I remember saying “Yes, sir” through clenched teeth so often I should’ve developed bruxism. My reply to the Lord would be different.

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If you grew up in the South you know that saying “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir” is more important than eating your vegetables. It’s a non-negotiable way of life down here.

Growing up in the 70’s was no exception. Play until the streetlights come on. Keep spare change available for the ice cream truck. Share with your siblings. And always, ALWAYS answer a grown-up properly with ma’am or sir.

The rules didn’t change in the 80’s when I swapped streetlights for car lights. Which I dimmed, by the way, when I pulled into the driveway after curfew. Apparently, my brilliant 16-year old self didn’t realize my parents could HEAR too as the blasting radio heralded my late return as I turned off of Texas Avenue, the defiant strains of heavy metal cutting through the stillness of our quiet suburban street.

Those were challenging times and they led to some brutal stand-offs between my father and me.

My dad was a big fan of those big yellow legal pads. He used them for everything, particularly for listing my misdeeds. No ordinary paper could handle such a task, I suppose.

After reading off my charges, he flipped that top yellow page over and presented a contract. It listed the consequences for my crimes, things like having to babysit my sister (for fighting with her while Mom was on the phone) and missing a friend’s party (for sneaking out of the house the week before). You name the offense, it had a repercussion.

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the time,” he’d say. “This is a result of choices. You made some bad ones.” “These are called consequences.” The euphemisms are still stuck in my head today. He only need say the word CONSEQUENCES  and we can still hear the lecture in its entirety in our heads today.

At the bottom of each page were two lines. One for his signature and one for mine.

By signing, you acknowledged the charges and agreed with the terms of punishment.

Not signing wasn’t an option. I discovered that late one summer afternoon. I think it was the last time I saw the sun that year.

But the signature alone wasn’t enough. No Siree Bob, there was more. After the contract was signed, your verbal commitment was required as well.

“Do you understand this contract and agree to follow it?”

It was, in fact, a rhetorical question because he was not interested in my answer, only the proper response.

If you said no, there were plenty of pages left in that yellow pad for additional consequences.

If you shrugged, you had to sit back down and listen to a sermon on respect.

You couldn’t even just say yes, because that was completely unacceptable.

It was “Yes, sir.” That was the one and only ticket out of the conversation. It was an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, a commitment to improve, and a sign of respect all wrapped up in two syllables.

When you’re a headstrong teenager whose social life had just come to a grinding halt, respect for your warden is the last thing you feel.

So I tried to get around it.

Dad: “I said, do you understand?”

Me: “Yes.”

Dad: “Yes, what?”

Me: (knowing full well what the “what” was) “Yes, I understand.”

Dad: “Let’s try this again…”

One such stand-off lasted an entire 45 minutes. I’ll give the Warden this: he never budged.

Eventually, through clenched teeth, I’d say “Yes, sir” and often left with several additional yellow pages in hand.

I’d almost forgotten those days until I was washing dishes last week and talking with the Lord.

My husband had gone to a neighboring town to lead a Pastor’s Bible study and I went to run a few errands. He’d forgotten to leave some money so as the morning wore on, I dipped farther and farther into my mad money.

My mom taught me about mad money when I was a little girl. “A woman should always have a little money put back for a rainy day when she needs a little pick-me-up like a new lipstick or to get her hair done.” Over the years I’ve stashed anything from $10 bills to crisp $100s in secret compartments of my wallet.

But this day I’d emptied my reserves out on things like laundry detergent and stamps, hardly the pick-me-up of my dreams. I knew nail money wasn’t in the budget and I’d been looking forward to making a little mad withdrawal for a pedicure at the end of the week.

“All my hidden money is gone,” I whined to the Lord. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t truly upset and I was joking around.

His response sobered me up immediately.

“At this point in your life, you don’t need ANYTHING that’s hidden.”

Before I even realized it, the words were audibly flying out of my mouth.

“Yes, sir.”

If only I’d been so obedient as a teenager.

 

 

Back in the day you had Casey’s “Coast-to-Coast”. Today you have Gigi’s “From the Coast”. Pull up a chair and tune in….

Remember turning on that countdown with a fresh cassette tape in your boombox, ready to hit PLAY and RECORD simultaneously as soon as your favorite songs came on?!!

We’ve come a long way since those days with our music, now able to access songs with a push of a button or even a simple voice command. Once called piracy, now it’s streaming and it’s perfectly legal. (Sorry, Napster for taking the fall for us all.)

While Casey counted down America’s Top 40 in pop music each week, I will be counting down MY Top 10 in uplifting Christian music from the last 7 years along with some brief commentary. I’m embedding Youtube videos (with skip ads option available) instead of audio clips. Take that, Casey Kasem.

So click on the links, listen to some old favorites and maybe discover some new ones, and allow the music of the gospel to lift you up…

10. Freedom Hymn by Austin French (2018)

I just heard this song for the first time last week when we ministered at the Wings of Life. It reminded me of Chainbreaker by Zach Williams (also on this list) and it had a great message.

9. Move by Flame (2011)

The oldest on my list, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I personally prefer the audio version to this video one. I like the beat and the message but the delivery isn’t my favorite. Still, it’s a great workout song with a Madea-sounding intro.

8. Do Life Big by Jamie Grace (2014)

The opposite of the equally dynamic “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson, Jamie Grace wants to use the gifts and talents God gave her to “change the atmosphere.” This is where I am in my life, wanting to bloom where I’m planted but with Miracle-Gro.

7. Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave (2012)

The first time I heard this song, I was shook. I wished I had heard it years ago because the simple words took me back to a place where I had no idea how to lift up my head. Verse 2 is chock-full of hope for the hopeless and dejected: “All my life I have been called unworthy. Named by the voice of my shame and regret. But when I hear You whisper, ‘Child, lift up your head,’ I remember, O God, You’re not done with me yet….” Powerful.

