Good stuff from this past month. It’s heavy on music, because that was one of the biggest ways I encountered God this month.
From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover. I finished this book this month. I continued to underline almost every word of every chapter, it was that good. Just brimming with truth about grace, receiving God’s love, the proper place of work in our lives, and how listening to the Holy Spirit eliminates comparison and competition. Do NOT miss this book. I repeat, do NOT miss this book!
Convicted but not Condemned by Renee Swope. I was in a big place of self-condemnation when I heard a sermon differentiating between Holy Spirit conviction and enemy-inspired condemnation. Conviction brings hope, while condemnation brings hopelessness. That was a freeing, new idea to me, and I almost wrote a blog post about it. Then I read this one and figured I didn’t have to. Christine Hoover’s book also touched on these ideas.
The Other Side of Achievement by Chris Lautsbaugh. On his site, Chris writes mainly about grace, so it makes sense that he would write a post about another idea that was discussed in Christine’s book. (It would seem I found grace everywhere this month.)
Sometimes Ministry Sucks: Theology for Wounded Hearts by Anisha Hopkinson. As anyone who’s been in ministry (or church) longer than 5 minutes knows, it sometimes hurts. What to do about the pain? Always, always, always, the answer is to go back to Jesus.
Rested, Restored, Forgiven by Rachel Pieh Jones. Absolutely love this piece. Though I first read it awhile back, something reminded me of it this month (can’t remember what), so I went back and re-read it. I’ve experienced it myself, and I love the way Rachel tells her story. Do not miss this one!
Harmonizing Sadness and Joy by Craig Thompson. One of the things I get to do as editor at A Life Overseas is to read posts before they publish. When I went in to this particular draft to read it ahead of time, I cried through the whole thing. It so perfectly describes the way I mourned the loss of my Grandma this past month.
(See my comment on Craig’s post for a longer explanation of intermingling joy and sadness, and see my comment on this post for another gift from the Father during this time of sorrow.)
I’ll transition into the music section here, because grieving from afar is tough, and aside from Christine’s book, words didn’t do very much for me this month, not even the Bible. Rather, it was music that spoke most deeply to my soul and helped me connect with God again.
With Everything by Joel Houston. We sang this song at church the first Sunday after my Grandma died. Not very many songs get my hands lifted high, but this one did. My hands reached to the heavens as high as they could when we got to the chorus.
So let hope rise, and darkness tremble in Your holy light,
And every eye will see Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised.
With everything, with everything, we will shout for your glory.
With everything, with everything, we will shout forth your praise.
Our hearts they cry, be glorified, be lifted high, above all names.
For You our King, with everything, we will shout forth your praise.
Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Obediah Chisholm. We also sang this classic hymn that Sunday morning. (It’s much better when sung congregationally, but I couldn’t find a modern rendition of this hymn that captured what it felt like to sing it that Sunday morning, so this Chris Rice solo is the best I can offer you.) That morning especially, I needed to join all creation in praising God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of the pain.
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Holy Spirit by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. This song hit me hard. I heard it when we went to another international church to hear one of our teammates preach. While I resonated with the idea of longing for God’s glory and His presence, I also stopped and asked myself the question, what do I long for? What am I hungry for?? The answer: Transformation. I’m hungry for transformation in my own life, in the lives of those around me, and in my host nation. So hungry it hurts sometimes. This Kari Jobe cover of the song best captures the feel of that Sunday morning. (“Feel” is kind of important to me apparently.)
Holy Spirit You are welcome here,
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your glory God is what our hearts long for,
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.
Salvation Belongs to our God by Adrian Howard and Pat Turner. As I sat hungering for transformation, this song came to mind, and I substituted “transformation” for “salvation.” Sometimes when I blog honestly about my struggles (and I’m about to get really honest here again), the floodgates open, and other people to tell me their stories, both publicly and privately. I listen to their stories, I absorb their pain, I feel their sorrow. Then, weighed down with grief, I worry over how best to respond. I start to take on the responsibility of fixing their pain with my words. But that’s too much pressure. The idea that transformation belongs to our God lifted an enormous weight off my shoulders. I can love people through my words, but I don’t have to transform anything or anyone. That’s God’s job.
From the Inside Out by Joel Houston. We sang this Hillsong classic after the Holy Spirit song. I just love it. It speaks of one of my deepest core beliefs: that God’s light will shine when all else fades. And above all else, I want to lose myself in worship of Almighty God. (But sometimes I forget to.)
Your will above all else my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing You praise
Everlasting your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending Your glory goes beyond all fame
Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes. Another classic, but one that never gets old. Just love to declare that He’s my God. We sang it a couple weeks ago at church. (This is Hillsong’s version by the way.)
Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
Alleluia by Chris Quilala et al. I first heard this Jesus Culture song two years ago at an International House of Prayer conference and fell.in.love. I thought I’d been transported to the heaven. Earlier this month I was feeling really spiritually numb, and when I turned on my worship song mix, this was the song that played first. I remembered all over again that worship is the point of this life, and I started longing for heaven all over again. Also, I didn’t feel numb any longer. I don’t think you can listen to this song without worshiping or longing for heaven.
All the angels cry out, Holy is the Lord God
All the earth replies, Holy are You
Forever by Brian Johnson and Kari Jobe et al. Jonathan had raved about this song to me, but until I sang it in church a couple weeks ago, it just didn’t have the same power. (Congregational singing is also a thing with me, apparently.) I wept through this song. Wept. Jesus is beautiful. What He did was beautiful. You better believe my hands were lifted high on the Forevers and the Hallelujahs.
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated
Forever, He is glorified, forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen, He is alive, He is alive
We sing Hallelujah, we sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah, the Lamb has overcome
My God is Powerful from Group Publishing’s Everest VBS. If your kids have never attended a VBS from Group, they are missing out! Group writes new theme songs each year whose lyrics somehow always bring me to tears. They also record a few modern worship songs and an old hymn or two, and they set everything to choreography (for the kids). I love the depth of the messages my kids hear over and over again in these songs — lessons I myself need to re-learn.
His Power moves the earth and sky, takes me to the highest heights
My God is powerful.
His power can forgive and heal, crushes darkness, drives out fear
My God is powerful.
Other favorites from this year’s VBS:
I Sing the Mighty Power of God by Isaac Watts (love this hymn!).
I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
One Thing Remains by Brian Johnson and Bethel. Never get tired of this one either.
Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid, one thing remains
International Children’s Bible Field Guide. Based off the translation my parents bought me as a child, this book goes chronologically through the Bible. We got it from our Sonlight curriculum, and we read it for our evening devotionals. It stimulates tons of questions and really in-depth conversations and is a really theologically balanced book, giving room for variations in non-essentials. (Which super-impressed me, honestly.)