Book Reading & Signing

Join Hezekiah and me at the Piano Preparatory School of Beavercreek on Saturday, October 1 at 10:30 for a reading and signing of our new book.

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Coloring In The Lines… Or Not

Why don’t I like coloring books? Because I can’t color within the lines.

IMG_0226When the adult coloring book craze hit, I purchased a few (not just one; I need diversity). I took out the new markers that Santa brought me and began to color. It didn’t take long before I realized that the lines were way too little — and I don’t like coloring in the lines. I mean, I want to color in the lines. It looks so fun, so fulfilling, so satisfying when I watch other people do it. When the lines are all filled in the picture is beautiful. But it seems that I’m not a color-in-the-lines kind of girl…. and that is just fine.

It occurs to me that I have spent a great deal of my life trying to color in the lines. I want people to look at my picture – my career, family, body, ministry, house, you name it – and think it’s beautiful. So, I’ve attempted to color in the lines in the ways other people make look easy.  I’ve tried and consistently get pulled to the edges. When I’ve strayed outside of the design or decided to ignore the ‘suggested lines’ and colored in entire blocks, my internal voice spoke louder than the external ones. Girl, you know this is a mess. Why can’t you color pretty like the other girls? Why are you trying to redraw the design? You’re always trying to change things.

On and on MY voice droned, often to the accompaniment of the external voices who seemed pleased to add their two cents worth. You really think you’re special but look at the mess you just made. You know you can’t really color (parent, teach, sing, lose weight, preach) so why are you even trying? I don’t care how many degrees you have, you are still messed up.

For weeks those coloring books taunted me. And every time I picked one up to color, I felt that sense of failure for not being ‘good enough.’ Eventually, I gave away my coloring books, bought blank pages and began teaching myself to draw my own designs and color where I want to. And that’s just fine. I follow multiple guidelines. I reinterpret what others have drawn. I learn from them and I create or recreate in my own style, in my own voice. I laugh at myself when my lines are crooked and my circles don’t even look like ovals. And that’s just fine.

As it turns out, I don’t like coloring books – for me – but I do like to color. And that’s just fine. And the voices – mine and theirs? I’m not listening to them nearly as much. Oh, they still speak and way too often I am tempted to accept their noxious advice, to allow them to speak into my future and over my life. But, I am learning, more slowly than I care to admit, to pause to see if there is another voice I should heed.

If I’m very, very quiet, I can hear my Heavenly Father say Donna, that’s beautiful coloring you’re doing there. I’m going to put it on the refrigerator of my heart.

And that’s just fine!!

To Die For

There are some absolutely beautiful songs on the market, many filled with timeless truths about God. I’m grateful to have easy access to music that can set my feet dancing, hands clapping, heart fluttering, lips singing, mind inspired or tears streaming. That’s a blessing. There is a song that does all of these and much more for me. It’s Anthony Brown’s single, Worth. This song is a sermon all by itself. It’s my anthem, especially for this period, as we contemplate the coming of Christ and the reason for His crucifixion, death and resurrection. It’s also my anthem as I walk deeper into God’s healing work and I gratefully walk through my house, arms raised, tears streaming down, the love of God washing internal wounds I cannot see and laughing like a loon from the joy that accompanies the truth.

There are so many walking wounded among us, people who desperately want to shrug off the grave clothes tossed carelessly over them by people who should have done better.

You ain’t ever going to be anything. Yo’ Daddy was a liar and you’re a liar, too. You think you are so much better than everybody else but your &@#* smells just like mine. You’re so ugly with that nappy hair and dark skin. You’re too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall. You are so stupid. Can’t you ever do anything right? I wouldn’t mess around with other people if you did what you were supposed to do. You know you wanted it so shut up. You need to be institutionalized. Don’t nobody want your crazy butt.

The list goes on and on. You probably have your own list. I’ve been the recipient of many of these poisonous verbal darts and, from my own pains, have shot some of my own and caused others to hurt. That’s truth. This song reminds me that no matter what I’ve done or where I’ve been, no matter what anybody else says about me, no matter what I have said about myself, before I was born, God said something very different. God, through His Son Jesus, thought I was ‘to die for’ and proved it in action.

Jesus thought I was worth SAVING so He came and changed my life!

He thought I was worth KEEPING so He cleaned me up inside.

