Monday, October 14, 2013

Judgement and Grace.

"We the jury find the defendant, ______, guilty....."

I thought jury duty was going to be a fun week of catching up on my reading, meeting nice people and sitting in a big, boring room.
I happened to sit down next to Mobile's very own Elvis impersonator on Monday morning. Considering he petitioned the judge to be let off of jury duty because he didn't have a sound mind (and the judge actually let him off), he may have thought that he was Elvis Presley. Either way, my experience with the Elvis-like man was a good start to what was going to be a good week. On the other side of me was a nice, older gentleman who helped me find an outlet to charge my Kindle. Indeed- a good start to a good week, or Good Times, as the Elvis album was titled.

While last week was a good week, it turned out to be a really tough one. 
I was the fourth person to be a put on a panel and the third person they called to go in juror selection. I was the second person to be put on a jury. I love getting picked second - it made me feel like the lawyers said, "What an upstanding, fine, young citizen. We think she's smart." It was kind of like getting picked first for the kickball team. I also knew that they were thinking, "Look at that young, tender-hearted worship leader. We bet she'll convict this man."

Starting at 11 am last Monday, lawyers told the story of two 89-year-old people who were beaten to death and almost to death in their home in 2010. Witnesses told us that they went along because they needed more drug money. They told us that a bat was used and showed us pictures of the scene, the autopsy and portraits taken in a studio so that we could recognize the beaten faces. For four days, I watched pure evil explained. 

And I tell you what - I was mad. I was mad that there are people who are so broken inside that they feel that theft is a way of life and that murder is the answer to getting caught when breaking into someone's home. I was mad. 

I was mad because the light of Christ hasn't been shown to all of these people that I saw testify and admit their crimes. Maybe it has and they haven't seen it - but the fact that they feel as though they must live in the ways that they do, makes me angry.

On the last day of testimony, I got in the car to head home when I heard the previous week's offering song playing on my iPhone.

"Countless second chances we've been given at the cross.
 Fragments of brokenness, salvaged by the art of grace. 
You craft life from our mistakes. 
Black skies of my regrets, outshone by this kindness. 
New life dawns over my soul. 
Oh Your cross, it changes everything. 
There my world begins again with You. 
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts. 
A second chance is Heaven's heart."

Going into deliberations, I talked to several other people on the jury who loved the Lord. I told them about how hard it was to extend judgement on someone's life and how heavy of a weight it had been on my heart all week. I told them how I had never felt the Lord so near. He had been guiding and helping me all week to stay focused and clear-minded.  They told me of similar experiences and then one man said something wonderful. He looked at all of us and said, 

"We have to weigh judgement on this man today. We're going to convict him. And then, we'll show him God's grace. We'll forgive him for his sins. We'll forgive his family and show them grace in this hard time. We'll pray for him. We'll judge and give grace. Just because we must judge doesn't mean that we don't get to show grace and mercy in the process."

I had never heard such beautiful words. It reminded me of how great the body of Christ truly is. Even though I had only known this man for a few days, he had spoken the words we all needed to hear that day. After the jury got back from break, I asked them if I could pray with all of them as we continued to deliberate. They all gladly agreed and joined hands. I got to pray with twelve strangers, all on different paths with the Lord.

So I had to read, "We the jury, find the defendant _____, guilty...." but I also learned such valuable lessons about the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit's provision and grace. I got to really understand the meaning of "A second chance is Heaven's heart. Countless second chances we've been given at the cross."
The images won't leave my mind anytime soon and I'll probably have a few more nightmares over the next months, but I walked away understanding more about the Lord and grace than I could have learned anywhere else that week. I also learned just how much of a comforter the Holy Spirit can be and how important it is that we spread the hope and light of Christ everywhere we go, to everyone we see.

On Sept. 29th, we sang:
"All My Fountains" by Chris Tomlin
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters
"Nothing is Holding Me Back" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt
and "Speak Now Jesus" by Starfield

On October 6th, we kicked off Fall with a home-style feel and sang:
"You Are My Vision" by Rend Collective Experiment
"Nothing But the Blood" by Andy Cherry
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong
"Second Chance" by Rend Collective Experiment
and for Communion, sang again "Nothing is Holding Me Back" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

Yesterday, October 13th, we sang:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman
"A Mighty Fortress" by Christy Nockels
"Holy, Holy, Holy (Savior & King)" by Gateway Worship
"Oh How I Need You (Find You)" by All Sons and Daughters
and "Reign in Us" by Starfield.

I don't hope that you have to go through what I went through this week to see God's grace in the way that I saw it, but I do pray that when you encounter evil, your heart is tender enough to be mad that people haven't seen that there is another way - the way that Jesus teaches us to walk. I pray God will give you an opportunity to share His love and light with those people. I pray that God will be as close to you as He was to me during your trying times. And I pray that you always have someone around who loves the Lord, who can remind you to show God's grace at all times - even when you have to declare someone guilty.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Too Full.

My head is full.

My head is full and its hard to sort through it all, much less try to explain it all.
I feel like I'm one of those clowns spinning 38 plates on tall poles and I don't know how to set any of them down gently without breaking them.

