A Few of My Favorite Things {August 2015}

by Elizabeth

Good stuff from this past month. It’s heavy on music, because that was one of the biggest ways I encountered God this month.

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BOOKS

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!

 

BLOG POSTS

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.

 

SONGS

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

 

KIDS STUFF

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.)

A Prayer For My Third Culture Kids

Earlier this week I shared my expat parenting philosophy on Velvet Ashes. Today I’m linking up with The Grove on Velvet Ashes with a prayer for my TCKs. ~Elizabeth

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I remember reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond together and feeling such a kinship with the main character Kit. She’d lived a life of privilege with her wealthy English grandfather on the island of Barbados, but when he died, she discovered his large debts. In order to pay them all, she then sold all his belongings.

After that she didn’t know what else to do, so she booked a passage to New England, where some of her Puritan relatives lived. Her cousins’ conservative lifestyle and religious customs were completely alien to her. When the ship docked on the shores of Connecticut, Kit realized “There was something strange about this country of America, something that they all seemed to share and understand and she did not” — a TCK moment if ever I saw one.

Kit suffers intense culture shock. She’s already grieving the loss of her grandfather, and she now doesn’t fit into Puritan culture. In some ways she’s even rejected by the community. She doesn’t understand their religion or their worldview, and friends are hard to find. Her uncle is particularly cold towards her, and she’s never performed such difficult, backbreaking labor before. New England winters are brutally cold and long. She misses leisurely tropical island life in Barbados: the heat, the sunshine, swimming in the ocean, her grandfather’s extensive secular library.

But she grows to love her extended family. She even grows to love the beautiful fields nearby. Towards the end of the book, Kit attends a wedding. She thinks about how she doesn’t fit in in New England, even though she loves the people and the place: “An almost intolerable loneliness wrapped Kit away from the joyous crowd. She was filled with a restlessness she could not understand. What was it that plagued her with this longing to turn back?”

wbbShe had previously decided to return to Barbados and search for work there, but as she continues reflecting on both her old life and her new life, she realizes she can’t go back to the way life was with her wealthy grandfather. Her two cousins have both fallen in love, and she realizes that she has as well — only the man she loved wasn’t a Puritan permanently rooted to the Connecticut soil. He was a sailor, a migratory man, a man of good character, a free spirit like herself. And he loved her back. “Home” for her would be anywhere he was. Marrying him would mean continually traveling between Barbados and Connecticut, always on the move, but always with him. Literally, and not just figuratively, she was going to live in the In Between.

Our Sonlight curriculum chose this novel for its relation to the Salem Witch Trials in early American history, but for me it turned out to be a metaphor for the life of the TCK. Crossing cultures, never completely identifying with one culture, never fully belonging, always grieving a loss of some sort, but needing, so desperately needing, someone to love, care for, and understand her. So with that story in mind, I offer this prayer:

 

My child, I’m well aware that in this life, not everyone gets married.

But should you happen to marry, first and foremost I pray you will marry a fellow lover of Jesus.

And then — oh then I pray you will marry someone who feels at home in the In Between spaces, who knows how to live in the margins of life, who’s comfortable crossing over and blending in, even if never quite fully.

I pray you will marry someone with a wide view of the world, who doesn’t think you’re crazy for your wide view, either.

I pray you will marry someone who looks to God for full identity and belonging, someone who will understand your need to do so as well.

I pray you will marry someone who understands the pain of separation and of goodbyes, someone who shares your yearning for heaven.

I pray you will marry someone who understands that love is the best kind of medicine for a hurting heart and who knows how to give it.

That person doesn’t have to be a TCK, though they might be. Your Papa isn’t a TCK, but he understands loss and living in the fringe. He understands love and nuance.

So I pray for you to experience what I have experienced myself: that your heart will be fully understood and accepted, fully loved and wanted, fully celebrated and cared for.

I pray you will have many years of adventure together, tasting of a perfect heaven here on a very imperfect earth, each year growing ever closer to our God and to each other.

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