Posted in music, random thoughts, thankfulness, The body of Christ

The strength of a melody

       Music is powerful.  Nothing can transport me faster in time than listening to a song.  Music is so intertwined with our lives that a song brings a memory of people and experiences I have not thought of in years. 

    Yesterday, music was a time machine for me–almost a montage of pictures from the last ten years of life.  I was driving to Athens to meet my dear friends and listening to some songs.  I found myself weeping.  These songs were songs I have helped to lead in worship from the last five years with Jacob Winn.  These songs released tears that I have not cried sufficiently.  Jacob will no longer be at Fellowship past the new year.  He and Beth are dear friends of ours, yet  he has also touched me very much in his profession. 

       After my dad died five years ago, I wanted to try out for the worship team to honor a part of him and to also use a gift that I had not used for a long time.  Jacob was there fascilitating my try-out and there for the long haul as he helped me grow in skill and confidence as a worship leader.   Not only for me, but for many others, he has helped them grow as musicians and in confidence and excellence to lead well.  He has also ministered to me and countless others leading week in and week out at Crossroad and our Sunday services.

       The songs I listened to yesterday, simply took me back to think of all those times of preparation and leading.  We forget so easily–time marches on in a way that robs us of cherishing memories.  Weeks become months and years, but music can take us to specific times to remember.   I am so thankful for the season that God placed Jacob at Fellowship Church–my tears are not finished in honoring Him.

        On the way home, I found an old CD in the car of Refuge.  Refuge was a service in Nashville that Greg spoke for in the first years of our marriage.  Dave Hunt led worship, and they so enjoyed working together.  These songs swept me back to the nights I would be there to worship at Refuge.  Refuge is where Greg really morphed into the teacher he is today–teaching verse by verse.  It is also the place where a passion to teach the word to college students was birthed.  Without Refuge, there would have been no Crossroad.  Amazing memories!

       There were other songs on that CD of Refuge songs that transported me back to summers of camps where I traveled with Greg to Student Life and other camps across the country. (He traveled full time in our first two years of marriage).  I smiled as I thought of the rich array of opportunities afforded us in our marriage to travel and minister together.  We will be two months shy of ten years of marriage when little baby Pinkner is born, but we have not been barren in that time. 

       Yesterday Patti and Leah (who both birthed a church ministry to college students in us), Student life staffs, Justin and Nick (who helped at the beginning of Crossroad), Refuge bands and greeters, Crossroad bands and greeters, Bible study girls, and countless college students from Crossroad floated through my memory.  Thanks be to God for these gifts.  We are afforded sometimes brief but rich seasons with people.  In those memories, I am reminded to be thankful and look for those opportunities in the now.  I am also reminded that for eternity the whole montage of people who know Christ will be together–all those rich relationships and conversations and worship in one place for one purpose. 

        I am so thankful for music and for specific people in my life that are a part of our tapestry of life and ministry.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, humility, insecurity, pride, random thoughts, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

So, I have a confession. When I became a teenager in the late 80s it was en vogue to carry a photo album in your purse. Insecure 13 and 14 year old that I was, one could not tell. My photo album was filled with pictures of me. Jennifer at a wedding, Jennifer with friends cut out of her picture, Jennifer on her “best” side dawned the pages of my photo album. Lucklily my vanity was not privy to the days of facebook to show to all the world! What one needs to know that has not known me all my life is that I had an intense awkward stage from 2nd to halfway through 9th grades. Buck teeth, huge glasses (I see some teenagers wearing them now–not cool!), bad haircuts and perms, and needless to say, an injured self-esteem. The only person who called me on it jokingly? My youth minister, who still takes jabs to this day…as he should.

