"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)
During my childhood, one of my most memorable times was during the long, hot days of summer. Each evening, the neighborhood kids and I went outside after dinner for one last game. At dusk, we would meet at the dead-end street to play "Hide and Seek."
This was a very serious game. The goal was to hide from your seeker until it was safe to run for home base without being seen and tagged out. That is why we played under the cover of twilight. The darkness kept you concealed as you dashed from object to object until you finally made it to home base - unseen and untagged by the pursuer.
I especially loved the memories of when I was young enough to still enjoy the game, but old enough to know how to keep from being found.
It was my dad who first introduced me to Hide and Seek. Although, my father and I played the game with different rules.
When Dad hid, he would leave clues on purpose so I could find him. Sometimes, I would spy his wiggling toes sticking out from under the living room curtains. Others times, I noticed a lampshade sitting atop a very large stand in the shape of his body. Or I'd hear noises coming from behind the couch.
For my dad and me, the game was not about staying hidden. It was about developing our relationship.
Our reunion brought joy and laughter. Mostly, it taught me that whenever I needed my dad, he could always be found.
The same is true with our heavenly Father. He is not playing a game of chance - that we may or may not find Him. No. God wants to be found, and He leaves clues about His presence everywhere we look.
Today's key verse assures us that we will find God if we seek Him with our heart and soul. "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut. 4:29)
When do we seek Him? God's Word tells us to seek Him while He can be found. We should seek God immediately.
How do we seek Him? With diligence, through prayer, in His Word, and with our whole hearts.
He will be found in the beauty of creation and within the pages of His Word. As we seek God, we will discover His will, His plans, and His blessings in new found strength as we face adversity, and in the comfort of His presence as we communicate with Him in prayer.
God isn't playing Hide and Seek with us. He longs to be found by those who earnestly seek Him. The Lord is ready and waiting to reveal Himself to you in such wonderful ways that it will leave you longing for more. It's an adventure you don't want to miss. Ready, set, seek!
Dear Lord, I long to see You in my daily life. Reveal Yourself to me as I seek in times of sorrow and in times of joy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Discover a faith stronger than all your fears in Micca's book, An Untroubled Heart.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you lost sight of God?
Seek Him today in His Word and through prayer. Look for Him all around you. Ask God to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you in a fresh and tender way.
1 Chronicles 16:11, "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." (NIV)
Psalms 9:10, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)
“Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape” 1 Samuel 19:10
Process anger, or it will control your attitude and your actions. Anger is a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. It destroys peace and quiet and ravishes relationships. Anger is acidic, for it eats away at your credibility, your health, and eventually your ability to function successfully in life. Anger is an ugly emotion, as it easily embarrasses itself and humiliates others for sport. It has a way of expressing itself at the most inappropriate times. For example, one outburst of anger can turn a pleasant family drive to church into one full of fear and intimidation.
Work environments build walls of distrust because of seething, unresolved anger. Relationships never get beyond the surface because of the fear of anger’s rejection. No one wants to be around an angry person. The Bible even says, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy” (Proverbs 27:4). Where does anger come from? There are probably a variety of sources. One is the result of not being loved and/or not loving. When a heart is perpetually unloved, it has a void that is first influenced by, and then filled with anger. On the contrary, a heart full of love has no room for anger. Love melts anger the way the sun melts a milk chocolate bar at the beach. Cold anger is no match for the warm flames of love.
Love responds with understanding, instead of seeking to argue or defend itself. Love learns to forgive instead of storing up resentment when you have been deeply disappointed. Love moves on instead of seething in the stew of what should have happened. Love matures over mistakes made, while anger whines in immaturity. Furthermore, anger incubates in a hurting heart. A heart raw with emotion is a candidate for anger. Suffering may be hurting your heart and you can’t take it anymore. Your heart is crushed and wrung out by pain. You are extremely vulnerable to the influence of anger, so let the compassion of Christ heal your heart. Invite the Lord to love you, and process your pain in prayer. Listen intently to the Lord, for He really does care. He loves you right in the middle of your mess. Invite the love of Jesus to do surgery on your soul. After the Almighty has loved you, let others love you. Love is salve for your soul, as you need the love and prayers of people to help you process your anger.
Moreover, you may be the brunt of another’s angry outbursts, but do not take their anger personally. See that person as Jesus does and extend forgiveness. Anger may be the defense mechanism another uses to keep you at bay. But kill him or her with kindness instead. Initiate forgiveness seven times seventy, and pray for this person to be loved by God and by you. Anger is an ugly mask, so unveil it with acceptance. Anger is your excuse to love and accept, not fight and flee.
