Story Behind the Song: The Other Side of Night

In 2005, I had my little six week old baby, Selah, in my arms and my husband, a youth minister at the time, was watching an International Justice Mission video in the other room. I overheard it teaching about modern day slavery and the sex trafficking of children. Something in my heart broke like it never had broken before.

Five years previously, I had lived in a poor little village in Mali, West Africa, as a short term missionary. My year there was really hard, and I saw short life spans and absolutely zero ease of daily life, but I also saw joy, hard work, family, loyalty, and a precious culture. I loved the poor already. I loved nations and languages already. But I did not love justice yet, because I was so unaware of the lack of it.

There I was, 27 years old, newborn baby in my arms, the first time in my adult life that I literally couldn’t go anywhere I wanted around the world to try to meet a need. It killed me. I wanted to RUN to those people and I didn’t know what I would do once I got there, I just knew I didn’t want to be here, doing “nothing”. I lived in that real tension for a couple of years, my journals and songs and friends could tell you. It was such a slow and painful work the Lord did in me. But the outcome was life changing; it changed me from the inside out.

God did these things, in this order…

  1. He allowed me to SEE. He opened my eyes to what I had been unaware of, sheltered from. I became educated. Because of my relationship with Him and call to the nations already, it wasn’t hard to also SEE in another way: That these people were just as precious to God as I was, and they were deserving of justice, hope, and help. I asked God to help me see them as actual family.
  2. He made me GRIEVE. I thought, “How is crying and mourning and just being sad for these people–refugees, orphans, starving children, the persecuted–helping them at all?” But this grieving was part of the process to being changed from the inside out. This will sound crazy, but I even wore black most of the time for that season. My heart was half there, half here.
  3. He led me to PRAY. I began to pray for ministries helping people and the people groups themselves that were affected by war, slavery, trafficking, poverty, etc. I asked Him–no, begged Him–for more than “just prayer”. Eventually, this season of prayer and lamenting brought me closer than ever into union with the heart of God and it was in prayer that He gave me part of His heart. (And the same is true for millions of other believers!!)
  4. He made me dependent on the HOLY SPIRIT. The Church is really good at pep rallies, but that is not how God speaks to me. He made me wait on Him, and little by little the path of how I could tangibly “help” came into clear view. Some of what we started doing was with our church community, some of it was as a family, and some of it was personal. If ever I wasn’t listening to the Spirit, and just did what I wanted, it would be made clear– it just wouldn’t bear fruit, or it would feel like I was tugging something along that didn’t want to move. It was like I would say, “God, why is this not working? It’s a good thing!” And He would say, “I never told YOU to do that.”
  5. He led me to join in their suffering through TANGIBLE SACRIFICE and GIVING. Yep, we finally got there! We started our adoption of Yemi, from Ethiopia, when Selah was 2 years old. Parts of this were excruciating, as we fundraised, gave all of our savings, saw her health deteriorate while still in Africa, and eventually it would again be so painful as she realized her early losses in life. We got to adopt again from Haiti, this time two sweet girls, Eva and Zoe, who just got home 1.5 years ago. Again, we shared in personal suffering as we went through these long processes and became a trans-racial, bi-cultural family. As a family, we write letters, pray, and give to two sponsored children through World Vision and Compassion International. When we receive any unexpected money, we pray and find out where God wants us to give some or all of it. We pray through Voice of the Martyrs magazines, and when friends or family are going on mission trips or collecting items, we try to be a part of that. We financially and prayerfully support missionaries and organizations we believe in, like International Justice Mission that literally kicks down the doors of brothels and sets innocent prisoners free. We started a ministry called Sister Bridge where we partner with artists/women in third world countries and sell their items here, sending all of the money back to the artists, in hopes they can make enough money to keep their families together. We work with ministries that are sharing the gospel with these women/artists as they train them in these crafts and skills! We try to have a view of our money and belongings that they are God’s, and while I think we are probably failing at it, we want to live in equality with the least of these. It’s important to me that we always have before us this absolute tangible reality that we shouldn’t seek more comforts and privileges while others don’t have their basic needs met. I don’t feel guilty for my needs being met, or for gifts given to me, but anytime the “American dream” starts to sneak in my heart, He sends something to snuff it out. May He EVER continue to do so, and may He show me more and more and more ways I can be faithful!

