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: africa, Baby, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Humanitarianism, Media & Art, Missions, Music, Politics
Having realized January 1, 2011 was not only the beginning of a new year but a new decade as well, I feel obligated to contribute yet another top ten list to the great expansive black hole that is “Top Ten Lists From Random Users of Facebook, The Blogosphere, and Other Social Networking Utilities.”
Now, of course, because 2010 was a rather significant year in my personal history, there will inevitably be some carry-over, and the year will provide two equally significant memories, which do not “tie” for first, but which cannot be discluded here either. The same thing happens in 2001 and in a couple other years. But only because each of the significant happenings of those years are too significant to leave out of this story.
This will surely be an exercise in both memory (which will be entertaining not only because it’s fun, but because pregnant-woman memory is notoriously hole-y) and creativity (as I will try to only choose the best of the best and/or most significant of the significant memories, and find an accompanying photo to boot. Disclaimer: There will be times when no photo is retrievable aside from me digging through my attic and employing the scanner…in which case no photo will be applied. Because I am lazy today).
So once again, here goes.
IN THE YEAR 2000, I was half-way through my freshman year at Oak Hills Christian College, during which time I not only neglected to vote in the first elections for which I was actually eligible to vote (bad news), but I also performed for the first time with a band (good news). I tried my best at (and did an OK job of) rocking out to Jennifer Knapp’s “Into You” from her second studio album, ‘Lay It Down.’ This was the beginning of what would later become “something.”
IN THE YEAR 2001, some rather passionate and – if I may say – crazy men crashed three planes into the Twin Towers and near the Pentagon, and I paid $5/gallon for gasoline. No one wants to remember the gruesomeness of 9/11/01, much less the snowball of events it set in motion…least of all me. But in reality, this was the moment of the year. This was the event they were all referring to when they told me, “For every person, there will be an event so culturally and socially significant that she will be able to look back and remember exactly where she was, what she was doing, and what thoughts crossed her mind when the event struck.” For many in my parents’ generation, that day was – until 9/11, anyway – the day JFK was assassinated. For all of us, 9/11 will forever be that day.
Later in 2001, I met Jennifer Knapp for the first time. She does not remember meeting me then. I would not expect her to, but I nevertheless have the picture to prove it. It is significant for reasons to come.
IN THE YEAR 2002, I made the first record I was ever going to make of some pretty amazingly crappy songs. And thanks to my fellow Oakies (that’s what we students at Oak Hills Christian College called ourselves when we were feeling particularly sentimental and/or stupid), the word got out that this girl Amy Courts made music. (I pray, to this day, that all copies of those early recordings have been either lost or destroyed. God forbid anyone should ever be subjected to that awful noise ever again.) (And once again, no photo can be provided. You’ll just have to trust me: it happened. And it really was that bad.)
IN THE YEAR 2003, I graduated from college. I don’t have a picture to prove it – well, actually, I’m sure I do, but I’m not going to dig it out. I do have a diploma to prove it, which I’m also not going to dig out and scan. But it did happen. And I have made little use of my college education since. After that, I moved to Nashville TN to begin the career I was never meant to have…in professional musical performance. For the previous four years – all throughout my college career – I was dead set against a career having anything to do with music. Never mind that writing songs was easily the most satisfying and natural thing to do. Never mind all those Oakies who said, “you really should think about doing this for a living.” Never mind all that. Because I was NOT going to be “that girl” who moved to Nashville to become a singer and became a waitress instead. But alas…when God closes one door… Or rather, when God slams every. single. other. available door in your face, you go through the lone open door. So when the Denver doors slammed…and the Nebraska doors slammed…and the other doors slammed…there stood one lonely open door, behind which stood this rather amazing girl named Katie Spain who willingly offered a home to a perfect stranger. She is now my best friend. (Sorry, no photos of those early days in Nashville, or of me and Katie, so a picture of me with Katie’s daughters will have to suffice.)
IN THE YEAR 2004, I met Paul Koopman, the unbelievable singer/songwriter who’s voice and songs so immediately melted me that I felt compelled to fearlessly approach him (which I NEVER do…or did…until then) to praise his undeniable talent. This began a professional relationship that would later turn, uh, well, pretty personal. He was, after all, the man who would later become my husband. That’s pretty significant…and (lucky you) self-explanatory.
IN THE YEAR 2005, after nearly 18 months of dating – nine of which were long distance (which, might I add, is not for the faint of heart) – that man proposed to me. Also significant and self-explanatory.
