Category Archives: All Good Gifts

Worship Wednesday – I’ve Heard About You – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Tell the Lord Thank You

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.Romans 10:13-15

Do you know when you first heard about Jesus?

How old were you? What was the circumstance?

For me…I was maybe 6 or 7. Before that, my mom was doing all she could to keep us fed and clothed in a hard marriage. If she told us about Jesus, I don’t remember. She might have, but for her during those years of small ones, faith had been wrung out of her by hardship and disappointment.

Until…some neighbors invited us to their church, and we went. It was there that, as Paul described in his letter to the Roman church above that we first heard a clear message of the person and life of Jesus Christ. It was in that church, as a 9 year old, that I trusted God, through Christ, for the forgiveness of my sins. I trusted God with my small life and my large future.

There have been bumps in the road over the decades following, but none so large that caused me to leave my faith. During a time of great persecution, the apostle Peter declared (in response to Jesus’ question “Do you want to leave?”): “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

That is my witness as well. Nowhere would I want to be except in this journey and destination the Lord has graciously given to me…and you. What a wonder that I got to hear about Him. At an early age. How about you?

It’s not always in a church building where we hear. I’ve known people (and the stories of many others) who came to faith through the quiet revelation of truth by the Holy Spirit…a taxi driver in a far away place whose conversation with a believer really just confirmed what he had already heard, in his dreams and private wrestling with God. A young woman who witnessed her mother’s long years of faithful following of Christ and finally received Him for herself. A man who heard Jesus’ teaching, as he read torn and discarded pieces of Scripture, and believed. So many.

What joy we experience in knowing Jesus. He has brought joy to the whole world. May many hear and receive the good news!

The Christmas season has closed for now, and the Lenten season preceding Easter will begin in a month. One last song by David Crowder (from his Milk & Cookies Christmas album) sweetly reflects the Jesus we have come to know: “I’ve Heard About You”.

Photo Credit: David Crowder, YouTube

Oh, God, I ask for ears to hear truth…until our faith becomes sight.

Worship with me:

I’ve heard about You
It’s always this time of year
When the trees are up and lights are hung
And Christmastime is here

I’ve heard about You
Sometimes I struggle to believe
But people keep on telling me
You’re as real as real can be

They sing Joy to the world
A Savior is born
O Holy night
Every Christmas, they sing
Hallelujah
Like they always do
Could it be true
What I’ve heard about You

I’ve heard about You
All those stories that they tell
They say You came to fix a broken world
And that Your name is Emmanuel

I’ve heard about You
Born in Bethlehem, The Christ
Who left His throne to rescue
Even a doubter’s heart like mine

So I sing Joy to the world
A Savior is born
O Holy night
Every Christmas, I’ll sing
Hallelujah
Like they always do
I believe it’s all true
What I’ve heard about You
What I’ve heard about You

Hope is here
Hallelujah
Hope is here

If it’s all true
Then it changes everything
Cause the hope I thought I’d never find
Has found its way to me

So I sing Joy to the world
A Savior is born
O Holy night
Every Christmas, I’ll sing
Hallelujah
Like they always do
I believe it’s all true
What I’ve heard about You
*

*Lyrics to “I’ve Heard About You” – Songwriters: Jeff Sojka, David W. Crowder, Benjamin Glover

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Word for the Year 2023 – Wonder

In the early days of a new year, we give pause to possibilities of what’s ahead. Besides gym memberships, weight loss programs, and aspirations to spend more time with family, we could use a word of encouragement to move us forward. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing one word for the whole year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

For the last several days, I’ve been thinking about what word for 2023. Two years ago, I chose “compassion”. This past year, it was joy. Both of those words did inspire both thoughts and actions that elevated my life…and hopefully that of others.

This year, after praying and meditating, I chose the word “wonder”. The definition of this word is to be awe-inspired, to marvel, and to be surprised, even astonished. My little grandchildren have taught me great lessons on wonder as so much around them seems miraculous…and it truly is, when you think about it.

