Tag Archives: jason gray

Death Without a Funeral

26 Oct


It’s a death without a funeral.*

There’s been a recent death in my life.  It’s not a person or a pet, but a church.  I have said goodbye to my old church.  This move, orchestrated by God, has caused a loss of community, a loss of purpose, a sense of being displaced, and a sense of identity loss.

Who am I now and where do I belong? It’s like looking to the sky to see God as a cloud leading me somewhere new and on the darkest of nights trusting His pillar of fire to watch over me.

It’s moving on.

A final goodbye.

Don’t look back.

Just keep moving forward.

Leaving this church is one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I came in those doors so wounded and torn up by the world after not going to church for seven years.  I experienced healing, was challenged in my faith, and I grew.  I became strong. 

And because of it, I’m now strong enough to leave.

God is telling me that it is time to move on.  And like Abraham, like Moses, like so many who have gone before, I must follow where my God has called me.  Whatever the reasons for leaving a church—any church—the main reason should and must always be a calling from God.

I wasn’t sure I should blog about this, but as I googled “leaving a church” I didn’t find any helpful information.  I didn’t find people grieving the loss.  I simply found articles with bullet points on knowing when to leave and when to stay.

It goes so far beyond a bullet point.

We want to fancy it up with church talk.  We want to wrap it up in a pretty bow, like because God called us to do it means it isn’t hard.  Because God called us to do it, we didn’t scream our hearts out on the living room floor every day for a week.  We pretend leaving our ministries doesn’t rip us all apart.  We wear these “holy masks” and say everything is just fine.

But everything is not fine.  Goodbyes are hard, particularly this one because, for me, it’s a tearing away.  I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself.  I know the reasons God is moving me, yet I feel like some sort of refugee.  I’m bewildered, don’t know how to fit into the new mold of a new church, and I’m so lost and lonely.

I know I’ll be OK.  I know I’m grieving right now, but just as the dying leaves fall from the trees only to bud in the spring, so will I.  There’s just a long winter of the soul ahead—a time to rest, reflect, and snuggle up with God.  Sometimes a winter has to come to force us to look at the One who truly gives life.  I trust Him to provide what I need in this transition.

I tell myself the truth. Day after day.  And it hurts less and I haven’t cried in a few days now.  I’m finding sustenance and joy in God, almost like I had to become wounded like this to feel Him again.  Almost like my heart had to split wide open with this wound to start beating again.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “There are far better things ahead than what I leave behind.”  I am choosing to run towards the better things ahead. 

And when I need to, I bow my head in grief and scream out to God to ease my pain.  I struggle as I grieve this death, this death without a funeral. 

This is my funeral, my final goodbye, my laying to rest. It’s in these words I find peace and on my blog I place a gravestone.  I build an altar here, dedicate it to God, and remember this holy moment.

*I borrowed the title “Death Without A Funeral” from singer/songwriter Jason Gray.  The song can be found on his latest release, Where the Light Gets In. You can watch a video where Jason talks about “Death Without a Funeral” here or listen to the song itself here.

The Beloved Ones on Faith Reboot

28 Apr

Last week I wrote my now-monthly blog post for my lovely friend Brittney at Faith Reboot.  I shared about how I came back to the church and into the realization of what the full love of God really is.  The song “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray features prominently.  Check out “The Beloved Ones” here: http://www.faithreboot.com/the-beloved-ones/

Friday Faves: Snow Globe Living Edition

2 Dec

I’ve been going back and forth on bringing back Friday Faves.  Am I ready?  What if I do it this Friday and not next Friday?  I mean, do I even have any readers left besides my mother? 

Then I thought, if you write it, they will come.

So I fooled around on Facebook for a while (yes, those games I used to think were stupid are highly addictive and somewhat entertaining), scoped out Thursday’s online deals, goofed around on Twitter, played some more Facebook games (The wheat needed to be harvested).  And here I am, staring at my computer screen thinking of all the great things I read, saw, and experienced this week.

How could I keep all this awesomeness to myself?  Why, that would be selfish!  I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or the week after or the week after, but I’m sure God does.  I’ll keep the future rightly in His hands and focus on the matter at hand—this week’s Friday Faves.

I seem to listen to a lot of music or read a lot of books—not usually at the same time, though occasionally my loves do intermingle.  Currently, I’m in a music phase and with so many exciting things happening in the industry (like the GRAMMY Award Nominations…congrats, everyone!), there is much to share.

*I can’t stop singing “Snow Globe” by Matt Wertz, even though I don’t know all (or most) of the lyrics.  Mostly, I just prance around singing, “Sometimes I wish I lived in snow globe,” mumble, and then pick it up again on the “la-la’s.”  Therefore, I need to share this song with y’all.  And, as luck would have it, Matt Wertz was kind enough to make an enchanting music video for us to enjoy together. (Amy’s note: Matt Wertz must be very secure in his masculinity to wear long-johns in that video!) 

