The Mind of an Artist . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mind is never quiet-
never still . . .
A hundred observations and thoughts swirl about in
an elaborate dance
that leaves me exhausted
and ready to take the images I see
and craft them into poetry.

But the train of thought is an elusive,
temperamental beast-
susceptible to flowery breezes,
9 year old’s interrogatives,
and then *snap* – – –

it is gone. . .

The inspiration never leaves –
the ideas hang heavy
and deep within my chest
but the moments that bring clarity
are the rare gems–
dirty and uncut
needing the jeweler’s eye,
the master’s vision,
and the heart of the artist
to become the finished product . . .
the marriage of verse and melody.

My mind is never quiet,
my mind is never still . . .

We Can No Longer Be Silent.

Isaiah 42:20
(“)You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it.
You hear with your ears but don’t really listen.”

Every time I read this verse, it pierces my heart. Although contextually it is a message to Israel from God, Truth is still true in 2016. As Christian believers, we see injustice happening all over the world. Far away, and in our backyards. We see and recognize that someone must do something, but we miss the opportunity. We refuse to act on it.

In a culture of “Go BIG or GO HOME!” it is easy to believe that one person cannot make a difference — that our small actions would do any good — so we do nothing. We shake our heads and say, “That’s not right.” We even discuss it in small groups and talk about what should be done. But then we move on, deciding that we are not significant enough to start the conversation. Or – we are not brave enough to take a stand.

Image Credit: Greg Lilly

Image Credit: Greg Lilly

In a culture that views Facebook as an opportunity to verbally attack anyone with an opposing viewpoint, it makes sense that people who truly desire to see change are hesitant to use their own voice to start the conversation. As one who avoids controversy and conflict at ALL costs, I will admit to being silent when I should have used my voice. I have been quietly observing, studying and learning that this country that I adore has allowed people to trample on the truth of true freedom.

Freedom of speech means that I have a right to share my opinion — that it can be different from yours, and that as human beings, we can agree to disagree, and still coexist in harmony.
Instead, through the relative safety of social media, freedom of speech has turned into hate and vitriol spewed towards anyone who disagrees with you.

It’s a deterrent.
Words hurt.
(But so did the crucifixion.)

It is time for us to no longer be silent. It is time for us to hear Him calling for His people to act, and to listen. It is time for us to act on the good that we know to do. It is time we start the conversations.

  • Apologize to friends who experience blatant and subtle racism — let them know you see what they experience. Ask them about their experiences.
  • Interject with the voice of love and reason when friends (in person or on Facebook) start railing about things that neglect or violate other people groups civil rights.
  • Pray, pray, pray.
  • Search for and join groups designed to bridge the gap between cultures. (Contact me for suggestions!)
  • Read articles, blog posts, anything you can find that can help you understand.
  • Watch Selma. (And have tissues nearby.)

 

Believe that your voice is important. One comment or action may not change the world, but it might change a heart — and heart change is the only true solution to this issue. We need to act like we believe that all people are created in God’s image, and start speaking the truth in love. We can no longer remain silent — we know what is right and must act on it.

 

 

 

The right song, the right tools . . .

Oh the inspiration that happens when you hear that magical song — the one that fills your heart with hope and joy and peace. For me that song was “He Has Come For Us (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)” by Meredith Andrews. Not only do she and I share a first name, we also both serve in the Harvest Bible Fellowship network of churches. She is one of the amazing worship leaders at the original Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Illinois.

That song has just made the Christmas season come alive for me. It takes one of my favorite Christmas songs, and adds a beautiful, simple and yet absolutely profound chorus.

“He has come for us this Jesus
He’s the hope for all mankind
He has come for us the Messiah
Born to give us life”

That, paired with a recording device that is easy enough to pair with our computer, and connect to GarageBand and all of the instruments and stuff . . .  It is pretty awesome. I just spent a glorious hour recording and re-recording guitar, and vocal tracks. It is making my dream of an EP seem like it is only an inch away, as opposed to a thousand miles away, like it felt even just last month!

