Get real or go home.

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Music has always moved me. There’s not a day that goes by that music is not part of my life. And although I’m mostly a sing-in-the-shower, and sing-in-the car, and you know, sing-where-ever-else kind of girl, I have also sung in public. Not professionally or anything that crazy, but I used to sing solos in church and at funerals for hire. So, more than just for myself or my husband, kids, and dogs.

 

It’s one thing to have a desire to perform, and something entirely different to actually do it.

 

The more I blog, and grow in my own skin, the more I realize that singing is a lot like writing. Of course they’re both creative endeavors that require you to stand up and speak your own brand of truth. But, even more than that, I’m finding similarities that go further and deeper into what it means to let your heart out in notes, or, well…notes.

 

You have to open your mouth.

 

Although it seems obvious, this really isn’t. And as I’ve aged I’ve had to practice this more and more. Last Christmas I mentioned to our children’s pastor that I might be able to sing a solo in the Christmas Pageant. (Okay, never, ever, say you might be able to do something unless you are fully willing to do it. That’s just the way it is.) Once I got over the “Oh Lord I haven’t sang publicly in years” drama I downloaded an accompaniment track and went to work.

 

And it was work. I hadn’t used my voice in so long it had grown older, deeper, and less attractive. I also lacked the lung capacity to give me the vocal range I’d once had. As disheartening as this was, it also taught me a lesson. As I practiced, singing the song over and over, I realized that the wider I opened my mouth the better I sounded. In fact, with my mouth open really wide, in a strange kind of expression where my eyes were closed tight and my cheeks pulled back, I could reach a higher, more clear second soprano.

 

It felt real and it felt raw. It felt natural to sing that way. It wouldn’t look cute, calm, or reserved, but it would allow me to sing my heart out. In private I belted the song to my bathroom walls, and I’d like to say when the time came I nailed it. But, I didn’t. Unable to get past how I might look, nervousness got the best of me and I was barely able to stay on key.

 

I failed to rock the world, and glorify God fully, because I wouldn’t open my mouth enough.

 

It’s the same way in writing. As a novelist I can feel when I’m and rocking the story, and when I’m not. What’s the difference? Opening my heart and opening my mouth. When I let the words out from a wide open place inside I always score, I always touch others. If I’m too guarded to let you in I won’t ever reach you. I have to risk.

 

You can’t expect to reach deep places of others with the shallow parts of yourself. (Tweet that!)

 

Music, like writing, is about belief. Belief in your story, belief in your song, belief in your art. But mostly, belief in yourself. I’ve found that creating and releasing is both the most terrifying and the most  liberating experience in the universe. It’s so many conflicting emotions all at once. It’s being insanely brave and accepting death. It’s surrender. And it has to be.

 

Because without surrender I won’t buy what you’re selling. (Tweet that!)

 

Let me say that again. If you aren’t sold out I won’t be buying. If you don’t believe it, neither will I. And neither will they—the millions of everyday people out there who are being bombarded constantly with ideas, images, and art. Let me tell you this: don’t throw your art at the world until you are prepared to take it all the way.

 

You can’t kind of like it. You can’t just be messing around. You can’t whisper, or banter, you have to shout. You have to be willing to shout it from the rooftops. You have to be so sold out on it that no one, no where, no how, will ever be able to pry it from your cold dead fingers.

 

Yes. You have to believe in that much. And you have to want it that bad. And more.

 

Because here’s the deal, someone else does. And the world can tell the difference. The good thing about the new freedom of the internet is that we get real now. We get it full-time. All day, every day, every hour, minute-by-minute. Real is crawling all over us and oozing through our fingertips. We eat real for breakfast. Don’t come at us with your half-hearted wanna-be crap. We don’t have time for that. Sorry, but we are getting real shoved down our throats 24-7. You better have something even better.

 

So how do you do that?

 

Easy. Believe it. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Create from the part of you that can’t be tamed. Tell the world to step off and stop being afraid.

 

Stop being afraid we won’t like you enough and do your thing. Because really, it’s the only thing you’ve got baby. (Tweet That)

 

That part of you. That real part. The part that you can’t put down, or shut up. That part that sings. Yes, that part!Thats what we want. It’s what we need. For crying out loud!

