I love music. LOVE music. TEACHING music is my job, but listening to music, BREATHING it -- is a source of LIFE for me. God speaks to me in it.
And so it's been with art, and the pursuit of beautiful things in general. I find God there.
When we were in college, Billy would spend a lazy Saturday slamming a volleyball in the direction of someone's face. I'd lay in the grass -- writing in a journal, drawing, reading.
I love reading, written words -- writing.
Then, I was young, days old even, in my faith. I should have been reading John. Yes, the book of John would have been right. And James. All those letters from Paul. But, instead, I poured over the book of Isaiah.
"Through the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed." says the Lord who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10
"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands...This will be for the Lord's renown." Isaiah 55:12-13
"Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Isaiah 60:1-3
(Insert long sigh here)
I remember the day (sitting in a chapel service) I read, "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes deserts." Psalms 29. I leaned over, wide eyed, and whispered to Billy, "The Bible is God's actual words. Technically, we should probably die when we read them." He acted like this wasn't news to him.
A few weeks ago, a young student asked to play Shout to the North. "Have you ever heard of it Miss Shanna"? I smile. "It's an oldie, but a goldie," I say, "I'm sure I can put my hands on it."
Today, I had a 4 hour round trip drive to make. Before heading out, I grabbed an old CD that literally had to have the dust washed off...Passion, The Road to One Day. It's old, but I find I still love it all -- lyrics that go down so deep they awaken...desire -- if it's not to deep to say so....
(Holy Roar)Can you hear it? The song of the Redeemed. A pursuit of passion for the one who set us free. Crying out for more. Listen to our song -- it's turning into a holy roar.
(Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble)Did you feel the people tremble? Did you hear the singers roar? When the lost began to sing of Jesus Christ the saving one?
Dancers who dance upon injustice.
(Jesus, Lover of my Soul)Jesus, Lover of my Soul - All consuming fire is in your gaze. History itself belongs to you.
(Salvation)Salvation, spring up from the ground. Lord rend the Heavens and come down. Seek the lost and heal the lame. Jesus bring glory to your name.
We've heard of your great fame, father, cause all to shout your name.
(Shout to the North)Rise up women of the truth. Stand and sing to broken hearts. Who can know the healing power of our glorious King of love.
Rise up church with broken wings. Fill this place with songs again of our God who reigns on high.
And so it went for me today.
Maybe it's the reason I love this book so much. So. Much.
One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp
My real love affair with books isn't in the book itself -- or in reading in general. It comes when I've been praying. Asking the Lord about the many mysterious events that have accumulated to be this thing I call my life. Praying -- asking for my children, their needs, their futures...their hearts. Praying for Billy, my best friend. Praying for my old friends -- and my new ones -- in times they've been called upon by the Lord to be brave. Just...praying.
And, it's in those moments that I open the pages of someone else's experience and God decides to meet me there. To answer my questions -- my prayers. Giving me the gift of clarity. Yes, it's that moment that I adore. I love finding God in books.
My journals the past few months have been filled with questions about joy. God, show me what true joy is. He answered me here...in Ann's book.
"Joy is always possible because there is always, always something to be thankful for."
Thankful for 5 healthy kids. Thankful for work. Thankful for money to pay for the bills and take care of our family. Who wouldn't be?
But the book begged me to go to the deep places. What about when your husband loses his job? What about uncertainty? Not knowing if the bills will be paid? And what quite frankly if they are not?
What about the times you were so sure of direction, only to be unsure, really unsure in just months time?
What about when father's die early in car crashes, leaving mothers to travel the roads of crazy grief -- watching someone's soul literally shatter like glass? When families, your own family, hurts so deeply there are no words.
God whispered, "Shanna, can you be thankful for all of that?"
When the child you love more than you love your own life says 'I hate you'. When you scream it back and momentarily hate yourself. When you are exhausted and sleep never comes. Can you give thanks for that?
Thanks for hard things.
Jesus did. And miracles happened.
While reading the book, I watched friends take children back to the hospital when cancer relapsed. Friends called to be brave. Braver than me. Brave in helping children do the deep healing. And have hope. And give thanks.
I contemplated Ecclesiastes 7:14
"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider God has made the one as well as the other."
And this is what makes Him God, and not me.
Ann's poetic language may not be for some, but it allowed me to indulge in the right side of my neural world -- and I loved every minute of it.
This word was deeply healing to me. I know, KNOW, you'd love it too!
"Stir up our hearts oh God...Open our spirits to all you are..." (Salvation, Charlie Hall)
If you need something shorter than a book, check out Ann's blog. Here's a great one!