Sunday, November 19, 2017

bridge out ...

I moved to Spring Hill just over 7 years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long!) and have more or less been running the same few morning routes since then. I started with an out-and-back on a country road by my house. Every once in a while (when it wasn’t dark) I would venture onto a connected loop instead that gave me the same amount of mileage. This is also the road where I drive to capture the sunset when it is particularly noteworthy. When I moved ¼ mile from a house into my townhome a few years ago, I switched to that loop almost exclusively, plus a little in the middle, to get the same distance. When it’s dark, I just carry a light and the route is now familiar enough that it doesn’t bother me anymore. Days that I feel inspired or have a little extra time, I can tack on extra distance in a couple different ways. Days that I stay in bed too long, I cut out the middle section so I can at least get a few miles before work. But for the most part, when running alone, I’ve stepped out the front door, turned right out of my street and left out of the neighborhood onto the main road before hitting the country roads.

Until last week.

The bridge on that connected road is out, so I’ve had to improvise my regular route. I reverted to the original out-and-back, with some extra distance on either end so I can get my desired mileage. But let’s face it; out-and-back gets kind of old. So one Saturday, I decided to turn right instead of left out of my neighborhood. It was a road I had ventured onto before when first finding routes, and later at times when I needed extra miles or with someone else, but very rarely. That Saturday I discovered that going all the way to where the road t’s off is exactly the amount of mileage I usually try to get. It’s nice because I don’t have to go on the main road, especially when it’s dark and everyone is on their way to work. And as a single girl running solo, while I tend not to let myself think about such things, it’s more open and less sketchy.

So when I rolled out of bed the following Monday for my pre-dawn run, I decided to take that route again … and was treated to one of the most breathtaking sunrises I had seen in quite some time. 

I don’t usually run with my phone, but when I can tell the sunrise will be awesome I strap it on instead of just the ipod. Very quickly it occurred to me, “I never would have experienced this if I had been on my regular route.” You see, when on that route, the sun is at my back, or hidden, for much of it. There have been times that I will grab my phone and can snap a few pics at a few points along the way, but this way I was able to experience the sunrise in nearly all of its glorious entirety.

And isn’t life just like that? We get set in our routines. The familiar. We stay in relationships because they are what we know. They may not be the strongest or healthiest, but we find ways to not let it bother us. We try not to think about it. We make little tweaks here and there - carry a light, add on, take off - as necessary, but rarely do big changes happen by choice. Sometimes it takes a bridge being out for us to discover what we’ve been missing. Sometimes it takes major life events or being dropped by a friend altogether to open up new opportunities that we never would have considered otherwise.


Well it took a long while, but the new bridge was finally completed, though there was still a sign that said Road Closed. One early morning I decided to venture back to my regular route and check out the status. While it seemed fine, it was so dark that I knew it wasn’t wise to trek across without being able to fully see. I came back another day in full sunlight and could tell that, despite the road still being closed to through traffic, it was now safe to run across. It was nice to be back on those familiar roads, especially because it allowed for some longer runs, but I have continued to run on my new route most often. Finally the road was completely open yet again. It could withstand the weight of not only light foot traffic, but heavy cars and trucks as well. And finally I could drive to my sunset spot again.

Just because a bridge goes out doesn’t mean the road will stay closed forever, but it takes a lot of long, hard work to completely tear down what was broken and rebuild it to withstand time and trial. The same bridge had already been closed for repairs a while back. I was still able to run across, but it was not safe for vehicle traffic. The fix was not permanent, however, and the much longer, complete process was still eventually necessary.

And so it is with relationships. Just because a friendship becomes damaged for a season does not mean that it will be permanently broken. At the first signs of damage, efforts can be made to repair. But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes things must be torn down completely before they can be rebuilt. The road to that friendship - to what is comfortable and familiar - must be made inaccessible for a time. You will get to experience things that you never would have otherwise. You will have time for different people and new opportunities. When the bridge is finally rebuilt, it can be tempting to rush back across with the full weight of before. But don’t do so blindly. Allow for light to be shed on the situation. Allow for things to settle into place. Once the road has been reopened, don’t forget the new things you’ve learned. Don’t rely on the sunset road when there are still sunrises waiting to be experienced.

