Monday, January 24, 2011

Then In Steps Jesus

Rap music: love it? Hate it?

We did a wide variety of styles yesterday in our PCC service. From Taylor Swift's White Horse as the set up song to Lecrae's Just Like You as the closer - with a VERY funny skit in the middle - the message package had something for everyone. (If you missed the service, you can see it in it's entirety here.)

We've gotten a good bit of feedback regarding Just Like You, the closer. And it's been just that - good. Elijah Schiarelli did a tremendous job of owning the lyrics and delivering them with passion and power at the Powhatan Campus, and Patrick Parkins did the same at Westchester (despite a bad cold). It's a powerful song, with a strong message.

Here are the lyrics, to make sure you got the full story. It's worth reading. Then listen to the song again. You can get it on iTunes here.

And below the lyrics, take four minutes to hear a bit from Lecrae, the guy who wrote Just Like You. Even if rap's not your style, you might find that you can relate a few things he says.

I just wanna be like you
Walk like, talk like, even think like you
The only one I could look to, you're teaching me to be just like you
I just wanna be like, like I just wanna be like you

Dear Uncle Chris, Uncle Keith, Uncle Ricky
Before the Lord get me I gotta say somethin' quickly
I grew up empty since my daddy wasn't with me, shoot - 
I wasn't picky, I'd take any male figure
You stepped in at the right time; it's cause of you that I write rhymes (You probably never knew that)
I love the way you used to come through, teach me to do the things that men do
True, you showed me stuff I probably shouldn't have seen, but you 
Had barely made it out your teens, took me under your wings
I wanted hats, I wanted clothes just like you
Lean to the side when I roll just like you, didn't care if people didn't like you
You wanna bang, I wanna bang too, Skyline Pyrue
You woulda died, I woulda died too
You went to prison, got sick, lost your pops - yeah, I cried too
You never know who's right behind you, I got a little son now, and he do whatever I do
But it's something deep inside you, that tell you its gotta be more than doin' what other guys do
Didn't have nobody there to guide you, but I followed your footsteps and this shouldn't suprise you
You realize you, you realize you, you, yeah I just wanna be like you

Now all I see is money, cars, jewels, stars
Womanizers, tough guys, guns, knives, and scars
Drug pushers, thug strippers, fast girls, fast life, "everything I wanted and everything I could ask" life If this aint living then they lied - well, guess I married an old wive's tale - wow - fail
I don't know another way to go, this is the only way they ever show
I got this emptiness inside that got me fighting for approval cause I missed out on my daddy saying "Way to go" and get that verbal affirmation 
On how to treat a woman, how to fix an engine, to keep the car running
So now I'm lookin at the media and I'm following what they feed me
Rap stars, trap stars, whoever wants to lead me
Even though they lie they still tell me that they love me
They say I'm good at bad things, at least they proud of me

I was created by God but I ain't wanna be like Him, I wanna be Him
The Jack Sparrow of my Carribean
I remember the first created being, and how he shifted the blame on his dame for foolish in the eating
And I look at us all out of Eden, wearing designer fig leaves by Louie Vuitton, make believing 
But God sees through my foolish pride, and how I'm weak 
Like Adam, another victim of lucifer's lies
Then in steps Jesus
All men were created to lead, but we needed somebody to lead us
More than a teacher, but somebody to buy us back from the darkness
You can say He redeemed us
Taught us that real leaders follow God, finish the work 'cause we're on our job
Taught us not to rob, but give life
Love a wife like He loved the Church, without seeing how many hearts we can break first
I wanna be like you in every way
So if I gotta die every day, unworthy sacrifice, but the least I can do is give the most of me
'Cause being just like you is what I'm supposed to be
They say you came for the lame, I'm the lamest
I made a mess, but you say you'll erase it - I'll take it
They say you came for the lame, I'm the lamest
I broke my life, but you say you'll replace it. I'll take it.