Right now, the children's band is practicing on the stage behind my office, and I'm blaring music in my office. None of the beats match. The muted sounds of a  kick drum and over-driven guitars are conflicting wildly with my banjo-filled, bluegrass worship music.
But I don't mind.
After all, my head is full. What are a few more conflicting beats to compete with the worry-filled riddles and questions of my insufficiency.

Am I doing a good job at work?
Am I loving JD the way I should?
Am I spending enough time with friends?
Is is okay that I texted my sister when I should have called her?
Did I make him angry when I said that?
Is my wedding budget too big?
Did I exercise enough last week?
Oh! That meeting...

Not to mention the spinning plates of my life with God..
Am I spending enough time in the Word?
Maybe I should have prayed more about that.
Is that Bible study the right one?
Am I spending enough time "sitting at His feet"?

It's too full. My head is too full. I keep cramming things in there and then other worries just jump in on their own. It seems as though worry is like misery: it loves company. Lots of it. Company that doesn't want to move out either.

So it got too full. 
And everything seemed like it was encroaching on my ability to think. 
Even the car radio annoyed me. Advertisements everywhere were curses as they distracted me. Television was silly and superficial conversations were good chances to escape to my own thoughts. I only had to nod my head and keep asking the right questions like, "How was your day?" for the conversation to keep going while I retreated to my too-full head.

So JD called me on it. 
I couldn't think of any other way to say it except, "My head is just so full."
He said, "We'll pray and study together tonight and maybe you can tell me some of what's in there."
So I promptly headed out to yoga class. But like I said, the car radio was even annoying to my overfilled head. 
I knew I needed to pray, but I didn't know how to get through it all. So I plugged in my phone and opened up my Bible app. (how technologically fancy I sound!) 1 Peter was the book that I read right after I came to trust the Lord. Sounds familiar and comforting. 

Chapter 2
22 He never sinned,
    nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
    who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed.
25 Once you were like sheep
    who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
    the Guardian of your souls.

"So that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds, you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls." (it was worth repeating)

 Jesus sacrificed so that I can live for what is right. By His wounds, I am healed and I have turned to my Shepherd, the Guardian of my soul. What do I have to worry about? Those spinning plates don't matter anymore. They can drop, or better yet, be gently handed over to my Shepherd. 

And worries of my insufficiency as a daughter of God? 
As Uncle Si would say, "Nah." By his wounds.

My head doesn't need to be full. Let Him have it all. Jesus didn't carry our sins in his body on the cross for us to just hold on to our old lives and old worries. He didn't sacrifice for our heads to be full, constantly worrying and questioning.
Maybe for you, it takes something different to empty your head. Today, my method was listening to the Word of God and meditating on it during a drive to yoga class. Maybe yours is singing a worship song or going on vacation. But don't let your head get too full. Turn to the Shepherd, the Guardian of your soul.

On September 15th, I read a part of Psalm 40 and we sang:
"Never Once" by Matt Redman
"Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin
The kiddos sang "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman
and we responded to the message by singing "You Are For Me" by Kari Jobe - what an awesome song!

Last week, on September 22nd, we sang:
"Holy Spirit" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt
"Give Me Faith" by Elevation Worship
"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin & Matt Redman
"You Are My Vision" by Rend Collective Experiment (great rendition of "Be Thou My Vision" from their new album Campfire, which is a great bluegrass-y worship album)
and we responded to the message by singing "Cry In My Heart" by Starfield - an old song that I've loved for a long, long time. What a great song!

I hope that you can empty out your head and be filled with the peace of Christ sometime this week. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Memorization and Mercy.

As many of you guys know, I am finishing my degree in Worship Leadership at the University of Mobile. I became the NewSong worship leader over the summer between my junior and would-have-been my senior year of college. So I take one class at a time each semester, in hopes of finishing sometime before I am gray-haired and need a hip replacement.
But it actually is taking me a while.

A few months ago, Jeremy Steele started bouncing ideas off of me for his new sermon series in Evening Worship. He finally settled on the Sermon on the Mount and declared that for the last sermon, he would actually deliver the Sermon on the Mount - from memory. Incredible, right?! As someone who can memorize hundreds of songs, I am awful at remembering text - I need melodies.  So I was super excited to hear it!

So imagine my surprise when on the first day of class, my professor declared that over the next 15 weeks, we'll be memorizing the entire Sermon on the Mount! Of course, we have weekly quizzes and thankfully don't have the deliver the entire thing. So, like the good student I am, I got about to memorizing Matthew 5, 6 & 7. I'd heard it a lot before so there wouldn't be any big surprises.
Before my second quiz, I had just finished swimming in the pool at South's Rec Center when I decided to sit in the sauna for a few minutes. It was 9pm and I laid down in the ferociously hot room and began running through my Scripture in preparation for the next day's quiz.

One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. 

The Beatitudes

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, 
for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn, 
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
 for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, 
for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, 
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses...

Those who are merciful.

mer-cy [mur-see] noun,  plural mer-cies
1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence
2. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
3. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor:
4. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing:

When was the last time I was merciful?
I don't have a murderer to forgive, or anything else huge, but when was the last time I showed mercy to the driver who cut me off? When was the last time I didn't throw up my hands in frustration or think, "What a jerk?" When was the last time I didn't roll my eyes and repeat myself extra-slow when JD didn't hear me clearly? When was the last time I defended that offensive person?

