Tag Archives: Advent

Worship Wednesday – The Hope of Christmas – Matthew West

Photo Credit: Harriet Long, Facebook

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7

Writer Ann Voskamp talks about Advent and the healing hope we have in Christ.

“I thought I lost hope when life tore a hole in my back pocket of my heart, and my creased and worn-out hope fell out when the bottom of things fell out — you know: when the door clicked close for the last time.  When that email landed and kicked hard right in the gut.  When the doctor shook his head slow and the room kinda spun, when too many mattering things felt impossibly wrecked, and it’s your life that can feel sorta totaled, and how do you keep going on hoping — when it’s the important parts of your life that are write offs?

But who knew that folded and creased Hope unfolds into wings?

Turns out: You can think you’ve lost hope, or you can try to shield yourself from it, abandon it, mock it, guard against it or try to trash it.

But hope is a rising thing and flies to you.

No matter where you are — in the unknown and unfamiliar — Hope is like a homing pigeon that knows how to find its way back home to you. Because Hope has an inner map and will always wing its way back to you.” – Ann Voskamp

Hard to Keep Hoping? The Secret to Finding a Way Forward – Ann Voskamp

Worship with me, considering the truth of singer songwriter Matthew West’s The Hope of Christmas.

Take me back to eight years old
The little church on a dead-end road
With a candle flicker in one hand and dad’s hand in the other
Take me back to Silent Night
My heart was full and the world was right
Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers
These days peace on earth is hard to find
And I need you to remind me one more time

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

Watch the snowflakes falling down
Like a blanket on this town
For a moment we can hardly see the pain this year has brought us
May the sick find healing’s touch
May hatred’s fight be won with love
And may every heart make room for you the One who came to save us

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

I bowed my head to pray tonight
Felt my little girl by my side
She slipped her tiny hand in mine
And we both talked to You
And it took me back to eight years old
My daddy’s hand and a story told
About Heaven’s love in a manger low
And a promise that’s still true

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart*

Put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.” – Psalm 130:7

*Lyrics to The Hope of Christmas – Songwriter: Matthew West

Monday Morning Moment – Hope in Christmas Lonesomeness

Holidays can be lonesome. We all get that. Any of us who has had to be away from family, because of distance or work obligations, know the ache of celebrations missed…people missed. We make the best of it, of course, but we miss the memories not made.

Now, for some, Christmas is not a happy holiday. My dad died on Christmas Day. Other Christmases were spent far from our families. Or we may have other, painful reasons for not thinking of Christmas as a happy time. The lonesomeness can be right under the surface in a room full of people. We may have all the trappings of a happy holiday…but…

Then…add COVID-19.

Writer Joe Pinsker has posted an insightful piece on our experience of COVID 2020 – The Year We Lost – When We Look Back on 2020, Will We See Past All the Things That Didn’t Happen?

He talks about the missed celebrations, the delays in academic and career goals, the mass exit from our public lives…and how we have been affected. He also points to the lack of punctuation that holidays usually bring us…the missed comfort of rituals we have held dear or at least help define who we are as people attached to others.

The general shortage of chapter breaks in 2020 has three notable consequences.

  • First, as researchers have demonstrated, moments of transition can prompt people to reappraise their habits, and perhaps adopt new ones.
  • Second, a year without celebrations means fewer vivid memories—and looking back on vivid memories is one way people mark the passing of time.
  • Third, and maybe most powerfully, missing out on full-fledged birthday parties, baby showers, and so on can feel like cutting pages out of one’s life story. Rites marking important milestones “play a key role in shaping what we call our narrative self, the sense of who we are and how we came to be that person. – Joe Pinsker

This is where I want to pull us back from the edge.

I understand lonesomeness…it is my experience sometime during every Christmas. I miss my Dad…my Mom (who died almost 20 years ago…still miss her every day). We live still separated geographically from many in our family. All the gift-buying-and-giving is stressful, right? The question of “Did I do enough?” is both agonizing and ridiculous.

