Category Archives: Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Whiter Than Snow – an Old Hymn and Chris Tomlin’s At the Cross

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.Isaiah 1:18

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.Psalm 51:7b

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,…to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.Revelation 1:5-6

The snow outside has me all distracted. Although Spring is officially here, a day-long snowfall has turned everything white again. Our daffodils have bounced back from an earlier snowfall, a wind storm, and rain over the last couple of weeks. The weight of this snow and the freezing cold may, this time, close out this early season of blooming.

What else came to mind this morning is an old hymn I learned as a child. Whiter Than Snow. We would sometimes sing it at church, after the sermon and during the “invitation”. That call to the altar for those gathered to worship. The lyrics dealt with our sinful hearts and serious need for a Savior. Also within the message of the song was God’s promise and power to take our sins away, through Christ’s sinless life and death on the cross.

As the Scriptures say, He can indeed make us “whiter than snow”…or as white “as wool”.Photo Credit: Max Pixel

We don’t talk about sin as much today. Even when we did, in my childhood, it was easy for us to get caught up in legalism, looking for latitude in our service in church…rather than wrestling with the condition of our hearts before God.

That old hymn by James L. Nicholson served me well in the waywardness of my youth. The first-person lyric actually gives the image of someone who knows the experience of being cleansed by God, through Christ, and then falling back into sin. There is an earnest longing to be “perfectly whole”. Some would find the theology lacking in this song, because what Jesus did for us, in cleansing us from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9) was completed on the Cross. The presence and power of sin will be something we wrestle until Heaven, but He has made us clean by His blood.

That demands a sacred pause…and this snow day has given it to me.

The version I know of Whiter Than Snow, from my childhood, is here. Updated versions of this  can be found here and here.

It may be just too old to engage some of you, but a bit of the lyric follows:.

  1. Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
    I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
    Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    • Refrain:
      Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
      Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  2. Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
    I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet,
    By faith for my cleansing, I see thy blood flow—
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  3. The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
    Oh, glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
    My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
    The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.*

Chris Tomlin‘s At the Cross may best serve us today to worship the Lord. At the  cross…at the cross…where Your love ran red, and my sin washed white.”

Worship with me please…

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

I’d like to close out today with part of a poem by John Whittaker Watson. It is entitled Beautiful Snow. At some point, after it was published, a last stanza was added. I don’t know how you will read it, but I read it as a prodigal might…one separated from God…who was received home again…washed white as the beautiful snow:

Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,

Fell like the snow flakes from Heaven to Hell;

Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,

Fell to be scoffed, to be spit on and beat;

Pleading — Cursing — Dreading to die,

Selling my soul to whoever would buy;

Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,

Hating the living and fearing the dead,

Merciful God! have I fallen so low!

And yet I was once like the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow

Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!

How strange it should be when the night comes again

If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!

Fainting — Freezing — Dying — alone,

Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan

To be heard in the streets of the crazy town,

Gone mad in the joy of snow coming down;

To be and to die in my terrible woe,

With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.

[Following lines added by an unknown author]

Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,

Sinner, despair not! Christ stoopeth low

To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,

And raise it to life and enjoyment again.

Groaning — Bleeding — Dying — for thee,

The Crucified One hung on the cursed tree!

His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,

“Is there mercy for me? Will He heed my weak prayer?”

Oh God! in the stream that for sinners did flow

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The End***

Photo Credit: Tobias Van Der Elst, Flickr

*Lyrics to James L. Nicholson’s Hymn Whiter Than Snow

**Lyrics to At the Cross – Chris Tomlin

***Christ Washes Us Whiter Than Snow – Pastor Mike Storti

P.S. …and they’re pushing back up one more time. Glory!

Saturday Short – St. Patrick’s Day – the Life of a Saint Surrendered to His Savior

Photo Credit: Twitter, The Adoption Movement

From the Archives

St. Patrick’s DayLá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish…so a bit of a mix for us.

Still love celebrating this day for all the right reasons. Photo Credit: Flickr

I am also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak shared the following with me via email – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):

  • He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
  • Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
  • He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
  • As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
  • Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
  • God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
  • At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
  • He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
  • He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
  • He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
  • His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.

