Christmas, faith

Unexpected Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

This Christmas has definitely been WAY different for my family. This is probably the first time in my 35 years that I have not celebrated Christmas with relatives or friends. One of my sons and I found out we have the flu earlier this week, so our plans of Christmas gatherings had to be abandoned.

It’s Christmas Eve night and normally we would have been at my grandma’s house with my extended family enjoying yummy finger foods and exchanging Christmas gifts. Instead my little family of four was sitting– well, in reality our youngest son wasn’t doing much sitting– all together on one couch watching “The Nativity Story.” It wasn’t the hooplah of family and gifts. It was something simple and unexpected. Sounds a little like the true story of Christmas.

Speaking of unexpected– here’s one of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs, “Labor of Love,” on my favorite non-traditional Christmas album, Behold the Lamb of God.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

faith, music

A Thanksgiving Song– Especially for Moms

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’ve been listening to the song “Planting Trees” several times today just thinking about my parents– my mother in particular– and all those who have poured into me and invested in my life– some for a season, others throughout my life. I’m truly thankful for all of them today!

The story behind this song is that Andrew Peterson was at a retreat with his wife in a breakout group where the question was asked, “How are you shedding light in the darkness in a practical way in your life?” Andrew is a gifted songwriter and novelist, so his answer came easily. I want “…to tell the truth in the most beautiful way that I can think to tell it,” he said. Andrew admitted to worrying about his wife Jamie’s answer. When it became Jamie’s turn, she said, “I’m shedding light in the darkness by raising these three children in the Lord.” Andrew said it helped those in the breakout group to “…realize that the only real work that matters in the world is the love of Christ that you pour into other people…that is the surest defense against the darkness.” Listen to Andrew’s full story behind this song here.

“Planting Trees” lyrics:

We chose the spot
We dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground
To have and hold

As autumn falls
To winter’s sleep
We pray that somehow in the spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

He took a plane
To Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light

Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees, hmm, yeah

She rises up
As morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake

And her heart is so full
It overflows
She waters us with love
And the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone


Perspectives on Suffering

Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. – Kara Tippets, terminal cancer patient

You might not have heard of Clayton McDonald or Kara Tippets. Clayton struggled with cancer for 12 years of his 18 year life. Kara is a mom of four children who is currently still battling breast cancer that has now metastasized into her entire body. Clayton understood and Kara understands that Jesus makes all the difference in suffering.
This is almost an 18-minute video, but take the time to listen to Clayton’s story of how he walked through his suffering:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” -Romans 8:18

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” -2 Corinthians 4:17
faith, music

On Suffering: “Though You Slay Me”

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face.” -Job 13:15

“… The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21

I’ll never forget hearing David Platt preach for the first time ever at a conference at Ridgecrest Conference Center back in 2005. At one point, he was talking about the sudden death of his father and he said these words with such emotion and certainty that I can still hear him speaking them in my head, ” The Lord takes away, but NEVER does He stop giving.”

Shane and Shane have written a beautiful song with a Biblical perspective on suffering.

Listen to Shane Barnard’s story behind the song here.

Check back tomorrow for more thoughts on how to walk through seasons of suffering.

#write31days, faith, music

Day 31: “Add to the Beauty”

This is it– the last post in the 31 day series, Stories and Songs. There’s no better song that I could think of to end this series other than “Add to the Beauty” by Sara Groves. I feel like this song sums up why I was inspired to start this blog and do the 31 day writing challenge. I want to be a small part of telling THE story and adding to the beauty.

I have enjoyed having this little outlet in “blogland” for this series. I’ve enjoyed it so much so that I want to continue to write here– just not everyday! In many ways, it was good for me to only have 2-3 hours to come up with a blog post, but I feel like my writing process generally takes much longer than a few hours. So, I do plan to continue writing on this blog, but it won’t be everyday. It’ll probably be more like once or twice a week. Hopefully, that will give me more time to really chase down some of the big ideas and songs that I want to communicate (and hopefully add pictures to the posts). Anyway, I really hope you’ll stick around to check out what is to come. I will continue posting the same type of content from this series– songs and encouragement to help you and I take that next step in faith toward God. I still have many, many more original songs that I hope to share with you. I hope you’ll stick around!

Continuing to write on this blog will be my attempt to “add to the beauty.” What will be yours? Can’t wait to hear about it!

p.s. Check out this cool blog post I saw today about ways for the modern Christian woman to indulge in Scripture.

#write31days, faith

Day 30: Telling THE Story

I have so loved getting to share on this blog for this 31 days series. It’s been a joyful burden. After all, aren’t the best things the hardest of all? It has been a delight to do the things I love and come alive to who God made me to be in order to reflect His glory. I feel like this 31 days writing challenge was a gift God gave to me to rediscover my buried talents. I love telling His story by telling my own (because it’s all really His story anyway).

Remember this from day one?

This summer I read a book, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, where she essentially tells her audience that each of us was created by the ultimate Artist, God Himself, to reflect His glory. We do that by being who He made us to be —artists—by coming alive to the talents, gifts, and uniqueness that He has given us.

“But you are designed to reflect the glory of God, and when you release the fullness of who you most deeply are, we will see God because we’re finally seeing you,” she writes.

You were made by the ultimate Artist to be an artist. We point others to him. Perceived worldly success doesn’t even factor in when we’re doing it for Him anyway.

Singer-songwriter Christa Wells wrote the following in regards to Dave, the under-discovered artist: “Maybe Dave fell in love with the idea of becoming an acclaimed artist, where I fell in love with the Original Artist and the idea of being a part of what He’s making. Dave, like many hard-working people, wants to be a SUCCESS story, but what I want most is to help tell THE story.”