The Bible says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11).
Taken from October 10th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet: A heart full of love has no room for anger. Cold anger is no match for the warm flames of love. #anger #love
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Testimony (click here for more: http://bit.ly/ggJzWk) Thank YOU for Your daily posts. Today was a post that especially ministered to me and my husband. It was actually quite prophetic in light of what we are experiencing right now in our lives. We have taken a giant step of faith and your posts encourage us to continually seek God in the process. Thanks again and Blessings to YOU!
By God’s Grace Wisdom Hunters 2012-2013 Objectives
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“I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ” (Philemon 1:6).
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
Words that formed shadows from a past that would haunt me for years. A past that would hold me hostage and keep me from fully living in the light of God's love.
Fearful as I watched a hot plate of spaghetti thrown across the kitchen. Fearful as I watched furniture crash against walls. Fearful when my dad fell to the ground a few feet from my mom after he'd swung at her and lost his balance.
Betrayed after my intoxicated father sat me on the back of a horse without a saddle or reins to hold, and then swatted the horse, which sent it galloping. Betrayed as I heard him laugh with his friends as I sailed through the air and landed on a barbed wire fence.
Abandoned and unwanted when my dad filed divorce papers and failed to even get my name and birthday correct on them. Abandoned each time my dad refused to pay child support. Unwanted as years went by without visits, phone calls, hugs, birthday gifts.
Unloved and unworthy each time my dad broke his promise ... to visit, to call, to show up for my high school graduation, to pay for college.
Fearful, betrayed, abandoned, unwanted, unloved and unworthy. Words and emotions that I let define me and cast shadows over me until last year.
Through several of my pastor's sermons and after a friend's father passed away, I sensed God asking: How would you feel and what would you do if your dad were to die this very day?
I had no answer. I didn't know or really even think I liked my dad, much less loved him. Fifteen years had gone by since I'd seen him.
Around that same time, God challenged me with two words: choice and accept.
I had a choice and I made it. Following God's nudging, on July 1, 2011, I went to see my father and accepted him for who he is.
In doing so, for the first time ever, I was able to choose to accept my past. God showed me I could not change my dad or my past, but I could choose to walk out of the shadows of their marks on my life.
One of my first steps, after acceptance, was praying for my dad. When I started praying for him and choosing to forgive him, the shadows of darkness - the shadows of my past - started to lift.
God then showed me I had more choices to make: a choice to believe He is who He says He is. A choice to believe His promises; a choice to believe I was worth dying for. It was up to me to choose to be filled with His joy; to let Him be my Father; to live in the security of His unconditional love.
I had to make the choice to walk out of the darkness of doubt and defeat, and live in the light of His truth.
It's been over a year since I started making those choices. And I still have to make them 24/7. Not just on Sundays. Not just at 9 a.m. when my day starts. I have to choose constantly.
So I get up every morning and choose to believe God is a Promise Keeper. I make the choice to believe He loves me like no other can or will, to pray for my dad, to let go of the anger.
There are days, even minutes, we won't make the right choices. But when we do, we live as the chosen people we are. Children of God who have been called to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that sets me free. Thank You that You have called me out of the darkness and into Your light. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB
The gift of administration likes for people, projects and processes to be properly organized. Efficiency and effectiveness energize their efforts. They keep chaos at bay by bringing consistency and calm to a work or home culture. This supportive gift takes time to plan and then they implement the plan. Gifted administrators understand the long-term needs and define the short-term steps needed to accomplish future goals. They are intentional with strategic initiatives.
Those who keep us in line logistically bless us with sustainable systems. It may be a financial manager who is tedious in stewarding well the income and expenses at work or home. The budget is their accountability partner. They give daily oversight to the proper allocation of resources and are able to discern positive and negative trends. They are worth their weight in gold. A gifted scribe who captures critical items in the minutes of a meeting makes follow up more feasible.
“Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven.” Job 25:2
Do you have the gift of administration? If so, perhaps you partner with a visionary leader who needs organizational legs to see God’s game plan come to fruition. Your support of a senior manager may make the difference between success and failure or excellence and mediocrity. Your organizational efforts at home are a blessing to your family. Don’t obsess over perfection; rather rejoice in doing what you can with the time you have. Yes, value relationships over results.
Almighty God is the ultimate administrator. He placed the stars and planets in the sky in meticulous order and He organized an intricate human body. The wisest administrators get their marching orders from their Master, Jesus. So, seek favor from the Lord first, so that you serve, not lord over others. Be patient when people do not live up to your standards or execute precisely your expectations. Your administrative gift will place you in a seat of great influence!
“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” Proverbs 22:29
Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me how to value and appreciate those who are gifted administratively.
