Mat Kearney 2.0: Experience Changes Everything

I was blessed to see Mat Kearney in concert for the second time last night. The mark of any good concert is incredible music (check), feeling connected to the artist (check), and of course those who experience it with you (check). Mat Kearney’s music has been the soundtrack to some of the most important times of my life. (If you haven’t checked out his music – you need to! I’ve included links to a couple of my faves.) This week I am leaving the bleachers to experience the goodness of God and movement of the Holy Spirit in a whole new way. I’ll write about it later, but for now I simply covet your prayers. I’d love to hear your stories about “getting off the bleachers” and experiencing God moving in your life or the lives of others so feel free to leave me stories! Hope you enjoy what I learned from my first Mat Kearney concert!

th (2)

I’ve been to more concerts than I can count. I love the experience of live music and spent much of my youth chasing my favorite bands around the country. When I first started attending concerts, location was everything. I’d fight and claw and scratch my way towards the front. I’d stand my ground against the jostling and positioning of others. I’d jump and sway with abandon, not caring about what others thought. This changed as I got older. With each passing year, I slowly moved farther back and I progressively became more passive during each show.

Recently, I attended a concert of one of my favorite artists held on a college campus. As I walked into the gymnasium with the student who had graciously secured the treasured ticket, I headed towards the bleachers in the back, as I had become accustomed to doing. I heard her say, “No, Karen, this way” pointing toward the mob standing before the stage. Suddenly the changes I had made in my approach to concerts became apparent! I found myself surrounded by excited college students, and I was suddenly quite aware that I was not one! Insecurities initially overwhelmed me – I’m too old, I don’t belong. However, excitement for the experience soon took over and I found myself no longer annoyed by the student repeatedly bumping into me as he jumped, or put off by the smell of sweat salient in the air.


And then something truly special happened. The artist jumped down into the crowd, breaking the barrier between performer and audience. And I was a part of it all. He realized he’d spent too much time among his adoring fans, and looked right at me as he proclaimed “I’ve got to get back to the stage!” Then he ran past me, actually knocking into my shoulder, as he scrambled back to the stage. At that moment I realized that I would have significantly missed out had I been sitting in the bleachers. I would have observed, but I would not have experienced.


The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” After my concert revelation, I have to ask myself, “How often do I observe God instead of experiencing His goodness?” How often do I choose to sit on the bleachers in the back instead of standing in the crowd in front?  How often do I convince myself that sitting in the back is really no different than standing in the front when really I’ve missed out on something special and unique and maybe even life changing? The truth is that it is easier to sit in the bleachers. The bleachers are comfortable. It is work to stand in the front. It’s hot, smelly, crowded, and exhausting. But it’s in the front where the possibility of experiencing and even participating in the action takes place.

God seems to be inviting us to come to the front, to fight the crowds, to withstand the discomfort for a taste of what He has to offer. Is it possible that He is even inviting us to participate? What if He jumps into the crowd? Do you want to be in the bleachers or in the crowd with a chance of reaching out and touching Him and perhaps even receiving something from Him or being invited to join Him?

Now perhaps I’ve pushed the metaphor too far, as we are all called to join Jesus in bringing God’s kingdom to earth and because the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every believer, we can fulfill this calling. And obviously Jesus isn’t a performer on a stage. But stay with me here, at one point He spoke to the masses – some clamored to be near him, some risked everything to touch him, some watched from a distance with skepticism, and some simply walked away. What about Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus? Jesus ate at his house that day! What about the bleeding woman who dared to touch His cloak? She was healed after 12 years of suffering! What about the men whose love for their friend was so great that they destroyed a roof in order to lower him down to Jesus. Their friend was healed in more ways than one! Those who dared to get the closest to Him, experienced Him, and were never the same again. Those people ended up changing the world. Those who kept their distance have long been forgotten and are but an anonymous footnote in the annals of history.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided it is time that I stop sitting on the bleachers just observing. True change happens through experience. Learning about the artist and knowing the lyrics to the songs is great, but can never replace the impact and transformation potential of the experience. In order to truly believe that I am God’s beloved child and to truly comprehend His great love for me, I need to experience Him, not just learn about Him. It’s time I head to the front to fully experience His presence, and to “taste and see”. I hope you join me.

