Category Archives: Attending or Focus

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 – I See You…or Refuse to – a Pet Peeve

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

[Pet peeves are not anything we want to cultivate or nurture…I get to a more positive place at the end so hang in there with me.]

US culture has changed – especially related to encounters with strangers or those we consider insignificant or irrelevant – as shown by turned down or away faces, looking beyond people, or not engaging with those we don’t know or don’t care to know.

People passing in hallways as if a living human being isn’t within their visual field. Charting a course from Point A to Point B, maneuvering around people without words. Stepping aside, disengaging, when someone else enters the space and greets one of the two in conversation. Disinterested.

I don’t understand this lack of desire in connection. This avoidance of engagement.

Avoiding Eye Contact in Body Language (10 Reasons) – Hanan Parvez

Where does it start? I occasionally teach elementary school-aged children, and even at this early age, there are kiddos who seem to easily engage across groups and with authority figures, others who are shy to engage or are awkward in social interactions, and, finally, those who only engage with their buddies (unless pressed to engage with others). Is it a personality thing? A social anxiety? Is there an environment (classroom or home) that sets a pattern for the children who see and engage with those around them and the ones who refuse to see beyond their friend group? It’s probably complicated, right?

We have grandchildren that look, gaze, see others…and refuse not to be seen. I hope it never changes as they grow older. How did they get where they are as children? I need to ask this question of their parents.

Eye contact as a behavior of connection can occur on a spectrum. No one wants the gift of creepy, penetrating stare-downs. A more subtle or passing gaze could communicate a desire for engagement but accompanied by a further desire not to intrude. Or at the opposing end of the spectrum, the total lack of eye contact as if there is no one there…or the hope, with social anxiety, that if I don’t look, you don’t see me. However, somewhere in the middle of all this, is the one who makes steady and engaging eye contact. That one that says with their eyes and facial expressions, “I see you”. Conversation may or may not follow…but to be seen and acknowledged is a small and precious gift we can present to another.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

A life habit easily developed is to determine to see those around us. To make meaningful eye contact. To honor those in front of us (whether a store clerk, fellow employee, or guy in the gym). Lock eyes, a head nod, a smile, a greeting – communicating “I see you”.

This comes to play in all sorts of situations. It is a humanizing practice. A situational awareness that goes beyond keeping ourselves and others safe. It communicates that we matter in the spaces we share.

In our city, as one for instance, we see people with signs at many of the intersections. Beggars. Homeless. Not really sure. The very least we can give them is our eyes…acknowledging them whether we give money or not.

Remember, I spoke earlier of a pet peeve not being something I want to indulge, right? So…

A pet peeve is a button pushed. Long ago, I made it an aim to get rid of the buttons in my life. They divide us and there’s enough division out there already.

This is one I’m still wrestling with…and not to my credit. It becomes easy for me to intentionally ignore, or see past those who see past me…or those who “refuse to see” ones who matter to me. Yet…am I not doing the same thing then? By faulting those in my small opinion are “refusing to see”? When we fault people, without understanding them, we don’t really see them either.

May it not continue so in me. How about you?

The Power of Being Known – Holly Korbey (Video above details some of this article – so good!)

How to Overcome Eye Contact Anxiety – Arlin Cuncic

What a Lack of Eye Contact Says About You, According to Science (and How to Fix It) – Wanda Thibodeaux

Worship Wednesday – Hark the Herald Angels Sing – the Gospel in a Song

Advent for this year has come and gone with the glorious ending being Christmas Day. I haven’t highlighted very much of this season because we were immersed in the moments. Hopefully, though, writing about this month-long celebration would be a joy…may the words find their place on the screen. Even as I write this Wednesday Worship following Christmas, it is New Year’s Eve…days later, that I will finish.

No rush, right? While many have their Christmas tree down and the trimmings of this Christmas stowed away…we are continuing to squeeze all the delicious good out of this season, now celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (Christmastide).

The 12 Days of Christmas: the Ultimate Guide to Christmastide – Tai French

In all the activities leading up to Christmas, some of the wonder escaped me…the post-Christmas quiet has been a second blessing…to reflect, not just on this past year, but, on all the beauty of Christ’s coming.

A couple of nights ago, we finally watched A Charlie Brown Christmas – a tradition every year. Charlie Brown expresses (to his friend, Linus) his exasperation in how Christmas has become so commercialized. Wondering at the meaning of Christmas. Linus comes to his aid, quoting from the Scripture, the wondrous account of the Christ child being born “unto you”. Unto you…to the world, but, in particular, to each one of us.

Photo Credit: Imgflip

That short scene in the film is exquisite, cutting through all the clutter never meant for Christmas. Because of Linus delivering truth, dropping his blanket as he spoke, his friend Charlie Brown’s thinking cleared. Clarity was restored…even joy.

