At Thanksgiving, my family usually gathers at my grandparent's house for parade watching followed by a very traditional turkey day feast. We stuff ourselves with a plethera of very Southern, carb-loaded deliciousness like mac & cheese, dressing, sweet potato casserole, turkey and of course, pumpkin pie. This year, a spontaneous trip to Hilton Head Island, SC broke our routine. Festivities including a morning beach jog with my brother, a family zip lining tour, a good 'ol turkey sandwich for lunch (just so I can say I had turkey on thanksgiving) and a delicious seafood dinner of crab stuffed tallapia with a dill cream sauce - YUM! It was a fun change of pace although I missed my grandparents and our long standing traditions.
One thing that didn't change this year about my thanksgiving: I am truly thankful - possibly more than ever before. Living and serving in the inner city will give you a good dose of perspective quicker than my 6' 5" tall brother can scarf down a piece of pumpkin pie (and that's fast!). Here's a quick list of the goodness I'm grateful for this year.....
No ones is perfect and mine is no exception, but when it comes to unconditional love my family has passed the test. We've fought hard battles, celebrated grand victories and supported eachother every step of the way. I couldn't feel more loved or believed in - all I have to do is look around to be reminded of what a true treasure that is.
My Ganny says travel is one of the best teachers in life. I agree. Living in Nashville (my first time settling somewhere outside of Virginia) has been a good and stretching experience. As I boarded a plane to meet up with my family for our thanksgiving getaway the thought crossed my mind that most people in the inner city of Nashville where I server will never experience the thrill of seeing the world from a bird's eye view. Not only that, most will never travel at all or take a relaxing vacation.
Eating out with my family is a real treat these days. The seafood and yummy treats of my Thanksgiving break are not the norm in my Nashville life. The ministry buys some basic grocery staples for us weekly and gets food donated from a local food bank. I supplement by purchasing extra things I need, but for the first time in my life am partially living off of donated food. It's an eye opener for sure and makes me oh-so aware of the abundance many Americans enjoy and don't think twice about.
As I near the end of my year of Music + Missions I can honestly say it's been a good kind of hard. We don't grow when things are easy - we grow when we're challenged. We grow as we struggle and even as we suffer. God allows it sometimes so our character is forged and strength. Otherwise, we'd probably choose to settle into whatever feels comfortable to us and stay put. Yes, I can honestly say I am even grateful for the struggles of this year. As Romans 5:5-2 say, "...we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured our his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us."
When I was fifteen my grandmother gave me a gratitude journal for Christmas. The concept was simple: write down five things you're grateful for every day, but it's impact on my life was rich and meaningful. Spending time thinking about all the things I had to be grateful for changed my perspective on life and probably steered me away from being a grumpy teenager. Gratitude changes our attitude. It's the best way to wage war against our negative emotions that surely try to push their way into our hearts.
Take some time to ponder what you're grateful for today - and don't be surprised if it changes you
"Are you ready to go, sweetheart?" he asked.
"Not quite" she replied. "I'm tellin' them my story."
"I'll just wait for you in the car" he said.
The young woman shot him a look that announced her overwhelming fear of abandonment and begged for the assurance of a father's love.
"I'm not gonna leave you" he said convincingly with a smile in his eye.
"Promise?" she asked.
A year ago Marie was strung out on drugs and alcohol. Homeless and alone, she frequently gave herself to men and women for a place to stay. At 5' 9" and a meager 90 lbs she must have looked like a walking skeleton. It's a miracle that she's still alive.
Last Thursday, she walked into Meal of Hope - A weekly meal served by the interns and staff of Provision International for those in need - but she was not alone. Accompanied by a kind man and his wife who had welcomed her into their lives a year ago, the three were now like a family. Her beautiful blue eyes welled up with tears as she said "it just kills me on the inside that I can't do anything to help them financially." A car accident a couple of years before left her with an excruciating back injury that requires shots every few weeks just so she can walk. "The doctors told me I'd have to settle for disability." She explained.
"The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." The words of Jesus recorded in John 10:10.
With the knowledge of this truth, boldness rose up in me. "Marie deserves to have life and have it to the full!" "She's been stolen from long enough." I thought. With that, my friend Davina and I started praying and asking The Lord to heal her spine and realign her back in accordance with Heaven We asked the Holy Spirit to fill her body with His love and presence and to right what was wrong. No fancy words, no complicated prayer formula - just a heartfelt request.