But most importantly, don’t give up hope that your bridges can be rebuilt.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

the One who holds the stars ...

my desire for human connection runs markedly deep. it is one i am pretty poor at expressing, and when i do it is rare, and usually born out of desperation. so when i do, and it is not recognized, or honored, it can feel devastating. after a day that has left me reeling, on top of many days and weeks and months that have left me reeling, all i want is a soft place to land. instead i find myself battling devastation, but getting in the car, these are the words i hear …

If you can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars
(Stars - Skillet)

and then this …

You built me up like a city of gold
The battles rage but I'm standing tall
You formed my heart like an empire
The wind and rain can't stop this fire
If only I could see it from Your perspective
The beauty and the grace of Your architecture
(Architecture - Jonathan Thulin)

and this …

There’s a brokenness inside of you
there’s a wound that still reminds you
of the fear, shame and rejection
you have seen it, you have seen it
You know it’s time to get up
but your heart’s paralyzed, you’re so stuck
you’re past the point of trying again
you’re defeated, you’re defeated

But something inside you can’t deny
you hear the call of your Creator
I made you for more, unlocked the door
I wanna restore your Glory

So Rise
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
you’re made to shine
an army of hope, bringing the world a radiant light, a radiant light
you were made to Rise
(Rise - Danny Gokey)

and so here i sit, letting the truth of these lyrics wash over me, putting the pain to use, refusing to let it steal my voice like it has for far too long. the point here is not the pain, but how God meets us in it and speaks exactly what our hurting hearts need to hear ... if we are willing to listen. i’m so grateful for the reminders that He alone - maker of the very stars - holds my heart, and that, standing strong amidst the battles, wind and rain, i am called to something higher. i pray that these reminders speak to someone else’s heart, as well. find these songs and listen to them. don’t give in to the despair when it threatens to overcome. 

human connection will fail you time and again, but the healing power of HIS love NEVER will ... (psalm 136)

Friday, March 4, 2016

more than conquerors ... amy grant & steven curtis chapman in bowling green 2/29/16

When I first heard that Amy and Steven were doing shows together, and that they would be coming to Bowling Green, I knew I had to be there. This may seem heretical to some, but I was probably actually more excited about seeing Steven, as it’s been such a long time since I’ve seen him in concert, other than as part of Sam’s Place. It was not until after the show that I realized the appropriateness of seeing them together, because it was a Spring Break trip to Nashville nearly 11 years ago - bookended by Amy & Steven concerts - that solidified my decision to move here. The evening was such a sweet intersection of past & future, of deep heart longings & the declaration of truths, or as Steven’s song ‘Finish What He Started’ says -

Life has pulled at the seams
And you’re unraveling
And you can’t hold it together anymore
But God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be left unwoven
Nothing will be left undone …
When He’s finished, we will SEE
A beautiful tapestry
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end

The night was, indeed, a beautiful tapestry.

Soundcheck wasn’t very long or involved. Steven did two songs, and Amy did one. There wasn’t really a chance to talk with either of them, though Amy did come back out after with money so a few of us could go buy sunglasses for those in the front rows because the lights were so bright. They unfortunately didn’t end up getting passed out, but I bought myself a new pair of pink leopard print ones that I rocked for the whole show. They made a pretty great souvenir! The venue, SKyPAC on Western Kentucky University's campus, was gorgeous, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Mariah's right around the corner from the venue ... you have to go and try the rolls!

In true reminiscent form, Amy started with Hope Set High. Throughout the night, they had graphics playing behind them for each song - music videos and personal pictures - most of Amy’s were the same ones I had seen at the weekend.
Great Adventure (SCC w/ AG)
Every Heartbeat (AG)
Live Out Loud (SCC w/ AG)

“Life is a continuum with no wasted experience. It takes you to so many unexpected places - thank you for coming along for part of the ride.” - Amy

Everywhere I Go (AG)

“Sometimes a song has found me when I was so alone I didn't know if I could be found.” - Amy

Better Than a Hallelujah (AG)

“We have a front row seat to watch you experience our music.” Amy had commented about how this was going to be a good show because they could actually see us (so I guess the bright lights weren’t all bad). But I had never thought of it from that perspective before. “These songs are musical mile markers ... Help to remember …” - Steven

Medley (SCC)
Let Us Pray
For the Sake of the Call
The Change

Speechless is a sentimental favorite for me. Hearing it in concert years ago was one of the first times I had a tangible experience with the Holy Spirit. It has caused me to weep every time I hear it live, and this night was no exception. It was the beginning of many tears shed throughout the show … thank goodness for sunglasses and waterproof mascara! I only wish he had done the whole song and not just a snippet.
Oh How the Years Go By (AG)

“Everybody's creative somehow ... We're wired that way. Sing loud & proud, even if you're off key.” - Amy

Our Time is Now (AG)

This one hit a nerve for me …

Let us sing before our time runs out
The sound of your laughter, your smile
These things are never changing

The reminder that it’s okay to ‘sing’ loud and proud is a powerful one. Too often, I have allowed what others think to put a damper on my voice, my passion, my joy. My laughter and smile may not change, but it feels like they’ve been tucked away. I loved seeing all of Amy’s goofy, happy-go-lucky pictures throughout the show, but it struck me that I’ve been ‘censoring’ that part of myself. This breaks my heart, but also compels me to change …

Baby Baby (AG)
Cinderella (SCC)

The story is far from over ...