Instead of filling my thoughts and speech on the brokenness of this world, I will choose to wonder at the beauty around us, even in the hard. Wonder won’t be at the expense of responding to those in need, but I will study on how to see the wonder. For example, the wonder of a God who is both merciful and just. The wonder that we can actually come alongside someone and be a help…that we can forgive an offense…that we can give hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

How does one decide on a word to cover a whole year? It might be an intentional decision or completely serendipitous? For me, it was through thinking of what might be lacking in my life and asking God to confirm. I thought the word would be perseverance, but in prayer and a series of rapid-fire circumstances, the word “wonder” came into focus. It seemed I would hear or see the word everywhere.

In the next few days, a friend and I will be studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. Another example is how during this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

Christmas itself saturates us with wonder as we look deeply into what happened with the birth of Christ. What it must have been like for Mary when she realized the full weight of the Angel’s message to her of bearing the Messiah! For the lowly shepherds being the first to receive the good news of his birth. For us having the incredible invitation to be restored to an eternal relationship with the Lord! Whew!

In “O Little Town of Bethlehem” we sing, “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” It’s a bold image, but quite right. Every Christian is like Mary. Everyone who puts faith in Christ receives, by the Holy Spirit, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis mine). We should be just as shocked that God would give us—with all our smallness and flaws—such a mighty gift. And so no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that “I, I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!” I would go so far as to say that this perennial note of surprise is a mark of anyone who understands the essence of the Gospel. What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

How about you? Is there a word…one perfect word you would desire as a focus in 2023?

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Photo Credit: He Reads Truth

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Godly Ladies

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2022

[Adapted from the Archives]

2022 is rapidly winding down. Whew! to finish out the year, these Friday Faves can help us get ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2022…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

I take New Year’s resolutions seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They can be super energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I have actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions, singularly and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

Five years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. That was such a pivotal exercise that I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… Still in view…five years out. Still relevant to now. For 2023, on it again.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even with the continuing threat of COVID...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change– Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens – This is a great read about being stone-catchers – protecting the most vulnerable from the stones thrown at them.

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

4) Word for the Year –Two years ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As 2021 ended, I had become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I hadn’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. My heart was resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Now looking at 2023…what word? For awhile, I thought the word would be persevere. Dave and I both agreed that perseverance is essential but did I want to make it my word of the year? Prayed that one down. Then in the last several days, the Lord keeps bringing the word wonder to mind.

In the start of 2023, I’m studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. During this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

5) The Last Days of 2022 – What a year! Losses and gains as most years bring. The losses feel more lonely, and the gains more glorious. Maybe it’s my age, but as this year ends, I’m just incredibly grateful for God, for life, for loves in this life…and for opportunity…welcoming 2023 holding onto God and those around us…with joy and wonder.

Now on to 2023!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Resolve in 2013 to mend fences, repair broken bridges, build appropriate gates, and tear down unnecessary walls. — Burk Parsons @burkparsons

Christmas Ads 2022 – YouTube Playlist – 100 different commercials in lots of languages and traditions!

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

Photo Credit: Facebook

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings – For me? Just One.

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of my many favorite December solitary experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some, maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of greetings from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are many beautiful ones – both standards and new. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station still pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation by some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2) and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold…to make a path for us back to Him.

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live loving because of His love… Glory!

Photo Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.

The Band Downhere

Photo Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

Monday Morning Moment – When Distress Messes with the Joy of Christmas

Is it writer’s block? Words have always been a friend to me, but they are hard-won in writing these days.

Christmas is a time of tremendous joy for me…deeper than happiness. Much deeper. For in the joy are such things as longing, grief, disappointment, anxiety. Most of the time, I can shake those off so as not to miss Christmas. Most of the time.

Here’s a tiny example. You may think it frivolous but it is reminiscent of something more. Our children grew up doing the nativity story as part of our Christmas traditions.

(Mills Christmas, December ’94)

It was fun and chaotic – never sure how it would turn out, but for several years, the kids just acquiesced to the direction of the grownups in their lives. Some of it, I’m pretty sure they even enjoyed. Fast forward to them now being adults who bring their children – our grandchildren – into the picture.

For a year or two, our grands have also been caught up in the wonder of the Baby, donning costumes, and waiting patiently (sorta kinda) for the narration to move them to the next point of action. Not all of them wanted to participate but they were close at hand to add to the drama of the moment. It was sweet.