Christa goes on to say this:

It’s who we ARE and WHAT WE GIVE AWAY that makes us a PART of something worthwhile.  If they remember our names 300 years from now (and they won’t), we won’t be here to care about it, anyway, so why not celebrate and honor the fact that we’re alive today and have something to share?

Why not do what brings you so much joy that you do it when you’re NOT getting paid–because you “feel God’s pleasure” when you do it?

Why not do what meets someone else’s need and sends people reeling, thinking “There MUST be a design to all of this”?

Do something that tells the truth and asks good questions and leaves a footprint on souls that won’t wash out when the tide comes for our bodies.

Do small, unnoticed things you’re good at that make a difference to your family and community.

Do it with LOVE.   Do it at a cost to yourself.  Do it in small increments, in the midnight hours, after working your day job, or the wee hours of the morning, if that’s all you’ve got.

Do it because you CAN’T STOP.  (hat tip to Miley)

I pray that this 31 days series has helped to tell THE story, as Christa put it. I pray that you know that you– yes, you— have something to offer as well. You are an artist.

Christa Wells, me, and Emily Freeman

Christa Wells, me, and Emily Freeman

p.s. A huge thank you to Emily Freeman and Christa Wells for their art that has encouraged me and their writer’s conference in September that inspired me to start this blog and join the 31 days writing challenge.

#write31days, faith

Day 29: Love Jesus but Not the Church?

I had just graduated from college and landed a writing job with a mission organization working in Brazil. A dream come true! After a month of training in the US, I was ready to go… but God had other plans. I spent the next six months living with my parents in a town where I knew literally no one while waiting for my work visa that would allow my entry into Brazil.  Just two months into my wait, I wrote a confessional email to some friends who had pledged to pray for me on my two year journey. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

 I haven't really wanted to tell you guys what's going on 
inside my heart. But, through talking until the wee hours 
of this morning with *one way cool friend* who came to 
visit, some things really came into the light and I feel 
renewed. I think it would be much easier not to let you 
guys know what's going on with me, but then you wouldn't
know how to pray for me specifically, and that's really 
what I need from you all. I have just had a harder time 
than even I thought with this whole "waiting time"-- 
it was never entered on my agenda and has really taken 
me off guard. Therefore, through not really feeling like 
I belong at college, where I used to blossom, and not 
really having much to do at home... I've just kinda 
sunk beneath the cracks a little. I think most of all 
I miss the fellowship of believers I've had surrounding 
me and keeping me accountable for the past four years. 
Since my family moved here to Fort Mill while I was in 
college I don't really know many people here my age and 
I don't really have a church body in which I'm actively 
involved. All this has really compiled and, man, the 
enemy has really been having some fun. It's like the 
pastor at my parents' church was saying today how the 
devil just wants to isolate you and cut you off from 
everything-- and that's pretty much how I've been 

I needed connection to other believers. I needed other believers around me to hold a mirror up to me so that I could see the truth about my situation and my own sin. I needed their encouragement and accountability. I needed their prayers during this time of uncertainty. I needed the Church.

When you read the word “church,” you might think about a building, but the Church is not a building. The Bible teaches that the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people who have place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Dr. David Platt explained in his sermon, “A Radical Redefinition of the Church- Part 2,” that the Bible talks about the church “… on two levels: A universal level including all believers of all times, and a local level including a local body of believers in a certain place.” His definition of the local church based on Ephesians 4:1-16 is: “A local body of baptized believers joined together under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and express the love of Christ to each other and to the world around them.”

I need that. I need the Church. So do you if you’re a believer in Jesus.

Platt went on to say, “I have had people say to me, something maybe you have heard someone say before, “You know, Dave, I love Jesus, I just don’t like the church.” Have you ever heard that? I won’t ask who has thought it or who has said it. “I love Jesus, but I just don’t like the church.” Now, let’s unpack that statement for just a second. The Bible talks about how the church is the Bride of Christ, right? What would you think if I came up to you and said, “Dude, I like you; I like you a lot, but I can’t stand your wife.” Would that offend you? The Bible talks about how the church is the body of Christ, right? What if Heather, my wife, came up to me and said, “Dave, I love you, but I just can’t stand your body.” Is that a good thing for a wife to say to a husband? No, it is not a good thing for a wife to say to a husband at all. Would I be honored with that statement? Ladies and gentlemen, we are kidding ourselves, and our Christianity is less than biblical if we pretend to love Christ and ignore the church. We have missed the whole point. The thing is, somewhere along the way, we get the idea that that is a sign of maturity. It is a sign of immaturity to try to love Christ apart from His bride, apart from His body. What Scripture is teaching us is that the local church is extremely important.”

John Piper said, “To belong to Christ is to belong to a body of believers… The more disconnected we are from a local church, the more confused we will be about who we are– who God made us to be. We find our true individual selves in relationship to others.”

There are so many Biblical reasons as to why we need to be connected to a local body of believers, but one that rings true for me in this season is that I can share the gifts and talents that God has given me. It makes me come alive and hopefully allows others to see God through me. The thing that still blows me away is that this is how God made us! He made us for connection. He made us each with special gifts and talents. He puts us together in his Body, the Church, so that we can come alive using those gifts and talents to glorify Him while helping each other grow more like Jesus. I think this is what Switchfoot and Tenth Avenue North are singing about… Being in community and selflessly loving others is hard but so worth it because that’s what we were made for.

Further reading:

Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship

Should I Commit to One Church? (Five minute podcast)

How to Heal When the Church Hurts You

When Should I Leave My Church? (five minute podcast)

5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church