Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, together in one concert. Now that’s a dream come true! I “grew up” in Christ on these guys’ music. We are about the same age and have experienced many of life’s milestone events around the same time. They have both been transparent in their public lives which led me to feel I "know" them in a personal way.

Saturday night, I sat in the sixth row and saw my boys up close and personal. Before the concert, my friends wondered if my fervor would warrant any embarrassment on their part. To their surprise, I was relatively quiet and self-contained. I can explain that – it’s called rapture.

Michael W. Smith recounted his trip to Colorado ten years ago in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings. It's been a while since I remembered Cassie Bernall, the young girl who was shot in the head for affirming her belief in God. Michael still sings the song he wrote about her, “This Is Your Time”.

Steven Curtis Chapman has always looked like a youth group refugee to me. The round face, blonde hair and fair complexion make me want to pinch his cheek when I see his picture. The man who stepped on stage Saturday night was not the boyish imp I have always seen. I felt shock as I realized this thin, drawn fellow with the gray goatee and thick glasses was “Little Stevie”.

Five months ago, Steven’s five-year-old daughter died after a freak accident involving her older brother and an SUV. The family has been very public with much of their grieving, saying they want to help other families enduring similar losses. So I knew a lot about their journey over the past several months. None of that prepared me for the stark stamp of grief I saw on this wonderful man’s countenance.

Yet, his message was one of hope. He shared the pain and bewilderment he and his family have felt, but that was not the end of the story. Steven spent much more time describing the comfort God has sent them. There was not a dry eye in the house as he expressed his gratitude for the letters, emails and prayers of hundreds of “strangers” who have reached out in the wake of this tragedy.

The man had changed, and so had the music. It was richer; it was deeper. It was more intensely infused with the eternal Truth that sustains each one of us, the certain knowledge that God works all things together for good to those who love Him. I already loved Steven’s new release of “Yours”. He sang that song for years but recently added a new verse to affirm his conclusions about our God. On Saturday night, I felt a great surge of hope as I SAW and believed Steven’s message that everything is under God’s control.

I leave you with Steven's lyrics and a fervent prayer they will touch any part of your own heart that is broken today. Join me in remembering that whatever situations trouble us (and we all have them), God is on His throne and mindful of every tear. God is love, and love does not disappoint.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

I’ve walked the valley of death’s shadow,
So deep and dark that I could barely breathe.
I’ve had to let go of more than I could bear,
And I’ve questioned everything that I believe.
Still, even here in this great darkness,
Comfort and a hope come breaking through
As I can say, in life or death,
God, we belong to you.

The last Word:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10: 29-31, NIV.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sneak Preview

My friends have threatened to bring along a straightjacket when we see Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman in concert tomorrow night. They still remember the state I was in at a Third Day concert last year. I promised that if they left the straightjacket at home, they could just pretend they don’t know me. Thirty-six hours until the concert, and I am already ten feet off the ground!

Nothing transports me to the Throne of Grace like praise and worship music does. When that takes place in an arena with thousands of other worshipers, I cannot contain myself. While I adore the Christian artists who bring messages of hope and praise, my elation is not for them. It is for the One they proclaim.

Concerts bring to mind what it will be like when we leave this broken world and stand before the One who has pursued us since before time began. What a glorious day that will be! I picture myself as a war bride whose Hero has finally returned from distant shores to begin our real life together. All the nights of loneliness and painful longing for Him will be over. He will be home for good. I will see Him with my own eyes. He will hold me and never let me go.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul described faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV). When I hear the lyrics of praise music and see others worshiping joyfully, it strengthens my faith. I become more sure of what I hope for and more certain of what I do not see. Now how is a girl supposed to sit still for all that?

What about you? What brings you into view of our joyful arrival Home? I invite you to crank up the music and join me in remembering that this earth is not our home, that a day grander than anything we can imagine lies ahead if we will just hold on!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Step Away From the Binky

Self-pity has been called the great emotional pacifier. If that’s true, I probably have a cleft in my lip from sucking on mine. Last week, I experienced disappointment as a humdinger sinus infection kept me from a much anticipated conference. A few other “calamities” coincided. Just enough to send me spiraling into a royal case of “Woe is me”.

The problem with a pacifier is that it may soothe for a while, but not a drop of milk comes out of it. After a while, it just becomes a rubbery mess that doesn’t satisfy. I finally reached that point, feeling miserable enough to change what I was doing. I’ve felt sorry for myself often enough to know exactly the antidote I needed. It always involves less me time, more knee time and reaching out to help someone else.

On Friday, I went to see my friend Dorothy. Dorothy is eighty years old. Her world consists mainly of her tiny living room, cramped on every side by old newspapers, broken furniture and dime store reminders of days long gone. Dorothy consistently refuses to let anyone clear out her living space. At her age, ties to the past are too fragile for the blunt edge of a cleanup. She has made herself quite content with the sofa she lays on and one questionable chair reserved for visitors.

While Dorothy’s surroundings are meager, her love is lavish. She always greets me as if I’d just been rescued from years on a deserted island. Face beaming, she reaches out to embrace me, exclaiming, “God bless you, Baby! Oh, I am so glad to see you. How you been? How’s dem girls?” News of our simplest goings on can send her into fits of rapture. I will risk the rickety chair any day just to bask in her affection.

When I left Dorothy’s, I stopped by to check on my friend Catherine. Catherine is a single mom with two children and a growing case of cancer. Her pocket-sized apartment sits in a neighborhood where you don’t let your children play outside, day or night. She gets a disability check the first of each month, but the money always seems to run out before the month does. When she had a visitor last week, she prayed the person would not ask to use the bathroom since she had no money to buy toilet paper and was relying on torn napkins from McDonald’s until the first.

Pulling out of Catherine’s, I felt like a different person. Here I had been fretting over missing a trip I will likely make next year. Dorothy won’t be making any such trip, and Catherine may not have a next year. Yet, both of them radiate a joy that’s contagious. Thank God they are willing to let me come and drink from their waters whenever I need the boost. I don’t know what I would do without them.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?
James 2:5, NIV.