Soon announcing our night of "Songs Arising from the Church" where you'll hear songs that have been birthed out of the songwriters in our midst here at Christ Community Church!
Registration is now open for our e4 Worship Training Seminar! The seminar is meant to encourage and further equip worship team leaders, team members, and those interested in serving on worship teams. How does a team blend musical excellence with a heart of worship? How does a team work together to serve the greater good in our churches and communities? What are an individual member’s responsibilities? This seminar will also include encouragement for those with creative gifts including song writing and visual arts.
The seminar is sponsored by e4 Partnership, but folks from any church are invited.
Seminar will be at Christ Community Church from 9:00am through 12:00pm on Saturday, March 3rd, followed by a lunch provided free for those who register by February 26th. Walk-in registrations accepted at the door if space allows.
I am honored to lead this seminar for current and potential worship team members!
Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth!
It is with great joy and thanksgiving that I write this beginning-of-the-year blog! Many of you already received my newsletter with my year end update (you can read that here), but I wanted to write specifically to my church & ministry family.
What I’ve been doing …
After coming off of the mountaintop experience of the Night of Hope and Reconciliation: For the City, Through the Arts (2016), I felt a real call to first, ‘wash the feet of the intercessors’ at our church by working with our prayer leaders to expand the ministry of Intercessory Worship. These times were led by both prayer and worship leaders mingling worship with prayers of intercession for our church and city. We shared many powerful moments together as the word of the Lord (and the song of the Lord) came forth in our midst. This birthed a new season of holding regular nights of worship and prayer ministry for our church body and beyond.
2017 also brought the call to pour into the artists and songwriters here at Christ Community Church. I was surprised to discover 15+ proficient & budding writers in our mid-sized church who were ready to run with this together! My heart has been to encourage the release of the song-of-the-Lord in this season for our body and for our community. Be looking ahead for an upcoming night of “Songs Arising From The Church” where we will celebrate the release of this new song!
It has also been my heart to create space for the artists and visual artists in our midst who feel called to both create and show their work as an offering & expression of worship, prophetic worship, blessing, and testimony. Christ Community has shown some of their work this past year and many have contributed to our Artist Blog where artists are encouraged to share their stories, projects, their hearts of worship, and the ‘working out of their gifts’ as they seek to give back to the Lord what He has invested in them by way of their creative gifting and calling. It has been a blessing to watch the song writers and artists gain confidence in their gifts and in their ‘listening’ and ‘co-creating’ with the Holy Spirit. It is a process of learning and discerning, but in my estimation worth it!
I’ve also dedicated much of my time to pouring into the next generation of worship leaders, musicians, and artists in our midst. My heart for this next generation is that they might receive the encouragement they need in their gifts and be equipped & unleashed for Kingdom work.
“… until I declare Your strength to this generation and Your power to all who are to come …”
I am currently preparing for our upcoming e4 Worship Seminar where we will be encouraging and equipping worship team leaders, team members, and those interested in serving on worship teams. This seminar will also include encouragement for those with creative gifts including song writing and visual arts. More details as well as registration information coming soon!
Friends, I am more and more convicted that we are to use the gifts that have been given to us for the good and healing of our communities, the world, and beyond. To that end, I want to share a couple of videos with you of new music from this past year as well as Highlights from ‘A Night of Hope and Reconciliation: For the City, Through the Arts.’
HIGHLIGHTS: from A Night of Hope and Reconciliation
And if you're interested, I also update my social media profiles somewhat regularly 😊
In pictures: IG
In tweets: TW
And less frequent: FB posts
Be encouraged in your gifting and callings, and be joyfully awaiting the release of the New Song!!
“He has put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God!”
The challenging process of combining discipline, diligence, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit has always been a joy to me. In my earlier years it was incumbent upon me to compose numerous topical Bible studies for small groups. This I did at least weekly for a number of years along with other elders and brothers.
Another joy has been playing and singing Christian music in worship.
Recently bringing these two together has been a wonderfully sweet experience for me.
This year’s compositions have enabled me to explore three elements.
The first song this year, TEMPLE, is a very simple and repetitive worship song set in a minor key with a relatively slow progression to communicate something of the majesty of the Lord God, entering His temple (the believer) and seating Himself upon His throne. It is of, course, based primarily upon Habakkuk 2:20 and several other Biblical passages. God spoke to my heart about reverence in entering His presence and the song developed from there. It was the first song I have played in public and therefore I composed it for the simplicity of repetitive verses designed for corporate worship.
