Category Archives: life with Jesus

thoughts on how to live life alongside Jesus

On Stage: Check Your Egos at the Door

What’s it like to be on a stage in front of 16,000 people?

Ah, yes.  The Urbana stage.  How do you prepare to set foot on a stage like that?  Yes, we practiced a lot and made sure we knew our music.  We also studied Luke together so that we were personally shaped by the scriptures that the Urbana delegates would go through.  But aside from that, one thing that we really had to do to prepare ourselves: get our egos in check.

There’s No Room For Egos On This Team

Sometimes people would say, “Oooh, so and so should have been on this team!  That would have been fun!” and Sandra’s response would be, “No.  At this point in their life, their ego wouldn’t be able to handle it.  And there’s no room for egos on this team.”

One thing that I don’t think is often talked about is that when you step onto a platform with that kind of influence you’d better let God shape your character to be able to handle it all.

You see, the stage–and not just the Urbana stage, but any stage or platform–is a double edged sword.  On one hand, the stage is a place of influence; a means by which we are able to bless people.  From it we get the chance to speak and to minister, to lead people into deeper relationship with God, to offer hope and healing and reconciliation with God.  On the other hand, it can be kind of a dangerous place for a worship leader.  Because truthfully, the stage can really mess with your head and with your soul.

When you’re on stage in front of a crowd, large or small, you all of a sudden become known.  And let’s be honest: any of us that has the nature of a performer, an artist, or an influencer also has a hungry ego.  We like being known.  We like being affirmed.  We like feeling useful.  We like feeling important and recognized.  We like feeling like we have something to offer.  We like displaying our gifts, and we especially like being admired for them.  It’s okay, I can admit it, and so can you.  We are broken and sinful and in need of God’s grace and redemption.  But as such, let’s not be naive to understand that for us the stage can be dangerous territory, giving us and our hungry egos a complex if we are not careful.

How easy it is to bask in all the people that now know us, all of the praise we get for a job well done, all of the thanks we get for touching someone’s life, and all the admiration we receive for our gifts.  And how easy it is to feed our hungry little egos that say, “Look at me!  I’m so important!  I’m so awesome!  I’m talented, really I am!”  Honestly, I don’t think it’s completely wrong to want to be known, loved, or affirmed.  We all need a little encouragement, and we all need to receive love.  But as worship leaders, our job is to lead people in worshipping and glorifying the Lord, and when we crave that attention for ourselves, then it is no longer about glorifying God, rather we’ve made it about glorifying ourselves.  Instead of genuinely working for God to be worshipped and glorified we are secretly working for affirmation and praise–for us to be glorified, for us to seem important, and for us to seem worthy of something.  For a worship leader, that’s not okay.

Like we said, there is no room for egos here.

Check Your Ego, Shape Your Character

So, how do you prepare to be in front of 16,000 people?  You have to constantly let God check our ego at the door.  You have to invite him to shape your character so that you can handle being on stage and getting that much attention yet remain a person with integrity, transparency, authenticity, selflessness, and humility.  Over and over and over again.  Believe me, it’s hard to do with even 30 people, and much harder at 16,000.

To let God shape your character is to constantly ask him for brokenness and humility and to let him do the hard, painful work of chipping away at our egos.  It is to ask him to purify us of selfish ambition and vain conceit.  To take the risk to be transparent with ourselves, with others, and with God.  And to repent.  Often.

And really, it doesn’t start when you find out you’ll be on a stage of 16,000.  It needs to start when you are on a stage of 16.  Because our egos can be that hungry.  Otherwise, one day your monstrous ego that you’ve fed for so many years will get the better of you.  And if you ever do get to be on a stage of 16,000, your ego and your complex will only be magnified by 16,000.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who can get on stage and say the right things, lead people in an amazing worship time, minister to people in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet secretly be really into myself and how awesome it all makes me feel.  Secretly be a self-focused glory-hog with a big head who wants glory more for myself than for God to be glorified.  I don’t want to be the kind of person who can help others draw near to Jesus while missing out on the authentic intimacy with Jesus because I’ve paid more attention to what others say about me rather than what Jesus says about me.  And I especially don’t want to be the kind of leader who forgets that I am a broken and sinful child of God who is desperately in need of grace, just like everyone else.

If I can lead a great worship time but my character sucks and my relationship with God is more about me than it is about him, then I will have some deep regrets when I face the Lord.  I don’t want to miss out on God because I’m too into myself.  So yes Lord, shape my character and kill my hungry ego all the days of my life.  I want no room for egos here.  Not now, not ever.

