Saturday, October 19, 2013

Homeowners

Eight days ago Peter and I sat at a conference table, signed our names at least 50 times, and walked away with the jingle of our very own house keys in our pockets! 

God is faithful. We started this process with a phone call back in April, and though we had seasons of waiting and lots of questions, this couple who had so many "obstacles" (at least in the world's eyes) to overcome--both in full-time ministry, one of us is self-employed, both under 25 years old, and neither of us has had any debt or a credit card--are now homeowners!


Without further ado--here are some thoughts and ramblings I want to remember as we made the leap from apartment life to holding that “sold” sign in our hands.

Friday was a crazy day to move in (but to anyone who knows us, what day wouldn’t be a bit crazy? =)) That morning we packed up the room we were living in with just enough time to grab a celebratory lunch and make it to Prudential to sign. The minute we got done there, Peter needed to be at church--our traveling worship team, Romans, was playing that night for the Autumn Fest and Peter had to help the students get set up. At this point we got a call that Peter’s dad had done us a huge favor--all our stuff was in his truck and he could bring it into town for us! (Can I just point out here--We lived for three months on a truck-bed’s worth of stuff. It’s do-able, girls. Not necessarily fun, but do-able.) So I dashed over to our new place and we unloaded the truck in just a few minutes before I needed to be back to church for the event. It went awesome--delicious food, good friends, great music and--sky lanterns! And that night we were able to stay in our very own home, before the craziness continued with dance and drama practice at 8 AM the next morning!

I’m so thankful for my community. Loving people makes a world of difference. It’s so easy to sit back and not start up that conversation with the person next to you--but building relationships is a key part of being the body of Christ. All the relationships in our life have been truly invaluable. Our realtor’s office, that worked so hard for us, is made up of our friends from church. Both sides of our families live near by, and lent us vehicles and helping hands to make this move possible. We’re so thankful for Peter’s family letting us use a room in their house this summer--those three months gave us a huge jump start and we have enough left over to get a new-to-us couch (pictures coming soon!) and washer and dryer. Not to mention “Team Devoted Bridesmaids” who all happened to be in town during our move and helped me tackle painting last Saturday! Another friend heard I was in need of some kitchen appliances, and through some connections she was able to get me some amazing brand name items for no cost to us--I’m guessing that was at least a $700 value if not more. What favor!

Friends, I know we are in the minority--not everyone has such a great community, a church that really IS like a family, and so many helping hands close by. I love Kalamazoo because of this--I think the best people in the world live here and I get to know them. I am thankful and I don’t want to take this for granted. 

But I also want to encourage you--this is the result of years and years. Both of our parents worked hard to get knit into this community. And then Peter and I have been doing the same. You’ve got to make time to reach out. Start with the person next to you at church. If they don’t respond, try the person sitting behind you. Keep trying. Keep loving. Make an effort. You need what they have to offer, and they need what you have to give.

Looking back on this move--that’s what I want to remember. Peter and I are blessed with an amazing, loving, kind, giving community, and I am so thankful. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pure Michigan

You may have seen the advertisements for Michigan over the past years--with Tim Allen’s iconic voice luring you into the beauty and wonder of “Pure Michigan.”

I’ve been pondering the word choice: "pure." Pure is a powerful word--perfect, clear, spotless, prized, without blemish. Pure carries a lot of connotations, and it’s a powerful principle in scripture. As I’ve been mulling on this idea, I’ve also looked at what’s been happening in my area of Michigan:



I believe God has shown me a connection--God wants to remake this state. He wants Michigan to be known, nationally and internationally, as a place of purity. A place where pure love is evident, where pure unity is apparent, and where pure, undefiled faith is prominent. He is passionate about our state, and our time is coming. He has heard our cries, and He is moving now.

Believers, please pray for Michigan. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for the lost. Pray for the church and ministry leaders. When God moves, the enemy tries to move, too. If you’re experiencing difficult times, remember--those often precede breakthrough.

Let us join in prayer and declare that His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. Let's join with our state government and declare, "Pure Michigan." I believe the promises of God will prevail, and that this promise especially is for our state: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Battle

There are a lot of battles being fought in this season. I’ll be honest; I’m getting weary. Don’t get me wrong, we are gaining ground. We are winning this one, Christian brothers and sisters. But I imagine this is more what a real battle would have felt like: I see us standing with our swords, defending attack after attack, spending days on the battlefield--we carry on, we take ground, but it’s one foot at a time, surrounded by the dead, heavy with the stench of blood and war. Yes, we’re winning, but it’s taking all our strength.

This is battle like Paul describes: not against flesh or people, but against principalities and powers--against darkness (Ephesians 6:12). The line between flesh and spirit is messy; When heavenly swords are clashing, physical relationships come under fire, too. That’s why Paul wrote it out to us--remember, when you’re waging war by being Christian and advancing the Kingdom of Christ, that means you need to be on guard to protect your relationships--because the natural tendency is going to be to battle them, too.

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Friends, we’re in the front lines. You cannot advance the Kingdom of God without conflict.  Every word, every action, every thought either advances the Kingdom of Light or the Kingdom of Darkness. It’s so easy to forget this. Just having a bad day is such a convenient excuse that can easily hide our heavenly reality behind a physical fantasy. But when we believe that lie, we miss out on the benefits of standing in full awareness of our real situation: fully equipped children of God, advancing His Kingdom.

