March 31st 2011 was Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay’s Women’s Worship Night – a part of the Women of Hope Ministry.
Not only did I attend, but I was honored to participate as well. It was an amazing night full of joyous worship, an amazingly delivered message by our lovely Pastor Kanani, a performance by the Hula ministry, as well as our own Cardboard Testimonies (that’s where I got to participate). Oh, and an epic snack spread. Super epic! Major props and thanks go out to Pastor Tami, who runs Women of Hope with the fiercest love.
So here’s my point of view on the whole event, along with blurry pics taken from my iphone. Oh, and if you want to scroll past me talking story and rambling and get to meat of the meal, the Sermon, I won’t be mad at you! The Word and its message is the most important part of this post.
Okay, so like I said – epic snack spread. I may be talking it up a bit since Carly and I helped out and we produced some delicious baked goods. But the rest of the snack line was truly awesome. Hummus and veggie rolls and veggies and all kinds of chips. And Subway sammies! Zoiks!
I made rice krispy treats, in Carly’s kitchen, and I made a total mess doing so. But they were a hit, everyone loved our bake goods! Yay!
Back it up – Getting Ready… and not the day of. Prepping for the Cardboard Testimony!
Let’s talk about the Cardboard Testimony thing for a minute. Do you know what this is? If you don’t, just google “cardboard testimony” and watch a couple videos. It’s so powerful! Well. When the powers that be (in this case, Tami and Laura and Lori and Kacie) decided on having a cardboard testimony done during this worship night, they asked me to participate. I was so honored!
So, I needed to come up with a bad and a good side for my cardboard. A before and after, almost. Okay – for the people who didn’t go google yet or just don’t know, a cardboard testimony is a presentation. Basically, a bunch of people come out one at a time and silently hold up a piece of cardboard and show you one side that has a statement on it, then they flip their piece of cardboard and show you an opposite statement, then this person silently exits front stage and a new person walks up. The two sides are sort of a before/after… a godless/God kind of thing. Or just a hard challenge/God-got-me-through-it thing.
So, for example… someone could have a cardboard that says “Addicted to meth” *flipover* “Addicted to HIS Love,” or their’s could be “Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer” / “That was in 2004, He heals and sustains!” You get the idea? Some powerful videos I’ve seen have all kinds of testimonies that run the gamut with issues we, as people, face. My favorite one ever shows a couple walk up together, husband and wife. His card says, “we’ve been having trouble” and her’s says “trying to have children.” Then he flips his, “we’re adopting this May.” (btw- at this point watching, I’m teary-eyed). She flips her’s, “and we’re pregnant now!” When I saw that one, I just cried. (I totally paraphrased btw).
Just watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ (copy and paste the link, i’m not fancy enough to be able to insert vids)
So I was asked to make a cardboard. And I wasn’t sure what direction to go in. Do I talk about cancer? I could have… and I think maybe that’s why I got invited to this shindig. But really, when I had cancer (I fought Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2004 – surgeries, chemo, radiation, the works, and here I am today, thriving and happy)… back when I had that battle with cancer, I was so close to God. I was so happy and grateful and not feeling spiteful or mad. I was seeing and experiencing blessings EVERY day. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog in and of its own, really).
So I didn’t truthfully know what to do. I just prayed on it and figured it would come to me.
Then one day I was hanging out at the beach with Carly, and I ‘splained to her what the whole cardboard testimony thing was and that I was going to be in it. Next thing you know, we just kinda came up with a really cool idea that we could do as a team. It just came to fruition organically (duh, God!).
I texted Laura and asked if Carly could do it too and we could be a team, pls. (I love that I’m so the little sister Laura never wanted. At some point I need to write a post about how great Laura is and how much I love and admire her. Seriously. She’s become a mentor to me, and she just always takes care of me, looks out, and loves on me. Its such good stuff that I am privy too and I’m grateful to be so blessed).