Glorious Unfolding (SCC)

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don't try to figure it out
Just listen to what I'm whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it's just not true
There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and SEE and you will be amazed
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

There’s not much to add to that … So grateful for music that expresses the deepest cries of my heart and then leads me to worship and declare precious truths.

When Love Takes You In (SCC)

Steven played this on piano alone on stage with videos of families meeting their adoptive children running behind him. I have always been moved by stories of his organization Show Hope, and adoption in general, believing it’s something I would love to do myself someday. But watching the videos this night moved something in me like never before. I pray that God gives me the ability to adopt one day.

* Intermission *

After intermission, they did a fun back and forth scaled-back “throw-down” of some classics. They gave years with each song, but I didn’t write them down … and am not going to go look them up ;) 
His Strength is Perfect (SCC)
Thy Word (AG)
El Shaddai (AG)
My Redeemer is Faithful & True (SCC)
That's What Love Is For (AG)
Be Still and Know (SCC)
Children of the World (AG)
Herbie Getting Beat (SCC)
Amy wanted to know the first song that Steven had ever written. This was literally about his brother getting punished, and was hilarious. It was really entertaining watching the two of them interact throughout the night. This was Steven’s first ever tour with women, so it was nice to see them so relaxed together. Amy kept saying how cute he was. It’s not the same chemistry that she and Michael have - more of a kid brother than a best friend. 
Curious Thing (AG)
This probably makes me a bad fan, but I never knew (or had forgotten that) the first verse was about Jim Carrey!
This Could Be Love (or it could be the flu) (SCC)
After being down with the flu all week, I sure hope love feels different than this!
True Love (AG)

“Makes you glad for the gift of music …” - I don’t remember who said this one, but yes, very!

I Will Be Here (SCC)
House of Love (AG)
Sometimes you listen to a song (and/or see pictures, or people) and it’s a little more difficult to be single than it usually is. Needless to say, Vince & Amy have the ability to regularly trigger that longing in me. But it also inspires me to let go and give of myself in a way I never have before so as not to let another opportunity pass me by.
Missing You (AG)
Sing Your Praise (AG)

Sing anew
The song your heart learned to sing
When He first gave His life to you
The life goes on and so must the song
You gotta sing again
The song born in your soul
When you first gave your heart to Him
Sing His praises once more

Sing aloud
The song that someone is dying to hear
Down in the maddening crowd
As you once were before you heard the song
You gotta let them know
The truth is alive to shine upon the way
So maybe they can go
Sing your praises once more

I love the live workup that they’ve done with this song. Not only is it so much fun, but also a powerful worship experience every time. And tonight, it was the perfect accompaniment to everything God had already been speaking - to sing again, not only for myself, but for others who need to hear the song that He has put in my heart.

More Than Conquerers (SCC)

And then Steven did this song from his new worship album. Wow. (I couldn’t find the lyrics up anywhere yet, so these aren’t 100% accurate.) Just let the beautiful grace of those words wash over you …

Now there is no condemnation.
Now there is no guilt or shame.
For those who have been covered
By the blood of Jesus
Now the words of our accuser
Have been robbed of all their power
And the enemy has been defeated
By the blood of Jesus

So we stand with our hearts washed clean
And we lift up our hands and sing

We are more than conquerors
We are more than conquerors
God if you are for us
Who can be against us
What can separate us
From your love

Once we were as slaves and prisoners
Now we’re children of the king
Sacred sons and daughters
Saved by the blood of Jesus
So tell me death where is your victory
Tell me grave where is your sting
You've been swallowed up in life
Forever by the blood of Jesus

So we stand as the ones redeemed
And we lift up our hearts and sing

By the blood of the Lamb
By the word of our testimony
The enemy has been
The enemy will be defeated

I have always and will always love Amy’s music, but there is not questioning that Steven’s music is simply anointed.

