Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What Needed To Happen

In 7 days, I'll be on my way to Europe for 5 weeks. I'll be touring my new album in 15 cities. That's 3 cities per week, if you want to imagine my train schedule.

When I travel, my packing timeline indicates my level of excitement. Last year when I went to Israel for 10 days in April, I started packing in February. For this trip, I've been working out my plans over the past month. I'm flying a lot of budget airlines, so I've got a luggage requirement of one carry-on suitcase weighing 22 pounds or less. No second carry-on (!!!). Fortunately, I was able to ship my tour merch (CDs, books, posters, etc.) ahead of me.

Why am I touring in Europe? Three reasons:
  • I'm playing on a lot of military bases. I have always had a heart for US Military. My dad was an Army man, and he formed a deep respect in us from a young age. The most recent stats show that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. There's a lot of darkness that needs the hope of the Gospel spoken into it. So I'm going to speak and sing some hope toward the hearts of military, their spouses, and their children. Please pray for the hope of the Gospel to reach their hearts.

  • I'll also be playing in a few churches. Churches in Europe tend to be much smaller than in the states. At most churches, even the pastor is bi-vocational. He has to work another job to pay the bills, and he pastors as his passion. I want to speak an encouraging word to these churches. I want to remind them that they are not alone in this, that the Kingdom of God is being advanced through their efforts.

  • And let's be honest: it's Europe. C'mon.
Yesterday, I experienced a deep conviction about this trip. A heartbreaking moment where my soul was laid open before me.

My friend Lindsay asked if she could pray over me about the tour. As we stood in the church sanctuary, my fingers gripping the fabric back of the seats on the last row, she began to talk to God about the needs I shared with her. 

I mentioned the ministry opportunities, of course. I told her of the hectic travel schedule -- how I'd be sleeping on trains and in airports and stranger's homes. She knew I contracted meningitis during my last tour of Europe, and that there are some natural fears about life-threatening illnesses. But I also mentioned that I spent more than $3,000 to make this tour happen, and that most of the churches and bases have no means to pay me or no idea what they could pay me if they are able to come up with something.

This is my job, mind you. Which means I'm not supposed to come back with just the expenses covered, but also with money to pay my bills and live and tithe and give.

Whatever needs to happen for Tara-Leigh to have peace about the finances on this trip, she prayed, please make it happen.”

Immediately, my shoulders fell, my eyes filled with tears as I dug my fingers into the back of the chair. It was a good prayer. But it slayed me.

Because the thing that needed to happen to give me peace about the finances? It already happened 2,000 years ago. What “needed to happen” for me to have peace was Christ's resurrection, God's adoption of me. Surely He will provide for me. He always has.

My budget will never be my Savior.

Fortunately, I have One of those already. He is my Provider, and He is my Peace, and He owns everything, and He is going with me on the trip, and He is already there, and He is already back, because He lives outside of time.

The only comfort I need, I already have. How beautiful. How peace-inducing.

I'm free from the burden of praying for provision. I can focus my prayers on asking Him to advance His Kingdom through me, and to encourage those I meet, and also to help me navigate my way through Greece without knowing their alphabet. 


"Peace I leave with youmy peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled..." - John 10:27

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” - Matthew 6:25-26

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Shocking Love

I'm about to say something that will sound heretical: it does not surprise me that God loves me.

That's not what I'm supposed to say, right? Because I'm a terrible sinner, and He's perfect, so I should be totally unloveable.

And I am. 

But because of Christ's death, the Father has adopted me into His family. And it logically follows that a God who would go to such great lengths to have a relationship with me would love me in and through and because of and for that relationship.

What does not make sense to me at all is that I love Him. 

He's infinitely loveable, more beautiful than all other desires. But I was born with a wicked heart, one that is bent in toward myself, one that takes tiny created things and makes them into gods for me to spend my life worshipping. I'm inherently unable to view things through a lens of truth. Truth is all around me, to be sure. But my natural eyes are too dim to see it.

So it continues to shock me every day, when I find myself growing more in love with Him all the time. When I want to read His Word. When I want to obey Him more than I want to do my own thing.

