{Church Girl Funk | Yeah. It happens.}

Can you imagine having actually walked with Jesus — for real, dirt between your toes and robes flapping in the wind, walked with Him?  What must it have been like to feel His hand, His actual God-made-flesh hand on your shoulder? I wonder what his voice sounded like? And to hear Him call your name aloud? I can’t even. So, let’s just move on.

God in His wisdom saw fit for me to be here. Now. And, I’m good with that. I suppose I had the best-case-scenario as kid. See, I’m a church girl. I grew up as a pastor’s kid, so from a young age I was taught about God. I knew about Jesus and the Gospel. The importance of Scripture was ingrained in me from a young age. (Anyone else get a tiny New Testament/Psalms Bible when you were but a wee newborn?) We went to church every time the doors were open, at least three times each week. I learned to memorize Scripture, sing worship tunes, to work hard serving others and the church. I knew all the rules. And, for the most part, I kept them religiously. Church girl. To the core. The gratitude I feel for my best-case-scenario knows no bounds. Truly, I am grateful. Here’s the thing: Sometimes, it seems my inner church girl is at a disadvantage. Let’s be real, the privilege of hearing the Gospel Sunday after Sunday means that my exposure to the story was through the roof. The familiarity of the story meant reciting it was as easy and natural as breathing. Some Sundays, though, hearing it again felt like trudging through deep, thick mud. And, then, I’d be stuck. In a funk.

Ah, yes. The church girl funk. It goes something like this:

I’ve heard the story a million times. Do I really need to study Scripture every day? I’ve sang the song hundreds of times, hands raised to the sky, eyes closed. Do I really need to engage my mind and think about the weight of what I’m singing? I’m a Christ follower. I believe the Gospel. I go to church. I try to be obedient. I serve others. Look at all the things I’m doing for Him. 

It’s all familiar. And, when I’m in a church girl funk, I find that I am unaffected by it all. Unmotivated. Unaware. Head down. Shuffling along. Going through the motions. Anyone else?

Thank heavens, God sees me in those moments and comes after me. He reminds me. He engraves the truth ever deeper into my heart. He loves me. And, He wants me to love Him. Jesus tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) All my fellow church girls know it’s the great commandment. Love Him. Completely.

We can love Him like that because He loved. We rest in the truth that He loved us before we took our first breath. He sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die a sinner’s death as payment for my sin and your sin because of His great love. Why? So that we could know Him and know the depth of His love for us. I don’t know about you, but when I stop and leave space in my day to remember,  I am completely in awe. What lavish love! It’s from that place (being loved) that He wants us to love Him back, with all we’ve got.

Yes. I know. You’ve heard it all before. But can we hear it again with fresh ears and a soft heart? Can we sit still with the truth for a hot minute and allow ourselves to be utterly blown away by His love for us? The Creator of the Universe loves you with an unfailing, unfathomable love. We belong to Him. Let that truth frame everything else.

See, I learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter what we do for Him if our hearts aren’t motivated by our love for Him. He didn’t tell us “If you want to be a good church girl, obey me, serve me, work for me.” No. He said, “If you love me, obey me.”

If you find yourself in a church girl funk, start there. Love Him completely and then let everything else be a demonstration of that love. But above all, be loved by Him. And to do that, sweet friends, you don’t have to do anything at all. It’s already done. Just breathe it in. He. Loves. You.

Now, go. Go and do the things He’s put in front of you to do. Love the person that He’s asking you to love even if they are completely impossible. Lay down the thing He’s asking you to lay down. And know that He has you in the palm of His hand, loving you wildly every moment along the way.

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{Southern Gal Hostess of the Year? Not so much.}

A few weeks ago, it was my Dad’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We decided to have an impromptu gathering to celebrate — at our house. I, being the southern belle that I am, had suggested a nice dinner out. After all, the house was a mess, the fridge was empty, and I was tired. Very tired. But, no. Dinner out wasn’t going to do. There had to be a celebration. For my dad. With other people. And I would host.

So, we came home from Sunday lunch and had a few hours to prep for the party. Any southern gal worth her weight in butter can prep for a party on short notice, right? Um, no. I came home and took a nap. Yes. Fell asleep. In my favorite spot. With my favorite pillow. Don’t judge me!

