Tag Archives: light

Worship Wednesday – Stained Glass Windows – Reflecting the Light and Beauty of God

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

My mom instilled in me a love for colored glass. She filled beautiful old wine decanters with color-tinted water and set them in our windows at home. On sunny days, the rooms dazzled with rainbow light. Such delight for us children! Then she discovered depression glass and again placed these translucent colored pieces on our dining table, making special occasions even more special.

My kitchen reflects my Mom’s influence with colored glass.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that stained glass windows became a real experience. Their wonder and beauty that changed with the light mesmerized.

Over the course of the last several years, my family has had opportunity to see some of the beautiful churches in the world…and right here in our own city. Below are just a few samples:

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia

We don’t always have a grand choice of a worship space, depending on where we live, given both our means and religious freedom. For some, a storefront is where we gather. For others, under a tree or in an apartment, shutters closed. Part of that reality makes the appeal of stained glass all the greater.

Stained glass windows evoke “the presence of the holy in our worship spaces” (in the words of artist Elizabeth Devereaux).

We know from Scripture that God is with us wherever we are. We count on that. Still, in a culture that cries against His very existence, being surrounded by sweet reflections of His light and beauty can lift our eyes up…to Heaven, to Him.

Stained glass relies on a light source for its characteristic vivid illumination. [It] is specifically designed to be highly translucent. This quality allows a great deal of light to pass through it which highlights its colors beautifully. That is why stained glass is particularly bright when viewed from inside a building on a sunny day or from outside the building on a night when there is ample light within. Stained glass works with the light to create its powerful effect…the color and brightness of the glass clearly has immense aesthetic appeal. That beauty often triggers powerful emotions within us – joy, inspiration, elation, humility, gratitude, and virtually anything else along the human emotional spectrum. – Steven L. Yarbrough

What Makes a Stained Glass Window Shine? – Steven L. Yarbrough

Our gathering space may be such that it has to work for multiple purposes – worship, concerts, conferences, suppers together. Nothing wrong with that. When we worship, visual art forms can set a tone for us to corporately and intimately connect with God

Stained glass windows are such an art form.

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation – Msgr. Charles Pope

Our church building in Richmond (Movement Church) actually has stained glass windows. They weren’t on our wish list; they were part of a great gift to us by Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

They are beautiful and we are grateful.

As Yarbrough says above, stained glass windows transmit light – either from outside during the day, or from inside during night hours. They speak to us of the great impact of God’s light in our daily lives and our darknesses.

Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia

As beautiful as stained glass windows are from the inside, they call us to worship at night. A church near our home has stained glass windows, and I love when they have services at night. Driving by, glancing over, I am transported by the colored light streaming through into the dark night reminding me. Not of differences in religions, or worship preferences, or negative religious experiences. No…none of that. I am reminded of the light and beauty of God. Joyfully.

We may be coming back around, the church today, to a preference of a more classic and sacred worship space…a place where stained glass windows draw our eyes and hearts up toward Heaven and all the hope and joy it reflects.

Worship the Lord of light and beauty with me today. Hallelujah!

[My only piece of stained glass at home – again a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including an iris garden.]

Heavenly Illumination: The Science and Magic of Stained Glass – Andy Connelly

God in the Mending – Carrie McKean

Protestantism’s Great Opportunity – Lighting the Wasted Windows – The Literary Digest – November 26, 1921

What Kind of Church Appeals to Millennials? It’s Not as Trendy and Modern as You Think – Cath MartinPhoto Credit: Barna Group

Worship Wednesday – No More Night – David Phelps

Blog - Walk in the Light - Truth for LifePhoto Credit: Truth For Life

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7

This has been one of those weeks where the sheer weight of the hatred in this world seems to bear down on us all – in excruciating loss, deep grief, and beliefs in crosshairs.

Facebook and other social media are filled with caustic and accusatory comments, pointing fingers of blame at various religious and political groups. One brief item on my Twitter-feed raised the possibility that random costly hate crimes were becoming a new normal.

No. I won’t receive that. Not yet anyway.

God calls His children to shine His light into the dark places of the world. His light, not our own. His light that radiates love and life. If we hole ourselves off in church buildings where prayer and serving, praise and preaching are carefully hidden inside the walls, the world continues broken and unaltered. Something has to change…truly.

Jen Hatmaker wrote yesterday on her Facebook page about the Christian response to the horrific domestic terror attack this past week: “I’ve seen Christians everywhere promising to pray for the victims and their families and their communities. I wonder what might happen if everyone actually does? What might God do if millions of Christians begin praying for comfort and love toward the LGBTQ community? Relational healing? Crazier things have happened.

Perhaps instead of saying “we’re sad” this week, we should begin with “we’re sorry.”

Not: We’re sorry but…
Not: We’re sorry if…
Not: We’re sorry as long as…

Just: We’re sorry. Full stop.

