Wednesday, January 29, 2014


"May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen." - Galatians 1:3-5 (NLT)
Skim [skim] verb - to pass or glide lightly over or near a surface.
to read, study, consider, etc., something in a superficial or cursory way.
This morning I sat down with my Bible and coffee for my quiet time. 
I had no pre-set starting point, so I thought I'd check out the book of Galatians. 
No particular reason, it just sounded like a good place to start, and I began to read from Chapter 1, verse 1. Somewhere along about verse 10, I stopped myself. 
I thought, wait, you just skimmed over those first few verses, what did they say exactly? 
It's Paul's greeting, you know, the usual. 
Well, it's there for a reason, what does it say?
Um, I dunno, let me go back and read it again.  
Here's the version I read from: 
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." - Galatians 1:3-5 (NIV)
Whoa, I thought, there's some awesome stuff there, I need to break that down. 
I'll share that part with you in a minute. 
But start here -
How often do we breeze on by? 
Skim past the expected?
When we read Paul's letters in the New Testament, we know they all start with a greeting, so how many times do we actually read it?  Really read it. 
What about the daily comings and goings of our lives? 
How often do we stop to buy a cup of coffee and actually 'see' the person who takes our order or makes our latte? Do we just skim past their presence because we expect them to be there? Because we know what their purpose is for that moment? 

How often do we order lunch from the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru and look right through the person handing us our bag as we ask for extra mayo? 
Do we ever take the time to 'see' them? 

Here's one - how often do we meet a friend to catch up over a meal and spend the whole time talking about how you've passed the time since you last saw each other? 
Do we ever stop and just ask "So really, how are you?" 

It's really easy to skim over things, skim over people, especially people. Because if we go deeper, look past the superficial, expected presentation, we may be challenged. 
Challenged to give, to care, to love. 
And in all honesty, every one of us struggles with that. I struggle with that. There's a multitude of reasons why - but there's also a multitude of reasons for us to stop and go deeper. If you're a Christian, the most important one is Jesus. 
We can't be His hands and feet if we don't stop long enough to see what's in front of us. 
Where the hurt is. 
Who needs Him. 
And verses 3-5 in Galatians 1 tells us why this is so important - look what has been done for us! 
For EACH of us:
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ, 
who gave himself for our sins
to rescue us from the present evil age, 
according to the will 
of our God and Father, 
to whom be glory for ever and ever. 

I read back over the power in those verses and think to myself - how did I miss that the first time??
It's SO good. 
SO rich and deep and beautiful. 
Jesus gave himself - to rescue us - because His Father, God, willed it. 
As Christians, we already know this, or we should. 
It's bedrock to our faith. 
But how often do we take it for granted? 
How often do we miss it?...
We can't be reminded often enough of what Jesus did for us because the more we cling to that truth, the more likely we are to speak it to someone who needs it. 
I missed it because I wasn't looking for it. 
Don't miss it today.

With a Courageous Heart, 


Monday, January 27, 2014

A Cultural Education

My husband, daughter and I watched part of the Grammy Awards show last night.
Apparently that's more of a controversial decision than I remember it being when I was 20 years younger. Which was probably the last time I watched the Grammy Awards.

We tuned in for a number of reasons -
1) I wanted to hang out with my family and they were not down with watching the Pro-Bowl with me. Sad, but true story - I am the only football fan in our home. :(
2) We have a 16 year old daughter who likes all kinds of music and has introduced us to some different sounds musically over the past few years. Most of which, surprisingly, we like.
3) We wanted to laugh at the ridiculous clothing and style choices of many of the people in attendance. If you watched too, don't tell me you didn't choke on your chips at Pharrell Williams hat selections - you know you did.
4) My husband was enjoying the live Tweet play-by-play of Jon Acuff and Todd Starnes - wit and sarcasm at their finest.
5) There was nothing else on that we could agree on.

Anyway, Pharrell Williams pitiful headgear aside, it was quite an education for me.

Which, as a Christian parent of a Christian teenager in a Christian home, having said education is kind of a necessity if we are to keep up with the culture our kids are exposed to on a regular basis.

We are called to be in the world, not of the world. But if we don't know what the world looks like or appreciates, we are just as easily swayed by its lure as those who don't know the difference.

There was a lot being said today about the show by all the pundits and news outlets and frankly what dismayed me the most about the Monday morning quarterbacking was the opinions of religious and Christian commentators. There was a lot of condemnation and censure of behavior and beliefs being bandied about today.
And not a whole lot of grace to be found.

