Monday, April 30, 2012


Night is the darkest, literally and figuratively. When something is on my mind, it weighs heaviest in the dark hours. The stillness allows me to assess what's truly going on inside of me. That's the time when fear creeps in, questions swirl like a tornado in my brain, and words form from my heart. Sometimes I feel as though the darkness might consume me. But with every night comes a new morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (NIV)

Morning has always been my favorite time of day. Even when I was a little girl, I loved to wake up to the sun shining through the window onto my face. There's something about the start of a new day, the opportunity for life anew, that hints at satisfying a longing within me. Morning brings with it light, a new perspective. It also brings undeserved grace, restored joy, unfailing compassion, unending faithfulness, and second repeated chances. My mind cannot even fathom God's great, unconditional love:


...when I am none of those.

Morning never fails to arrive.

Friday, April 27, 2012

God Amidst Our Messes

I've always had the idea that God can only use people who have clean slates. After all, most people in ministry don't go around announcing their struggles and sins. Sure, they may share their pasts, but to share the present is too risky. It's easy to see these people as super-spiritual...with some form of Godliness the rest of us can't attain. But the truth is we all fail, every day, in some way. And God uses every single second of our lives for His purpose.

It's we who fail to recognize Grace and Mercy; therefore, we fail to surrender to Him and His purpose.

It's only been within the last month that I've begun to understand that God actually works IN our messes. I guess I've held the idea that God can take the messes we make and use them for good once they're in our pasts. I've somehow believed that He sits back and watches us make our messes, and only intervenes to clean them up. But what if He's working amidst an alcoholic's drunken rage? What if He's working amidst a thief's late night schemes? What if He's working amidst a spouse's betrayal? What if He's working amidst a family's conflict?

I'm not dare suggesting that God causes our messes, or that He approves, but I am suggesting that He is capable of working right in the middle of them. He doesn't have to wait until we've cleaned up and put our past in testimony form before He can use us.

God was working when...

Jonah was running,
Peter was denying,
Abraham was lying,
David was murdering.

I think we feel like our lives have to be as close to picture perfect as possible before God can use us. But I'm learning that picture perfect rarely happens unless the photographer edits, removing imperfections. Are we editing our struggles and daily failures, pretending that our imperfections don't exist, denying that God can use them for our good and His glory? Certainly God doesn't edit a single second of our lives. He doesn't erase the ugly; He uses it. He loves to jump in the ugly with us and cover us with Grace and Mercy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Post: Anger (And Other Five-Letter Words)

Throughout my childhood and adult years, I allowed myself to be manipulated in many ways by many people. One statement that always brought me into submission to another’s will was "You have anger issues." With that one statement, my world would crumble, and I would become like putty in the manipulator’s hands. Having learned to set boundaries, I haven’t allowed that statement in my life for a long time…until the other day when an anonymous commenter made a similar statement after this post. I briefly felt all those old feelings rush in, and I struggled with whether to reply, address the issue, or remain in silence. But after my friend, George, read the post and comment, he felt led to share his own story. Today, I’m glad I have the opportunity to introduce to you George Vinson:

Iʼve been following A New Song to Sing for a while now, and am always fascinated by the fresh perspectives I read here. I love looking through someone elseʼs "lens." Today you get to look through mine.

When I read the post about relationships, I was once again moved to re-examine my own. And when the subject of anger was raised, I immediately raised my hand from the back of the class! You see, anger and I are old friends. We went to school together, played in the same bands... we even went to the same church. So I am somewhat of an expert in anger.

But Iʼm not here to lecture, or preach and/or pontificate. I want to tell you a story.

In 1985, I was working at a large church in the eastern area of Birmingham, Alabama. I was 24 and married with an almost one-year-old son. I had been on staff for several years as a musician and audio engineer. Life, as they say, was good.

But I began to notice that all was not well in this church, even beyond the usual church issues. There had been a devastating split... people were leaving, leaders were growing paranoid... NOT a healthy hospital for the lost.

