Midweek Music 04.13.16

And So It Goes | Billy Joel

We’re in the midst of a sermon series at the church called “Vinyl Theology” that challenges us to see and hear God in all kinds of music. This is going to be a special series for me to experience for obvious reasons. In addition to that, I’ve been on the side of the road in experiencing bits of tragedy and pain here and there over the last week. I say “side of the road” because I’ve not been directly involved or affected by any it but I’ve been present as people have been grieving and sharing their stories and experiences. Of course even when we aren’t directly involved, we are affected when those with whom we “do life” experience unexpected changes, good or bad.

This week, we have two memorial services at the church; one for a 7-year old and one for a 4-year old. I can’t comprehend it. I have an 8-year old nephew and a 4-year old nephew that I adore. I’ve had moments of transference as my mind uncontrollably places them in those shoes and I weep. I don’t see them nearly as often as I would like and yet I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t want to imagine life without them.

It was in high school that I first felt a calling to ministry. Recognizing what I was feeling was helped and nurtured by my youth pastor at the time. I loved that guy and I loved that I was challenged to love God and share that love with others. I loved his wife too. I was on the worship team with both of them and I spent most of my high school years in awe of their talents, their passion for God, and their ability to love people. Jeremy was one of the first people I reached out to after my divorce; it was the first time we had spoken in at least 4 years. I found out that his wife had Huntington’s and I was heartbroken. This week, he started a blog and I read his first post. I wept after I read it.

Billy Joel wrote “And So It Goes” when he was going through a breakup with his girlfriend at the time. It seems like a such a small experience compared to the deaths of children or being forced to watch your significant other succumb to disease but if there is anything I’ve learned about pain, it’s really not our place to tell people about what they can and can’t grieve or how they are “allowed” to grieve. All I know is that when I hear this song; I see, hear, and feel God amidst pain.

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

 

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2 Corinthians 12;9

It’s not a typo. The semicolon is supposed to be there but we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.

Two years ago, I made a series of bad decisions. Some of the worst decisions I’ve ever made all in one night. Those bad decisions were the product of a time in my life when I was experiencing deep depression. The last bad decision I made that night was to harm myself on my left forearm. It’s not in my nature but depression can make you do things that you never thought possible of yourself. I was ashamed. I had allowed my brokenness, my weakness to control me. I sank further into depression. I drank more.

It was about 3 months later that I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 in my personal devotion time. I’d read it before, it was familiar, but it was different this time. I can be a prideful person and with that pride comes difficulty in recognizing and admitting faults, or weaknesses. It was easy to read the words and think, “I’m good.”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

“(Christ’s) grace is sufficient for (me)” “Power is perfected in weakness”

This time as I sat there depressed and broken reading this passage of scripture, the words sank in and I wept. How could Christ’s grace be sufficient for what I did? How could power come out of such a great weakness, nonetheless be perfected by it? It couldn’t in my mind yet there it was in black and white. Paul didn’t mince words, he wasn’t talking in coded circles, he was explicit.

It took me some time to accept it. It took me longer to even think about boasting. I wrote about it several months later for the first time. It was hard. It hurt some people, it helped some people. After that, the whole thing became taboo to me. I didn’t talk about it and I didn’t want new acquaintances and friends to know about it. It was as if it had never happened.

I’m not regularly depressed but I’m going to admit, I do get depressed sometimes. Every so often, I become overwhelmingly and inexplicably sad. But I’m a lot better now; in some ways I’m better than I’ve ever been before.

The turning point was what 2 Corinthians 12 did for my faith. Everyone always seems to have it all together in church, good on them if they actually do, but having it all together is not grace; that isn’t Christ’s power working in us. Christ’s power is never better displayed than in our weakness. It’s right there in verse 9. Why do we hide it? Why do we, in essence, flee the perfect, redemptive love and grace of our Creator and Savior? For me, it was pride. I couldn’t admit problems because that’s not who I was. I had it all together.