In fairness, let me say that we tuned in late - I got to see a little bit of the Pro-Bowl before the eye-rolling started - and missed the Beyonce/Jay-Z opening number. I did see a photo or two of it online today and can honestly say that I would have had Mark close his eyes until it was over. That's a pact we have formed to protect our marriage, but that's stuff for another blog post.

We also switched off the tv around 9:30 or so - we saw the semi-Beatles reunion and the girl with the Christmas Story-esque leg lamp skirt win a country award.
I didn't know country musicians wore Christmas lights on their boots, did you?
Anyway, we missed the controversial 'wedding' ceremony.
And that's fine, the Grammys are supposed to be about music, right? 

Listen, here's the point of my whole post, as Christians, we sometimes act as if the world shouldn't act like the world.
We are surprised when they act as if they don't know Jesus.
That they should know better.
Um, they don't.
They don't know Jesus.
They don't know better.

And too much of the time, we stand around pointing fingers and calling them out on behavior that only Jesus has the power to change.
How many times do we try and understand their culture?
How often do we try and see past the labels and clothing and lifestyles and just see people who need Jesus?
Desperately. Need. Jesus.

Too often, we don't.
Because it's safer.
Safer to stay in our Christian bubble, surrounded by the things that make us feel safe in our faith and beliefs.

Jesus didn't call us to be safe.
He called us to be salt. And light.
To be love and truth and real to people who are desperately searching for something real they can hold on to.
You don't have to agree with another person's agenda or belief system to have compassion for them.
And you don't have to hate them either. There's way too much of that going around these days too - we Christians have to stop rising to the occasion.

We live in a world that largely doesn't value what we value.
We're never going to change that if we continue to tune them out, change the channel, rail against their agenda or fail to understand why they make the choices they do.

But it is possible to say, Hey, I don't agree with you, but help me understand you. It is possible to meet them at the point of their need and just BE Jesus to them. Speak truth into their lives, even if they reject it. All we can do is represent Christ well.
He has called us to love the unlovely.
He has called us to defend our faith but love our neighbor in the process.

The next time you tune into a spectacle a la the Grammy Awards, remember the choices you have:
1) you can choose to be educated and appreciate the window you've been given into the world's values or
2) you can change the channel.

But remember who you represent.

"For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)" - Romans 8:7-9

With a Courageous Heart,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

One Size Fits All?

"This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength." - 1 Corinthians 1:25

I had a little surgery on my knee today.
Arthroscopic, outpatient, uneventful. And I'm back home tonight, hanging out on the couch with a bag of frozen peas laying across my knee. Which in my opinion is about all that peas are good for - pain management.

My daughter told me I needed to stay off Facebook - apparently I've been a little loopy from the pain meds and I'm pretty sure she is worried I'll embarrass her. But she can't keep me from posting on my blog - which could potentially embarrass her too, but I'm the Mom and she's not; so here we are.

I spent a little time thinking about some of the things I noticed about my day - for example, the hugemongous hospital gown they gave me to wear.

It was quite a sight as I attempted to navigate the snaps and ties of this gown that in a pinch could have taken the place of a fitted sheet for my queen size bed at home. I managed to get it on - sort of - let's just say it was a little breezy. But when I asked the nurse if there was a smaller size she said "No, it's a one size fits all."

That got me thinking - there are a lot of things in this life that are a one size fits all.
Like scarves.
And bath towels.
And airplane seats.

But you know what's not?
God's plans for our lives.

His purpose and dreams for us are as unique as we are. Even though we are made in His image, we are all completely different with gifts and talents and abilities that only we possess. To use in a way that only we uniquely can.

Which should say a lot about how BIG God is.

Your life is not a one size fits all cookie cutter existence.
He's given you a purpose that only you can live out.
But you can only do that when you are surrendered to the master planner. 

What are you supposed to be doing for God?
Are you doing it?
Or are you still trying to tie that hospital gown?

With a Courageous heart,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Hardest Walk

Today's post has been 32 years in the making.

"O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me." - Psalm 139:1
"You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord." - Psalm 139:4
"I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night - but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you." - Psalm 139:11-12

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to walk down the aisle of my church home to confess my abortions.

However, that Sunday morning will forever be burned in my memory not as the most shameful, as I’d expected, but as the most redemptive - as God knew it would be all along. 
And in the 16 years following that day, I’ve been on a journey with Him that has been as unexpected as it has been revolutionary.

