For Freedom: The New Jenny & Tyler Album

I can’t remember exactly when  or how I discovered Jenny & Tyler, but it has been love from the beginning. This husband and wife duo produces such incredible music and it brings joy to my ears!

I was so excited to find out that I was selected to be on the “launch team” for their new album, “For Freedom” – an album of cover songs with all proceeds going to organizations that fight human trafficking around the world – because I love J&T and I support these organizations! It’s a win-win situation!

I received an advance copy of the album and have already listened to it at least five times. It’s absolutely wonderful! I generally am not a fan of covers, but this album is incredible and I feel that they improved each song by adding their own creative flair.

So far, my favorite song is their cover of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”…side note, I’m also in the “choir” of 300 voices that you hear on the chorus! But that’s truly not why it’s my favorite. Their interpretation of this song is beautiful and I love the musical elements that they added. The instrumental before the last verse crescendos with excitement about what’s to come and it makes me want to sing at the top of my lungs with them! Their use of percussion and other various instruments created such a rich, full sound, along with amazing harmonies. I just love it and honestly can’t get enough (ask my husband!) 🙂

The album releases on 11/12/13 (what a memorable date!) and you MUST get a copy for yourself!

While you’re at it, check out Jenny & Tyler’s website or Facebook page and learn more about them and their music. More information on this album can be found there, as well.

Day Four: I’m Thankful For…My Talents.

Preface: I thought it was fitting to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I’ve never taken the time to do this, and it will be a challenge to blog each day, but it’s so important to recognize the blessings God has given us! 🙂 These are in NO particular order…

I am so thankful for the talents with which the Lord has blessed me. They enrich my life greatly, bring immense joy, and they shape how I experience the world. I am thankful for the people the Lord has placed in my life to help me refine these talents and become even better in these areas. He gets all the credit!

I am especially thankful for my musical ability and my photography skills.

He blessed me with the ability to pick up any instrument and learn how to play it (often teaching myself)…I have nearly perfect pitch and that has proved to be a wonderful gift through the years. He has also given me a powerful voice to use for His glory…and that how I strive to use it. I love being able to lead others in the music portion of a worship service, knowing that I am pointing them to the Sovereign God who has created all things…truly, all of the glory and honor goes to Him. I can do nothing on my own!

I also love singing the National Anthem at sporting events–it is such a huge thrill and I love the feeling of having 10,000 people cheering 😉 (the link is from 3 years ago–it’s the most recent recording I have). This is my fourth season singing for the Hershey Bears and I am so honored to have the privilege of singing there.

God has given me an eye for photography that I am able to use to convey powerful messages and to inspire action (Haiti). He also has allowed me to use photography to capture His creation for others to enjoy. I love photography and I feel so alive when I’m able to capture events/places on “film” (saying “on a memory card” just doesn’t have the same ring ;)). He is such a great God and He can be seen in all of His creation…and I love bringing pieces of His creation back home for others to experience as well.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me gifts through which you bless others.

Musings on the Church as it stands, part II

Each generation has had their “tool” for evangelism that worked. In the late eighteenth and early twentieth century, the circuit rider preachers were effective, and revivals were common. In the ’60s and ’70s, during the “Jesus Freak” movement, street evangelism worked. People responded. That was something that really reached people.

However, what is going to be the effective tool for our generation?

(Of course, these are generalizations, because not everyone is like this…just my observations)

* People don’t like to be bothered…they don’t like things to take up their time.

* People don’t talk to other people while walking down the street, and if someone talks to them, it is generally not well-received.

* People don’t mind if you are religious, as long as you don’t talk to them about it.

* There are so many misconceptions of religion, so many stereotypes…hard to defeat them all.

* Society is so individualized; yet, everyone longs to “belong” to something of their choosing.

It goes without saying that society today is a much different place than it was in the ’60s and ’70s…it’s even different than it was in the ’90s. Things are constantly changing in our world, and people are no exception.

