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My Boxing Gloves and My New Fight…

I decided it was high time to clean out my closet.  Imagine: shoes everywhere, hats, purses, and clothes that I haven’t worn in 12 years—count them,12. Some things I choose to hang on to for sentimental reasons. I get that from my dad, Rick (who even cried when it was time to sell and buy a new mattress).  As I was going through the many layers of things and deciphering what needs to stay, what needs to go, what can be sold and what should be given away, I came across my boxing gloves.

A little over 8 years ago, before I had my son Hutch, I was in the best shape of my life. I took boxing and I loved it. I loved the excitement in the ring. I loved hitting the pads. I loved learning how to react quickly and effectively to take someone out.  I loved the fight.  As I stared at these gloves that I’ve only used a few times since then (I can no longer do any high impact exercise because of a back injury), I realized I still have all too much been drawn to the fight in my life.

Only now I have loved the fight in the arena of the everyday, in-person, or online. Social media has been a training ground and ring for quick, reactive come backs to get the most bang for my 140 characters. I see it happen every day and I am just as guilty as the next friend. As I stared at the boxing gloves and knew it was time to let them go, I knew fighting was something I need to outgrow as well.

I don’t want to fight anymore. It’s not accomplishing anything. Sure it feels good in the moment to fight back, to react, to one up each other with a scripture or doctrine here and throw a critique there. But this isn’t who I am or what I am called to be.  This hopeful, peacemaking nature that I am created in is beginning to finally mature and bring itself out.  My life can be a better defense than my words.

 

…Read the rest here

http://deeperstory.com/my-boxing-gloves-and-my-new-fight/

Timothy’s Gift – an update and appeal…

Timothy’s Gift – an update and appeal…

In less than 2 weeks I will be standing in front of some 300 men with no extra agenda on our end except to entertain them with some of the best singers and players around, to lift their spirits, and to remind them of their worth as a child of God.

Timothy’s Gift HOPE TOUR will be on it’s 7th concert tour down to institutions in Florida. With this tour from June 16-20th, we will complete 68 programs with touching well over 15000 inmates and staff in less than 2 years.
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That means over 15000 have been reminded of their worth and their hope.
Hope, we have seen, is infectious.  After we leave each institution, hope has continued to spread.  The legacy of Timothy’s Gift is one that what we start in a 2 hour program will be carried out long after we leave those grounds.  The encouragement from inmate to staff and vice versa, the hope and realization of possible change, the light of worth and this outlook on themselves and others, once ignited, spreads.  We recognize our place in this process and we recognize the need for your place.  Your partnership with us helps to sustain the level of excellence that we have been able to achieve in our prison outreach. This heart of our mission and level of excellence that we bring continues to give us favor with the Department of Corrections in both Florida and Tennessee.   We’ve heard from staff  ”In the 28 years I’ve worked in the Dept. of Corrections, I’ve never seen anything in the likes of the talent and hearts of TG.” “You all have encouraged us as much as you’ve encouraged the inmates!”  We’ve heard countless times of inmates, “This is the first time in over 20 years that I’ve felt hope.”  ”You’ve reminded us that we are not forgotten.”  ”I’ve never heard music like this!”  ”I’ve haven’t smiled like this in a long time.”  ”Today made me feel like I will actually make it in here.”

This June HOPE tour, Ron Miller and I are taking in another incredible cast of singers, musicians and volunteers including Melinda Doolittle (American Idol -3rd place finalist from Season 6) and Michael Passons (founder of the American Music Award winning Christian group, Avalon).  These wonderful people choose to jump on a bus for long travel days, stay in moderate accommodations and make next to nothing.  They choose to be a part not because of the benefits for them.  They choose to be a part because they believe not only in the mission of Timothy’s Gift but also because they have seen the results of our previous work.  We are able to be the hands, feet, the face, the voice, and the smile of God.  We are able to show these men and women the love of Jesus first hand.
For this 5 day trip, we will be going into 10 institutions (8 of which have never experienced the Hope Tour).  We will arrive at some prisons before the sun even rises and then drive on that afternoon to encourage more at another institution before the sun sets.
For this June HOPE tour we are needing another $2318.00 to cover the rest of our expenses.  I’m asking if you would consider extending your financial support.
Timothy’s Gift has been the most life-giving ministry that I’ve even been a part of.  I wish I could take you all with me. If only you could experience what I have experienced.  If only you could just look into the eyes of the least of these and then realize that this is exactly what LOVE does.  Love extends.  Love reaches out. Love goes into the darkest of places to reveal as much light as possible.  That’s our call and I’m asking if you would join us. 
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Thank you for your thoughts and support.
www.timothysgift.com
P.O. Box 111642
Nashville, TN 37222
filled with hope, Melissa
May we all believe again…