“If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:8
The gift of mercy is compelled to be compassionate. Its sensitive spirit hurts when others hurt and rejoices when others rejoice. Merciful followers of Jesus find great satisfaction in alleviating suffering and applying God’s grace to a wounded heart. Their tears of concern flow freely; they are pained to see others in pain. The merciful can be soft spoken and gentle in disposition. Behind the scenes they do quiet acts of kindness. They know how you are doing without asking.
We all need those gifted with mercy to give us comfort in our time of need. We need their unconditional love when we don’t feel loved. We need their affirmation when we don’t feel affirmed. Just like our sympathetic Savior brings empathy to our empty soul, so those gifted in mercy empathize with our emptiness. Therefore, be open to their suggestion to visit the doctor, attend church or join a small group. Mercy is concerned for the condition of our body and soul.
“Even though I [Paul] was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:13
Furthermore, if you have the gift of mercy, guard against being oversensitive. Your desire for harmony—at any cost—may suffer significant losses from unhealthy compromise. Your interest in pleasing everyone may result in pleasing no one. Mercy by nature is easily taken advantage of, so be careful not to cave in to the loudest voice or the most persuasive persona. Seek solace in Jesus and find certainty in His commands. Use your gift of mercy as a conduit for Christ’s truth.
Ultimately the source of all mercy resides with the Merciful One, our Heavenly Father. His mercy rains down from above, as He reigns over all living creatures below. Because of His great mercy toward you, you can appropriate abundant mercy. By God’s grace be quick to forgive and slow to anger. Look at those who are stuck in selfishness with sympathy. Indeed, pity people who are trapped in the pit of pride. Pursue the apathetic with authentic love—mercy initiates.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the merciful, and grant me Your mercy to give away.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Have you ever had the thought, "What's the use? I'm just a stuffer." Or, "What's the use? I'm a just a yeller."
That may be partially true, but I believe there is more to it than just claiming because we act a certain way, that's the way it will always be.
Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive known as the cerebral cortex. Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch A Sketch.
When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what's called a memory trace. With each repetition the trace goes deeper and deeper, forming and embedding a pattern of thought. When an emotion is tied to this thought pattern, the memory trace grows exponentially stronger.
We forget most of our random thoughts that are not tied to an emotion. However, we retain the ones we think often that have an emotion tied to them. For example, if we've had the thought over and over that we are "unglued," and that thought is tied to a strong emotion, we deepen the memory trace when we repeatedly access that thought. The same is true if we decide to stuff a thought—we'll perpetuate that stuffing. Or if we yell, we'll keep yelling.
We won't develop new responses until we develop new thoughts. That's why renewing our minds with new thoughts is crucial. New thoughts come from new perspectives. The Bible encourages this process, which only makes sense because God created the human mind and understands better than anyone how it functions.
A foundational teaching of Scripture is that it is possible to be completely changed through transformed thought patterns. That's exactly the point of today's key verse, Romans 12:2.
Scripture also teaches that we can accept or refuse thoughts. Instead of being held hostage by old thought patterns, we can actually capture our thoughts and allow the power of Christ's truth to change them:
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
I don't know about you, but understanding how my brain is designed makes these verses come alive in a whole new way. Taking thoughts captive and being transformed by thinking in new ways isn't some New Age form of mind control. It's biblical, and it's fitting with how God wired our brains.
I can't control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, "I have a choice to have destructive thoughts or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what's wrong and make things worse, or I can ask God for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don't feel good."
Indeed, when we gain new perspectives, we can see new ways of thinking. And if we change the way we think, we'll change the ways we act and react.
Dear Lord, teach me to trust You and to believe that even though my situation is overwhelming, You always have the best for me in mind. Give me Your perspective today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more encouragement and practical advice on taking our thoughts and actions captive, check out Lysa's new book, Unglued. Available now!
The accompanying Unglued Bible Study will help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. To order your copy, click here.
Reflect and Respond:
What is one area of your life where destructive thoughts seem to take control? Ask God to show you how to see the good in this area even though you don't necessarily feel good about the situation.
Start right now, and continue each morning for the next 5 days to pray the verses below over the area of your life you described above. Sometimes changing our perspective requires an initial act of obedience.
2 Corinthians 4:8, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." (NIV)
Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (NIV 1984)
John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (NIV)
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith.” Romans 12:6-7
The gift of prophesy is compelled by the Spirit to tell the truth. It is not shy to confront sin and call out injustice. The prophetic calling has the courage to speak the claims of Christ with humble boldness. They have a vision of God’s holiness and are constrained to communicate His high standards of behavior. Moreover, some serve prophetically by praying over other believers with affirmation and instruction. They perceive where the Spirit is leading His servant to go next.
