Tag Archives: beloved

She Is Beloved

21 Jun

If I ever did get a tattoo, it would say, “Beloved.”

So I’ve been busy, and I actually mean it!  No, not languishing away on my couch the victim of depression or hiding in bed because of anxiety, not even my formerly broken/still healing foot is holding me back…all that much anyway.  I’m busy in the Lord, which is so much better than being busy for busyness’ sake.

When I started going to Bethany Church in November, I never knew how it would transform my life–not only locking me into community with God’s people, but giving my sad life more purpose than it has felt  in years, than it’s had since I left the church in fall 2004. 

Oh, I’ve tried to pursue other interests, passions, and loves away from the Church, but they’ve all fallen short.  Yet some sustained me for a while, yet nothing truly satisfied.  I was spiritually dehydrated, emotionally broken, and physically falling apart because I held onto bitterness, unforgiveness, and oh, how I raged against God!  I rejected the arms of the One who longed to provide me comfort.  It may not have changed my circumstances; it would have changed my response to those hardships.  Still, God is picking up all the broken pieces, gathering them into His heart, and using them for His glory.  I love a God who can make beauty rise from the ashes.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for years know how I longed for community, yet made excuses for why I couldn’t go to church.  Believe me, the horrible panic attacks upon entering a church building didn’t help.  I want you to know that I understand those of you who have given up on church.  I know what it’s like to sleep until noon on Sunday mornings and feel a small pang of guilt for not going to church because it seems like the “right” thing to do. (All the while Keith Green’s lyric, “Jesus rose from the dead and you can’t even get out of bed,” played in my head.) I know you’ve been hurt, scarred, and the last place you want to go on Sunday is to church.

Go anyway.

And if you’re just not ready, know that God will come find you, His little lost lamb.  He will come to you, cradle you in His loving arms, and led you back to the flock.  I am praying for you, beloved, even if I don’t know your name.  I am praying for you because God knows Your name, for it is engraved on His palms. (If you want me to personally pray for you or encourage you, please shoot me an email.)

He is calling your name, “beloved.” Not only are you precious to the heart of God, but so is His Beloved Bride, the Church.  I am beloved.  You are beloved.  And she is beloved as well. 

Hear His voice, respond to His call, and come home!  The door is always open and our light will never burn out, for We are the Church, the Beloved Bride of Christ.

We are the beloved ones!

Amy’s NoteI am writing this to myself as much as I am writing it to you because I want to remember why I need my church, fellowship, and other Christians with which to “do life.”  If you want to pray for me, please ask God to protect my little heart and strengthen my spirit, that I may be used as a conduit for His glory and honor and renown.  Thank you, faithful prayer warriors! 

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in the middle

28 Feb

Who doesn't take identity advice from hookah-smoking caterpillar?

“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5, HT to Renee Altson)

This morning I offered to give someone tips on blogging, which was probably a mistake, since I’ve been such a bad blogger the past few months.  Books are strewn all over my desk.  I don’t know what music has been released or who I want to interview.  My ideas are constant, and I am praying over each one to see what comes to fruition.  I am happy to report that my relationship with God is vibrant. 

As I consider the past six months, I am amazed at the amount of change that has occurred in such a small amount of time.  Six months ago I was ambivalent about going to church at all and next Sunday I will be officially accepted as a member at my new church.  My faith, my life, everything was falling apart, and from these ruins, God is building something incredible.  I continue to marvel at it, even on my worst days when I’m my own worst enemy.

I see myself at a crossroads asking God, “Now what?”  I don’t want to linger too long in this place, for I fear I might take up residence here.  I don’t think that life was meant to be lived at the crossroads, though crossroads are often a part of life.  

Being new at a church, I am trying to cultivate relationships and one of the first questions people ask is what I do.  I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore.  Am I a writer? A blogger? An author? A photographer?  A social networker?  A counselor?  A communicator?  A creative force in the world today?  A Bible study leader? What am I? 

All of it.  Yes, all of it. (Try to fitting that on a business card.) And some days I’m not very good at any of it.

Maybe I should just say “beloved child of God” or “beloved.”  Of that much, I’m certain…I’ll let God work out the rest.

(P.S. Having only met Bebo in person once, I never realized he had prettier fingernails than me.)

