Tag Archives: truly his

Praise, Phish and Bob Weir: An Exceptional Trio

When I first started living my life for Christ, I drew a lot of lines in the sand. In many ways, my world became black and white. Yes to this and no to that. This is good and that is bad.

I remember feeling like if I quit doing some things, and replaced them with things that were more fruitful – that I would be well on my way to living the ultimate Christian lifestyle.

In my mind it was all so simple. Was I attending church and Bible study enough? What company was I keeping? Was I drinking? If so, how much? What was I reading, watching, listening to?  Was I putting in enough quiet time?

My faith was a lot about my actions and constantly teetered on the verge of legalism.

In some ways, I feel like this was necessary at that time in my life. I was in my early 20s, and let’s just say prior to living for the Lord – I was a bit of a wild child. In order for me to change some undesirable habits, my environment had to change. Consequently, I became immersed in the church culture.

My husband and I found a church we loved, filled with like-minded individuals who were living their lives for Christ. We began attending a house church with other people our age and quickly developed some of our closest, deepest friendships that are still some of our closest friends to this day. We began to experience relationships in ways we never had before.

I vividly remember going to our first house church cookout. As we parked the car next to the curb, there was a moment before opening our doors when my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I looked at each other and said, “Do you really think they won’t have alcohol here? How do we get through a cookout without alcohol?”

It seemed so strange that such a cookout would even exist. Cookouts and beer went together like peanut butter and jelly. I don’t care how long these people have been going to church. They have to know this, right? It was all so foreign to us.

That night we learned a few new things – like going to a cookout without alcohol is actually a ton of fun. For those of you who have never been to one – it’s true. I’m not lying. We had a blast. That evening is forever etched in my mind. I can clearly remember conversations I had with different people that night. I even remember watching as Pat lifted up his sweatshirt to reveal his multi-colored Grateful Dead t-shirt underneath after learning that our host was also a huge Dead fan.

In that moment, I realized it was possible for our past and our present to intertwine in a way that may actually be okay. Maybe all of our past wasn’t so bad?

Fast forward to present day and I can say with confidence that it wasn’t all so bad. Over the years, I have learned that God can take some of the most difficult, challenging times in our lives and use them for good – even our poor choices. He makes beauty from ashes time and time again.

Since my early 20s, my faith has become much less legalistic. I have learned, and truly experienced, how wide and high and deep is the love of God. I have felt His grace cover me time and time again and truly believe He loves me. And He always has. Even when I was far away from Him.

I began to really embrace this truth when my children were young. Due to a lot of circumstances outside of my control, we weren’t able to attend church as often as we could when it was just the two of us. Attending Bible study regularly and prayer nights at the church became more challenging. At first, this was really hard for me. Would God love me as much if I wasn’t showing up regularly? My legalistic self was now face-to-face with the knowledge that I couldn’t perform how I once had. What did this mean for my faith? Would people think I didn’t love Jesus anymore if I wasn’t at church on Sunday?

Turns out, it doesn’t matter what people think of me. What matters is pleasing God – not man. And God knew my heart and my circumstances. I had to learn to accept the love of Christ as it was – a free gift filled with grace and love. It wasn’t about me and it wasn’t about what I was doing. It was about Him. There was nothing I could do to earn His love. And nothing I could do to make it go away.

He is the perfect Father.

The more I began to understand and accept that, the more deeply I experienced His love – and the more freely I was able to give it to others. No strings attached.

To others looking at my life now, there may be moments when I seem like a poor example of a Christian. I don’t attend church every Sunday. I want to, and try to, but sometimes life’s unexpected twists and turns get in the way. I drink alcohol on occasion. I have my nose pierced and am highly contemplating getting a tattoo – or ten. I watch the occasional R-rated movie and very possibly watch Netflix shows that can be considered crass and inappropriate. Some of the music I listen to has bad words and, if the kids aren’t around, there’s a good chance I may be found singing these songs – loudly. Like The Birthday Song by 2Chainz – the minute I’m by myself and that song shuffles through my playlist – it’s game on.

And that’s okay. I’m a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Perfection is unattainable. I will never be perfect and neither will you.

In the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed my past and present come together in a way that I can only describe as beautiful. When my husband and I were younger, we attended many a jam band concert – namely Phish. After becoming Christians, we took a long break from that scene.

Over the years, as we have loosened the reigns on our list of dos and don’ts, we have started to attend a variety of concerts again (and living in Nashville, there is definitely plenty of live music to choose from.) In the past few weeks, we attended both a Phish show and a Bob Weir concert.

