#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

#write31days, faith, music

Day 28: “No Man Is an Island”

This post is a part of a 31 day series called Stories & Songs.

I heard this song on the radio today and it just totally clicked with what I’ve been learning lately. We’re all made for community. This is exactly how we put selfless love into practice– in community. Here’s the story behind the song “No Man Is an Island” by Tenth Avenue North:

Check out this live recording of the song.

Check back tomorrow for thoughts on the sometimes sticky and sometimes painful process of loving others in community.

“No Man Is an Island” lyrics:

I won’t run, I will stay
I’m not leaving you
I know there’s friction here
but the struggle makes us new

I wish you never thought you had to go
Wish you never thought you had to leave
Together we can lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
You don’t have to fight me, I am for you
We’re not meant to live this life alone

I see fear in your eyes
like there’s no safety here
Oh, my friend, let me in
I will share your tears

I wish you never thought you had to go
I wish you never thought you had to leave
We can always lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak, come on

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
Please don’t try to fight me, I am for you
We’re not meant to live this life alone

Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let’s reach out to something higher
Ain’t no life outside each other
We are not alone
Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let’s reach out to something higher
Eyes open to one another
We are not alone

No man is alone
Why you try to fight me
We don’t have to do it alone
We don’t have to do it alone
We don’t have to do it alone

#write31days, faith

Day 27: Fear. Vulnerability. Love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Fear. Vulnerability. Love. It would seem that these words belong together. We can’t love without being vulnerable, but being vulnerable is typically preceded by fear. “Love Alone Is Worth the Fight” from yesterday’s post touched on this idea that love is greater than our fears and is worth the struggle. Is it, really?

Is it really worth it to combat our fears, let our guards down, and love another? You may say yes. I would definitely say yes with my words, but do I really say that with my actions? Do you?

What does it really mean to love someone anyway? I remember something I read years ago in a Billy Graham devotional. He said that hate is not the opposite of love, but selfishness is. In other words, love is selflessness. In the Bible, we find that selflessness– even to the point of laying our own life down– is the epitome of love.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

I am inspired by this picture of love and selflessness in the early Church in Acts 2:42-47:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe  came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day,attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Love– sacrificial selflessness– is the distinguishing mark of the Church— or at least it should be. So, back to the question. Do I fight back my fear, make myself vulnerable, and selflessly and sacrificially love those around me? Probably not enough. What about you?

Lord, send revival. Let it start in me.

#write31days, faith, music

Day 26: “Love Alone Is Worth the Fight”

“… and you’re asking yourself questions like “Why am I here? What’s worth living for?” And for me I’ve come to the conclusion that the Creator that has given us all of this is One who loves us dearly and that out of that love– that when my identity is rooted in that love that I am able to love other people in spite of my own fears.” –Jon Foreman

You can also watch their official music video here that showcases beautiful scenes from their documentary, Fading West.

Check back tomorrow for the story to go with this song.

“Love Alone is Worth the Fight” lyrics:

I’m trying to find where my place is
I’m looking for my own oasis
So close I can taste this
The fear that love alone erases

So I’m back to the basics
I figure it’s time I face this
Time to take my own advice

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

And I never thought it’d come to this
But it seems like I’m finally feeling numb to this
The funny thing about a name is
You forget what the reason you were playing the game is

And it’s all an illusion
A 21st century institution
So I’m headed down the open road unknown

And we find what we’re made of
Through the open door
Is it fear you’re afraid of?
What are you waiting for?

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

We’re only here for a season
I’m looking for the rhyme and reason
Why you’re born, why you’re leaving
What you fear and what you believe in

Why you’re living and breathing
Why you’re fighting it and getting it even
Let’s go headed down the open road unknown

And we find what we’re made of
Through the open door
Is it fear you’re afraid of?
What are you waiting for?

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

Here we are, here we go
Where the road is our own
Hear it calling you home
Here we are, here we go!

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

This post is a part of a 31 day series called Stories & Songs.