There is a longing that seems to belong especially to Christmas. A longing for something more…something beyond this world… something that doesn’t hurt. We we find ourselves in this mindset, we have to “pull up”. We have to shake off the darkness in order to see the light.

I am not saying that is easy. COVID has given us plenty of darkness this year. We do not have to let it take Christmas…not this year.

Maybe you like us won’t get to be with family and friends this Christmas. Even our Christmas Eve candlelight service is happening via Facebook Live. It is what it is this year.

We can fight to step away from the loneliness…the ache of lonesomeness. It does take some effort, but our being present, our showing up, matters. Not just to others, but to each of us personally.

We step outside. We use our phones to actually make a call. We pull some cans of food out of our pantry to feed someone else. We forgive. We ask forgiveness. We remember Jesus. He had to have been lonesome for intimacy with his Father in those years he came so close to us. He understands.

We remember. We receive. We re-enter.

Too often we have heard (and maybe said) “I can’t wait until it gets back to normal”. Or “I wonder what the ‘new’ normal will be after COVID”. We don’t have to be passive recipients of what is coming.

We turn the waiting of this year…the isolation of this year…into hope for the coming Savior…hope of the filling that this season can bring, even in the presence of a pandemic.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Contemplative Monk

2020: The Year We Lost (A Year Without Parties, Celebrations or Ambition) – Joe Pinsker

The Story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s great losses that inspired the carol “I Heard the Bells” – Facebook

To the Lonely at Christmas – a Poem – Secret Angel

Worship Wednesday – When Earnestly Wrong – Behold! – Plumb

[A theme “Behold” – See! – continues this month in Worship Wednesday – last week’s blog Behold Him is found here.]

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” – Jesus – Matthew 5:43-44

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-15

This week I oddly became the target of some Twitter hate, related to my politics and a comment I had made. It was nothing – social media stone-throwing doesn’t usually have an effect if you have nothing to lose. Plenty of folks reacted in my defense, but when the last person commented (to me) that what I expressed was “shameful” – and she was also a Christ-follower, I finally had to respond: “You don’t know me”.

With the greatest of earnestness, was I wrong? Was she?

How do we respond to each other when what we think or believe is contested? What goes on in our hearts when our reputation seems at stake? How do we process a situation when what we were longing for…what we had hoped would happen…didn’t. Do we throw in the towel on relationships that get complicated, or even hurtful, because we don’t want to do the work of reconciling them…or nurturing them back to health. Do we want our way more than God’s?

Could we be earnestly wrong about such things?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were earnestly wrong about the coming Messiah. Oh, not that they weren’t looking for him…but he was supposed to be a “conquering king on a white horse, not the suffering servant…. Should they have known about the Messiah coming first as a baby?”

Yes. The Scriptures are full of prophecies and promises about the Messiah…There would be those who received Jesus…and through the ages there will be…as Himself, not as we wish he would be…our own made-up messiah.

When we want something that doesn’t go the way we think it should, something dark can happen in our hearts. Something dark that we then take out on others…even on God Himself.

The real Jesus calls us to trust him even in the darkness of our current circumstances. He calls us to love when we would rather hate. He calls us to speak and live in the truth, when we would rather just give the perception of doing so, without the reality displayed in our lives.

Whether my Twitter foe knew me or not…God knows me…and loves me…and wants what’s better for me than even I want for myself. When I stated to her, “You don’t know me”, my own self-protective heart was exposed. She didn’t know me…did she see Jesus in me?

Singer, songwriter Plumb talks about Advent being the season of anticipation. When we set our hearts on who God is, who we are as His image-bearers, and whatever His purposes might be, we can look forward with joy…for the coming of Christ. This Christmas. This coming year. Into every circumstance and every relationship.