I don’t say ANY of these steps, especially #5, to “toot my own horn.” There are so many people doing SO MUCH MORE. I still feel the tension of the needs around the world, the reality of hurting people, and my comfortable life. But I know for sure at this point that I am walking in obedience with an open and completely available heart and life. That’s all I can do, and when the Spirit gives me more opportunities to be an advocate, give, serve, suffer, or go, I will do it.

This song–The Other Side of Night–is a heart cry. It was written in tears. There is such a disconnect between the Church and the least of these. We are so, I AM SO, individualistic and independent and set on personal success and comfort and fun for my family.  But I believe God never intended such a disconnect, such a great divide between us. I’ve heard this phrase and I love it: “Live simply so that others may simply live.” It’s a personal conviction I pray that I grow in and see how to live out.

May He do so much more in our hearts than the little I have written about today! But lets not be afraid to “do little”! Thinking nothing will change is not for the minds of children of God. We carry His love and hope in each little thing–each tear, each prayer, and each act of obedience.

Story Behind the Song: And the Angels Sang

It’s hard to believe that I wrote this song about fifteen years ago! Does that make it officially an “oldie”? Oh, well. My kids make it feel new. As each daughter of mine learns it, hears it on the iPod or Pandora, or even plays it on the piano themselves, every year at least one of them says to another: “Mom wrote this song!” It’s sweet.

I wrote this song when I was a really, really new songwriter. It was one of my very first songs actually and I was still in that stage of asking people, “Is this a real song?” I’ll never forget how it happened…A great friend of ours, Matt Black (www.mjblack.com) asked me if I had any original Christmas songs that I would like to sing at an upcoming Christmas concert. I told him I didn’t…yet. Matt has an incredible gift of including people and giving opportunities for songwriters/singers to grow and “get out there.” He really did that for me, time and time again!

A while later, I went over to Matt and Joanna’s apartment and said, “Hey, I did write a Christmas song! Can I sing it for you?” So they sat down on their couch, with their little white Jenny-dog, and listened all the way through. When I was done, I turned around from the piano and Matt gets up and yells, “Oh, no! Jenny pooped!” So Joanna and I were laughing, Matt was taking care of the dog, and nothing more was said about the song, to my remembrance.

Fast forward about two weeks to the Christmas concert I mentioned…

I walked in to the theater and Matt said, “Are you going to sing the song you played for us a couple weeks ago?” I didn’t have the song with me. I had no idea he had liked it or wanted me to do it! Looking back, I realize how dumb I was to not ask or anything, but I think I was too shy and didn’t want to be rejected! So, I drove home really quickly, got the song which I hadn’t practiced in two weeks, and played it for the audience at the end of the concert. It got lots of love, and I kinda like how I didn’t have a chance to be nervous, considering it was all a surprise that I would be performing!

Anyway…about the actual song: It tells the greatest story ever told, how God sent His mercy and love in the form of a baby. Maybe creation knew the magnitude of that moment, and maybe every single created thing worshipped (and continues to worship) Him in their own beautiful way. Truly, the earth is filled with His glory and I hope you’ll join your heart with us in worship as you watch and sing along!

 

Story Behind the Song: Just Want You

I miss getting to share at concerts all the details about my songs–where I wrote them, what was going on in my life at the time–and so I’m going to try to do one blog a month that tells the stories, one song at a time.

The first one that I want to do really should be JUST WANT YOU. This song is truly my testimony. Not my “I was six, loved Jesus, and walked down the aisle” testimony, but my ongoing adult testimony. It is the story of learning and re-learning that my life began when I found Him and He never intended me to get caught up in anything but that one fact.