 

Let us see you!

 

Open up your mouth and Tell.Us.The.Truth!!!!

We are waiting. So you better hurry. Do it.

Sing to us.

NOW!

 

And while you’re at it, go check out one of my new favorite groups who is selling us real and giving it away for free! PAPER LIGHTS

 

Trust me. They’re the real thing.

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The buck stops here.

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So. I just wrote that last post and not ten minutes later God pretty much stormed down my door and called me on my B.S.

That’s BRAVE? That’s what I told you to say? That’s how I moved in your heart?

Whatever. Get over yourself and tell them MY words. The words I gave YOU to speak.

None of us wants to do that. Do we? We’re all thinking one thing, and saying another.

Or, saying nothing.

And I want to be cleaning my front yard, or folding some laundry. Okay, maybe want isn’t the right word here. But I have plenty of things to do. My plate is full. So is yours. I have my agenda, you have yours.

But here’s the deal. See, I’m taking this course over at Tribe Writers written by this guy named Jeff. He’s pretty cool. He is good at calling people out, encouraging writers, building influencers; people who want to tell the truth–their truth–but they need help. Inspiration. A kick in the pants. People, like me.

The thing is, I go over there and I’m all encouraging, and supportive (well, mostly) and I keep telling people “Be BRAVE!”, “Use your words!”, “Speak Up!” When really, it’s just a bunch of hypocritical horse-pucky, because I won’t do it myself. I won’t open my own mouth and tell you what I believe.

Because…I’m afraid. Afraid of peoples opinions. Their judgement.

It’s ridiculous.

I’m ridiculous. I have been more afraid of what people think of me than I was of the God of the universe. I think I need to lie down…

But I’m not going to. I’m done wasting God’s time. He doesn’t need another pretty face. He doesn’t need another person to hold up and protect. I’m not going to let Him waste His love on me. He wants me, wants my soul, all of it.

I am special. I was chosen for a reason. God’s not going to walk out on me, He’s faithful. He wants to be all I need and for me to see His heart.

I can’t let another minute go to waste because God was crazy for wanting me. The truth is, He was crazy for wanting all of us. But, here’s the most insane thing: those of us who know that, aren’t living like it.

Where is grace? Do we even understand it? Grace.

You know, people everywhere are talking about how the church is broken. In some ways, maybe even useless. They are walking away. People like Donald Miller, and Barbara Brown Taylor. People in the church, and those outside of it. But The Church is not a place, or a denomination, it’s a people. It’s us. You and me, we are THE CHURCH.

“It is impossible that the church should do anything that individuals do not do”

A.W. Tozer

Hello? The church is people. It’s us people! We are asleep folks. We’re like the walking dead. We’ve become zombies for crying out loud! Just like the new testament church in 1 Corinthians 10, and the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1, we we’ve stayed long enough at this mountain. Much, much too long.

It’s time to possess some promised land.

Do you want it? Because I do.

Because I’m sick to death of the culture war. It makes me gag. I’m tired of us chasing our tails while the world burns down. We want to save the world, just not, you know, all those sinners.We pick our little darlings and parade them around; homosexuality being target Numero Uno.

Am I lying? Really? Prove me wrong.

So, when was the last time you talked to a homosexual? Never? Well, I have. Lots of them. I call them friends. I love them. And when I see them, I have to hold back because what I really want to do is run to them and hold them. I want to weep. I want to tell them I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you are the scapegoat of our generation. I’m sorry you are our pet sin. I’m sorry we–the church–would rather shoot the hostage than kill the kidnapper.

Do we have to agree with their choices? NO. I probably don’t agree with all your choices either. I don’t agree with all my own. In fact, I’m pretty ashamed at my own choices on a daily basis. I have plenty of opportunity to regret.

How would things change if, this Sunday, when you walked into church they gave you a piece of paper at the door, a pen or pencil, and a safety pin.

“Please write down all your sins for this week so we can all see them and judge you accordingly.”

 

Would you do it? What would it say?

