That table changed my entire life. Because I learned what it looks like to live in the tension and beauty of authentic relationship. Always reminded that Jesus set the example by choosing to inhabit the earth alongside disciples. Companions. Partners in ministry. And he didn't have to. He really didn't. He was smart enough and God enough to do it all on his own. Or- to just meet up with the disciples in a very sanitized, clean setting on Sunday mornings. But he didn't do that either. They traveled together. Slept together. Worshiped together. Healed together. Shared meals and mules (?) together. Jesus showed us a picture of community that went against societal norms because it was needy, dependent, intertwined, messy, and not all Sunday-Morning-glossy. It was real and deep and wide and it mattered. Day in and day out, mattered. Kingdom wise- for Jesus' glory- His local gathering of disciples mattered. They changed the course of history.Read More
I sing to her in bed, the same words sung over me when I was a little girl.Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the sun does not appear- I will be here. If in the dark we lost sight of love, hold my hand and have no fear- I will be here.
And when she is restless in the night, I sing the one song that has calmed my fears and brought peace in the midst of every numbing storm I have ever lived through. Be still and know that He is God Be still and know that He is holy Be still, O restless soul of mine Bow before the Prince of peace Let the noise and clamor cease Be still
And when we dance around the living room? I will dance with Cinderella While she is here in my arms 'Cause I know something the prince never knew Oh I will dance with Cinderella I don't want to miss even one song 'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight And she'll be gone.
And when we are just pretending to be wild animals? K-I-N-G of the J-U-N-G-L-E
...Followed by an insanely dramatic cow-girl version of Saddle up yeeeeer horses! We've got a trail to blaze! Through the wild blue yoooooonder of God's amazing grace!
These are our songs. These are my songs. The soundtrack of my life.
The Soundtrack of My Life The summer after second grade my family moved from a tiny town in Mississippi to a rough, low income neighborhood in Ft. Worth, Texas so my parents could go to seminary. I was terrified and heart broken at leaving all our family behind and starting over in a foreign world. As we drove from Magnolias in Mississippi, over boggy rivers in Louisiana into wide open fields in East Texas, my dad put a cassette tape in to cover the tears of my sister and I.
You're my hiding place, safe in Your embrace I'm protected from the storm that rages When the waters rise, and I run to hide Lord, in You I find my hiding place
I am 33 years old and I still sing this song- often.
When I am afraid, the words of this song flow out of my soul; well-worn and true. Thousands of miles have been traveled since I was that 8-year-old little girl crying in the back seat of my parent's green minivan, clinging to the words of this song as if they were the only hope I had left. And 25 years later, this is still the soundtrack of my life.
So let your people seek You While You may be found 'Cause You're our only refuge When the rain comes pouring down
And so goes my life. So much road traveled. Thousands of miles. Hills. Valleys. Flat tires. Bus fires. Broken. Beautiful. Becoming.
And his songs play out like a God-orchestrated soundtrack telling the story of my faith- speaking the very words that shaped, formed, and breathed life into me. I knew the words to these songs backwards and forwards. They were prayed, sung, danced to, clung to. In closets, cars, church and in my heart- they were the whisper of the deepest things I knew to be true in the world.
Even as a little girl, I knew these songs were the heartbeat of life set to lyric and melody.
It was never about fame or being a fan. Barring my parent's presence in my life, these songs had the single biggest influence on my soul running to Jesus and never turning back. They represent the seasons of my life; spiritual markers for a girl who just keeps falling more in love with the mystery of Christ.
I sing these songs instinctively. Often. They are forever woven into my story. A part of who I am.
How do you thank someone who has penned the soundtrack to your faith?
How do you thank a man and a woman who have been there your entire life (without knowing) and shown you what marriage, honesty, beauty, severe loss, transparency, authenticity and well-worn faith looks like? How do you tell someone that they have shown you Jesus in such a way that everything in you changed? Forever changed. And that anyone who has ever heard my music-was just a by-product of me hearing his music. Of me watching his honesty? Of me watching their honesty on display for all the world to wrestle with?
Steven and Mary Beth Chapman don't know me, but my life is different because of their faithfulness.