Woah, I ramble a lot. Okay, back on track…
Obviously, Laura said yes, and I’m so stoked she did. You see, for me public speaking or being up in front of everyone is usually something that doesn’t scare me. For my dear friend Carmela (Carly) – not so. Carly is wicked shy, and just the fact that she was willing to put herself out there like that, to be bold, to step up – I am just proud of her and I feel lucky that I got to be a part of her pursuing something that is a challenge for her! (and not only was she bold enough to participate in the event at church, but she’s allowing me to blog about her involvement, so rad!!)
Saturday night Carly and I had a cardboard-making fiesta at my house and we watched movies (documentaries, we are nerds), and ate pizza (Kashi, we are healthy nerds), and made our signs. It took us such a long time to get the wording just right. We really wanted to keep it simple and keep the statement clear, but strong. Editing is tough work; we really put a lot of thought into the whole endeavor. We were super ready to go for Sunday’s practice, and I think its cute how into it we got.
The gist of our signs is based on the fact that if Carly and I met five years ago, we would NOT have liked each other, tolerated each other or gotten along at all… let alone become BFFs. She was a teensy bit on the judgmental and pious side. I was a tad on the reckless, wild, devil-may-care side. And well, now we’s like peas and carrots!
Let’s actually talk about the worship night! Seriously, I bet you’re thinking, can I get to the goods already? Y’all know I ramble… whew!
The Night Itself – March 31st!
Everyone gathered up at the church and we did some hugging and snacking and fellowshipping before things got officially started.
I should have taken more pics of the before-hand. Of everyone saying hi, and what-not. But since we had to do a final run-through of the cardboard testimonies, I was a little hectic and I had the excited nerves going on.
Praise and Worship!!
Pastor Tami welcomed us all, and started the evening in prayer. Tami is just such an amazing lady, and I’m so grateful to know her and have her in my life. The way she shepards her flock, the way she truly loves all of the Women of Hope – its just a really neat thing to be a part of. We are so blessed to be under her guidance.
Tami calls us her Warrior Princesses. I love it! She always tells us we’re the warriors in sexy armor (but not too sexy). It’s an awesome image really – we’re tough and ready to fight for what we believe in, but we have that femininity that we love to embrace too.
First up was the Hula Ministry, Makana O Ho’omana (Gift of Worship). They did an interpretive Hula dance to “I Am Blessed” by Racgel Lampa. It’s so cool living out here in Hawaii and being privy to a culture that’s new-to-me. It’s so rad to me that my church has a hula ministry, right? They did a lovely job and we were all blessed by their special way of praising Him.
Up next was the Cardboard Testimony. Because I was in it myself, I didn’t get any pics during the presentation. And well, our of respect for some of the participants, videos and photos weren’t taken for privacy reasons. Some very gritty, real, tough and personal things were aired out on cardboard signs. Eating disorders, rape, drug use. Heavy stuff. Sad stuff. But the awesome thing is that EVERY card had a flip side, every story has a happy ending (my most favorite kind of stories).
The testimony was powerful. As I stood on the stage and looked out at the Women of Hope, I saw so many ladies wiping tears away. It was moving, for reals. May I add at this point that it was a packed house! Standing up there on the stage, it was pretty durn rad to realize what great attendance the event had.
Here are the signs Carly and I made:
Once we got back to our seats it was time to jam out with the women’s worship band. Worship Pastor Kacie (guitar, vocals) and Worship Pastor Lisa (guitar, vocals) led us in so many awesome songs, along with musicians Tammera (guitar and vocals) and LeeAnn (drum).
We praised Him with the songs, “God is Great,” “God of Ages,” “Here I Am to Worship,” “All Consuming Fire,” “How He Loves,” “Empty Me,” and “All I Need is You.” I’m sure all of these songs have writers and I’m not annotating them properly at all (copyrights and stuffs?). But that’s all I know – the names of the songs. The energy while we were praising was just awesome. I’ve always LOVED female vocals in music, and I just get so moved by a pretty female voice; I’m a girlie girl. Well. To hear all these women singing together, it was just a super lovely sound. At one point I was just looking around and marveling in all the prettiness going on. This womanly fellowship, all of these ladies from teenagers to great-grandmas, all singing in unison. It was just a rad thing going on.
