To Be Known

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” Philippians 2:1-2

Connection, Intentionality, Gratefulness = we need each other, we have to step out in faith, and we need to choose to be grateful in every circumstance. When we choose to live this way we will be blameless, we cannot be put to shame. Well that sounds nice. Oh, but this requires sacrificial living? And not complaining? Or arguing? Or ….

“Surrender. And obey.” these are Jennie’s words on page 192. She goes on to say that if we want to know God’s will for our lives then this is what that looks like. How simple.

Connection, intentionality and gratefulness play such a big part of this surrender, this obedience. I have had difficulties with the connection part of this equation. I have a tendency to isolate myself, especially when I feel threatened or misunderstood. I will then look for ways to prove myself instead of seeking connection – asking for help (that’s easy, right?) or sharing my burdens. My bff once said I was a stuffer and she is right, I will stuff things instead of confess or share. This is not healthy. We need people, we need support and accountability and togetherness. Just this week I shared with two different people, my bff and a wise, discerning man of God. The result was pretty incredible, things I couldn’t see was seen by him and as he spoke truth I felt a wave of peace wash over me. I can’t even imagine how much longer I would be struggling had I stuffed instead of shared.

This connectedness spills over into intentionality and into gratefulness. “We were not built to live for ourselves” – Jennie. This whole complacency thing can be a battle. I must confess that at the beginning of the quarantine I was looking forward to sitting back and having time to do what I wanted to do. Now that didn’t work out too well because I had to (got to) watch my granddaughter the past two months which I wouldn’t trade for anything but in the back of my mind I was still wanting to use this time to do my own thing. The more “my” plans have been disrupted for better plans the more grateful I have become over the things the Lord has given me to do during this time.

Build your team of people – your community. Be intentional – step out in faith. Be grateful – live life surrendered and sold out to Jesus even if everything doesn’t go the way you planned, when hardships come. Our hope is in Jesus, it’s still all about Him.

Get Out of Your Head ~ Week 4

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

We are talking about more weapons to fight the enemies of our mind – connection, intentionality, and gratefulness. These weapons will help us step out of our comfort zones and to better understand the gifts God gives us in community, in service, and in gratefulness.

Week 4:

Philippians Bible Study

  • Complete Session 4 in the study guide
  • Watch Session 4: Weapons We Use – Part 2 (on Study Gateway)

GOOYH Book

  • Read Chapters 9, 10, 13, 14
  • Listen to ‘Made for This’ Podcast (Season 3) Episode 5: Isolation vs. Connection, Episode 7: Anxiety vs. Trust, and Episode 13: Victimhood vs. Gratitude, Episode 15: Complacency vs. Intentionality. *Feel free to listen to Episodes 6, 8, 14, 16 Episode 8:’Is God real?’ with Julie Manning is one of my favorites…I’ve listened to it twice and will listen to it again this week!

Keep pressing on ladies! It is worth it!

Spend some sweet time with Jesus this week! Try picking a passage of scripture and journaling or using the S.O.A.P. Method 🙂

Each letter in “SOAP” stands for one step of the process: ScriptureObservationApplication, and Prayer.

Behind the Music ~ Freedom

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

This CD came out of a love for the incarcerated and a desire to see them set free inside the razor wire.  Many men and women in prison feel they have no hope, that they are not worthy of love, that they cannot be forgiven.  This song is for them…to proclaim freedom to them, to show them that we, all of us, are equal in our sin and we all need Christ to set us free.

