the STANDard :: december

i realize it's only December 1st (or 2nd actually,  since as i'm writing this the clock has struck midnight) but as we begin the end of this year, i'm finding it equally thought-provoking to observe what lies behind as well as to contemplate what might lay before me.  however, in this moment, i want to focus on whats ahead.  this has been a rather rough year.  more rocky roads and challenges in the span of 12 months than i remember in years past.  from walking through some things as a family to walking alongside some friends through extremely difficult circumstances, i'm being just plain honest as i say… i'm kinda glad to see 2014 on the horizon.  and while i absolutely believe that 2013 was held in the hands of my Saviour, and all has been, or still will be, perfectly orchestrated for my good, according to His will… i am also expecting GREAT things to come.

today, Dec. 1, is the first Sunday of Advent. this month of Christmas celebration is going to be full of expectation.  Advent is the anticipation of Christ's coming.  and while we know that He already came… our wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace, everlasting father… hence our reason for celebrating Christmas at all, we also know that HE IS COMING AGAIN! we live in anticipation of the second advent! we expect Him.  and while we wait, we hope. and in our hope we have courage to stand and endure.

my verse for this final month of 2013 is Psalm 27:14 (AMP)

"wait and hope for and EXPECT the LORD; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. yes, wait for and hope for and EXPECT the Lord."

God has good things in store for 2014! ways for us to grow and flourish! ways for us to be challenged and pruned, ways for us to work and mature, ways for us to serve and learn.  no matter what… we can EXPECT God to move! let the anticipation of His presence push you forward…

oh! real quick…. speaking of 2014… so much in store!
i'll be relaying information on all kinds of new things in the coming weeks!
first up… since we are on the subject of the STANDard… i've FINALLY completed a project i've had in mind to do for a couple of years:

the STANDard cards!!!

since i started writing this feature on the first of each month (you can read more about the initial idea here…and here...) i have also consistently written my verse for each month on a card that i keep either in my office, in my bedroom or in my Bible.  sometimes in all three places!  i'm not much of an artist (you can see my attempts above), so i asked a handful of my beautiful and talented artist friends in Montana to help me out.  i had them each draw up their own interpretation of a STANDard and made them into sets of 12 cards, one for each month of the year on which to write your own verse!  (see photo below)

i can't wait to use them! now… a set of these STANDard cards will be included in the Kickstarter rewards of 70$ and up.  so you may already be set to receive one! but i'm thrilled to announce that after the first of the year, they'll be available on my website for purchase!  i hope if you haven't already, you'll choose to join me this next year in memorizing/meditating on a verse each month.

ps here is a list of my amazing artist friends that contributed to the STANDard cards:

Ashley Rodriguez // Thorn + Sparrow
Leah Eash // Leah Eash Designs
Elisha Guido // Elisha Guido Writes
Abby Sue Carlson // Karlsson Photography

schedule for December

here is a list of my scheduled appearances for the month of December:

December 6 // Mariners Church // Irvine, CA // 7pm // for their annual Christmas Tree lighting
December 7 // Mariners Church // Irvine, CA // 5pm // Saturday evening service
December 8 // Mariners Church // Irvine, CA // 9am + 11am // Sunday Morning Services

December 8 // Horizon Christian Fellowship, North County // Rancho Santa Fe, CA // 7pm //
                      Women's Christmas Tea
December 9 // Horizon Christian Fellowship, North County // Rancho Santa Fe, CA // 7 pm //
                      Women's Christmas Tea
December 10 // Horizon Christian Fellowship, North County // Rancho Santa Fe, CA // 7pm //
                      Women's Christmas Tea

December 14 // Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor // Waipahu, HI // 10am // Women's Christmas Tea
December 15 // Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor // Waipahu, HI // 6pm // Sunday Evening Concert

December 22 // Harvest Church // Elk Grove, CA // 9am + 11am // Sunday Morning Services
Hope you can come join me at least once!!

the STANDard :: november

aint nobody got time for that... drama. unhealthy competition. back biting. lies. 

i hate how easy it is to fall in to those things in everyday life and conversations. sometimes one thing leads to another and we find ourselves in situations we didn't expect or intend to be in. while, yes, there are times when we are able to intentionally avoid these kinds of situations. there are other times when we say.."wait, what just happened? how did i get here?". 

