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Repost: Hitchhiking with Bebo Noroman

16 Mar

Originally published September 21, 2010. 

Because Bebo Norman is my most-loved singer/songwriter, I’m sharing this article again.  It was one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done.  Bebo is gracious, humble, and he uses music and word to cut to my heart.  I’m sad he’s retired.  By the way, don’t bother with any of the links because they’re all dead.  Who wants to start a GoFundMe to buy BeboNorman.com with me?

It was with great anxiety and distress I awaited Bebo Norman’s scheduled phone call the morning after Labor Day.  Normally, I’m not like this, but then again, it’s not every day that I get to interview one of the singer/songwriters who has been so influential in my life.  The phone rang and I said a silent prayer, “Hello?”

“Hi, Amy.  It’s Bebo Norman.” Suddenly, everything was OK.  Disarming me with his quiet charm and easy-going nature, Bebo Norman is by all accounts a gentleman—one of the many reasons the man and his music have become so dear to me since I picked up his first album in 1996 as a mere teenager.

In this, my second interview with Bebo Norman, I decided to let you into our candid, and often, amusing conversation as we talk about our battles with anxiety, Bebo’s life, and of course, his new album, Ocean, releasing on BEC Recordings on September 28.

Amy: So, in celebration of your new album, do you have a favorite ocean?  I mean, there are seven of them.

Bebo: Ah. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Atlantic or the Pacific, but I haven’t spent time in the other oceans.  So I’ve have to go with those.  How ‘bout you?  Do you have a favorite ocean?

Amy: Probably the Atlantic or the Pacific.  I mean, my best friend fell into the Pacific Ocean off a small boat, so I’d have to go with that.  It’s hard to say, it’s like trying to pick a favorite star.

Bebo: I understand.  I’ve never tried to pick a favorite star, but there are so many to choose from.

We chat a bit about sea creatures, including the beauty of humpback whales.  I also learn that Bebo’s been on several cruises to Alaska and that Matthew West lives three blocks away.  I tell him that Matthew West’s new album is really great and he says that he hasn’t heard it.

Bebo: I tend to not be up to date on music.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

Amy: That’s hilarious!  I love that!

Bebo: I have to kind of disappear from music sometimes just to keep my head straight because it’s what I do, it’s my job, and it’s what I love.  I have to have some space.

Amy: Sometimes I get all these new releases and I’m like, “This is all crap and I hate it!” So I have to pop in something good and solid like Bebo Norman or Rich Mullins so I can remember what good music sounds like.

Bebo: I think that’s part of my problem.  I’ve always listened to music because it inspires me and what’s frustrating is that sometimes you listen to music and none of it inspires you, you start to think that no music will inspire you

Amy: I know!  It’s scary because I think, “What if people think my writing is this bad?”

Bebo: That’s part of the insecurity of being a creative person.  Every single songwriter writer, musician, journalist, I know has that same fear or thought.

Amy: Speaking of writing, you said that writing an album is like an extended therapy session.  I’ve been in therapy sessions and they’re very painful sometimes.  So, what is it like for you?

Bebo: It’s very painful, very painful, and it’s very beautiful.  It’s a cathartic process, which is the beauty of writing.  I didn’t start as a songwriter because I had any intention of playing songs for anybody.  When I started writing songs, it was just an extension of me trying to process life.  I found that, for me, whether it was poetry or songs it was the best way I could process things.

I wrote short stories and poetry before I started writing songs, but the combination of music and words is a pretty powerful and sort of inspiring thing.  That’s what caught me the most about songwriting.  I could write a poem or I could hear a piece of music and both of those things would be beautiful, but when they’re together there’s something magical and powerful that happens.

In ways, it’s the only way I really know how to process life.  It forces me to sit down and be quiet, and still and reflective and internal.  The busyness of life, especially these days, with touring and my family, my wife and kids, and my community here in Nashville—sitting down and being quiet—it’s hard to find those days.

Not to mention, if you do struggle with anxiety or those things when you get down and depressed, even when you do have those days where you can sit down and be quiet those struggles can sometimes steal the life out of those moments.  Writing songs is a very grounding thing for me.  That’s the same way therapy is—you’re forced to sit down with your thoughts and expose things that might not otherwise get exposed.

Amy: Some of the things I would talk about in therapy, I would not like to release to the world.  You said that an album is the best 60 minutes out of two years of your life, but still, sometimes it’s painful to hear.

Bebo: I’ve always struggled with laying out things that are personal and intimate.  Now that I’ve got a wife and two boys, there’s a certain level of caution to where I have to consider how what I put out there affects the people around me.

To me, everything I experience is fair game for a song.  I used to really struggle with the fear of laying those things out there.  Maybe I’m just old enough at this point or I’ve just been doing it long enough that now I’m not consumed with the perception might be wrong or right.  It’s more a matter of this is where I am and this is what I’m struggling with and I’m certain there are other people that are dealing with similar things, if not the same thing, and it’s important for these things to be spoken.  As believers, we think we’re not spiritual enough if we struggle with certain things.

Amy: Thank you for sharing that.  There are a lot of songs I want to talk about, but we don’t have time.  Let’s just plunge right into your favorite song, “The Middle,” which is also my favorite song.  I was listening to it last night and I was crying because I was feeling like that song is my life right now.  I’m not married, I don’t have kids, and I feel like my life is this middle of not where I was and not there yet.  Or maybe our lives here on planet earth are the middle.  I don’t know.

