Getting to Know me

A fellow writer, Caroline McGraw, ( published a blog recently that caught my attention. She wrote that she wanted to get to know her readers better and asked them to participate in a little question and answer activity. Although I did not respond to Caroline’s challenge, I thought it would be interesting to take her idea and utilize it here. Just as Caroline invites in her post, I would encourage you to email me or comment below with your own answers to the questions or conversation starters I have here. If you’re uncomfortable responding that’s fine; just enjoy the little tidbits I have set before you. Now’s your chance to get to know me a little better.

What weighs on my heart? Friends who don’t know Christ and lack of peace in relationships.

Where do I struggle? Truly listening to people, cleaning the house, remembering birthdays and anniversaries, praying for others.

I love: dark chocolate caramels, pumpkin cupcakes, dark chocolate and hazelnut mochas, chicken Alfredo pizza, coffee-flavored ice cream— and that’s just some of my favorite food! I love Crazy Daisies, long walks at sunrise, hanging out at the Hazelnut Tree, going out to dinner with my best friends, and dancing to Britt Nicole albums when no one is watching,

What I wish I could talk about but feel too afraid to say out loud: I am afraid that YLF won’t make it a second year under my leadership. I’m terrified that I will crash and burn.

I have a confession. I am one of those people who reads books more than once and watches movies over and over again. I have found, particularly with movies, that I get more out of each time I watch. Since I am visually impaired, details can often slip past my limited view, so watching a movie over and over provides many opportunities to better understand the plot and what is happening on screen.

What I dream about: friends coming to faith in Christ, YLF truly succeeding, FRC continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, the day when I stand face-to-face with Christ and truly see for the first time, marrying Brandon Heath…

Ha. I was just seeing if you were paying attention there! But really, marrying Brandon would be kind of awesome!

My favorite movies: “A walk to Remember,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Ever After,” “The Sound of Music,”… basically anything of the chick flick variety or rather sentimental in nature.

Favorite sports team: the Green Bay Packers of course! Hmm… maybe I’ll marry Aaron Rodgers instead. Sorry, Brandon :(.

Another confession: Sometimes I fall asleep at night and think about my book characters. I dream about new story ideas or what the characters will do next. I have had conversations with friends where character names come up and its as if we are referring to them as real people. “That is so something Brent would do or Joanna would say” etc. Sometimes its tough being an author, living in this world between reality and fiction.

I have yet another confession: it took me ten years to get The Promise on paper.

My favorite worship songs are “Revelation Song,” “Overcome,” “Crown Him (Majesty),” “Center,” “I will Rise,” “It is Well with my Soul,” and so many others.

And since Christmas is coming, my favorite Christmas songs are “O Holy Night,” Avalon’s “Good News,” Michael W. Smith’s “All is Well,” Chris Rice’s “Welcome to our World,” Bebo Norman’s “Come and Worship,” “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and many others.

My favorite musical artists are Brandon Heath (of course), Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe, Nichole Nordeman, Bebo Norman, Avalon, Britt Nicole, Anna Johnson, and so many others.

Now how about you? I’d love to get to know you better, so now its your turn to continue the conversation.

My Life by the Word

This post will be rather short because I have a simple statement for you all to consider. Recently, my pastor encouraged us to write down a faith mandate of sorts— a statement constructed from Scripture that could identify our personal journey through faith in reading the Word.

It took a little time to complete, but I believe I have manged to create my own statement. In reading it, I hope and pray you will be able to learn a little more about me in the process. Following the statement, I have included the Scripture references written out so you might be able to gather further clarity. I encourage you to consider writing your own faith mandate. I believe it is a great way to outline your life story through God’s Word.

So here goes…

I “live by faith”(2 Corinthians 5:7) and “can do all this through Him” (Philippians 4:13) because His “grace is sufficient,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I will “sing to Him a new song” (Psalm 33:3) so the “works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3) and I might “receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-37)

2 Corinthians 5:7: “We live by faith, not by sight.”

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

2 Corinthians 12:9: “…because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Psalm 33:3: “Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully, and shout for joy.”

John 9:3: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Hebrews 10:35-37: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

We Need to Talk

I was finishing up with some work at my desk one recent Friday afternoon when my phone rang. I checked the caller ID to see who was calling, and I let out a surprised squeal. I was excited to see the name of an old friend displayed on the screen, and I picked up right away.

It had probably been about a year since we had talked voice-to-voice, and we were long overdue for a good conversation. We quickly moved from small talk and general greetings to deep, heartfelt conversation. It was remarkable that even though it had been months since we had talked we could still communicate on a meaningful level. In all actuality, our interaction should have been marked with awkward pauses and surface level chatter, but that wasn’t the case. We picked up with conversation as if we had never stopped interacting. Perhaps it was because we follow each other on Facebook and have kept ourselves updated with news, but it was still remarkable that we were able to communicate with such ease.

As we concluded our conversation, I found myself thinking about relationship. My pastor had recently preached a sermon on prayer, and it wasn’t hard to consider the most valuable relationship of all— that of me and my Savior I have to admit that I am not one who excels in my prayer life. I often use my busy lifestyle as an excuse to keep pushing through my day, never stopping to spend quiet time in His presence. But when I do take the time, often at the end of a hectic day, I find an incredible sense of intimacy.

Much like my interaction with my friend over the phone, I find that I can resume communication with Jesus as if we had never been apart. True, He never leaves me, but I find that I often walk away to some degree. I know I can call on Him at any time, but I forget just how accessible He is to me. I also seem to neglect our closeness when I think that praying should be some kind of formality.

