Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ZOE in Malibu 2012

ZOE had our annual trek to Malibu recently. The Pepperdine lectureship is such a wonderful week for us. We have the honor of getting to minister to hundreds of people and also have fellowship with each other. This was our 15th year to go. What a blessing it is to us! We did three classes with Mike Cope plus 2 late night worship experiences. It was a very exhausting week but so worth it! The week culminated with a very sweet experience for me which you'll hear more about below...

Here are some pictures from our time there.

No trip to Malibu is complete for us without eating at Duke's!

The beauty all around the Pepperdine campus

Sheryl's sister Gail and her family were there too

Cousins! Maddie and Sierra

Mitch Fewell sang with us the first day-posing here with Peter and me

Amy and Sheryl

ZOE CD sales after each session

Part of the fun of Malibu is the beach!

ZOE girls jump for joy

Not to be outdone by the girls...we had to try too

Each morning we went down to the Malibu Country Mart for coffee and morning sunshine

Craig and Beth Ann were also on the trip this year. So fun being together!

Jason got to see his sister Rachel while we were there

Rachel helps prep Jason before we sing

These are the kinds of views you get at Pepperdine...the lovely Pacific Ocean

On Friday Melissa had to leave early because she and Michael were headed to NYC with the Nashville Symphony because the symphony was playing Carnegie Hall. So, I called my buddy Beverley who I used to perform with (who now sings weekly on Dancing With the Stars) and she came and joined us. It was such a special thing for us! We loved having Beverley. She sang a solo on "It Is Well" and I only wish I had recorded it. I got the other two days...but was so caught up in the moment that I missed it. It was truly incredible! You can hear clips of the other two days below...

This is in the stairwell where we go after soundcheck. I stopped recording right before Sheryl got choked on saliva. :)

After our afternoon class on Friday we all loaded up and went in to Santa Monica to the pier. In all the years we've been going out there we have never done this. It was such a blast!

Jason and Amy

Beverley and me

Maddie and Jesse

Jeremy, Beverley and Kelly Chitwood with Sheryl and me

This artist was amazing! Maddie had her do her name

Amy, Kent and Jason--oink

Kevin, Amy and Jason before riding the coaster

Ella rode with me! She loved it!

We had a great week out there and some pretty incredible moments of ministry in Mike's class and in our late night worship sessions. I always leave feeling the glory of God. It's a very special place. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Starting Conversations--and Stopping Them

I am borrowing today's post from my good friend Sally Gary who is the fearless leader of a ministry named CenterPeace. The goal of CenterPeace is to provide a place at the table for everyone to come to know the love of Christ...a safe place. This is a post Sally wrote this week. 

I’ve ‘listened’ to a lot of the conversations on Facebook, the blogs, the editorials written in response to the North Carolina election last week. And President Obama’s endorsement of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

 I have friends on both ends of the spectrum.

 Both sides say hurtful things, sincerely believing they’re standing up for what’s right, not realizing how hurtful it is.

As a woman who experiences same-sex attraction and wrestles with reconciling faith in God and what he wants for my life in the midst of struggling with those feelings, I can tell you that this is not a black and white issue. As someone who talks with men and women and their families from all over the world who are wrestling with the same questions, I can assure you there are no easy answers.

 Perhaps we need to focus on what we really want to accomplish by those conversations.

 To convey the love of Christ.

 To create opportunities for deeper dialogue, deeper insight, deeper understanding.

Which does that more – stating our beliefs about an issue or really getting involved in the lives of men and women who are that issue? Telling you what I think or listening to the journey you’ve been on to bring you to this place in your life?

When I wrestle with these questions, what’s been most helpful to me is to have a place where I’m safe to say what I’m thinking without judgment, without reaction that causes me to shut down – to stop expressing my own feelings because I see that it’s upsetting to the other person. In order for me to really be able to sort through my own feelings, I need someone who will simply listen and love me right where I am, no matter what.

 That has helped me more than anything.

My fear is that these comments – in the absence of deep, ongoing, meaningful relationships – are divisive and serve no other purpose but to shut down opportunities for further conversation. And for building those life-altering relationships.

 Relationships that remind me of who I am.

