Faith Category

For matters of the heart and soul…

Danger in defining Worship?

Danger in defining Worship?

I was originally going to title this post What your worship pastor really wants you to know, but I am not a worship pastor, don’t speak for all worship pastors. I am married to a worship pastor, but I don’t even pretend to speak for him. So this is just the passions of a woman who loves to worship God and is heartbroken when people misunderstand what worship is for what we can more easily understand.

If you ever engage Jordan or me in conversation for more than about 10 minutes, our faith is probably going to come up. It’s just something that drives us and has become entwined with our DNA. We see this as nothing but a positive thing. It helps us have compassion, generosity, love, humility, grace, and patience… all of these attributes are not ones that come completely naturally to me, for sure. And don’t get me wrong…. we are far from perfecting these actions, but we are working on it.

One thing that has helped me is to stay intellectually motivated by a good library of books. I am proud (and shocked) to say that I have recently (very recently) become a lover of books! Why this love did not develop in high school I will never know! It would have been very helpful in getting through Oscar Wilde. I love authors like Francine Rivers, Gail McWilliams, Tim Keller, and, of course, Josh McDowell. Recently, we’ve been absolutely obsessed with a book by Zachary Neese out of Gateway called HOW TO WORSHIP A KING

We took our last team through this book, and the kind of discussion that was brought out due to its content was humbling. It’s provocative and unafraid. It dares to ask questions of our thought processes and traditions. It challenges you on what you think of when you hear the word “worship”. What worship is and isn’t. Is there danger in defining it? Is there danger in NOT defining it? Why do people care so deeply about it in our churches?

“Worship” is a very controversial concept. Whenever change is considered to the “worship”, people get very upset. Why? Why is it that the worship seems to cause so much conflict within the walls of the church? But what is meant by “changes to the worship”?  Most of the time, it’s referencing changes to the music style or atmosphere.  We have all heard “worship is a lifestyle”, but is that true? And what does it even mean? If it means, it’s anything we do with pure hearts in motives… is that biblical worship? Or something else?

Though, I know well intentioned, I hate this catchphrase. It does nothing to further our understanding of worship. It was intended to encourage believers to live a life focused on God, but what it’s become is to believe that everything you do FOR God is worship. And that is just not true…biblically. We can do a lot of great things for God. We can praise, we can serve, we can teach, we can pray, but there is an actual definition of “worship” and, I would say, that actual “worship” is something that makes a lot of believers incredibly uncomfortable and so not done often.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… leave a comment.

Here are a couple things that have really stood out to me when speaking with worship pastors:

  1. We want you to engage!– I know this one seems obvious, but I’ve come across some people who, I swear, seem as though worship pastors are trying to be solo artists and don’t want the congregation to be singing with them. Now, I’m sure there are some bad eggs who are in it for the wrong reason, but, trust me, most of them are not in it for the “glory and high pay”. Please don’t go to service with a critical spirit ready to tear apart the heart of the guy/girl who is doing her best to create an atmosphere conducive for the Spirit to move. If it didn’t “work” for you, check your heart before you grab the scalpel to dissect his/hers. It’s not their job to make sure you worship. It’s their job to “carry the arc” (read the book…so good)/usher in the presence.
  2. It’s not actually for you. – You’ve heard this before, but really let this sink in. This guy has considered you, has thought about how best to prepare the atmosphere with music as David did that will calm your spirit, so God can battle as little distractions as possible. But at the end of the day, corporate worship is not about or for you. The phrase “I really liked” or “hated the worship today” makes no sense. We all know what is meant, but the theology of it is flawed. You may think this is just semantics, but words matter. Words are how we carry thought and teaching to other people, namely younger believers. Words are important. Once you define “worship”, that phrase literally doesn’t make grammatical sense nor is it possible for someone else to affect your worship.
  3. Worship is not music. – I feel like someone is going to get mad at this one, but it must be said. I love music. I have sung since before I could speak. Music has always been part of my life and part of my worship, but it is not synonymous with it. I feel like this got really confused during the 90’s (maybe before but this is where my life experience has showcased it). It was with an absolutely fantastic heart that people went from calling the guy that led music in church the “music director/pastor” to the “worship pastor”. Why? Because that guy’s responsibilities shouldn’t be to just wave their hand and conduct a song but to usher in the presence of a Holy God. What he was doing held more spiritual authority than just music…it was worship. The only problem is, the only thing this guy was over was the music, so we taught the church that music and worship are the same things. They are not.

Worship in scripture was a physical posturing before a Holy God. It actually meant “to bow”. (To learn all the usages and meaning, please read the book…can not recommend it enough) Now, before someone says that that does not mean that you cannot worship in music, let me say…of course you can. But it is by no means synonymous with the word. When you can understand that your worship is not affected by the music because you can reflect on God’s character and nature no matter if there is a rock band or an organ playing, then we can stop the battle happening on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Everybody has a preference of music. My husband is trained in opera and sang in a metal band. He would sooner put on some band I refuse to name because I don’t like it enough to remember the name than my Broadway stuff. That’s just a preference of style. There can be no music at all and we can reflect on how holy God is. If you CANNOT WORSHIP due to the style played…that is a reflection of your heart, not the “worship”. No leader can affect your response to God…it is solely your choice to worship Him or not.

My husband was encouraged to write a philosophy of worship in college. We’ve spent many times in the car (when we had one) talking about it. I’m sure it will be ever changing but here’s what God has brought me to today:

 

 

 

 

I think when we are in a space to understand the awesomeness of God, we will have no choice but to fall on our face in worship.

If you are someone who has ever been frustrated at the music or the leader or been that leader, I seriously encourage you to read the book.

Love,

the Grizzards

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Freedom Into Slavery…

God can rescue you from your slavery, but what you do in your freedom is up to you.

 

I’ve heard it said that when God brings lessons in your life several times within a period of time, you’d better “lean in” right? It’s like He puts a truth on repeat to make sure we don’t miss it. Well, I was spending some time with a sweet friend of mine and we started discussing the life and death of Lazarus. We were struck by this story and concept of  “freedom into slavery” and not three days later, I was at a woman’s conference that talked about Lazarus… Ok, God. I’m listening. The story of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha is in John 11. Now, I don’t just call this the story of Lazarus because let’s be real…Lazarus didn’t have a lot to do with it. He died and then got up…that was basically his contribution to this incredible narrative. But Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, are really the focus here.