I always wished I lived in a snow globe, and I’m glad I’m not alone.  I’m sure someone’s going to form a Facebook group about this very topic, and I’ll probably join in. But under no circumstances will I be appearing in any music videos in my PJ’s.  Some things are just private, know what I’m saying? You’ve got to be a good friend or family member to see me in my scrubby night duds. 

For a limited time, you can download “Snow Globe” along with his album 23 Places FOR FREE on NoiseTrade: GO DOWNLOAD IT!!!  And while you’re out there LEGALLY downloading music, hop over to your fave music buying site, and check out Matt’s brand spankin’ new-this-year Christmas album called…wait for it…SNOW GLOBE!!!  I only wish the album came with a FREE Matt Wertz snow globe.

But, wait, you can head over to Matt Wertz’s website and get your very own snow globe necklace for $40, complete with an 18” sterling silver chain.  Cute idea, but kind of pricey, especially since I have to assemble the mini-snow globe myself AAAND I prefer 22” chains.  Now you know what to get for the person who has everything—a snow globe necklace!

Only 5 BUCKS, baby!  Like dollars, not male deer!

*While we’re on the topic of legally purchasing music…have you checked out some of the $5 digital music downloads on Amazon lately?  The “regular” album choices for December are pretty paltry, but the special Christmas music section is great!  For ONLY five dollars, you can treat yourself to some of my favorite albums including Christmas Spirits by Straight No Chaser, Wintersong by Sarah MacLachlan, A Very Merry Christmas by Dave Barnes, Christmas by Rebecca St. James (which I got as a Christmas present in 1997.  I love this album!), and one of my most loved Christmas albums, Let It Snow Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K.  Since I already own this great music, I’m thinking of purchasing Mindy Smith’s My Holiday–what do you think?

Jillian Edwards = one of the many reasons I love Noise Trade!

*NoiseTrade co-founder Derek Webb (he sings, too!) wrote a tantalizing post this week about why he’d rather give his music away for free than allowing it to be streamed on Spotify.  Check out, “Giving It Away:  How Free Music Makes More Than Sense.”   I’m a habitual NoiseTrade download junkie.  I mean, what won’t I do for free music?  Plus, I can discover amazing musicians without feeling pressured by a publicist. (Darn my people-pleasing tendencies!)  In fact, I recently discovered Jillian Edwards on NoiseTrade, and I think you’ll love her!

I might wear Long-johns in a music video for a Kindle Fire…

*Because we’re all about the free, I mean, all about the music, I want to you how to get FREE MUSIC from Plumb!  Ever since Plumb released her first album when I was in high school, I’ve adored her and her music.  Well, you can download TWO Christmas songs when you like Plumb on Facebook, and then if you tell your friends about Plumb’s awesomeness, I mean, her music (and how could you not?), then you will be entered to win some cool prizes like a Kindle Fire (drool!), an iPod shuffle, Plumb-y gear, or a personalized profile pic of Tiffany holding a sign thanking you!!! (I want one of her thanking me while wearing the wings she wore while singing “Send Angels” at Creation ’97!)  Now I’ll refrain from entering this contest (probably) because I’ll blow you all out of the water with my gazillion Facebook friends.  I mean, it wouldn’t even a fair contest.  But I really, really, really want a pretty Kindle Fire, uh, I mean, the other prizes that aren’t a Kindle Fire.  Love, I mean, like Plumb on Facebook, download the songs (Plumb’s version of “What Child Is This” gave me chills.  Beautiful), and WIN [me a Kindle Fire]!

Wowser!  If I didn’t already own one of these…

*You know what makes a great Christmas present? Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark!!!  Know what makes it better?  If Jason Gray personally autographed it!  Know what makes ME the best ever?!  I’m giving away a copy of that very autographed album for FREE!!!  All you have to do is enter!  Deets hereYou know you want to enter!

Welcome back, Friday Favers!  Hmm….we need to work on a better name for you guys. 

Who wouldn’t want to go sledding with an eReader?

Amy’s Update:  I just learned about another great deal…a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble for only $15 at SaveMore.com (This is my unique referral linkage, BTW.  I get $5 for every new person who signs up!)  Because I’m a first-time user, I got a $10 sign-up bonus, meaning that I can get my gift card for $5 (I think).  If not, I’m totally getting those Fandango tix (two tickets for $12, or rather $2 with my $10 bonus.  Woot!  I can see Breaking Dawn in theaters.  I mean, a mature adult movie that doesn’t involve werewolves and vampires.  Actually, your credit can only be applied to certain purchases and Fandango is not one of them.  Boo-hoo).  And in case you didn’t know, Barnes & Noble dot com has WAY cheaper books and like Amazon, they offer free shipping when on spends $25 or more. (I like to check out the after-Christmas sales at B&N to get pretty journals so I can write down my most private thoughts) Do the deal! (Take note that your gift card won’t be available until 12/12 or 12/13.)