The film finishes triumphantly with all the kids singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

In the intro to his beautiful book Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, author, theologian Tim Keller‘s writes about this widely familiar song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Let’s ask some questions of the famous Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”…Who is Jesus? He is “everlasting Lord,” who from “highest heaven” comes down to be the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” What did he come to do? His mission is to see “God and sinners reconciled.” How did he accomplish it? He “lays his glory by,” that we “no more may die.” How can this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that, as we have seen, it can be called “the second birth.” With brilliant economy of style, the carol gives us a summary of the entire Christian teaching…One season a year hundreds of millions of people, if they would take the trouble to ask these kinds of questions, would have this same knowledge available to them. To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel….one moment of the year when our secular society and the Christian church are, to a degree, thinking about the same thing.Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

As we prepare to enter the new year, we take the truth of Christmas along with us. In wonder at how God would draw so near to us…to reveal himself to us in ways we can understand…to demonstrate a love for us wholly unrestrained. Not surprising the angels filled the sky with song that incredible night.

Worship with me to Charles Wesley‘s glorious anthem (verse 5 is included, though rarely sung).

  1. Hark! The herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
    Joyful, all ye nations rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies;
    With th’angelic host proclaim,
    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
    • Refrain:
      Hark! the herald angels sing,
      “Glory to the newborn King!”
  2. Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
    Christ the everlasting Lord;
    Late in time, behold Him come,
    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    Hail th’incarnate Deity,
    Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
    Jesus our Emmanuel.
  3. Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings,
    Ris’n with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by,
    Born that man no more may die;
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.
  4. Come, Desire of nations, come,
    Fix in us Thy humble home;
    Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
    Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
    Now display Thy saving pow’r,
    Ruined nature now restore;
    Now in mystic union join
    Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
  5. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
    Stamp Thine image in its place:
    Second Adam from above,
    Reinstate us in Thy love.
    Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
    Thee, the Life, the inner man:
    Oh, to all Thyself impart,
    Formed in each believing heart.*

*Lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Charles Wesley

Bible Verses to Hark the Herald Angels Sing

The Story Behind “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Josh Longanecker

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place for His Coming – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Hark the Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven (Lyric Video) – Paul Baloche [Official]

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems

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 – Listening – I Heard the Bells – Casting Crowns

Blog - I Heard the Bells - Worship Wednesday
Photo Credit: CastingCrowns.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given the continuing wars of our day, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful. When you hear the bells ring where you are this Christmas season, take heart in that. We must continue to pray for His peace on earth. We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both near and far away.

Listening for “the right [to] prevail” is where we stand, as Christ-followers. Straight and resolute in our understanding of God’s intentions and His movement in our world. We can resist and refuse to add to the noise of hopelessness and cynicism in this world. We bend our hearts to hear the voice of God speak through the chaos…speaking the peace that only He can bring…through our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Monday Morning Moment – Waiting – a Waste or a Way to Wisdom

Photo Credit: Henri Nouwen, Quote Fancy

Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting that seemed as if it would never end? Maybe you’re there right now.

The more pivotal thing about waiting is what we do with it…can we stay on top of the entitlement and all its turbulent emotions when they are unsatisfied? That is a goal worthy of pursuing. Treating the waiting not as a waste but as a way to wisdom.

Just this morning, I was waiting with a friend for a promised outcome. She is an old grandmother, resettled here from another country, with few resources.

She had the hope this morning of receiving some much-needed dental work ( in process for several months now). Today was to be the day for her to receive the last treatment – the fitting of a partial denture which would allow her to enjoy eating again.

It did not happen.

For whatever reasons it was delayed and more appointments would be made. Apologies and explanations were made, and the grandmother pulled herself up out of the dental chair one more time. We weren’t entitled to a different outcome. She is receiving free care through a local university and foundation. So why did this make me so angry and sad at the same time?

I was sad for this sweet grandmother who has already been through so much this year. Sad for myself, as her driver, for another series of appointments ahead of us. Even a little sad for the dental student breaking the news to us. And close-to-tears angry that either we misunderstood or someone somewhere dropped the (proverbial) ball.

As I collected myself and came back to my senses, I was reminded (in the conversation going on in my head) that this was a small thing. What if I was waiting on a big thing?! What would my response be to that?!

In years past, cancer nursing was my profession. Talking to a friend about this whole waiting thing, she recalled what so many cancer patients go through in waiting – for biopsy results, for treatment decisions, for blood counts to come back, for reevaluations of their cancer, for…for…for. We wait. To conceive that much-longed-for baby. To meet that person we will spend our lives with. To hear the outcome of elections or military coups. To determine if we prepared well enough for landfall of hurricanes.