Another recent song, THROWN DOWN is completely from Revelation 12:11-12. God spoke to me for the most recent of many times about the future downfall of His enemy (which is described in the past tense like many prophecies). One of the senior pastors in Christ Community was teaching on the passage. It was impressed upon me that there are three reasons the saints overcame: (1) the blood of the Lamb, (2) the word of their testimony, and (3) they [the saints] did not love their lives unto death. This final reason is often omitted in songs when this verse is set to music, but it is essential to the message. The result was the song THROWN DOWN. The song is completed, but I have not played it openly yet.
Because the subject matter for THROWN DOWN is a bit heavy, the time is relatively fast and the lyrics and chords give the song a light, carefully celebratory (but not arrogant) feel. In addition, because of the somewhat Spanish sound, I composed the middle verse in Spanish. It is essentially a short, light song reciting Revelation 12:10-12—rejoicing in the fall of the accuser and our freedom from guilt and accusation.
The third most recent song is based upon Philippians 2:5-8, Colossians 2:9, Micah 5:2, and Luke 2:7. By late summer, I felt a longing to write a song for the advent season touching on many of the points in scripture that I hoped to set to music. BEGOTTEN was the result. It is set in a minor key, which I believe the weight of the verses require. The juxtaposition of the world’s poor valuation of the child, Jesus and the divine decision to leave His throne – (1) birthed in a (doubtlessly) filthy animal food reservoir in a barn (2) being the most important individual who ever was or ever will be born on this planet. Philippians 2: He did not grasp to retain His divine equality nor cease to bear the fulness of deity in bodily form. This, for me, has always been the essential Christmas story, which reduces me to prostration when considered.
I composed this song with care, love, and (hopefully) the heart of God over a period of weeks to months. The importance of rightly handling the divinity of Christ took a great deal of time. And I felt from God that this work should be completed in the form of a poem before being set to music. Once completed, I felt an almost Yiddish sounding key was appropriate for the verses to emphasize the rejection and suffering of Jesus, which we will never be able to fathom.
But the song was at once about the most unfair event ever having occurred on this earth—combined with the most wonderful result imaginable. Therefore, there had to be a point when the celebration of redemption was introduced.
The chorus was chosen to change from the A minor key to the A major key, thus ringing in the joy of the birth of the long-awaited Messiah with happiness and worship.
The song is very intense in the three verses, and more lightly joyous in the three choruses (which I am hoping Julie will help me arrange correctly).
Composing has become a source of happiness to me at this point in my life, although I never know if the results are worth hearing by others. Nevertheless, I have His approval to play them to Him in my basement, which in the final analysis is the only and best appreciation needed.
A few of us recently gathered for an impromptu recording session for Begotten:
Deity incarnate, in cluttered rags was lain
Eternal God in morphe yet in squalor night and day
Shielded in a feeding trough, on earth He yet remained
Equal in the Godhead, begotten, emptied to be man
You, O Bethlehem, the least of Judah’s cities then
One came to you, the Prince of Peace, the faultless Son of Man
Hidden from men His perfect holiness our sin obscured
Life and death and judgement and the wrath of God endured
Messiah is born
Glory to God in the highest
Begotten not formed
Immanuel, Redeemer, the mourning earth was blessed
Despised and rejected, we hid our fallen eyes from Him
From manger to the grave, we never saw He took our sin
In the agony of prayer, He never ceases to intercede
Unflinching from the sentence, it was for us the blow received
©2017 Drew Hendrick
My blog / Part 2:
. . . and the world responds to love.
The summer of 2016, I went to missionary Heidi Baker’s Iris Global School of the Arts. For three weeks, the staff poured into us through worship, teaching and impartation. Every Sunday, we went onto the streets of downtown Savannah GA, and did outreach, loving on the one in front of us. The assignment was to have God highlight to us the beauty in one person. To tell them, “You are beautiful . . . because . . . !” To pray with them. To capture their glory in a photograph. We went on treasure hunts. We also took packaged supplies for the street people. I learned to always have something to give. No judgment. God doesn’t judge before He gives to us. I met a man with the most beautiful smile. Michael had no legs below the knees . . . lost to frostbite on the streets of frozen Philly. God woke me up in the middle of the night, twice, to pray for him—that He would regenerate Michael’s legs . . . like the starfish. Yes! God dreams crazy, BIG dreams!
We also learned how God has given a prophetic ministry to artists of various brands. When God was about to do something new, He called forth the artists and the dreamers. Abraham. Jacob. Joseph. Bezalel and Oholiab. David. Musicians for Joshua and Jehoshaphat. Daniel. Peter. John.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the way home from Savannah, ideas started to rise within me. One, which I call the Beauty Project, is waiting for God’s timing to unleash it. These things are not my own little pet projects. God has given me painting ideas of my own to pursue, which I am doing. But this is more. I can’t do these all by myself. No, they are for Christ’s Body . . . for whoever has a heart and a willingness to participate by getting into the muckiness of loving on a stranger. Anyone who can pray and take a decent photo. Sounds like our assignment at Iris? Yes, and it is, only BIGGER. Let me know if you are interested. Pray, if nothing else, for God to use the arts. They have the power to speak to something deep inside each one of us in our common humanity. Just as nature speaks to all of us. It’s where we sense His other-worldly Presence.
