The Human Side of Miraculous Days

what to do when you feel stuck

A few days ago I shared about a landmark day in my family’s life this past weekend — a day when the clouds parted for a moment and we got a glimpse of the eternal.  Today, I felt it would be important (also maybe a little funny) to pull back the curtain a little on the humanity that was very much part of the whole experience. If you didn’t read about our special Sunday, I recommend you read “Take Heart” here before you embark on “the rest of the story” so you can adequately appreciate the stark contrast between our perfect God and our messed-up selves.

Saturday night was one of those nights when I went to bed tired, but after sleeping for about an hour I was suddenly wide awake – for the next five hours.  During each hour that ticked by I made deals with myself like, “If you don’t wash your hair you can sleep an extra 20 minutes. And if you take a granola bar instead of sitting down for breakfast, you’ve got an extra 15.  Let Jackson drive and do your make-up in the car and you’ve got 10 more sleep minutes.” That all sounded like a brilliant trade-off in the dark middle of the night, until the alarm startled me out of the deepest sleep I’d had all night (all 2 hours of it).

I got ready quickly, grabbed some strong tea, a granola bar and my makeup bag, and ran to the car.  Now you need to know that I get unbelievably clumsy when I’m tired, so I was dropping everything I touched and spilling tea the whole way to the church. I spent most of the car ride  on dark circle cover up detail. Who knew I would end up crying it all off?! And though Jackson drove as smoothly as he could, somehow as we pulled into the church parking lot my mascara wand hit my contact lens and made a thick blob that temporarily rendered me legally blind in my right eye. I dabbed the contact with each of my fingers until I could see (mostly), but then I had little round mini-globs of mascara on every one of my fingers.

The rest of the morning went just like that.  Four minutes before service started, the pack for my in-ear monitors… wait for it… fell into the toilet!  Our tech team angels (they really are angels) produced another one miraculously and did it with a gracious smile.  In one minute and 45 seconds I reset all the levels blindly without having a clue what I was going to hear in my ears when the music started.  Can we have a moment of silence for the former pack and its watery death?  *** Amen.

After the first service, I saw my husband briefly and his first words were, “I heard your pack fell in the toilet!”  Apparently news travels fast.  Then he immediately noticed I had spilled something on my light beige sweater.  When I saw the crusted substance, I knew right away it was queso sauce from our Mexican dinner the night before.  So the spill on the front of my sweater had been there all day and had probably been magnified by 100 times on the overhead screen.

When my humanity is blaring like it was on this morning, that’s when my shoulder people like to stop by and remind me of all the reasons why I am the worst.  (I talk about the shoulder people in this previous post.) They love to start with how I don’t have my act together.  Then they move to the whole subject of how I don’t have the caliber of voice to be singing about Jesus in public.  Sometimes they fully convince me that secret meetings have likely taken place trying to get me removed from the vocal team but no one knows how to tell me!

This, my friends, is the work of the enemy.  He would love to turn mascara blobs, queso and toilet water into personal and spiritual defeat.  And it wasn’t just me he was trying to mess with.

One seemingly confident and adored man among us this weekend caught a glimpse of himself on the screens during a run-through and froze, staring at the screen.  He was devastated by signs of aging he saw staring back at him. No one else would’ve thought a thing about that.  And this is a person you wouldn’t expect to have insecurities.  But guess what.  He is human too.

baptism hugMy husband – you know, the ridiculously handsome guy in the baptism tank who baptized changed life after changed life on Sunday –  was riddled with anxiety on Monday (as he often is).

Worshipping alongside my son, while it was pretty dang sweet that day, came after thousands of prayers and nearly 2 decades of doing the hard work of parenting that didn’t feel all that precious at times.

Our speaker on Sunday is my dear friend, and she called crying just a couple days after she had given the powerful message about how much God loves us – mess and all.  She had been awake since 2:00 a.m. completely overwhelmed by insecurities and hurts from the past that momentarily hijacked the beautiful, strong person I know she is.