IN THE YEAR 2006, a number of really significant things happened, so I’ll only tell you the top two. First of all, we got married. This is a big deal. So big, it was the biggest thing to ever happen to me up until that point. It was the best day of my life up til then, but – I’m happy to say – has been exceeded by even happier days in the nearly five years since then. Amazing, eh? OH! And guess what else I got when I got married? Not just a husband…a stepson too. Who is, for the record, the greatest 14 year old on the planet (and I dare anyone to challenge that).
And the other big thing that happened in 2006 was that I (finally, after nearly two years of working on it) released my debut EP. Again, a significant accomplishment not only because it was the reason for which I moved to Nashville in the first place, but also because these were seven songs I was truly proud to give to the world (for $.99/each or $10/album, thankyouverymuch). As it were, that album is still available for your purchase and enjoyment today. (Like how I did that? What kind of artist would I be if I didn’t slip a sale or two in here…? On that note, if you want to purchase the album or individual songs, simply click on the photo to be redirected to my store. MAN I’m good at this!)
IN THE YEAR 2007, having decided (with the blessing of my husband) to quit my job and do this musical career full-on, balls-to-the-wall, I went on my first tour. This was a very big, impressive thing for me. I sent out hundreds of emails, made hundreds of phone calls, and (with the equal effort and help of my enduring tour mate and fellow indie artist Katy Kinard), set about playing something like 10 or 12 shows in 14 days…over Easter…in Kansas and Colorado. It was a rather huge step for us both, and more fun than I can say, despite that I somehow caught a cold that nearly killed me by the end (and despite that I returned from those 14 days with nodules on my vocal cords). What an incredible experience!
IN THE YEAR 2008, I released my second album, a full length record with 10 of my most favorite songs. It was a bit of a bigger deal than the first (if you can imagine) simply because of everything we invested – time, energy, soul, money – to make it exactly what I wanted and needed it to be. It was also the first time I even considered – much less followed through with – recording a song written by someone else. But not only did I record the song; I took the album’s title from its lyrics. So if anyone is wondering why the song “Breathe” is so outstandishly brilliant compared to the other nine songs on the record, now you know: It’s because Paul Koopman (yes, my husband) wrote it. (Again, if you’re curious to hear and/or purchase the record, simply click on the album cover below. Wink, wink.)
IN THE YEAR 2009, once again, two pretty amazing things happened, neither of which can be left out of this. Actually, three incredible things. I’ll start with the least incredible. First, in April and September of 2009 I ran my first half marathons (13.1 miles). It doesn’t sound that exciting, considering that literally hundreds of thousands of people cover this distance at hundreds of thousands of races every year. But for me – the girl who never even ran until 2004, and who certainly never saw herself covering any distance greater than 3 miles at a time – it was pretty huge. And it was the gateway into one of the most satisfying and rewarding things I do: run distances. Running long distances has saved me from a) going crazy, b) getting morbidly obese (thanks to the way too much food I consume; again: I run to eat), and c) devolving back into a grossly insecure person who controlled her life by anorexia. Running is perhaps the greatest lesson one will learn regarding what the body can do, and even more significantly what the mind can do…with the proper training and care.
In October 2009, I finally traveled to Gulu, Uganda…a place to which my heart had been aching to journey for three years prior. There’s no short way of telling that story, except to say it did exactly what I expected and feared it would do: change me, utterly and irrevocably. (The long story, for those who are interested, can be read here or by clicking on the picture below.)
And finally, upon returning to the States after those 10 incredible days in Gulu, the third significant thing happened: Jennifer Knapp – my favorite singer/songwriter of all time, who seven years prior simply vanished from the earth (well, OK, from the music scene anyway) – reappeared. She started following me on Twitter; she added me to her top friends on Myspace; and then – miracle of miracles – she came to one of my shows, specifically to see me, and liked it. She liked it so much that three weeks later she invited me to join her on stage at the Belcourt Theater here in Nashville and sing with her on some of my favorite of her songs. It was surreal. It was magical. And it really. Did. Happen. And THEN we became friends. (And I pinched myself about ten times daily, thinking, “What is happening? To what magical universe have I been transported where dreams really do come true!? This MUST be some hidden-camera Disney movie…”)
AND IN THE YEAR 2010, well…you all know the Top Ten (and Top Two) happenings last year! I went on tour with not just one, but TWO of my musical heroes: Jennifer Knapp AND Derek Webb (you can see that post here, or click the photo below)…
…And I made a Baby with Paul Koopman!
I HAVE NO IDEA what 2011 or the decade ahead holds. But if it’s even half as good – and I trust it will be, given that the God I serve and am continually amazed by makes a habit of outdoing Himself all the time – I will be an evermore satisfied woman. And that’s really all I can hope for.