One regret I had with the Iris School was how short it was on workshops taught by visual artists. We did a lot of dancing, movement and creative storytelling. Before going to Georgia, I felt God tell me that I would come back and start a little “School of Prophetic Art”—a SPA! Ha! I love how God is so clever with words! Refreshment, healing and massaging hearts through the arts! I now teach a small group of women who have had no art training, in fact, some who didn’t think they had any art ability at all, but had desire—and a prophetic ‘seer’ gifting. It has been so fun to watch them as they surprise themselves with their drawings and simple paintings. As can be expected, I have plans for them! One project involves homemade cards to hand out to lonely people with a word and a prayer—a sign and a wonder of love. Please pray that we can bring the Isaiah 61 ministry of Jesus.
Another assignment for consideration, if you have the gifting for sewing and fabrics and design, is the Banner Project. His banner over me is LOVE. I started a sketchbook journal on the Song of Solomon and this verse became a beautiful illustration showing what such a banner might look like. I researched the word ‘banner’ in the Bible and it is very exciting! It says that when The King returns, He will lift up a banner and the nations will rally to Him! It is an image of power and celebration and beauty. A Psalm 68 processional of victory. I have just such an illustration in a children’s book of a parade at the birth of Princess Aurora (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty)—she symbolizes the church being woken up and arising from love’s true kiss. This scene thrills me! At the first coming of Jesus, the people waived palm branches and laid down their cloaks. I believe at His second coming, there will be banners flowing, and the peoples of all tribes and nations will be streaming to the Lord and the call of His trumpets! I feel a stirring from God’s heart to prepare the way of the Lord and make the place of His feet glorious!! Who will make banners with me?
Ah, pipe dreams? Cockamamie ideas? Off my rocker? Overactive imagination? Maybe so. But I want to be open to the possibilities of the Holy Spirit of God. I am learning to embrace the way He has made me, for such a time as this. Not to be embarrassed by this craziness. I just long for a few believers to run with me. Lovers. Dreamers. Facilitators. Extroverts and Introverts. People people. Skilled artisans and craftsmen. Artists of all kinds. And prayer birthers. There’s more where this came from! We’ve just begun to dream!
I am an artist. Just because. That’s the way I think. A visual learner. I am a simple, childlike person. Who sees things in pictures and words. I am curious. I love to explore and investigate new things. I am also visionary. Full of ideas that excite me. I see things others don't seem to see. Like when I study the Word. I am also a storyteller and a communicator of ideas. Development of "art" as a talent involved classes, training and exploration. It is only a format for giving body to the vision and ideas that sprout inside of me.
As a newly converted Christian in art college, I took a class called Creative Concepts where we were to use more than art to tell our story. I remember thinking, Wow! If we could combine all the art forms together to tell the Gospel story, how much more powerful that would be! And now look what Julie Bernstein has done, just last year, with a Night of Hope and Reconciliation . . . truly inspirational! Back then, it was only a dream I had before its time. When I told my father, a numbers cruncher by heart, he crushed my wild ideas calling them PIPE DREAMS! His favorite inquiry always cut to the bottom line: Are you making any money yet?
During the years of homeschooling my children, I always prayed that God would return my art to me. And this is what He is doing in me now. I am learning that I am a dreamer, like Joseph, a kind of visionary—it sounds funny to say this. But I have ideas for things that pop into my head all the time! All my life experiences, all the homeschooling, all combined with my art training, synthesize into something more than the originals. I tended to write my ideas off as an overactive imagination, that would most probably come to nothing. And often did for lack of wherewithal. But through desire and dream, I birthed a church in New Hampshire when everyone else said it wouldn’t happen. And teaching science to my kids synthesized with a burst of artistic insight to create a retelling of the Nativity. It started as a shadowbox exercise, but getting lost in the excitement of discovery, I transformed light and shadows and shapes into story and gospel. The children of the church now had a Christmas celebration for them, whereas before, there was nothing.