I just wanna be like you
Walk like, talk like, even think like you
The only one I could look to, you're teaching me to be just like you
I just wanna be like, like I just wanna be like you

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Friday night bullet points:
  • It was a good week in terms of discipline, at least regarding fitness. In my gleeful discovery of our OnDemand capabilities, I became good buddies with Jillian Michaels. Four times this week she has said these beautiful words to my sweat-stained face: "You are well on your way to being shredded."
  • We're back on track at work. Not sure about all ways we've not been on track - or at least me - but something has clicked back into place and it sure feels good.
  • I hate cancer. This week, I got to see cancer up close and personal. Have you ever seen a cancerous tumor outside of a body? I have. Yuck. I hate cancer. But I love the person it's clinging to. Hoping it is radiated away in the very. near. future.
  • My girl Syd is overwhelmed. That girl has a lot on her plate. 
  • Christian Bale lost 63 pounds for The Machinist. He looks awful. And that's one freaky movie.
  • I love my Common Prayer book.
  • I have a Peter Kreeft book and a brand new Ann Voskamp book in my clutches. Can't wait to dig into each one.
  • We had ice cream night tonight; cracked open all four jars of Mitchell's toppings, direct from Cleveland, and piled them on bowls of vanilla goodness. There's nothing quite like Mitchell's ice cream, but their chocolate and caramel run a close second. Yum. Fun.
  • Favorite new song follows; one of several. Feeling very open to new songs, new ideas and lots of creative stuff.
  • I love my kids. I am so impressed with the people they are becoming. Nobody says much about this gift that waits at the end of the growing up. They are extremely cool individuals.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Power In The Ordinary

From this morning's prayer:

"Lord, wherever we look today, allow us to catch a glimpse of you. And whenever others look at us today, allow them to catch a glimpse of you."

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'll Walk With You Through The Shadowlands

The first time I saw this video, it tore me up.

Every time I've seen it since, I cry.

Andrew Peterson says he wrote this song after a fight with his wife. Born out of frustration, it bears inescapable grace and hope.

It is a very good song. Watch it here, via youtube. Purchase the video (and the accompanying album, Counting Stars, which is excellent) here via iTunes. Just click here!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Three Things Date"

I love being part of our church services, from the planning to the execution. We have an incredible team at PCC and it's always a joy to plan, prepare and pray and then just have a blast doing church.

Today was especially cool for the band, because we ended the service with a video. Which meant that we got to come down to the seats after the set-up song (which was "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles, and no, I am not kidding, and if you think that's weird, you oughta come check it out. We believe God moves through and redeems anything when He's invited, and He used the Fab Four today...but I digress...)

We came to the seats and I found my husband and actually asked some folks to rearrange their seats so that I could sit next to him. And hold his hand.

Because I knew what was coming. I'd heard the message twice already, and I knew I wanted to sit next to my spouse as my pastor talked to us about how to have a marriage that didn't settle for good. And I love the way he put the teaching together. Brian leans hard into the truth of scripture but always brings out things that are fresh and new. Honestly, I think that God just moves in our services and opens our ears up in ways that allow us to really be touched and moved and impacted. We learn things. I knew that would be the case today.

Adam and Eve and helpers and horses and pomegranates and the Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31 and a little bit of chastisement and some personal illustrations, and then this:
"Write down three traits that you have ever appreciated about your spouse- even if it only happened once. Funny. Exciting. Sexy. Caring. Sweet. Assertive. Anything that was positive. Now, share those three things that you came up with – share your list – with your spouse some time this week in an hour that you schedule together. Don’t talk about negative things -  “See, you know how to clean up after yourself, I appreciated that about you 10 years ago, but you’ve changed and now you never…” Don’t do that. If that’s the thought that comes to your mind, you’ve probably already told them. No, this hour is just for the positive. From each of you. Do the reflection, book the time, keep the appointment. You’ll be on your way to a GREAT marriage. And the roots of this exercise are Biblical, because the value you recognize in the person you married was made in the image of God himself."
I started making my list immediately. And when we went out to dinner tonight, we took about 15 minutes to make light conversation while we considered what we had to share.

And then we took turns, telling each other the three things that we appreciated about one another. We each had examples from the past, things were foundational to who we are, and specific instances. I'd been thinking about this all day, so I cheated - I had points 1, 2, and 3a-b-c.

(What can I say? He's a great guy!)

Later in the message, Brian said, "You have so much power with the words you say to your spouse." That truth unfolded over enchiladas and chips tonight. I learned things, heard that there are things I do and say that are incredibly meaningful and important to Tony. I told him how greatly I value some things about his character and some specific things he does, and he really heard. He affirmed me with his words in a way that impacted my heart and my head and my soul.

We had a "Three Things Date", and it literally changed us. I am grateful tonight, for a pastor who is faithful to God, to his role as a teacher and shepherd. For the opportunity to hear today.

And for my husband. He's pretty darn awesome.

You can listen to the message in it's entirety here; just click on the January 16 message, "Don't Settle For Boring" and download or stream. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Soul Print By Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is an eternal optimist.