I must begin the story two weeks earlier, on a day that I’d taken a different walk. 
One that led to a new life, with Christ at the center of it. 
For real this time, knowing for the first time in my life that I couldn’t deny Him anymore. 
Couldn’t deny that I needed Him. 
Desperately needed Him. 
Because up until that moment, I’d made a complete mess of things on my own.
We were in church one Sunday evening, the first day of a Life Action Crusade. And I was filling out a survey about my faith habits – completely private, just between me and God – and I lied on every answer. 
I wasn’t lying to myself, I knew the truth. I was lying to God. 
But He knew the truth too and He called me on it. 
I mean, really, who lies to God and truly expects to get away with it? 
That would be me. 
I’d been running from the truth forever, trying to hide who I was and what I’d done. He wasn’t going to let me run any longer.

I’d never believed that you could actually hear the voice of God, but that night, the whisper in my ear and the physical push was unmistakable. As clear as if my husband had spoken to me, I heard the words “Get up and go pray.” whispered in my ear.   
And I felt a push. Pushed forward in my seat so that I had no choice but to stand up. 
So, I did. And I walked back to the counseling room, sat down in a chair and poured my heart out to a complete stranger. 
Then I poured my heart out to God and begged his forgiveness for the first real time in my life. I couldn’t live this lie anymore and I was SO tired of carrying around a heart full of secrets. 
It was way too heavy. The perennial black cloud that followed me, the fear of being discovered as a sham and a liar and a murderer was a crushing weight.

But the beauty and the promise of the cross of Christ is that once confessed, the lies and the darkness and the poor choices and the pain are all washed away in a river of his perfect blood and we are made new. 
Our sin removed as far from us as “the East is from the West”.

That’s not a lie. I felt the truth of it that night. 
April 19th, 1998. The relief was tangible and I walked out of that prayer room lighter than I had been in years. 
I had been freed from carrying all the weight of my past anymore.

March 4th, 1982 should have been a normal day for me. I was 17 and was about to graduate from high school. I should have been just like all my friends that day, complaining about homework, worrying over SAT scores and debating who was going to win the Basketball game that night. 
But, I checked out of school early, picked up by my 18 year old boyfriend. He drove me about ½ hour from our town to the closest ‘family planning’ clinic.   
I’d visited it with my Mom just the day before. Back then, at 17, you were required to go through ‘counseling’ with a parent present before you had an abortion. 
I never told her, but I was secretly glad that she had to come along with me.  
 I was so scared, but I never told her that either.

My pregnancy was discovered randomly. After dealing with what I thought was a bout of the flu that just wouldn’t go away, I finally got to the point that I was so sick, my boyfriend took me to the Emergency Room. They ran a test and we discovered the sobering truth. 
I was pregnant. 
My memories are vague about that night, but I do remember the nurse. 
She seemed so caring, so very helpful as my world was crashing in. 
She pulled us into a room and explained the ‘options’. I don’t remember much of what she said except for this. When she began talking about the option of abortion, she made it seem so easy, the best thing, really, she’d said. She explained how she had been through two abortions herself. How she’d had to make that choice so the bad timing of having a baby didn’t interfere with her career. Certainly we didn’t need the burden of a child now, did we, she’d asked us. It would ruin my future especially, she’d said. I had my whole life ahead of me to have babies, she’d said. 
Looking back now, it amazes me how easily I succumbed to the ‘convenience’ argument. So I left the hospital that night with information on who to call and where to go and how much it would cost. 
The revealed truth of the true cost was a vague shadow on my future life. 

Again, my memories are vague about the next several days, a big rushing blur really. 
Telling my parents, enduring the shame and the censure of an unwanted pregnancy. 
I’d been raised as a good church girl, and it was horrifying to think that anyone would discover my secret. 
That anyone would ever find out the truth of what I had become. 
Because, you know, I was now one of “those girls”. 
And my Mom, who was one of the Godliest women I’ve ever known, I know she cried herself to sleep that night, having agreed to the abortion. My parents even paid for it. I remember them handing me the $250 cash, folded up like a secret. Why they did that, the real reason why, I’ll never know, but I know it haunted my Mom always. 
And I felt the weight of that guilt too. 

