Thanks for visiting my blog!

Feel free to pass along anything you find here that might be encouraging or helpful to someone you know.

And if you’re looking for a church family, you should take one Sunday to visit Life Unlimited Church in south Austin or Bastrop Christian Outreach Center in Bastrop. Cory and I live in Austin so if you visit LUC, come and sit with us!

Also don't forget to click on the link below each post to hear the song!


p.s. You absolutely HAVE to follow the link in my 'Story of My Life' post to watch the COUCH COUPLES from 'When Harry Met Sally'.... priceless and oh-so-cute!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hold me

Since Cory and I bought our first house a few months ago, I've been doing a lot of Do-It-Yourself projects around the house.  I've re-covered an old footstool that I got at Goodwill for $5, I'm mid-way through a total overhaul of the guest bathroom, and we're working on ridding our yard of the title "ugliest in the neighborhood."  :)

I think all those house projects can actually help illustrate something that I've experienced personally but have at times found it hard to explain: and that concept is BROKENNESS.

Before my mom and I started applying the new upholstery to the footstool, we took off the old legs, ripped out a bunch of old staples, and vacuumed the heck out of the original upholstery which was super gross and dusty. (I wanted to take it off completely until I realized it was GLUED on... very disappointing).  The first thing I did in the guest bathroom before adding anything new was begging Cory to take down the original boring mirror so that I could instead put up the cute one from Hobby Lobby. And you can guess our first course of action in improving the front yard: attacking the weeds.  When it comes to houses, we can pretty simply understand the idea that to make something better, most of the time you have to get rid of something first. Anyone ever stripped or sanded something before you added that fresh coat of paint?
When it comes to our lives though and our spirituality, we almost always forget that there's a good chance of some old paint that needs stripping.  Sometimes it's pride. Sometimes it's the hurt we've been carrying with us for years.  It can simply be the weight of this world - the pressure and cares that we've been holding on to and bearing on our own pre-Christ.  But letting go of all that junk is just as important as taking up all the great things that God has for us - it's what makes us able to fully ENJOY those great things from God rather than wavering distractedly between the two.

    Below is a song I wrote when I was 18.  I can hardly believe that almost ten years have passed since then   ... but amazingly enough, this song still ministers to me and puts me back in a place of brokenness each time I  hear it.   My favorite line says this:
            "I'm waiting. I'll stay as long as You are here.  I'm not in a hurry to go."

Over the course of two weeks, Cory and I spent most evenings after work in our yard pulling those weeds.  It took way longer than I would have bargained for and I'm already seeing the need for some touch up but we had to put in the time to see the result we wanted.  I believe salvation is an instant thing.  The moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and welcome Him into your life, your spirit is made new and your sins are forgiven and your new eternal destination becomes heaven. (Praise God for this!)  But salvation is only the beginning of the story - there is renewing of the mind and emotional wholeness to be had here on earth... and those things come from spending time in God's presence.  I stole the next few sentences from a random article online but I think it's well spoken so here you go:  Some think brokenness means you have to be sad and gloomy, walking around with a frown on your face.  Many imagine that broken people never smile or laugh.  In reality though, brokenness brings a release, which produces a profound sense of joy and peace in our lives.  True brokenness is not a feeling or an emotion.  It is a choice- an act of the will.  It is daily agreeing with God about the true condition of your heart.  Who are you REALLY?  Only you and God know.  Many of us never go this deep with God, but brokenness is a shattering of my self-will.  The total exposure and surrender of my will to God.  It is saying, “I cannot do this anymore on my own.  Yes, Lord, here I am.”  Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and the acknowledgment of our total dependence upon God.   
As you spend time in worship and experience God's presence there, you will not want to leave!
Click here to listen: Hold Me

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

for the heavy heart...

I wasn't in a hurry to post this song orginally since it's so raw (a.k.a. doesn't sound all that great ;) ... I'm actually playing the guitar which I don't really know how to play so you'll have to listen past the strumming to the heart behind it, but I do believe it might be meant for someone to hear right now...

I feel like this week I've heard more sad stories and received more bad news from friends and loved ones than I have in the entire year leading up to it.  There are just so many people going through very tough things and dealing with serious heart break.

