One of my earliest memories was of my third birthday, which, at the time, I did not understand why so many people were gathered at our small upstairs ‘apartment’. My family lived in my grandmother’s house which was split into three levels, with my parents, sister and I living in the top level. My brother would be born less than three weeks later. We celebrated my sister’s 2nd birthday the same day because her and I have birthdays just days apart (we were almost Irish twins)!
After pushing past some confusion, I realized the gathering was Blues Clues themed, and a man in a giant ‘Blue’ costume came out to greet us. I don’t remember much else, except, at the end of the gathering, I followed the giant Blue to the room where he was going to change out of his costume. When I tried to enter, he had a few choice words to express to me, however. Perhaps he could have done better to heed the words of Jesus:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. - Matthew 18:1-5
The memory of my 3rd birthday is from so long ago (March 2001) and perhaps I mixed up some details in my mind over the years, but I do remember how I felt. I felt confused at first, and I felt the anger from that man. Maybe I had a good time, but maybe I was overwhelmed, but certainly all of it is a blur. It is interesting that I did not realize the party was for me, but I got a chance to act on my curiosity, and what I discovered left a lasting impession.
I don’t know if I wanted more time with Blue or if I wanted to see who was under the costume. Whatever the reason, I followed that blue alien dog (the O.G. before Lilo & Stitch) as I was acting in my own real-life Blue’s Clues episode.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. -1 Corinthians 13:11
To this day, I’m more of an introspective type and not into large gatherings. I find myself looking for ways God chooses to show his glory and will for my life. My curiosity for God propels me forward to discover clues into what I was made for and where I am going. What’s important is that I do not allow the many distractions and trials of life to stunt my relationship with and growing knowledge of God, but to continue to mature in my faith and to even challenge myself out of the comfort zone.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. - Philippians 3:20-21
For 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. - Romans 1:20
To this day, I want to know what I can share with others while I am learning and growing as a living testimony to many things God has done through Jesus Christ in me. I am excited to continue learning and professing His name!
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. - Hebrews 13:14-16
I shared with a woman my age on a train ride to NJ that no one is righteous before God on their own account (Romans 3:10). She asked if I considered babies good. Not even a sweet and innocent baby is good. Any good deeds I do are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). Surely, I was sinful at birth (Psalm 51:5). I see it in every person and myself; no one has to be taught to sin, they just do. Thus, I have been reflecting on the fact that we all need Jesus, the only worthy Savior, for we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God chooses to look on Jesus as the atonementfor one’s sin. There is nothing I can do apart from God (John 15:5).
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. - Ecclesiastes 4:4
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the LORD Almighty. This is what the LORD Almighty says: " I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God." -Zechariah 8:6-8
On another train ride, I spoke with a man named Adam, and he shared a verse he memorized and loved:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. -Hebrews 13:8
I have been reflecting on that scripture all day this first day of 2023 (Hebrews 13:8). God’s purpose and desire has always been the same for His creation. And He always will be what He has been and what He is.
God said to Moses, “ I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘ I am has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:14
Reflections for 2023
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8
But godliness with contentment is great gain. -1 Timothy 6:6
This year I want to steward well the gift God has given me. When God returns to restore things as they should be, I will hear “well done good and faithful servant” and “great is your reward on heaven.” (Matthew 5:12, 25:21,23; Luke 6:23, 19:17).
For this new year, in 2023, God has put it on my heart to have humility before Him as I reflect how powerful He is, with fear and trembling to live in obedience (Philippians 2:12). But also to have joyful expectation of His purpose in this temporal, earthly life and of His promises for the future. He has done what He promised in the past, even miracles, and He can and will continue to do so. He is also the same God in joy and in pain, and He is just in everything He does (Psalm 111:7). God is loving, GREAT, and merciful. I am so thankful for his saving grace. In turn, I want to be continuously thankful, and I want to be gracious towards others. Furthermore, I want to live from the same power that rose Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-12)!
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. -Psalm 111:7-10
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. – Revelation 22:20
God is coming back very soon! I want to be ready if He comes back in 2023!