Big things and small things all require waiting in life. We either wait in wasteful, blaming, soul-diminishing ways or we wait in wisdom.

Maybe it’s in the wait that we find what matters more.

In the minutes that tick by, we re-order our thoughts toward life and hope and possibility. Photo Credit: Heartlight

By the time my grandmother friend and I left the dental clinic this morning, we were better. No blaming. No feeling mad or bad. We accepted that today wasn’t the day we would say our goodbyes to this long waiting. It was just another day situated in between more to come. I didn’t resign myself to the disappointment, but rather determined it would not rob me of the joy of the day. We would be back, and, one day, she would get what we originally came for, months prior.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Don’t get me wrong about waiting. I have, at times, pushed back against it. Not just for myself but because it was a disservice to someone else. There does seem to be a pecking order in waiting…the poor and marginalized are required to wait the most, it seems.

When waiting generates a disturbance in our hearts that takes us nowhere good, then we must check it, and check our reaction to it. In that space, we can choose to change direction and keep our heads and hearts at peace. We can choose a way to wisdom, rather than an explosive, diminishing waste of the waiting.Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, AZ Quotes

Waiting can be exasperating…and any engineering to decrease it is a beautiful thing…so there’s that for which to be thankful. Also, what is the object of our waiting. If we look to people to always deliver (in a timely fashion), they (we) will disappoint. If we can take our eyes of people and on to God, waiting becomes a very different experience.

Two of my favorite verses from the Old Testament speak of this:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.Psalm 40:1-2

Those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

Even Jesus on his last day of life on earth waited…until all of the prophecies were fulfilled. While hanging in pain on the cross, He waited until just the moment all were fulfilled, and then he gave his last breath. Wow!

Photo Credit: Philip Yancey, Heartlight

May we learn to wait as the Messiah did with loving perseverance and hope of a greater future.

“While we are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives, pure and blameless in His sight. Consider the patience of the Lord as salvation.”2 Peter 3:14-15

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)

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Magic on a Cheap Guitar, the Most Repeated Command in the Bible, the Evercrisp Apple, (Dis)Comfort Zone, and Old Friends

Friday Faves – coming in hot! Days later. Life races on, doesn’t it?!

1) Beyond the Guitar – Magic on a Cheap Guitar Sweet original composition by classical guitarist Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Showcasing two very different guitars…or rather what the difference – pretty much, it’s the guitarist, not the guitar. [Not to say the beautiful David J. Pace guitar isn’t his go-to instrument for all his guitar work/performances…but to emphasize it is the one playing it, whatever the guitar is, that makes the music.] Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – #100 Mini Guitar vs. $10,000 Guitar

Beyond the Guitar – Fingerstyle Journey – 90 Days to Beautiful Playing

2) The Most Repeated Command in the Bible –  Even more than “Love the Lord your God” or “Love your neighbor as yourself. The most repeated command is  “Do not be afraid”.

Something to think about because we are surrounded to fearsome situations…yet, we are not to fear. How do we keep from it?

By practicing remembering. Remembering the provision of God in times past. Remembering the goodness of God in all we have in life right now – people who love us, work and other resources, health and/or helps toward restoring health, time, meaning, forgiveness, and beauty surrounding us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight 

We have circumstances that tempt us to fear, but we also have God’s promises to bring us through those circumstances. Fear itself robs us from sound thinking. Photo Credit: Flickr

The tricky thing about fear is that we can’t necessarily stop it from happening. It comes over us. However, we can keep it from overwhelming us…determining to live in the freedom and light of what is true, instead of what could happen. God is there for that as well.

When fear messes with our relationships or makes us timid to enter new ones, we can take courage in the command “Do not be afraid”. This week in our church, in The Art of Neighboring, we studied about fear in neighboring relationships1 Peter 3:14 (quoting from Isaiah 8:12) Do we allow fear of rejection or fear of our differences keep us from leaning into each other? What if we leave fear out of the equation in caring for one another? That’s the better path.

“Do not be afraid.”

The Art of Neighboring

Photo Credit: Heartlight

3) The Evercrisp Apple – One of the best parts of this time of year is the Fall apple harvest. Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp apples have been our favorite in recent years…until this Fall, when we discovered the Evercrisp apple. Wow!

We discovered this apple on a recent trip across Virginia toward the Appalachian Mountains. The Apple Shed delivers on several types of apples and introduced us to this one.

Once back in Richmond, we were thrilled to find it sold locally from the Saunders Brothers Orchards. Woohoo!!

A small delight in life but, for this season, a huge one. What’s your favorite apple?

4) (Dis)Comfort Zone – Is the phrase “comfort zone” a first world experience? I don’t think so. It is a universal idea – a place where we feel safe and soothed. A bad thing? Not necessarily except for how it insulates us from the rest of life. What if developing our capacity for discomfort helps us to live more fully, more in community?

