Kids Singing My Songs? I Never Imagined.

Last week I was invited to come visit the kids choir at CCV (my home church). Rebekah Neilson, our kids worship leader, said that they had a surprise for me. Oooo… I love surprises! So this past Tuesday, after I led worship for the women’s bible study group, I went to pay them a visit. As I walked down the hall to Room 201, I heard the voices of many little worship leaders in the making. They were being led to sing vocal warms ups. As I walked into the door, I saw a few of them turn their heads to look at me. They smiled in anticipation.

I wondered what the surprise was going to be. I had an inkling to what in might be… Rebekah had introduced my song, “Heart After You” a few months back for the weekend kids services, and they have been singing it in rotation ever since. I had seen little snippets of video here and there of the kids singing out the lyrics with their sweet hand motions, but had never seen it in person. Shortly after I arrived at their rehearsal, Rebekah had them turn around towards me (all of their cute little faces) and wave hi to Mrs. Ashley. They cued the music and sure enough it was the intro to my song. They all faced Rebekah as she led them in singing the song, hand motions and all. I pulled my phone out to capture the moment and tears started to well up in my eyes.

 

I never thought in a million years that the songs I wrote for my album would reach kids. But after seeing them sing one of my songs the other night, I have never felt so much joy! I have seen youth and adults of all ages sing this song in particular, but the kids were the ones that melted my heart.

My writing inspiration for my album was to put scripture to song, and my goal was that the songs would be catchy enough to stick in the hearts of its listeners. The night of my album release, I showed a video that expanded on this idea. I mentioned the songs that I used to sing in Sunday School as a kid. These songs put scripture into my heart even at a young age. And they were catchy enough to stick with me even until now! That is amazing! And that is why the moment I saw the kids singing “Heart After You”, it became more special to me than anything I have ever experienced.

Psalm 51:10 (“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”) is the scripture inspiration for “Heart After You”. The lyrics to the song read, “Create in me a heart that’s clean, A heart that’s after You.” My prayer is that as these kids continue to sing out these lyrics, the Word of God would become a part of their vocabulary… their being… their life. And in years to come, they would never forget.

To God be the glory.

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John Mayer and Worship

John-Mayer-1So last week, I went to the John Mayer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Oh man, I love that guy. He is super talented and the show he puts on is phenomenal. Phillip Phillips opened up for him, and he was great, but John blew him out of the water. (John… like I know him on a first name basis or something… lol). The show was sold out, and everyone was excited to see John Mayer and his band play because he hadn’t been on tour for a while… due to his vocal surgery. But amazingly enough, his voice sounded better than I had ever heard it before (Yes, I have seen him 2 other times in concert). It had a sweet and smooth quality to it, and he seemed like he could sing for days without getting tired. I was very impressed. He even had vocal breakdowns in a couple of his songs, where he was able to showcase his voice alone. Good concert and great show.

But what does this have to do with worship?

As I looked around the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night, I saw people (and actually sat next to one) who were completely and whole-heartedly in awe of John Mayer. They were lifting their hands, singing at the top of their lungs, and shouting for a man who they WORSHIPPED and LOVED in every sense of the word. They were followers of John Mayer and because they loved him and his music so much, it was easy for them to get excited at the concert. It was a no-brainer. John Mayer appeared and they responded to who he was and what he was doing.

So why don’t we do this on Sundays? Why don’t we get that excited during worship or the message? Why do we come to church and stand there with blank stares on our faces, arms crossed, and minds wandering? We serve a God who created the entire universe and everything in it. He is the one who put the stars in place and the moon in rotation. He is the God who made roaring water-falls and majestic mountains. He created the intricate nature of our minds and the beating of our heart. He sent His only Son to live on this earth, die on the cross, and resurrect to life 3 days later, all so we could access Him blameless and clean. He is holy, mighty, sovereign, great, majestic, perfect, gracious, loving… I could go on and on and on. Isn’t our God worth the best of us and the best of our worship? Shouldn’t we come to church on Sunday ready to lift our hands in surrender, sing at the top of our lungs, and shout for joy to a God who deserves it all?

John Mayer can be great… and he is.
But shouldn’t our God be GREATER?