We are blessed when those in our lives warn us of unwise opportunities and unscrupulous individuals. We are wise to embrace those who speak the truth in love and not marginalize their message. Wisdom flows from friends who clearly discern situations as detrimental. We win when they lovingly point out that our schedule is not sustainable. When we adjust our attitude of fear to faith, based on prophetic preaching, we feel protected. Wisdom honors the prophetic gift.
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7
Perhaps your perceptive spouse sees things you have not considered. Instead of dismissing their discernment, see them as a gift from God for your protection. Furthermore, if you have the gift of prophecy, be careful not to ignore the individual. Soften the relationship with the oil of love before you deliver the hard truth. Comfort is an affectionate appetizer that needs to precede the prophetic entrée of admonishment. A discerning heart gets to the heart of the matter with truth.
Godly people who communicate a prophetic word in love deserve a listening ear. If you heed their concerns, your ultimate decision will benefit from weighing the worst-case scenario. Doom and destruction can be avoided by taking seriously the words of Christ’s warriors. Fools plow ahead with deaf ears, while the wise take a time-out and assess a variety of outcomes. So, slow down and listen to the discerning. A prophetic voice is God’s gift to walk wisely and patiently.
“The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. And a wise friend’s timely reprimand?is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Proverbs 25:12, The Message
Prayer: Heavenly Father, place people with the gift of prophecy in my life so I can be the wiser, having listened to their words.
Just as mountaintop experiences are a part of the Christian faith, so are valleys; moments of struggle and searching for truth. Bebo Norman’s new album Lights of Distant Citieswas forged through just such a time. What Bebo discovered through the process was this: sometimes it takes a dark time to see just how beautiful the light is...
Family Christian: So could you start by giving us some personal background?
Bebo Norman: I grew up in a town called Columbus, Georgia, about 90 miles south of Atlanta. Not a super-small town – probably a couple hundred-thousand people. Definitely off the beaten path, a little bit. I honestly grew up in a Christian home, in a strangely functional family. I say that with a grain of salt, because we definitely have our dysfunctions just like any family. But it was a pretty beautiful environment to grow up in, honestly. [I had] believing parents, but also parents who sort of gave us… well we grew up under their strict guidelines in a lot of ways. [However], they also allowed each of the four kids in our family to have their own sort of freedom in finding our way to faith, if that makes any sense. And so all four children did, in their own unique time through some labor and struggle. That’s were I grew up and what my back ground was.
FC: Where did the name “Bebo” come from?
Bebo: My younger sister; the youngest in the family. When I was probably 4 or 5 years old, she couldn’t say “big brother” and started saying “Bebo” instead. Which is super cute when you’re four, and not quite as cute when you’re about to be 40. Know what I mean? [laughs] So I have had to sort of adjust, but it is what it is.
FC: It is what it is.
Bebo: People ask me a lot if it’s a stage name that I made up. And I’m like “seriously?” If I was going to make up a stage name I can promise you it wouldn’t have been Bebo. It would have been something much cooler like “Sting” or something… Well, I suppose Bono is not exactly too cool, but he is a pretty cool guy.
FC: So at some particular point the persona out weighs any type of difficulty with the name.
Bebo: That’s what I like to tell myself anyway.
FC: So how did you get introduced to music and songwriting? Was that a part of your upbringing?
Bebo: It was. My dad played this thing called a Uke which is basically a four string guitar or an oversized ukulele. He [also] played guitar. And he didn’t play it extremely well. And honestly I haven’t seen him play it since I was a kid. He used to play these old folk songs, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez songs and really old folk traditional folk songs. And he would make up songs about our dogs and anything random that he could. That’s my first real memory of loving music – my dad playing those songs to me and my brother. We shared a room, and when we would go up to bed at night, he would come and play a song every now and then. And the truth is, he may have only done it a handful of times… I don’t really remember, but it was enough to make a significant impact. And I think the interesting thing was he was playing these old songs that were really written about kind of plain, ordinary life. And sort of finding these strangely profound things within the context of playing in a plain and ordinary life. And I think in a lot of ways that’s why I write the way that I write. And of course that has a lot to do with what influenced me once I started playing music and once I started writing music.
I still listened to a lot of singer/songwriters at that point. But it has a lot to do with the fact that that’s how faith is played out in my life... in finding the profound and the extraordinary in a plain and ordinary life. I think that is kind of how God has moved in my life. And so it tends to be why I write about the things that I write about. So I think my dad’s influence early on had a lot to do with that.