Let’s pause for a second. Am I the only one that gets really confused with all of the Marys and Johns and so on in the Word? I feel like every other chapter a different Mary is anointing Jesus with perfume, or sitting at his feet, running to the tomb, or being saved from stoning. Little did I realize that the same Mary that wept at Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair (the same woman that Jesus credited with the incredible honor of being the only one in all of Scripture that showed love to Him) also, sat at His feet while her sister, Martha, constantly cleaned their home. It is this Mary and Martha that are the center of the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus had taught them how to worship Him when He encouraged Martha to join her sister and sit at His feet. And now, Jesus was about to teach them how to live through the death of their dear brother.

Jesus had been sent word that his friend Lazarus was sick to the point of death, and yet He did not come immediately. The Word says that He remained two days longer where He was. Why? Why would Jesus not immediately hike up His toga, strap on His Birkenstocks and high tail it to Bethany to be with His friends? Or, better yet. Why not just speak the words of life and give Lazarus new health and strength through the power of His voice? Would this not give God enough glory? Why would that not be a sufficient showing of God’s power?

I think it interesting to note how the Bible wrote this,

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

The Bible says “so”. Why? “So” denotes a cause and effect. “I’m tired SO I went to bed”. Because A then B. So Jesus stalled for a reason and that reason must be what came directly before… “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus knew what would happen two days later, and He allowed it to happen out of love for this family. The death of Lazarus would be a foreshadowing of His own death, burial, and resurrection. If they would be allowed to see with their own eyes, Jesus’ power over death through Lazarus, they would be that much more prepared to accept His own resurrection and be powerful witnesses to it later. This was an incredible gift Jesus afforded his friends; to be used by God to show His power over the grave.

 

But Why did He wait two days? That seems pretty specific. Why not three days or simply “a while”? In the traditional Jewish faith, there is a belief about the afterlife. This faith regarded death with the highest degree of respect. Every Jew had to be buried and as soon after death as possible. Cremation was strictly forbidden because the soul was still believed to have a connection to the body for three days after death. It was seen to hover before continuing to the afterlife. Hmm. That’s interesting. So, by the time Jesus had arrived at the tomb, Martha told Him he’d been dead for 4 days. So, according to their belief system, his soul was gone! He was way past his expiration date! But the power of God never expires.

There’s so much good meat in this story, but I want to focus on the actual resurrection for now. In Jewish burial custom, a body would be washed, anointed with oils and perfumes and then wrapped in burial cloth before being laid in an above ground tomb usually carved out of the side of a cliff or something. The body would be laid on a stone platform or crevice carved into the wall of the tomb. After time passed, the bones would be collected and put in “bone boxes” called ossuaries and placed with older family members further in the tomb. You’ll see this referenced several times in scripture about the collection of bones being laid to “sleep with my fathers” as they were typically family tombs. A simple shroud would cover the face and a stone rolled in front of the opening to the cave.

When Jesus arrives at the tomb, scripture says He was once again deeply moved. Actually, the wording is stronger than that. The Word says “He groaned in His spirit”. The Greek that this comes from is not a word associated with sorrow, but more anger.  It is used not to simply note an emotional feeling but a feeling that moves one to action.

I’ve seen this emotion explained a couple of ways. It is possible that He was angry at the sorrow of the people that were mourning the death of Lazarus. This theory says that Jesus was angry at their misunderstanding of the full resurrection to life that allowed Lazarus to live eternally after death. Macarthur says, “while grief is understandable, these people were acting in despair….like the pagans that have no hope.” Now, you may think, “hold on a second, a few verses later it says ‘Jesus wept’, so how could He condemn others that mourn if He only a moment later, mourns Himself??” That’s true. This is where our silly English language gets in the way (go deeper, believer…study the Word). The Greek word used for “wept” there denotes a quiet, burst of tears. This would be in direct contrast to the loud, bombastic wails of the paid, professional mourners that the family would’ve hired for the funeral. And His tears may not have been for Lazarus, but due to a grief that His people were still lost in disbelief that all that have faith in Jesus will live forever with the Father.

Another theory is that Jesus may have been angry for a different reason. Now, I have no sources for this theory…other than Scripture for support. But keep in mind, these bodies of ours were not designed for death. Death only entered the picture when we exited the garden. Think about it. When someone dies, especially “too soon”, doesn’t it feel wrong?? Doesn’t it feel unnatural? Because it is. Death is not of God. God brings life. Death is the result of sin and Jesus is the One charged with defeating it once and for all! But in this moment with Lazarus, death had, for a moment, seemed to win. And it is possible that that fact made a holy Savior angry. Just like we saw Him angry in the temple when there were moneychangers keeping the poor from experiencing God’s presence, Jesus was staring at the reason His people could not be in unity with the Father. Is it possible that the Son’s righteous anger boiled over to tears of indignation. Boiled to the point that action was required… He HAD to do something. Death would, again, be shown who really held the power.

He told people to remove the stone. He doesn’t wave His hand and have the rock obey Him. He could. All throughout His ministry, the Earth had obeyed Him (think the storm when the disciples almost wet themselves with fear). But He enlisted the help of Lazarus’ community. Martha came to Jesus and explains to Jesus that He must be mistaken. After all, Lazarus has been dead for 4 days and must be stinking by now. Remember, this is the woman who has always been very concerned about the keeping of her house. She was “Martha Biblical Stuart”. Martha would not wish to impose on those in the assembly to the unnecessary stench of a decaying body just so Jesus could say goodbye to His friend. Martha, once again, shows that she wants so badly to understand Jesus and be counted as one of His intimates, but she is so shortsighted and blinded by her humanity that she fails at times to see the Heaven in front of her. I am very often a Martha. Jesus reminds her of who He is and lifts a prayer to His Father. He then cries out in a loud voice… a voice of authority. A voice that everyone there who had come from town could hear. If Lazarus didn’t come out… if Jesus’ cry went without response, the whole town would claim that Jesus was a false prophet and would be stoned in the center of town. This was a gauntlet thrown.

