It May Be The Best Tuesday Ever

Now y’all know that I love me some music.

And today? Oh, it is a VERY GOOD DAY FOR THE MUSIC.

So here are two things that may or may not change your life forever but will certainly make it better in untold wonderful ways.

(Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much the same exact thing as changing your life.)

(Honestly, I don’t know why anybody puts up with me. I am a case study in redundancy.)

(And I also say the same thing over and over again, only in different ways.)

Okay. First thing.

Travis Cottrell‘s new worship CD, When The Stars Burn Down, is out today, and OH MY MERCY IT IS INCREDIBLE. The word that comes to mind every single time I listen to it is declaration – because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a strong declaration of who God is, how His love transforms our lives and why He is worthy of every single bit of our praise.

I’m crazy about so many of the new songs. I adore Travis’ arrangement of “All My Fountains,” and I feel like “I’m Changed” is the story of my life. “When The Stars Fall Down” stops me in my tracks every single time. And on top of all that, I really do believe that “The Word of God Has Spoken” is one of the most powerful corporate worship songs in a long, long time. I’ve listened to it so much that the other morning the little man asked, “Mama? Why is this song always playing in your car?”

What can I say? I tend to play something over and over and over when it speaks to me. And “The Word of God Has Spoken” definitely does that. Which is why I’ve listened to it approximately 416 times.

The whole CD is a treasure, and it has ministered to my heart like crazy over the last couple of weeks. Seriously. You have no idea. I really can’t recommend When The Stars Fall Down enough, and you can download your very own copy from iTunes. It’s absolutely beautiful worship music, and it’s chock full of Truth. So, so good.

Y’all are going to love it.

Next thing.

Over the last year Ben Rector has become one of my very favorite singer/songwriters, and his CD called In The Morning was at the top of my “best of” list for 2010 (it is an absolutely brilliant CD, and if you don’t have it, you need it). Ben is crazy gifted, deeply talented, and best of all, he’s genuinely humble. Not to mention humbly genuine. That’s a tough combination to beat, y’all.

Ben has a new CD that’s out today. It’s called Something Like This, and even though I just downloaded the songs early this morning, I can already tell that I wouldn’t have missed this CD for the world. Even at first listen it’s full of great, smart pop music with all sorts of wonderful influences (big band, jazz, soul, etc.) that you can listen to with your kids in the car and not be afraid that they’re going to add some colorful new words to their vocabulary. It’s also pretty swoon-y and romantic in places, and that’s so rare these days.

So giddy up, bloggy people.

Great new music from Travis and Ben today.

We’re more fortunate than we know.

p.s. Nobody asked me, paid me or offered me free fried chicken to mention these CDs. I didn’t get anything for free, and the only reason I got Travis’ CD a little early is because we pre-ordered it through Kickstarter. Just thought I’d clarify in case you were wondering. The end.

Enjoy, y’all!

Third World Symphony

So here’s the thing that I’m a little bit embarrassed to tell you: for the longest time – for most of my life, really – I would see pictures and videos of people living in extreme poverty in this country and in other parts of the world, and my first reaction would be to fight my inclination to care. Honestly, I was scared to care. I was scared of how caring would change me, of how it would wreck my priorities, of how it would take everything that I’d always thought I’d wanted and render that stuff absolutely meaningless. So I would look at the pictures and watch the videos and nod my head and occasionally feel a tug at my heart, but that was as far as it went with me. It wasn’t that I was callous, but on some level I was pretty dadgum obstinate about not wanting to get pulled outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay insulated in our shiny happy suburbias, you know?


In the spring of 2006 our pastor invited a group of men from the Sudan to speak at our church. And that Sunday, as I listened to the stories of how the people in their village had been persecuted for their faith, how they’d risked their lives so that they could worship together, how they’d suffered in ways that I could not fathom, some of my resistance and reluctance started to give way. In fact, as a result of that particular Sunday, my prayers eventually started to change. And by the beginning of 2007, I had stopped saying “God, am I supposed to go?” – and started saying “God, show me where to go. Show me how to go.”