“We in our own lives anticipate things coming or happening and sometimes they don’t happen or they don’t come in such a way that we thought or we expect or we wanted. We can still trust in the same God who knew what we needed then in a Baby. He knows what we need now in our own lives, no matter what. Behold, He has come, and He knows exactly what we need, and we can trust Him.”Plumb

Worship with me to Plumb’s Christmas worship song “Behold”.

Years of silence
Waiting on a king
They thought they knew who you would be
A soldier, fearless and strong
A warrior, but they were wrong

In the darkest night
Came brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

So we pray
We ask and seek
When the answers don’t come easily
And when they’re not what we expect
Help us to trust you even then

In our darkest night
Be the brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

Unlikely Joy
Anticipated hope
Give us your peace
Undeserved love
Such relentless grace
You are our king

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world*

As we count down to Christmas and to the end of 2020, a hard year (harder for some of us than we ever thought), we have an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Have we been earnestly wrong in dealing with a situation? Have we taken our own counsel about a relationship and not God’s (the Scripture is bursting with His great wisdom)? Has our resoluteness in our own rightness (in politics, or any other stand) jammed a wedge between us and someone He also loves? If so, there can be forgiveness…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:5-8

“Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.”

*Lyrics: Behold – Songwriters: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (Plumb), Christa Wells, and Jerrod Morris

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song “Behold” – Plumb

Isaiah 43:19 Commentaries

Advent and Christmas Music in the Midst of COVID-19 – Diana Sanchez-Bushong – includes the program of a Service of Lessons and Carols

Worship Wednesday – Advent – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson

[Adapted from the Archives]
We live in a “not so much”,  “couldn’t care less” world.
Our senses are bombarded with the material – the stuff we think adds value. The “too cool for school” attitude of self-importance pushes past high school into adulthood. We think highly of ourselves, and the coolest of us settle into tight tribes – actually cool or not, we find our people and tuck ourselves in.
Advent gives pause. Even for those who do not celebrate Christmas, the presence of a God-child, a baby like no other, must be grappled with…even for a transformative moment. For believers and non-believers alike, we can stop the show of our lives…and consider Jesus.
Who is he? What is there in him that must be, at least, examined?
Consider.
So much of Scripture is plain and clear in its teaching such that any of us could follow it and apply it to our lives. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by the Apostle John under the direction of the Holy Spirit…is not like any other text. It is full of the mystery of God and yet can yield great truth to the least theological of us. Read what John, in his last days on earth, wrote about Jesus:

“Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. I wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne… He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.

When he took the scroll…they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.Revelation 5:1-9

The passage above from Revelation 5 is derived from a God-infused vision that John experienced and then transcribed for us to learn from it.  We don’t know for sure what the scroll represents – is it the purposes of God? Is it the finale of world history? Is it the judgment for the sins of all humankind? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know, is the scroll could not be opened…except by One worthy. Not just able to open it, but worthy to open it.

Jesus, the sinless Savior, was/is worthy. He is given many names in Scripture. The spotless Lamb of God is one. The perfect sacrifice. He alone could give His life for ours. He alone could pay our debt to a holy God. He, without sin, gave Himself in our place for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. One day He will come for us in the might and majesty of a conquering king – this lion of God, unmatched by any foe, wholly able to deliver us to the Father.

During the weeks of Advent this year, our praise team at Movement Church is leading us through this beautiful song, considering Jesus: Is He Worthy?

Singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson wrote this song for a congregation to participate responsively with the worship leaders. The reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to…but appreciate.

“One of the things I like best about liturgy is the more or less constant involvement of the congregation. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” It’s not so much about us coming to sit while the pastor and the elders do everything, but about all of us together rehearsing the story of redemption, edifying each other by reading Scripture aloud, reaffirming what we believe, embodying worship by kneeling or singing together—all of it culminating, of course, in the Lord’s Supper. I can’t overstate how much I crave the moment at the end of the service when I kneel at the front and a friend of mine places the unleavened bread in my open hands, looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andrew, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.’

