Thursday, October 31, 2013

prayer minstrel: Zemer Levav

Songs of the Heart...that is the Hebrew meaning behind this traveling family band, Zemer Levav. I don't believe many will find a unit quite as inspiring and unique as them. A Messianic-based family group of 5 daughters who dance, sing, and play instruments. While 3 of their daughters have branched out into marriage and their own paths in life, Zemer Levav has maintained their style and passion bring healing songs of Scripture to communities far and wide.

 Parents and founders of the group, Mark and Shimrit, have traveled by RV with their daughters Shalisha, Liorah, Adrielle, Kerah, and Natanyah. Although, most recently, it has been reduced to just Kerah (and her husband) and Natanyah traveling on the road with them. With their flowing, feminine skirts and rustic instruments, they take the stage with confidence and grace, no matter how large or small the venue, to pour into the hearts of their listeners the restful, prophetic songs of the Bible.

 In a description written for their most recent album (Even There) on their website, I believe the mission statement of Zemer Levav is summarized.

 ...calls believers to prayer and spiritual warfare, as well as offering comfort, hope, and strength to those who are weak or wounded. It will also exhort and remind the believer who they are in Messiah, how precious they are to God, and that God is going before us into every battle.

 Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of this family group is the way they weave sweet and minor melodies with words of life. They have a way of delivering the very heart of Christ to the listener through their Messianic blend of ethnic instruments and harmonies. I think this is what makes them very much the epitome of a "prayer-minstrel," being those among us called to communicate the heart and mind of Christ to us through the gift of song, as well as draw us into the haven of the intimate and restored relationship we have with our Lord. That is the place where we learn to worship God - the purpose for which we were each uniquely designed. The place where we are fully known by our Lord and He, fully known, to us. It is a sacred place. A place of rest

 From the moment that I began to listen to them (thanks to my awesome uncle!) I found my "happy place." Since then, there has never been a season of my life where I have not put their albums into my CD player to become engulfed in. Their songs speak the way, the truth, the life that is in Christ our Lord. They are uplifting and freeing, as well as sobering and calming. Their songs are memorable. They attach to your heart and never leave you. The melodies I still find myself humming when I cannot think of any other song to sing. Sometimes, when I am burdened and cannot think, these are the songs I turn to, the ones I remember, the ones so naturally a part of my heart.
 I have been incredibly blessed, beyond measure, to see and hear them perform live on several occasions, all of which have been tremendously memorable and transforming moments. I loved being able to chat with Kerah and Shimrit and found myself resonating with their vision and heart in what they do. They are a humble family, but also very well-founded, passionate, and driven to live out the worship of the Lord in all that they do.
 More information on them, their music, and their albums are available through their webpage HERE. Information on the support for their ministry can also be found on their page. Share their songs with your loved ones and create memories with the captivating and lulling sounds of these songs of the heart.

These are a selection of live recordings and videos with lyrics of some of their most popular and well-known songs.

Let the Righteous Be Glad 

The Telling

L'David Mizmor

Your Name

This last song, Your Name, was written by their daughter, Kerah, and is a piece I will always remain affectionately attached to. It is a song that describes the journey of my life in Christ and the many sorrows and transformation that has accompanied it. If I had a "life song," this one would be it.

And, lastly, their daughter, Kerah is working on her own solo album, which I believe will be as equally powerful as the albums she has created alongside her parents over the years. She has a way of communicating rock-solid hope and assurance to her generation. She composed this moving pieced entitled, Things Once Lost. May all who hear these songs be blessed and enriched by their melodies!

Friday, October 25, 2013

healing through the dark

I slowly rise to begin my day.
Nothing about this act of waking up feels new or refreshing as it should.
The sun has made its descent. I know it is afternoon by the deeper glow of the light pouring through the ebony blanket draped across the bedroom window to keep the early morning light out. But one cannot keep the light out. It finds its way in. Isn't that the beauty of it?

I rise only to find that I want to lay down again.
The sun will set in a few hours anyway.
The night time seems to be all that I know.

8 months ago I was awakening to the fresh hope of being a newlywed and all that the world had to offer.
Until I married, I hadn't really experienced slowness in my days. My heart has been on GO for some years now - striving, serving, giving, surviving. I knew I was looking forward to becoming a hermit once I married so that I could "catch up" on all my drained resources, as well as settle into the simple bliss of being with the man I adore. But I hadn't expected this. This grief. This emptiness from all that has passed. It has been a disillusionment that caught me by surprise. I question my faith, not because I do not believe in Christ my Lord and Savior, but because I am wondering how does my Maker meet me and care for me where I am at? How do I trust Him to meet me where I am at? I never experienced this before and I am walking out the grief of things I have witnessed, experienced, and lost in the past several years.

