Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not So Excited: When I Didn't Walk the Talk

Tonight I take my latest essay for my church newsletter and share it with you, my blog readers. If you are one and the same, I apologize for the preview, but I wanted to get this message out. I need to hear it - again - tonight - and perhaps every night for a while as I go through some very dark nights of the soul. 
Not So Excited: When I Didn't Walk the Talk (for my church newsletter, May 2013)

I was growing desperate for this month’s Visionotes essay topic and when I listened to Pastor's sermon tonight, I knew what to do. I knew when he finished speaking that I wanted to write about the amazing love Jesus had, first, for us.  

“Amazing love…how can it be…that You, my King, should die for me…” (Amazing Love, lyrics by Billy James Foote)

Oh, the moment was palpably exciting. I sat in the sanctuary dreaming of an essay that perfectly painted the marvelous love of Jesus Christ, with words so poetic and touching that the pained and hardened hearts would be set free and realize the Gospel truth of Jesus’ unfathomable love for us. Yes, I got goose-bumps imagining how magnificent this would all be.

And then I came home.

And I failed. Epically.

I lost my cool, spoke sharp daggers at loved ones in a moment of mounting stress.

It was as if all the truth I had just absorbed at church leaked out of me like a sieve and all that remained was a puddled mess of tears.

So did the truth leave me or was God giving me an opportunity to live out this truth?

Tonight, beloved family pressed all my buttons, my nerves felt raw and exposed, the moment slammed me to a shattered halt and all I did was epically fail at loving.

I was so ashamed of my behavior that I hid in my bedroom, not unlike my cat after she pukes on the living room carpet. You just know when you've done wrong.

But upon reflection (and suitable apologies to loved ones) I wonder if – through my failure – the truth of Jesus’ love didn't shine all the more. Because look:

I am now writing about a very real instance of a very real failing and a very real God loving me in a way that only God can.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” - Romans 8:31

And so we come full circle to me excitedly telling you about Jesus’ marvelous love. Only… I just got off my knees from being in the dirt instead of a place of happily writing at my kitchen table, pen dancing merrily across paper with precise poetry and literary greatness.

Instead, I broke.

Brokenness intrigues and baffles me. I long to read and write about it, for us all to take off our well-positioned masks and reveal just how in need of a Savior we really are.

Brokenness excites me.

But not my brokenness.

Know the feeling?

The topic of the world’s broken pieces fascinates me, but put me in my bedroom hiding from my guilt and shame, and I’m not so eager.

But these essays are meant to be a sharing of the footsteps I follow and the prints I leave behind. And if I can’t fall down, believe I am still worthy of this Love, and get back up with repentance and gratitude, how can I tell you to do such a thing?

I can’t tie this essay up in a pretty bow. Speaking as a writer, there will be no “concluding paragraph” because there is nothing “concluding” about my human failure, frailty, and need.

So I said I wanted to write an essay that softened the pained and hard-hearted.

God has made this piece of paper my mirror.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Wonderful: In Which I Sing My Praise

This is the video made by my husband of my solo at the Praise Team Concert (see previous blog entry, "I Will Praise You When I Cough).

I sang "Wonderful" by Christy Nockels.

And while I am my worst critic and all I hear are the cracks in my voice and the lack of vibrato, I also see the love and passion that dwells within me for Jesus.

And that is why I share this with you.

Ultimately, that is why I share anything with you.

Thank you for watching and listening.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mosquito's Story: a Malaria tale prompted by Compassion Int'l

You are about to read a story about a mosquito.

Why on earth am I writing about a mosquito? What does a mosquito have to do with God? Oh, plenty, my friend.

As Compassion writes,

Malaria kills 655,000 children per year. And April 25 is a day to raise awareness and spur on action for a disease that should not even be killing one child.

Compassion International issued a call to bloggers to write about World Malaria Day - which is tomorrow, April 25th - and write on a specific prompt: from the perspective of a malaria-infecting mosquito. I laughed at how silly it felt and how I could not possibly do this. But then my fingers took to typing and what happened next I can only say came from the prompting of the Spirit.

So without further ado, here is... The Mosquito's Story:

You think I’m just a teeny insect, don’t you. But I’m a huge killer. I kill children - the population that so many of you tear up over and cry over and want to help more than ever. Millions of commercials air every day asking to save the children.

But I’m the antithesis to that.

I make sure what you do fails. I make sure your efforts go in vain. And I’m so tiny that some people think I’m harmless.