There are many people who act like they want you. They may even say some of the right things. But, in action, they wrap you in grave clothes. Not so with Jesus. He saw you, broken and beaten down, and instead of dismissing you as worthless, He thought you were valuable enough to save! He thought you were worth keeping so He cleaned you up. Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to clean ourselves! Religion tells you that you need to look a certain way or act a certain way before God will value you. The honest truth is you were CREATED WITH VALUE. You have intrinsic value – no matter what you’ve done, who you are, how you were raised, or even what you think. I’m grateful that I do not have to be a religious person, trapped by religious thinking and the emptiness that religion brings. I lay claim to the promises associated with a love so great that it could only be manifest in sacrificial giving.

You thought I was to die for so You sacrificed Your Life

                     so I could be FREE

                                             so I could be WHOLE

                                                                so I could TELL EVERYONE I KNOW                                                                            you thought I was to die for!!

Singing in my best cheerleader voice: He did it. He did it.                                             Oh yes, He did it!

I’ve been listening to these words over and over and something really profound happened when I let the words move beyond my lips and seep into my spirit!

Jesus thought I was to die for! That’s huge. Jesus, the co-creator of the universe, the second in the Trinity, the Savior, thought Donna was to DIE FOR! Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life so I could be free and whole. It’s difficult to fully wrap your mind around it. That’s why I stopped trying to understand why Jesus would think I’m all that and simply accept it.

Jesus died to set the captives free. That’s me, and probably you. Jesus’ sacrifice was a free gift, the ultimate act of love. There are things we may never understand on this side of heaven. But there is a different between understanding and knowing. I have no clue how most of the appliances in my house work, but I know they do when I turn them on. Likewise, I can truly know that God loves me and wants me to be free and whole. So, I’m chasing it down, freeing my mind from old patterns, and walking out of the prisons where I’ve been in bondage. I’m casting down every imagination that rises against the knowledge of who God says I am. I’m doing the hard work of recognizing where I’m broken and what my part is in the healing process – and you will always have a part.

God loves you, my friend. He believes you are worth saving and keeping. Jesus believed- a long time ago – that you were to die for so He sacrificed His life so you could be free and whole. That’s why we have Easter. The egg hunts and candy are fun and yummy. Having a nice dinner with family is really cool. But the most significant thing about Easter is remembering and knowing!

Hallelujah! Glory to the God who changed and continues to change my life! I will praise you. I will worship you. I will give you glory because I am free. I am whole. I’ll tell everyone I know, You thought I was to die for!

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm or You Don’t Need To Pray? Seriously? Well, cool.

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following message on Facebook:

How many married couples and seriously dating couples can I get to take the Oneness Prayer Challenge
together, 30 days, 3-5 minutes a day,starting October 1? Let’s flood heaven’s gates with men and
women praying together.

Be bold and put your name below then put a reminder in your calendar to either get a text prompt
or an email. It couldn’t be easier.

OCTOBER 1, 2015. LET’S PRAY.

I also included a short video from Familylife.com that explained the challenge and the benefits.

Oneness Prayer Challenge

man and wife prayingNOT ONE person agreed to join me in praying with his/her spouse for 3 minutes a day for 30 days.  There was not one like or share. This completely fascinates me.

Now, it is quite possible that everyone on my friends lists is already praying wholeheartedly with their spouses and do not need to take the challenge. It’s possible but it’s certainly not probable. For one thing, I coach/counsel people who tell me they don’t. For another, take a look at the world, at our families, the struggles we have – seriously, we could all use a bit more active prayer.

Praying with our spouses more than doubles the power we have to stand against the wiles of the enemy. God is a God of multiplication and not by single digits. In Deuteronomy, we discover that, with God,  one can chase a 1000 and two can chase 10,000.  The footsteps of two lepers convinced an entire army they were about to be massacred. Gideon’s 300 routed more than 100,000. Over and over in scripture we discover the power of two who are centered in God. Nearly everyone knows or has at least heard of Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT)

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my
Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers,
I am there among them.”

This is why I’m perplexed. Thirty days of praying for 3-5 minutes with your spouse, is it too much? Are people skerd?  What are the issues that keep us from committing to praying with our spouses?  Are people already ‘prayed up?’  Do we know the possibilities if we take the challenge?