Upon hearing the voice of the one that gives life, Lazarus emerged from the darkness of his death. He had been delivered from his tomb and resurrected to life… but he was still bound. His face was still covered. His body was still wrapped and he was still in bondage. Jesus had given him life, but he was not yet free from all of the effects of his death. Jesus looked at the crowd and I’m sure his sisters and said, “unbind him.” He looked at his community and said YOU go set him free. YOU wrap your arms around him and tear the cloths that covered him in death and let him walk untethered into his new life! Jesus could’ve had Lazarus walk out free. He could have given him a royal robe and signet ring if He wanted, but He chose to charge those around him with a task. Why? Why not finish the job and give Lazarus the completion of his salvation? Did He get tired? Was His power not big enough to spring for a new robe? No! Jesus wants to use His people to untangle the mess that death causes. He looks at His church and says GET INVOLVED! Get in the game! Be a part of someone’s freedom! Remove the shroud of doubt, rejection, fear, anxiety, guilt, and depression and help them into a life filled with all that God has for them!

Mary and Martha had been taught to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. They had understood what it was to bow before their Lord. With the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus taught them how to give that love away. How to show their love in action. Jesus can deliver you from death and we, the body of Christ, help each other walk in life! This is the story of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Lazarus was but a man who Jesus loved. Mary and Martha were women that Jesus used to teach what it looks like to love Jesus and live like Him.

So what are we doing with our freedom? Are we voluntarily enchaining ourselves to the same things we had when we were in bondage? Things like disbelief, anger, gossip, slander, addiction, lust, pride, or apathy. Or will we live free of the things that kept us bound and go help our brothers to live in their freedom as well?

Truth in Art

I’ve always loved seeing how people glorify God through art…any artform. I put my daughter to bed tonight, and one of our rituals is to sing a song before bed. She asked to sing the song tonight. Then she began to sing a song she wrote. Once she was finished, she was given the praise that any mom would give her kid after such creativity, and then she said “that was my special song of praise to God” … and I melted. I DO NOT BELIEVE MUSIC IS WORSHIP (many of you are sick of hearing me say this), but I love when music is used to worship God.

Our faith is one of intellect and heart. We are told in Scripture to worship God with our whole being. Music, to me, is a beautiful outlet for that. Music brings such emotion, while lyrics tend to play to our intellect. I love what music does in my spirit. And my favorite one to listen to?? This guy!

I’ve loved that I’ve been able to hear Jordan sing praise the last few weeks. It always makes me happy. Here’s a video from church…. the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I can’t wait to hear Jozzy sing like this.

 

If you are ever in Manhattan, come by and see us!

HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…

HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…

Have you ever ridden on the subway system in New York? Or maybe the TUBE in London? The train is constantly stopping to allow huge numbers of people to load onto the small train to make their way to wherever their destination may be. There are usually so many people on the train that I very often lose sight of whoever I stepped on the train with as bodies have just wedged themselves between us. I remember one time, I had no idea what my stop was and my husband had been lost in the sea of what seemed like the entire population of Manhattan on our car. When I finally found a way to see just his head, I started signing to him to find out what our stop was (mind you, my husband does not know sign language and makes fun of me incessantly when I try to use it as a means of communication). I finally just yelled across the train like the foreigner I was and the entire train turned to see who the clear tourist was. #noshame.

Now, if you’re lucky enough to snatch a seat before others beat you to it, congratulations! But for those passengers who weren’t so lucky, every few feet there are these poles that people can hold onto so they don’t go flying down the center aisle as the train abruptly starts on its way again. So, as soon as someone steps on the train, the first thing they do is reach for one of these stabilizers. They GRASP onto it. Why? Because they need it. They reach for it to maintain their “uprightness”… their correct position. It is what keeps them from losing their stability. Those that fail to do so are normally found lying on the  ground, color flooding to their cheeks as they stumble back to their feet…having lost the battle between themselves and Mr. Newton.

This idea of “grasping” onto something is usually the concept that comes to mind when we see Philippians 2:6.


This passage has been used by some, to try and explain that Jesus was less than God the Father.  I know what some of you are saying, “Kayla, no one would say that.” And if you do say that, you may want to consider this a wake-up call. It could be that you’re spending too much time within the walls of your church building because many people out in the world believe that. Many believe that Jesus is not on par with an almighty god at all, but merely a good man who lived an honorable life of teaching and service. And what’s worse is that there are several “Christian” faiths that will, in fact, say just that. Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably the most famous, but in today’s age of progressive Christianity and new age philosophy, there are many that will allow any number of gods to be leveled equally with Jesus. You see, you don’t actually have to simply say that Jesus is a step below God to align with this heresy, but believing that the Son is equal to ANY other god is to align yourself with this kind of thinking…therefore, lowering Him below His rightful place of Godhood.

This is hardly a new idea. Some really hip people in skinny jeans may approach you with a “new way of thinking about Jesus” (love my fashionistas) and tell you that it is, but “there is nothing new under the sun.” The church has been dealing with this way of thinking for centuries. Why can’t we figure this thing out? Why is it so hard for us to understand? Probably because it is foreign to our minds that Jesus could fully exist in two completely different forms. We just physically cannot comprehend how he can be both of those things at the same time. How can He be fully God and fully man?? Answer- I have no idea, but scripture says He can. But the church itself has been trying to figure out how to verbalize it and understand it since the time of Constantine! (You’ve seen DaVinci code…believe nothing of what it says, but you know the reference) This was the idea that was being taught against way back then! A group of men were teaching that Jesus was less than fully God but instead was created BY God to accomplish His work. Constantine brought them all together to study the scriptures and determine the theology of the church moving forward because Constantine understood that unity of the faith was of the utmost importance… thus, the Council of Nicea…. yes, I’m a nerd, but it’s important! It’s important to understand that these men didn’t gather in order to DECIDE or CREATE this theology. Instead, their purpose was to study the scriptures, Hebrew/Greek culture, and language to UNCOVER the Bible’s original intent. In the end, they came to the conclusion that God, through His Word very clearly taught that Jesus was God in human form… even though, it was hard to reconcile to our finite minds, that God’s ability and character were infinite. And simply because we couldn’t fully understand this tenant of Jesus’ duality, didn’t mean that God couldn’t accomplish it (<- this one’s hard for a lot of people).

