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Things I’m Learning from Facebook

Last week, we posted a very simple question on Facebook: “How can we pray for you today?” I have to say that I truly wasn’t expecting the response and I have spent the last several days trying to find words for my heart that has been deeply moved. I have read each and every one and have been praying over each person as I read.

I have been moved by many things —

– the level of honesty.

– the tremendous needs in our brothers and sisters.

– there is a level of authenticity that exists on Facebook.

– there is a freedom to speak deep personal truth.

– there is a need for each of us to share our hurts.

– it is a clear reminder that we are not alone in our pain.

And it makes me pause to be puzzled at this thought… Why do we seem to feel more freedom to be open, raw and honest on Facebook, than we feel the freedom to be vulnerable in our church?  

It seems to me that one of the very things we desperately need in our church community is a space of grace to be real. It’s very hard to be real. I honestly spent the first many years of my life trying to pretend I had it all together — that I was perfect… my life was perfect. But truly, I was just hiding behind that mask of pretense. And then I fell… HARD! And made choices that people quickly surmised — “She is FAR from perfect.”

But can I tell you, since that day, when I said, “I don’t care what people find out about me, I don’t care to whom I share the truth of my wounded-ness and wrong choices, I don’t care if it costs me my career… the ONLY thing that matters, is to be right and clean before the Lord. So I will be bold and I will be honest, truthful and confess…” When I got to that place in my life to FULLY surrender, THAT is when true freedom began to plant its seed in my heart.

I felt that same sense of freedom on Facebook, as I read through message after message of gut level authenticity. I have come to believe this with my whole heart: Where there is truth (and often that truth is about ourselves and so hard to bear), there is freedom. Jesus says “The truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). That truth is God’s Word, but that truth is also about the honesty of our heart. Where there is truth, there is freedom, and where there is freedom, there is GOD, right smack dab in the middle! Because He is TRUTH and FREEDOM!

So, here is what I’m learning from FACEBOOK ––

  1. We so desperately need community –– people to come along side and walk with us; people to whom we can simply say, “Here is where I am today; I just wanted someone to know.”
  2. Oh, how I pray that our churches will not only have a sanctuary but that churches can be a sanctuary! A safe place to cry out, “No I’m not okay! I just need someone to know!”
  3. We are not alone. While our hurts and wounds are unique to us, there are others who share similar pain. So often, it just helps me to know I am not alone.
  4. WE NEED EACH OTHER. It’s that simple.
  5. Keep sharing your story. In the pages of my own story, there are chapters I’d like to rip out. But I find that it is within those very pages, I have seen God most at work.

Lastly, I want to share one of the sweetest verses I have found in the past few weeks.

Romans 15:13 (ESV):
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Be encouraged my friends — there is a hope that awaits us.  Be encouraged, today!

– Sandi

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Things I’m Learning from Contemporary Christian Music

This past week, I had the awesome privilege of being in the same place for a couple of days with my friends… who, for the better part of 30-40 years, have been making music. In the 80’s, it was called Contemporary Christian Music — CCM. Many of us were in our early 20’s when we began the journey into CCM. Some, like myself, had never planned on this; we had set out to do many other things. Some others had been dreaming about doing Christian music all their lives. But whatever the reasons it was that brought us into CCM 30+ years ago, we now find ourselves celebrating and being celebrated as “legends”, and “forerunners”… basically, I hear… “Bless their hearts, they are old.”

But this past week, the 80’s and 90’s artists got together and we reminisced. We laughed and we cried. We told stories and we listened to others tell their tales –– Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Ruff Taff, The Imperials, Petra, Larnelle Harris, Wayne Watson, First Call… and so many more.

The program began with Amy Grant singing “Sing Your Praise To The Lord,” then Steven Curtis sang “Saddle Up Your Horses.” I got to sing “How Majestic Is Your Name,” and then Michael W Smith closed the opening section with “Great Is The Lord.” After that, The Imperials ROCKED the house with “Trumpet of Jesus” and “Praise The Lord.”

There was so much music and so many memories. I remember when my producer, Greg Nelson, came to my house and played many many demo tapes of possible songs for a new record. He put the “cassette” (yes you heard me right) in the player and before he played the song he said, “Now this is kind of a new idea for a song but this songwriter, who is a kid, has a bright future I think.” This ‘kid’ was Michael W Smith and this ‘song’ was “How Majestic Is Your Name.”

Throughout the evening of music for this CCM United event, Larnelle and I sang, “I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” Wayne Watson and I sang “Another Time Another Place,” and I got to sing “We Shall Behold Him.” And at the end of the night, Amy Grant and I sang TOGETHER! That has happened only one other time in the past 40 years. She asked me to sing “El Shaddai” with her and I have to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime-unforgettable-never-to happen-again moment! Basically, IT WAS AWESOME!

In the midst of the hugs and the “Oh my goodness, I haven’t seen you in forever,” or “You sounded better than ever,” and the occasional, “How are the grand kids?” I realized we all were trying to say the same thing –– We were still trying to tell the story of God’s faithfulness. That was the one theme that stood out too me and was heard and felt over and over –– God has been, God is, and God will continue to be faithful. We lived it. We wrote songs about it. We sang about it. And we are still saying it in any way we can.

As you can well imagine, there has been a lot of life lived in those past 30-40 years… lots of great life and lots of tough life. We all had a scarlet letter in some form or fashion that we wore. The scarlet letter “A” can stand for a lot of things: Abortion, Adoption, Abandonment, Addiction, Alcoholism, Adultery, Abuse. Or perhaps the scarlet letter wasn’t an “A” at all. Maybe a “D” for Divorce. “J” for Judgmental. “U” for Unkind. You get what I’m saying here. Not one of us in that room was without blemish, without mistakes, without the need for God’s grace.