I find that hilarious; how people think that the big killers are big things - like weather disasters gigantic as the earth, itself. And big lurking men who wait to blow up buildings and big cities.

But one of the greatest killers is the tiniest among you. Do I dare tell you that? Do I dare tell you that you can fight me so easily? I will not tell you how. I must not.

Because then you will win and the children will live and the tears will stop and families will be saved.

And I just can’t have that. No, I can’t have that at all.

I want fevers. I want babies crying from dusk until dawn. I want parents weeping over still bodies. I want people scrambling around for help only to realize they don’t have the right pill or the nets or the doctors available. And people without resources is like a mosquito without a stinger:  Useless.

So go ahead and focus on the big guns. Focus on the news stories that air every night on TV educating you on all you must fear in this big, bad world. What you won’t find is a picture of me. I’m not on a wanted poster. The children I kill aren’t on milk cartons because you don’t even know they are lost. I’m done with them so fast that no one even knows about them.

Us mosquitoes are mighty so you better be aware.

But don’t be too aware. We like you ignorant and looking the other way.

picture from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anopheles_albimanus_mosquito.jpg public domain


Don’t look the other way. Don’t be ignorant and think the “other person” will help these children who die every day.

My 9 year old stepdaughter has a passion for those stricken with malaria -- all because of one church service where a chime rang every minute to symbolize how often a child dies of malaria. She is saving her money, nickel by quarter, to raise money in order to donate to malaria campaigns around the world. She has chosen to open her eyes even though it’s hard and painful.

Open your eyes? Click here to find out how you can help. Click here and here.

Compassion International has a special Malaria Intervention Initiative. An engaging video accompanies it and you can see what, specifically, Compassion does with your donations. See it all here.

We don’t have to bow to such a thing as malaria. Malaria is not our master - God is. 

We can fight it.

The mosquito does not have to win.  

Please take action now.

That Sweet Spot Destination (and a little bit of Goldilocks & the 3 Bears)

Many things cause disorientation. Standing up too fast, spinning happy in a circle, vertigo from sickness. Once blindfolded and spun around for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, one stumbles, disorientated, toward the stuffed pinata and hopes to strike the sweet spot.

As Christians, what is our sweet spot? What is our direction, the spot we must aim for?

Having spent a lifetime with different therapists, I get stuck on concepts like self-esteem, self-confidence, independence - all excellent ways of reaching one's naval-gazing quota. I do not knock therapy; it does many people a ton of good. In my life, however, I think I had an overdose.

While reading all those self-help and life coaching books for years, searching for that meaning of life that seemed more and more elusive, I came to a great amount of peace when I chose God as my North Star, that fixed point in my life.

I've been aimed toward Him for a little over two years now and, while I can't say it's always been easy, I can say it is a lot more comforting and assuring. I don't feel so dizzy and when I do find myself flailing in life,  I re-orientate myself to God, the destination of my heart.

But I do stumble, as all of us do. I sometimes fall back into the blindfold of believing I'm in control of this messy life and that I can fix it. I look in back of me, behind at my past failings, traumas, dramas, losses, and I mourn all that has happened. I sit in the muck and sink. I fall back to naval-gazing, that default of so many years.

After a while I do shake my head - hard - and see that arm reaching down to me, offering to help me up if I would just choose the Helper. And so I let God raise me to new life day in and day out and redirect me. A difficult lesson each time. I chuckle as I realize it must not be all that fun for the Teacher, either.

But there is a certain amount of danger in always looking backward.

First of all, we miss what is coming ahead of us. What would happen if we kept our eyes on God when things became difficult instead of resorting to old coping mechanisms? What would happen if we put all our dependence and need on Him instead of worrying obsessively about our provisions not being met? What kind of life would that be? It feels unfathomable to imagine, but I know God wants that for us.

Secondly, by focusing on our past we remain fixated on what has already happened instead of what can or will happen. We remain closed to possibility and change.

Worst of all, at least to me, we miss what God has in store for us and how God can redeem that which we hoard and hide.

Perhaps we ought to do a bit more head-shaking? Wake-up out of the fog? Re-orientating ourselves toward God, in front of us, always ready to lead us if we should choose to follow. And God does ask us to follow.

My sweet spot is Jesus.

I run to Him when I get lost, when I need help, when I want joy and comfort.

And I try not to look back too often, just enough to remember where I came from. Because just as our destination is important...our origin is important as well. 

How could we appreciate a delicious chocolate cake without realizing it was first a bunch of separate ingredients that had to be crafted together to make the mouth-watering result? So with our very lives, how can we appreciate what God has done, currently, if we do not remember from whence we came?