Every week my wayward, hungry soul is confronted by the love of Jesus. Like clockwork.” – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: GodTube, Andrew Peterson

Let’s worship together with this glorious anthem by Andrew Peterson.

[Verse 1]
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

[Verse 2]
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Refrain 1]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

[Verse 3]
Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Bridge]
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

[Refrain 2]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!*

[Sidebar: If you worshiped God with the help of this video, you saw a sea of white faces as the singers. Andrew Peterson wrote an apology worthy of your time. Let’s none of us falter from what he calls a misstep and miss the larger message of this beautiful song.]

Jesus…You are worthy.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9Photo Credit: The Rabbit Room

*Lyrics to Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

Story Behind the Song Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson – Kevin Davis

Waking Up to Is He Worthy?: an Apology – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People – The Gospel Coalition – Andrew Peterson

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll – Commentary – David Guzik

Monday Morning Moment – Advent Begins and Christmas Memories Follow

[Adapted from the Archives]

In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).

This time each year I clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish.

Driving to the thrift store with the bags of what will become someone else’s treasures, my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In those bags, among the bits of stuff, were several sets of Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.

I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.

Still in the driver’s seat, with the car running, a song I’d never heard on the radio came on. It was Michael W. Smith’s Somewhere In My Memory (from his 2014 album The Spirit of Christmas.

In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. The musical score was composed by John Williams.

Have a listen:

Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home
here with me*

What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.

So Happy start of Advent, kind readers. Whether we get the gifts right or not this year, Christmas still comes for us. What your loved ones want most for Christmas…might just be you.

We have good advice, on choosing love, in this image of a holiday bucket list:

I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift… Solitude instead of having every minute of our December weekends filled with parties or other seasonal events. One such grace for me was seeing the plaque below, at a local Chick-Fil-A. Surprised by the joy of it.

A Better Way Ministries -a place of refuge for men struggling with life controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addictions

Anyway….there you have my Monday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2019.

One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them.

Until then?

“All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me”.

*Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube Video – Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Feat. Audrey Smith

5 Friday Faves – December Song, Christmas Adverts, Food Insecurity, God’s Purposes, and Giving

This week and the month of November has come to a chilly close. December brings in the the season of Advent and the countdown to Christmas. I will do everything possible to slow down time, to savor the month ahead, and to remember, as Thanksgiving already prompted us, all the reasons we have to be grateful. Here are this week’s favorite finds (also revisiting some old precious ones):

1) December Song – This time in 2016, singer Peter Hollens introduced an original Christmas song. It is now one of my favorite songs of the season. How he introduced it was quite creative. He orchestrated a contest for people to do covers for the song and he had the entrants juried by a small hand-picked group of judges. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) submitted an arrangement, and in the hundreds of contestants, he came in 16th in the hundreds of contestants. Here is the beautiful December Song and Nathan’s arrangement as well.

2) Christmas Adverts – Remember the Hallmark Christmas commercials of years past? Like this one. I am a sucker for sappy Christmas adverts. Tear up like clockwork. Many of the very best commercials come from Europe and other parts of the world. Here are some faves from this year and years past:

[The one below was produced with a pittance of $65 cost. Brilliant.]

3) Food Insecurity – This is the social dilemma of not having adequate access to fresh, healthy food. When marked by geography, the phrase food deserts is also used.Photo Credit: Mary Lide Parker

A simple Facebook post by a friend generated a thought-provoking, rich conversation on this topic.

Photo Credit: Alee Swanner, Facebook

I share the links from that conversation below.