God has been showing me these things, these breaths of life, are much needed for such a time as this. That it’s not all wild fancy. It’s a gift that comes from His heart. Artists are not usually good facilitators. We tend to be introverts. And we need those in the body to come alongside of us, to believe in us, and to help us give life to the vision. We also need those who will pray to birth life into this seed we labor over. It is not an easy process. There is much insecurity to overcome. But Jesus is loving, faithful and so insistent. Personally, He has been bringing me through a period of emotional and spiritual healing from where past pain had shut me down.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not about ideas for the sake of ideas. And it’s not just about art. Underlying it all is a guiding principle. For me, it’s about using beauty and excellence and new ways of seeing so that the name of Jesus may be exalted. I want fame for His Name! I want to beautify His worship. I want to beautify His Word so that it may be seen with new eyes. I want the captives to see their ashes turned to beauty. I want the blind to see the beauty of His creation, His own handiwork put on exhibition. I want humanity to see the beauty, the treasure, He has artistically and excellently fashioned from His divine image in each one of us. It’s the artist’s signature, His fingerprint in clay. And it’s the beauty of holiness! The church needs beauty. And excellence. Not mediocrity. Not the old wineskins. The world responds to beauty. . .
Born in Canada, Lorelei Laaman’s earliest memories go back to age 2. As the budding artist, she got inspired to paint an old wooden door bright orange with a brush full of water. Beginning with that magic moment, Lorelei grew up to pursue her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Advertising Design and Illustration from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. She also has a certificate from the Institute of Children’s Literature in writing stories for children.
In her years as a professional artist, Lorelei worked as an art director for several advertising agencies and then operated her own freelance design business. Her early work involved a love for typographic design—which concerns the written word, the beauty of shape, communication with symbols, and the layering of meaning through metaphor.
Leaving work for family, Lorelei spent the next twenty years homeschooling her three children. Though not pursuing her art during this time, opportunities to teach and to become the student piqued interest and curiosity, activities that fed a creative and artistic nature. Lorelei’s work now focuses on the storytelling quality of painting and drawing.
Lorelei has lived in nine of the US states and traveled through most of the 41 others, New Hampshire being the longest survivor as home. Along the way, she has acquired tales of history, a nature memento collection, far-reaching friendships, and a love for this land.
Since the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017 I have noticed a surge in social media with postings of my mural "I LOVE CHARLOTTESVILLE ALOT" located in the Belmont neighborhood.
Maybe I need not be surprised as the question, "Why?"
I believe for many the mural has become an aide in bringing our community together especially in this season of racism and injustice that has come upon Charlottesville. I think it has become a reinforcing message of what people who live here really feel about their city, even after what transpired on that day when the white supremacist rallied for their cause that left three people dead.
I began to explore the use of text as a viable art form in 2010. My career in graphic design has strongly influenced my work as an artist. The creative process of using text and typography as a means to discover and say something new by connecting, extracting and reworking words in letter forms finds me experiencing and living out a new voice, a new language to communicate. I love the idea of illusions, the element of surprise, delight and wonder that it projects. Exploring and capturing this in my art and sharing it with my viewer is very important to me. I create with words and images because they have the ability to communicate to the senses and encourage you to rethink, question, or be persuaded towards a particular point of view. To change one’s mind or reconsider someone’s position or point of view by guiding them to see in words and images what they might otherwise not have seen or considered before is rewarding.
I am increasingly thinking of creative ways to have a constructive and redemptive role through my work, becoming a catalyst for positive change in my community and the world. Ultimately, I want to reach out and invite people to participate in the mystery, the wonder and sense of discovery of using words and images that will compel them towards truth and beauty.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest who writes about social injustice and community issues says it best for me, “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”
You can find this mural on the side wall of Fitzgerald Tire Company located on Monticello Road in the Belmont neighborhood.
The making of the mural, film by Matt Bernstein
Richard Montoya was born in Racine, Wisconsin and is of Mexican American descent. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His graphic design career extends over 30 years with work ranging from package design to corporate identity. In 2008, he closed his successful design business in Charlottesville and embarked with his wife and 3 children to do 18 months of volunteer work with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). They served in Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Africa, India and Afghanistan. During his time with YWAM, Richard was able to increase awareness of injustice issues through his graphics and filmmaking. He has been using text based imagery to produce visual play on words and their meaning since his return in 2010.
His art and films can be:
FOLLOWED on instagram.com/rchrdmontoya
The vast, earthy landscape stared back at me through the tiny chapel’s old glass window. It was an idyllic, inspiring view for the artistic work set out for the 5 of us in Ensemble Estelliah. We were ready to record a fully improvised album in the heart of Thingvellir National Park (Iceland).
We didn’t plan any of what we would play; we never discussed what key we’d start in or what concept to develop. We just waited in silence and then began improvising whatever we sensed in that moment needed to be played out.
Our new album “Creation” is what resulted.
This idea to only improvise together—to wait, listen, & intentionally play unplanned melodies and harmonies—grew out of our desire to connect with God and each other through our instruments. These improvisations are essentially wordless prayers.