Cheers to the next ten years!
I’ve been trying to figure out an eloquent way of saying this for a while. But alas, I can’t wax poetic, because it’s still a thought in process. Either way, bear with me.
While touring with Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb, I watched and listened as a lot of “Christians” acted like the devil.
Jennifer told the world through a couple of specially chosen interviews that she is – as many already assumed and/or suspected – gay.
Thereafter, I watched as her message boards and blogs were flooded with comments like, “Burn in hell, Lesbo!” Some were more blatantly condemning than others; some were simple notes sending kind though not necessarily welcome prayers and advice; some were words of praise and gratitude for being the hero the Christian gay community has been waiting for.
Some people ignored Jennifer altogether and just wrote blogs, using the words “Jennifer Knapp” and “Homosexual” interchangeably, as if her sexuality is the whole of her personhood.
Some called for a modern witch hunt; many screamed from the rooftops that a “Gay Christian” is about as real as a unicorn; many threw around Bible verses they were told in Sunday School served as “proof” that gay is wrong and gays will burn.
And I received a modest share of comments and notes asking me if it was true, how I could tour with her, whether or not I was using my influence to “bring her back to Christ” or “win back her soul from the devil.”
I responded to most of those with a simple word of advice: “If you think it’s really that important that she know and hear your opinion on the matter, get in touch with her yourself.”
To which I received many a response of, “But I don’t have a relationship with her – you do!”
To which I responded, “Exactly. And you don’t have a relationship with me either. So what business is it of yours?”
To which I received many a response of, “But God commanded us to hold one another accountable!” Or “But Paul said, ‘blessed is the one who brings his fallen brother back to Truth!'”
And it got me thinking. About accountability. About our responsibility to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and our responsibility for one another to God.
Do we really believe ourselves capable of changing another person’s heart or mind?
Do we really believe we are responsible for saving others’ souls?
And if changing hearts and saving souls ARE our responsibility as humans…then what need have we for God? What work does the Holy Spirit have to do? If Christ alone and His work on the Cross are insufficient and He needs us humans to help Him out in the process…well, is He really worth it?
Obviously, I believe we were created for relationship and have great influence in the lives of those to whom we’re close. We’re meant to walk together, crawl together, run together. To carry one another’s burdens and lighten each others’ loads. Sometimes, we’re there to help each other see when we’re carrying unnecessary baggage, and then help each other unload.
For instance, I know that I – perhaps more than anyone else – have power and influence to change my husband’s mind or affect his heart-attitude. I know him, and he knows me, and we trust one another to such a degree that honesty is both expected and honored. If he’s being a jerk or is struggling with something that’s hurting us both, I can tell him so and he’ll listen. If I’m being a b!tch or am dwelling too much on vanity or pride, he can tell me so and I will listen. We listen because we know we want only the best for each other. And because we’ve developed a depth of intimacy in which that sort of accountability is being perfected daily.
But on the other hand, when some unknown Joe Shmoe from Facebook messages me about how immature or “out of sync” I must be in my spiritual life to have gone on tour with an artist he doesn’t know, won’t listen to, and despises simply because she’s gay (and therefore despises me by association)…well, I’m disinclined to do anything but tell him to shove it. He claims he’s holding me accountable, but in reality he’s just sticking his nose in someone else’s deeply private business.
I get it, though. Everyone has an opinion and feels “spiritually led” to share it when a public figure falls from grace. Everyone wants to be the one who leads her back to Jesus. Everyone wants to be the one who gets that extra shot of glory for bringing the lost lamb home. (And let’s be honest – we say we’re doing it for God’s glory, but we’re really doing it for ourselves and our long-overdue fifteen minutes, right Pastor Botsford?) It’s kind of like how every girl wants to be The Girl who makes the Bad Guy turn good.
But here’s the thing: Jesus was the one who went after the lost sheep, not the other sheep. Why? Because the other sheep were just as prone to getting lost.
And when Paul preached about holding one another accountable and winning the lost brother back, he wasn’t telling the Ephesians to hold the Philippians accountable, or the Galatians to hold the Corinthians accountable. I believe I’m safe to assume he was telling the church at Ephesus to care for its own, and the Galatians to care for its own.
But we’ve lost that reality today. Instead of taking seriously the responsibility to hold those *actually* close to us accountable and to invest deeply in those with whom we commune and fellowship on a daily basis, we’ve become a worldwide pool of public pastors who hold all the public figures accountable, whether or not we know them personally.
I’m pretty sure it can all be blamed on the advent of the social network. We “friend” one another on Facebook and Myspace and follow each other on Twitter, and suddenly we believe we’re close enough to the Stars to insert ourselves and our opinions into their lives…the lives of people we “know” based on 140 character snippets, and carefully chosen and worded dialogues.
