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Great Music AND Transformative Leadership

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Here’s what the path of least resistance often looks like for some of us who lead worship communities:

We surround ourselves with the best musicians we can find and sing the most popular songs available. As things come together, we experience a rush of emotion and satisfaction. But this fades over time as tips and techniques become more important than prayer and time with God. We end up wondering why we’re not more appreciated, happy and loved. So we crank everything up another notch–hoping the intensity will increase the sense of intimacy with God we’re longing for. But it doesn’t, and we risk becoming another statistic: one more choir director/worship leader who stays less than 36 months in one church… just long enough to figure out where the good restaurants are.

Or, we can pursue a more excellent way:

1. Make Prayer the First Act Rather than the Last Resort.
Jer. 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” When we make prayer a priority, God can lead us. This is essential when making decisions for a worship community. What songs should we choose? Pray! Who should be on the worship team? Pray! How can we create a worship experience that is challenging and life-altering? Pray!

If you’re a worship leader, make daily prayer as regular as eating and sleeping. If you’re searching for a worship leader, find someone who lives out this priority.

2. Focus On Our Prayer Life Before Our Set-List.
A well-conceived set-list is important in the same way a well-constructed sermon is important, but it’s no substitute for a committed prayer life. If anything, it’s the result of one!

A leader with a vibrant prayer life will inevitably develop an awareness of God’s presence. Unfortunately, many worship leaders today feel pressured to simply sing the latest, most popular songs as if these have power to conjure up the presence of God. Again, there’s nothing wrong with new songs–but it’s essential that we prioritize actions that will actually affect outcomes.

If you’re a worship leader, consider investing more time in preparatory prayer and see what God does!

3. Learn to Worship Away from the Stage.
While a few hours on Sunday morning may constitute our “worship service,” our “true and proper worship” (Ro. 12:1) happens the other 165 hours or so a week when we are intentionally living for God’s glory. Jesus said his Father was seeking those who would worship Him in spirit and truth. Both are necessary for God-honoring worship. We worship Him based on the truth of who He is and the truth of who we are in Him. We worship with our whole heart and in total submission to Him. When we practice worship this way, we declare that God is worthy of our reverence.

If you’re a worship leader (or even if you’re not!), learn to live—not just lead—worship.

Prayer does change things; but mostly it changes us. There are lots of talented people in the world, but that doesn’t mean they have the capacity to lead and love a congregation and build long-lasting relationships. If we really want to take our music ministry to the next level, this will–more often than not–require us to spend more time on our faces before God. That’s when we’ll start to see true transformation.

Talk is cheap…but doesn’t have to be!

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Worship leaders often ask me how much talking should be included during a worship set. Like you, I’ve been in worship services where there was a mini-sermon between each song. Other times, the music felt more like a concert where nothing much was communicated except the songs. So here are three simple thoughts about talking through transitions:

1. Only say something if you have something to say. Let that sink in: only say something if you have something to say. Our role as worship leaders requires discernment. We’re not cheerleaders with megaphones. We’re not party-hosts at a casual 4th of July barbecue. Rather, our collective worship is to be a profound experience where we are connected to God and to one another through song, prayer, Scripture and spoken word. What we say matters.

2. God’s Word can be the perfect word. And if we’re going to speak, remember that there’s often nothing more powerful than a short passage of scripture, especially when we invite the congregation to read it aloud with us. It can do more than just connect the songs together with the sermon, God’s Word actually transforms us as we focus on worshiping Him.

3. Even though we’re onstage, it’s not about us. My friend Vince Wilcox blogged about the importance of not being glib as we engage the congregation [Read “How Y’all Doing!” article here]. His point wasn’t that we shouldn’t greet folks with joy and enthusiasm–because we obviously can and should. Rather, his point was–as worship leaders–we should care more about loving our people and praising God than falling prey to the power of the microphone..

So let’s use our words meaningfully and sparingly as we lead. To paraphrase John the Baptist in John 3:30: “As we decrease, we can allow Christ to increase.”

God Sings

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Can you imagine hearing God sing over you? Can you picture Him rejoicing over you? What must that sound like? Look like? Take a moment and close your eyes and imagine. Allow your mind to picture the God of the Universe dancing, rejoicing and singing. Over you! Several years ago I didn’t know a verse existed that mentioned God singing. But tucked away in the third chapter of Zephaniah, verse 17, it was there all along.

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Wow. Think about it. Why would God, who is perfect, sing and rejoice over us when we aren’t? I know we’re his children but as kids I don’t think any of us remember our parents singing and rejoicing over us right after we disappointed them. Do we? I love that His promise isn’t based on what we do. It’s just what He does.

This article is purposefully short. It doesn’t come with 3 points and a prayer. It’s simply here to remind you of the great truth found in this verse. If it’s the first time you’ve been introduced to the idea that God sings, welcome to another one of God’s blessings.

Put your trust in Him and know that even when you’ve had a tough day, or when you’ve failed him, He still sings over you.

Holy Rain

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Growing up in the South, we always referred to a slow rain as a sprinkling. Others called it a mist or a drizzle. Whatever you call it, it gets everything wet. If you watch the grass or a bed of flowers during a sprinkling, it seems like the flowers take on a different personality. And the grass seems to spring to attention as if the rain has somehow caused it to realize its full potential.