Just know that whenever God is moving, the Enemy of our souls will try to undermine, and lie, and rob our joy. This is why we need a healthy body of believers around us.  We need to uphold each other in prayer and remind each other that our enemy just can’t stand knowing that Jesus won the day. So he preys on our humanity and even our very identity.

Mother Teresa didn’t know anyone who needed God’s help and grace more than she did.  So obviously she hadn’t met me.  Days like Sunday are reminders that God uses very human people to do His work.  What choice does He have?  He does powerful things through people who experience fear, insecurity, sleepless nights… He even uses goofballs with shoulder people that lose stuff in the toilet ALL THE TIME, proving once again that He can do ANYTHING.

In spite of all the humanity sloshing around in our church on Sunday, Jesus still won the day!  We can stake our lives on that.

Take Heart.

This was a special weekend for several reasons. My son and I had the joy of  lifting up the name of Jesus together with other worshippers at our church (I was singing, he was rocking his guitar like a boss), while my sister and my husband stood in the baptism tank a few feet away baptizing one changed life after the next.

Andrew Marshall baptism
My sister, Melody (left), my husband, Scott (right) and our buddy Andrew (the one who’s all covered in water)!

One lovely young woman had been an atheist all her life until two weeks ago when she was inexplicably drawn into the doors of the church. Little did she know that a group of children had stood in a prayer circle hours before she walked in, praying that God would bring someone through the doors who didn’t expect to come and that He would bring that person to a relationship with Him. This woman surrendered her life to Christ that week and was baptized today.  She was one of the many surrendered lives who took the plunge today.  There were children, teenagers, young adults, senior citizens, and I’ll never forget the precious young lady with special needs…and her whole family!

Members of our community group sat together to support two of our group members – one who was being baptized (pictured above), and one who was today’s speaker.  We all cheered and cried when our buddy came out of the water (them from their seats, my husband from the tank and me from a few feet to the left of the tank). Singing through the tears was no longer possible. I needed to take a moment to stop singing and (try to) compose myself. Just when I was sure a huge snot bubble was going to form from my nose, a nearby service assistant came straight to me with a box of kleenex.  That dude is my new favorite person. Just one more kindness that reminded me again, we are so loved, my friends! God is constantly reaching out to us, doing incredible things, and drawing us to Himself.

I know we could all tell stories of churches who get it wrong, and people who do despicable things in the name of Jesus. Churches are filled with fallen people who make mistakes and hurt each other. But after seeing my share of despicable behavior, this truth saved me:

People will be people. But God will still be God.

A few days ago, I was powerfully reminded of Romans 8:11, which says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you…”  And, of course (God is not subtle) today one of the songs we led contained that same truth.  “The same power that crushed the enemy is the same power that lives in me…” I could’ve sung it a thousand more times.  That, friends, is the Hope we carry around with us.

In a world of darkness, chaos, sickness, cancer, death, war and political shenanigans, we can hold tight to the truth that the same power that raised Christ from the grave is alive and well.  In us!  Let’s keep remembering to invite Him in so He can do His thing.

He still heals hearts, mends relationships, and saves the lost.  He is also allowing mothers and sons like mine to serve Him together, bringing husbands like mine to a place where God can use Him as he never dreamed.  He helps atheists believe, and he finds the lost wherever they are so He can give them what they most need.

There was a day when my cynicism made it hard for me to see His power at work. Truth is, He can do far more than we think to ask Him for, and He uses our obedience and bold prayers to do it. Today I saw proof.

Take heart.  He has overcome the world.

 

 

 

Joey

Remembering JoeyI’m cautious about what I share here about my work.  I never want to give you the impression that I need you to know who knows my name. Out of respect for those who worked hard to gain a name for themselves, I don’t feel good about trying to borrow someone else’s name so you’ll think more of me. That said, there are a few people who have made an eternal impact on me, and one of them went to heaven today.

