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My Songs on YouTube

May 12th, 2017 . by maria

Hey, If you’re bothering to check out my website, then you might be interested enough in this: I posted a few of my songs on YouTube. Check them out!

“Just Like Him” is about how any kind of church can be God’s people.

“It’s Time to Praise the Lord” is a fun praise song

“Said Job” is taken directly from Job 12 starting in verse 7

“What Do You Want” is a song about stages of life

The older videos on this YouTube belong to my dog, but she’s awesome, so you might like those too. 😉

Being a Follower Requires Action

April 27th, 2017 . by maria

Being a follower requires action. You can’t follow someone by standing still, and staying where you are. In fact, following is a continual action. But following is an act of trust – that who you are following is going where you want to go, and has chosen the best path. How do you get to that place with God where you fully trust all He is doing? Where your prayers become “your will God” without reservation? This is the place I am at (most days) now. It has been a journey of single steps. Each small step laying a foundation for another. I’ve learned that when I am faithful to take a step, it is always honored by God. You can’t go from zero to hero. Each of these steps builds on the other. But you do have to actually start by taking a step.

1. Accept and acknowledge. This could be the moment you ask Christ into your heart, or a later moment of personal enlightenment. But at some point you really take into your being the belief that God orders your steps, and that you are better off following Him than trying to do it all yourself. All the other steps will fail without this. Sure, you can show up and do all the right things, but it will be empty for you. Better to take small steps with meaning, than large ones leading nowhere.

I want to be really clear – many people believe in Christ the way I believe in the Eiffel Tower…it exists, has a neat story, and is a pretty picture…I’d like to visit someday. That’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking life changing, soul saving, relationship. The kind of thing where you respond because you want to, not because you should.

2. Prayer. Once you’ve accepted God, speak to Him. It doesn’t need to be formal. Prayer is the simplest, most basic thing we can do: It doesn’t require any materials, we don’t have to go somewhere to do it, and nobody else knows if we’re doing it or not. Except us and God. But it is one step beyond acknowledging, and begins to teach us to listen and hear God’s voice.

Did you ever wonder why we pray at meals and bedtime? I’ll tell you a secret – it isn’t really to make our food better and our sleep safer. It’s so we will remember to pray! Eating and sleeping are two things we can’t live long without, and we should treat prayer the same way. So don’t just say “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen.” (You know you’ve done that. Some of you even used those words.) But be reminded to converse with God, and invite Him to join you. It’s also no coincidence that these are two times of day when we have to stop talking, at least a little.

3. The Word. Biblical teaching is the next step in hearing God’s voice. When we know what He’s said and done, over and over in the past, we are better equipped to hear Him. We can see what He’s doing now, what He wants us to do, and how He views the world, because He’s already told us. Biblical teaching can be at church, in Christian music, and other Christian teaching. (Conferences, magazines, blogs, YouTube.) But don’t forget to read the Bible yourself. (Thank you, God, for Gutenburg!) That’s how you’ll learn if the teaching you are getting is sound – it will match up with what you read, over and over. Others can only give you what God has given them, and some only give you what they want to hear. So if you really want to hear God speak, pick a chapter and read it as if He is telling you something.

4. Private Commitment. If you are praying and reading in private, you are already taking an action in response to your faith. Build on that in the ways God puts in front of you, in your life. Only you know what that is. Maybe He is asking you to complain less, to be more generous, or to step away from am addiction.

5. Public Participation. Showing up at church is an action of public commitment. It doesn’t take a Christian to show up, but showing up does improve your Christian life. Showing up is jist the start. The Bible says to sing, shout for joy, and dance. To raise our hands to Him and praise Him. But I might look silly…or pretentious! But doing these simple things for God here makes it easier to work for Him out there. I am not afraid to say “can I pray with you about that” , because I’ve done it here. I won’t care how it looks, because I’ve looked sillier than that here.