I love the rain. I love to listen to the rain.

When I was eight years old my grandparents lived in an old farm house surrounded by pecan trees and gnats. There were many afternoons when the sky produced clouds and an afternoon shower. After a shower the evening became muggy or cool, depending on the time of year. But one thing was certain at any time of year: the rain changed everything. There was nothing quite like sitting on my grandparents’ front porch in their old gray wooden swing, listening as the rain poured onto the tin roof. Years later, I still enjoy a good rain. Not the kind that comes with harsh winds, thunder, and lightning, but the gentle kind: sprinklings, afternoon showers.

Sometimes I experience an altogether different kind of rain. I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. I can’t smell it. But I can feel it. It permeates every nook and cranny of my being. I call it a holy rain. I don’t know why, really. I guess because the same God who causes the rain outside to fall also has something to do with this rain as well, and it feels very similar.

Have you ever been in the middle of a bad or difficult situation where you didn’t know what to do but then you felt calm around you? Have you ever experienced peace when your mind was in turmoil? I have, and it’s really much like the rain in a way. If you imagine peace falling just like the rain, all around, soaking your entire being, bringing gentle comfort and unexplainable peace, that’s the rain I’m talking about.

Growing up I used to hear people talk about God being right beside us. I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Fortunately, my son seemed to grasp it better than I did. When he was four years old, my wife told him that God is everywhere. A few nights later, he had her look under the bed to see if God was there. He was so certain that God was there that he expected my wife to find Him under the bed or behind the door.

Many religious groups have their gods in clear sight so they can touch and see them. But we pray to and worship one who we can’t see. We know, however, that when we pray or worship God, He smiles. There’s also a little scripture well hidden in Zephaniah 3:17 that says God rejoices over us with singing. That’s powerful. No other god makes that claim. The reality is He is always near us, longing for our conversation and worship. We need to have the ability, like my son, to feel certain at all times that God is right beside us.

When it rains these days I can’t help thinking that God is blessing the earth so that it may flourish. That is exactly what He does in our lives. He rains down grace, mercy, faithfulness, healing, or whatever blessing He sees that we need. He is a gracious God who loves us more than we could ever imagine. Regardless of the circumstance, time of day or year, there is always something to give God thanks and praise for. And it’s that belief, that awareness of His really being there, just as real as the rain, that allows His holy rain to soak our lives, helping us to reach our full potential.

Get Your Armor On

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Bottom line: The enemy is after your soul. Scary? It’s just truth. He seeks to destroy all that is good. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes or what hoops he has to jump through. The chance of taking you down is the fuel that keeps him motivated. However, most of us live in a bubble that feels relatively safe. Our minds are rarely on the fact that a roaring lion is on the outskirts of our safety net. It’s not that we should live in fear. But we must be mindful of an evil presence that desires our worship and our very lives. This isn’t a middle school scuffle we’re talking about. This isn’t some tall tale. This is a life-or-death fight to the finish. (The Message, Ephesians 6:10-12) Apathy. Neglect. Carelessness. Fear. Anger. Passiveness. Busyness. Pride. Lust. Cheating. Addictions. When these words are present in our life, we’re inviting a powerful and persuasive spirit into our safe area.

We MUST use every weapon available. The shield of faith. The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the spirit. Right about now you may be picturing a group of 1st graders at a little Christian school singing an out of tune, cheesy song. Hear this; God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. We MUST fill our minds and hearts daily with His Word so when it’s all over we are still on our feet. (The Message Ephesians 6: 13-18)
Be shaken! Not fearful! But shaken! If you aren’t then read this again and again until you feel the seriousness of the situation. It’s time to get our armor on.

-Regi

Worship Without Limits

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Worship shouldn’t have limits. However, when worship is placed in a box only to be taken out for the Saturday or Sunday weekend service, worship loses its flow. Psalm 150 says, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” We’re also told to “pray without ceasing“. And Psalm 34:1 says that our lips and life should offer praise continually. Continually means recurring regularly or frequent. Not interrupted. Steady. If we set boundaries around worship only to be visited certain times of the week, we miss out on an opportunity to experience the relationship with God we were meant to have.

It’s so important for you and I to live out worship every day. That’s more important than any song we can sing. This is a call to take down the fences and walls that divide and separate us from God’s presence.

Let’s throw away the box and let worship roam free. That’s the way it was meant to be.

-Regi

Healthy Snack

A recent report says only 1 out of 10 Americans eat enough fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and they are low in calories. There are many studies that prove eating more fruits and vegetables help increase our health and also help control our weight and blood pressure. It also lowers the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. So it important we make eating veggies and fruits a daily ritual!

The important thing to remember with veggies is eating them raw is always beneficial. When you cook vegetables, try to not overcook and look for recipes that are heart healthy. For years I ate veggies the southern way which meant lots of butter or deep fried. Today I’m thankfully more conscientious about what foods I should and shouldn’t eat.

Here’s a nice snack to consider. If you like Hummus here’s a very simple recipe that at first may seem bland but it grows on you.