And I know that it must be His love for me working within me to produce this love for Him. Because I don't know how to love good things on my own.

I'm stunned by my love for Him, because it is the most gripping, obvious, undeniable evidence of His love for me.

We love because He first loved us. - 1 John 4:19

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Physical Proximity

When I was in college, my heart was knit to the guy who had slowly become my best friend. 
And he fell for me too. But we kept our secrets separately. 
I, out of desire for him to pursue me. 
He, because he knew he would be flying around the whole big world 
to spend the summer as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, 
and he didn't want to tie up our summers with distraction. 

He told me his secret over the Chinese dinner we cooked together that fall. 
And I didn't tell him then, but I will tell you now, how I spent the summer: 

When I missed him, I did math.
It was 9,000 miles around the earth to where he was. 
But it was only 7,900 miles through the earth. 

So I marched through the hay field to the lowest part of the valley,
and I pressed my face and my chest to the ground, my heart beating into the dirt.
It was the closest I could get to him. 

After I got back from Jerusalem, I tried to find a way to explain to people what it meant to me, 
why it moved me so much. And this is the only metaphor I could draw. 
While God's Spirit lives inside of me, Jerusalem was the closest I could get 
to the physical, tangible aspects of my Savior. 
And I never wanted to leave.

I miss Him more now. I long for Him with a deeper intensity. 
But it has granted my heart something that almost feels giddy, 
anticipating that day when we will dine and share stories of our great love 
as we sit at the banquet table. 

Come back soon. 

* This bottom photo is the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Shortly after I took this picture, our tour guide told me that two of the trees in this garden 
(including the one in the center of the photo) are over 2,000 years old, 
which means they were standing when Christ prayed here on the night before His death. 

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Romania -- Healing

Honestly, I've never personally seen a miracle of healing quite like what happened with me last night. I know it may seem small -- I wasn't lame and now I can walk or anything like that, but...

I had been sick here in Romania for almost a week, getting worse and worse. The camp staff insisted I go to the doctor yesterday, so they sent me there with a translator.

I had a fever of 100+, chills and sweats, all over aches, stiff neck with limited mobility, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, difficulty speaking, sensitivity to light. All the symptoms of bacterial meningitis. 

The doctor said he was going to send me to the closest city (90 min away) to the hospital for a spinal tap today if I wasn't better. And if I had to have the spinal tap today, I wouldn't be able to fly home tomorrow as planned. But my symptoms kept intensifying throughout the day, even after I began the round of antibiotics that the doctor gave me. 

I sent a text to my friend Kacie asking her to please start a prayer chain. 

One of my friends here looked up info on bacterial meningitis. The stats were grim. It comes on fast and strong, and there's a 12% fatality rate, even among those who are treated. And of those who survive, they sometimes suffer limb loss, hearing loss, seizures, etc.

Six of the Romanian translators came in and laid hands on me and prayed out. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard... to hear the Body of Christ crying out to our Savior in a foreign language.

And less than an hour after I sent Kacie that text, all my symptoms vanished. Gone. I was able to get up, send some emails, call my parents, eat ice cream, and pack my bags (that was an act of faith! Ha!). 

Today when I went to see the doctor, he was confused but thrilled. He gave me a clean bill of health, cleared me to fly home tomorrow, and sent me on my way, insisting that I not even pay him! God answers our prayers with abundance! 

I truly believe God healed me. And I have been graced with the prayers of God's people as a means to that end. Thank you for your prayers, friends. I love you all. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How To Enjoy A Layover: Be In Munich.

Last week, I had a 6.5 hour layover in Munich. That may seem like a long time, but I hardly wanted it to end. Munich offers the greatest airport experience I’ve ever had. It’s enough to make me want to fly through their airport intentionally, if I ever have that opportunity. Here are my top 12 reasons why I love the Munich airport more than all other airports:

1. French Hot Dogs: Grilled outer shell/bun (fantastic bread) filled with the condiments of your choice, plus it can’t drip out the other end. Brilliant!

  1. Kombucha: they sell it in almost every store in the airport! Where, apart from health food stores (and every bodega in Manhattan), does this ever happen?