I remember what I was wearing that day at the clinic; the pill they gave me to ‘relax’ me, what they gave me to eat afterwards – juice and cookies like when you give blood, but most vivid is my memory of the sailboat picture. It was a poster on the ceiling above the table in the procedure room. A beautiful boat with a rainbow sail on a crystal blue ocean. The only thing of beauty in the room. I’ve never looked at a sailboat on the ocean the same way since that day.

There are more, specific memories of what happened that day, but some details are best left untold. What must be told is what happened the next day. 
Nothing. Nothing happened. 
Life as I’d known it went on as usual and nothing more was ever said about March 4th, 1982.

My life went on as you would expect. Graduating high school, college part time, working full time. The ebb and flow of life and living kept it’s rhythm. And I lived it to the fullest. Friends and parties and boyfriends and all that came with it. And life was pretty good as I practiced the arts of selfishness and abandon.

Until March, 1987.

Different time, different place, different boyfriend, same result. I was pregnant. Again. 
And this time I needed no one’s permission. Sought no one’s counsel. I was no longer influenced by my family, had given up on church after my first abortion and I was living life my way, on my terms. Entirely my choice this time. 
I didn’t need the bad timing of a baby right then, putting my career choice as a police officer in jeopardy. I had my whole life ahead to have babies, I didn’t want to ruin my future before it began….did I? It’s unbelievable to me now how easy it was to make that awful choice again. 
How easy it was to end an innocent life.

So there I was. Again. 
I even remember what I was wearing that day. Remember where I went afterwards, what I ate and the friend that I’d trusted my secret to who came with me. Same clinic, same $250, same picture of the sailboat with the rainbow sail on the ceiling.

But a different me walked out of the clinic that day. A me with a solid stone heart. 
And a wall of pride and self-righteousness had been built so high around it that it would take the next 8 years to break it down.   
When that day came, it was almost the end of me. But in His mercy, God had a different plan. 

December 5th, 1991 – two days before my wedding, my fiancĂ©e and I went out for dinner. One last quiet meal together before the craziness of the weekend began. As we sat enjoying our meal, looking ahead to the celebration that was coming, my heart was heavy. I was about to marry the man of my dreams, my prince charming, but he didn’t know the ugly truth about me. 
The argument in my head about it was so loud, it surprised me that he couldn’t hear it going on. 
“He deserves to know.” 
“He’ll call off the wedding. He’ll be disgusted at what you’ve done.” 
“But he deserves to know, I shouldn’t keep this secret from him.” 
“He’ll walk away. He’ll think you’re a whore.” 
“But he deserves to know.

And that evening, when I told him the truth about me, his response was the most amazing picture of grace. I’ll never forget what he said to me. 
“None of that matters to me. I love you for who you are now, not who you were before. Nothing can change that.” 
I can’t even write the words without crying over the grace in that moment. 
Undeserved, unmerited favor. Grace.

One of the things I love about the nature of our Holy God, is His goodness to us. The fact that he knows just what we need right when we need it – and he doesn’t hold back, he provides. 
In abundance. For me, God provided a husband who would stick by me through some of the darkest hours of my life – our life together. 

Studies and statistics have shown that post-abortive women deal with an incredible amount of emotional trauma, especially around the 10 year mark of their abortions. 
Depression and suicide are common and the sad connection is the thread of death that runs through all of us. 
To the outsider looking in, I had a pretty great life. Husband and home, a career that I loved, friends and family – the trappings of life that covered both the tangible and intangible.

But inside, I was empty. Hollow and sad and tired and dissatisfied. Trying desperately to fill the gaping holes in my heart with things and experiences and people and achievements that would never satisfy. 
I was constantly trying to prove myself worthy in a world where worth has no meaning except for what is just out of reach. Until one day, I was just so tired and so done with trying.

Spring, 1994. I had testified in court that morning. A domestic assault case that was unremarkable in comparison with the other similar cases I’d been involved with. I don’t know what it was that caused me to begin weeping that day, but as I was testifying, the tears came hard and fast and I couldn’t control them. I had hit bottom and later as I sat in my car outside the courthouse, I knew I was done. 

Suicide was so inviting at that moment. 
The idea that it could just be over. It would all be gone. The pain, the hurt, the effort, the sadness that was with me every waking minute.

It’s all true what’s said about suicide – that in those moments you really think everyone in your life will be better off without you in it. In your misery, you just know that you are making everyone else miserable too. 
You’re convinced that they won’t miss you, well, not much anyway. You really believe that it’s best – for you especially because you can finally put down all the weight you’ve carried for so long.

