Friday, April 10, 2015

Unending Love, Amazing Grace

I want to write. I love to write. I even have an idea for a book (or three). Slowly, I’m getting closer to making that dream less of an idea and more of a reality. And each time I take a step towards it, my fear of reality rachets up a few notches.

What if I make the effort to achieve my dream, and I fail miserably? What if I put all this effort into writing a book and NO ONE wants to read it? What do I do on the other side of failure when I don’t have that dream to fuel me any longer? And then the real terror sets in, because the fears transfer from my dreams and onto my value as a person. Who are YOU to write a book? You don’t know the first thing about that. Are you stupid? You don’t have anything of value to put in a book. Or a blog. Or even a LIFE, for that matter. You aren’t special. You aren’t worth listening to. And you certainly aren’t interesting, not even one little bit!

Dude. Just writing those sentences makes me want to close my laptop and curl into a ball, and never. write. again. – even to finish this blog post! The fear is real, and it’s paralyzing. And I’m so tempted to listen to the voice of the Dream Killer and stay in my comfy little life and simply stop.

But the shouts of fear can’t silence the whisper of God in my heart. So, for some crazy reason, I found myself in the Christian section at Barnes & Noble. I was doing some research to find out what kinds of books already exist that are similar to what I have in mind to write. Before I got to the bookstore, I figured my book idea was not exactly original but also not saturating the market. It turns out I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right, either. I poked around and found books just like what I had in mind, and some that were even better.

I sat on the ground in front of the Christian section, and looked at this massive collection of books. There were books by Mother Teresa and Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer and Lysa TerKeurst and Ann Voskamp and Shauna Niequist and Todd Eldredge and… and… and I felt hope seep out of me. I felt my dream curdling in my stomach, and the heaviness of failure before I had even started to give my dream any true weight.

After a time I got up and left the bookstore, full of negative self talk and words like, “You’ll never be…” and “No one would ever want you to…” and the worst of all: “After seeing all those books in the store, what do YOU have to offer, Elizabeth? There is nothing significant or worthwhile that you can add to the conversation. Those REAL authors in the store have captured the essence of God in theological ways your little, pitiful mind can never fathom. Don’t even THINK you can play in the big leagues with those rock stars! Everything important has already been written. Everything that matters has already been said. You have nothing valuable to add to the conversation, so shut up and sit down.”

Sidebar: as I’m typing this blog post, I just got a text from a friend. This is what she sent. Wow! What perfect timing!image1

Back to the story…

I left the bookstore, got in the car, berated myself, then started driving. That’s when the Holy Spirit convicted me and I realized I needed to change the route my mind was taking. I prayed out loud and said, “Okay, God. Let’s turn on some music so I can sing to You instead.” I turned on the local Christian radio station (JoyFM) and the notes from a song that has special meaning to me filled the car:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.”

It’s a song that reminds me of my parents. And it’s a song that reminds me of God’s ability to change me because I no longer cry like a baby whenever I hear the song or sing it at church. And then the chorus of the song started playing:

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.

My God – my Savior – has ransomed me.

And like a flood, His mercy reigns.

Unending love, amazing grace.”

For a brief moment, I flashed back to the first time I heard that song and I was at the end of myself. That song was a lifeline for me that first day. Now on THIS day, in the car after leaving the bookstore, it became a lifeline again. As I was thanking God for that song on the radio at that specific moment in time when I needed it, He gently whispered to my heart and I realized this: I am so grateful that Chris Tomlin wrote a new version of the song Amazing Grace.

Do you think he ever thought, “Why keep writing music? Every note has already been played and every word has already been sung. And why should I take a song that’s already been written – Amazing Grace – and add anything to it? That song is a classic and there is nothing little ol’ me can add to it.”

But Chris Tomlin didn’t listen to the Dream Killer, and he wrote lyrics and music that deepened a classic spiritual hymn and made it fresh for a new generation of believers. When Chris Tomlin listened to God, God showed him how to write in a new way. A way that’s authentic to God’s call on Chris Tomlin’s life. And HIS life only, regardless of whether anyone else sang the songs or played the music.

For me, that last part is the key to silencing the Dream Killer. It doesn’t matter if I write a book or a blog or even a letter that no one publishes or compliments or even reads. The point is not doing something because of the way it’s received; the point is doing something because it’s what my Father has asked me to do.

If God has placed words on my heart and dreams in my head, then who am I to say His dreams are less important than mine? And what if, just maybe, God is so good and so loving that He makes sure to intersect His dreams with my own?

God has placed a passion in my heart that needs to be expressed. He has given me spiritual gifts that He intends for me to use, which makes those gifts a Gift I get to extend back to Him. How amazing that The Giver of All Gifts lavishes us with love that becomes an offering back to Him and ultimately glorifies Him? God is the best recycler/upcycler/regifter of all!

“Unending love, amazing grace.” Indeed!


[A few weeks after my bookstore revelation, I got to attend the Chris Tomlin “Love Ran Red” concert tour. As he sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” live, I took this photo. Look at the way people worship and sing along. It would have been a shame for Chris Tomlin to say no to writing a new arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace. Thank You, God, for making all things new!]

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