Last December, I had the pleasure of singing in the choir at my university’s annual Christmas concert. Talented faculty sang selected solos from George Frederic Handel’s “Messiah.” On the outset of the solos, the choirs had the privilege to echo choruses straight from the prophet Isaiah. My personal favorite solo was when Dr. Hugo sang “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted.”
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11, NIV
The Holy Spirit prompted me to create my own version of “Ev’ry Valley…” based on my reflections from Isaiah 40 and Psalm 139. What came was a solidifying reminder that God is not only in sovereign control over every aspect of my life, but also over every aspect of nature. A new song (or in this case, a new take to an old song) is always exciting! “Every Valley” is no different for me. In the same breath, the words also deeply convict, especially considering the verse composed as “Every shadow…never can hide you.”
As I have given space for the words of this post to develop, my joy to sing a new song intermingles with a conviction that there are areas of my life in which I can try to cast shadows on Christ’s light. Where I could risk being preachy about believers being a light in the world, now more fitting than ever, God helped me realize the words were flowing introspectively, preaching to myself (Matthew 7:5).
“Every Valley” by Gianna Elyse
(Based on “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted” by G.F. Handel) and selected scriptures:
Isaiah 40:4-5; Psalm 139:7-8, 11-12; Matthew 28:19-20; John 1:1-5; Hebrews 1:12
Every valley, every valley…shall be exalted And every rock and mountain made low For the mouth of the Lord made it so Should I make my bed in the depths Should I climb the highest height I have not escaped you yet Oh, the mouth of the Lord makes it so You are with me wherever I go Every shadow, every shadow never can hide you. Before the Son of God the earth will fold Every rock and mountain made low Oh, the mouth of the Lord made it so
Provision, Protection, & Perseverance
God provides in every valley. No matter what you experience, you can learn to be content and overcome in every situation (Philippians 4:12-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-7; 1 John 4:4; Luke 10:19; John 1:5,16:33).
God is with you and wants to grow you.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
It is important to live pursuing holiness, sharing your testimonies. Colossians 1:9-14 implores believers to grow in wisdom and fruits of the spirit continually. May God…
…fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As Christ illuminates my path, I am learning of His grace, that I am not condemned even as the accuser tries to condemn me (Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Revelation 12:10), God’s provision for me (Psalm 50:10; Mathew 6:32-33; Philippians 4:19;), and His divine purpose for my life (Mathew 5:13-16). Overall, I also see an overarching theme of what it means to exude the light of Christ: humility.
It is so beautiful to me that the brightest star of all was also the most humble one. That starlight is Jesus, who laid His life down in humility, as a human baby, then died on a cross, taking my criminal penalty (Philippians 2:1-8). Furthermore, He was victorious over death and resurrected to life and is exalted (Romans 8:34; Philippians 2:9-11). The same power with which Christ rose from the dead, now lives in me (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:18-23).
Following Christ requires humility, just as He came humbly to the world (Philippians 3:7-11).
We can live humbled lives and be empowered by God at the same time.
Two ladies come to mind: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Hannah, the mother of prophet Samuel. They sang personally about God’s control over the earth, simultaneously, how He pierces each person’s joints and marrow to judge hearts’ thoughts and intentions (Luke 1:46-55; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Hebrews 4:12).
Just as these women placed faith in God, we do good to come to believe the Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, as nothing good comes apart from Christ. When we work from our own might, we grow weary, but by faith in Jesus, with His Spirit we live victorious lives (Isaiah 40:30-31; John 15:5; James 1:17; Zechariah 4:6).
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Good News to Carry On!
Please be encouraged that one day Christ is coming back, a new heaven and new earth will be established, and each person will be judged for his deeds on earth, namely, whether or not they placed faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 2:6).
To me, some of the most impactful visuals in the Bible are mentions of God likening the earth as a garment (Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:25-28, 104:1-2, 5-6; Proverbs 30:4; Job 38:8-9, 12; Hebrews 1:10-12). The ease and control with which God destroys the old earth and will usher in the new is just the same as if I were to fold my old bed sheets and replace them with new, clean sheets (Hebrews 1:10-12). God is ironing things out, if you will. Regardless of your eschatological viewpoint on chronology of the events to unfold, what is certain is that Jesus is coming back to judge the people of the earth.
