“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil 4:4-7
I was on a jet bridge waiting to board a Southwest flight to when I got the text. Scrolling through Instagram, drinking a coffee, and this long message popped up on my screen. It was from my dad to our whole family and my heart sank as I read the words. The tests had come back, and it was cancer. The tears welled up, I tried to hold them back and breathe, as I found my way to my seat on the plane. I couldn’t talk. Mercifully, my husband was with me on that flight, and I was able to lay my head on his shoulder and let the tears just stream down my face. I was praying, asking God to keep fear at bay, but it was banging at the door of my heart. Those words, that diagnosis, are never what you want to hear. Is anyone ever ready for that kind of news? I was shocked and scared.
I’ll never forget talking to my parents after that sad flight. They explained that they felt like their job was to praise God through this journey. I remember my dad saying, “No matter what happens, we know the end of the story. Because of what Jesus did, there is healing ahead whether it’s on this side of glory or the next, and we are going to thank God for that hope as we walk through this together.”
A few weeks later they hosted a praise and worship night in their home. The room was full of friends and family, young and old, and I had the powerful privilege of watching my mom and dad run into the unknown and potentially very scary darkness ahead of them with their hands raised in the air, praising God. Following them felt irresistible, even though it struck me as unnatural in light of the circumstances, and that night, as we lifted our voices together, I encountered the peace and the presence of God in a way that will mark me for the rest of my life.
It didn’t make any sense. I walked into the room that night full of fear, worrying about my dad and my mom, and the journey we were all about to take together, and I encountered the peace of God in a way that I didn’t know was possible. “The peace of God which surpasses ALL understanding.”(Phil 4:7). He was drawing near to our breaking hearts, bringing comfort into our chaos and covering our deepest fears with His faithfulness. I distinctly remember my dad leaning his head back, a genuine smile spread across his face, and taking this deep, peace-filled breath, like a contented sigh you’d release after drinking a cold cup of water on a sweltering day. And I lifted my head to the sky and let out this surprised and delighted laugh that God was meeting us like this in the middle of such a scary and unstable place.
Here in the middle of the lonely night
Here in the middle of the losing fight
You’re here in the middle of the desert place
Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face
Here in the middle of the deep regret
Here when the healing has not happened yet
Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms
You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart
That command from scripture, to “Rejoice always” seems harsh at times, in the face of a cancer diagnosis, or depression, or a lost life, or a lost job, or a broken and trampled on heart. In the face of sickness or sadness or loneliness, it seems so unnatural, and almost cruel to ask people to “rejoice”, but the second half of the verse comes crashing into every terrible and unforeseen circumstance we might face,
“The Lord is near.”
God’s heart broke when He saw all that we would encounter as broken people in a broken world, so He sent His son to be broken for us, so that when we’re breaking, we’d know that we are not alone. We can rejoice because we have a rescuer who has already been to hell and back for us. We can rejoice because whatever we are facing, we can be certain that “the Lord is near”.
I wrote “Find You Here” a few days after this profound experience of God’s peace. We actually recorded the vocal for the song the day my dad went in for a major and very important surgery. He came out of the operating room, and I was there with a little MP3 on my iPhone, and he and mom and I wept at God’s kindness, to continue to draw near to us in a hospital room when we didn’t know how things would turn out. My prayer is that whoever you are and whatever you are facing, that you would be encouraged to lift your hands and “Rejoice!” And that as you rejoice, you’d be reminded of His faithfulness. Because, no matter what mess you are in the middle of, “the Lord is near”. His heart is breaking with yours, and His healing is coming for you as you lift your heart and your hands to rejoice in who He is and what He’s already done for you.
For those of you who are curious, my dad is currently cancer-free. We are so grateful, and yet, we know full well that this isn’t the end of every cancer story. Our hope is that as you listen to this song, you’d be reminded that God draws near to the broken-hearted and that you’d experience the gift of His nearness and kindness and compassion in the midst of every battle you’re facing. Many blessings on the journey as we rejoice in what our rescuer has already accomplished for us.