Bebo: I think you tapped into something there. There’s a reality that our lives in their current state are the middle.  We’re never fully home and our faith is never fully realized until the day Jesus calls us home or comes back.

Here’s the thing, when I say “the middle,” it may not mean the middle of life.  It happened to me when I was in college, and again in my 20’s, and again in my 30’s.  As static as they may feel at times, our lives are always in transition.  I revel in the idea of transition; the real struggle for me is when I’m stuck in between transition.  That’s where this song comes from, like, “Where am I right now in the middle of these things? I don’t feel like I’m moving.”  Like you mentioned a minute ago, you feel stuck and you’re in this place where you’re not quite sure where things are going and where they’ve been.

It’s not a song about being middle-aged.  I feel like we’re always in the state of being in the middle.  When we’re on this earth, we’re always in the middle and we’re always going to be stuck between our flesh and our spirit here.

Amy: You had this goal that you were going to write one blog post a day…what happened?

Bebo: It was way too ambitious a goal, and I knew that!  But those are the only kind of goals I know how to set—one that’s too ambitious

Amy: I told you that in your comments section, not that you listened.

Bebo: I even said in the first blog post that I will mostly likely fail at this and what I mean is that, I will fail at this.  But I really did want to go for it.  I have a dear friend who wrote a new song every day for one year of his life.  He said that 90% of the songs weren’t that special, but it taught him what the day had brought him. That’s kind of what I was hoping for with the whole blog thing.  I can’t just write a blog and say, “I took the kids to school and I slept late.”  There has to be some thought in it.  The reality of the busyness of life at this point; it just wasn’t even possible.  I could have sat down and written it, but it would have been at the expense of the people I love.

Amy: Well, that would have been utterly ridiculous!

Bebo: But it was a lesson learned.  That would be a good entry in and of itself—to talk about how it started taking it away from the people in front of me to appease a group of people I don’t even know, which is the real danger of social networking.  That’s why I failed miserably at it.  Well, that sounds too noble.  Actually there were too many days I didn’t feel about it.

I give Bebo some expert blogging advice, which he recognized from his comments section.  I tell him that he ignored my comments because I’m a “girl.” Then we talk about how guys always think girls want to hit on them.  I tell him that his recent blog, “Idols of Misdirection” was excellent and seemed to go with one of the songs on his new album called “Could You Ever Look at Me.”  Bebo keeps talking, even though I’m keenly aware that he is going to be five minutes late calling his next interviewer.

Amy: One last question—how can we be praying for Bebo Norman?

Bebo: A lot of what I was writing about in that blog post (“Idols of Misdirection”) is probably what I would ask people to pray for me right now, and that is being thankful for the source of the good things in my life.  I’m in a season of struggling with that.  There’s a certain level of distance I feel right now from God, which is odd because I talk about my faith a lot.  It’s not that I doubt the truth of the Gospel because I see it fulfilled as truth every single day.  I feel like it’s robbing me of the beauty of every day.

To catch up with Bebo Norman, visit him online at BeboNorman.com, follow him on Twitter (@bebonorman), and read his blog, which he updates sometimes.

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Broken and Not So Broken

6 Jun

This is my walking boot. I decorate it, of course.

“God, I’m in the place again/I’m trying so hard not to fall/But everything keeps coming down with the rain.”–Everyday Sunday

I’ve always appreciated melancholy songs.  There’s something about the toned down, raw nature of a rock band that grips my heart and makes me pay attention, like KISS’s “Beth” or Five Iron Frenzy’s “Every New Day.”  (Yes, I just mentioned KISS and Five Iron Frenzy in the same sentence.  Incidentally, “Beth” is the only KISS song I know.)

Since lyrics and song melodies move me, it’s understandable why I’ve danced my way into the genre of singer/songwriter in my old(er) age (though I still enjoy Southern rock, like Credence Clearwater Revival and more recently, NeedToBreathe.)  Lately, it seems, I find comfort in the likes of Bebo Norman (surprise, surpise!), JJ Heller, Audrey Assad, Josh Wilson, and Andrew Peterson.

See, I haven’t had an easy go of things lately.  In mid-May, I broke my left foot. Yes, friends, another broken foot.  As you may recall, I broke my right foot about 15 months ago…and the healing process for the right foot has been excruciatingly slow.  After a couple tests, my foot doctor discovered my Vitamin D level to be pitifully low and started me on a regimen 50,000 units of Vitamin D weekly.  That’s the boring medical part.

This happened a week after I made some changes in my life, after all night prayer sessions, talks with my pastor, and weeping before the Lord, I felt Him saying to me, as He said to Elijah as he ran for his life from evil Queen Jezebel, “The journey has been too much for you.  Rest now, My child, I will take care of the details.”  Two weeks after resigning as lead of a ministry and falling into a more manageable role on the leadership team, I broke my foot simply by getting up from (or rather down) from one of our counter height dining room chairs.