So…where are you?  Who are you?  Do you like Bebo’s fingernails?  How has God shown you want to do?  What has it been like for you at the crossroads? (And, please, don’t mention that terrible Britney Spears movie!)

GIVEAWAY!!! Jason Gray’s “Remind Me Who I Am” is #1 on iTunes!

30 Nov

Wednesdays are killer, right?  Last weekend is a distant memory and this weekend seems like it will never arrive.  And to make matters worse, we’re in the holiday season—shopping, decorating, baking, avoiding Salvation Army bell ringers. I love the Salvation Army and all they do, but I could do without the bell ringers.  I wish you could give them $20 to stop ringing the bell for five minutes or at least until you make it to the car.

But this morning whilst performing my daily ritual of checking out what happened in the cyber world as  I slumbered, I learned something VERY EXCITING from Jen RoseJason Gray’s single, “Remind Me Who I Am” is #1 on the Christian & Gospel charts on iTunes!  Now “Remind Me Who I Am” will always be one of my favorite songs because of the impact it had (and continues to have) on my life,  so I would love to see it get stay at #1. (Note: I like Casting Crowns’ “Courageous” and Laura Story’s “Blessings,” too.  But neither song has hit me in the heart like “Remind Me Who I Am”).

Did you hear *that*, er, read *that?!  I’ll type it in CAPS for emphasis:

JASON GRAY’S “REMIND ME WHO I AM” IS CURRENTLY #1!!!

Personally, I believe you should buy “Remind Me Who I Am” because it’s a great song AND it’s only 69 cents on iTunes, but to help you in your music buying decision, I’m gonna back up this song with a  giveaway.  If you purchase “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes, you will get a chance to win an autographed copy of Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (and, yes, this is the album “Remind Me Who I Am” is on!) 

Maybe you already own the song or just can’t afford it right now, that’s OK.  I would never exclude anyone from a giveaway.  So everyone gets one entry, BUUUUUUT, if you buy the single on iTunes or gift the single to friends with an identity crisis, you get TWO extra entries for EACH purchase, and if you review the song on iTunes (I’m talking at least two sentence here, not “This song rocketh.” Put a little meat in that review), you get another TWO entries.  That means, you get ONE entry just for being alive, and TWO entries if you buy the song for yourself and TWO more if you leave a review of “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes, which gives you SIX chances to win!  (Or if you enter and buy the song for your Aunt Mabel, you have EIGHT your chance of winning A Way to See in the Dark!)

I funkified the photo because it looked subpar due to my messy desk background.

Just fill out THE FORM, tell me how many copies of “Remind Me Who I Am” you purchased on iTunes, write a smashing review, and [hopefully] win!  Remember, you get an entry just for being alive, so everyone can enter, but only one can win.  I mean, maybe I can get Jason Gray to send each one of you a hair follicle or something (by the way, JG did not ask me to run this contest, but I watched him personally autograph the CD, so he has foreknowledge that a giveaway would happen!)

Here are some links in REALLY BIG LETTERS to help you:

1. Buy “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray for 69 cents. 

(Or don’t and enter anyway.  But you get TWO extra entries for each copy of the song you purchase. (You’re on the honor system.  I mean, I love this song, but if you tell me you purchased 109 copies, I’m going to need to see that iTunes receipt.)

2.  Write a short, but meaningful review of “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes for another TWO entries.

(By the way, you can review the song without buying it on iTunes, so by being alive AND writing a review, you can get THREE entries.)

3. Then enter to win an authographed copy of the WHOLE album, A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray, right here!  I’m instituing use of THE FORM!

*FILL OUT THIS FORM*

The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on December 7, so you have a whole week to snag this deal.  The winner will be emailed and if he/she does not respond within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost by the USPS, though it would be very sad and I would cry with you should that occur.  Oh, and if you buy more copies of “Remind Me Who I Am” or decide to write a review AFTER you’ve already entered do come back and tell me so I can give you even more extra entries.

Even if you don’t win this amazing album, and I hope you do, you still win by getting a copy of “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray.  And I do encourage you to purchase A Way to See in the Dark, for it is a phenomenal album…and it makes a great Christmas present! (I heard Aunt Mabel really wants a copy!)