From upbeat violin riffs to warm, soothing strings and soaring flute melodies—Ensemble Estelliah’s new album “Creation” is an improvised, instrumental expression of what God put on our hearts while recording in Iceland.
To preview our new album, click here!
To learn more about Ensemble Estelliah, click here.
To purchase a physical copy of “Creation” in Charlottesville, ask Don or Gayle Brubaker.
I have been particularly arrested by the truth of what God did to bring about a full reconciliation of humanity to himself through the cleansing blood (and resurrected, glorified life) of Jesus. The work of the cross completes us with the gift of salvation. The work of the resurrection illuminates for us the power that is ours in Jesus (the victory won)! We also have the benefit of ongoing counsel and fellowship because of the gift(s) of the Holy Spirit.
“Spirit of the Living God” heavily references the ‘veil’ that was torn for us at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, giving us access to His very presence, the “inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” Did you know that there was an actual veil in the inner court of the temple at Jerusalem? This veil was four inches thick, made of fine linen, beautifully embroidered, and it separated the ‘Holy of Holies’ (where God’s presence dwelt) from the rest of the temple creating a type of barrier between sinful man and a Holy God. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, after a time of preparation, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people.
But at the moment of Jesus’ death, that same veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, symbolically giving us full access into the Holy of Holies. We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. In other words, Jesus’ body broken for us and his blood shed on the cross made atonement for our sins so we can enter into His glorious presence. Jesus is our high priest!
Beloved, He draws us in. He calls us in. He is ‘all about’ reconciliation. He wants us to be with Him where He is, not standing afar off on the periphery. Read Jesus’ prayer to His father from John 17: “Father, I want those you have given to me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
As you listen to this song, let the Lord speak to your heart about how he would draw you near to himself as you draw near to him in your worship.
// Julie Bernstein
Find more of Julie's story and music here: juliebernsteinmusic.com
Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the living God
Come fall on me
Come and open up my eyes
That I may see
The beauty beyond the veil
Torn for me
That I may enter in
You have made a way for me
To enter in completely
Cleansed by your blood you welcome me
To enter in
To see your glory (show me your glory)
Your glory (show me your glory)
Your beauty(your beauty)
You have made a way for me
To enter in completely
Cleansed by your blood you welcome me
©2016 Julie Bernstein
I have been an artist all my life, but I didn’t start painting until I was in college. I first started painting not knowing what I was doing, nor why. I painted in high school and hated it, and therefore swore it off. I took a painting class in college because I needed an elective and it was the only thing that actually appealed to me. I ended up taking 3 painting classes because I loved it so much. I had found my niche as an artist.
Painting became my way of processing life, Scripture, and lessons God was teaching me. Art of every form has a way of helping the creator process, whether it's intentional or not. It's mysterious that way.
"Warfare" was painted in that first class - where I was learning about angels, demons, and God defending me. I decided I would do a series on spiritual topics, which was scary. I have no idea what my teacher thought about my topics, but it was the only way I could get out what I was thinking.
During this season in college, I had my first experience painting live during worship at a church I was going to. I learned that this is called prophetic art - also meant to encourage, comfort, exhort and bring clarity to things God is wanting to say. I sat with God specifically for the church and asked him what he wanted to say through me as I painted. I got Psalm 18. "Rescued" (the lightning bolt painting) was birthed out of a burden to paint about sorrow and the blood shed for us, and God's heart to rescue us.
The Water Series
The water themed paintings are being shown because of a specific word God spoke to me at the week of prayer in January at CCC. To be honest, I don't remember the entire word. I was going to just be quiet, but the next thing I knew I was praying these things out loud at the week of prayer.
I had a picture of the well painting, titled "Spring up oh well!," vividly in my mind as I prayed that evening. This painting speaks of calling things out from the depths, about letting go of the hindrances that have held us back. It's about stepping forward intentionally as a church, letting our gifts and God's love come forth towards each other and the world. It's about following the move of the Spirit and how he leads us individually and corporately. It's spurred on by understanding God's love, going to the source of life and being refreshed, being rooted in the Word and in who we are in Him. It's also based in repenting so that we are freed from sin and able to walk where he has called us individually and corporately. It's about going to the secret place as Moses did and bringing words of life to the people around us. This is what this series is about. I hope it blesses you and encourages you. I would love to talk to you if you have further questions. Descriptions are underneath each painting in the sanctuary.
When you look at my paintings, ask God what he is saying to you through them.
I have trouble being still. Part of this is wanting to see and experience as much as I can of the world, and part of it is to distract myself from pain or occasional self-criticism.