The Matthew passage quoted above gives some idea about the promises available to married folk, seriously dating folk, siblilngs, bffs who ‘touch and agree.’

If two         – that would be the spouses or seriously dating folk, in this particular cases

agree          – (maybe this is the issue??? – I’m asking)

concerning ANYTHING YOU ASK          – That’s a big window of opportunity. Jesus does not put qualifiers on it other than the two agree. Imagine the healing, restoration, strengthened financial situations, wayward children returning to their senses,  kingdom advances, romance restored, depression lifted, anxiety settled,

My Father in Heaven           – that would be Jesus talking about God (since believers were adopted into the family and have been given the right to call God, Abba, that means YOUR Father, MY Father in heaven)

WILL DO IT FOR YOU         – can’t be any clearer than that. Whatever we ask, when we agree, God will do!

Joel Osteen tells of an image his father once had. In a huge room in heaven, shelves were lined with boxes upon boxes upon boxes. When asked what they were, he was told they contained blessings God had already laid up for people who never even asked! I do not want any box in heaven to have my name, Gerald’s name, any of my children’s, grand/great-grandchildren’s, nieces’, nephews,’ cousins’, sisters’, brothers’ names on boxes of blessings they do not believe they can have and therefore do not claim.

We could start by being families who pray together. Husbands and wives model this to our children. I’m not saying it is an easy thing to do but Day 30 will be different than day 1 – and there just may be some boxes being opened in Heaven.

Where two or three gather in my name     – spouses, maybe a child or two at some point??

I am there!    Jesus, our big brother, our intercessor, the lover of our souls, the sacrificial lamb, the one whose shed blood paid for every sin we’d ever commit, promises to BE PRESENT. So, even if your spouse is getting on your nerves, for 3-5 minutes a day, Jesus will stand between the two, strengthen and encourage as you seek agreement on the prayer before God at that time.

This sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Welp, tomorrow starts the Challenge. It’s not too late to join me.  Just for the record, Family Life did the actual challenge in September. I did not know about it in time to get on board with that challenge.

Making the Invisible Visible

If you’ve followed my writings you already know that I am willing to be transparent, to open myself to others’ scrutiny. I told God years ago that I did not want to wear a mask. I realized that I had worn a mask most of my adult life. I liked the image my mask presented. From all indications I had it together. I lived a good life; I had a wonderful family – what more could a girl want, right? I wore the mask of the wife and mother of a picture perfect family: educated mother and father, boy, girl and a dog or two. When we went to restaurants, strangers walked over to tell us how beautiful our family was. My mask smiled and I patted myself on the back. We moved to Ohio to follow my dream of teaching college and my husband went back to graduate school. The mask remained firmly in place. In fact, it became decorated by my new position. In that first year, in this new place, strangers on every side, the mask began to slip. There were a few meltdowns but at the end of each, the mask was put firmly back into place.

Eventually, a series of events forced the removal of the mask and I vowed never to hide behind one again. What I did not realize twenty some years ago is that the mask was but one part of the armor I used to protect myself.

Let me bring this a bit closer. I had something of a meltdown this morning with our eight year old. I’ve been working hard on a second book in the Hezekiah Loves Music series. This book is quite different from the first and I’m really excited about it. I’ve had a few people, including children, read the book and the feedback has been tremendous. One lovely child told me it is among her favorite books. I’ve been trying to get the subject of the book to read it. Beyond working with me on the music that will be included, he seems to have little interest. That just did not go over too well with me this morning. One thing led to another and we were both nearly in tears.

After putting him on the bus I began to question why his seeming disinterest should bother me so. He is only eight, after all. The discovery may be surprising to those who know me but – deep breath – here it is. For much of my children’s lives, I felt invisible. Ok, I said it and the world is still revolving. We traveled the world together; we spent quality AND quantity time together as a family. Yet, I often felt separate from the inner circle the kids shared with their Dad. The fact that I was the photographer on most of our adventures means that I am in very few family pictures. This realization still brings tears to my eyes if I dwell on it too much. This led to the understanding that my sense of invisibility did not start when my darling babies were born or even when I got married. No, it’s been a quiet demanding, freeloading visitor all of my life. It’s gone with me everywhere I’ve gone. It’s attended every celebration. It’s patted me on the back at every heartache.

invisible womanRevelation is a good thing but only if it is useful. So, my prayer this morning was about how to circle the issue of invisibility and examine it from all angles. I wanted to know how to shake its hand and bid it a forever farewell. In other words, I wanted to know how to heal the places that contributed to feelings of invisibility.

