Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Meaning Behind the Songs: "Abel"

 Listen to "Abel" or read the lyrics.

Almost 2 years ago now, Gordon-Conwell Seminary near Boston held a Genocide Awareness Week.  My friend Stephanie was in charge, and told me that I should consider writing a song about genocide to perform during one of the sessions.  

Write a song about genocide?  Hmmmm.... Simple enough, right?  Ummm, no.  It's much easier to write a song about love or babies or weddings or being lonely... but genocide?  Very intimidating.

But I did.  And it just flowed out as I thought about the first murder - Cain's murder of his brother Abel in Genesis 4.  This song is told from the perspective of the dirt (hence the first line: "your blood is in my mouth"), which is kind of a strange perspective to take, but it works.  After that first murder, Abel's blood cried out to God from the dirt.  God heard that cry.  What Cain did was wrong and twisted and defied the intentions of God the Creator and the beauty and order of his creation. 

Now think about this... how much blood has been spilled and soaked up by the dirt since then?  Genocide is Cain and Abel's murder manifested on a much larger scale, but the same twisted and sinister evil is at its root.  

Many people who speak about social justice stop here and say "the people behind genocide and murder are evil and bad and the oppressed victims of these heinous crimes are innocent."  While this statement is true on a human level, I think that God has a bolder and bigger plan.  He hates genocide and murder, yes.  There is great hope for the oppressed, for the victim, for the widow, for the orphan, for the poor and downtrodden, for Abel.  But God also has the ability to redeem even the Cains of this world and the to rescue us from the twistedness inside of us... the twistedness that make even the best of us capable of what he did.  The latter half of this song speaks to this, and it's definitely the heart of the song.

Any thoughts?  Do you agree?  I'm still working this out in my mind and my heart, so I welcome any comments!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue Sky Sunday in top 25 for Zac Brown Band Competition!

A few weeks ago, I entered a few of my songs into this fun songwriting contest and guess WHAT?!  They received over 700 entries, narrowed it down to 84, and then narrowed it down to the top 25.  And my song "Blue Sky Sunday" is in the top 25!  The Zac Brown Band will actually hear one of my songs!  And if I win I get to perform on a 4 day music cruise going from Tampa to Grand Cayman.  Not a bad gig!!!

You know what I'm hoping for?  That the Zac Brown Band will hear this song and say "You know what?  We'd like to record this song."  Wouldn't that be AWESOME?!  Let me answer that for you... YES IT WOULD!

Blue Sky Sunday
Listen to "Blue Sky Sunday" here on Amazon and buy it for just 89 cents!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Praying Life: Prayer Exposes.

"When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God.  We don't know how bad we are until we try to be good.  Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer." - A Praying Life, pg. 31

This is so true of me!  As I mentioned in my last post on prayer, when I stop to pray, my mind soon wanders to my worries and to-do lists and distractions or - even worse - to how I'm doing with my prayer.  Prayer exposes me.  It's easier on me not to pray, in some ways, because I feel better about how I'm doing spiritually!

Miller's answer to this is so simple but so difficult to implement.  Jesus tells us to become like little children, and this command of Jesus definitely applies to prayer.  When we pray, we must become like a little child.  We must relate to God as we little children relate to their parents.

Miller reminds us that "little children never get frozen by their selfishness.  Like the disciples, they come just as they are, totally self-absorbed... [and parents] are delighted (most of the time!) to find out what is on their little hearts.  We don't scold them for being self-absorbed or fearful.  That is just who they are."

Little children don't try to fix themselves up before they come to their parents, or speak in just the right way.  They are bold and honest and real. They have snotty noses and they get their grammar wrong.

As a Christian, I know that I am redeemed only by God's grace and not by my own moral ability or spiritual merit.  This is the good news; this is the gospel.  But I often don't pray as if this is true.  Again, I try to fix myself up or "do it right" instead of coming to God in prayer just as I am, with my self-focused worries and wandering mind.  This is the real me.

"God didn't come for the righteous.  He came for sinners.  All of us qualify.  The very things we try to get rid of - our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness - are what get us in the front door!  That's how the gospel works.  That's how prayer works." - APL, pg. 33

But I need to be careful here.  This type of prayer isn't an excuse for constant, self-focused wallowing in my personal worries and daily pressures.  It also doesn't mean that God is not worthy of a healthy amount of fear and reverence. 

