Gungor Concert Review

Gungor came to Philly last night!! I almost couldn’t believe that one of my fav couples (Michael and Lisa) would be gracing an intimate show in my city! I have never seen them live, and some of their songs (and the Liturgists) have made an immense impact in my life. So I guess we should dive into the night then:

Location/Setting: The show took place in a church, Circle of Hope South Philly (not to be mistook for any of the other Circle of Hope churches in Philly *cough cough* like I did upon first arrival *cough*.) A short walk up four flights of stairs put me in an open space where twinkle lights led my way everywhere I went. The room itself was an open room with wooden floors, and there was no stage, just a corner decorated with hanging lights and DIY decorations above for some added homeyness.

Crowd: The crowd consisted of mostly white, Christian progressive millennials, those who know Michael and Lisa for more than Gungor. I appreciated the type of people in the crowd, mature, honest, funny, and all lovers of music. Everyone was extremely courteous. There were only about 200 people there.

Sound: Sound was perfecto and their music sounded amazing. The room had amazing acoustics, and the sound guy (probably from church, or maybe a friend of Michael’s) kicked it doing sound. incredible.

The Set: The setlist contained probably about 10 to 15 songs, and the rest of the time was filled with Q&A. People were asking excellent questions pertaining to music, God, and life. Gungor has always been such a special band for me, so the fact that they were being extremely honest and personal with the crowd made it such a cool show. They have no genre, so their instruments were constantly switching up from things I had never seen or heard before, to synth and guitar looping, to acapella harmonies. It was always somber, but never dull.

All around: The show was great. As a concert stand alone, it was good, but the intimate space, and Q&A made it worth the while. An artist’s personality and aura can really make or break the show, and Michael and Lisa’s essence is so honest and warm, and that’s exactly what the show felt like. I was greeted and welcomed, I felt warm and invited, I enjoyed good music, I saw God in unique ways. Good.

 By Guest Writer Abi Milcarek
 
 
Abi is a student and music enthusiast. She’s one of the two people that I know who has the widest range of music tastes and knowledge. I love learning from her. You may be seeing her a lot on this blog! Abi also has a great deal of knowledge about photography, art, and fashion. Go follow her Instagram and check out her blog Abimilcarek.com for some cool stuff! 
Also as always, reach out to us! Let us know what you think.
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How living childlike can bring healing

Many people have described me as an “old soul”. Most of the time I could agree and have felt like one. Though I didn’t truly realize what aging entails. What living more days on this earth entails. How an imperfect world and imperfect people produce turmoil and brokenness. How the journey through that is treacherous, and nothing can fully prepare you for it. One can only wear the badge of an old soul when they live through it.

I write this piece because the brokenness I have experienced in my life has changed me. It feels absolutely bad and scary and discouraging. I’m learning to fight it though, because I hold on to the truth that holds me. Through this, I am breathing hope into my story. This will be a story of redemption.

One crucial part of my journey through healing has been learning to be childlike again. I have always been one that has reveled in the whimsy. Has seen green grass everywhere, has worn rose colored glasses, has lived their life in awe of the things around her. I have always had this strong desire to seek out beauty and to be inspired, as well as living in a way that inspires others. But what about when something happens that shakes your core? That takes the light from your eyes and makes the colors dull? The kind of constant dizziness that stops you from gaining your footing. What about when you stop looking for the beauty around you and you stop recognizing yourself all together? It’s not just about someone hurting you or letting you down, what about when you hurt others and let yourself down?

Broken.

I wrote about this brokenness in my blog posts over Christmas. It has transformed, matured, and the symptoms have been this.

“It’s the process of enlightenment that has the power to leave what seem like irreversible marks on us. Maybe it was the first time someone made fun of us… Or maybe it was when sickness or death first introduced themselves, or when pain and abandonment were first realized, or when love was lost and we felt longing for the first time. For some of us, each one of these small abrasions chipped away its own portion of the pure diamond of a soul we were born with and drained the tank of joy we started with.”