 

The Price of Religious Freedom

The American Church is sick. If you have grown up in it, or have never gone on missions trips to third world countries, you may not realize it. But the moment reality hits us of what some of our brothers and sisters risk every time they gather for church—though they can’t call it that—in a neighbor’s home, we realize how comfortable we have become. Whenever the devastation and absolute poverty confronts us, whether from pictures from Haiti, stories from Guatemala, or skeletal children singing praises from Sudan, we see their absolute joy and hope in the Lord. And we realize that by comparison, we are empty. These precious people are putting their lives in danger to hear more of the Gospel. Or they have nothing of consequence – considering themselves blessed if there is any sort of roof over their head—and yet their smiles are radiant. Their eyes sparkle with the truth of Jesus Christ. They, who seemingly have nothing, have found everythingThey, who risk any status or comfort that the world offers, have found the one worth losing it all, even their lives.light shining

Nik Ripken, an impassioned author (his book The Insanity of God messed me up forever) and missionary, shared with me the thoughts of many of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Asia. They see the “golden” life we live here—free to speak, free to worship, free to praise, free to lift up His name in any way we choose—and they wonder why God doesn’t love them as much as He loves us here in America. I felt a visceral jab in my chest. They don’t understand. What they are seeing here is a mirage. They are the blessed church of Smyrna referred to in the book of Revelation. As times in America have grown increasingly filled with tension, dispute and battle lines over doctrinal and theological stances, it seems like we are church of Thyatira—a church that is shaped by the culture, instead of the shaper of the culture.

We care more about our own comfort than we do about peoples’ souls.

We care more about our SUVs than we do about making Jesus known.

We speak up about politics, about abortion, about same sex marriage – all the time taking sides and forgetting that is LOVE that is supposed to frame everything that we say, everything that we do.

Or, we say nothing.

We watch both sides fueling the fires and don’t speak. We forget that love has words. Love has a voice.

We are either thoughtless and brazen, turning people away with our closed-mindedness, or we are meek and timid, so afraid to offend anyone that we impact no one.

We have let the culture of or our nation silence us, rather than being the influencers it desperately needs. In a season where tolerance is the mandate, none can be found for people who follow God’s teachings. We have allowed our God to be maligned by zealots and bigots like a well-known church in Kansas. We have allowed people who probably don’t even know the real Jesus inform an entire generation about Him. When will we speak up and set the record straight?

My God is in the business of saving lives, not condemning them. He is depicted as an angry judge, handing out death sentences with a sinister smile. The truth is that God is a loving father with tears in His eyes, begging for His children to hear His voice as He calls to them in the midst of crisis and confusion. He is the peace that we seek, and the rest we desperately need.

Several years ago I watched a video of Penn Jillette, or the famed Penn and Teller duo.  He recalled an encounter with a Christian man who shared the Gospel with him. The man knew Penn was an atheist, but felt compelled to share his faith in Jesus Christ anyway.

Penn was so impacted by this man, and realized something that all Christ followers need to learn. If we say we truly believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, then if we are truly loving our neighbors, and then we would be telling everyone. When we pass up the opportunity to share the message of hope and truth, it is more than just a missed opportunity. It is an act of hate.

We are to be led by the Spirit. We need to invite Him into the busyness of our agenda, and quiet our minds and hearts to hear Him. I need to be listening and acting on the urge to comfort the cashier at the Kroger near my house. I need to be brave and remember that being a fool for my Savior is nothing like the lashes He took for my sins

We can’t miss the opportunity of the freedoms that we have. Maybe the very reason we have these freedoms, through granted by a rapidly changing government, is to not just speak the good news, not just preach to all who have hears, but cry out in desperation for the lost.

We need to repent for our country, and the way we have turned away from the Lord.

We need to stop being afraid to speak the truth.

The American church should not be the Country Club it is today. Jesus came for all people. All races, all income brackets, all lifestyles. He came and he died for us all.  It’s time to change the perception of who Jesus is. It’s time for us to tell the truth. We have to take advantage of the freedoms we have and strive to make Him known throughout the world! Go big – use social media! Go small – start with one person at a time. But tell your story. Let your words be life, and light, and always love.

When Obedience is Worship

The wheels are turning. My mind is jumbled with dreams and ideas and things that have been pushed aside or buried or dormant for a long time. There is so much to say, and perhaps now, at the tender age of 37, I am growing wise enough to actually say them. No, it isn’t wisdom so much as obedience and bravery.

