Never Knew You Looked Like That

The next song in the unheard album titled “A Place to Rest My Head” is written by my dear friend Shawna Kirk, her husband Eli, and me. Shawna and I had been talking about seeing God in unexpected places. It’s truly amazing when you open up your mind, your eyes begin to see God’s handiwork everywhere.

I had grown up in the church and will never forget the time when our TLC (small group) met at our house and we talked about our friends outside of the church. I was completely dumbfounded. I realized I had no friends outside of the church. This was the first moment I had the thought that growing up in the church can be detrimental, even cultish. I was living in a church bubble and there was a whole world, created by my loving God, outside of the bubble.

About 4 years later, in 1997, Shawna and I had our conversation and began writing “Never Knew You Looked Like That”. God had blown our minds (as usual) with His presence. He is in all things, the beggar on the street, the children laughing on the playground, the colors of the changing leaves. You don’t have to ever enter a church’s door to feel the presence of God. He has created all things, He is in all things.

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:2-12‬ ‭

““Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:37-40‬ ‭

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:11‬

https://m.soundcloud.com/kim-noller/never-knew-you-looked-like-that

Advertisements

A Place to Rest My Head

The song A Place to Rest My Head came from Matthew 8:20, “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

I felt connected to this analogy because I had been questioning my faith for several years. Much of my evangelical upbringing no longer made sense to me. The exclusivity of religion, including my own of Christianity was not something I could logically embrace. If God created the whole universe which is filled with black holes, asteroids, dinosaurs, carnivores of all kinds, hurricanes and earthquakes, how could He be so narrow minded to say everybody that didn’t think like a conservative American Evangelical Christian was going to hell? Nope. The God I believe in is much, MUCH bigger, MUCH MUCHIER(Alice in Wonderland quote) than that. Jesus died for all, whether all understand and recognize what He did. That’s the kind of God in whose lap I can rest my weary head. Life is difficult. Life is painful. Life doesn’t make sense, and trying to make sense of it will drive you to insanity. But trusting in a loving God who feels our pain, our sadness, our abandonment, that’s the kind of Savior I can make my own.

As I wander through the desert
I doubt with every step
I am longing for my home
Home where I’ll find some rest oh a place
To rest my head.
What’s that in the distance?
I can see it up ahead
An oasis of my hope
Hope that I thought was dead
Oh my hope you know it’s not dead!

Now I won’t doubt or turn away
I found my hope that’s where I’ll stay
Makes no difference where I’ve been
I’ve found A Place to Rest My Head

A stone is now my pillow
In the dust I make my bed
Where you go I will follow Lord
Go and enter into rest
In your arms I will rest my head!

Now I won’t doubt or turn away
I found my hope that’s where I’ll stay
Makes no difference where I’ve been
I’ve found A Place to Rest My Head! To listen click here:
https://m.soundcloud.com/kim-noller/a-place-to-rest-my-head

For Those Who Have Ears to Hear

In 1999 I recorded my 2nd music album, and it was my first of original music. I had an incredibly talented producer who has (not surprisingly) had great success through the years. The instrumentalists featured were amazing, and every song turned out exactly the way I envisioned. Unfortunately no one ever heard it. As soon as the album was finished, I quit. The album was shelved, never to be shared.

Expressing myself through song was one of the most vulnerable experiences imaginable. Those of you who have been reading my blog know how painfully honest I am. My songwriting has the same quality. My late 20’s were some of my darkest years emotionally. Our marriage was strained, I didn’t know myself (I hadn’t been to therapy), and I wasn’t aware of my mood disorder. I actually hadn’t even heard of cyclothymia. At that time, I equated my talent with emotional darkness and danger. I was afraid of the Pandora’s box of creative expression I had opened inside of me, so I decided to firmly shut the lid and lock it away. I didn’t understand myself and was afraid of the tempest that stirred within. I had seen other artists’ families split apart and that scared me. It seemed like I had to choose my family over my talent, and maybe at that time in my life, that’s exactly what I needed to do.