This excerpt is from Darling Magazine Issue 19. I have felt this way, but to see it spelled out in words was profound. I felt compelled to share it. And after came a call to action:

“Now is not the time to reverse the process of aging, but to retrain our souls to seek and embrace the feelings that once came with running through fields of flowers, putting on capes and masks and spinning until we fell down in laughter. It’s the time to believe again in magic, to revel in wonder, to allow joy back in, to see again for the first time.” 

Truth ^

This has taken time to be able to write, for it has taken time for me to face. Maybe there is just a season for everything. I know there are many lessons I need to learn. I know deep down pain does not go to waste, and I know every day I am closer to gaining this childlike view back again, even among the bad days. Here I am in my journey, intentionally choosing to create more “wonder moments”. The book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp has helped me with living a life of gratitude. This includes listing things throughout the day that I am grateful for. Intentionally slowing down to search out beauty and praise the Creator of it. For when we put Him in the forefront, all is illuminated. I am learning that I do not need to carry this burden on my own. I had an enlightening and encouraging conversation with a close friend tonight on the phone. He opened up about multiple lessons he has learned in this past year. They resonated with me and felt oh so relevant.

  • Don’t fall in love with your past, for when you grow and move on, you will see that there is no true solid foundation at all. Live in the present. // Romanticizing the past is all around unhealthy. Memories are haunting. It’s very hard interacting with ghosts every day. Although this is easier said than done, God brings healing. And healing is not a linear journey. It’s ugly and hard, and even harder when we try to heal ourselves. We need Gods truth and sweet sweet grace.
  • The Lord is close to the broken hearted. Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1. // I have been crying out to the Lord, but not leaning on Him.
  • Sacrifice. Give up things that you need to give up and replace it with Jesus. // What are we willing to give up? There are certain memories that I have been unwilling to give up because I have been afraid of forgetting them and moving on. I have sought acceptance from people instead of God. I have also thought endlessly of the “what ifs”.
  • Embrace the new. // My life has changed immensely this year and a part of me has been wishing for certain things back. There has been scary moments where I didn’t recognize myself and I wasn’t sure what was happening in my life, but those are moments of growth.

 

Some other things that have helped me are getting rid of bitterness and pride. Letting God settle the hurt and loving others even when I feel like I don’t deserve to be loved or forgiven. Even though this year has been the hardest yet, I am seeing the glimmer of hope in the distance. I am seeing that there is purpose in this mess in my heart he has been working through. I also need to keep trying to renew my belief in my identity in Christ. We have the identity of his children. He gives us an identity that holds true when all else fails. This year I accepted that I must be bad since the people I thought loved me decided that I was, and that is not true. It’s a sneaky trap that’s easy to fall into, try and fight it.

So here’s the step I’m taking: living childlike again through childlike faith. Childlike faith is not childish. Sometimes it’s hard and doesn’t come as naturally as it once did. It was a heart breaking realization for me.

Lord I want new eyes. A renewed heart. To feel it all again and welcome in love and beauty and the feeling of awe. I may never be the same person that I once was, but I choose to believe that the transformation you bring is better.

Let’s continue this conversation! Have you learned anything about your healing journey or brokenness recently? Have you been healed from that big thing in your life and would like to share? Reach out to me through instagram. @BiancaBirney. If you know me, you know that I always turn to music and have to add that in somewhere. One of the songs that has really helped me in called Jesus, Your Blood by Rivers and Robots. Check it!

 

 

 

Faithfulness 

The twelve disciples. Jesus’ crew, the men that heard what he had to say, dropped everything, and followed him. These disciples are often perceived as the chosen ones, his helpers, or the good ones. They followed simple instructions, as they taught people and cast out demons. But here’s the thing; if you’re actually reading the stories, you’re seeing they are just like any of us, just like you and I.

Many are aware of the popular story of Jesus feeding the multitude, or the 5,000. As the people gathered around, the disciples came to Jesus, baffled. They came to Jesus with excuses, like “this is a remote place” and “it’s dark”. They asked Jesus to send them away, and when Jesus asked them to feed the people instead they replied with, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” They had the money and they simply did not want to spend it, or go through the trouble.

Jesus was looking at their hearts. He expected his disciples to care about these people. Jesus performed the miracle and provided for 5,000 people.

