Friday, April 10, 2015

Making Music in Our Hearts

Speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, 
singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord.
—Ephesians 5:19 NCV

In my family, we sing.

No, not professionally--though the Haney clan does sing in church choirs and praise team, and my brother-in-law often leads worship from his guitar.

We just burst into random song throughout our days. It’s one of those weird things my family does. Growing up, I’d sing silly songs with Grannie while we fixed dinner (“Oh, I had a little chicken and he wouldn’t lay an egg…”) I’d sing the shaped notes in the faded red hymnal with Papa at his Men’s Bible Class (“Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight, flooding my soul with glory divine!”)

My mom would wake us for school with an excruciatingly cheerful “Good morning, good morning, good morning; it’s time to rise and shine!” (Or, worse, a muffle-the-clapping-with-your-pillow rendition of “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!”)

We sang hymns and church songs and pop songs and I-can’t-remember-all-the-words-but-I-love-this-song-anyway songs. We picked out our favorite tunes on the piano. We sang while we set the table or cleaned house. While we got ready in the mornings. In the car.

Sometimes we’d hum. Or whistle. But mostly, we’d sing.

I didn’t think much of it. My parents always had a song in their hearts, and so did we. It was just who we were. 


In the whirlwind of marriage and ministry and raising babies, I lost a lot of myself… and I lost a lot of my songs. I did rock my babies to sleep while singing favorite hymns. (I was determined my kids would know hymns!) And I taught them a few of the songs of my youth. 

But for years, as my life submerged in the relentless stress of church planting and childrearing and breadwinning, without realizing it, I stopped singing.

Those years are far behind me now. Our house is once again filled with music. Our TV is almost always on Pandora. I regularly play from the Baptist hymnal on our piano. On any given day you can walk in to hear my little guy belting out opera-style songs in the shower, J.J. upstairs singing pop tunes while curling her hair, and Miss B practicing a worship song for praise team. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been editing in my study and suddenly realize there are three different songs going on simultaneously in our home. It makes me smile (and then put in my ear buds).

My favorites are the belly-laughs when when we realize one of the kids is singing the wrong words. (Sometimes I like their versions better: such as “like a ninja ready to explode” instead of “like an engine ready to explode”!)

But all the time, we sing.

Just last week, at our family's Easter gathering, we laughed-till-we-cried during lunch while recalling some silly songs, then that afternoon the kids variously played piano, clarinet, and flute while we hung out.

There is always a song or melody somewhere in a Haney house.


Which is why I was FLABBERGASTED at this conversation the other day…

We were out running errands. While chatting in the car Miss B said something that reminded me of a praise song, so I chimed in with “Ho-ho-ho hosanna, ha-ha-ha-lelujah, he-he-he He saved me, and I’ve got the joy of the Lord!”

The kids looked at me like I had grown another head.

“What? You don’t know that song?” I asked, incredulous.

Three heads slowly shaking no.

“Wait! What about this one?” I started singing all the kids’ Bible songs I could remember: Deep and Wide, The B-I-B-L-E, Do Lord, Rejoice in the Lord Always (again I say rejoice), Father Abraham, Praise Him All Ye Little Children, Give Me Oil in My Lamp, I Will Call upon the Lord, Zacchaeus, I’ve Got Peace Like a River (etc.)

My kids only knew about half of those. YIKES! I forgot my kids grew up in church plants, so they didn't learn the songs of my Sunday school upbringing. And for so many years when they were little, I had stopped singing around the house.

So now I’m on a mission: I’m going to teach my kiddos all the Bible songs I grew up with. After all, I don’t want to be the last generation on earth singing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”

What about you? 
What are the songs in your heart today? 
What songs do you want to pass down to your children?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

All Things New

He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
—Revelation 21:5

It’s a new year! And we have several new things. Thanks to the amazing generosity of our church, our Christmas was merry indeed! The girls have beautiful new outfits, and my son is thrilled with his new toys.