Fast forward ahem…some years, and I am on the beach late this afternoon. Two 13 to 14 year old girls were in the surf taking pictures; I suppose to put on facebook. They are in bikini tops, short jean shorts and neon wayfarerers—is this 1989? I offer to take their picture together—they ignore me. Yes, I have reached the age that I am inconsequential to teenagers. (I knew that a few years ago, but I tried to ignore it.) These girls were posing–big time. I thought they might have taken in a playboy shoot or two the way they frolicked. All I could think was “oh, those girls are so insecure.” I remembered quickly what it was to be there–always wondering what others thought of them, holding their breath when boys walked by. It is exhausting, and it still sticks with you–just not to the same magnitude, thank goodness.

Much to my frustration, they were in the way of my view. Like most girls that age (well, let’s say all), they were all about themselves. It made me think of a point in John Piper’s

    Don’t Waste Your Life

where he speaks about the fact that one does not go to the Grand Canyon and think about themselves. One goes and is amazed at God’s glory displayed. (The point being this world is about God’s glory and not us. He goes on to explain that being about ourselves is like setting up a hall of mirrors at the Grand Canyon.) Well, these girls were all about the hall of mirrors.

I was sitting amazed at the beauty of God’s creation and the beauty of His majesty displayed and annoyed at the girl’s self-involvement. Then, like a hammer to my head, I knew it was just like me now. Yes, I am more socially acceptable in serving others and thinking about others, but the kingdom of self gets a lot of attention in my life. There is a huge part of me that is still like that gangly, braced faced, frizzy haired, paranoid teenage girl. Wow, God is so good to adopt me, call me His own, and put His Spirit in me to guide me. There are parts of me that are more like a six year old in freedom of being who I am, but there is this battle with my inner 14 year old everyday.
Were it not for His grace, I would stay 14. He loves me too much to leave me there. So, I could be prideful and say, “wow, those girls have a lot of growing up to do,” or I can face the fact humbly that I have a lot of growing up to do. I ask myself, what are the photo albums of self in my life right now? Please show me, Lord, that I might die to self and live to Christ!

Posted in eternal things, infertility, random thoughts, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

A brief feel of home…

Life does not happen like you think it will. False expectations we hold are crushed, and we learn what it really means to live. Sometimes we allow those crushed expectations to define us–sometimes we counter them with the truth of Christ and find a greater hope in the midst. Is that not what our lives are—the battle of truth against the sometimes brutal reality that we live? Whether it is being disappointed by marriage, children or lack there of, unfulfilling jobs, parents, sickness and death, finances, a dream crushed…we all live in this battle.
I grew up in the beautiful small town of Athens, Tennessee. My dad and mom served at a big baptist church there, and I grew up in front of and in the midst of many loving people–young and old. My dad was a phenomenal man and was probably the most respected person I know. I was so blessed that he was my earthly father. The church was our life–many afternoons and nights and weekends were spent there. In my parents, I had an example of what it meant to serve alongside one another in ministry. I would need hours to tell of people, memories, service, gifts, and warmth of my growing up years in Athens. I was truly blessed.
Never in a million years would I have expected to not feel at home there now. The trajectory of life there changed about 10 to 15 years ago. There was a brutal split in my home church. People who were once one began to disagree with one another. I was broken over it, and I did not live there. The body fled to many different churches and ministries began to weaken. The church has never fully healed. To me, it felt like a death of all that I once knew and treasured. It was a profound marker in my life. Many cling to what used to be, but that can easily become idolatry–being defined by crushed false expectations. I can count on my two hands the times I have been back there to worship in the last 10 years–my wedding, my dad’s funeral, other funerals, special occasions to honor my dad.

Everytime I enter, I cannot cling to once was because it is gone. Home is forever redefined. Nostalgia could be my middle name–but this crushed dream of going back there with children and seeing many familiar faces reminds me that my home is not on this earth.

In everyone, there is a sense of longing for roots and for the familiar of home. Whether it is that first semester on a college campus where we ache for anyone to know us or to see anything familiar or to walk into a place in life where everybody knows your name. There is something that helps us be at peace in familiar surroundings. I do not feel that peace in my hometown, but now I see that as gift because I long for my true home with Christ. Every hope (home) that I construct here is torn down as seasons change and life rolls on. I hate it when it happens, but it inevitably brings me new life in Christ and new hope in Him alone.