Like I said, I’d love to hear ways you are avoiding the bleachers, fighting the crowds, and experiencing Jesus from the front row. How do you see God moving in the world around you and how has he called you to join him? And finally, thanks Mat – not just for entertaining, but for offering an experience of heartfelt and meaningful music!

Confessions of a Single Life: Part 2

“You’ll find him when you stop looking for him.”

“God will grant the desires of your heart so just keep praying for him everyday.”

“When you are the woman God wants you to be, He’ll bring you the man you’re supposed to marry.”

And my personal favorite: “Jesus is your first love anyway. He’s the best boyfriend you’ll ever have so just focus on him.”


While there may be hints of Scripture and some truth in each of these statements, they have typically been much more hurtful than helpful. Yes, I know people who met their spouse the minute they stopped stressing and simply started living. Yes, I believe in praying for your future spouse. Yes, I believe in focusing on becoming the fullness of what God designed me to be. Yes, Jesus’ sacrificial love for me is incomprehensible and complete. However, can I just let you know that although Jesus has given me more than anyone else ever has or ever will, he still has never sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day, he’s really hard to cuddle with, and people stare when they see you talking to an empty chair at restaurants.

These statements are hurtful because at the heart of many of them is an implication that a spouse would appear if only I did or said the right thing. There is a subtle message that if only I had more faith or prayed the right prayers or had the right posture towards life then everything would be working out like I want. I spent way too long believing that if I just prayed the right prayer or had the right amount of faith or lived my life in a certain way then God would FINALLY provide a husband. It’s just not true. There is a major theological problem with this – God cannot and will not be manipulated. He is not a puzzle to be solved, a genie in a bottle that will release 3 wishes with the right words, or a magician waiting for the right spell to be spoken.

And though Jesus’ love for me is complete, no, he is not my boyfriend. He is my Savior. He is my Lord. Two things a boyfriend or husband can never be. In fact, according to Courtney Reissig, “Marriage to Jesus while waiting for a husband can often trivialize our Savior in a way that makes him more like a sweet boyfriend who takes us out on dates, rather than the God-man who paid for our sin on the cross. Jesus did not accomplish redemption to marry us individually. He died for the church corporate, of which we are a part. His death accomplished something much greater than simply meeting our deep-seated desires for a significant other. That is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 5:22-33 when he speaks of the mystery of marriage.”*

So, to all my single ladies (and gentlemen) who deeply long for a spouse, allow me to offer these words that I pray will give hope instead of cause hurt and maybe bring clarity instead of creating more confusion. First, yes keep praying for and about your future spouse. Make your requests known to God! Like any good parent, he does give good gifts (Matthew 7:11), does give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), and does invite us to persist in prayer (Luke 18:1), However, sometimes what we want and ask for is not in line with God’s plan for our lives. And so like any good parent would, he says no, or not yet. Second, instead of trying to find the magic formula to get God to give you what you want, set your heart and mind on Him (Colossians 3:2), recognize that God’s ways are not your ways (Isaiah 55:8), and trust that God’s specific plan for your life is bigger and better than anything you can imagine and that he will faithfully carry it to completion (too many to cite). Trust. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. Either you trust God is good and His plan for you is better than your own plans, or you don’t. Third, remember that Jesus and many of those early apostles set an example of how to live as a single person. Jesus himself knows what you are going through! Finally, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life, including your marital status!

And to the “paired up” friends wanting to be helpful, may I encourage you to listen, seek to understand, validate, and empathize with your single friends. May I kindly suggest you refrain from offering advice? (“Have you tried Christian Mingle?” is not a helpful thing to say!) It is also not helpful to tell your single friends about the ways marriage drives you nuts. It is REALLY not helpful to complain about your sex life (at least you have one). It IS helpful to pray with and for your single friends, but ask them specifically how you can pray. It IS helpful to grieve with them, to hope with them, and to go out to dinner with them so they don’t have to keep talking to an empty chair. And it MAY be helpful to introduce them to people you think might be good for them, but do so with their permission and only if they are open to being introduced to someone. If you have someone in mind for a single friend of yours, simply ask, “Are you open to meeting someone I know and think might be a good match for you?”

Married or single, we are all part of God’s beautifully diverse family. We all have a special role to play in advancing His kingdom, in spreading the Good News, and in loving others well in Jesus’ name.  Single or taken, we’re all awesome because we are made, adopted, and loved by an awesome God!


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience! How can we honor, support and encourage one another regardless of our marital status? Does the church need to do anything differently to invite those who are single more fully into the church? Let me know what you think!