This started a longer-than-I-anticipated journey of rest–no driving, walking around with a rollator (rolling walker), going down the stairs with a cane, needing assistance with normal tasks like showering, shopping, and getting here and there.  Oh, and of course, resting with my legs elevated to improve healing time.  Alone all day in my apartment.  It sounds perfectly lovely to harried people who could use a day off, but it’s house arrest for a social, relational woman like me.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God and listening to music.  At first, I was struck with severe anxiety, which I believe was my anxiety disorder as well as a spiritual attack from the enemy.  I cried–wailed actually–and copied psalm after psalm from the Bible into my journal.  My fervency for God was strong and trust was a moment by moment walk.  While I don’t miss the panic attacks and tears, I wish I could maintain the level of urgency for God and His Holy Word when I’m not in the throes of fear.

I don’t always listen to music.  I like silence, too.  I can hear the birds singing merrily, the engine of the mail truck, laughter and screams from neighborhood children, the clink of my dog’s tags as she roams about the apartment, and my cockatiel’s own chirps.  So many ordinary sounds that make up the backdrop of this orchestra called life…and most of the time, I barely notice.

And I’m reading.  As much as I love to read, I don’t always make time for it.  Besides my Bible study reading (The Story and Crazy Love) and my daily devotional, Jesus Calling, I’m juggling three books right now–One Thousand Gifts, The Parable of Joy, and The Covenant Child.  My attention span seems to have increased as a result of my sitting in this stillness.

My writing life has been rich, though much of it has come alive in my journal–private conversations between God and me.  While this isn’t a measurable source of earthly wealth, it is the most important writing that I can do.  I call it “holy writing.”  If my purpose here on earth is to bring glory and honor to God, then my writing–for Him and Him alone–can have no higher calling.  Face down before the Throne of God, I write and write, like some ancient, inspired scribe.  Perhaps I will pick out thoughts to blog about here.  Or maybe write that book I’m always thinking about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never have chosen this path, but I am learning to be thankful for it.  I am grateful for the friends God has given to support me in this time.  It’s funny how my One Word for 2013 is LOVED and He is showing me how LOVED I really am! (Even when I start to believe the lie that no one cares, including God.)  Who would have thought the path to knowing I am LOVED would come with so much pain and brokenness–the actual physical breaking of another bone?  It seems all paths are littered with sorrow and suffering.  Is it any wonder that these are little Much Afraid’s guides to the high places in Hind’s Feet on High Places? (I plan to re-read the book as soon as I finish The Covenant Child.)

I am loved.  It rings loudly and clearly throughout my days, and it is revealed through so many ways and so many people.

If I hadn’t broken my left foot, my small group leader wouldn’t have moved our Bible study into her living room so I could attend showing me that I am LOVED.  (Thanks, Amanda!)

Nor would I have received a ride to the Bible study I lead from one of the attendees.  (Thanks, Patty!)

I would never have trusted God to help me make it up to the choir loft for praise team or give me strength to sing when my jaw ached with TMJD pain.  (Thanks to the Praise Team for their encouragement!)

I have moments of despair, when I feel God’s touch or receive a phone call or text or Facebook message.  These are precious things I gather into my heart.  Someone is praying or God is teaching me to trust Him more and more.  I hate the aloneness, and I love the intimacy with God.

If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.  Perhaps I’d write something else, or maybe nothing at all.  I know not the path I would’ve taken and it hardly matters because this is where I am.  Everything around me is speaking to me–the book One Thousands Gifts, reading the book of Ruth this morning (I was struck that Naomi was so very bitter and yet so very blessed through Ruth in the end.  In the middle, it seemed she would never have joy again), and in watching The Fellowship of the Ring last week. (Frodo never CHOSE for the ring to come into his possession, yet it did.  Yet he carried the burden anyway.  He chose to do the right thing in the midst of his circumstances.)

It’s a conscious choice, this choosing to be thankful and grateful in the midst of this disappointment.  Perhaps it’s a divine appointment to receive greater joy.  That’s an encouraging thought, isn’t it?

Tell me, how has God taught you to be faithful or thankful in the midst of something hard or disappointing?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you miss the fervency of intimacy with God when you aren’t going through trials?

Music Review: Light for the Lost Boy by Andrew Peterson

29 Aug

Sometimes it’s a couple of days or even weeks before I dig through the pre-releases in my “to be reviewed” pile to find the right mood music.  However, in the case of Andrew Peterson’s latest, Light for the Lost Boy, I gave a giddy shout and popped the album in my vehicle’s CD player as soon as I ran out the door minutes after checking my mail.  As the strings of the first song on the album flirted with my ears, I let out a gentle sigh and tried to relax.  But Andrew Peterson is one of the few artists whose musical proficiency and stunning use of lyric touch me on a level too deep to explain.  It’s hard to relax when my soul is so thirsty for the refreshing touch that Peterson’s music can provide it.

Counting Stars, Peterson’s previous album, was my introduction to this artist’s body of work, which not only includes an impressive line of music, but books and a website called The Rabbit Room as well.  Truly a visionary, Peterson is one of those creative I’d love to sit down with for a chai latte to talk music, literature, writing, and theology.  I’m sure the conversation would be nothing short of fascinating.

Therefore, my expectations for Light for the Lost Boy were very high, and I feared I would be let down.  Lost Boy certainly rises to the occasion with 10 beautiful tracks, each one as delectable as the next, though I have my favorites.  I purposely didn’t read the press release accompanying the pre-release, any early reviews, or even Peterson’s thoughts on the album because I wanted to present pure and personal thoughts on this my review of Lost Boy.