“The Vow” Challenge

For those of you that don’t know, I am on staff at Christ’s Church of the Valley as one of the weekend worship leaders. I love my job and I love my church. I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing in the life of our church, and I love seeing how God has been moving in the lives of our people. However, this particular post is not to tell a story about someone else within our church… it is to share what God has been doing in my life through this season of ministry. I thank God for my church and the way that the leadership is stretching me in my walk with God.

Our pastor, Jeff Vines, recently challenged us to take a Nazarite Vow. This is a challenge taken from the Old Testament (Numbers) and brought into our current context. It is similar to a fast… where you are giving something up that is very dear to you, and in the midst of this fast you are pleading with God to help remove a sin in your life. (To see the entire sermon, CLICK HERE) In summary, the vow comes with 3 challenges:

20130801-115937.jpgAs I prayed through this, I realized that there were some specific sins and issues in my life that I needed God to deal with. I am going to keep those between me and God right now, but these issues have been eating away at me lately. So I came to a point where I needed God’s help. And to show Him how serious I was about getting rid of these sins, I decided to take part in The Vow with our church. Since I started this fast, God has been working on me and my heart in a huge way.

For the first challenge, I decided to get rid of TV completely. For those of you that know me, I love my shows on Netflix and watching TV is a way for me to decompress from the day. I am refueled when I get the chance to curl up on my couch and watch the latest episode of whatever show I am into that day. TV has become my “thing to do” when I have nothing else to do. So giving up TV has definitely been a huge challenge for me. I have had to learn to fill my time with other things… such as time with God, time with family/friends, reading, songwriting, etc. I have had to ask God to give me rest in other ways, because the main challenge has been finding the same rest that I find in TV. But amazingly enough, God has been teaching me how to find rest in Him, and rest in other things. Now I am not going to lie, after a month into this, I am not looking forward to not having TV for two more months! But I know that God is going to teach me so much in my time of sacrifice and fasting. And every time that I have the urge to watch TV, I am reminded to pray through my sins and refocus on God. Lord help me though! Haha!

Wherever you are in your walk with God, I challenge you to listen to the sermon from my Pastor (link above) and take The Vow. We all have something that we need to work on, but how serious are you about getting rid of that issue in your life? We have a God who can help us through anything and deliver us from the chains of sin, so why not plead with Him to help? I challenge you to get serious about your sin, because freedom awaits us on the other side.

Meaning Behind: Lord Of All

Age to age You stand tall
Nations rise, Kingdoms fall
Oceans rest at Your call
You alone, Lord of all

Have you ever thought about how sovereign our Lord is? Sovereign is defined by having supreme rank, power, or authority. Our God is above all, over all, and in all. Age to age and year to year, He stands tall. He has witnessed and orchestrated the rising and falling of nations and kingdoms. He has commanded the oceans and calmed the storm. He is the God who was, and is, and is to come.

I don’t know about you, but my mind cannot even comprehend that! How is God here, there, and everywhere all while holding supreme power over it all? How does He control the mighty ocean and calm the winds? How does He know exactly what I need, yet knows the same about everyone on this planet? I don’t think my mind will ever fully understand the complexity of His being, but that is why God is God and I am not. I choose to trust Him and all His ways, despite being in the dark at times. He is sovereign and I will follow Him.

Blessed are You, Your name is good, Blessed are You forever

Because He is mighty and unchanging and good, I WILL CHOOSE TO BLESS HIS NAME. No matter what may be going on in the world or in my own life, I WILL CHOOSE TO BLESS HIS NAME. Even though I may not understand completely, I WILL CHOOSE TO BLESS HIS NAME. When nations rise and kingdoms fall, I WILL CHOOSE TO BLESS HIS NAME. As oceans obey the call of God, I WILL CHOOSE TO BLESS HIS NAME. I challenge you to do the same. Let us bless the name of the Sovereign Lord of All.

800828343620.MAINPsalm 113:2-6 “Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and  forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”     

To purchase the song, Lord Of All, click HERE.

Dependance On God


I just started Oswald Chambers’ book, My Utmost For His Highest. It is an amazing devotional that I have heard so much about over the years, but have never had the opportunity to read. So far, it has lived up to all the hype. It is an inspirational and life-changing read that has re-focused my mind towards Jesus. My reading yesterday was called: “Will You Go Out Without Knowing?”  It is inspired from Hebrews 11:8

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

…Even though he did not know where he was going!! That is crazy. Abraham had so much faith and trust in God. He started walking even though he didn’t know where in the world he was going. Oswald Chambers writes, “You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” We have to trust that God knows what he is doing. And it is in those moments that he is able to stretch us and grow our faith in Him.

