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I think the only thing in life more difficult to handle than unrequited love is unfulfilled dreams. With a pinnacle birthday coming up I have spent a lot of time in the last 6 months thinking over the things in life I wanted to accomplish. I remember graduating High school, back when flannel meant something for more than just lumberjacks. I was wide eyed and full of excitement for not only the future, but very well laid out plans. I was prepared to “make it” and nothing was going to stand in my way. All the pieces were lined up to make a real go at chasing my dream of becoming a comic book artist and brooding poet. God said no. Well I wouldn’t say that the sky opened and I heard a loud voice booming like the woman in the viral fire news video. “NOT TODAY!”, but it was a no none the less. I know this because I tried everything I could to make it and nothing ever broke loose.

25 years have passed since that dream was birthed in me and it came as close as working on X-men art for a magazine, but the fullness of that dream never happened. It wasn’t just work related dreams. There were relational, physical, spiritual, emotional etc etc.  Dream after dream which once made my heart excited to tackle increasingly got added to the discard pile in the file cabinet of unfulfilled longings.

What became difficult to swallow was over the years I watched friends not only fulfilling their dreams, but some of them were even able to fulfill mine. I have had to wrestle with this so much lately. I want to rejoice with those I love but sometimes their success is a reminder of the things I never had.

In the last year I have seen 3-5 “dream jobs” come across my screen. Even this last week I saw two that just had my name all over it. I call them dream jobs because they are ones I would love to have, but require a move and dropping everything else I have going on. My wife and I have dropped everything and sold what we had and moved before, but it was always because the Lord said “go”. For the last 10 years He has said “no”. So I watch from the sidelines as my dreams are erased and replaced with just questions. The main one being – Why?

In my prayer this lent I am learning much more about my own need to recover certain things I have lost or just willingly given away. I often trade my contentment for disappointment.

Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Context means everything when we read a verse in the bible. The majority of the time we use this verse we leave out the context and apply it to our driving goals. “I want to have… I want to be… I want to see…” And we say we can and will because we can do all things through christ who gives us strength. However, lets look again at that verse for a second. You can’t separate the thought in verse 12 from verse 13. It is not speaking about life goals. The verse says that the secret to contentment, regardless of our unfulfilled dreams and broken hearts, is Jesus because it’s only by His strength that we can walk forward when we don’t get the results in life we want.

The bible is full of unfulfilled dreams. I think many of the apostles and heroes of our faith all asked the same questions as us. They asked the Why questions of God too.

There is so much of this in our lives isn’t there? We pray to no longer be single; to have children, to get a job, to write a book, to go to school, to travel the world, for healing of our bodies or minds… Prayer after prayer after prayer. For some of us these dreams will happen. For others they never will.

In some circles we are told it’s because of the lack of our faith or even the lack of our determination. I can promise you that besides my dream of being fit (I lack in that one), I was never lacking in faith or determination. Some times the Lord has a different plan.

Over and over I have heard the verse in Psalm 37:4 as people quote it “god will give you the desires of your heart” and miss the first part where it says “delight yourself in the lord”.

I have found that my desires over the years have changed to match the Lords desires when I have delighted myself in the Lord… When I have walked in honest relationship with God my heart has become in tune with His and I find myself wanting different things. Do I still wrestle with everything I have ever wanted to do and be? Of course!, but at the same time I can walk forward because Christ gives me strength.

Paul while in prison wrote this:

 Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I find myself, much like when I started this reflection, comparing myself to others who get what I wanted. The friends who achieve things I never had the chance to and even my enemies who seem to somehow walk out of the destruction they cause, unscathed and even more prosperous. I like to say that comparison is a dream killer and it is in the instances of dreams that God would have you fulfill. In the instances where He says “no”, comparison is a bitterness breeder.

At least that is how it normally is, but I am prayerfully aware today it doesn’t have to be. Maybe I have just been comparing myself to the wrong people. If I compare myself to Paul then I would walk in the truth that even if I was chained up in prison, beaten, and left to die I can still sing and shout with thanksgiving and praise.

Paul says the Lord will accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think which is a reminder that He is powerful and loves us beyond our thought capacity.

As I look over what my life looks like I realize it might not look the same way a year from now, but I can be thankful for what it has. I’m not sure what the answers are to my unfulfilled dreams, but I can say I have a grateful heart TODAY for the dreams God has fulfilled in my life, my family, and my church that I never even knew I had.

Today I just want to know God more and more. I will press onward with my dreams with determination, but I will also trust that the God who breathed stars into existence might have a better plan than I ever could.

