Tag Archives: music is a safe place

Out Of Nashville Comes Beauty That Is Colorblind: Introducing Neely

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                                   http://neelymusic.com

The streets of Nashville are paved with the blood, sweat and tears of many a musician – and frankly, many who fancy themselves as such. Also walking the streets where musicians dream is a duo made up of two incredibly beautiful human beings, a husband and wife team: Jeremy and Kaci Neely, collectively known as Neely. There are not enough words in written language to explain these two and their approach to music, and sharing it with the world – but, that won’t stop me from trying.

The music industry as a whole likes people to fit into a cookie cutter mold of a single musical genre. Neely, however, defies this with their approach to music and the people who they know are listening. They do not fit into a neat little packaged box. Nor do their beats and lyrics fit neatly into one single musical genre.

There may be a country twang, or a bluesy feel – maybe a touch of rock. No matter what beat or sound their music entertains you with, you can be sure of one thing; they connect deeply with the human condition. They are unafraid of pain, or of emotion. Their transparency in music comes from life. They have a past, and it’s not all a bed of roses. They don’t hide the parts of their past that they may not be proud of. As storytellers, they allow their lives, the good and not so great, to tell of the journey that brought them to where they are today. Theirs is a story of grace and redemption – full of hope, and backed by love.

I had the honor and opportunity to have a conversation and ask a few questions – an informal interview of sorts. I have seen the love that fuels the duo play out time and time again on social much media, but in talking to them – their words matched their online persona.

In speaking with Jeremy, I watched his love for people, all people, play out. I asked if the duo has a target audience, and any age range they seem to cater more to. His answer did not surprise me, though it was precious. He thought for a moment and said that their music’s goal is, as previously mentioned, to be in touch with the human condition. People everywhere. All people. From the young to the old – all are important in their eyes. People have all experienced life in different ways, but many common threads exist.

What Neely does is play an epic game of connect the dots.

They connect with any living breathing person with ears to hear. They are able to connect those dots and meet people where they are – whatever walks of life they come from, and with whatever they bring to the virtual table.

The passion in his voice was undeniable when I asked Jeremy if there was any one message Neely would like to share with anyone reading this. With many examples of life, pain and even brokenness – They want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles – that they are truly loved, where they are, and who they are.

They have a heart for God, and also for people. Neely strongly values family, and community – and have coined the hashtag #NEELYFam on social media. They strive to create a community that is close, and forms bonds like family. I learned all this without having heard word one of their lyrics or music. Their hearts, and their mission- those things shine through like a bright beacon in a dark and dreary land. I knew they were musicians, but, I hadn’t actually known their music also. Fast forward. I listened, and it grabbed my heart in an undeniable way.

This is the effect their music has. On people of all ages. I have had the honor of watching several live reactions to Neely’s remastered for radio edit of their song – actually releasing today, Colorblind. People reacted differently hearing Colorblind for the first time. In those reactions were smiles and also tears; people found hope, and people made choices to be intentional with seeing people and life from outside the status quo – stepping outside comfort zones to impact their world. 

I had the opportunity for a sneak peak at this remastered version of the song, and immediately felt compelled to share it with you, my friends and readers – and the entire world at large. This song is pertinent to our world, and especially the state of our Nation.

“…Everything changes. Everything changes when we see inside. Everything changes when we become colorblind.”

That, if I could sum up the entirety of this song – it would be those lines. However, this song encompasses more of the human condition – and shows how pain and brokenness can collide with love – and the hope, unity, compassion and community form as a result of us just seeing things from an different vantage point, when we become colorblind.

Please do your heart a favor and listen to this song today. If you feel led, and I pray you do, please consider supporting them and downloading it from one of these sources: ITunesApple MusicAmazonGoogle, and Spotify. Neely isn’t represented by a producer, or any major labels. Instead, they are supported by their fans, and in a huge way, by their local church. Any download of this song would allow their mission to continue, and allow YOU to link arms with them, and the people desperately needing their mission and music worldwide.

Jeremy mentioned the love and incredible support of his church community and family, and the multinational congregation they have. He explains that there are more than 17 different countries represented, all under the same roof. In the same way, he says on any given day, he watches as people join together simply as people – business people, politicians, musicians, people with jobs of varying degrees, people with expensive homes, and people with no homes. The homeless person locking arms with people of incredible influence within their community and beyond. People being people. Doing life together. Love. That is God’s heart, and also the heartbeat of Neely. 