Liar? Thief? Adulterer? Glutton? Idolater?

Feeling convicted yet? Or, did you need me to SHOW YOU your sin before you felt convicted? This is a blog for pete’s sake–I can’t see you. But you feel it don’t you. That gnawing, aching feeling in your chest? That? Oh, that’s the Holy Spirit. Yeah. And you know what? He doesn’t need my help–or anyone else’s–to act. He’s pretty good on His own.

Do you think we could maybe give Him a chance to work…all on His own. For once?

Huh, Church? Are you listening yet? Are we awake yet? Or is God going to have to kick start us a little harder. You think He won’t? Because I know He will. Keep ignoring Him and He will just have to start talking louder.

Does this post offend you? Does it make you angry? You know what I wish it would do? I wish it would break your heart. I wish the church really was broken. Broken enough to be what it was meant to be.

I wish this post would make you want to go find the first person you can that needs Gods Love, Mercy, and Grace and hug them. I wish you’d love them and accept them the way God loved and accepted you–with all your flaws. The flaws you have now, still today. Oh you’re forgiven, that’s right. But you aren’t perfect yet. And I’ll bet you know that.

God loved me right in the middle of my sin. He loved me before I sinned. He knew I was going to screw up, and keep on screwing up. Even when I want to get it right. Even when I think I have it right, even now, this second–when I feel like I’m right where He wants me– saying exactly the words He wants me to say–I could be wrong.

But if I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of love, than caution.

I’m done playing it safe.

 

 

When you don’t know why.

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  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”    

            1 CORINTHIANS 13:12

The last few weeks have seemed to close in on me like the walls of a shrinking room in a sci-fi movie. Schedules loom, days fly by, and the every-little-thing of normal life has become this monstrosity. My to-do list has spun out of control and chased after me snarling.

It’s been rough. To say the very least. And although I don’t always let these things get to me, lately I have. I’ve let them all pile up to some big mound of disappointment with some unknown thing. What, exactly, am I disappointed with? I don’t even know.

Is it my writing? My life? The weather? Is it my lack of desire to follow the schedule of Lent that’s been laid out so neatly by so many? Because it seems like it has, and I do think that’s a part of it. Something there about the “schedule” of Lent, the enforcement of a certain way of worshiping, that seems to scrape up against who I am.

I don’t despise a liturgical calendar. Truly, I don’t. We all need reminders to focus on God, times to make Him central. Somehow, though, I feel like they need to be more regular than just Easter and Christmas. Yet, I struggle with guilt here.

If I’m not on board with what’s being offered for this dinner am I missing out?

What if, what Gods speaking to me during this time is different than everyone else? Not theologically different, but relationally different? Is that okay?

I never mind being the odd man out. Okay, maybe I mind a little. But, it hasn’t stopped me from listening to the One who calls me over the many who chatter. Still. It is never easy to speak up and be the only voice.

My last post (and several before that) alluded to my yearnings—and the whispering of the Spirit—in the area of Speaking Freely about difficult things. And maybe that’s really where my disappointment lies. Because, I want this to be easy.  I want it clear cut. Simple. But the truth is, it’s anything but.

And maybe, I just need to do it and stop waiting for it to feel okay. Because, maybe it never will. Maybe, it will always be hard. It will always feel like ripping open my chest and letting you read my heart. I don’t know. But if I don’t try, I may never know and the never knowing is even worse.

So, here we go. Here’s a truth for today that I am choosing to speak.

I am discouraged.

It’s true. I have tried to pretend it wasn’t the case. And I won’t say I always feel this way, like every second of every 24 hours. But, it’s there none the less.  And many people will read this and immediately assume I’m the one to blame. I’m not walking closely enough with God. I’m in a season of disobedience. I’m back sliding.

Because, otherwise I’d have Joy, right? I’d be happy all the time and smiling through every trial. Because that’s what Christians do…isn’t it?

Or is it? Is it that we smile through every pain and every hardship or is it that we hide? Have we learned not to feel the pain of a fallen world any longer or are we keeping secrets?

I really don’t know. I don’t know what you do when—and if—you ever stop to think about the evil present in the world and our lives, but for me, I hurt.

