Tag Archives: music

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 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. 

Have You Been To A Concert That Rescues And Saves Lives? 

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This is a picture taken at a concert that began with “For His Glory” (which is more than just a band, and then followed by “The Great Romance” – who already held a very special place in my heart.

Have you ever been to a music concert that saves lives and rescues people? I have. Two nights ago. 

I had an opportunity that had my stomach in knots. A concert. No big deal,  right?!  In my case, not right. Let me explain… 

My daughter passed away in February after a three year battle with brain cancer. During the first year of her fight – on a cool and crisp sunny October afternoon, Matt Vollmar (Lead singer of The Great Romance -TGR) came to visit Janet during one of her many inpatient stays at the hospital. He sang an incredibly meaningful song, Bigger Than The Odds. The song speaks of A God, who is bigger than the odds. Janet fell in love with that song, the artist who sang it, and the band that plays it. She’d take much pride in requesting and hearing it played on the radio. Every time TGR was in concert anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we made it a point to be there. It would be an understatement to say they meant a ton to us. 

Case in point, Matt Vollmar was one of a small handful personally asked to sing at Janet’s Celebration of Life (funeral) service. He sang an couple of her favorite songs, fitting for the occasion. 

This concert was the first concert I’d been to since she passed away. If you knew much about me, you’d know I’ve been to several concerts in recent years – at least 95+% of them, with my daughter in attendance. She loved music. Music has such a message, and even as a young kid, she “got” it. 

I had virtually no idea how hard, yet how impactful this concert would become. 

If you look closely, these are several of the pictures from the set where these guys/gals played/sang.

I walked in as the first group, For His Glory, was being introduced, and began to share about a cause that they support – a cause near and dear to their hearts. They seek to offer hope, healing, and practical help to people and ministries worldwide. In this instance, they spoke passionately about human trafficking, and connecting them with true and lasting, sustainable hope. The kind of hope that rebuilds lives, and communities. They have a global market, where they sell goods made by these rescued girls, to help them continue with sustainable income. I saw some of these beautiful items – baby bibs, any weather scarves, winter scarves, greeting cards, wooden sculptures, jewelry, etc. Incredible talent. 

Their mission is one near and dear to my heart as well. I was astounded to hear their heart and words in support of this cause. 

As they played, their songs spoke to my heart. I listened, and I cried. It simply couldn’t be helped. They were beautiful tears – not marked with sadness. They were my heart connecting with what felt like the very heart of God. I knew, in those moments, that I had to connect with these people. That is an indoor process at the moment, but their mission is also my mission. I’ll look forward to updating again as friendships form, and differences are made in our world. 

At the completion of their set, it was time for The Great Romance to take the stage. I didn’t know what to expect, emotion wise, but I didn’t have the slightest clue the difficulty level either. 

Look closely. These are some of several shots taken during this concert.

Their first song was a light hearted (one of a few) favorite of Janet’s. I had tears, but I was okay. The next song grabbed my heart, and was one Janet loved, got the meaning of, and was also sang at her Celebration of Life. Disappear. The basis of this song is asking “if I were to disappear, would there be footprints on the floor” – asking if the person wasn’t there any longer, would they leave a footprint on this world – a legacy of something more. At seven years old, my daughter knew she was doing, but she KNEW she would leave a legacy of love. She was and still is right. So yes, that song got me. A few other songs hit a spot, but nothing came close to the deluge of emotions that poured out of my eyes in the form of tears. I lost it. Not on a horrible way, but the tears freely streamed down my face, giant and very real crocodile tears. They were healing while heartbreaking, simultaneously. I was just enveloped with God’s love, but sported a shattered heart – knowing how much that song meant to Janet, and wishing I could watch her beautiful bald self, dancing to it time and time again. It hurts to not have her here – but my God – I wouldn’t trade having such beautiful and love filled memories of a life – seven years of a life – well lived. 
My daughter truly LOVED more in her seven years, than many will live in an entire lifetime – one that spans into adulthood, and old age. She was robbed of so much, but it NEVER put a damper on her smile. When I grow up, I wanna be just like her! Ha! 

To everyone who continues to connect with Janet’s story, and our ongoing journey, I want to thank you for the continued thoughts and prayers. Please and thank you for them continuing! 