This thought first occurred to me about 20 pages into Soul Print: Discovering Your Divine Destiny, Batterson's latest book. Ironically, a few pages later Batterson describes a life-defining episode - his first professional football game - and declares, "I am an irrepressible optimist." That quality makes for a very enjoyable read.

Batterson's obvious passion for people and his engaging, concise writing style combine to flavor Soul Print with concepts and ideas that will resonate with those who are familiar with the self-help style of Oprah or Dr. Phil. His personal reflections give credence to his ideas, as he lays out evidence of how his own experiences and the influence of others contributed in both positive and negative ways to the formation of his character and personality. However, the personal stories are merely anectdotal. Batterson, the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, weaves these personal stories with cultural, historical and Biblical references into what must have been (or will be) terrific sermons ideas into five "scenes" or chapters, each dealing with internal or external influences that impact human destiny.

The book is unflinching in its foundational perspective that God's personal interaction with people creates the possibility of change; redemption, restoration, growth and understanding. For those who live outside the Christian mainstream, the spiritual emphasis might be a deterrent. But Batterson's enthusiastic passion for his subject matter - the physical, spiritual and emotional health of the reader - gently nudges us to drop our guard and believe that this guy just might really know what he's talking about. Batterson paints a picture of a loving, grace-filled God who wants the best for the people He created.

It's hard to resist.

Some of this book reads like the latest "Live your best life" mantra. In a discussion of life symbols, Batterson says, "It's not our experiences that make us or break us. It's our interpretation of and explanation for those experiences...that will either empower you or debilitate you. They can be a catalyst for change or they can be as imprisoning as iron bars...You can't change the past, but you can learn from it. And that's how you change the future." Nothing new here; any respectable life coach will tell you the same thing. The difference, and the compelling reason to read this book, lies in Batterson's skillful integration of this psychological reality with spiritual and scriptural resources, all presented in a style carefully honed by weekly presentations of similar messages to his church audience.

This book captivated me from the start. I presume a bit of bias here, as I found so much of the content relevant - either on a very personal level, or in the lives of those around me. But the challenge to drill deeply and consider fresh perspectives unearths a hopeful path towards a better life - an authentic and "divine" destiny - that undoubtedly resonates with the majority of the human population.

Most of us want the best life we can live. Soul Print offers real, effective direction. Mark Batterson has delivered his best book yet.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. However, I have already pre-purchased another copy for myself and will recommend it to most everyone I encounter in the near future. It's worth it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


This little church saw the birth of my earliest understanding of a kind and loving God. I was a regular church-goer, but not here (we attended the big FIRST Methodist church in town). This little church at the bottom of the hill was the most convenient for summer mornings. And Vacation Bible School and red Koolaid breaks and animal crackers, served with gentle hands by the good country folk of this little congregation, set something in motion within me. Joy in the morning, sticky hot July days, long walks up the hill for lunch, Vacation Bible School.

Today, many years later, my grandparents are buried right outside the front door of this church. Still, joy remains - for memories of lives well-lived, for love that endures. But I miss them. I grieve that I did not bear their passing well, that I was unable to walk through those final days of my grandmother's battle with cancer because I was just. too. scared. I couldn't watch her go because I couldn't believe that she would ever go. I stuck my head in the sand. I stayed home too many days when I could have been sitting by her side. And now there are no more days.

And I regret that. As I miss her, I ache with regret, which is a terrible sort of grief.

I have been in an odd season, one in which I feel as though while moving forward I am yet grieving. Both are rich and meaningful emotions and experiences, but they are existing in a very strange symbiotic dance. Together, intertwined, as if I cannot have one without the other.

This fits the poetry of my theology - "To everything there is a season/a time to laugh, a time to weep/a time to be born, a time to die." Etc. And it certainly fits my experience. It fits the words I offer in counsel to others.

But in my heart, it is a strange thing indeed.

Joy and grief, simultaneously?

Yes. And, of course, through melody and rhythm, where I most often am graced with healing, with a renewed sense of wonder and glory, comes a memory, with a story, wrapped gently in song as I recall a little white church where I sang with gusto:

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart - WHERE?
Down in my heart - WHERE?
Down in my heart!