Healing is not an easy road to travel. It is certainly not for the cowardly. It requires willingness to strip away layers of protective armor. When we are wounded in any way, the body has an amazing capacity to send defenses to that place. That is easy to see in the physical but is much more difficult in the emotional. Feelings of abandonment, insecurity, fear, or loss set the body’s natural defense system in motion. When we do not process these emotions, when things continue to pile up, what was intended to be a short-term response – let’s call it a sheer layer of protective armor – becomes a hardened prison that thwarts growth and health.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.40.20 AMTo access those things buried beneath is not a passive endeavor. Some will need to be chipped away, bit by bit. As you chip, you will feel pieces of you pulled away, too. It hurts!! This is where we often give up. I mean, we’ve all read the sign ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ There have many times when it did not take much for me to declare a thing ‘good enough.’ The problem with living beneath armor is that while your conscious self might not know something is wrong, the subconscious does and demands attention. This creates inner dissonance and feelings of unrest and dis-ease…. which often leads to physical disease. Yes, chipping away costs something but the beauty is God created the body – physically and emotionally – to renew itself. What feels like the pain of death truly is but a ‘light affliction’ in the scheme of things. It’s like giving birth. Those babies we love cause serious pain yet most of us would do it all again just for the joy of holding that precious one in our arms. Likewise, giving birth to the whole, healthy person God created you to be will require a sacrifice of pain. BUT, when it’s done you will come forth as pure gold.

Some things need to be chipped away. Others must be soaked away. When a wound is covered by gauze seeped in caked on, dried blood, it must soak before it can be, oh so gently, peeled back. Removing armor from wounds that have been opened and reopened for years is perhaps the most difficult process of the two. The process of soaking is one of vulnerabandaged handbility and is counterintuitive for people who are accustomed to their armor. Heck, some of us LOVE our armor! Although it sounds passive, it is not. Soaking calls you to let go of the familiar. It requires you to allow yourself – heart, mind, spirit and wounded places – to be covered by the ointment of the Holy Spirit. It means acknowledging that you have wounds you simply cannot reach by your own works. It means partnering with someone who can help you get beneath the covering.

In this place of total submission, the healing balm of the Spirit gently covers the armored places. And, like a loving Mother, the Holy Spirit very carefully begins to reveal – inch by inch, issue by issue, pain by pain – the brokenness, heartaches, fears, tears, memories – hidden beneath. Like a child, you open, first one eye, then both to take ever-lengthening looks at what is being revealed.
And as you are emotionally ready, you lay aside these weights.

It is crucial to know that the Holy Spirit can work anywhere. So your soaking may have to occur in the office of a mental health professional. Yes, God is capable of zapping you, waving one hand and swoosh, the armor is miraculously peeled back and your entire world is righted. But what I’ve learned is God often requires our participation in the healing process.

Chipping, soaking or both, whatever it takes to be whole, that is my heart’s desire. And I’m going after it!  Won’t you join me?

Baby Shower Resources

Baby Shower Games and Activities

1. Prayers for the Family.

Download tprayers for the familyhe form and copy enough for each guest to have one. Use pretty papers. This is what I had and I thought it was pretty for a boy baby and had a timeless look.  Ask guests to complete each form and collect them in a binder for the family to enjoy for years to come.

2. Baby Boy and Baby Girl Scattergory (click boys or girls to download)

Print enough copies for each guest. There are four rounds for BOYS.  There are five rounds for GIRLS.  Using Baby Girl Scattergorya timer give guests 2 minutes to write. After the timer goes off, compare answers. Any duplicated answers cancel each other out. Guests may use creative answers but other guests will have to approve the answer. You are not allowed to use colors (ex. red shoes) or numbers (ex. Five teddies) to fulfill the category.  Have fun!  The guest with the most points at the end of the rounds wins!!

3. Famous Babies
Famous Babies

Give guests a few minutes to remember and name these famous television babies.

Download here.

Famous Babies key

A Joy To Be Recognized….