During the Phish show, as the band was playing and the people around me were swaying to the sounds of the music, I looked up at the stage framed by the city we now call home and at the stars twinkling in the sky – and strongly felt the presence of God. As my body moved and my gaze fixed upward, I began to pray. I prayed for those at the show with me. I prayed for God’s angels to come to that place. I prayed for His love and mercy to cover us. And a couple of weeks later, at the Bob Weir show, I had a similar experience (only indoors.)

I am learning something that seems so basic, but I had somehow missed. God is everywhere. You don’t need to be at a Christian concert to worship. You can worship Him wherever you are. I think my 20-something self would have guffawed at the thought of worshipping God at a Phish show. You go to church and Christian concerts to worship God. Not Phish shows.

The week after my worshipping God at the Phish show moment, Chris Tomlin lead worship at our church service. As my hands were lifted to the air and my heart was once again worshipping God I was reminded of the unexpected moment I had earlier in the week. The moment when God met me at the Phish show. The moment when my past and present collided in a way that felt like a true gift of redemption.

Our pastor then got up and spoke about the seven Hebrew words for praise. He talked about a word in the Hebrew language that meant praising God through music, Zamar. He talked about joyfully making music with song and instrument. As he spoke of the seven words for praise, I was reminded we should praise Him in all things. At all times. In song. In dance. In gratitude. In prayer. In worship. In silence. Loudly with hands lifted high and quietly while on our knees. At concerts and coffee shops. On walks in nature and when driving the car.

Praise Him for where we’ve been. Praise Him for where we are going. Praise Him for this very moment.

Praise Him for the journey.

Lines that are drawn in sand aren’t meant to last for long. As the tides rise and the waves crash in, the lines vanish with the water returning to it’s source. I am grateful that so many of my lines have been erased. I am grateful that God has taken my heart that at one time may have been more bent toward judgment then I would ever care to admit – and turned it to a heart that clearly sees my imperfection and my need for a Savior. He has forgiven me for much and He continues to do so. He loves me more than I will ever fully be able to fathom. I want my life to reflect this love He has poured so graciously and freely on to me. I want my life to be a vessel. More of Him. Less of me. More of His love. More of His light.

Praise Him for where we’ve been. Praise Him for where we are going. Praise Him for this very moment.

Praise Him for the journey.

In all things. At all times. Whether at church on a Sunday morning. Whether seeing Phish on a Wednesday or Bob Weir on a Monday night. Whether at a cookout with alcohol, or one without. Wherever you may be in your journey.

Praise Him.

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2: 8-10

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my 
God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my 
stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

 

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You Say

Today, I knelt down in front of the ottoman that sits at the end of my bed. I watched this video with my hands folded tightly in front of me. And I cried.

It wasn’t a sobbing, intense cry. It was a silent, tears falling slowly out of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks cry. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with the sobbing, no holds barred cry. In fact, I’m a huge fan. I believe it can be incredibly cleansing and, at times, extremely necessary.

I know some people, including myself, have called it the “ugly cry.” I guess from a superficial standpoint you can see why. When it’s happening, you may not sound the best you ever have, and by the time it’s over – your face may not look the best, either.

After the last tear has fallen, you are usually left with a lot of snot, red puffy eyes and there’s a really good chance your shirt may be a little wet and snot covered, too.

But once you remove all of that superficial stuff, the ugly cry is really pretty beautiful.

It’s a true, outward expression of the pain (and even joy) that someone is overcome with in that moment. It’s raw, uncontrolled, passionate and purely authentic.

I will never forget the moment when I felt the true power of the ugly cry. Years ago, I was attending a friend’s mom’s funeral. His mom was a Filipino woman and in the final moments of the service, as we stood by her gravesite, there was a collective wailing that took place. It started with one or two women and suddenly, it was everywhere. Women wailing. Women falling. Women outwardly expressing the depths of the pain they were feeling internally. It was hard to watch. I remember actually turning away at one point because the intensity was so great. But at the same time, it was so beautiful. It was so real. They didn’t care what anyone around them thought – their hearts were broken and because of their pain, a collective cry of anguish was released into the air.

It was incredibly sad. And incredibly beautiful. There was nothing ugly about it.

For me, that kind of cry doesn’t happen often. When it does happen, unlike the collective cry I heard at the gravesite – mine is rarely in the company of others. Nope. The sobbing, no holds barred, ugly cry is a rare, personal occurrence – only reserved for the moments of extreme loss and pain.

So no ugly cry for me today. Today, my tears fell slowly and silently as I listened to this beautiful song.

As you can probably tell from my writings lately, I am processing some stuff. Is it a mid-life crisis? Could be.  Is it one of those exciting times of reflection and introspection that result in positive change? Very possibly.