As my still young and naïve eyes looked around, I discovered an environment toxic in the extreme. But rather than leave for safer shores, I determined to stay and fight. Thatʼs when anger entered the picture.

Oh it started as righteous indignation, which is what I deem noble arrogance. But as it grew and festered inside, what little nobility I had was cast into the dungeon.

Indignation became anger which became cynicism which became... see the path here?

To make this long story short, my rage affected me so much that I ended up being fired from that church. In some ways it was a relief, but rather than turn back to the correct path... I followed anger to the bitter end.

Anger led me to places and choices that still haunt me to this very day. It almost destroyed my family. It almost destroyed me.

The sad thing is that the objects of my bitterness and rage never knew. For all I know, they slept like innocent babes, while the cancer that was my anger consumed me.

I became an emotional terrorist.

My dark rage wasnʼt content with my own heart. I lashed out and infected all those around me, especially the ones I loved. It led me to the decisions I mentioned earlier, choices made I would undo. What were they? Doesnʼt matter. The results were simply the fruit of my fractured heart.

At the heart of this was anger. It manifested itself in many ways, but the chief of these was/is pride (another five-letter word). Too much there for todayʼs homily.

But thank God for the five-letter words that brought me back from the chasm... from the pit of my own making.

The grace and mercy of God that looked inside me, to my heart of stone...

And began to soften it. Chinks appeared in my armor. Layers of emotional detritus and debris fell away as I gave more and more over to the God of Grace.

Easier said than done, I know full well. But with God... nothing is impossible.

So today... for those of you wrapped in chains of anger, and bitterness, and rage...

Let it go. Swallow pride. Do what it takes to avoid the spiritual suicide I was slowly committing.

You might just find Peace (count ʻem... five letters).

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
(I Peter 5:10 ESV)

George is the founder and director of Project Onefifty, a ministry that shares through music this simple truth: God reveals, redeems and restores. You can read his blog here, "Like" him on Facebook here, follow him on Twitter here, and listen to his music on iTunes here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


With the exception of about six months, I've spent most of my life being safe. I wasn't a daredevil of a child. No backwards skating for me! As a teenager, I made good grades, and was {usually} a good girl. What few risks I did take involved small amounts of alcohol, wasted gas and aimless miles (no, I wasn't driving!). In my twenties, I was the ultimate people pleaser. Nothing says safe like tiptoeing across eggshells. But at the age of thirty, I threw caution to the wind and lived carelessly for a few months. Destructive had become my new adjective. But that didn't last long, and soon I was right back into my safe zone...a little deeper than I'd ever been. And that's where I've been up until the last eight months or so.

As a wife and mom, it's been easy to be safe. It's been easy to ignore my own passions and gifts, and invest the sum total of my life into my husband and children. Investing in other people, especially family, is valuable and worthy of our time. However, when we use others as an excuse to be safe, we lose some {if not all} of our effectiveness. In the process, we lose joy because we aren't using the gifts and passions God has given us.

I was recently looking at some photos a friend took of me about a year and a half ago, then looked at some from a few months ago. I thought the same thing about both time periods: I was living in the safe environment I'd created for myself. Taking care of a household is time consuming for sure, but I took it to the nth degree. What better way to ignore the fear of taking risks?

But then something happened. I started seeing a counselor to help me through some issues I couldn't deal with on my own. Through those sessions, I started discovering an inner strength. Before I knew it, I was training for a half marathon. Now, two months after crossing the finish line, I'm in over my head with something I am passionate about. Safe is about the last word I'd use to describe what I'm doing. Scary is more like it.

Some wise words made their way to my ears recently: Safety is a possible strategy of the enemy to keep us passive. If we're in our cozy, comfortable spots, we're probably not using the passions and gifts God has given us to creatively touch hearts that might otherwise remain untapped. While He certainly doesn't have to, God chooses to use us. If we're too busy being safe, we miss out on the fullness of joy, and others miss out on the gift that God has uniquely qualified us to give.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Relationships: Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The following post is written simply from my observations of my own relationships and of those around me:

Relationships have power.

