December 18, 2014

By Mark Roach

We talk about clean slates all the time, but rarely do we discuss them more than at the beginning of a new year. Now, just as a bit of clarity right up front, I’m not entirely sure how much God really cares about us entering a new calendar year. What if the emphasis on clean slates at the beginning of January is largely a phenomenon of humanity? According to Lamentations, His mercies are new every morning (thank You GOD!) so we certainly don’t have to wait for January 1 to feel the freedom of a clean slate. Sometimes, though, a clean slate can feel like a weight...not freedom at all.
    
Therein lies my encouragement to those of us in the trenches of Music Ministry. If you’re anything like me, and most of you are—at least a little bit—you worked your tail off last year...especially the last quarter...especially that last month...especially toward the end of that last month. You watched people all around you bathing in the wonder of the season, prioritizing family, getting Christmas bonuses and extra days off.. meanwhile, you put your hands to the plow. 
  
After all, it’s Christmas, there’s ministry to be done. You tried tirelessly, and mostly in vain, to gently battle the secular pull of Christmas by programming wonderfully spiritually-infused moments into your services, reminding people that it isn’t their birthday, right? Then you closed out the new year, looking back on another stress-filled Christmas, thankful it came, but just as thankful it went.
    
And now, it’s a new year. So it’s a new series, a new liturgical calendar, a new focus, new goals, new approaches, new songs...and new stress.
    
Maybe that’s humanity, though, not God. Maybe people care about the annual clean slates and resolutions, not God. With that in mind, I invite you to carefully ride the fence on this one. Take advantage of the freedom found in the willingness people have for newness this time of year, but take advantage of God’s lack of emphasis on the new year when you’re feeling the weight. Go ahead, pick and choose a bit. You’ve earned it. Put on some fresh glasses, find some things that you’ve been holding onto that just aren’t working or necessary anymore and cut ‘em out—in the name of newness! Simultaneously, leave the stuff alone that seems more about change for change sake, remembering that God has no expectations of you to make January look so radically different than December. He lives outside of the constraints of time. 
    
Regardless, I hope you all have a phenomenal start to 2015. This is my 15th January in ministry, and if I’m being honest, I’m awfully tired. If I take my own advice, though, I’ll be able to look afresh at the ministry and boldly change that which will re-energize me, while avoiding unnecessary newness that will leave my soul even more worn while ramping up to the amazing sequel to 
our Christmas story that is the Cross and Resurrection.
  
Above all, pursue God. Pursue newness in your relationship with Him and the overflow will feel fresh, honest and relevant. Remember that you have been given an amazing opportunity to tell His epic story of love and redemption by growing and stewarding your artistic gifts.
    
Always remember: God is still so glad you said yes.
    
Get some rest and then get after it, fellow creatives, carefully navigating the waters of the proverbial clean slate, where freedom and weight often flow mingled down.