They have been with me since I was a little girl. My earliest memories have songs attached to them. His songs. My earliest moments sensing God's presence in my heart and in my tiny bedroom came as I put in my cassette tapes and let the words carry me to a place I knew somewhere deep inside of me but didn't yet have words for.
Words to my faith. Melody to my prayers. Lyrics to my heart.
Long before I could memorize a scripture verse or understand the Bible for myself, I knew Jesus well- because Steven Curtis Chapman painted a picture of a Savior who loved me- and I just knew- from a song- that I belonged to God. And everything changed.
These are the words. The soundtrack of growing from a little girl, scared to move away from my small town Mississippi home- to a grown girl, trying to be honest and brave.
Life-Long Friends 8-years-old Sometimes His voice comes calling Like rolling thunder, like driving rain And sometimes His voice is quiet And we start to wonder, if He knows our pain But He who spoke peace to the water Cares more for our hearts than the waves And the voice that once said, "You're forgiven" Still says, "You're forgiven" today
9-years-old The world's an ocean waiting at my door Before I set out for the open sea I'll take the word my father's given me And I'll go sailing out to treasure island *** He died to bring us more to this life living than dying More than just trying to make it through the day More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see
10-years-old For the Sake of the Call... Don't get me started. I'm already a weepy mess. I remember the first time I heard this song. I sat and listened to the entire cassette, entranced, tears dripping off my chin. Me, a 10-year-old girl, felt more compelled to live life than I knew what to do with. With each song, my heart soared. It rang so true. Something in me ached as I listened to every word and listened to Jesus tell me that this is what He wanted from me. This album was my anthem. It still is. Sometimes- when I want to quit ministry- I literally go to a closet and sing this at the top of my lungs. And then remember. All over again, I remember.
Nobody stood and applauded them So they knew from the start This road would not lead to fame All they really knew for sure was Jesus had called to them He said "Come follow me" and they came With reckless abandon they came- We will abandon it all For the sake of the call No other reason at all but the sake of the call Wholly devoted to live and to die For the sake of the call
12-years-old Who, who's gonna love Maria Who, who's gonna touch her With the tenderness she longs for Like a desert longs for rain *** Started out this morning In the usual way Chasing thoughts inside my head Of all I had to do today Another time around the circle Try to make it better than the last...
...and you are all kinds of lying if you grew up in Christian sub-culture and don't confess to not only singing this song out loud at the top of your lungs, but also acting it out. We all saddled up our horses. Don't lie. It was the greatest thing to happen in 6th grade. And admit it, the advent of the Toby Mac rap song sent us into Christian music ecstasy.
14-years-old God our Father once again I bow my head to pray You are my Father and my Friend, and You hear every word I say A prayer for forgiveness, a desperate cry for help Or praise flowing from a thankful heart Like each time before, I come knowing You're still listening
15-years-old And with love that conquers loneliness, and hope that fills all emptiness He came to earth to show our worth. Our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel And we will never face life alone Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel Our God is with us, Emmanuel
Has a more beautiful Christmas song ever been written? The answer, of course, is no. This song is as close as you get to Heaven in the Real World.
16-years-old I'm free, oh I have been forgiven God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings And I'm free yeah and the freedom I've been given Is something that not even death can take away from me Because I'm free, Jesus set me free *** I am the heart, You are the heartbeat I am the eyes, You are the sight And I see clearly, I am just a body You are the life I move my feet, I go through the motions But You give purpose to chance I am the dancer You are the Lord of the dance
19-years-old Words fall like drops of rain My lips are like clouds I say so many things Trying to figure you out But as mercy opens my eyes My words are stolen away With this breathtaking view of your grace I am speechless I'm astonished and amazed
21-years-old Just when you think 'he must be running dry'- 'he cannot possibly write another song that so deeply resonates with the rumblings of my faith-' A haunting, vulnerable melody comes along with a lyric so powerful that I cannot listen to it without the deepest longing for heaven aching inside of my soul.