The above paragraph is written on the back of this single. Like I said, I wrote this song specifically with the incarcerated in mind but I know that so many outside of the razor wire are suffering inside man-made prisons. We all need freedom, freedom that only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Galatians about the freedom they have against legalism. They were holding on to the law and tradition. And don’t we do the same thing? Hold on to the past, our failures, what we know? I chose Galatians 5:1 because I have looked into the eyes of so many of the incarcerated and have seen their struggle; struggle to forgive themselves, to hold on to their past, their addictions and my heart hurts for them. Christ has given us such a sweet and precious gift – Freedom from our sin! And a peace that comes with it when we completely surrender to Him.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14

The actually sitting down and writing this song was a longer process than the usual one day writing session. It started with a melody/rhythm in my head during a baptism service at Algoa Correctional Center. Lord only knows how I was able to remember that later on. My usual system is when a melody or word/phrase comes to mind I sing it into my phone or jot down the words in a note file on my phone. A few years ago I was at a song writing breakout session with Darlene Zschech at the National Worship Leader’s Conference and she was telling us that if something comes into your head in the middle of the night (because that happens all the time) then you have to write it down right then, you think you will remember it in the morning but you won’t. And boy, is she right! Except this time…I did. What’s funny though is the rhythm I used in the actual song is a completely different time signature, go figure.

I began this song in the Summer of 2017 and then laid it aside. I really wanted to be intentional in what I was saying and what God has to say to these precious souls in prisons. In December 2017, I wrote most of the rest of it and I actually sang it incomplete on New Year’s Eve at a church event. I finished it in January 2018. I added this improv instrumental, never playing it the same. I emailed the producer of my last album and asked him when I could come record the song. With a date set in February I knew I had to nail down that instrumental and the result is now so recognizable to the guys at Algoa that they air piano play along (it brings me a smile) or are disappointed if we are running out of time and I skip it. But the most amazing thing is hearing them sing this song with tears, shouts of victory, rejoicing in their freedom and declaring the Name of Jesus – the One who set them free. I wish you could hear them shouting “JESUS!” when I sing the line “call out His name” or hear a man proclaiming the greatness of God, who He is, and everyone exclaiming “hallelujah! Glory be to God!” during the instrumental. When you have experienced the kind of freedom these men and women behind the prison walls have…while they are confined…you praise the One who freed you.

Here are the lyrics and the original recording with just me and piano (all other instruments on the track are produced). I plan to put this song on my next album with a full band and some very special musicians.

Freedom

Verse 1
Do you long to be free?
Free from all your mistakes?
Shame and regret, your mind can’t forget
The cost of the prison you’ve made

Verse 2
You’re not too far away
From His saving grace
No sentence too long, your past or your wrongs
Can cancel the price that’s been paid

Chorus 1
Freedom
This freedom can be yours
Freedom from sin, free to begin
A new life given through Him

Verse 3
He will give you His peace
And He will make you new
Give Him your fears, your doubt and your tears
His mercy includes you

Verse 4
Oh there’s no other way
Lay down your guilt, your pain
The weight of your crime, is equal to mine
Just call on His Name

Chorus 2
Freedom
Christ-given freedom
Come and believe, Jesus receive
And you will be free

© 2018 Christy Hoagland (ASCAP Sing for the King Publishing)

I sent this CD single to every prison in Missouri (and a few to some prisons out of state) with a desire to share this gift of Christ-given Freedom with anyone who would listen. A bonus track shares the Gospel with scripture passages, the Gospel is for everyone, share it with someone today.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6

Choosing Stillness

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Being still has been my constant nemesis. This could be the reason that the first song I wrote was called “Be Still”. I have a hard time sitting still, focusing (I think I may have A.D.D….seriously), and putting things aside completely to spend time with God. I fill my life with busyness, I thrive on doing stuff…not necessarily entertainment but doing…cleaning, work, etc. These aren’t necessarily bad things but they are consuming things that steal my time with Jesus. I think if we all took a hard look at our schedules we could say we have plenty of time to spend with Him in our quiet times, study, prayer, worship. We know it is worth it!

Jennie says this week about stillness and time with God – “Only being with God is going to satisfy us!” In chapter 8, Jennie tells us that connection with God is the foundation for every other God-given tool we have to fight with.” We need His supernatural power to help us. God transforming our minds helps us recognize and name the lies trying to steal our joy, our peace, our attention. We have to spend time with Him.

Last year I led a study through a book called “Unseen” by Sara Hagerty and one of my favorite things was how Sara and her family honor the Sabbath. It may be a Friday but for that one day they unplug and focus their attention on Jesus. Oh how this is the desire of my heart and yet so hard for me to do.