The Root of the Problem – an Interview with Lindsey Haynes-Maslow – Mary Lide Parker

The Role of Local Food Availability in Explaining Obesity Risk Among Young School-aged Children – Helen Lee

School and Residential Neighborhood Food Environment and Diet Among California Youth – Ruopeng An & Roland Sturm

Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity – Gina Kolata

Should the Concept of a Food Desert By Deserted? – Layla Eplett

Always being aware of those who may need food is important. This time of the year, we are more likely to give to food banks, church food pantries, and other outreach ministries. This is just a beginning place…but it is a beginning. The family below introduced “canstruction” to us, and we do it every Christmas because of them.Photo Credit: Brenda McEwan, Facebook

4) God’s PurposesWisdom Hunters writer Shana Schutte has posted a fascinating list of 12 ideas on the purposes of God. Please take the time to read them. Comment below which ones were the most meaningful to you at this time. Mine were #1, #11, and #12. [For those of you who rarely click on my links – you know who you are – this one is not to miss.]

Photo Credit: Shana Schutte

Look Up, Child – [Speaking to Culture’s Preference to Youthful Leadership – Samuel D. James

To Survive Our High-Speed Society, Cultivate ‘Temporal Bandwidth’ – Alan Jacobs

5) Giving- On a trip to Walmart this week, I heard the Salvation Army bell ringing for the first time this year. Looking for the ringer, I saw the kettle but not the person. Finally saw him. He was an older black man standing away from the kettle, beyond the shadows of the building, to be able to soak up the warmer rays of the afternoon sun. He was very thin, “breath and britches” my mom-in-law would say. Ringing that bell for the sake of others less fortunate. Sure inspired me to give.

This is the season. I love the video below because we are not always open to give of ourselves…sometimes we need a nudge. Thankful for the nudges and the nudgers.

10 Overlooked People You Should Give Gifts to This Christmas

Baptist Global Response – Gift Catalog

That’s it for this week. Have a lovely weekend – this month fills quickly with all sorts of activities and adventures. Choose wisely and leave space for the unexpected. Maybe even a Christmas miracle.

Bonuses

Eight Blue Zone Lessons for Slowing Down – [Disclaimer: One of the 8 is “Do Happy Hour” – I don’t drink (lots of alcoholism among people I love and have loved – figure I’m vulnerable). So for those like me, I’m thinking any sort of afternoon break in the day – teatime, Happy Hour sans alcohol – would also work.]

FAQA – Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists – Six Day Science

Snowman Memories – This pic reminds me of a wonderful Christmas memory when our kids were small and we lived in Tennessee. Our Delaware family would arrive sometime over Christmas Day. Uncle Mark and Aunt Stacie didn’t make it until the evening because of a Christmas snow that blew in and complicated their travel. Almost immediately after they arrived, they took the kids outside and built a huge snowman out of the fresh and sticky snow. The kids named him “Oatmeal”. By morning, with the temperatures rising, he was quickly diminished but that sweet memory remains.Photo Credit: Beth Taylor, Facebook

…and the seed catalogs arrive:

5 Friday Faves – Stranger Things, Fierce Friends, Sarah Harmening, Mother Daughter Bucket List, and Same Kind of Different As Me

The week has wound down to Friday again. I love Fridays not because the week is “finally” over but because it’s a day that gives the week an exclamation point. Or a period, as the case may be. This Friday is an exclamation point around here. Closure to a long and full week; closure with joy. Hope your Friday punctuates such a week as well. Savor the finds of your week…and mine.

1) Stranger Things – Buzz abounds right now as the Netflix sci-fi TV series Stranger Things debuts its Season 2 this weekend. I haven’t seen even the first series because of its spookiness; the latest trailer creeps me out. However, this series is crazy popular with younger folks. The brilliant music sets the tone of the suspenseful nature of the story…set in the 1980s, with the disappearance of a boy and his friends and parents trying to search out what happened.

Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangements of some of the lovely haunting melodies from the series. Watch here.

2) Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Just this week, I looked around a room full of women who deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that matter to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die. They can be buried, or ignored or walked away from, but never broken. If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.” ― Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them.