I hurt that somewhere on this planet (and maybe in my own state…or city even) a child is being bought and sold like meat.

I hurt that over half the planet is starving and sick while we buy Coach purses and Ugg boots and a million other things to impress people we don’t even know with things they will never see.

And I hurt that The Church has become a closed door beaten in with a battering ram wielded by those who comprise it.

How did this happen? When—and how—did things get off track?

I don’t have an answer. But I am choosing to believe two things about this season, at least my own understanding of it. I am believing what it IS, and what it’s NOT.

From my experience, a season of disappointment is a chance to grow. We can often learn more from what we lack. Setbacks, falls, embarrassment, failings, and unfulfilled dreams give us one most important thing; a reference point—a place to begin.

So you didn’t get what you want? You don’t like the way things are going? Congratulations, you just learned half the answer. Even if you don’t know where you are, knowing where you aren’t is half the battle. You just found your starting line.

The realization that you aren’t getting what you want from a situation is actually a wonderful gift. Many, many people continue in failure and frustration for years, even lifetimes, before finding that line, if they ever do. If you have accepted, or at least acknowledged your problem, or any problem, you’ve just put yourself ahead of half the pack. Look up! Things are getting ready to change.

Pain is a wake-up call. If you hurt, you are still alive. So, while you’re still alive, and since you’re not in the grave just yet, let’s do something about that pain why don’t we? Let’s use it. That’s right. We are going to take that thing that’s causing you grief and let it be a catalyst for change in your life, in my life.

You know what? I hurt most deeply when I feel I’m wasting my God given talents and gifts. Namely, writing. I’ve said it before; Why I AM a writer! God gave me words and stories and I need to share them. Yet, I flail in my writing life for many reasons…excuses…and it wears me down. Every time I feel God inspires a post and I don’t write it, I feel discouraged. When He wakes me at 3 a.m. with a dream that gives insight into one of my stories and I choose to go back to sleep instead of getting up and hitting the keyboard, I feel depressed. But because I’ve just identified that as a source of my tension I am now able to fight against it. I have a new frame of reference from which to move forward.

I hate sex-trafficking. I actually hate it. HATE. IT. It makes me angry, literally. And I feel more angry at myself than anyone else when I fail to do anything about it. Because if I’m not part of the solution than I am just part of the problem. If I fail to talk about it, or pray about it, and help others understand why we need to work against it, I am really no worse than those committing it. The blood of the innocent is on my head.

So maybe, today, I will put that red X back on my hand so I remember to keep praying for those bound in slavery. And that sticker of the #enditmovement? Maybe I can actually have it made and put it on my car, and maybe sell some to raise funds for this cause that is so important to me, important to us as a society, and species.

I just found my starting line.

red x

So what is it for you? What’s eating you? What haunts your sleep? I think it’s time to find out what that thorn in your side is really there for. It’s there to move you. And it may only be for a season, or it may be a permanent fixture in your heart. I don’t know. Only God does. But wouldn’t you like to find out?

When you find out what it is, just remember what it’s not.

It’s not the end. Disappointment, disillusionment, and pain do not mean you are done. As crazy as it sounds, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t necessarily even mean you are doing something wrong. You could be, but this is a chance to reevaluate that. It’s an opportunity to look at things from a fresh set of eyes and see what’s missing.  It’s not as bleak as you imagine.

And God is NOT done with you yet.

He loves you. He’s in control. And He’s waiting for you to step forward and draw closer to Him through this.

Please speak freely with me in the comments about what is discouraging your heart. What disappointments are you harboring? This Lent, let’s work together to get past them.

Right here. Right now. Ash Wednesday.

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We are a dirty, filthy, wretched, broken—but beautiful—mess. It’s true. We live in fear and secrets, isolated in our brokenness and shame. At times, we try to stand only to find we have fallen back down again. It is a desperate existence we work hard to hide. We take great pains to cover up our failings and shortfalls, at times, extinguishing every bit of hope the Spirit is offering.