A lady I know and love lost her husband a few years ago.  His death was sudden, she was young and devastated, and I can't even try to imagine what the whole experience must have felt like for her.  In the days, weeks, and months following that life-changing loss though, I got to watch her as she immersed herself in an all-out pursuit of God.  Rather than agreeing with self-pity and heaviness - which I can honestly and confidently say I would have been doing in her shoes - she devoted every minute and all the energy she had to reading and meditating on and dwelling in God's word.  She made worship her hobby and confession her sustenance.  And she surrounded herself with people who she knew would compel and encourage her to continue that pursuit.   

Here we are just a few years down the road and that woman's life is a beautiful picture of God's faithfulness to redeem.  Of course now anyone looking at her life can see and appreciate that very clearly... but she knew THEN what everyone else can see from her life NOW:  that God's word is true and is powerful for the person who is willing to take it off the page and put it into their real life.  

I wrote the song you can hear below for that friend when I first heard the news of her husband's death.  I couldn't understand why, and I knew she might struggle with the same miserable question.... but I also knew that in the times when you don't understand and when things are at their worst, He is the only one worth turning to and He is faithful.
         Your words of truth I'll cling to
         Lover of my soul I'll sing to
         God as I bring to you my questions and my tears
         Make me whole.       

If you are hurting or sick, there are a lot of people out there who will offer you TREATMENT... but there is only one who can make you WHOLE - no scars, no side effects, nothing missing, nothing broken, no leftover pieces, no emotional residue, no empty promises  - and that is the God in Matthew 11:25 who says:
                  " Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Click here to listen:  "I'll cling to"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

College girl writes a song

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." -  COLOSSIANS 2:8 (niv) 

My second semester in college, I signed up for a cultural anthropology course - one that I knew going in was taught by a professor who did not believe in God... and who was in fact vehemently determined to change the mind of any student of his that did.  After hearing way too many stories of Christians-turned-atheists after such classroom experiences, my mom was pretty worried about me taking the class and hoped I would just find a suitable alternative route for earning my social science credit - which I could have done.  But at 21 years old, having spent the first 19 years of my life meeting, getting to know, and committing myself to a God I'd known as real and having devoted the most recent 2 years of my life at a Bible school where I studied and served full time FOR that God, I wanted to believe that my faith wasn't something that I could simply be talked out of.  I needed to know what I believed.  So I stayed in the class.

I did pray before the start of the semester though and very sincerely in my apartment bedroom asked God to stay real to me.  I told Him how much I loved Him, how much I had loved knowing Him in my life, and asked Him to help me to see and hear only the truth.
An amazing thing happened that semester as I attended that hour-and-fifteen-minute class twice a week in the Evans Liberal Arts building of the Texas State campus, jotting down pages of notes from each passionate and many times abrasive lecture and watching as, one-by-one, the few God-fearing classmates I had were publicly humiliated and ultimately quieted by my oh-so-condescending professor throughout the semester:  my heart broke for him.  And for the majority of other students sitting in that classroom next to me who made it clear that they shared the views of this very intelligent and accomplished man.  My heart broke for him and for them because it became clear through their bitter rants and hateful jabs that they had obviously never gotten to meet the God that I had.  They had never known what it felt like to be comforted by Him when nothing else could bring that comfort... or experienced His unexplainable joy in the middle of a time that only otherwise would have been hopeless...  or  gotten to live even one day feeling the true peace and wholeness that only comes through salvation.

That semester, God gave me the song that you can hear below.   The first line says "If all else were true, wouldn't change my mind...".   I still can't explain or understand all the science of the universe or just the right argument to each of Professor X's questions ~ But I have come to the place where that doesn't even matter.  A friend of my mother's when I was growing up said, "A person with an argument is always at the mercy of a person with an experience."  And I am a person with an experience.  I have experienced too much of
God and His real-ness to ever question whether He is real.  I have experienced real healing and real change and watched real transformation in the lives of others right before my very eyes - and for that I am grateful to God and can only pray and hope that Professor X and the other students I studied alongside that semester will someday also get to experience the love and grace of that same God.  Because whether they know it or not now, they too were made by Him.

