Monday, May 18, 2020

Book Review: Saints, by Addison Bevere

"
So, who else is devouring books these days?

I started the year (remember January, when we thought we could make plans?) with a goal of reading 2 books a month, but I've quickly doubled that to 4!

Navigating lockdown has occupied a lot of my practical brain, so I'll admit that fiction is truly capturing my imagination right now. But that said, I'm so excited to share this brand new nonfiction with you today!

"Saints" is a word that brings up lots of images - holy people, living stained glass lives, very separate from us "normal" people. We imagine Victorian paintings, glowing halos, and gruesome martyr deaths.

Not really something most of us aspire to live out...

Addison Bevere thinks that, not only should we want to be Saints, but it's really the most authentic path of faith we could be following.

Did you know the word "Christians" is only used three times in the New Testament? But over 60 times, these new followers are called "Saints," which simply referred to those whose relationship with God is maintained through faith in Jesus.

By that definition, we're all saints.

But how do we reclaim a word with so much weight and history?

Saints is a brave new message to abandon our own ideas of goodness and faith, 
and ask the deeper questions of grace and glory.

I underlined half of this book and turned down so many pages I almost cracked the spine! Addison is calling us to rediscover who we truly are in Christ, and to create a new language for the living out of our faith. Saints captures a great balance between deep, meaty ideas and a relatable writing style. Before hearing the interview linked below, I'd never heard Addison speak, and yet, reading Saints felt like being in an inspiring conversation over frothy cappuccinos (anyone else missing cafes these days?)

There are so many great ideas in this book! I love Addison's thoughts on salvation as a "change of identity," holiness as otherness, and how we "undersell" grace. I actually couldn't stop thinking about this idea of a limited, "sloppy" grace, "devoid of imagination" that shortchanges both people and God.

 But this is probably my favourite sentence in the whole book:

"The greatest injustice facing our world today is 
our refusal to become the expression of Christ on the earth. 
Period." 

Whoa... What a challenge to all of us, both as individuals and as communities of faith. 
What would the world look like if we changed our idea of how we express Christ? 
How would our priorities shift if we chose to fully express God's grace to a broken world? 
How many lives would be transformed if we simply reimagined who we are in Christ?

This is the challenge of Saints. 



Addison recently did a great interview with
 Johnny Rocket and Hollie Taylor of the Why Me Project. 
You can find the whole interview HERE.





Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Favourite Things - April Roundup!

Welcome to the latest edition of 

Favourite Things!


Did anyone else feel like April had 92 days?
This month was loooooong!

Fortunately, there were some awesome things to inspire us in this difficult season.


Here are my 
Favourite Things - April Roundup!



#1. Free Musicals - Few things make me happier than musicals!! Every Friday, Andrew Lloyd Webber is posting one of his famous shows for free. They only stay up for 48 hours, so pop some corn and enjoy...


#2. Free Sondheim - Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday celebration is a glorious collection of songs, stories and performances. The performers are home with no fancy lighting, no props, sometimes just sitting on their bathroom floors, and yet the songs are still deeply moving. Must see for any music theatre fan!


#3. Free Shakespeare - Ontario's world renowned Stratford Festival is offering free Shakespeare plays! Filmed in their wonderful theatres with their incredible cast of talent. The company has recently cancelled their entire 2020 season, so please support them any way you can.


#4. Whipped Coffee - Need to stay awake for all these awesome performances? I recently jumped on the bandwagon and tried this new coffee trend. Too much sugar for my everyday beverage, but wow, what a kick!


#5. Takeout Night - Even with tightening our bootstraps, we're still enjoying takeout once a week! We're sticking to indie restaurants only, so it's a fun treat that's also serving our community. Our St. Catharines Downtown Association has a great list of local businesses and their current delivery options. I'm sure your community has a similar list. Shop local and support your neighbours!




On a personal note:
We are one of many music groups affected by the closure of churches 
and banning of community gatherings. 
As you can imagine, this is having a serious impact on our creativity and livelihood.
We'd love for you to please partner with our ministry this season:




These are my Favourite Things for April!

Have you tried any of these?
What new things have you fallen in love with this month?

Please share in the comments below...



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Review: More Than We Remember, by Christina Suzann Nelson



I don't know about you, but since the lockdown started,
I've been reading like a maniac. 

In March, I read 5 books. 
FIVE BOOKS!!!

I know for some of you, that's an average month, but for me, that was huge! I haven't been reading this much since university. This month, I'm on track to finish 4 books, including a sweet vintage copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Our current environment can't help but shape our reading experiences, and that's why I'm really happy to share this novel with you today.

More Than We Remember is a portrait of crisis in a small town. On a quiet summer's evening, a car veers into the wrong lane, killing a single mother and leaving an entire town shaken and divided.