When I walked away from music, I left a huge part of myself behind. It left a gaping hole in my heart that ached with failure and regret, but I couldn’t face it. I had sung my first solo at church when I was three years old and had always dreamed of a career in music. It was the only vocation I had ever pursued. Here I was, 31, abandoning that dream as I completely lost the joy of singing and songwriting. It would be five years before I sang in public again. I was terrified of opening that part of myself again, and it took a few years of singing and songwriting before I realized my talent wasn’t dangerous. Through therapy I began to understand and accept myself at a deeper level, and to let go of the fear. I was in a much better state of mind, had greater awareness and a much happier and healthier marriage, and I now realized my greatest weakness could be my greatest strength. For many years I still was unable to listen to my 1999 album without feeling the darkness I had felt during that time…until recently.

About a year ago I revisited it and felt none of the sadness. The songs actually minister to me now, in a different way than when I wrote them 20 years ago. As I near my 50th birthday in April, I want to share them with whoever has ears to listen. I’ve already been more vulnerable in this blog than any song I’ve ever written, so there’s no more fear. You already know I’m far from perfect, and I have no desire to manipulate your perception of me. My last post was Heaven’s Tears which is number seven on the album, so I’m going to feature each of the remaining songs in my posts and will upload them to Soundcloud for those who have ears to hear. Again, the link to Heaven’s Tears is https://m.soundcloud.com/kim-noller/heavens-tearshttps://m.soundcloud.com/kim-noller/heavens-tears

Heaven’s Tears

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭

I wrote a song 20 years ago that has recently been ministering to me in a deeper way. It’s called Heaven’s Tears and likens the rain to God’s empathy for us, reminding us that He feels our pain and weeps with us. We are connected to God and to each other by our brokenness more than our strength. Think of every horrible disaster that occurs, the first 24 hours is filled with collective grief, stories of heroism, prayer vigils, moments of silence by the masses. Suddenly politics, religion, race, culture, and other differences no longer matter and we all take hands and weep together.

I remember when I was younger, praying for wisdom and to be closer to God. At the time I didn’t really know what I was asking for. You’ve heard the words “be careful what you wish for.” Be careful what you pray for. To be close to God means to be broken, to feel lost and forsaken, to be completely vulnerable. Vulnerability comes with humility and humility comes from brokenness. It wasn’t until I felt soul shattering grief that I truly could identify and share the pain of others. Grief humbles us and connects us. Not everyone knows what it’s like to win a million dollars, have a hit song, or run a hugely successful company, but every single person on this earth regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion, political stance, or status will know pain intimately at one time or another.
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless:
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-47‬ ‭

Heaven’s Tears (click on the link)https://m.soundcloud.com/kim-noller/heavens-tears

Rhythm drumming on windowpanes

Softly beating steadily comes the rain
Painted dreams are washed away
Swirling colors are mixing themselves to gray and I’m to blame
Because I have prayed

For living water to drench me
Soaking me to the bone
So I know in my sorrow
I will not cry alone
I feel Heaven’s Tears

In the desert of all my needs
Thoughts consume me I think about hope unseen
Never knowing what prayer might bring
I could not comprehend God would answer me
Now I can see He cries for me

Through living water to drench me
Soaking me to the bone
So I know in my sorrow
I will not cry alone
I feel Heaven’s Tears

When the rain comes I lift up my eyes
And I welcome Gods tears as they fall
From the sky and become mine.

As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.””
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In Narnia

When I was 10 or 11, I read all of CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Afterwards, I spent a lot of time outdoors, daydreaming that I might stumble upon another hidden passageway to Narnia. In the winter, the “forest” behind my parents’ house looked just like the one described in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I would rest against one of the barren trees, shut my eyes, and concentrate on all things Narnia, in the hope I might open them and find myself next to the lamppost. One of my best friends, Stephanie, would come over after school and we would put on long gowns from my sister’s theatrical collection and pretend we were in Narnia instead of my backyard. I never gave up hope I would someday find another gateway. Today, I did.