I believe glory would inhabit that sort of humility and repentance, like it always has. NOBODY should be able to out-love God’s people. We should be Grand Champion Lovers of People, and everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone should know it, see it, feel it, experience it, bask it in, and be drawn to it.

When my youngest son re-posted this on his Facebook page, I responded:

We are sorry…deeply sorry for this and all atrocities around the world done in the name of some idea or religion that took hold because we were not so revolutionary in love as the One who first loved us…even us.

These days, when someone says, “I’m sorry”, the usual response is “It’s not your fault.” Or “You didn’t do anything.” Aha! Maybe that’s exactly what the “I’m sorry” means here. “I’m sorry we didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you didn’t know how much Jesus loves you and me both…because you didn’t see it in my love for you.”

It may be complicated to love (or even identify with) people different from us…whether different by religion, political party, or racial/sexual identity. Still, as followers of Jesus, He calls us to love – extravagantly – even those who consider us enemies.

We have no excuse.

A young acquaintance of mine during this week of shock and shaming added his own voice to the situation. I know him from our church, but he has since moved away, back home to a distant city. He posted that he only came to church for the people not for God. How  could the church be winsome, and God not be? How did we manage to love him in such a way that he would miss falling in love with God?

Jenn Hatmaker, in a later post, would apologize for lobbing a possible “shame grenade”. That is also not my desire. The Christian community sadly  should be used to friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire by now, especially related to how we are perceived as not showing love to one minority or another. What matters is not what we do with attacks or shaming,  but what we do with the very Word of God, and the wholly loving life of Jesus.

Blog - No More Night - Shine - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

This is what’s been banging around in my head over the last several days. What a gift God has given us in this life of ours…until we are here no more, He calls us to love loud, to live boldly, and to speak His healing and reconciling Word not just to and with other believers…but to a world of all sorts of people whom He also loves

Until Heaven…this is our calling.

Worship with me to this old song about Heaven. Sung by David Phelps, it reminds us of a day when pain will truly be over for those who have put their lives in the care of a Redeemer God. As we look to that day, may we be more resolved than ever to boldly and tirelessly share truth and love with all those around us. It is His desire for us all to be with Him forever

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great “I AM”
Were gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb*

*Lyrics to No More Night – Songwriter – Walter S. Harris

Be the Church – A City on a Hill – Powerpoint Presentation – FPBC

David Phelps and His Daughter Sing the Most Breathtaking Duet – Agnus Dei

Blog - No More Night - YouTubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Worship Wednesday – Finding God in the Dark – the Dark that Cannot Extinguish His Light

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Time Magazine

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-5

How extraordinary that revelation can come waiting in an exam room of a doctor’s office! I was waiting…of course, and noticed the pile of magazines on the counter (to help us waiting lose count of the time). In the pile was an old issue of a Time magazine. The cover story was intriguing. Who of us hasn’t considered, if not encountered, God during a dark night of the soul?

Flipping the pages over to the article, I found a familiar face. A face I hadn’t seen in decades: Barbara Brown…well, Barbara Brown Taylor now. She was my residence advisor my first year in the dorms of Emory University. Blog - Sitting in the dark - Time Magazine - Barbara Brown Taylor

 I loved our occasional talks together. She was funny, beautiful, loving, very real, and captivating – to be so close to our ages yet wise beyond her years. Flawed like the rest of us, but yielded somehow to an otherness of life that gives grace to our flaws, and her own.

Blog - Finding God in the Dark - Barbara BrownPhoto Credit: qotd.org

Barbara Brown Taylor. That day I was glad for the long wait and devoured the Time article (by Elizabeth Dias). It’s lovely to rediscover a friend from our past and to find one who had become so celebrated.

[Sidebar: It was just that same week when I found another old friend via Facebook. He and I lived across from each other, in an old brick apartment building, while in our 20’s. Rick Holm was a medical resident and I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Hospital in those days. We became friends and shared friends, and Saturday morning coffee, and late night stories. Now that same Rick Holm is The Prairie Doc, of Brookings, South Dakota. I wasn’t surprised.]

Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Learning to Walk in the Dark, shared some of her story in that magazine article and her thinking on experiencing the dark. Many of us try to avoid the darkness but, for Barbara, it is a place (or experience) to embrace – to discover, and to discover God there. The video produced by The Work of the People gives a winsome glimpse into what she talks about in her book – through clips of her and other writers talking about pain.Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Barbara Brown TaylorPhoto Credit: The Work of the People

I personally prefer light to darkness, although much of what she and her cohorts in the video say about darkness is. We have nightlights in the house, not because anyone is afraid of the dark but, to avoid not falling, tripping over something or running painfully into something.