Marie opened her tear filled eyes, looked at me with a smile, and sat up straight. "I couldn't straighten my back when I walked in here tonight - I usually have to sit like this..." she said as she showed me the noticeable hunch in her lower back. She sat up straight again to show that she could and then stood up with a look of childlike amazement on her face. She couldn't believe it! Davina and I were delighted and amazed as well. "Did you feel anything happen when we prayed?" I asked curiously. "Yeah, I could feel this warmth in my back."
This story of healing is consistent with so many that I've heard, but relatively few that I've had the honor of bearing witness to first hand. I can honestly say that a year ago I would not have been so bold to pray for a person's healing on the spot. I've always wanted to believe that God was still in the business of miracles, but was too afraid to take the risk to pray so boldly - "They might think I'm crazy." "What if nothing happens." etc. Now the risk feels minimal compared to the potential for God to move through a simple act of prayer and change someone's life in an instant.
Seeing may be believing but "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29
4.100 miles, 4 cities, 3 of the most marginalized people groups in America,100s of lives touched by the love of God. That was Rolling Thunder 2012 in a nutshell. Our team of musicianaries has been training all year for this trip - from band practices to dramas to hands on ministry - and we finally got to put all three components together for three weeks of impact across the Southwest. It was amazing, life changing, challenging and tons of fun! Here's a recap.....
We started our tour in Decatur, Texas with a special needs ministry followed by a worship service later that same evening. Then we headed for El Paso, Texas, home of Provision International's brand new missions base on the border of Juarez, Mexico (pictured). We reached out to the community, built relationships and celebrated the opening of the Thunder Dome base with a powerful and anointed worship concert in the desert.
A huge majority of the population in El Paso is hispanic. Those we met were sweetly humble and kind at heart making our time there a delight. It was a joy to see first hand what God is up to and an extra special treat to see our pioneering, missionary friends (including my buddy Gareth Kerlin of Grottoes, VA) who have spent the last three months renovating and preparing the base for its opening.
Next stop: Payson, Arizona where we stayed at a local Christian Coffehouse and held a rockin' outreach in the parking lot of the shop on a main road. The turn out was great, but it was the presence of the Lord that made it truly amazing. People were encountering God in deep ways and being filled up by His Spirit. I've never felt so free in worship to dance and express my love for Jesus - it was so much fun!
Then we hit the road to Las Vegas. Amazingly, we made it safely after the back right tire fly off the 15 passenger van and across the interstate. Yikes! We were able to pull off the road safely (miracle #1), AAA showed up before we even called (miracle #2), got us to a great mechanic shop who was able to get all the parts we needed and had us back on the road in under 2 1/2 hours (miracle #3). I'm convinced it must be a world record for fastest emergency van fix. We even made it to our evening outreach in one of the roughest inner city areas of Vegas. The Lord certainly protected us and worked things out on our behalf - it was nothing short of extraordinary.
Vegas turned out to be a highlight of the trip, not because of where we were, but because of what we were able to be a part of. We stayed at the Las Vegas Dream Center - a church that has been reaching out to the inner city much like Provision International has been doing over the past 20 years in Nashville. We were able to share love in four areas known for violence and gang activity and participate in a prayer walk with hundreds of community members - we even made the local news! My favorite moment by far was getting to share the gospel to inner-city kids in the third worst neighborhood in the US and leading a couple dozen of them to the Lord in prayer (see picture at left). It was
After two weeks of touring, sleeping on floors and being crammed into a van or SUV with 25+ people, we were excited to get to the Grand Canyon. It was grand indeed! A great place to be refreshed and take in the amazingness of God's creation. It reminded me of Romans 1:20, "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." How you can see something as amazing as the Grand Canyon and not believe in it's Creator is a mystery to me.
Our last stop was Navajo territory in Tuba City, Arizona. We stayed at a local church and led two evening services there. As our team started believing for more healings, they happened! My favorite story from the trip happened to a military man who had been struggling with shoulder pain for 15 years. He couldn't hold his arms up parallel to the floor for more than a few seconds without pain and trembling. He walked away completely healed! The next day, he came to our huge community outreach and testified to the 400+ Navajo and Hopi people who had gathered about his healing encounter.