Eevie Elouise Mulloy came over to spend the day with me since our schools were cancelled due to frigid temperatures. We sang, drew with markers, played with homemade play dough, watched my K-3 music programs, made a dream pie, read books, and took a nap in my guest bedroom which I have decorated with all things Narnia related. When I woke up, the first thing I saw was the map of Narnia on the wall, and then I looked over and saw Eevie still sound asleep with the cozy white faux fur blanket wrapped around her. My heart just about burst with joy! When Eevie was a few months old and hooked up to every needle and tube imaginable living her days at Children’s Mercy in KC, her mother Brynne and I would talk about our hopes and dreams for her. I said that someday we’d be baking in the kitchen together, with Eevie giggling standing on a chair and stirring the batter. We would play with play dough and have fun days doing normal things together.

That dream day became reality today, and I woke up in my Narnia room with my own precious “Lucy” sleeping soundly. I finally made it to Narnia, through my own magical wardrobe of hopes realized! What a glorious moment in time…I had to capture it in words and share it with you. Thank you Aslan for making it all come true!

“But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 

Blindsided

To be perfectly honest, in August of 1996 I was blinded when I was blindsided by a whiffle ball. Don’t underestimate the power of a four year old’s swing at one of those Fisher Price pop up baseballs. I did, and wound up doubled over in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced (including all three childbirths). Somehow that whiffle ball perfectly hit my sunglasses off yet still managed to squarely hit my right eyeball, giving me a hyphema (blood clot) that covered 50% of my eye. I remember feeling the searing pain but being more concerned about comforting Dillon who was obviously traumatized by his mom’s agonizing screams. “AUGHHHHH CRAP!!! It’s okay, Dillon, mommy’s ok. AAAACCCCKKKKKKK HELP ME…you ok Dilly Dilly? OH MY GODDDD THE PAINNNN…I’m ok, honey, yell for daddy. AUGHHHHHHHH!!!”

When you have a dangerous eye injury, both eyes have to be covered in order for the eye to heal properly. There can be no sudden movement or really much movement at all, for fear of causing a re-bleed which can permanently damage the eye. Our family had planned a trip to Colorado but I had to stay at my mom and dad’s house, bedridden with patches covering both eyes for two solid weeks. I was told to only get out of bed to use the restroom but after three days of no bathing I couldn’t stand it and took a bath, washing my hair in the tub water. It caused a re-bleed which made my recovery a week longer. I was fortunate to not permanently lose my eye.

I learned a lot from that experience. Being totally blind for two solid weeks not only made me appreciate the ability to see, but also the ability to HEAR so much more than ever before. I listened to several books on tape, tons of music cds, and had some amazing quality time and talks with my sweet mama who took care of me. I also learned to appreciate my mobility, and swore I’d do whatever it takes to never be chronically stuck in a bed again. That’s one reason I’m an avid exerciser! I’m going to move as much as I can for as long as humanly possible! I also now cherish my nightly baths!!!

Life has a way of blindsiding us all a few times along the way. We’re lucky if we recover from the hits and learn from the experiences. That whiffle ball taught me how quickly everything can change, from one moment to the next, and nothing, NOTHING can be taken for granted. It also taught me that while I am so incredibly thankful to have my eyesight, life would have gone on without it. I would have had to completely change my lifestyle, and it would have been a difficult road, but I had incredible loving people surrounding me that would and will help me through anything that comes at me. That experience forced me to rely on others in a way I’d never depended upon anyone before. It’s a helpless feeling, but it sure makes you appreciate those who truly have “got your back.”It also made the words to Amazing Grace that much more dear…”I once was blind but now I see”…literally! Things once taken for granted were now a reason for falling on my knees in gratitude!

Imaginary Friends

Imaginary friends are common among the 3-7 age group. They are a healthy creative expression of self-discovery and emotional learning. I’ve already mentioned mine, Nanchy Nooch, in an earlier post. She gave me a feeling of confidence I was lacking as the youngest of three children. Everyone in my family was older and wiser than me, but Nanchy needed my help as she was very uncouth and awkward. My three year old psyche obviously created her to boost my self esteem and give me, the baby of the family, someone to teach.