We definitely need to learn from the darkness in our lives, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes. We are meant to incorporate that learning into the grace we have for ourselves and those around us in their own darknesses. It’s the light, though, that I am most grateful for. The pitch-black dark of suffering will come to all of us, sometimes in ways we can’t even fathom in daytime.

This one thing I know: We are never alone in that dark place.

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Light - poetrybydeborahann

Photo Credit: Poetry by Deborah Ann Belka

In this moment…the darknesses closest to my heart (hard family situations, the suffering in the world, my own fears) are brightened in the light of God’s Word.  I recognize that, in the darkness around us, there is a call to action. We are meant to do whatever we can to bring light into the darkness of others. I am reminded of Chris Rice’s song Go Light the World.

We can trust the Giver of Light to emblazon our darkness.

Jesus is familiar with darkness. – He brought light into the darkness at the creation of our world (Genesis 1:1-4John 1:1-5); his birth was heralded by angels to shepherds in the dark of that Bethlehem night (Luke 2:8-16); he lived a life that exposed the darkness through the light of His truth and love (John 8:12); seeking the Father’s face in the dark (Mark 1:35); surrendering His life for ours on a cross  against a black midday sky (Mark 15:33); resurrected from the darkness of a tomb (Luke 24); – with us now in every situation we can’t see our way out of (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20) … His light will never be extinguished by the dark (John 1:5).

Whatever our darkness, He brings light. Worship with me:

Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes
Let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You
Hope of a life
Spent with You

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me*

*Here I Am to Worship written by Michael W. Smith, Debbie Smith, Paul Baloche

Worship Wednesday – Into Marvelous Light, I’m Running – Charlie Hall

Apr 04 154

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9

When we were kids, in summer, we would play until almost dark.  My brothers, our neighborhood friends, and I would own our quiet street on those summer evenings.

We would run, chase, and  evade being caught until we could almost not see in the fading light. Our moms would tell us “home before dark”, and we scattered, just in time, each to his own home.

The porch light brought us running home every time. No matter how dark it was out, we could always find home….because of that “marvelous light”.

The dark can be a scary place. We ran home gladly to escape the dark. Charlie Hall captures that run home (to God) in his song Marvelous Light. My childhood memory is nothing in comparison to  how God delivers us out of the darkness of our sin.

I resonate so deeply with the words of this song (lyrics follow). To know real shame because of hurtful choices or terrible decisions. Then to experience the forgiveness of God. To know, from His Word, that He sees us pure and lovely. It takes my breath away.

What life God gives us! To have the weight of our sin lifted off our lives through the sheer grace of God in Christ Jesus. No wonder Charlie Hall includes “arms in the air, spinning around” imagery. In the love we have as His redeemed and restored cbildren, we lose that adult self-consciousness. All that matters is His speaking into the dark, calling us into His light, and we run to Him, as His children, full of joy.

Sun through the clouds

Worship with me:

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

I once was fatherless
A stranger with no hope
Your kindness wakened me
Awakened me, from my sleep

Your love it beckons deeply
A call to come and die
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take Your life

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame
No more shame

Now we show the world – Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

It’s Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found

Oh the marvelous light, marvelous light

whoa-oh-yeah
whoa-oh-oh

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Blog - Running into His Marvelous LightRunning on the Beach, Oualidia, Morocco

Marvelous Light Written by Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light – With Lyrics – Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light sung by Charlie Hall Band at Passion Conference ’05

Charlie Hall Band

Worship Wednesday – Blessings Disguised – Laura Story’s Discovery of the Mercies of God

 Blog - Worship Wednesday - Laura Story Blessings

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

The first time I was aware of Laura Story’s song Blessings was last week on a perplexing workday. I was on an errand, and this song came on the radio. The sweet love of God washed over me, bringing perspective to my work situation and lightening my heart.

Later, I read online that the song Blessings came out of Laura Story’s journey with her husband, Martin, through the diagnosis of his brain tumor.  After years in treatment, he is doing well today and they have a little daughter. He still has some issues related to his treatment, but they’re living in a new normal, with a deeper faith in God and joy in the life they have together and with Him.

Life brings all kinds of twists and turns. Sometimes a tough day at work but other times a painful, life-altering diagnosis. Sometimes a relationship betrayal; other times a devastating failure or disappointment. Things just don’t always go as we think they should. Yet, as we cling to God, we find His faithfulness.

We discover, as Laura and Martin did, that God’s mercies are revealed in these places of pain and confusion. He is there in that dark place with His children, and He will bring us into the light again.

Take a few minutes and worship our faithful God, meditating on His presence with us in these “mercies in disguise”.

Blessings by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

(Chorus)
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if the thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Chorus

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

Chorus

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Blessings – Lyrics from KLove

Story of Song

More of Back Story

Photo Credit – Blessings Album Cover

Indescribable also written by Laura Story and performed by Chris Tomlin