I made a whirlwind trip in March to Vermont, a place I had never been. I wished I had had the time to actually explore the place but that was not to be. Though I did not get to see much, I did get to meet some truly outstanding people. We spent the better part of a day singing and breaking bread. There was such friendship and love in the space; I was honored to be a part. Though I did not have full use of my voice (this has been an ongoing journey and a story I will tell before long; I know God is doing a mighty work), things went beautifully. It is amazing to teach people who truly want to learn. I left there thinking I may just start my own ensemble, I so miss singing with others at a higher level of excellence. Brendan, the director of the ensemble, wrote the following words in his newsletter. It filled my heart with joy on many levels. I am learning to truly love and accept me, the person God made without the burden of ‘work’ to qualify me. So I share these words just as I share the love I felt when my sisters and brother drove from Maryland to be with me when I was awarded the 2014 University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award.  It is a joy to be recognized……

Thanks for reading!!

Donna

Brendan wrote: ” The day after I got home from the studio, the whole Bright Wings gang assembled at my place for three days of rehearsal and a weekend of performances. This has been our model from the start, but this time we had the opportunity to spend the second day of rehearsal with Rev. Donna Cox, a gospel choir leader and university professor who traveled out from Ohio to work with us for a day on our performance of African-American gospel and spirituals. As Bright Wings has branched out from our initial roots in shape note music, we’ve really enjoyed exploring some early gospel. But as a group of white singers in a predominantly white state, I felt it was important to do everything we could to insure we were honoring the tradition in our performances, especially in light of some of the events of the past year.

Donna is a gem, and it was a joy to work with her. She was able to coax a better performance out of us almost instantly and gave us some really excellent new repertoire to work with. She also framed spirituals and gospel in some ways that were really helpful to me, and that I’d like to share a bit of here. The first thought has to do with how that music, all of it, is coded and can be understood on multiple levels. Most of you will be aware that songs like ‘Wade in the Water’ or ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’ were understood spiritually and as advice/ directions for slaves wanting to escape north (the drinking gourd in question being the Big Dipper, pointing north). But what Donna pointed out is that every song, not just the obvious ones, operates on multiple levels of understanding. She taught us the spiritual ‘Great Day’. It says:

            Great day/ great day the righteous marching
Great day/ God’s gonna build up Zion’s walls/ God’s gonna build up Zion’s walls.

While this is obviously a promise of spiritual deliverance, it could also be sung with the intent that it will be a great day when Harriet Tubman comes, a great day when we cross that river into Canada. And the advantage of the code then was that it could be sung in that way without the slave-owner knowing. The advantage of the code now is that it means, as a singer, you can choose how to approach the song. You can choose what intention you bring to it. For those of us, like me, who didn’t grow up in a church, I can invest those words with more personal, more visceral meaning: it will be a great day for me when marriage is available to all, when black teens don’t fear the police, when we stop tearing down the mountains in West Virginia for more coal.

Understanding this coded nature of the music also means—and this is what’s new and so important to me—that you can approach the songs on multiple levels as a listener, not just as a singer. That you can find in this old and powerful music meaning that apply to you and your world, and that you can do that in a way that is part of the music’s heritage.

Because that’s the other thing in approaching a musical tradition: it is a tradition, it has a history that needs to be respected. In everything I do musically I’m aware of trying to balance a respect for tradition with the need for personal expression. Donna captured it beautifully when she said, “You bring to the music your experience. You honor where it comes from. You make it your own.”

That feels so important to me, all three parts of that equation. We all have to deal with this history, with the fact that our European ancestors brought slaves from Africa to this country. The ramifications of that are obviously deep and complex, and a bit too much to take on in an already long e-mail. Musically, the response to that experience created an incredibly rich vein of song, music that is now the most popular music in the world: spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, rock, r&b, soul, hip-hop. Music that is with us every day and that allows us to make these intentional choices, as listeners and as singers, on how we approach the different levels of meaning.

And all that from just an afternoon of rehearsal. Just think if we had had a week… We were supported in doing this work by a crowdfunding campaign, something that many of you contributed to. Thank you for that. Thank you for supporting us, for helping us develop as musicians and to think more deeply about the intersection of race and music.

This ramble has been even longer than usual, so congratulations if you’ve made it to the end. It is Easter Sunday as I write. In the spirit of understanding something on multiple levels of code—wherever you are and whatever you believe, may your spirits rise today.”

~Brendan

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