Grief of a Different Kind

I flew in from California last Sunday night just in time to attend a memorial service for a newborn baby. He was the son of two of my friends, whole and perfect. For reasons unknown, except to Elohim (The God who creates), this little baby went to be with Jesus on his third day here on earth.

My friends attend a new church that currently meets in a bar, which works well for Sunday morning worship services but not as great for other functions. Since my friends were without a church building to celebrate their son, they chose one of their favorite and frequented spots – Ugly Mugs coffee shop. Up until this past Sunday I had sipped many cups of loose leaf tea and french pressed coffee at many coffee houses in countless cities. But I had never worshiped. I had never sung songs to Jesus or prayed corporately or listened to a pastor say things like, “All things will be made right in the end, and if this is not okay with you, it’s because it’s not the end yet.”

Because my friends who lost their child are exceedingly young – 22 – the crowd skewed youthful, and it blessed me. It moved me to see a young generation saddened, confused and grieving, but lifting their hearts and minds to Jesus, the Author of life in a somewhat unconventional spot, yet so perfectly fitting. Why not celebrate life and ask questions and cry with one another – and invite Jesus to reign – in a place that regularly teems with community? It reminded me that Christ is not confined to the brick and mortar buildings we call “church” (though a phenomenal blessing to have a set apart place), but reigns in every crevice of our world. And He is delighted when we bring Him to those nooks and crannies.

Above all else, I was proud of my friends who said at such young ages, “We do not grieve as the world grieves” (I Thes 4:13). They had hope that was palpable and impossible to feign. They didn’t merely speak of the fact that God works all things together for good for those who know and love Him, but they hooked that truth with a lasso and tugged it into their breaking hearts. And the church stood around them and agreed with them and God. And drank Americanos.

God bless you Ben, Amy and Aiden.


Flooding And Devastation In Nashville

Water catching contraption in my basement. Clearly ahead-of-its-time.

Walking distance from my house. Tire swing in the back yard.

As many of you know, Nashville (and other areas) experienced widespread flooding over the weekend. Currently the sun is out, the wind is calm and the birds have returned to their morning songs. However, the wake of devastation is enormous. I am thankful to be in an area where the worst we had was running up and down our rickety basement stairs to empty buckets and trash cans of water, along with several trees down. You can see my ahead-of-its-time water catcher above, something my friend put together when suddenly water started pouring in through a loose brick. This was absolutely nothing compared to all the lost homes, and even lives, that have been lost over the past two days.

I was reading in Nehemiah this morning where Nehemiah declared that the people would “arise and build”. It is my prayer that the people of the church will be the first in line over the next several weeks to help so many families who are in need. We will need a long commitment to restoration here. Thank you for your prayers for this wonderful and amazing town I call home.


Thoughts On Worship

I have loved leading worship in many environments over the past several years – it has become one of my favorite musical expressions. I think performing is an incredibly moving and impacting experience, but, for me, I found a level of comfort and excitement while leading people in corporate worship that I had rarely experienced in my previous performance settings. My hope is to continue writing and leading worship music for the rest of my life, even if it’s just me on the piano by myself one day. (Still have this dream of learning the piano – lessons coming soon…)

But as I think of worship – even beyond the musical element of it – I am intrigued by the use of the word ‘worship’ as found in the book of Exodus. When God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt He said a certain phrase over and over and over again, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” I’ve read through the journey of the Israelites’ mass exodus out of Egypt countless times, but never remember seeing the so-that part. God delivering His people from Egypt was all about worship. We might expect something more along the lines of “Let my people go, so that they can tithe more, or keep the rules more comprehensively, or go to church every Sunday, or feed the poor, or subscribe to Christian magazines… I don’t know, you can fill in the blank, but you get the point. God could have made freedom about anything, but He made it about worship. (Which, by the way, probably does entail some of the aforementioned things, but it all begins with worship).

When writing my “No Other Gods” study, I remember my editor saying, “Kelly, good stuff here, but what’s the point? Why should women get freed up from their idols?” This was many years ago and I had to step back and think about it. I suppose I sort of thought that getting rid of our false gods was the point, but I realized it’s really just the beginning. Getting freed from anything, whether unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, greed, addiction, affairs, too many cookies, is ultimately so we are free to worship. And not just sing songs of praise, but all that worshiping God with our lives entails. (Romans 12:1)

I’m pondering the things God has set me free from, but I don’t want to stop there. I am thinking about the ways He desires me to worship Him in those newly freed up spaces. Let my people go, so that… So that we can worship, yes, but what does worship look like in your life and mine specifically? Does it look like fasting? Spending time with the marginalized? Dinner with a dear family member? A sacrificial tithe? Prayer? Changing a diaper? Deep laughter? Taking a missions trip? Singing songs of praise at your local church? I wonder, not what you have been set free from, but what you have been set free for? Worship for certain, but what does it look like?