Although this was the Councils conclusion, there are many who disagree. Some say, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..” is evidence that even Jesus understood that His place was below that of God the Father. After all, if you’re not grasping something, you are releasing it, so Jesus was releasing his Godhood right? But what does the rest of the passage say?

Jesus is the name that is above every name. EVERY NAME. This automatically squashes a discussion about equality with other deities. But what about equality with the Father?  “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” I am not suggesting that the Heavenly Father will bow to His Son. What I am suggesting is that Jesus’ name here is given the same respect in every realm of creation as the Father himself…absolute dominion. At the mention of his name, ALL will bow. Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.

Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.

Let’s go back to the train. Say that I am one of the lucky ones that rushed onto the train right as the doors opened and found an empty seat. When I take that seat, I no longer need to hold onto the poles that stabilize those that are standing. Why?

You do not grasp that which you do not need.

Those passengers need the stabilization of that structure to keep them in proper standing position, but Jesus did not need to grasp His godhood to maintain proper position with God as God.

 

 

Of course, scripture says He humbled himself, but it never says He ceased to be God. Only that He took the form of a servant. What does that mean? The Greek word used there for “grasped” is harpagmos. Its original meaning is “something seized by robbery” and later came to mean “something clutched, embraced or prized”. Scripture is not saying that Jesus relinquished His godhood here, but actually that He always had it.  Never in the history of the world has anyone been arrested because they walked into their living room and walked off with their own television. Why? Because you can’t steal (harpagmos) that which is already yours. What it is saying is that He did not prioritize His fame and glory over that of God the Father’s.

One last analogy: Growing up I had a lot of friends that came over to my house often. We had a fairly large house and my parents wanted the house to be the place where all the kids liked to hang out, so it was always full of crazy teenagers jumping in the pool or playing in the game room upstairs. Some of my friends grew pretty attached to my parents as many of them came from broken homes for one reason or the other. Some of my friends even came up with pet names for my dad;  DP, Doc, Pops, and so on. But I never felt threatened by these terms of endearment. Why? Because there was no need to be possessive of something I could not lose. My dad was my dad. No matter how close anyone else got with my dad, I would always be his daughter. Not because of anything that I did, but because of who I am. I do not need to clutch to that identity or strive for it. I do not have to take it or have the ability to lose it…it is just who I am. I do not GRASP to be my dad’s kid. It is not something that can be loosened from me.

Jesus did not need to GRASP for equality with God because He already possessed it. It was not something He needed to hold tight to or fight to maintain. He was not afraid of finding Himself on the proverbial train floor because He didn’t hold tightly to the subway poles. He is equal in His nature by who He is not what He does. You do not grasp what you do not need.

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Our trip to Houston with our “forever people”

Recently, it seems our life is consumed with seemingly sad things. I find it hard to make it through the day without counting down every “last”… the last night in our house, the last days at school, our last times leading worship with our team, the last birthday Jozzy will have in Texas, the last time I’ll drive my car my dad gave me in college. It feels impossible to keep my mind from wandering to the goodbyes I have to make to things that I love here. Of course, the hardest goodbyes are the people. It helps tremendously that we get to come back, but a sting of the finality of it all still lingers. The people are what make this move the hardest. We love the people in our lives.

Luckily, we know that so many of “our people” here are “forever people”. Now, I know we’ve all been through moves and said, “yeah but we’re gonna stay in touch. They’re going to be in my life forever” only to never share so much as a 5 minute FaceTime call again. Sad as it is, it is the reality we’ve all lived. However, sometimes God gives you “forever people”. They are a special blessing for sure.

This past weekend we got to see some of those people in our lives. Of course, one of those groups were my sister and her family, so that feels like cheating, but she is definitely a “forever people”, so she makes in the category regardless of blood loyalty!

We had not nearly as much time as we would’ve liked to have spent in Houston this weekend, but a quick trip would have to do. We spent one evening with my sister and her family including all four of her kids.. my nieces and only nephews (until baby boy Powell arrives!) were awesome as always! Its so cool to see them grow. Sis was preparing for two birthday parties this weekend as well, so we tried to be as non invasive as possible while basking in our late night conversations. My sister is going through quite the spiritual crucible right now, and man is it amazing to watch!

We had just enough time to grab lunch before we had to go. So, being the good christians we are, we were only allowed to go to one place. We loaded up the kids and headed to Chik-fil-a. Conversation was great and I had to say goodbye. I had my LAST meal with my sister while we were both Texans. We drove to Houston for the LAST time from Dallas. I made my LAST quick, fairly spontaneous, 4 hour trek to see them…. you see how pathetic I get?? Once, we gave hugs and said goodbye, it was time to get onto the next “last”.

We pulled into the driveway and Jozlyn barely got her seatbelt fully unbuckled

before jumping out of her seat to go ring the doorbell. The Hufty’s are “forever people”. They have been our solace for a few years now and this would be the LAST time we could just pop over to Houston to have our traditional game night.

When they lived in Dallas, we would put the girls to bed and play until 2 in the morning and then throw the kids back in the car and head home. Now, to “pop” over to see them requires suitcases, toothbrushes, ziplock baggies and my label maker (I label my kids outfits… am I the only one?). And that’s just to come to Houston! Now, in New York it requires plane tickets and the kids passports!

 

Sometimes it just HITS YOU…how much your life is going to change. How vastly different your whole world will look. How many “lasts” do I even have? We are getting seriously close to the day when we will hop on an elevator and open the door to a new home.

We are eternally grateful for all of the people here that have loved on us. And we are eternally grateful for our “forever people”.

What New York has taught me in the first 7 days!!

I’ve always joked that I have no soul. I think it’s been my way of apologizing to the world for my innate instinct to be void of emotions when any normal human being would be a blubbering idiot or giddy or whatever the situation may have called for. It is something that the Lord has been working with me on, but I’ve got a long way to go.

The only time my mercy meter would really register any activity growing up was during those commercials for poverty stricken children in 3rd world countries. Praise God I didn’t have access to my families bank accounts because I would’ve absolutely bankrupted my dad. I literally had to change the channel. For some reason, I was able to muster up compassion for people I didn’t know who were in desperate need, but when it came to people within my sphere of influence…. well, I wasn’t exactly a soft place to land, unfortunately.