Now I'm not saying I'm without mercy... But I can act like it sometimes. It's not always my gut reaction. In a society that is entitled to always have justice for the smallest wrong-doings (too-hot coffee, a coupon that didn't go through correctly), we are easily swayed to believe that when someone makes a small mistake, we should make them fix it at whatever it costs them - because are entitled to have things go our way. We are counted as cowards or push-overs when we extend mercy to a driver who made a mistake, a spouse who accidentally snapped at us or a server who brought us lettuce on a hamburger ordered without lettuce. 

And yes- I get it. When your brother barks at you every time you speak, being a pushover doesn't work. But when did we last kindly respond to him and ask him in love to speak to you in a way that you find less offensive?

When did we ... no, I, last show mercy in a way that "gives evidence of divine favor; blessing"? And I don't mean to show people that  I have divine favor - I mean give them a blessing by being merciful.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 I guess this "memorizing Scripture for class" thing may have a few surprises...

On August 25th, we sang:
"Nothing But the Blood" by Andy Cherry
"Jesus, Son of God" by Chris Tomlin
"Lord, I Need You" by Matt Maher
and for the offering, "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong

On September 1st, we sang:
"Beautiful Things" by Gungor
"Forever Reign" by Kristian Stanfill
"Alive in Us" by Hillsong
for the offering, "Let it Shine" by All Sons and Daughters (it meant more each time I sang it that week)
and for Communion, "His Glory Appears" by Hillsong

On September 8th, Landon led us in worship and we sang:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman
"One Thing Remains" by Kristian Stanfill
"Give Me Faith" by Elevation Worship (awesome new song)
and "Hello, My Name Is" by Matthew West
and then "Give Me Faith" and "Brokenness Aside" by All Sons and Daughters for Communion.

 We'll see you this week for a great Sunday of worship - including some kiddos!


Monday, August 19, 2013

All Those Weeks

Here are the songs from the past few weeks in NewSong!
I separated this week's post from the story: The Engagement in case you didn't want to read a really long story about my personal life.
I totally get it if you don't want to read that long story! Even though I personally think it's a pretty good one :).

On July 28th we sang:
"Our God" by Chris Tomlin, covered by Kari Jobe on YouTube!
"One Thing Remains" by Kristian Stanfill or Jesus Culture
"O the Blood" by Kari Jobe
and "Beautiful Things" by Gungor

On August 4th we sang:
"Heaven Fall Down" by Phil Wickham
"Here For You" by Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin
"Steady My Heart" by Kari Jobe
"Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters
and "Your Glory/Nothing But the Blood" by All Sons and Daughters

On August 11th, Landon led and we sang:
"God is Able" by Hillsong
"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman
"Holy Spirit" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt (I love when Adam sings this song!)
and "Glorious Ruins" by Hillsong

And yesterday, August 18th, (Acoustic Sunday) we sang:
"Desert Song" by Hillsong
"White Flag" by Chris Tomlin
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"I Am Set Free" by All Sons and Daughters
and "How He Loves" by David Crowder Band or John Mark McMillan

Those are the songs we sang for the past few weeks in NewSong! We that those of you with school aged kids (or if you are a school-aged kid) have a great first week of school! We're praying for you!

The Engagement.

A few folks have been asking about my "engagement story" and what bride-to-be doesn't love to tell the engagement story?! Well if you want the whole story, mine starts in a bit of strange place.

 "So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.

(responding to Eli, Hannah said) But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

1 Samuel 1:6-7 and 15

I read this almost three weeks ago on a Tuesday night.
The following Saturday, the man that I love asked me to marry him. 
And I said yes. 

Ha! Well I'm not pregnant, so here's how that story fits into mine.
A few weeks ago I was reading this Scripture when it hit me: It's okay to really, really want something!
In an over-indulgent society, we constantly hear:
"Count your blessings."
"Be happy with what you have."
"Be content."
"Those people believe they are entitled to everything. Don't be like them."

All of that is great advice, but when you really want the man you love to put a ring on it, those phrases are there but its quite difficult for them to make it to the surface. So for weeks I had been praying that when it was the Lord's will, JD would ask me to marry him. And for weeks (okay, months) I thought to myself, "Trust in the Lord's timing. Just be patient." But that was getting kind of old! To deal with it, I convinced myself to be content. That only worked sometimes, ha!

So when I read 1 Samuel 1, it reminded me that it's okay to want things sometimes. It was okay for Hannah to cry and be upset that she didn't have children. Her husband said, "Isn't it enough that you have me?" And while he was a blessing, she wanted something more. It was okay for her pray with great anguish and sorrow. It was okay for me to really, really want JD to ask me to marry him. 

I shared this Scripture and my "revelation" to him and he gently laughed and said that he agreed. Getting married was something that he really wanted too and he had been working on a plan for a while. So we prayed for my heart to be patient and his plans to hurry on up! (Okay. That last part was just my prayer.) But little did I know- they were.