Last year, I had 2 major events happen in my life that helped me to grow in my trust and faith in God: I made my own worship album and I traveled to Africa. When I initially felt called to do both of these things, I was in the dark. I had no idea what was going to happen or how it was going to happen. All I knew was that God knew what He was doing. And I had to trust in Him and take each step at the time. Now looking back at last year’s journey, I can truly say that God had a amazing plan for me and knew exactly what he wanted to do through me. What if I had not said YES to God’s calling? Where would I be now? Maybe somewhere not as fulfilling as here. Maybe I wouldn’t have as much faith and trust in God as I do now.

Chambers writes, “Let the attitude of the life be a continual ‘going out’ in dependence upon God.” Are you depending on God? Dependance on God can put us in such a place of wonder… wondering what God is going to do next… wondering how God is going to provide finances for the situation… wondering when God will reveal the answer… wondering how you are going to get from here to there. It is in those moments of wonder that God reveals who He is.  Chambers asks, “Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?” Let’s believe and trust in our God to do great things even if we have no idea where He is taking us. And let’s grow closer to Him through the beautiful journey.

Valley Worship Blog

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For those of you who don’t know, I am a worship leader at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. To go more in depth, I am specifically a part of Valley Worship: the worship, creative, and performing arts ministry of Christ’s Church of the Valley. We serve the various technical, music, performing arts, and creative needs of CCV while implementing a vision, philosophy, and theology of worship all the way from the multi-generational services on the weekend, to youth, and children. In addition, we equip and empower others by developing and providing innovative and engaging resources and training that help to develop a deeper devotion of worship for individuals and churches nationwide.

Our Valley Worship website has just launched and I get the privilege of blogging for this site about every other week. I will still be blogging on this site, but I want to be able to share some (or all) of the blogs I write on the Valley Worship site as well. I will post links to the blogs when they are posted… just another way to hear what’s on my heart! 🙂 Enjoy…

Valley Worship Blog- OH TO BE LIKE AN OAK TREE

-Ashley

Songwriting Goodness

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Today I leave on a songwriting retreat with Valley Worship. For those of you that don’t know, Valley Worship is the songwriting community I am a part of at my home church, CCV. I am super excited about this retreat! We have these trips about twice a year. We go far away (well an hour away, if that counts) and escape the business of our everyday lives, so we can solely focus on writing and being inspired.

I love our team because everyone has such a genuine heart and a passion to write songs that will touch people in a really deep and meaningful way. We start our retreats off with a few things… the first being prayer. Prayer is essential to these retreats because it is God who inspires our writing and if we are in tune with His spirit, we will be able to hear where he is leading us. The second thing we do is discuss. We discuss the state of our church… the stories of our people… the messages of our pastor… the DNA of our staff… anything and everything that will inspire us to write “from the church, for the church”. Our goal is that every song that we write for our church would be extremely relatable to everyone in our congregation. And that they would know exactly why we wrote the song and even in what season this song came from. After much prayer and discussion, we split off into our own individual writing time. During that time, we hope and pray for inspiration to write a song. And even if the inspiration doesn’t come, we write anyways! This helps us develop the discipline of writing. To start, I like to choose a scripture or a story from our church or a message from my Pastor and develop a song from there.
Usually one of those topics will always get my creative thoughts running.

After we have all had a few hours to work on our own, we present the songs to one another. This is the most vulnerable place because you are taking the song from private to public. And you hear critique. Ugh. And again I say… Ugh. But this is where the song takes life. And that is why I love co-writing so much. Songs are better when they are worked on over and over and over again, and they are worked on by different points of view and frames of reference. Once we critique songs… we repeat the process. And when we feel like we have good material, we record record record!! It is so easy to forget all of the ideas you came up with, so this is a crucial part of the process.

Songwriting is challenging and fun and creative and personal and lovely. So I ask for your prayers over the next few days. Specifically that God would inspire us all and we would be keen to hear His voice. Thank you from the bottom of our Valley Worship hearts. 🙂 Talk to you soon!

-Ashley