When it came to jams, we got not one, but TWO special treats last Thursday.
1. Lisa led us in the song she wrote at the retreat in February, “Arise N Shine.” While at the women’s retreat, named Arise and Shine, Lisa was inspired and she composed this awesome song. I tried to sing it to my mom on the phone the other night and I have a feeling she threw the phone across the room. I mean, we all know I can’t hold a tune , but trying to imitate Lisa’s range… dang! I really hope some version of Lisa performing this tune gets recorded, put on youtube or something.
2. Worship Pastor Trevor came in and played a special Hillsong jam for us, “Aftermath.” (I’m actually listening to the Hillsong version right this very minute while I type). I know what you’re thinking… Trevor sounds like a boys’ name, isn’t this was the womens’ night?!?! Well, Trevor is in fact male, and it was women’s night – but this was a special situation.
Kanani had this awesome experience while driving her kids around the other day: this song, “Aftermath,” came on and all these things just clicked for her, it just hit her like a ton of bricks and the song affected her super deeply. So she asked Trevor (last minute!) if he could play it so we could sing it. If you haven’t heard it, check it out. Its a pretty song, and its a really powerful song. I got goosebumpes and teary-eyed while we were all singing. Not to mention Trevor has an awesome voice and sounds just like the Hillsong version. For serious, y’all!
So the whole time we’re singing I have to admit, I was kinda waiting on a certain song. At retreat Kacie led us in her version of “I Will Celebrate,” a couple different times. And her arrangement, her personal version, is just epic! I have spent over a month now searching for a version anywhere near her’s – and I’ve come up with nothing. A lot of “I Will Celebrate” versions are really mellow and hokey. Kacie wrote a bangin, hardcore, rock out arrangement that is just way too fun. WE HAVE TO DO IT SOON! (I’m going to beg that they let you do it at 10 o’clock Sunday service, I have to hear it soon or I’ll just have a temper tantrum).
(Kacie, if you’re reading this… I love you! You are so talented, sorry to stomp my feet. I loved all the songs you did lead us in that night and you did an amazing job. You’re an awesome Worship Leader! Your arrangement skills are just so talented, there’s not a single thing online/in existence elsewhere comparable to what you do).
The Sermon (for the folks scrolling down: salad and apps are over, this is the main entree)
We were blessed last Thursday to have the beautiful, witty, and genuine Pastor Kanani preach at this service. I want to give credit where credit is due: part of the reason I so love the women’s ministry is because of the privilege it is to get to hear Kanani preach. She’s hilarious, and makes me legit LOL. She’s genuine, and just such a real person. Not some stuffy, untouchable, stereotypical Pastor’s wife – Kanani is down to earth, fun, and just so full of His light.
So anyways… the teaching part. We’re in Isaiah 52, and the rest of this blog is quoting and paraphrasing Kanani, based off the notes I took that night:
This teaching started out with the message that God is telling us to wake up! That we are not fully awake, meaning we aren’t really living up to our full potential. And God wants us to wake up, and go for it.
We aren’t created to exist. We’re created to thrive.
I totally believe in a get-the-most-out-of-life mentality, 100 percent. And I do believe that our God wants us to be happy, enjoy life, be all that we can be and really thrive. I really enjoyed the phrasing though of that nugget o’ wisdom- that “we aren’t created to exist, we’re created to thrive.”
So in Isaiah 52 we’re told to strap on the armor and suit up. My NASB says “Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in strength…” (Isaiah 52:1). And “The Message” version (which conveniently happens to be right next to the NASB version in my rad new parallel Bible (thank you again TuTu Laura; for those of you who have never checked out a parallel Bible, its so super duper awesome rad. I lurve having my side-by-side translations. I love me some biblegateway.com for comparative reading, but I love having a hard copy with the two versions literally right next to each other. And I love that my Bible was gifted to me by my awesome friend, mentor, teacher, guide, sister-in-Christ, doggie sitter, gal pal TuTu Laura.