No matter who you are, and no matter your status in life – or what brings you to where you are today, please allow me to echo something I have said before (and will likely say again) – and as I mentioned, the heart of Neely: you are not alone! You are loved, right where you are – who you are. For YOU. Please know that the world is brighter with you in it, and your life matters. Take time to listen to some music. Take time to take care of YOU. You are valued. If you are in a place right now where you need help, know that it’s okay to not be okay. Reach out. Allow others the honor of reaching back.

If any of these thoughts, or any of Neely songs resonate with you today, it would be an honor to hear from you. You can feel free to post in the comment section below, or for more personal replies, you can reach out through my “contact me” page. I will also gladly pass along anything you’d like shared with Neely, other readers or just the general public. Anonymity, if needed, is offered. It is an honor to do life alongside you.

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When Pain And Love Collide – How Music Is A Healing Balm For Shattered Hearts

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If you know me at all, you know that I like my music. Music always has been, and remains a safe place. I have had life giving and life changing experiences related to music, and at concerts where I have the opportunity to feel and experience the music live. One week ago provided another chance to experience this breath of fresh air, and to be in a safe place. But, it was so much more than that. It was life. It was love. It was God in action.

Leading up to that Sunday, I won’t lie – mentally, I simply hadn’t been in a wonderful place. This season of life just hasn’t been easy to navigate. Pain and loss, brokenness and a shattered heart seemed to forge whatever path I was walking. It was nearly impossible to see anything other than pain. And, then this concert happened. Dan Arnold and DCA Events brought some incredible talent under one roof. Such great music – but more than music, was a really great message and experience. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

I was over the moon excited on Friday when a friend messaged me to ask if I needed tickets since she had purchased tickets, and would be working. The tickets were available if I needed them. I did. That was a direct answer to my hope and prayer. I love music, and I wanted to be there.  But, had not been able to purchase tickets. So, God made a way where there had been no way.
With my daughter in Heaven, and now my brother also with her – my heart has been shattered. It hurts, and feels irreparably broken.  Enter the power of music.

 


First up was our church’s worship leader, and my friend, Chris Habermehl. The one whose last name has many different pronunciations – go ahead, try and sound it out in your head. It really isn’t that hard. I digress. This mans heart for Jesus, and for people speaks so many volumes. Chris has a burning passion and desire to lead people intothe presence and heart of God through Christ centered worship. He believes that while music is definitely a form of praise, the true heart of worship is a lifestyle expressed through love and compassion. He did exactly that, as he shared with the audience beautiful words from his album, Galaxies. His down to earth attitude and the way he connects with people through song is unbelievable. It is truly a blessing to know this Chris and his entire beautiful family. They’ve stood by my side through some of life’s most heart wrenching moments. Love and compassion definitely lead the way and shows others what Jesus looks like.

 

Taking the stage after Chris was Tyrus Morgan. The words of his songs back up his incredibly beautiful heart. From his about me page, he’s quoted saying, “There are earthy, tangible things through the body of Christ that show us something greater than ourselves, something to believe in.” An encouraging word. A quiet compliment. A pat on the back. Tyrus Morgan believes these small gestures are important ripples in an ocean of eternal impact. He believes that we were created to not simply go through the motions, but to do life together. He also had his beautiful daughter with him. I had the opportunity to chat with her a few times during the evening. It did this mama’s heart good to connect with an incredibly beautiful little girl with a heart of gold like her daddy has. I’ll remain forever grateful for the entire evening, but especially the tender moments I got to just connect with her.

 

We Are Messengers followed Tyrus, and was the final group to take the stage. Their portion of the evening went quickly from a concert to a worship service, to an outreach, and so much more. Having never been to one of their concerts before, I couldn’t tell you if they were all that way, or not. It seemed as if, several times during their set, they veered offer script a bit. They took time to connect with people directly, and share the heart of God in such a real, tangible way. They reminded everyone with ears to hear, that it’s okay to hurt and to have pain – but, reminded us to go back to a place of God’s love. Pain blinds us from finding or even believing hope even exists. Ask me how I know. Wait. No, don’t.   On their biography page, their lead singer, Darren Mulligan shares, “We can’t fix people, but what we can do is holds people’s hands and stay with them in their pain and doubt.” He is also quoted, saying, “We want to tell people about the goodness of God. Music allows us to have that conversation. We want to live people the way He loves us.” They clearly take this mission seriously. Their mission to love people right where they are, and to connect them with the heart of God was lived out in every second they were on stage, and off.