However, there are those brief moments on this earth that I feel the kiss of home. I experienced that a few weeks ago at my Aunt’s house at the beach.

Home brings some sense of peace, of memories, of smiles, of rest, and of letting the guard down. Home is not on this earth for those of us who are in Christ. However, Fripp Island gives me a brief glimpse into eternity. Deer were grazing near the beach and barely looked up as I walked past. Birds of every kind formed a choir line together on the beach singing to their Maker. Everything seemed to naturally point to the Maker–to fulfillment in Him. I thought of a David Wilcox lyric–“Prosperity will have its seasons and when it’s here it’s going by…”

From the age of 8, I have gone to the beach at Fripp with my mom and dad—when dad still had some playful youth of playing in the waves, digging in the sand, and riding bikes. The beach in front of my Aunt’s house is a marker of the years. In my youngest days, the growling ocean splashed us on the porch with fury. The beach began to mature and build up as I did into teenage angst. Then, year by year, more growth, more beach with maturing seagrass, plants, bushes, and dunes as I grew more mature as an adult. Now, at 35, I walk at least a quarter mile to reach the tide’s heighth. Like a marker of growth on a door, the beach reminds me of time gone by.
In my younger years, I used to loathe the lack of action on the beach. Now, I breathe in the air and so enjoy the silence of sometimes being the only person on the beach.

Reflecting back over the years, many friends have made the journey with me, but I do not think they feel the call of home here. Childhood friends, a senior trip for girls, college aged friends and boyfriends, a girl’s trip after my 21st birthday, spring breaks, summer vacations, my niece’s senior trip, my nephew and his friends on spring break, our honeymoon, trips when the nieces and nephews were tiny, labor day vacations with Greg, times with my Mom and Aunt, and even a trip by myself this winter to grieve and paint and rest. As an 8, 15 or 25 year old, I would have never conceived of the idea of going to the beach by myself to grieve barreness. In that time, I was so comforted to be in a familiar place with my loving and faithful Eternal Father’s arms around me.

On the beach a few weeks ago, I remembered many thoughts and many former selves that have been here. I took stock and measured growth. At 15, walking the beach scoping for guys–I had no idea. At 18, with my friends on the cusp of my “adult” adventure as I headed off the college, I was invigorated with energy and spunk. At 18 and 20 and 23, I prayed and sought direction on dating relationships. As I thought back to my “former” selves, there always seemed to be a part of me that lived life adventurously–definitely not looking for the easy way. The beach reminds me of my adventurous spirit. The older we get, the less we live in adventure. Perhaps, the less we step out in adventure as we have responsibilities. I am thankful for the adventure of Women’s Discipleship Concepts…the adventure of barrenness…the adventure of being on the journey with my husband for the sake of the gospel…the adventure of growing as an artist in this last year. Who knows what other markers I may measure as I go “home” the next time to Fripp Island–only the LORD.

As I am reminded of home, I am reminded of the Lord. He is our home for all generations as change comes like the ocean tide. I am thankful that He does not give me everything I demand or want because He has a much higher and bigger dream for my heart than feeling nostalgic with kids about my hometown. He has a much bigger adventure written than roots here and now. I trust Him, and I thank Him for brief glimpses of my home that is to come.

Posted in discernment, eternal things, idols, random thoughts, the gospel, transformation by truth, ungodliness

Simply telling…

I subscribe to Real Simple magazine. Each month, I love getting the sleek magazine in the mail with beautiful colors and genius uses for everyday things. Filled with tips for one’s life including clothing, household tips, life articles, recipes which I never use, and decorating. I would say it is the agreed upon choice of magazine for many women.

