{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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{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

{Letters to My Daughter} {No. 2}

Sweet Girl,

You wrote me the most lovely letter. Thank you. Because I know you are dying to know — yes, it made me cry! Big. Tears. I didn’t cry just because you said nice things about me and to me. I cried because as a momma it is pretty awesome to see God working in your life.

God used you and your words in that letter to encourage me. That makes my heart swell to the point of bursting. Do you hear me? God used you. Let that sink in. 

There are three things I want you to know and remember.

1. Words are powerful. Use them well.  Speak life. Speak hope. Speak words of encouragement. Once you release your words, it is impossible to get them back. It’s like squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a plate and trying to put it back inside the tube. (I used to do that on the first day of school in front of the class. Trying to put toothpaste back into a tube is quite messy!) It’s the same with our words, you know. If used unwisely–carelessly–words hurt, leave scars, cause damage to relationships. And always, always remember your words reveal your heart. Guard your heart and use your words well. Let every word you speak be a reflection of Jesus’ love being perfected in you. The letter you wrote me is a glowing example of what I’m talking about. You spoke life and encouragement to me. What a gift!

2. God will use you. Look around and listen to Him. I am sure when you wrote my letter you didn’t think you were doing anything extraordinary. Yet the words you wrote were exactly the words I needed to hear in that very moment. You should know that there are people around you who need the same kind of gift you gave me–words of life. Can I challenge you to look for them? On purpose. Ask God to use you to encourage someone each day. Ask Him. I promise He will. This is not the first time you’ve used words to encourage. You have a gift of encouragement. Once you wrote an encouraging message to a kid who was a few years younger than you. You leave sweet notes for your siblings and for us. Keep doing that. Remember, you may never know how God uses the words you speak and that’s ok. You just be brave and bold. Be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit and speak life.

3. I love you. You are extraordinary. If I could line up all the girls on the planet and pick one to be my daughter, I would choose you. Every single time.

I’m glad you’re my girl. (Even when we’re having a bad day!)

XOXO.

Guest Blogger :: Maddie Grace

My sweet Madeleine asked if she could share a portion of her story here. I was happy to oblige. I am so thankful and grateful for all that God is doing in her life.


Hi everyone!! I’m Maddie, and in 8th grade Bible this year, we were given the assignment to write milestone moment speeches. Basically what these are is you think of a time in your life where you felt God working in you. I shared my speech with the class and many people were inspired. I hope that my story can help inspire you as well. Hopefully it’s good 🙂

I’m just an average girl, I live with my mom and my stepdad and honestly, I’m extremely grateful that God has blessed me with such a great Christian family now, but life hasn’t always been easy.

Earlier in my life, I really struggled with the fact that my parents were getting divorced. I was really young at the time, about 3 years old, with a younger brother only a few months old. I don’t remember much, but in the midst of all the arguing and confusion, I do remember feeling really alone.

Things got even more complicated in 2008 when my dad remarried to a woman was abusive to my younger brother and me. I remember her telling me, you’re not beautiful, you’re not worth anything, and she told me I didn’t deserve anything special. Being only 8 years old, it really affected my self-confidence and I remember being in tears most of the nights I spent with my dad and stepmom. To make things more confusing, my dad NEVER took up for me, the man in my life who is supposed to tell me how beautiful and treasured I am, just stood there and let a woman ruin my confidence. But, one night I remember my mom sharing a verse with me that really encouraged me to not care about what the world says about me, but to know that I am God’s masterpiece, created in Christ to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

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My relationship with my dad is very damaged because of my stepmom’s influence. I honestly couldn’t trust him anymore, and I still have trouble trusting other people, even if they seem completely innocent. Somewhere in the middle of my broken relationship, I realized that what I needed was a strong relationship with God. I knew that in the book of Psalms it says to call on God and He will rescue me.

So in 2011, I really began to pray and read my Bible and figured out what it means to have a meaningful relationship with God. I especially began to pray that God would work things out with my dad.

In 2012, my dad and stepmom announced that they were getting a divorce. It took them 7 years to realize that their marriage wasn’t healthy. I saw them getting a divorced as an answer to prayer. I thought that maybe, a new, restored relationship with my dad would be made possible. But I was wrong. My dad has continued to make some very bad choices and he recently made a huge mistake that has again, affected my brother and me in a very negative way; but I will definitely keep praying that God will continue to teach me through these tough spots.

God is truly amazing. I’m so grateful that He is always there and I know now that even in the darkest points in life, I can fully trust him no matter what. I’m also very thankful that he gives me opportunities to share my story and show his unconditional love to others.

~Maddie Lewis

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. 

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.