Snowing in Nashville

My brother visiting me this weekend

This is a thrilling day here in Nashville, TN. Please read this slowly: It is snowing! And when I say snowing I do not mean a dusting, sleet, ice, flakes that don’t stick, frost, or the anticipation of snow. I actually mean snow. Real individual flakes that are falling en masse to a surface that is currently somewhere below freezing. I have been waiting for this day in Nashville for years.


A view from my front porch

After moving from the north almost nine years ago I am willing to trade fried pickles, sweet tea, even extremely friendly people with accents for this magical powder. It is truly one of my favorite expressions in all of creation. Thank you God for dreaming this one up and letting it fall in the south today. Anyone else getting snow?

Also, thanks again for helping answer the questions on my last blog. I would love to still here from you if you have the chance. Off to stand out in the snow (did I mention it’s snowing here?) to grill some steaks for my favorite friends and my favorite brother and my favorite sister in-law. This is a good day.


Some Questions For You To Answer

I am writing from Houston, TX. Had a great couple sessions kicking-off “No Other Gods” at Friendswood Community Church. Tonight we are off to Marquez, TX and then tomorrow morning we are flying to New Orleans for a women’s event a few hours outside of all the beignets and jambalaya. It’s going to be an exciting run.

In the meantime, I have a big favor to ask of anyone who is willing to share her thoughts: I am writing a new book on the classic virtues (godly character traits) in the Bible. I want to come at this from a very here-and-now angle. What I mean by this is: I don’t want to approach things like forgiveness, patience, integrity, etc. from a lofty, textbook approach because we need these things in REAL life, right? I want to really study them for what they are, while also looking at the power that only Jesus can give us to live these guys out.

I am passionate about these character qualities because they have made a huge difference in my life, and yet I feel there is little being said about them collectively right now. So here are my questions for anyone who is gracious enough to share:

1. (This is not an exhaustive list) Out of the following virtues: Forgiveness, kindness, patience, humility, joy, peace, love, integrity, purity, thankfulness, grace, which THREE are the most difficult for you and why?

2. Which TWO would you like to have more of in your life?

3. Out of these eleven, is there a character quality that you’d like to see added to the list?

4. Absolutely ANY other thoughts you have on this subject matter are wholeheartedly welcome. Also, please feel free to pass this blog/questions along to anyone who is willing to share.

Thank you all so much. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


2010 Thoughts

Sister in-law Megen, Me, My sister Katie, Niece Maryn and sister Megan

Okay, I cannot lie. Monday, January 4th, 2010 was a huge downer for me… Since there was actually no catastrophe I should should probably back that up a bit-I was a bit bummed. I found it surprisingly difficult to get back into the swing of things, mostly because I had the most amazing time off. Lots of relaxing days with dear friends, family, great food, a lot of snow, too much shopping and football watching, lingering time with God, deep conversations, much needed rest – just an overall amazing break. Strange how this past Monday loomed over me simply because of one small word. Work.

Me and my niece Maryn freezing

So I was testy on Monday, right on the verge of snappy really. Just not ready to get back to the grind. And when I say grind, I am grateful for the grind I have, but it’s work nonetheless. So for anyone who might be feeling just a bit the same way – whether it’s back to the office, the airport, the house, the computer, the phone, here’s what I saw this morning in Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

My friend April, Me, Absolutely the REAL Santa, my sister Megan and friend Mary Katharine

I love the phrase “take care of”, “keep”, even “dress” in some versions. I was reminded of this last night when I helped a friend move her 92 year-old aunt from PA to Nashville. I picked her up from the airport and got to help her into an assisted living apartment just hours after she had said goodbye to her home of 40 years. When I hung up her Pennsylvania London Fog coat and helped her find the “Republican Station” on television (I think she meant FOX News), I got the feeling that this might be the most important hour of my year so far. The wisdom and longevity of this woman and the opportunity to tend to her in some small measure were timely blessings. I will get to know her more in days to come but I’ve already discovered that she has handwritten most of the Bible and stores the pages in shoeboxes. When I asked her how she has stayed so healthy, she thought about it a while and then looked up and smiled, “It’s the Lord.” She also told me that Nancy Pelosi had great posture and that she just loved to watch her walk… I am making no political statements here, just loved the irony and sentiment of these comments while the Republican station bellowed from the background. It was a privilege to serve her.

As a woman, I feel that I have this innate desire to dress and keep and tend and take care of, even when this feels exhausting. Yes, you can drop your kids off at my house 🙂 This “tending” excites me, despite how much I’d love to stay frozen in Christmas vacation for another month. I hated to leave the East Coast snow and the scent of my Christmas Tree and wrap up the lights and put away the ten tons of sweets (because my Dad likes to say, ‘it’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas that’s the problem, it’s what you eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving’), but there are things to be dressed, people to be tended, hearts to be nursed, souls to be invited in 2010…After last night, I’m just about ready to get back at it. Thank you Lord for the gift of dressing and keeping. Give us the strength.