The Power In Music – Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe Concert

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Music is powerful. That is more than a statement, and music truly is more than a song. Many artists freely admit that their songs stem from their own stories. They write from their own heart – which often contains unimaginable pain. To the naked eye, these songs are just pretty music with nice words. This is where I challenge things. Not that those thoughts are wrong, but I’d simply like to add. A song allows the artist to tell a story – and that story may include pain, hope, sadness, joy or a myriad of other emotions. But, it tells a story and that story resonates with different people on different levels – but does do Aggy whatever step on this journey through life they are taking.

To share a practical example of this principle in action, I’d like to share a personal moment with you. I was invited to a concert to see Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe live. Part of me wanted so much to go, but the other part of me wrestled with this. I was physically tired, and not feeling like getting out of bed after the late afternoon nap I couldn’t avoid. But, my choice to go and to be with friends for a night if music won that battle. I went. And I’m glad.

To further explain just the significance of those moments in time…

To backtrack a slight bit, I’ll briefly tell you why I was in the mood and frame of mind that I was. As you may or may not know, we lost a baby through miscarriage, and also seven years later – we lost our precious 7 year olddaughter Janet after a very courageous battle with what we’d learn was terminal brain cancer. I’ve lost friends and military unit members to suicide. I’ve experienced abuse, and know the effects of trauma. I know the pain of depression and the effects of mental illness.

I was thinking, mostly about missing my little girl since her death is still so fresh. (She passed away Feb. 13, 2016.) But, those thoughts brought up so many more. Thoughts of brokenness. Thoughts of pain. Thoughts of hope and love – often hidden or elusive. I really wasn’t okay.

In those moments, I really wasn’t okay. I wasn’t actually suicidal. But, I’d be lying if I told you that living through this kind of personal hell on earth can be seemingly impossible. I was thinking about life being unfair, and seeming so broken, almost beyond repair. I was thinking about life after death. I was thinking about seeing my daughter, and so many others who have gone before and after her. Thinking of the epic reunion that would be.

But, the thought of going to a concert again won. I had attended several concerts with Janet. She adored music as well, and could sing right along to many songs. Songs with messages. I had to remember that. I had to go and see what messages I would hear. I wondered if there would be anything spoken or otherwise delivered that could still touch my shattered heart. I may have had doubts there, but the desire was there for a reason.

Love, comfort, peace and strength were just a few of those reasons.

The first band to take the stage was Zealand Worship. I had never seen them before. Their words and their songs were spot on. They made me smile, and wish for a CD. To see the raised hands (the bands, but countless others around the arena) in worship did something. It sparked a memory of love – if a time in life that did know pain, but more accurately also knew tremendous hope.

The next band to walk on stage was Citizen Way. This band is one I met roughly five or six years ago at A Christmas concert. At the time, my daughter hasn’t even been diagnosed with cancer, but life still knew pain. At the time, they spoke words directly from God to me heart. This concert was no different. In fact, meaningful took on a whole new meaning. Ben Calhoun (from the band) spoke so many words that my heart grabbed onto. But, when he started to talk about the pain and trains behind some of the passion in their music, I held onto every word. You see, he and his wife had to say goodbye to a son (Jeremiah) that they never had the opportunity to know this side of Heaven. They may have had the opportunity to hold him, and to experience death in a strong, personal, and very real way. When Ben related how he felt His God was speaking to him – that, that grabbed hold of my heart. God’s warm and loving hands were holding Jeremiah in His hands. From Ben and his wife’s hands, directly into the hands of God. That thought brought me so much peace and comfort in that very moment. It helped me see my own story in a similar light – as I had a similar experience with pregnancy loss, but also in the death of my seven year old princess. Citizen Way’s songs just spoke to my heart than they ever had before. They spoke to my heart on a personal level. They were instrumental in the tears in my eyes being happy instead of painful tears.

After Zealand Worship and Citizen Way were finished, I wondered what more was in store – what ways God could use music notes and words from a page to bring peace, comfort, strength, and love to this broken heart. To this depressed and hurting (proud to be recognized as) child of God. So, I opened my heart to the possibility of hope being real again, even of life having purpose once again. For love to hold me. So, there I remained – now with renewed expectancy. Next up was the final band of the evening.