But this child-like prayer is the only way to a real relationship with God my Father.  And only this real relationship will unmask and expose "nests of cynicism, pride, and self-will" in me... And only this real relationship will change me and make me less selfish, cynical, and prideful.

It takes courage to pray like this.  It takes courage to come to God messy and to basically admit to Him and to myself that I'm not as "spiritual" or put together as I want to be or sometimes think I am.  But what freedom comes when I allow myself pray like a little child!  To pray like I really believe the gospel is true! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fun with the Cobb Fam

This past weekend, my parents came to visit!  On Saturday, Haley and her family came up for the day too and we went out on the lake for a couple of hours.  Thanks, Joe and Debbie, for letting us borrow your boat and hang out on your boathouse!  Thanks mom and dad for driving up to Tyler and an extra special thank you for letting Nick and I sleep in while you took care of Ellie.  I like sleep.  :)  And thanks Thomas clan for coming to hang out with us! 

Smith family pic...
(Ellie is under that towel, I promise)

Cobb learned to ski for the first time!  Go Cobby!

Haley and me (and the top of Rob's head?).  
Right before Nick completely about killed us on the 'tube.  :)

Thomas clan.

Ellie with her Mimi and Papeaux.  And our awesome Texas flag.
That's for you, MA friends! :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Praying Life: Prayer is Weird.

I've always had a hard time with prayer, haven't you?  Er, maybe I'm the only one.  Frankly, I'm a terrible pray-er for all kinds of reasons.  It takes time, some major concentration, and lots of faith...three things I too often lack. 

For the past few weeks, I've been reading a book called A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller.  It's really been changing the way I think and feel and do prayer, and it has been very refreshing to my soul.

And so, I'm going to start a little blog series about prayer and what I'm learning through this awesome book.  And I hope it refreshes your soul too.   

First off, I find prayer really unnatural and weird sometimes.  Am I really doing anything when I pray?  How do you pray anyway?  I know lots of tips and tricks but they always feel weird and even contrived.  Shouldn't I be doing something more productive like studying the Bible - or even the laundry?  Miller speaks about my biggest two issues with prayer right from the get-go, in Chapter 1:

Distractions and Feeling Like I'm Not Doing Anything!
The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself.  We last for about 15 seconds, and then out of nowhere the day's to-do list pops up and our minds are off on a tangent.  We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying.  Before we know it, it has happened again.  Instead of praying, we are doing a confused mix of wandering and worrying.  Then the guilt sets in.  "Something must be wrong with me.  Other Christians don't seem to have this trouble praying."  After five minutes we give up, saying "I am no good at this.  I might as well get something done."

What Makes for a Good Prayer?
Complicating this is the enormous confusion about what makes for good prayer.  We vaguely sense that we should begin by focusing on God, not on ourselves.  So when we start to pray, we try to worship.  That works for a minute, but feels contrived; then the guilt sets in again.  We wonder, "Did I worship enough? Did I really mean it?" 

I get distracted by life and, as weird as it sounds, distracted by the act of praying itself... distracted because I'm trying to do it right.  Miller has so many good things to say in response to these distractions, and I'll talk about them more later on in this little series on prayer.  But this next quote really pulled the rug out from underneath me and shifted my paradigm like crazy:

A praying life [should feel] like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship....[at a meal with family], we don't think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with... Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God.... In prayer, focusing on the conversation [rather than who you are talking to] is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it.  It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go.


Do you guys experience this or am I the only one?  

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ellie's 4 Months Old!

Yesterday was Ellie's 4 month birthday.  Instead of doing the usual picture thing, I decided to make a video, which was fun :).  For some reason, the right side is getting cut off on the blog, but if you watch it in full screen mode or go directly to YouTube and watch it here, it works!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Nick!

Today is the 29th birthday of my fun, caring, wise, talented, godly, thoughtful husband Nick Smith.  
I am really glad you were born! :)

Happy Birthday!  I love you!  
P.S. That 'stache is nasty!  Never do it again!