What’s also true is that those are the lies of the enemy. 
His darkest whispers in your darkest moments, lulling you into a resignation of purpose. 
Drawing you to embrace death as the only way to make sense of the life you’re living. 

It’s the complete opposite of what Jesus whispers to us on our dark days. 
He whispers truth. 
He breathes life and meaning and hope. 
He beckons us to lay the heavy weight of our lives at His feet. 
At the foot of the cross He gladly suffered so we wouldn’t have to listen to the lies of the enemy that only seek to destroy us.   
But I couldn’t hear him that day.

Having made my plan, my awful decision, I was still sitting in my car when a friend pulled up beside me. He had no way of knowing that he was saving my life that day, just by asking me what was wrong. And by caring enough to listen as I wept, not even able to describe the pain and heartache I was going through. He was my rescuer that day – at least my physical one. 
You see, God had a plan for my life all along, still has, and He wasn’t about to let me have my way with His purpose.

I wish I could tell you that it was all ok. That it all worked out. That my career and my marriage got back on track and I went on as if nothing had changed. 
But I can’t tell you that. 
I left the career that I loved just over a year later, never able to return to police work in the same way. 

My marriage miraculously remained intact, but we had lost our innocence and the hard work of marriage was made even harder by my illness. I put my husband through hell as I suffered through the depression and PTSD that almost caused me to take my life. 
But God has a plan, always. 
And he provided the perfect mate for me, one who loved me through it all in spite of me. His life was forever altered too, but in a way that would help others in public service deal with traumatic incidents and stress-related issues. The facts of my life revealed in him a gift he didn’t know he possessed.

And as we began to rebuild our life together, we decided that we needed faith back in our lives. Needed a foundation. We didn’t look long for a church, returning almost immediately to my childhood church home. As we walked through the familiar doors that day, it felt like I was coming home and we both knew it was where we belonged. 
Being involved with a caring group of believers encouraged us that there was another way to live life. Seeing families that were happy ones, not the broken and bleeding ones we were all too familiar with, made us believe that we too could have a family of our own. And that it would be good.

God gifted us with a beautiful baby girl in December of 1997. 
I wanted her so desperately and I was so afraid that something would be wrong with her – a punishment for my actions so many years before. 
But God’s mercy is great, His grace even greater and the gift of that tiny life is healing for my heart that brings me joy every day.

The only cloud that remained was the fear of someone knowing the truth about me. I was always afraid that I would reveal something just detailed enough that it would all come out – and I would be the hated pariah that deep down I still believed I deserved to be.

Until I met the One who made me whole and complete and new. 

And I knew that the only way to be truly free was to tell my story and ask for forgiveness. 

So as I stood before my church family that Sunday morning, I couldn’t look at the 900 or so people gathered there. I couldn’t have seen them anyway for the tears in my eyes. But as I briefly shared with them the choices I had made to have my abortions, every eye was on me. 

I still don’t know how my feet carried me out of the sanctuary that day and back to the prayer room, but they did and I collapsed on my knees with my head in a chair, crying and praying that they wouldn’t hate me. The counselor that day wrapped her arm around my shoulders and began to pray for me. 
And when she stopped, another voice began to pray and another and another and another, seemingly endless voices lifting me up to a Holy God who loved me more than I ever deserved. When they quieted, I stood up and looked around. 
The room was full of women. 
The hallway outside was full of women. 
All of them had followed me out of the sanctuary and into the prayer room. 
My husband told me later that it seemed every woman in our church left the sanctuary to come and pray over me. I’ve never felt such overwhelming love and acceptance in my life. It was a beautiful picture of grace. 
Undeserved, unmerited favor.

In the years since that day, God has allowed me to speak truth and love and grace, privately and in small groups, to many women who have had abortions. 
All of whom lived in fear of discovery – some still do, but they are on God’s timetable, not anyone else’s. 
The calling on my life is clear – to make Him famous by sharing the beautiful grace He has given me. It’s a work in progress, but I’m listening and I’m willing. 
Finally fully surrendered to Christ and the purpose and plan he has for this life. 
My story is not my story at all. 
It’s His story. He’s only allowing me to tell it. 
My desire is for others to not see me, but to see Christ in me. 

Evidence of a life changed forever by His amazing redemptive power. 

To Him be all the glory. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." - Philippians 1:12
"I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." - Philippians 1:19-20

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Grace - It's Not Just Something We Say at Dinner

I have a celebrity crush.