Lead Me On (AG)
Every Little Thing (SCC)
Love Take Me Over (SCC)
Okay, here’s another confession for ya … Up until tonight, whenever I heard the lyric “Trying to wake up, sipping on a hot cup, with the little lady in green” I thought he was talking about having morning coffee with one of his daughters. My dad calls me little lady, and he always writes about this daughters, so that is what made sense in my head. Then tonight it dawned on me that he was talking about Starbucks! But I digress …

Grand finale *

You're Not Alone (AG)
Emmanuel (AG)
FINALLY they got the audience on their feet! These older crowds are always tough. There were plenty of moments that I would have liked to, but being smack dab in the middle right against the stage, I didn’t want to block anyone behind me. So I was grateful for the opportunity to dance and worship, and for the energy of the crowd.
Dive (SCC)
Turn, Turn, Turn (AG & SCC)
I really wanted this one to be ‘Believe’, but it was still such a fantastic ending to a spectacular, God-filled evening.

I haven’t left a concert on such a high in a very long time. And it’s been even longer since I’ve felt compelled to write a review (let alone followed through on it), but I couldn’t help but share all the powerful truths God spoke to my heart … because if I had to guess, someone else needs to hear them, too. And if you need to hear them on repeat, make this setlist into a Spotify playlist or, better yet, go buy Steven’s new worship album, Worship & Believe, which was released today. Just do whatever it takes to get them deeply established in your heart!

I can't wait to see Amy with Nichole Nordeman in Kentucky in April ... I know there will be more of the same! (and I REALLY hope they do their song 'I'm With You' from The Story :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

when God sends mildew ...

the other day i was reminded of a passage in leviticus 14 about mildew. in the middle of several chapters labeled ‘instructions for the people’ about cleanliness are two whole passages on regulations for & cleansing from mildew. apparently this was kind of a big deal to God.

“you must keep the israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.”  - leviticus 15:31

the part of particular interest to me was about the presence of ‘spreading mildew’ in their homes. it says, “when you arrive in canaan, the land I am giving you as your own possession, i may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew.” (leviticus 14:34) my thought when i first stumbled across these words, and again as i read them today, is that seemingly God sometimes causes mildew to see how diligent we will be about cleaning.

i know the prevailing school of thought is that a good God would never cause anything bad to happen. but may i remind you that He sent His one and only Son first and foremost to earth as a human, which we all know is hard enough in and of itself, and then to die on a cross, which is about as bad as you can get. romans 8:28 does not promise that God DOES only good. it promises “that God causes everything to work together FOR the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” does He want anything bad to happen to us? of course not. but if a little mildew is what we need to accomplish His good purposes in us and others, then that might be what He will bring.

first off, the people had to tell the priest, “i have seen something that looks like mildew in my house.” (v. 35) they didn’t try to figure it out on their own. they didn’t wait to see if the problem would go away. they were to go directly to the priest. how much grief could we save ourselves if we handled problems in the same way? if, instead of trying to figure it out on our own or hoping that a problem will go away, we took our concerns directly to God or trusted friend or mentor. 

next, the priest emptied out the house before examining the suspected mildew. there was no messing around. the mildew had not even been confirmed, but they didn’t want to run the risk of anything else being contaminated. then, if they thought it was mildew, they would close the house up for 7 days before coming back to check again. if there’s something in our lives that has even the smallest potential of becoming a major problem, we need to cut it off at the pass. clear out. put ourselves in time out and wait to see what God has to say about it.

then, if the mildew had spread, the priest ordered for the contaminated stones to be removed and walls scraped, the waste discarded outside of town, and new stones be put in their place with fresh clay and plaster. once a problem area has been clearly revealed in our lives, we need to be thorough about removing it. not just the larger, more obvious portions, but also the smaller, hidden pieces that have held the big pieces together. in truth, that is often where the problem originates. 

and once the contamination has been removed, we can’t just leave a gaping hole. this seems obvious when you’re talking about a home, but how often do we do this in our own lives? we can’t just clean out. we must replace what has been removed with fresh, new material so that the problem is permitted to return with even greater fury.

“when an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. then it says, ‘i will return to the person i came from.’ so it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. and so that person is worse off than before.” - matthew 12:43-45

after the mildew has been removed and repairs made, and upon examination the priest finds that it has not returned, then he will pronounce the house clean and make atonement. if, however, the mildew reappears, then it is not just a ‘spreading’ mildew, but a ‘destructive’ one. the house will be declared unclean and must be completely torn down. greater sins - ones that do not merely creep but threaten to destroy - require an outright disassembly. 

“surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth.” - amos 9:8

the beautiful thing is that which He dismantles, He also promises to rebuild. 

“in that day I will restore david’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be.” - amos 9:11

we need only submit our lives to Him. because of Jesus we are thankfully no longer bound by the old system of cleansing and purification. however, we must recognize that in keeping our own ‘homes’ clean, we also keep His dwelling place - not the temple, but our hearts - pure.

who can you turn to in helping you examine any areas of concern in your life? is there any mildew needs to be cleaned out? is it simply the ‘spreading’ variety, or a more ‘destructive’ form? do not fail to carry out all that He has called you to do.

“therefore tell the people: this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty.” - zechariah 1:3

Saturday, January 9, 2016

choosing to pitch tents ...

it's been nearly 6 months since i've posted here. i've had blog ideas that i never sat down to write and are now long forgotten. that makes this blog that much more appropriate. i resolved to write more this year ... to pitch more tents in my life ... will you?

exodus 33: 7-11

v. 7 now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.

pitching a tent is not easy work. i’ve done it once. it was in the heat of summer and not the most fun experience, but at least there was tree cover and with the help of today’s technological advances. just imagine how much more difficult it would have been back then, on dry, unforgiving desert ground, exposed to all the elements. but every time they stopped, instead of simply using one of the tents that was already part of camp, Moses would take the effort to pitch a tent for the sole purpose of meeting with God, away from the chaos of camp. and not just on the outskirts of camp, but 'some distance away'. so if people wanted to inquire of the Lord, they had to make the effort to do so. 

i know that today, because of Christ, the opportunity to meet with God is available to us anytime and anywhere (hebrews 4: 14,16). modern technology makes it easier than ever, but also easier to take for granted ... and to get distracted. this verse highlights the importance of making a concerted effort to meet with Him. i was recently reminded of this when watching The War Room. He is as close as our next breath, but will we make space just for Him apart from the chaos of our daily life? when the ground of our hearts is dry and hard, will we put in the time and energy required to truly encounter Him?

the passage goes on to say that “whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents … while the Lord spoke with Moses … they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” it doesn’t say what happened when someone else would go out to the tent of meeting but i imagine they would bring their issue to Moses, and he would bring it before the Lord. 

i’m so grateful that we don’t have to stand outside the ‘tent of meeting’ while someone intercedes on our behalf, or worship at a distance while someone else gets to interact with God as a friend. just like Abraham, if we act on what we believe, we too can be considered friends of God (james 2:22-23), and experience the intimacy that comes along with that. 

the same opportunity is there for everyone. will you make the investment and take advantage of it?


Thursday, July 23, 2015

fasting & the sabbath ... redefined.

i can't tell you how many people i've heard talk about taking a break from social media lately. it seems that many are feeling the need to remove distractions, simplify and get focused on what really matters. then on sunday, pastor jack talked about isaiah 58 and called us to a church-wide week of prayer & fasting ...
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please ... Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? ... If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed ...
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words.

a true fast is not just about denying yourself. it's much less about what you don't do, and much more about what you're called to do instead. i could give up dessert and alcohol and facebook. i could stop watching tv, or not eat for 40 days. but it doesn't mean a thing if i'm not also proactively doing something for others & for God.

i also found it interesting that this passage speaks to the importance of the Sabbath. how we are called to keep the Sabbath today is something that has been rolling around in my head for a while now. during my trip to Haiti, a scripture about the Sabbath from Hebrews 4 jumped out at me ...

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it ... Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said ... And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world ... There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

i'm not a biblical scholar by any means, but it surely seems to me that the Sabbath, just like fasting, is not about doing nothing, but about being called to a higher standard. we are not supposed to do as we please or speak idly, but to honor God through obedience. when God finished creation, He entered rest. it wasn't just a one day break, but has been going on ever since. and God has made that rest available to us, too. 

through the 10 commandments, the Sabbath was 1 day of rest per week. but because of Jesus and our belief in Him, we have the opportunity to enter into His eternal rest. through Jesus, we can rest in the knowledge that we are able to approach a glorious God with complete confidence, and that He will help us in our time of need. isaiah 58 calls us to bring freedom to and meet the needs of the oppressed, and then tells us to honor the Sabbath. healing and providing are things that Jesus regularly did on the Sabbath, so doing the work of a true fast - walking in obedience - is part of the rest to which we are called. 

we are absolutely called to set aside time for God. and sometimes that involves giving up normal pleasures. but fasting and resting are a lot more active than one might think ... and the fruit is that much sweeter!