Some of my own observations from my two summers as a missionary:

* Backyard Bible Clubs are no longer an effective way to reach children. With technology these days, going back to arts and crafts, Bible stories, and outdoor games are just not things that children are interested in. It was a great day if we had 5 kids at our BYBCs. Also, parents are less apt to allow their children to be somewhere with people they don’t know, because of the crimes that have happened in recent years with children.

* Many people don’t like to be bothered at home. My church always liked to do “visitation”, where one night a week they would go and visit the people who had attended the service the previous Sunday. I had to do “follow-up” visits after Vacation Bible School and BYBCs both summers, and it was–with one exception–unsuccessful.

* People don’t like to be “preached at”…they are less likely to accept the message you are bringing if you have no current relationship with them.

I have found that relationships are key. I’m not saying that I think you should go build relationships JUST so that you can tell them about Jesus…if that is your only motivation, to “win another soul”, then I don’t think I agree with that. But, people are more likely to go to church with a friend, someone they trust, than they are to go with someone who was doing door-to-door evangelism and handed them a tract.

So, what can we do to “reach” out to the world around us? We have to invent new ways…ways that we can reach them where they are. Perhaps we need to look at Christ’s example (heaven forbid, LOL) at how He touched lives…at how He ministered…

What is a “post-modern” church going to look like?

Musings on the Church as it stands, Part I

This is post #1 of a series regarding my own musings on the Church, evangelism, and Christian culture. To begin, I’d like to simply post a passage from Paul Marshall’s book “Thine is the Kingdom”, because it is among the many I have read today that sparked an interest in my mind.

I’ll be discussing ideas from theologians such as Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Hauerwas, and other respected minds as I try to express my own personal frustrations. In all that I will write, please understand that I am by NO means exempt from these things. I am just as much at fault for being too wrapped up in “Christian culture” and secluding myself from the realities of the world (I attend a Christian university, which tends to be a “bubble” of sorts). These are just my musings, ponderings, my journey to discover how to be a Christian in a post-modern world.

As always, I’d love for this to become a “conversation”, and it is open for comments. I’d love to dialogue about these issues, as they are becoming increasingly important. It seems to me that the church (using the term “Church” as a general statement–I realize that there are exceptions, of course) is becoming more separated from the world as time goes by. In brief, I believe that when the Bible mentions being in the world but not of the world, it doesn’t mean to create our own “religious club.” Rather, I think that we should be following Christ’s example in reaching out to the world, meeting them where they are, meeting their needs…but most importantly, just loving them. Not trying to change them, not trying to push our beliefs on them…just loving them, and allowing Christ to transform their lives as He desires.

So here is the passage from Paul Marshall…

“Our task as Christians is, in principle, to do everything in a Christian way that can be done by a human being—from what we eat when we get up in the morning (if we have anything to eat) to what clothes we put on, to how we get to work (if we have any work), to what we work at, making what, for how much, in what sort of conditions, to how we vote, how we engage in research, how we understand the news, how we relax, what we do with and for the poor, and so on throughout the livelong day. In all these activities we are called to be new creatures taking our place as the stewards of God’s world, being servants of our neighbor and proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ. In all of them we are to learn what God calls us to do or, in other words, to see how redemption in Jesus Christ can bring healing and redirection. We are to proclaim and to show in our lives that Christ is Lord over every part of life. Just as every part of life is affected by human sin, so all parts of life can be renewed and redeemed by Jesus Christ. That is our only solid hope for families, factories or politics.

True Christian social action is always evangelistic work, for no area of life is ‘neutral’, supposedly immune from the effects of sin and the reach of redemption. We do not act merely on the basis of Christian ‘principles’ or ‘morality’, we are to act as witness to Jesus Christ. All areas of life must be linked to new life in Jesus Christ. In turn, true Christian evangelism is always social action because it lives and proclaims what is good news in each area of life.

Through the gospel God calls a new nation, a new people, a new humankind into being. As men and women turn to Jesus Christ in real, concrete, repentance from sin and, by grace through faith, are restored in God’s favor, they begin to live out the healing and restoration of Christ’s redemption and take up their Christian responsibility for the direction of human life and culture. Evangelism is, in a way, the recruiting process for this life whereby people come ‘on board’ for service to God’s kingdom. Evangelism calls people to repentance and to a restored and renewed love for God and, through that love, to a new life of service to our neighbors. This is the Christian life.”