Be honest–do you ever wish you lived in a snow globe?  Do you ever think you *do* live in a snow globe? (If so, I have a counseling degree; I  can help you.  Or at least run the peer support group!)  Would you wear an adult onesie in public, even if you were a TOTALLY famous musician like Matt Wertz?  Do you want to win a Kindle Fire?  Do you want to win ME a Kindle Fire?  Isn’t Plumb a fantastic dresser?  (If I dressed like her, I’d just look silly.)  Do you use Spotify?  NoiseTrade?  Buy a $5 Amazon album?  Breathe?  How is your Christmas shopping going thus far?  Are you thinking about getting a snow globe necklace for anyone on your list?

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:


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!


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!)


(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?

I’m thankful for two Jason’s and a Josh!

23 Nov

A musician’s life isn’t easy.  Just because musicians are doing what they love, crafting music is a job just like any other.  First, there’s the writing process—lyric after lyric, chord progression after chord progression, organizing the percussion, changing up vocals.  Then comes the recording process, which is more organization, changing, and take after endless take.  Production is next and these days, a lot of artists like to help with the fine tuning of their final sound.  When the album is finally released, artists endure a media blitz—three hours of 15-30 minutes phone interviews with various journalists, week-long tours to various radio stations to hype up the new album, and the album release show!  Then it’s up to you to buy the album, which hopefully you do—if it’s good.  And if it’s not, boy, do the reviewers go to town!  (Amy’s note:  It’s not easy being a reviewer either!)

Then there’s touring.  Think about it—to come to a concert in your city, an artist or band has to travel to the venue (by plane or bus/van), set up equipment, eat whatever the venue is serving (if the venue is serving anything), perform, spend time with the fans, do the media thing, pack up, get about six hours of sleep, and do it all again the next day. Plus, a lot of artists are dealing with time away from their families, friends, and other support systems (church, small group, etc.)  Wouldn’t it be nice if we turned down the music on our stereos and thanked the people who create the background music of our lives?  It’s not just a “nice idea,” I believe it is necessary to pray for and encourage our artistic friends, so I’m going to start with the musicians who add so much flavor to my spiritual journey. (Also, please pray for me as I seek more ways to be an encouragement to musicians.)

To start, I’d like to call out some of God’s humble servants for cyber applause (iClaps?).

I am so, so, so thankful for my friend, Josh Wilson.  A lot of times, I have a great interview with a musician, maybe exchange a few emails or Tweets, and move on to the next interview.  But Josh and I just hit it off, so I began praying for him every day.  Then he got engaged, so I started praying for his sweetie every day, too.  I’m sure if/when Josh and Becca have kids, I’ll pray for the Wilson brood.

Through praying, emailing, interviewing, a few side projects here and there, and hanging out with Josh at a couple of shows, I have found not only a man who truly loves God, but a great friend as well.  If you’ve been reading Backseat Writer, then you know how much I adore Josh’s music.  He’s a musical and lyrical dynamo, whose talent is rare these days.  I am constantly amazed at the articulation of Josh’s songs and the hard work he puts into challenging himself to craft original material.

A true musical genius, man of God, and genuinely wonderful person—I’m thankful for you, Josh Wilson!

Over the past few months, I’ve shared about how Jason Gray’s album, A Way to See in the Dark has impacted my life.  I even told you that I met Jason Gray a few weeks ago at a concert and got signed CDs (one for me, one for you.  The giveaway is coming soon…I promise).  What I didn’t tell you is this—Jason Gray was truly a delight to meet, to chat with, and to banter with on Twitter.  Plus, he’s really tall and looks like an elf.  As you know, I have an affinity for elves (I stole that line from the movie, Elf).

Apparently, Jason has a stuttering problem—something that he’s struggled with since he was but a wee lad.  I didn’t notice it when we chatted one-on-one (actually, four-on-four since BFF Sarah and Jason German from downhere were also in on the conversation), but it was evident from the stage.  He informed the audience that he stutters and that he wasn’t “freaking out” on the stage.  Then he went on to talk and sing about the glories of God.  While Jason could’ve let his speech impediment hold him back, God just gave Jason a bigger platform in which to communicate…and I’m thankful.  Because if Jason let the voice of doubt overtake his life, I wouldn’t have “Remind Me Who I Am”—a song which hit me so powerfully that I was gasping for breath between sobs and moans.  That song was my undoing, the instrument God used to break open my heart.  I am thankful for you, Jason Gray, for your boldness, your reading recommendations, and your music.