May we all believe again…

I am lying here next to my daughter who is blissfully sleeping.  I am watching her chest slowly rise and fall, hearing her heavy breath escape her beautiful lips.  She is hardly. ever. still.  I’m smiling because I rarely have time to behold her in all her little glory.  In fact, she’s been going 100 miles an hour since moment one of her birth. She’s so full of verve.  She beholds life, wide eyed, in all it’s glory.  She soaks it all in and then runs to the next moment with even greater expectations.  Her middle name could be “go” instead  of  ”Faith.”  Her faith is instinctive.  She is an inherent believer. Right now this little one believes in magic and in wonder; in love and in restoration; in trust and in hope.  She is in Eden.  She is our little glimpse of the “kingdom”.  I think all of our children are in fact.  Our little archetypes of grace

 

To read more please go here to http://deeperstory.com/may-we-all-believe-again/

IF:GATHERING…all my hopes

IF:GATHERING…all my hopes

One week from yesterday I will join thousands of women as a part of IF:Gathering.  I will be at IF:Austin with over 1000 women and we will be joined online with thousands from all over the nation and the world at  IF:LOCAL.  I am so honored to be a part and I have to tell you that I’m also a little apprehensive.  I’ll be honest as to why.  Let’s back up for a second…

9 years ago, while I was a part of the group, Avalon and we were joining platforms with the largest women’s conference in the church world.  We were the first artist that they selected to join on their platform for their entire year.  We ended up actually doing this for almost 2 years.  It was wonderful.  I met some amazing women speakers, worship leaders and other artists.  I was on the “inside” not because I was an artist on the stage but because I shared the same ultimate convictions, the same theology, and the same ideology. That one conference was representative of all the conferences I attended or was a part of.  I easily fit in there.
Without really setting out to, over those next 4 years, as life came and challenged me I changed little by little.  It was never drastic but a slow stretching, questioning, and owning of my own beliefs not only of God but of my views of God’s beautiful world.  I found such peace and joy in the actual process and also where I landed on each step of that journey. But I realized that I was also now on the “outside”.  I was not there because people didn’t love and care for me, I was on the outside because I now didn’t share the same ideology and the same worldview as the majority of my friends who are also professionals in the Christian industry.
So a year ago I was approached by Jennie Allen and Lindsey Nobles to talk about IF:Gathering (which would be so much more than a conference but none the less included one)and joining their leadership team, I was honored that they’d ask me to even be involved.  But I knew from past experience that maybe I wouldn’t fit here. The who’s involved are major – the most successful, beautiful, wonderful, and talented women in the industry who just so happen to believe differently than I do on some theological issues.  But IF was not going to be issue driven, if was TABLE driven. Now if you know me well at all, I’m all about the table – the shared space – the inclusive nature of pulling up a seat to bring not only your whole self to the equation but ALSO opening up your whole self to listen, to be filled, challenged, encouraged, and stretched by the one across from you.  For me the TABLE is the beauty of the kingdom.  So I jumped on board.  I am a part of a leadership team who is “seemingly” filled with those who fall on a different side of the majority of theological places that I do.  Which, I have to add, has NOT been a problem for me nor I think for them.  IF is supposed to be the coming together in order to partner and effectively make a difference in our world together.
TOGETHER.
So this time I’m coming to this major Christian conference feeling as an outsider and I think there will be a lot of us.
I don’t say that with a chip on my shoulder about this but in the transparency that comes with the reality of the situation.
So I am apprehensive not because I don’t feel welcome or loved but because I come knowing that maybe this time am the minority… maybe.
But I am hoping…
That in coming to this table, in participating in IF as the leadership and the conference, in actually focusing on the doing that so desperately needs to be done in this world that we can erase those lines of in and out that we draw both for others and for ourselves.
That we can diminish the exclusive circles where only those that agree can belong.
I am hoping that the majority doesn’t overwhelm the minority and that neither side uses our time to convince the other to change.
I am hoping for a move of God’s Spirit.
A move that balances us as individuals and as the Church.
A move that allows God’s spirit to guide us FROM the wars we focus on and fight internally in our Church TO standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder in effort to move out and heal the world that needs to see and know love.
So I come.
Because I believe in both God and humanity. I believe in us.
I push through being tentative to trusting so that we can be more together.
If God is real… then unity without uniformity can happen.
I believe and I hope you do too.
Look forward to meeting, joining, listening, talking, eating, worshiping, learning, and toasting wine with all of you at the table.
Best, Melissa