So today for lent I will surrender or fast my dreams so that I can give God glory for the great things He has done and will do in my life without the bitterness and worry that I won’t get what I want.

Take my dreams and let them be consecrated Lord to thee.

I release my kingdom To HIS Kingdom and swear fealty to the Lord because I can trust his provision, power, and promises.

While a grateful heart doesn’t get formed in an instant, it does begin with a choice followed by daily ones.

Sweet dreams are made from surrender and gratitude. 


Do you remember when the TV show survivor first aired? For my wife and I it was a huge moment in our history. Some of you might think that is lame, but we loved curling up on the couch together (curling up for a guy my size might be a stretch but you get the point)… This was before DVR so we actually had to clear our calendar. You were either a friend that was going to watch this “real life” drama with us or you were dead to us for one hour each week. We absolutely loved watching season after season normal people doing normal things in the most abnormal environment. Each week we would debate with each other if we would have the stones to try out for the show. Could we make it? Was this the weightloss regime I was looking for? Would we cheat and steal and revert to carnal instincts because we are on an island in the middle of no where? So many questions! So much fun!

Each tribal counsel they would vote somebody off the island. The host, jeff, would proclaim that their lit torches represented their life in the game. “fire represents life…” He would proclaim in the most intense moment on the show. We were always on the edge of our seat waiting to see who would get snuffed out.

Fire represents life… I find it interesting that Lent, which is designed to have us take a closer look at our lives in order to get a better glimpse of Jesus, begins with Ash… Ash represents death.

I have been in church services where the worship leader has loudly proclaimed that we are wretches and worms and dirty and a bunch more adjectives to describe how crappy we are and how great God is. I know why we do this in the church and often times this mantra of self loathing is magnified during Lent in order to magnify the Lord more. As if the only way to show God’s greatness is to cut myself off at the knees. Where is the “LIFE” in this?

“I ONCE was lost… NOW i’m found…. Amazing grace who saved a WRETCH like me” – If we are going to insist on taking our theology from songs lets make sure to at least get it right. I AM FOUND. I AM SAVED. I AM NEW…

I am one of those people who many falsely accuse of being prideful because I’m confident. The truth is I’m confident and bold, but have battled insecurity my whole life.

Ephesians 3:12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,  15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Does that passage just make you just shake with life?!

So many of us are convinced we are worthless, That we have no value, that we are wretches… so when we get to a season like lent we use it as an opportunity to continue our pattern as spiritual “cutters”. We take the razor blades of shame and disgust and we slash at our wrists all the while thanking the Lord for His great mercy in saving us. Lets make sure to not get our theology wrong here… And I know many people who would consider me to be a heretic, but I believe in the God of LIFE.

Let us be aware that the Cross was made by man… We bear the burden of killing God, but thankfully He is far greater than our past!
The act on the cross was not to show God’s value, but to show how much He values us! God laying down his life doesn’t reveal how horrible we are. It reveals how amazing He considers us to be. Let that wash over you today as it has for me this morning.

I spend some time praying about beginning with ash… I have spoken from a microphone out of Ecc 3 “from dust we have come and to dust we will return” in an effort to begin our Lenten season grappling with our own mortality.

However something hit me… No the Lord spoke to me a few things.

1. BACKWARDS KINGDOM
On the church calendar this season we are in starts with Ash Wednesday, takes us through lent, moves through Holy week, and finds it’s resting place in Pentecost. I have spent a great amount of time dwelling on and studying that the Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. A kingdom where the first are last, the last are first, that the religious are missing it and the prostitutes see it, where the learned don’t follow and the dirtbags sell all… And I’m met with the realization that once again even this season is backwards.

It begins with ASH and ends with FIRE.

It doesn’t start with an ember… It starts with ash. From the ruins and rubble and charred remnants of “something” that is now dead to the outpouring of the spirit of God it becomes fire!

Romans 12 (NIRV) 11 Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. 12 When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful.

If you want to get an amazing picture of how our hearts should be this season, spend some time in Romans 12.
Here is the amazing part. From the ASH of my life God doesn’t want to bring attention to the blackened dust… He wants to not only TRANSFORM it into Fire which IS Life for those of us who don’t know Him, but for those of us who do He wants to remind us that unlike survivor it can’t be snuffed out!

I am valuable. I am loved. I am new. I am created in His image, for His glory, and I am no LONGER what my mind tells me I am every day.

In this season I am NOT FACED WITH MY MORTALITY… I am overjoyed by my IMMORTALITY!