Fast forward all these years later and my family has just moved to a city where I come across incredible need every 20 feet. And I don’t have a remote that works on real life. I can’t change the channel. Now, anybody who has lived here will let newcomers know that this overwhelming sense will fade and you will soon be able to walk by with the learned and perfected gift of ignoring or even overlooking. This may sound cruel, but it is, in fact, a necessity of life in an urban city. But one I have not mastered.

This past week, my husband has indulged me. I have not yet learned the art of neglecting the need. Please understand me. I don’t mean to sound condescending. I recognize that the need is so much more evident to my eyes. I am fully aware of that, but I’ve decided to just live in that. I understand that there are people who are not ACTUALLY needy that are out there and people who are surrounded by it have a much better radar for those situations.

We took the girls to the park and so bought a couple extra baked goods to divvy out as we saw people in need. We gave away a pillow and blanket we were throwing away and talked about how to approach the need in the future without bankrupting our already tight budget.

I am not saying this to make it sound like I do all of this sacrificial work for the needy! I am saying it for accountability and encouragement. This fervor may wane. I pray it doesn’t, but it may and I will need to be reminded to SEE people; not to wonder about HOW they got in this mess and blame them for their situation. My job is to love them now.

Jesus always met a need… a physical need of the people He ministered to. I want to learn to be aware of needs around me. I want to teach my girls to see need around them and to be a soft place for people to land. A source of compassion and love.

The census of 2016 shows that since 2010, people are moving to the city in rates of about 60,400 per year. The homeless population in 2017 is just under 62,000 people. What if every new resident of the city allowed themselves to feel the compassion that innately wells up in us when we first come to see the need? People tend to suppress it. I feel like it makes us feel more like a genuine resident. But we need to prioritize looking like residents of the Kingdom, and the mayor is commanding us to approach the needy head on…not pass them by. What if every new resident chose not to suppress compassion?

I am not suggesting that there would be no homeless, but I am suggesting that we would look more like our Maker. I am suggesting that we would encourage a community of compassion and I am suggesting that people would feel differently in themselves.

I have never understood the stereotype given to many New Yorkers of being rude. I have rarely experienced a rude New Yorker. Their kindness looks and sounds a little different than it does in the south, but the sentiment is the same.

I have been lost on the subway and they have helped. I have had a malfunctioning metro card and they’ve given me a free swipe. They’ve seen me struggle with a stroller and two kids and missed a train to help me up the stairs! They have told me when I dropped something. The wait staff at restaurants have always been kind and courteous. People have even walked by…total strangers and made passing jokes or casual conversation. It’s far from the stereotype of everyone being on their phone and refusing to acknowledge another person’s existence.

That being said, they are usually focused and on task. They don’t like people who talk or walk slowly and they don’t do superfluous conversation at least in passing…which I love. But the moms I meet on the playground are helpful to give me information on child rearing in the city and let me know when Jozlyn has run off (again). These people are awesome and genuine. What you see is what you get. I love it.

I’ve been warned of its dangers and many of those dangers are very real. My brother had his iPhone swiped from his back pocket while he was up here (tip- don’t leave your iPhone or wallet in your back pocket..ever). But some of the fears I had were from movies from the 80’s when Central Park was a den of thieves. If you are coming to New York now, please know that there are legitimate things to be aware of, but don’t live in fear here. There are a lot of good people around

Yes, this is the city that never sleeps, but when I came as a tourist, I felt like I had to see this amazing, one of a kind place in such a short time that I would cram a month’s worth of activities in a weeks time frame. Well, of course, it felt like a whirlwind! But Dallas would too if I said I had to go to the Houston Rodeo, the Ft. Worth Stockyards, a Cowboys game at the Star,  Six Flags and see a show in all three cities in a period of three days!

We have intentionally been taking the mornings to spend with the girls doing things they would like; parks, candy stores, toy stores, train rides, but not with an agenda (or with a packed one anyway…moms got to have some sort of soft plan). Just relaxing days of family time and you know what? The city is kind of peaceful. Yes, peaceful!

It’s like there is so much noise and stimuli that it all becomes this sea of white noise and that “city hum” just becomes the soundtrack to your day. Maybe it’s because I sleep with white noise, but the horns, and construction, and cries of the guys trying to get you to book a bike ride or carriage through Central Park has become this amalgamated, layered track by which my girls and I get to live. It’s on repeat and I love it.

 

I remember walking through my house after we sold it. It was empty and desolate and I was having a rough time of it. Y’all may remember my post about how much of an emotional wreck I was. I was so nervous that my kids would be missing out on things in Texas.

The truth is…. they don’t care! Kids at my girls’ ages need to know one thing; Mommy and Daddy are here. Their world hinges on us…that’s it. My girls could not care less about what they don’t have that they used to (of course, they miss their friends and their grandparents… we facetime often). When Kendall gets a little overwhelmed about all the change, she doesn’t whine and ask for her old swing set or favorite past time she used to enjoy. She looks up at me with those big gray eyes and deep, gorgeous dimple that she inherited from her daddy and says “hold you?” She just needs to know that Mommy is still here and I’ve got her. I don’t know about you, but that’ll preach. She just lifts her hands to her mom (one of the pictures I always remember when I reach my hands up in worship to my Heavenly Father). No matter the chaos, the safety of a loving parent’s arms is the calm in the midst of confusion. Then when she has regained her confidence, she’s off again…. happy and loving this new adventure.

We have the most amazing friends…seriously; Carson and Rachel, Janean and Jonathan, Josie and Jordan, Nikki and Tanner, Nicole and Zac, and so many more! And we miss them dearly. But we were not on the ground for 3 hours before my phone was hit up with messages of people I hadn’t spoken to in years, but they are here and wanted to connect. You have no idea how much that can mean to a newcomer trying to figure out how to create a new normal for her babies.

It is amazing how, no matter how long or short you’ve known someone if you are believers, many times there is an awesome chemistry and familial spirit that is just THERE. There is such sweet comfort and love that has been given to us from who would be complete strangers other than the fact that we are all part of the family of God.

a shot of our new church home.