To me, Light for the Lost Boy, is a double entendre.  The light is not only for the lost “boy,” who is Peterson himself (or perhaps his children), but it is also light for a lost world.  The album repeats the message, “Yes, this word is cursed and it hurts, but God is with you.  Hope is ever near you, beside you.  And there is a reality that is so much stronger than all that you see and think you know.”  The album continually echoes the thought of one of my most beloved Bible verses found in Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”

So I wasn’t too far off…

My early favorite on this album was “Rest Easy,” which Andrew Peterson promoted through a contest, in which fans were invited to make a music video for this song (see winner). Spoken from the voice of Jesus (like a music version of the devotional Jesus Calling), the song starts out with the lyrics, “You are not alone/I will always be with you.” I was immediately drawn in.  All humanity feels alone, and this song speaks from God’s heart directly to that persistent aloneness, that ever-present separation from God that won’t be eradicated until see finally see Him face to face.

Yesterday, I listened to this song over and over again, letting the words soak into my trembling, sweaty body, for I needed the lyrics to speak to my heart, “You don’t have to prove yourself/You’re already mine/ You don’t have to have to hide your heart/I hold it in Mine/You can rest easy.”  How I long to rest easy!  I appreciate the ability of a song to help me settle down so I can open myself to God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.

Energy flows through another one of my early and consistent favorites, “Day By Day.”  From the first beat, the listener is propelled into an adventure of searching with child-like faith and a reminder that we are truly “children of eternity” who are fighting the curse of death. (Lyric: “Children of eternity, on the run from entropy.” Ahh!  Peterson’s use of language gives me chills!)  This song gives a nod to fleeting youth, but reminds listeners of the promise of eternity.  Referencing 2 Corinthians 4:16, Peterson sings, “Don’t lose heart, though your body’s wasting away/ Your soul is not, it’s being remade/Day by day by day.”  It’s so hard to explain how much this soul touches me.  It gives me hope as I watch a dear friend’s earthly body revolt against her, yet her faith is strong and her soul is ageless.  This song is for her, for all of us.

“Shine Your Light On Me” seems to be a biographical song about how God’s light shown into Peterson’s life when he was devastated, sick, and in the sloe of despair.  He talks about how he “drove into darkness” and “could hear the flapping wings of every devil” he has known.  This is a place I’ve been many times, and the same light that invaded Peterson’s car, floods me as well.  Again, this is another song which I have difficulty describing, yet I know the place from which Peterson writes.  It’s dark, scary, lonely, and almost hopeless.  The light of God’s grace shines into that darkness time and again, each time more beautiful than the last.  It’s these little glimpses of eternity that keep us going in our struggles.

A Facebook friend mentioned that “Cornerstone” was one of her favorite songs on Lost Boy.  The first few times I heard this song I liked the message pulled from John 6.  I found the music “hard”—more electric guitar and less easy acoustic.  That’s why albums must have multiple listens because this song has drawn me in.  With lyrics like, “You look me in the eyes and fix me with a permanent stare,” how can this song not be amazing?  This is one of the most profoundly Scriptural songs on the album, like it was ripped directly from the Gospels.

Wow!  Andrew explains these songs so beautifully.  Maybe I should’ve watched these earlier.

Then there’s “Carry the Fire,” which offers promises of what is to come in a place “where joy writes the songs and the innocent sing them” as well as the first track on the album, “Come Back Soon.”  To be perfectly honest, this song is an enigma to me, though the mystery becomes clearer with every listen.  I will most certainly read Peterson’s thoughts on the song, though it seems like a good summation of the album echoing, “We groan in this great darkness for deliverance/Deliver us, O Lord.”

This is the longest album review I’ve ever written in my 16 years of “music journalism” (hey, I could those clumsy days as a teenager with a ‘zine!)  Peterson’s music evokes one of my early faves, Rich Mullins, whose honest lyrics shaped my faith as a teenager (and in many ways, still do shape my faith).  Peterson, a great admirer of Mullins’ work, carries on his legacy.  Yet Andrew Peterson is very much his own artist, achieving a depth rarely seen but sorely needed.  While there are many catch lines I could insert telling you that you should buy Light for the Lost Boy, I won’t bow to cliché endings.  Andrew Peterson certainly wouldn’t. Give this album one listen, and you’ll see what I mean.  But, of course, you’ll want to buy it first because one listen simply won’t suffice.

Let’s chat!  Leave a comment below! What do you think of Andrew Peterson’s new album? What’s your fave song and why?  If you haven’t heard it, did I convince you that you NEED to listen to it?  Do you like how Andrew explains his songs?  Is this the longest music review you’ve ever read?

Prone to Wander

15 May

When I first learned that I broke my foot, I comforted myself with the thought of lying about my apartment—in bed, on the couch—reading, watching documentaries on NetFlix, catching up on my mental to-do list, and writing my little heart out.  I haven’t finished one book, watched one documentary, written a to-do list, yet I have been writing…in my journal.  While these conversations with God are precious and private, I feel that my silence has added to my struggle with identity.  Oh, I know my identity is in God alone!  I know He created me and He defines me and He tells me who I am!  I know this!