Being a church girl, being in the generation of big youth rallies, being a “helper” at heart, gosh, there has been no end to my ambition “for the Lord.” But how easy, how quickly, can worship and adoration and passion turn from His face and His voice to this all out, you’re a wimp if you can’t hang, die hard occupation with doing “His work” on earth?

Never ever would I say being His hands and feet is wrong, (it is merely second in command), but our eyes have to stay on His face and our ears have to stay tuned to His voice or what we do with our hands and feet may just be us doing. Just doing doing doing. Spinning our wheels, angry at others for not doing, frustrated by lack of results. How many times have I thought I could only focus on one or the other? Either a Martha OR a Mary, etc.

So when Selah was just a baby, I stayed home from church one Sunday morning. I seem to remember it was in July, near or maybe on my salvation birthday. I had been a missionary in Africa before coming home, getting married, and having this first baby…I still struggled with why that commitment to missions didn’t work out for me, why I couldn’t “cut it.” I just broke down before the Lord and told Him I was so tired of waking up every morning feeling like I had failed Him. I told Him, “I quit. I quit trying to be great and do great things for you. I will just be a nobody in Your kingdom. Count me out of that special team, Lord, I will just love you and know You love me, and that’ll be enough. I can’t keep wanting to do more, with you not allowing me to do more. I can’t keep feeling guilty for what I’m not ABLE to accomplish for you. I have nothing to show for myself! So, I give up on this making a difference for You thing. Just take me as I am!”

I feel like the Lord smiled and said, “Good. Finally.” It really did feel good to get all of that out of my system; to really say what I meant and address it. Of course I wasn’t able to look at it as I do now! At the time, I was broken hearted. Ten years of my life, my calling, it felt like I was forsaking it all.

And I was. I was forsaking the blurry vision, the headstrong idea, of what it meant to be a Christian and a servant of the Lord. Finally on that day in July, for the second time, the first for my soul and now for my life, I received GRACE. You have to know how low and empty and lost and unable you are in order to receive grace. There’s simply no other way to get it.

I hadn’t accepted before that day that only God could make a difference in the world. I hadn’t accepted before that day that if I was making a difference, I most likely wouldn’t even know it. I hadn’t accepted before that day that blindly following God step by step with no agenda or hopes of a great resume was truly what He wanted…and even more than that obedience (which He clearly defined to me as different than ministry), He wanted intimacy. Intimacy first, the rest would follow. He wanted me to:

Just. Want. Him.

Like He Just. Wants. Me.

And I learn and re-learn the lesson. He is so good, so gracious. I have to keep learning to fall flat on my face, give up, and then go, “OH!! Right!” I have to keep learning to come back to my first Love, to sing the foolish love songs, to forget about everything else and get lost in His Presence. I like to run! I like to go and do. My heart bleeds for so many people. I will never understand why I am held back from “doing more”…but I can say I am obedient by pursuing intimacy and stillness with Him, and I believe that means that what I am doing will be fruitful. That is of course by faith, because in my natural mind it doesn’t make sense nor does it seem to be enough!

The most important thing I can say here–to myself–to anyone–is that nothing else matters, nothing else is even lasting, if we have lost our first Love. If gazing in His eyes, eating His word, singing Him worship songs sounds dull or a waste of time or only for certain people, we are missing the whole entire point. I’m not saying all of our walk with God is emotional, private, or quiet. I am saying this intimacy is our root and then our life is the stem and branches, leaves and fruit. No root, then there will be nothing else, not for long.

“So after all this time

after all this journey

after all I’ve tried to be

You simplify, clear my mind

of all I could pursue

so I could just want You.”

 

Run After Me

Hi Friends!

I have finally added an official recording of Run After Me to YouTube. Many listeners have told me it was one of the first songs they heard from me, on Pandora, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

Your Glory

Whew. Since we got our referral in May 2015 for our two little Haitian princesses, I have been on a completely different wavelength and music really hasn’t joined me there! I’ve been traveling, reading and praying, studying Haitian Creole & TBRI, and trying to remember to do things like, you know, eat. But I have these songs sitting here…and they’ve been beckoning me to do a rough recording at home of them. So today I gave in, and here is one of those songs!