Keenan’s imaginary friend had a similar purpose, giving him a sense of power and control when he was the youngest child in our family. While his name seemingly lacked creativity (Keenan in the Mirror), his storyline was dark and complex. Keenan in the Mirror lived in a different dimension through the looking glass with his own set of parents, and his older brother who had recently died….😳….yes, as a mother this greatly alarmed me but I refrained from telling Dillon to sleep with one eye open. I seriously think Keenan in the Mirror could be written into a blockbuster horror movie script. Pretty creepy stuff!

In 2005 we were introduced to Tristan’s alter ego, Johnny Finnegans. Johnny was similar to Nanchy in that he was a character that Tristan personified. Instead of pushing his nose up like a pig snout, he put his fingers under both his eyes, pulling them down to show the red lower lids. Johnny was a prospector who lived in a rickety old shack, mined for gold, and had a horse named Property. Keenan was a fun older brother that would role play and sometimes become Johnny’s dastardly cousin, Bill Braberty. Yes, we all were often entertained by their antics.

I wonder if we would have ever created our imaginary friends if iPads had existed back then. While technology is amazing, I think it’s imperative to limit its usage, especially for young children. If we’re constantly handing them something to entertain them for hours on end, how will they learn to be entertaining? Creativity needs time and attention. Give a child crayons, or paint and paper and encourage them to make-believe, to entertain themselves. We adults are already addicted to our technology. Our kids should have time to become, to create, to imagine, to express, before the technological world dictates what’s fun and creative to them. If they have the time to make-up Johnny Finnegans and Nanchy Nooches, then someday they might have something creative and entertaining to share via media.

SNOW DAY!

We had our first “snow day” in at least three years yesterday. Growing up in Kansas used to mean a few snow days were a given, but since weather patterns have shifted dramatically over the past decade, snow days have “drifted” away. Sorry I couldn’t resist the pun.

I understand how annoying snow days must be for working parents. Having to figure out child care and rearranging schedules can completely throw you off. However, we teachers get every bit as excited as students to hear that school is unexpectedly closed. It’s not because we don’t love our jobs, we do, it’s just this incredible opportunity where you’re literally handed a free day. Yes we get great holidays and ample time off throughout the year, but like everyone else we fill those days with plans which can sometimes be more exhausting than work! A snow day is a free day…free of plans!

You see how unusual and grand it is to suddenly have an unexpected extra day for yourself? It’s magical! For someone like me who struggles with moods, it can completely shift my countenance simply by giving me time to rest and reflect. I also still had my Christmas decorations up which added to my depressed state, reminding me every time I walked through the door that the holiday season was over for another year. I can’t even express what a lift it gave me to have that free time to put everything away and feel fresh and new again.

For those of you that have never had a snow day because your place of business doesn’t close it’s doors with inclement weather, I’m so sorry! I wish you could have a free day too, with no plans, no sick days spent, and 24 hours just for you. Maybe if we get a good 8-12 inches like the good old days, we’ll ALL get a SNOW DAY! One can always hope…

Time Flies

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with Christmas, New Year’s, birthday parties, and out of town guests. We finally took our Christmas tree down yesterday, January 9th…and it was a real Fraser Fir that felt like a Scotch Pine when we dragged it out of the house. Ouch!

Our grandson Theo turned 1 on January 3rd and we joyously celebrated! What an amazing year we’ve had with our first grandchild. I remember Mike and I when we were young, dreaming of starting a family…and now we’re grandparents! No wonder there are so many cliches about time! “Time flies when you’re having fun,” “Time waits for no man,” “Time is a river flowing by” “Time slips through your fingers like sand”…the list goes on and on. It’s true, the longer you live the faster it goes, days turn into years and years into decades like a train gaining speed down a hill. It reminds me of John Mayer’s song, “Stop This Train.”

No, I’m not color blind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind
but I just can’t sleep on this tonight

Stop this train
I wanna get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But, honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

Don’t know how else to say it,
Don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I wanna get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
but, honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find a way to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said, “Help me understand.”
He said, “Turn 68,
you’ll renegotiate
Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train.”

