Filed under: Uncategorized
You may or may not have already noticed, but thanks to the technical genius of my friends at Mixtus Media, my blog has officially migrated to my personal website – AmyCourts.com – in an effort to streamline and simplify everything Amy Courts.
I hope you’ll join me over there. We’ve integrated and upgraded everything into a fancy-shmancy all-inclusive wordpress website, so along with my random ramblings, you’ll also have immediate access to streaming music, free downloads, new music, along with my Instagram and Twitter feeds.
And how does this help you? Well, when you find yourself bored in the middle of a long, uninteresting blog – which you undoubtedly will, because I can’t be interesting or entertaining all the time – PROBLEM SOLVED!
Instead of continuing to read said lame blog, you can look at pictures! Watch music videos! Download free music!
See? Very exciting.
So join me. Head over to AmyCourts.com, and subscribe to the NEW blog…and peruse the new site while you’re there.
As for this site…well, get your fill, cause it won’t be here forever. Or maybe it will. I’m honestly not sure. I’ve heard everything stays on the interwebs eternally. But I won’t be posting to it anymore. And I would hate for you to think I no longer wish to offer you something to read every so often.
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Politics, Random, Running, Uncategorized
I am woefully aware this morning that I have recently been, uh, negligent as regards daily quiet time to breathe in Scripture and live it out.
Not that I’ve been totally dismissive of spiritual food… I mean, we attend church (most weeks). I download the sermon podcasts from weeks we miss, and faithfully listen while running. I engage in many theological and spiritual discussions throughout the week.
And I swear, I really do love Jesus!
But I am negligent, none the less.
Case in point, number one: Last night, my Facebooking was interrupted by a message from a dear friend encouraging me to read, soak in, and be encouraged by Psalm 107.
So I googled ‘Psalm 107,’ was redirected to BibleGateway.com, and, upon seeing how dreadedly long that stupid Psalm is, I skimmed it, thought to myself, “awww…,” and immediately returned to scouring my Facebook feed for offensive political posts to which I could respond with appropriate self-righteous anger and dismay.
Case in point, number two: Late last week, I was invited by email to join a “Scripture Encouragement Exchange.” It’s like one of those book exchanges where you invite six people, and each of you sends a book to the person at the top of the list (and that person ends up with like 300 books), and then you add your name to the number two slot and forward it on.
Only with this, it’s as simple as sending an encouraging verse to a stranger.
Guess who’s procrastinating, because she “just can’t think of six people to invite.”
I know, I know.
Please line up to punch me in the face. One at a time.
And then, once you’ve punched me, please help:
Send me your suggestions for a good, in depth daily devotional or study of some sort. Your favorite devotional…or Bible Reading guide…whatever.
And keep me accountable.
Because I firmly believe and trust that, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
But I’ve got to let Him plant the seeds and water them if I’m to enjoy any growth…
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Media & Art, Missions, Music | Tags: audition, light, love, shadows, Songs, songwriting, Theology
Sunday, July 15 2012: Teaching from Colossians 2:15-17, our pastor spoke on what he calls “God’s shadow activity.” For over 25 years, as a professor and expert in theology, he has tried to make sense of the God we see on the Cross -who abhors wars and violence, taught us to turn the other cheek and sacrifice ourselves in love for even our enemies, and expressed that core truth in the most inconceivable way when He suffered a God-forsaken death by crucifixion – and the God of the Old Testament who seems, at times, to have been a genocidal, ethno-centric maniac who commanded Israel time and again to slaugher hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, infants. Our pastor’s theory – which makes sense to me and finally articulats both the tension I’ve always sensed in the contradiction and a reasonable reconciliation – is that these were God’s “shadow activites.” That just as a shadow acts as a negative contrast to what is real, and in so doing points to reality, so these situations show God not as He is, but as He is not. They show Him bearing their sin as His own, and thereby showing who He really is: the selfless Savior. Rather than denying and rebuking their behavior altogether from the get-go, as His true character does (which we see fully in the person, teachings, and life of Jesus), He becomes one of them (in Christ, but also as “The God of Israel”), takes on their sin as His own (even though He himself knows no sin and abhors the sin), and shows Himself to be quite the opposite of them: utterly selfless in His love for them and for all mankind….so selfless as to take on their sin to show how far He’s willing to go to win them. I can’t explain it as succinctly or adequately, and I know a lot of people will label him (and probably me also) a heretic (again) for even voicing the idea. But it makes sense to me. And it brought back to my mind a lyric I wrote who-knows-how-long-ago, “Love is not the shadow but the light that casts it on less important things.” [For a fuller understanding, listen to the sermon here (it's worth it).]