This is “Your Glory” which doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation, but I will say–I love the thought of God’s glory being so full and never-ending that it extends to every inch of sky and land that He created. It’s more than we’ll ever see in a lifetime and more than we’ll ever hear or feel or taste, too.

And just standing in awe of that Glory is worship and so very worthwhile.

Hope you enjoy!

#HowToBuild: Standing Your Ground

One of my favorite shows used to be ALIAS! Awesome music, Jennifer Garner kicking butt and saving the world, and of course I can’t leave out it was one of the first shows where the writers decided it’s not really necessary to leave a dead person dead! So an important character dies, but somehow they are back in Season 4. Love it! But anyway…

On that show, there was an evil man named Alvin Sloane. Time after time, he was always showing up with manipulation and just enough truth to get his lies accepted by his co-workers. Mr. Sloane wasn’t genuinely trusted by the third season or so, but there were times the CIA needed to use his expertise anyway and he would be in the brainstorming room giving suggestions. In one particular scene, they were discussing a problem and he piped in with his suggestion rather strongly, and the heroine, Sydney Bristow, who especially was aware of his ability to trick people, said: “Excuse me, you have no authority in this room.”

Remember that.

We are waking up every morning to an opportunity to walk in the flesh or walk in the Spirit, right? Like it or not, and actually even believe it or not, we are also waking up to the presence of both light and darkness, Jesus and the enemy of our souls. If we are in Christ, we have His presence around us and His Spirit within us. We can awaken to it and acknowledge it, by worshipping, digesting His Word, praying…or we can do nothing and sink deeper into the flesh, which is more Satan’s playground than we like to think.

He’s having a blast wreaking havoc in us and around us when we have chosen to stay in the flesh, yet he never actually had the authority to do that. He does it simply because we didn’t tell him not to. We have to stand our ground.

It may look like a sudden sense of confusion, or a sudden line of thinking that brings you back to an old habit or addiction. It may be frustration and anger that just takes you by surprise, and you can’t believe you’re feeling and acting so ugly. It may be a habitual thing or an acute thing, but it’s negative, harsh, unforgiving, or fear-filled.

In those moments, I don’t always realize it is the enemy. And of course, sometimes it isn’t directly the enemy. Sometimes we have a process to work through to get where we need to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But thank God, it’s not always a big long process! Sometimes it’s just as simple as recognizing what is going on. Whether someone is coming at us with one of these negative, irrational, overreacting emotions or we feel it rise up in ourselves, we are the ones with the authority in the situation, not the enemy. The name of Jesus makes the enemy flee! He can’t fill us, he can’t control us, and he knows it. He can only make suggestions that turn to thoughts that turn to feelings that turn to words and actions and habits and sin!!! We must know his schemes but also his gaping weaknesses.

Speaking, singing, and praising the name of Jesus makes the grip of the spirit of fear, confusion, bitterness, unforgiveness, laziness, lust, and anger loosen. We don’t have to stay in that place, abused and oppressed. With the knowledge that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can know our place of authority over the enemy.

Here are some further scriptures on this, and just in writing this, I am so spurred on to ask the Holy Spirit to help me be aware when evil, un-peaceful, and divisive spirits are at work so that I can choose to not go along with them. We need a new normal, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that new normal is recognizing what is going on in the unseen and standing our God-given ground!

Ephesians 4:17-5:21

Colossians 2:13-15

James 4:7-8

1 Peter 5:6-11

Matthew 4:1-11

 

#HowToBuild: Prayer

Every. Single. Day. I keep thinking I’ll wake up one day and I’ll already be gloriously in the Spirit, patient with others, self-disciplined, ready to come to Jesus. Hasn’t happened yet, friends. I wake up to my hair plastered to my face, a serious dread of the exercise DVD, and temptation to watch movies in bed. Every. Single. Day. And you know what? It’s important that I realize this may never change. It’s important that I realize this decision is mine. Every. Single. Day.