Click here to listen: "I was made by You, made only for You - Jesus, I am Yours"
(Spring 2004)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Story of my life

I prayed the prayer of salvation as a little girl.  Truth be told, I prayed at the prompting of Gospel Bill - the television sheriff of Dry Gulch county on a Christian children's show that aired Saturday mornings on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in the '80s.  Although the characters on the show were only pretend, the Gospel they shared was real and I now have a soft spot for Christian television and am quick to quiet anyone who finds amusement in making fun of it.  (My mother also accepted Jesus while watching a television show nearly a decade earlier when Pat Robertson gave his regular salvation invitation from the couch of his "700 Club" studio - only one of the many random connections I share with my mother ~ i.e. ... she grew up on "Faith" street, I grew up on "Church" street). 

 In the years following, I was privileged to grow up in a church where the Bible was taught, the Holy Spirit was welcomed, and the pastors were honest and real.  My mom made it her mission in life to teach me to have a relationship with God for myself, rather than simply giving me list of rules to follow and verses to memorize.  Although I've never been perfect and there are LOTS of areas I'm working on (just ask my husband!), I did truly give my heart to Jesus way back then and have never wanted to ask for it back.

Remember the couch couples in "When Harry Met Sally?"  They're so great because they've stood the test of time.  They're not young and hot and hormone-infested... and yet they're still together and still in love and that makes us say, "Awe" and "How sweet."  I want my walk with God to be like that...   to go beyond a dramatic alter call experience at camp and to last through my selfish youth and to be a constant in the midst of all the changes that will come with having kids and different jobs.  And I want to look back when I'm old and gray and be able to reminisce with God about the walks we've taken and the talks we've had.  I'm sad when I think about all the friends I've watched drift from where they once were and who now feel distant and far from God when they once felt so close.   BUT the amazing thing about God and His all-conquering love is this: He keeps loving.  So if your story doesn't sound quite like mine and perhaps has been a little more "off and on" along the way, that's completely okay - your love story with Him can begin or begin AGAIN today and be just as beautiful.       *** I've attached a link here to a website that provides a really clear and easy to understand explanation of WHY a person needs salvation and how to receive it from God. ***

Click here to listen:  "Exclusively Yours"  (I apologize in advance for the cheesy drum machine! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do not be afraid

***If you don't already know the story of Jairus' daughter, read the commentary below or read Mark 5:35-43 then come back and finish my post:***

                        MARK 5:35-43  Jesus heals Jairus' daughter     
While Jesus is still talking, someone comes with the news that Jairus' daughter is dead (v.35). This person also accuses Jesus of not caring, otherwise, He would have hurried to help the girl and here He is just talking. He implies that they should not fool with this Jesus. Jesus heard what was said but didn’t pay any attention to it. He told Jairus not to be afraid, but to trust Him as everything would be OK (v. 36). 

He took only His inner circle of Peter, James and John and when they arrived at Jairus’ house they found the place in an uproar with hired professional mourners (vv. 37-38. These mourners with loud voices gathered around the dead body beating their breasts, tearing their hair and ripping their garments. Also it was the custom to eat eggs dipped in ashes and salt.  

When Jesus walked into this uproar He rebuked the mourners and told them the girl was not dead but just sleeping (v. 39).  They laughed at Him because they thought His hope was foolish (v. 40).  They failed to realize that what looks completely impossible with men is possible with God.  After this Jesus sent the people out of the house and took the girl's father and mother into the room where the girl was.  He took the girl by the hand, called her by name and everyone was surprised as she got up and started walking around (vv. 41-42).  

The text seems to suggests that the bearers of “Bad News” will always come, but the author of “Good News” is always in control. Jesus hears and ignores what others are saying. He has the last word. He is the author and finisher of our faith.  

I've met a handful of people in my life that I could call INSPIRING.  One of those people was Grayson Belvin... just a laid-back guy who played the guitar, related well with people - and who was willing to let God use those things in him to make a difference. 

Grayson was one of the leaders at Crosstalk, the college ministry I was a part of at Texas State.  And Grayson managed to inspire me AND a room full of other students like me most Wednesday nights at 8pm in the Alkek teaching theater by simply sharing what he had been meditating on in his own life.  His message usually included some sort of reference to a book he'd been reading or a devotional he was walking through... and the more entertaining parts of his message usually consisted of a story or anecdote straight from his real life (i.e. the fact that for years he was regularly stopped or questioned by police and security officers in stores and other random places because he "just has the face of someone that looks like they're on drugs"...)