FC: So at some point did something happen in your heart or your head where you said “I want to switch gears and maybe make this a full-time gig”?
Bebo: Well, honestly, it was definitely an end-of-college/post-college sort of thing. I tell people all the time that I have a degree in biology – that is what I studied in college – and my plan was to go to medical school. Which is just insane in my mind to think about now. Mostly because that was almost 18 years ago now. The thing was, I started writing songs and playing the guitar when I was probably 16 or 17 years old. I started writing songs pretty quickly after that. Once I knew a few chords – and ironically I write most of my songs with the same few chords. It was an interesting process going through college and starting to really focus on songwriting more as my own sort of personal therapy sessions, more than anything else. There was no desire in my mind at that point to play my songs for people. I mean, I did, but that was not at all where it came from. I played them for friends and every now and then for small groups of people, but I never really performed for people – it was more just something that I did. And if somebody heard me singing they might ask me to play it for them or something. Right before I was graduating from college I just started feeling this intense sense of “Hey I need to at least see what would happen with this music.” A lot of that came from people in my life where they sort of forced me to ask that question, and they would say, “Hey, you need to at least see what would happen with music.” So, I tell people all the time I took a year off after college before I was going to go apply for medical school just to see what would happen. If I am honest about it, it was probably a little more intense for me than that. It was more of an intense “Yeah, I am thinking about taking a year off to see what happens, but this is really what I feel like what I am supposed to do.” In an intense calling sort of way. And oddly enough that year has turned into seventeen years.
You asked me if it was a hard decision or if there was a definite moment where I felt compelled to see what would happen with it. But I never felt like “hey this is going to be my life or my career.” I just thought that this was something that I needed to dive into and see what could happen – and still [all these] years into it, I feel kind of surprised a lot days that I am seventeen years into it. So, it’s been an interesting journey to say the least.
FC: So then you met the guys in Caedmon’s Call? Or somehow you were introduced to Watershed Records and did a deal there... How did you feel after that first record came out when you realized that you had national exposure?
Bebo: Well I was completely surprised by it. I was in the independent music world for years. So I really didn’t know what I was doing. Honestly I took out a loan when I graduated from college. My dad co-signed the loan for me to make an independent CD. And it was the beginning of the days of being able to make a CD digitally. We recorded it on these digital machines back in 1996. And that is when it released. So it was one of those things where I didn’t have any real expectations except, I am going to make this record and if I am making a record then maybe I should try to find places that I can go play, because I made a record before I played any real concerts. Then I started playing for Young Life camps and things like that back in the day. And that led from one thing to another…
[So] this independent music scene was sort of rising up at that point and I had heard of this band Caedmon’s Call through independent music circles. And they had heard of me. And oddly enough, I was traveling through my home town, (I wasn’t living there at the time, I was living up in North Carolina), to go play a show in Florida and Caedmon’s Call happened to be playing a show in my home town and a friend of mine was promoting their show. So I went over to see the show. It ended up that these guys knew of my music and I knew of their music and we sort of hit if off that night. They asked me that night if I would tour with them the next spring. They were releasing their first national record at that point.
So that was the beginning of this process of getting real national exposure. That’s when record labels started talking to me. And I ended up on Watershed/Essential Records with Caedmon’s Call and Jars of Clay. Andrew Peterson came shortly after. That record label is now Provident Records which is probably one of the largest record labels in the Christian music world. Definitely an interesting journey. That is how it all sort of unfolded early on.
FC: So was it in your time with Young Life that you learned how to play wiffle ball so well?
Bebo: [Laughs] Such an obviously leading question.
FC: Well I remember reading something about that a couple of years ago – didn’t you break a bone?
Bebo: Yeah, I did. That was it. I would love to be able to tell people that I broke my leg doing some extreme sport like sky diving or something, right?
FC: I was going to say, don’t you play wiffle ball with a plastic ball and a plastic bat?
Bebo: In my way of wiffle ball, it’s a high collision sport. That’s the way I see it. High impact. It was a random, random thing on a Memorial Day. I can’t even remember how many years ago it was now. In fact, it probably was six years ago, because I broke my leg right before we had my first son, who is five now. So anyway all that to say – yeah, I had to have surgery, three pins put in my leg all from a silly, little game of wiffle ball. I was running home and jumped up and landed funny. Just a complete freak accident.
FC: Did your team win?
Bebo: No! [laughs] I tied the game up when I landed on the home base. And then we went into the bottom of the last inning. The other team scored. Not even worth it… It was not even worth it.
FC: Great story, nonetheless. Maybe someday wiffle ball will be at the Olympics.