It’s fun to have new things, isn’t it? I don’t care how old you are, admit it: you get a little excited to tear off the wrapping paper and open the seal to something new-with-tags or wrapped in cellophane. (As long as the packaging doesn’t have a zillion twist ties, that is. Then that’s a totally different feeling. Oy vey!)

New things are especially fun to the four of us because everything is pretty old around here. We’ve lived in this house for almost eight years. Most of our furniture came from friends or Craigslist. As I was setting up for our New Year’s Eve party, I sighed over my rickety kitchen table with the vinyl-peeling chairs and my well-loved sofa with the cushions that don’t stay put anymore. Over the years, so many people have gathered in our home for church events or parties or Bible studies or sleepovers or general hanging out (oh, if these walls could talk!) that all our furniture is wearing out.

I confess: as I dusted my stained and sticky (from what? Ew, I have no idea) coffee table, I wondered what it would be like to have all new things.


At breakfast yesterday, we poured cereal in my chipped Pfaltzgraff bowls and opened our family devotional: One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters.

My oldest daughter began reading aloud. But when she got to this part, I made her stop and reread it:

The reality is that everything on this earth is wearing out. Everything breaks down.  
And in the midst of that reality, God says, “I am making everything new!” When we hear this we typically think of new in terms of replacing something old. But God doesn’t say he is making all new things. He is making all things new—in other words, he’s making things better, fresher, brighter, and stronger.

Think about that with me for a sec:

God doesn’t say, “Behold, I am making all new things!”

He says, “Behold, I am making all things new!”

So what? you may wonder. What’s the difference? Why does that phrase matter?

Here’s why.

Have you ever wanted to have a fresh start—even gone as far as making New Year’s resolutions or joining a gym—and then given up, thinking, “It’s hopeless. I’ll never change. That’s just the way I am”?

Have you ever wanted to make something new of your life, but you’ve been afraid to begin, thinking, “God can’t use me because of what I’ve done. I’ve made too many mistakes. I don’t deserve another chance”?

Have you ever wanted to try something new but thought, “I’ll never be able to do that because of what has happened to me. I’m too hurt, too scarred, too weak. I can’t start over now”?

If so, then listen closely to this.

God doesn’t say, “I am making all new things!” He’s not going to discard all of us messed-up, wounded people and replace us with brand-new, flawless ones.

Instead, God says, “I am making all things new!” He’s going to take you and me—all of us who are worn out and rickety and scarred—and he’s going to make us new.

  • Incidentally, the Greek word translated “new” in Revelation 21:5 doesn’t mean new as in “never before existed.” It means new as in “renewed, restored, refreshed.” It’s not new in time, but new in form. This is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…”) and Ephesians 4:24 (“Put on the new self…”).

God isn’t going to start over by making all new things.

He’s going to finish what He started by making all things new.

And that includes you and me.

You are NOT too old, too hurt, too guilty, too set in your ways, or too hopeless for God to use you. It’s not too late for a second chance. God is going to finish what He started in you!

2015 can be your “new” year—the year God will refresh, restore, and renew you. And trust me, the new thing He will make out of your life will be even more beautiful because of your story so far. 

In this new year, let’s lean into God and watch as He makes all things new!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What's Your Calling?

In my line of work, I regularly interact with people whose gifts and callings from God are highly visible—well-known pastors, authors, speakers. These are people whose names you recognize. They’re writing books, starting ministries, speaking to crowds of thousands, changing lives and changing the world. 

They’re blazing a trail for the kingdom in very public and significant ways.

I love working with these amazing men and women. I’m deeply honored to be part of the team helping them communicate the messages God has entrusted to them. 

In case you are wondering what these well-known Christians are like, let me assure you: they are regular people—just like you and me. They are humble, gracious, and servant-hearted. They’re the kind of folks you’d love to invite over for coffee. These men and women just so happen to have received and embraced a calling from God that is huge and significant.

But you know what?

You and I also have callings from God that are huge and significant. They may not be as visible as, say, a top-billed speaker or best-selling author, but that doesn't make our callings any less significant for the kingdom.

Let me tell you about another group of people I get to interact with regularly.