This year…it didn’t happen. In an attempt to do the play earlier (taking some stress out of a Christmas time together), we experienced a great divide – two eager and willing older grandchildren dressed in Middle Eastern garb, and, at the same time, being brilliantly silly with their parts. So…looking the part but definitely not in character. The other two younger grands…just not interested; not even present in the room. Now, Christmas weekend is still a few days away with another family occasion planned, but I have no inclination to revisit this tradition. Maybe next year.

After giving up on the play, and rejoining the rest of the family, I asked the kids to pray for me. Somehow longings and expectations had clouded my mind, and joy was left trembling at the edges of my heart. Such a small thing (right?)…it revealed more than just a family tradition in transition. It revealed an idol of some sort – so small but effective, distorting the reality of this beautiful time of the year.

This morning, in front of the fire, I had the last Christmas cookie (there will probably be more, but I savored it as if it was my last), while reading Scott Sauls‘ great book Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen.

In the chapter “Honest Songs”, Sauls proposed the ordinariness of distressed feelings. He wrote how some of the Scripture writers laid out these “negative” emotions, along with their praises, before a God who understands and loves us through them, not in spite of them.

In referencing Ecclesiastes, Sauls writes: “Like a skilled songwriter or poet, Solomon made sure that was was genuinely inside of him also came out of him. [Herman] Melville likened Solomon to Jesus, whom the Bible also describes as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…The Suffering Servant [Jesus] fully embraces, and is careful not to diminish, dystopian stories as well as the happily-ever-after ones…He refuses to whitewash the darker parts of our history.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

He goes on: “The Suffering Servant invites us, in our pain, to wipe disingenuous smiles off our faces and start living honestly concerning how damaged and hurt we feel…Jesus loves humans, and when the humans you love become injured or threatened, the natural and godlike response is to get angry and feel the swell of energy directed toward righting a wrong…There is a solidarity to suffering that we are meant to embrace, so that no one might suffer alone. Sharing in one another’s suffering binds us together in the deepest form of fellowship.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

So what’s the connection between a situation of no Christmas play this year and the suffering of a grander scale? You probably already know. The play is not the point. It wasn’t about our darling grands meeting any expectations I might have…it was the larger story. How the play reminded me of sweet memories, and sad ones. Of parents no longer with us who I miss terribly. Of grown up children I want to pull in and keep close (they are close…but a mother’s heart seems never full…again a larger story). Of the account of Christ’s birth that is so magnificent and miraculous…and how He laid down his life, just a few years later, through death on a cross…for us. How do we communicate such grandeur to our little ones?

Our kids will figure it out…and we will support them.

So…how about you? My example probably seems so mundane. I could have shared heartache over a painful family rift. Or about a friend in a terribly troubled marriage, or one who lost both parents within weeks of each other, or another struggling with mental illness, or another praying her heart out for a grandson white-knuckling through early sobriety.

Distress messes with our joy. Let’s not let it isolate us…drawing us away from each other to suffer alone. Being real with people is complicated. “Real is unsettling, scary, even traumatic. Take the risk anyway and lean in. Leaning into lament is a necessary skill in the art of rejoicing…Almost every person is insecure and underencouraged. Almost no person wants to admit it…There is no shortcut past Good Friday to get to Easter. There is no joy without a sorrow, no rejoicing without mourning, no comfort without distress, no rest without weariness, no gain without loss, no songs of joy without songs of lament, no rejoicing from Philippians without the vapor from Ecclesiastes.” [Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen]

That day this weekend, when the Christmas play didn’t come together, my kids prayed for me. I don’t even think it seemed silly to them. [Dave was grilling our supper or he would have been right there in all that struggle with me.] Distress happens, and when it does, call on those who care for you to come alongside…for comfort and for joy.

Worship Wednesday – The Wonder of God – “So Will I” – Hillsong Worship

[Adapted from the Archives]

Photo Credit: Cedar Ridge Community Church

Christmas time is full of wonder…of a mystery of Jesus’ coming, not just as a man but, as a baby. God drawing near to us, in love and long-suffering. Immanuel – God with us. What a wonder!