That Friday, my sister and brother-in-law came in town to participate with JD in a duathlon. The next morning, we got up at the crack of dawn to get downtown for the duathlon. It was before 8 am when they finished, but instead of JD looking exhilarated after finishing his first duathlon, he wouldn't even smile at me! I kept trying to cheer him up but eventually gave up. He wanted to pout, then let him! I had gotten up at 5:30 on a Saturday to watch him and he wasn't even in a good mood! (No. I never struggle with holding grudges. Ha!)

A few showers (for the stinky duathlon people) and hours later, JD's brother came into town. JD and Andrew sat on the back porch all day and really didn't say much to me. I figured they were letting Megan and I have sister time while they had brother time. So Mom, Megan and I went off to get our nails done, because that's what girls do when they are together :).
Sitting at the nail salon, I told mom that I thought JD would propose soon and she told me to shut up! She said I shouldn't talk about it! A little burned, I just let it go. Apparently no one was on my side that day!

When we were driving back, knowing that dinner was in an hour, I joked with Mom and Megs that the chances of the boys being ready for dinner were slim to none. Then we pulled in the driveway.
At the top of the driveway were four clean-shaven, nicely dressed men!
As I got out of the car with half my make up, running shorts and a Columbia fishing shirt on, JD told me how much he loved me, got down on one knee and asked me to spend forever with him. I had to throw my coke and my purse down in the bushes, then I said yes and he showed me the prettiest ring I had ever seen! Then I changed and we all went out to dinner with some friends, interrupted the entire time by excited calls to family members!

Little did I know, JD had bought a ring a weeks before and had it shipped to his brother Andrew in Baton Rouge. Poor JD- the shipping got delayed, then they wouldn't deliver it to Andrew unless he was home from work to get it. The day he stayed home, they didn't show up. That Saturday morning, JD and Andrew spent all day on the phone, with Andrew knocking down UPS Baton Rouge's door so that he could get the ring! No wonder he had been so grumpy that morning!  

Next month would have been our two and a half year anniversary of dating. The first year that we were dating brought great challenges with the divorces of close friends and relatives, huge life changes as I jumped from college into a full time career, and great blessings with the marriage of my sister and strong reminders that the Lord is the only constant in our lives, that His love never fails. The second year brought us many adjustments. Marriage had become a real possibility but it had never been in my life plans, so learning to change where I thought my life was going was sometimes hard. I learned how to cook (not well) and how to sew (also not well-and not fun) while JD changed jobs. We grew together and continued to enjoy the Lord's blessing of having one another. With the wisdom and help from parents, friends and Brenda Davis, we knew that marriage was where God was leading us. After that, it was all waiting on my part and hard decisions on his part. 

It was crying because he hadn't asked yet on some days and laughing on others because I was just so happy to have him around. But all through, God never let me far from His sight and listened patiently when I was out of patience.

So now, we celebrate! I've picked out a dress and a date. We've started combing through floral arrangements and decided that we don't really care what flowers are there as long as they are pretty. We've decided to have tacos at the reception (classy, right?) and to exchange his couch for two reading chairs. We're slowly but surely getting used to calling each other fiance and fiancee (yes, there is a difference). 

"And she made this vow: "O Lord of Heaven's Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. 

I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life. And they worshiped the Lord there."

1 Samuel 1:11 and 26-28

So that's our prayer- that our marriage will belong to the Lord our whole lives. JD will have to keep getting hair cuts, but hopefully people will see that we belong to the Lord in other ways. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Why We Sing New Songs. Pt. 1.

Recently I had a great conversation that made me realize something super obvious.

Not everyone is like me.

I knew that before hand, but I also realized that because everyone is not like me, not everyone understands things the way that I do.

I know that you're saying, "Duh. Get to the point."

Most people kind of scratch their head or rattle off some verse when answering this question, but not me. I've always, innately known the answer to this question. The answers are very obvious to me, but I've also studied it to try to understand it more fully. So I'll share a few of the answers here to the question:

Why do we sing new songs in NewSong? 
(Besides the fact that it's the name of the service).

Here are a couple of reasons why I think it is important for us to sing new songs. (Notice the italics on the I. I feel like I should put a disclaimer right here like when The 700 Club comes on ABC Family: The views expressed on this program are not those of ABC Family. The views expressed on this blog are not those of anyone else. They are my views as Courtney, not the foundational reasons why our church does what it does- although I don't think they're in conflict!)

1. We don't watch the same movie over and over again.

Well, sometimes we do. Like that summer that my sister made me watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory everyday. (Worst summer ever.)
Back to the point.
I believe that God is creative. I believe that He instilled a spirit within some people to create and make new things. I believe that just as each sunset is not the same, not every bird is the same, not every landscape is alike, not every person looks alike, not every day has the same weather, we are not meant to experience the same things over and over again. When we look at the earth, we see God as the creator and when we look at places and people who are vastly different from our places and our people, we see that God is indeed very creative. 
So from that idea, we are not meant to limit ourselves to what we know and have known. We are meant to experience the differences of new songs, new words, new thoughts. God does not reveal Himself in the same old ways every time that He speaks to us. The wonderful paradox is that while God is always Himself, always faithful and always true, He reveals Himself to us in very different ways along our journey with Him.

