A concert - and a lesson.

Sunday night I joined these lovely ladies for a Mercy Me concert!
Two hours spent listening to music which reflected the heart of the writer and the glory of God.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening!
Thank you, Sara and Jen, for choosing to include me in this event. I left feeling strengthened and refreshed and ready to face a new week.
How thankful I am for the gift of music and the gift of friends!

I have never done this before, but I actually took notes during the entire concert! There is a reason. Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me, shared a piece of his testimony after each set of songs. And his testimony is authentic and powerful.
He is vulnerable and transparent, and He speaks the truth of Scripture to support what he believes or to squash the lies whispered by the enemy.
His words are simply stated - and delivered with conviction.
In a room full of 1,000+ people I felt like I was sitting on Bart's couch having a personal conversation with him and his family. The ability to draw people in so quickly and so effectively - is a gift.

As I listened to him share his personal walk with the Lord, I was struck by a few thoughts.

1. EVERYONE has a story!
And we cannot assume we know or understand the entirety of anyone's life.
There are so many details, people, interactions, and events that make up who we are. Good and bad. Everything and everyone affects us in some way ... and the Lord can use each detail for His glory if we will trust Him, obey Him, and fully surrender to Him.

We cannot judge a book by its cover.
When we see anger, pettiness, insecurity, fear, pride, contempt, rudeness ... we need to take a step back and ask, "What is the cause of this ugliness?" We must seek to understand.
Sometimes it may be flat out sin ... a complete lack of desire to show self-control or treat others with respect. But often - there is a reason behind the ugliness. Abandonment, abuse, neglect, criticism, lack of affection, belittling, broken promises ... there are so many ways we hurt each other. And we carry those hurts with us, things done to us, often assuming others will treat us the same way. We either build fantastically strong walls to hide behind to protect ourselves, or we become experts at playing defense because we have decided no one will EVER hurt us again.

But neither of those solutions are correct. Neither are helpful. They do not build confidence, humility, or relationships.
The only way we can be FREE of our past - able to forgive those who wronged us - and walk forward with confidence and joy - is to lay every hurt, every betrayal, and every attack at the feet of Jesus, and let Him begin to put the broken pieces of our lives back together again.
That is exactly what Bart did.
He suffered cruelly at the hands of his own father, and then the Lord SAVED his father.
Bart forgave.
They were restored.
But he still had bags of pain to unpack, and burn, before he could move forward as a mature, healed, free man.
He did the work. He walked through the pain. He struggled with the injustice. And now he is healed, and he is FREE!

Everyone has a story.
And it is our job to read it.
Authors tell their story for a reason - to be heard and/or to help others.
May each of us be people who always seek to listen, encourage, and support the one who is writing her story so she too can be free to live the abundant life Christ came to give.

2. We can never, ever, EVER underestimate the affect we have on others when we encourage them with the truths of Scripture.
It does not matter how it looks.
Weekly discipleship, an evening on a friend's couch, a hand-written letter, a word, or a text.
What we say MATTERS.

Bart shared that he had a faithful friend who texted him the same thing every. single. day. for two years when he was in one of the darkest places of his life.
"You are holy. You are righteous. You are redeemed. And I am for you."
Bart declared, "One day, I started believing it!"

A text!
The same text.
730 times.
If that friend had stopped encouraging him at day 143 or day 642, would the results have been the same? We will never know. But the Lord knew what Bart needed. He pressed these words into the heart of his friend, the friend responded in obedience, and Bart is a new man because of it.
Praise God for the faithful ones who never get tired of sitting in the hole with a hurting and wounded heart, but continually speak truth and life into that heart over and over again until they BELIEVE IT and start living and breathing on their own.
Thank You, Lord, for such as these!

3. When we enjoy a song, or are touched by a particular set of lyrics, we need to search for the story behind it. 
Some songs are written for the sake of writing - there is no private story or personal testimony hidden within the words.
But often, the artist writes for a purpose. There is a WHY.

Bart gave the "why" behind a handful of their songs, and I can honestly say I was surprised by each one. When he sang the song after explaining the story behind it, the words became precious and meaningful because they were more than just words - they were his heart.
Sisters in Christ.
It was a precious way to spend an evening ... and I am so thankful the Lord gave me the opportunity.

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