Several years ago, I spoke at a homeschooling conference on the role we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows, then, as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.

In preparing for the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below…his own wonder at a question Jesus asked. At that time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…

“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.”Psalm 8:3-5

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”Luke 12:26-28

In thinking of how, as parents, we might protect and nurture our children’s sense of wonder, we rouse up our own sense of wonder.

Why We Must Protect and Nurture Our Children’s Sense of Wonder – Linda Akeson McGurk

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?

It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:

  • Babies. Full-stop.
  • Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
  • Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
  • The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
  • The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
  • God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.
  • The wonder of a virgin birth, of obedience even in death, of a resurrection.
  • the wonder of loving God – and that we are heard, known, understood, and forever received…by Him.

“Does the resurrection mean anything for your life now? Oh my, yes. [Because Jesus is the one bringing the kingdom of God – “shalom – complete healing of all the relationships in creation. We will be reconciled to God; to nature; to one another; and to ourselves…This broken world is not the only world we’re ever going to have…In the resurrection life we will dance perfectly, know perfect love, full satisfaction. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear”.Timothy Keller, Jesus the King

If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.

“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.Teresa McCaffery

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. –  C. S. Lewis

This is just a taste of the wonder we will know in Heaven…and what is our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.

Photo Credit: Alan Chen, Good Free Photos

Gratefulness flows out of wonder and moves us to worship. We parents model wonder for our children & train them to turn their hearts in worship toward God…at Christmas and every “ordinary” day.

Worship with me in wonder as these days unfold toward Christmas – to Hillsong Worship‘s So Will I:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*

“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

*Lyrics to So Will I – Songwriters: Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin

YouTube Video – (Star of Wonder) We Three Kings by The Roches

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder – Deb Mills Writer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus,
our rescuer, redeemer, and hope.
Fill my mind with wonder and awe
at the deep truths of Christmas.
Help me to celebrate and share the
good news of Your grace with others
whom you bring across my path.C. S. Lewis Institute, Advent Prayer

Worship Wednesday – Sounding Joy – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Hope in the Healing

Let the whole earth shout to the LORD; be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.Psalm 98:4

…the time came for her Child to be born. And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…!” Luke 2:7-14

Every year since our children were tiny, we put on a family Christmas play. All of us dressing like those who were present (or summoned) for the birth of Christ. A baby doll wrapped in “swaddling clothes” representing newly born Jesus. Acting out the events of that miraculous day, with Scripture as our guide, can draw in even the youngest of children.

Now, that being said, putting on a Christmas play (as we saw in A Charlie Brown Christmas) doesn’t always have us marveling at the mystery of Christ’s birth…A few days ago, our four little grandchildren started “practicing” for this year’s family Christmas play. It was not without drama. The girls jockey for who will be Mary and who will be the angel. The boys use the shepherd’s crooks as swords. The only way we will probably be able to get our youngest grandson into a shepherd’s robe is to make out like he will be a Ninja. Joseph wants to have a knife tucked into his belt. Time travel was mentioned. Somewhere in all of that is found the message of Christmas – Christ came, and, with him, salvation for all who would receive him by faith.

The one thing I wished I had videotaped that day was them singing. Loud. Just loud. With abandon and little people joy.

Many of us are familiar with the traditional Christmas carol, Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts. It’s a glorious hymn that’s been sung around the Christian world since the 18th century. The birth of Christ, the Savior, is a singular and resounding cause for joy. Maverick City Music turns it up a notch. Here it is if you want a listen:

Let’s take a look at the original lyrics for a moment. All four verses. A song of triumph!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Repeat the Sounding Joy – Diane Klassen

What does the lyric “Repeat the sounding joy” even mean? Isaac Watts didn’t set out to write a hymn for Christmas. Joy to the World is a declaration of the redemptive coming of Christ into a lost and broken world. This changes everything. He changes everything. What is our response? To receive him and to declare his coming to all. Not just Jesus’ birth in a manger, but the moment-by-moment working of God’s providence in all of life. Joy goes much deeper in our hearts and minds than mere happiness. Joy fills us with hope, even on dark days. Joy redirects our gaze to a good and loving God who is ever present with us in this world. Therefore, we sound out our joy…on repeat…for the glory of God, for the encouragement of the church, and for the sake of those not yet His people.

