The Unsung Heroes

What does a worship team do in the hours before church starts.

Carlos arrives first. He unlocks a door for the others to slip through and starts turning on the lights. He goes to the back and turns on the audio equipment and works on getting the numerous dials to the perfect spot.

Patrick walks in at a fast clip with his guitar case and  pedal board filled with his guitar effects. It always takes him the longest to set up with his electric guitar and pedals. The speaker isn’t working right this morning, so he plays with his guitar and volume until he finds the exact spot where the speakers will work for him, not against him.

In walks a new guy with his battered acoustic guitar case. Justin exhibits a laid back demeanor as he introduces himself to the others and begins asking the multitudinous questions that it will take to get him set up and ready to play.

Meanwhile KJ enters the back of the sanctuary with his bass slung over his shoulder. He talks with people and laughs as he wakes up and gets ready to play.

Carlos starts calling for mic checks as Richard enters. He walks to the front and sets down his breakfast, coffee , power bar and drum sticks. He yawns as he walks out the door to hang up his coat.

Cassie and Emily walk in laughing as they walk to the front pew. Emily pulls out her violin as Cassie prepares the keyboard. They continue to laugh together as they prepare their instruments and wake up more.

As the mic checks continue, the chatter slowly starts a crescendo. The air begins to fill in with instruments warming up, a cacophony that will soon give way to order.

Carlos steps up to the main mic, his own acoustic guitar slung from his shoulder. The instruments noises quiet down with short burst of the final warm-ups. Caleb goes through the order of the songs and last minute chord changes. He bows his head, along with everyone else as he prays to God that He would get all the glory; that their worship would bring a smile to the Almighty’s face.

As they play the first song, the yawns lessen and the eyes open a little wider. The protein bar has been consumed and the coffees are empty. The recently showered heads of hair have now dried. The team is looking sharper and chords are called out and debated as the practice continues.

The sun still isn’t up as the singers quietly enter. They are still in yawning mode. Kim quietly distributes the coffee that she has brought in to share. Sarah comes in looking awake and ready to go.  They quietly pick up the mics and voices are added to the music. There is still 90 minutes until the service begins. When the congregation yawns in, the wide awake worship team has been soaking in praise for a couple of hours already.

Carlos finally declares them ready and everyone takes a break. They make last minute bathroom breaks and grab some water. When it is a little before nine, they are all on stage, ready to go.

Carlos begins with prayer and takes directs the focus of the congregation and puts it on God. The people join in with the worship team and the hours of prep brings the people into God’s presence quickly. Hands wave in the air and eyes fill with tears. A few people bow at the altar and some dance in the back.

The Holy Spirit seemingly flows out of the instruments and voices. There is no way to explain how this works. The glory and magesty of God become overwhelming to the hearts that are fixed on their Abba Father.

When the pastor takes the mic, he is ready to preach. This rides on the presence of God coming in like a flood during worship. He is strengthened and encouraged from the worship, and his message today will be strong and Biblically sound.

People will get saved today. Some will be healed or encouraged. All will receive Gods love. God isn’t just working through the worship team, but they certainly set the stage to get it all rolling.

These unsung worship heroes will be at church for a total of 7 hours. They will not have time to eat during until after the last service. They sit through two entire services. Some will fall asleep during the message from exhaustion and it will bring knowing smiles from the others on the team.

After the service, they quickly pack up their instruments and join in with the multitude of conversations taking place throughout the church. Ministry is still taking place as people discuss what God spoke to them during the service and others ask for prayer for difficulties they are going through. Even this is riding on the songs of the worship team.

They do not get paid for what they do. For many this is their day off. Some will leave and  go straight to work, some will go play with their kids and the rest will hit the couch for a well deserved nap. They have pleased God greatly and have impacted lives not only in the congregation where they ministered, but in the lives that the congregation goes out and touches as well. Who knows, as they minister to people who in turn minister to others who in turn minister to others, they will be reaching around the world. But this isn’t what they are thinking about as they quietly and humbly go on with their day.