Times like this rise up again and again throughout the New Testament. A similar event happened where another 4,000 was fed. Also when Jesus was on the boat with his disciples and they were afraid. He calmed the storm by simply speaking to it. Jesus was displaying this type of authority to them for the first time. It’s seen again when the disciples only had one loaf of bread left on the boat and they start to gripe and worry.

It makes me want to yell at them, “Don’t you realize who you’re with?” The Jesus who has done all of these miracles and who has provided for you time and time again? Do you not remember? You do not need to have a single worry.

When they were on that boat with Jesus, many times, whether it was with no bread or all the bread, stormy or sunny, they had nothing to fear. Yet, they never thought like this. They never learned. They did not remember.

Do we ever act like this?

We are forgetful people. We are sinful people. It feels great in the moment when God delivers us or does the thing we’ve been praying for, or has brought us out of something terrible. But man, how quickly do we forget the type of God that we serve. We come across the same situations over and over again and we worry. Often until it makes us sick. Do we not remember?

I have experienced personally Gods faithfulness in my life. It’s almost like I need to remind myself often though, to realize that everything will be okay.

When I enter a different season, one that I’m afraid of or not familiar with, I am entering it with the same God. When I’m facing that scary thing that God has gotten me through before, I need to remember His faithfulness. When I get anxiety at night and start to doubt, I need to speak truth.

At bible study we recently read Psalm 3. David was surrounded by an army ready to kill him, and instead of being anxious or scared to death, he laid down and he fell asleep. He knew who God was. So much so that we was able to rest peacefully. And when he awoke he thanked God for even allowing him to wake up.

Whatever your big scary army looks like, or your valley of the shadow of death looks like, we have nothing to fear. In this world it can truly feel like that’s a lie, but it’s not. It’s crucial to remember. When you’re about to encounter a new time or a frightening time, first recall what God has lead you through, and take that first step in confidence. In victory.

A Christmas Lyrical

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

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Hello! I’m guessing most of you already know me. If you don’t, my name is Summer Jennings. I’m from South Jersey, but am currently finishing my undergrad at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY (near Albany and the Adirondacks). I’m studying Communicative Art & Design and I like piña coladas, getting caught in the rai-

Wait, now I’m just getting carried away.

 

On my 5-hour drive home for Thanksgiving this year, I was listening happily to Christmas music, as I always do in heavy traffic. For some reason it makes my stressful commute a little more comedic, like I’m in some funny rom-com christmas movie. It was during this drive that I reached a sort of Christmas epiphany. Yes, I know that those types of sentences are splattered literally everywhere during Christmas, but hear me out.

 

It was the song Oh Holy Night. — This song I have sung since I was able to carry a tune. I sang it in school, church, in the car listening to 101.1 in November/December. These types of songs are etched into our heads all our lives. Even typing this, I was listening to the song and had to replay it because I didn’t listen to it as intently as I wished. It was like a familiar background white noise, something that I’ve heard about a billion times. “The stars are brightly shining… mhm…okay…” — My memory doesn’t even tell me who was singing this cover of Oh Holy Night, but only one phrase that knocked me out, emotionally of course, not literally, because that’d be dangerous to the other drivers.

 

The phrase, the simple phrase I’ve sung over and over again, Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth rang in my ears.

 

Stop. Please don’t keep reading yet. Look over that phrase again, maybe another 5-7 times. Reread it. Imagine it. Feel it.

 

Where do we feel our worth? It’s incredibly ironic that around Christmastime, I observe the human race feeling their worth in many other things other than Christ. Some people’s worth comes from how many expensive gifts they can afford to give everyone in their life. Some find their worth in how perfect their lives look on their Christmas card picture. There are some whose worth comes from how many gifts they receive, a telltale sign to them as to how many people love them, care for them, and think of them enough to buy them some Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

 

For a very long period of my young adult life, longer than I’d like to admit, I put my worth in something that was absolutely hopeless, worthless, and quite silly. I tried to find my worth in people who did not love me, though I tried incredibly hard to change their hearts (spoiler alert, it didn’t work). I tried to find my worth in being someone who was not me. God had been whispering to me, telling me that was not my worth. The dichotomy of those thoughts ripped me to shreds, and I got angry: with God, with everyone around me, with myself. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I kept thinking why can’t I find my worth in this? Why am I not worthy? What is wrong with me?