So we sing new songs. We seek Him and worship Him in different ways, through different words, melodies, tempos and passions because He is all of those things. He is beautifully reflected in the soft whisper of an acoustic guitar, the banging of drums, the experienced and the amateur voices. We sing new songs to our God because He is infinite and the things that He inspires us to say about Him are also infinite. Our language will never completely describe the whole of our God. So we keep trying through different ways. Different words. Different melodies. Different passions.

We sing a new song so that we can experience the same, magnificent God in a new way.

2. If you eat peanut butter every day, you get tired of peanut butter.

We sing new songs because we get bored. This is closely related to the last reason. How many times have you found yourself singing along with a really old song on the radio without even thinking about it? There was a time when someone kept asking me to sing George Michael's "Faith" in church. They had sung along to the chorus for so long that they forgot that the verse had quite an inappropriate message.
We do the same thing with worship music. If we sing the same songs over and over again, we not only get tired of singing them, we get lazy. We get to the point where we only remember small parts and forget what the entire song message was about.
That's why God speaks to us in different ways. He speaks to us in different ways so that we will hear Him more clearly and be less apathetic. He is always moving in new ways, so we should try to follow Him in new ways.
The first time I listened to "Our God" by Chris Tomlin, I was blown away. Then we sang it constantly. The Holy Spirit still had power through that song and revealed new things to me each time I sang it, but when I wasn't careful, I was lazy. The comfort had fooled me. I had eaten peanut butter so much that I forgot how good it tasted and became indifferent.

3. Some people don't like board games.

We don't all like the same things. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't play board games, but maybe we should switch to cards some times. As a congregation, we don't all love every song. I'd love for you all to say "Not true!" to that, but to be honest, there are times when I don't love that song, but I felt the Holy Spirit pushing me towards it, so we sing it because it was meant for God to speak to someone else. So while I don't ever change songs just for the sake of someone not liking it, we do sing different songs so that people aren't constantly frustrated by that one that I keep picking.

Disclaimer here too: I most often find that when I didn't "get anything" from a song or a sermon, I wasn't really worshiping or listening. While I get that sometimes songs just aren't for us because of the place our lives are in, I've found that when I start feeling that, it is usually because I have not held up my end of the bargain. And being a stubborn person, that happens to me a lot. I have to be attentive, be open and be ready for what the Holy Spirit has to say through songs - even ones with melodies I don't like - or else I feel like "I just didn't get that one."

So while not everyone likes board games, we still play board games sometimes because unexpected joys and experiences can come out of things that we don't always like.

4. The most important one. The Bible says to!!
Psalm 33:3 "Sing a new song of praise to Him, play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy."
Psalm 96:1 "Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!"
Psalm 40:3 "He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord."
And there are many more like it!

Because the Lord is always doing a new work in our lives, we always have a new song to sing to Him. Because He is always shaping and molding us into different versions of ourselves, we always have something new to sing about. I love that the Bible calls us to sing something new. It calls us to keep moving forward with God as He creates and refines. It calls us out of stagnant places and into the present moment where God is moving.

Well. This is just part one for now. I'll be posting part two soon. 

But I hope this helps you remember and understand why we sing new songs. We don't do it because the band gets bored of playing the same things over and over again. In fact, some of our favorite songs of late are old songs that have been redone (i.e. "Cornerstone" by Hillsong, which is "My Hope is Built" and "Nothing But the Blood" as re-recorded by Andy Cherry). We do it because our God is creative, because God Himself is always moving in new ways, because some people flat out don't like some songs and because the Bible commands us to sing a new song to help us realize where God has brought us from and where He is leading us next.

Here are the songs we've been singing over the past few weeks:
July 14th:
"Savior's Here" by Kari Jobe
"Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin
"Never Once" by Matt Redman
"Your Glory/Nothing But the Blood" by All Sons and Daughters
and "Like an Avalanche" by Hillsong

And yesterday, July 21st:
"Reign in Us" by Starfield
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong
"It is Well" by Horatio Spafford, as recorded by Shane & Shane
and "Buried in the Grave" by All Sons and Daughters

There is a great song story about "Buried in the Grave" if you click HERE

I will see of you next week!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We all have favorites!

Since I'm a few weeks behind, here are the songs from the past few weeks in NewSong! I've included some of my favorite lyrics from one of the songs for each week. I've been listening to some new music and loving what God has to say through it.  I've been so blessed by having Adam (one of our guitar players) sing and lead us in worship lately. I was especially grateful for him this week as I was so sick! The whole band stepped right up and did an incredible adapting to lead us all in worship!!
There is something powerful about music and the Holy Spirit speaks so powerfully through music for me. I hope that as you join in worship with us each week, you have the opportunity to lose yourself in the power of the music to sing and declare the praises of our great God. We have the opportunity each week to sing and cry out to Him as the body of Christ and I hope that these last few weeks have allowed you all to do that!