In the midst of the miraculous fairytale that has been my relationship with my dear husband, I have also tasted some of the most bitter days of my life - the loss of my family as a unit. Or, at least, the loss of them as a unit that I desired and dreamed of. Family will always be family, regardless of where we travel in this life, but the harmonious, trusting, safe, and intimate togetherness that I dreamed of for my family to know and to live has crumpled underneath the weight of this harsh reality: Irreconcilable differences.

In the midst of the pain I am experiencing from the choices of some of my loved ones, I also feel the sting of my own naive, dreaming self. Perhaps, the disappointment is my own fault, I think. Why does dreaming in this life have to hurt so darn much?
I don't dream for them anymore. 
I hardly know how to rightly dream for myself. 

All I know at the moment is that I need to rest. 
I want to wake up and feel the freshness of an entire day ahead of me, one in which I can see the sun rise and set. I want the motivation that comes from valuing the sacredness of this life. I want to thrive, not merely survive.

So, I am learning how to entrust my healing to Him who has given me everything. I am learning that grief is not something you merely recover from, but it is something that walks with you as you mature into who you truly are in Christ. I am learning what creative outlets are beneficial for me during this process. And, perhaps most significantly, I am learning that Love is truly patient. I am learning to extend the patience to myself and to those surrounding me. This is divine grace in the nitty-gritty. This is healing through the darkness that hangs over our earthly paths, clutching near the tender hope that the sun will rise again.

Perhaps one of the most refreshing discoveries for me has been the world of blogging. I find myself built up and strengthened from those who are walking through their own unique paths of grieving and healing. It grants me a sense of relief to know that others are like myself, walking through their own story of loss and heartache.

The Right Question to Ask on Your Hard Days...and the Answer ~ Ann Voskamp

One Year: Redeeming Grief ~ The Cottage at 341 South

A Severe Mercy ~ Eat Live Make

Way of Grief ~ Eat Live Make 

Meghan, blogger of Eat Live Make, puts it well when she writes, 

"I think I have grieved the loss of a life that I imagined for myself. The loss of the life that I imagined for the people around me....I have also learned how to rest. I have learned the beauty of silence and have also learned how to not over-commit myself. These are the graces I am seeing from the pain and grief I went through. And I know that God can and will redeem anything and everything in His time. I am always waiting for His redemption."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Remembering and chronicling..

In appropriate timing, I have put together a series of posts detailing my and my husband's love story, from friendship to marriage, which can be found at the Love Story tab at the top of my blog. Or, by clicking here.

Today also marks 8 months since my love and I entered into covenant and, through the ups and downs of our very young marriage, I want to remember the path that we have walked, every detail, every word, every moment that has marked our story. Remembering is such a sacred act and it leads us to chronicle those memories and stories. And chronicling stories helps us to recall the good providence of the Lord in seasons when we cannot see so clearly.

I adore hearing people's stories, how they met their beloved, key life events that transformed them, and so much more. I think it engages and unites us to one another, keeps us humble, makes us thankful, and grants us eyes to see the Lord working, providing, and moving in unique, powerful, and small ways. There is always so much to be revealed to us in this gift of sharing and giving to one another snapshots of our Maker intimately and gloriously filling these temporal lives of our's. Perhaps, this is why I love blogging so much, as opposed to websites like Facebook, because there is a quality of sharing that goes on across blogging that involves being engaged to one another, reading, and focusing in one at a time. I suppose it harmonizes with my way of connecting with people.

For anyone who stumbles across this post, I would love, love, love to hear any stories you have to share, whether through comments or directing me to your own posts in which you have chronicled parts of your life story. :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

redemptive landscape of melancholy blue

You have had many sadnesses, large ones, which passed. And you say that even this passing was difficult and upsetting for you. But please, ask yourself whether these large sadnesses haven't rather gone right through you. Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

My life is lived in shades of melancholy blue. Leaning back to peer at the path on which I have walked, I see the sweetest shades of blue laid over the landscape of my life. The joys and the blessings have been terrifically manifold, but the sadnesses, although few, have seemingly run deeper, penetrating further.
 I often fear to confess that I live with this view of melancholy because, truly, I am a happy person who easily finds joy. I admit, I don't trust anyone to understand this lens through which I live life at times, probably for fear that they might desire me to change and stop all this "gloomy talk." Perhaps, from the outside, it makes me appear that I lack gratitude. Ah, but I am not speaking of an ungrateful heart. Gratitude and sorrow are not opposed, but can be experienced together, as I often do. I am merely speaking of feeling through the fathoms of this thing we recognize as sadness. There has been a empty cavern within that, through the bliss, seems to remind me of this emotion and experience that is very earthly and temporal. I don't often talk about it as much as I write, experience, and feel it from day to day.
  Sorrow. It is something we will only know on this side of eternity. I like that. As much pain as it brings, I like that. It is an experience that keeps me hungering, that keeps me trusting, knowing how temporal it truly is. It beckons me to look up and see that day....the day when...

