Monday, October 20, 2014

'Neath the Sun-kissed Sky


So, Will is an Auburn fan.  In fact, he's not just an Auburn FAN, he's an Auburn GRADUATE. (Some of you know the importance of that distinction to me.)  He's also from a family of  "Auburn people."  Both of his parents graduated from Auburn and met during their time on the Plains.  Just like mine.

Contrary to popular belief, "Auburn fan/grad" was not on my "non-negotiables" list when looking for a partner.  I dated people from all over the country with various (or no) college football allegiances.  In fact, I had given up on finding an Auburn graduate.  Even when I moved back to Birmingham two years ago I figured there was no way an Auburn fan was lurking in the weeds that are the Alabama fans in the greater Birmingham area.  Turns out he wasn't. He was 80 miles South in Prattville.

So far during our nine months of dating we have been to the A-Day game in April, taken a "tour your alma mater" date in July, and attended several home football games with several more and a few away games coming this fall.  As we have done these things I have reflected on how the fact that Will is an Auburn man is such an obvious display of God's goodness to me.

To me Auburn is not just a football team, or even a place I went to school.  It is a part of me and has been since I was born.  It is my family.  It is friendships that will be life-long.  It is a place where I grew tremendously and learned much.  God could have given me a wonderful man with every admirable quality in the world who went to a different school.  That man, I'm sure, would have appreciated this relationship I have with Auburn and what it means to me, but it's doubtful he would have understood it. Will not only appreciates it, he understands it, because he's lived it.  This place is equally a part of him as it is a part of me, and now it is a part of us.  We walked the same concourse, sat in the same stadium, and frequented the same local restaurants while in college, never meeting. During that time I never dared to imagine that someone was doing all of this at the same time I was, and that God was using this place to prepare us to meet one another almost 10 years later.

God didn't have to do that.  It would have been fine had He not.  But He did.  He has, once again, done "more than we could hope or imagine."*  He has proven His goodness by "giving good gifts to His children."**  He has provided not only a mutual team to cheer for on Saturdays in the fall, but also a way for us to connect.  A way for our families to bond.  An understanding of parts of each other that would be lost on most.  It is as though God wrapped up this (messy, but beautiful) package that is our relationship and said "oh, by the way, here's a nice shiny ribbon on top.  Enjoy!"

As I constantly ask "what's next" and struggle to trust God in the present, I look at this little gift he gave us and I am reminded that He is indeed good and has in mind so much "more than we could hope or imagine."

*Ephesians 3:20
**Matthew 7:11

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Four Songs

I love making fun of Christian music.  Or really Christian anything. What's the quote?  "The word 'Christian' is a wonderful noun but an awful adjective."  Something like that.  I couldn't agree more.  So yes, often in my life I like to feel like I am "above" Christian music.  So much of it doesn't paint a full picture of humanity; doesn't always "tell the full truth" about the human condition. Doesn't leave room for anything but lifted hands and shouts of praise--even when those aren't where we are.  But then I'll hear a song that will break down my pride and cynicism.  It will remind me of how the Lord uses my love of music to speak to me.

I recently made a playlist of these songs which I think are "acceptable" Christian songs.  Songs that (in all my doctrinal knowledge) have solid theologies.  Some are songs I've recently heard.  Some are "contemporary Christian" songs I've sung since high school.  Some are age old hymns I feel like I've known since birth.  All are songs that, when I hear them, take me to a very specific time or incident in my life.  And in that moment I can tell you a story and show you why that song, at that time, told the story of MY human condition.  I'll also tell you that some of these songs may be "cheesy" or stale Christian music to others, but to me they are soundtracks to the Lord's work in my life.  This observation humbles me and (when I let it) causes me to pause before I judge the Christian music someone else is enjoying.

This morning I was listening to that playlist and realized I'd heard songs from four distinct eras of my life thus far.  High School. College.  Post-College DC. And recently.

I loved Third Day in high school.  One of the first "contemporary" Christian artists I discovered, their songs were sung at my youth group, at First Priority, and on many a retreat.  As I grew up I realized that in my favorite song of theirs they were singing scripture.  They were singing Psalm 36! As a teenager I just repeated the chorus over and over and as an adult this would be an easy song to judge based on its repetitive nature, but when I realized they were singing scripture on repeat my attitude towards the song changed.  Now, when it comes on this playlist, I sing it or just listen and claim the Truth that the Lord's love does indeed reach to the heavens and His faithfulness to the skies.