Jesus was tempted too. tempted to give in to all these same things that we are tempted to give in to.  Satan took some shots, threw some sucker punches, by stretching and distorting truth and God's Word and making some underhanded suggestions. "hey Jesus, you could be awesome, hey Jesus you could be the best, hey Jesus you could be everyones favorite". but obviously, our God is much too smart and holy and perfect to have given in to such nonsense.  not that it wasn't excruciatingly difficult. Jesus was fully man at that time. fully humanly physical and capable of starvation. capable of exhaustion. capable of human reactions and responses because he was, in fact, human. and hungry.  he'd been fasting for 40 days.   yet the Bible says he was without sin.   he stood up to the enemy and fought back with truth. actual, whole, absolute truth. because that truth was hidden in his heart, he was able to recall it and use it to combat the enemy.

when Satan tempts us, he does the same exact thing. he tells bits of truth but infuses it with darkness, stretching it, distorting it, bloating it. sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it's obvious. but no matter what we have the power over sin because of Jesus. because of JESUS. freedom because of Jesus, life because of Jesus. Heaven because of Jesus. 

it's so clear that the enemy knew that Jesus was up to good.  immediately after the 40 days/nights of temptation in the wilderness, the Bible says 'Jesus began his ministry'(Matthew 4:12). i believe that Satan was staging a last ditch effort to thwart God's plan. i imagine all of Heavens armies were gathering, mobilizing in anticipation of the warfare sure to come once Jesus starting changing lives and healing hearts.  

and i also believe that as you and i attempt great things on behalf of our God that the enemy will be hot on our heels as well.  that means he's going to be throwing everything he's got at us. little things that might seem harmless on the surface but that do great damage. big things that we think we can't possible survive. everyday things that we've grown accustomed to and fail to realize what they really are.... and on and on.  

so in addition to my verse for this month's STANDard, here are 3 things that i hope help us in putting Jesus' lesson of temptation to work in our own lives.

first: we have to pinpoint the specific areas where we are being tempted. in other words, identify the stuff Satan is using against you. where are you weak? where do you consistently fail? what trips you up most often? what are you believing that's NOT true? or not believing that IS true? identify what truth(s) are being distorted. 

secondly: just like Jesus 'fought back' with scripture, we can too! in Ephesians the Word of God is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit... take it and use it to parry in defense!  i've mentioned multiple times elsewhere how much i love action movies/stories.  i just love the adventure and battle scenes, hence my use of the word parry.  it's a fencing term meaning to ward off or evade. it's when you throw up your sword to deflect an incoming thrust.  it's thinking on your feet and using what you've got to fight back and protect yourself.  for us, it's cutting through the crap the enemy thrusts at us, not shrinking back and giving in, but instead fending off and keeping at bay.  so, you've identified and pinpointed the chinks in your armor, now dig through the Word and find the truth. Gods Word is living, breathing, accurate and absolute. be careful not to take it out of context and simply find verses that support your theories, as it were.  but read it daily... let it saturate your life, so that when the time comes (like every single day all the time) you'll be able to recall it, like Jesus did. now... obviously i'm not suggesting that we memorize the Bible in it's entirety, but rather become familiar with it. very, very familiar with it.  so you KNOW when it's being taken out of context. so you KNOW when the enemy is using it against you. so you KNOW how to use it in your defense. 

finally, proceed. get up. go forward. the enemy has made his play, you've parried the best you can. now stand on the promises of God and proceed in what he's given you to do. be about your Fathers business.  wait... i want to emphasize that:


i truly believe that what the enemy wants is you and me distracted by disappointments and discouragements, effectively keeping us occupied with ourselves. because then we aren't focused on what ACTUALLY MATTERS.... JESUS

at the end of the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus said: 

"away from me Satan, for it is written: worship The Lord your God and serve him only"

in the Message it says it this way:

" 'beat it Satan!' he backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: 'worship The Lord your God, and only him. serve him with absolute single-heartedness.' "

2 verses later Jesus begins His earthly ministry. 

i wonder what God is stirring in your heart. what the enemy senses and therefore is attempting to prevent.  i know there are a lot of doubts in my mind regarding the future. lot's of 'yeah, but's' and 'can't be's'.  so i can only assume you've got some too.  i encourage you to take these three simple things to heart... 

pinpoint; parry; proceed

be honest with yourself and God and let him do the difficult work of pruning if need be.  
then surrender and get to work... be about your heavenly Father's business

i'm going to be memorizing and meditating on Matthew 4:10 this month:

"Get out of here Satan... for the scriptures say: 'you must Worship The Lord your God and serve only him' "

i would love to know what verse you are memorizing!

a walk, a way

i needed to clear my head.  needed to make sense of all the thoughts competing for my attention.  so i went on a walk.  God speaks the same in the house as in the woods,  it's my inability to hear him in the house that led me outside.  and i'm currently consumed with the house.  as i've stated repeatedly in recent posts, we  moved (exactly 54 days ago) and have been DIY'ing it up in here (read: painting, hanging, fixing etc).  i desperately need to wrap up these minor house projects and move on to the major project: the new record.  this is an album that has been officially funded by YOU, the fan/friend/family member.  as you may or may not be aware, i successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign back in July.  that means that i'm writing new songs, rounding up some of my favorite musicians and making new music.  initially, i was hoping/planning to release said project near the start of the new year,  however the sale of our house and our subsequent move resulted in the project being pushed back a bit.  i have quite a lot on my plate at the moment. a lot to contemplate and think about.