6. Service. This is the level where you are joining others in serving. It can start here, but it shouldn’t stay here. Here is practice; here is baseline. We should branch out. We should be getting out of the church building and getting out of our own heads. The Bible says we are like salt, but salt does no good sitting in the shaker! Get out there with the other salt, and change the flavor of our world! Now, don’t just go out and do “random acts of kindness” to the world. I’m sorry…that’s just silly. That guy has enough money to buy coffee, or he wouldn’t be in line behind you! Learn how to recognize where God wants you to serve. Join in serving somewhere with someone else who is already serving. This is where we learn what a calling looks like, what hard work is, and where we practice doing. When we join, we start from a place of humility, so we are ready to learn and in a mindset to follow.

7. Your mission. It will come to you. Don’t worry – I am not saying that this path leads to being a missionary overseas, or even being a pastor or other leader. But God built you a certain way for a reason. When you have been stepping out, He will start to reveal that to you, and open doors for you to use that. Maybe it will be speaking His truth in simplicity, or connecting with the broken. But maybe some of you have a gift with finance and project planning, and you’ll learn when God is calling you to make something happen. Maybe your mission starts at home with your kids, or when you walk your dog and get to know your neighbors and take the time to speak hope into their hardships. Seriously, a dog is a great icebreaker!

Each of these steps loops back to reinforce the others. You accept. You pray, and your acceptance of God grows. You get into the Word, and you get to know Him and accept Him more, and speak to Him more. You join other Christians, and hear what He’s done or is doing for them, and you love God more and see how He works. You step out with the tiniest action, and He honors your effort, and you start to know Him better and hear Him speak more clearly in your life. And He shows you the next step, and you take it. And it builds – it is a snowball effect. Seriously, if you want to sense God in your life, step out of the church and do His work. You will be changed.

But it all starts with a response. With you being willing to act – needing to act – in response to what God has given to you. Whether you’ve come from a broken place and found healing, or if you’ve just looked around and realized how blessed you have always been. And it doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 12 or 47 or 70 – God wants to speak to you and work with you. When you feel it, when you understand His love, there is a response that goes beyond just showing up for an hour on Sunday morning. That’s kinda scary, right? What will I have to do? What will I have to give up? But oh, my dear heart, what will you gain? Just…go for it. It’s ok if you Start small. It’s ok if you screw up. But act. Take steps. Move.

Use What You’ve Got

April 26th, 2017 . by maria

So, I ended my last post with “Well, when God wants you to lead worship with a Ukulele, He will make it happen!” That couldn’t be more true. I played Ukulele on 1-2 songs each Sunday after that, including the Christmas Eve service. But around that time, I also was getting a message that God had plans for me away from TLC Church. (To be clear: I love TLC Church, and the people there, and the music team. I didn’t want to leave, and nobody did anything to make me want to leave.) But I’ve learned that when God is pushing you, it is best to follow before He has to get stern with you. So I let my leaders know, and laid out a timeline ending in March. I visited a lot of church websites, and then took a Sunday off here and there to visit a couple churches. They were OK, but not a good fit. March came along, and I still didn’t know where I was going, and I was like “um, God? Open door?” But while I was out one Sunday, the leaders told the team I was leaving, so…well…it was happening, and I trusted God had a plan.

March 5, 2017 I visited Ponce Church, liked what I saw and heard, and spoke with the worship leader (Buddy Reaves) briefly. I put my email in their offering to help with their feeding the homeless project. Wednesday I got an email from the pastor, Rick Tidwell. They had just done a church plant and lost their worship leader. Buddy is a fill-in, but can only do a couple days a month, and his other contacts are unavailable. Would I be interested in leading worship?  DOOR OPEN.

I made sure Pastor Rick knew that I play an electric Ukulele, and he was cool with that. (Hmm…I didn’t even have to tell him how that was God’s fault.) I arranged to visit one more Sunday, with my Dad in tow, because I respect his experience and judgement. And because he had been feeling a similar pull, and I was hoping we’d end up together. We did, for now at least. We started leading worship there March 19 (taking turns with Buddy). And it is working. God prepared it, and me, and it is beautiful to feel like you’re in the exact place doing the exact thing that you were built for. Make no mistake, my stubby little fingers weren’t built for playing anything but the Ukulele. But that’s OK, because I was also built to worship my God.