So today I’ve been pondering all the battles. Moral battles. Relational battles. Battles of thought. Battles of boundaries. Battles for physical healing. Leadership battles. Patience battles. Trust battles. Hope battles. Fear battles. So many battles. At least a dozen people I know are in battles of serious magnitude--battles where the temptation to gravely sin or even walk away from Christ is very real.

It was weighing on me heavily. Lord, why aren’t you answering our prayers speedily? Why are these battles still being waged? I was sitting at His feet, writing out my worries, asking for His help. And then this song came on:


“Take a moment to remember, Who God is and who I am. There You go lifting my load again.”

The peace of the Holy Spirit washed over me--a strengthening in spirit similar to what I imagine a refreshing, sweet breeze and a fresh drink of cool water would feel to a soldier in the midst of war.

I felt God, so clearly through this song, come and lift my burdens of worry, fear, and whys.

“No longer am I held by, The yoke of this world. Come upon you the yoke of Jesus, His yoke is easy and His burden is so light.”

God is saying: I’ve got this one. Rest. He’s tapping us out of the battle. Letting us retreat into His presence, even if the only time we have is three minutes to listen to one worship song before we need to swing our swords again. Take His invitation, and keep trusting Him. Tell your souls, and sing it to Jesus, my friends:

“Your love carries, Your love carries me.
Out of valleys and the darkest places.”

His peace doesn't mean I’m instantly not weary any more. But to know He is right here, He’s lifting my load--it’s just enough hope to keep on standing.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

"I Am Mountain" by Gungor | Album Review

You guys. I really love new, awesome music. And I want to share what’s been tickling my eardrums this week.

Gungor (formally the Michael Gungor Band) released a new album. Gungor has got to be one of my favorite bands--I love how they use their excellence in technical skill in creative and thought-provoking ways. Their latest album, “I Am Mountain” definitely does not disappoint on this front.

Peter and I had a great time listening to the album together the other night and we both noticed that the songs on the album cross many genres--from western rock, to a techno feel, to Gungor’s signature complex acoustic sound--the variety was refreshing and kept our attention.

The title track, “I Am Mountain” was the perfect way to start it off--it has that distinct Gungor flavor--beautiful mix of piano trills, acoustic guitar and driving percussion, and yet it is different enough to let you know this album is going in a new direction. Not to mention the captivating lyrics:

“We are ocean, we are mist, brilliant fools who ruled and kiss”
“Momentary carbon stories, From the ashes, filled with Holy Ghost
Life is here now, breathe it all in”

Peter loved the sound and lyrics of “Long Way Off”--seriously, who else could use crazy words like these and get away with it so beautifully?

“The erudite composed a thesis
Everything we see is all, all, all there is
But as an apophatic mystic
We’re a long way, we’re a long way, we’re a long way
We’re a long way, we’re a long way, we’re a long way off”

I was completely captivated by Lisa Gungor and the fantastic music editing on “Wandering.” I’ve never heard autotune used so intentionally--it perfectly communicated the ideas of the lyrics and lent itself to the haunting tune. I definitely have had these lines running through my mind all week:

“I’ve been wandering through this world, Looking for an anchor to hold me
I’ve been stumbling through this world, Searching for the thread that might free me
I am looking to you, I am holding on to you”

If you were to ask me what’s your favorite song on the CD as of right now, I’d go with this one. Well done, Gungor!

And “God and Country”? That sound--wow! Bring on the wild west, my friends! Love it--different, fun, driving, throwback and so fresh all at once.

Fair warning--not every song is easily explainable or understood at the first listen--“The Beat of Her Heart” tells a story with some adult themes:

“He was a tempest, His craving a storm, He lusted her body from deep in the grove
Enraptured or captured, Betrayed or betrothed
She would be his, She’d be his alone”

And “Finally” gives a picture of us post-resurrection that not many initially imagine:

“Finally, We’ll chase the sun
Naked we’ll run, We could just be, Finally
We could be free, Finally”

What can I say? Like Jon Foreman, Gungor’s fine with singing about whatever themes God puts on his heart. You can definitely find more explicit pictures in scripture, for goodness sake, and that helps me be OK with it. I believe these artists are using their skills to glorify Christ.

At times Peter and I felt like the songs on this album could have been written for a musical, or to go with a movie. What that tells me is they did a fantastic job in storytelling--both musically and lyrically. The created epics within our earbuds, and we eagerly enjoyed the ride.

To be honest, I was secretly hoping for more songs that could be used in a worship setting from Gungor--but it’s pretty clear that wasn’t the intent of this album. So going into it with that understanding, this is a stellar, musically diverse and technically excellent composition. I appreciate having solid, well-crafted music that isn’t worship but using skill to glorify Jesus Christ.  The lyrics make you think, and the music is perfect for many situations--I’ve already listened to it while driving, at work and I can’t wait to have it going when I have friends over!


Let me know what you think of the album (and if you like it, support them and buy it--available as album and vinyl)--and if it’s not your cup of tea, what do you love listening to these days?

P.S. Full disclosure: no one gave me anything to write this. I just like good music and want you to know about it, too!
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