But…sometimes it’s difficult to explain that to others when they ask me what I do.  It’s a long story.  A really long story.  Fortunately, my faithful family (which includes dear friends) knows my story as do you, my loving readers, because you’ve been on this journey with me for years.  Even though I’ve spent so much of the past year in silence, even though some of you have wandered to other blogs, know I appreciate you, pray for you, and cherish you.

Writing for you to make my joy complete (see post) has fallen by the wayside.  And part of that is my fault, for chasing after things that don’t add life.  Things which, in fact, break my heart.  God says, “No.”  Quietly, patiently, lovingly He says, “No, this is not my best.  You can have this thing you so desire, but I have something even better in mind.  Just you wait and see what I will do!”  I imagine a glimmer in His eye; I hear a hint of it in His voice.  And even though I don’t like surprises, I know whatever He’s planning, working, creating is good because God is good.

So I will wait.

Still, I really hate waiting.  My anxiety fights for control.  I understand matriarch Sarah’s confusion as she waited for her promised son, Isaac.  I imagine her wringing her hands, noticing the wrinkles, new age spots.  She stood up and her knees cracked and ached with each step she took. The laugh lines around her eyes—ha, what did she have to laugh about?!  Yes, God, You have promised something good…but is there something I’m supposed to be doing?  I mean, should I be vigilant about the process?  Maybe help You out a little?  What if I miss it?  As if Sarah could miss pregnancy!  As if I could miss my blessing from God!  (Side note: This blessing, though a mystery to me, will probably not result in immaculate conception and/or marriage.  I just know it’s something, and it may not even seem like a gift from God to anyone else…but I will know it’s from Him.)

As I wait for this good thing, I know I’ve missed the blessing of writing and the joy it brings—the complete joy.  Because I’ve been so busy “making it happen,” I didn’t factor in the time it cost me—time that could have been more effectively used to do things like read, watch documentaries, or even write for others!  Not that my free time has been a complete waste either.  I just know that I might have been blessed and been a blessing.  Oh, distraction will get us every time when we take our eyes off the prize! (God used Sara Groves’ song “Eyes on the Prize” from Invisible Empires to help me realize this.)

I’m sorry for not being there for you, for chasing after that which does not satisfy, for that which leaves me longing for more.  I told you I would write to make my joy complete, that I would let the Holy Spirit fill me with all joy…and I meant it then and I mean it now.  Sometimes I get distracted by the scenery on the side of the road; it comes when you write from the backseat, I guess.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…” I’ll try to keep the wandering to a minimum…as long as I’m wandering towards God, towards His joy, and towards the better, make that best, choices.

Let’s chat.  Like me, are you prone to wander?  What do you do when you realize you’re still on God’s path, but you’ve stopped to smell the roses for a bit too long?  Will you pray for me?  How can I pray for you?

Redeemed by DaySpring

30 Apr

When I signed up to to review one of DaySpring’s (in)spired deals for April, I didn’t plan on posting my review on the very last day of the month, a week later than requested by the powers that be.  I didn’t know that my foot would be rockin’ a cam boot or that my heart would be shattered by the re-homing of an adorable puppy.  In fact, I expected April to be a unusually warm and wonderful–the best it’s been in years. And in some ways, I was right.

See, this past Easter (April 8) was the first I spent at a church I could call my home in seven years!  Maybe that’s why the message of April’s (in)spired products–REDEEMED–resonated so deeply with me.  Redeemed means to be bought back from slavery or captivity, and that’s the story of my life.  I was bought at a great price by the blood of Jesus Christ, and even now, I spent foolish years wandering from the Truth I knew only to find myself wholly redeemed again.

When I slip on my Redeemed necklace, I’m part of the message I’m wearing.  Even though it’s costume jewelry, I love the necklace’s classy antiqued gold finish and pretty charms–a bird, the letter “R”, and a round patina which says “redeemed.”  Based on 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NCV), this necklace is a reminder that I have been set free.  I am redeemed.

I also received the “Beautiful In Its Time” jewelry tabletop mirror, which is also part of the Redeemed collection.  While the mirror, which has a brass tone, could be used as a make-up mirror or a cute accent piece in a bedroom, my mirror has fits right in with my coffee table decor.  Inscribed on the mirror is a message I so desperately need to hear, especially right now: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) 

I feel anything but beautiful with a giant black boot on my right foot, a walker at my side, and having to be assisted in many tasks right now.  Then I remember that God’s time isn’t always in sync with my time, yet He patiently makes beauty even from my messes, even when I look like a mess.

Whether making cards or jewelry or decor, DaySpring’s well-made products always seem to resonate with my spirit–lightening my heart or the heart of others.  Check out April’s (in)spired deals for great gift ideas for Mother’s Day and more!