This kind of goes without saying, but this place is awesome. There is something amazing to do all the time…and usually for free! My kids have been on technology WAY less this past week. Yes, I acknowledge that it’s been only a week, but I’m hopeful this trend is here to stay. They’ve just been too preoccupied with everything to do. And since I can’t just sit at home and send them to the game room, I’ve been more engaged with my kids making me a more intentional parent than I’ve been in the past.

 

Yes, to everyone that said that before we came… you were right. Congratulations! ha. It’s just hard with kids. Without kids? It’s amazing, but these little mini me’s just complicate things in the most amazing, exhausting, miraculous way ever.

It’s hard not having a washer/dryer in the building, let alone apartment. It’s hard hand washing dishes. It’s hard keeping things spotless for fear of mice. It’s hard trying to get the girls used to sharing a room. It’s hard taking a stroller and two kids up and down a subway platform. It’s hard not having a functional kitchen. It’s hard sharing a bathroom. It’s hard trying to memorize where all the elevators are. It’s hard figuring out where to eat when you don’t recognize any restaurants. It’s hard starting over. It’s hard not having my parents here. It’s just hard.

But you know what? It’s worth it. It is absolutely worth it. Not the city…the people… the call. For all the “hard” that there is, there is only One “good” that matters, and I cannot wait to see what He has in store for New York. I cannot wait to see how He will use Jordan and my girls. I cannot wait to conquer those “hards”. It is worth it.

 

I look forward to learning so much more as we move forward. Please subscribe if you want to stay informed on how you can pray for us and what we’re up to. We love you guys.

Love, the Grizzards

My friends are ridiculous!

My friends are ridiculous!

“Kayla, you need to be endearing.”

This is what I heard on a near daily basis from my mother growing up. I was one of those that prided myself on being “right” and not really caring if I was kind. So I had a tendency to be a self-righteous jerk very often. I have spent several conversations as an adult apologizing for that attribute to those that had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and, therefore, becoming the victims of my immaturity.  Because that’s what it is… absolute immaturity and selfishness.

I still have issues with this. Taming my tongue is a daily struggle, but I’m getting better. I find that the less I talk in general unless I’m prayed up, the better of a person I tend to be. It’s not even that what I’m thinking (and keeping myself from saying) is incredibly witty, or overly intelligent, but I find my mind very often wants to pounce on those moments when someone is incorrect and make sure they know that they are incorrect. I know! I’m horrible! How arrogant!!But you know what keeps you humble?

To the family!

Choir family-

We have been so ridiculously blessed and encouraged by you guys over the last few weeks. You have come up to us and given us words of wisdom, warm hugs and have covered us in prayer. We realized today that we hadn’t really been able to tell you what you have meant to us….

 

We have had a blast this past week at our reception at Leona’s and this past weekend. Here are some shots from some of our “lasts”…

From the drop in at Leona’s….

 

 

From Saturday Night…

This next generation is so crazy talented!
Jordan has had such a blast leading with these guys!
You’re welcome

my girls

Kenny loves her “Pops”
Jozzy and Wyatt..besties.

Our final Sunday…

We love y’all more than you know. You will always be family. We’ll see ya in Manhattan.

Trusting I AM

Trusting I AM

“YOU DON’T COMBAT DOUBT WITH CONTRAST. YOU COMBAT IT WITH THE TRUTH”

You guys… I wish, with everything in me, that I could take credit for this idea! The only thing I can take credit for is having impeccable taste in friends (shout out to all my girls!) because this came from a very wise girlfriend of mine named Amy. She said this to me as I was falling apart on her couch; the mommy in me crumbling under the weight of fear of depriving my children of all the incredible things I knew Plano has to offer my growing girls. It was so unlike me to just LOSE IT like this.

When Jordan and I decided that it was finally time to make the move to New York. I kept waiting to feel that euphoria that I’d always assumed I’d feel. I mean, I’m a  musical theater major! This is the city I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid. This is the city that I wanted to be in so badly that I broke up with the man that I loved so I could put myself in the best possible position to end up in that incredible city! So why weren’t feelings of absolute jubilation hitting me today? I didn’t feel like calling all of my friends and squealing like a high school girl! I didn’t feel like starting the gigantic task of purging all of my stuff and getting ready to sell my house. I didn’t feel like brushing off the dust from my vocal book in preparation for audition season. I felt nothing like I thought I’d feel. I felt fear, anxiety, stress, tension… I felt like every muscle in my whole body was wracked with tension. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I was sitting in a home that I absolutely adored. It was basically my dream home. It wasn’t really extravagant, but it was perfect for us. It had just enough space for people to feel like we all had “our space” without feeling like we could hide from each other. I loved my home.  I would sit in the house the days following our decision and just sit….quietly. This was my safe space. How could I leave this perfect place? I love it here.

Whenever I would visit New York, I felt like I belonged there. It truly felt like home, but I’d never lived there. How could I be sure? How could I be sure that my kids would thrive there? How could I be sure that I could give them a life like the life they would be afforded in Plano? How could I be sure the schools would be good or they wouldn’t hate sharing a room? How would they handle not having a backyard with a big swing set they can run through, jump off of, and fly through the air by? How did I know I could stand having them attached to me without that backyard or the huge game room?? Am I ready for that? Am I a good enough mom for that? Do I have enough patience, humility, grace and kindness for this adventure? Am I doing the right thing for my children? All of these thoughts went racing through my head in that one decision.

Every time I mentioned a slight concern about what we were giving up (which I tried not to do often because I knew that we were following the Lord), the response was always about what we were getting. I’m getting the opportunity to raise my children in an incredible place! You never had to sell me on how amazing this city was. I had fallen in love with it the first time I stepped off the plane in LaGuardia when I was 16 years old. I knew the city was amazing. I knew in my head that there were women that raised children in the city…and loved it. I had sat with women that I loved and respected who were doing it and told me that they would have it no other way. I knew in my head that it was going to be great for them. They wouldn’t have all the comforts of Plano living…and that, on one hand, made me sad because who doesn’t want to give their children every comfort and luxury they can?? But on the other hand, I was so glad that they wouldn’t have it so easy. I was excited to see the character that would develop out of them and me through figuring all of this out together! But none of those reasons made me feel any better. I still felt this sense of uncertainty and anxiety.