The magazine is seemingly benign especially compared to all the other magazines I could be reading–i.e. gossip and celebrity mags (which are tempting to turn your mind away from real world stuff). Somehow, I think Real Simple and the like (watching HGTV, TLC, etc) are more dangerous for me. Why? It tells me–manage your world like this and you will be happy. I am enthralled with wonderful colors and ideas and wants (not bad in themselves).

Many times this does not add to my godliness. Ungodliness is living without thought or reverence of God. These benign things can turn my mind and heart away from the urgent to things that pass away. The desire for this becomes a cancer that devours my soul, and I forget why I am here. The road to hell is not as much sex, drugs and rock and roll as seemingly nice, moral people, taking care of their houses, building their 401Ks, raising their kids, going on yearly beach vacations, and planning for retirement with no regard that God is even there. They live with no regard that they are separated from Him by their hearts that rebel against Him worshipping other things. Things that they (we) treasure are like eating day old McDonalds when He has a feast that is fit for royalty. I can become drunk with colors and tips for my “happy life” instead of sober to the reality of the awesomeness of God and the truth of His word that so desperately needs to be shared. (At this point, you may be thinking, “she’s nuts”-that’s okay.)

I am not saying this magazine is evil or taking care of your household and family are evil–but they are not the end all. There is so much more. Anything can become evil when we turn our hearts and minds to think on hope in them and worship them before treasuring Jesus. I am called to help those around me treasure Christ more and more–sharing the Truth of the gospel to wake them from their slumber to the UNIMAGINABLE promise of life in Christ through His blood shed to take our punishment for sin. This is just a reminder that the seemingly benign can kill us with a hidden stealth if we do not examine our hearts and lives.

Posted in pride, random thoughts, self-absorption, spiritual growth, thankfulness, transformation by truth

How the corner was turned…

For those of you who have known me for any amount of time, you know that I have never loved Wal-mart. It brought the dread of fingernails on a chalkboard for me to venture there–crowds of families of 10 standing in the middle of aisles, small aisles. It’s like people get stupid when they walk in the doors standing in the middle of aisles, staring at product. I much preferred Target’s wide aisles, cool product, and sense of cleanliness.
In the last couple of years, it has become a necessity to be a part of the Wal-mart adventure because of finances. They really are cheaper. There are very few things that they are more expensive on. So, I would gather my strength and go early on Mondays. I did not like it, but I knew it was wise. It became part of my regular routine.
Over the year, I have come to dread it less. In fact, I do not even complain anymore. I, gulp…, kind of like it now. The main reason is not because of the low prices or convenience. The main reason is because of something that God has done in my heart.
There are so many places in my life right now that people make me feel comfortable, look like me, sound like me, speak my language (literally and figuratively). That can get claustrophobic. That can make you pretty selfish. That is not reality.
When I walk into Wal-mart, God says to my heart, “look around, see those hurting, living life in need, wanting to be noticed.” I see people from all different nationalities, all socioeconomic levels, living in all kinds of drama or boredom. I have had opportunities to smile, interact, pray, share with those alone and in need. Not every time have I taken the opportunity to live outside of myself, but when I prepare my heart to be open, God has blessed me with humility and brokenness over the needs of others.
This is gross, but I think I used to think I was above Wal-mart. Then, again, I am reminded of the Gospel. Christ condescended to us–messy, crowded hearts, full of drama and boredom, haters. He walked into our lives and loved us physically, emotionally, spiritually. He reached out to the least of these calling for us to repent and follow Him. There may be no other place in my life where it is more real to carry the message of the Gospel than to my neighborhood Wal-mart. Pretty amazing what God can teach us in the everyday. Pretty amazing that He shows me that I am exactly like everyone else in there–in need and sometimes clueless to my need. When I left Wal-mart last week, I left with a joy in my heart and thankfulness for His mercy. I did not see that one coming!

Posted in random thoughts, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Happy Easter!