 

Philosophical Pneumonia

Nothing to do but philosophize

How best do you grab time that is slipping away? You write about it!

January is slipping by. The last few years we have, sadly, hit our medical deductible by January one year and February the year before. My very brave new years resolution was not needing a doctor at all in January.

So the resolution made on New Year’s Eve dawned the next day to a cold. I have had lung surgery and lung obstructions, so this was not good news, but I am doing better, so I soldiered through for a week. Then it got worse. I ended up in urgent care with bronchitis, super -duper antibiotic that always work, and nasty cough syrup. I went to the pharmacy, and $400 later went home. (Apparently you have to pay to breathe.) I did better quickly and at the week mark again got much worse. Back to urgent care. This time it was pneumonia with the doctor shaking his head. He had never seen the antibiotic not work. So then I was put on two antibiotics and even worse cough syrup. Then I was told to go to my regular dr during the week, which added steroids for breathing and another round of antibiotics when the others were finished.

I have been sick thee entire month of January, have paid hundreds of dr bills and prescriptions, and have missed enough church that I will have to visit the visitor’s VIP desk and get a free t-shirt.

After looking at my few options of redeeming the time, I realized that there really weren’t any. And this is when I started getting philosophical…

  1. Life is Like Pneumonia: Just when you start thinking everything is good, you let your guard down. Then life comes in like a flood. Never let your umbrella be far.
  2. No matter what anyone says, prescription prices are just a fancy way of taxing the people without an uproar. The people will pay whatever because they need to breathe to live.
  3. Doctors are not omniscient. My dr shook his head at the antibiotic not working and said, “Well, doctoring is called practicing…”. That didn’t make me feel any better.
  4. People who have never had pneumonia think of it as a bad cold. After walking up and down a flight of stairs, I was wheezing and gasping for air. I was asked why I was out of breath….????
  5. Just because you have lung issues does not mean you deserve a lecture on how to stop smoking. (If I had a million dollars for every time I have been given that lecture over the last five years.)
  6. If you can get energy out of Niagara Falls just by the water going down, you could harness energy out of pneumonic coughs.
  7. If children get stickers for shots, why don’t adults get expresso?
  8. No matter how much your children claim you love them, they are not willing to get within 10 feet of you just because you are sick. (Seriously, if they were going to catch it, it would have been by now.)
  9. Buy stock in Kleenex. Seriously, think about it!
  10. Pneumonia gives you more freedom as a writer. You are so miserable, you just don’t care if what you say hurts people’s feelings.

So there are some good truths and ideas to chew on. Do you have any?

So How Great Am I?

Let all that we do or think be a praise to God, not ourselves.

Okay, so maybe that question is a little bit over the top. How about this one:

How many trophies do I have?

Did you know I graduated with my master’s degree with honors?

Actually, I don’t think any of us have ever had those questions in our conversations. But it is possible that some of them slip into our own thinking. It could be thoughts about how smart or accomplished we are, or how smart and accomplished we’re not, or how we have the need to be successful at anything we do in work or even church.

God needs to be the one getting all the glory in our lives.

That we should be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:12

What we do should be a praise to God. We are giving Him the glory, not ourselves. This is where the point lies: God should be the center of our focus in whatever we do or think. If we are thinking of ourselves, then we are off into pride, no matter how servant-like we are.

God loved King David just as much as a shepherd boy as he did when David was king. David’s life was a big praise to God. Let our own lives be that praise and may our thoughts reflect our love for Him throughout the day. More of Him, less of me. John 3:30

My 2016 Juggling Act

As I look at my 2017 clean slate and contemplate how to use it, I realize how easy it will be. I will keep God first, stay disciplined, take care of my family, work hard, and accomplish much.

2016 starts popping unbidden in my mind. I don’t want to go there, but my mind keeps whirring. Where 2017 has easy to follow directions, 2016 was anything but. There was always the desire and attempt to keep my days and priorities straight, but then it was time to get out of bed.