When talking with the church, we knew we had heard from the Lord. He very clearly said, “It’s time”. That’s what I kept hearing over and over, “It’s time”. I was so excited to hear Him so clearly. I am not someone who is able to brag about hearing His voice as often as I would like, but I knew I had heard it this time. It didn’t sound just like my voice in my head… it was deeper, softer, and came from somewhere else. It was so beautiful. And I only got two words… I’ll take it. But that had been months ago. When I thought about the move now, I was still left with anxiety. I would cry out to God for more answers! MORE CLARITY, LORD PLEASE! I’d beg Him for more assurance. A sign that we were doing the right thing! But nothing ever came.

Jordan and I prayed, talked, went back and forth on the decision so many times. It seemed like daily we’d change what we thought we should do. Until we had kind of run out the clock. We had come to the final “checkpoint”. We had met everyone we needed to meet. We had endless phone conversations, asked every question, seen every aspect of the church, prayed without ceasing and we needed to make a decision. I would fall on my knees in my closet and pray. I would pray in the car after dropping the kids off. I became so angry with God. WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO ME? WHY WON’T YOU TALK TO ME? I studied the lives of David and Job when they cried out to God for an audience with Him. Why would He leave me with so much confusion? I know that that was not from Him. I knew I could cut through the chaos with a word from Him but I heard nothing…I felt abandoned. I felt like He continued through life without me.

I called a woman that I have incredible respect for. I told her through tears about what my heart was struggling with and she told me a story:

A woman had a dream that she couldn’t interpret. She brought it to her mentor to see if she could help. There were three women crying on their knees. They were clearly in severe distress. Jesus went to the first woman. He knelt down with her, wrapped her in His arms and spoke words of compassion and guidance to her. Then got up and continued walking. He went to the second woman, and seeing her distress, gently placed His hand on her head, and stroked her hair in comfort. Then continued walking. When He reached the third woman, who was now wailing in distress, He simply walked near and past her.

The mentor asked the woman, “What do you think it means?”. The woman said, “I don’t know. All I know is I felt such pity for the third woman. Jesus must have had an incredible love for the first and apathy for the third. Why doesn’t He love her the same? What did she do?” The mentor smiled and said, “I think Jesus loves them all the same, but He knew what each woman needed. The first, maybe young in her faith, needed that extravagant affirmation and attention in order to be prompted to follow Jesus. Maybe she hadn’t walked with Jesus long enough to know His voice, and so needed His embrace. The second, maybe maturing, needed a little nudge. Just a tender reminder that her Savior was there before she could muster the courage she needed to stand in her strife and follow. The third woman had garnered so much respect from the Lord that He knew all He needed to do was cover her in His shadow and she would know to follow Him.”

I fell apart. Could it be that when heaven goes silent, it’s because it’s our move? Could it be that God had already given all the instruction that I needed to accomplish the next step of His will and now all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and remain in the shadow of the Almighty God? Could it be that His silence was not out of anger but out of love and even respect? All of my fears of “Can I do this? Is this what’s best for my children?” All of my insecurities about HOW to do this…. weren’t nearly as important.

I was studying the lives of David and Job, but God showed me Moses. When God invited Moses to intimacy with Him at the burning bush, He charged him with a job. A job that would cause him discomfort and challenge him through change. Moses HEARD the audible voice of God and still his head was immediately filled with doubts.

“Who am I”. Is that not what we always do? “Who am I?” How can I do such a thing? The answer is so obvious. No. I can’t, but the response God gave Moses is the same that we need now. “I Am”. I CANNOT DO THIS. I cannot uproot my family from their very comfortable existence and endless luxuries and move them to a hard place. “I AM”. I can’t go to a place where I don’t even know HOW to grocery shop or do laundry.”I AM”. I can’t go to a place that is so hardened to hearing the Word. “IAM”. I can’t go to a place filled with people who don’t recognize their need for a savior! “I AM” I can’t do it! But He can.

It is amazing to me who God uses to speak into your life. I was searching the scripture for a word through someone else who hadn’t heard from God. Someone else who had experienced the silence of God and see how they got back into communication and intimacy with Him. I thought there must be a reason that God was not speaking to me and that He would show me the way to get back into good graces with Him! Surely, there would be a to-do list in Proverbs or something. But God directed me to a man, not who DIDN’T hear from Him, but one who did. And not in a soft whisper, but in a booming loud voice! He didn’t direct me to a time when God was silent because my situation is not about the silence of God, but about an action that I had been called to…a job I had been given. David and Job’s situation was not the truth I needed to be reminded of. I needed to be reminded to trust and obey. Remember that old hymn?

Trust and Obey

For there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus

But to trust and obey

About a month later, I was trying my hardest to live out this truth. I wasn’t really praying as much as just taking an exacerbated breath and said to God, “Give me peace Lord.” And then there it was…. “Follow Me.” It wasn’t as clear as before, and I honestly cannot tell you if it was for sure Him or my brain bringing back to mind the story I was told about the three women. That story had so affected me in a powerful way that I had not been able to keep it far from my mind ever since I had heard it. But either way, it was truth. And either way, it brought me peace.

You see, when God told Moses to go and rescue His people, it wasn’t because of how incredible, equipped, talented and amazing Moses was. Moses was an outed slave by birth who had been ostracized due to a committed murder. But He was called by the I AM
and the I AM would get the job done.

Who knows what New York has in store for me and my girls, but I do know that, as harsh as it sounds, it’s better for us than what would be here for my family. That’s not because Plano is any less, but because what God has for us is not here. So, no matter what anxiety I may have, I know that what’s best for my kids is in Manhattan. Because I AM will get the job done.

 

My kids are going to be great. I am going to be great. Not that everything is going to be great at all times, but the best place for my kids isn’t Plano… because God told us to go to New York.  The answer to obtaining peace in the midst of a time of doubt and uncertainty is not to make a pros and cons list of what you are losing and what you are getting. It is to acknowledge the I AM and live in the truth of His voice. Did He speak? Did you move? If so, find rest. If not, start walking. I’m taking my first steps….