I can't say I ever thought I would witness such things. Radical healings and salvations were never a part of my life and faith walk. I've been pushed, pulled and stretched into deeper faith. It hasn't been easy - I've had to fight against a whole life time of disbelief and questions - but I can sure say it was worth it. The Lord is truly alive and well and full of love for His kids. I'm so thankful I got to bear witness to the abundant love he showed to those we met on Rolling Thunder. Bless them and keep them, Lord and may Your name be lifted high!
Summer of Thunder outreaches are in full swing here in the inner-city of Nashville! Twice a month I've been emcee events designed to reach local residents through music, drama and the hope of the gospel message.
During a powerful alter call a few weeks ago, one little girl looked at me with big, brown eyes and asked, “why do I feel like I’m going to cry?”. It was my joy and privalege to explain that she was feeling the presence of God inside of her heart. I got to hold her and pray over her - a moment I will never forget. Two weeks later at the next outreach she came running up to me begging to be held. Here is a picture of her asleep on my shoulder. These are the moments that make all of the hard work worth it!
On Monday, July 9 our team hits the road for a 4,100 mile, 21 day Rolling Thunder missions tour! We’ll be taking our outreach events to inner city locations in Los Vegas, NV and El Passo, TX (where our team recently planted a new missions base on the border of Juarez, Mexico) as well as Tuba City and Payson, AZ to visit Hopi and Navajo Native American reservations. We've had great response locally from our outreach efforts and I can't wait to see what the Lord will do on the road! I'm also looking forward to visiting the Southwest for the first time (especially the Grand Canyon) and am eager to learn more about the plight of Native tribes.
As you can imagine, trips like this are costly but so very worthwhile. If you would like to contribute to this mission and/or the rest of my year of service, donations are most welcome and very much appreciated. I'm in need of about $4,000 for the year. Tax deductible donations may be made by check to Grace Covenant Church with "Jessica Crawford" in the memo line. Please mail checks to:
3337 Emmaus Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Thank you so much for considering this Kingdom investment!
The past few weeks have held some major events for me in Nashville and beyond. On March 15th I had the opportunity to travel to LA with a team from Provision International to attend a huge event called "The Cry". It wasn't a concert - although there was amazing music; it wasn't a conference - although there were profound speakers; it was a collective cry of prayer and petition to the Lord on behalf of the entertainment industry. "Why," you may ask? Well, let me expound....
Nothing impacts American culture more than the influence of Hollywood. And we all know that Hollywood influences the rest of the world. It's easy to complain about the immorality we witness in movies, tv shows and music. It's easier still to point the accusitory finger at Hollywood and speak words of blame for the effect's she's having on our culture. But what if the church joined together to face the issues in American entertainment head on instead of choosing judgement? What if we viewed Hollywood as a community of people that Jesus dearly loves and laid his life down for? What if we took the words of Proverbs 18:21 seriously: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" and we started choosing to speak blessing and life over an industry that needs positive transformation? What if we cried out to The Author of the creative arts, repented as Americans for what's been done and asked for His redemption to change to Hollywood? I'll tell you what happens - something POWERFUL.
A couple thousand passionate people worshippers in The Gibson Ampitheater in the heart of Universal Studios Hollywood for eight hours of intentional prayer, fasting, and repentance on March 15. We blessed the Lord and creator of all forms of art and asked for His redemption in the entertainment industry. We honored Christians who have been standing strong in Hollywood for decades. We honored Israel since Hollywood was started by Jewish men with grand vision for entertainment. Men repented to women for objectifying an using them. Women repented to men for using seduction as control. We prayed for people in the industry and asked God to reach them with His love. Kim Kardashian tweeted "The Lord will never give you more than you can handle" during the hours of The Cry event. Porn stars who attended the event weeped in repentance. Much needed rain came to the LA area after starting in the San Fernando valley, home to 90% of the Pornography Industry and moved down toward LA - a washing from Heaven and an answer to prayer both for the parched land and, we believe for parched spirits in Hollywood.