Jason Seib, a health and selfcare coach, has actually built his whole platform on embracing a (dis)comfort zone. He teaches how we can maneuver around our uncomfortable moments in healthy ways.

If you go to his website, his home page currently seems all about his workshop (which I haven’t taken although it is reasonable cost-wise). However, hang in there. He also extends solid content to non-subscribers through his podcasts and social media pages. I think that speaks to his integrity as someone who actually cares about people wherever we are in our comfort zones.

The main message for us in his coaching is that we reach for food, alcohol, or other addictive substances or activities when faced with discomfort. Our temptation is to do whatever we can to restore comfort. Jason Seib points to developing skills in sharpening our awareness of discomfort when it happens and respond in ways that don’t harm us.

Jason Seib Facebook

Jason Seib Podcasts

Jason Seib reminds me of counselor Brad Hambrick whose webinar on “Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance” was extremely helpful for me. Seib and Hambrick both talk about the importance of us recognizing that negative emotions are not necessarily bad [they are actually informative] but how we respond to them matters.

Photo Credit: SermonLab, Brad Hambrick

Counselor Brad Hambrick

5) Old Friends – This week has been one of celebrating old friends – visits both here and states away with people who have stayed the course with me through years and years.

I don’t know about you, but loneliness is a real time experience for me. So many moves and changes for us. A different season – children grown with their own lives, me now in retirement sorta kinda, and most of my closest friends living far from where we now live.

It gives pause to reflect on friendship and revisiting the kind of friend I am and hope to be. A key to having old friends in our every day life is continuing to reach out and nurture those relationships. I’m working on it…and trying to show up for these friends who have shown up for me. They, and others like them, point the way.

Old friends, even while not on the daily or even the regular, have the rare quality of history. Memory. Understanding. Loving anyway, through seasons of neglect, distraction, and loss. Old friends remain.

So grateful for forever friends – people who know us well and love us anyway. Singer, songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s song says it all:

Bonuses:

I Raised 2 Successful CEOs and a Doctor. Here’s the ‘Unpopular’ Parenting Rule I Always Used on My Kids – Esther Wojcicki

Photo Credit: Facebook

Photo Credit: Mark Allan – Mark’s Musings: God, the Proud Father

The Many Paths to Better Mental Health – a List of Excellent Resources

Shame vs. Guilt Infographic

Photo Credit: nicabm

Photo Credit: TobyMac, Facebook

“Come deeper. The waves won’t knock you down back here!”

Deeper in the Word
Deeper in Prayer
Deeper in Worship
Deeper in love with Jesus

Yes, the waves will still come, regular and strong.
But in the deep…
We will have peace,
We will be comforted,
We will have healing,
We will have restoration,
We will have joy,
Because we will be moving with The One who controls the winds and waves.

Go on, my sweet friends…go deeper.
HE is waiting. – Kristin Crawford Kerley, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – You Are a Shining Light – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“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

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 window ledges as well as our dining table, making special occasions even more special.

[Incidentally, today marks the 20th anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing. She brought so much beauty into our lives…so much beauty.]

Finishing Strong – On the Anniversary of My Mom’s Glorious Homegoing – Deb Mills

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 is mesmerizing as they change with with the light.

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

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. 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 as well. 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.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, is currently preaching on 1 John. Sunday’s sermon concentrated on 1 John 1:5:

“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

I wanted to reflect on stained glass today as a vehicle for beautiful light. As we think on the Lord, we are like these stained glass windows – reflecting His light. We each have a particular make-up meant to give special glory to Him as He permeates each one of us with His light and love. That’s the church – a beautiful stained glass window – with broken pieces joined together in ways that make the whole even more exquisite than the parts…especially when His light shines through.

As the days fast approach another December 25, we pulled out our Christmas music and are playing on repeat every day, as opportunity allows. The Christian band, Rend Collective, from Northern Ireland, has several such albums. Today’s song Shining Light and the anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing inspired me to again celebrate Jesus, the light of the world.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s beautiful Shining Light:

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite

Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

You have always been a thorn in their side
But to me you’re a shining light
You arrive and the night is alive
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

You are a force, you are a constant source
Yeah, you are a shining light
Incandescent in the darkest night
Yeah, you are a shining light

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life*

In closing, I want to display the only pieces of stained glass I have at home – each piece is a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom gone from us now 20 years. A mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including a garden full of irises. God’s beautiful light shown through her to us…now, we have the privilege to do the same to those around us as well.

*Lyrics to Shining Light – Songwriter: Tim Wheeler

A Bright Shining Light: Five Things Revealed to us by John’s Jesus – N. T. Wright

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Below find one of the videos of the sweet band Rend Collective.]