When they're nurtured, they have the power to encourage and heal. When they reach a deep level of authentic intimacy, they produce wide measures of grace and mercy. They offer opportunities for growth and creativity.

However, when relationships are not nurtured and remain stagnant, they have the power to produce frustration and bitterness. Without authentic intimacy, they remain on a surface level in which people feel the pressure to play a role, often hiding behind a mask. I've observed that when relationships never move beyond this phase, the participants usually end up depressed and in despair.

What's really interesting to me is the dynamic in a relationship in which one person is transparent and the other is not. Friction occurs to the point that eventually one will walk away from the heat. Sometimes it's a quiet, but definite choosing to walk. Other times it's a defiant, anger-filled stomp. Either way, damage is done. And two things must happen for the two to find their way back into the relationship: forgiveness and reconciliation.

Forgiveness is quite possible without ever entering into the relationship again. It's similar to the way God relates to us. He forgave us when Jesus paid our penalty. But just because He's forgiven us doesn't mean we all enter into relationship with Him. He can love us all day long, every day without us ever realizing it. When we do recognize His love for us, we have the opportunity to enter relationship with Him. To do that, we have to be reconciled to Him. For reconciliation to occur, we have to admit and own our sin. We can't make excuses for our sin, smooth it over with false humility, or sweep it under the rug. We must be honest in our confession. It is then that He can cultivate intimacy with us.

I think human relationships are supposed to mirror intimate relationship with God. Yet, so often we fail to nurture them or fear being authentic, and we wind up burning more bridges to relationships than we ever thought possible. And since intimate relationship takes transparency and authenticity on the part of both people, it's true that forgiveness is possible, but reconciliation may not be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grace Stories

I've heard some interesting stories lately. You know those people you think are super spiritual and have it all together? They don't. It's possible that they're just the most afraid of sharing their stories, whatever they might be. While it would be easy to say that the church is full of hypocrites {which has often been my own opinion}, I am encouraged to be finding that there are more and more people like me. People who struggle, and who understand their desperate need for grace. People who understand that even their best deeds are as filthy, disgusting rags before God.

I've been told more than a few times that Christians shouldn't air their dirty laundry and struggles. While I agree that there are circumstances in which our stories should remain hushed, maybe even private, I am certain that in those instances in which we share our stories because the Spirit prompts us, a degree of healing takes place that otherwise might not. Healing for the story teller, and healing for the hearer. When I am the teller, it's often the case that God speaks words through me that I could never speak on my own. When I am the hearer, God shows me that I'm not alone, and that He often uses our wounds and weaknesses more than our strengths.

The thing I'm learning from these stories is that redemption is a constant, but restoration is a wild card. Redemption is found through the blood of Christ...that will never, ever change. While restoration comes from God, He doesn't always restore in the way we expect. In fact, complete restoration may not take place on earth. Yet the person who experiences redemption and even an ounce of restoration cannot be silent.

When we experience

the faithfulness of God when we've been unfaithful,
the goodness of God when we've been everything but good,
the love of God when we've turned our backs on Him,

we can't help but wildly proclaim grace.

I'm thankful to know people who have stories that could easily compare with those found in the Bible, such as the life stories of Abraham, David, Rahab, and Peter. Never undersestimate the power of God in your grace story.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Redeeming The Wasted Parts

As you read this, I am completely humbled by the goodness, grace and mercy that is God. Almost one year to the date since God made something clear to me, I am today taking a completely unexpected first step. Last April, while working through Jonah by Priscilla Shirer, these words jumped off the page at me:

Sometimes your greatest message is the mess of your life.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, I knew the message, and thought I had an idea of what the delivery would look like. I started working in that direction. But over the past two weeks, God has totally intervened in my plans and is taking me in a direction more unique than I could've imagined. The details are still unclear, but in the big picture, I have to agree with something Shirer said in her study:

God has plans that include generations...stuff going on that we can't wrap our minds around.