When you add to this new “friendliness” (which isn’t authentic friendship at all, I might add) the natural anonymity the worldwideweb provides, we each are suddenly gifted with a platform from which to safely and anonomously spew venom at those we don’t know from Adam.
From behind a computer screen, we can play preacher and savior without anyone ever knowing we’re addicted to porn, are morbidly obese, or are stealing from the government. We can create a personality that doesn’t remotely mirror reality. And with our perfectly manicured fake personalities, we claim all authority to brazenly condemn to hell those who, if ever we saw in real life, we wouldn’t even have the balls to approach…much less berate.
My point is this: Over the past few months, I’ve watched a lot of people say (type?) a lot of truly hateful things…things they would never say to true Friends; things they would never say to another person in real life because, in real life, they know it’d be wildly inappropriate; things they themselves would never listen to or learn from if their dirty laundry was aired in public; things they would certainly never say to another person in the presence of Christ.
And yet every single day we – you, them, me, we – vomit on the internet.
I just wonder, which version is the real you or the real me? Am I, in real life – in real reality – the person who thoughtlessly speaks her mind regardless of how hurtful the words might be, simply because I don’t intimately know the person to whom I’m responding and thus don’t think or care about how it might damage them in the long run? Or am I the person I want to be? The person who strives to see and illuminate the Image of God in everyone, whether I’ve met them face to face for coffee or just word to word on a Facebook forum…
When so much is lost or blanketed in web translation – when we can’t see facial expressions or hear tonal inflections or read body language or see the rage or fear or sadness behind the eyes – I think we lose some of our humanity too, and instead treat each other like avatars rather than people with beating hearts.
Anyway, I’m just thinking out loud and wondering if it’s even truly possible – much less reasonable or Biblically mandated – for Jane Jones from Podunk, MS to hold me accountable or “speak into my life” when she’s never seen me or met me, much less known my very heart?
Filed under: Politics
It’s funny how much I’ve learned about the human condition through the recent months of electioneering.
I’ve received more hateful private notes on Myspace and Facebook than ever before; scathing messages decrying my personal ideas and opinions, deleting me as a “friend” based on our political disagreements.
I’ve received notes from friends who’ve been deleted by other friends who so passionately disagree with my politics they can’t bear the thought of myspace friendship with someone who doesn’t disagree enough to delete me.
I’ve been accused of Biblical illiteracy and ignorance, of hardening my heart to the wisdom of the godly (who vehemently disagree with my politics and “are only trying to show me the Truth” if only I’d abandon the lies I’ve embraced), and failing to think as a true Believer should.
I’ve been told my views are deluded, stupid, ignorant, and foolish, and that I’ve been hoodwinked and deceived by the Enemy who wants Obama to win so more babies will be aborted.
My very faith has been called into question, the status of my soul landing on the chopping block before a band of believers who are certain it’s their right and responsibility to lead me back to truth, to Christ.
I’ve been called an apostate.
I have been handed my own ass on a platter more times than I can count for being unwilling to admit I’m wrong and for suggesting that my opposition may be.
And I’ve been as guilty as these, waving my education as a flag of intelligence, appealing to a degree in theology as proof that I’m smarter and better for my opinions. I have, on a number of occasions, descended to a new low in humiliating others and implying – if not explicitly declaring – they are stupid and ignorant.
I’m ashamed to say we’ve all been, at one time or another, willing participants in an unnecessary battle against ourselves.
And while I know tempers are sensitive and emotions run deep and wide during any election season – especially one as important as this year’s – it breaks my heart to know we Christians are so easily divided.
Our Enemy has little work to do but sit back and watch, as we burn down our own Temple.
And what I’ve come to, this morning-after, as all the smoke clears and deep breaths are taken in the wake of knowing what’s done is done and we move on anyway, is that our true colors have come out and we ought to be ashamed.
It kills me to know that our political ideals can be so divisive among the People of God who are supposedly marked by Love. That for all the talk from both sides about how we ought to be voting for whoever we believe best reflects Christ’s Way, we are, from the other side of our mouths, shooting our own.
Indeed, today I’m excited about the prospects of our Nation and am glad Obama was elected. I agree with most of his policies and am hopeful for necessary change. But it’s a bittersweet reality, as I look back at all the dead and wounded on the battlefield of Christian political debates. It’s bittersweet to know that, because of my enthusiasm for Barack Obama, some of my sisters and brothers in Christ may never speak to me again. It’s bittersweet to realize that I may lose – or already have lost – some opportunities to share my passion for social justice and global action on behalf of Mocah Club and my African sisters and brothers simply because the agents and various venues disagree with my political ideas. It’s bittersweet to read so many notes from Believers who are certain the apocolypse is coming, that Obama is the anti-Christ, and are begging for the return of Christ lest any further damage be done.