And yet, somehow, through the songs that we sang for other people, those became our heart song. The lyrics that we wrote became the story of our own soul.

The Imperials sang “Praise The Lord” that begins with the lyric…

When you’re up against a struggle,
that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed
by Satan’s manifested schemes.

Praise the Lord.
He can work through those who praise Him.

POWERFUL STUFF –– Not just to sing about, but to live it out.

Larnelle Harris and I sang “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” and the lyric in there slays me every single time…

All that I’ve done before
won’t matter anymore
I’ve just seen Jesus,
and I’ll never be the same… again.

We so often are guilty of thinking that “all we’ve done before” means all the bad stuff. But it means all the good stuff too ISN’T GOING TO MATTER ANYMORE. It doesn’t matter how many gold or platinum records, or Grammy or Dove Awards. ALL THAT MATTERS is we have seen Jesus and we have been changed.

So, here is what I’ve learned from Contemporary Christian Music…

1. It has been a joy to be part of music that has had an impact on people’s lives.
2. Contemporary Christian Music doesn’t define the genre as much as it defines the message. And this message will forever be about Jesus.
3. I have met some wonderful people on this CCM journey.
4. Over the years, we have allowed God to remove our wounded warrior scarlet letter and replace it with His Scarlet Letter “A” for ATONEMENT, “G” for GRACE, “F” for Forgiveness, “R” for Restoration.
5. God is still the God of second chances and of new beginnings and He is still in the business of setting people free.
6. This faith journey we are on is a compass, NOT a stopwatch.
7. God still uses what we bring Him today. He can still use these “legendary folks” and these “forerunners.”
8. And as my friends First Call still sing so beautifully…

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshipping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit, forever more
UNDIVIDED

– Sandi

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Things I’m Learning from Martin Luther King, Jr

Often around a dinner table, someone will ask a question that begins something like, “If you could meet and spend time with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would that person be?” I have found myself on many occasions answering, without hesitation, “Martin Luther King, Jr.”

I am quite taken with him…
– His approach to conflict and hate.
– His approach to leadership and mentorship.
– His approach to challenge and commitment.

He didn’t start out to change the world; he just knew that racism was wrong. He didn’t set out to upset society so much that it would get him killed; he just knew he could not stand by and do nothing. But he did so through the paradox of opposites. When he confronted hate, he met it with love. When he confronted chaos, he met it with peace. When he confronted ignorance, he met it with kindness.

The question I would want to ask him is simply “Why? Why risk your family? Your children?” I have a feeling he would say something like “Why wouldn’t I? There is right and there is wrong and you cannot pretend there is an in-between. Racism is wrong, PERIOD, and cannot be tolerated.”

My husband Don and I were invited to the 2015 MLK Remembrance Celebration in Atlanta, GA. The event was filled with moving speeches, powerful song, inspiring messages. It was an honor to simply be there, but I was also asked by Dr. Bernice King, MLK’s daughter, to sing How Great Thou Art before the keynote speaker. Don and I were deeply moved… and troubled. Moved, because there was great love and compassion being extended to each person in that place. Troubled, because there is still much work to be done in the arena of racial reconciliation.

This becomes deeply personal for Don and I, as our youngest son, Sam, is multi racial. Sam is 19 years old and a freshman in college. Sam is loyal, opinionated, confident, funny, talented, musical, athletic, smart… and he also happens to be multi racial. It is confounding to me that still, today, in 2015, this continues to be an issue for some people and some areas of our country.

But MLK has set the bar high in how one addresses prejudice of any kind. You simply love and become a person of peace. You seek to serve rather than to be served. This is a hard way to oppose racism and prejudice, but it is the wisest and the most effective.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a 30 something who just could not pretend that wrong was right. He had to say something. He had to land on a side of that right and wrong of prejudice, and it eventually got him killed.

Another 30-something radical some 2000 years ago did the same thing –– He met hate with love. He met opposition with peace. He sought out those in society that were targets of great prejudice and reminded them they were persons of great value. And for this, Jesus was killed.

Thankfully Jesus’ story didn’t end with his death on the cross. Jesus continues to offer new life to those who seek to be his follower, and to follow His teachings.

Although MLK didn’t remain on this earth with us, his story continues to inspire and encourage. His legacy has lived on. His challenge to ‘take a side’ when the glaring truth of right and wrong cannot be ignored, inspires me to this very day. People, human beings, have dignity and should be treated as such. Peace and Love are ALWAYS the answer, even if it may not seem so in the moment.

So, here is what I am learning from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. The first place to start is to be a Jesus follower. Dr. King was a devout Christian man and pastor.
2. Often convictions come with a price. Am I willing to pay that price?
3. Right and wrong cannot be ignored.
4. Human dignity, or the lack thereof, cannot be ignored.
5. Convictions require action.
6. When an “off color” joke or racial slur is spoken, I must not stay silent.
7. Peace and Love are ALWAYS the answer. Offering peace and extending love is not always easy, but it is always right.
8. Taking the high road, in the end, is wise and it is eternal.
9. May we see people for the men and women God has created and not judge because they or we are different.

My friend, Nicole C Mullen says, “It’s okay to notice the color. God made the color. But don’t stop there. Color only describes us. It does not define us.”

In the words of MLK, “We SHALL overcome… someday!”

I, too, have a dream… that my son will not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. What am I willing to risk to see that dream come true?

– Sandi

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