I was listening to Bethel this morning (it’s my go-to, especially when I’m struggling with my mental/spiritual health), & the lyrics, “with every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God,” resonated with me. Breathing seems so ordinary until you can’t do it, right? Like, we just expect lungs to inflate & deflate. We expect the transition of oxygen to our cells to be seamless, to be subconscious, until it’s not.
When you’re aware of every breath, it’s stressful–>which can contribute to anxiety–>which also makes it hard to breathe…But singers gotta sang, right?!?
Worshippers HAVE to worship. It’s how we’re wired–it’s what God made us to do, even those of us that may only sound mediocre to others. When He makes you to do something, He shuts that fire up in your bones and it HAS to come out, even when you don’t think you’re able.
If you cut the hands off of a drummer, they will rig a set and keep a rhythm with their feet (just ask Rick Allen). They literally have cadence running through their veins–try sitting next to my sister during ANY kind of musical performance. She will tap on whatever is handy, impulsively. I think she probably taps rhythms out while she sleeps–it’s who she is. She. Is. A. Drummer. It’s who God made her to be, regardless of the job that pays the bills. When God creates you to worship Him in a certain way, it consumes your entire being.
I have always been surrounded by music. I remember singing Gatlin Brothers songs while washing the dishes, or The Oak Ridge Boys, or even Madonna, Skynyrd, or Cash. Church hymns line the wrinkles of my brain–“The Old Rugged Cross,” or “In the Garden.” My mom’s harmony laid the path for my own, & the Baptist church I was raised in taught me deep lyrics & rich melodies, & how they all worked together to worship Jesus. For my sister, it was the rhythms and the guitars. For me, it was the voices, and since I can remember, I have sang my lungs out whenever possible…
But sometimes, I can’t.
Asthma is a jerk–I’ve made it no secret just how I feel about the contemptable beast. Most of the time, I go on uninterrupted. No one would know I actually have a partially-paralyzed vocal chord from my cancer surgery. I sound almost normal, and God knows I haven’t lost a lot of volume (in short bursts). Vocally (when I can breathe), although I’ve lost a lot of power and duration, things sound almost the same, which had originally stressed me out the most about the surgery. I don’t even think about that, most of the time. Breathing, however, is another story. Vocal chords work based on how air moves between them. Asthma likes to rear its ugly head this time of the year, & this time it’s BAD–like, ER, steroids, and more steroids bad. Nothing really seems to be touching it, & I’m struggling with worrying about it (amongst the stress of everything else). “With every breath that I am able?” Oh, Jesus, what if I’m not?!?
Then we praise Him in the silence.
We praise Him with our voices, and when those run out, we find other ways to give Him glory, whether it’s a blog or a note to a friend, or a silent prayer, or even just a hug to someone who needs it. We praise Him with whatever we can do or find, because regardless of the method or ability, IT’S WHO HE MADE US TO BE.
So, “with every breath that I am able, I WILL sing of the goodness of God,” even when I can’t breathe, even when I’m stressed, even when I’m run-down, and even when I don’t think I can function. He still is, and I am still who He created me to be. I’m going to push aside the emotional aspects of this, and focus on that.
When the year started, I felt the Lord say from the beginning to “give Me a year. Give Me this year.”
Sure, I hemmed and hawed about it…I procrastinated. I had my book about the Torah sitting on the couch (it’s still there) and a few other books set aside, and as life would have it, me & my hamster wheel just kept spinning, and I kept on saying, “It’s early, Lord. I’ll get there. I’ll get there….”
But I didn’t.
But then, COVID.
And lo-&-behold, I GOT THERE.
In hearing God say, “Give me a year,” what He was telling me was that it was time for me to get serious about His Word. It’s time for me to read it; to love it; and to push past the arrogance of a lifetime of Christian education, & to look at it through new eyes. It’s time to read it in humility & in wonder…it’s time to read the Word with acceptance and through lenses of His love for us (or as close as we can come to understanding His love for us–THAT is an ever-evolving journey). 2020 has been a year of unlearning and relearning the Bible, and in undoing & redoing my personal theology in ways I never realized could be done. It’s been a year of restoration, depletion, and of new creation, as far as my spiritual life has gone. God put me in a position where yes, He took the year, but I gave it to Him, first…He gently asked, I stalled; He made it possible, and I have slowly-but-surely turned it over to Him, day by day.
Up until this year, I NEVER had a heart for reading the Word. I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore–I realize why I became so calloused, and why it was easier for me to act like I had it together or was so smart, when really, my head knowledge about the Word has never matched up to my heart’s understanding or desire for the Word–and I’m not ashamed to admit it’s been a work in progress. I’ve been following a daily reading plan that includes an audio Bible, and I’ve been listening to it every morning on my way into work. It’s been revolutionary. There’s so much I never noticed before, and so much that I never realized I was skipping or glossing over. Hearing the Word has revived parts of me that I didn’t know were dead! It’s drawn me in closer to God, and even though we all know I’m a salty chick, I think I’m more in love with Jesus than I’ve ever been before. Again, I’m a work-in-progress, and I’m always afraid someone will read this blog and think I’m something that I’m not. I’m a mess. I’m just…I’m a mess that loves Jesus, and is trying her best.
I’ve tried to stay committed on this path, and I hope I continue it for the rest of my life. I’ve found myself tempted by the glossy theology of deconstruction, & the only way I know how to stay on the path of the Lord is to follow His Word, so here I am…knowing there is no where else I’d rather be, even if my friends or my spiritual icons, or my personal inspirations, seem to be veering off course.
That seems to be happening a lot lately….people I used to have on pedestals (which isn’t their fault) are tumbling down into softened Christianity, selling out moral compasses for comfortable mattresses of “One Love theology.” It’s so tempting.
It’s so, so tempting, to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything in Scripture that makes us uncomfortable….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that doesn’t make sense to us….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that sounds like judgment or conviction….
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Love–but then to interpret that word into permission…
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Freedom–but then to interpret that word into passivity.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be comfortable.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be accepted by the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to understand or that everything “has” to make sense.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept carnal influences and allows them to strip us of our abilities to make choices.