For me, The Cry was a profound movement to be a part as a concerned American, as a passionate follower of Jesus and as a musician. Since releasing "Shine" in 2010, I've sought the Lord's timing regarding all things music including recording. A few weeks after The Cry, Scott MacLeod, founder of Provision International and my pastor/leader invited me to record a song we wrote and a few days later I was in the Harvest Sound Studio, the music division of Provision International.
Later this month I'll be singing for a huge youth convention in Baltimore and am very excited about having a new single that reflects my new sound to give away as a free download. The track is called "Run Away" and encourages the listener to view God as the one who can take on their worries, be the escape route in the midst of trouble and provide a get away to a safe place of rest in Him. I'm passionate about the song's message - for the youth I'll be singing to next week, but also for the answers it holds for anyone who would listen. If only I could declare the lyrics over Hollywood for all to hear. Maybe someday - and only if the Lord wills. For now there is one thing I know I can do and I encourage you all to join me as I PRAY blessing and redemption over Hollywood. Lets believe for change and play a part in seeing it happen.
I'll end with this: Hollywood, I'm holding you in prayer...and even for a moment in the palm of my hand (look closely....)
Two months in to Missions + Music 2012 and I think I'm finally starting to catch my stride. It's hard to find words for my experience here. Every day is different and every day has it's challenges whether emotional, spiritual or physical. Thankfully, I serve a FAITHFUL God who meets me right where I am and sustains me in every way. "How?" you may ask.....allow me to share some examples...
Meal of Hope
Every week we serve a hot meal to the needy and homeless of our inner city area. I've been assigned to coordinate volunteers every other week and I'm happy to report that the Lord is increasing my passion for outreach. It's easy to get into the routine of serving without focusing on God's heart for his children. This past week was something shifted in me. I didn't want to simply "do" Meal of Hope...I wanted to see the love of God meet people.....and it happened. We had a small crowd because of rain and I felt a strong urging to initiate an individual ministry time instead of our usual group ministry time. We loved on, prayed over and prophesied to our guests. One woman was completely healed of an ear ache (even she couldn't believe it!), one man had just gotten out of the hospital and had been sleeping under the bridge near by and he got a good dose of hope and some warm clothes, others received healing in their hearts or the encouragement they needed. Love showed up for all who were there and it was beautiful. God is faithful!
Tree down, Trust built
I was at worship practicing for Friday Night Fire when the sirens went off. A short time later our program director came in and instructed us to take cover. Yikes! This Valley girl isn't used to the threat of tornados. The girls all huddled into the bottom middle apartment in our complex. My friend Christine started playing guitar and I spontaneously sang about the only thing I knew to trust in: God's faithfulness. "Even when the storm is raging, even when the wind is blowing, even when the rain is pounding....You are good, You are good, You are good." Moments later the worst had past and we were able to survey the scene. A huge tree had fallen next door to the apartments, but it fell away our building. God is FAITHFUL!
Mom & Me, The Opryland Hotel
High and Low
It was such a joy to have my sweet mom visit for a weekend in February. She treated me to yummy dinners out, two movies and three whole nights in a comfortable bed away from life in community. What a nice break from the reality of inner-city missions life! It was so nice to spend quality time with her and just be together.
After putting her on a plane back to Virginia I was left with the sting of grief. The reality is, being in Nashville is a sacrifice for me and for my family who misses me. Fortunately, my friends and pastors in the Provision International community came to my side by showering me with kind words, hugs, notes of encouragement and prayers. Again, God IS faithful.
Urban Kite Flying
Lets Go Fly A Kite
The week after my brush with grief, Pastor Scott encouraged me with a picture he saw for me. It was a kite that had been picked up by a steady wind and was starting to fly high like it was meant to. In my heart I wanted to receive that encouragement from the Lord, but at the time it felt like a far off promise. Only a few days later, Spring weather came our way with steady winds. To my surprise, I looked outside to find my sweet friend, Michaella, flying a kite with the delight of a child. Immediately, I was transported back to my conversation with Pastor Scott. It was happening! I could feel the steady wind of the Lord lifting my spirit and taking me to new heights. So I ran outside to join her. Ahhhhh.....GOD IS FAITHFUL!!!
The past 5 1/2 months of my life have been a crazy ride! I couldn't have predicted it, I couldn't have planned for it and I certainly couldn't have imagined how much my life would change.