*To my dearest FTC, I selected and was provided with these prodcuts from DaySpring, free of charge for review. These opinions are my own and do not reflect those of Dayspring in any way.*

Friday Faves: The Surprise! Edition

27 Apr

Aren’t you elated?!  It’s been months (or at least a month) since I did Friday Faves (FF) and I didn’t originally plan on putting together FF today, but some days I just surprise myself as well as my readers!  Since I just gave you an update on my life, I thought I’d share an amusing anecdote to fill up some space because just jumping into a bunch of links seems so impersonal.  However, I spend a lot of time sitting on my couch with my broken foot propped up on pillows, so it’s not like there are all that many stories to share.  Although when I  was using Stella the Walker to hobble up the stairs after returning from a doctor’s appointment this morning, the UPS man asked if I broke my foot after falling from drinking too much.  I informed him that I’m not a drinker (except for that wine cooler on New Year’s Eve).  He said that maybe I should start.  So, yeah, my UPS man encouraged me to become drop down drunk.  I guess what’s what brown can do for you.

What is up with our culture’s obsession with drunkenness?   I can think of several movies where drunken people get married or have one-night stands…and hilarity ensues.  I don’t understand the humor behind promiscuous sex or “accidental” marriages.  I mean, alcoholic drinks are expensive, so getting that sloshed isn’t cheap, especially if you can’t remember the “good time” you had last night.  Plus, I’ve heard about the upchucking and killer headaches that follow.  It makes me just want to stay home and watch “Fraggle Rock” on NetFlix streaming.  I am grateful to state stores for supplying me with free moving boxes. 

Oh, and for those of you who want to argue about the merits of drinking in biblical times, remember this–Apostle Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach, not become rip roarin’ drunk during a toga party.  The key is moderation, friends, and not to take advice on drinking from your UPS man.

A story and a lesson on morality–does Friday Faves get any better than this?

So, onto this week’s linkage…

*Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sara Groves, particularly her latest album, Invisible Empires.  Those of you who have been listening to her for years are thinking, ‘Yeah, Amy, we know how awesome Invisible Empires is….where have you been?”  I decided to share the above video of Sara singing “Obsolete,” which is one of my fave songs from the album because it’s all vulnerable and emotional.  I think Sara paints beautiful word pictures with her lyrics and I like her gentle melodies.

*If you’re under 21, sometimes it’s hard to get find a pal (or UPS man) who will buy you alcohol.  Therefore, some teens have decided to make their own “moonshine” using hand sanitizer.  Yes, hand sanitizer!  My friend, Shari, who is a dedicated child care professional, first told me that the two year-olds in her classroom weren’t allowed to use hand sanitizer due to its alcohol content.  We laughed, thinking of all the moms who rub it on their kids like sunscreen.  But, apparently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health wasn’t too far off with this one.  For more information, on this alarming trend check out this article from The Morning Call.

*What do you get for the paparazzi who has everything?  A vintage camera fashioned into a tape dispenser!  It’ll only set you back $21.  Other vintage items available from A Mano Trading include an Ultraman Piggy Bank (sorry, it’s sold out!  What a hotseller!) and a needlepoint squirrel.  Personally, I like this closeout bag.

This is Big Red laying the eggs. Currently, all three eggs are now hatched.

*Finally, I want to tell you about a unique opportunity to spy on a red tail hawk nest thanks to CornellVia this link, you can check out Big Red and her mate, Ezra, as they  care for their three eyasses.  I spent a good hour watching Big Red feed her babies a vole carcass.  It sounds gross, but it makes for fascinating viewing. (Click here to view additional videos of the eyasses hatching, eating, and fighting like siblings do.)

As always, have a great weekend!

Because I just adore your comments, here are some discussion questions…I’m going to a book sale and church–what are you doing this weekend?  Have you ever tried to drink hand sanitizer?  With your UPS man (or woman?)What is your favorite Sara Groves song?  Which do you like best–Sarah, Sara, Sarai, or some other alternative spelling of the name?  What do you think of the goods at A Mano Trading?  Any good gifts for Mother’s Day?  Speaking of mothers, what do you think of Big Red’s parenting skills? 

Book Review:: You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

15 Mar

Since Holley Gerth writes for DaySpring cards (and co-founded (in)courage) it seems cliché to say that her book, You’re Already Amazing, is like receiving an unexpected greeting card saturated with wisdom and thoughtfulness only a dear friend could write. But that’s exactly what reading You’re Already Amazing is like!  Gerth engaged me with her girlfriend language, stunning insights into the heart of God, and helpful exercises that encouraged me to learn more about who I am and what I mean to my Creator.

What I appreciated most about You’re Already Amazing were the exercises that Gerth, also a trained counselor, included at the end of each chapter.  Instead of just telling me how great I am because I was created by God and proving her point with Scripture, Gerth’s tools helped me discover my strengths (and weaknesses) and how I can best use them for the glory of God!  Not only am I already amazing, I am also already uniquely gifted!  It’s nice to get a pep talk, but even better to take that encouraging energy to the next level—to actually live it out.

In some ways this book is similar to Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, but Holley Gerth’s work is more reader-friendly, and her charm is enticing, page-turning, and life-changing.  This is a book for the weak and the strong, the lost and the found, the hopeless and the hopeful.  Really, You’re Already Amazing is a book for every woman in every walk, on every journey to discover who she is, what she was created to be, and how she is desperately loved by her Father.  Stop striving to be “enough” and discover how amazing you really are to the One who loves you more than you can fathom.

*Thanks to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for providing me a review copy of this book.*

Feature:: Paul Baloche: The Same Love

13 Mar

“There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.” – Paul Baloche

By Melissa Riddle Chalos  There’s a certain blanket of wisdom that, if you seek it, comes over time. It wraps around that place in your life where you’re settled in, a place where you’re surrounded by good friends and family and have nothing left to prove. A place where you know who you are, you know your purpose, and you’re content to leave the details up to God.