Bebo: That’s right. That’s right. And if it is, I won’t pretend to be a player, maybe I can be an honorary coach or something.
FC: So since your time at Watershed, you’ve moved labels and are now with BEC Recordings. You’ve been really active since signing with them and have a new record coming out called Lights Of Distant Cities. We came across this quote recently and wondered if you could kind of talk us through what you meant a little bit. “The last few years have been pretty intense - a long, slow progression, or digression, into a spiritual desert. I struggled to write anything hopeful. But I wanted to be true to the season I was in, so I simply wrote about the hopelessness I was experiencing.” Now often times, Bebo, throughout the history of Christendom, there are people who follow Jesus and they say “there is absolutely no darkness once you are with Jesus.” From your quote, it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily the case. Bebo: Well, I certainly don’t fall into that camp. It wasn’t given to me as my spiritual gift. And I say that honestly. There was a time in my life where I really found great frustration with God in the sense that, in the fact that I felt like, that was sort of the thorn in my side, in my flesh, if you will. Which makes me question the whole [idea] that when you become a believer, there is no darkness. Just because Scripture doesn’t seem to back that up, at least the Scriptures that I have studied. So I struggled with the fact that I had this tendency towards that doubt. Tendency toward questioning. And this tendency toward this idea that I sort of spiral at times into a place where I look around the world and it seems – and this is where I was writing from on this record originally – looking around the world and seeing so much that is dark and difficult and confusing. So much that is broken about the world.
I just started asking this question “It just doesn’t look like love is winning in this world. So well, if love is not winning, then is God not winning? And if God is not winning, then who is God? And if I am wondering who God is, then, who am I within the context of who God is?” So much of my identity is wrapped up in what I believe and not just in just my Christian world view, but in how I have been transformed by who I believe God is.
So that’s where I started this record. And even coming out of my last record which is really a record that is a lot about longing for something and being honest in writing about being in that place of longing for something. And I think this record, in a strange way, ended up becoming about finding that something. Because where I started writing from has a lot to do with the quote that you just read, this place of really struggling with the idea that our faith has these two counterpoints to it. One side is what we know to be true, and the fact that we make choices and the “decision” part of our faith. The willing ourselves toward love and toward faith because we know that truth is truth. There is a decision part of that and a will part of that. The other end of the spectrum is the emotional part – the part that feels what we feel. The things that when the Holy Spirit sort of overwhelms us, and gives us a sense of what it means to really fall in love with God. With a real understanding of what God is doing in the world.
I think when we are young, our tendency is toward that emotional side, and it can tend to really sway and lean heavily on what it feels like to have a faith experience with God. Then we get older and we begin to realize that our emotions ebb and flow. They wane at times. Then they are full of hope at times. They are full of desperation at other times. We can start to really rely heavily on that decision. That “will” part of faith. I think I just found myself in a place, that slow digression that I mentioned, where I have been praying for so long to God. To find that first love again. To experience that feeling of falling in love again. That emotion of faith. That being overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit. I had been relying on for so long – it felt like years really – on the will part of my faith, on the decision part of my faith, to trust that truth is truth, regardless of what I feel. I just started praying real honestly to God as I looked around the world and saw all things that were wrong with it. Love was not winning. Just praying that God would really give me a sense in my heart and in my emotions again, that He really is who He says He is. And that He still really is in control of the world that just feels so out of control from time to time.
What ended up being profound to me while writing for this record is that I started writing in that place of desperation and kind of about half-way through the writing process. And by that I don’t mean that I had written half of the songs, and then wrote the next half of songs. I had written half of all the songs. All eleven. They were all, kind of, half-written. I was writing again from that honest place, wanting to convey those emotions. The desperation. About half way through that process, God sort of met me in a really profound way.
There were three days that I went and spent in solitude by myself. And God just showed up in a pretty moving way. For me. In an intense way. I just felt overwhelmed with a sense of what it means to fall in love again. To be moved by what God is doing in this world that feels so out of control at times.
So in a strange way, all the songs on this record sort of represent that transition. That transition from the season of desperation to the season of recovery and renewal. So the title, Lights in Distant Cities, that’s what that song and this record is about in a lot of ways. As I look back on the writing process, it’s that moment when you come around the bend and you see something in the distance that is beautiful. And mysterious. And moving. And that thing, sort of likening that to lights in distant cities, it’s what pulls you forward in life. It’s what draws you in that direction again.
And that is how I would describe what God did. How He pulled us into those places where He gives us those glimpses of who He is. A profound sense of who He is. That really draws us forward in life, and pulls us out of a season of darkness that we might have been in.