Monday, July 16 2012: I took a pretty big risk yesterday, threw myself way out on a limb, and after being personally “sought out” by a talent producer and allowed to skip the cattle call and move straight to “call backs,” I auditioned for one of those televised karaoke contests. And I failed. Miserably. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever sung so off-key, or tried so painfully – and obviously – hard to impress people, or just been NOT myself. I don’t know what I was trying to be, other than hopefully something the judges liked. And it was stupid, because the whole reason I was invited to audition in the first place was because they DID like me already. I put way too much pressure on myself, on the audition, on the opportunity, and I seriously effed it up. They may have even laughed as I left. And so for the rest of the day, I was reliving the horror. Going, “Wow, this is what I do, and yet I can’t actually do it.” Thinking, “This is the story of my recent life: When the time comes, I am utterly incapable of doing what ought to be so basic and natural. I couldn’t have a baby without screwing up so badly that I almost died even though this is what women do. I couldn’t successfully audition for a singing contest when singing is what I do. I felt like a colossal failure. Utterly inadequate.
Today: Yesterday’s crap audition and Sunday’s sermon gelled a bit in my mind. I’ve wanted, for ages, to finish that lyric…to see it bloom into a song. But the rest of the song just wasn’t there. And truthfully, I’ve been in every place other than the Songwriting Place lately. So it slipped to the recesses of my mind. But I took it with me into yesterday’s audition, thinking “maybe this is the love…”. And as I went over and over the whole situation, I was reminded: God, HE is Love, and He doesn’t withhold any good thing. He doesn’t cast shadows over good things in order to tease us. He is the Light, and He shines the light to cast shadows on lesser things, to draw our faces to Him. To reality. To what He actually desires for us, rather than what we want Him to desire for us. He turns us from our shadowy selfish will to His glorious, inconceivable design.
I’ve been reminded over and over and over this year that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9) I’ve been reminded to turn my eyes to Him, to seek Him in the promise that He will be found, and to dream inconceivable things.
I think the dreams I’ve had for myself, though lofty, have been far too stereotypical and, I confess, entirely selfish. I want a massive audience to enjoy and be moved by my songs, so I can sell CDs and make a living doing not only what I love to do, but what I’m meant to do…what I can’t not do.
Every time I’ve “almost” gotten there…or developed some momentum…or had an opportunity that could or should rocket me forward…it’s gone awry, and – as time always tells – in the most beautiful ways. I’ve been given little tastes of That, and then been reminded there are better, sweeter, richer, more eternal things to be done.
There are songs to be written for and with broken people…forgotten people…people here and there and everywhere who actually own my heart even if we’ve never met. People who deserve a voice, even if it’s only mine.
I’ve been reminded that when a shadow falls over the plans I’ve drawn up for myself, it’s not the meanness of God, but His great goodness and love that cast that shadow to draw my eyes to Him.
And today…I caught a glimpse.
Today, I turned my face to the Light rather than dwelling on the shadow.
Today the words came.
“Love is Not the Shadow”
dark are the days
i am seeking your face
i am finding you are ever near
they announce where i go
as i step and stumble around here
and there are times when i feel
when i am begging to belong
and to be loved
and to be known
and you say
hope is hiding where i least expect to find it
faith grows not in what you want, but i need need and
love is not the shadow but the light that casts it
on less important things
with each new sunrise
new questions arise
and i strain to hear what you will say
as often as not
you are silent, i’m caught
by the need to trust you anyway
these are the times when i feel hopeless and alone
and i am begging to be heard
and to believe
and to behold…
when you say
hope is hiding where i least expect to find it
faith is growing not in what i want but need and
love is not the shadow but the light that casts it
on less important things
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)
I’ve spent much of the last few weeks – a month, even – oscillating between sadness, anger, and being generally okay. I’m not so much surprised that finally, after a year, the fact of my hysterectomy and its utter finality are hitting me hard. But I’m often shocked at my reaction. I’m just mad.