So there must be a sort of balance, a bit of Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears going on. A bit of this and a bit of that. Not too much one way, just enough for good perspective and the Hope we all crave.

Redemption asks us to remember, but remember with eyes on Jesus.

Because we didn't rise out of the muck and the mire,

God pulled us out and formed our lives to glorify Him.

And that is mighty, mighty sweet.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Will Praise You When I Cough

Despite the giggling when I came up with this blog entry title, due to the magnificent song, "Praise You in the Storm," it has a real, honest-to-goodness message. And it's quite serious and sobering.

It's still a story about praising God despite the storms raging in our lives. It's still about praising God when things feel out of control and you look around frantically at something to hold onto only to realize there is only one Someone you can hold onto.

I've used this song as a lifesong for a long time. It's been an anchor for me to return to the Lord and my dependence on Him.

And while the title of this blog entry makes me giggle at times, and might make you too, it is as real as any storm.


For months I've been practicing with my church's Praise Team for our first big concert. We struggled along the way, had a lot of fun, and as the week drew near, something awful happened:

I lost my voice.

It was partly due to another storm, one much worse, going on in my family's life, that I'm not quite comfortable sharing here yet...but I had been talking to important people on the phone for 3 weeks or so non-stop, trying to get the help we needed; I had cried and become hoarse, and I then developed the flu.

Dress rehearsal came and I had to sing ever-so-softly because I wasn't sure if I would shatter my voice.

I admit I was a bit irate at God.

This is the one thing that has brought me joy throughout this other storm. Why would you take my voice away?

Though people told me that if I had the flu and had no voice, it was obvious I could not perform, I still felt determined to get through it. I practiced, albeit lightly, and my band-mates told me I sounded fine, but my own performance-based-self  was stubborn and demanded better quality.

I sucked on cough drops and chugged tea with honey.

And then I had a realization.

Thank God for kicking me in the pants on occasion to get me to realize the Really Big Stuff.

I am not in control, I realized. My voice is croaky and unstable and I have done all I can to mend it, but I am not the one who can ultimately pull this off.

And to whom am I singing my solo, "Wonderful?"  Sure, to the generous audience listening, but I wanted to pour out my love of Jesus with that song. Does Jesus care how I sound?

Jesus ate with sinners and dined with betrayers. He saw in them beauty and love and worth.

Surely He could forgive my croaky voice and hear my voice praising Him as beautiful.

Surely, He'd find it wonderful?

So the day of the concert, after drinking warm honey-lemon water all day, I went to the final rehearsal feeling good. I had a strange peace about me. I knew whatever voice God wanted me to have would come out that night.

And, friend, it could have been the constant honey-lemon water warming my throat or my lack of talking, but I truly think God smiled once I handed the reigns over to Him.

God loves how I love to praise Him with song.

But God does not love when I get bent out of shape on wanting to sound perfect or as good as so-and-so. He wants my true voice, croaks and all.

So I accepted that. I said: bring on the croak. Bring on the cough; I will still praise the Lord.

So as the storms raged in my life amidst the chaos in my family, as Husband and I were granted a slight reprieve this weekend and he joined the concert as the professional videographer, as I arrived in my Spring Easter dress and heels that were way too uncomfortable, I was comfortable and confident with whatever was going to come out of my mouth: croak or cough or beauty. 

I kept remembering how Jesus sees the beauty in the ugly.

And sometimes, what we think as ugly is beautiful to Jesus. 

So how did the concert go, you ask?



God's Spirit filled the sanctuary - for both musicians and audience.

And my solo came and went and though I did crack a bit toward the end, I just threw up my hands in praise and truly lived the lyrics I sang:

And my life will burn for you
'Cause your light shined in the darkness
I was hopeless
And you lifted up my head
To bring me joy
With a song that breaks
the silence
of my worship
now I'm singing all the day
and forevermore
You will be adored
For you are wonderful...

I believe I almost cried because I live those lyrics. I believe I almost cried because I desperately wanted to send those lyrics straight into the hearts of the listeners. God is wonderful. He is so much more that wonderful; I can't ever put it into mere words.

But I can sing it.

And I did.


After the concert, a husband of a band-mate approached me and thanked me.

I feel so uncomfortable with compliments the past few years. But what he said was exactly what I long to hear. This compliment was not about me, but about my love for Jesus.

"I could tell you loved that song. And I could tell you love Jesus."

It took my breath away.