June 16:

"Lift the Name" by New Life Worship
 "Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman
"Not for a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"Called Me Higher" by All Sons and Daughters

I could hold on, I could hold onto who I am
And never let You change me from the inside
I could be safe, I could be safe here in Your arms
And never leave home, never let these walls down
But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper

June 23:
"Reign in Us" by Starfield
"Jesus Son of God" by Chris Tomlin
"Called Me Higher" by All Sons and Daughters
"Here's My Heart" by David Crowder

Spirit of the Living God fall fresh again
Come search our hearts and purify our minds
We need Your perfect love, we need Your discipline
We're lost unless You guide us with Your light
Lord Jesus, come lead us
We're desperate for Your touch 

June 30:

"Awakening" by Hillsong/Chris Tomlin
"God is Able" by Hillsong
"Set Free" by Chris Tomlin
"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed
And You won't start now  

July 7:

"Holy Spirit" by Brian and Katie Torwalt
"Lord I Need You" by Matt Maher
"Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters
"Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong

You give life
You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope
You restore every heart that is broken
And great are You Lord 

I look forward to this week when we can gather again and worship together! I look forward to the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts as we all have lyrics that stick out to us. I look forward to continuing our Me to We: Getting Relationships Right series that Brenda started us off on this week! I look forward to all of it and to seeing all of you, but most of all seeing our God!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Best Toothpaste.

I pretty much treat this blog like my confession table of all things embarrassing about me, so today we will continue on that journey! Today, my confession is totally laughable.

I'm a sucker for advertisement.

 It may as well have my picture next to it.
That's right. I'm one of those people for whom advertisement was designed. If I'm watching commercials on Monday night and the same Pizza Hut commercial comes on a thousand times, on Tuesday night, I suddenly find myself craving Pizza Hut.

I didn't realize this until I started dating JD. He is not a sucker for advertisement like I am. He's a sucker for a good deal (an affliction which he has spread to me now), but not for ads. He started realizing this about me early on in our relationship but didn't start saying anything about it until a year ago. When he started pointing it out, I was blown away by the number of times per week I wanted something because TV, radio, or people had told me I wanted it.

I mean, I found myself quoting commercials in the toothpaste aisle, "This really is the toothpaste! They said my teeth will be whiter with just 3 brushes!" What a goof!  He must've had some good laughs for a while.

I was super disappointed that I'm a sucker. Ha. I mean.. I'm one of those people that marketing firms giggle about when pitching their new ideas at big conference tables.

Now I fight to realize when I'm being influenced by advertisements. My semi-extroverted, independent mind can't stand that I'm unknowingly letting other people tell me what I want.

But when I came to this realization about myself, I also realized that it deeply influenced my life. I let things happen to me and don't necessarily realize it until much later. I'm not talking about life-changing things, but little things.

Like pizza ads.
Like believing commercials.
Or the blessing of a beautiful sunrise.

I let those things which I find normal pass unnoticed in my mind. But every breath that we take is not just normal. It is a life-giving, grace-filled breath allowed by our great Creator, who loves us deeply.

I fight to pay more attention each day so that I don't let God's blessings go unnoticed. I fight to pay more attention to the relationships that I take for granted each day.
And so I fight the blur of a thousand thoughts and ask for clarity to see God's movement each day.

So I encourage you to do the same. Fight not to be influenced by the perceived "normal". Fight to see God's movement, even in the smallest, most normal things, like breathing. 

There's great new album out by All Sons and Daughters titled Live. I highly encourage you to pick it up. Some of the songs are such simple words, but they have a beautiful way of being applicable to many different situations in our lives. Each time I listen, I find something new.

We've been singing some of their new stuff and will continue to this week!

Here are the songs from the last month! (Whoops! Got a little behind!)
May 5th,
"10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong
"Crown Him (Majesty)" by Chris Tomlin, feat. Kari Jobe
"Holy Spirit" by Bryan & Katie Torwalt
"His Glory Appears" by Hillsong

May 12th,
"Cannons" by Phil Wickham
"Our God" by Kari Jobe or Chris Tomlin
"Where Would We Be" by Matt Redman
"Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave

May 19th,
"Holy Spirit" by Bryan & Katie Torwalt or Jesus Culture
"Savior's Here" by Kari Jobe
"Healer" by Kari Jobe or Hillsong
"Ho Hey" by the Lumineers (what a fun song! I sang it for a conference and realized that it was so true about our lives with each other in the Church and with our God)

May 26th,
"Set Free" by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman
"Alive in Us" by Hillsong
"Jesus, Son of God" by Chris Tomlin
"Brokenness Aside" by All Sons and Daughters (whoa. love that song!)

June 2nd,
"Our God Saves" by Paul Baloche
"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman
"My Father's World" as done by Gungor
"Alive Again" by Matt Maher (off of All the People Said Amen, an incredible album, especially if you tend to like some blues in your music)
"Crown Him (Majesty)" by Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe

and finally, yesterday, June 9th,
"A Mighty Fortress" by Christy Nockels
"One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture or Kristian Stanfill
"Forever Reign" by Kristian Stanfill or Hillsong
"Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters

I hope you have a great week. I hope you fight to pay attention to God moving around you. I find that it's not too difficult if I just open my eyes. See you all Sunday!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Home and Secrets. An update.

I haven't written in a while!
The month of April has been somewhat of a whirlwind. In all honesty, I spent most of the month lying.
However, it was for a very good reason!