*”Why Jesus Isn’t Your Boyfriend: A Critique of Dating God.” Christianity Today, June 25, 2012

Confessions of a Single Life – Part 1

So here’s the deal. This blog has been in process for months. There is so much I want to say (and have been wanting to say) but the words have not come easily. Writing is like that – sometimes you have to untangle the thoughts and wrestle with the words. But here it is – the one to put questions to rest and clear the confusion. What kind of questions? The polite ones: “So…are you dating anyone?” The awkward ones: “Who are you bringing with you to the wedding?” The funny ones: “You’re not unattractive so why aren’t you dating anyone?” And the ones that are left unsaid: “What’s wrong with you?” Yes, it is time to talk about my single status.

It is odd to me that I am such an anamoly and it is especially strange to me that even many churches don’t know what to do with someone who is single. After all, Jesus was single! (So all you singles out there – remember that Jesus knows and can relate to what you are experiencing!) Paul was single and recommended it as the preferred marital status. It appears that many of the prophets were single. And yet…

But I digress…back to the questions. Let’s get right at it: Why am I still single?

Is there something wrong with me? No. I mean, yes, there are lots of things “wrong” with me – but no more or less than any other person who walks the earth. I’m not damaged goods. I’m not inept at relationships – in fact, I think I’ve learned to be pretty good at them!

Am I just disinterested? NO. I am very interested in finding “Mr. Right”. In fact, wanna know a secret? I’m a SERIOUS romantic. I’m as sappy and gushy and Hallmark greeting card as it comes! (If you are interested in assisting in the search, you may send all prospects to

Am I just too picky? NO! (For one thing, is that even possible? This is a spouse, not a pair of shoes or my coffee order!) However, I do know what I am looking for and I am willing to wait until I find him (or he finds me).

So what’s the deal? The deal is that in college I prayed a very dangerous prayer that God has continued to answer every day since. I looked around at the married couples that I admired, including my parents, and noticed one commonality: they all complimented one another in ministry and service to God. I noticed that without the other, they would be much less effective in their work advancing God’s Kingdom. And so my prayer was this: “God, may I only marry if and when I am able to do exponentially more for your Kingdom with him than I can do by myself.” I’m telling you, if you pray, God will answer – so be careful!


May I suggest that  being single is not a “less than” way to live? I am not incomplete because I do not have a husband. And being single does not necessarily mean that the person is broken or weird or clueless or anything else. Single people do not need pity, a sympathetic head tilt or looked at as if they are aliens. They need the same thing married people need – relationship, community, love, grace, affection, and understanding. Yes, I get lonely. So do married people. Yes I feel misunderstood. So do married people. Yes, sometimes I feel life would be easier with someone to share it with and yet my married friends tell me they think life would be easier if they were single!

single 2

Marital status does not define me and it ought not define you! Single or married is not your identity – your identity and my identity are found in Christ alone and in carrying out the unique calling he has placed on each one of our lives. Yes, my heart’s desire is to be married someday, and I believe that in time God will grant or change that desire. Until that day, I have so many blessings and am doing my best to live life in a manner that honors God and fulfills the calling He has given me. I have a career I love and can devote a lot of time to because I am single. I have friends I love and who love me. I have the ability to bless others with time and resources that I likely would not have if I were married. And the things I fear I am missing out on because I am not married? Such as kids, what leads to kids (we’ll talk about this more in a future blog!), and the unique companionship of a spouse? Well, I trust that God’s current plan is better than those things and I choose to trust that I am not “missing out” but carrying out the unique life God has blessed me with.

So, to my married friends, be kind and gentle to the singles in your life! Include them in your community and family life. Invite them over for dinner and to your children’s activities. They will gladly be “aunt” and “uncle” and will likely treasure being included! And take an interest in what is going on in their lives! Even confident singles are hurt by exclusion or assumptions so offer grace and seek to understand.

To my fellow singles, please live life to the fullest! Do not  alienate yourself from friends that have gotten married. They still need you! Do not sit around pining for that perfect someone or expect the pizza delivery person to be that someone! (I’ve tried it – they were always awkward high school students and that much pizza created a bad health situation.) Remember, you are not less than because you are not married! You have a special place in God’s kingdom. You have a special calling to carry out! Don’t wait to start life until you have someone to share it with. Instead, start living life and expect God to provide someone to join you in the process!