The song that inspired me to write this post was the one I heard this morning from my "college" era.  Watermark's live medley of "Gloria/Friend for Life."  I loved Watermark in college and to this day appreciate many of their lyrics.  In college I went through a pretty strong "outdoorsy hymns and worship songs" phase.  Any song/hymn using nature was immediately my favorite.  I'm talking to the extent that on the way to a lake weekend with friends once, it was like 45 degrees outside and I DEMANDED that we keep the windows down as we blasted Chris Tomlin's "Indescribable" so we could see/feel/hear creation as we sang.  I'm laughing as I type this, but I shouldn't.  Because the Lord truly used His creation and my amazement of it to speak to me in that time.  "Gloria" was one of those songs.  Its images made an impression on me.  "Friend for Life" was never a favorite of mine until one line stopped me in my tracks.  "Come and ruin me with your love/Til no other is enough/Come and leave Your mark on me/Jesus, more of thee."  Sorry to steal your word, Watermark, but that line "ruined" me.  I remember praying that prayer in college, trying to pray it earnestly, but most of the time praying it scared to death that Jesus WOULD ruin me with his love and that no one would be enough (read: EVERY Auburn female's worst fear: I'd never find my husband).  As I heard it this morning I realized that prayer has been answered.  Jesus has revealed his love to me in such a way throughout my life that it has ruined any other source of love or satisfaction battling to take his spot.  No other is enough.  Not Will. Not my family.  Not my friends.  Not my job.  Not money.  Not acceptance.  They just don't compare.  They are gifts and they point me daily to Jesus, but I am ruined as far as these things go.  They will never be "enough" now that I have tasted the love of Christ.

Moving from my college love of Evangelical contemporary worship music to my time in DC full of the RUF and Indelible Grace Hymnal and "liturgical hymns" we find ourselves with the queen of Calvinism, Mrs. Derek Webb--Sandra McCracken.  I had listened to Sandra in college but grew much deeper into her while in DC.  She was a regular in our "Round Table" worship times on Monday nights and this particular song always made me giggle b/c everytime she sang "surety" it sounded like when a rapper sings "shawty/shorty." Regardless of this silly glitch, this song's chorus of "love cannot from its post with draw/nor death nor sin nor hell nor law/can turn this surety's heart away/He'll love his own til endless day" stayed with me daily as I navigated metro stops, Capitol Hill and my early twenties.

Finally, we get to recent songs. If you'd asked me during my time at Auburn or even my time in DC if I would return to my mid-sized Baptist church in Birmingham upon moving home, I would have said "no way."  It wasn't that it was a bad church.  It was a wonderful church in which to grow up, it just wasn't "where I was" at the moment.  But then I moved home.  Somewhat suddenly.  And took a somewhat visible job in my hometown.  And I needed my old church and my old church family and people who knew me when I was 5 and 10 and 15.  What I found when I went back to Brookwood Baptist that first Sunday is what I'd been suspecting the past couple of years as I'd visited on my trips home: Brookwood was changing.  Not in its mission. Not in its theology. Not really even in its worship style.  In fact, I don't know what it was, but this place still felt like home to me, while also feeling like a new place. It had become a place where I saw other  young 20-somethings claiming a spiritual home.  I saw young families joining and putting down roots.  These are things I hadn't seen at Brookwood in quite a few years.  Half the church was full of people who didn't even know who I was--can you imagine? ;) And then I noticed a some new faces leading worship.  Some young college dude who was ridiculously talented.  A new minister of music who could play the accordion.  And a couple of folks who had been members for years showcasing their musical gifts in a way I'd not seen before here.  There were old hymns.  New hymns.  Contemporary songs. Worship music in the style of bluegrass. And even one Sunday the piano music played in the background as everyone lingered and chatted after the service I recognized as Coldplay.  Sneaky.  I've come to love this service and these musicians.  Recently they introduced me to one of David Crowder's newest songs (full circle, am I right?) "Come As You Are."  It feels like a fitting song with which to end this post because when I first heard "there's hope for the hopeless/and all who've strayed/come sit at the table/come taste the grace/there's rest for the weary/rest that endures/earth has no sorrow/that heaven can't cure" I thought "I'm home."  Not because I was a Brookwood again, but because I was hearing the Gospel again.  In yet another stage of life.  In another musical form.

I will continue to laugh at Christian music because some of it is silly.  (Note: I'll also laugh at pop. rock, country, etc for their ridiculousness.)  But I am so very thankful for the canon of songs that have carried me through various stages and always pointed me to "home."