After my Sunday afternoon nap, the house was still a mess, the fridge still empty, and people were still coming over in an hour. On the way to grocery store, I whined and complained at my lack of preparation. I moaned that I know better than this. Why couldn’t we just take everyone out for pizza? My awesome, superstar, worth-his-weight-in-gold hubby assured me it would be fine. He has a beautiful gift of calm. We scurried through the store like a couple of crazy people. We still had 30 minutes to spare. Then, we realized we forgot the cake. Did I mention we were halfway home at that point? Yikes.

When we pulled in the driveway, we were late. (Now, you can judge me.) Our guests were already there. And so, I did what any other respectable southern gal hostess type would do. I put them to work. What. In. The. World. It’s shameful, I know. Pizza really would have been better. I promise the next gathering at my house will be better. I do have it in me.

Here’s the thing: While I may not have scored high marks this time on the “Southern Gal Hostess of the Year” chart, I still had an opportunity that evening to practice hospitality.  It didn’t necessarily look the way I wanted it to look — ok, who am I kidding, It looked nothing like I wanted it to — but, even still, I was being hospitable. See, I’m learning that hospitality is about a heart that says “You are important to me.”  I opened my door wide and invited these folks into my mess because they are important. I opened my door wide and made a place here where it was perfectly acceptable to be a hot mess! Because, hello, did you notice? Hot. Mess. Right here.

Opportunities for hospitality will sometimes interrupt our daily routines with no regard for our empty fridge or our mess. But, it’s ok. It really is. I’m learning that there’s more to it than a perfectly executed five-course dinner or beautifully executed party. It’s about leaning in with a tender heart towards the people that God has put in my path. I can be hospitable when I greet the clerk at the grocery store. I can be hospitable when I greet my neighbor with a smile. I can welcome people into our home despite the mess. Why? Because people are important. Hospitality says I see you and you matter. That, my friends, is the kind of southern gal I want to be. One who is worth her weight in butter because hospitality isn’t just something she does, it’s who she is. Kind. Gracious. Warm. Tenderhearted. One who loves others well. That’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it? Love people. Hospitality starts there. 

{Worship | It’s a Big Deal}

There seems to be something happening in worship gatherings in churches across America. People are talking about it, writing articles about it, blogging about it. The conversation is important though a tiny bit uncomfortable. See, it appears that more often than not people are coming to church, sitting in the chairs (or standing) and watching worshipWe consume worship rather than actively engage and participate in worship. We come with expectations of being entertained by great music rather than expecting to encounter the powerful, life-changing presence of God.

This makes me sad.

Worship leaders must strive to make absolute certain that our worship gatherings are biblically rooted, Christ-centered, Spirit-led, and rightly motivated. Worship is not all about us. It’s all about Him. Wait, what’s that now? I know. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap our minds around anything that isn’t all about us. I get it.

Now, we all understand that worship is not just singing songs on Sunday morning. Singing songs is a form or expression of worship, but it doesn’t end there. Worship encompasses all areas of our lives. Everything we do, everything we are, everything we say – all of these things point toward a heart of worship. Worship is who we are every moment before the God who created the universe.

We were created to worship. To worship is one of our greatest privileges and it came at a high price. Jesus died. Actually, He didn’t just die. Jesus, the Son of God, was mocked, scorned, falsely accused, beaten within inches of His life and then, then He was crucified on a cross so that we might have the privilege of worship. There’s more. He did it on purpose. It was no accident. It was the plan. While we were sinners, Jesus died for us. (Romans 5:8) And in one moment, God demonstrated His lavish love for us by providing a way for us to know Him. There has never been a greater demonstration of love. Ever.

I know – you’ve heard that a million and one times before, especially if you grew up going to church every time the doors were open. (Any other church girls or guys out there?) Here’s the thing: I cannot help but wonder if that’s part of the problem. Have we heard the story of the Gospel so many times that we’ve lost any sense of wonder and awe? Has the Gospel become inconsequential in our lives, our churches, and our worship gatherings? Has it become a story we like to tell, but one that we are unaffected by? It was never meant to be so.