Yes...generations...breaking cycles and patterns...beginnings of changed lives. All because God uses messes to make masterpieces. He redeems the wasted parts of our pasts, and writes a story only He can author.

At this point, the end result is still a vague blur to me, but a friend spoke wise words to me: Sometimes the journey is just as important as the end result. I can believe that for no other reason than the crazy, miraculous, unexpected circumstances, which cannot be categorized as coincidences, that have been my past two weeks. Events have transpired that have required every emotion and response I have in my being. And God has been faithful to give me perfect peace in each situation.

So today as I embark upon a most unexpected journey, I am reminded that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways (Is. 55:8). His are indeed better!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Prov. 27:17) has made its way to my ears and eyes several times over the last few days. Each time it has come from different people and in different circumstances. Yet, the message has been the same.

As a recovering people pleaser and role player, I've discovered that I've spent my life being a bit dull and needing sharpening. Thankfully, God has placed a few people in my life at just the right times who have become those sharpening agents. These are the people who have become intimate friends, know my junk, and are willing to speak truth in a gentle and loving manner which makes me a better person. I won't pretend: sometimes the truth is hard to hear. But because I trust these friends, I know they have my best interest at heart. They're the friends to whom I can say, Just tell me what you think. I need to know. And because I'm just now learning to trust myself, it helps to gain perspective from trustworthy friends. Their perspectives usually offer me another small step toward freedom.

After years of superficial relationships, I'm realizing God intends for his children to share intimacy with one another. It's through the intimacy that we find a safe place for sharpening to occur. Without intimacy, the attempt at iron sharpening is simply religious correction...legalism. Legalism is more cutting than sharpening, leaving the victim with wounds gaping open.

When iron sharpens iron, the dull piece becomes useful. Life, truth, energy, creativity and hope are no longer scary; they're excitingly attainable.

Thank you, friends, for sharpening and enriching my life! You know who you are.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Free From The Cages

Mark, the girls and I met some family at the zoo this past Sunday. I'm normally not a fan of the zoo. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that I get a little bored with watching animals sit unmoving in simulated natural habitats. But this time, for some reason, some of the animals seemed a little more active than usual. The social animals seemed to be showing out. Even the gorilla was moving around and eating.

We eventually wandered over to see the tiger. To my dismay, he was almost hidden, lying against the back tree line. The area in which the tiger was contained seemed to be pretty small for such a large animal. My sister wondered aloud if the tiger ever wished he could just take off on a long run. Of course, in that environment, it would be impossible.

Yesterday I met with my counselor. We talked about some events that have transpired in my life over the last few weeks. She remarked that it seems like God is setting me free from all the cages that have contained me throughout my life. The cage that has held me longest is that of owning others' feelings. In that cage, I took blame and responsibility for every negative feeling anyone around me felt. I assumed the job of making those feelings disappear and replacing them with my own detriment.

Over the past seven months, I've been learning how to be responsible for myself: my feelings, my responses, my actions. In addition, I've been learning how to verbalize and internalize that I am not always responsible for other people's anxieties, worries, or hurt. In learning my responsibilites {and lack of}, I've begun to find a freedom, a lightheartedness, and an amount of creative energy I didn't know existed.

I don't want to be like the tiger, locked in a cage that simulates life, but without the possibility of running free. I no longer want to trade freedom for a secure environment.

After telling a friend about my counseling session yesterday, I was asked this question: How is your heart?

My heart is being set free and preparing to run wherever the Spirit leads.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The New Normal

It seems as though many people I know are learning to deal with what I call the new normal. The new normal is settling into new ways of doing things because something upset {and possibly destroyed} the old way. Over a period of six years, I've encountered a lot of new normals:

new ways to communicate
new relationships
new dreams
new traditions on holidays

The hardest thing about the new normal is realizing the old ways of normal are over. Trying to go back to them as they were is usually detrimental. At first, it's difficult to comprehend that the new normal can be just as good {although different} as the old normal. Sometimes, it turns out to be better.