What if, instead of spending all this time and energy fighting against something, we invested in discovering as much as we can about what’s underneath? What if we spent all our vast resources trying to learn as much as we can from the men and women who experience same-sex attraction – of listening to the struggle, the pain, the confusion, the torment within those of us who have wrestled with these feelings for a lifetime?

My heart goes out to my brothers and sisters whose stories remain unheard. Some of these men and women have embraced a gay identity, some have not. Many are still sitting in the pews of churches believing homosexuality is contrary to God’s will for their lives, but finding themselves in an utterly miserable place of being deeply attracted to someone of the same sex, and at the same time, deeply committed to God.



 Terrified of someone finding out.

 Precious souls who are faithful Christ-followers, truly desirous of living the lives of holiness they believe God has called them to, and yet, because of the shame fueled by comments like those made over the last week, they are unable to even claim same-sex attraction as a struggle. Within their families. Among their closest friends. With their ministers.

 Because they’ve heard the things we’ve said in love.

Women and men in their 60s and 70s who are still afraid to speak up.

College students at our Christian universities.

We’re in your pews. In your classes. In your social clubs. Majoring in ministry.

Because we love the Lord. And we love our church families. But we’re terrified to tell you.

Because we’ve read the comments you write on Facebook.

We listen to the things you say from the pulpit. In the van on mission trips. At the supper table.

And we’re paying close attention to how you react to the gay characters on television. It’s time to learn how to talk about homosexuality. It’s time to explore what’s underneath, instead of only paying attention to what’s most obvious. Well-intentioned, precious hearts want to make this right by making it okay – while other well-intentioned, equally precious hearts want to demonize it as the sin above sins. The latter is most obvious in its harm, but what if the former is lacking as well?

What if this really is a far more complex question than we’ve ever imagined – or been willing to adequately investigate?

What if, instead of fighting a political battle that just causes more hurt feelings and isolation, we focused all of our attention and energy to discovering the real underlying issues? What if, instead of taking a defensive posture against an ideology with which we disagreed, we sought sincerely to better understand where people are coming from?

What if we didn’t just talk about the need to do something, but really started doing it?

Meanwhile, kids are still growing up confused about who they really are. And we create graphics about marriage being between a man and a woman.

*I want to thank Sally for letting me publish this. We in the church world have a huge task of love in front of us. It's much easier to sit back and point fingers and decide where to draw lines. God loves beyond lines and barriers. He reaches beyond them...seeking, befriending, sacrificing himself. Will you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Salt and Light

Recently, ACU asked me to write the cover article for their magazine called the "WC" (wildcat). In this edition there were interviews with many ACU alums who are working in the entertainment industry. They asked me to write a cover article that would lay the foundation for that particular issue. Here was my article...

What does it mean to be salt and light? 

Jesus admonished his followers to be seasoning in the world...to bring light to dark places. In one of my first professional jobs as a singer on Norwegian Cruise Line, I had many conversations with people about faith and God. I noticed that the petty things we argue about in churches really mean nothing to people outside those walls. What a brilliant strategy of the enemy to get us so distracted by inward arguments that we miss the forest for the trees. 

Some of us are quick to dismiss the arts because we see the morals (or lack thereof) that seem to surround the entertainment industry. And so, we put our salt back in the box and tuck our light into a safe place just in case it might get snuffed out. (I seem to recall a certain parable of the talents that has something to say about this.) 

God has given you certain gifts and abilities out of His vast creative wealth. He is the ultimate artist, producer, songwriter and creative genius. The world wants to engage in the arts and it's one of the main intersections in our culture. Why in the world would we withhold our part in that conversation? 
I don't mean just getting into the arts to make "Christian" movies or music or anything like that. (The word "Christian" should be a noun more than a verb anyway.) 

Be an artist who believes in Jesus and make good art. Be a singer who believes in Jesus and make good music. Be a filmmaker who believes in Jesus and make movies that reflect culture and speak into it. Our best work is being seasoning. Someone out there is going to stand up and decide to try their hand at the entertainment industry. Why not you? What will stop you? Hone your craft, put yourself in places where you will be challenged, be fearless. Someone will. It could be YOU! Above all, keep the conversations open about faith and life. You'll be amazed the impact you'll have just by being a solid friend.

Whether your talent lies in the arts, sciences, or something else, may you be inspired to season your world as you read these stories of Christians who are being salt and light in the entertainment industry.