a few of my favorites from 2013…

2013 was an amazing year and I came across some amazing art.  I wanted to pass along some of my favorite pieces from the year.

In no particular order…

Civil Wars – The Civil Wars 

This whole album was brilliant for me (and Ben).  We actually bought the CD and listened to it in it’s entirety, over and over on our drive from Nashville to Hot Springs, NC for the Wild Goose Festival in June.  Only note is that I prefer the original recording of Civil War’s “From This Valley” from MercyLand:Hymns for the Rest of us.  The new version is a tad over produced for my liking.

 

FROZEN 

What a movie!  For me this is Disney at it’s absolute best.  Wonderful story with suspense, surprise, great and unique characters AND it’s like a broadway musical in animation.  Both Hutch and Haven loved it as well. This will be a cherished favorite for years.

 

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – The Heist

I have grown to love and appreciate the art of rap (probably because Ben is such a fan and can do a mean karaoke version of most 90’s rap songs – but I digress ). This album was full of insight, empathy, lyrical challenge to the listener and great dance tracks.  I just loved it and listened to it a lot.  My kids love a lot of it too so we were even more thankful when Kidzbop came out with a couple kids version of Thrift Shop and Can’t Hold us.  But the kids still prefer the original.  can’t blame them…

 

The Underground Church – Reclaiming the Subversive Ways of Jesus by Robin Meyers

This year I was a horrible reader.  I had no follow through.  I finished all of 4 books which is very unlike me.  I started a hundred and just never finished due to my lack of prioritizing my life. Ugh.  I will do better in 2014 because reading is so fulfilling and life giving to me. Robin Meyers has been one of my favorite authors and every time I made time to read this book I was madly underlining things.  So when I finally finished this book on New years Day I was so elated.  It is full of all that I hope to be as a follower of Christ and all I hope our church to be as well.  I can’t recommend it enough to EVERYONE.  It’s needed for challenge or reassurance or probably both.  I will read it again in 2014 and quickly this time.

 

Justin Timberlake – 20/20 experience album and concert

Oh Justin.  Chalk it up to my love and respect of great performers, great pop music, skilled dancers, flawless vocals, excellent musicians, and all around love of enjoying watching others enjoy themselves and that equals my affinity towards JT.  He is all of those things.  This album is great. The concert was equally as good.  (My birthday/anniversary present from Ben was very, very close tickets in Nashville – points for BEN!) enough.  enough.

 

Lee Daniel’s The Butler

This film was everything I needed it to be.  I have a heart for the underdog, the outcast, the less than…so in this film, which tells the story of one man’s long journey of justice slowly but surely being fulfilled, I was brought into the story with him, wanted justice even more after watching, and enjoyed celebrating what has come to fruition in our nation.  Say what you will about it, but I was more than pleased.

 

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

These books (which I read in the beginning of 2012) were some of my favorite fiction in years.  I was excited about the first movie and after watching was left disappointed but my love of Catniss wouldn’t change.  But this new movie was epic.  Catching Fire can stand on it’s own as a great movie, without need of loving the book and tolerating the movies.  Great suspense and drama and special effects.  It’s a must see for me.

 

The Croods

I LOVE this movie.  I think it’s brilliant and hilarious.  I usually am not a fan of kids movies and I see more kids movies than anything these days.  This movie was just great.  I think the storyline was interesting and the emphasis on moving forward as life throws new experiences and dangers at you and being open to change and anything new, will get me every time.  Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

 

INDIVIDUAL SONGS:

Wake me Up -  Avicii  – trust everyone’s experience no matter their age.  Feel all of life now.   “I didn’t know I was lost”.