And the pain falls like a curtain On the things I once called certain And I have to say the words I fear the most I just don't know And the questions without answers Come and paralyze the dancer So I stand here on the stage afraid to move Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust God is God and I am not I can only see a part Of the picture He's painting God is God and I am man So, I'll never understand it all For only God is God
When Loves Takes You In, Magnificent Obsession, Carry You to Jesus... the soundtrack of my early 20's.
Thank You I could go on for another decade. Just when you think there can't be more- it flows forth.
A beautiful gift to the world.
A guide to the traveler searching for the words and melodies that offer up Jesus as beautiful, holy, faithful, inviting- constant.
And that, of course, is the best gift that Steven and Mary Beth have given the Christian community. A beautiful picture of faithfulness. What it looks like to be in it for the long haul. They have given the world a rare gift. The gift of a journey. Their journey. The journey of faith. The journey to the cross. The journey through unbearable loss-grief-suffering and healing. The journey that says- no matter what- we are constant because HE is constant. They have invited us to watch. To join. To dream. To live. To abandon it all for the sake of the call.
So tonight as my little girl tossed and turned in her bed, she said, "Mommy, sing me the song about being still and knowing that He is God. And being quiet and stuff."
And I did.
I sing this song over her every night. "Be still and know that He is God. Be still and know he is your Father. Come rest your head upon his chest- listen to the rhythm of, His unfailing heart of love. Beating for His little ones. Calling each of us to come. Be still. Be speechless."
Not too long ago, as I sang while she nodded to sleep with her tiny eyes closed, she said-
"Mommy- I want to be best friends with God forever because this songs make me love him sooo much."
I kissed her forehead.
"I know baby. This song makes me love Him so much too."
Steven and Mary Beth- you have given us a legacy. And tonight as I laid with my little girl, I decided that I have waited long enough to say thank-you. Your words and your witness have been the most beautiful soundtrack a generation could be privileged to grow up with.
So though it falls short...
You have given us the heartbeat of Jesus this side of heaven. A soundtrack of faith.
Three years ago- in the springtime- there was a big explosion, followed by an epic fire on the RV we (Addison Road, my former band) were traveling in. We weren’t on the RV at the time- and for that, I am forever grateful. But all of our stuff was. And by stuff, think everything you use to make it through the day. Like clothes and laptops. Then think of everything you use that makes it possible for you to work and earn a paycheck. Ok- we lost all of that stuff. Not to mention the actual vehicle. It feels like a different life time- an eternity has been lived since that moment- an eternity learning about how good people are, how perfect God’s faithfulness is and what generosity really looks like.
I’ve learned a few universal characteristics about generous people these past three years.
This week, I want to share those with you.
Generous People Are ________.
Making it through the fire and maintaining our business required a short term loan. But banks don’t really give loans to semi-successful bands whose stuff burns up and gets stolen all the time. We are sort of a risk, you know? So we found someone to give us a loan. Mr. American Express. He gave us everything we needed and then some. After about three months of recovering we realized we had to break-up with Mr. American Express and really wished we had never met him. We were back to the original problem. We needed a loan- but seriously- financial institutions were avoiding us like a plague. So I emailed our families, pastors, a few friends and one new acquaintance that I couldn't make myself delete from the list.
That new acquaintance couldn't make himself shake the email. He told his wife- “Addison Road needs a loan and can’t find one. They need $30,000.” He knew they had $30,000 sitting in an account somewhere, but didn't dare mention it to his wife as a real option. Until she said, “Well- we have $30,000 in the kids college fund.”
And if reading that makes you feel uncomfortable- try being the girl on the other end of the phone.
I can’t take your kids college money- what if there is an emergency- and they need to get to college right away? As four-year-olds?!?
After some prayer together, some prayer with us, a contract that said we would honor the loan and a few phone calls back and forth, we found ourselves holding a personal check from a couple we had hardly known- for $30,000.
It should be noted- this isn't a family of millionaires; just normal, middle class Americans. This decision carried a weight for them. But free people, truly free people, are OK making weighty decisions and taking a few risks.
The opposite of freedom is bondage. And most bondage is derived from fear.
What if our child DOES get into college by age 7? What if there is a tragic accident and we need that money immediately? What if we need a new house? Or another car? Or aliens invade?