Practicing Ukulele Worship at my Aunt Nana’s house

Surprise! Ukulele Worship Service

November 13th, 2016 . by maria

God has some crazy plans, and He sure surprises us. You know He gave me the Ukulele at the end of July, and I have been wanting to play it in church ever since. I really feel like God is wanting me using the Ukulele for worship, even though it is kind of an odd duck instrument. I’m like “God, the guitar would’ve been nice…I don’t know anyone looking for a Ukulele player for their worship team!” So…

This week, Jackie (our worship leader/keyboardist) was going to have me try to play along with one of the songs, and I had practiced it all week. But Jackie came down with bronchitis, so we didn’t have rehearsal Wed. Well, come Sat she was still sick, so Pastor Ramona texted us  and said we are doing the set list from Oct 9 with the CD. This is Sat at 3:45! I am feeling like I should still play. So I look it over, and it has “Days of Elijah” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” and the CD version was in a good key for me for both those, so I practiced them 3x last night AND once Sun morning before going to church.

Get to church. Pastor Ramona is fine with me playing along. But Jackie was going to do the special for offertory, and she isn’t here and we don’t have a CD for anyone else to sing.. So, I said I would do  “Your Love Oh Lord” with the Ukulele; I was practicing it for December anyway.

Scott was running the sound booth, Paul is out. We practice, it is good. Uke is fine on those 2 songs, and the special. Last song, Scott has gone to the bathroom so we practiced it acapella. This is important because…

Worship service. We start Days of Elijah, and halfway thru the first verse, the CD cuts out. Mics are OK, Uke is OK, but no CD. We continue the song with the Ukulele and we keep singing. They try 2 more times, and a different CD, but the CD is not working. We end up doing 2 songs Ukulele and 3 acapella, and I do the special, and it is all good, and The Spirit was there, and people loved it.

Well, when God wants you to lead worship with a Ukulele, He will make it happen!

Prince of Peace : Sometimes God works through Songs

October 11th, 2016 . by maria

2016 (in the wake of Hurricane Matthew)

Last Sunday, those of us who were able to straggle into church had a very special time together. We thanked God for our safety, praised Him for his goodness, and prayed for those who weren’t here. We also shared stories of how we weathered the storm – and in those stories one theme started to emerge – Peace. (Sometimes God works through themes.) We had peace in the preparations, peace in our decision to stay, several of us even had peace to sleep through the storm.

I, too, experienced peace in the storm. But…I need to back up a little bit to tell you why. See, many years ago I bought this Ukulele on a whim. I was on vacation with my Mom in the Poconos, and we thought it seemed like a fun memento to have. (Sometimes God works through parents.) I had never played any stringed instrument, but it might be fun to try, and it was small and inexpensive…and SO CUTE! Well, I never got the hang of it, and it has hung on my wall for years. Every once in a while I get it down, open the book that came with it, and attempt to tune it. [TUNE IT] And play a few strums. That’s as far as I’d get before I got frustrated, or bored, and put it back on the wall. (No, seriously. [C] Strum strum …uhm….[F] strum?  Ugh…wall. That was IT.)

But something happened near the end of this July. It was my husband’s birthday…, and I wanted to do something special for him. (Sometimes God works through our spouses.) He had been watching America’s Got Talent, seeing adorable Grace Vanderwaal play her Ukulele. [I Don’t Know My Name] He really liked it. So, I thought I’d give mine another shot. I didn’t expect much, but I would try…for Alex. (Sometimes God works in mysterious ways…even through America’s Got Talent.) So, I tuned it, and I played a few chords. Then I looked up, and saw those same chords in our praise music for that week. [Good Good Father] So I tried playing that…and it worked! I turned through my notebook and found another song with those chords, and it worked too. [Days of Elijah] So every day that week, I worked through a couple songs. A week later, I posted a recording to Facebook – #ukuleleworship. [How Great Is Our God].

I started watching YouTube tutorials to learn new techniques [Lean On Me], and learning different songs. Like the night I played [Kokomo] right along with the Beach Boys… (Sometimes God works by giving you something Just For You) I grew up on Beach Boys music. I knew God was doing something and I couldn’t stop, so I even took my Ukulele on a business trip. Yep – September 11th, 2016… I was on a plane… with my Ukulele. In the hotel room at night, I practiced, and even sent my hubby a recording. [Gracious Tempest] When I returned, I signed up to play this Sunday. I didn’t know what song yet, but I knew God wanted me to play here.  In fact, ALL along, I knew that God was giving me a special gift that was meant to be shared…because (Sometimes God works through Special Gifts). I’m not saying “Gift” like “Gifted Virtuoso”..I’ve seen those videos – Jake Shimabukuro Bohemian Rhapsody on the Ukulele! I am NOT there …yet…  But I myself hadn’t been capable of learning anything on the Ukulele all these years. So, being able to play it, and sing along, and do it well enough that the song kept going and was recognizable?! It’s a gift – a “wow, Thank You Lord” kind of gift.