3) Sarah Harmening – This past June, a lovely 17-year-old girl from Alabama on her way to love on children in Botswana…died. It was a bus accident in Georgia and we all heard/read about it in the US. Her name is Sarah Harmening. It’s been four months and the wound of her loss is still fresh and painful for those who knew and loved her.

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

So young yet she reflects a walk with God that radiates His goodness and glory…she seemed one glad for the opportunities to serve Him but more glad for the day to see Him.  I look forward to meeting her in Heaven some day. In memorial to her, I’d like to re-post her last journal entry, written while on that fateful bus trip:

“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad. I guess because I’m going to be gone so long and I was a little uncomfortable. Then I decided to read my Bible. I prayed and opened up to 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1. Pretty much everything I read applied to me now. It talked about watching over the flock entrusted to you which would be my little buddies in Botswana.’”

“I am also called to humble myself which I will need to do and that also means being a little uncomfortable. It talked about the devil prowling about like a lion seeking whom he may devour which he will especially be doing on this mission trip. And now it is our mission trip. And how we will need to be alert and of sober mind. And lastly, how we will get to participate in His Divine Nature! I mean how awesome is that?

So mostly, I was just reminded of why I am here and that God has called me here and His has done this for a reason. So, I know He’s going to do incredible things.”

In a text she sent just before the crash, she quoted 1 Peter 5:23-25 and her thoughts about the text:

 Since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever. – 1 Peter 5:23-25

“‘This is such a great reminder. We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment and this not about us, life is not about us, it’s about God who is eternal. So, I want to dedicate the one moment I am here, completely and entirely to Him’”.

Mother of Teen in Church Bus Accident Shares Her Final Journey Entry – Fox 5 Atlanta

Two Still Hospitalized After Fatal Atlanta Church Bus Crash – Fox 5 Atlanta

Added: Sarah’s Mom writes about her: The “Little Cricket” Martyr

4) Mother Daughter Bucket List – I’m not much on bucket lists because really all of life is such an amazing ride, I haven’t thought to add anything that isn’t already happening. Then writer Susan Merrill posted a mother daughter bucket list and linked to various other sweet possibilities (for other combinations of family members). It got me thinking so I asked my daughter what she might like to do together:

Thanksgiving, farmers market, flea market, beach day, apple picking, college campus if we were ever near there, baby pics, movie set, farm, cooking family recipes together, rainy day movies, read your favorite books from childhood, picnic…

Got me thinking and making plans to execute some of the above. Merrill’s lists include other family members, so I’ll be asking.

Photo Credit: Hall of Fame Moms, Pinterest

5) Same Kind of Different As Me – A true story captured by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent, Same Kind of Different As Me is now a film. I loved the book and am looking forward to the movie.

 “I used to spend a lotta time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”
Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me
After the book made Denver Moore famous, he was invited to speak in many settings, including the White House. How he wanted to be introduced:

“Tell ’em I’m a nobody that is tryin’ to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody,” Moore told Hall.

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together – Ron Hall & Denver Moore

That’s the wrap on this week’s Friday Faves. Would love for you to share in Comments what has made this week all the more special. I am so grateful you read my blog. Please subscribe if you don’t mind. Blessings until next time, and be kind to yourself and each other. If you read this far, you are among those fiercest of friends, I’m sure.

Bonus

Fall in TennesseePhoto Credit: Lois Martin

Niagara FallsPhoto Credit: Allison Lovejoy

Advent will be here before we turn around. Free this week on Kindle: Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems 2000-2015 by Laura M. Fabrycky

What the Most Resilient People Have in Common – Lolly Daskal

8 Things We Need to Stop Doing with Our Phones – Scott Bender

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place For His Coming

blog-peace-at-christmas-crosswalk-25-joyful-prayersPhoto Credit: Crosswalk

So it begins. December 1. Turn around…and Christmas will be done. NOOOOO! There are those out there who respect no day over another (Romans 14:5). I get that. Still, Christmas is such a sweet time of year. What’s not to love about it? All the bright colors and shimmering lights in the dark of winter (granted, this is in the Northern Hemisphere). The many expressions of generosity (gift-giving among family and friends and kindnesses to strangers near and far). The secular and sacred observances that we share within this holiday and holy day.