And get a load of this craziness: in August of 2007 I got an email from someone at Compassion International who wanted to know if I’d be interested in going on a blogging trip (OF ALL THINGS) to Uganda. It was an invitation that seemed to come straight out of nowhere – probably one of the most surprising things that’s ever happened to me in my life – but at the same time I instantly knew that it was something I was supposed to do. Sometimes God whispers, and sometimes He screams – and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was pretty much screaming, “HEY! YOU! REMEMBER THOSE PRAYERS? WELL, HERE’S YOUR ANSWER.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do believe that God occasionally enjoys the use of ALL CAPS for emphasis.

The trip to Uganda was life-changing for hundreds of different reasons. It was every bit as difficult as I expected that it would be, mainly because the depth of poverty was shocking to me. It was profound. But I have to tell you: in the midst of those heart-breaking circumstances, I saw so much hope. I saw the beauty that happens when Light shines on dark places. And I was reminded that Joy – deep, lasting, eternal Joy – doesn’t necessarily shine brighter in poverty-stricken areas, but it’s definitely more noticeable when it’s not surrounded by all the junk and the stuff and the things that I tend to cling to in my safe little day-to-day life.

I believe that’s what you call a lasting life lesson, my friends.

On our last day in Uganda the people in our group shared communion on the banks of the Nile River. And as we stood in a circle and prayed together, a guy named Shaun Groves – the guy who dreamed up the whole crazy notion of taking a bunch of bloggers to Uganda and then setting them free to blog about what they saw and experienced – began to sing a song called “Kingdom Coming.” Well, “Kingdom Coming” is one of the songs on Shaun’s new CD, Third World Symphony, and I asked him if he’d do me a big ole favor and sing it for y’all. It never fails to encourage me and remind me of the grace of the Gospel. I hope it does the same for you.

Kingdom Coming for Sophie at from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.

It’s overwhelming sometimes to look around the world and see the extent of people’s spiritual and physical needs. In fact, it’s easy to feel discouraged and think that there’s absolutely no way that we can make a difference. I know that most of us are trying our best to serve our families as much as we can and as well as we can, so it’s not always possible to spend big chunks of time serving people outside of our homes, whether those people are in our own cities or across the ocean in a third-world country.

But what we can do – what is oh-so-possible and oh-so-practical – is to support people like Shaun. His CD sales make it possible for him to continue to get in front of large groups of people and tell them about the work Compassion is doing. And when he tells an audience about Compassion, many of those people will respond by sponsoring a child who’s living in poverty. That sponsorship ensures that the child will have all the medicine they need, all the clothing they need, all the school fees they need. And most importantly, that sponsorship ensures that the child will be involved with a local church where they’ll hear the truth and the hope of the Gospel over and over again. It’s life-changing. It’s life-giving.

And if you ask me, that’s a mighty good return on a a $9.90 investment. Oh yes ma’am it is.

If you’d like more information about Shaun and his ministry, be sure to check out his blog. And if you’d like to buy your very own copy of the (most excellent) Third World Symphony, you can do that on iTunes or on Shaun’s website.

Thanks, Shaun, for doing what you do.

And thanks, bloggy people, for being so willing to help him.

Fool With A Fancy Guitar

This morning I was busy getting some work done when I heard this song by Andrew Peterson playing on my iPod. And the lyrics stopped me in my tracks – just like they always do.

Because every single time I hear these words, I think, “That’s my testimony.”

I mean, not the part about being a fool with a fancy guitar. Since I don’t really play the guitar. I’m more of a fool with an unfancy computer.

And not the part about being a prince. Since I’m a girl and all.

But everything else?


I can relate.