What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?

  • The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
  • The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters…Christ Jesus.
  • The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.

Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty

Worship Wednesday – All My Hope Is In Jesus – with David Crowder and Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Twitter; The Promise FM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6

My family didn’t start our lives going to church. I was probably 6 years old before God even came into much of our conversation or routines at home. By then, my mom had long felt the weight of caring for four kids by herself. My father (not the sweet step-dad I write about but my biological father)…my father just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. Unemployed and uncaring. By the time I started school, we had moved several times, and Mom finally divorced my dad (for my Mom at that point, weary and without hope, it was just “one less mouth to feed”).

When neighbors persisted in inviting us to church, we finally accepted their invitation. It was then that we discovered something bigger than what we’d known before. A God who loved us…even more than our Mom did…and her love was fierce. A God who truly cared for us and who had been there all along for us…and we just didn’t see it.

The church* through which we discovered God was a little congregation, situated between two small Southern towns. Those folks extended love to a wildish little family that had no upbringing in the whole God thing. We soaked it up – all the Bible stories, all the hymns about God’s character, and all the love.

When David Crowder sings, along with Tauren Wells, I am reminded of those early days in that church. My older brother and I got saved the first summer we were there. We were also baptized together in a sawmill pond. I remember singing songs on Sunday nights or during protracted revival services…songs that seemed to go on forever, or at least until the Spirit got hold of our hearts.

Crowder’s song All My Hope Is In Jesus reminds me of the songs of that day. The lyrics are full of sin and redemption…of where we once were, far from God, and need be no more…of lives changed when surrendered to the Savior. There’s a load of hope in those songs.Photo Credit: YouTube

Earlier this week, just driving back home from doing errands, some memories flashed back into my consciousness…memories of a rougher time in my life. A time when I had allowed myself to stray from the nearness of God and the hope He’d given me.

Those memories of a wayward time wrapped tightly around me, in that moment, like the bondage of sin I knew in those days. It was so real…and terrifying. The shame of it…and the deceit. For a season, I had believed lies and chose the world over the One who had chosen me.

Praise God…those memories, like the sins He forgave, are not today’s reality. Today, “all my sins are forgiven; I’ve been washed by the blood”.

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:7

If you will, worship with me the God who holds us, who forgives us, and forgets what separated us from Him. That yesterday is gone! Today we can be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…for us. [1 Peter 1:3-4]

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to that river
And I ain’t the same, a prodigal returned

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

I’m no stranger to the prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
I’ve been freed and forgiven (yes, I have)
I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord, but He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man

So I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone (it’s gone, yes)
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

Oh I’ve been washed by the blood

Thank You, Jesus**

*Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Duluth, Georgia

**Lyrics to All My Hope – written by David Crowder & Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Story Behind the Song All My Hope

Love Atlanta – Rising Together to Serve Our City

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

Saturday Short – Can I Get a Witness? – Luke 22 – the Trial of Jesus

Photo Credit: Destiny Christian Center

Just this past week I had the privilege of being in a gathering where pastors Brion Hamlett and Cliff Jordan called us to pray. The focus was racial reconciliation and bringing together our city in a unity only God could accomplish. Once, while Brion was speaking, he said to us, “Can I get a witness?!”

Can I get a witness…

That came to mind again this morning while reading from the Gospel of Luke (the 22nd chapter).

For those of us who have closely searched out and studied the life of Christ, this is the account of his last meal with his disciples and what followed. Jesus was trying to prepare these beloved friends and followers of what was ahead. Peter, one of his closest disciples said he would follow him to prison, or even to death.

Then Jesus said to Peter, in a prophetic word, that he would actually deny even knowing him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning.

The many details that play out after this can be found in Luke 22. For now, if you don’t already know, later that night, Jesus was taken into custody by the religious leaders. He was put through a sham of a trial, and was cruelly beaten and mocked. During all that, Peter stayed close but without any words…except those he would use to deny knowing Jesus…the One he called Lord but a few hours before.

