Tag Archives: church

5 Friday Faves – The Godfather Theme, Roaring Lambs, a Very Different Jesus, Core Values, and Finally Spring

Here’s to your weekend! 5 favorite finds from this week:

1) The Godfather Theme – One of the most iconic films of all time was The Godfather adapted from the 1969 novel of the same name. The story focused on the fictional New York crime family, the Corleone’s. So engrossing was the narrative that two later films of the same name followed. Composer Nino Rota‘s theme from The Godfather is beautiful and memorable. Whether or not you’ve ever seen the film(s), you know this melody. Nathan Mills has again taken this giant of a song and arranged a gorgeous piece for a single classical guitar.

[Sidebar: One of Nathan’s guitar students is doing a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. He heard a local guitarist playing and it reminded him of Nathan’s style of playing -at Beyond the Guitar. He engaged the guitarist in conversation and found out that he knows Nathan’s work and follows his music. Small guitar world. Sweet little story for you who follow and support Nathan’s music as well.]

2) Roaring Lambs – Many years ago, I read TV producer Bob Briner‘s book Roaring Lambs. Says Briner: “In my circles, Christians are thought of as people who are against things. I want us to be known as people who are for things good, wholesome, creative, wonderful, and fulfilling. That’s the message of the Gospel and it ought to be the message in all that we do.” His audience was Christians but there is wisdom for anyone who wants to make a difference rather than just a reputation or wants to make a change rather than just noise. We don’t think of lambs roaring, but Briner challenged the reader to take their work to the next level but not only aiming for excellence but for a depth and breadth that touches the lives of those around them.Photo Credit: Mountain Pleasant Granary

A woman I only know by what her “roaring lamb” reputation retired recently. Her job was made redundant by a new software program that was adopted in her workplace. What everyone will miss, as much as they will miss her diligence to task, is the beauty she brought to her department. Her generous gift of hospitality in both decorating common areas and serving food to her colleagues made it a joy just to leave the elevator and enter that office suite. She will be so missed.

Another “roaring lamb” work can be environmental services in a hospital. The tasks that make for a safe place to heal often go unseen and unrewarded. However, we all know personally or have heard stories of what can happen when either care or diligence aren’t exercised in this vital work group.

Finally, award-winning cartoonist Johnny Hart, after coming to Christianity later in life, made an intentional decision to incorporate his faith into some of his work. Some newspapers dropped his comic strips (B. C. and Wizard of Id) because of this, but most continued to publish them. His work was much-loved and his intent was just to use the medium of cartoons to inform on faith issues (as some use comics to do the same with political issues).

He died at his drawing table on Easter Eve 2007 after finishing his strip for the next day. It was fitting for this “roaring lamb”. [I wish I could post it but you can find it here.]

Roaring Lambs:  A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World – Bob Briner

How to Be a ‘Roaring Lamb’ – Warren Cole Smith

I Did It His Way: a Collection of B. C. Religious Comic Strips – Johnny Hart

3) A Very Different Jesus – I am always baffled when Jesus is treated as inconsequential…some sort of weak made-up messiah of even weaker people who call themselves Christians. Maybe, the reason is because of how we Christians have represented Him in the world. This historical profoundly world-changing Jesus is so much more than is captured in the Charles Wesley song “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”.Photo Credit: Slideplayer

The Scriptures say that Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today, forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If this is true then we can search out who He is and what He is like.

British scholar C. S. Lewis, in his Chronicles of Narnia, described Aslan, the Christ-figure, very differently:

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh”, said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”…”Safe?”, said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”Photo Credit: Mark Meynell, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The night before the crucifixion of Christ, a large mob of both religious authorities and Roman soldiers came for him in the dark of night (John 18:1-14). If he had resisted, by the might of His power seen previously, they would need large numbers to insure his arrest. Jesus did not resist arrest. He went of his own accord, knowing his journey to the Cross was at hand. For our sake, He laid down His own power…His own life (Philippians 2:5-8 and John 10:17-18).

We admire first responders – those who run into danger for the sake of those who can’t save themselves. Everything we know, when we read both the Gospel and other religious (and secular) texts, is that Jesus was this kind of different.

The question for all of us is “what will you do with this Jesus?”