8 Comments

Filed under life with Jesus, Urbana 12, worship

Behind the Scenes of the Urbana 12 Worship Experience

After participating in my fourth Urbana, I have to say that Urbana 12 was my absolute favorite.  There are many reasons why, but besides the program itself being AMAZING, the year leading up to Urbana 12 was absolutely phenomenal.

Imagephoto via Matt Stauffer

One of my biggest regrets after being on the Urbana 09 Worship Team was that I didn’t adequately capture the experiences that we had on the team.  The year leading up to Urbana 09 was rich with discussions on multiethnic worship, character-building, and God digging out the junk in our hearts as we prepared to be in front of 16,000 people and not let our egos get the best of us.

As I headed into the year-long preparation with the Urbana 12 Worship Team I aimed to remedy that.  In 2009 I regretted not having our discussions and what we were learning available as a resource for my students and for all of the students who were hungry for more after Urbana, so I tried to capture some of the behind-the-scenes moments on video.  Whether intriguing discussions on worship or the goofiness that was our team, I want to give you all a peek into our year leading up to Urbana 12 and share some of the nuggets that God taught us.  And as part of that, I’m also committing to blogging regularly over the next month or so about the experience.  (…also in hopes that I will blog a little more since my last blog was January 2012!  haha)

We learned so much that I didn’t know how to organize it all, but I narrowed it down to a rotation of three categories:

  1. Reflections of an event that happened each day at Urbana 12
  2. The story behind particular songs we played at Urbana 12 (let me know if there are particular songs you’re curious about)
  3. Other miscellaneous things regarding team dynamics, being on a stage in front of 16,000, questions students had, etc.  (If you’ve got things you want to hear about, let me know this too.)

I hope you enjoy the journey with us!

3 Comments

Filed under life with Jesus, Urbana 12, worship

Little Blessings Make a Full Heart

Last week I sat in a group answering the request to list 5 things we were thankful for.  It took us each some thinking, not because we weren’t thankful for 5 things, but because none of us wanted any of our 5 things to sound too small or superficial or materialistic.  But whatever, I went for it.  I said, “I know this sounds really superficial, but I’m actually incredibly thankful right now for all my clothes…and I’m REALLY thankful for chocolate ice cream.”

The other 3 girls kind of laughed–out of courtesy or awkwardness, I don’t know–and one of my friends hit me and said, “Oh-my-GOSH, Audrey” in a way that sounded like she really meant, “Yeah, that really IS insignificant, superficial, and materialistic.”

I wondered, though, why it was “wrong” for me to say I was thankful for such small things?  I personally find it rather difficult to be thankful for small things, and I actually don’t think most of us tend to be thankful enough for them.  So, I felt the need to defend myself (especially because I got hit for it!) and explain that I actually have a deep gratitude for many of the “insignificant” things in life.  That week I had been standing at my closet everyday marveling at how fortunate I was and how I didn’t really deserve a closet full of clothes, which led me to think about all the other aspects in my life that God has provided for that I really don’t deserve.  I also kept thinking, “How could I ever have felt like I needed more?” (Not just of clothes…of anything, really.)  And I marveled at the provision.

That week I also ate a bowl of ice cream and thanked God for letting it be invented, telling him that he really didn’t have to create chocolate ice cream but that I was SO GLAD he did.

So, yes, I said I was thankful for my closet of clothes and for chocolate ice cream, and my gratitude for them runs deep.

A while ago I worked through The Good and Beautiful God and one of the chapters had you create an ongoing list of blessings in your life.  I wrote so many seemingly small things on that list, and at first I was embarrassed because of what I said before–that it seemed superficial or even materialistic.  But the more I wrote down, the more it actually cultivated depth in my thanksgiving, in my sense of God’s love and care in my life, and in the joy and pleasure there is in this life God has given me.

In a world of consumerism and advertisements that tell you that you need more of x, y, and z, I love looking at my list of blessings…especially the “small” ones.  It makes me feel like the world went from being on a grey scale to being filled with vibrant colors.  The world seems more colorful, the air feels fresher, and I feel fuller.

I’d highly encourage you to start a list of blessings!

If you’re interested, here’s mine.  I was going to also add why I was thankful for some of these things, but almost all of them were because I kept thinking, “OMG, what would my life be like without this?  God didn’t have to make this, but I’m so glad he did!”