Where would Jesus’ witness come from if not from those closest to him?

They [the chief priests] led him [Jesus] away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”Luke 22:66c-71

Jesus took the words of the unbelieving religious leaders and turned them into a witness to Himself…to His being the Son of God…in fact, the “I AM”…the one true God.

Within this last week of his earthly life, Jesus would experience great adulation by the crowds in Jerusalem and great isolation with only those who hated him in attendance. Earlier in that week, with these same men possibly, Jesus had this conversation:

As He approached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully in a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you,” He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:37-40

The day the rooster crowed, Jesus’ friend Peter would be silent. No witness. Jesus would die. Not for lack of a true witness or because of a false one. He would die because He came to do so. To close the chasm between sinful humanity and the one holy and true God.

His life, death, and resurrection are the foundation of our faith as Christians. We are witnesses…to the historical Jesus and to the redemptive work He has done and continues to do in our lives.

Peter would repent with deep sorrow his denial of Christ. He would then become the Spirit-filled rock upon which the church would be built. I dare say, he was never silent again.

Where do we go from here? As I read Luke 22 this morning, my own heart was deeply convicted of the silence in my own testimony of who Jesus is and what He has done for me and for all humanity.

God, help me to be faithful to the truth of who You are…before rocks are stirred to cry out in my place.

I would leave the house this morning…turning over and over in my mind both this Scripture passage and the phrase “Can I get a witness?”

As happens with God and me, this too timid, well-loved daughter of His, there was a glorious postscript to the morning’s revelation. A song on the radio: Jordan Feliz‘s Witness.


Can I get a witness?

5 Friday Faves – The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham, Beyond the Guitar, Teacher Villages, Black Panther, and Belonging

Friday has come and gone this week. These favorite finds of this week come to you in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Still…there were too precious to me to be lost to you. I hope you are encouraged in these finds.

1) The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham – Pastor to US Presidents and faithful messenger of God’s Word – Billy Graham died this week at 99. Years ago, he had this to say about dying:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. – Billy Graham (and also Dwight Moody previously)

Photo Credit: WTOV

I’ve known of Dr. Graham my whole life. When he was having one of his evangelistic crusades and it was televised, that’s what we watched, growing up. There was almost a reverence about those events – not idolizing him but an awareness and expectation that God would move in the hearts of people who heard the message of hope that Dr. Graham preached.

Dave and I, in our first year of marriage, were counselors at his Hartford, Connecticut crusade. Below is one of his sermons from that week’s events:

I wonder how many who are reading this also have memories of this man. This man who never turned from the God who loved him and called him to preach to the nations. This man who stayed faithful to God all the days of his life. If you have memories of Dr. Graham, please share them in the comments.

Daddy Is Home – Anne Graham Lotz

Select Chronology Listing of Events in the Life of Billy Graham and the History of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Up Until Rev. Graham’s Retirement in 2005, with a Few Later Significant Events

Billy Graham Reached Millions Through His Crusades: Here’s How He Did It – Cathy Lynn Grossman

Video – Kathie Lee Gifford Reacts to the Death of Prominent Pastor Graham

2) Beyond the Guitar – This week classical guitarist Nathan Mills posted his latest arrangement  of themes from the video game Shadow of the Colossus . This theme  video game has been remastered and re-released this month for PlayStation 4.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

If you’re not a gamer, this may seem of little interest to you – the music from this game, even if it’s considered one of the greatest video games made. However, if you love guitar music, don’t miss this beautiful piece.

3) Teacher Villages – This week I heard of an innovative move on the part of the City of Newark, New Jersey. The problem that this city government was addressing was the loss of teachers, year after year. Apparently, finding affordable housing became such a financial barrier for teachers, they would take to leaving and moving to a more suburban school system.

Teachers Village is a huge enterprise built in downtown Newark. Within the multi-block complex, there is housing (marketed to teachers, in particular) as well as schools, shopping, and other retail and service sector elements.Photo Credit: Jersey Digs

This is helping to bring life back into the city schools of Newark…as well as the downtown neighborhoods.

