holy

Christmas confessions.

I really do not like Christmas hymns. Sharp pitched notes, different versions of the same thing…it’s not the cynical ‘I hate Christmas,’ because I love Christmas. I just do not like the music that is traditionally associated with it.

I do like Christmas music that is ‘not’ Christmas music to a lot of people. Brandon Heath has a beautiful song out right now called ‘Just a Girl.’ If you haven’t heard it, you must go track it down. I guarantee you will not regret it! I also love ‘Winter Snow’ by Chris Tomlin and Audrey Assad. I could listen to that song on repeat for hours!

There is one traditional song, well…two, really…that I do like. Every time I hear ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Silent Night’ I get chills. I think it is the lyrics and the dynamics of how it is sung when I hear the ‘Fall on your knees’…that leads into ‘O night divine.’

It is also because ever since I learned that the word ‘holy’ has roots to ‘set apart’ in the original Hebrew I have been fascinated by it. Let’s also clarify that set apart is also very different from being put up on a pedestal for no one to touch. Set apart to me means set apart for a purpose, set apart as one who claims the gift God offers in Jesus. It also means we choose to grab ahold of those holy moments and know that the tangible presence of God has touched us. That is holy for us…but in Revelation it says everyone was praising God all day and all night, and singing:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” [Revelation 4:8]

Does this mean our God is unreachable? Too holy for us?

No. Why? Because we are talking about the same God who sent his son to be born on earth, to live here with us…then die on a cross because we have too many wrongs to make right in ourselves.

We are called to be holy as God is holy…but just as he makes himself available to us, we are not called to be unreachable and act as though we are better than those that do not call themselves believers. When we set ourselves too far apart from those that do not believe what we believe, we do an injustice to God who sent his son to earth to be friends with prostitutes, tax collectors, beggars, outcasts and those with leprosy.

So I leave you with my favorite lyrics from ‘O Holy Night,’ and if you’ve been reading my blog long enough…you’ll easily see why these lyrics are my favorite, and more likely why I have such an attachment to ‘O Holy Night.’

Truly He taught us to love one another.
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

give me your eyes

At this point, it’s not news that one of the ways I feel God lead is through music. The lyrics get me every time. But what you don’t know is the story behind a certain artist whose music keeps taking journeys with me.

I bought Brandon Heath’s ‘Give Me Your Eyes’ about a month before I went back to Russia and a year after I said I would never go again. It was 2008, and I was back on a plane to Russia. Just not to the first orphanage WCC sponsored…it had been closed the previous year by the government. In the process, my heart had been torn apart. Walking away from the orphanage and kids for the last time was the hardest thing I have ever had to do to date.

When you invest so much of yourself, when you pour out God’s love so intentionally and ask for nothing in return…it messes with you when you don’t understand why it abruptly ends. God and I had some interesting conversations when Kurlovo closed. Most involved yelling…by me. I couldn’t fathom how it could work into God’s plan for the ministry He’d called us to invest in for 6 years…to be finished. The short answer is…it really wasn’t finished, only beginning.

‘Give Me Your Eyes’ literally became my prayer before we left and every single day while we were on the vision trip to choose a ‘new’ orphanage. How do you do that? You see so many kids…what choice is in that? I felt so much pressure in being part of the team that would decide if WCC would sponsor a new orphanage. I knew what it could be like to minister to Russian orphans, and I was convinced it would never be that way again. I needed God to be more than I believed He could be in that moment…I needed to see through His eyes.

These words fill up a few holes in my broken heart, and pushed me to focus on what God was doing:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see 

It worked through me so fully that once I got back, bringing this song into others’ lives made me quite annoying. It was always one of those ‘Here she goes again..’ eye rolls. But I had seen how those lyrics changed my perspective, and brought us to a new orphanage that we are now 3 years invested. I will never forget Kurlovo, but Velikoretskoye is now home.

Here’s some cliff notes on what songs quickly followed in succession after ‘Give Me Your Eyes’:

‘Wait and See’…brought me back to the realization that we are a work in process, and whatever I learn God is constantly drawing me closer to His heart.

‘Stolen’…honestly, this song encompasses everything ‘mission’ means. God is constantly pursuing us. Not in a creepy, stalker way…but in a pure, true love way. He will wait until you choose Him. Patiently. Lovingly. Present in our lives whether we choose to believe or not.

‘It’s No Good To Be Alone’…this one is a funny-haha. It cracks me up when I get into the car and turn on the radio, and I hear exactly what I need to hear. This chorus was on when I needed reassurance that what God was putting on my heart needed to be shared with others. My ‘me against the world’ mentality needs this reminder a lot. It also serves as a reversal when the thought sinks into my mind that being single equals being alone, and those times when I fight my instinct not to rely on others.

‘Leaving Eden’…our world is so broken. We are separated from God, and we all crave to be restored to Him. We cry out for a world where there is no hunger, no tears, no cancer, no war…these lyrics make me long for the day when God’s kingdom is restored, and that is exactly what God’s mission is all about. Working towards the day it is all restored.

Last spring, I bought a CD that benefited the International Justice Mission, and this stuck out the most:

Oh freedom, Where have you gone? I’ve been looking for you, all night long.

Oh mercy, do you remember me? I’ve been listenin’ for you, in this ol’ melody.

Swing low, make yourself known. Swing low, Come on back home.

Swing low, Let your light shine bright. Swing low, Freedom come tonight.

Oh justice, where did you run to? You really need to come back, ‘Cuz i been missing you.

It just happened to be at a time that Isaiah 58 was still saturating my heart & mind, and Micah 6:8 was creepin’ in. I have revisited this song so many times over the last year, because I ache for the injustice to stop and for God’s love to conquer all.

God has used Brandon Heath’s lyrics to bring me into whatever missional focus needs to be adjusted…which is frequently. And not to say that other artists aren’t a part of this musical journey too…Kim Walker, Josh Garrells, Ryan Delmore, Misty Edwards, Needtobreathe, JJ Heller…so many, actually. Not to limit it at all to ‘Christian’ artists…Mumford and Sons ranks up there, and The Fray’s ‘Heartbeat’ is amazing right now.

Until I sat down to write this, I don’t think I actually realized all of the songs that God has used…it is a beautiful thing when art merges with real life and God uses it to draw us closer to Him. That connection could come through so many avenues.

But the thing I hope you hear is that God is still moving, God is still love and He is still the God of justice and mercy. He doesn’t change…we do, and normally it is to move away from Him. The question is…will you allow yourself to move closer to Him, and closer to His heart for our world? And are you open to what He might use in your life?