“If you do something long enough you uncover life lessons along the way,” Paul Baloche says.  “You aspire to be faithful to God’s calling in your life, pressing through even when you fall short. And when you hit a certain age, as you grow in your faith, you recognize the potential and the burden of being a leader, realizing ‘I’ve got to step up and be more intentional toward the people God has put in my life.’ And your prayer becomes, ‘Lord, give me grace to finish well.’”

After 25 years of marriage, 23 years leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, TX, 12 albums recorded with the same label, and hundreds of teaching resources provided free for church leaders (via his web site leadworship.com), one might think Paul Baloche had already qualified for a great finish.

But for this modern hymn writer, mentor and teacher who once aspired to be a priest, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, a long series of obedient steps in the same direction. A path where every aspect of life is forged in fires of passion for Jesus and His Church, and the result is almost always an honest prayer for the Church to sing.

All this is at the heart of The Same Love, an organic collection of worship songs from the worship leader best known for such modern classics as “Above All,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Your Name.” The Same Love mirrors Paul’s love for the Church and gives new expression to the complete faithfulness and overwhelming mercy of a gracious God.

The same love that set the captives free

The same love that opened eyes to see

Is calling us all by name

“One of the reasons I love the process to this day is that it’s a bit of a frontier, a mystery,” Paul says of the creative process behind The Same Love. “You can’t put your finger on it. Nobody can. It has a sense of adventure, a Lewis & Clark kind of thing. All explorers, over time, are trying to go places they’ve never been. Writing for worship is a lot like that. You’re trying to go places you’ve never been, deeper into ancient biblical truths, stirring up your modern soul, if you will. You’re testing the tension and the harmony of several things, combining that with what’s going on musically at the moment… And you end up with all these different elements — harmony, chords, lyrics, melody, vibe — and out comes something new.”

Co-produced with longtime collaborators Ben Gowell and Michael Rossback, The Same Love continues to walk a modern edge musically, while delivering unforgettably rich lyrics composed in the context of community.

“From project to project, I try to wipe the slate clean, to consider what’s happening right now, in my church, in my own soul, in the church at large and to ask ‘What do I sense in the hearts of the next generation, how do they perceive God, the church, fellowship and community?”

Grammy Award-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge (U2/Switchfoot) mixes the title track and first single of the project, co-written by Paul and Michael Rossback. This is the touchstone for the entire collection.

“God is not this impersonal force,” Paul says. “The truth is that from creation to the crucifixion, God has been calling us – by name. He’s giving us a challenge, calling us to the cross, asking, ‘Are you ready to give up your way of doing things? Come as you are, pick up your cross daily and I will transform your life.’”

The four songs that follow—the anthemic, Coldplay-esque “We Are Saved” (co-written with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding), bluegrass tinged “King of Heaven,” “All Because of the Cross” (a modern spin on “Nothing But the Blood”) and “Your Blood Ran Down”— follow a path often resisted, even in worship. “There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.”

We are children of your mercy, rescued for your glory,

we cry Jesus set our hearts towards you

that every eye would see you lifted high…

“Look Upon the Lord,” co-written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, began as a time of worship, an effort to linger and focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. “We felt such a strong presence from God as we were writing it that we decided to record the song around our original demo, keeping Kari’s worshipful vocal and Jason’s keyboard part.”

I don’t know where You’ll take me

But I know You’re always good…

 “My Hope,” featuring Kathryn Scott and co-written with Ed Kerr, with whom Paul has written over 100 songs, gives voice to the spoken and unspoken prayers of people in times of need. “Life is hard, people are looking for hope, and there’s not much to be found outside of the hope we have in Christ,” Paul says. “My prayer is that this song will help others express to God what they really feel and point them to His promises.”

In each and every one of these church-tested songs, perhaps even more intentionally than ever before, Paul Baloche continues to draw from deep roots of devotion and ministry to feed the fire in his spirit. To create songs in community with like-minded worship artists who understand the hearts and prayers of those they serve, the people in the pew… and those who are still seeking.

“I can’t deny what I’ve seen and experienced in the presence of God,” Paul says. “I can’t deny that I’ve witnessed His goodness and faithfulness over and over again. God is alive. The same God who created the world calls us by name.”

The same God that spread the heavens wide

The same God that was crucified

Is calling us all by name

 “When I meet people who are full of the Spirit—despite their present circumstances, beyond their temperament or attitude—I’m inspired. I want to be that kind of person, to be in His presence, to read and digest his Word, to make it part of my DNA, to walk it out – to live it out. In the end, I want my life, my music to facilitate a conversation about God and who He is.”

For more information on Paul Baloche’s ministry, go to www.leadworship.com. AAAAAAAAAAAnd head over to Paul’s Facebook page to download a FREE song from The Same Love.

Coming Home: Thoughts on my church membership

3 Mar

Clearly, this is not me.  This is just how I feel.  🙂

Sunday.  For the past 7 years, it has been the day I perused the newspaper ads, the afternoon I went shopping or ran errands, the evening I feared what the week could hold.  But it was NOT the day of the week I attended church, though for 24 years of my life, that’s exactly what I did.  Every. Single.  Sunday.  (And many other days/nights of the week as well.)