Reality always set in once my feet hit the floor. The were constant needs of family, pets and house. Groceries were always needed, meals to be planned, meals to be made with frantically looking for substitutions for ingredients I was sure I had. There was parenting issues and teaching. Bills had to be met with trying to stretch the income. There were sermons filled with challenges to change things that seriously needed to be changed in my life. Then there were constant medically challenges, losing days or weeks depending on what my body was doing.

You get my point. While 2017 looks straightforward, it will be anything but. Life pulls us into more directions than a compass rose. It wreaks havoc in our thoughtfully laid out plans, and then we easily abandon our resolutions. We’ll start the whole process again in 2018.

Life is happening in all the redirections we encounter. God has our steps set out for us. As we walk them this year, let’s embrace the craziness and trust God. 2017 will be a great year filled with juggling needs and changing directions. Enjoy every minute!

It’s About The Journey

The jourey may be exhuasting, but eventually you will arrive.

She shifted around over and over and over trying to find the spot of the least pain. You would think with modern technology they would have invented a more comfortable donkey. She shouldn’t complain, at least for the 68.9 miles she was riding, but she was pregnant, and very pregnant at that. Seriously, out of all the times there could have been a census it had to be now? And what was wrong with Joseph, the audacity to be born so far away? She shifted again and the baby gave a strong kick into her bladder. And now another of the already hundreds of restroom breaks! She knew that this baby was divine and all, but the pregnancy was anything but! When she got to heaven she was going to have a little chat with the Almighty about this…

We always assume that Mary was perfect: quiet in her sufferings, sitting poised even though a little hunched over on her donkey, having sweet conversations with her husband…. But we really know nothing of her jouney to Bethlehem other than she went, went into labor, and found no vacancies at any hotel… Why Was there No Room in the Inn?

What we can focus on in the birth of Jesus, is that it was  journey for Mary and Joseph. They had a road to follow, a destination to get to. God had a plan, but it was not easy. In fact,  I can guarantee you it took every ounce of emotional and physical energy that they could muster. God never gives more than you can bear, but Mary and Joseph were pushed way beyond what they thought they could bear.

Last night was Christmas Eve, and Patrick and I made it to bed by midnight. We reminisced over the years of trying to get toys together and eveything wrapped, food prepared, and everything ready for whenever our four excited kids decided to wake up. It was exhausting. We rejoiced in not having to go to bed at two or three or four in the morning. Then I said, “Phew, we survived another one!” Then I started thinking about the journey.

Christmas is not just a labor of love for a week, but for many weeks. There is money to be saved or credit cards to be charged, there are lists of gifts for loved ones, planning meals, throwing Christmas parties, attending parties, participating in the church outreaches, practicing and performing in the Christmas contada, and on and on and on. Our donkeys are uncomfortable, we get stressed and short with the loved ones we are trying to bless. The 68.9 miles seems longer and longer every year.

Such is the season, and we walk it over and over and over because we have an expected outcome. Mary’s journey led her to Jesus, cradled in her arms with the soft glow of the star resting on his little perfect face. Our journey also leads us to Jesus. Mary was crazy tired and sore from her journey, as are we. The parallels go on and on, and are a fun rabbit trail to discover.

Congratulations! You made it to Christmas 2016! Now we look at the birth of Jesus and ponder the gift that he was to the world. We may have family to spend our time with, or solitarily feel alone and abandoned with the “familiness” that everyone else seems to have. But regardless, we have all made this journey. And we will do it again next year, God willing.

The important thing to know about a journey is that there is always an end. Be it Christmas or some other journey God has you on, remember that you will get there eventually. So shift around on your donkey, try not to bite off the head of the people around you, and revel at the expected end that God has given you.

Merry Christmas! Thank you all for joining me in my blogging journey this year!

God, Help Me Calm Elsa Down! (Oh, and Help Her to Want to Learn Her Letters, too!)

God helped me find the key to help my Chinese students.