–Theology that ties love to acceptance, and states that in order for me to love you, I “have” to agree with all of your life choices.
I can’t live that way, and I can’t accept that’s the direction the Lord is taking His people.
Recently, our daily readings took us through Psalms 119. A particular verse stood out to me:
“I am a sojourner in the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me.”–Psalm 119:19 (ASV)
The word, “sojourner” stood out to me; it’s not a word you hear very often, although it’s one I’m familiar with. I went ahead and looked it up, just to be sure my understanding was correct. A sojourner is a stranger or a nomad. Wikipedia says it’s “a person who resides temporarily in a place.”
There was a book series I loved when I was a kid, called The Chronicles of Prydain. If ever I was in love with a fictional character, it was Taran, the main character. In the book, Taran Wanderer, Taran goes on a quest to determine his parentage. Throughout the story, Taran proves his character & the end result (spoiler alert) is new confidence in the boy he was, and in the man he has become. The overall tone of the book is the journey itself, though, as Taran feels like a man without a family or a home. He has no roots, no lineage, and no claim to be able to propose to the woman he loves.
To wander through life without a feeling of belonging or home, is the very definition of what it means to be a sojourner. It is a feeling of being out-of-place, of never belonging anywhere tangible. It is a feeling of being, in a word, UNCOMFORTABLE.
Psalms 119:19 asks God not to hide His commandments from us–that’s because when you’re a sojourner, you need the anchor of His Word to ground you….to remind you that nope–THIS isn’t home, but you’re eternally tied into the place where you belong, which is with Him.
Christianity was never designed to be “comfortable.” It’s not designed to feel good–I mean, God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die a terrible death so that we could spend eternity with Him. It’s a belief system built on sacrifice.
Sacrifice is (wait for it)…UNCOMFORTABLE!
So, we’re sojourners—we’re just passing through this crazy world, and we know that no matter how difficult it gets, we have peace on the other side. Sometimes, that’s a huge comfort in and of itself (not always, but sometimes)…but “comfort” is the word I’m taking to task, because it seems to be more important these days than anything else.
We do EVERYTHING in order to make our lives more “convenient.” Like, I love me some Target Drive-Up or Walmart Pick-Up grocery shopping! I love me some Amazon! I love anything that doesn’t cause me to have to get out of my car or to interact with people. I love my electronics; I love my “quick fixes” for just about anything. I, like most Americans, do NOT like to be inconvenienced. I like my comfortable clothes, my super-soft blankets, and my aromatherapy mister.
I don’t like to be uncomfortable.
At some point, our desire to be comfortable has spread into our theology, and we have forgotten what our very faith is based in.
True love is uncomfortable.
True Love means I care enough about someone to say when they’re making a life choice that has spiritual repercussions. It means I care enough to have uncomfortable conversations in respect & in gentleness (I Peter 3:15). It doesn’t mean that I force my beliefs on someone, but it does mean that when that door opens, I am willing to step out in faith and talk to someone.
True Love means I stop expecting God to answer my questions. That might shock a few people–let me explain: Shortly after my daughter passed away, Natalie Grant’s song “Held” came out. The lyrics are forever burned into my brain; specifically, the line, “Who told us we’d be rescued? What has changed, and why should we be saved from nightmares?”
Those lyrics rocked my world, and woke me up to the absolute arrogance and entitlement with which I was living my faith. I will never understand the hows or whys, but what I do understand and believe is that God has a plan. I do understand and believe that God is GOOD…and even though what has happened does not always seem to match up on the surface with that, I am set in my belief that it is true. God. Is. Good….and that goes beyond the scope of my comprehension. Who am I, to demand answers and explanations from Him?!
WHY DO CHRISTIANS THINK THEY SHOULD ONLY EVER ENCOUNTER GOOD THINGS? Why do we think we’re immune to heartache? To loss? To sickness or disease? NOTHING in the Bible states that “you find Jesus, it’s green lights and allllllll rights from here, baby!!!!” NO–verse after verse after verse reminds us that this world is not our home. They remind us that yes, good can come from suffering, but THERE IS SUFFERING. I tend to blame prosperity garbage for these lies, and I most definitely think it’s a theology that’s responsible for devastating the church (I don’t agree with everything in this documentary, but the film American Gospel has some good sticking points about the Prosperity Gospel). WE ARE HUMANS. WE ARE BROKEN PEOPLE, LIVING IN A SICK, BROKEN, DISEASED WORLD. We are in the world, even if we aren’t of the world, and guess what? No matter what color you’re wearing, it’s gonna get dirty in a garbage bin. WE ARE NOT IMMUNE, and it’s total arrogance for us to think anything otherwise.
True Love means that when I don’t get the answers I want or think that I deserve, that I lean back in faith and still trust Him, even though not knowing or understanding makes me VERY uncomfortable.
A “comfortable” theology looks at the moral compasses and absolutes in Scriptures, cocks its head back, raises an eyebrow, and says those fateful words, “Hath God Not Said?”
“Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Wrecked it All, and they’re the first four words we say when we find ourselves faced with Uncomfortable Theology that we want to talk ourselves out of. “Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Satan the Snake used to lead Eve to eat the Apple and to corrupt her husband, and “Hath Got Not Said” are the Four Words that put us in this leaky boat on an ocean of UGH.
It is so uncomfortable to trust God. It is so uncomfortable to wander through this earth, through this mortal life, knowing that this unsettled feeling is permanent. We’re strangers in a strange land, and we’re a long way from Home. It’s okay that we accept the fact that it’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s VERY uncomfortable…
But it’s worth it….
It’s worth it for those glimpses into His character that we see in His Word. It’s worth it for those whispers we hear in our hearts from Him. It’s worth it to hear His Spirit speak into our hearts, to hear Him call us His sons and daughters. It’s worth it to know the security and grace only He can offer. It’s worth it to know we are forgiven, and that we are loved, and that we can share that love with others in this unloving world…in this world that sells a candy-coated, hollowed-out version of love that is so far from the Real Thing…We have in our hearts a Love that is more inclusive than anything the world can imitate. We have a Love that extends grace to all who ask…who extends eternity to all who seek it through Jesus. How great of a Love is that?
