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I’ve been trying to rise earlier in the morning, before the children,
before breakfast and lunch packing
before rushing out the door in flurries with shoes untied and forgotten homework folders to run back in for.
I barely make it up most mornings, and when I do my grand expectations of morning songs
and deep rivers of revelatory prayer
often don’t make it either.

But taking a shower in the quiet with the lights off,
so the dim light of a rising sun can make it’s way into my skin
Well, that can be worth everything.

It is in those moments I remember that God is everywhere.
That’s a good start to any day

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“Contemplation is no pain-killer. In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing the he no longer knows what God is; this is great gain, because God is not a “what”, not a “thing”. There is no such “thing” as God because God is neither a “what” but a pure “who”, the “Thou” before whom our inmost “I” springs into awareness.” Thomas Merton

The longer I move around in my days, the less I feel I know. I’m very uncomfortable with that when I am busy and distracted. It scares me. I worry about the professionals that seem to know exactly what they’re doing and who God is. I start to feel like I’m in the wrong business (worship ministry) and that I should go back to Scotland where it all felt simpler (doesn’t it always, dear nostalgia?) There I’d just work at Starbucks or do data entry at some cold office that has nothing to do with church or music, and then sing my songs where I could find them on my own time. Doesn’t sound great…but easier. When you’re not leading people in ministry you don’t have to be quite so accountable for your doubts.

But when I am safely sat in the seat of Love, rested, I’m rather made new by the process of unknowing. The confession that I know precious little actually becomes the core of my connection to God. One of the finest moments of surrender I can undergo is giving away all my ideas about Him and letting Him seal my heart, for only He who is greater than I, greater than my mind’s ideas of Him, is able to do so. “O God, take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee; and save me in spite of myself” – Fenelon 1906

I have been in ministry for a time now, within a culture where almost everyone you meet claims to know rather a lot about God. I lead worship for a beautiful congregation, with whom  I share the vast range of experiences of the God we encounter here. Outside I touch the edges of a culture of church worship music that feels to me at times as if it is brimming with war. Every day I am spoken to in a thousand tongues – there are overwhelming resources on how to worship God the best way, what kinds of music you should use, what words you should say to the congregation, how you should appear on stage from what you wear to wether you close your eyes or look at the people and smile, who’s guitar tone do we copy, who’s especially anointed and gifted, wether we should pay our worship musicians or let them be volunteers, who’s record reached #1 in some chart…on and on and on. I get tired. I get lostI begin to wonder if it all has more to do with us and our opinions and preferences and desire to teach others what we think we know than it does dialoging with a living God. Maybe it’s because I never thought about any of these things when I started opening my mouth and singing Psalms. I just did it because God is the lover of my soul and He gave me music to answer Him back. Others liked it too, so we sang together. That’s about it. It’s pretty simple. I don’t know how to teach that over a 10-day conference or in 5 easy steps on a worship forum. I completely stumbled into the realm of leading worship, bristling all the way and blessedly so, for serving the people of God with song is a dream of a job, even if I don’t have a clue what I’m doing beyond the obvious.

When I began writing songs they were from a quiet soul. I knew my language with God and much of it went unspoken and unsung, but some of it bubbled up into song. The rich spring has its depth and warmth deep down within, and from there comes sweet water songs.

These days my soul has become unrested and frantic. It’s harder to hear the language God and I share. I haven’t written a new song in what feels like an age. So, to quiet I return. To Love, I return. When I am surrounded by voices that war for attention I must return to Love’s voice and hear what name He has for me. No other opinions matter.

And that’s where the songs of a Spring will rise again. Not songs tailored for a hit single, or songs tailored even for churches to latch onto. First, just songs of a soul. If I don’t have that, I have little else to give that will nourish anyone in the long run.