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When we were children, obedience didn’t feel brave. It felt resentful, stifling and misunderstood. As young adults, obedience represented everything we were trying to push back against in our quest to define our fragile independence. As grown men and women, obedience becomes a dirty word. Marriage vows no long speak of loving, honoring and obeying the husband. We are desperate to be seen as equals — not subservient, and certainly not  submissive.

But when it isn’t another human being that we are striving to obey, but the God of the Universe, the scenario changes. All of a sudden, routine tasks that simply aren’t on our daily plan have the potential to become holy moments. Because in obedience to God, miracles can happen.

If I were to to follow every act of obedience back as far as I could go, I can easily see how differently my life would have turned out had I done anything differently. We could still be in Maine, comfortable, with friends and family nearby, and living in our own sheltered world. We could have told God “No — we don’t want the hassle and work of a church plant.” We could have turned away from the Lord after we lost a baby to an ectopic pregnancy heartbreak in 2009. I could have walked away from my then fiance, deciding that his history and all that he carried with him was simply too much. He might never have moved to Maine from California in the first place. When my best friend at the time invited me to church with her in 1999, I could have ignored the way my heart leapt inside my chest and turned down the invitation. . .

If any one of those scenarios had played out differently, I have no idea who I would be today.

Tonight, I am in awe of the journey. I can see Ebenezer stones all throughout my past, at those pivotal moments that seemed so impossible at the time. I can see altars at the times of rejoicing, and celebration. Through all of it, I see God’s loving guidance so beautifully weaving stories together.

For example — the woman I admired on the worship team at the church I attended in college stepping down to pursue her own music, and I took her place on the team. We reunited three weeks ago when I began my new job at a Christian school in Tennessee — which is another God story all by itself.

We do not need to worry about our clothes, or what we will eat. My God in heaven is making all things new, and He is providing every single thing that we need. May we not grow discontent in longing for the next new thing. All around me are the blessings of a God that is crazy about me. He is wooing me with His grace, and I cannot let go.

I have tasted the freedom of His will, and vow from this moment forward to walk in it as best I can, trusting in His presence, His guidance, and His peace. Are you with me?

What my life says about my faith

Luke 12:27choir book
Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Lamentations 3:22-24
Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.

 

If our lives are the measuring stick by which our faith is judged, if you look at the big stuff, it would appear that I have this faith thing down to a science.

  • Packing up our whole life and moving to Nashville to pursue a dream that could ONLY have come from God
  • Leaving behind everything and everyone that was comfortable
  • Making connections in a new city, having gigs semi-frequently, sharing the music He has given
  • Surviving in the confidence that He will take care of us, every step of the way, even when there was too much month at the end of the money (to quote my pastor)

If you look at all of those things, then you would imagine that I would let nothing stop me from making progress on the dreams and goals.

My faith looks really great from a distance, or in bullet points.

When I dig a little deeper, and move in a little bit closer, I see the wasted moments (because of facebook). I see the opportunities that I missed (becaue of fear). I see the continual strain and worry that has kept me from the joy that I know is available to me.

Here is the beginning of the story. When we set out on our adventure, I left behind a wonderful job as a middle and high school band director, in a small community in the state that has always been my home. We were comfortable. We couldn’t live extravagantly, but we always had enough food for groceries, and gas and the necessities. When I was not able to find a teaching job, only a teaching assistant position, we learned what it truly meant to live from paycheck to paycheck.  Doctors appointments had to wait until after payday so we could afford the copay. Because the copays depleted our already stretched too thin budget, we then had to eat ramen and other cheap staples. And prayed fervently that the gas in our tanks would last through the 45 minute each way commute for the rest of the week.

We needed the generosity of our church family, of my friends at school, and other people that didn’t realize how much they were helping us. We were relying completely on God, though it wasn’t always as cheerful a process as I wish it had been. And to be honest, it was exhausting.

I was near tears frequently, and my joy in the Lord was put in tidy little boxes labeled Wednesday evening small group, and Sunday morning church.

Fast forward to now. My husband and I are both in new jobs. Mine is teaching music to middle and high school students at a Christian school near us, where because of the wonderful and caring administration being lenient about my job description, our boys can attend and get an amazing education. I am near tears frequently again, but this time it is because of His goodness and His mercy, and the extravagant love that He has shown us.