So, what do we do with that? As we prepare to gather in our churches across America tomorrow, what will we do with that? Can I encourage you to stop for a few moments today and remember. Settle into a quiet place and let your mind rest on Him. Remember who He is – the Creator of the Universe and Savior of the World. Remember that He knows your name. Let your heart be overwhelmed by His lavish and unfailing love as you remember what He did for you, for all of us. And then, respond from that place.

Let the truth of the Gospel blow you away all over again. It’s a big deal.

He loves you so.


Psalm103

But, God.

I am simply overwhelmed at the faithfulness of God. Undone. Blown away.

I was sitting at my piano tonight, just stringing together random chords — not playing anything in particular. I am so grateful for the gift of music that God has given us to use as an expression of our worship. Music is woven into story after story through out Scripture. The first mention of an instrument and musician is in Genesis 4. His name was Jubal.  I think that’s SO cool.

The past weekend was full of music. I was invited to play piano for a wedding. Play. And sing. Um, what’s that now? In front of people? Yes. In front of people. Sunday, there was worship. I played keys and sang (at the same time). What’s the big deal? I told people for years, “I play the piano, but not in front of people and not if I’m singing.” Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I do that very thing on a regular basis. But, God knew that I would.

I took lessons when I was younger. When we didn’t have a piano in our home I had to practice at church. I’d go over and practice for awhile. I didn’t like to practice at the church because I wasn’t supposed to turn on all the lights. It was kind of spooky. So, I quit piano lessons and didn’t play much after that for a very long time. There were days I would go over to the church and pull out a songbook, Lift Him Up: Volume 3, and pick through some worship songs. I couldn’t have imagined what God had in store. I did not fully understand what He was pouring into me; nor, did I understand that He was preparing me. Even then. Way back then.

It is remarkable to look back and see the God moments — and to recognize them. There were seasons of my life where there was no song. No music. No worship. Sometimes, even now, I find myself wondering if I’ve missed something. But, God.

But, God was working. He always knew where I was. He surrounded me with people whom He would use to speak life, speak encouragement, to teach and train.

I will never forget the moment I sang my very first song in church. I was young. And it was empty. I would sing along with a cassette tape in the microphone while my parents cleaned. I always picked the microphone with the blue foam cover (or windscreen, if you’re a tech geek). I don’t know if the microphone was on, but it did smell funny. (Now, I know that was the smell of spit!) I remember the moment I sang in front of people. “The sun will come out to-mor-row…” My momma made me do it.

I will never forget the moment that God confirmed the specific calling He had on my life for worship ministry. It’s in me. He put it there.

I will never forget the moment someone referred to me as a musician, a good musician. Wait. What? That’s not how I would describe myself. Sure, she was and is one of my dearest and most favorite friends. But, she has mad skills on the piano. When she said it, it meant something. I may have cried, and she may have poked fun at me. But, still. She spoke life, encouragement.

I will never forget the moment that I played piano while I sang — in front of people. It was my Mamaw’s funeral. I was petrified.

I remember the first time I led worship. I remember the first time I led worship from the piano. That was . . . well, I have no words.

I could go on. Moment after moment. Specifically and divinely designed moments because I am His, and He is mine. He is always, always working. And, He’s promised that He will equip me. And as I played tonight, He reminded me of this: He is for me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He loves me.

But here’s the thing: He loves me because He is love. I have done nothing to earn or deserve His affections. He loved me before I sang my first note or played my first chord. He loved me before I was even born.

That always gets me. Every. time.

That’s why I sing.

Don’t Forget to Remember

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of celebration. Let’s see – there is turkey, dressing, dumplins, and pumpkin pie. After we feast, we usually spend a bit of time flipping through the newspaper ads, pen in hand, marking our favorite things. Christmas is just around the corner, after all. We play games. We take naps. And, we remember.

I remember Tyler’s first Thanksgiving. He was 7 months old and the life of the party. He most likely had his hands in everyone’s plate getting his first taste of the delicious goodness that is Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the laughter. Lots of laughter.

I remember where I was standing when I received a phone call from the hospital just a few days later. I remember the heaviness in the room when I arrived there. It was suffocating. I remember being told, “He didn’t make it.” It was SIDS.

He. Didn’t. Make. It. The reality of that moment hit me in a way I cannot begin to explain.

I remember walking back to a different room. My eyes landed on my lifeless baby boy and pain pierced me to the very core. It would become a familiar pain. I wept while I begged God to “fix it.”