If want to hear pure prayers of desperation, then be a fly on the wall when teachers cry out to God. I know, because I am a teacher. Believe me, God and I have had a lot of chat.

I have the cutest little four year old, Elsa, with whom I am attempting to teach English as a second language. I work with VIPkids, so teaching English is my wonderful focus. There are many things that students learn, but they really aren’t seeable. Teaching English certainly is because one day you start having small conversations with the child who knew no English when you started teaching them a month ago.

Elsa is a four year old sweetheart. She is very smart, but it is difficult to know because she is usually flitting off screen (teaching online is part of the brilliance of VIPkid”s method). Many times I get her back to the screen with my brilliant kazoo melodies (especially Disney’s “Let it Go”, the song from the story where she chose her English name). Once a tambourine did the trick (my apologies to my daughter Jessica who was trying to sleep one floor below me).

Then there was the introduction to English letter names. When it came down to it, Elsa just didn’t see the point. This started up my pure prayers of desperation (God, help! How do I get her to care about her letters?). I have been walking around for a few days praying over and over and thinking through options.

God gave me the two answers I needed:

  • Show her that my name and her name have 3 our of 4 letters in common (L, S, A).
  • Distract her loss of focus with something quiet and beautiful.

Brilliance. Just pure brilliance. And it worked perfectly! As soon as she quieted down and looked on in amazement at the intersection of our names, I had her. Now letters were important and changed her whole mindset. THANK YOU, GOD!!!!

When I turned my mic on one day I could tell that she was excited and already jumping all over her poor mom. I grabbed my Gazebo music box with a man and woman dancing and put it up to my mic. I just gave her the sound until she quieted and came up to the screen wondering what she was going to see. I turned the camera on and had the man and woman right up close. This moved her close to the screen as well. We talked about how beautiful the music box was and she was in. On to the lesson. (To be honest, this was the lesson I eventually pulled the tambourine out on (I really am sorry, Jesc)). But this was the first lesson with a lot of quiet moments of learning and wonderment, my goal.

Elsa is making me a better teacher and God is providing answers to questions I have no idea how to answer. So as I teach Elsa, I grow in my own wonderment at how wonderful God is.  Who says there isn’t prayer in school…?

 

An Old Teacher Learning New Tricks

I just wrote a very long paragraph to explain to you how long I have been teaching. But I fell asleep when I went back to read it. So I did you and me a big favor by deleting it and just out and out telling you that I have been teaching almost my entire life.

So on to the more interesting part of this blog. I started teaching with VIPkid, a full-immersion English as a second language course for children in China over the internet. They provide the curriculum, and then it is up to me to keep the kids awake through the 25 minute lesson that I give at 5am in the morning my time, which is their 6pm after a long day at school. I am bringing out puppets, songs, props, cheerleader pompoms, a bullseye game, and anything else I can come up with. The sillier the better. I have been doing this for an incredibly fun month, and I am learning things about teaching that I really never thought through or learned before.