*   A man who enjoys doing yard work. He doesn't have a two-piece suit and a pulpit, but he has two strong arms and a green thumb. When he noticed a single mom who desperately needed help with her lawn he showed up, offering to mow and weed and even do some landscaping. His “platform” is his pruning shears, and he has spoken Christ into my family’s life as much as any preacher.

*    A young mother who loves to bake. She’s chasing around two small children and barely has time to take a shower much less speak to crowds, but she makes amazing cookies—and she loves to bake for those who need to know someone cares about them. Her “platform” is her oven, and she shares the love of Christ with a smile—and snickerdoodles.

*    A grandfather whose house is one of the main attractions in his neighborhood at Christmas. His collection of holiday decorations grows every year. And when he saw a newly single mom who didn't have the ladder—or the levity—to decorate her home, he showed up with a truckful of lights and gave her and her kids the brightest, happiest Christmas house they’d ever seen. He doesn't write best-sellers, but he wrote unspeakable joy into our hearts with the delight he took in the simple act of shining the light of Christ into our Christmas.

I have a "gratitude journal" filled with precious memories of how people have ministered to the kids and me these past two years. Most of them are ordinary men and women who are doing small things—behind-the-scenes and anonymous things—that are huge and significant callings. 

Indulge me in giving you a few more examples, in case you can see yourself in any of these:

·         The woman whose gift is her presence. She stuck by my side through the worst hours of my life, literally walking beside me when I could barely think or speak or breathe. Her gift is her friendship—and her simple act of being there has blessed me more than I could ever describe.

·         The young mom whose gift is her prayersShe came to my home and prayed over each room, filling each corner and crevice of our home with the light of God’s love.

·         The many, many people who gave us financial gifts.Encouraging notes that would arrive in our mailbox, on our porch, or in person with a gift card… a check… cash… all accompanied by, “I just felt like God wanted me to send this…” or “Praying for you and the kids…” Sometimes a significant amount. Sometimes a small amount. Yet always exactly what we needed. Always exactly when we needed it. All these people, receiving and embracing God’s call to share every good thing to those in need. 

·         The young couple whose gift was their service. They gathered some friends, did some shopping, and showed up with Christmas gifts for all my children.

·         The men whose gift is handyman workThey have fixed cabinets, moved furniture, changed light bulbs, set up electronics, and have taken care of all my honey-dos—with gracious and willing hearts.

·         The friends who gave the gift of a family photo sessionThey wanted the kids and me to know that our family was not broken but whole. Their gift of a family portrait finally helped us see ourselves the way others—and God—see the four of us: as complete, healthy, and whole.

·         The friends who gave the gift of mealsThey knew that delicious cuisine is best served with delightful companionship, so they brought us meals—and then sat around our table and ate the meals with us, filling not only our tummies but our hearts with their love.

·         The women whose gift is childcareThey would invite my kids over to play with theirs so I could work or simply have a moment to myself to breathe.

·         The grandmothers whose gift is their time. Oh, how my mom’s sweet Bible study ladies have blessed my socks off! They flocked to the house when I needed help. They inventoried and cleaned and purged my home, taking care of all the details I couldn’t bear to deal with at the time. They show up at a moment’s notice whenever I need anything.

·         The people who gave us the gift of a safe place to stay.I have keys to their homes and an open invitation to come on in if the kids and I ever need a safe place. Their gift is their hospitality—and their home.

·         The friends who gave the gift of what they had—graciously passing down clothes and shoes and movies and toys for my kids. I cannot tell you how much this has blessed us!

·         The man who is a computer whiz. He took care of my computer issues, even removing and safely storing files I didn’t have the emotional strength to open.

·         The woman whose gift is thoughtfulness. She helped my kids to buy a Mother’s Day present and still sends me flowers on my birthday, knowing that every girl loves to have flowers. Her thoughtfulness fills my home with the sweet fragrance of Christ.

·         The man whose gift is numbersHis sweet spot is spreadsheets—so he came over and sorted through all my paperwork, getting my bills and budget in order.

·         The women whose gift is room in their car. Every school day, their kids scoot over and let my kids join them on the way home from school, giving me the precious gift of extra time to work and provide for my family.