I don’t have it all together and that is okay. I want to boast about my Savior’s power to the world. I want to scream it even though I have found that screaming, “JESUS LOVES YOU” at people is one of the worst and most ineffective forms of evangelism. BUT HE DOES LOVE YOU AND I STILL WANT TO SCREAM IT.

I’m not going to scream it. I’m going to find ways to display Christ’s power through my weakness. One way I’m going to do it is through my newest tattoo. Project Semicolon was founded to be a way to spread hope and love for those who are or have struggled with depression, self-harm, suicide, mental illness, and addiction. You can read more about it by clicking above but the basis is to get a semicolon tattoo as a statement that my life isn’t over yet, the same way a semicolon works in a sentence.

I wanted a way to display this idea while honoring Christ and the work He has done in my life. I decided this was the best way to do so:

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Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses. I will boast about my weaknesses so that His power may reside in me and give me the ability to show that power with others.

Midweek Music 10.28.15

“Breathe” | The Brilliance

I sigh a lot. I find it is the quickest and easiest way to deal with stress. Not that I lead an overly stressful life but while working in ministry brings its many rewards, it certainly brings its fair share of stress and frustration.

Sometimes I’ll be working around other people, none of us talking, just working. I’ll be working on worship planning or scheduling or designing or formatting or any of the other things that serve me a large dose of fulfillment with a side of frustration and I’ll take a deep, audible breath in, hold if for just a second or two and then audibly exhale out my stress. Sometimes in those moments where I am holding the breath, without actually uttering a word, I’ll think to myself, “Lord, restore me”.

I heard this song for the first time earlier this year. This song is the perfect representation of those little 5 second “sigh-moments” I have throughout the day. In those 5 seconds, I take all the built up stress and frustration, I inhale as much as I can, I dwell on God and His renewal, and exhale my problems. It’s my 5 second interaction with God asking Him to breathe life on me again.

I’ve gotten to where those moments don’t just happen, I need them. I depend on them. I would probably, in complete honesty, quit ministry without them. And it’s good that I have this dependency on those moments because in those moments, I abandon myself and re-learn just how in need of God’s renewal I am. I need God’s breath, God’s love, God’s life, God’s spirit to take over where I am unable. If I sigh around you, it’s okay. I’m not sad or upset, I’m just having a moment and lesson that I think all of us need every now and again.

Oh, Spirit of God
Here with us now, giving us life again
Breathe, breathe on us now
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 09.03.15

“Come to the River” | Ronnie Freeman

It has been some kind of week. One of those weeks where every aspect of your life is invaded by stress and you feel like there is no escape. That kind of week.

I heard this song for the first time about 11 years ago. Ronnie was the worship leader for a time at the church in which I grew up. He left when I was still young to pursue a solo career and after a few years of success, he returned to the church for a homecoming concert at which he performed this song. It became one of those songs that I just fall into. I can listen to it over and over and it never grows old and always encourages me.

I’m doing this song on Sunday for communion, something I planned weeks ago.  I didn’t know when I planned it into worship that I would be having the week I’m having, I just felt led to put it on this Sunday. Being able to practice this song and listen to it over the last week has been a great source of comfort and rest for me. It’s in those moments where something falls into place, something I felt led by God to do in the first place, that bring me the greatest comfort. The idea that maybe, just maybe, God knew I was going to need this song this week. That maybe someone in the congregation needs to hear this song, this week. That maybe someone reading this right now needs to hear this song, this week. Rest in God and be comforted by His incredible peace.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Unwanted? Perfect.

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“Unwanted”…that’s the word that stands out to me from this screenshot. That is the word that breaks me and makes me want to cry out. The unadulterated selfishness is daunting.

“Your life, your essence, your very existence…the mere thought of you is not worth me sacrificing my dreams because you are unwanted.” That’s what this comment is saying about a child…a human being.

I want answers for substandard education. I want improvements made to a broken healthcare system. I want opportunities for people to break out of their socioeconomic bindings. I want to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless…but when did any of these become more important than someone’s most basic right to simply have a life in the first place?