so i went for a walk.

as i walked, with my dogs along for moral support... and protection... i prayed. and listened. and one of the things i realized (again) about myself was that i like staying on the well marked path. now, depending on the point one is trying to make, a case can be stated for both staying on and veering off of the proverbial path. for all intents and purposes here i aim to state my case against it... i became aware of the fear that keeps me on said path.  it's scary to make a path through the unknown.  it's dangerous.  but it's also rewarding and beautiful.  i stayed on the well marked, clear path for a while, but then i followed the dogs into the unmarked woods, where tall grass and thorny bushes live to block the way.  you can't see where you're going or what's ahead the grass there is so tall.   but i was reminded of Isaiah 43:19 as i trudged through.

see! I'm doing a new thing! making a way... another way. when it seems impossible, when it seems ridiculous... I. Will. Make. A. Way.

if you're like me you've read that passage more times than you can count.  and yet.... He's made that many ways.  He's shown Himself to be faithful that many times. and He'll do it again.

history and heaven

(me, as Lily of the Valley, at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in HiTops circa 1985; being hugged by my mom and surrounded by my sisters and friends)

having recently moved, and maintaining that sense of chaos within my house as unpacked boxes and partially painted rooms still consume my daily attentions, i've been unable to unearth any photos of Pastor Chuck Smith and me. i realize i can't use this excuse forever, but in this case it really is the truth.  when i heard last week of his passing from his temporary tent on earth to his permanent home in heaven i, like many of you, spent time remembering his life, and the impact it had on mine.

i first met papa Chuck, as so many refer to him, in 1985.  i was 15 years old and a member of the cast of HiTops, a musical written and produced by Ernie and Debbie Retino (also responsible for creating Psalty the singing songbook).  the day of the auditions for HiTops was the first time i'd ever stepped foot on the campus of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.  my father pastored the Nazarene Church in Anaheim and that was my home church, so i did not grow up under Pastor Chuck's teaching or attending Calvary, as some have mistakenly believed.  however, because of that audition, and my subsequent participation in HiTops, i began a relationship with the community of Calvary Chapel worldwide that continues today.  and i'm grateful. 

i have loved reading peoples posts and comments on the life and impact of Pastor Chuck over the last few days.  my pastor, Levi Lusko, always says that when we do even little things, sow small seeds, into the kingdom that the fruit of those seeds is fruit to our account.  i love that idea because often most of us feel that we have so little to offer that it doesn't matter, doesn't count.  but truly God uses each of us and whatever we give to further his kingdom.  we sow and plant and water (and he may use totally different people to do each of those things) but then HE works it all together and brings the increase, the fruit.  Pastor Chuck has sowed much, planted much, watered much... and i guarantee (according to scripture) that his reward in heaven... which he is enjoying!!!... is extravagant! 

my favorite memories of Papa Chuck are Harvest Crusade related.  once he introduced me as Crystal Hall. she was a worship leader at CCCM years before i came along, and as the new kid, my name was not burned into his memory yet.  so her's was the first that came to mind.  we can laugh about it now:)  another time there was some kind of miscommunication and as i began singing People Get Ready... literally started singing the song... he came up on the platform and walked to the podium and began to speak.  we are talking about Anaheim Stadium in front of thousands of people. it was real awkward.  again.... laughing now. then, not so much! but my absolute favorite memory is the fact that he began to introduce me as 'everyone's little sweetheart'.   i cry thinking about it i tell you.  he didn't know me. not really.  i mean we were acquainted, he always greeted me with that giant, infectious smile of his and a great big bear hug.  he knew who i was.  but he didn't KNOW me.  everyones little sweetheart?  he wasn't familiar with my failures and faults. he didn't know that i wasn't ALWAYS so sweet.  he didn't know my doubts and fears. but you know what? i don't think he would've cared.  what i mean is... i think if he knew my struggles, he still would've introduced me that way.   this man that said no to the political correctness back in the day and said yes to the people that wanted to come to church and investigate the gospel, even though they didn't have shoes on.  this man that opened doors for new music and gave hope to a generation desperate for truth.  this man loved Jesus, and showed it by his actions.  he always made me feel loved.

he put things in motion that changed the world we live in today.   fruit to his account. he paved the way for young pastors to lead with unique gifts and callings and cultural relevance based on the Bible.  fruit to his account.  

i'm eternally grateful (line from HiTops) for his influence on the world we now live in.  his life has indeed affected my history.  and i think i live today with a heightened sense of hope for Heaven because of it.