This has been a Most Uncomfortable Year for so many…I, for one, am glad that this world is not my home, because who would want to think this is it??!?! If this is all there is–if there isn’t an eternity to call Home–it’s sorely disappointing, even at it’s best, in the light of what Jesus offers us.
Truth be told, I started percolating on this blog last week, while I was sick, and while I was facing my 43rd birthday. I’ve had 43 years on this planet, and it takes me FOREVER to feel like I even slightly “fit in” anywhere. I always feel like a weirdo, but maybe instead of a “weirdo,” I should adopt the term, “sojourner,” because it seems more fitting. This world is not my home. Eternity is my home and my hope, and I am praying that as I continue on this road of reading and of falling in love with the Bible, that my eyes stay focused on just that….on hiding His commandments in my heart, and on hearing His voice. He asked me for one year…it’s turning into all of them. That’s uncomfortable to say…but I guess that’s the point of this blog.
I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but sometimes the differences are so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but to notice them, and yep–I’ve noticed: I’m boring.
There was a time (and some of you will remember this) where I actually PRAYED to be boring (and my statement of being boring is NOT a complaint). Things in my life were so chaotic that I couldn’t see which end was up, and all I wanted was for things to die down–I needed an ordinary, boring life, and I prayed on a daily basis for some kind of calm to take place just so that David & I could catch our breath!
And, just like that, here we are–We’re boring.
Now, I’m saying this with the full knowledge that much like the proverbial dog-paddle, we look calm on the surface, but underneath, we’re kickin’ full-steam ahead. We’re treading water in the middle of a panic attack, but at this point, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. Everyone is stressed out, fed up, flipping over, & manic…
And so are we…but we’re used to this, so we’re still smiling. 🙂 I guess I never thought of repetitive states of chaos conditioning us to a lifestyle of stress, but I’ll be darned–it has! I don’t always look at the frantic pace with this same level of calm (LOL–y’think?!?), but for now–even if it’s just for today–I’m a peace with all of it.
So, yeah, I’m boring (and I’m generally okay with that).
I had the opportunity this weekend to hang out with my older sister, Billie. We’re typically as opposite as two siblings can be–she’s short, I’m tall; I like Broadway and rap, and she likes Southern Rock and the Blues (okay, I like everything except jazz, and I think she agrees with that). I love broccoli, & she’d practically shank you with a stalk when we were kids, as opposed to just eating it (this is great ammunition for my son, because I can now tell him Auntie is short because she didn’t eat her veggies. He has no idea that at 5’7″ I am freakishly tall for our family. All of the veggies in the world aren’t gonna make that kid tall, but I can try while I have the chance). I don’t remember the last time we spent 3 days together, and it was a lot of fun. I have to say, I’m a bit envious–at 47, she still stays involved with the music scene and is a fill-in drummer/percussionist whenever she gets the chance. Sometimes, I’m not going to lie–I wonder where music might have taken me, had I given it the chance? It’s those missed opportunities and/or a lack of pursuit that occasionally rumble around in the back of my brain….
This was also my first opportunity to attend Blues Farm, where a bunch of people hung out, camped, and listened to some great music (Jackson Stokes, the Kris Lager Band, and the incomparable Amanda Fish).
Now, I haven’t been camping…ever…and I’ve been told that since I didn’t have to use the bathroom in the woods, that this doesn’t count. Whatever–I slept in the Tent From Hell, so I’m counting it. Speaking of the Tent From Hell, therein lies the title of this blog–“The Blues and Bad Behavior.”
Ever lose your temper so voraciously that there is NO GOING BACK?!?
Like, have you ever lost your temper and basically spit fire and sludge like some kind of vomitous garbage heap?!? Yeah, I totally did. I lost it, and I lost it BADLY. I’ve learned that I should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever–get it? LIKE, EVER–try to put a tent up in front of anyone. Like, no one should have to hear that hot mess. It was bad. I think I invented a few swearwords. I don’t even know what I said, but I know none of it was good. In my last blog, I wrote about, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” & I think I addressed the importance of the words you leave behind. It’s safe to say that if anyone had my verbal launch in writing, it’s a story no one would ever want to read…I flat-out embarrassed myself. I’m a firm believer that profanities should be verbal, never written, and that they’re a lazy man’s way of communicating….and boy, was I slacking on the job. Thus, the “Bad Behavior–“I wish I could take it all back and somehow preemptively wash my mouth out, but nope–there it lays. UGH. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I recollect….hopefully…maybe it just seemed particularly coarse because I haven’t lost it that badly in a very, VERY long time (pre-child)…but yikes.
(OMG, the gray hair! Get a good look at it, because I’m goin’ in for color in a few weeks! BAH!!) It’s a good thing I was a pretty good distance away from people, and that the people who were within earshot were very, very forgiving.
But, back to the good stuff–The Blues.
I love music. I love music that makes me emote, music that hits my soul and makes me want to sing. I love that God created music as a universal language, that even when we don’t understand the words, we still feel it the same across the world. I love that feeling when someone just blows you away, and all of the hair stands up on your arms. I love seeing skilled musicians that love what they do, and that pour that joy into their melodies and lyrics.
I love seeing people get gross and sweaty on stage, because they’ve just poured everything out there for the audience to hear and to see. I love worship sets that have ended on the floor, because people are worshiping so passionately with music as the medium, that they are spiritually overwhelmed in the Presence of God. Music was made for worship, to worship, the One Who created it. He made it for His pleasure, and He made us in His image, so we respond to it as well.
Music is so, so powerful–I’ve met very few people that don’t like music, and I have always looked at them sideways. I don’t know that life (and I don’t want to). A good musician touches you spiritually, emotionally, even physically in the overpouring–it’s such a deep thing. I love how I feel when I get to be a part of a team of musicians that all have the same goal: To reach the feet of Jesus…to bear witness to that ultimate expression of worship…
Music is amazing.