Image from RadarRadio.net

When I met Jason, he was on the “Called to Love” tour with Aaron Shust and downhere.  When BFF Sarah and I were sitting in the “green room” waiting for various musicians to appear (really I was waiting for Jason Gray because I was excited to meet him and tell him how much I loved his album), a man in his late 30’s wearing dark clothes and a longish coat strolled in.  He greeted us and kindly asked, “And what is your part in this production?”

“I’m just here to make awkward conversation,” I asked with a smirk.  This was the “right” answer because it resulted in further banter.  Later I found out that I was talking to “Jason G” from downhere.  I assumed he was the bass player. (He looked like a bass player to me.)

Admittedly, I was ignorant of downhere’s music until that night when their live performance blew me away.  Imagine my surprise when I watched Jason Germain make a piano sing by tickling a few keys!  When I gushed to Jason Gray over his album, Jason G remarked, “It is a really good album.  I’ve been listening to it a lot lately, too.”  Then he thoughtfully quoted a line from one of Jason’s song.   I even told Jason G that I really liked the band’s Christmas album (which I do), but haven’t listened to much of their music.  He was not offended in the least and appreciated the attention his tour mate was receiving.   Even when I accidentally called his band “downthere,” Jason G did not bat an eyelash.  This man’s humility and kindness spoke volumes to me.

Not only am I thankful for downhere, I am grateful to Jason Germain to introducing me to “the band” just by engaging in awkward conversation with a couple of gals in Pennsylvania.  I am thankful for you, Jason Germain!

What musician or band are you thankful for?  And just why are you thankful for your musician/band?  Any song or album that you’re grateful for?  Share it here or on Twitter (use “#thankamusician” so we can start a movement!)

Poetic Breathing

18 Nov

Trying to explain my anxiety (or depression) to others is a tall order.  Generally, my list of responses include: “Oh, we all get anxious!” (Uh-huh.) “I get nervous about going to the doctor, too.” (Is it a week-long obsession for you?) “Trust in the Lord!” (Who says I’m not?) “I totally understand!  One time in [insert year], I went through terrible anxiety.  Thankfully, the Lord delivered me from it [and He will deliver you, too.]” (Sometimes we all just carry around our own “thorns in the flesh.)

I know that most people want to relate to me and are only trying to encourage me.  I used to feel exactly the opposite—misunderstood and discouraged.  Then I met others who shared my struggle, who knew what it was truly like to lie in bed with a Bible as a way to chase away the demons, who understood that getting dressed and brushing my teeth is a major accomplishment some days, and who truly walked this path hand-in-hand with God.

Due to my recent health concerns, I’ve been feeling anxious.  While I am doing a much better job of seeking God in my trials, adrenalin still courses through my veins and my mind screams, “You’re not safe,” while my heart pounds in my ears.  So, the other day I wrote a poem about anxiety.  Sometimes a girl’s just gotta say it with poetry.

“The Panic Attack” by me

Right brain, left lobe

Bouncing to and fro

Never ceasing, never ending, never letting go

Nausea, adrenalin coursing through the veins

Breathe in, two-three

Out, three-four

Hold on, hold still, as the world spins

Heart pounding, hands shaking, sweat dripping

Breathe in, four-five

Out, five-six

Fighting, ripping, raging, screaming

Left brain, right lobe

Breathe in, breathe out

Fifteen minutes go by

Just keep counting

Just keep breathing

Just keep living

It will be over soon

In a reading of “The Panic Attack,” I will quicken my pace as I read to mimic how a panic attack grows and rages and then eventually ends (usually in fifteen minutes).  Unless I make a vlog, most of you will never see this reading, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

“Breathe In, Breathe Out” one of the tracks on Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark, says that we breathe the name of God.  And I even found a video of Jason explaining the song and playing it (by the way, this is almost exactly what Jason said at his concert.  He would probably also want me to tell you that he sounds perfect on his albums, so you should buy one.  If you can’t afford it, you will have a chance win an autographed copy here in the next couple of weeks!)

Let me tell you how, “Yah (1, 2, 3) Weh (1, 2, 3)” can really help during a panic attack; it’s gasping a prayer to the One who can truly provide peace. 

Do you suffering from anxiety or panic attacks?  If so, what silly things have well-meaning people said to you?  What does a panic attack feel like to you?  Do you like Jason Gray’s song?  How can breathing the name of God help you when you are anxiety-ridden?

To make my joy complete

8 Nov

For a couple of weeks now, I yearned to write a blog post, yet I was afraid that it wouldn’t be as elegant as I envisioned, that my writing was somehow lacking in my sabbatical.  Oh, the messy scribbles in my journal were good enough for God and still I wanted to present something “better,” more polished to my blog readers.