The final band to bless the arena with its presence, and to share the heart of God with the same kind of passion of the two bands on stage before them, was MercyMe. Their lead singer, Bart Millard spoke from his heart – sharing so much pain and yet so much hope and peace in spite of the hurts. As a case in point example, he spoke of a venerable part of his story with such heartbreaking transparency – to an audience around six thousand, give or take. He shared the original hell on earth he lived as he endured verbal and physical abuse from his father – from someone who should have been busy protecting his heart, not crushing it. Then he shared the real miracle. His father came to know Jesus as the Lord and Savior of his life. Though skeptical, he watched his father’s heart and entire life surrender to Christ. Through that process, he was able to forgive his father, and a relationship built on love was permitted instead of one surrounded by painful memories. He even said he hopes to be like him when/if he ever grows up. (Bart, for what it’s worth – I don’t think you ever need to be concerned with you ever growing up. I don’t believe that’s a thing – it even possible! But you are a man with a heart like it sounds like your father finally came to know – – one of so much love and compassion.)

I’ll now circle back to my own thoughts, feelings and emotions that evening. There were thoughts of pain and hurting, of not wanting to live life this way, and of wishing for escape – that point where hope seems elusive. You can know in your head that how was never lost, but convincing your heart to believe it – sometimes very difficult. So I went there to spend time with dear friends, but left with so much more. I went to what I knew would be nice – maybe even encouraging music. What I did not expect was the very real infusion of hope and love right back into my heart. God’s love, largely in part due to the words and messages in the songs and spoken words, was able to permeate more broken places in what I feel is my shattered heart. But, what I realized was that He is still God. He is still good. And, He is still in control. No amount of pain or loss will ever take that away. He holds every single shattered piece of my heart (and yours too, if it’s broken) in the palm of His loving hands – close to His heart. I found myself falling in love with the heart again in such a sweet way.

So, if you’re a musician, songwriter, or anyone (from all thees venues, staff, and all members of the bands) who makes this possible – thank you. Don’t EVER doubt your worth – personally or as a team. What you do matters, and is life changing – life saving even. I may never have the opportunity to personally meet you. But, if I did, I’d consider it an honor to just look you in the eyes and say thank you. To say job well done. To say I’m proud of you for stepping outside your respective comfort zones and sharing intimate details of your life, and allowing those details (even the pain) to bring hope and healing while allowing countless others (myself included) to know they aren’t alone. Ever. Through anything.

Thank you for helping me remember these things.

If you are a fellow music lover such as myself, I want you to also hear these words. You are not alone. It’s okay to not always be okay. But, it’s also okay to allow yourself the freedom that comes with also allowing yourself to feel joy. No matter where you are in life, or what personal hell you’re going through, you don’t have to experience life alone. Please don’t believe the lie that tells you you’re alone, or that no one could possibly understand. No one can understand your specific brand of pain – bit they can relate on a universal level – that pain hurts. Allow others in. If this is you and if you’re hurting, please reach out. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, your pastor, your family, a counselor or therapist, or right here on the internet. Speak and be known. Feel free to reach out here and post in comments or send me a message via the contract me option. I’ll look forward to connecting and sharing life with you. Yes, I mean that. And yes, I’m still talking to you. You – you are loved and hope is real. Rescue is possible.

To everyone reading, a side note – May is a number of things, but two of them are near and dear to my heart. May holds title of brain cancer and also mental health awareness. So, as such – take the time to surround anyone you know (especially those fighting brain or any cancer) With love. Take the time to get to know people on more than skin deep levels. Let people know you’re willing to walk with them, or sour together in the pain. You have no idea the impact you can have or the absolute fact that you could potentially be saving a life. Even when you know a person, unless they choose to take off the mask, you may not fully know them. Be that for someone else, and allow someone the honor of being that for you. You be you, and know you’re loved. Right where you are. No questions asked. You ate a human being, worthy of so much love and grace. Again, you be you – your the best person to play your part.

For a slideshow videos of more pictures from this event, please feel free to check this link out. Concert pictures on YouTube

Spotlight On 33 Miles – Let It Be Glory: Here

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I’d like to talk a little bit about this song, “Here” by 33 Miles. Before I go any further, I’d like to share a little bit about my life recently, so as to set up the background, and why this song means what it does to me.