We follow the stories of three women - Emilia, Addison, and Brianne. Neither are friends before this moment, but the accident weaves their stories together in unexpected and powerful ways. Unravelling their secrets takes us on a journey through family dynamics, illness, suicide, and lies. The story is compelling with a great twist and a satisfying conclusion.

Ultimately, this is a story about the choices we make in crisis.
How do we treat those who are on our side and those who are not? 
How do we care for others when we're in deep pain? 
How do we love someone who seems to have changed?
How do we choose compassion when anger and blame are so much easier? 
How can we help others find the truth they so desperately need, 
even if that truth is painful for us?

As I was reading this, I couldn't help but let my thoughts drift outside my home and into my own neighbourhood. We are in unprecedented times. Our entire world is in pain. No one is unaffected.

The women of More Than We Remember discover the power of loving others through the most difficult of circumstances. And, in doing so, we are gifted with a story of mercy, grace, and inspiration.

This is one of those wonderful times when fiction can serve up a good dose of truth:

Love one another.... 
with good meals, a open mind, your gentle presence, 
and above all, a generous heart.


Stay safe, everyone! 



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Between Gratitude and Grief

I shouldn't be writing today. 

I should be packing CDs, getting an oil change, confirming concert details, 
and making a checklist that includes "don't forget socks!"
(a detail learned from experience...)

I should be getting ready to pack the car for our two-month, five-province 
10th Anniversary East Coast Tour. A time of music, celebrating and joy!

But that was before the world fell apart.

Instead, I'm home. 

My fridge is full, my family is healthy, and I have a comformable roof over my head. 
I have a lot to be thankful for. 

But I also have an empty tour calendar, an unclear vision of the future, 
and unexpected waves of anxiety over the safety of our world.

My emotions are a mess these days.

Can anyone else relate?

These days, I'm swimming between Gratitude and Grief.


Many psychiatrists have spoken about this season as being one of grief and trauma. 
No two mourning experiences are ever the same. Our symptoms come from the same list, but we're each having our own unique struggle.

For some, it's the loss of human connection and the everyday movement of society. For others, it's a loss of work, productivity, and purpose. And for far too many, it's the nuts and bolts grief of losing loved ones to a deadly virus, coupled with the pain of mourning in isolation.

Our talented friend, Drew Brown, recently wrote about the pandemic bringing up "new waves of grief" as we all find cancelled events and holidays popping up on the calendar. 

This resonated deeply with me. Our East Coast Tour has become a treasured part of our year. We love - and I mean, LOVE!!! - this annual tour. It grounds and spiritually renews us.

Yes, there's the financial loss, and that's difficult and significant. But there's more than that.
We're missing brunch with my family, my cousin's graduation, and galavanting about town with my childhood BFF. I can't quantify that loss, and I know I'm not alone in this. Many of you are missing weddings, reunions, and all kinds of special occasions. This is the stuff of life! Real, in the flesh, hug your loved ones kind of life. It's great to connect online, but certain moments are built for human contact. We need to acknowledge these losses, and take the time to mourn them. 

But in saying that, I'm so thankful for technology! I'm thankful for churches who are struggling with a learning curve to connect us in worship and prayer. I'm grateful for open-minded senior parents who are trying Skype and Facetime for the first time (I'm looking at you, H&H!) I'm grateful for musicians, writers, and theatres who are finding new ways to uplift us with their inspiring art.

And once I get thinking about it, I start to feel a rush of gratitude: for neighbours, who offer to pick up necessities on their grocery run. For our Canadian leadership, and the countless ways they're working to provide us with clear information and financial support. For the beauty of spring and its promise of new life...

But then, right there, I get hit by the wave again:
We're in lockdown. 
This is not normal. 
A deadly illness is attacking our world. 
People are dying....

And just like that, once again, 
I find myself swimming between Gratitude and Grief.

This mess of feelings that doesn't make sense, doesn't feel good. 
These emotions that clash against one another in an endless cycle.
It's exhausting.

But maybe... what if... just for now... 
What if living in this clash, in this mess of feelings, is our new normal? 

After all, isn't the mess where most great things happen?

We all love the boldness of the grand finish. We all appreciate the clarity of an obvious loss. 
But isn't it in that in-between space where most of life actually happens? 

Struggle and overcoming happens in the mess. 
It's where we grow, expand our perspective, and discover new views of the world. 
It's in the mess where we learn compassion, empathy, and generosity.

Maybe this mess of Gratitude and Grief is exactly where we need to be right now?

Maybe it's only in this space where we can gain the fullest and most loving perception of our reality?

It's good and right to mourn with those who mourn. 
It's also good and right to give thanks in all things.

So, today, I invite you to take a deep breath. 

Recognize the things you've lost. 
And then, give thanks for the blessings around you.

Please join me, in the space between Gratitude and Grief. 


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Like many artists, our livelihood has been decimated by COVID-19.
Please consider partnering with us in this difficult season:







Friday, April 10, 2020

Our Good Friday Choice...

"Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace; and they called together the whole cohort.  And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.  And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.  After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him.  
Then they led him out to crucify him." 
(Mk 15:16-20)



They called together “the whole cohort.” 
A group of people have come together to beat and mock a single man.

And the irony? These are the people he came to save. “For God so loved the world” – the whole world. When Jesus preached, he didn’t sort the crowd into those worth saving and those not. His message of love and grace was for everyone. It was a gift, freely offered.

These men are literally touching the messenger of love, and all they can feel is violence and vitriol. 
They’re missing the whole point.

Most of us, if we were in Jesus’s position, would glare up at these men with anger glinting in our eyes, but not Jesus. Not long after this, in his dying moments, he’ll look at these same, hate-filled men and forgive them.

Right up 'til his final breath, Jesus is offering love. 
Not just to those deemed worthy, but to everyone.

In this difficult season of pain, are we allowing anger or fear rule our hearts, to make our decisions for us? Because it’s tempting and understandable to do that. But what if we make a different choice? What if we follow the example of Jesus? What if, in this dark season, we choose to be light, God’s light?

Where are the moments when we could choose patience over frustration? 
Where could we offer more gratitude to those caring for us? 
And where are the people whom we might consider to be less than worthy of resources or protection? 
How can we be generous with them in this season of scarcity?

In his greatest moment of suffering, Jesus responded with love. 

Now, it’s our turn.





I shared this reflection as part of today's Good Friday Ecumenical Prayer Service, 
here our hometown of St. Catharines.
You can find the full service HERE.


Monday, April 06, 2020

East Coast Tour - Cancelled!

I hope this finds you keeping safe and well! 

Gerald and I been following the Coronavirus situation across the country. 
Originally, we cut the first four weeks of our upcoming East Coast Tour, 
in the hopes that things would start to return to normal by late May. 
Unfortunately, all governments are giving longer and increasingly more intensive directives 
for social distancing and self isolating. 


We have made the heartbreaking decision to cancel
our entire East Coast Tour. 




Even if things start to clear up by late May, we recognize that churches will have lots of rebuilding to do in their communities, and advertising a concert won't and shouldn't be at the top of that list.

Right now, our plan is to put all touring on hold, 
until things start to change across the country.

Our prayer is that we can hit the road again in the fall. 
We won't make any plans until we feel it will be 
safe and practical for everyone. 

We ask you to please lift a prayer for our ministry. 

With this decision, we have no income for the foreseeable future. 
We're pursuing all options available to us. 
Please pray for discernment, resources, and peace.


We'd love for you to please consider supporting 
our ministry in this difficult time. 

We've created 5 ways you can partner with us HERE


We will continue to create music and find ways to spread the Gospel through song! 
We're looking into new ways to share our ministry in a virtual setting, 
as well as creating new resources for churches. 

Now more than ever, we all need the power of God's music and love.
Stay home. Stay safe.
We love you and are praying for you...

Blessings,
Allison + Gerald
Infinitely More


Friday, April 03, 2020

5 Ways You Can Support Our Ministry!

Like many artists, 
our livelihood has been decimated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

We've had to cancel all our live events, including our 2-month East Coast Tour.

This means we have no income for the foreseeable future.

We would love for you to please consider offering some support to our ministry. 

Below, you'll find 5 ways you can help support us 
during this challenging season.

We're lifting you all in prayer! 
We can't wait to get back on the road, 
and bring a message of hope and joy to your community.

Thank you! We love you and are praying for you...

Blessings,
Allison + Gerald
Infinitely More

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5 Ways You Can Support Our Ministry:

We would love for you to please consider supporting our ministry 
in some small way:


#1. Donations.
We've just added a Donate button to our website. 
Please consider a donation to support our ministry. 
All donations will receive an e-gift!


#2. Purchase Music. 
Downloading songs or purchasing CDs directly from our site 
is a great way to add to your playlist, while also supporting our ministry. 
CDs can also be shipped as gifts!
You can purchase our music here:


#3. Book a Fall or Christmas Concert.
We'd love to bring our music to your community this year!
Please email Allison for more info...


#4. Take an Online Lesson!
Why not take this quiet time to write some songs and learn a few new skills? 
We're offering lessons via Skype!

Gerald is teaching Songwriting. 
Get feedback on your latest creations,
prepare your songs for recording,
or if you're a beginner, 
learn the basics of crafting your first song!

Allison is teaching Singing for Beginners,
and Performance Coaching for All Levels.
Learn healthy vocal technique,
or new skills to help best communicate the message of your songs. 
Perfect for singers, musicians, or worship leaders.

Please email Allison for more info...


#5. Pray for us.
We believe in the power of prayer! 
Please pray for our practical needs, 
but also for our spiritual and emotional needs during this time. 
We're also keeping you in prayer!


Thank you for helping us during this difficult season!

Please feel free to contact us with any questions...