There was something faulty in my thinking.  I thought, “God always invites me to come to Him as I am, but shouldn’t I present my very best to the Creator of all things?”  And then it struck me—those messy scribbles are my truest words, for they are the yearnings of my soul, a heart crying out to the living God.  Perhaps my journals contain my most precious writings. 

Therefore, what I write for you, dear readers, is what is leftover.  Since these “leftovers” come from the outpouring of my heart, they are not sloppy seconds, rather the first fruits of a heart yielded in obedience to God.  I believe that even at the inception of Backseat Writer I failed you by giving you only what was left of me, by not filling up with God’s Word, by not trusting the Holy Spirit to guide my words.  Simply put, I was running on empty, putting on airs to impress you with my garbled speech, and trying to prove to the world and myself that I was a decent writer.  Thankfully, God in His mercy used my words anyway. 

“[i] write this to make my joy complete.’ 1 john 1:4

While tiptoeing through the New Testament, I found a verse in I John that defined my true desire as a writer.  John says, “[I] write this to make my joy complete.” (I John 1:4)  When I read that my soul leapt, for I had found my purpose, a life verse of sorts, for the thing I love to do most.  I will not write to please people or publicists or musicians or anyone else.  Instead, I choose to write to make my joy complete, and that joy, of course, comes from God. 

Like the tear-stained scribbles in my journal, I hope my joyful ramblings will edify you as well.  Even if my words are foolishness to the world, I suppose that is all right, for I want to find my wholeness in God, not in man.  Of course, this is not something I have yet achieved because I still look at myself in the mirror with a critical eye and I not-so secretly wonder if this post will make a difference in anyone’s life. 

As humans, I think we all long to connect with others, to know that our words can and do make a difference.  My problem has been that I wrote chiefly for the accolades (not always, but often) and not to make my joy complete, not primarily for the glory of God.  I failed to realize that writing FOR the glory of God is how I can make my joy complete.  So, above all, I choose God and I choose joy and I write to make my joy complete in God.

{I caught downhere’s show with Jason Gray and Aaron Shust this past weekend.  Their song “Let Me Rediscover You” from On the Altar of Love hit me straight in the heart, so I thought I’d post the video.}

Coming up: Even though I do write to make my joy complete, I’d like to share my joy with y’all, so I thought I’d give you some tasty tidbits of what’s coming up here at Backseat Writer. 

*My thoughts on Elisabeth Eliot’s book, The Path of Loneliness, which is an excellent book that rubbed my soul raw. (Psst!  There will be a giveaway!)

*A very lengthy and thorough review of A Way to See in the Dark, the latest album from singer/songwriter Jason Gray.  As I’ve mentioned before, this album has been a soothing balm for me.  I had the opportunity to meet Jason at the show.  I may have purchased an autographed copy of A Way to See in the Dark to give away to one lucky reader.  I guess we’ll just see. (I’m terrible at keeping secrets!  I bought two CDs, which Jason graciously autographed—one for me and one to give away!  I’m trying to figure out what I didn’t buy the special edition for myself. Duh!)

*Why “Choose Joy” is my new mantra and the woman who inspired the slogan…and why I didn’t read her blog earlier.  (Hint: It has something to do with my anxiety disorder!)

*A guest post by Wes Pickering on his new song, “Open My Heart,” complete with music video and lyrics!

*Whatever else crosses my mind…possibly a “Friday Faves” is on the horizon?  Photo essay?  We’ll see.

Dear, dear friends, what is going on in your world?  What are you reading, watching, listening to?  Dish it in the comments sections!

Let my ruins become the ground You build upon

18 Oct

“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”

“Ruins” by Bebo Norman from Bebo Norman

I used to think the Apostle Paul was a madman when he asked fellow believers to “rejoice” in their suffering (Romans 5:3-4, AMP).  Are you freakin’ kidding me, Paul?  Throw a party for mental illness?  Get jazzed over medical issues?  Maybe a pity party; that’s all.

That’s how I used to think.  Admittedly, I’m still working on “rejoicing”; however, I am learning to be content suffering.  My current struggles have forced me to find true dependence in God.  I am starting to believe that suffering is a “gift” and I do not fully, nor will I ever, understand its spiritual implications on my life.  Where I see only pain, God sees hope and promise…and beauty.

The brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves beginning to dot the landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania illustrate beauty in death.  And isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to die to self and to find true live in Him?  And now just once or twice, but daily?  Besides the promise of Heaven, the Holy Spirit, God’s love, and much more, Jesus promised that in this life, we would all experience trials and suffering.  Yet He urges us to “take heart” for he has overcome the world.