After the concert concluded, I had the opportunity to connect with each of the bands, and talk with some of them individually as well. These people became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. I was asked about my tattoos, and had the opportunity to share a bit of my story, my daughters journey, and even shared about my brother. The pain. The brokenness. The overwhelming nature of it all.

What allowed God to grab ahold of my heart was that they didn’t greet my pain with silence. They did sit with me in the pain. They allowed me to cry, and even had tears of their own. It was mentioned that is okay to hurt, and to not always be okay. I was given a hug, and they prayed right then and there. This is God in human form.

From the moment I walked in, to the drive home (that’s another story for another day) and every musical beat along the way – my heart felt something it’s recently been hard to latch onto: hope. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out. I don’t have the answers, and maybe that’s okay. What I am saying is this. I’m profoundly grateful to a God that cares enough to orchestrate music, and undeniable moments of faith and love to instill hope like a healing balm for my broken heart.

When A Concert Is More Than Just Good Music

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I went to a concert last night. I didn’t have the money to get in the doors, but I still went. I wanted to be there, and I knew I needed to be there. Music is one of a few safe places in my life right now. There was an individual, my friend Dan (from DCA Events) who knew a bit of my story, and invited me in. I didn’t have the money, and he knew it. He said words that probably set the tone for the entire evening. He said this, “It’s not about a concert. It’s about Jesus.” I already had tears streaming down my face at this point, and he invited me into the concert and (without a seat at the time) I just stood at the back. I watched, and I cried. Concerts are also something my daughter and I very much enjoyed going to before she died last year. So, the emotions surrounding that also were fighting for their place. I think I cried more last night than I have, ever, in any concert. It was healing, but it also hurt.

This is a tour called Worship In The Round, and featured Building 429, Josh Wilson, and Chris August. I’ve seen Chris August a couple of times before, but never the others. There was also a guy, Adam Weber, who I’d later learn was the pastor of a church with multiple campuses out of state.

Something happened there though. In my heart. Sadly, I didn’t magically find all this hope that has seemingly gone on an extended vacation. But, what I did find was a safe place. Music is still that. I heard words and messages of hope. Of love. Of faith. Of Jesus. I heard all those things. The only dilemma I have right now, is finding the strength to keep holding onto those messages. I need them to be more than great words that exist in the here and now, but vanish like a vapor. At an intermission of sorts, I saw a friend from church. When she saw me, she made her way over to me, and she gave me a hug, and simply held me as I cried. And cried. That was kind, and so needed. I didn’t know how much it was needed until I just sat there in tears.

What happened after the show, more than any moment during the concert itself, is what sparked something in my heart. The guys were all out signing autographs. I took the time to make my way to each one, including the dude I came to realize was a pastor. The show itself was incredibly impactful, but what happened after became personal.

You see, I’ll start with him. Adam Weber. I actually ran into him before the show, or before I went in. In passing, he asked if I was okay. I didn’t lie. I told him I wasn’t and he said something about all having days like that. I had no idea who he was at that point, just some dude passing in the hallway. But, from the stage, he was talking about prayer. More than that, about how prayer was not some foreign language we have yet to learn. Instead, it’s carrying on a conversation with God, as if He is a friend sitting next to you. He shared a few thoughts, and I listened to every single one. My heart was open to the hope in his words. So, afterwards, I took a few moments and I talked to him. In a brief nutshell, I shared where I was with my daughter having died, with hopelessness in ways, and with my faith. Had I known he was a pastor, I am not sure I’d have said all that. But, it didn’t matter. I did. He wasn’t condescending, but his words were filled with love. He asked if I had told God all those things. More than that, he thanked me for sharing the things I did with him. He valued our conversation, and that was special.

Next, I had the opportunity to talk to Chris August. First, I showed him a silly picture of him and my son from 2011. He signed his forehead, and it was a fun, candy filled memory. (My son had every visible part of him – his face, neck, and his arms signed that evening.) He mentioned that he doesn’t always remember everything from all his shows, but that one still sticks in his memory banks. (It might or might not have anything to do with the fact that Timehop reminds me of these things, and so I share with him each year. haha) But, I was able to just be real. I showed him a picture of my sweet little girl, and shared the pain attached to her death. I talked to him briefly about my life, and what led me to where I was and some of the why. He took the time to listen, and to let me know that where I was, was okay. I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do for some time, simply say thank you to him. His heart is for and with people.