(Now… where were we? Clothing ourselves in strength, Isaiah 52:1, yeah). “The Message” says: “Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots…”
Kanani talked to us about wearing the proper armor for the task at hand. A soldier puts on his boots when he’s off to war. These March Madness fellas gotta wear their best pair of sneaks! “The Message” is giving us that metaphor of putting on the proper attire, your boots, to do the tough job. We need to wear the armor of God – and that will give us strength. God wants us to be strong.
At this point Kanani taught us that we are being strong when we’re being real. I have to hold it together for my family is one of those commonly heard misnomers. No. You don’t have to hold it together for your family. Let them see you cry. Be real, show your loved ones what is really going on with you. “You’re the strongest when you’re real” – Pastor Kanani.
Isaiah goes on to tell us to wear our “Sunday Best,” or our “beautiful garments.”
Isaiah 52:2 – Remove the chains of slavery.
Honesty time: During the first part of this Sermon, I was a little not locked in. I was sorta thinking that this sounded like a re-heating of what we had been served at the retreat. I respected the power of this message, its relevance and meaning, the fact that it’s always good to re-study the Word, and most importantly that women who didn’t make it to the retreat could now hear it. But despite rationally knowing all of this, my heart just wasn’t into it. I was selfishly kinda bummed we weren’t doing something “new.”
Oh me of little faith!
Perhaps the first part of the Sermon had some carry-over themes from Sermons we heard at retreat… but once we got to Isaiah 52:2, things got heavy and powerful! Its zing! time now.
Remove the chains of Slavery.
Kanani: It’s easy to hear that command, or read it and just say to ourselves I’m not a slave, this doesn’t apply to me, moving on. But that’s not true, you are a slave. The USA tried to abolish slavery, we still have slavery in America today, sex trafficking is just one example. But we are all slaves in another sense: we’re in bondage to sin. Anger. Bitterness. When someone wrongs you and you can’t forgive them – we become slaves to that grudge.
During this part of her sermon, Kanani has the tech crew throw some images of human slavery up on the screen. Photos from slave auctions in the 1840’s, and an image of a sculpture in Tanzania, depicting slaves in chains. POWERFUL IMAGES.
I actually found the images that were used:
The point in using these images was to give us a visual on the HEAVY chains of slavery. We’re talking giant, heavy, burdensome, painful, debilitating chains. Humiliating chains. I was affected; I got how powerful the literal image of slavery is. Seeing these photos during the Sermon was making my stomach churn. I just hate the thought of people being treated like this.
Kanani says, “those chains are HEAVY! How can you live life in these chains? How much fun can you have with those heavy chains? Take them off! Live life! Have fun!”
So I’m hearing her words and looking at these pics and really feeling kinda sick to my stomach over the thought of having those chains around my neck: those rusty, nasty, rough chains just hurting me and restraining me. And then I go back to the statement Kanani had just said.
You are a slave. Bondage to sin, anger, bitterness, to holding a grudge from when someone has wronged you.
We all have spiritual gates that guard our hearts and minds. Jesus forgave us, and He wants us to forgive each other. The whole part about clothing ourselves in beautiful clothes – Kanani tells us to interpret it as forgiving others. Is there a more beautiful act? When we forgive other, as He forgives us – we are literally casting off the ugly, painful chains and donning beautiful garments of love and lightness. (Woah, this image is just so powerful to me. I love it).
When we forgive others – they don’t enter our spiritual gates anymore either.
So not only is forgiveness liberating us, its protecting us too. <– AMAZINGLY POWERFUL AWESOME STUFF
In my own life I really have a hard time staying mad or holding a grudge over most things. Holding a grudge is so hard to do! It’s draining. I feel like to stay mad with someone takes up so much energy, and to keep focusing on that anger, bitterness, hatred, or what have you – you’re giving so much power to the act, thoughts, or person who wronged you. You’re letting them come right on in through your spiritual gates, because you’re focusing on them all the time!
So Kanani is telling us it’s time to forgive those who have wronged us, and set ourselves free.
She says, “if you’ve been abused – you should be allowed to be bitter and angry, it’s a natural reaction. But ultimately, forgiveness will set you free.”