If we’ve being honest, we’ve all been there. In my case, I’m often getting ready to pray at Bible Study or with the worship team before a service. I ask if anyone would be willing to pray out loud, and often I get the same response: “You can pray, Cassie.” So I start to pray out loud, ever so conscious of what I am saying. Sometimes I stumble over my words and wonder how everyone in the room must perceive my jumbled prayers. Let’s face it; not many people like to pray out loud, so I’ve become accustomed to filling in the words, so to speak. Its uncomfortable, and I sometimes just wish someone else would take the initiative.

But then I think of the incredible privilege I have in coming before my Savior, and I realize that I shouldn’t be focused on the formality of corporate prayer. I should be honored to pray aloud and to communicate my love to Him. I shouldn’t worry about what others think. I should make it my goal to participate in heartfelt conversation with Him as if were sitting face-to-face in the same room.

My thoughts about prayer and communication fully came into focus a few nights later when I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned as my mind and heart battled for resolution. Finally, I got up and went into my living room. I curled up in my comfy recliner and tucked a quilt around me. And then I cried, seeking to find release for my worries, doubts, and fears. I knew I should pray, but I couldn’t find the words. I remembered from Scripture then that I didn’t need words but that the Holy Spirit would intercede for me. So in that moment, I simply whispered “Jesus…” There was such a closeness then and I knew He was with me. I fell asleep in the recliner knowing that He was holding me. I didn’t feel physical arms holding me close, but the security and love I felt was simply beyond description.

My pastor had talked about intimacy in relationships— how you can’t expect a relationship to function without communication. The same is true in relationship with Christ. I was reminded that I needed to commune with Him, possessing the same eagerness I felt when I picked up the phone to talk to my friend. I wanted to experience the intimacy again— to be back in that recliner where I felt His love in a tangible way. Prayer should never be a string of words directed at Him out of duty to keep the relationship from crumbling; it should be meaningful, heartfelt, and most importantly, a conversation. We need to talk; after all, conversation is a dialogue, not one-sided. His response may not be audible in return, but He is always present and will speak in ways beyond human comprehension.

The Greatest

“Ugh, really?” I exclaimed aloud. I was beyond frustrated. It seemed that every time I turned around, this person’s success haunted my work and ministry. I had just read a post on Facebook about a fellow author, but it wasn’t on this author’s page; it was posted on my page. The writer of the post seemingly went on and on about this other author, saying how awesome it was that I worked with them briefly. Not once did the writer of the post mention any of my books or the work I had put out— only the work and success of this other author. It seemed like I just couldn’t get out of this person’s shadow, for now our names were linked and I would forever be associated with their success.

The madness continued into the following day when my grandmother handed me a newspaper clipping of… guess what— the success of this same individual. Once more, my response was, “Ugh, really?” It was becoming obvious that I would never escape this vicious cycle. Was I jealous? Possibly. Was I aggravated? Most certainly! This author had succeeded in selling more copies of their first book than I had sold in my three-book career. It was unfair! But more than this realization, I had to face this person’s success with the realization that I had played a role in making it happen.

For a brief season, I had partnered with this individual to make their book a reality. Although the process didn’t move forward as planned, what really matters is that this author moved on without me. I was given credit where credit was due, but our professional connection was terminated. Although we went our separate ways, I have found we will always be linked thanks to the completed manuscript.

As the jealousy and animosity built inside me, I questioned the nature of my feelings. I realized that what it came down to was wanting to be at the top. It didn’t seem right that I spent over four years in my writing career: three books, one music single, a handful of book signings, and minimal financial gain. This author, seemingly a rival in my eyes, has sold books in the thousands and is continuing to move forward in career and opportunities. I have spent enough time in the creative line of work to know what it feels like to be at the top: winning contests, receiving applause and accolades, and being the one who is sought after for a particular craft. Suddenly, I found myself at the bottom… far from greatness.

It seems that Jesus’ disciples had to contend with this issue too, so I’m in good company. In Mark 9, the disciples argue along the road as they are walking along; their argument considers this question: “Who is the greatest?” True, some of the disciples accompanied Jesus up the mountain and witnessed the transfiguration, but even those three disciples could not claim they were among the greatest of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus, knowing about the argument, questions His disciples and responds in this way: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the vary last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Now, in my case, I didn’t necessarily want to be first. I just wanted to receive the same recognition as this other author. I didn’t want my career and livelihood to go up in smoke behind the caravan leading to the one who has had greater success. I was tired of playing second fiddle. I wanted to play first chair violin in the proverbial orchestra. So I guess in the long run, I actually did want to be first.

I had to consider what Jesus was saying in Mark 9. What does it mean to be first? Well, it means to actually be last and a servant. In this day and age, its hard to imagine being a servant in the United States of America. We can practically have anything we want whenever we want it. We are encouraged to think of ourselves as first priority and look out for others as a secondary focus. Its not an easy concept to consider when jealousy reigns and the world is far from fair.

But I want to make an effort to play the servant’s role in my particular situation, so I am asking myself what this might look like as I move forward. Perhaps I could make an effort to pray for the author and see our work as more of a shared goal and interest instead of a competition. I could certainly pray for this person and ask that God would bless their efforts. For some reason God is choosing to invest in this person and grant them success in their endeavors. I am hoping and praying that through this increased platform, people are being reached for the kingdom and lives are being changed. Perhaps in my role as a worship leader, I am serving my own unique demographic— a group of people that the author will not have the opportunity to reach in their own ability. We both have our individual roles to fulfill, and for this season, I seem to have the smaller, less glamorous role.

But I can’t look at my success, or lack thereof, as if it is second rate. I need to serve right here and right now as it if it is the biggest stage and platform of all. Sure, I may not have found incredible success in my writing, but leading in worship is one of the greatest privileges of all and it comes with great Kingdom reward. I may only reach a few hundred people each week, but in God’s eyes, it is enough. My music and presentation of the written word are my offering to Him, and His honor and glory is the greatest aim of all!