“It has been said – and I think it is true – that the most valuable asset we possess is our attention, which prompts the question, to what are we attending?” – Jennie (Get Out of Your Head, pg 76)

As we continue on through this study, my prayer is that we begin to see and recognize and then lay aside the things that try to steal our time. Is it Netflix, social media trolling, even working around the house or trying to “keep busy”? Maybe it’s the start to our day that needs attention, wake up and get with Jesus before the day’s tasks invade our thoughts, before the scrolling and trolling. Block out the noise and choose silence.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Behind the Music ~ Psalm 71

“Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?” Psalm 71:19

Psalm 71 is about rescue, deliverance, redemption and praise, praise, praise!

“My praise is continually of you.” Psalm 71:6b

“My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.” Psalm 71:8

“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.” Psalm 71:14-15

“I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long.” Psalm 71:22-24a

This song, song #8, was the final song for my album titled “Sing for the King”. Along with my 8 original songs I chose two others co-written by Tonya Poe, Wayne Smothermann, and David Garcia; Wordless and I Believe.

Psalm 71 got its title because I didn’t know what to call it, honestly. Interestingly enough, when people saw the title it made them read the scriptures from Psalm 71. Maybe all songs should be titled this way 🙂

Musically this song transformed from keys and lead vocal to 3 part harmonies and a more intricate piano version, along with all the other instruments that gave it a special kind of oomph. I played the keys part on the recording but when I do this song live I simply cannot play that rhythm and sing at the same time (maybe with lots of practice…but probably not). The other vocal parts consisted of a lower harmony and high harmony, my cousin, Jenn was originally slated to sing some of these parts but was unable to make the recording due to a surgery she had to endure. Jamie Groshart sings the high harmony and I sing the other parts. I am so thankful for so many talented musicians to sing, play and record music. I wrote this song in January of 2017, below is the raw, first, just finished writing version with me and the keyboard. And then the recording for the album.

Psalm 71

Verse 1
Deliver me, in Your righteousness
Rescue my soul, save me, O Lord
Verse 2
Be to me, my refuge and strength
Hide me, O Lord, in Your truth and Your grace

Chorus
I will praise You, I will praise You
An offering I bring, to give honor to my King

Verse 3
Pursue me, with your redeeming love
Remind me, I am Yours alone
Verse 4
Upon You, I have leaned all my life
Send me, to proclaim Your sacrifice

Bridge
You, who restores me
You, who revives me
You lift me up again
Your reign will never end

Chorus 2
We will praise You, We will praise You
An offering we bring, to give honor to our King

Tag
Pursue me, with Your redeeming love
Remind me, I am Yours alone

©2017 Christy Hoagland (ASCAP Sing for the King Publishing)

Get Out of Your Head ~ Week 3

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

As we are developing the mind of Christ, we’ll have a fight on our hands. But God gives us a weapon for every attack of the enemy. The next two weeks we will look at the weapons we use to combat the enemy and the thoughts that try to ensnare us.

For week 3, I am going to try to pair up the chapters in the book with the Bible study so this may be a bit strange or a bit less strange, ha!

Week 3:

Philippians Bible Study

  • Complete Session 3 in the study guide
  • Watch Session 3: Weapons We Use – Part 1 (on Study Gateway)

GOOYH Book

  • Read Chapters 7, 8, 11, 12
  • Listen to ‘Made for This’ Podcast (Season 3) Episode 3: Noise vs. Silence, Episode 9: Cynicism vs. Delight, and Episode 11: Self-Importance vs. Humility. *Feel free to listen to Episodes 4, 10, & 12

Memorize Scripture (Continue to work on memorizing Philippians 2:5-11)

To Live is Christ ❤

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

‘It’s all – always – about Christ. Paul experienced a massive shift, and now he was a totally different man. No longer was he a slave to his circumstances or his emotions. Paul now chose to live aware of the power of Christ in him, through him, and for him. Paul now had the power of the Spirit – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and he chose to live aware of and under that power.’ – Jennie Allen (Get Out of Your Head, pg 37-38)