I remember walking away from that hospital without my baby. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I remember losing a second child 15 months later. I remember my marriage falling apart. I remember being angry, confused, and feeling completely abandoned by God. The pain was relentless and I crumbled.

I also remember the moment I gave up and laid all the brokenness and pain at the feet of Jesus. I remember the moment He turned my mourning (YEARS of mourning) into joy.

And, I am so thankful.

I belong to a sovereign, perfect, faithful God. I am completely in awe of Him. He heals. He redeems. He restores. There is not one moment of my life when He has taken His eye off of me. (Or you!) He sees us. He loves us. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments. I know that now.

I know it.

So, don’t forget to remember. Remember who He is and what He has done. Remember the cross. Remember His lavish love and perfect grace. And in everything, give thanks…That can be a hard one to take in and live out until we remember Christ. Then suddenly even our most difficult moments pale in comparison to the pain and suffering He endured. For the glory of the Father and for us. 

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

This is my Dad.

Dad & Me

Today is his 60th birthday.  Woo-Hoo! Hooray! So, I am writing this one for him – to honor him and to remind him that he is loved beyond measure.

Dear Dad, you are one of my heroes. I am thankful that God picked me to be your daughter. I admire your strength and courage. I admire your perseverance. You have shown me what it means to love and care for others above yourself. Even those who may have hurt you or mistreated you. You have shown me how to be bold and courageous. I’m not speaking of a boldness that is brazen and arrogant or a courage that is proud. It’s a boldness and a courage that come from a place of humility. I’ve watched you make mistakes and get back up. I’ve watched you say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” or “I need help.” You taught me that it is ok to be imperfect and that God’s grace is greater than all my weakness.

Thank you for raising me to understand who Jesus is and what He came to do. Thank you for loving Him and putting Him first in your life and teaching us to do the same. Thank you for teaching me the importance of worship and the power of prayer. I used to creep over to the church office to steal your ink pens and hear you praying, you know. Sometimes, I would hang back and listen, realizing that I had stumbled upon a holy moment. Sometimes I would run off determined to come back and steal an ink pen later. You had the best ink pens!

Thank you for teaching me how to laugh. Now, little brother and I are funnier than you. Thanks for teaching me how to shoot a basketball, grab a rebound, and pass a volleyball. Thank you for telling me to sing. To work hard. To write.  To love BIG.

Thank you for believing in me. For praying for me. For loving me unconditionally. For being my biggest fan. For having tough conversations with me. For speaking truth and wisdom into my life. And now, you do all those things for my husband and my children. We are blessed beyond measure to have you near.

We love you. We honor you. We celebrate you. We are so very grateful for all that you are. You are one cool-smooth-God-fearing dude. And we are all the better for it!

Happy 60th birthday, Dad.

Fix Your Eyes

20140327-223140.jpgHello, sweet friends.

Today was one of those days. That may be an understatement. The past few weeks have been rough. Really hard. Challenge upon challenge seemed to slam down on my head in unrelenting and unapologetic fashion day after day after day.

Then I remembered.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalms 16:8.

In trouble: I will keep my eyes on the Lord.

In heartache: I will keep my eyes on the Lord.

In plenty or in need: I will keep my eyes on the Lord.

When I feel pressed: I will keep my eyes always on the Lord.

When I feel tired: I will keep my eyes always on the Lord.

See, He is the only sure thing. He’s unchanging, unfailing, and good. He’s my help, my strength, my joy, and my provision. He is HOPE.

I am so thankful that I belong to Him. 


 

On another note:

On my ride home today, I was listening to my new Kari Jobe CD and feeling a little blue because I would not be able to see her on either of her upcoming tour stops. She is in Lexington tonight and will be in Louisville next week, but there was no way we could buy tickets to either event. (Winter has been really long.) These were sure to be powerful nights of worship and I really, really wanted to be there.

Then, I opened my mail.

Some kind and generous soul sent me tickets. The flood of tears burned my cheeks. I could not find my words. My sweet husband had no idea what had just happened.

I have no idea who sent those tickets. I have no idea why they sent them. But, I am so grateful that they did. Whoever you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart. God used you to encourage me today in a great big way. I am overwhelmed by your kindness, by his kindness shown through you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.