amy courts: en route


Light and Shadows

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
branches below
they announce where i go
as i step and stumble around here

and there are times when i feel
hopelessly alone
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

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Unto the Least of These

In the midst of the current political climate as we all explore the foreign and economic issues that will inevitably (and have already, in so many ways, proven to) define a generation of a nation, it’s often difficult to pull out the lens and widen the perspective. To remember to look at things in terms of morality and individual responsibility, and bring the health and progress of our country – and our world – back to our own level, taking it into our own hands.

But then there are times we hear or read encouraging clips reminding us that ultimately, we have the power to change and rearrange the way things are. In fact, it is the calling for which we’ve been especially enabled.

Over the past couple days, I’ve stumbled across some incredibly engaging and empowering stories of people like you and me refusing to leave our world and its care – especially that of the least of these – in the hands of politicians, or really, anyone else. These people refuse to assume anyone else will do what must be done and choose to use their voices to empower the weak and provide for the orphan and widow.

Yesterday, I read Relevant magazine’s review of the Art*Music*Justice tour with Sara Groves, Drek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Brandon Heath, and Charlie Peacock. And while the article certainly highlighted the sickening ability of the artists to weave melodies and lyrics in such a beautiful way, the focus of the article was on emphasizing the purpose of these artists whose mission is to use song, video, and prose to engage and empower listeners, driving them to action on behalf of worldwide victims of injustice. And as an artist and singer-songwriter, I have to say how righteously jealous I am of these artist’s ability to tell a story of injustice and hope in song. It is such a struggle for me to get out of my own head and thoughts and write about issues more important than me, especially because I feel so inexperienced in the writing. But they inspire me…to go, see, experience, and bring it back as fuel for the engine that will drive us to the end of poverty, sex trafficing, genocide, and all worldwide injustice.

And it all leads me to one inevitable conclusion. If we, who even in the midst of economic crisis, are still among one of the wealthiest nations on earth, then certainly we have the means to act on behalf of those Christ loves. No longer is it simply an opportunity, or even an obligation or responsibility (though I do believe, given the commands of Christ and the sheer volume of Scripture’s references to making the care of orphan and widow our primary concern, as they are His dearest).

Instead, it is our greatest honor.

That we humans who so often find thousands of reasons to avoid others and focus on ourselves have been not only commissioned with the care of the victims and impoverished, but entrusted with their care tells us that not only does God want this from us and for them, but that He believes we can do it because He – the Almighty God of the univerise – has equipped us to accomplish it.

Besides the fact that our God is so passionate for the fatherless and the widow that He has embedded in each of us a similar passion (that only needs to be uncovered), it is the greatest hope to realize He has chosen and specifically equipped we who love Him and love what and who He loves to accomplish His will among the least of these.

My heart bursts with fiery passion that you would know the deep riches of the love of Christ, and to pour this same love on those He so desperately loves and longs to see us serve. There is no such great hope, nothing so exciting or empowering among politicians, no matter who we each believe ought to be the next President of the United States.

Ultimately, beloved ones, we are the ones with the tools to change the world. We have been entrusted with the care of the victim, with stewardship of the Created earth, with the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual development of our children, and most importantly, with the love of Christ going into the world. We are His ambassadors whose fight is for justice and peace around the world.

This is our charge; this is our responsibility; this is our honor.

Let us not sit idly by waiting for someone else to do what is only ours to do!

GET INVOLVED THROUGH ANY OF THESE (AND SO MANY MORE) ORGANIZATIONS:

ONE-TIME INVOLVEMENT
(Give a one-time gift to any of these organizations and watch it go for miles):

Freedom’s Promise (rescuing victims of sex trafficing and restoring hope through freedom)
Blood:Water Mission (digging wells and providing medicine to meet the two greatest needs of Africans today: clean water and clean blood)
Charity:Water (100% of donations taken in are applied to clean water projects throughout Africa)
ONE (Eliminating poverty worldwide)
Food for the Hungry (FHI provides the basic physical needs of children worldwide while developing programs for education, spiritual development, and international advocacy.)

MONTHLY INVOLVEMENT
(Make a monthly committment to supporting individual children and village projects with as little as $7
per month)

Mocha Club (This organization, with which I’m an artist sponsor, takes $7 per month – the cost of two mochas – and funds the development of orphanages, rescue villages, universities, medical facilities, and more throughout the continent of Africa. Bonus: If you join my team supporting the Child Mothers Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda, you get FREE downloads of BOTH my CDs!)
Compassion International (Through Compassion, we can sponsor children from almost everywhere in the world, and with just $32 per month provide for their education, medical care, clothing, food, and future hope.)
World Vision (Similar to Compassion, one person with about $30 per month can become a child’s sponsor and watch their growth and development over the course of their youth.)

USE YOUR HANDS (Donate Your Time)
(Call your local organization headquarters and get involved on the ground either in your own hometown or around the globe through any of these organizations.)

Habitat for Humanity
(HH not only builds houses for lower-income families, but offers financial and lifestyle coaching for all its receipients while giving everyday people an almost weekly opportunity to serve our neighbors.)
Youth for Christ (Contact your local branch and find out how you can serve the youth in your community by either coaching a group or hosting a party, etc.)
Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, etc. (Locate your nearest store and ask the manager how you can volunteer.)
Mercy Ships (Join a Mercy Ships crew for a minimum of one year and be part of saving lives through providing FREE major medical operations and basic health care for the impoverished in Africa and the region.)
American Peace Corps (Similar to Mercy Ships, you can join for a year and travel the globe meeting basic needs of people in thousands of impoverished or developing areas.)
Contact Your Local Homeless Shelter, Domestic Violence Shelter, or Teen Shelter and find out how you can help, whether by volunteering your time (or gathering a group to serve), or gathering goods for their use.