When we should have been focusing all the while on the fact that, no matter who is leading our country or another, we serve the Creator who has specifically equipped His church to be salt and light, to be the champion of the underdog and carry justice wherever we go.
May we pray for our President Elect and hope for the best. But let us not hold our breath for any political leader to do what is ours to do.
May we actually unite under Christ…and serve.
Because we are all, ultimately, passionate for the same Truth, the same Christ, the same Way.
We are still the Church, no matter how we vote as American Citizens, and our allegiance is to a Greater Kingdom.
Why then so divided?
Filed under: Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music, Politics, Random | Tags: blog, christian music, computers, Faith, iMac, Music, pc, Politics, powerbook, sacred, secular, technology, youcanknowgod
I’ve got a cold, so this may be random. But hey, what can you do with a cloudy braid but write a blog about everything?
I just read a blog entitled “The Music Debate” about the place of “secular” music in the church. Interesting. It got me thinking about the calling card of so many mid-90’s bands: “We’re not a ‘christian’ band; we’re christians IN a band.” I remember MXPX going on about it – mostly cause they were being hounded by Christians who didn’t appreciate their not-all-about-God music. I guess I didn’t really have a problem with it. What I had a problem with were the people who said, “I’m a musician who happens to be a Christian.” Cause that’s backward, to me.
Here’s why: Whatever I am, and whatever I do, I am identified by and with Christ. His blood runs in my veins; His DNA is imprinted on my genes; His priorities are my priorities, His values are my values; His new law of love and service and self-sacrifice are written on my heart. God is growing Christ in me to make me who I really am. At my very core, by definition, I belong to Christ and am identified as His.
So really, my faith is not just another part of who I am. It is the filter through which every other identifying factor is sifted. My belief system is a product of my faith. My politics are a product of my faith. My songs are all tempered – or salted, as it were – by my faith. The way I relate to people is filtered by Him who lives at my center. Indeed, whether I’m singing about my husband, hurting because of a broken relationship, angry about work, or overjoyed by an opportunity, I am doing so as a Believer, just as I’m doing so as a ‘Courts.’ Just as my family DNA has an effect on everything I do and say, so does Christ’s. It’s who I am…not just what I’m about.
So, in the end, I’m not an artist who happens to be a Christian. I am a Christian who happens to be an artist, a wife, a friend, a sister, a dog owner, a writer, a thinker. Whatever I am is primarily identified by Christ in me.
It’s just an interesting thread to follow.
Here’s another thread to follow: I’m a little bit obsessed with ebay and craigslist right now. Since our desktop PC crashed and now lives, unplugged and utterly useless, in our closet, I have been scouring tax-free sales lists for sweet deals on iMacs. Indeed, when I decided to buy my first laptop two years ago, I bought an Apple iBook G3 which solidified my committment to Macs. Then, when its screen started acting funny, I bought my second mac, a PowerBook G4 which I’ve upgraded to the max (it runs on Leopard with a 1.5gHz processor – the best of its kind – and at 1.25gb, is maxed out Ram) and am currently typing on. I love it. It’s given me some trouble for sure – not two months after I bought it, I had to get a new hard drive and dc-in…but I blame that entirely on an evil ebay seller who neglected to tell me the facts about the machine. Still, it’s a dream.
And so, as I peruse the cybersales looking for an iMac desktop, I inevitably get sidetracked by the oh-so-cheap $85 350gb external hard drive, and the $400 Dell gaming pc which Paul would love, Love, LOVE but about which I’m understandably wary, since our now-dead PC was a dream machine when we bought it, but which failed to make it through one itty bitty viral attack. So while I like the “cheap” factor, I hate the “PC” factor.
The worst part about our PC dying is the fact that I cannot access our 10gb of iTunes music, and can’t transfer what’s currently on the iPod to my de-lovely powerbook. Why? Because my iPod is formatted for PC, not mac, and because apple is totally anal about people not sharing music. So I’ve spent the last few sick days importing all our CDs onto my powerbook. I’m currently importing Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Will.” Good music, for sure.
I think that’s all I’ve got for right now.
Except one more thing: I really can’t wait for next Wednesday when voting will be over, the campaigns done, and we won’t have to listen to any more drivel from either side. At this point, I don’t really care who wins; I just want to get on with life.
Can I get an AMEN!