Newark is just one of several cities investing in teachers by making housing available to them. How about where you live?

Teachers Village – Newark, New Jersey

Subsidized Housing May Help School Districts Retain Teachers – Jenie Lindsay

4) Black Panther – What a film! If you haven’t seen it yet, you will want to. Just to celebrate the people of this fictional yet fantastic place called Wakanda…and to celebrate the possibilities in our own real world.Photo Credit: Desiring God, Black Panther

YouTube Video – Black Panther – Best Scenes – 14 minutes

I’d like to share Greg Morse‘s take on Wakanda:

In the movie, Wakanda is a fictional African homeland hidden from the rest of the world. It is uncolonized, technologically advanced, brimming with black excellence and beauty, industrious, mountainous, breathtaking. But the utopia itself, not the black superhero, hit an ancient ache that four hundred years in America hasn’t come close to soothing. We rally around superheroes like the Black Panther because we hope that they can lead us to Wakanda. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse

In God’s word, I learned that his Wakanda has borders that expand beyond cultural similarity. All nations, all tribes, all tongues share a common citizenship, an everlasting fellowship that unites irrevocably. And this reality has already begun.

In Christ, I can greet a teenager in the mountains of Guatemala as “my brother.” I can divulge my deepest pains to an elderly white woman as I ask her to pray for me. Marrieds commune with singles; the rich dine with the poor. The healthy church is a foretaste of the coming paradise where Jesus, our King, unites a people of differences. Our distinctions don’t disappear, but a greater reason for unity appears. This family is connected by better blood: his.

In God’s coming Wakanda, he offers something even greater than the world of Black Panther: a unity made perfect through diversity. The different colors will complete the painting. The different notes will strike the chord. The eye will join with the nose and the arm to make the body whole. In that place, union — not uniformity — will be the greater light. There, the temporary brotherhood of the Panther will be engulfed by the diverse and eternal oneness of the Lamb.At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse

5) Belonging – I’ve written on this before – on the power of noticing, on inner circles and belonging. It’s something we all need…to be gathered in; to be chosen; to be included; to be a part of something larger than ourselves.Photo Credit: Re-Live

I read a piece this week by this extraordinary young woman, Rachel Macy Stafford. She writes about being new in a situation and the anguish of trying to be a part of a group of women who were just plain not interested.

As she used the painful experiences as a teachable moment, she said:

“Remember this.”

Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.

Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.

Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.

Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.

Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.

Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.

With one invitation, we can take someone
From outsider to insider
From outcast to beloved member
From unknown neighbor to coffee companion
From wallflower to life-of-the-party
From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.

Here’s the link to her article in full. Don’t miss it.

Am I Invisible? The Pain Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded – Rachel Macy Stafford

That’s it for this week…way overdue. Have an amazing rest of your weekend. You never know what a difference you make in the lives of those around you.


In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers – Scott Jones – one of the most insightful pieces I have ever read following a tragedy – it’s in the bonus section but needs its own deep consideration – I hope you read it and gain as much as I did.

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

What the Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids – Anya Kamenetz

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know – Jon Brooks

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know

Facebook Photo Album of Amazing Egypt – Hossam Abbas Photography – I discovered this photo album on Facebook and it was such a delight for me – having seen these incredible sights ourselves.Photo Credit: Hossam Abbas Photography

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Photo Credit: John Ragai, Flickr

Guest Blogger: Carrie McKean

[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]

I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.

I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.

We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.

Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.

As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.

I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.

We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.

Father, forgive us.

And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.

Carrie McKean

These Are the Victims of the Florida High School Shooting – Alexandra Ma

At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire on Florida High School – Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, and Carla Herreria

Worship Wednesday – O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – a Valentine’s Day Reflection

Photo Credit: Gauton Photography, Daily Mail

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 36:5-7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the many gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The funny thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in them. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On this Worship Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

Please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. – Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

5 Friday Faves – Favorite Book of 2018, the Courage of Rachael Denhollander, Good News, Love Across a Lifetime, and a Hint of Spring

It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.