Worship with me, repeating the sounding joy with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s help:

What does joy sound like?
Is it quiet like snow?
Does joy sound like the laughter of friends that you know?
Is joy like the sound of a kiss on your cheek
Or like holding your breath when you play hide and seek?

Maybe joy sounds real loud like a “Hip Hip Hooray!”
Or a whispered “I love you” at the end of the day?
Well, joy sounds a little like all of these things
But a long time ago joy sounded like wings

Sounding joy, joy, joy!

If you can imagine, on a dark winter’s night
The sky filled with angels all shining with light
And suddenly the shepherds and sheep down below
Were surrounded by songs from that heavenly host

Glad tidings! Great Joy!
We are never alone
God sent His Son to make heaven our home
So every Christmas, each girl, and each boy
Could lift up their voice and repeat sounding joy


Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy, joy, joy!

So every Christmas, we string up the lights
To remember the way that those angels shone bright
And we sing all the songs and we bang all the drums
To remember the day that God sent his Son

Glad tidings! Great Joy!
We are never alone
God sent His Son to make heaven our home
So every Christmas, each girl, and each boy
Could lift up their voice and repeat sounding joy

Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy to the world, the Lord is come*

*Lyrics to Sounding Joy – Songwriters: Ellie Holcomb & Nathan Duggar

Sounding Joy board book – Ellie Holcomb

Repeat the Sounding Joy – Nannette

Worship Wednesday – For All That You Have Done – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Pledgett

 

   

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

Thanksgiving is here again. At least in the US. For us, it’s all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith. I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Oh…just in case this Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage . I pray you can rein in your heart to remember that God sees you and loves you beyond your imagining. We can find blessing even in the struggle. You are a blessing to more than you realize…your taking the time right now to read these words is a blessing to me, and I hope right back at you.

Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table. There’s a place for you there, and I look forward to looking into those eyes of yours, and listening to all your stories. Or we can sit in the silence of His peace. As you like.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s “For All That You Have Done” to the melody of Auld Lang Syne:

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

(You’re faithful through the ages)

In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder
Hand in hand
Into the great unknown

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done*

*Lyrics to For All That You Have Done – Songwriters: Gareth Gilkeson, Chris Llewellyn

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies – Deb Mills

Not Feeling the Thanks in Thanksgiving? – Jesse Lyn Stoner

Struggling Toward Thanksgiving – Trevin Wax

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Worship

An Exegetical Analysis of Psalm 107 – Jake Hanson

[If you’re too young to have seen the film/play “Godspell“, don’t miss this endearing song, in video below, about the goodness of our God. It portrays Jesus (in Superman shirt) and his disciples. I still get goosebumps listening to this song. Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!]

Thanks for reading along and worshipping with me today.

Worship Wednesday – Your Praise Goes On – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Crowder Music; Coghive

…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. – Revelation 5:9

This time of year we see a lot of red in the stores and jolly bearded fellows. David Crowder is one of those in real life. He is a brilliant and whimsical Christian singer/songwriter. His concerts are joyful and boisterous…unrestrained in the sheer pleasure of worshiping Jesus in the company of other believers.

His last album was in 2021. It was Milk & Honey with the timely and hopeful message of God’s presence and provision for his people in difficult and confusing times.

Photo Credit: Crowder Music

This October, he released the Christmas album Milk & Cookies. Some quirky tracks we’ve come to expect from Crowder, some updated but still nostalgic standards, and some originals that will become worship standards. He delivers both playful and poignant songs and includes some interludes which sound like a monologue you might hear on an old holiday vinyl album. Shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Crowder Releases ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – Ross Cluver

Photo Credit: KLove, Pinterest

You might want to add Crowder’s album to your Christmas collection. The particular song I’d like to highlight today is “Your Praise Goes On”. Its message is both simple and profound.

Crowder is marveling at the birth of the Savior. He calls our attention to nighttime birth of a baby over 2000 years ago. Born in a stable and placed in a feed trough, that baby was the one “who assembled the earth”.