I read just about everything he writes because he makes me laugh, makes me think and kicks me in the pants. Not literally, that would be weird.
My daughter would call me a "fangirl". Whatever that means.

Want to know why I am such an avid "fan"?
Because this guy is real.
Just lay it all out there, good, bad, ugly, funny, spiritual and not-so-spiritual.

We need a lot more "real" people in our world.
People who are willing to say, hey, I'm not perfect, but I'm trying.
People who understand Grace.

I've been working on a piece for this blog over the past few days that's going to cause a lot of different reactions in those of you who read it.
And frankly, as much as I KNOW I have to write it, but publish it too, I'm feeling timid.

Because there are way too many people who have received Grace that have forgotten how to give it.

As a writer and blogger, you put yourself out there every time you hit the "publish" button on a post. Sometimes it scares me because I don't know how it will be received, but I publish it anyway because that's what having A Courageous Heart is all about, right?

Then there's the whole Obedience thing - and having lived in disobedience for so long, I don't want to visit that land anymore. So, I hit "publish" and know that God will do with it what He will.

It's all about Him anyway.

Which brings me to the point of this post - meet my celebrity crush - Jon Acuff
He published a blog post today on his blog Stuff Christians Like that just blew my mind.
Well, most of his stuff blows my mind because his writing challenges me and encourages me in just the right way - snarky wit and all. Thanks Jon. No, for real, thanks.

Today's post affected me so deeply because of what I know is coming soon to this blank canvas I call a blog. And oddly, it gives me courage.

So, you guys need to read this.

Why do Christians lie so much? - by Jon Acuff

I don't know what grace hurdle you're facing right now, but I know that many of you are and I pray that what Jon had to say today will give you courage to continue too.
Because grace isn't just something we say at dinner.
As Christians, it's the world we need to inhabit.

With a Courageous Heart,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Not About Us

My iPod playlist is an ever changing mix of songs that would make you wonder if I was 15 or 50. It ranges from Disney (the Frozen movie soundtrack is the latest)
to Classic Rock (Queen, anyone?)
to Country - both old and new (Trisha Yearwood to Taylor Swift)
to Movie Music (Les Miserables)
to lots of Contemporary Christian (Third Day, Building 429, Casting Crowns, 7eventh Time Down) I'm kind of all over the map there, but a good song is a good song - know what I mean?

I've talked about music here before (check out this post HERE) and what an important part of life it is here in our home. Our family has a habit of breaking into song at any given time - at the dinner table, riding in the car, walking the dog - and for those who aren't used to being around us, it can be a bit of a shock to them when Journey's "Any Way You Want It" comes on and we ALL start singing.
And thankfully, mostly on key.

Music draws me in like no other artistic medium and it has the power to bring me to my feet or bring me to tears - often within the same song. And when it comes to Worship, nothing else has the power to stir me the way music does.
Can you relate?

On New Year's Eve, our family had the opportunity to travel to Winterfest at Liberty University. Two of our favorite bands were playing in the concert there that night - Third Day and Building 429 - and it honestly was the BEST New Year's Eve I've ever enjoyed. (Well, aside from the one where my husband proposed to me, but that's another blog post.)

What better way to bring in the new year than to be surrounded by 10,000 people in corporate worship, all singing praise to King Jesus.
None that I can think of.
It sure beat sitting on the couch waiting for the ball to drop.

Since then, I've been listening to Building 429's latest album a lot. Did you know that the name of their group is based on this verse:

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." - Ephesians 4:29

And if you take time to check out their lyrics, you'll see fantastic theology there along with amazing encouragement for your day to day with Christ. 

If you read Sunday's post (Soli Deo Gloria) you know it was all about using our creative gifts to bring Glory to God. 
And in typical God fashion, the next day, this song was first up on my playlist:

Take a few minutes and listen to it.
No really.
Stop reading and click the play arrow.
Close your eyes - the video isn't amazing - and just let the lyrics wash over your heart today.

There is no greater thing we can do for God than to make ALL we do ALL for Him.

Because it's not ever about us anyway.

" Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" - Colossians 3:23

With a Courageous Heart, 

All the Glory (lyrics - italics mine)

You turn my world upside down
You turn it all inside out
You take the least, make them first
Pour yourself on those who thirst
And You use me because I’m weak

It’s here I find you lift me up just to lift You high
It never was about me, You get all the glory
And if I stand it’s only that I am in Your hands
It never was about me, You get all the glory

You’re the author of it all
So I live to make you known
Oh, If I’m last or if I’m low, You’ll make something beautiful
And You use me because I am weak.