I may not know very much these days. I know that in the past 2 years real sadness has darkened our door. Real confusion has clouded the waters of my mind. I know that God was there, and that His name will always be Love – that’s about it. He didn’t heal our friend’s cancer. He didn’t save another friend from his addiction and despair to death. He hasn’t completely dispersed the cloud of depression that slightly ebbs and flows since having my 2nd child, but He HAS been present, and that’s been enough. I don’t have many instructions on how to be a great worship leader, a perfect wife and mother, an excellent, prolific creative. Maybe I’m a failure in that respect. Or maybe I’m just rediscovering that in the center of our recognition that we actually don’t know much at all, God is able to do His best,  and most liberated loving work. No further explanation needed at this time. That’s how it seems to me, anyway. But then again, what do I know?

The mouths of babes

This morning, as I changed baby’s diaper, my 4 year old son calls to me, breathless, from my room where he has been bouncing on my bed.

“mummy!”

“yeah?”

“Jesus is speaking to me!”

I gasp, grope, wait for more. I want to know what Jesus says to the pure of heart, I want to listen in, I have this distinct feeling I’m going to cry at the sound of His voice through my child. After a small pause

“My heart is beating. He’s speaking to my heart, because it’s beating really fast”

“What is He saying Jonah?”

“….He’s asking me what I had for breakfast. I had Cheerios….”

And so he continues to tell Jesus about his breakfast, and I sigh and continue to change the dirty diaper, but I do glow a little at the sweet conversation happening next door between Jonah and his Beating Heart. And I catch just a few words whispered before he stands and begins to bounce again like a wild thing. He whispers perhaps just what I was groping for this morning…

“Jesus loves us…”

 

Renaissance

As children my parents would force us outside for family walks. Especially in the colder seasons. On special occasions they’d find a whiskey distillery or two to tour, which we hated. Not only was it boring when I was 9, I wasn’t even allowed to taste the whiskey when we were done. Nonetheless, I’m ever grateful they pushed us out the door and into the cold. My sisters and I would leave the house whining about the weather, the fact that we had to wear wellies, that we were going to miss Top of the Pops. We’d return with faces as flushed as red apples, noses streaming and eyes alight. Our legs would ache as we settled down in the dark that night, and our bodies would be tingling all over from the cold and the warm. We felt alive.

I want that for my sons – I want to take them out in the cold and see their cheeks flush and let the leaves and the wind be their play. Let the sea whip around their hair, stinging their ears, as they pretend to be pirates and stab dead jellyfish on the shore as I did with my sisters in winter on the rock pier. Let them run through the woods and climb hills and count more shades of green than you knew existed, even so in winter.

Except we live in North Carolina, not Scotland. I miss Scotland, and the Yorkshire dales, so much sometimes it makes my heart ache and if I give in I could have a good wee cry about it. The wilderness of the dark Island is one that runs in my blood and my children need it in theirs too.

Though today, I took my boys to the Renaissance festival, and as we walked around and heard the old music and watched the knights joust, I began to feel the life stir again in the cold. Walking through the woods at the end of a long day with my children outside, the world began to turn amber with the low sun and set Jonah’s hair alight. And his cheeks flushed and he danced giddily around me and Rohan as we trudged through the mud. And Rohan’s whole body shook with laughter in my arms.

Tonight Jonah is stretched out on a quilt by the open fire and I sit beside him in a low rocker, bare feet on the brick. Our legs ache, our noses stream and our bodies tingle like pins and needles from the cold being licked away by the flames. Life is returning to me deeper than this. He is opening my eyes again – the cloudy season is passing…..Hallelujah

Abide

I find myself in a curious place. Last year I took on the position of Worship Pastor for my church community here in Charlotte, Renovatus Church. After staying home with my son for 3 beautiful, peace-filled and sweet years, I felt it was the right time to step into something new, and enjoy the process of doing what I love for a living, which is music and worship and people. Right after that, I found out I was pregnant with another little boy, our gentle spirited Rohan who is now 4 months old. I remember stepping backwards and asking questions about the timing of all these things. I was a little perplexed, and honestly a little discouraged. It hasn’t been easy trying to balance pregnancy and newborn life with a job that I have been so desperate to put all I have into. But the Redeemer of All Things reminded me gently again of the days I had my first son Jonah – the return to simplicity and the profundity of children that take you deep into the heart of the Father.

It IS different this time, with two children and a place in working ministry, and now tackling an album. Not quite so simple. But keeping all things in balance is the key to peace here (something I’m not always very good at).