One of my best friends (one of the few people I'd call in the middle of night and who I know would do anything for me, just like I'd do for them) called earlier this month and said he was coming home but I couldn't tell anyone. I agreed because I really love surprises, but that was stupid. I'm a terrible secret keeper!

So most of my month was spent trying to not be super awkward whenever the subject came up.
It was a little harder than I thought considering his dad is my boss. And the pastor. And I was always lying to the pastor in the church! But I didn't get struck by lightning, so I have to assume that God likes surprises too.

Jim's oldest son James Michael came home last Friday while Jim was still in Africa. We went to the airport yesterday and James Michael surprised him by picking him up. It was a really cool moment to witness. James Michael hasn't been home since October 2011, so we're all excited that he's here!

Since I have a number of weeks to list, I won't have a regular blog today. But I will say that there is something powerful about being home. There's something powerful about being among family, even if it's not blood family. So take advantage of those times whenever they come around. Jesus created us to live in community, so don't waste your time on your phone. I know we hear that all the time, but really try to live it out.

On April 14th we sang:
"Heaven Fall Down" by Phil Wickham
"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin
"Overcome" by Jeremy Camp or Gateway Worship
and for the offering, "Into the Glorious" by Christy Nockels (which is the title track of her latest CD, which is awesome!)

On April 21st we sang:
"God is Able" by Hillsong
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"Always" by Kristian Stanfill
and for the offering "King of Heaven" by Paul Baloche

On April 28th we sang:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin
"White Flag" by Chris Tomlin
"Forever Reign" by Hillsong or Kristian Stanfill
and "Oceans" by Hillsong. Dan and I did an acoustic version of this song. I absolutely love it! I loved it the more that I listened to and sang it.

This Sunday, Landon leads us one last time before he goes home for the summer! I'm excited about it but I'm also quite sad that he's going home. We always miss him so much. So make sure you say a goodbye before he leaves for a while! I know that he'll enjoy being home just as much as James Michael is enjoying it!

Have a great week! We'll see you on Sunday morning!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Big and Small.

Anyone who really knows me, has ever lived/traveled with me or has been with me in nature knows that I fear 2 things. Two things alone.

The Lord. (duh. of course.)

And bugs. 

Just to be clear, I'm not a little bit afraid of bugs. I'm not a screaming, mindless little girl when it comes to bugs. I'm a sobbing, feeling-like-they-are-all-over-me, I-should-probably-get-professional-help-for-this girl when it comes to bugs.

And a few weeks ago, I had a terrible incident. I was stopped at a stop light and I flipped down my visor to check my makeup, only to find a huge spider hiding in my visor! 
I pulled over (almost wrecking) into a nearby parking lot where I got out of the car, screaming. I was very aware that I was standing outside of my car screaming in broad daylight at a busy intersection, just like all the craziest people I've ever seen, however I was unable to stop! After JD, who was behind me, lovingly pulled over, killed the bug and parked my car (I didn't drive that thing again for two days!), I began sobbing. Not the pretty kind. The makeup-down-your-face, ugly kind.

You know, some people think it's funny to joke about but when they pick up a bug and starting walking towards me, the tears convince them that it's not so funny to me. And the tears are not something that I can stop. I know it's irrational and I know that I am bigger than them, but I can't help my fear. Well, maybe a professional could, but I can't on my own!

After that bug-in-the-visor incident, I've had a few more close calls with other nasty bugs and it legitimately caused some anxiety for me. I tried to throw it away and say, "This isn't a real problem. This isn't something to get worried about. This is a fear people laugh at so stuff it away and grow up Courtney!" 

This morning, we sang "Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin in worship. 

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies is always by my side.

This song is so powerful when facing insurmountable tasks, where we need God as general of the angel armies. But as I was singing, I started thinking about this anxiety over a small, but powerful fear.  After I had some time to think and reflect this afternoon, I thought about all of the fears we stuff away and just try to forget. 
I started thinking about the small fears I have about friendships. What if they are mad at me for that one comment I made? What if I'm accidentally hurting their feelings?
Fears about work. What if I'm doing this small thing incorrectly? What if I'm mismanaging this one small detail? 
Fears about life in general. What if I'm not spending enough time with ___? What if their Momma's cousin doesn't like me?
What if? What if? What if?
Maybe you have some small, recurring, but powerful fears that you are trying to stuff away.
Maybe you have some fears that seem irrational to everyone else.
Maybe you have some big fears that you are wrestling with each day. 

What I realized today is that we declared, "He is a friend of mine." I know that my friends care about my big fears. They pray for me and help me seek wisdom. 

I also know that my friends squish bugs when I'm not looking. 
They take care of the small fears. And I think God was reminding me through that strange train of thought that He not only holds dearly the large fears in our lives, but the small ones. He will hold dearly those small, seemingly insignificant, stuffed-away-in-a-box fears.

I have no idea what those small fears are for you. Maybe they are fears of bugs, dogs, clowns, etc. Maybe they are small fears about whether or not someone likes you, whether you'll get the part or whether or not you'll say just the right thing. Maybe they are big fears about the diagnosis, your marriage or your career. But I do know that the Lord cares for each one, the big and the small. The ever-present and the stuffed away. And I hope you know that He cares, He sympathizes and He desires to help us and walk through our fears with us. 