Every morning we’re faced with this need for a death to self and an awakening to our new Life, who we are in Christ. We can stay in the easy-peasy already warmed up vehicle of the flesh or we can do the work, pulled up out of ourselves by the grace of God, to walk in the Spirit! One of the greatest ways to make that transition from flesh to Spirit, and then remain there in Him, is prayer.

Prayer can be talking, listening, or just connecting. It can be serious intercession for others or it can be journaling your thoughts, needs, and thanks. It can go on all day while you’re doing other things, a continual turning your face to Him, or it can be a time of sitting or walking while specifically focused on prayer. For me, it’s all of the above.

All in all, it is simply learning that beautiful practice of abiding in His presence, like John 15 describes, and acknowledging His nearness. A partnership grows, secrets are shared, and new purpose is given to life! We can actually learn to pray exactly what He wants us to pray, and a cycle is formed: He invites us to pray what is on His heart, we listen and agree with Him, we pray His Word back to Him and ask for specific things for ourselves and others, and His hand moves. He lets us in on this, friends! Our prayers spur His action!

A few basics of prayer that I’m not ashamed to say are still rocking my world:

1. Philippians 4:6 & 7//Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  We present our requests, many of which He put on our hearts in the first place. We can offer up thanks with these requests–thanks for all He has done, for His nearness, and for the beauty of where we are at this moment even before He answers. I think of this verse as I’m going before a trusted Judge or committee, and presenting my request, laying the file before them, asking for their careful thought and decision.

2. 1 John 5:14//This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Isn’t this amazing? We didn’t mail in this request and wonder if it got lost in transit! He hears us and is actively working on our case. This blesses me tremendously. I can relax under this truth, while still asking, I’m at rest. Knowing He has heard me lets me move on and make sure my prayer life isn’t all about asking! It’s about dwelling and communing, too. Intercession and intimacy cannot be separated from one another. One might get heavier than the other at times, but for either to be true, we must have them both.

3. 1 John 3:21-22//Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him. Kind of a risky verse to post, but I believe it. In God’s timing, as we learn surrender and obedience and the sound of His voice, I do believe we will receive from Him anything we ask. Who we are while we wait is key…In prayer, it really is more about the journey than the destination, whether we like that or not. When we pray, do our hearts condemn us? Do our hearts tell us what we’re asking for really isn’t God’s will? We need to listen for that, and find out what He actually does want us asking for.

4. Psalm 75:2//You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly.” He hasn’t forgotten. And He is good. Deep breaths. The time will come.

When we are asking and waiting for specific things, or confessing sin, or giving Him total freedom to rule our day, all of which are prayer, a death to self happens. And finally, there is room for our new Life in Christ–who we really are in Him–to raise up. Day by day, morning by morning, we choose to live.

This is a new song I wrote last month, “Turning the Tide”, about a vision He gave me during my prayer time. Please forgive my really boring video technique! It’s just the quickest way to share the song, but hopefully soon I will be doing more recording.

 

 

 

#HowToBuild: Worship!

The definition of worship is “the feeling or expression of adoration or reverence.” Yes!  I love this, and I love to worship!

Worshipping God can happen in just being happy, content, or thankful; it can happen in surrender and faith; it can happen in the words we say or sing; or it can happen in the quietness of a heart turned toward Him in utter dependence and desire to obey.

One of the greatest ways to stay in a spirit of worship, and thereby building yourself up in your most holy faith (Jude :20), is through music.

I remember as a teenager the big debate about whether or not we should be listening to “secular” or “Christian” music. Now I understand to just listen to whatever the Spirit will let me listen to, but back then I had not learned the sound of His voice. I don’t know if God told me to do this or not, but I remember throwing away all of my “secular” music (tapes, haha)…and I’m glad I did. I didn’t have to do so in order to be a Christian, but it wasn’t doing anything for my ability to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus either. There are so many avenues for our heart and mind to go down, every day, both then as a very impressionable young person and now. What I put in my head matters. I’m glad I sought out music that would speak life into my soul and teach me truths that would stick with me. Today, my family and I listen to all kinds of music, but we definitely have Christian, contemplative/lyric-less, and worship music on more often than anything else.