Oceans (Where feet may fail)  – I really am not a fan of most Christian music.  I know. I know.  I think that is because it’s all I mostly listen to in researching music for the church/my job.   I have to search and search for songs that are both wonderful lyrically, musically interesting, and corporate.  sigh.  I wish I was a better song writer.  ha.  All that to say this song took a while to grow on me but I have to tell you now I LOVE IT.  I need it.  Our church loves it as well.  Get on the band wagon.  trust me. :)

Say Something – A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera - oh.  Pure vocals from both artists.  Clear, crisp.  the lyrics just pull you in and make you long as well.  It’s a little transcendent for me.  I have felt this towards both other humans and towards God.  I can’t wait to have the opportunity to use the song.

Stay – Mikky Ekko, RihannaI appreciate angst, pure longing and passion.  I think this record has all three. When they performed it live at the Grammy’s I finally loved Rihanna as a live performer, and it was mesmerizing.    The best songs are just that.  Simple.  Honest.  Captivating.

All of Me – John Legend  I have always loved John Legend. I have followed his beautiful, quirky and funny wife on instagram and their love story.  This is the song he wrote for her for their wedding.  Love it.

 

 

Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity by David M. Felten and Jeff Proctor-Murphy 

The easiest way to explain my love of this book is that it gives a wonderful, concise overview of where I am now in my spiritual journey.  It’s easy to read, descriptive, explanatory, moving and challenging.  Even though I whole heartedly know that labels run out, I think this gives insight into the heart of the progressive faith.

So cheers to more reading, listening, more art… more beauty in 2014!!

 

Best – Melissa

IF:Gathering…for women, for us, for me.

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Well it is here, it is simple, and it is big. The dream that is, the vision. IF:Gathering. It is a GATHERING of women whose common goal and common ground is simply wanting to make a difference in this world for the Kingdom. That’s it. That’s IF.  So in February we will come together in Austin – to laugh, to dialogue, to share wine and break bread, and to pray. It will not be about the line-up or the Christian celebrities on the docket, it’s about you and it’s about me.  It’s about how when we choose to come together and to dream then we will realize our impact will be better and our impact will be more WITH each other than it is by ourselves.

About 50 of us gathered for an IF experiment in Austin at the beginning of September and it changed us, it encouraged us, and it influenced us.  IF:GATHERING is the result.

First take a few minutes and watch this video message from Jennie Allen to give you a little more insight.  https://vimeo.com/75729261

Again there are two options for you ladies in February.

IF: Austin and IF: Local

IF : Local

We don’t want to limit this gathering to a venue in Austin. We are throwing open the doors, and inviting you to join us via webcast. Gather with your friends, neighbors or others in your community and join us virtually. You will have the opportunity to register October 15th. Then in the next several weeks and months, we will send you ideas and resources for our time together.

IF : Austin
Austin Music Hall, February 7th-8th

1) For the Austin gathering, we are eliminating the set ticket price, and asking you to partner with us, by giving what you can to the vision of IF. We ask that you join us in praying for God to provide the funds for us to turn the lights on!

2) Registration for IF:Austin and IF:Local opens Tuesday, October 15th at 11:00 AM Central. However, women who are subscribed to our email list will get to register on Monday. Sign up to get early access (Link: http://ifgathering.com/connect/)

3) This vision will not happen if we do not have financial partners. If you believe in this vision, then we ask that you pray about giving to support IF : Gathering. (Link: https://purecharity.com/if-gathering-donate?aff=1jcc6).

 

So that’s it.  IF is for the cynic, the saint, the doubter, the believer, the dreamer, the wanderer, the artist, the thinker, the mom, the wife, the sister, the daughter, the hipster, the reader…. IF is for you – ladies.    I hope you will consider joining us.  I can’t wait to see the results of what we can do together… for our world, for each other, and for our God.

I look forward to sharing a table, a conversation, a prayer, and a glass of wine with some of you in Austin in February.

Best! Melissa

www.ifgathering.com

 

IF…it’s time.

IF…it’s time.

If…

If God is real, then what?

I have asked many questions in my 34 years on this earth.

    Why is the sky blue?  What’s actually in a gummy bear?  Why does my Memaw smell like peas? :)  

My questions changed as I became a young adult.

Why do I have to be home by 9?  What’s wrong with drinking?  Why can’t I marry a black man?

My questions continued to change in college and in fact became very directed at the church or those in the church.