At God, for taking away something so essential to my womanhood, to my motherhood, to my personhood…something I rarely ever considered before the fact, and can’t stop thinking about since.
At circumstance. The fact that even though we were planning to adopt before it ever happened, now I’m left with no choice in the matter. The crippling fear that I’ll never be ready to adopt. Angry at the fact that if and when we do, the expense is unfathomable…and it’s not an expense I should have ever been forced into.
Mad at what is and is not. I’m angry at other women who are having their second, third, seventh, eighth babies. The professional preggos. I’m angry that, despite all the effort I made during pregnancy to stay healthy and strong, despite all the prayers for a natural, intervention-free labor & delivery, I somehow ended up here.
I’m mad that everywhere I turn, I feel stabs of accusation and judgement…Fingers pointing, voices screaming I shouldn’t have agreed to be induced. I should have insisted the pitocin be turned off. I shouldn’t have waited so long to call my doula. I should have waited a few more days to let Eli come on his own. I shouldn’t have been so impatient. I should have enjoyed those last days of pregnancy and been aware I might not ever get to do it again.
I’m angry and sad that in all of this, there’s just no answer. It is what it is, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
And the question tearing through it all: WHY? “Why, me, God? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I not good enough to bear more children? Why did you rob me of my life-giving ability and leave me barren and empty? Why are you punishing me – what did I do wrong?!”
I was sharing this stuff with my therapist this morning. She allowed me my interpretation of the situation, but then – humbly – offered her own.
“What if God, your father – not just ‘God the Father in Heaven’ but ‘God your dad’ - saved you? What if He, as your parent who deeply loves you,who would not bear to lose you, and still has deep abiding purpose for you, said ‘No. This will not be your end. This will not be your death. You may lose a piece of yourself, but any loss is worth it to save your life.’ What if this isn’t just the end, but the Beginning?”
Because this is the reality: I danced with death. I received 23 units of blood transfusions over the course of a six-hour surgery, after an emergency c-section. Due to the fact that I’d had such a difficult labor, and the cs, and was 41 weeks 4 days pregnant, my body should have rejected those transfusions…I should have become infected, sick. I should have kept bleeding.
But I didn’t. I lived. And not only did I live, I recovered quickly and flawlessly.
Of all the should- and shouldn’t-haves, that is perhaps the most haunting: I really should have died.
And yet, I’m alive to tell the story.
So as I left my dear therapist’s office, the Spirit brought to mind – as He does – this simple Truth: Much of the time, what happens is simply what happens. It’s not the consequence of some unconfessed sin. It’s not the result of unworthiness, or poor decision making, or of any other human flaw or failure other than, perhaps, the sticky terrain that is our fallen condition.
Rather, it is what must be in order that I may live to tell the story of How God Saved My Life. It is what must be in order that God may be displayed in us.
I won’t lie: it’s terrible. I hate it. I hate nearly every second of it.
But then…I’ll get a message from another woman from another city who lost her uterus, too. Or from a woman who’s miscarried time and again because her womb just can’t sustain life. Or from a woman whose first daughter is growing inside her without a skull, and who will die when she’s born or soon thereafter.
And I know, again, that we’re not alone. That God is giving us language for the unspeakable, fellowship in the desolation.
I know that He is showing Himself to us and through us, using our tragic stories to paint another masterpiece of love beating death.
And I am reminded that we are desperately loved by One who would stop at absolutely nothing to save us.
I think it’s time I strike. That is, take a hiatus. I should specify: An online social networking hiatus.
About this time last year – okay, to be a little more precise, it was about one year and one week ago – I shut down the MacBook Pro and handed my profiles (and I have way too many of them) over to Husband. He promptly changed all my passwords, and I spent a couple glorious weeks offline to await (and then endure) the miraculous birth of this guy: our first son.