  1. Free internet access (no pic): There are stations where you can use the internet for free.
  1. Moscato Chocolate: moscato. chocolate.

  1. Coffee & News Stations: Lufthansa has these stations every few gates. They have a variety of free newspapers from around the world, which you can read while you drink one of 18 free drink options of teas and coffees. I am definitely excited to tell you that I tried them all in my 6.5 hour layover. Given the 30 minute boarding time, that works out to one drink every 20 minutes, and a total of approximately 10 shots of espresso.

  1. Nap Cabs: If I weren’t so busy playing, I would’ve rented one of these.

  1. Stores: The stores in Munich are so design-y and hip.

  1. Free Toblerone (no pic): in all 3 flavors. Dark chocolate. White chocolate. Milk chocolate. They’re just laying out on a stand outside the Toblerone store. Joey from Friends would be so happy!
  1. Wide walkies: the people-movers in the airport are wide enough for 2 people and their luggage! No more standing behind the standers when you really need to sprint!

  1. Lounges: the lounge areas all had these recliners with footrests.

  1. Free luggage carts (no pic): All the luggage carts are free and there are stations throughout the terminals. 
  1. Free foosball tables: I mean, what? Awesome.

And once I boarded, this was my plane. So posh, so sleek, even for coach.

For the sake of comparison, this is where I spent my 9.5 hour layover in the Berlin airport.

What airports are at the top and bottom of your list? 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Europe: Days 1-3

Hi friends!

I am going to attempt to keep a regular blog about my travels in Europe for the next 4.5 weeks, so here are my first few days! First, I should tell you that the z and y are switched on this keyboard I am using in the Munich airport (free internet station!!!) so this is taking me a while. They also have lots of other fun characters scattered around the keyboard. For example: Ö Ä Ü € µ § ß.

Note: I am going to try to include a "takeaway tip" in each blog post. This is something I learned about Europe or travels or God or myself during the particular days I'm documenting. This is a reminder for myself, but feel free to use it for yourself as well.

Day 1: Two of my friends dropped me off at the Charlotte airport. I flew to Newark, then got on a long overnight flight to Munich. I didn't sleep. I watched The Descendants (fantastic), a few episodes of Friends, and listened to a sermon series about God's Sovereignty by R.W. Glenn. It is fantastic. It is called "The Hardening of Pharoah's Heart." Here is a link: http://solidfoodmedia.com/resources/series/the_hardening_of_pharaohs_heart_a_case_study_in_the_sovereignty_of_god

Day 2: I arrived in Munich, which has the greatest airport I have ever experienced. In addition to the free internet stations, they have free coffee stations with fancy coffees and teas, as well as about 20 options of free newpapers. This is in the Lufthansa terminal, so I can't speak for the other airlines. But way to go, Lufthansa!

Then I flew to Cluj, Romania. Two of my hosts for the Romanian leg of the tour picked me up. Ioana and Corina drove me to my hotel, which is near downtown and only $25 per night! Then I went to the missionary headquarters where they fed me chicken, macaroni, and potatoes. Carbs abound here, from what I gather. I took a 1-hour nap, since I had not slept in about 30 hours. Then we headed for dinner in downtown Cluj-Napoca.

Cluj has rolling green hills in the countryside, then you follow some terrible roads and dodge the craziest traffic I have ever seen (not many traffic lights or lines on the road -- just go and pray and hopefully you own a cheap car!), as you make your way into the beautiful downtown area. Cobblestone streets, planters and flower pots in windows, old stone buildings, people dining al fresco at picnic tables on the street, lit by candles.

The missionaries took us (a team of 12 German short-term missionaries and me) to eat in the oldest building in Cluj! The salad was fantastic! I was exhausted! I had to use the exclamation marks to stay awake! (transcribing this from my journal) Then they dropped me at my hotel at 10pm. I fell asleep at 11pm and had to wake at 4am.

Day 3: A man from the front desk agreed to drive me (for free) to the airport. There aren't many people I know that I would take to the airport at 4:30am, and there are probably zero strangers I would do this for. So... God bless this man. :)

I stepped outside the terminal to watch the sunrise.