Not all is doomed, however… One must respond to the truth of God’s Word, to be a doer, not simply a hearer of it (James 1:22-25)…surrendering her life to Christ and confessing Him as Lord and Savior, since the only way to be righteous is through Jesus’ penal substitution for our sins, and she will be saved (Exodus 20:1-17; John 14:6; Romans 10:13). Every person has sinned according to God’s holy standard, and that sin requires punishment by death (Romans 3:23, 6:23). No amount of one’s good works or asking for forgiveness will save him, but only repentance from his sins and faith in the good work Jesus did on the cross for him accomplishes salvation.
When someone accepts the gift of salvation, it is then she can be empowered by the Holy Spirit living within her (Zechariah 4:6; John 14:15-17). God is building His kingdom with willing hearts, even those who are the least of the earth (Matthew 5:1-12, 25:40). Therefore, the gospel does not make sense to those wise in their own eyes, but God does choose the seemingly foolish things of this world to confuse human understanding (1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 3:5-8; Isaiah 5:21; Romans 1:22; Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 3:18-20).
God is close to the broken and contrite heart (Psalm 34:18, 51:17). Is your heart broken or suffering? I hope these words encourage you, and if you have not received Christ’s gift, I pray you do accept it this moment. God has a plan for you to prosper you and not to harm you, even to give you a hope and a future in a wicked and depraved world (Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 2:15).
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2, NIV
Hope in Jesus, and soon you will be resurrected; the old will pass away, the new will come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We hope in Jesus to make everything level. What’s more, nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, through every circumstance. In the meantime, God provides a way for contentment through the process of sanctification (Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:6; Hebrews 13:5). Yes, life is difficult at times, and we groan, yet, all things will work together for our good. God will perfect that which he started in you (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:18-39).
Let’s seek first God’s kingdom, realizing what we experience day to day and what we are physically involved with will soon pass away (Matthew 6:31-34; Philippians 4:12-13; Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
One last thought, how can you apply the passages of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 139 to your own life? God wants to comfort us in the shadowy valleys of our lives and level the haughty areas in our hearts (2 Samuel 22:28; Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 3:34; Hebrews 12:11-13). He will straighten out your path, even amidst all that troubles you (Proverbs 3:5-6). The resolution may not always be in your external circumstance, but God always promises His peace and comfort when you cast your cares on Him (John 16:33; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:4-9) . After all, remember that your trials are producing for you an eternal treasure, and these trials will soon enough pass away along with everything else that is imperfect and unclear (Matthew 6:19-21, 33; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Romans 8:18,37-39)
Consider some lyrics that I have not worked into the song yet (see Isaiah 40:21-22):
“Child, have you heard
Child, don’t you know
He is with you wherever you go.”
❤️️ Gianna Elyse
When I opened my computer to record “Every Valley,” I found an old recording time-stamped 8/28/2021 8:11pm! At first I did not know which song for which I was playing the chords or if I was improvising. Now, I recognize the chord patterns are for a song I wrote, titled, “Come Again.” While listening to the audio for “Come Again,” take a moment to pray and meditate on the Lord, inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you. Then, please comment in the discussion below whichever scripture, lyrics, words/phrases, or any ideas that come to mind for this audio. After I receive a few responses, I will record the original lyrics over this audio to share with you soon, and it will be interesting to reflect and compare with your comments. Perhaps a new song will come out of this too! P.S. Do not hesitate to post anything, from serious to goofy. God has a sensible sense of humor, after all, and perhaps he is ministering in that way to you now. Maybe you wanna be more ambitious and post your own demo version… Hey, by all means! All things considered, please do not be crass, as the goal of anything we write should be to glorify God.
I was unawares that there is a snow storm forecasted for tonight. Well, perfect blogging weather as I sit in my hammock and watch the flurries continue outside my window! 🤷🏾♀️
What is on your music playlist right now?
I personally enjoy YouTube Music the best for listening to music, and all my music playlists are on there.
I recently started a morning walk playlist, because God has recently been waking me up with songs in my spirit that relate to what I am going through, and these have been encouraging to dwell on when I go on walks outside with Him.