Which brings me to why I am really updating this blog right now. With the kind of life that I have, I have not the luxury of time. So what I do needs to matter to me. And the things that matter to me may not matter much to the world at times, and I am learning to be alright with that. Here are some of the things that matter to me:

Singing over my children songs of provision and grace, laughter and guidance. Letting them teach me how to expand my heart beyond my own selfishness and understand what it means to be a child of God.

Cooking new meals for my family, trying new foods

Being with my ‘people’ – the ones who I know would never shame me. The ones who will listen long, laugh often, cry with me and speak into my life, even the hard word when it is necessary.

Learning the heartbeat of my church, and putting her words into song. Building altars for the people of God through song that draws them into His presence has been one of the most powerful discipling experiences of my life.

Learning how much I am loved by Jesus, and learning to understand His words more fully each day, as that draws others to Him too.

Gardening – though time doesn’t lend to that right now, I dream every day about the garden I will build here. Dreaming right now is satisfying enough, it’s all I got.

Making music that I would want to listen to. I don’t have the will, time or energy to find out what everyone wants to hear and try and do that thing. I want to make music that stretches me and satisfies my soul, which makes for a record that not everyone is going to like. Of course I want you to hear it and like it, to be stirred and moved by what stirs and moves me. I want you to share in that experience. But if not, that’s really alright. We’re cool.

Being at home. This earth is filled with the glory of the Lord, and I walk on it daily with gratitude. My home, where my husband is and my children are, and my people are, this is where I am satisfied. I don’t want to travel all over the world with my music, trying to get it out to the masses – i just want to be faithful to create something each day, and experience the abundant life right here right now that I have been placed in. That’s good enough for me. And before anyone judges the desire for a simple life as anti-evangelistic – I will say that if God calls me to the farthest sea, then we go. But right here I see people who are broken and in need of a touch of God’s grace and healing a plenty. Being faithful where you are to speak against despair, even in the simple things, can speak volumes to the hurting who long for peace.

Hey, here’s a song I just finished. The album is coming, but you can have this one for free. Hear a hymn that pleads rest in a stormy season. There is a sanctuary within you where God resides that can be a blessed peace in the storm, if you allow yourself abide.  Hear the storm, and abide within it.

“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away”
-George Eliot

 

and so we begin

Yes it’s 11am and I am still in my pajamas. It is a bright Saturday September morning, the smell of bacon and coffee still lingers, my belly satisfied with the sugar-lemon pancakes 🙂

I’m breathing it all in deep today, because something new begins. This afternoon we set up to begin recording the hymns EP – my first recording since college. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it feels like a lot of battles have had to be fought to find and document the song of my heart and my people. These songs come out of not just my own time with my maker, but with walking life alongside the people of God, my brethren. Beautiful, deeply flawed human beings without whom I would be a lonely wanderer, and who knows what else. I keep going back to Boenhoffer’s statement in his book “life together”, that the Christ in my brother’s heart is greater than the Christ that resides within me. Even those who have not remained with me in friendship after strained and difficult times, the Lord has used to mould me and teach me about love, perhaps in part what it is not supposed to look like, and the pain of hewing this stone has been necessary, and even in part, beautiful. It is always likely, I am learning, that a song worth singing comes with a burden of one sort or another. Some songs come out of a great joy and a burden to express it – others (more often for me) come from a costly path, one we must be willing to bear if we want our songs to bring freedom to those who must face the same trials we just walked through.

The saints have a song all of their own, a song that resides within the Great Story, a song I hope I can capture but a small essence of, at least for my part in it all.

It’s not lost on me either the wonder of the child that lives within me and grows as I embark on this recording. Though I walk tenderly with nausea and fatigue and some days struggle to keep up with being a mum to Jonah, and balancing my new role as worship arts pastor, and still finding time to be quiet and alone and filled back up again, these are glorious days of great victory.

Difficult days, yes. Because there is one who does not want these songs to be sung, and I face it daily.

Victorious – definitely. Because the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. And I love Him more than words, but word and song will have to do, and I will sing to Him to the end of my days.