Why music? How can a song make such a difference in our hearts turning toward God?

1. We are stating truth, and God’s Word never returns void! Isaiah 55:11 says: “…so is My Word that goes out of My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which it was sent.”  Whether we are singing songs that are prayers straight to God, or singing songs that simply are statements of truth, we are strengthened by these reminders, because they are God’s holy, living, active Word. The truth goes in and begins to frame our lives and give us a renewed vision and hope, even if it is not immediate. Many times in my life, songs have lifted me out of darkness and were like a rope lowered down to me when other forms of truth were harder to connect with for some reason.

2. We are taking our eyes off of the wind and the waves of our circumstances, taking a break from our worrying and stressing, and turning our faces to the Lord. When we come back down from the mountain with Him, situations we are in are able to take on new meaning. We are always strengthened for the task ahead; we are given what we need specifically in His presence. Most of all, we are reminded He is with us and wants to abide with us every moment, not just in those somewhat rare times we stop “to worship.” He’s a refuge, He’s a cleft in the rock. Isaiah 26:3 says: “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” The whole of Song of Solomon beckons us to look to the One who loves us! Look at this from SOS 2:14, when the Lover (the Lord) says: “My dove is in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” That’s Jesus talking to you! He invites us to come in and hide for awhile. Remember this hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face…and the things of earth will turn strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” It’s true. We are transformed in His presence.

3. When we learn to gaze and meditate on the Lord and all His beautiful characteristics, His heart is filled with joy…and others are affected as well! Psalm 69:30-32: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad–you who seek God, may your hearts live!!” I love the joy on a person’s face when they are worshipping. I can only imagine the look on the Lord’s face as He receives our praises! And when others see our lives of worship, or us literally singing and enjoying His presence, they will experience a change in the atmosphere, too.

The definition of worship doesn’t just say a feeling of adoration, it says “an expression”! If there was one thing I could say to the Church today about worship it would be to stop being afraid to really express their adoration and thankfulness to God. We are all different in what we’re comfortable with, sure. No problem. But when the words on the screen in your worship service say “Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has shed His own blood for my soul” and all we can do is stand there barely mouthing the words, what is going on? Will unbelievers walk in that place and see an adoration for Jesus? Or will they see people just getting through “the program”? Only God knows our hearts, but I know for me, He has said these words very clearly about corporate worship: “Give it to Me! Give me the worship I deserve! Don’t you hold back anything!” And that means confession of sin, laying down of worries, interceding, hearing next steps, lifting hands, singing out, or sometimes sitting in silence and tears as I listen. I cannot encourage you enough to enter in to this kind of daily experience with Jesus, and music is a wonderful door to get there.

Revelation 4 & 5 describes the Throne Room of Heaven…can I share just a brief moment of this scene, this example of worship?

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, ten thousand upon ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! The four living creatures said ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:11-14

I’m not waiting until Heaven to worship with all that is within me! “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!” Ps. 147:1

Great worship resources and my particular favorites:

Kansas City IHOP Prayer Room and Archives

Vineyard Campbellsville (iTunes)

Cageless Birds

All Sons and Daughters

Jesus Culture, Hillsong United, Bethel (YouTube)

 

Here is the song “Hallelujah” from my and Joanna Black’s worship CD, Beloved. All of my lyrics and chords are also available on this website, just click on lyrics on Home page. 🙂 Pray this song will bring you into the peace and reality of His presence!

 

 

#HowToBuild: The Living Word

“…We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss…Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple?” 1 Corinthians 3:9-16

We are in the building process, every day, through the circumstances God allows into our lives, but also through the choices we make to add layer upon layer onto our faith!