This past weekend was a good time to reflect and worship. The last few years, Greg and I keep saying we are going to watch “The Passion of the Christ” on Good Friday to no avail. However, this year, we watched it together on Saturday. It was so good to posture my heart in humility…to focus on Christ. It also brought the hope of Easter morning with a bang.
Greg preached his first official Easter sermons yesterday for 3 services. He is paying for it today as he prepares for Crossroad. Such is life since Rheumatoid Arthritis reared its ugly head a little over a year ago. The bounce back time takes longer and little things take a greater toll. With that, I learned how to use our riding lawn mower yesterday and conquered the front yard. It was beautiful outside, and I was glad to do it.
We also got to enjoy a great lunch on china at our friends Jacob and Beth’s house. Thanks, guys.
As I look toward the next few weeks, I am hopeful and feel the heaviness of a busy schedule. Next week, we go to Chicago for the Gospel Coalition conference. We will get to hang out there for a few days. I am excited about going to a city I’ve never been to, being out of town with my husband, spending time with Rick and Teresa Dunn, and going to an amazing conference on 2 Timothy. When we fly back, I will be driving to Memphis for Tiffany and Chris’s wedding. I will be singing for it–a first for me by myself at a wedding. I am honored to serve them, and I am excited for them. Then, the day after I get back, I turn 34. I don’t like the fact that I can be grouped with mid-30s, but I still make it into the 18-34 demographic!
Today, I pray that preparing for this week and next, I do not neglect the opportunities of today. I pray that I not forget Easter–the hope of new life–in the midst. Did I mention I’m excited about Chicago?

Posted in prayer, random thoughts, rest, Rheumatoid Arthritis, scripture memory, thankfulness, Uncategorized

An update

       I sit here on a rainy Saturday afternoon in my pajamas listening to the wonderful music of my dog, Bailey, playing “devil box” in the backyard.  The new wood fence is up, and I can enjoy an afternoon of Bailey playing and not escaping.  I cannot tell you the last time I have had that joy.

      The last few weeks have been particularly exhausting–not bad, but exhausting.  Greg had bursitis in his elbow that had a huge infection and made it necessary to not take his Humira (Rheumatoid Arthritis meds).  This past week has been really hard on him, and in consequence has been hard on me as I help to care for and encourage him.  He is not able to do as much to help physically.  This is just part of life for him, and, in turn, for me.  

      My usual schedule has been off (packed full), so my housekeeping, cooking, etc has been off.  Greg had the first 3 nights of this week away, and I had two of them away, so I had toast for dinner several nights:).  I also added several new young women to meet with weekly.  Greg’s good friends from college, Todd and Brian, are in town this weekend, and it has been great to hear him laugh and be silly with them in their banter.  Friends that stand the test of time are such a gift.  

     All of these things are a part of the life of which I am extremely grateful.  I am grateful for the beauty of pouring into others with the hope of the gospel.  I am grateful for the quality of relationships we have in our lives–the opportunity to be “with” people and give our lives away.  However, this afternoon, I am really grateful for my soft pajamas, the computer, warm blankets, my gracious husband, and my crazy dog.  It is time for some rest.

     The lack of blogging lately has come from the exhaustion of the mind.  I have been “present” with so many in the real world that I have not connected with the cyber one!  

      I got the opportunity to study for several hours yesterday on how Jesus and the new testament writers prayed for others.  It was such a blessing.  Reminders poured forth to remember my brothers and sisters in thanksgiving to God and to constantly pray for them.  The prayers about others were also steeped in the truth and the gospel for the strengthening and fruit in Christ.  I pray that today for you who follow this blog.  I am thankful for you–for the exact arenas God has placed you for his specific purposes.  I pray that God point you to Christ here and strengthen you to endure and serve in the hope of Christ.  I pray that your hope be in NOTHING other than his truth and the grace and love that come in Him–not your family or looks or job or finances or status or anything.  

‘But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I might gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes from faith, the righteousness of God that depends on faith.’  Phil 3:7-9

      It is no mistake that these are the verses we have been memorizing this week.  His word is so rich, and the Spirit teaches us faithfully as we cling to it.