Although our working environments have changed drastically, our financially picture still remains uncomfortable. But I can more easily see His provision and more readily believe that He will in fact take care of us. But it is still a journey. And every step, every decision is a choice to remain faithful and constant in my belief of His attributes, and the promises He has given to me.

I don’t want my faith to be a mirage– something that fades away and disappears under scrutiny, or close observation.

I want my life to radiate the peace of my redemption, and the joy of my salvation. I am resolving to trust Him, even in the difficult, because He has proven Himself faithful. Over and over again. And if I have to live dependent on His grace and goodness for all the days of my life — then thanks be to God, the giver of all good gifts, and the provider of exactly what I need.

As one of my favorite hymns states: “All I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Taking the Blinders Off: A White Girl’s Introduction to Racism

Today I am beyond humbled and blessed that an article I wrote on a subject I am very emotional about was published on Bedlam Magazine today. Getting to know the beautiful cultures represented in our church has taught me so much. When I think about the differences that my children will experience, because they are white, compared to the preparation that my friend and her husband give to their sons, who are similar ages, my heart breaks.

I want people to understand that we are the same — we all feel, and hurt, and want the best for our children. Yet we are NOT the same — and in understand, embracing and LEARNING about those difference, in that beautiful space, healing can begin.

I would be honored if you would visit Bedlam Magazine and read my article, and start your own conversation.

God Bless,

Meredith

When Bravery Feels Like Being Lost . . .

I have been consistent for a little while now. Dedicating time each day to the craft of writing, or playing my guitar. Consistently in the Word, and praying intentionally, with focus, purpose and boldness.

Just when I start to really let the dream/reality sink in, to believe that those visions of performing on the stage at Ryman auditorium, or sharing performances with artists who are ridiculously inspiring and shall remain nameless, may actually have a chance at becoming my “Someday,” at that very point is when the doubts roll in and hover like black clouds.

Yesterday morning, I could not get out of my own way. Lies of all shapes and sizes crowded out all of the promises that God has already fulfilled, all of the miracles that He did on our behalf less than a year ago. They were gone. Fear, desolation and a complete doubting of my calling left me crying tears of helplessness and hopelessness.

Sometimes we just feel lost — even when nothing about our path, direction or vision has changed.

 

DeathtoStock_NotStock4 copy

In times like these, community is a life-line. I quickly typed out a post explaining the funk, the fear and asking for prayer. My friends, fellow battle wagers, poured out prayers of truth, hope and life over me. They helped cut through the clouds and let His love shine through.

Sometimes going it alone doesn’t work.
Sometimes the truth — though it is ALWAYS true — doesn’t pierce the heart until it is spoken over you by friend.
Sometimes we just can’t escape the darkness without a little help.

When you pray, dear ones, ask God to show you who in your life might need a little encouragement. Ask Him to give you opportunities to be His arms of love, His voice of comfort, His whispers of grace.  And then don’t be afraid to ask for prayers for yourself when you are feeling stuck, or lost.

How can I pray for you? What dreams or situations can I petition the Father for on your behalf?We are in this together, my friends.

 

BIG DREAM, but stuck in a holding pattern of fear/doubt/indecision?

When we have big dreams, given by a great big God, we need to practice living BOLDLY, expecting Him to act.  But even when you know exactly what the next steps are, what to do to get the momentum needed, sometimes it feels as though your feet are shod in cement shoes in quicksand.  It is no fun to feel stuck.

stuck ostrich

How do we break out of this holding pattern of fear, doubt and indecision?

Call/text/email/carrier pigeon a friend, coach or accountability partner.

Dreams without support rarely become reality. Amazing things happen every day. When those amazing things are shared with friends, fans, followers, the amazing is multiplied. When dreams and goals are shared, the excitement builds. When you have people who know your dream, you have a built in group of support to tap into when difficulties, setbacks, or stuck times happen.

Reach out to your group, your tribe, and let them help you get back on track! Make a list of “next steps” that you are intending to take, and then ask them to keep you accountable.

Write down every reason you are not qualified for your dream— and then after each reason, write BUT GOD.

For example:

I don’t know anyone in the music industry, and have no idea when, where, or how to find the women to create my dream ensemble. But God brought me here, knows my purpose for being here, and He will guide my steps.

