, sleeping, volunteering, cooking, cleaning and everything-else-ing? All I hear them saying is, “Tammy, you should really add one more thing to your to-do list!”
Plus, as if time limitations aren’t enough – I also do NOT like conflict. Some people love debates and being challenged, but that’s not me. Challenge is not something I intentionally set out to encounter or to incite in my everyday life, but writing and sharing opens you up to being challenged in your thoughts and ideas. There’s no way to put your foot in your mouth when you don’t say anything at all! You won’t be misquoted. You can’t be misunderstood. You’re never wrong (technically). Ahhhh, that sounds heavenly doesn’t it? For an Enneagram #9, INTJ, introvert like myself – yes, yes it does.
I like to think that adopting a non-sharing philosophy actually increases productivity by not inviting any unwanted elements into your work and life flow. There are no “likes” to tally, no comments to mull over, and no outside opinions to process beyond those of lovingly supportive family and friends. It’s simple really.
But is moving so far into productivity and progress that we forget to share/invite/connect the best path forward? I’m starting to think it’s not.
I’ve spent the last two decades helping people visually share their ideas, so I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding it can be to have an idea come to mind, then to see it be expressed. And it’s even more exciting when the idea inspires someone else, and they build on the idea creating an even better version.
In the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, he quoted another writer/consultant when he said:
The stupidest creative act is still a creative act… On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus
Ahhh, the gap between doing nothing and doing something is real indeed. Getting started is super hard and not as rewarding, especially when the early drafts and mock ups aren’t so great. But we ALL have to start somewhere. No one is born an expert or a professional.
So this is my attempt to start my journey of sharing. . .
I see the importance of freely exchanging ideas and expressing ourselves through journaling, creative writing, song writing, artistic endeavors – it all has value.
From silly social media posts, random tweets and viral TikTok videos to insightful Clubhouse discussions and informative podcasts, all of these modern modes of sharing provide us with a continuous stream of old and new ideas, old and new sources of inspiration, old and new perspectives.
Lately I’ve been finding unexpected sources of inspiration from the writings and experiences of others. I can pinpoint many times in my life where reading someone else’s stories of trial and error, flat-out failure, lucky successes or hard work were just what I needed at that moment to get me going. Sharing experiences inspires us.
Stories from the Bible teach us about life and give us hope. Personal testimonies from people we know can inspire us. Funny anecdotes entertain us and lighten the mood during a pandemic (thank you Kev On Stage). Stories with “imperfect” endings remind us of life’s unpredictability. Sharing stories connect us.
I may not be a writer, but it’s time for me to commit to making forward progress along my personal creative spectrum from mediocre toward good. I encourage you to jump beyond your impossible and make this your year to close the gap from doing nothing to doing something. Find the time to connect the dots, bring your ideas to life, share your journey, and encourage others to do the same!
Welcome to my corner of the internet! I’m Tammy, and here you’ll find a cozy blend of music, thoughts, and experiences. Join me in exploring the things that light up my world, and hopefully, yours too!