For example, I normally host Easter lunch at my house. This year, for a variety of reasons, it just wasn't going to happen. Right up until Saturday evening, Mark and I were still tossing around ideas of what we'd do on Sunday afternoon. We'd decided that we would just go home after church, eat leftovers and take our usual Sunday afternoon naps. I wasn't at all thrilled with the idea. But then Saturday evening, we had an offer to go to the zoo on Sunday afternoon. We decided Sunday morning that we'd go, and met some family there around lunchtime. This year, Easter was a picnic from KFC and the most fun I've ever had at the zoo. While it was a first for me, and I definitely felt a pang of sadness over things being different than they've always been, we made wonderful memories of this Easter. And I found myself telling Mark how happy I was that I didn't have to spend Saturday stressing over cleaning my house and cooking.

The new normal doesn't mean you forget the old. It means understanding that things change and learning to appreciate what once was. It means intentionally finding contentment in the new ways and learning to create new and different memories. And maybe...just day the remnants of the old that we long for will collide with the new to weave a beautiful life of memories.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Quietly Celebrating Good Friday

For obvious reasons, most Christians observe a sort of reverence on Good Friday. A day to remember. Some choose to remember and focus on their sin. Some choose to mourn the death of Jesus.

I choose to quietly celebrate.

Every wrong that ever was or ever will be committed was heaped upon the sinless Savior as He willingly hung on the cross. And just before breathing his last breath, He spoke these words: It is finished!

The power of sin is finished! The grip of guilt and shame is finished!

I celebrate because I remember that the cross is the place of my release. It's the place where I first stood mocking, and still He said, Father, forgive (her); for (she) does not know what (she) is doing. It's the place where I then fell on my knees in surrender as He took away my shame.

Today I celebrate the freedom found in love displayed on the beautiful, terrible cross.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Healing Rains

In the midst of the pain
Drip by slow drip
There came a healing rain

I lifted my eyes wanting more
With only enough for the day
I cried out for it to pour

"There's a rainbow at the end"
I heard too many times
But I watched for Him the rains to send

One day the pounding rains came
My hurting heart ready
His healing floods cleansed my shame

I found the rainbow and pot of gold
But looking back
It was the rain that healed my soul

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When You Can't Pray Anymore

I sat in my rocking recliner next to the large windows overlooking the front yard. I'd spent days and nights praying, begging God to make me feel right. To make me feel like the wrong was undone. To make me forget everything I'd done. To make it all go away. As I sat there reading my Bible, looking for some sign that everything was going to be better, my frustration grew. I didn't know another single way to ask God, tell God, or beg Him to make me feel like my world wasn't upside-down. Two single tears turned to floods of weeping as I realized I just couldn't pray anymore. My words {which I didn't consider a prayer} were God, I can't do this anymore.

In the moments that followed, a peace settled over me. Those were the moments when the healing process began. In my letting go, I discovered His holding on. He heard the surrender in my silence. Surrender is the starting place for a new normal and a different ending to your story.

We're often like a two-year old fighting bedtime, thrashing and avoiding the coming calm. But when the child realizes her parent has a firm and calming hold on her, she eventually surrenders to sleep. God waits for us to realize He's not letting go and that it's safe to surrender to His firm, healing hands.

When you can't pray, surrender to the silence. He's listening to your heart.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dreams In Fire

A lit match here, another there
Until the fire stood tall ablaze
Up in smoke, the dream seemed dead
Hope...lost amidst a saddened gaze
Smoldering ashes and ruins left behind
Mourning marking the passing days

One last look back revealed a spark
Enough to fan a flame
A new and different dream discovered
Unexpected and unwelcome it came
Until she realized the first hadn't died
But been refined and given a new name