The Blues as we know them came from the hearts of an oppressed people whose souls were overburdened with the pain of their lives. It grew out of sorrow that eventually transposed to other emotions–love, even joy. It became a genre of music, as opposed to a culture in music. I feel like it gets appropriated a lot by Southern Rock, which is heavily, heavily influenced by The Blues, and that bands have to be careful of making sure credit is given where it is due. The Blues originated from a deep, soul-level longing, pulling from African roots, from slave songs, and from spirituals. I think that in American music, we tend to categorize it by bass lines and chord progressions; I believe it’s much more than that. There are all kinds of categories of The Blues, but when I hear that phrase, I always think of the call-and-responses from the fields where a stolen people sang their hope and laments.
This weekend at Blues Farm had some Blues, some rock, some funk, and a good mix of stuff that anyone can dance to, and it was a ton of fun. The bands that played were approachable, honest, and engaging; the people in the audience were so fun to watch, and I could not have felt more out of my element, LOL–but my sister was TOTALLY in hers! She played percussion for almost 6 hours–I’d be a noodle by then.
One of the takeaways that I had from the weekend (outside of my renewed understanding in my overall boringness) is how music is so gracious and fluid. My sister played with 2 bands that she hadn’t rehearsed with. There was no soundcheck (um, shout-out to Terry, the sound guy, for being AMAZING–sound is difficult to run, and he was primo!!!), no practicing–there was just, “Hey, get in, let’s play,” and that’s SO EXCITING TO SEE!!! As a singer, that’s a freedom I wish I got to have, and I don’t think I’ve ever got to do that–to just jump in on a full set, BOOM, let’s go!!–and to not only do it exceedingly well, but to have fun in the process! I didn’t see ANY ego in the bands–everyone was so humble and so obviously there for the sheer joy of playing. I don’t see that enough in music (or ever, really, in church music–people get so caught up in the techniques and the ego that it falls flat of actually being a joyful experience. I’m guilty of it, too). I always overthink things and then I get scared, even in a worship set. SO. Much. Anxiety. I loved looking up and seeing the drummer and my sister perfectly in sync on various rhythms, solely based on how they felt the music, as opposed to having every “i” dotted. It was messy and funky, and it was absolutely PERFECT. GOSH, it was fun to watch and to listen to!
So, in spite of my Bad Behavior, I wound up meeting awesome new people, at a beautiful piece of property in MO, and listening to some really groovy music made by some true artists. I got to sit in on Live Frickin’ Music, y’all, and I’d almost forgotten just how wonderful it is to be in the audience again..
I took the opportunity to try my hand at concert photography, which was a new experience that I didn’t know I’d like as much as I do (David could have done much better, but I don’t think I was terrible!). I gained a new appreciation for my sister’s level of skill, and a new understanding of music in the process. I had a beautiful 3 days in perfect temps, and then I came back home on Sunday to my awesome husband and my crazy kiddo, who both missed me a ton (and I totally missed them). I’m back on the hamster wheel, but for 3 days, I got to experience Blues Farm, and I feel like (in spite of the Tent from Hell), it was a refresher for my brain.
Yep, I’m boring–I’m nowhere near as cool as those musicians or the people who looked way chiller than me, relaxing in their lawn chairs and enjoying the show. I’m way too uptight (I don’t sit still very well), but it was fun to kick back a few days and to meet new people (which, if you know me, you know I don’t do so well on that part–dang you, social anxiety) who seemed like they liked my neurotic self just the way I am (and who made a great deal of fun of my sister, so now I have to love them forever).
I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to Blues Farm in the future…and to hopefully, better behavior….or duct tape. 🙂 (I swear to you, I will NEVER put that tent up again. I’ll sleep on the bare ground first. I’m not kidding).
Love, Peace, and Loud Guitars Forever, y’all. 🙂 (Or at least, that’s what the Cool Kids say). 🙂
The world is buried in a cacophony of sound and volume.
We think everything has to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” (shout-out to Kanye for that earworm); everything has to be so much more “-er,” or it’s just not good enough. We can’t be satisfied with “basic.” In fact, the term “basic” is now an insult! We’ve completely forgotten how to be satisfied with the “bare necessities” that our dear Baloo sang about with such sweet abandon. Everything has to be “Extra,” and if it’s not, well, then it’s “basic,” and that’s BAD. J
It’s so hard to just get quiet.
It’s difficult to get low…to get completely focused…to see the Beauty in the Small.
Last Sunday, I was privileged to be on an “abbreviated” worship team of 3 people. In a church that averages around 50 people or less, we usually have a team that includes a keyboardist/singer, another keyboardist/singer, a guitarist/singer, a bassist, an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a bongo/cajon player, and 3 background vocalists (of which I am 1). That’s a worship team that’s around 20% of the size of the congregation.
I know that sometimes, there’s a focus on the “sound” that emanates from a team of musicians and singers. Number = volume = emotional impact. I’m not really about that (and that’s not intended to be any kind of a derogatory thought or statement). I’ve been on teams of 40-50 singers, and I’ve been on teams of 2, and one thing I’ve found is that if a heart for worship is there, the Holy Spirit moves. His heart isn’t moved by numbers or volume. His heart is moved by worship, and by a willingness to put ourselves out there to focus on Him.
That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with distractions.
Distractions come in so many forms. As a singer, I struggle with technology (anyone else hate Avioms? Or at least, Avioms that seem to have been chewed up internally by rabid mice? Okay, that hasn’t LITERALLY happened, but my Aviom is constantly going in-and-out, and that is a…problem). I struggle with understanding cues, and with knowing my place. I struggle with my age—am I still relevant as a team member in worship, at 41, when more and more kids and young adults are coming up? I don’t understand click tracks and talk-backs, and I’m not a musician, so I don’t always understand the “right” chord progression. I have this terrible tendency to switch harmonies in the middle of a song if I don’t stay focused, which is a nightmare for anyone singing with me (I’d assume—most people are nice to me about it). More times than not, I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “Dear God, I’m a mess. I’m TERRIBLE.” I’m distracted by my own self-esteem, and every single Sunday, I have to push past that to focus on the reason why we come together as a team to worship God: He is worthy. He is so much more worthy of our praise and our attention. He is EVERYTHING, and everything else is NOTHING, so I push it aside—as does every other musician on the team—and we unify in the single focus of worshipping our Savior.