It’s so easy to cash in these chips on my shoulder
So easy to loose this old tongue like a tiger
It’s easy to let all this bitterness smolder
Just to hide it away like a cigarette lighter

It’s easy to curse and to hurt and to hinder
It’s easy to not have the heart to remember
That I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

I’ve got voices that scream in my head like a siren
Fears that I feel in the night when I sleep
Stupid choices I made when I played in the mire
Like a kid in the mud on some dirty blind street

I’ve got sorrow to spare, I’ve got loneliness too
I’ve got blood on these hands that hold on to the truth
That I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

I swore on the Bible to not tell a lie
But I’ve lied and lied
And I crossed my heart and I hoped to die
And I’ve died and died

But if it’s true that you gathered my sin in your hand
And you cast it as far as the east from the west
If it’s true that you put on the flesh of a man
And you walked in my shoes through the shadow of death

If it’s true that you dwell in the halls of my heart
Then I’m not just a fool with a fancy guitar
No, I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

Just Because It’s (And You’re) Awesome: A Giveaway

A couple of days ago on the Twitter, Melanie mentioned that the new Passion – Here For You CD (from the Passion 2011 conference) is well worth the purchase. I’d been meaning to download it for about a week and just hadn’t followed through, so Mel’s reminder was timely. I bought the CD, put it on my iPod and figured I’d listen to bits and pieces of it whenever I could.

However, what I didn’t take into account is that I would LOVE THE CD INSTANTLY. And that I would listen to it straight through the very first time I played it on my iPod. And then immediately listen to it again. And again.

Oh my goodness, y’all. It’s so, so good. And as I was listening to it for the second time, I sent Melanie an email that said something along the lines of PASSION CD!! SO GREAT!! MY WORD!! CAN’T STOP LISTENING!! And then she responded with something along the lines of I KNOW!! TOLD YOU!! SO GOOD!! And then we stood up at our respective computers in our respective states and did hitch kicks as we sang along with the soothing vocal stylings of the lovely Christy Nockels.

Only not really.

Anyway, yesterday Mel and I were talking about how Passion – Here For You is one of those CDs that you want everybody you know to hear, and at some point in the conversation we decided to have ourselves a little giveaway. Because it’s fun to share.

(Did I mention how great it is?)

(I wasn’t sure if I made that clear or not.)

So. If you’d like to win one of five free copies of Passion – Here For You (via download), just leave a comment on this post (you can enter here and at Melanie’s blog – just FYI). I don’t even have a clever prompt, so just tell me some fun detail about your day. Like maybe you ate bacon this morning! Or maybe you get to meet an old friend for coffee! Or maybe you’re going to get to take a nap!

(Or if you’re not feeling particularly inspired, just type a few letters in the comment box. I’m totally flexible.)

I’ll leave comments open until Sunday afternoon-ish, at which point I’ll use to draw for five winners. I’ll contact the winners by email, so make sure you leave an accurate email address when you comment. Once the winners respond to my email, I’ll send them the mp3 version of the CD through Amazon. Because technology is a wonder.

And just to be clear: no one contacted me about mentioning this CD on my blog. No one offered me free copies of the CD. I’m buying the downloads for the winners on my blog. Mel is buying the downloads for the winners on her blog. Nobody in the Passion organization has had any contact with me whatsoever, unless you count the time I saw Louie Giglio at an awards dinner and couldn’t think of anything to say to him except for “LAMININ!”

But I’m guessing that he probably doesn’t think about that too often. Unless it’s on those rare occasions when he has to come up with a definition for the word “awkward.”

Good times. Good times indeed.


This giveaway is now closed – I’ll email the winners Monday, March 28th!

A Fool With A Fancy Guitar

Every once in awhile a song gets all up in my business.

Today it’s been this song. Which is why I’ve played it about six times in a row on my iTunes.

That’s a good word, isn’t it? Just thought I’d share.

Happy Sunday, y’all.

I Wasn’t Planning To Write This Post

A couple of weeks ago I got a copy of a new CD in the mail. Normally getting new music makes me do a little hitchkick in the driveway, but when I saw that Steven Curtis Chapman’s Beauty Will Rise was in the envelope, I sort of pushed it to the side of the kitchen counter and tried to ignore it. If that sounds harsh, I don’t mean it that way – it’s just that I knew that it was his first CD since his daughter Maria’s death about 18 months ago. And as a mama – well, I knew the music would probably be jam-packed with some tough emotions. Honestly, I didn’t want to go to that place. I just didn’t.