How did this happen? How did I let the enemy and my own thoughts creep in without much notice? Until…I finally did. I sent this email mid-January to my S4K teammates:

Teammates, co-laborers for Christ, friends – 
As some of you know (some more than others), I’ve had a rough few weeks, I haven’t felt like myself and felt like the fruits of the Spirit were not evident in my life…but God’s grace is so good and He has overcome my weaknesses.  With my hubby’s prompting I am taking the rest of this week off (today thru Saturday) and going to see my family.  I feel like I have turned a corner and am much better, God is working and moving and I am going to use this time to draw close to Him.  So, this all to say I probably won’t return your text messages, email, etc unless it is an absolute emergency. (except for the hubs ;))

Reading it now, I see I was still not recognizing all that was going on in me. Although I did make some strides towards peace I found that a couple of months later those thoughts started showing back up and tormenting me. Can I tell you that Session 2 has overwhelmed me? In such a sweet and precious way! I cried watching the video and took so many notes throughout this session. The theme or takeaways this week for me were “to live is Christ” – He is everything! And to be led by the Spirit! I know the Spirit lives in me because I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. My gradual decay of listening to the lies of the enemy and not feeding the Spirit enough led me to a several month downward spiral.

There is still more work to be done and I am so thankful that God does not leave us alone. His Spirit is working and moving and changing me day by day.

One of my biggest realizations or enlightenments this week was me loving something more than God or putting something in the place of Him or above Him and that is the ministry I love, the ministry He has called me to, and it has to stop. ‘The fact is that we even put “good” things in place of God. What are we chasing? What are we worshiping? We have to learn to recognize it and seek discipline.’ – Jennie Allen (Session 2 video) The shift has to begin with putting God in His proper place, first. What are we chasing, what are we worshiping, what are we thinking about the most or fixating on? Our jobs, kids, ministries, even our endless to-do lists can take over our thoughts when our focus should be on Christ. Jesus is enough and if He is #1 then I don’t have to worry or think about all the things swirling around me, He will take care of it. All those things will fall into their proper place when I put Him first. This aim – Jesus – is better than life!

I loved that Jennie’s friend spoke this truth to Jennie when she finally confessed what was taking place in her thought life – ‘Jennie, this is not who you are’. (Chapter 4 – GOOYH book). I needed to hear this because for months I have thought ‘what in the world is wrong with me? why am I walking backwards in my faith? why am I so weak? why am I not listening and heeding to the same word I am speaking to others?’ Christy, this is not who you are. What a simple yet profound moment of truth for me, for us. We are not what the enemy says we are, we are not what others say we are, we are not what we sometimes say we are… we are what Jesus says we are. When we place our faith in Him the narrative changes, we are His and He will not let go of us.

Let’s remember the power of God in us through the Spirit He placed in us when we surrendered to Him.

“For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:5-11

To live is Christ.

I lead this song for the guys in prison and led it for our weekly recorded service (due to COVID-19) and I wanted to weep as I sang the words. I have sung these over and over and they hit home this week in a new and special way due to the conflict inside me. So thankful for the Lord’s reminder yet again to be led by His Spirit.

Get Out of Your Head ~ Week 2

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

This week we are focusing on making a shift, changing our thinking. Paul was under house arrest when he was writing the the Philippians, He is going to show us how we can have the mind of Christ. As we read, listen, pray and focus on Jesus this week let’s apply the truth of God’s Word to change us and make the shift to Christ-like thinking.

