Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
As I found at Easter, reflecting on the people who were there in the flesh can really make these holy days come alive.
Obviously, Mary is a big one at Christmas. But before Jesus was even conceived, she showed tremendous faith and acceptance of God’s plan. When an angel told her how she was going to fit into this miracle, “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38)
She didn’t take the time to make a pro/con list. She said, “Ok.”
Sunday, December 11th, 2011
Much like seasonal foods, Christmas music is made more special because it comes out for a little while each year. Some songs make me feel like my dad is about to start the video camera rolling and turn me loose into the living room on Christmas morning. New favorites provide a little boost of cheer as winter sets in. Then there are the special few that spur me to ponder the mysteries of Christmas.
What’s your “desert island” Christmas album? Mine would be this longtime family favorite from Julie Andrews. (Note: the last three songs are not exactly Christmasy, and I don’t know why they are on this album. But Julie can do no wrong.)
Monday, November 28th, 2011
Adult friendships are hard work. But it’s so rewarding when you see the fruit of the time and effort you have invested.
Sunday, November 13th, 2011
It’s pretty rare that you get to hear two of your favorite choral works in concert together. (Well, I don’t know if you have two favorite choral works, but you can substitute another type of music ). Today we heard the Choral Arts Society of Washington perform Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” I sang “Chichester Psalms” (which is in Hebrew!) in my college choir and loved it. It is so unique and lots of fun to sing. The Lauridsen is one of the most beautiful pieces of music, and by far the best modern composition (composed in 1997), in my opinion! I encourage you to seek it out and give it a listen.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
What makes a “good” pastor? Is it great preaching, uplifting personal relationships, crackerjack outreach skills? Obviously, people define this in many different ways. But when you have a good one, you know.
I’ve been privileged to have some great ones come in and out of my life. Some of them will never know how their teaching helped carry me through critical times. Some, I listened to from afar and never even shook hands with. Others, I called on with tears, confessions, and life’s unanswerable questions.
Each one has impacted my life, and I’m very thankful.
Monday, October 31st, 2011
Today is our second wedding anniversary. (Yes, we got married on Halloween – also Reformation Day! – but not because of the date.)
In college, my girlfriends and I made a whimsical list of Top 5 Reasons to Get Married. I can’t remember them all, but I do remember that two of them were bugs and jars. After two years of marriage, I still kill bugs myself when necessary, but I don’t hesitate to ask my husband for help opening the tough jars.
In honor of this day, I’ll offer 5 Things I’m Thankful for About Marriage:
5. I gained more family.
4. My new last name is tremendously easier to spell over the phone. (I went from Menefee >> Payne.)
3. My husband allows – nay, demands! – that we keep Cocoa Krispies on hand at all times.
2. God and my husband haven’t let me stay the same.
1. I get to hang out with this guy.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
I’m thankful for a band.
Once upon a time (11 years ago), a new friend handed me a CD and said, “Listen to this. I think you’ll like it.” It was Switchfoot’s album “New Way to Be Human.” I had never heard anything like it. The lyrics were personal; the songs had variety of sound; the rock rocked and the ballads were beautiful. And though their words were solidly Christian, they didn’t sound like a Christian band. (That could be another post for another day, but a lot of Christian-labeled bands have a certain similar sound.)
One of the reasons I like Switchfoot is that they have successfully broken out of the Christian label and boldly taken their theology to the world. They live and perform in the public sphere, not just at churches or Christian music festivals. This invites heightened scrutiny of their lives and their music from all sides. I believe this is what Bob Briner was talking about in “Roaring Lambs” – he had a vision of Christians working in all sectors and producing excellent products for general consumption, instead of producing art, music, or writing only for each other.
If you listen to their lyrics, they don’t sound like rock stars. They’re not cooler than you. They speak to downtrodden people – people outside the circle of coolness. People who are brokenhearted, down on themselves, questioning God, trying to hold on. They’re not just playing guitar riffs to distract us from our daily struggles; they are hitting our deepest issues head-on.
It was a beautiful letdown when I crashed and burned. When I found myself alone, unknown and hurt. It was a beautiful letdown the day I knew that all the riches this world had to offer me would never do. In a world full of bitter pain, bitter doubts, I was trying so hard to fit in until I found out I don’t belong here.
This approach is intentional. Lead singer and songwriter Jon Foreman explains that “Switchfoot is a surfing term. We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”
Since I was captivated by “New Way to Be Human,” the band has gained two members and released six more albums. I associate each album with the time in my life when it came out, and in many cases, certain songs spoke directly to my situation.
I was working an incredibly tough summer job when “Gone” hit my CD player and encouraged me that this too would pass – and soon.
“Golden” hit in another phase of life when I had recently uprooted. I was struggling with deep questions and needed to know the struggle would be worth it.
She’s alone tonight with a bitter cup… she’s been staring down the demons who’ve been screaming she’s just another so-and-so… You’re a lonely soul in a land of broken hearts – but far from home is the perfect place to start. You are golden. You are golden, child. Don’t let go.
Listening to the first chords of their newest album, which came out yesterday, I was nearly giddy. The lyrics, once again, are killer, and I love hearing the new twists on their sound.
But even after all these years and all the songs, my favorite is still from their very first album. It’s called “Home,” and they’ve never played it at any of the four concerts I’ve been to. It sums up faith so well with this one line that has brought me comfort enough to fall asleep many nights: “All that’s in my head is in Your hands.”
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
A lot of times it feels like we are just stumbling through life, hoping to hit upon some idea of what we’re supposed to be doing. And most of our decisions can’t be based on feelings, as they can lead us astray. But sometimes feelings can be very confirming. Have you ever had the sense that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be? Right in this moment, talking to this person, saying this specific thing, etc.? You realize a reason why something happened to bring you to this place.
“You can see the roads that we all traveled just to get here – a million miniscule decisions in a line. Why they brought us to this moment isn’t clear, but that’s all right… Could it be that the many roads you took to get here were just for me to tell this story and for you to hear this song? And your many hopes and your many fears were meant to bring you here all along?”
– Andrew Peterson, “Many Roads”
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Sometimes a writer captures something you’ve been trying to express, yet so much more succinctly and eloquently than the thought in your mind. I was thrilled to find the following quote that expresses the reasoning behind this blog far better than I have.
“Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. That would be like returning to naïve optimism. Thanking God restores the natural order of our dependence on God. It enables us to see life as it really is.”
– Paul Miller, “A Praying Life”
(Also, I HIGHLY recommend the book from which this quote came. I am reading it right now and it is amazing.)
Friday, August 5th, 2011
Remember those bumper stickers? Well, someone gave me a gift of kindness yesterday — someone I know, who knew a specific need I had. So, not random, but it was a surprise to me. More accurately: surprising acts of kindness? It really made my day.