So that is really where it was written from, where the title comes from and really what I was hoping to convey. Or what turns out was conveyed on the record in the long run as a whole.
FC: Do you think that’s indicative of the Christian walk? That there are times in our lives – in a true, authentic walk – that we go through periods of wilderness or desperation?
Bebo: Absolutely. I don’t know how… well… it certainly has been in my life. Like I mentioned earlier, there was a time in my life where I really felt frustration with God. That He gave me this tendency to doubt, this tendency to sort of move into the wilderness places. I sort of came into this place of real gratitude for that. Because in a lot of ways I think it sort of keeps us as a church, at least from my perspective. I think most often in walks of faith that I have seen in my life, from people, whether they are authors or friends in my life, they have all gone through these seasons of real wilderness. A sort of dark night of the soul.
It kinda keeps us from becoming that church of Ephesus. The church that Revelation 2 talks about, the one that becomes the “loveless” church. They were the ones that had done so many profound things in their faith, but then became [the church] that lost it’s first love. I think when we go into those seasons of desperation, when everything else gets stripped away, we can’t become fat and warm and lazy. Or sort of lukewarm as a church. Because we feel desperate. And we feel lost. And we realize that we can’t pull ourselves out of it. It’s really about relying on a God Who’s bigger than the burdens of this world to pull us out of it.
So absolutely, I think that’s indicative of what it means to walk and live our faith. Do I absolutely understand it? Absolutely not. Do I wish in a lot of ways that it wasn’t that way? Absolutely, because it can be painful at times. But my goodness, it makes for a beautiful experience. And one of the real quotes that moved me in the writing process for this whole record was a quote from an old German mystic from the late 1300’s, Meister Eckhart was his name. A lot of times when I have fallen into that place where I say “God, why did you build us this way, where we have to go through these seasons of the desert? Why is the world the way it is with all this darkness built into it?” Meister Eckhart said simply “If the soul could have known God without the world, God would have never created the world.” So, in some way we are built so that our soul, to really truly know God, has to go through those seasons; has to go through a world that really is a bit broken and dark, in order to really know who God is.
That quote was a pretty massive turning point for me in the writing of this record. As simple as it is, it was pretty profound and foundational for me in a lot of ways.
The Broken - lyric video
FCS: We so appreciate your honesty. Bebo, what would you say to brother or sister who is struggling right now in the wilderness? Who seems either overwhelmed by sin, whether it be their own, or sin in the world, or just overall darkness. That they just don’t feel like their prayers are getting to God. Like they would feel like their prayers are just hitting the ceiling. How do you speak to somebody like that?
Bebo: The first thing that comes to mind and that would come out of my mouth is I’m with you. I mean, I have been there. I will be there again. I happen to be in a season right now where God has really kind of “shown up” for me. In a way that I was just describing to you before. But it came out of a long season. A really long season, honestly, of feeling like my prayers were going unanswered. Feeling like… you know there is a song on the record called “Collide” and it’s probably the most indicative song of what you are talking about. That talks about these kingdoms that we build. When I don’t feel love. When I don’t feel saved. When I feel emotion-less in my faith. When I am thriving and surviving only on will and decision. Knowing that truth is truth, regardless of what I feel. When I go through long, long seasons of that, which I have done several times in my life, my tendency is to start looking for that feeling elsewhere. So I start to build these kingdoms up. And I might be peoples’ tendency to be in a dark place right now, or overwhelmed with their own sin or the sin of the world or the brokenness of the world or their own brokenness. We start to build these kingdoms up that are our attempts to fill that emotional need in our life. And those kingdoms can really be beautiful things. Things like family. Like our children, or our spouses. Or community. Even my music, for me, has become a kingdom at times. Where I seek to find my value and my worth in that kingdom. And I seek to be filled in that emotional sense. Or what strangers think of me as a musician. Of filled or completed by what my wife thinks of me. Or how I am as a father with my children. Those can be beautiful things, but when they become the center, when they become what we are drawing our emotional value from, they are bound to crumble. And truthfully, every single kingdom that I have ever built in my life has crumbled in one way or another, because they are all temporal.
My wife is not meant to be the source of life for me. And I am not meant to be the source of life for her. My kids are not mean to be that for me. That’s too heavy for them to carry, and my wife to carry or for me to carry. Certainly our music or our career is not meant to be those things for us. They are meant to be beautiful things, but they not meant to be the source. So the song “Collide”, that is what the whole song talks about, is these kingdoms that we build. And we continue to do it over and over. The whole song is written from this desperate place and the very last line of the song says “I build these kingdoms. I continue to build them. I continue to watch them fall.” Then the last line of the song says “And then You say to me, “You’re mine.’” Here I am, this desperate guy, seeking to find you in all these other ways, and you still continue to manage to show up in some way, and remind me that I am still yours.