Love,

the Grizzzards

Worthless doubt…

Worthless doubt…

I was twelve when I met and I believe fell in love with Jordan. Yes, I know it seems crazy to say that I loved him when I was 12, but as much as a 12-year-old heart can understand love, I loved him. I’ve actually had some moms during our ministry ask me to reach out to their daughters who were around 16 and “taking dating much too seriously for their age”.  I had to quickly explain to them that I was, quite possibly, the WORST person they could have picked to speak on their behalf. According to my story, the guys their daughters were eyeing at 12 could have ended up their husbands, so becoming serious about a guy they were seeing at 16 was being quite prudent from my context.

Our story is long. If you wish to read about it in long, narrative detail, make sure to follow my posts in the “Story of Us” section, but I won’t elaborate much now. Let’s just say he had my heart all the way through high school and college. However, we didn’t talk much while in high school. He broke up with me during my freshman year and I never got over it. However, during those pivotal years, since I was not distracted by a different love interest every week like some of my friends, I was able to focus on my love for performing. Specifically, musical theater was an absolute passion and obsession of mine. I loved everything about it; costumes, the light plots, the stage manager’s book, the music, the dance, the direction… I even found beauty in the props list. I just knew that this was going to be a part of my life when I grew up. And that meant I could only end up in one place- New York.

By not having any significant boy in my life through high school, I got to focus on two things primarily: my faith and theater. I strove for excellence in both areas. I wanted to be a woman that the Lord was proud of, and I wanted to be a professional in the theater. I had to be.

When Jordan came to do his internship at my church the summer after senior year, we started talking and eventually started dating again. We went to college together and it all seemed perfect. I would major in musical theater, and he would major in worship. However, after only being together a few months, things got serious pretty fast. Of course, normally, this would be a great thing. After all, I had been in love with him my whole life after puberty and we were so happy together! I wanted to marry him, but I had another love. I loved the theater and was determined it was going to be the center of my life. There was no room for a distraction. No room for anything that would pull my focus from what I wanted. I knew what I had to do, so I broke up with him that first year at college.

That whole year was miserable. I missed him terribly. The only solace I ever found was within the walls of the theater and I spent as much time there as possible. I didn’t care what I was doing as long as it was in the building. I would paint sets, sew on buttons, clean brushes, rip tickets, or screlt my face off. I was addicted to everything that hinted at the art of storytelling.  It was the only place where I wasn’t constantly reminded of my self-inflicted loneliness.

When I went home for summer, I would talk with my mom briefly about the breakup. She seemed to love Jordan more than she loved me at times. 🙂 When asked why I broke up with him,  the only answer I could give was “it just didn’t feel right”….which was true, but I always knew in my heart the real answer. I wanted to be in New York, and Jordan was going to be a pastor! Now, I am the daughter of a pastor, so I knew what that life looked like. It meant surrendering your will to His completely. It meant going wherever God led. It meant giving up control. I just was not willing to follow him anywhere. My life was focused- going in one direction only—to Manhattan. My mom laughed and said,” baby, you don’t know what God has planned. He may open a church right in the middle of Manhattan and call Jordan to pastor there.”  (picture that said with a high pitched, southern accent) Of course, I would laugh at the idea of that perfect scenario. The chances of that were just too small for me to get behind. Too small for me to bet my whole dream on it. So I made the choice myself. I was going to do what I had to do to make sure I would end up in the theater.

I’ve heard it said… “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” God knew all along that he would place us in New York for such a time as this. I can’t help but think about what He must have thought when I left Jordan for the love of my dream.

Silly, child, trust me. My ways are so much higher. I see you. Let go.

He ordained the perfect man for me to be the man that would lead us here. And I almost missed it because I tried to rely on myself, my knowledge, and my plans. Who knows what my life would’ve looked like if I had listened to myself and what made sense to me. But praise God I finally realized that I wanted God in control. Thank God I trusted Him even if it meant giving up on what I thought was the most important thing to me. Because the most important thing to me should always be what’s the most important thing to Him.

You see, when we try and make our own plans (at least it was the case for me), it was because I didn’t trust God to orchestrate my life as well as I thought I could. I had a plan that I wanted to happen, and I was determined that I was going to make it happen. So, not only did I make the plans, but I intentionally did not consult God. I never prayed. I never asked a pastor or even my family their opinion on my plan. I set my sights on something, and I ran. I thought “I am completely capable and competent enough to accomplish this on my own!!” Now before all of you who are like me get offended that I am demonizing such a personality, let me say that this is an awesome trait to have, but only if what you set your eyes on is eternal. Only if it’s on God. The more your eyes are focused on Him, the more you’ll trust Him with your plans. Think of Peter. When he lost focus on Jesus, he lost his footing. When he took his eyes off of the thing that should always be at the forefront and looked at the foreground, he sank. Because he couldn’t control the sea. The only thing that keeps us above the waves is our ability to look to the One who commands them.

This move is an incredible example of God’s faithfulness- not because He “gave me what I wanted”, and definitely not because I “did it on my own”, but because the doubt I had in Him about my future is proven worthless! Again, it’s not because He moved me to my favorite place and is going to secure me a spot on Broadway… that’s not it. Not even close! It’s because I trusted Him with my life…genuinely…and He proved Himself worthy of that trust in such an obvious, practical, tangible way. Sometimes, God proves Himself through the lessons He teaches us or the maturity He brings us to and sometimes it’s through very earthly things. Both are huge blessings. It’s because He erased doubt. It’s because He’s proven Himself in the mundane and given me more than I could have imagined for myself. He’s shown Himself faithful. He’s shown Himself trustworthy. And He’s shown that He sees me.

So here I sit. Waiting to board a plane with my husband and two little girls to go to our apartment on 57th. To serve a church where my husband will be ministering as the worship pastor. To love on a city that I’ve loved my whole life. To a life that I did not believe God was big enough to give me. To a future that I do not control and cannot fathom at this moment. And to a peace that I believe the Lord will deliver daily. To a new normal. Our beautiful, chaotic, peace. To home.

Love,

the Grizzards

I'm Kayla. Mom of two, wife of one and new New York transplant. We're a family of four fumbling our way through our new normal in Manhattan! We're excited to learn as we go... we can't mess this up too bad, right? :)

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