I think that's why it's so hard for me to accept sometimes that I don't have to earn God's approval. Through Jesus I already have it but I still can forget. And when God is gracious to me after I know I've been particularly lousy, I can still feel confused about getting what I know I don't deserve.
Jarrie Thebert once told me "You go around looking for a thumbs up from everyone you meet. But there's only one thumbs up that really matters." Actually she didn't say that to me ONCE. She said it to me over and over and over because it never seemed to stick.
She would tell me to ask God how HE saw me. But I wouldn't - I was too busy doing all the things I thought would make me a person worth something, and I was too afraid of what the answer might be.
This year I stopped doing almost all the things I thought made me myself, in order to pursue a big plan and a new life using a job position that takes just about all my energy and time. So, I didn't travel anywhere interesting, and a lot of my projects and activities and even some relationships fell away. In the summer, I sat in my house, late at night, frustrated at my life which seemed to have come to a complete stand still.
"Ok Lord." I said "I'm here. How do you see me? What do you see when you see me?"
I sat with paper and pencil.
"A jewel." I heard.
"That must have been from me." I thought. "God wouldn't say that about me."
I wrote it down, but I was skeptical. I decided I'd ask God again later, to see if I could get a more honest answer out of Him.
Not long after this, a friend's relative that I'd just met said she had a word for me from the Lord. She said:
"You have something very unique that the Lord has given you that He will use for his glory. You are not to compare yourself to anyone else because your life will not look like theirs. When His gift is shining in you, you will be like a jewel. Like a multi-faceted diamond or garnet."
God Himself brings us our value and identity, even, or especially, when we feel empty, messed up or useless. I realize now that none of the worthiness for that comes from me: I don't make myself.
These portraits I painted about 4 years apart. I think of them as portraits of spirit or emotion, and I painted both of them without realizing how much they said about me.
The first portrait is a person who has a head full of so many things- thoughts and ideas splayed out in every direction - searching for connection. But these things aren't life-giving to her: she's weighed down and her face is blank, flat and tired. I painted this in early 2012, when I had just come back to the Lord and was still working so hard to earn my value.
The second portrait I painted at the end of this year. The posture and expression is completely different from the first - when I look at it I see someone who has had so many burdens lifted off of her. I didn't really think of it as a personal portrait until it was finished, but I thought a lot about the jewel story while I was painting it. That story is one of the continual ways the Lord has been working to change my mind and identity.
Slowly it's sinking in that my work to give myself value, to make something good of myself, could never increase the infinite love God already feels toward me.
Sometimes our hearts cry out to God aloud - openly. And sometimes we’re surprised! Listen to a story that started one day when I went into the sanctuary to play at the piano. It was actually quite awhile ago, so this song already has a life of its own!
I began to play a chord progression and, as I began to worship the Lord, my heart began to open. I was telling the Lord what HE knew but, more importantly, what I needed to share openly and intimately with Him.
“I come into this quiet sanctuary, it is empty (that’s where I was … then: surprise!) but … I find You here!" Finding or acknowledging His presence changes everything. This expression coming from my heart, “I find You here,” was the truth but really came as a surprise that day.
It was echoing in my heart from the depths of THE truth in Him, that has found a home in me. It was calling me from the present embodied emptiness to embrace His very real presence with me. Great comfort comes from a great and merciful God.
Now, into the next section of the song:
“I’m weak and wounded, caught in traps” - the daily struggle against the ‘flesh’ as my own wisdom has been won - yet I hold on to what is familiar.
“You come surprise me and You are here” - when we think without grace as a lens, we look and expect judgement for human weakness, Christ has brought us the hand of grace.
This was my attempt to be transparent and honest about where I was, as I continued to open my heart to the Lord. Acknowledging His coming was also awakening to his mercy once again. We don’t just learn His kindness - He chooses to draw us with his kindness. It's a living experience with a living God.
“Bread of life You give us mercy, Tree of life you offer mercy and You’re here!” - These words just were a gift. They were reaffirming His truth in me: from the garden to the cross He has offered safety to me (to us) in Himself. He knows our weakness. He says "Come to me."
This is the invitation we hear over and over. First, when we finally hear the gospel, then daily as He reminds us we DO have the relationship we so desperately need to walk through the challenges humanity brings us..
Reflecting on this song now years past writing it, there are some gems that came ever so slowly through this song. This experience of receiving / worshiping with the Lord on a song is more relational than musical or artistic for me. Each are a treasure. Here are a few of my “take-a-ways":
- Worship is life-giving for me always.
- I too easily forget He’s for me (us).
- God is and has always proved to be better than what I expected!
- I’m stubborn.
- I’m also teachable.
- Grace has trumped the law because we will always need it to obey and to be in His holy presence. It’s a gift - not earned.