His Fire burns away anything that is not of Him… So that I can be more like him

Hebrews 12:28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

2. I DIDN’T COME FROM ASH/DUST
This is what the Lord told me this morning as I was praying through what God wanted to speak to me today. I was driving my kids to school thinking about all of the above and asking the Lord… “Speak to me… you know where my heart is and something is just not lining up for me today… What can you speak over me so that I can share your goodness to others in todays reflection?”

He said to me: “You didn’t come from dust. I might have used dust to form you, but you didn’t come from dust. You came from the FIRE OF MY HEART

I am usually not at a loss for words… But I needed to hear that today as I’m sure whoever is reading this does as well.

You were NOT a mistake You came from the FIRE OF HIS HEART. You were created in love by love! His Fire is Life!

We shouldn’t avoid our mess because the Lord wants to transform it.. but lets not Start in it or end in it.

We start with The fire of HIS loving heart
Have our garbage be consumed by the Fire of His righteousness
And continue with Life eternal in the Fire of His spirit!

THANKS BE TO GOD! 

lent2

The Lenten season began last week. Lent leads up to Easter in a similar way that Advent leads to Christmas only with a different perspective. The idea around advent is an Expectation of the coming of Jesus on Christmas day. Lent however is a time of self-assessment and surrender to prepare our hearts for the death and resurrection of the King of Kings

There is a reason why Lent begins with ash Wednesday. The ashes that are put on a persons head are a symbolic representation of mourning our sin, a reminder of our mortality, and is usually in the shape of a cross showing we are marked by jesus and share in his resurrection.

We know that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, but starting lent with an understanding of lament and mourning of our sin is critical. We need to begin this lenten season recognizing that we are dust that God breathed life into. We are little mud men and women who have been given the opportunity of having eternal life because of God’s mercy, kindness and sacrifice.. And in the same way we were formed out of dust we will eventually return to dust. Life is short and Ash Wednesday reminds us of that.

I love the way the NLT says it in:
James 4:14
 New Living Translation
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone

What we do with our short time on this earth matters. What or who we devote our days to shapes who we are.

Last week 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians were martyred or in other words killed because they were followers of Jesus. It is noted that some of their last words before they died was “Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus, Help me”.

My heart was heavy when I heard this news. It is important to note I want you to know that this kind of thing happens ALL the time. Since Jesus walked this earth Followers of Jesus have been persecuted. If you go to Voice of the Martyrs you can read about men and women who are Marked by Jesus and are persecuted or even killed for their faith. 

I am not saying this to get anybody down or cause any fear. I am saying it because with every great move of the church there is Great prayer and Great persecution. I am so thankful we have not been persecuted or threatened like these followers of Jesus.

Our blessings have also made us comfortable about our faith. Because we aren’t concerned for our lives, we feel that God doesn’t need the full control.

Lets now look at Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV)
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

God gave Adam simple instructions… you guys get everything here, but you should not eat from this tree..

Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

So in this scripture a few things happen that lead all of humanity towards a need of reconciliation with God. Adam and Eve not only disobey God but they are tempted and succumb to the temptations of Pride and control. They were told that if they ate of this tree they would be able to see what God could see and they didn’t trust the Creator.

Adam and Eve were given a choice to surrender their control. God says “You shall not” which means it is their choice. He doesn’t say “you can’t”. In those beginning statements We see God’s desire for us to not be robots but to have free will. And we see His grace because not only did they not die after they ate it, but God had a plan to fix this mess by sending Jesus.

We are given this same choice that adam and eve were given every day.

The question is: Will you surrender control to God?

Continue Reading…

EmberGF

Good Friday 2014: We spent a ton of time in prayer, as a church leadership, about our first Good friday service. Our hope was to make an invisible God visible to our congregation in a new way. We wanted it be a clear and a stark contrast to Sunday morning and the resurrection. Easter means so much more when you have to walk the road of the cross with Jesus. We ended up writing a script based on our own spin of the stations of the cross based on the Word. What we were left with was mind blowing and heart wrenching.

Here is our script. All the text copyright 2014 Ember Church (Mark Carpender, Adam Fagan-Kela, Joel Klampert, Ed Pichette II), but we want to make this available to any church that wants to use or any part of it for their services. We hope this blesses your congregation and stirs hearts towards Jesus!

Here is the audio from our service. By the end of the night there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
The Script is below and has songs we used as well.

Continue Reading…

We had an amazing 2nd service in our new building. Good friday was emotional, contemplative, restoring, and full of worship. It was a great evening. And I even got to play Keys this week on 3 of the songs.

For a detail on what was done in the service this year check out my Post on it.

for more pictures go here.