I can’t seem to get motivated to take charge of my health. I know what I should do, but am having a terrible time actually putting those shoulds into action. But God knows me completely, and will help me when I truly seek Him.

See what I mean? I feel better already! 🙂

Make a list. Start checking things off.

When I am stuck, sometimes everything becomes overwhelming. Not just things related to my dream — but keeping the dishes clean, laundry done, etc.  Stuck in one area usually leads to being stuck in many areas.

Make a list, and cross things off. I add everything to the list — home tasks, work tasks, and tasks related to my dream. The list is huge (or it can be broken into sections if you need your tasks grouped), but there are things that you can accomplish right away — in the next ten minutes.

It may seem small, but the sense of accomplishment in completing small tasks can lead to continued success and motivation.

 

Don’t despise your small beginning.

Remember this:

“Never despise small beginnings, and don’t belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. When you venture outside your comfort zone, wherever the starting point may be, it’s kind of a big deal.”  Chris Guillebeau

There are countless adages and sayings that are overused and have become cliches – but they are all true. Anything that is worth doing is worth the hard work. Your dream is worth the fight. Your comfort zone is not where progress happens. Your couch, although comfortable, does not care whether you reach your goals. (That last one may not be a cliche — that just may be a Meredith original.)

Friends — we all start somewhere. It wouldn’t be much of a dream if it didn’t require some scary, bold faith! Let’s support each other as we tackle our next steps in making our dreams become reality! I would love to hear some of your “but God” statements — share them in the comments!

 

 

When BOLD means EXPECTING God to act

mountain and lighthouseLet’s think about our dreams — the things that we secretly (or not-so-secretly) aspire to be; the lives we hope to impact for His glory. Whether we dream of being a business person that is successful enough to be wildly generous, or if we dream of having a speaking ministry that helps to equip people to embrace His truth, and His presence more fully. Maybe we just dream of being able to fully invest in our children and family, homeschooling and raising up a generation on its knees.

When our dreams are aligned with God’s will, and God’s purpose for our lives, HE WILL ACT.

I am guilty of shrinking into the background and timidly offering up my prayers to Him. But this dream that I have to write and perform music that will inspire, heal, uplift and encourage others came from Him!  He is the one that gave me the dream. He planted the seeds in my childhood, slowly letting it grow, until I was ready to respond with bold faith to what He was calling me to do.

We claimed His promise many times last year as we prepared to move to Nashville. We would save, scrimping and pinching to build up the funds needed, only to have to empty the savings for needed car repairs or dental work for our son.  It happened so often that we were frequently proclaiming “Lord — YOU are calling us to make this CRAZY move. YOU have to provide the means for us to get there.”

And He did.

After we moved here, and I was waiting for the pay from my new job to kick in (more than a month after I had started), we lifted our situation up to Him, in confidence that He had brought us here for a reason, and that He had placed us in our jobs for specific purposes. He took care of us — and taught us many lessons about what we really need in this life.

The two most important things that I have learned since we moved here are:

God absolutely, positively provides for His children. He sees our needs, and meets every. single. one. If He hasn’t provided it, I don’t need it! 

and

Since we have no extra means to promote myself as an artist, or get studio time, or even hire babysitters and pay for parking at open mic nights, anything that happens on that front has to come from God. And it has. He has allowed amazing things to happen — from accidental co-writing sessions to an amazing retreat in the mountains. God says Yes.

God says Yes when He arranges those “coincidental” meetings that change everything, affirming our call to encourage, to speak life in to the hearts of the weary, and hurting.

God says Yes when He gives you the job, with the income, and then shows you the ways you can bless your neighbors, your church, and be a part of God’s vision in not just your own life, but in theirs as well.

God says Yes when He puts a thirst and desire to be with your children, and then provides the means for you to homeschool them.

So don’t shrink back, afraid to ask Him to bless, grow and build the dream that HE gave you.  Ask Him to grow your influence — one life, one group, one church, one city, one state at a time. Ask Him to give you the words to encourage, to inspire, and uplift.

And then, after you have asked, stand back — because BOLD FAITH expects God to move. BOLD FAITH sees the problem, the need, the hurt — the mountain — and tells it to move.

Matthew 17:20
“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Are you ready to start believing God BOLDLY, believing that He not only will act, but that He will do things that seem impossible? What can I join you in prayer for? What promises are you  proclaiming?