For the past seven or so years (maybe more), I’ve bitterly resented suffering—my dad’s affair, my parents’ divorce, my life altering (and chronic) illnesses, my inability to find a job in ministry (which I now realize was a good thing), my mom’s remarriage and subsequent divorce from a horrible man who inflicted a lot of pain and abuse on our little family, and of course, debilitating mental illness.

At first, I sought after God and He is and always was present.  As I watched my life shatter around me, I screamed at Him, “How could You let this happen?  How could You do this to me?  You are supposed to love me.  You are supposed to do something with my life.  If You could do this to me, if You could let this happen, what else will You do?  What else will You ask?”  I simply ignored God and His still small voice that beckoned me home.  I prayed, read my Bible, and gave Him lip service only when it suited me.

I would not—I could not—relinquish all of me.  Yet God asked for ALL of me, so He could do immeasurably more than I could ever dream or imagine.

A few weeks ago, when I shut down emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I knew drastic changes needed to me made.  I could NOT go on like this [that] anymore, so I stepped away from Backseat Writer as well as other things so I could focus on overall wellness.  I have been learning so much about myself, God, and the Bible (among other things) through circumstances that forced me to come face-to-face with God.  No more running, no more hiding—just the naked truth of who I thought I was versus who God says that I am.

I am finding my identity in Christ, asking Him to help me overcome my unbelief, to help me believe the truth instead of the negative self-talk I readily offer myself, and most of all to learn to trust God in all things.  It sounds simple enough, yet it is a hard, long road, though it is the path worth taking.

At this time, God has called me away from many things, including Backseat Writer.  Not forever, not even completely, just for a little while.  When it is time, my sporadic and erratic posting will cease and Backseat Writer will return to a new “normal” with content that is solid, personal, and REAL—not the publicist pleasing garbage I’ve posted at times.  Although I assure you that not of it is garbage or posted to please publicist (or anyone else).  I can hardly wait to see what sort of future God has for Backseat Writer—something I believe will be far more wonderful that either you or I could imagine.

For now, dear readers, I must continue my sabbatical to focus on knowing God and knowing who I am to God.  I would like to pop in weekly with updates on what I’m learning—for there is so much to share with you!  Still, most will remain close to my heart; these things are spoken only between God and me.  But I want to let you in, at least a little, to show you what I’ve discovered.  I want you to know that God is not safe, but He is good.

I hear God calling to me, wooing me to Himself, “Come now, my love, my lovely one, my beloved.”  And it’s been such a long time since I felt lovely to anyone and loved by God.

“[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 5:20, slightly paraphrased)

Currently Listening To: Selections from various Bebo Norman albums, Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (“Remind Me Who I Am” has been essential in my recovery. I hope to post more about this song/album at a later time.  Thank you, Jason Gray, for crafting such a wonderful album!) Select others including Matt Hammitt (latest album, Every Falling Tear, is excellent!), Josh Wilson, NeedToBreathe (mostly The Outsiders.  Yes, I purchased their latest album on iTunes, but haven’t really listened to much of it yet.  Shocking, I know!), and Cat Stevens.

Currently Reading: My NIV Study Bible (does that sound cliché?) as well as daily passages from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.  I highly, highly recommend both of these books.  I am just about finished with a powerful, lesser-known book by Elisabeth Elliot called The Path of Loneliness—not for the faint of heart.  An excellent read that I heartily recommend! Next I hope to read God’s Plan B by Pete Wilson and Jenny B. Jones’ latest, There You’ll Find Me as well as a smattering of writing books and whatever else pops up.

Other Randomness: I’m enjoying the new seasons of “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” and “Glee” as well as peeking at “The X-Factor.”  I’ve discovered Facebook games like GnomeTown, Words With Friends (play with me!), and Bejeweled Blitz, as well as exploring my world and spending time with friends, my mom, and of course, my beloved fur and feather children.

Please Pray For Me: To have continued spiritual, mental, and physical healing; that my nasty tooth infection would heal and my root canal procedure could be completed; for the small group Bible study I lead; that I may find a meaningful volunteer opportunity; and for my future writing endeavors.  Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!

So, that’s me…what are you up to?  What’s going on with you and God?  Any new pets or babies or anything I missed?  What are you listening to, watching, doing?  Dish it!

Friday Faves: Dealing with Bummed-Outness Edition

9 Sep

Since I’m going to a Women of Faith conference (full story) this weekend, you’d think I’d be in a great mood.  I mean, what a great opportunity to commune with the people of God, right?  Absolutely!  And I feel the need for it now more than ever.  Looking for a church in the area is taking its toll on me.  So is the pressure of leading a weekly small group.  I’m giving out, but not filling up.   The rainy weather doesn’t help.  Even the local schools are closed due to flooding.  (Is it even safe to go out there?  Should I invest in a house boat?)  Really, I’m just plain ol’ bummed out.