Hummus

1 Can of Chick Peas (low sodium)

1/2 Lemon juiced

Ground Pepper

Paprika *optional

Drain the can of Chick Peas and rinse thoroughly. Place in a blender and puree. Transfer to a bowl and mix your fresh lemon juice and add a bit of ground pepper. Taste and decide if you’d like more lemon and pepper. Enjoy with fresh carrots or another veggie.

God Is So Good

I thought I’d share a lyric about God’s goodness today. He’s been So good to me and I just wanted to tell someone. So, here’s a song I wrote with Jeff Bumgardner. I trust the words will be an encouragement. Regi

God is So Good

Regi Stone / Jeff Bumgardner

Verse 1:

Does anybody here want to stand and testify

and tell about His love

a love that carried you through

Does anybody here want to lift a hand up high

and tell about a time

when the Lord rescued you

Channel:

He’s worthy of all our praise

let’s celebrate… and give him the glory

Chorus:

God is good

Yes He is

God is good

He’s always been

He is my everything… my rescue and my strength

I’ve got tell all that He’s done for me.

God is good

Yes He is

God is SO Good

Verse 2:

So, when you’re in the middle of a situation

you say you’re holding on

but He’s there holding you

His promisees are true and He is able

And Yes He’s faithful

There’s nothing My God can’t do

Repeat Channel / Chorus

Seared Tuna with Salad

Seared Tuna Ingredients

  • Ahi tuna* – 8-12 ounces
  • 1/2 Lemon, juiced
  • Cracked pepper
  • Salt (very little)
  • Grapeseed oil (works well at high temps)

* Choose a market that has fresh ahi tuna. 

  1. Use cracked pepper or regular ground pepper. Add as much as you’d like. Remember you can always add more when cooked.
  2. Add juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  3. Add a little salt. The key word here is little.
  4. Spray pan with pam and then add a tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Turn heat to medium high and allow pan to get hot.
  5. Place fish in pan for 1 minute and then turn for 1 minute on the other side.The idea is to sear the fish. Put out of your mind that you have to have the fish cooked well done. It’s not the case with fresh tuna and it will be quite tasty. However, if you’d like to cook your fish longer feel free. Your meal will still be wonderful and fresh.

Salad Ingredients

  • Romaine Lettuce (bibb lettuce)
  • Red Cabbage
  • Your favorite salad veggies (carrots, squash, cucumber, tomatoes)
  • Sunflower Seeds

Dressing:

  • Olive Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Red Wine Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar (Splash on salad)
  • Cracked Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice – 1 tsp
  • Balsamic Glaze (just a bit!)
  • Optional: Italian Seasoning, salt, basil

I use romaine lettuce already washed and bagged. Add veggies like carrots, squash, cucumber, tomatoes and if you’d like add a few sunflower seeds.

The dressing is where we usually make the biggest mistake. Don’t use prepared dressing that is loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars. Instead develop your own vinaigrette dressing. I start with a little lemon juice followed by cracked pepper and cold pressed virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Then I enjoy adding a bit of balsamic glaze just for a nice sweetness. Keep in mind that too much salt is not our friend so use salt sparingly. Again, feel free to use Mrs. Dash and other herbs like italian seasoning, oregano etc. Fresh basil is also a nice addition. Be creative!

Plating

This is really simple. Put the salad in the middle of the plate and slice the fish in 1/4” widths and place on top of the salad. Garnish with fruit. Feel free to use the balsamic glaze to make a design on the plate. Have fun!

Introduction to Exercise

Exercise is one area where people often feel defeated. According to a recent study 69% of adults are overweight or obese in the U.S. Getting off the couch to get your heart pumping is imperative! Read that last sentence again and throw your excuses out the door. We wouldn’t think of leaving for work without brushing our teeth, combing our hair or getting dressed. However, we often skip one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle: Exercise. Trust me I know it’s easier to sit on the couch with a favorite cup of coffee and talk about ‘needing’ to take a walk. But talking about it won’t change anything for the good. 

So, where do you start? Well, how about one step at a time? One reason people become defeated and quit is because they set the bar so high they can’t seem to ever measure up. It seems the favorite time to join the Y is the month of January. New Years Resolution I think we call it? Then one meeting and a couple late nights and we never get in the habit of going. Typically newbies walk around the Y wondering what the heck they are supposed to be doing. So, within a short amount of time it seems like time is wasting and we stop going. At least that’s my story. I’ve joined the Y more times than I can remember. 

Here’s the deal, before you think of running a marathon you must first develop a habit of getting up early enough to exercise 4 or 5 days a week. So, start slow. This is a journey. If you haven’t moved any faster than your walk to the dinner table for the last few months / years then start out by walking around the block. Spend 20 minutes each time you exercise to get your heart rate up. Also, talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about exercise and your current health situation. A couple things you need to know. It is totally okay to walk your dog. Whatever you do, do not walk your cat. That wouldn’t be cool! 

Exercise is one thing that will help raise your good cholesterol (HDL). So, let’s get to it!

By the time there’s another article about exercise you should be in a habit of walking most every day. Your heart is counting on it!