One choice that we must make in order to build (and build upon) a firm foundation is to be daily and regularly in the Word of God.

Communication between us and God is set in motion when we are in His Word. There is always something new and always something more, if reading is accompanied by openness to the Holy Spirit. If we ask Him directly for His input, He will open new truth that speaks to the current status of our heart and life! I have that much confidence in the Holy Spirit/Word of God duo!!! If the Word feels dull, confusing, irrelevant, infuriating, boring, or even wrong, we can tell Him how we feel. The Word is alive, interactive, and meant to bring conversation with Him.

Being in the Word of God is one of the main ways we can hear God’s voice, because His Word IS His voice! When we have begun to recognize His voice in Scripture, we begin to hear Him speak outside of it, too. A thought while we’re driving the car, an answer to a particular prayer or question. Reading His Word is one of the main ways we can learn to differentiate between which thoughts (and even words from others that are directed toward us) are from God and which need to be dismissed and forgotten. It gives us an innate discernment, what is called the “mind of Christ”, because our hearts are melding into His as we read more and more about what He loves and hates. It grows in us a change of opinion when our opinions were wrong. It grows in us a softness where there needs to be mercy and a fierce determination where there is meant to be justice. His Word is living and active. It goes in and it changes things. It is the nutrient our souls were meant to ingest daily! I can’t help but think of the yogurt with the “1 billion acidophilus cultures” in it. The package declares this incredibly wonderful but creepy message: Active bacteria, live cultures! Gee, thanks!! (But really…thanks!) That healthy bacteria that we’re ingesting, as weird as it sounds, is making our digestive system a much happier place. The good bacteria needs to be there to overpower and kill off the bad bacteria that would make us sick. Think of God’s Word, all of it, any of it, as a living and active ingredient that goes in where He knows it needs to go, to whatever parts of our heart need to be cleansed, overpowered with truth and goodness, and made healthy again. And just a side note, most of us don’t get these live cultures in the food we normally eat. Very few restaurants are handing out rejuvenating, life giving food; we have to go out of our way to find it and consume it…hint hint!

Love and respect for the Word of God grows the more we become acquainted with it. Psalm 119 is an intense chapter of appreciation and longing for Scripture. The wisdom and the joy of the writer! He had found something worth going on and on about…!

In different seasons of life, we have to get creative and make being in the Word happen. Here are some ideas and resources for that, just to name a few:

*Listen to podcasts, such as Passion City Church , Martha Kilpatrick , Bethel Church , and Beth Moore. Even if they are just playing in a sometimes-empty room, grab what you can as the Word of God streams through the air of your house!

*Watch preaching and teaching videos. Some of my favorites are: Anyone from International House of Prayer, Kansas City , especially Misty Edwards. We don’t have to agree with every point teachers make on videos we watch, but our hearts will feel if someone is just not lining up with God’s Word. Obviously, not everyone out there with videos online is preaching truth. The more we are in His Word for ourselves, the more we will be able to discern.

*Get involved in group or personal book studies, that dig into one particular topic or book of the Bible. Here’s a good resource: Women of Faith. I have personally always gotten a lot out of Beth Moore studies, but those were my pre-children season type of studies!  I highly recommend them though. I also read books and resources by Martha Kilpatrick regularly. You can find her info on the link above under podcasts.

*Read blogs! The transparency of blogs from people truly seeking God are invaluable! Here are some great ones I read: Ray Hollenbach and Ann Voskamp There are so many I could share, but those are the ones I usually click on when they go through my Twitter feed…

*Hide His Word in your heart. Memorize verses with your family. Write a verse a week on a poster and tape it to the wall next to the dinner table! I never realized the work, honestly, that the Word of God that I had memorized in the past was doing for me all these years. So many times that I had hope or bravery or the words to say, that was a direct result of hiding God’s Word in my heart throughout my life. Some of those verses were learned just so I could earn a piece of candy! Haha!

*Pray His Word…back to Him.

*Sing His Word…out loud!