I didn't want my voice to be the one to shine that night; I really didn't. After all the ego-pushing-aside, I wanted Jesus to be the one to shine through the songs we sang.

And praise God, we did!

So it is clear:

Jesus, I will praise you in this storm. I will praise you in the flu. I will praise you when I cough and freak about not being able to perform. And I will praise you when I give up my control and let You carry me through it.

Jesus, You are wonderful! -- photo by Talented Husband

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Vlog: Here

Another day to upload another video blog from the night before Easter.

Twas the night before Easter
and all through the home
Not a creature was stirring
except my computer's drone.
And I sang into the mic
hoping I'd make sense
and you've blessed me now
with your beautiful presence.
So do get comfortable
I hope you will stay
for God is quite real
and for you this I pray.

May your Saturday bless you with joy and time to look around and know that God is here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What the Rain Really Brings

"Bring the Rain" by Mercyme

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The dark clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray

Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God Almighty


It's rainy season right now. Actually, there's a torrential downpour going on and I want to shake my first and gnash my teeth and ask, "why?"

But when I truly quiet myself, soothe the frightened and upset child within, when I listen for my Father's voice

I hear this:

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
~ Romans 8:18

And when I want to yell at God and ask Him why my present is so painful and full of strife after such a painful childhood and 20-something-years, when I want to demand that God answer me why now after such a trial before...I hear this:

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." 
~ James 1:12

And while I know God doesn't necessarily cause the rain and and the tornado and the lifestorms

God certainly knows when it is in our best interest to experience such rain because it will grow us into better creations.

It's hard to ask God to bring the rain.

Who wants such trials?

But struggle forces us to strain under the pressure of the fact that we don't control all of this and struggle gives us eyesight to see Who does.

A lack of ground gives us the very ground we most need to stand on.

And so that is what I am holding onto this night when I ought to be in bed but I'm plagued by anxieties and thoughts of what-do-we-do-now's. When I worry about my family and our future. When I worry about everything. When I feel the downpour, rain hitting my face like pellets.

I know I am growing. I know my family grows under the weight of this rain because I know that God has us all in His hand.

And so Lord, I pray to you and I praise you. I praise you in this storm and while I do not understand your why's, I understand that your Son died for me and that ugly storm redeems all of my own storms. I praise you for the goodness and blessings you provide for us daily. I praise you for the graces that rain down upon us as well and I thank you for these opportunities - every storm which turns, one day, into the redemption stories we tell - I thank you for these opportunities to proclaim your faithfulness.

And I know there'll be days 
where this life brings me pain
but if that's what it takes to praise you
then, Jesus, bring the rain...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Alas, alas...and my 2nd vlog

My Wonderful Husband worked so hard on the handful of vlogs I recorded last Saturday night and below I am posting the second one in the batch.

I sing "Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed," quite appropriate as I thought about the crucifiction all that night.

I hope you enjoy these videos - whether they be my recorded thoughts or my recorded songs or both. Admittedly, it is scary to come out from behind the computer screen and talk to you, my dear friend. For I do not think of you just as a reader, as someone who drifts on by and takes a gander at these ponderings. I truly think of you as an appointed friend. God leads us all sorts of places. Quite possibly, God led you here and we have no idea why or for how long.

But I welcome you with love and gratitude.

Even though Easter is over, I firmly believe that pondering the suffering Christ endured on our behalf as well as the joy which came with the resurrection is something we can and should do every day. So while these vlogs were all recorded that one night, I do not mind that they are being posted long after the fact.

Each day is a new day to love and serve the Lord.

May this weekend bring you many blessings and unexpected joys.

In future blog entries, I will be considering the meaning and message of The Dove Chronicles and asking God to guide me on thinking about my purpose in writing here. What do I want to say? Who do I want to be? How can I best glorify Him? That might involve changing my layout or creating a mission statement of sorts, or it may be recreating the whole blog...or perhaps I change nothing. We shall see. The Spirit shall lead...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And the day came... my first video log...

I never thought I'd be interested in recording myself and my thoughts, much less my singing...

But on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, I found myself prompted by the Spirit to record, first, the song He put in my heart.

And what followed were a few more videos of both song and reflection.

So with nervous fingers, I upload this video log, oddly called a vlog (and you thought the term "blog" was odd?) for your enjoyment.

I pray that you receive its genuineness.

Many thanks to my husband who, by his own accord, edited my badly-lit videos and tinkered with it in his cool professional videography software. Not all my videos will be this sharp, but I am so thankful to him for his kindness and love and support of my creative pursuits. xoxoxo