On one such night, Grayson talked about the story from Mark 5:35-43.  As someone who grew up in Sunday school I knew the story well but this time it was made real and finally struck my heart.  Grayson walked us through the desperation of a dad about to lose his young daughter; the hopeful sense of relief that dad might have felt when he received the 'okay' that Jesus had agreed to come to his house; and the devastating blow it must have been to only then receive word that they were too late.  He titled the message "Face the Father" and talked about the importance of us placing all our trust in Jesus and not on what we could see or fear.

That night when the service ended, I felt urgently COMPELLED to skip my usual after-service chatting and instead head immediately to the Music building on campus.  The Music building housed lots of private practice rooms, each with a piano - a favorite spot of mine on campus and one I visited often.  

But this time a practice room wouldn't do so I just happened to try the upstairs concert hall - complete with red velvet stadium seating and two grand pianos on stage - which just HAPPENED to be UNLOCKED!  So over the next couple hours, I sat all by myself in that beautiful hall as the song below just came flowing out...  It sounded so different from anything I'd ever written before - this was truly one of those moments where I was just a vessel who got to let God speak through me.     

Thanks to Grayson for opening the Bible and sharing a story I'd read and heard so many times before in a real and different way.  And thanks to God who is always worthy of our trust and who takes away the need to fear.   
Click here to listen: "Do not be afraid"

Monday, June 21, 2010

portrait of a prodigal

We see people everyday who are poor and downcast and struggling.  A tough concept to grasp though and even to believe at times is the population within those poor and downcast who were actually once on top of the world.  One day, years or perhaps even months before, some of those same people were sitting in corner offices, eating at fancy restaurants, and laughing with friends in high places.  Yet for whatever reason or perhaps due to a streak of reasons, they are now living a much different life - looking backwards at better times. 

In the book of Luke, Jesus told his disciples a story about a son who was in a hurry to get out on his own.  The son asked his dad for his inheritance, gathered his things, then "set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living."  Eventually the son reached his lowest point when he found himself so hungry that he envied the pigs he'd been hired to feed because they at least were fed.  And that is when he remembers how good he once had it.  

The majority of the people I spoke of before - the ones who were once on top of the world - can probably attribute their demise to some event or circumstance that was out of their control: an injury that cost them their job, a change in the stock market they couldn't have foreseen, or a betrayal or injustice from a person they had trusted.  Spiritually speaking though, the majority of Christians who are looking backwards toward better days (think "backsliders" if you speak Christianese), can relate to the son in Jesus' story who certainly would never have CHOSEN such an outcome for himself.... but who finally reaches the point where he must admit to himself - there with the pigs in a desperate state of self-reflection - that he and only he has made the choices that did in fact bring him to such a state.

My husband Cory and I met at a Bible school we both attended after high school.  There were about 300 young adults like us there at the time, we made some really great friends that we're still close to today, and it was an experience neither of us will ever truly be able to describe fully enough to make an 'outsider' GET it.   But I can say the thing that defined our time and our friendships and our experiences there was that with very few exceptions most of us there were walking closer and more intimately with God during those 2 years than we ever had before (good thing) and - for too many of us - than we have ever since (bad thing).  That has meant that in the years following such an intimate time of growing in God and finding purpose in Him, a lot of people who were so ready to get out on their own ... and who decided to 'set out for a distant country'... are now finding themselves feeling hungry and remembering how good they once had it.

I was reminded of the prodigal son story a few years ago and ended up writing the song below after spending a weekend with a friend of mine, catching each other up on our lives "post-Bible School."   It only took a few minutes of  listening to her that weekend for me to recognize the change that was taking place:  the joy I once witnessed in her eyes when she would tell me about her vision and share with me her hopes and what she'd been reading about or studying was now replaced with a look of panic and guilt; there was even some anger there and bitterness that had been stirring for some time.  And I wondered if she could even remember where home was or if she was still in the process of 'squandering' and would have to eat with the pigs before she'd see clearly enough to remember. 

To anyone who might find themselves in a similar place as my friend that weekend, they need only to read the end of Jesus' story:

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'  So he got up and went to his fatherBut while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." 

Click here to listen:  "Portrait of a Prodigal"