From a post written for Seacoast Worship:
Week three in the Advent season celebration focuses on the word “Joy”.
Traditionally, this has been known as “Gaudete Sunday” coming from the Latin word meaning “to rejoice”. Also, it is customary to light the rose colored candle in the advent wreath representing the shepherds and the joy they experienced in the birth of their Savior as mentioned in Luke 2:7-15.
There is no doubt why we focus on joy during the Christmas season: He has come for us - God with us - Emmanuel! (Matt. 1:23) He is the reason we celebrate - our King - our hope - the personification of love. He is everything we need and the fulfillment of every prophesy concerning the coming Messiah. He saves us from our sins (Matt. 1:21) and is preparing a place for us even now (John 14:1-4). What joy!!
He Is For All Mankind
However, in the midst of all the lights and wonder, it can be a time when we are often made painfully aware of the ‘not so joyous’ parts of the season as well: Hunger. Homelessness. Children without parents. Those experiencing loss. Economic hard times. Physical pain. Despair. Now, before I send you into a tailspin of depression, I want to remind you that it was for these very things that Christ came. It is why He put on skin, left His throne and exploded a Bethlehem sky. It’s why he traded a city of gold for a feeding trough. He didn’t want us feeling like we were ruled by a king from a far off land who couldn’t relate to us at all, instead He wanted to fully embrace humanity, get so close, know us personally. If that wasn’t enough, he went to great lengths to make sure we never felt alone or ever felt like we were the only ones. He was all King and equally all of the ‘not so joyous’ parts of humanity: hungry, homeless, without His Heavenly Father, suffering incredible loss, dirt poor, experiencing unfathomable pain and a man of sorrows. And yet…. he did it all to bring us great joy!! Not only is He accessible to all mankind, He can relate to all mankind. I don’t know about you - but I am comforted in the knowledge that the Savior of the World “gets me” and that I am not alone. That is reason to sing!
Meredith Andrews released a new version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” a few years ago and added a new chorus: “He Has Come For Us”…. I think you’ll listen to the lyrics a little differently in light of knowing that He truly came for us… to be FOR us.
A Reason to Sing
I can’t help but imagine that Heaven joins us in singing the traditional carol each year at Christmas time, “Joy to the World! The Lord has come! Let Earth receive her King!” The earth, all of humanity, cries out for Him. He is our greatest joy, and knows us intimately. For that fact, regardless of our circumstances, we can celebrate knowing He has come for us!
From a post written for Seacoast Worship
On November 27th and 28th, we had the joy of celebrating 25 years of ministry at Seacoast Church. I’ve had the pleasure of being part of this church body, in one way or another, for the last 20 of those 25 years. Although we have seen God’s goodness and faithfulness over and over in the past, I am as excited about what’s next for Seacoast and where Pastor Greg feels we are headed than ever before.
Looking back to 1993, I had no idea that a church of around 500 would become a church of nearly 12,000 members and have an innumerable reach online every week. I had no idea that the church would grow so much, so quickly, that we would need to be in 10 physical locations with 13 venues and that a concept called Multi-Site would be born. I had no idea when singing background vocals for my worship mentors, Jeanne Radekopf and Fred and Tracy Norris at age 19, that years later I would have the privilege of standing on a platform with them celebrating the 25th anniversary and honoring them and the journey they took us on. Twenty years. It’s all been so amazing.
So - what’s next for us as it relates to Seacoast Worship? I feel like the “next” for worship at Seacoast is all about being intentional in investing in the future. It sounds pretty simple but it requires the hard work of us looking around, seeking out the promise in the next generation, and being willing to begin the process of passing the torch. In the same way and Jeanne and Fred and Tracy poured into me, it is my desire that we are purposely pouring into those around us. It means being intentional about reminding each other about the ‘why’ we do what we do (Gal. 6:9), building relationships that encourage one another to have a deeper relationship with the Lord (Heb. 10: 19-25), and working on the gifts He’s given us, so we can honor Him with them (Col. 3:23). None of this is revolutionary thinking, but I’m looking at it with fresh vision and a renewed commitment to see God do more than I could ask or imagine through these very things in the next 25 years.
I’ve been so grateful to be a part of a move of the Lord in a church body where He’s done incredible things...so much so that we couldn’t have made it up in our wildest imaginations if we tried! So today, standing on the edge of the next 25 years, it is with great assurance of faith that I trust the Lord will ‘WOW’ us again! I thank Him in advance for all that He will do, because if there is one thing I know, He is faithful and it is His joy to fulfill His purposes for His Kingdom through those who seek Him... and as long as I have anything to do with it, Seacoast Worship will be found doing just that.
So with the Spirit of the Lord in my lungs ready to sing and declare his faithfulness and surrounded by those who will go ahead of me and will become what’s ‘next’ I say, “I’m all in... who’s with me? Let’s watch God do the amazing as we step into all He has for us!”
Fair warning. Confessions of a home-schooling-stay-at-home-yet-working-full-time-and-working-all-weekend-can't-get-it-all-done mom:
Today was algebra and arguments. Negative numbers and negative attitudes. Flipping fractions and flippant words. The careful and the careless. The methodical and the meaningless.
As a home schooling mom, I have the honor of teaching my children. I adore the time I get with them. I have the privilege of being with my children as they navigate their studies and life and have the ability to speak into them in ways I might not otherwise have the liberty. As a full-time career mom, I also have the privilege of getting to do what I love and the flexibility to be able to do it. Most days the balance between husband, home and heart cry is do-able. Today was not that day.
Today was that day that slammed me sideways before I had a chance to even open my eyes. We were knee deep in it by 10am. By 2:00pm we had settled in, but only after reminders and reconciliation. By 5:00pm our pace was perilous. Rushing from this to that...All good things...All things we enjoy. But the pace. The pace. By 9:00pm we were all home but the weary set in so hard it was as if we were looking for ways to offend, to be offended.
The day, however, wasn't a complete goner. I'm grateful that (although much too late into the day), I was made painfully aware that the pace, the standard I hold myself to - is just that: a standard that NO ONE ELSE is asking me to keep. Sure - the world says, "Pinterest yourself to death with crafty excellence that your children will adore you for, serve the neighbor down the street a homecooked meal after you have created a culinary wonder for your own adoring family, make your house look like you won every HGTV award, iron all your laundry, home school your children (read: don't you dare work outside of the house) and make sure you look like a supermodel while you are doing it all." (She smiles sarcastically). Yes - this is what the world tells us... IF. WE. LISTEN. Yes - these are all good, worthy and honorable things I hope to one day live up to. However, I have to make sure I'm asking myself "who told me that" and refocus, recalibrate and breathe. The Lord is pleased with me - whether I keep the plates spinning or not.
Today, plates stopped spinning... but the world didn't. I'll have (by God's grace) another day tomorrow to try again. I'm so grateful his mercies are new every morning. After all, tomorrow is just a few hours away.
Tara is Greg's girl, mom to two sons of thunder, a hunger fighter, big dreamer and worship pastor at seacoast church.