Then I had the opportunity as Jason, from Building 429 was about to walk out of the room – to talk to him. I felt bad, cause I knew he was getting ready to leave. But, I asked for a moment of his time. I wanted him to hear my words. Mostly my thanks. I didn’t have anything for him to sign. I told him thank you for doing what he does, and he asked what was going on with me. His fault. He took the time, and he asked. haha. So, there were the tears from the whole evening. Back again like a faithful friend. He asked if he could give me a hug, and briefly held me as I just cried. Poor guy. That was not my intention, but nor could it be prevented in that moment. I explained some of the why behind the pain, and where my hope was, or wasn’t. And, my faith too. It was a brief, but very transparent and I guess pretty vulnerable conversation. He asked about what support I had, and then he asked if he could pray with me right then. That was powerful, and the tears refused to not overflow. The prayer itself was powerful, sure, but that he simply took the time. He reminded me that I was not alone. He asked my name, and then shared that they’d pray for me on this tour. Tears aplenty.

After more of the crowd vanished, I saw the opportunity to also speak with Josh Wilson. For an odd change of pace, I was somewhat speechless. It was a fight with those tears. They wanted to be known too. All I could manage to say was thank you, for his music and for sharing his story. It wasn’t a star struck sort of speechless either. There were tears. It was an overwhelming feeling, hard to put into words, culminating from the entire evening. I was feeling some sort of stirring. Something in my heart. There were, again, tears that refused to not make their presence known. I did manage to share some of my struggles with him, even feelings not of suicide, but of wishing that I was already in Heaven. And, like the others, he listened. Mostly, he reminded me that it’s okay. Where I am right now, it’s okay. The pain I have, it’s okay. If my words forgot their filters, he wasn’t offended, and heard my heart, and pain. And, he also reminded me that God has broad shoulders, and can take it too. If I’m mad, it’s okay. If I hurt, if…any of those ifs…to talk to Him about it. I might or might not be at a place that I can do that right now. But, the point all boiled down to the fact that the things I felt, the emotions I had, they were okay. I’m not broken beyond repair, even though it often feels that way. He, again, reminded me that life is precious, and that I am too. That people need me, that I am here for a purpose, that I matter, and also that I’m not alone.

The one constant thing amongst conversation with all of them was this. They were unafraid of my tears and my pain. They didn’t run for the hills, and they didn’t hide. They saw me. It wasn’t a ton of time, but they took the time to just be with me in those moments. My seeming lack of faith didn’t make them look at me as less of a person. They were bold, encouraging, and they heard me. I can’t explain what that did in my heart, but it was undeniable. I was no longer alone in a giant crowd of people. They became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. They reminded me that, even if I couldn’t see beyond the pain, that it was okay. Ultimately, where I am right now is okay. In different ways, each one of them reminded me that life continues to be worth fighting, worth living, and that even if simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to walk was all I could do – that it was enough.

So, folks, that’s where I am right now. You can take a look at yesterday’s post and get a general feel for where I am in general, and why last night’s concert was as impactful as it was. If you pray, I welcome those. If you have hope, I welcome you to hope. Even during the moments I can’t…I ask you to hold onto those things for me cause maybe there will be a time they exist again in my life. Whatever you do, and wherever you are, I welcome you to join me. I know there is strength in community, and I know there is healing and hope also found there. I may not have a good grasp, or none at all, on some of these things right now, but if you do – please don’t let go.

And for any musician apt to play shows or concerts – this, friends, this is why what you matters. This is why a concert is so much more than just good music, or great music in this case. It’s more than entertainment. The simple gestures, hugs, moments in time that you offer or share – those change lives. Those share hope with the hopeless. What you do is life changing for some, life-giving for others, and even life-saving for some. Please know that music is a place where people can feel safe and seek refuge. I am that person. Music is a safe place. Thank you for that gift.

And, to DCA Events, thank you for playing your part in making concerts like these happen. To quote what Dan says of himself and DCA Events, “….As a believer and follower of Christ, it’s what we are called to do. Dca Events is here to bring Jesus to the hurting & lost, our concerts are about promoting positive influence thru music. That positive influence is Jesus.”  Dan, and DCA Events, thank you for the mission you have, and for doing it well. Like I mentioned before, this shows me who Jesus is, in human form.

I still have many questions, a lot of pain, and a faith and life with so many questions and concerns – but I am not the same person I walked into the concert as. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that I’m grateful to have had the experience, and for the safe place it provided.

A Movie, A Band, And A Necklace

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A Movie, A Band, And A Necklace

October 16, 2016. This movie. This band. That necklace. Life changing. Life giving. Life saving.