 God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. 
~ Revelation 21:4

To know that day. The day of all days. It will be that much more full, more real because of all that we have walked through as pilgrims on this earth.

I am still very young. In fact, I feel younger than my actual age due to my ever-increasing awareness of how little I really do know and how nonexistent the level of my control is over this thing called life. I can't say I have experienced the most unimaginable, horrific sorrows and losses in my life, although mine have managed to cut and bruise me terribly so. But can sorrows be compared? No one has ever been me in my particular, unique struggles; therefore, sorrow at whatever level, is felt in such a way that cannot be compared on a scale with the sorrows of others. 
But the sadness that unfurled to me in the dawn of my early adulthood did something to me.  
I sense that when I laugh these days, I laugh more fully, more genuinely. I am not so flippant as I once was. Not so half-hearted. Now, I am more fully present, more fully giving. More long-suffering. More understanding than the me that existed in years past. And, I can say, sorrow did this to me. 

This isn't self-worship, nor the puffing up of my own image.
This is a sacred witness to Christ in me, the hope of my glory. 
This my testament to what He has done in me.
That is the power in His name. 
Adonai Tsuri v'goali. The Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.
Adonai Roph'ekha. The Lord who heals you.
Adonai Mekaddishkhem. The Lord your sanctifier. 

 Taking everything meant to harm, to despair, to destroy and redeeming it. My life. This life. One gloriously enormous redemption delivered to me by Emmanuel. He, the One with me, in me, for me.
Trusting that He is taking the resounding throb of pain currently present in my life and fashioning it into an unfathomable well of joy. A means of grace. A path to glory. 

Some of the sorrows I have uniquely known...
They should have made me bitter. 
They should have made me fear.
They should have made me reject the ones who hurt me. 
They should have made me incapable of opening up the well of my heart to anyone. 
They should have made me distrusting. 
They should have made me rebellious for a longer season of life than I was. 
They should have made me more impatient, less willing to be long-suffering. 
They should have stripped me of the ability to love freely and unconditionally.
They should have made me curse my Maker. 

They didn't. They couldn't 
This is not to say that I have not been stuck in the mire of my own flesh at times. I sifted through the marshes of demanding anger, unrelenting unforgiveness, roaring pride, and arrogance. 
But when I lost myself, He found me. Love found me.

I have more to learn than seems realistic to learn in the short time of an average human lifespan. 
I have more to grow and mature than is possible for mere flesh. 
I have a longer path to tread than I dare to know. 
And, I am okay with it because I dare to risk trusting Him who brought me this far. 
I dare to risk believing that these sorrows and sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us [Rom 8:18]

In the words of a man who has been a conduit of grace to me [and to which I have had the immense pleasure of meeting and being discipled under]....

I can be sad, confused and bewildered. But I’ve never been that miserable [person] again. There is something about knowing for certain deep down, that God is absolutely delighted with your very being that changes everything.

You can’t speed up believing complete acceptance. You can’t speed up believing you’re adored. You can’t speed up believing you are righteous, that he lives in you, that you don’t need to become someone you think you’re supposed to be. You can’t speed up believing you’re not behind. You can’t speed up believing you’re enough and right on time. You can’t speed up believing you don’t have to add a thing. You can’t speed up letting go of trying to maintain your good Christian testimony. You can’t speed up not listening to shame voices prodding you into something short of obedience. You can’t speed up believing you can just relax and enjoy and love whatever God puts into front of you.

But as you begin…an entire way of seeing God’s very nature is uniquely time-released throughout your entire being. Everything is seen differently. Pain is still pain, glare is still glare. Loss is still gut-wrenching. But you are free. So you play differently. You dream differently. You love differently. You relax differently. You affirm. You bless. You receive. You love unbelievers instead of pitying them...or envying them. You begin to believe that the world will change not by desperately trying to fix it; but by loving it, enjoying it and being exactly who he made you to be in it.

This means my free association is sacred to God. My laughter and unhurried enjoyment is sacred. Giving dignity to my past is sacred. This means a horribly devastated world need not always devastate me. This means I need not always feel like I have to do more.

It means drawing closer to those who fail. It means allowing others to draw close to you when you fail. It is finding others and entering in with no fear of the consequences if the relationship doesn’t last. It means appealing to Christ in us to grow healthier instead of vigilantly prodding ourselves is a risk worth taking. It means risking love and willing to be naively fooled. It means giving up an agenda for other’s lives. It means convincing those you influence that there is no other shoe about to drop. It means believing we have new hearts and giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt for our motives. It means living as one needs to impress no one, and yet finds great joy in pleasing everyone. It means allowing Jesus to correct me, direct me, without hearing a voice of displeasure. It means daring something risky enough for God to come through. It means dreaming big and knowing he won’t try to teach you a lesson if you fall short.