Here are the songs from the past few weeks!

March 24th:
"Hosanna (Praise is Rising)" by Paul Baloche
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong
"Lord, I Need You" by Chris Tomlin
and "Walk With Me" by Jesus Culture (definitely a great song!)

and on Easter 2013, March 31st,
"Crown Him (Majesty)" by Chris Tomlin, featuring Kari Jobe
"In Christ Alone" (new version) by Kristian Stanfill
"Savior's Here" by Kari Jobe
"Thank You God for Saving Me" by Chris Tomlin
and "Come to the Water" by Kristian Stanfill.

and this morning, April 7th,
"Awake My Soul" by Chris Tomlin
"Desert Song" by Hillsong
"Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin
"Shadows" by David Crowder Band, featuring Lecrae
and "Never Once" by Matt Redman.

On Easter Sunday, if you were at the 9:15 service, you also saw Adam sing "Heaven" by Gungor. None of you knew it, but Adam was in the middle of the 6 hour stomach flu that morning! He got through 9:15 but couldn't quite make it to 10:40 service. I was humbled by his commitment to serve even though he was so ill. Thankfully, he made a quick and speedy recovery!

I hope that you are able to cast your anxieties, small or large, rational or irrational, present or buried upon the Lord this week. He is a faithful friend who is so wise and loving, especially when carrying the delicate parts of our lives! Have a great week!

Monday, March 18, 2013


You know my favorite time for blogging!

Confession time!!!! 

Hi. My name is Courtney. I'm an impatient person in recovery. I have lots of slip ups, but I've been doing pretty well recently. 
Okay, maybe not so well. Ha!

When I first started following Christ, I realized that He wanted me to give up screaming at every slow driver and robbing others the chance to do a task that I could complete more quickly. It wasn't good for my blood pressure (physically) or my heart (spiritually). Since that time, He has guided me through many years, molding me to be more and more patient, less competitive, more aware of the true value in situations (people, not tasks) and less perfectionistic. (I'm not sure that's even a word, but my blog, my rules, people!)

So when Jim was talking about being a perfectionist this morning, I almost blew it off.
I thought to myself, "I gave that up years ago. Doesn't even phase me anymore." And everyone knows that once you think you have it handled, you don't. Not even four hours later, I was fuming at the light board because I missed a cue while running lights for Evening Worship. Within 60 seconds, the Lord gently reminded me that 1. I messed up while Jeremy was praying, so nobody should have been looking anyways (I'm talking to you, you peek-ers!), and 2. That wasn't something to get upset about. It was too small of an error to blow a gasket.

I may not struggle too much with perfectionism anymore, but I still struggle with it's brother, impatience. I feel like they go together. Ultimately, both indicate anger because something isn't happening the way or the time that I think it should happen. I was very honest a few weeks ago when I said I'm trying to be a bit more healthy, including exercise, eating healthier (I said trying!) and losing some weight.

So I'm up writing very late right now because tomorrow is                 ....         Monday.
You see, Monday is weigh in day.
The day I either dance my way out of the house or get sad/determined to conquer the next week.

As I've been on this journey, I have realized how closely my physical health improvements and my spiritual health are connected. I have realized that one without the other just doesn't work. And I don't have to convince you all of this. We've all heard the "your body is a temple" sermons, articles, motivational pictures on Facebook and blog posts. I casually would listen to those ideas but until I really gave up my exercise plan, my meals and my heart to the Lord, I had only my own power to trust in and I had no patience for a weight loss journey. I wanted it all gone in a few trips to the gym.

But now, I can sing, as I did today,

With my roots deep in You,
I'll grow the branch that bears the fruit
And though I'm small
I'll still be standing in the storm
'Cause I am planted by the river
By Your streams of living water
And I'll grow up strong and beautiful
All for Your splendor, Lord

I sang it at first about my spiritual health.
Because I want it all. 
I want the patience, peace, joy, healthy relationships and benefits of following the Lord all at one time, but this song reminds me clearly that I just need to grow my roots, stay planted near the water and wait for spring.
I need to do that with my fitness plan (oh geez that sounds cheesy, but call a spade a spade, right?) as well. I need to grow roots, rest in the Lord and look forward to the day that my work and His power come together to make it all happen. It may not be tomorrow morning when I step on the scale, but it may be the next Monday, or the Monday after that. 

And can I just take a moment to say what a wonderful and mysterious God we serve that our roots can grow so deeply? I know the spring never feels like it will come, but the joy of the winter is getting to rest in the ground, in the Lord, and find solace in Him alone. 

The set list from Sunday, March 17th:
"All My Fountains" by Chris Tomlin
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"Crown Him (Majesty) by Chris Tomlin featuring Kari Jobe (love that song!)
and "For Your Splendor" by Christy Nockels from her latest album Into the Glorious which I haven't stopped listening to for the past couple of months. The entire album is full of great lyrics and calm melodies like this song. It's my go-to playlist in the morning to wake up, in the middle of the day to calm down and at night to count my blessings.

So this week, I encourage all of us, definitely myself included, to continue to grow our roots deeply. Whether you're in spring, summer, fall or winter, our roots always need more water for us to keep growing. 
Or losing, as I'm trying ;).