Sometimes it’s messy…but He is always glorified, and we always have the privilege of watching a congregation join us on that journey to praise Jesus.
So, last Sunday, most of our team was at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, taking part in the final One Thing conference. The theme was, “Reset,” and David & I live-streamed as much of it as possible. So many things from the conference really resonated with me…particularly, the discussion led by Corey Russell about Mary of Bethany, and her dear sister, Martha (who is one of my favorite people in the Bible…can’t imagine why).
Martha & I have a LOT in common. Mary and my husband have a LOT in common. My sister and I are about as naturally opposite as two people can get. Mary and Martha were about as naturally opposite as two people can get. J
I identify so strongly with those two sisters.
Martha had work to do, dangit! None of this sittin’ around, listening, whatever! There’s food to make, dishes to wash, things to clean! “You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” right? All of this lounging around, listening to some Guy talk?!?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! DANGIT, MARY, GET YOUR REAR IN HERE AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!” How many times have those words come out of my mouth to my husband?!? “DAVID!!!!!!!!!!! Put your tablet/Bible/whatever down and HELP ME!!!” “WHY can’t anyone see that I need help? Why do I always have to ASK?!? Why doesn’t anyone have INITIATIVE to come in here and do the stuff that needs to be done?!?!?!” Oh, Martha, I love you—I’m so glad the Lord saw fit to put you in the Bible, because women like me NEED to know we’re not tyrants. We’re just the kind of people that see a need and fill it, and pour out constantly….
And we pour ourselves into exhaustion and in doing things in our own strength, because we NEVER take the time to get Small, and get focused.
We never get out of our own heads to find our rest in Him, because we’re convinced in our broken arrogance that the volume of our work, and the number of our works, will turn the heart of God and everyone else.
We break when our efforts go unacknowledged, because we strive so much, even subconsciously, to be recognized and valued.
We so often forget that when we get Small and get focused, then we can hear Him say, “I love you. Just rest.”
BUT WE CAN’T REST, RIGHT?!?!? THERE ARE THINGS TO DOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
We are distracted, even with our good intentions.
It’s time to stop.
Last Sunday, 3 people came together in worship. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t bombastic or voluminous. It was simple…basic (in the best way)…and it was beautiful. It was Small, and it was intimate, and it felt like a healing balm in my heart.
When things are quieter, you have to listen harder. You have to focus more; you can’t be distracted, because then you miss the cues and there’s nothing that you can hide behind. There isn’t a blanket of sound that covers mistakes or cushions missed cues. It’s stripped down, and it’s pure…
There is Beauty in the Small.
For us Marthas in the world, we “go big or go home.” We’re going to do what we have to do; we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities. We’re going to produce good works, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes “wrong” when it becomes our focus, instead of the Jesus we say we want to serve. How can we hear what He wants when we’re so busy doing what we think needs to be done? If we don’t have those “Mary Moments” where we get quiet and focus at his feet…where we go Small and seek intimacy…how will know His heart?
We “go big,” but ultimately, in an All-Martha world, we get broken.
The Beauty of the Small is that in it, we find rest. We find focus; we find His heart in the simplicity and we are refueled and refocused to face the complicated.
The world throws volume and distraction our way….it keeps us from worship, and it keeps us from that place at His feet that He’s reserved for us. When we reset, we find our seat with Him…where we are His, and He is ours, and the joy of the Bridegroom for His Bride is complete.
As I stated in my last blog, my husband lost his job shortly before Christmas. There’s a funny thing that happens when your finances get cut by 60%: You stop running around. You no longer have the resources to fund things to do, so you find yourself staying home the majority of the time. Truth be told, had we done more of that prior to him losing his job, we probably wouldn’t have some of the financial troubles we’re currently struggling with. The sudden lack of income has left us reeling and has forced us to break down expenses, debts, excuses, bad decisions, and a lot of things we didn’t realize or didn’t want to deal with. Staying busy means that you can often ignore reality. Getting suddenly “unbusy” means reality comes crashing in, along with a WHOLE LOT of fear, failures, burdens, and things we hadn’t realized were quite so strong in our lives.
As a family, we’re in a bit of a “forced” Mary-Moment, and the Martha in me is FREAKING OUT. It’s a minute-by-minute process to stop, breathe, refocus, pray, and beg for peace. The conversations between my husband and I have been brutal, and outside of the death of our daughter, this is the hardest thing our marriage has been through. The anxiety is crushing, & while David tends to internalize to the point of my frustration, I am fighting to keep from exploding (to the point of HIS frustration). We don’t know how to deal with or process any of this…but we are. What else can we do?
And where else can we go? We have One place to turn with all of this.
Day by day, we look at each other…we watch our words very carefully, and sometimes, we fail. There’s a lot of unraveling…but as difficult as this is, we are taking the deep breaths and walking the path.
It’s not God’s “fault.” It’s an uncomfortable redirection, and it hurts. I don’t want to say “He has a plan,” because that phrase is so cliché. I want to say that He knows what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, so I will trust Him. We will trust Him…but to hear where He’s taking us, we have to embrace this Mary Moment, to focus, and to stay at His feet, even as everything within me wants to get up and run. “WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO FIX THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” It’s not in my nature to sit down and wait.
It’s time to get a new nature.
It’s time to find the Beauty in the Small…to realize the vanity of the distracting…to dull the outside noise and to take off the burden of the to-do list. It’s time to celebrate intimacy with the Father in quiet and in worship without the vanity of volume.
It’s time to reset.
(BTW, if you are looking for worship songs to help you in your journey of resting in Jesus, check out my friend, Bizzy Grapperhaus. She’s written so many songs that I call, “milestone songs;” the songs are Scripture-based, and for me, have truly helped key verses get ingrained into my heart through some of my toughest times. Right now, “Drink Offering,” “Here We Are,” and “Faithful as the Son” are on repeat on my Spotify account. This is NOT a sponsored plug, if you’re wondering; it’s just truth, because she’s awesome.)
Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.
Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.
I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”
I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.
We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.
For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”
My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂
My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…
And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.
I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.
I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….
Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.
You guys, God blew up my brain this morning. Like, He shattered me in the best of ways…..I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out:
In the morning, I have about a 45-minute commute. I like quiet in the mornings. My drive is usually where I try to get focused, I pray, and I listen. This morning, I had just finished praying the intro (LOL–by “the intro,” I mean the Lord’s Prayer. I start every day with that. Long story. Good enough for Jesus, good enough for me.) and I was thinking about my son. I was thinking about how he’s said a couple of times lately that he wants to be baptized. Now, he’s 5–I’m pretty sure he’s not ready yet, but it’s on the table. I was 9 when I became a Christian and was water-baptized, so I firmly believe that kids can know what they’re doing.
We pray with him every night. I want my son to know that God is real, that He is listening, and that we don’t have to fake anything with Him. Jericho’s prayers are really, really cute, and I believe that he prays with intention. David has been AMAZING at working with him on Bible verses (I highly recommend Pixie Paper on Amazon; we purchased superhero-themed prints with Bible verses on them, and Jericho’s been learning them since he was 3. “Green Lantern verse!” “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path!” “Captain America verse!” “Jesus is the Captain of my Salvation!”), and he’s been learning them at school.
Watching a child develop their own faith is fascinating.
As parents, we have to be careful of a trap that I have found myself in: Don’t disregard the strength of their prayers because they’re cute.
I was driving into work, thinking about how Jericho had jumped at the opportunity to pray over my family’s Father’s Day meal. It was a simple prayer, full of thanksgiving, and one I really didn’t put much stock into, because let’s face it: I have a really cute kid, and it’s cute when kids pray.
I was, of course, happy that he WANTED to pray (my mother was verklempt, LOL), but I didn’t really think too much more of it beyond the general pride I felt that MY KID PRAYS. Outside of that, it was adorable, and we go on with our day.
God feels differently.
I felt Him whisper to me this morning as I merged onto 270: “His prayers are REAL.”
My brain exploded like a firework. If I could have stopped my car and pulled over, I would have.
He kept going–it all rushed in: “His prayers are real, his heart is pure, and I AM LISTENING. All of Heaven is listening when a kid prays. His prayers have stock in them, just as yours do. Age doesn’t matter. I listen. Nothing he says is in vain; all of Heaven takes note. It’s written down. Jericho’s prayers are HEARD.”
So much for my mascara this morning.
How dare I sit back and write them off as a novelty?!?!?!?!?!?
The prayers of our children are heard in the heavenlies!!!!!!!!!!
I came into work, and turned on Bethel worship from a few Sundays ago. I picked it based on the screenshot of the worship leader, who I hadn’t heard before (Sean Feucht), and Pastor Bill Johnson was doing the intro. What he said made me stop in my tracks, and open up this blog to write all of this down:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)
Mr. Johnson went on to read a paraphrase of a few more verses of the chapter (hit the video at the 4:32 marker):
“You have built a stronghold, a dwelling place of strength, from the songs of babies. YOU HAVE BUILT A FORTRESS FROM THE SONGS OF BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!! Strength rises up from a chorus of babies. This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth. Childlike worship will silence the madness of those that oppose you.”
I have never, EVER read this verse like this. I’ve never seriously considered the power or strength of the prayers of a child. I’ve said, “oh, sure, that’s adorable, it’s good to teach kids to pray,” etc., but it’s never impacted me like it has this morning. Between what God whispered in my ear on my commute, and a different interpretation/paraphrase of a verse I’ve heard 1,000 times, my world is rocked this morning, and I am renewed in my prayers of gratitude for my son in my life. That boy is a gift and a blessing who has taught me more about God than in almost any other time in my life. He keeps me reliant on the Lord, and he keeps me committed to renew my faith every single day. Today is just one more example of the lessons God has taught me through Jericho…
You guys, how amazing, that the Creator of the universe stops in His tracks to hear the prayers of a child…that the prayers of the least of these matter to our Savior. Our prayers are never just a novelty act; He never writes them off because we’re who we are. He’s listening, and He’s not just listening–He’s looking forward to our conversations. He’s engaged with us as His Beloved. Jesus truly loves us so much more than we can know, and it’s a joy to belong to Him…it’s a joy to get to parent with the influence of His kindness…it’s a joy to be loved by Him…
And if you know that next line is, “cold beer on a Friday night,” you might be my people. I have a thing for the Zac Brown band.. I can’t help but to appreciate a group of true, honest musicians with REAL talent. I like music with meaning, and I like sounds that can be recreated face-to-face, instead of only in a studio.
Music is my happy place. When I hear a song I like, it feels like someone has recharged my batteries. I can’t identify the feeling, and I can’t tell you what it is about a song that gets my attention. I heard “Almost Human” on the radio this morning, and felt like I could go into war. I blogged about “Reckless Love” the other day, because it completely undid me (and continues to do so, every time I get to sing it). A good, truly well-written and/or well-performed song hits places in the spirit like nothing else.
I’ve sang for as long as I can remember. My mom is one of those harmonizers that you only hear once in a lifetime; I remember singing Gatlin Brothers‘ songs with her while we did dishes, back in the Single Mom Days. If walls could talk, I’m pretty sure my childhood home would sing.
I used to sing in a small group of mediocre people on behalf of our college, on a scholarship team. Yes, I said “mediocre,” as I am also, “mediocre.” None of us were ever going to rise up to be Kelly Clarkson. 😉 We were all comfortable midwest singers who did what we did to get out into various congregations to raise money for our school. We didn’t really have the resources or the training to take it any further. There are certain things about that time in my life that I remember fondly, but most of it is with sadness. Music was a performance on so many levels. I was singing about a Jesus that loved us all, but I felt unlovable and ugly…singing had been a refuge, but at the end, it was more of a prison. It was a very difficult time in my life; I was very, very good at playing “church,” but my heart was broken.
It wasn’t the fault of anyone that I was singing with; I needed more help than anyone knew how to give, or that I even knew how to ask for. Every day was increasingly difficult, and by the time I graduated from college, everything crumbled. I didn’t want to sing…I didn’t want to worship…and I really didn’t want to do anything.