And while some of us (if not all of us, at one time or another) prefer the prisons we’ve fashioned, there exists also a desire to be open, to be unbound from our sin and shame. What we need most, is Permission to Speak Freely.

You won’t find it everywhere, but little by little, word by word, I think hearts are changing. In the beat-up and bruised place we call The Church, I see a glimmer of hope. The spark, though small, has the potential to spread like wild fire through a sea of dying hearts, dying lives, and a generation of dying faith.

So how do we kindle, instead of smother, what could be our Salvation?

I believe it’s with honesty; truth. By taking off our masks and letting the pieces of real fall where they may.

Oh, it may be ugly. And it will—most certainly—be hard. But at some point we have to decide if we want to continue to suffocate, or to take a fresh breath and breathe again, to live again. It’s been too long since we got to the heart of the matter, and the matter—or rather, what’s the matter—with our hearts. This denial has had us in a stranglehold for so long…

It’s fear. Plain and simple. Being real feels strange to us, it’s frightening. We are more comfortable stuck in our past regrets and failures than we are with any change, even for the better. But there is hope. There is, really. I promise. Although, it won’t come cheaply. It will cost you. I think if you’ll wager with me on this though, you’ll see it’s well worth the price required.

And today is a beginning. Today is a time for confession; truth. It’s a beginning of a fire that has the potential to burn down everything you were, are. It’s a chance for God to make Beauty from ashes in your life.

But that road to beauty is straight through death. There is no detour, no way around.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”       John 12:24

Unless—and until—we die to ourselves, we will never be fruitful. We will never live. We will never be able to reflect the glory of God who created us until we are able to leave behind those things that detour us, the sin that so easily entangles. We cannot run the race set before us in cement shoes. Those cinder-blocks that are keeping us mired will have to be broken.

So where do we find this freedom? This elusive tool to break our chains is what? Shall I dangle redemption in front of your thirsty soul and leave you parched? Or is there water somewhere to quench you? Is there Living water that will destroy your thirst forever? Is there…more?

Yes! YES! A thousand times YES! There is freedom! There is victory! There is Peace unending and Grace overflowing! And believe me it is for you, it is Him for you–His body broken and bruised for you, an offering for your offenses. Not a bandage but a cure, not distraction from the reality, but a healing, HELP. Help is on the way!

His Extravagant Love Pouring out on your soul. HELP!

Hurt Extinguished & Lives Purified—HELP!

His Eternal Light & Purpose. HELP!

It’s here and it’s real. Real with a capitol “R” REAL. Taste it, smell it, hear it, Feel it REAL. It’s like breaking through the Matrix and finding yourself Real. Climbing out of your tomb and seeing sunlight Real. It is open your eyes and smell the coffee Real. Real love, a Real life, a Real savior.

Freedom. Forgiveness. It’s real; HE IS REAL. Christ and Him raised. Knowing the Truth of all time—knowing Him—is your ticket to real; Real Freedom.

No matter what chains Tuesday held you in, today is new. Today is Wednesday. Today is the beginning of a walk towards Him. Today is Freedom. Speak the words. Right. Now.

There isn’t a minute to waste. Today is the day. Today, you start over. Today you move from darkness into light because you step over the fear of confession. Today we—you and I—together—we take out all our dirty, filthy rags, our wretched sin and shame, our lies—the ones we’ve told and the ones we’ve believed—and we say enough!

ENOUGH!!!

We refuse to let them bind us any longer! This, this is a proclamation. This, is our declaration of war. This—right here, right now—THIS IS OUR BATTLE CRY!

WE WILL BE QUIET NO MORE!

We are tired of wearing rags when our Father has adorned us with robes of righteousness. We are tired of false motives when our Father has given us deeds of Purity, good deeds He planned for us before the beginning of time. A pseudo life isn’t enough for us anymore. We are awake.

We are the body of Christ. The Body. The Church. Us dead in our sins and transgressions and RAISED with Him in newness.

WE WILL NOT BE SILENT ANY LONGER!

Today.

Right Here.

Right now.

Choose you this day—this day—life or death—the blessing or the curse.

Choose Life. Choose Him. Awaken Church and walk forward. Speak freely~