[sidenote: Have you ever heard Terry Caffey’s story? IT IS AMAZING. When you finish reading my blog, go listen to his story. He has a website:(http://terrycaffey.com). I heard his story because recently he was on an episode of “The State We’re In” (a radio show; you can actually download the podcast for free on itunes – he was the Feb 18, 2011 episode “Let It Go”). What happened to Terry and how he reacted – it’s a story about forgiveness, and it’s just incredible. If Terry can forgive after what he lived through- I feel like I have no excuse.]
So Kanani urges us to forgive the people we’re mad at, the ones who have wronged us, hurt us, abused us. The people we’re carrying around a grudge for and in doing so we’re actually letting them in past our spiritual gates. “Forgive those who have devastated you. Say it out loud.”
WE HAVE TO GET OUT THE BROKENNESS.
We cannot be spiritual hoarders. And we are not museums (an amazing Kanani original metaphor). Don’t keep carrying around that junk. Speak forgiveness out loud. Burn the pictures, write the memories out on paper and burn them too. Literally, get rid of that pain and hurt, let it go. TAKE OFF THE CHAINS. Stop carrying the anger. Forgive. Do what God wants you to do: don’t exist in slavery, but thrive in beautiful freedom.
We are all worthy of worshipping. We all deserve freedom and to live out our fullest lives possible.
Our Pastor then tells us the story of Harriet Tubman. Of course we’ve all heard of her and we know of her remarkable bravery. But what Kanani wants is for us to all step up and become Harriet Tubmans. Now that we know the way to cast off the chains – to let ourselves be forgiven by Him, and to forgive others as He forgives us – its time to go get other slaves and help them find freedom. Find the lost and bring them to the light; be a Missionary. And in doing so, do not be scared. God goes before and behind us.
The lyrics of “Aftermath” (by Hillsong) are just ringing through me and I now understand even better why Kanani insisted that we had to hear that song last Thursday. It’s just so perfect. I’m going to play it again now myself (ya know it takes me a few days to write up a post this long – so its not like I have the song on repeat as you could interpret, although right now I’m tempted to listen to it a few times, its just really hitting me):
And in that moment, of glorious surrender / Was the moment You broke the chains in me / Lifted out of the ashes / I am found in the Aftermath / And in that moment You opened up the Heavens / to the broken, the beggar and the thief / Lifted out of the wreckage / I found hope in the Aftermath
And to think I thought we were going to get a re-hashed message that was leftover from retreat. Wow. I’m so embarassed. I should know by now that my Pastor knows how to bring her A-game when she’s teaching. I’m so sorry. I have a feeling she will forgive me though.
The whole event was a serious success! Sunday at Church, women who had been there on Thursday were coming up and saying how awesome the cardboard testimony was, how powerful. It was cool to get that feedback and to know that the testimonies had spoken to people. I just feel so blessed to be a part of the Women of Hope, and I’m honored that I was able to help contribute to a great worship night with my sister warrior princesses!
Thursday night, after the event, I went home and prayed for a long time. During my prayer I really did go through and forgive people who have wronged or hurt me. Even if I’ve already forgiven them in my heart, I went through and said it out loud. I forgave a guy who stole from me, some ex-boyfriends who broke my heart, some mean girls who stabbed me in the back (sorority drama in college, oy)… ya know, the list can go on. I even ended up talking to a couple people and just clearing the air that I had forgiven them, there was no hard feelings. (It was sort of like a reverse AA).
I know that a lot of people reading this will be the ladies who were there, and they’ll read this as a sort of way to re-cap the night – and that is so fun! I hope y’all like my write-up.
To everyone else who may read this – I hope and pray that you’ll take this opportunity to toss off the chains and end your own slavery. If you need a Harriet Tubman, please just let me know, I want to bring everyone out of bondage and into true freedom.
We all deserve to be happy, have fun, and live out our lives. It’s what God wants for us. Let go of the negative energy, and forgive. I speak from experience: the lightness feels amazing.
Everything God is good, everything good is God.