I was clinically, deeply depressed, but this was 1999, and no one really talked about such things.
Church relationships that I had over the following years fell apart…family relationships struggled…and at some point, I hit the bottom, and I lost my song.
I never turned my back on my relationship with the Lord, through all of it…but you can shut down and hide in a cave, without turning your back on Him. My prayers were a string of unfinished sentences and runaway thoughts, for the longest time…and then, things began to shift…
I can’t remember if it was a book or a song, or a message; I don’t remember. I’d have to dig through some journals to see if it was a catalytic moment that began to pull me back. But gradually, slowly, my heart began to thaw out, and the music began to come back. Random songs began to pour out…songs about laundry, songs about the walk to work, songs about Jesus, songs about my future husband. I never really wrote any of them down, but they began to rise up like grass in a forgotten pasture. They were there; they never left, even when I shut my eyes and closed my ears.
In 2003 (or was it 2002?), I met my husband. We bonded over a shared love of Caedmon’s Call and Vineyard music that he introduced me to. We don’t have a whole lot of musical tastes in common (I like rap. No, that is not negated by my opening paragraph. Anyone that can recite in rhythm the amount of lyrics that are in any given rap song is TALENTED. Rap is poetry, and poetry is art). He likes jazz (which I think they play in elevators in Hell), I like Americana; he hates country, and I want to punch Diana Krall. We do have a mutual love of 90’s music, so there’s that–we’ll always have “Holiday,” LOL. I feel like most of David’s personal music catalog is some kind of cross between Rod Stewart and Norah Jones, with some Melody Gardot thrown in. My musical catalog is something like Chris Stapleton with some Steffany Gretzinger and some Tiffany, crossed with Andy Mineo, Jason Mraz, and some Alanis. It’s a mess. We don’t “fight” over the radio, but we know we can only listen to 3-4 stations together (oldies, soft rock, and K-SHE 95). It’s a beautiful compromise.
I spent a long time with a strained relationship with singing for any reason at all. I really struggled with self-esteem, with not understanding direction in various musical settings, and with the fact that I am not a musician (there’s a difference between a singer and a musician, just like there’s a difference between someone who can plunk out a melody on a keyboard and a trained pianist). I do not play any instruments, and I can barely read music. I totally can’t read chords (they make no sense to me at all). It makes me feel like I am “less than” the people I am surrounded by.
In the late 2000’s, I joined a worship team led by a man named Chris Clausen, who is just ridiculously talented as a musician, a singer, and a songwriter. He & his wife, Paige, are also incredibly kind and nurturing. Chris has every reason to be an arrogant clod of a man when it comes to music (he is anything but), and I have no idea why in the world he decided to let me be on his team at church, but for a few short years, I was privileged to be a part of his crew. It was a musical education that I hold very close to my heart. More importantly, it was a time of internal healing and recognition. I’d been in such a bad place mentally and spiritually the last time I sang in a group; I had no faith in myself or in any abilities, and I was absolutely petrified. I vividly remember sitting in a classroom in our church at one point, having a near-panic attack just before we had to lead an extended worship set. I was consistently focusing on the wrong things, and it took my time on the Clausen team to work through those issues.
My time on the team was such a great experience for me…to have a teacher who was humble but direct, who recognized abilities that I didn’t know I had, and who had so much patience, was a blessing. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my soul needed that time to remember what music can do in our relationship to the Lord. Music is a method of healing. Music is a method of how God speaks to us, of how He speaks THROUGH us. Music affects us physically, spiritually, and mentally. When we allow ourselves to focus, and to direct our heart and our intentions to Him in worship, He hears it, regardless of how it sounds in our own ears. I think that music opens up our hearts and our brains to receive from Him in ways that words just can’t. Music carries His message like nothing else can.
My husband got the message that it was time for us to move to a different church in 2011 or 2012, and we found ourselves in our current congregation. I think I finally (fearfully) stepped out and asked to join the worship team in 2013 or 2014. It’s a different vibe, but it’s a good thing. Our pastor is a musician (and a beautiful guitarist), and he’s a man that understands that God speaks through music. Worship is something we can do to give back to Him, to tell Him how we love Him; things change in worship that wouldn’t change in any other way. Worship evokes the prophetic, which is so, so important (and which is so totally forgotten in may churches today). God speaks in worship!!!! God speaks through music!!! Every note, every trill on a piano, every chord on a guitar, every beat of a drum–it all affects atmospheres in worship! Nothing else does what worship and music can do. There’s a reason why there are so many references to music in God’s Word (over 1,150!). It’s so important to our lives, and is such an important medium to get His message out into the world.
I still deal with anxiety and occasionally, depression. When King Saul was going through his crazy days in the Old Testament, he sent for a harpist to come in to play to calm him down. I get it. I’ve rarely been Saul-Level Crazy, but any time stress or anxiety are an issue, music is the first place I go to refocus. Even if I’m not in a place where I can sing along, just having it play is huge. And singing….There’s something about the physical act of singing that releases endorphins. Like, physically, you just feel better when you sing (Carpool Karaoke, anyone?!?!), not to mention the spiritual ramifications of pouring out your heart in worship. There are times when it feels like the world is somewhere between imploding and exploding. Worship is where you find the balance. Music carries the journey of finding that place of peace.
It’s just so important…worship is so important. As a singer, as just an average, run-of-the-mill, mediocre singer, I know from the depths of my heart that where worship is concerned, there is NOTHING mediocre about a soul that worships Jesus in complete humility and in complete honesty. It’s not the sound–it’s the heart, and hearts united in worship CREATE a sound that moves the heart of God. It’s so amazing, to be a part of a body of believers that come together every week with that one focus. It’s a movement that carries through the rest of the week.
Worship feels like home to me. I’m at a place right now where I am not afraid (which isn’t something I say very often). I’m not afraid of “doing it wrong.” I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. I’m not afraid of being a mess in a room full of people. They’re family, after all. I know that when I come to that place, whether it’s on the platform or in my regular seat, that I am in a safe place where my King remains. My song–however it sounds–is beautiful to Him, and He hears me. It’s worthy of Him, because He makes it so. Worship is this beautiful whirling fire of incense that rises from our hearts to the very throne of God. He loves our worship, whether we sound like Cory Asbury or Gilbert Gottfried. He hears our hearts, and He LOVES our song.