And that’s what I would say to someone who is in a desperate place. Hang on for that “bend” that comes when we go around the corner as we see lights in the distance. [Lights] that are mysterious and beautiful and intriguing and they pull us forward in life. Because that to me, is how God has worked profoundly in my life and in the course of writing this record.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Bebo: I am. I love to read. I am slow book reader. So I tend to read just a handful books a year. And a lot of times I read them several times, to try to soak them all in.
FC: What are you currently reading?
Bebo: I am reading a couple right now. I have gone back to sort of start a book again. I love Tim Keller. He is one of my favorite authors, or really pastors. He has a book called Reason for God. Which every now and then I just need to go back and be reminded of the details of what a real, healthy Christian worldview is. I am also reading a book by Bob Goff right now called Love Does. He is a friend of mine. So both of those I love. But my staple, that I go to a lot is an author named Annie Dillard. They are not novels in any sense, but she has a profound spiritual sense in how she writes and what she writes about. That’s what I go to a lot. I am reading a book from her right now call the Maytrees that I just started. So those are the ones that I am reading currently. I read a whole bunch all at the same time.
FC: One last question for you. When you go into a Starbucks, what drink do you order?
Bebo: A decaf triple-tall, Americano. That’s my drink. I haven’t done caffeine in ten years, but I love coffee. So I pay a little bit more to get good coffee, because bad decaf is horrible. So good decaf may seem like a misnomer to some people, but I am here to vouch for the fact that it’s true. So that’s my drink at Starbucks.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens ..." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
Flour dusted shirts, sticky hands and happy faces gathered in my kitchen for an afternoon of baking. The counters were covered with bowls, spoons and ingredients as my young daughters eagerly helped with the culinary creation we were assembling.
Part of the learning process involved reading the recipe, getting out ingredients and gathering utensils. So when the recipe called for 1-1/2 cups of milk, I directed one girl to get the two-cup measuring cup from the cabinet. She made it to the right cabinet, but picked out the one-cup measuring cup instead.
Instead of correcting, I showed my daughters how to make that size work. But I also wanted them to learn why we had to make the change. I wanted them to learn that you can't put 1-1/2 cups of liquid into a 1-cup container.
As I thought about this principle of measurement, I realized it doesn't work with milk and it doesn't work in life. Yet so many of us try to cram 12 hours of work into 8 hours of our day. We have more books than can fit in the bookcase and more clothes than closet.
We say "yes" to more activities than we have time, and take on more responsibilities than we have the energy to manage. Then we wonder why we can't find a healthy balance to life.
For years I tried to put too much into my schedule. "Yes" slipped off my tongue with little thought and no prayer. I'd collapse at night, exhausted and annoyed.
The priorities of my family and home were neglected in my over-busy life. It was an exhausting way to live, as I constantly felt like I should be doing something. And when I was doing something, it never felt like enough.
It's defeating to believe you are always disappointing someone ... especially God.
One day I decided to write down everything I had to do on one piece of paper ... which turned in to two. I included phone calls to make, emails to send, projects to start and others to finish. The list included things I needed to do that day and things I needed to do in a month. It included ongoing responsibilities like grocery shopping and one-time events like coordinating the t-shirt sales at my children's schools each fall.
It was painful and overwhelming. But it was also a relief. Once all my responsibilities were in one place, the problem was obvious. I was trying to fit 1-1/2 cups worth of responsibilities into my 1-cup life. It would never all fit, and I would never find balance or peace.
My life had to be simplified, which meant reducing the demands on my time. A year of cutting commitments resulted in a manageable, more focused and more productive life. It took making hard decisions, but it was worth the peace I gained.
That year I learned I have exactly enough time to do what God wants me to do. No more. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" (NIV). The key to balance is seeking God's will for me in this season, and not spending time on assignments meant for other people.
I'll probably always struggle with over-committing myself due to my personality. But with God's wisdom and an updated master list of all my commitments, I get ongoing reality checks. And although I'm not really good at math, I do remember that 1-1/2 cups of something will never fit in a 1-cup container.
Dear Lord, You have uniquely created me and equipped me for the service You've determined. And yet so many times I try to take on responsibility that's not mine. Help me to be content with my assignment and to work at it joyfully. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources: Visit Glynnis' blog for a checklist to help determine God's will for you in this season of your life.
Reflect and Respond:
What are some reasons women over-commit themselves?
Consider those responsibilities over which you have control. Which ones should be pruned from your schedule?
Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)
1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV)
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