It all started in August 2011 with an e-mail forward from a dear friend about a music ministry/creative arts program called Thunder School in Nashville, Tennessee. Immediately I knew it was the answer to my prayers. For some time I had known in my spirit that the Lord was asking me to jump into a life of music and ministry, but I knew I needed the right kind of training. Just a few weeks later I got accepted into the program. On September 11, I set foot on the campus of Provision International located in the heart of inner-city Nashville, Tennessee. The intensive three month program included music training, teaching, outreach experience, evangelism training and inner healing. Woah....what a roller coaster! Sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening but surely one of the most life changing rides of my life. I graduated on December 11 and headed home for a much needed break and visit with family and friends.
On January 10, I packed up my car and headed back to Nashville for a year long commitment as an intern for the Provision International ministry and missionary to the inner-city area where we live. Life here is a far cry from the security and comfort of home, but I know for sure it is where I am supposed to be. I’m growing here in deeply meaningful ways.
Here’s a brief description of the three main components to my work here…
1. Work for Provision International
-My first big project is to promote the five "musicinanaries" (musicians + missionaries) who are ready to be launched this year. I’ve been writing bios, lining up photo shoots and producing Q&A videos for their websites. I’m enjoying sowing into my friends here and supporting this Kingdom mission that I too feel called to.
-I am the new Thunder Communications person, which means I’ll be handling all the applications and questions that come in for Thunder Camp and Thunder School 2012.
2. Service & Outreach
-Every Thursday we host Meal of Hope to serve the homeless and needy of Nashville. I am one of the volunteer coordinators, which means every other week I coordinate the logistics of the meal, train volunteers and make sure the event runs smoothly.
-Almost every Saturday our team goes on outreach excursions in and around the city. Outreach locations include inner-city neighborhoods, nursing homes, drug rehab facilities and River Bend Maximum Security Prison
-The last friday of every month we receive a HUGE food donation and are able to give away free bread, produce and miscellaneous items to families in need. It’s such a joy to be able to help people in a practical way!
3. Creative time/Worship
-I co-lead one of the intern worship teams that play here every Friday Night.
-I'm super happy to report that a new season of songwriting seems to be upon me. I had the opportunity to write with Pastor Scott the other week, co-wrote a song with one of the girls on my worship team and have started writing during my free time as well. Pastor Scott has really encouraged me to focus on songwriting this year in preparation for my next steps (whatever they turn out to be). I couldn't agree more and am happy to press on.
Life is busy, busy, busy but very meaningful. I am grateful for all the experiences and opportunities I have to grow and serve here. It has been a leap of faith, but God has been more than faithful to me so far. To continue on, I will be needing financial assistance starting in March. If you feel called to sow into my ministry and work here, please consider a one time or monthly gift. Contributions are tax deductible and are being collected through my home congregation,
Grace Covenant Church
3337 Emmaus Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Checks can be made payable to GCC with my name in the memo line so they know how to distribute the funds. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
If you’ve read my “about me” link, you know that my life is nothing like what I thought it would be. I truly didn’t anticipate music being such a huge part of my world let alone something I feel made do. I’m not the lofty dreamer that you might picture when you think ‘musician’ – well, maybe when I was 12 singing along to Mariah Carey’s “Hero” into my bristled hair brush microphone behind my bedroom door. In my teenaged years and adult life I’ve been known by my friends and family to be the practical one – Miss play it safe, if you will. Well, we all know that music isn’t the safe route by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, it’s the opposite. So why torture my common sense driven self? Because it’s not about the logical choice, it’s about choosing to follow the deepest part of me - my heart.
My heart is in music because songwriting is the medium through which I can best express the things that meanthe most to me. I can tell about my life experience and scripture in ways that have more depth and meaning by way of a melody than black words on a white page allow. There is something powerful about the right combination of notes and lyrics – we’ve all experienced it – and as a songwriter, there is something amazing about being a part of combining the two.
Maybe I’m a late bloomer and should have caught onto this calling sooner…or maybe this is the perfect timing. Either way I’m certain that discovering the songwriter in me has been a part of discovering the real me. So, I plan to keep peeling back the layers of my heart on a quest to find the truth that longs to be sung. And I’ll share it all with you, if you’ll be gracious enough to listen. Hopeful music from the heart…that is my mission…that is my cause.