“Christmas is too big for one day”, writes Andreas Köstenberger, and I agree. As the years go by, some Christmas observances deepen while others diminish. I’m becoming a lack-luster gift-giver, but cherish times together more than ever. December weekends full of parties just make the month fly by, but quieter more intimate times are the experiences I long for.

Connecting with people, savoring the beauty around us, remembering Christmases past, and pondering the wonder of what it all means. This Christmas miracle…this Child who would usher in a redemption only He could provide…from before Creation through a coarse cradle all the way to a Cross.

I need to stretch time in December…to go as deep as is humanly possible into the reality of this Savior King…to think long on the incredible truth of what happened there – To hold a place for His coming…“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
blog-advent-christmas-for-unto-us-a-child-is-born-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Celebrating Advent (the “coming” of Christ) marks out the month of December in Sundays. If it’s not your tradition, you can search it out easily (here is one resource). For me, it doesn’t require prescribed readings and lighting candles…but I’m beginning to delight in those expressions of worship, as well.blog-advent-church-stage-design-ideasPhoto Credit: Church Stage Design Ideas

Advent, to me, incorporates prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship in song…and quiet. A quiet that gives space for God to fill it with Himself. That is Advent. The coming of Christ into hearts made ready for Him.

Are there times in December when darkness attempts to extinguish the Light? Sure…I’ve known those times…that’s actually one reason I love Christmas so much…celebrating the coming of a Savior who shines light into the darkest of our nights…setting us free from what keeps us in darkness…because He came.

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

In the hordes of shoppers and restaurants bursting with celebrants. In the packed candlelit churches and at boozy company parties. In the silence outside of celebrating Christmas as well as the quiet night within…

You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

Christmas Is Too Big For One Day – Why We Celebrate Advent – Andreas Köstenberger – Desiring God

Advent Begins Today – David Mathis – Desiring God

25 Joyful Prayers to Ready Your Heart for Christmas – Candace Crabtree

Good News of Great Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

Why Advent Is As Important As Christmas – Veronica Neffinger

Hark! The Long-Lost Verses Sing – David Mathis – Desiring God

The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs – Russell Moore

The Message of Christmas – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – a Hymn for Every Generation

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

The old hymns are a mainstay for our family. All of us know the lyrics to many of the standards in the Baptist Hymnal. Even our young adult, very cool children. Then the new hymn-writers came along. My favorite newer hymn, when we were overseas, was In Christ Alone. Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote this theologically sound, lyric-deep, and glorious hymn. You can read more of the story of this hymn here.

Today, however, we sang another hymn which may become my latest new favorite. [We will always love In Christ Alone as well.] It is Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – written by Matt Boswell,  Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa. I heard this song earlier this year at a gathering of song-writers and wrote about it then. Matt Papa led a large gathering of people in singing this great old…new hymn. We worshipped.

Here’s what one of the writers, Matt Boswell, says about it:

“We are always reaching for new ways to say the same things. This is a gospel-hymn from first to last. The melody and phrase “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” serve as a fountainhead of four movements: the incarnation, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, and his glorious resurrection. Its repetition and simplicity are intentional, and are intended to point the singer to the gravity of its lyric.” – Matt Boswell

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3

As our church gathered to worship during this Advent season of Christmas, we worshipped this God who gave Himself to us in Jesus – in his birth, death, and resurrection. As we anticipate celebrating his first coming, we also wait with wonder on his second coming.

Maybe you know this hymn. If not, you won’t want to miss it. Here are the lyrics to Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyric video follows)

VERSE 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

We Were Made for Worship – It’s What We Do – Because of What He Did

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Acoustic)

YouTube Video – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery featuring Matt Boswell

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Lyrics with Chords)