I don’t know what to do for this depression (and anxiety) except to walk through it and know it, too, will pass.  I spend more time praying, thinking, talking to God and less time social networking, hanging out, and uh, showering.  Hopefully, the Women of Faith weekend will kick start my spirit.  Until then, here are some “faves” that help me get through the murky times.

*Bebo Norman is my go-to guy for hard times.  Whether I’m about to have a panic attack or cry my eyes out, I pop in a Bebo album and I feel immediate relief.  It reminds me of when David played his harp for King Saul when Saul was overcome with bouts of madness.  Bebo’s music is a gentle reminder that someone’s been in the depths, made it out, and that God is still very much present.  Lately, I’ve also listened to Jason Gray and Andrew Peterson, and of course, my old stand-bys–Rich Mullins and Fernando Ortega.  I used have specific playlists on my iPod for “sad times” and “mad times” and “happy times,” but they somehow got deleted.  Another song that resonates with me is “Hold My Heart” by Tenth Avenue North.  While I enjoy artists like Tenth Avenue North and Josh Wilson, when I’m down and out, their upbeat songs feel like salt rubbed into an raging wound.

*The Book of Psalms is an inspiration for many, and when nothing else makes sense, the psalms usually do.  I particularly love Psalms 42 and 46.  I also turn to the book of Hosea, which may sound like a strange choice, until you consider this passage from Hosea 3: 19-20,

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

As cliche as it sounds, the Bible is an amazing source of comfort in its prose, stories (Elijah, for one), and guidance.

*One day someone who is very dear to me gave me a copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love as a present.  She told me to read it, but not all at once, just bit by bit.  So I did, and still do.  In Nouwen’s most personal work, he shares his journal entries from a time when he underwent extreme hardship (some may call it a “nervous breakdown”).  At the urging of his friends, Nouwen published this book.  I rarely read an entry without bursting into tears. I also read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (read review), which is great for use in small groups or for personal devotions.

*It may sound silly, but online games like Gnome Town and Words With Friends (both on Facebook) provide needed distraction.  I cannot always live in the pain, focus on the hurt, feel the depression, deal with the anxiety.  So, instead, I build a world of friendly forest creatures and get my butt kicked by high school kids who know more words than me.

*Since I’m a writer, it should come as no surprise that words at a healing balm to my soul.  In his song “The Cure for Pain,” Jon Foreman sings, “So blood is fire pulsing through our veins.  We’re either writers or fools behind the reigns.  I’ve spent ten years trying to sing it all away.  But the water keeps on falling from my tries.”  Like Foreman, I keep trying to write, not sing, it all away.  Still, I keep my journal close by and consider my notebooks full of scribbles among my most treasured possessions.  One of these days, I’m going to get a nice leather or mole skin journal (usually, I get them for 50% off at Barnes & Noble or as gifts from friends).

*Dogs, not diamonds, are a girl’s best friend.  Lonely days seem a little less lonely because of my two dogs–Cassie the Peekapoo (left) and Maddy the Shih Tzu (right).  They sense my mood and cuddle with me more often when I am down.  My bird, Kylie the Cockatiel, chirps praises to God when my spirit feels faint.  Animals are truly a gift from God.  And so are friends and family, who are willing to listen, even they don’t understand or don’t know what to do.

I’m not going to apologize for my less-than-chipper mood because it is my goal to be real, rather than entertaining.  Ideally, I like to be both, but real trumps entertaining.  Pray for me and I will pray for you!

How can I be praying for you right now?  What do you do when you feel bummed out?  Do you suffer from clinical depression and/or anxiety?  What kind of pets do you have?  Do you journal and/or blog to relieve your stress?

Friday Faves: Happy Birthday BFF Sarah Edition

19 Aug

This weekend I’m going to celebrate a very important event—BFF Sarah’s birthday!!!  While some people are content to blow out a few candles and scarf down cake, I like to make a big deal out of birthdays.  Now BFF Sarah is an introvert, and prefers to allow others to soak up the spotlight.  However, today’s “Friday Faves” is dedicated to Sarah because she is my closest and dearest friend.  She is the sister I always wanted and the best friend I prayed for.  The gift of her friendship is one I thank God for every day.  So to celebrate Sarah and her life, I’m going to share 32 wonderful things about Sarah.  OK, maybe just five because 32 is an awful lot (not that finding 32 things would be hard…).

1.  Sarah is superhero.  No, she doesn’t wear a cape, have a secret lair, or super powers (at least none that I know of), but Sarah saves lives in her job as a social worker.  Relentlessly working to find homes for sometimes difficult kids, Sarah’s job as an adoption and permanency professional isn’t easy.  However, whenever she puts on her “going to court” shirt to attend an adoption, I smile a little when I see her head out the door.  It’s another happy ending in the life of a superhero social work.