The Rebellious Privacy of God: Rowan Williams on Narnia in “The Lion’s World” – Mark Meynell

4) Core Values – A friend of mine this week raised the question of what were my family’s core values. I hadn’t thought of that…in a long while. Not even sure I’ve wrestled with my own core values lately.

We hear of the core values of organizations.

Photo Credit: Multi Works Ltd.

The military publicizes and trains its personnel with core values in mind…differing somewhat depending on what branch of the military.

Photo Credit: Asia J. Sorenson

Corporate strategist and author Ben Sands has written a super helpful piece on discovering your core values. He talks about how our core values are those few we lead out with in our lives.

How to Discover Your Personal Core Values (and Why You Must!) – Ben Sands

So I went through this article and his list of values. He also gives a 4-step process for narrowing down to our core values. I’m still working through it, but below are my list of values (that I need to fine-tune to a Top 5, and then determine guiding principles, per his prescription):

  • Belonging/Inclusion
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Community
  • Compassion/Kindness
  • Dependability
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty/Transparency

How about you? Sands calls our core values our “safety net”. Otherwise, we don’t really have a mooring to dock our lives. I’m thinking he is right. What do you think?

5) Finally Spring – While this week marked the coming of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, we in the North finally have Spring. Yes. Just a few pics of the glorious flowering around us right now.

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage, Facebook; An Extraordinary Day

Bonuses:

The Long Goodbye is finally available for purchase and rental. We watched it last night. Wow! Just wow!

From Sunrise House to forever home: teen finds adoptive family

Photo Credit: Homegrown Learners, Facebook

One of my favorite bloggers (a “roaring lamb” herself) on dealing with criticism from readers:

[This has been a week of hard and hard-to-understand events. They drive us to think and pray and reach out to serve.]

In the wake of the terrorist attack in New Zealand, your community needs you.

Wherever you happen to live, your community needs you to show up and say words out loud, because white silence is violence.

Your people need you to acknowledge that Muslims are people who Jesus loves, and that whether we agree or disagree with their beliefs, nobody deserves this.

They need you to pray against terrorism, violence, and white supremacy, but also to do something about it.

They need you to shut down jokes and little comments that make targets out of people of color or other faiths. Don’t let them slide. Make supremacists uncomfortable.

Your community needs you because only when white people, a LOT of white people, actively stand up and stand with those who experience oppression, terrorism, and loss of life because of the color of their skin and their place of worship, will the terrorists understand that they have lost. That their sickening philosophies are not welcome, even among other white people.

POC cannot do this for us. It is up to us to fill our lives and words and deeds and spaces with so much love and inclusivity that white supremacy cannot fit. That it is squeezed out. We do this by how we react to jokes and comments, what we say or do not say, what we do, how we speak about and treat Muslims and other folks in the margins. Again, we don’t have to agree with their theology, but are we kind? Are we gentle? Are we protective of the oppressed? Do we shut down casual racism and xenophobism when we see and hear it?

It’s up to us.

It’s up to you. Cattie Price, Facebook (with permission)

Agencies In Race Against Time After Cyclone – Mozambique

280 Christians Killed in Attacks in Nigeria

Thoughts on How to Be the Church in an Age of Terror and Tragedy – Carey Nieuwhof

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

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

“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.”

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

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.

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 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.

Earlier this year, we were in Tennessee visiting our home church in Kingsport. Indian Springs Baptist Church (ISBC) has two campuses. The Hill Rd. campus is the larger of the two. It is our home church. Our family grew to five in that church. We love the people there. The Glenwood Church campus is new to us. It is now under the ISBC umbrella, although originally it was the mother church.  We worshiped happily at both campuses that weekend. It was at Glenwood that we heard and sang the song, “Is He Worthy?” for the first time.

In this beautiful old church building, being led by a praise team (and a Baptist Hymnal sweetly propped up in a window), Dave and I worshiped God as intimately as we would have in our own church. God was present…and this small congregation sang this song as, I’m sure it will when we are in His presence in Heaven..

When I came home, I looked up this song and its writer, Andrew Peterson. He wrote this song for a congregation to participate as deeply as the worship leader would. The responsive reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to.

“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

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Every Day Is Special

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:3-6

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”

We live in a divided world.

Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight

God help us…and He will.

In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.

“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20

This is unity.

The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – JesusJohn 13:35

In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other.  Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.

[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]

When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.

Take a moment to savor the singing of this song Undivided by the vocal trio First Call. In this rendition, they are joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all pioneers in contemporary Christian music.

[I get cold chills every time.]

Worship with me to Undivided by First Call:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him
And yet spend all of our days
Living life divided

But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep us apart
We trust Him to unite us

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image

And in His eyes, we are all the same
And though out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided*

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15

*Lyrics to Undivided written by Melodie Tunney, 1986

First Call Music

Don’t Give Up – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Josh Wilson Music

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  Luke 16:10

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’  Matthew 25:21

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23

For those who have served well as deacons acquire for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 3:13

Here we go again! Round Two on life in the small.

The Lord has really been speaking to my heart of late in being faithful in the small things. Just a week ago, I posted on this very thing – Days Packed With Ordinary. Today we will go deeper still in this being faithful with the little.

Our hearts can get so entangled with ambition and greed. We as Christ-followers are meant to be dead to all that, but it creeps in if we are not vigilant to keep our eyes on Him. Even in our faithfulness in doing the small things, we must be wary of that tiny thought taking root in our hearts…that thought of doing to please – either God but too often people. One would think that good works done to please God is a good thing…make sense, right? Yet, it takes on a whole other color when we act in hopes of pleasing God more – maybe even to get more from Him. Maybe to please him more than one of our brothers or sisters. Oh this journey!!

Our focus is off here if this is our struggle. It’s “not about us”. When we are faithful in the big and small, it’s not always because we do what we do well. No, it doesn’t always work out that way. The key is that we do, in the small and big, what we do because of Him. Our love for God trumps every other motivation.

Discern What Pleases God Himself – John Piper

As I’ve thought of this taking joy in the small, many different people have come to mind. Here are just a few of them:

  • A member of our church is one of the hardest workers I know. She is there most days taking care of one odd job or another. She does work that most of us wouldn’t volunteer to do but rather be willing to pay a professional to do it. One day, when I commended her on all she does, she told me a story of another woman in a far country who served in her own church in various small ways as her tithe because she had little else to give. This woman at our church works without pay, for God and for us.
  • A single friend of mine works a regular work-week and then gives of herself to the community through various agencies. She’s an introvert and needs decompression time, but she stretches herself in this way. I learn so much from her.
  • Another guy at our church isn’t even a member but he often stands at the door greeting and welcoming folks as if into his own home. We feel like rock stars around him.
  • The stay-at-home moms in my life extend themselves both in the home and out in ways that encourage me and cause me to marvel.
  • That unseen coworker who makes the coffee and washes the cups at the end of the day. We are always impressed when our boss makes and serves us coffee. How about this guy or gal? This small kindness and others like it show a side of people that may not get noticed by the highers up…but God sees.
  • Lastly there’s a family pastor in our lives. He lives states away and has served in a small church for nearly 20 years. With what all his many responsibilities must be, he never forgot our dad. Regularly visiting him and other old ones in their homes or nursing homes.

After my blog of last week was published, a dear friend wrote some very kind words on my Facebook page and pointed me to singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s song “Dream Small“. It is so fitting for today’s conversation.

Worship with me…this God who fits us for every good work, big and small, but most importantly, calls us to Himself.

It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time that the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving for the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world

Dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Dream small

It’s visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things
‘Cause these simple moments change the world

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small

Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Yeah, five loaves and two fishes could feed them all
So dream small
Dream small *

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Toby Mac

Faithful With Little, Joyful in Much – How God Meets Us in the Small Things – Adam Cavalier

*Lyrics to Dream Small by Josh Wilson

Worship Wednesday – Days Packed with Ordinary and the Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video – “Dream Small” Inspired by Becca (Josh’s wife)

Josh Wilson Music

Josh Wilson Returns to Christian Radio With New Single Dream Small – Explains Story Behind the Song

5 Friday Faves – Han Solo Theme on Classical Guitar, Marriage Meetings, Breaking Fast, Time Enough, and a Memorial Befitting

Friday Faves on a Saturday – let’s get to it.