I’d expected to bring the phone and computer to the hospital to take pictures of the whole shebang, but it didn’t work out that way (and aren’t you glad you didn’t see it all!). Instead, it was a deeply personal, intimate family-and-closest-friends-only affair. Just as it was meant to be.
It was good for me. It was good to unplug and step away from the public. My pregnancy had been front page news every day (at least, front of MY page news). Many, many, (too) many people were constantly asking “have you gone into labor!?” and “Is he here yet?!” Being 10 days “late,” I couldn’t handle it. I was already fighting God about the fact that this boy just would not come out. I didn’t need to battle friendly but overbearing facebookies and twitterheads too!
I always use the excuse that as a public figure with so many screaming fans* I need to be present on social networks. If I’m not, I’m not connecting (duh) and might well risk losing them…and everything.
But the reality is, it’s a distraction for the most part. From house cleaning. From cooking. From important things. It’s a distraction from my beloved son and husband and friends. While some distractions are good, I’m not sure this one is. At very least, I could certainly do what I need to do on Facebook and Twitter in an hour in the evening after Eli’s alseep, like the rest of the working/parenting public, right?
Then, about a week ago, my friend and fellow singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Tanya Godsey, released this incredible video for her incredible new single “White Page.” I watched and listened stunned, as chills crept up my arms and down my legs (take a gander – you will not regret it I’ve even posted it right here to make it easy for you!). It was just the reminder I need(ed).
You’ve probably read a bit about this past year, and the heavy load it dropped on our shoulders. This incredible gift of a tiny human, built, constructed, perfectly formed in my womb, coupled with the total inexpressible loss of never being able to do it again. The burden of making every single day, hour, moment count…because it’s one of a kind. We will absolutely have more kids, but they won’t have our DNA. So there’s a gravity to raising Elijah that wasn’t there on May 5 of 2011. There’s a heaviness to watching him grow, knowing we won’t get to do this ever again.
So I’m struck with this grave necessity to be present. Not distracted. To see each day as a blank White Page, and myself as a pen in the hands of a writing God with 24 hours of possibility in front of me.
Am I going to waste my day on facebook and twitter? Am I going to be the mom who stares at her computer listlessly while her son begs to be chased? Am I going to be the wife who loses six good hours of homemaking to a phone that absolutely must be checked every three minutes (lest I miss something super important on facebook or twitter while the MacBook is closed)? Am I going to be the Christian who wastes minutes and sometimes hours in silly threads
discussing fighting about “how to be a better Christian” while actually doing nothing – human, Christian, or otherwise?
Or am I going to unplug, pick up my son, stroll him to the park, and engage? Am I going to walk him around the house and watch as he takes his first steps without my help? Am I going to make mommy play dates, and talk face to face with people I actually know, rather than spend all day facebarking at people I’ll probably never meet and won’t like if I do? Am I going to do the laundry before it piles up and we’re out of clothes, instead of spending waaaaay too long shopping online for new clothes I don’t need? Am I going to actually cook these delicious meals I’m discovering online rather than spending so long perusing the recipes that I have no time to cook and have to order pizza instead? Am I going to be diligent about keeping in touch with dear distant friends, refusing to let those relationships slip and slide away?
Because this is the thing about me: I’m not the girl who spends most of her time on Eff-book communicating with my real-life friends. I do catch up with some old high school friends on Facebook. But for the most part, I just stalk strangers and re-post stupid stuff. Theoretically speaking, I communicate with my real-life friends in real-life. But reality shows me twisted to the point where I (barely) communicate with everyone on facebook and with almost no one in real-life. And it’s no good.
I want to notice the daily growth and actually watch my son as he changes.
I want to read him books (Books! Pages filled with beautiful, fun stories! Remember them!?), and sing songs with him.
I want to teach him the alphabet, not Big Bird or Dora or even the super smart readers on “SuperWHY.”
I want to water some old friendships that have some droopy leaves.
I want to plant new seeds with some people I’ve recently met who I’m sure I’ll like.