For Week 2:

Philippians Bible Study

  • Complete Session 2 in the study guide
  • Watch Session 2: Making the Shift (on Study Gateway)

GOOYH Book

  • Read Chapters 4-6
  • Listen to ‘Made for This’ Podcast (Season 3) BONUS Episode: How to Stop Anxious Thoughts & BONUS Episode: Falling More in Love with Jesus with Annie J. Downs

Memorize Scripture (Continue to work on memorizing Philippians 2:5-11)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

Behind the Music ~ Freely Forgive

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” Psalm 86:5

I was sitting at a Celebrate Recovery meeting at a friend’s church and during the lesson portion the teacher said something about how Jesus forgives freely. I scribbled the words freely forgive at the top of my paper and thought a song could come out of that. Not long after I sat down to write and looked through the scriptures and came upon Psalm 86. I pulled lots of lyrics out of that chapter. This song had a different vibe than the others and I waited to share it with “the world”, Johnny (one of my ministry partners) kept pestering me to post something about it on social media but I held my ground. This song is the only song with no piano or keyboard in it, I do, however, lead it in prisons on occasion with just the keyboard but it isn’t as good 😉

Somewhere along the way I thought a ukulele would be fun to add to the mix and asked my cousin’s teenage son, Joel, to play with us. My usual bass player played Djembe and acoustic guitar and vocalist Mark rounded out the team for a great sound. In the studio, the producer added an acoustic bass. Take a look at the lyrics and a listen to both a rehearsal and the final product.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus so freely forgives when we don’t deserve it? Call out to Him, He is listening and will answer you.

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.” Psalm 86:3

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.” Psalm 86:5-7

“All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” Psalm 86:9

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:11-12

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.” Psalm 86:15-17

Freely Forgive

Verse 1
You bend Your ear to me, Lord
You hear me when I call
You give me Your salvation
My sins no more recall

Verse 2
Lord, You are good and steadfast
You listen to my prayer
You answer pleas for mercy
And keep me in Your care

Chorus
And You, show me Your grace
Lord, You give me Your mercy
And I, walk in Your light
‘Cause You, freely forgive
(repeat)

Verse 3
Give me Your strength to serve, Lord
Help me abide in You
You show me favor, O Lord
Your love and comfort proof

Verse 4
You teach me Your way, O Lord
That I may walk in truth
Your word revealed will unite
My heart to fear You

Bridge
Turn to me, be gracious, Lord
Hide away my shame
I will kneel and bow before You
And glorify Your name
(repeat)

©2016 Christy Hoagland (ASCAP Sing for the King Publishing)

Behind the Music ~ The Holy One

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done.” Psalm 105: 1-5

My Celtic song! This song has that kind of feel. The above picture is of my Bible, Psalm 105 contains the majority of the lyrics for this song. The Psalms truly are songs just waiting to be put to music!

I started leading this song at Algoa Correctional Center and when I heard a hundred men singing at the top of their lungs “Great is his name, worthy of praise!”…it was really something special. These men praise the Lord with all their hearts and it overwhelms me, there are times I’d like to just stop singing and listen to them, I have on occasion. I really wanted to record their voices singing this song (especially the bridge) but I couldn’t get it worked out with the institution. So instead of 100 voices on the album you get to hear 4. My two sons sang some harmonies and melodies but on the chorus my producer recorded my youngest son singing it over again and again, stacking the vocals to create an awesome sound of men’s voices, Christian couldn’t return to sing again so I asked the electric guitar player sing, Sean is multi-talented 🙂 The 4th voice is my own of course, but I still think this song would best be sung by a big choir of men singing lots of parts. I am thankful for my sweet boys and their talents, they are gifted singers. I’m attaching 2 recordings, one of a fun rehearsal (unfortunately without Cameron) and the final product.

The Holy One

Verse 1
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name
Remember all He’s done, seek the Lord, His strength
PreChorus
Holy is He, Our God and King
Worship the Lord, let’s shout and sing
Chorus
The Holy One, the Holy One
Rejoice, He is the Way
Glory in His name
The Holy One, He is the Holy One
Exalt the Prince of Peace
Declare His majesty
Verse 2
Bless our mighty God, make known His deeds with praise
Tell of His marvelous works, shout with joy, proclaim
Bridge
Great is His name, Worthy of Praise
Lift your voice and sing
Almighty God, Lord over all
Worship Christ the King

©2016 Christy Hoagland (ASCAP Sing for the King Publishing)