“My college dreams are worth more than your life.” How can you put a measurable value on life? I can put a monetary value on a college education, healthcare, food, clothing, and shelter among other superficial things. But how is it even feasible for someone to place a monetary value on the life of a human being? I couldn’t even begin to care if any aborted baby ever cured aids or cancer. Why is that even an argument? The value of your life will never be determined by the remarkable things society thinks you have or have not done. There is value to be had in having a life.

“Perfect”. Not only is this total devaluation of life condoned, it’s celebrated. That’s not daunting, it’s disturbing. How can anyone think that there is anything perfect about an argument that would place going to college on a higher level than the life of a child.

I’m broken by this. It saddens me to new depths to see this screenshot circulating on social media. In the time it took me to write this short post, babies were aborted. Lives were ended…and there is nothing “perfect” about that.

Midweek Music 08.12.15

“Christ is Enough” | Hillsong Worship

We all “need” something from time to time. A new car, new clothes, certain foods, different job, more money, better social status, etc… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of “needing” something that, in actuality, I didn’t.

We play a game with God. “Give me (insert item) and I’ll do better about (insert spiritual attribute)”. We treat our relationship with Christ like a points-based reward system. I’m just curious when Christ stopped being good enough. When did his unjustified love and grace towards us stop being more than what we deserve.

It’s hard to live the words of this song. It’s hard living in a material world and not being a material girl (or guy) to reference a song with a different mindset. It’s hard but it’s worth it. Letting Christ be more than enough, let alone enough, is so worth it. Commit yourself to Christ, be encouraged by his unmitigated grace, and follow the direction toward which he is leading you. Let Christ be enough.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Child of God

I’m fortunate enough to live in a nice house in a nice surrounding area. Throughout the week, I go running along maintained sidewalks towards a nature preserve located about a mile from my house where I get to experience God’s awesome wildlife creation, both plants and animals.

Sometimes though (for example: the entire Month of May), it rains and I have to drive to my gym to get any sort of workout. I enjoy my gym, it’s inexpensive while still being a great facility and it’s only about 2 miles from my house. While the immediate area surrounding my house is nice with a low crime rate, my gym sits just on the outside of that area where the income level drops and the crime rate rises. As I get close to the gym, I see less cars and more walkers. I see less houses and more homeless.

I’m not going to lie, there are times when I’m leaving my gym a little later at night that I’ll see someone walking by and get a little nervous. If they’re in gym clothes, I don’t have much of a reaction. If they’re in street clothes, I become suspicious of why they’re walking around a parking lot so late at night. (This is the moment where my mom stops reading my blog and calls to tell me to stop going to the gym at night). It’s not always at night though, I see more homeless people out walking around in the day than I ever do at night.

The other afternoon, I was driving home from my gym when I was stopped by the only traffic light I encounter. There was a homeless man walking toward the corner where I was waiting on the light. From the opposite direction, a father and son were walking hand-in-hand towards the same corner. I’m fairly certain they were not homeless but I’m equally certain they weren’t walking just because their Mercedes was in the shop.

The homeless man and the father-son duo arrived at the intersection at the same time. My windows were down and I briefly considered rolling them up so as to avoid any awkward money requests. As I was contemplating my window situation, the boy suddenly yanked his hand out of his fathers and walked up to the man.

The homeless man kept his eyes down and didn’t react. The boy looked up at him and without missing a beat held his hand up while saying, “You look thirsty. I don’t like it when I’m thirsty. My daddy gave me $2 to spend at the gas station but I’m going to give you one of my dollars. Then I can still get a drink and you can too.” It was at this time that the light turned green…or at least it was at this time that the car behind my honked and I noticed the light was green. As I pulled away, I saw the homeless man smile and take the crumpled $1 bill from the young boy.