People who live in fear of the “what-ifs” have a hard time being truly free.
Being financially set for life is a good thing, but we should bear in mind, it is a first world luxury. Historically, most people have not had the luxury to store up a good nest egg for retirement. Secure retirement is a direct result of modern living. And oh how I love modern living! Except that sometimes it damns us to live a life of fear, what-if’s and short-sighted selfishness.
I remember talking to the wife in the early days of this process and she said something that forever changed me, “What if my kids don’t make it to college? I have no guarantees of that- just today. Just what we feel like God is leading us to do right now.”
I mean- she speaks as a woman who might lose a child to the bubonic plague! Imagine! The audacity to live with her hands slightly opened to the possibility that she may not possibly direct her own future!
She lives free. They live free.
From this couple I learned the defining hallmark of truly generous people.
Generous people are free.
They don’t live in fear.
(At least not all the time.)
So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today. -Matthew 6: 31-34, The Voice Bible
She is currently, at this very moment, sitting on her back porch coaxing the largest raccoon I have ever seen into eating bread out of her hand. She gives me the play by play.
"OK. He's getting closer. And closer. Can you believe this?!? He's not even scared of my voice!"
"No SIR. Do NOT eat from that bird feeder! Do you understand me? That is not yours. Do not eat from the bird feeder."
"Mom," I try and get her attention, "Who are you talking to now?"
"Oh- still the raccoon. He knows what I am telling him. He understands my voice."
And somehow you get the feeling- listening to my mom converse with this wild raccoon- that perhaps it actually does speak her language and does understand her voice.
Her. The lady who talks to- and names- wild raccoons. The one who fearlessly sang Jesus Loves Me to an angry longhorn who's horns were pointed straight at her, because she was sure this was the best way to calm him down. The one who decided to rent a sheep from the neighbor down the street, to bring to church and use as a sermon illustration. Her. The one who frantically calls me with a sheep bleating in her back seat, wondering why the sheep isn't calming down when she sings it Jesus Loves Me.
I mean- it worked on the longhorn.
The one who has made the absolute best of the empty nest and the daughters and granddaughters living all over the country. Not once giving up on her rights to be the most active grandma ever... even if it means playing hide-and go-seek in a self-made tent over Skype.
The one who has always encouraged alone time and freedom of expression. Even when it has meant children (and grandchildren) who hide under blankets and threaten to move to the woods behind the house (but actually just run-away to the laundry room). "I'd run away too!" She would say. And inevitably this leads her into quoting- and butchering- the entire storyline of Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. "Move to Australia and eat worms!" she says in a moment of solidarity with her troops.
Who has built Annie a "magic house" deep in the woods. Complete with year-round Christmas ornaments, ribbons, wind chimes, Gnomes and magnificent stories. Her. The one who taught me to dream and think and pray and ask good questions and make craft projects- even when they all sucked- and not be afraid to build forts in the woods and produce my own newspaper by the age of five. Her. The one who keeps giving Imagination. Creativity. Curiosity. New eyes for things long forgotten in this world. Like bugs and magic houses and old people with stories rich in heart ache and beauty.
The one who gave me my sisters. And by extension, my nieces. And kept my dad around- even when he was really mean- a long time ago- before he was the dad, the amazing dad, that he has grown to be now. Her- who has loved us all well. And fought to keep us together. And fought to keep us loving each other. And fought to keep underwear on our bodies and food in our bellies and fight in our spirit. Her. The one who was stepped on by people who claimed to love her- who was fired, humiliated, betrayed- and kept going back for more. Because it wasn't about HER. Or them for that matter. It was about something bigger. It was about love winning. It was about Christ being constant- redemptive- worth it... even when people broke her.
The one who keeps fighting.
Who calls to let me know that Annie is hugging a chicken... and she is sure that Annie was gentle and didn't squeeze the chicken too hard... that the chicken is just fine and loving it. LADY- I DONT CARE ABOUT THE CHICKEN. How is my daughter? Her- who keeps modeling over and over and over again for anyone who will listen and pay attention... that life isn't really all that complicated. Wake up. Sit and stare at a few birds. Listen for Jesus. Go do something that matters- mostly- pay attention to the people and the world around you... no matter what your job title might be. Love well. Hope deeply. Drink richly. Call your kids- or someone else you care about. Befriend a few wild animals. Hug a chicken. Repeat.
