unconditionally.

being Jesus is a lot harder than i ever dreamed.

let me explain.

last night, i attended my first ever club show where a Christian band was not headlining. my dear friends in Disciple were playing and since it was less than 2 hours from home, naturally i made the plans to go. it did not surprise me at all that shortly after arriving at the venue and meeting up with the guys, Josiah requested me to help out and work merch for them. without hesitation i agreed and just smiled. serving is what it’s all about for me. most of the guys had been sick between a nasty cold with a horrid cough and the stomach flu so, being the determined Alliance member that i am, i came laden with herbal tea & honey, airborne and mucinex.

it was a joy to see Phyllis (their tour bus) out on the road and i knew something must have changed hands for it to happen since they had been planning to use a van for most of the tour. once i came aboard i realized they were sharing the bus with the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus guys (hereafter abbreviated RJA) and the atmosphere was extremely different than i had ever known it to be. it didn’t take me long to settle in and i handed off my remedies to the appropriate persons.

the day wore on and as always happens, i find moments to treasure. personal conversations, jokes that will forever make me smile, secrets to remember and never share. for the first time since i could remember, it was like old times– somehow the same yet simultaneously completely different… i was different.

i began to see things differently: the joy of sharing my heart with a dear friend was different than the years i spent speaking words afraid of losing that friendship. the laughter of silly nerdy Mario jokes. watching one of the guys in another band dance around (quite drunk) to Katy Perry and trying very hard to keep a straight face when he asked for help with his spotify app on his phone. i began to enjoy just being with the people i miss so much when distance separates…but i’ve begun to believe that i will always be far from the ones i care about most. i think that’s just how life works. as i opened my heart to everything of the day, i was also constantly speaking with Jesus because i knew there was more here for me to do than just attend a concert. in fact, it has been a few years since it’s been “just a concert” for me– there is always more, and i am almost always open.

in the early hours of the afternoon, shortly after climbing aboard my favorite home away from home, i found myself sitting at the small table across from Kevin as he opened his computer to work on some fun excel spreadsheets (rocker life right here) and i remember the nudging of the Holy Spirit as i sat there, making conversation and catching him up on life since we’d seen each other last. i remember vividly how nervous i was and how i kept trying to put off the one reason i KNEW (in advance) that i had to come to this show. “Hey so… I have something for you, and I wrote it down on paper so you could have it..” and i saw the apprehensive eyes staring back at me so i continued on, “oh don’t worry! it won’t make you cry this time…i promise! –i mean– i hope!” (i have a history of using my words to be honest, but this time it was different– this had nothing to do with me.) and as i watched with my heart in my throat, my dear friend read the prophetic words God had given me to share with him just a few days before.  i had zero understanding of how they applied to him or his life, but i knew it was deeply important for me to share. my eyes scanned the face across from me as i tried to find some sign of how it was being received– i never know how people will react to what God is saying, especially if it hits deeply to the soul, and so i waited. these were the moments i look back on and smile for– when God is using me to work, letting me use my hands, i am in awe and i never get tired of it.

soon enough, it was showtime and i zipped up my sweatshirt and quickly scampered into the warm venue. even if you’re born and raised in the mid-west, winter is never a very comforting thing. maneuvering around stage equipment and a large steel barrier, i made my way to the merch table where i vigilantly took my place, ready to watch God move.

but as the local bands began to play (and my earplugs remained firmly in my head) my heart began to sink. what was going on? i knew it was a club show, but why were there so many drunk people? was this really a thing and i had never noticed it before? as i continued to gaze around the room, my heart got heavier and heavier. the only thing i could do as Disciple set the stage for their set was to sing and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to invade that place. i couldn’t help myself from praying in the spirit, and a few times i completely forgot what i was doing or where i was, i became so focused on the fight around me, i didn’t even remember i was doing the job of a merchant. i could feel it in the air i was breathing, and from the soles of my feet to my shoulders, there was a radiating tension in the room that i could not explain in the natural.

God was moving here and satan was angry.

as my eyes gazed upon the short skirts and inappropriate dancing, my spirit remained focused on Jesus. more than i ever had before, i could see just how deeply these people needed Him. i began to shed tears of sorrow. these people were walking around completely dead and they didn’t even know it. i felt everything in me crying out for Redemption’s healing hand. i managed to stifle the tears as i saw Disciple on side stage behind a black curtain– that was the glimpse i needed. i had to run.

“hey Cathy! i need to go speak with the guys real quick– are you okay watching the table?” i questioned the other volunteer hesitantly, i knew that i shouldn’t leave, but i also knew she was awesome and loyal. “yeah go ahead!” i beamed as she waved her hand toward me…and so i ran through the crowd of people and dodged plastic cups loaded with alcoholic drinks and once more sidled around the steel barrier. taking a deep breath, i pushed the curtain aside and almost ran straight into the person i had been seeking. He gripped my shoulders to stop me from toppling over a road case and smiling said “hey, what’s up?”

“Kevin…you…” i gasped and he looked at me questioningly, “the people out there– i’ve been watching them you… you HAVE to do what you do okay?”
he nodded and had a knowing sadness in his countenance.
I, however, continued on, barely pausing for breath. i knew i didn’t have but a few moments to make my heart heard.
“these..these people they are…so dead. they need Him. Kevin, they really really need Jesus and…” I glanced up, making eye contact, “–and you can bring Him here.”

He put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and simply, softly said, “I know.” and when I realized he completely understood the unspoken grief I knew in my heart, I smiled with tears behind my eyes and quickly hugged him before heading back to my post.