I’m hoping you understand that I’m not trying to name-drop, I simply want to honor a lady who is one of the best people I’ve had the joy of knowing.  Her name is Joey.  We weren’t close friends, but she is the kind of person who inspires the people in her path to be the best we can be.

I first met her at the Indiana church my family attended for a few years.  She grew up in that church and often sang for us when she came back from Nashville to visit her family.  She was so, so beautiful.  When she sang, there was a purity about her voice that wasn’t like any country singer I had heard before.  I hoped Nashville wouldn’t taint her.

For the next few years I watched from afar as she diligently kept doing the work artists do. She kept writing, kept singing, kept her dreams alive, and remained true to her country and gospel music roots.

She met a songwriter named Rory and married him. I hoped he would be good to her, because I knew then she was good people. Then, I lost track of Joey and Rory for a while. I still loved hearing them whenever they made their way back to Indiana.  I once emailed their office to let them know how much I enjoyed Joey’s music.  I said something about how I loved the way she could deliver a song powerfully and authentically, yet she never put on an act or tried to blow the roof off the place.  She just did what she did with class and grace.  Rory emailed me back promptly and was so incredibly kind.  He gave me some good songwriting advice, which I valued (and needed). They didn’t get quite as much email back then, I’m guessing.

During the years that followed, their careers took off.  I was hearing exciting reports of their rise to stardom, television programs and commercials. I was so happy because it couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

Then a few years ago, they came to Gaither Studios to record a video with Bill [Gaither].  I was involved in that video (called Inspired) as a scriptwriter, so I enjoyed the privilege of sitting in on the interview.  As I saw how Joey and Rory interacted with one another, telling the story of their life, their music and their faith, it was clear that the fame they had earned since I last saw them had not changed them one bit.  There was a depth about them you just can’t fake.  I went home and told my husband that day, “They are our kind of people.”

After that video, we learned that Joey was expecting a baby.  Everyone who knew them was overjoyed. Joey and Rory sang at our company Christmas party that year and she was radiant with her beautiful round belly.  That will go down as my favorite Christmas party of all time.

Our hearts melted as we got to know baby Indiana through Rory’s eyes via his blog.  And for the first time, we saw the dignity with which they handled the unexpected news that their baby had Downs Syndrome.  Then the months that followed brought more and more unexpected turns in their otherwise storybook life.  Joey fought cancer hard. Yet they kept singing.

And at every turn, we saw more character… more love grow…more resolve to openly accept God’s plan as their own.  It rocked me, and it rocked the now-millions of people who caught wind of their story.

You may have seen them recently on television, on social media, in Country Weekly Magazine, at the top of Billboard charts, on the shelves of Cracker Barrel, or any number of places. And you need to know that they got there by simply being the very best version of themselves they could be; not by name-dropping, or putting on an act, or schmoozing.  They never manipulated people to try to get noticed.  They just played to their strengths. And something about that was irresistible to the world.

I SO love that their newest recording and DVD wowed the music industry the week it released (and each week since).  Our company employees of every rank quit whatever we were doing to help pack orders… that has never happened.  Because their success came as a result of their faithfulness, we were all so happy for them!

Yet we were also sad for them.  We knew Joey’s cancer was taking its toll.  Rory would have traded every one of those albums sold for his wife to be healed. But she was ready to stop hurting and be with her Savior.

Today, she left this world for her Eternal Home.  I’m so sad.  Yet what a privilege it was to know this woman who loved so many of the things I love – gardening, music, family, and Jesus.   Just by living her life and singing her songs, Joey challenged me to stay true to the things that are important to me… no short cuts.

Joey, you made my life better.  Your voice will always remind me to be myself and nothing less.  And I hope we can garden together in heaven.  You could teach me a thing or two.  But this year’s tomato seedlings are dedicated to you.

 

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