Well. This afternoon I got an email about a live chat that SCC is doing on Facebook Tuesday night (here’s the link if you’re interested), and I Twittered (tweeted? oh, technological jargon, I LOATHE YOU) about it because I thought it sounded like something that would be an encouragement to people. And by the way, if that last sentence makes it sound like I’m some Mary Sunshine person who walks around all day looking for ways to encourage people, BE YE NOT FOOLED. It’s just that I think that the Chapmans’ story is one that God is using to minister to a whole bunch of folks, so I thought I’d share the link.

Now. I believe that’s plenty of overexplaining for one day. You’re so welcome. It’s completely free of charge, by the way.

Anyway, tonight after supper David and Alex went in the living room to watch a TV show, and as I walked through the kitchen, the SCC CD caught my eye. It was still on the corner of the kitchen counter. Still scaring me a little bit. But for the first time since it arrived in our mailbox, I knew that I wanted to listen.

Oh, y’all. I am so glad that I did.

The songs on this CD aren’t easy. Just knowing a teeny tiny bit of the pain behind the lyrics makes it almost incomprehensible that someone could write and sing through that level of heartache. But the result of SCC’s vulnerability in the midst of an incredibly difficult season is an absolutely stunning CD – full of questions and declarations and hurts and hopes. The tender heart of God is all over it. It’s honest and raw and real and heartbreaking and encouraging. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it.

You should also know that the CD booklet-thingy (yes, that is the technical term) unexpectedly threw me for a little bit of an emotional loop. The third song on the CD is called “SEE,” and SCC shares the story behind the song in the liner notes:

Shortly after Maria had been carried away to Jesus, all of us, and particularly Caleb and I began to talk about how desperate we were just to “SEE” something…a dream or a vision…anything that would help confirm in some tangible way what we were holding onto by faith, that Maria was truly “okay,” and even more than “okay,” that she really was safe in the arms of Jesus. It was a plea that I heard us all say several times in those first hours…”God, please just let us “SEE” something!”

He writes about how he found an unfinished drawing on Maria’s art table the day after her death, and then:

I turned the page over and was completely stunned to find a word written on the back in Maria’s handwriting. To any of our knowledge she knew only 6 words that she could write…but there on the back of the paper she had written in all capital letters the word “SEE.” Even as one who is usually careful not to attach more meaning to something than it deserves, I was and still am completely convinced that this was a precious gift from the broken heart of our Father in Heaven delivered through our daughter’s own hand the very morning before she left us for Heaven…. And it was our Father’s way of saying, “SEE with eternal eyes, SEE that I have your little girl safe and sound with me, and SEE by faith My promise of the day that’s coming very soon when I will make everything new and wipe every last one of these tears from your eyes.”

I’ll pause for a second so that you can go grab a tissue. Really. It’s totally fine.

Here’s the thing. I tend to keep things light and happy around here because I enjoy light and happy. But sometimes life is stinkin’ hard. Sometimes life feels like the complete opposite of light and happy. I know that there are all sorts of trials and issues and doubts represented among the people who read here – and as someone who has wrestled with her faith a time or ninety, I know how hard it can be to see God’s hand in the midst of unexpected or even unthinkable circumstances.

But you know what? God’s there. He really is. He’s faithful. And He loves you so much.

I have no idea why I felt like I needed to write this post. It’s way longer than I ever intended for it to be, and it’s not particularly, you know, CLEAR. I’ve never met Steven Curtis Chapman, and I’m about 261 kinds of positive that he’s never heard of my silly blog. But make no mistake: his transparency and his candor have blessed my heart tonight. Blown me away just a little bit. And I can’t help but think that if you’re struggling right now – with a relationship, with grief, with illness, with unbelief, with whatever – the lyrics from these songs will bless your heart, too.

And I guess that is all.

Have a great Tuesday, everybody.

Edited to add: just found out that you can listen to the whole CD on Rhapsody. For free.