So when this hurricane was coming, I had Peace. Because I knew God had given this gift, and I was meant to share it. And I hadn’t played my Uke for you yet. So – I was going to be just fine. That may seem a little silly, but (Sometimes God works through the peace that passes understanding.) . Even last weekend, I STILL didn’t know what song yet, so Friday during the storm I practiced lots of songs…for hours…Ukulele is a good thing to do when there’s no power. Praising God is a good thing to do during a storm. [Your Love Oh Lord]  And Sunday came…and we each spoke about Peace In The Storm.  (Sometimes God works by giving ordinary words special meaning.) Pastor Howard used a particular phrase several times…”Prince of Peace”. He didn’t know it…but he was telling me which song to play. [Prince of Peace, Hillsong United]

Plant Those Seeds

April 15th, 2016 . by maria

PlantItAnywaysYou may not see the results of the work you’re doing today. Your teenager may be sulky. Your classes may be boring. Your paycheck may be small. Your marriage may be difficult. Your garden may be pitiful. Plant it anyways. Have the difficult discussions, do the work, learn the lessons, give the lectures, even when it doesn’t feel like it is going somewhere.

My mother planted bulbs in her flowerbeds. (As a teacher, counselor, and mother, she planted many things within many people too.) She passed away suddenly 3 1/2 years ago, and now my dad is selling their house to us, so he can maintain something smaller. This morning, I found something beautiful in front of our house. My mother’s flowers are still blooming.

flower_20160415

 

Should you watch Lucifer?

March 6th, 2016 . by maria

There has been a lot of grumbling among Christians against the show Lucifer, now playing on Hulu. The premise of the show is that Lucifer “takes a break” from running the place below, and spends some time on earth with humans. The concern amongst Christians was either that the show would glorify Satan as someone “cool and fun”, or that it would humanize him so that his power would not be feared. So, a lot of people vilified the show – sight unseen – and made a fuss about not supporting such ideas by watching it.

I have a confession to make: Even though I am Christian, I have actually watched several episodes now. The lit major in me wanted to see how they handled it (myth? fantasy? Biblical story? Etc.) I also wanted to be able to give an answer if someone asked me why Christians were so against the show. And I don’t like to give answers without learning what I am taking about first. Perhaps some of my Christian friends won’t like what I am about to say: Lucifer isn’t evil. The show, I mean.

The show is basically a cop/sidekick show, with Lucifer treated as a mythological being brought into present. Very reminiscent of the way the show Sleepy Hollow began, but strangely not as dark. He is a night club owner, but gets caught up with a female cop. There is an angelic being set up as a foil, to keep a lid on things, and provide us insight. Because Lucifer has taken human form, his powers are lessened, but we still see what I feel is a decent portrayal of how the true Satan might work. He plays off of peoples fleshly desires, tempts people, uses their past mistakes against them, and very openly uses charisma to manipulate people. Trust me, there isn’t a whole lot of glorification of Satan in here, and the glimpses of humanism show that he is a flawed being blinded by his own motives. My husband said “They certainly didn’t set him up as a good guy, and it has reminded me how crafty Satan is and how he works.”

A few episodes in, we begin to learn more about Lucifer’s history, and the show includes accurate Biblical references. Yes, Bible verses actually get read accurately, and not misconstrued. (We’ll see if that continues.) This has the potential to put some Bible history out there in the heads of people who wouldn’t have had it before, or – gasp – make some people crack open a Bible or ask a pastor a question. (I know WE were looking up references after the episode we just watched.)