  1. Be creative. Many of my students know little to no English at all. I have to learn to communicate in other ways. Some words and concepts they pick up easily, with others being more complicated. The more complicated the more creative I need to be. The more creative, the easier they learn and retain.
  2. Use a singing voice. For anything, really. I have sung directions over and over until I hear the kids singing them while they perform the direction I give them (…circle big A, circle big A…). Or how to spell a word, over and over until they begin to repeat it.
  3. puppets are always a hit, regardless of age. You certainly need more sophisticated puppetry for older students, but it quickly draws in the attention. (I have always said that pastors would get more people paying attention to sermons with puppets.)
  4. Use life pets. Kids eyes really come to life when you show them your dog, or snake (not me, just used to scare the point into you), or stuffed pets (they always like my turtle whose head you can hide in the shell when he gets scared).
  5. Speak loud and soft. With my teenagers I tend to forget this one. Loud is good, especially when they are plugged in, but soft makes them lean in and be more a part of what the conversation is. (Quiet voice: Are you ready to go to the mall? That one is always a winner.)
  6. Exaggerate celebrations over good efforts and achievements. I am all over this with a kazoo, pompoms, tambourine, party blower. When we celebrate these with our older kids, they will respond inside with the same enthusiasm as younger kids.
  7. It’s easier to teach one on one with kids in China than with teenagers in the house. But I need to remember  to respond to them the same way I do to my virtual students.
  8. Drink lots of coffee while you work. This has more to do with waking up at 3am, but it is also needed for the high level of energy expended while I teach.
  9. It’s okay if those around you are irritated or think you are acting stupid. Jessica doesn’t seem to appreciate my new kazoo going off in the room over her head at 6:00am. Wait until she hears my new tambourine!
  10. It’s really less about teaching and more about life. I can teach the children the fundamentals of English, but the life lessons are always far more important.
  11. Establish communication on different levels the kids can hear. I draw with kids who are too shy to speak. I sing new vocabulary to kids who don’t yet know the words. I play show and tell with students who are good at connecting what they learn to what they already know.
  12. Respect the pace of the student.
  13. I haven’t arrived yet as a teacher. There is always more to learn.

I really am a much better teacher now that I am teaching VIPkids. I think teaching teenagers for so long that I have tuned out their complaints. Now I need to tune back in to what they are saying and find ways to help them through.

I haven’t finished homeschooling my youngest child. That means I need to up my game and be a better teacher for her. I know I can do it…

Coffee Break; Cream, no Sugar

It has come to my attention that I have not been blogging very much as of late, so I thought I would catch you up on the Life and Times of Lisa Meister. So grab your favorite mug and let me pour you a fresh and hot cup of coffee. I will take mine with cream, no sugar.

Well, technically I have cream and sugar because I have the French vanilla kind that is crazy good with a crazy amount of sugar. But I feel better just saying no sugar. I figure that I am a hypocoffeedriac, meaning that if I believe that there isn’t sugar in the cream, there won’t be.

I have already blogged about my wonderful new job in
A Fun New Job and This Time I Get Paid. What is amazing is that I live in Indiana, USA but teach in China. I am teaching Chinese children, ages 4 – 12 English. There are so many wonderful children out there that are a lot of fun to work with. I really thought that China was mostly a third world country, but these children look to be from homes very much like ours.

But I digress. That rabbit trail started with my job, so I will get back to it. I am slowly building my student base and am starting to figure out what I am doing. My kids are very smart and by the end of a 25 minute lesson, I can already notice a jump in what they can understand. I work from 5 – 9 am each morning, with prep the night before. I have puppets, cheerleading pom-poms, birthday hats and blow toys, crazy hats, and a tamborine. Aargh, I digress again.

Okay, on to a new area. I am still homeschooling my youngest. It works great because we don’t start homeschooling until 10am. She does almost everything on her own now (a trait the homeschooling community highly prizes), with me there to discuss ideas, help with math, or to try to help with science.

I am also a blogger, a great love in my life. But as you can see, I don’t have a lot of time for it right now. As teaching gets easier I will have more time again.

My oldest daughter is graduating from College next week! That’s a “Yeah!” and a “Yikes!”. My 5 pound bundle of joy is now 23. Yes, the years vanished in a smoky “poof”, but I know I gleaned all the time with her I could because I educated her at home.

I have also started writing a new book, and am trying to find big chunks of time (well, not really, more like small chunks of time) to write. I have my topic, my research, my voice and am well on my way into chapter one.

Christmas is upon us, so I am taking time to think through all that Jesus has done for me and marvel at his loving decision to come to earth as a man. This year I have been thinking through all the prophecies in the Old Testament about his coming. I’ll have to blog some about that at a later date.

There is always church, God time, teen drama, husband, and health issues that I deal with on a daily basis; heavy on the teen drama. I think that is about it.

So that about catches you up on me. I would love it if you would leave a quick reply as to how you are doing. I have missed all of my blogging friends.