- It’s really ALL ONE story: His overwhelming love for us - pursuing us for relationship through Jesus - our means of grace.
In next week’s blog, you’ll hear pt.2 from Julie Bernstein where she’ll talk about the completion and recording of the song and how working on Sanctuary was a source of inner healing for her. The Lord truly used this collaboration as a source of healing and release for us both.
Praise You Jesus.
Relationships in the Body lead to life!
I come into this quiet sanctuary it is empty but
I find You here
I'm weak and wounded, caught in traps
You come surprise me
And You're here
Tree of Life You offer mercy
Bread of Life You give us mercy
And You're here
(and He says):
Come to me
©Janice Watson & Julie Bernstein
Friends, I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at what took place at our Night of Hope and Reconciliation: For the City, Through the Arts on October 1st, 2016. This night was my dream come true, a dream that was planted in my heart more than 10 years ago: using the gifts and skill-set He has given me to strengthen and serve our community through artistic & worshipful expression, pressing into unity and going low to serve one another for the greater good. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:17
Every artist and musician involved gave humbly and fully of themselves, the entire room captivated in the awesome presence of God witnessing the many and exquisite gifts He has bestowed on His children to bring light, hope, and clarity to a hurting world.
From the beginning, my heart was to bring together the various expressions of the arts as a means towards healing, hope, reconciliation, and restoration in our community and city. What we saw on October 1st was nothing short of the many artists in our community giving the very best of themselves for something bigger than themselves.
I was also blessed to bring you some of the deepest most heartfelt music I have ever written from the albums You Are My Joy and Fire In The Night. These songs and this project have not only served as catalysts to facilitate collaboration across the disciplines and genres of the arts (including dance, visual arts, and spoken word), they facilitated new relationships and new ways of working together outside of our traditional and ‘comfortable’ boundaries. To see these songs come to life in the way I had always imagined was God’s personal gift to me that night.
Thank you so much for your continued support in this ministry of writing and serving the community. The Charlottesville community tasted His goodness as we gathered together and I am humbled to have been part of that process. I sincerely believe that this is only the beginning of much much more to come! Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:
All are invited to a community concert that's been in the works for over a year where we are bringing in various expressions of the arts including: visual arts, dance, spoken word, and music as a means toward healing, hope, reconciliation, and restoration in our community and city. I have met so many artists whose deep heart desire is to use their work for good, for the breaking down of the things that divide us and then pressing into the things that unite us as a people. In fact, the theme of several artists’ work I’m bringing in is reconciliation and restoration, which is proof to me that the Lord is stirring hearts to that end. He knows what we need in this season to break the cycle we’ve found ourselves in as a culture, as a people. We look to You, oh Lord, for our help!
This concert is also a celebration of my most recent release, you are my joy, where you will hear large-scale productions of ‘The Cross’ (Philippians 2), the message of this song painting a clear picture of Jesus as our Savior, and ‘Seal’ (Song of Solomon 8:6-7) which talks about a Love that burns like a mighty flame, a Love that cannot be quenched that is ours in Jesus. We will also be doing the wedding song from ‘Psalm 45’ (yes, there will be bells!!) that paints a picture of ‘the bride making herself ready!’ as well as spirituals, a few songs from my older albums, works by other artists, and … we will be worshiping together!
As preparations continue for this concert, I urge you to pray for the many artists coming together for this event: That they will be encouraged and emboldened in their gifts, that they will be spurred on to do all that God is calling them to do, I ask that you pray for MASSIVE healing and reconciliation in our community and city, and for increased zeal for our Lord. Oh that He would be pleased with His children moving out in freedom!
Space is limited, so pre-ordering tickets is encouraged to guarantee your seat (otherwise, $10 suggested donation at the door until we're filled to capacity). You can pre-order tickets at: reconcilecville.eventbrite.com.
Hope to see you there!
Having led worship for many years and having been transformed by the power and presence of God through corporate worship, I began to feel the call of God on my life to write some worship songs, using his Word as the impetus of my work. I wrote I Can Do All Things inspired by the incredible verse of promise from Phillipians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” and added some of the names we associate with our God and Savior we read about throughout scripture: Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Redeemer (full lyrics below). As I wrote music to this powerful promise, I wanted a song to help me remember this promise when this life beats the life out of you. We all face frustrations, roadblocks and discouragements, but the promise offered by this verse helps us remember He has us in the palm of his hand and we just need to act as if our desired result has already been done. In writing I Can Do All Things, I wanted to do a song that people could easily engage in with the music and the words of promise. This song is meant to encourage the body of Christ with the truth of God’s word. Be encouraged!