It just shouldn't be as easy as hugging a chicken- but my God she makes it that way. With her, life isn't all the complicated- even when it hurts like hell. Even when it is insanely complicated. She is chaos- but knows no chaos. Somehow- she is peace. She is content.
Her. She is maddening and absolutely freeing in one fatal swoop.
Her. Who sang Amy Grant songs before the rest of the world understood that Amy Grant's songs were life-changing. Her. Who explained to me and my sisters what it meant to live in an old man's rubble, why angels watched over us and how there were so many names for God but El Shaddai was one of her favorites. Her. Who told us we had our Father's Eyes. Over and over and over again. That we had our Father's eyes. That we were made in the Father's image and likeness- bearers of that goodness, freedom, grace, hope and love. We had our Father's eyes. He made us and longed to use us. And dad agreed. God didn't make us as girls and then limit how we might be used in the church and in the world... God made us fully in God's image. We had his eyes. We were to hold nothing back from the church or the world. Just like...
Her. Our biggest fan. Who brought cow bells and bull horns to football games to cheer for us.... the cheerleaders. Yes, it was embarrassing. Her. Who was so worried that my heart had been shattered in the 9th grade when all the other cheerleaders got homecoming mums and I didn't, that she went and ordered one for me herself. It ended up weighing about 20 pounds and was the most hideous thing I've ever seen in my life. But I wore it proudly through the parade because she loved me so much- she didn't want me to feel the sting of being alone. That was worth wearing ugly proudly. Her. Who texted me as I left this summer for South Sudan and told me she was proud of me and that also- if I felt threatened- to scream wildly like a monkey and furiously itch my armpits and crotch- because "People in small villages are superstitious. They won't touch you if they think you are demon-possessed."
Who told me time and again, "Jenny it was just an accident. Accidents happen all the time. It's no big deal." Who cared very little about the "stuff" in our house and much about the people walking in and out of it. Who taught me more about scripture than how to apply make-up. More about grace than about stuffy, alienating, pretentious living. More about mercy than judgement. More about freedom than bondage to what others thought about me or what others might be doing. Her. Who would rather we paint our bodies and our walls and our world with bright big strokes- than live small and afraid and neat and tidy and conventional. Paint washes off you know? That's what she would say. There was never an accident worth a dirty glare. Oh God how I'm grateful that there wasn't an accident- in her book- worth a dirty glare.
Who loves my baby girl more than I seem to love her sometimes. Who loves me more than I seem to love myself sometimes. Who just loves. And loves. And loves.
Who has taught countless men and women- now spread out and trickled all over the world- that if you dig your feet into the sand long enough or stare at a sunset and shut-up soon enough- you will hear from God. Because God speaks. Now one way. Now another. In dreams. During "silent sounds." On camping trips. In the mountains. At the beach. In your backyard. In the bathtub. On a bus with three hundred students driving to summer camp. God speaks. Over and over and over again. She has taught us that. Her. The one who heard God speak when she was stoned out of her mind and angry at the world and broken in a million pieces and all kinds of dirty and unusable- she heard God call her name and whisper to her that she had purpose. That she was loved. That she was known. That she could be set free. That he loved...
And she hasn't turned back. And her daughters- we rise and call her blessed. And those she has pastored through junior high and high school. Through divorces and teenage pregnancies. Through lost jobs and lost love. In delivery rooms and deathbeds. In magic houses and talking to raccoons on her back porch... God has used HER...
To remind us that HE IS- and that's enough.
I love you mom. This world is different because you have danced through it and shown us its beauty.
No parent wants meaningful public discourse and policy to come at the cost of their own child. At the end of the day I would love to see tighter gun control measures, less boots on the ground in Afghanistan, a cure for cancer and a better understanding of mental illness and the possible treatment approaches for depression; but not at the expense of Annie's life. My heart breaks for parents who champion change in their child's absence. Theirs is a job of constant heartbreak and courage.