Paul Marshall, Thine is the Kingdom, p. 37-38.

For discussion…

I decided to finally begin reading “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Phillip Yancey, as it has been on my shelf for about 3 years. On page 16, he makes an interesting point:

Today, people even use Jesus’ name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled. ‘Thomas Jefferson!’ or if a plumber screamed ‘Mahatma Gandhi!’ when his pipe wrench mashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.”

Why is it that people use the name of Jesus in such a way? Why don’t they use other names? This has picqued my curiosity, for some reason, and I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.

“Love is Life”

Leo Tolstoy once said:

 

“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”

 

My relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life. This relationship has led me to spend two summers in full-time ministry in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (where I will most likely be moving next year)…it has led to countless hours in youth work, worship ministry, etc. But most importantly, this relationship has shaped who I am and all that I strive to be.

Lately, due to many extenuating circumstances, my time with God has taken a backseat to everything else going on in my life. Last night, as I sat alone in my apartment, I decided to spend time with my Maker…and I did. I spent 2 hours praying, singing, reading, etc., which made me realize how much I have missed this time with Him. This post is a reflection of what I learned last night, because this is going to change many aspects of my life over the next few months.

 

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10

 

My strength, my joy, my serenity comes from the Lord. I have never been content with the ways of this world. Yet, lately, I haven’t been seeking my refuge in the arms of the Lord as I used to…and this needs to change. For, as MercyMe so eloquently put it,

 

“I have not been called to the wisdom of this world but to a God who’s calling out to me. And even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.”

What really matters in life? What is worth living for?

Love.

“Healer heal me

Savior save me

Maker change me

Lover love me

‘Cause I’m so tired of living for

The kind of love

That only lasts for a while

The pain, the shame

Tear me up inside

So I fall on my knees

To get back on my feet again

And I cry out for You

Would You please speak to me…”–Ten Shekel Shirt

Love is the most important thing. Not the kind of love that is fleeting, but the love that is eternal. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are and have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is there anything more important in life?

1 John tells us that because God first loved us, we can more fully love. If I am relying on the love of my Lord for my strength and for my fulfillment, then I am able to love freely, without worrying about what I will get in return. I will be able to care for my neighbors, for those in need. And, when I love this way, God gives us life abundantly.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.”

–Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

Love is life…love is everything. And I want to love more…more freely…more abundantly…I want to fully embrace the “greatest commandment”, for that is all that really matters in life. I want to live unapologetically, and how better to do that than to serve God with all that I am?

I don’t know how this is going to play out in my life practically, but I know that I have decided to once more live as my Lord has called me to live, which is to love.

“He’s everything to me, more than a story…”

“Everything to Me”

This song is so powerful, lyrically and muscially, and I will be singing it as a duet at church in the near future…just wanted to share the words, as it is so accurate of how I view my relationship with God.

Everything To Me

by Avalon

I grew up in sunday school

I memorized the Golden rule

And how Jesus came to set the sinner free

I know the story inside out

I can tell you all about

The path that led Him up to Calvary

But ask me why He loves me

And I don’t know what to say

But i’ll never be the same

Because he changed my life when He became…

Everything to me

He’s more than a story

more than words on a page of history

He’s the air that I breathe

The water I thirst for

And the ground beneath my feet

He’s everything, everything to me

We’re living in uncertain times

And more and more I find that i’m aware

Of just how fragile life can be

I want to tell the world I found

A love that turned my life around

They need to know that they can taste and see

Now everyday I’m praying

Just to give my heart away

I want live for Jesus

So that someone else might see that he is…

And looking back over my life at the end

I’ll go to meet you saying you’ve been…

You’re everything to me

You’re more than a story

More than words on a page of history

You’re the air that I breath

The water I thirst for

And the ground beneath my feet

You’re everything to me

Lord, you’re everything to me