Still not sure about the song?  Read WHY Jason Gray wrote “Remind Me Who I Am,” find out why I’m thankful for Jason Gray, and read a little about how “Remind Me Who I Am” has helped me (though I only mention the song as an afterthought, I realize it really helped me to come to terms with my identity in God and inspired this post). Learn more about Jason Gray and his awesome self at JasonGrayMusic.com.

Amy’s Random Aside:  I believe in Jason Gray and his music so much that I changed my Twiticon and my Facebook profile pictures to “Remind Me Who I Am.” (I added “Beloved” to the Facebook pic because Amy means “beloved.”)  If you just love Jason, his music, or what people to remind you who you are, email me and I’ll change your Twitter or Facebook book to look similar to mine. (Text may be different.  We are all unique creatures.)

(Click on my image to follow me on Twitter for tantalizing updates!)

OR


(Feel free to friend me on Facebook, too!)

Tell me, once again, why you like this song, why you like this song? (Sing that to the chorus of “Remind Me Who I Am”)  How have you deal with a spiritual identity crisis?  Jason Gray has great hair, so why do you think he’s wearing that hat in the music video for “Remind Me Who I Am”?  Do you recycle your cardboard boxes, make signs from them, or just throw them out in the regular trash?

Letters to My Self, Part 1

6 Apr

Sometimes I write myself letters because I know what is true and yet my heart won’t accept it.  Letters have a way of reminding me what is true, even if they are for me by me.  I’ve been writing letters to myself or to God or to others for years (many of which I never send).  I was surprised to learn that Henri Nouwen did the same thing in his book, The Inner Voice of Love.  I was given this book as a special present, and I treasure it.  I highly recommend you get this book, even if you’re not a big reader.  Nouwen’s short journal entries have the ability to pierce your heart with their vulnerability.  You’ll be surprised at how often you think the same things as Nouwen.

Anyway, I recently write myself this letter, which I’ve decided to share because I bet there are a lot of you out there who are wondering if you are enough, if you are loved, and if you matter.  I know a lot of people use the term “Beloved” when referring to God’s people, but for me it holds a special meaning.  My name, Amy, means “beloved.”  Whenever the term “Beloved” is used, I feel like it’s God’s special name just for me.

Dear Beloved,

You don’t have to be perfect.  Yet day after day, you try so hard to be what you can’t.  You live in a fallen world where imperfection is the norm.  You will make mistakes, and that’s OK.  God’s grace and mercy covers your shortcomings.

Words like accomplishment, success, award seem so out of reach and failure, second best, and not good enough flood your vocabulary.  You’re so down on yourself despite finding so much beauty in the world.  How can you find beauty in nature and not see the wonders that lie within you?  Don’t you see that you are captivating because God created you that way?

Don’t be angry at God, Beloved.  He is not the cause for all your heartache; your Abba is the one who longs to hold you through the pain.  He wants to wipe every tear away, and He promised He will.  He promised you, beloved!  God never, ever breaks His promises.  You must remind yourself of this, even when it does not seem true.  You must hold on to the truth so that you will not be swayed by the wind.

O, Beloved, I know you have a long way to go and you’re frustrated that you’re not “there.”  But once you get “there” you’ll want to be somewhere else.  Today, you are enough and you are sufficient in God’s grace.  Don’t steal tomorrow’s grace, but savor His mercy today.  You are enough—not because of what you do, but who you are in Him.  You are a princess in exile and your Abba is King of all.  Remember who you are and that you are enough.

Love,
Amy

Concert Review :: Derek Webb

25 Aug

By Amy Sondova While my list of favorite bands and artists grows ever longer, there is one man who has remained at the top since his solo album debut in 2003—that man is Derek Webb. She Must and Shall Go Free rocked my sensibilities about what should and should not be said in songs by a Christian singer, especially one who had been in Caedmon’s Call. However, the more I listened to songs like “Wedding Dress” (which uses the word “whore”) and “Beloved” and the title track, the more I thought, “I love this!” The music started a change in me.

Since 2003, Derek’s other albums—I See Things Upside Down, Mockingbird, and his latest, The Ringing Bell—have been in permanent music rotation. To me, this guy is a musical genius right up there with Bob Dylan and Reese Roper (Five Iron Frenzy, Brave Saint Saturn, Roper). So naturally, I wanted to see him perform live to drink in the whole picture. But every time I planned to see Derek Webb, there was a problem—the last which caused me to fly to Atlanta just to see a sold-out show that Derek played with his wife, Sandra McCracken. OK, so I was actually there for a youth conference, but I did twist my ankle walking back to the car after learning I wouldn’t see Derek yet again.