Usually, I let YouTube create a playlist for me based on a song I have in mind or a particular artist. I am one to listen to music from individual artists’ discography on repeat, but once in a while I will use the radio feature to see what YouTube introduces to me. But here are three of my favorites (all are independent):
Jamie Grace… She is a trailblazer in my mind, as she is now independent, but used to be a part of Gotee records (TobyMac). Jamie Grace’s music has morphed into an indie style from her earlier pop days. She also seems to be more accessible as a human. I admire her approach overall, and love how she does not confine herself, though she does have a clear message advocating for awareness for mental health issues and even wrote a book called “Finding Quiet”. She talks about these things on her YouTube and podcast if you are interested in learning about her smart work-life dynamic.
I will share a bit more about why I like the independent approach rather than getting signed with a record label (look out for a future post in which I share what I learned from Michael W. Smith’s team). Briefly, I am not driven to make a living off of music as much as I want to build an effective ministry. That being said, being independent can stilll make you more money than getting signed anyways, depending on your approach. Either way, your approach depends on your goals, but the common thread is building relationships with people who can help you in areas where you are not knowledgeable. This can be with a management group, a label, and simply by building community with a collective of other artists and entrepreneur-types.
Josh Garrels… definitely one of those artists I first heard when in radio mode on YouTube Music. He exhibits a mix of folk, indie…uh… he doesn’t fit in quite one category, in my books. Maybe skater music? At least that’s what I like to call it because of his background story, and I like to listen to his music while roller-skating.
He is my favorite artist by far, because of the uniqueness of his style, biblical references in his music, and overall relevance to life (I know that’s vague, but try his music and it might click 😆). Certainly, the style may not be for everyone, and sometimes I have to be in a certain mood to better absorb it also. I would say my song, Pulling Weeds, is closer to his style of writing…but also, not really that close, as I do not know how to categorize that song myself (see my blog post titled, “Pulling Weeds“). Again, obviously not for everyone. As for me, I am really digging this semi-cyptic poetic-freeverse-indie-folk stuff.
Jonathan Ogden… I look up to this cat for his worship-oriented, contemplative/meditative style. He is a lo-fi-Christian-worship artist. I probably listen to his music the most out of the three mentioned. He may also be the most accessible artist out of the ones mentioned. Highly reccommend: You can join the global discord community he initiated for Christian artists here (he pops in the threads fairly regularly, and I personally can’t keep up with the discussions as much as I would like to).
Furthermore, his writing is heavily based on scripture, and the manner in which he uses the artist platform to glorify God is what I observe as a model for my own ministry, especially considering I desire to travel internationally (he also has pursued ministry endeavors over-seas). He has videos on YouTube that are great discipleship tools, and I would encourage any Christian in the music industry to take note of his intentionality to keep God first and foremost in his life. For artists creating for the kingdom of God, his project Magnify Studios is a helpful resource, to say the least. If you are looking for some neat instrumental study or prayer music, he released a mix-tape relatively recently based on the 24 hours in a day, succinctly called Twenty Four. He also creates visual art, including to brand his own album covers.
There are many more who have inspired me and will continue to do so one way or another: Britt Nicole (❤my❤adolescence❤), Francesca Battistelli, Moriah Peters, 7song, Daniel Martin Moore, and numerous artists in the gospel-music scene. I could not possibly name them all. I also have to credit my dad, and family in general, for fostering in me a musical diversity. God used them to make me feel its ok to explore musical styles like bluegrass and reggae.
Solitude can feel painful, because so many fail to master it. My solitude is found in Jesus Christ. I love to walk in nature, because I feel close to Him, as it all points to a magnificent Creator (Romans 1:20). And when I do not read and apply His Word to my life, then I am failing to find solitude (James 1:22). Prayer is also an important aspect of solitude, as it expresses reliance and trust in God through every circumstance, because “Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer” Jerry Falwell Sr.
In Hebrews 4, the rest that believers have in God is considered in greater detail.
Verse 16 says: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
When I fail to find solitude, things like envy and depression seep in. The scripture rings true: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
Jesus said: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:9-11
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21