To the parents who so fearlessly continue to give voice to the evil which robbed them of the very babies they created inside their bodies: I am forever grateful to you and forever in awe of your bravery.
You are an army waging war against enemies many of us have never had to look in the eyes. You do not quit. Your tears have run dry and your resolve has intensified. You look deep into the eyes of the enemy and you don't break your gaze.
You put on your fatigues, pick yourselves up by the bootstraps and head back into the trenches with demons no momma or daddy should ever have to fight. And you fight. You fight like hell.
You know better than anyone that you can't simplify war.
The enemy is there-
but the enemy is omnipresent and illusive.
You must fight on all fronts-
with weapons you didn't even know existed with offensive measures you've never even considered with strategies you never wanted to author
You are a guerrilla warrior.
Under your surge, you will engage people's minds, break their hearts and persuade them to act- not for you-
but on behalf of that picture on the fireplace of the little boy who used to ask you to play tickle monster... long before he faced real monsters.
You have seen those monsters. Better than any of us, you have seen them.
And you know- deep down in the fabric of who you are- that there is no easy way to get rid of them.
We simplify it, don't we?
As if a policy change-doctor- pill- counselor- a little more prayer- or just picking a better attitude!- would chase the monster away and win the war once and for all.
As onlookers we forget that some wars never end. Some wars are hard-fought and long-lasting. Some wars have names like "The 100 Year War." Some wars, as Pastor Rick Warren so painfully wrote about this weekend, never subside.
"In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, Matthew took his life.”
Some enemies are deeply rooted in the marrow.
Defeat is not that simple.
General Stanley McChrystal, the four star American general who led all U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, was recently interviewed by Foreign Affairs and asked about his role in leadership as compared to his predeccesor, General Casey. In essence- was one leader more essential to the surge in Iraq than the other? The humility and wisdom in General McChrystal's answer has stuck with me.
He said, "People tend to simplify things. They try to say, 'It was all screwed up here and then it got all good there,' or, 'This decision was decisive.' I have never found anything that clear."
Me either, General McChrystal.
He ended the interview by reiterating again that there is no one single way- no single leader- no single strategy that can precisely and ultimately dismantle an adversary.
"If you go back in history, I can't find a covert fix that solved a problem long term. There were some necessary covert actions, but there's no "easy button" for some of these problems."
Those of you waging wars unending know.
You know better than anyone that there is not an 'easy button'.
You know better than anyone the overwhelming, misguided urge the rest of us have to simplify what is not simple.
You know, in the same way that a decorated war veteran knows, that a covert fix rarely solves a problem long term.
You know torture that does not subside.
Don't Fight Alone
From a girl who fights small battles of overwhelming fear and anxiety with 200 miligrams of Zoloft, a psychiatrist, a supportive husband, yoga and prayers for mercy and a clear, calm, mind... I know first hand that I can't fight alone. I know that what I have- this obsessive compulsive disorder that leads to a barrage of intense thoughts that makes me feel terrified for NO LOGICAL REASON- has no simple fix.
I don't choose it. I can't prevent it. I don't want it. I don't understand it. It is not rooted in reality. And there is no covert fix that makes the thoughts go away. General McChrystal said it best. There is no "easy button" for some problems.
For me, it is a multifaceted attack on a war unending. I don't simplify it and neither should anyone else.
Simplifying the enemy is dangerous. As if all enemies are the same.
As if all wars can be fought in one way.
The only thing historically certain and constant about any military approach to a war is this: It takes an army.
Battles are not won, lost or fought alone. Ever.
So what do you need from your community?
Those around you who have no idea what it's like to fight your war over and over and over again...
No one wants you fighting alone. And we don't want to simplify a war with trite, pithy quotients. With opinions. With black and white solutions that have no bearing on your enemy. With empty grace and borrowed empathy. With intolerance and blind hearts. With battle-cry's we don't intend to proclaim on your behalf for the long haul.
We can't afford to simplify battles any longer. We are tired of losing wars and are ready to wage wars... with you, for you, on your behalf. No matter how long it takes.
How can we walk with you? How can your friends fight with you?
Tell them. They will listen.
We will listen.