*Just open it up and read. Daily, if we feel overwhelmed, we can read a Psalm and a chapter from a book of the New Testament for starters, and then see where He leads. There’s no right or wrong way to be in the Word. Sometimes God will keep me on one passage or sentence for weeks. We can’t be all about quantity with this. There are no stickers on any charts here!

I want to share this new song with you that I’ve been writing the past couple of weeks, “Your Voice”.  He is speaking…because He loves to. His Voice, His Word, these are some of the sweetest gifts He could have given us…and they are our’s in abundance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#HowToBuild: Intro to New Blog Series

Some time ago I wrote a blog that mentioned how I’m re-learning this truth: “Build yourself up in your most holy faith…” Jude :20

How often I forget that just like my physical being needs continuous nutrients, my spiritual being needs continuous nutrients as well! So, what are those nutrients? How does one get to a deeper level, a more life-giving place, with God? And the even bigger question: How does one continue with that growth in a steadfast way, rather than the roller coaster ride most of us are accustomed to?

There’s a lot to explore here, but I do know this: It comes down to a daily decision. A daily choice. And that’s no one’s choice but our own.

For today…will we choose to turn our faces toward the Lord and do the work necessary to abide in Him?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream that spoke exactly to this and it really amazed me! I dreamt I woke up and the very first thing I did was go into a garage that was connected to my house (I don’t really have a garage but in my dream, I did.) I opened the door and saw two cars. One car was already warmed up for me. The engine was already purring. It looked like I wouldn’t have to think about it, do a single thing for it, in fact it seemed as if I wouldn’t even have to drive it but that it would drive me!  The other car was cold. It was on E. The battery was barely hanging on and would need a jump. Which did I have time for? Which seemed the most attractive? Which was easier to hop in and start my day with?

I woke up knowing exactly what the Spirit of God was saying to me, and oh how I needed to hear it. I could choose to walk in the flesh all day, which is always warmed up and ready to go, and let my natural (read: ungodly) responses to people and life rule my mind, mouth, attitude, and actions…or I could choose to pause for a little while and let my heart and mind be renewed and transformed in the presence of my Savior, a work that is His work but that I have to ask for and acknowledge my need of.

So this is just a picture of our choice. It’s just spelling out the simple truth that loving God, embracing His love for us (being changed by this gift), and being able to show His love to others don’t just happen spontaneously. No, we shed the garments of the flesh, and we put on the garments of righteousness. Not just on the day of salvation, but everyday, through confession of sin, prayer, worship, being in the Word of God, putting on our spiritual armor, being in fellowship with other believers, obeying, using our spiritual gifts, and many more practices that refresh, remind, and revive. I used to be so aggravated that I would wake up to a battle every morning. I would go to bed peaceful and in love with Jesus and wake up as fleshly as flesh can be. I still do. The difference is that now I expect this! Take that, Satan! Now I know that battle will be there, and it stands as my opportunity to consciously choose to walk in the Spirit instead. Amen!

For the next month or two, I want to write a series of blogs talking about how to “build yourself up in your most holy faith.” I have been the victim of the enemy for so long, in emotional and mental battles, in morning misery, in thinking I should be better, be stronger, live closer to the Lord…But now I know the truth. #1, it’s not just me!! #2, the Word of God clearly details how we can be strengthened for those battles, no longer a victim, no longer caught off guard. So, what I’m writing about is elementary, the blog titles will not wow anybody, but still, many of us including myself need to hear these truths and walk in them in a consistent manner in order to see the victory we long for, to be the people who will bring His Kingdom ways into this day, and to have the joy that should characterize a child of God!

Today’s blog is the introduction to the series, and we’ll jump into specifics, in no particular order, soon! I also have some songs I’m writing that I would like to include in these series, so I pray that the Lord will speak these magnificent truths through my very small offering of words.  The first song I want to share to go with this series is We Come Out Shining. This is on the CD Who We Are While We Wait available at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lyndsaytaylor3 or iTunes.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6