Life hasn’t been all that fun lately. There have been many reasons to make me question so much of life. I do often wonder why certain things happen, but I have not stopped KNOWING that God is ultimately in control. No matter what comes up, and no matter where I am in life, He is always there. Though I have struggles, He provides peace and comfort in the midst of any storm I face.

So, with this all in mind, I’d like to share a song that has such a powerful meaning to me.

This song speaks of coming to God, right exactly where you are — no matter the situation. Even during the times you feel completely just empty, know that He is right there. This song speaks of the character of God. If you cry out to God, He will respond. Hope, though elusive at times, is very real. The beauty of this song is the reminder that Jesus is constant. He is right there with you, no matter what.

When you open yourself up to Him, He will show Himself faithful 100% of the time. All you need to do is cry out to Him, and ask Him to be your everything. The act of surrendering to Him, in and of itself, will bring hope and let you see how He is there with and for you…every step of the way.

This song is powerful. It’s message will speak to the heart of any who will seek after Him. This song is on 33 Miles album, Let it Be Glory. When it is released for sale, I strongly urge you to get your hands on a copy of the entire album. This song is just one of several that will bless you, and speak hope directly into your heart.

To 33 Miles – thank you again for following the heart of God and sharing His hope and love in such a real way through this album, and especially this song.

365 Moments Of Gratitude: Thankful For A Tighter Knit Radio Family

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Recently, there was an announcement from one of our local Christian radio stations. There were changes in the forecast – the very near future, actually. As part of New Life Media, there are currently three radio stations that wear the title of Family Friendly Radio: WBGL (serving the Chicagoland and surrounding areas), WCIC (Serving the Peoria, IL and surrounding areas) and WIBI (serving St. Louis, Southern and Southwestern Illinois and surrounding areas). It has been announced that the three stations have much change taking place, and an actual merge soon to happen. You see, WIBI will cease to exist as WIBI. Instead, Family Friendly WBGL and WCIC will expand their listening audiences and WIBI will merge with the two stations.

What I find great is that virtually nothing is going to change. It is, and will remain the same Family Friendly radio that so many people, myself included, have come to love and enjoy. The listeners accustomed to hearing the on-air voices of WIBI will still hear many of the same familiar (and loved) voices, but will be blessed to add a few new voices to the mix. The actual number on the dial will not change. The amazing music that meets you right where you are will remain that same positive influence.

Since this announcement was made, I have heard many people share their personal disappointment with the situation – noting that they almost feel betrayed. It is at that moment that I would like to reach out and hug them…letting them know that it IS going to be alright. It’s not as if we are losing a family member – but instead, we’re gaining more family. People (myself included at times) need to remember that change isn’t always fun or easy. It can, however, be rewarding in so many ways. As this transition is gearing up to take place, I truly love seeing the heart and passion from the on air voices, and those you don’t always hear — but who work behind the scenes to make this family of radio stations what everyone has come to know and love.

I had the opportunity to hear the New Life Media Network Director, Barry Copeland’s heart on the situation and the pending change. What he had to say blessed me in many ways. His heart for God, and his love of people is a beautiful thing. It is his desire that the listeners can see that this move won’t detract from local community involvement. Instead, he states “Our plan is to have staff being enabled to interact more with local supporters/ministries by identifying the needs, then creating opportunity for listeners to make an impact for the kingdom.” This transition, and the thought process behind it was not come to in haste. As Barry states, “All our decisions have been through the lens of the listeners. They weren’t easy to make.” Barry has invested many years of his life in this, and understands completely the emotion that accompanies such a change. He agrees that WIBI has been an amazing experience, and he believes it will continue – only with a new name. As I mentioned, this wasn’t a decision made easily, or selfishly. I will let his own words speak the volumes they did to me, “After much prayer and consult, I knew it was the right thing for the listeners and donors. It’s about them.” The heart of the matter truly is about doing what makes sense, and has the greatest overall impact with the listeners and supporters of all the stations.

I am grateful – not just because of this pending transition, but because there is leadership – from the staff / on air voices – all the way up to the network director – that truly love people. More than that, they love God, and allow His love to filter through their faith, heart, music and messages to all on the other end of the airways. I, for one, say thank you to God for each and every one who works to make this a reality. God is able to reach out, through them, to meet people exactly where they are – at exactly the right time.

As this transition takes place, I will follow up and share reflections after the actual merge has taken place.