Perusing Derek Webb’s website, I made a startling discovery! Derek would be playing only 40 minutes away at Calvary Church. It was a sign! My time had finally come! But I didn’t believe I would really get to see him until I entered the doors of the church and heard Derek’s vocals resonating from behind closed doors. Apparently, he was giving the “postmodern” church service a taste of what was to come an hour later.

Low-key and dimly lit, the concert started a little after 8 PM with an opening performance by Derek’s friend, Joe Bassett. Finally, Derek took the stage in his typical white shirt/blue jeans ensemble. Singing at least one song from every album, he’s just as powerful in person as he is on his recordings. His set included “Nobody Loves Me,” “Love Is Not Against the Law,” “I Hate Everything (But You),” “I Wanna Marry You All Over Again,” “Savior on Capitol Hill” and one of my personal favorites, “Wedding Dress.”

Before performing “Name,” Derek mentioned that the song was the closet thing he’s ever had to a hit since starting his solo career. Featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” the song was over a “two and a half minute montage of fornicating adulterers,” explained Derek with a slight hint of sarcastic wit. The crowd laughed nervously and Derek dived into his song. Talking about everything from the upcoming election to his wife, Derek wasn’t particularly loquacious, but he was charming as he picked songs on a whim.

For an hour, an audience was invited to depart from the worries of the world and get lost in songs about rethinking and reshaping the world. Derek made it sound not only believable, but encouraged that it was possible for us to help others experience God’s peace (shalom) on earth.

In fact, Derek’s so committed to social justice, easing the burden of the poor, and other causes, that he’s joining forces with Sara Groves, Brandon Heath, Sandra McCracken, and Charlie Peacock for the Art*Music*Justice Tour this fall. For more information, visit the tour’s site and make sure you get the chance to catch a show. Because as Brandon Heath said in a recent interview (read here), “Besides the fact that Derek Webb’s on it, Sandra McCracken, his wife, is on it, too. That’s the other reason you should go.” I agree wholeheartedly.

You should also check out Derek Webb’s other cause, NoiseTrade, a site that allows independent artists to freely disperse their music to listeners. By referring three friends to the site or donating an amount for an album, you can download an album from various artists including Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Sixpence None the Richer, and Alli Rogers.  You can also visit Derek’s fansite at DerekWebb.net (and, no, it’s not one of my secret sites on the side!)

Raw Review: Over and Underneath–Tenth Avenue North

3 May

Release Date: May 20

By Amy Sondova Four guys who met in college and formed a Christian band–it’s a story that circles the industry over and over again. While Tenth Avenue North fits the mold, their national debut, Over and Underneath (Reunion) brings a different quality to the world of music. Instead of falling into another formulaic musical equation, Tenth Avenue uses the common to their advantage, building on what works to produce something with depth.

A couple of the songs like “Let It Go” and “Break Me Down” are radio-friendly pop tunes, which make for a fun sing-a-long, but aren’t the meat of this album. Big worship ballads like “Satisfy” and “You Are” take things up a notch as lead singer Mike Donehy stretches his vocal chords.

Then there’s “Beloved,” which begins and ends with a haunting piano melody. Speaking from God’s perspective, the lyrics beautifully tell of His love for His bride (seemingly with references to Hosea and Revelation). “By Your Side” comes from a similar perspective, but it calls all people near to Him. “Hold My Heart” is born from the frustration of man crying out to God as He seems distant, almost like a modern psalm. The song has a great melody, vocals changes, and a driving rhythm that adds to the song’s emotional impact.

What I like about Over and Underneath is the album’s strong melodies, enticing song introductions, and vulnerable lyrics. While every song on the album doesn’t reach the level of excellence, Tenth Avenue North offers a nice style blend that is pleasing to the ears and manna for the heart.

The album releases May 20, so you have time to save up your nickels and dimes to buy Tenth Avenue North’s Over and Underneath. Click here to view the “Love is Here” music video.

Print copy of raw review.

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