In the fall of 2004, after moving out of my hometown, I just stopped.  Devastation, brokenness, heartache, and a long string of failures followed after me as I tried to live a life apart from God, apart from the Church.

I could never really get away, as friends, near and far kept in contact with me—at times, saving my spiritual and physical life with a phone call, a card, or even a trip to Friday Harbor, Washington (thank you Bill & Shannon, you saved my life.)  I thought that BFF Sarah was my only constant in ever-changing circumstances.  But, no, God was with us both—guiding, directing, wooing His daughters.

Earthly fathers fail.  Mothers turn their backs.  Dreams get broken. Hearts are crushed.  How could God let this happen?  God, how could You let this happen to me? It was my angry prayer as I shoved Him away.  He “deserved” my rage, my bitterness, my hatred.  I shook my fists, and still He calmed me when I let Him near.

It became a game—I’d let myself get so close to God, but then I’d run away, like a scared puppy trying to find its home.  The puppy wants to trust the kind stranger who can offer safety and security, yet she runs close and dashes away, comes closer and dashes further out of reach.  I thought, God, You cannot reach me.  You cannot have me.  You’ve ruined my life and I will not let it happen again.  I know You’re God, the Lord of Heaven and earth, I just can’t surrender my life, my all to You…what will You ask of me?  What will you take from me?  How will I survive it?

In September, I started to come apart—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  A tangled mess of humanity, I sought healing in all these areas.  Strangely enough, these intertwined issues led me to discover my spiritual crisis—I had no idea who I was [in God]!  My spiritual sickness trumped all my other issues (though admittedly, they were painful and horrible as well).  My hope was scant, but I know what God can do with just a tidbit of faith.  So it continues to this day.  He continues to breathe life into dead areas of my life, heal infected, pussy wounds…for He makes everything new! (And one day He will make ALL things new.)  Most of all, He makes beauty from ashen dreams and builds on the ruins of our broken lives.

God has given me a new beauty for a handful of ashes, and has shown me that ruins are truly redeemed through His power.

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 4, is a culmination of the past four months—the search for a church, being found by Bethany Church, and belonging to a loving congregation that empowers women!  After how I’ve hated the “church,” been spiritually abused in the past by church leaders, and experienced panic attacks when I set foot in a church, I can’t believe that I am once again becoming a member of an actual, physical church tomorrow!

I am so excited I can barely contain myself!  I am jumping around my apartment, singing loudly, smiling from ear-to-ear, and ready to explode with joy.  I’m not sure that anyone can really understand what choosing to become a member of Bethany United Methodist Church means to me.

Lyrics from Bebo Norman’s song, “Ruins,” keep flitting through my head:

“This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am made
This is my kingdom come, This is my freedom song
This is my helpless state, This is where I am saved

Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

I’ve quoted “Ruins” before, but only the chorus.  Right now, my focus is on the pre-chorus (though the chorus is too lovely and meaningful to leave out!)  If I burst out in song during our reception into the church (not likely to happen), you will understand why. (See YouTube video with lyrics below.  It was made by some random Bebo-lovin’ person out there in the world!)

So this Sunday is no ordinary Sunday, at least for me.  I’ve found a home and the people in my home are giving me an official welcome—dorky name tag and all—thank you, God, for my temporary place amongst Your people, in Your Church (and church!)

It’s good to be home.

Starfield triumphantly returns with THE KINGDOM

31 Jan

Right now, I’m listening to Starfield’s brand spankin’ new album, The Kingdom, which just happens to release today!  Even though Starfield’s lead man, Tim Neufield, emailed me about it weeks ago, you know how I am—behind in all things. (Though I’m sure that Tim can share in the blame.  Touring, spending time with his family…what excuses!)

But today is not a day of blame casting; it is one of celebration!  Because Starfield is unleashing their very first album as an independent band since amicably leaving Sparrow/EMI!  And let me tell you, friends, The Kingdom has been rockin’ my speakers for the past few weeks.  I enjoy the honest effort Starfield put forth in producing The Kingdom.  By emptying their own bank accounts, Starfield created an album that is both worshipful AND beautiful. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but if you press me, I’d have to say the title track, “The Kingdom.” Or maybe “Speak Now Jesus.”   But “Natural Disaster” and their jazzed up version of “I Have Decided” are a close second and third.  Really, what’s not to like on this album?

Tim promised to come back for a Take 5 with Backseat Writer, but in the meantime, I just couldn’t keep The Kingdom to myself, not when you can get a copy of your own.  Head over to StarfieldOnline.com to find out where you can get pick up The Kingdom (or simply click here) and while you’re there, take some time  to catch up with Starfield  and connect with them on all your favorite social networks.

If you want to try it before you buy it, head over to NoiseTrade to download The Kingdom EP, which features “I Have Decided” and “Innocence and Other Things Lost.” 

***

And, seriously, how awesome is it that worship leaders can download Starfield chord charts for free? (Go to site and look at the bottom left quadrant.)  I want to sing “Speak Now Jesus” in church…when it’s available. (Hear that, Ken and Steve?) But you can play songs from Starfield’s four previous albums in church this Sunday! Or at youth group, Bible study, in your living room.

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