  • chocolate ice cream with fruit
  • a sibling who knows the Lord
  • teal and orange
  • white nectarines
  • music that speaks in unexplainable ways
  • oranges
  • prime rib
  • Contigo water bottles
  • time spent with kids who see the world as wonderful
  • Papermate pens (I LOVE these…)
  • crisp NorCal air
  • sunshine
  • God’s presence with me
  • contact lenses
  • financial freedom
  • the promise that God will guide me
  • a voice to sing with, to worship with, to express myself
  • my multi-colored scarf
  • the sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing
  • friends to connect with musically
  • provision for tasks he asks/calls us to do
  • unexpected ways he takes care of me
  • Chinese food
  • an amazing husband and an incredible relationship
  • giving us a community who loves and serves though they may barely know us
  • God’s sovereignty
  • freedom in my job to become who I was made to be
  • a child’s laugh

I’d love to hear some of your list of blessings…especially the ones that seem little and often get overlooked or taken for granted!

2 Comments

Filed under life with Jesus

Who are you becoming?

From the moment I was able to speak, people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was 5 years old I grew ridiculously proud of a piece of art I had painted of the Sanrio Family of Pochacco, Pekkle, and Kerroppi sitting on a grassy hill with the sun shining down. Anyone out there familiar with Sanrio? It was after that painting that I decided I wanted to be an artist. I took my 5-year-old self and ran to my mom.

“Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

“Oh, is that so? Great! What do you want to be?” she responded in anticipation.  Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under life with Jesus

Lemons and Lemonade: Obstacle or Invitation?

I’ve never quite fancied the phrase, “If life hands you lemons, make some lemonade.”  I’m the kind of person that doesn’t want to make lemonade if I wasn’t planning on it, and I definitely wouldn’t want sour lemons if I were hoping for oranges.

In case you aren’t aware, this is a horrible way to live, as it is also a horrible way to let God be Lord of your life.  I’ve expected a lot of oranges and whatnot lately, but I’ve received many lemons instead.  Over time I’ve noticed myself having more anxiety, more often feeling discontent and frustrated, and inevitably trusting God less and less.  To put it frankly, I became a bratty child of God who felt entitled to non-lemons.

Lemons come in the form of closed doors, unexpected “no’s,” unexpected problems, God’s silence, periods of waiting, and all those other things that happen that just don’t go your way or how you expected them to go.

When I want an orange and someone gives me a sour lemon that I didn’t want, all I want to do with that lemon is throw it at something or to turn it into an orange via wishful thinking or pestering God.  Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under faith & hope, life with Jesus

An Odd Kind of Grace

While I was on the plane yesterday I remembered a time when my family first found out my dad was cheating on my mom.  I was 16, and my mom locked herself in her room crying.  Seeing your mom sob is a disorienting experience, by the way.  And as this memory rushed through my head on the airplane I started to feel guilty for not having known how to console my mom back then.  She didn’t have anyone to comfort her, and I didn’t know how, and a sense of guilt anchored itself at the bottom of my stomach.

My counselor’s voice rang in my head.  It wasn’t my responsibility to do something.  I was only 16 years old.  It’s not fair for me to expect myself to have known what to do in that moment.  I was only 16.

But then I got angry at Jesus.  I typically get really angry when I know Jesus cares about someone and he doesn’t meet them when they need him.  And while I’m in my season of counseling and as the Lord is undoing the unhealthy ways I take on responsibility, I have lots of questions that I need answers for.  Actually, it’s usually the same question, which was true for this particular memory as well.  I kept thinking, “Why wasn’t Jesus comforting her in that moment, then?” If it wasn’t my responsibility to comfort my mom, then whose was it?  Jesus’, naturally, I’d think.  Then why didn’t he do anything?   Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under faith & hope, life with Jesus

Resting in Uprootedness

It’s been a weird season as this whole year has been full of changes, and I hadn’t known what to do with it until now. I’ve been uprooted in all sorts of ways, and I found myself fighting with the season rather than submitting to it.

What in my life WASN’T changing this year? I’ve been processing serving at a new campus and saying goodbye to Southwestern. I’ve been traveling so much that I consider myself lucky if I am in San Diego for 2.5 out of 4 weeks of a month. I started going to counseling which is shifting my entire understanding of myself and my family dynamics. I just moved to a new house, away from our community of friends. One of my best friends is getting married and moving to Chico and I’m trying to figure out how to say bye to him. Not to mention…now being married. Seriously, what isn’t changing?  Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under life with Jesus