Do I think you SHOULD watch Lucifer? Only if you have some interests like mine, our have a friend or family who watches the show and might have questions. There are many other shows that glorify sinful nature or justify sinful behavior, normalizing something which should be unacceptable. Where is the outrage about them? Some obvious ones would be Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy. But sitcoms and softer shows can be just as bad, treating unwed parents and drunken debauchery as completely normal, natural behavior… Because in this culture they are. But never even acknowledging that there is a God, a devil, or even a Bible. (Except for the occasional “Oh God” at certain…um… Moments.)

We should ask not if a show is inherently evil, but what we gain from watching it. Even a show which is morally bankrupt can be a teachable moment for a parent with older children. A show about Satan come to earth is much more pertinent to Christians than one about vampires, for example. And if we aren’t able to correct its errors at the water cooler, who will? It may not be the right show for you, and that’s fine. But when Hollywood puts out a show that touches on Biblical topics, I think at least some Christians ought to watch it. And if some of the people watching it are not Christians, and they have questions, there will be someone to answer them.

Falling Leaves

May 26th, 2014 . by maria

If you have a wooded area near you, go stare out into it for a few minutes. If not, try to remember the last time you were in a deeply wooded area.

 

As I worked today, I paused and my eye was drawn out the window to the woods around our house. I stared out and tried to guess how far along the valley I could actually see before the leaves eventually blocked my view. As I pondered, these words came to me:

 

“You cry for the leaf nearest you when it falls, but you can barely see past your own nose. You cannot conceive of the numbers of leaves I have created and hold in my hand, and I cry for them all and rejoice in them all. When they are full and green and dance for me as my breath blows on them, I rejoice in them. When are gold and brown and they fall, I cry for them. For all of them. Numbered beyond the stars, numbered like the sands, for each one of you.”

The Fall of Rome

August 20th, 2013 . by maria

But, we love to think we’re secure. We love to believe that, no matter what, there will always be a safety net. We love to think that we deserve time off – we who spend hours a day on our computers or televisions or games or hobbies – we deserve a break from all this. But the truth is, no matter what plans and promises have been made, nothing is guaranteed, and the things you depend on will eventually fail. (You know this is true…you know people who have lost jobs, houses, marriages…) So, exercise your independence and ingenuity now, as much as you can, no matter what your situation. Be your own strength, and turn to God for the strength you lack. Enjoy your life, but don’t be lulled into thinking it can’t change; work to improve and sustain it daily.

Inspired by this quote:

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them; when the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then the Athenians ceased to be free.” – Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Defending your Faith conference notes

March 15th, 2013 . by maria

A couple weeks ago we had a great conference at our church called “Defending Your Faith”. My oldest son and I were excited about it because the speaker (Ray Ciervo) had visited the church previously and spoken on Sunday, and we really enjoyed it. The conference was spread over 3 days, and included several break out sessions where you could choose which topic you wanted to learn about. I geeked out and took my netbook, so I could take copious notes. My son has since asked for a copy of my notes, and a friend of his wants a copy as well, so I decided to post them here. Actually I am going to post 3 things:

1. Teaser bullet points from my notes from Ray Ciervo’s original visit:

  1. Refute and Demolish strongholds & arguments
  2. Reason and Present Evidence (Acts 17:2-4)
  3. Adjust to your Audience: know what they beleive (Acts 17:23-30)
  4. Content: fight for our Faith (Jude 1:3)
  5. Always be Ready to Give a Defense (1 Peter 3:15)
  6. Certainty: So that you may knwo the exact truth (Luke 1:1, Acts 1:3)
  7. Pillar and Support of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
  8. Apologetics (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

2. Full pdf of my notes from all 3 days – organized and made all pretty. I even pulled in the full text of each quoted Bible verse, and put these in a special font. I also looked up the full and correct name and spelling of each book and author. Book recommendations for each section are also called out in a box. Where I wasn’t sure on something, I noted it. Where something was my own thought, I noted that and changed the font, so you can tell. Enjoy! DefendingYourFaith-ECC-20130301

3. Link to the ministries’ website where you can listen/download/app the podcast/mp3s of all the sessions, including the breakouts we didn’t choose so they aren’t in my notes. In case other things have been posted after, and you don’t see them at the top, You are looking for the items on 3/1, 3/2, and 3/3/2013 or titled “Apologetics Conference 2013”:
http://www.harvestnetinc.com/446185.ihtml

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