I could go on and on and on. (Like I said, I have a whole journal full of these!) I haven’t even begun to list the many people who serve us through various ministries at our church, including Sunday school, the single parents’ ministry, and our community group, as well as friends who have simply welcomed us into their homes as an extended part of their families. 

But hopefully this brief list is enough to demonstrate that no matter how God has gifted us—as an author, speaker, photographer, accountant, or carpool mom—our callings are essential to the body of Christ.

Whether our names are on the cover of a book or merely in the pages of someone’s gratitude journal, God has given each of us a calling that is huge and significant. 

So has God called you to write a book? Then write it with all your heart! (And I'd be honored to help polish it.)

Has God called you to preach or speak to crowds? Then preach and speak boldly and faithfully the Word of God with all your heart!

Has God called you to mow lawns, or bake cookies, or visit nursing homes, or care for children, or move furniture, or crunch numbers, or carpool? Whatever your sweet spot that God has given you to serve others, then respond to that calling with all your heart!

May we be faithful to receive and embrace our callings, no matter how big or small they may seem in our limited perspective. Because in God's eyes, there are no "small" callings.

One day, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrities and unknowns, each of us will hear our same Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Christ gave gifts to people—he made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to go and tell the Good News, and some to have the work of caring for and teaching God’s people. Christ gave those gifts to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger. This work must continue until we are all joined together in the same faith and in the same knowledge of the Son of God. We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection.

—Ephesians 4:11-13 NCV

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why I'm No Longer Praying for My Kids to Be Safe

Marlin: I promised I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hm. That's a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.

Today, I joined the ranks of all the other parents launching their kids into a new school year. The girls were up extra early, donning new outfits and curling their hair and filling their bathroom with a swirl of Pink Chiffon body splash and hair spray and lip gloss. (Oh, this whole new world of preteen girls!)

Little guy was also up early, but with only one thing on his mind: did the Tooth Fairy come? (He lost his OTHER front tooth yesterday!) I actually had to remind him it was the first day of school, so he threw on a T-shirt and shorts and sauntered out to breakfast. (Obviously, boys are a LOT easier at this age.)

Over breakfast, we read our daily devotional and then I prayed for them as they begin this new adventure.

But this year… my prayer for them is different.

In years past, I've prayed for God to keep them safe. To protect them. To make sure nothing happens to them while they’re away from home.

There’s nothing wrong with praying for your kids’ safety, of course. The Bible is filled with prayers for God's protection. 

However, I've learned something very significant this past year.

In order for us to grow and mature and become the people God wants us to be…

* We have to fail. And learn from our mistakes. Then we can give ourselves grace and move forward with the wisdom that comes only from experience.

* We have to get hurt. And learn to get up again. Then we can experience the freedom of forgiveness and develop a tender compassion for others who are hurting too.

* We have to experience hard things. And learn from the struggle. Then we can deepen our strength, courage, tenacity, and character.

* We have to be challenged in our faith. And learn that God sends us as lights in this dark world. Then we can see others from God's perspective and depend more fully on God every day.

So if we want our kids to grow into the men and women God designed them to be, something has to happen to them.

As Dory pointed out in Finding Nemo, if your goal as a parent is not to let anything happen to your kids... well, then nothing will ever happen to them. They'll be stunted in their growth. God can't sculpt our kids unless we step back and allow Him to get out His chisel.

So this year, I'm not praying that God would keep my kids safe.

Instead, I'm praying that God would do whatever it takes to shape my kids into mature Christ-followers.

I'm praying that God would give me wisdom to guide them through their failures, pain, and challenges and keep pointing them toward the Cross.

And I'm praying that God would use their experiences this year to make them dangerous--to stand up for what is right regardless of consequences, to show unflinching compassion, to take risks, and to share with boldness the good news of Jesus Christ with those who desperately need hope.

Whether you are sending your kids off to school on the bus, in school uniforms, or to the kitchen table, I urge you to join me in praying for so much more than safety for our kids.

Let's pray that something will happen to them.