I want to date my husband, play games with him, talk to him face-to-face, and remember what it was like 7 1/2 years ago when we were still enthralled with each new thing we learned about each other. (Surely we’ve changed enough over the past year alone to guarantee us a few into-the-night get to know you dates, right?)
I want to get to know my neighbors and their kids.
I want to make my house a home.
So, facebook, twitter, and wordpress, I think I’m ready to bid you adieu, at least for a bit. I’ve got company coming this week to celebrate my can’t-possibly-be one year old dream boy. I’ve got a sick baby who needs my attention and is craving the cuddles, and I really ought not refuse him. I’ve got books to read, rooms to clean, and a husband to cook for, clean for, seriously make out with, and probably seduce. More than once.
See you later, gators.
Tomorrow we celebrate one whole year with my sweet Elijah David. I can hardly believe it. This past year has simultaneously flown by and granted me hundreds and hundreds of honey moments that drip and drizzle so slowly I can still savor them.
The year has taken us on some wild adventures through near-death and baby-tours to a brand new city where we’re still in the process of making our first house the home we’ll grow old in.
The year has taken me from the highest heights to the deepest depths and back up again, and left me lingering at times in a lost limbo of in-between. Sometimes I’m able to climb with Rocky-esque ease to the top of the mountain where I do nothing but celebrate the journey. Other times, the climb is a mountain marathon I can’t even begin, much less finish. Sometimes the descent is a peaceful journey down into the valley where I’m able to rest despite the depths. Other times, it’s like a free fall whose crash landing leaves me bruised and broken all over again. Lately, the journey has been across rolling hills that scale both hills and valleys over and over again, leaving me exhausted at each day’s end.
This morning, as I was cleaning the bathroom (company is coming!), I was stabbed by a pang of self-pity and doubt. I was nearly overtaken by that old toxic lie, “God is punishing you.” For what, I’ll never know. I go over and over the events of that day, thinking to death what I could or should have done differently. I always land in the same place: I did everything right in pregnancy. I was as healthy as I could be. For medical reasons, at the behest of the professionals, we chose to induce, but that should have been safe and uncomplicated. And yet…
Cycling on repeat… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”
And then. I remembered back to the summer of 2002, when I was engaged to someone else. How we did everything right. More than ever before, I was following at God’s heels, stepping exactly where He directed my feet. I was obedient. I was chasing Him. I was devout! And I was…oh, I was crushed. For having done everything right, it ended in utter disaster. I was angry, hopeless, replaying those same words… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”
God is so good to remind me.
Because now, I see now.
I see my husband, whose love is deeper than any depths I’ve sunk to; whose grace is wider than any desert I’ve wandered. Whose long-suffering is…well, loooooong suffering. I see my best friend, my lover, confidant, provider…my champion. The man who scales walls with me and for me, who carries me through and abides my tantrums. Who celebrates me – and us – in ways only I can appreciate. He is the best expression I’ve found of God’s perfect love for me.
I see our son. This perfect, blessed boy who draws from me more exuberant joy than I ever dared imagine. Whose smile, I’m certain, could light the world on a dark night. Whose hugs and kisses smother me in inexpressible cheer. Whose cries stir in me a cast-iron will to surrender life, limb, and soul to see him safe and at rest. The boy for whom I would endure infinite hell to ensure he’ll never see its gates.
I see our life. This life I never deserved and never would have had if the other future I’d so desperately wanted and “done right” for played out in reality. This life I wouldn’t trade for a thousand other “good” – but not “this” – lives.
And I am reminded:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.”
Just as surely as He took one future away in order to give me a better, more perfect one back in 2002…so He
will do is doing again.
I hope in glory for the day I see its unimaginable fruit.
I’ll be honest: Today’s news about Invisible Children’s Jason Russell being arrested and then detained for psychological evaluation felt like a sucker punch. I love Invisible Children’s premise – that they fill a void and meet an actual need. Where so many organizations focus solely (and rightly) on individual rehabilitation and on-the-ground programs, IC is and always has been an awareness campaign. They exist not only to work on the ground, but equally to educate, energize, and mobilize young people to do something (lobby for justice) in a part of the world most will never see (Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR) for people most will never meet (literally countless young men and women who were abducted and forced to live as murderous soldiers and/or rebel sex slaves) in an effort to rid the world of one of it’s most horrendous and yet unrecognized genocidal maniacs (Joseph Kony).