Tonight I read someone's story of her own grief, the back story shared by a musician and composer regarding her composition called "Joy". (Found here , from the Page CXVI Project):
The first time I played Joy was the night my father passed away. He had a short and painful battle with cancer. My dad was not perfect but he did the best he could with what he had. A year before he died he was diagnosed with dementia. The day he told me he had cancer he said it was a blessing. To him, cancer was a better way to end his story than a mind with no memory of his family or his life. So as I sat at the piano, the only place that felt safe that night to me, the weight of loss hit my chest. I remembered my eyes were blurred with tears and I literally began to play the now familiar progression of Joy. I kept cycling through the progression and then, as if it had already been written, I began to sing a different melody to a song I sang in VBS as a child, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” The truth is that I was terribly and profoundly sad. The reality of grief had not even entirely hit me yet. But at the same moment I had a deep sense of peace. He was no longer in pain. He was no longer sick. He was free from all his ailments and restored. Although I still miss him, I know that God has weaved redemption through death into my father’s story. That brings me great joy. It was not until grief became a part of my story that I realized that joy is not simply an expression, but an attitude and acknowledgment of the deep peace of knowing a Savior.

I believe it is important as a community that wants to comfort the weary we allow space for those who are grieving, suffering, and experiencing loss to say, “Hey! I am hurting! I am in pain!” It is okay to give them space to figure out what joy means in that time.

I now know that you can experience grief and joy simultaneously…and if not, that joy can and will come if you allow it to.

I had Joy written without the ending that is on the record for a while. And after I had some time to grieve I remembered the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.” The author of that hymn lost multiple members of his immediate family when he wrote those deeply wise words....God brings us peace. He even brings us joy when it seems and feels impossible.

And here is the artist, from the band The Autumn Film, sharing this thing she has learned. It is a thing worth knowing.

HT to Chris Vacher for showing me this music....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Common Prayer, Starbucks And Wendys

This blog has been quiet for some days. I have heard about it. Apparently there are tens of people who check this site frequently, curious to know see whether or not anything has dribbled out of my head and onto the internets.

So, in response to the ten of tens of questions asking, "When are you going to update your blog?" - here I am.

And I've not the focused energy to offer anything other than bullet points, so here goes a list of topics upon which I would (and may) post at some point, were I not quite so lacking in the ability to collect my thoughts:
  • This book, which I received as a Christmas gift. I seem to be a hopeless failure at the annual January resolution to read through the Bible. I have literary ADD. I just can't seem to stick with the system. But, surprisingly, this framework and my ability to work within it is really changing me, from the inside out. Really. And I need that.
  • This book, which I got in the mail for free, in advance, provided I read it and review it. I'm in the process. And may I say, it's VERY good, and it arrives on the heels of Batterson's Wild Goose Chase with a lot of answers for the questions raised in our faith community. I'm thinking about leading our small group through this book asap.
  • God has ordained two recent timely connections through meetings that happened in local establishments. In Starbucks, a gentleman overheard a rowdy production meeting conversation, was intrigued and now is an active, productive, exciting and passionate member of our team, filling a role and a making a huge difference. In Wendy's, a man walked in for a burger just as I had written his name down on a list. The list was a prayer that one of the four people on it would be willing and available to help us through an immediate transition, a "must-do". The resultant conversation led to a "Sure, I can help you out" response. I was floored. My takeaway? God likes his coffee at Starbucks and his burgers at Wendy's.
  • I really, really enjoyed a week away. Ohio was wonderful, restful, with many interesting conversations and family connections that I found meaningful and fulfilling. The ride back home was one of the best eight-hour conversations I'd ever had. The richest moments of that day included the back roads of Western Pennsylvania to visit a dear aunt and uncle and to show my husband the landmarks of my childhood.
  • Reentry was too swift, to cluttered and too hard. Not enough time to organize the mess, clean up the Christmas, settle into the house before it filled up with clothes and kids and food and noise and air. The earliest part of the week was heavy with resentment, at least on my part. It was hard.
There is more, of course. There is so much more to all of our lives than what a blog or a book or a status can contain. Seven days ago, I was in awe, struck with wonder as I met some lovely new friends and caught a glimpse of the brilliant thread of life that can connect humans and infuse them with life and purpose. I reclined in the comfort of the New Year, breathing slowly next to my husband of one year and one week. I was calm and quite collected.

A week later, I watch my life from afar, a wicked adrenaline rush propelling me through the moments of my days, and I realize, all too often, that I'm just grasping at straws as they whiz by. I reach out and grab and get something checked off my list. But they're not always straws or things-to-do that I reach for - they are my kids, my friends, my sense of solitude and space, the steady beating of my husband's heart, the whisper of someone who needs nothing more than my attention.

I am thankful for the glimpse of a life lived better, from 400 miles away. I know that there is a happy place, a convergence of productivity and passion, of solitude and action, of purpose and plans and peace. And I know that it is mine to seize.