I drove away thinking about the innocence of the moment. A child saw someone in need and did what he could to respond to that need…even when he didn’t have much himself. The father and I both shifted our eyes away from the unwanted opportunity to awkwardly decline giving the man money. We didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience of recognizing a need. The boy though, it was almost as if he couldn’t ignore the need.

Mark Miller wrote a song, “Child of God”. The lyrics are simple but an important reminder:

No matter what people say
Say or think about me
I am a child
I am a child of God

No matter what people say
Say or think about you
You are a child
You are a child of God

I think this is the mindset the little boy had as he handed the homeless man that $1 bill. I think this is the mindset I should have had as I contemplated rolling up my windows. I think this is the mindset I should have as I drive through the part of town in which my gym is located. I think this is the mindset I should have when I don’t want to recognize someone’s need over my convenience.

The next time someone or something makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with the problem, I pray that I remember that I am unbelievably fortunate to be a child of God. I hope and pray that no matter what I say or think, no matter what anyone else says or thinks, I remember that everyone I encounter is a child of God. Everyone I encounter is worth my time and my love. I hope and pray that I remember this boy’s innocence and his willingness to help another child of God.

(Insert Name Here)

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

I’ve never been exceptionally talented at any one thing. I have attained many average or “slightly above average” skills. Because of this average “jack-of-all-trades” life that I’ve led, I have oftentimes found myself in an almost constant state of comparing myself to others.  I was a decent baseball player but not on the same athletic level as my older brother. I was a pretty good public speaker but didn’t size up to my youth pastor’s ability to draw in his audiences. I am a good musician but can’t even begin to list the countless people I’ve met who are far more talented and hard-working than myself.

I admired these people for what they were able to do and what they were able to accomplish in their field of expertise. I admired them and I compared myself to them. I compared myself to them and I put myself down in my own mind for my inability to live up to them. In turn, I would find people less talented or less intelligent than myself and feed my own ego off their “inferiority”. I would tell myself that I might not be as good as (insert name here) but at least I’m better than (insert name here). I caught myself in this trap of feeling insufficient through comparison while also needing to gain self satisfaction through further comparison.

We live in a world of constant comparison. Competition is not only encouraged, it’s expected. Survival of the fittest is ingrained at an early age. Work harder, move faster, study more…be better. The error is when we step back and realize whom we are supposed to be better than. We’re told to be competitive with those around us which is not totally wrong, healthy competition is good, but are we really improving our lives by holding our heads higher from having defeated someone else? Isn’t true improvement, the truest “betterment” in character attained when we can look in the mirror and say, “Today, I am better than I was yesterday.”

I’m a remarkably competitive person and I won’t lie and say I have this completely figured out. Comparison and competitiveness is something with which I struggle on a daily basis. I have, however, come to a point in my life where most days, I can shut out the rest of the world, stop worrying about others achievements, look in the mirror, and know how I size up to the man I was the day before. Some days the man I see is better and some days, that man falls short. On the days where I have fallen short, I pick myself up and find ways to be better the next day. On the days where the man I see is better, I find ways to be even better the next. On this day and every day after, don’t concern yourself with being better than (insert name here). Concern yourself with simply being better than (insert your name here).

Music Monday 03.02.15

“My Lighthouse” Rend Collective

There’s something special to me about the imagery of God as a lighthouse. I’ve had my share of shortcomings, grief, and dark times throughout my life but my faith in God has always been very important to me. He has yet to fail me.

This song, by one of my favorite worship bands, perfectly encapsulates that idea. No matter where we are, no what we are experiencing, no matter who is involved, there is a “lighthouse” that will lead us safely to shore. He doesn’t give up on us and He doesn’t fail. It might not always be the way we hope or imagine but it will always be what is best for us according to His glory.

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Accepted

I was recently talking with my good friend, Becca Wilson, about the realization that college students aren’t staying connected to the church. In fact, research from the Fuller Youth Institute and College Transition Initiative has shown that approximately 50% of youth who grew up in the church are leaving their faith behind in their college years. As someone who is passionate about working with youth and young adults, this troubles me. As a college freshman and someone who is passionate about her faith, Becca wrote this recently and sent it to me. I loved it so much that I wanted to post it on my blog. After some convincing, she is letting me share it with you.