I had the same flight attendant from my Munich-Cluj flight yesterday. I met some Americans in the terminal (Romanians living in L.A.), as well as a German whose English was so American that I am not convinced he wasn't lying about being from the Black Forest.

So here I am in the Munich airport, actively working to make all my Zs into Ys and vice versa. I will be flying to Sweden in a few hours. But first I will read my free USA Today and go get another free Espresso Macchiato. Whatever that is.

TAKEAWAY TIP: Try to catch a sunrise in every country you visit. I did this in Israel last month and today I got to do it in Romania.  It shows you something about the country that you will miss if you only see it during the busy hours of daylight, covered in rush and rumble. And there's an intimacy with God that occurs when you patiently watch Him waking up the land.

Monday, April 02, 2012

How To Host A House Concert

House concerts are one of my favorite things to do as an artist. They're so simple and intimate. There's nothing like looking every audience member in the eye, finding out their name and their story over some grilled pineapple, and having them all help you load up the car after a night of acoustic music.

If you're unfamiliar with house concerts but possibly interested in hosting one, let me tell you how it works.

It's an acoustic show, approximately 1-1.5 hours in length. No setup is necessary other than just arranging the room to fit people in. I usually try to charge a $10-20 cover (or list it as a "suggested donation") and aim for an attendance of 25-50. Some hosts want to make the event free and take up a love offering. Food is always a good idea. Some hosts want to make it a potluck party, while others prefer to provide the food/snacks themselves (or have a few of their closest friends prepare things). We can make the show private or public.

Now that you're in the loop on how it works, here are my Top 10 Tips For House Concerts, to help make it the best possible experience for everyone involved:

1. Minimize distractions. Get a sitter for your pets and/or children. (Note: if you have cats, please be sure to note this on all advertisements for the show. Many people are allergic, and the last thing you want is someone needing an epi-shot at your home.)

2. Have music playing lightly in the background as guests arrive. Ask the artist what they prefer as a forerunner to the concert.

3. If your door dings when it opens, disable that function.

4. Arrange the chairs in a cluster, if possible, facing the stage. Do not spread the chairs out. This helps encourage an audience to respond to the artists.

5. Make an announcement at the beginning of the concert, asking everyone to silence their phones (vibrate can be just as loud as ringing, so we usually articulate that they should be on silent, not on vibrate). Ask everyone to be respectful during the concert. There will be time for food, drinks, chatter both before/after. But this is the time for listening. In an intimate setting without amplification, all those little conversations and whispers can distract everyone in the room.

6. It is kind to find out about the artist, ask how they want to be introduced, then do it that way. I’ve had all three of my names mispronounced, I’ve been misidentified, mislocated, and misunderstood. You have the power to set the artist up perfectly for this to be a great night. You’re setting the tone for everyone in these few moments.

7. It is kind to ask (in the planning stages) if they need a place to stay for the night. Even if they decline, be sure to ask if they need a private room for warming up, prayer, changing, etc. It would be great if this room had a private bathroom as well. If this isn't possible, it's not a big deal.

8. Outdoor shows can be done, but they are tough to pull off successfully. There are so many distractions – traffic, bugs, etc. If it is outside, it is almost imperative that you have a sound system. Otherwise, the artist risks losing his/her voice from trying to sing in a space where everything travels.

9. It is kind to offer to feed the artist beforehand, but be sure to ask what they like.

Note: If you're planning to feed the artist beforehand, here is a list of things singers aren’t supposed to eat/drink before a show, because the vocal chords suffer: dairy, caffeine, cold beverages. That’s why we usually ask for room-temperature water -- not because we're being snooty. :)

10. It is kind to make an announcement at some point in the show, asking for donations/tips/etc. Perhaps pass a bowl around. You can make people feel more comfortable at this than the artist can, since it is your home.

I hope these tips are helpful! If you're interested in hosting a house concert, send me an email at: tlc@taraleighcobble.com

Have you had a house concert? What was your experience like? What would you add or subtract from my list?