Whatever the cause, this song ministered to my heart in a powerful way this morning. It brought me to my knees and reminded me that regardless of my circumstances, regardless of what I am thinking or feeling at any given moment – it’s what God says, it’s His truth, that matters.

If you haven’t heard this song (or even if you have) please take a moment to listen and to let the words touch your heart and soul.

This post is a homage to my previous blog – mylifesettomusic. At the end of every post I would include a song that touched me – like this one did this morning.

I hope you enjoy it and if you find yourself with tears falling down your cheeks today (or maybe even in the middle of an ugly cry) know He is with you. He says you are loved. He says you are strong. He says you belong.

You are beautiful, my friend. Ugly cry and all.

Simply beautiful.

 

 

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When Lockdown Happens

Last Thursday, I pulled into the pick-up line at the end of the school day – as I always do. And my daughter walked to the car – as she always does. But something was different.

Something was wrong.

She opened the car door as the words came pouring out of her mouth.

“Did you hear what happened? Did they tell you?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“No. I haven’t heard anything. What happened? Are you okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“The school went on lockdown.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“Why? Is everyone okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

The words poured from her mouth as she explained what happened in full detail. It began with an announcement over the PA system. The words spoken over the PA were few, but the reactions the words caused were swift.

“We are on lockdown. This is not a drill. We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

Silence. Movement. Waiting. Silence. Tears.

My daughter went on to describe how the teacher locked the door, turned off the lights and ushered everyone to the corner of the room.

He stood in front of them.

They had been through this before. They knew what to do. Only this time was different. This time it was not a drill.

Kids were crying.

She knew her teacher was scared by the look in his eyes, but he remained calm – as heroes do. Reminding them of the importance of their silence.

My daughter said she knew she had to be quiet, so she let the tears fall from her eyes, down her cheeks, but did not make a peep for fear that someone outside of the room may hear.

Someone accidentally dropped his crutch. More crying. Would this bring someone to their room?

In the middle of her telling me this story, she looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “Mom. I have never been so afraid in all of my life.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

What do I say? How do I respond?

“I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t imagine how scary that had to have been. Then, what happened?”

After the lockdown was over, she was told there had been a fight close to the school and someone had a gun. As a precaution, the police told the schools in the surrounding areas they had to go on lockdown. She was told the altercation took place in a small, new neighborhood.

She said she spent the rest of the day wondering if that was our neighborhood. Wondering if her brother and I were okay. Wondering if I would be there to pick her up.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

My daughter and I spent the remainder of the car ride home talking about what happened. She vented. I listened.

For a few minutes that day – my daughter, her classmates, the teachers and staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

This is the reality that teachers, administrators, students and countless others who work in the school system face.

These people are heroes.

My daughter’s teacher had no idea what was happening. He didn’t know who was out there. He pushed the kids into the corner and stood in front of them. Ready to give his life for theirs.

These people are heroes.

When I picked up the girls from the elementary school, I found out the same thing had happened there.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Another one of my daughters described how they went into the cubby room and she held the hand of the friend across from her while two friends on each side of her snuggled in. They all grabbed coats and covered their bodies for extra protection.

As she recounted her experience, it took everything for me to not break down.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

For a few minutes that day – my daughters, their classmates, the teachers and the staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

And then, on Sunday, I awoke to the news that not far from our house – four innocent people’s lives were taken at a Waffle House.

The killer was still on the loose.

I contemplated not going to church. Not sending my kids to school. What if that drill becomes a reality? What if?

And then I was reminded of what I am reminded of so often, I cannot live my life in fear. I cannot teach my children to live their lives in fear.

I have to be brave. We have to be brave.

We have to remain positive.

There are so many more good people than bad in the world.

I need to remember that. We need to remember that.

Thank you to all of you heroes out there.

Thank you to the school workers who go through these drills with the knowledge that someday it may not be a drill.

Thank you to the police officers who rush into these situations, ready to save lives – and possibly give their own.

These people are heroes.

Thankfully, there are so many more heroes out there than bad guys. This is what I hope to teach my children. This very possibly may not be the only time they hear the words, “We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

I hope it is, but it may not be.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Thank you, God, for these drills so that if the moment comes, these heroes know what to do. Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many people who are willing to take action. Thank you, God, for those who are willing to surrender their lives to save the lives of others.

Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many heroes.

Thank you to the heroes in both of my children’s schools last Thursday. You did not know what was outside of your doors and you were ready to protect. To possibly give your lives – for my children.

Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart and with all of my being – Thank you.

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