 

It seems like an obvious solution now, but in the moment it was like my earth was shattering down around me. That worth I was trying to catch in my grasp was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Taunting me in its absence. It was then that God scooped me in His arms and reminded me where my actual worth came from. For lack of better words, He appeared, and my soul felt its worth, which is ever-present, never-changing, and endlessly loving. This was the worth that the souls of the world got that night in Bethlehem. It is the feeling of being sent God’s son for us, for our gunky murky sins. It is knowing that this baby will eventually feel every little bit of our misery, depression, and weeping in about 33 years on a cross in Golgotha. That feeling of worth got plopped onto earth that night, just waiting to be received!

And still, it sits there waiting for anyone who wants to receive it.

That is SO RAD.

 

Being Home

Being home from University feels comforting and relieving. All the while there’s a sense of urgency, like if  I blink I’ll be right back at school. Being home means being surrounded by family and friends. Loads of Christmas parties, birthdays, adventures, and intentional outings with ones I haven’t been able to see. I believe I’ve touched on this before, but this Christmas I feel less suffocated. Although, I know time will be its usually ornery self and it will escape me soon, it still feels like enough. There’s 5 days until Christmas and I don’t find myself counting down. Every day has been a new gift.

Todays thoughts are short and sweet:

When you stop looking at the things you want, you start to look at who’s around you.

I see more of what matters. And even when the bad haunts me, being able the see the light more clearly helps me fight it.

“We find ourselves often standing in the darkness, clinging to familiar comfort… but the light- it is there, we only have to lift our faces to receive and be ushered into glory.” – Joy Prouty

So here I am, feeling really thankful for the people around me. Gratefulness seems to be a theme throughout my blogs, and it’s a constant reminder from God. When I take the time to sit down with my family and friends, I see the importance of pouring love and life giving words into them. I see myself and our human condition, which is brokenness. But I see the hope that God gives. It often comes in pieces through the tough conversations. It’s there, begging to be seen. Relationships with other human beings are often the toughest, but most rewarding and highest accomplishments. It reminds me of the purpose we have here and of why Jesus was sent.

Whatever this Christmas looks like for you, and whatever state your relationships are in, know that it is enough for now. Be still. Listen and be grateful. Take a step back and a good look at both the whole and the broken around you, but don’t be discouraged. Let the light in.

I think this post turned into something very different than my original intentions, but God does that sometimes.

“Communion is more than saltines and sips of wine. It goes beyond one act of saying, ‘I believe.’ For those who see it as simply breaking bread, it’s actually breaking chains. It’s a gathering of people who have the freedom to bring everything they are to the table. A collection of laughter and depth and truth. If communion was ever a textbook definition; it would be a place where you are not ever alone because in the things that you struggle with, believe in, or know to be true; there are others who will say ‘me too.'” @aubrays

 

 

A Broken Christmas

It’s been schoolwork once again that has kept us away from each other friends. My semester is over finally! It has been the hardest yet.

It actually ended with some pretty heartbreaking news about a friend. This semester I have tried my best to be resilient in the face of the changes and adversities I have been facing, but everything finally came crashing down. With receiving this news and finals and going on almost no sleep, I broke. I thought, “How can my semester end like this? How can my year end like this?” I cried out to God while laying in bed that night, feeling like I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. Feeling alone and being filled with so many questions. In the midst of the blinding darkness that I was feeling, I was still able to see the glimmer of hope that would turn into morning. I gave it to God in my suffering. Since my word for this year is trust, I said “Lord, I’m going to trust You.”

All I have wanted was those sweet words you said, Living is when you’re broken like bread / (Helm by Towrs)

This story is still being written. I don’t have some big resolution, and I’m still healing. God is revealing new things to me every day, and I am thankful. For some reason that night God spoke Daniel 3 to me:

16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

These verses brought comfort. Because even if he does not do what I think or thought he might have, he is still there. He is still good. He knows what he is doing.