It’s here I find you lift me up just to lift You high
It never was about me, You get all the glory
And if I stand it’s only that I am in Your hands
It never was about me, You get all the glory

Your way higher, Your will above my own
Your glory greater, and Your story will be told
Your story will be told

It’s here I find you lift me up just to lift You high
It never was about me, You get all the glory
And if I stand it’s only that I am in Your hands
It never was about me, You get all the glory

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Soli Deo Gloria"

I picked up my Bible the other day for my quiet time reading and an old copy of a devotional magazine fell out of the front cover. As I picked it up, I glanced at the date on the page it was folded open to - April 19, 2011.

The day my Dad died.

And for the first time the memory of that day didn’t crush my heart. Instead, I thought back over the past almost three years and marveled at the journey God has had me walking since then.
I knew immediately why I'd saved that particular piece. Even if it hadn’t been completely clear to me that day.

It was titled “Creative”.

You see, when my Dad died, it was the beginning of an awakening in me – a work that God was doing – one that would ultimately change the course of my life.
I always knew I was “creative”, but I’d floated from one thing to another, never quite finding my niche. I know now that was all part of his plan. My journey from rebellious and out of control teen to focused and driven police officer to successful businesswoman and entrepreneur to skating Mom and artist has all brought me to this place.


He’s led me through a life of experience after experience allowing the cycle of success and failure to shape me into the woman he can use to bring glory to Himself.

Because it’s not about me.
It’s about Him.

Soli Deo Gloria.

To God alone be the glory.

Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest composers ever, was known to have written those words in the margins of his music scores. He knew that all his gifts, his talent, his brilliance was a gift from God. His creative genius not his, but God working through him to bring glory to Himself.

To God alone be the glory.

So I wondered - how do I use the creative gifts God has given me to bring glory to Him?

Do I bring glory to Him? Do I consider my creative acts to be an act of worship? Of praise to God who has gifted me? 
Maybe the "Do I" is more important than the 'how.
For it's not my ability - it's God working through me to bring glory to Himself.
God has gifted each of us uniquely.
Created us to be creative for Him.

When we stop to consider why He has gifted us in the first place we have to remember that He is the author of creativity itself.

He made ALL things. He made us.
Every art, every act, every dream, plan or idea happens because He designed us to be creative.
In HIS image.

"So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." - Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

The dictionary defines the word CREATE this way: to cause to come into being.
God spoke us into life.

In HIS image.

So, when we use our unique creative gifts, it's not only an act of worship, it's a transformation.
We are becoming more like the God who created us in HIS image.
It's His hearts desire for us to be like Him.
Our creativity is part of our journey towards holiness. It shapes who we become for Him.

"...Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." - Leviticus 19:2b

A few of you are thinking “I’m not creative.” “I don’t have that gift.” “I’m just a…..”
Ok, stop.  
"So God created human beings in his own image.”

Soli Deo Gloria.
To Him alone be the glory.

When we think about being creative, we always consider the obvious - writer, artist, sculptor, illustrator, musician, painter, dancer, actor.
The arts are the easy ones.

But what about the not so obvious?
What has God put in your heart to do, that only you can do in your way just for Him?
For His glory?  

Soli Deo Gloria.

Do you cook? Garden? Clean? Are you an architect? A builder? A doctor? Nurse? File Clerk? Teacher? Student? Salesman?

Do you lay brick? Drive a truck? Handle accounts? Argue cases in court? Put out fires? Direct traffic? Play hockey? Figure skate? Drive a zamboni?

The world has many names for creative - handy, clever, inventive, innovative.
And it’s not so much in WHAT we do, it’s how we do it. The way we use our God given creativity to touch the lives of those around us.   
You may be a stay-at-home Mom, surrounded by dirty dishes, piles of laundry and carpool duty. Hardly the stuff of artistic inspiration by the world’s standards. But only you are uniquely positioned to create a loving environment for your family by how you handle the tasks in your every day.

Soli Deo Gloria.

"So God created human beings in his own image.”
"Then God looked over all he had made and he saw that it was very good!" - Genesis 1:31 (NLT)

Soli Deo Gloria.
To Him alone be the glory.

With a Courageous Heart,
Angie Ryg