2. Sarah’s favorite color is orange, but she likes purple a lot, too.  Not a lot to elaborate on here, is there?  Except purple and orange together have a Willy Wonka sort of effect, ya know?

3.  Sarah is a great baker and cook.  Her love of orange and cooking is paying off this birthday thanks to Rachael Ray close-out sales.  Hmm, perhaps I’ve said too much…  But, wow, you should taste her chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.  It. Is. So. Good.

4. Sarah loves music, and even plays the trombone.  It’s hard to pin down her favorite artist, but she enjoys Casting Crowns, Bebo Norman (good choice!), Josh Wilson, Jars of Clay, and Caedmon’s Call.   We have similar tastes in music, which I would argue, is exceptional taste.

5. Sarah’s favorite movie character is Sam from Lord of the Rings.  Maybe it’s because he’s the chief cook on his little camping trip with Frodo or because he’s an unlikely hero, but Sarah just loves Sam.  And it makes sense, doesn’t it?  She’s the Sam to my Frodo (I do tend to wander about foolishly clutching my “ring.”)  Together we fight my “Gollum” and carry “the ring.” Plus, Sarah seems to really have taken to gardening this year.  Coincidence, I think not!  (Thankfully, she doesn’t have hairy hobbit feet.) P.S. I love the random Chinese captions in the video, don’t you?

Now onto some delightful faves, which may or may not be Sarah-inspired…

*Sarah loves a good book deal as much as the next person.  In fact, when our own Border’s closed in April, she had a jolly good time at the closing sale.  Normally, Sarah doesn’t let loose like that.  However, both Sarah and I are closely monitoring the Border’s bankruptcy sale discounts at Borders.com because when the majority of books start to slide into 70-80% off brackets, we’re going to plan a little road trip.  It’s sad that Border’s is closing, but we might as well make the most of it with the best deals. As of today, the Border’s merch is now 40-60%.  But is saving 50% off a regularly priced book *that* great a deal? Maybe, but a lot of the prices are the same or better on Amazon.com. I mean, right now Saving CeeCee Hunnycutt by Beth Hoffman is 60% off at Amazon, making it a mere $6.

*Since Sarah and I are both single ladies, I found this Christianity Today article, “John Stott on Singleness” particularly interesting.  Stott argues that Scripture calls both singleness and marriage “good,” and therefore, one should not be elevated above the other.  As single gals, Sarah and I both find it difficult to mesh with the church culture, which seems focused on marriage and motherhood.  I appreciate Stott’s article because it reminds me that I’m truly not a second-class citizen in the church.

*On our plane ride to Florida, Sarah, my mom, I saw the movie, Up and even got to meet the cast at Disney Hollywood Studios.  Who can forget the classic moment when my mom took the paws of the costumed dog character and said, “Oh, I loved your movie!  You were so good in it!”  Yeah, Mom, the costumed dog was the actual actor in the animated film. You gotta love my mom.  Well, now, we can go visit the real, life Up House in Utah on our next vacation adventure.  No word on whether this house will take flight if millions of balloons are attached to it.  Grumpy old man is optional. The house will sell for just under $400,00.  Anyone have $400,000  I can borrow?

*Jonalyn Fincher is never one to shy away from tough, even heart-wrenching topics.  This week, Jonalyn reviewed a book called When the Man You Love Was Abused (read review.)  Written by Cecil Murphey, the book helps women understand the men who live with the demons of sexual abuse and molestation, and always offers insight on how to help her loved one.  It sounds like this book would also offer insight to counselors and others who work with abused men.  Jonalyn’s treatment of the topic is thorough and delicate.

*Jen Rose and I just love Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See In the Dark, which releases Sept.13 from Centricity.  This week the video for the album’s first single, “Remind Me Who I Am” was just released this week.  This song is an amazing reminder to me about who I am in God, not the world, not my friends, not the scoffers, but to God.  My identity in God because of Christ is what truly matters and I’m thankful that Jason Gray “reminds” me about this in his new song.  Take a listen and let me know what you think in the comments section.  Honestly, this whole album is exceptional. (By the way, Jason is also featured in the latest Centricity U. video.  Check it out here!)

Don’t forget to do something special in honor of Sarah’s birthday, like bake a cake, buy something orange, adopt a kid, etc.  And, do be a favor, wish my very best friend a happy birthday in the comments section!

Did you wish BFF Sarah a happy birthday?  Do you want to live in the Up House?  What do you think of Jason Gray’s “Remind Me Who I Am” video?  What are some great qualities in your best friend?  Are you single?  Do you know a Jesus-living 30-something guy that could help me become unsingle?  Did you wish Sarah a happy birthday yet?

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