Every time I try to convince words to take a journey from my brain to the paper, tears threaten to make seeing the words impossible. In an attempt to share even a fraction of the significance of this event, I will break down the event and all the moving parts into little bite-sized pieces. 

Priceless the Movie. 

I’m not going to tell a tall tale. I hadn’t  heard of this movie prior to this text from a very dear friend: 

you…me…Sunday evening ‘Priceless’ at Ronnie’s 20?

So, this being a friend who I love and trust, I basically blindly said yes. She knows me. She gets me. What’s more, though?  She allows me the honor returning the favor. I’m grateful. Alas, I accepted her invitation, and nearly canceled several times. But I didn’t. As this day approached, the excitement and even anticipation grew. 

It made me happy to learn that the band would be in the theater live, playing  a few songs for us. Their flight was a bit delayed, so the acoustic set was after the movie. 

So, this movie is incredible. This is part in fairly certain I can’t get through without my tears going on mass exodus. Again. So, instead, I’ll ask you to click on the following link, and watch the trailer for Priceless

I will say this though. This movie and it’s storyline broke my heart. Mostly because it’s no joke. People, this stuff happens. It’s real, and it’s in our backyards. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the movie, those that produced it, and all who came together to make it happen. It was tremendously well done. I found a surge of emotions at varied times throughout the entire thing. It was beautifully painful. It hurt, and it healed. Most of all, it was God’s heart in a movie. God’s hand holding my shattered heart. The fact that God can use a movie to touch some very deep and dark places is testament to the fact that the whole experience (more to come on that) acted as a healing salve applied to some wounded places. 

After the movie concluded, the band took the stage for a few minutes. They sang/played a handful of songs. Again, the heart of God, in human form, stood before us on that theater stage. The words of their songs grabbed my heart, and didn’t let go. I can’t begin to count the number of times I wiped tears from my eyes. At one point, Joel, from 4 King And Country, looked directly at me. He smiled as if to say, I see you. You matter. Your pain matters. In truth, he probably thought nothing of the sort, but in that moment – God’s grace, His love, just held me. 

At one point, they polled the audience to see if anyone was confused as to who they were, and why a band was live on stage in a movie theater. One person responded. They welcomed her, and asked us all to say hello. 

What happened next floored me. 

Joel picked up a necklace – the one you can see me wearing in the picture above. He spoke about its meaning and significance. The words “She’s worth fighting for” just melted my heart. As he spoke, he looked at me again and reached down and handed it to me. Yes, of course, tears streamed down my cheeks. 

I’m nothing special, but in that moment, God’s love and grace swallowed me whole. It was as if God Himself was giving me a much needed hug. Joel doesn’t know my story, but something (that small voice, like in the movie perhaps?) urged him to share it with me. To give me a gift. A necklace. 

It was more priceless than any gift could have been in that moment. You see, it showered me with God’s love. I felt important, and as if my life has meaning. God used that moment to hold me. To help me see glimpses beyond the pain. It helped me feel hope in tangible ways. It helped me just breathe, and know I’m loved.

I wanted to share this for a multitude of reasons.Mostly to share my own gratitude. To my friend for inviting me. To Joy FM for whatever part you played behind the scenes to help this event happen. To 4 King and Country for the hearts you had in creating this film, delivering it to the public, and the life-giving mini concerts you  allowed His heart and presence to touch others with. And especially to God, for not giving up on me, and for allowing your love to penetrate some shattered and somewhat dark places. Please don’t ever throw up your hands and realize I’m just too much. 

And to all reading, if you might be in pain, know that you are not alone. I do not have to walk your journey to understand that you hurt. I think we all do in some way, shape, or form. I see you, but more importantly, God also sees you – exactly where you are if I could say one more thing, it would just be to not give up. I want to see that your life has value and worth, and you still have purpose here. 
I needed these same reminders yesterday, and they flooded my heart with love and healing. If you need similar reminders, here they are. Someone, please just point me back to this page, and my own words when you see or feel the need.

Know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to reach out. Just don’t give up. There is still time for good things to happen. There is time for hope to surprise you. You are not out of time, and neither am I. If you’re hurting, just take my hand, and allow me to sit with you – even virtually – in this pain. It may be real, but it will not be forever. You will come to know more than the pain that tortures you. You matter. Your story matters. You’re worth so much more than you can comprehend. 

Please, keep giving hope a chance to surprise you. You are loved.