In the next ten minutes, I didn’t sell a single piece of merchandise, but what i did do was continue to watch the crowd. As the pre-recorded music kept playing in between sets, the words unintelligable, i found my heart singing louder and louder and so i opened my lips and joined in the song.

“Holy Spirit, You are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere, Your glory God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by Your presence, Lord”

and again the tears were in my eyes as my hands shook and my heart sang.
Jesus, please let them SEE you.

Disciple took the stage. The show did not disappoint. I continued to watch, gauging the crowd’s reaction to their music and their message. My heart honed in on several people who were deeply moved and affected by the show. I watched the guy who was working RJA’s table get increasingly into the show, even though he feigned disinterest. His ears were wide open and his heart craving the message my friends were singing.
I watched a very indie looking guy who appeared to be by himself with just a bottle of beer in his hand lift up his beanie so he could hear better the words that were being spoken.  This guy was deeply into the set and I prayed he would leave changed. Later in the evening i was deeply blessed when he came to the table and looked me in the eye and said, “I really dig them. do they play around here often?” Smiling, I nodded and gave him the name of their website so he could keep up on the latest tours.

the most interesting group was a family of four who kept walking to the merch table and walking away. all four in the family were intoxicated to some degree and the two adult daughters were increasingly unstable on their feet. once Kevin came out to sign after the show, they waited a distance away and finally approached.

i remember being privileged to see Kevin interact with fans two beautiful times. right after their set and at the end of the evening once the whole show was over. despite how tired i could tell he was, he never stopped smiling, never stopped caring about each person.  even when drunk people requested photos and broke all normal personal space boundaries, he continued caring and loving each person right where they were at…and this…this is when it hit me you guys.

that as much as we talk about it in the church, we rarely truly live it.
being Jesus.

to the broken. to the hurting. to the poor. to the orphans and the hated. the used and unwanted.

why is it so hard for us to look past their conditions and just love them?

once i left for the evening, i would cry almost the entire way home. i had seen and my heart had been broken by a world so desperately in need of a Savior that my whole body shook and despite my weary self, i cranked the heat all the way up in my car because i could not stop shaking and crying.

i would weep for days remembering the ache and the dirt and the fact that Jesus wanted those people so deeply that He chose to show me every moment i have written here and many i have kept silently locked in my heart.

in an unexpected time and place, Jesus showed me what life without Him really looks like and He gave me a glimpse of the frail desperation of our humanity.

i will never forget the love in His eyes as i looked out across that crowd and heard Him whisper, “I love them.”

Aside

“sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame”

I had fallen asleep somewhere around 11:45pm and here I was, awake at 5:30am. My body screamed for more rest, but my jaw was clenching and hurting so I pulled myself from my warm bed and dug around for some ibuprofen. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I crawled back into bed and tossed and turned for a good 45 minutes before I finally figured it out. 

“Okay Lord,” I whispered, “what are you wanting to speak to me?”
I reached for my phone and my water glass, and taking a long sip I clicked my Bible app open to Malachi 4:2 and this just leapt off the page: 

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

Healing. He would speak healing. 

Here’s the thing guys, I’m about to get real and raw and honest on my blog. I have a very hard time believing in beautiful things. I see them everyday in life and I have most definitely seen them in my own life at times…but here’s where it gets tricky. I struggle with a deep deep cynicism about life. You would think that someone who hears God clearly would have it easy believing what He speaks and has spoken, but for me, that is actually not the case. It’s my biggest struggle.

To believe that He wants me.
To believe that He has plans for my life.
To believe that He has good things for me.

I have known deep pain, very much pain and more often than I would admit to anyone. Ever since God graciously gave me the gift of His Holy Spirit filling my life, I have become one of the most obnoxiously emotional people I have ever met. Unlike my former teenage years, it takes very little to make me cry (whether in sadness or joy) and I can recount many occasions where I have felt so deeply it aches to my very soul.  This, I do recognize is an immense gift from God because I never used to be a person to feel anything. I grew up shoving down emotions and putting on a mask of one who breezed through life. Even though it is a gift, it is still quite the a challenging piece of self to manage.  I still fight everyday to align what I think and feel to the truth God speaks in His word, and this is where my heart and my longing for Him crash with my cynicism. 

A couple weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I shared a prophetic picture He gave me one evening. At the time I did not know it’s implications nor did I have a clue what it meant in my life, I am starting to see though, like a foggy landscape becoming sharper as the sun rises and clears away the mist. The picture I shared was this:

“God showed me a picture of a stone wall that appeared as though it was being built up but actually it was being torn down. There were layers and levels that were missing but some remained. Then God reminded me of the movie ‘Facing the Giants’ where one of the defense tactics the team carried out was referred to as ‘stone wall’. The play involved a very strong, grounded defense that stood up against the opposing team’s offense. What God spoke to me in that was this: ‘I am building a stone wall in you that will not crumble or fall. What I am building will be stronger than you have seen and more impossible to the untrained eye than you have known. But first, you must let Me tear down the old wall. Let Me break apart the old stones that you have built together, let Me break apart the pieces you have tried to maintain for so long. My wall is stronger and made of more stable materials. My building is immaculate and will not fail you. Trust Me. Let Me tear down to build stronger. To build deeper. To build permanent.”

God will tear down and God will build.
God will break but He will also deeply heal.

Times like this, I don’t mind being awoken early. 
There is no one I would rather spend my early mornings with than Jesus.