Find You Here - Philippians 4:4-7
Ellie Holcomb, Rusty Varenkamp, Benji Cowart
It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear
It’s not the road we would have chosen, no
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead
But you’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead
And I didn’t know I’d find You here,
In the middle of my deepest fear
But You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
And You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fears with peace
You say that I should come to you with everything I need
You’re asking me to thank You even when the pain is deep
You promise that You’ll come and meet us on the road ahead
And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad
So begins a story that has enraptured millions and millions of fans around the world, to the point that the mythical universe created in that story has transcended mere movie-making and for many, has become the passion of their very life.
Count me among the fans who love the Star Wars movies. I was twelve years old when the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. At that age, robots, spaceships and laser pistols were right in my wheelhouse. They could not have created a more meaningful movie for a soon-to-be-teenage boy and so I saw it eight weeks in a row, one Saturday matinee after another. It was easy for me to see myself in the character of Luke Skywalker, searching the distant horizon of Tataouine for some meaning and higher purpose. I remember longing to go with the young moisture farmer on his incredible transformational journey to see if I could find where I belonged.
Alas, we don’t stay twelve years old do we? As wonderful as the movies are, we soon realize that there is no “force” to help us move the world around us, or to pick us out of the crowd and to fulfill our ultimate destiny.
Or is there?
I grew up in church but honestly, at the age of twelve, I wasn’t very interested in what the preacher had to say. I was all about comic books, bicycles, sports (it was the era of the Big Red Machine- Cincinnati Reds baby!) and sci-fi monster movies. I was a bit of a nerd, loooong before that was cool. I didn’t mind church, but it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I started listening to what the preacher was actually saying. Maybe it’s because in your high school years you really become aware of the larger world around you. Suddenly, hurting people and their very real problems reveal themselves to you, or at least, you gain the cognizance to become aware of them. You begin to find yourself wondering what this world is all about. The planet earth grows very large very quickly and you realize that it would be easy to be swallowed by the insanity and the noise unless you develop a plan, and even sometimes if you do.
So now the preacher’s words come back to you. You remember something about all this being created eons ago and that back then, everything was perfect until one of God’s greatest generals got jealous and challenged the Creator of the universe. That a cosmic divide was created and armies of angels chose sides and to this very day, there is a hidden war taking place above and below us. That God created us humans in His own image, meaning not just in our outward appearance but in the way that we process thought and are aware of our world. And then, God sent His own Son to save all of the real Luke Skywalkers and Princess Leias of the world. And amazingly, He did it victoriously in a way that no one expected, without a powerful army or by lifting a sword. He did it by sacrificing Himself to His enemies. He won with love. I have to tell you, as a young man in a turbulent world, I wanted to know more.
The comic books and movies are fine for entertainment and to perpetuate a child’s wish fulfillment. But there comes a time, when the real world comes crashing in on top of us, that we need more than imaginary lasers, starships and wookies. We need more than an imaginary “force”, we need a real one.
It’s true that there are many in todays culture who would have you believe that you are nothing special in the grand cosmic picture; that you are just an arrangement of ingredients that could just have easily been a rock, a tree or a bumble-bee without that one slight variable in the genetic code. That you are in effect, an accident. But in your heart, you feel, nay… you know that there is something more. Maybe that’s because there is. And so, you stand in the twilight, looking out across that horizon, aching to be reconciled with your higher purpose, confident from somewhere deep within that there is a voice whispering to your heart. Maybe it’s the “real force” that calls to you, just as it has for every generation.
I guess that I am still a bit of a geek after all these years. I like a good story. Maybe that’s why the songs I write tell stories. I’ve raised my daughters to enjoy nerdy thing too, like Star Wars and hobbits and old Disney movies and such. But above all that, they also know about the greater truth and the most fantastic love story ever known. That in the end, stories are just stories, but real love from the universe’s Creator can bring real peace to troubled minds and real hope to hopeless situations. It is a “force” that causes us to love our enemies and encourages us to find strength when circumstances are rooting against us.