1) Favorite Book of 2018 – It’s only January, but this 2016 book has already become my strong favorite for the year. It is Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch.

Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”.  In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!

Photo Credit: Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

The Best Quotes from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – Barnabas Piper

Strong and Weak Quotes – GoodReads

[Playing God by Crouch is also on my short list for starting out 2018 reading. Then, too, his The Tech-Wise Family. Has anyone else read any of his books? Please comment and let us know. Thanks!]

The Tech-Wise Family: Every Day Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family – The Matt Lewis Show – Interview with Andy Crouch

2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.

The Incredible Testimony as a Former Gymnast Confronts Her Sexual Abuser in Court (Justin Taylor)

Photo Credit: Neil Blake,

How the Indy Star and Rachael Denhollander Took Down Larry Nassar – Eric Levenson

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – Juliet Macur

*7 Lessons Learned From Larry Nassar Sentencing – Dwight Adams

  1. Believe children when they report abuse.
  2. Anyone can be an abuser.
  3. Reporting of child abuse must be improved.
  4. Child molesters strive to win victims’ trust.
  5. Children must speak up about abuse.
  6. Police must take on tough cases.
  7. Investigative journalism is crucial.*

3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here.   The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine wrote about good news in the midst of a horrific situation. She gave me permission to post this. I hope you will read some of her story below…it’s our story, in one way or another.

YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.

So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.

On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.

While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?

I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.

Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is.
God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)

You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy

Good News Network – a secular website with the goal of posting good news every day

Gospel – Explore God – several articles on various topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What is the Gospel? – Norman Herbst – Explore God

4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.

These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!

How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.

5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!

Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!

P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).


Amish Sayings

Disabled by Design – My Abundant Life Without Arms – Daniel Ritchie

Cracker Barrel – Lunch with one of my kiddos, Valentine’s Cards, and Rocking Chairs

Saturday Short – This Blood – with Rachel Chapman

Photo Credit: Flickr

Probably the greatest offense of Christ to a disbelieving world is the cross. Why? Surely, the God of the universe could have orchestrated another way…a gentler, more palatable way to reconcile a wayward people back to Himself. How can we, mere mortals, prescribe to Creator God, a better way? God have mercy.

In our small understanding of the costly nature of sin and the priceless redemption available to us through Jesus, we are undone. A sinless savior. Paying our debt that we had no way to do it. To a holy God. God the Father, restoring us back to Himself, through the death of this precious One, Jesus.

Songwriter Rita Springer wrote a song entitled This Blood that exquisitely describes what Jesus did for us. There is something about this song that also brings together generations. Don’t miss how Springer describes the inspiration of this song and her personal experience of God in the process (here). She also talks about her heritage of parents and grandparents who loved God deeply and raised her up in the tradition of choirs singing of this great love.

Get ready for goosebumps. This song. This choir. This girl. This God:

There is a blood
That cost a life
That paid my way
Death its price
When it flowed
Down from the cross
My sins were gone
My sins forgot

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

There is a Blood
That sights the blind
That Heals the sick
The lonely finds
It has the Power
To free the bound
As chains they fall
Upon the ground

So pour it out and
To cleanse my soul
And let’s liquid Glory flow
Because it lives
To make me whole
I owe my life
I owe my soul

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing, nothing, nothing,

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus (x2)

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One*

[Postscript: I LOVE choirs. Grew up with them, singing in them. In recent years, praise teams have also affected for me an avenue to worship God. The thing is: it’s easy to just be caught up with the singers, the sound and the solace…and stop short of worshiping the God who inspired such singing. May we never stop short. Hallelujah!]

*Lyrics to This Blood – Songwriter Rita Springer

YouTube Video – Rita Springer – This Blood Song Story – listen to Springer’s testimony of how God gave her this song and how it resonated for her with the generations before – the hymn-singing generations – her parents and grandparents who loved God so.

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Church, Minden, Louisiana (this video features Rachel Chapman (embedded above)

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Jacksonville – with Soloist Terette Mitchell