6. Start Over by Flame featuring NF (2013)

Another Flame song (see #9) and one that I wish I could sing. I shared it with my nephew CJ. I don’t know how profound the song was to him but he sure got a good laugh trying to imagine his Aunt Gigi singing it!  The beginning just grabs you. “Everybody’s got a blank page, a story they are writing. Today, a wall that they are climbing..” Everyone. Even the preacher and the CEO. We get so caught up in our own stories we miss that everyone has their own struggles. Then comes the kicker. “You can carry the past on your shoulder or you can start over.”  Don’t be defined by your circumstances. With a new life in Christ, you CAN start over.

5. Overcomer by Mandisa (2013)

I discovered this song last summer when I searched my Amazon Music Unlimited app for “Hip Hop Gospel” to add to my workout mix. (That’s where I discovered a few of the hits listed here. Who knew I’d fall in love with this genre?) It’s a straightforward song with a great beat. No matter what you’re going through, you are an overcomer through Christ.

4. Old Church Choir by Zach Williams (2016)

This one has a special place in my heart because I’ve woken up many mornings to this song on Auto-Play in my spirit. I can’t explain it; it’s just there. I wake up and feel like I’ve interrupted a performance in my soul. Not-so-coincidentally, that is the premise of this song. “I’ve got an old church choir singing in my soul….” It is being in that place of peace and worship even in your sleep. And as Williams sings, it IS beautiful.

3. Chainbreaker by Zach Williams (2016)

This song got Zach Williams signed to a label immediately. It’s no surprise. It is amazing and won many souls to the kingdom of Christ, some of my own family members included. Every time I’ve seen it performed in a service, I’ve literally seen chains being broken. It is a song of immeasurable hope.

While searching for the video to include, I came across this video of Williams singing live in a prison. The video moved me to tears. Not only are they receiving a message of hope, but of redemption.

2. Even If by MercyMe (2017)

Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe and author of the hit song I Can Only Imagine, explained the song’s premise. Sometimes it’s easy to sing (or minister) when things are going great, but what about when they aren’t? He wanted to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…they knew God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t, they were going to keep praising Him.

I understood that immediately. When things got tough for me, I’d stop writing. How can I minister to others when my “feet are held to the flame” and I just feel empty? I was finally starting to learn that lesson, relying on faith even in the darkest times, when this song came out. It was just what I needed for confirmation that I was on the right track. No matter what happens, my hope is Christ alone.

And now, #1. Move (Keep Walkin’) by TobyMac (2015)

I love this song. Love it. My husband isn’t a fan. I attributed it to the age difference. But then we went to an advanced pastors’ screening of Indivisible, the inspirational true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner and this song came on during the movie. Half the similarly-aged audience starting singing along. So I figured it was just him. But come to think of it, it was mostly just women singing so maybe T-Mac’s fan base is predominantly female. In any case, like many of the others, this was a “workout” find that I found uplifting and motivating and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites.

A lesson I didn’t know I was learning…

Silly me, I thought it was just a coincidence.

I should remember that with the Lord, nothing is really by chance.

Many of you know that I’ve been working on websites for the last year. One for the church and one for the ministry. (They are ALMOST ready to launch so I’m expecting your support. Or criticism. Either one shows page views.)

I had this vision of what I wanted each site to look like. I dropped a few benjamins to buy the best programs to go with my sites. I then proceeded to beat my head against the wall for the next year.

I’d no sooner master one thing when problems arose somewhere else. Links to other pages and other sites (ones that took forever to set up) would become irretrievably broken and I’d be back at square one.

In the meantime, I was able to keep posting on this Faith Unfaded site, one I could manage easily, even if I had temporarily abandoned it during the big move.

I even set up a similar site for Catfish Charlie, our associate pastor, in four hours. An entire site in FOUR HOURS.

Meanwhile, I was on month 12 of a virtually non-existent site that worked beautifully in my head.

Oh, and did I mention I was determined to do it all myself? The kid devotions, the bible trivia, etc…

Last night, it all came to a head. An eventual decapitated, wolf-ravaged in the forest head.

It seemed that I had “too many cooks in the kitchen” with various web hosts, plug-ins, etc. Don’t ask me to explain- I still have a very basic knowledge of all things code.

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I chunked it all. One year’s worth of work down the tube. Gone forever down the rabbit hole of deleted files. It was not a decision made in anger or madness but still had the undertones of a head-shaving Britney Spears in 2007.

Then I started over using the program I already knew.

This afternoon, less than 24 hours later, I already have both sites to 80% completion.

What a lot of wasted time.

Sitting here, with more satisfaction than regret, I realized that a basic performance done well is better than an ambitious one done poorly.

Even in our walk with Christ.

Sometimes we want to be something we aren’t because it seems to hold a greater reward.

But God wants us to appreciate where we are.

And if you keep walking forward, you’ll get to that place where you wanted to be without even realizing it. It will be effortless because you didn’t rush ahead.

When I first heard the whisper of His Voice, I thought the lesson was just about the computer. But it is never that insignificant. He always has a message that has far greater depth.

He wanted me to be aware of my propensity to desire to be just a little farther than I am. Living in my head of One Days…And completely wasting today.

I won’t rush ahead, not physically or spiritually. I’m actually pleased with where I am and I should acknowledge that. To do otherwise makes me ungrateful and unappreciative of all He’s done for me to this point.

As far as the computer goes?

Well, my new sites are manageable and I researched some sites to link to the church’s Kids page so I’m not overloading myself.

I have no doubt that I’ll learn more about website building and maintaining as the years go by. But for now, I’ll stick to the shallow end!