I told David the other day that worship is the only place where my soul feels completely at peace. When I had my thyroid removed in 2015, I was so scared of the effect on my vocal chords, because I was so scared that I would lose my ability to get to that place…but I didn’t. My voice is different (weaker), but it’s still there, and I am so grateful. Worship is the only place I feel like every worry, every fear, every concern or outside thought, is shut out. It’s the single greatest place of focus that I can know.
Anyone who knows me or who knows how static I naturally am, knows what that means. Peace. True, unadulterated, uninterrupted peace. There’s nothing like it; there’s nothing worth more. It’s the eye of this hurricane called life, and when I’m there, I never want to leave. It’s taken so many years to get to this point, to have a revelation and a revolution in my relationship with music…so many years. I feel like I’m just getting started, and I get so excited when I think about an eternity with Jesus and endless worship. Ridiculous…just amazing….He’s preparing a place for us, with THAT. Crazy.
So, I appreciate music, and I appreciate excellence in music, because I understand Who gave it to us. I know what He gave it to us for…not to be entertained, but to bring it back to Him, for His glory…it’s all for His glory, and it’s unbelievable that He gives us all that gift to be a part of. There are so many wonderful musicians that are so gifted; even if they don’t know Jesus, they are still part of creating a sound that He can use in ways we don’t understand. People’s hearts identify with the messages in music. It’s why musicians have a responsibility to celebrate goodness and joy with their sound, instead of misogyny and violence.
I love music in so many forms. It all has value, even the stuff I don’t like (jazz…ugh). It all creates movement in the spiritual, so as Christians, we have to be aware of the tug-of-war we’re a part of. Sing freely, especially this season. Worship freely, especially because we live in a country where we still can. “Let everything that has breath (it doesn’t say, “let everything that sounds marginally on-key, LOL, so don’t let that stop you if you “can’t” sing) PRAISE THE LORD!”
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Sometimes, when I talk about my faith, I feel like a giant hypocrite. Man-oh-man, do I make mistakes…I mean it when I say, “I love Jesus but I swear a little (somedays, more than others).” My filters are occasionally nonexistent, but I promise you, I am working on it.
I’m grateful for grace.
This morning, as I was on my walk around the local university, a kid (Millennials, LOL) with a man-bun, who was wearing those ridiculous Adidas slides with socks (they’re only ridiculous when worn WITH SOCKS), was texting and walking, and somehow walked OUT of their shoe, and tripped…because they were texting and walking. Did I respond with compassion?
I laughed, and posted about it on Facebook, with the hashtag, #WhyDoesJesusLoveMe
I’m grateful for grace.
Last night, I was driving home with my windows open and my stereo BLARING a Brian & Katie Torwalt CD (BTW, what’s with mixing worship CDs with a crap-ton of bass? Are people gettin’ down in the club to worship songs?!?! I mean, Lord knows I love my bass, but it seems weird to have it bumped up in a quiet worship interlude? Is this for Da Youts? Am I just getting OLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?). I was singing along (loudly–sorry, other drives. Okay, I’m NOT sorry), and driving through what’s known as The Depressed Section of the city. It’s where the highway goes under the streets and pedestrian overpasses of downtown; it’s very congested, and dirty, and LOUD, and stands in direct contrast to the song about holiness that I was singing along with….
The juxtaposition of Holiness and “The Depressed Section” was not lost on me, and as the music (and the drive) went on, I could feel a fire erupt in my chest…
You see, this city–Saint Louis–stands on the brink. We stand on the brink of decisions that could potentially change the course of this city. We stand on the brink of once again, being the center of attention of this nation…this nation that is already so divided, and so on edge.
Everything is uneasy…
Everything is disjointed…
But the music in my car plays on…and I drive by the dirt and the graffiti, by the trash and by that glorious Gateway to the West…I breathe the fumes from the exhausts, but I refuse to roll up my windows, because I feel like the words to the song are a healing balm to this city….because I feel like maybe if I play it louder, someone–anyone–will hear it, and remember Who Reigns…
“Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord”
He is welcome in this city…there is still a remnant left, and we cry out daily for the hearts of St. Louis…
The song plays on, and my mind is taking in the scene around me as the traffic comes to a standstill…
My heart cries, “Holy.”
The dichotomy of Holiness and helplessness…the struggles in this city, the poverty, the glut of resources and the lack of communication in getting them out…the children that cannot fend for themselves, and the adults who are too selfish to help them stand on their feet…my brain and my heart are arguing, but the music answers the questions:
“Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness”
That is my prayer, for myself, for my church, and for this city…that we Understand a Glimpse of the Grace of God….just a glimpse….
The traffic is thick, but the song says to “sing Holy,” so I do…because I HAVE to, because it is what I was made to do…I get cut off in construction, and I wonder, “Lord, where do these two worlds meet?!?”
And He says:
God is greater. He is greater than every mess in this city. He is greater than the violence and the fear; He is greater than the racism and He knows better than anyone that it is real. He is greater than the traffic that is sucking my soul; He is greater than the accident that just happened. He is greater than the storms and the hurricanes and the earthquakes. He Is Greater.
God is greater, and His holiness exists, regardless of where we are or where we live. His holiness reigns supreme in this microcosm of a city, and it reigns in every corner of every house in this nation. Our mind CANNOT HANDLE IT, so we try to drown Him out.
He simply cannot be dimmed, and when we pause for worship, we are reminded that His holiness is the greatest Light. Everything else is in shadows.
My mind is ready to throw a stick at the next car that cuts me off, but my soul still cries in harmony with the music playing in my car…I cry “Holy,” with the heart of a grieving mother…with the heart of a stubborn wife…with the heart of a Daughter of the King, with the heart of someone who is struggling to reconcile what He sees in me, with what I see in myself. He is greater than all of my insecurities, my judgmental behaviors, my filter issues. He is greater.
I don’t understand Him, but I will not stop worshiping His Name, even in traffic…