How could such a humble birth still be heralded all these centuries later?

This was not just any baby. He was the Messiah…our Savior. We will sing praise to His name until the end of time and on into eternity. Hallelujah! Your praise, Lord Jesus, goes on!

Worship with me:

A star in the sky, a Savior is born
Jesus, Messiah has come
What happened that night will ring on forever
‘Til every song has been sung

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

The shepherds stood watch and three wise men worshiped
The babe who assembled the earth
What happened that night away in a manger
Changed the whole universe

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

To the ends of the earth let it ring out
Every tribe, every tongue come and sing now
Glory to God in the highest
All glory to God in the highest

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

Your praise goes on*

[Thanks, David Crowder, for this sweet blending of songs to bless a wide audience and at the same time holding fast to the reason we celebrate.]

*Lyrics to Your Praise Goes On – Songwriters: Ben Glover, David Crowder, Jeff Pardo, Jeff Sojka

Singing the Christmas Story – Shirley Holden Carpenter

Worship Wednesday – I Will Carry You – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.Isaiah 40:11

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.Isaiah 43:1-3

“Even to your old age, I will be the same, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.”Isaiah 46:4

We are carried. From before we were born until we are delivered, after death, into our forever home…we are carried.

Not only by a finite, flawed human being but by the God of the universe, Creator of all things. We are carried by One who both transcends and enters into every element of our lives.

Singer/songwriters Ellie Holcomb and Benjamin Glover wrote a song entitled “I Will Carry You”. Originally meant to describe the deep love of a parent for their child, the writers found it actually described something much greater. God had inspired lyrics demonstrating His own love for His children.

“When I wrote this song with Ben Glover, we wanted to write a song for our daughters, but as it turns out, it ended up being a song that we desperately needed to hear for our own hearts,” the mother of three shares. “My hope for every listener who hears this song — no matter what they’re carrying in their lives or in their hearts right now — is that they would be reminded that they are carried by the God who made them and loves them.” – Ellie Holcomb

Last night a friend of mine shared this song with me…she shared it from her own deep dependence on her Savior. A Savior who is carrying her through a divorce, a hard extended family situation, and a long recovery from childhood trauma. At the end of our conversation about the struggle she is facing right now, she introduced to me this song I’d not heard before. God is good to His children. Suffering does not separate us from His care…we see even more clearly how He carries us through it…who He is and how He sees us…most beloved and treasured.Photo Credit: Katie Faris, Elisabeth Elliot

Worship with me.

I know you’re tired, I see it in your eyes
All that anxiety that rules your mind
I’ll be your shield when you don’t feel
Like you’ve got strength enough to fight
I’ll stand by your side

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

You are not the sum of your mistakes
You don’t have to hide the parts of you that ache
I choose you as you are a million times
‘Cause I am not ashamed of you
I won’t walk away from you

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens
Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
(I will carry you, carry you)
(Through the darkest night) You
(When you’re terrified)
(I will shoulder your burdens)
(I will carry you, carry you)
(When the waters rise) You
I will carry you*

“…no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, no matter how long it has lasted, he has not left you alone (John 14:18). He is with you (Psalm 23:4), he is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and he will be with you to the end (Matthew 28:20).” – Jon Bloom

He is carrying you. Drop your shoulders. Relax your body. Rest your mind. Refresh your spirit. In the care of a wholly trustworthy, fiercely loving Shepherd and Savior.

[P.S. That friend of mine above…the one with so much going on…in the midst of all of it, there is a radiance about her…an unmistakable hope…in her heart, she KNOWS she is being carried. So thankful for that. Thank You, God!]

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to I Will Carry You – Songwriters: Benjamin Glover & Ellie Holcomb

Ellie Holcomb Shares the Song She Wrote for Her Daughter, “I Will Carry You” – Lindsay Williams

How Involved Is God in the Details of Your Life? – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

The Condescension of Christ – Charles Spurgeon

7 Timeless Verses Where God Promises to Carry Us – Diana’s Diaries

YouTube Video – Carry Me – Josh Wilson (written with Benjamin Glover)

YouTube Video – Steady My Heart – Kari Jobe (co-writers: Ben Glover & Matt Bronleewe)