There are no star destroyers looming overhead. There is no Death Star. But what there is is a world filled with hurting people who are searching for the way, lost in a very noisy, mixed-up, cultural turbulence that sucks them up and spits them back out, used up and hollow. And they are standing on their own horizon, longing, aching for answers.
You my friend are Luke Skywalker; you are Princess Leia. The world needs someone to show them some love; someone to set a good example. The time has come to separate yourself from the background players. The hero’s journey is never easy, but it is essential. There is a cosmic battle that has raged for generations where the stakes are very real. Is it an accident that God has placed you here, in this place and in this time? Or as you silently stand looking out across your own future, do you see the inevitability of the job before you?
Many are called but few answer that call. God give you strength.
Mark Bishop is a singer/songwriter who has enjoyed a three-decade career in Christian music. He traveled for seventeen years in the Dove-Award winning band The Bishops. He continues to record albums and travel as a soloist and last year recorded an album with his daughters in a band called Mark Bishop and Forget The Sea, a unique pop-appalachian-folk ensemble that still performs from time-to-time. His music tells down-to-earth, intimate and accessible stories. He reside with his wife Carolyn in central Kentucky. They have a cat named Spock. And oddly, his birthday really is May the 4th. May the fourth be with you…
Check out this behind-the-song look at Trip Lee's new mixtape, The Waiting Room, written by Trip himself!
This song is about the roller coaster process that comes with big dreams. You might wake up in the morning feeling like a million dollars, only to have your dreams dashed as the day goes on. Chasing dreams is always a tough road, but it’s worth it— because when you’re headed in the right direction it feels like you’re “way up in the clouds.”
2. Too Cold
This song is an anthem for those who stand firm and can’t be moved. Those around us may push us to conform and be like everyone else, but “we ain’t gon let the world mold us.” Even when they turn up the heat on us, we’re frozen in place & moving forward.
3. Lord Have Mercy
This one calls attention to all the brokenness in our world, and calls out for God’s mercy. I start out talking about me in the first verse, the second verse hits on our hatred for one another, including racism in America. And the final verse points towards our hope for Heaven. All throughout the repeating cry is “Lord have mercy!”
This song is a soundtrack for those times when everything seems to be going wrong, and God doesn’t seem to be listening to our prayers. I’m basically playing an exaggerated version of myself, emphasizing the pain and abandonment we often feel. The intro and outro quote Psalm 13, where David asks a similar question, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me? Forever?”
This song is two letters in one— a grieving letter addressed to my dad, and a defiant letter addressed to death. In the verses I reflect on my dad’s life and death, and how tragic it is that he died early. But in the hooks, I speak directly to death, saying that I’m ready whenever it comes. Verse 3 is the culmination of the song, where we’re reminded that death has died, and no longer has real power over us.
6. Still Unashamed
This song is an anthem for the unashamed. Some have questioned whether or not Romans 1:16 still characterizes what we do. This song is a reminder that our anthem hasn’t changed, and we’re still as unashamed as we’ve ever been.
7. Money Up
In this song, I do a bit of role playing. I speak from the perspective of a typical rapper who hopes to make it big and get rich so all his problems will go away. Throughout the song the character makes more money, but doesn’t get rid of all of his problem. It’s meant to challenge the false narrative that more money is the solution all of life’s woes.
8. Out My Way
This is a song aimed directly at any weights, weaknesses, and sins that stand in our way. In the first verse I focus mainly on problems in the world, and in the second verse I focus mainly on internal problems. All of them are only obstacles to living the life I was made to live. So I tell them to “get out my way.”
This is another song full of lament. It’s meant to express the grief that comes with prolonged suffering, and I cry out to the Lord, “How long will it be till you take it away?” The hooks are the response to my cries. The listener can take them as words from a friend, or from God himself. It’s a reminder that the problems we face, don’t have to last for eternity. Healing is on the way.
10. Billion Years
This song is the climax of the whole mixtape. The songs have been filled with lament and grief, with hope sprinkled throughout. This final song points to the ultimate hope that answers all the questions I raised. Though our life’s journey is hard, our future is bright. We can endure the pain in this world because we have hope for a brand new one. Why dwell on the past, when we have forever in our future?