     Why do you think you’ll lose your salvation?  Why do you think I need to speak in tongues?  How can we throw around the Bible and it’s verses, such as, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken and his children begging for bread” ON THE SOIL OF AFRICA?  Would God really create someone to love someone of  the same sex and then in the same breath condemn them?

Then as the years have passed, life happened and my questions grew as I grew.

Why does God allow suffering?  Does God allow suffering? Is God all powerful, loving and good?  Can God be all three equally?

Now these are just a glimpse of my struggles, my thoughts, my doubts, and even my desires throughout the years.

Good news for me and maybe you.  EVERYONE has them.

Now we might not share all of the same questions but whether or not we’ve voiced them aloud, we do each have our own.

Right now it seems that WOMEN are finding their voices more than ever before. Women are choosing to be bold, courageous, and humble enough to own our doubts as much as our deepest convictions.  Also I think, for some, we have even realized that our doubts are a healthy part of our faith and our spirituality.  We are recognizing the tensions in our world and maybe even moreso within our own minds and hearts.

I wonder if you have found your voice or if you want to find it.  I wonder if you would love to be a part of a community of WOMEN willing to own the tension, willing to ask the questions, willing to take part in being an answer?

Then welcome to IF.

This vision started by Jennie Allen and is also strategically driven by Lindsey Nobles is finally coming to fruition.  It is coming to life because it has captured the heart of not just myself, Jessica Taylor, Lauren Chandler, Jen Hatmaker, Esther Havens, Tara Jenkins, Rebekah Lyons, Bianca Olthoff, Angie Smith, and Ann Voskamp but its purpose is striking a chord in the souls of countless other women.

These women are not necessarily on the same page with every issue – be it social or theological but we ARE willing and wanting to unite together…despite our differences and more importantly because our differences showcase the diversity and beauty of not only ourselves but of those who make up the body of Christ.

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We exist to gather, equip
and unleash the next generation
of women to live out their purpose.

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We are gathering and uniting a team of women, who already lead our generation, and unleashing them to lead in their spheres of influence. Together we will create a community and foster an ethos – connecting, encouraging and collaborating together.

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We are creating a blueprint for intentional equipping – reaching women with tools that are holistic, strategic and deep. By providing easy online access to a like-minded community and relevant resources, we will release women around the world to live out their purposes. // Online · 2014

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A fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: IF God is real… THEN what? This 2-day conference brings women together and wrestles out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives. // Austin, TX Feb. 7–8 2014

if:unleash

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By partnering with organizations like Food for the Hungry, coming alongside women around the world, fostering relationships and utilizing our God-given gifts, our hope is that this movement will not only transforms hearts but leave a tangible impact on the world.

This is just the beginning ladies.  I hope you will join us, join the conversation, find your voice, your purpose and choose to use it for good in our world.  We need it.  We need you.  This world needs WOMEN that will use our minds, our intuition, our feminine wiles, our passion, our integrity, our creativity, our gentleness, our boldness, our lives to bring about the Kingdom.  I’m in.  Are you?

www.ifgathering.com

Cheers!  Melissa

With deep sadness…

With deep sadness…

It is with deep sadness that I share with you the loss of Kelli Kremkau.  I have known Kelli’s mother-in-law, Gina; her husband, Brian and her brother-in-law, Jason since my childhood. We grew up together at Indian Rocks Baptist Church.  I only had the privilege of knowing Kelli personally this year. In February Kelli came and shared 5 sweet days with me at my home while she attended the RECREATE CONFERENCE.

Kelli, 33 years old,  was in the midst of her fight with cancer at the time but cancer did not define her.  She had a lightness to her, a deep humility, a fight and drive, a welcome curiosity to faith and God, and a reconciliation it seemed even with her cancer.  Today  she ended her journey here in this life. She left behind her husband, Brian and her daughter, Samantha.

Today we join God in His grieving over this tragic death.  We join God in His beaming pride over this amazing life that some of us had the privilege to share a glimpse of.  We join God in His hope over the beautiful legacy that Kelli leaves behind in her family and in all who have known this girl.

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Kelli, today, I believe for you that

ALL IS FINALLY WELL.

I believe for us that

all SHALL eventually be well.

Rest in peace Beloved.

 

You can find about more about this wonderful woman here…

http://mylifegodswill.blogspot.com/

and how to connect and donate to her family here.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Keep-Singing/459048180848960