I’ve participated in many of IC’s campaigns. They are why I knew about Kony, the LRA, and their evil tactics years ago. They are why I searched for a way to get more deeply involved with victims in Gulu. They lit the fire in my soul that got me involved with Mocha Club and put me on a plane to Gulu, where I met the recovering, owned their stories, and in whose keeping I left half of my heart awaiting my return.
So you can imagine how excited I was last week to see #KONY2012 trending on Twitter, to see his name and the now-infamous video on every major media outlet’s front page. I was ecstatic that the world – yes, THE WORLD! – was finally taking notice and committing to capture and finally defeat this man whose pure evilness can only be compared to Hitler’s.
But then…a different firestorm started. Invisible Children started becoming more famous than the guy they were trying to make famous. Rather than talking about Kony and the horror he’s sprayed on Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR for nearly three decades, people were talking about Invisible Children’s “questionable” finances, political relationships, and the maturity and seriousness of its leaders. Because some were legitimate questions, and because they’re on the up and up, instead of dismissing and ignoring the charges leveled, IC chose to address them succinctly and clearly, in hopes of redirecting the focus back where it belonged: on Joseph Kony.
But it didn’t work. The bullets kept flying. And yesterday, it came to an even more explosive head when Jason Russell, the face of Invisible Children on the video in question and on almost all media interviews, was detained for public intoxication and masturbation and when, instead of pressing charges, San Diego police had him committed.
My immediate response tricked me, though.
I would have expected myself to say, “Oh, come ON!” I’d be angry with Jason for drawing more negative press to an already bogus situation. I would have immediately questioned my own defense of IC up to this point. I would have imagined the firestorm awaiting me on Facebook for defending them so strongly.
But what actually hit me immediately was this: This is bigger than Jason Russell, or Joseph Kony, or gossip. There is a battle of epic proportions going on, and it involves deeper and darker things than mere humans. I don’t say this lightly, and I’ve rarely said it before, but I believe it to be truer than anything else today: I am witnessing a battle between the principalities, between Light and Dark, between the Enemy and the rest of us.
I believe the Enemy is attacking.
He would have us believe Kony is no big deal; that perhaps he’s not even a legitimate bad guy. He would have us believe the problem was solved years ago. He would have us believe Kony is weak and powerless. He would have us believe those who have been working tirelessly for years to capture and bring Kony to justice are of lesser character than Kony himself, and that rather than serving Kony’s victims, they’re serving other evil warmongers. He would have us believe leaders of Invisible Children are a bigger problem than leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
He would have us believe salacious gossip is truer and more relevant than capturing the ICC’s most notorious fugitive.
He would have us distracted.
And, if today’s twitter trends are any indication, we have played into his hands.
I don’t know what I would do if I were Jason Russell or any of Invisible’s other leaders. I can’t imagine giving my life to building an organization from the dust and watching it explode into an incredible global effort, only to then feel it collapse at its pinnacle. I can’t imagine the massive pressure they’ve all recently been under from every side. I think it must feel something like being thrown into the deepest end of the ocean with ankle weights and bloody guts for shark bait. So while I can’t explain or defend Jason’s actions, neither can I condemn him.
Not when God has been so historically adamant about using the chiefest of sinners to do His work, to bring His Kingdom.
And not when such an important, generation-defining issue is staring us in the face, begging for a response.
After all, if the Enemy is at work, God is in the process of accomplishing something massive.
Whatever you may think about Invisible Children or Jason Russell…
Let it not distract you from the real monster, Joseph Kony. Let it not distract you from his real victims who, somehow, still remain invisible to so many micro-blogging gossip mongers. Let it not distract you from the real story of 26+ years of genocide and abduction and slavery and violence waged against children who are only now beginning to recover and heal.
No matter how tempted you may be…
Give them your attention.