Reflecting upon the different blogs I’ve written this month, I have been reminded of God’s truth. About having peace in trouble, gratitude, His grace, love, and promises. In some ways this Christmas season has both felt the most like Christmas and not at all. I saw a friend post on Facebook yesterday about how this year it doesn’t really feel like Christmas,

“This world is hurting. Hurt and pain doesn’t wait for the right time of the year to come, it doesn’t give us a break around the holidays, and in this world it doesn’t ever completely go away. How often do I wish or even complain that I don’t have those, ‘Christmas feelings’, completely missing the entire reason for Christmas. To bring hope and comfort to a hurting world. Emmanuel means, ‘God with us.’ Because we need, in the middle of all the hurting and confusion, a God who is willing to be with us.”

God is with us. He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were in the furnace. He was there then and He is here now. Jesus was born into our imperfect world. He was fully man and experienced what it was like to be human. He knows what we go through personally:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.     Hebrews 4: 14-16

On the 16th, a couple of days ago, I attended The Oh Hellos concert in Philadelphia. They are my favorite band and I’ve been featuring their songs on a couple of my posts. It was a fantastic way to end finals week and to spend time with my best friends. I felt an incredible amount of joy at this show. It was like encouragement was poured right into my dry and brittle bones. A few of my wounds were healed as I sang, “Joy to the world! The Lord has come!” We worshipped, laughed, cried, and danced like crazy.

And so I approach God a little different this year. A little scared and broken. Yet I am thankful for His goodness. He has embraced me when he has every reason to reject me. I am filled with humility as I picture the nativity scene. A weary world rejoices.

Giving

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

What does giving look like when you don’t have much to give? The truth is, we have so much more than we realize. Ever since I realized that I wanted my Christmas to be different, I knew I wanted to make an intentional effort to give what I had. Whether that be my time, my money, or other things. I’m still hoping to find a way to serve on Christmas Day, and with the hustle and bustle of school and finals, I’m not doing a great job at finding a way to give. But recently a friend brought a cause to my attention.

My friend Demi-Brooke Kerr, a wife, mother of two, and South Jersey photographer, is trying to get the word out about stoptheheroin.org. Her and her family are trying to raise $1,000 to donate. Heroin is a drug that has touched by my life, hers, and many others. It took the life of my father and almost my mother. Heroin is a drug that will kill you if you don’t get clean. And it is by the grace of God that people in my family were able to transform their life. Demi took to instagram to spread the word. If every single one of her followers were to give only one dollar, $11,000 could be raised! How cool is that? She is even auctioning off a wedding photographed by her on her instagram page! So I’m challenging all of my friends to donate a dollar, as will I, to stoptheheroin.org. Check out the website to see what they are about! Also follow Demibrooke on instagram as she will be giving updates and more information about this cause. And if you want to give, you can go to paypal and gift to demibrookekerr@gmail.com with “stoptheheroin” in the notes.

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich…Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 2 Corinthians 9-12

Giving can be a challenge in todays fast-paced problem filled world. It is overwhelming when seeing all of the tragedies going on in the world, in our own communities, and our own families. Maybe if we start making a habit of giving with our words will we see a change in ourselves and others. Giving life and love. Spreading words of encouragement, and letting that snowball into actively loving others, never holding back kindness. Then we could look at what is available to us and what resources we have, as well as what we have a passion for. What cause is burdening our hearts? What vision do we have? And most of all, do we have a servants heart and do we trust God? Although the Christmas season shouldn’t be the only time we give, maybe it’s a wonderful opportunity to start. May we allow God to continue to transform our thinking and renew our hearts. May our eyes be opened to opportunities that surround us every day to serve, no matter how small.

 

Below are a few links with ideas on how to give.

http://www.stoptheheroin.org/

http://darlingmagazine.org/donate-smart-give-wisely-holiday-season/

http://darlingmagazine.org/giving-tuesday-world-organizations-need-support/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/how-to-help-aleppo-charities-and-organisations-to-donate-to-including-msf-the-red-cross-and-the-white-helmets_uk_584ff7a8e4b040989fa80770