“I recently went through recruitment and was offered a bid to a sorority at TCU. At first it seemed cool, a fun social group to be a part of on campus. But I had a gut feeling and after some serious thinking, praying, and talking with several people on and off campus, I knew my gut just wasn’t going to shut up about this one. Now don’t get me wrong, the people are awesome; every single girl I met through the recruitment process and after bid day was so welcoming and really seemed to care about what I was going through. There was just something in my heart telling me that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, that I was meant to be somewhere else. I just realized that Greek life wasn’t for me. Since I made the decision to drop out, I have been happier and more confident in who I am and where I’m headed, and I am 100% sure I made the right choice. However, there has been one stressor that has come with my decision. Multiple people, including me, have worried about my decision because of one reason, and I’ve been thinking about it extensively the past couple days. As a college freshman, this little phrase is EVERYWHERE in my life right now and it has begun to bother me quite a bit:

“In college you’re going to want to have a group you can identify yourself with”

Why? Why do I need people to define me? Why do I have to be a part of a group just to feel important on campus, and why does that matter at all? Of course in the beginning, I was guilty of this mentality, for sure. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s one of the main reasons I even decided to go through recruitment in the first place. Every girl in every house would ask me, “Why did you decide to rush?” And every time I answered, “I don’t really know many people here, so I just want an instant group of friends to associate with and to know I can count on.” I’m not saying this is WRONG, but I’m saying there is something to be said for the fact that we don’t NEED to find a group to define us. Having a group of people who genuinely love and care about you, who you can go to for advice, for accountability, and for guidance, now that’s something everyone needs. But the fact that we, as college freshman, or as anyone really, should feel that we HAVE to find some sort of group to call our own is simply false.

Instead of running towards people who will make us feel accepted, and make us feel like we are a part of something, we should be running to the one who will never fail us, Christ. Can’t I identify myself in God alone? Can’t I identify myself as a Christian, with the church, with the community of fellow believers? Fellowship is very important to me, so I’m not saying that Christ is the only thing I need in my life. I strongly believe that my faith would not grow without the help of others, but I’m talking about identification, not existence. All of this college stuff, all the sororities, the clubs, activities, parties, they’ll all go away. Christ won’t. So doesn’t it make more sense for me to identify myself in Him rather than a fleeting social group? Honestly, this concept scares me to no end. The fact that I may never find a social group to call my own, the fact that maybe I won’t fit in. But you know at the same time it’s awfully comforting. God will never go away. I wish I could bold that one hundred times and scream it because so many people just don’t live their lives in a way that exemplifies that.

I believe in Christ’s eternal and unfading love. Since I’ve been at TCU, my faith has been tested through the activities I’ve tried to put myself into. My life before now has been easy, I was in band, and I had a home church. My path was laid out for me. I had easy ways to make friends, and I felt I was somewhere I belonged. When that suddenly all ended and I had to start fresh, I was forced to put my faith and trust in Him to lead me where I’m meant to be and it’s been a hell of a lot more challenging than I ever thought. I’m not telling you that being in a sorority is bad. I’m not telling you that not being in a sorority is bad. I’m telling you that if we are to call ourselves believers, our identification in Christ alone should be enough. Worldly love, worldly acceptance, and worldly comfort are all essential to fulfill our social needs, but you don’t need a group to have a purpose. Our primary purpose is found in glorifying God and through our worship of and devotion to Him we are fulfilling that purpose.

If you’re like me, stop searching for a group. Stop stressing out over being accepted and fitting into a certain mold these groups have for you. If you find one that uplifts you and helps you grow spiritually, by all means do it. If you don’t, just know that you don’t need that to feel accepted. Christ has already accepted you and in the end, that’s the only “group” that is truly everlasting.”