// Joe Jenkins
Find more of Joe's music at noisetrade.com/joejenkins
I Can Do All Things
I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me
I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me
You are my sword and shield, You are my warrior
You are my mighty God, You are the Prince of Peace
You are the great I Am, You are my hope and joy
You are the spotless Lamb, You are my Savior
I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me
I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me
You are my healer, my redeemer
You are my source of strength, You are my guiding light
You’re my creator, You are my shepherd
Immanuel, You are my Savior
In Deuteronomy and John the writers say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” and “A time … has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” After continually being drawn to and spending time in these scriptures, and after really pressing in to searching for the answer to the question ‘what is God looking for?’ my earnest response was a desire to give the Lord my whole heart in worship for all he has done for me. I know these verses speak also to a broader act of living a lifestyle of worship and not just musical worship, but because the Lord continues to draw forth a song-response from me, I knew this heart-cry needed to be written and sung in order to be fully realized by me, for me. It needed to become a part of me. This song has even aided in the process of what God is still doing in redeeming the gift of music, redeeming my voice, and continuing to draw me towards composition and song-writing. My hope is that these words and this song will become a heart-response for you as well in your pursuit of loving and worshiping God with your whole heart in Spirit and Truth.
// Julie Bernstein
Find more of Julie's music and story at juliebernsteinmusic.com
My desire is to worship You
With all I am in Spirit and Truth
So come and wake this heart of mine
Bring me in, into Your presence
With all I am
With all I know
With all my strength
I give You now
I worship You
I worship You
Redeemer and Deliverer
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
This song is near and dear to my heart as it expresses several pillars of foundational truth through the words of Psalm 139.
First, “You Are There” is a statement about the reality of God. My personal walk with the Lord is wrought with the struggle between doubt and trust. Seems more often than not, I’m crying out with the father in Mark 9:24 “I believe; help my unbelief!” (actually, that’s another song I’ve written…). And so through the Psalmist, this song declares the truth of God’s omnipotent reality.
Regardless of our circumstances and skewed perceptions, He exists. In the celebratory highs of life—if I ascend to Heaven—God is there. In the devastating lows of life—if I make my bed in Sheol—God is there. My existential musings and multifaceted questions may persist, but in the end, none of that affects this truth: He is there. He is here. He is real.
Second, “You Are There” is a reminder that the presence of God knows no bounds. This song emerged one morning in early September 2014 during a very transitory season of my life. I had just returned to the US after living in China for 2 years, and I was about to move to Switzerland for a 2-year Master’s program. Needless to say, much of everything in my life was up in the air. In the midst of transition, I clung to this truth: God is with me.
Through song, I joined in the Psalmist’s unwavering confidence in God’s omnipresence—his certainty that he could go absolutely anywhere and God would still be with him. One of my favorite biblical promises comes from Joshua 1:5. “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” God made this promise to Joshua, but it also extends to all Believers. God is present. He is with us.
This knowledge that I am never alone, that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5), that the Holy Spirit lives in me (Rom. 8:11)—is what enables me to say “Yes” to whatever crazy adventure God sets in front of me. And it’s what sustains me both in the highest of highs and lowest of lows. No matter where I go, no matter what the circumstances, God is present with me.
Finally, “You Are There” is a declaration of the triumph of God. Light triumphs over darkness. Life over death. “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:12). We live in a crazy, scary world these days. Just a glance at the news is enough to make us lose heart. But Jesus had something to say about that: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
At the moment our world still suffers under the occupation of Satan and darkness until Jesus returns to make all things new. But through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, Death has ultimately been eternally beaten. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, the Apostle Paul rejoiced, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-56). Jesus is victorious over Death. Our hope is sure. Indeed, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
“You Are There” speaks to the truth that God exists, that He walks through this life with us, and that He has ultimate triumph over darkness.
// Karen Brubaker
Find more of Karen's music and story at karenbrubaker.com
You Are There (Psalm 139)
Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to Heaven,
If I make my bed in Sheol,
You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
Dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me,
For You are there...
You are there (repeat)
You hem me in behind and before
You lay Your hand upon me
You’re too wonderful (x2)
Surely the darkness shall cover me
The light about me be black as the night
Even the darkness is not dark to You;
Deep night is bright as the day with You
For You are there!
You are there (repeat)
Hello and welcome to our blog page! On this page you will hear from developing artists in our midst, artists (musicians, writers, worship leaders) who are being called to create for the nurturing of the church, the community and beyond. You will hear about their projects, their hearts of worship, and the ‘working out of their gifts’ as they seek to give back to the Lord what He has invested in them by way of their creative gifting and calling. We are excited to create this platform for this growing ministry of Christ Community Church. Are you an artist and would like to contribute? You can contact me (Julie Bernstein), worship pastor and director. Would love to hear from you!