My Last Straw Was Many Bales Ago

I woke up one morning with a situation I knew was too rough for me. I had been going through it for a while, and the last straw happened many hay bales ago.I was panicked and nothing was changing. It was time for a little chat with God.

It went something like this,”God, the Bible says you will not give me more than I can bear… well, this is it, so it’s time to blast out the enemy and get me out of this.” I slowly opened my eyes to peek, and I was in the same place as I was before.

There is, apparently, a divide between my definitions and God’s. I realized that with all my hay management. I wish He had written the Bible in my vernacular; it would have cut down on the confusion and made my blog more successful. I will continue the dialogue with God on all this, but it all comes down to this:

  • Ultimately, God is the one on the throne
  • He believes in my way more than I do
  • Just because He listens to me does not mean we are in agreement
  • I had betters study the Greek/Hebrew definitions
  • Get a bigger barn

There is not much I can do to help my circumstances, but there is a lot I can do to help others. When they are beyond their breaking point, I need to be their prayer warrior. I can encourage them, help them with their needs during their process, and be the light to a world stuck in the “more than I can handle” arena.

If you are in a situation where you are panicking and beyond your point of bearing, remember this: “our light and momentary struggles are nothing to be compared to the glory of God”. Now that is a bunch of words God and I can agree on.

When Appliances Hang Me Out to Dry

And now it’s the dryer!

Today it was the Lowe’s truck backing in with the new dryer. Before that it was the new water softener. Then it was the furnace (cringe). And in successive order: garage door motor, shingles for the roof, newer to us car, then another new to us car, refrigerator (shudder, shudder), computer, cell phone…  And all this is in the last year alone!

Okay, at some level this has to stop, right?  When our dryer started it’s slow, agonizing, screeching pain of death, it didn’t even phase me anymore. I think after having to get the entire roof replaced after our incredible Indiana storm where the world looked like there had been a blizzard of ice with drifts and everything, I became just plain traumatized and emotiona-less.

I will save you all the gory details of the poor, dying dryer. But I couldn’t even feel any sympathy. It gave it’s all working without complaint (mostly) for it’s three to five daily loads. My husband and I went to Lowe’s and as it was pre-pre-black Friday, they were out of many dryers. So I told the kind man that was straining to see any remorse or panic on my end, that I knew what I wanted. It was simple, really. I wanted a dryer, it had to be in stock, American made, would dry my clothes without screaming at me, and had a no-wrinkle cycle. No, I didn’t want the washing machine (seriously, I should have just showed him our house costs in the last year). I never understood why you have to buy a washer and dryer at the same time. All the poor man could get out before my husband calmed him down was that if you want a steam option, the accessories only worked with the compatible dryer ( and believe it or not, they are never compatible with other washer/dryer pairs). It took him showing us a few models that would not be available for two weeks (seriously, this guy had issues) before he finally got it. Soon it was paid for, delivered, and the old one unceremoniously dispatched.

I think my family is in appliance trauma, too. It wasn’t too many years ago that we had to replace our vaccuum sweeper with a new one. Our kids literally fell into heaps of grief (cue Job’s ash pile). We had to get a new van and they fell to pieces. When the new dryer came in this morning, my homeschooling daughter didn’t even stir from her class to go and at least look at the new dryer.

Happily, my tale ends with a few thoughts. They are in random and chaotic order, I don’t know why. But here it goes:

  • appliances come and appliances go
  • never name your appliance (sending “Fred” to the great junkyard in the sky makes it just that much harder)
  • it’s the glass half full or half empty; I get all new appliances, won’t need any of the already replace ones again for a while OR whoa, this is costing a lot of money
  • when people at Lowe’s and general contractors know you by name, it’s time to pray for a financial miracle
  • when you are having a wonderful conversation with your spouse, don’t mention the stove…
  • there is a difference in buying the smaller items (ie. bathroom fans) and getting them installed
  • Pray that your son franchises a Lowe’s
  • get a second job