Once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
‘Til you cry when you’re driving away in the dark.

Singing, “Stop this train
I wanna get off and go home again
I can’t take this speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
‘Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train.”

(think I got ’em now)

Most of the time I don’t want to stop it, I just want to slow it down, but the best I can do is be present in each moment and appreciate the time…the moments I’m given. I wouldn’t trade any of them, for they each have had a part in shaping who I am today. I’m grateful for this life with all of its heartache and joy, and I love sharing it with so many amazing people. “Don’t Stop this train,” because I don’t for a minute want to change the place I’m in.

Nothing but the Blood

The Holiness Movement began in the 19th century as an offshoot to John Wesley’s ideas. Many current denominations formed from its influence, including the one in which I was taught. It was a new exciting doctrine that was breathing life into the old way of things. One of its key beliefs was there are two blessings, the first is that Jesus died for us, the second comes with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit actually completely purifies us and allows us to live perfect lives of holiness here on earth.

This kind of thinking is seemingly well-meaning and easy to accept because we have an innate desire to be in control, not to surrender. There’s this constant struggle in the Christian life to lay everything at Jesus’ feet for a momentary rest and then pick it all back up again. According to the Holiness Movement, we need Jesus for the first blessing but our perfection and cleansing into holiness comes from the Holy Spirit entering us thus enabling us to make perfect and righteous choices. This sounds like we’re relying on the Holy Spirit, but it too easily leads to our own efforts. American Christians are especially prone to this since the American way is to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” and “forge your own path in the wilderness.”

I was reading through my Grandmama’s journal and came across this entry that she wrote at Christmastime in 1983, right after all of our families had left her house to go back to our own homes, “Sorry I had to cry. Was that too bad Lord? You know I used to be brave and not cry when the kids left. Guess I’m getting weaker in my older years.” It broke my heart to realize she tried for 89 years to completely deny her humanity and saw tears as weakness. I know this was a common belief in her time and it saddens me that so many still see tears and vulnerability as weakness instead of strength.

This simply is not from Christ’s teachings. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” He cared for his friends that were in despair over Lazarus’ death. His compassion saved us all by dying a thief’s death on the cross which the world saw as weakness, yet we believers see as the epitome of strength. Truth is found in paradox, time and again.

When we focus on our works, our strengths, they often actually separate us from Him, because we begin to believe in our own righteousness instead of basking in His. We are called to accept His sacrifice which covers us in grace, cancelling our sin. We still sin, daily…yet His blood covers us, blinding Him to our sin. That’s why I rejoice and rest in His grace. God wants us to call him Abba…Daddy, running to Him to be scooped up in His arms and loved. Yes I strive to do what’s right and be a blessing to others, but I no longer attempt perfection. I’m tired of feeling like I’ll never measure up. God is not keeping a score of what we are doing right vs. our sins, and neither should we. As Paul said, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭

God loves us as we are, period. This idea that we can obtain holiness on earth either deludes us into feeling better than others or encourages us to live a double life, looking perfect on the outside but being far from God in our hearts. It also separates us from the world that we are supposed to be impacting and seasoning like salt which is shaken so that each grain spreads through the food giving it zestful flavor.

This is a fundamental mistake in modern Christianity, based on the Holiness Movement interpretation rather than the early church and Christ’s teachings. What I find intriguing is when Brennan Manning and many other modern Christian reformers have challenged these beliefs, they have been labeled “New Age” and “dangerous.” Sounds familiar…the established church fearfully clinging to what they know and rejecting reformation. Jesus was accused and crucified by that same fear. The fear of not knowing, of being out of control, of mystery. The very compulsion that separated us from God in the first place. Yet over and over again throughout history we keep reinventing it, disguising it with our new interpretations and spirituality, fooling ourselves that we have the answers, we know the mind of God.

We don’t. We only know how great His love is for us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish.” Beyond that all should be dealt with in humility and prayer, with forgiveness in our hearts for ourselves as well as others, and remembering His words “If you’ve done these things to the very least of my brethren you’ve done it unto me.”