1) Han Solo Theme on Classical Guitar – Classical guitarist and YouTuber Nathan Mills just posted his arrangement of John WilliamsSolo: A Star Wars Story. Composer John Powell wrote most of the music for this particular Star Wars film, but 86 y/o Williams was brought in to do the main themes related to the young Han Solo.

2) Marriage Meetings – We often hear about planning date nights into the busy life of marriage and family. It is almost magical the kind of conversation that happens across the table when we are out together. No house or screen distractions. Allison Sweet Grant and husband Adam Grant (one of my favorite workplace thought leaders) write about something a bit different: marriage meetings.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

The Grant’s wrote a piece together on the impact of weekly sit-downs where they go through what’s going on with each other and what they need (either help or counsel) from each other…or someone else, if necessary. Our default when we don’t get face-to-face is to consider what we do “for the family” or each other is more substantive than what our spouse does…when really it may be we just don’t know what she/he does…so we can’t appreciate it.

“Find out what’s important to your [significant other], because then it’ll become important to you. The little things you do for each other will become more meaningful. Instead of checking a chore off your to-do list, you’ll realize that you’re helping with something that matters to your partner — and will make their day easier.” – Allison Sweet Grant & Adam Grant

Is Swapping Date Night for Meeting Night the Secret to a Happy Marriage?

16 Secrets for a Strong, Happy Marriage – Spoiler Alert: This List Doesn’t Include “Netflix and Chill”

The Little Psychological Tricks That Will Make Your Marriage HappierAllison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant

3) Breaking Fast – Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, when it’s done right. Of course many days, it’s just some coffee, cheese and bread (or bacon, on rare occasions). When we have breakfast

for supper, then it takes on a life of its own. An egg casserole or quiche, a breakfast pizza, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits…. mmmmmm. All kinds of food loveliness.

Ramadan is being observed around the world right now, with its fasting and prayers. Breakfast for supper is the norm for this month.

If you do an internet search, you will find a cultural feast of images of foods served for breaking fast. Here’s one from a friend in Africa:Photo Credit: Facebook, Tara Sahara

What are your favorite breaking fast (breakfast) yummies?

4) Time Enough – The passing of time is a conundrum for us all. We were not made for time but eternity. Time itself brings to mind so much more than the winding down of the hours and days. The old adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” bears more truth in “Time flies whether you’re having fun or not . ” In considering time, we often fall into two camps – those who feel guilty about how we use our time and those who refuse to feel guilty about it. Sigh…I am usually of the former camp…except for this moment.

Photo Credit: MSW.USC.edu

For this moment, this week, I was reminded that we are all given time enough…we all have time enough. The historical record in Scripture gives lifespans of various lengths as “full of days” or “full of years”.

I’m determined to not be anxious about how I use my time or of what value is the measure of my life. It’s too burdensome and actually takes my focus off God and on myself.

We all have time enough…may we spend it, in season, as the precious diminishing thing it is… but not be consumed about the wisdom of our choices.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.. My times are in Your hands.”Psalm 31:14-15

Ten Top Quotes on Time

5) A Memorial Befitting – Just over a week ago, a beloved VCU professor, Rebecca Tyree, died. It was a head injury, from a bike accident, on a beautiful spring day, in the company of her partner. He must be experiencing terrible grief, because her friends, family, church, colleagues, and students certainly are. She taught music, choral music. I loved going to concerts where her student groups performed. So much joy and delight. She had one of those faces that exuded love and wonder. Both of our sons knew her, one as their professor and the other as friend. Our youngest didn’t attend VCU but after meeting Mrs. Tyree, she invited him into her rehearsals, and he loved it. She shared life generously with all around her.Photo Credit: Facebook, Taylor Ramirez, Remembering Rebecca Tyree

A link to her memorial service is below. It’s full of love and honor and humor. So many sweet stories and they only scratched the story of this dear woman’s life.

Remembering Rebecca Tyree

Several beautiful songs were performed by the 175-member choir who assembled themselves from students and colleagues to sing for Mrs. Tyree. They were unseen in the back balcony of the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, but their voices were like that of angels. One song I’d never heard before was Wanting Memories. The video below was taken on a friend’s cell phone. It’s perfect.

Wanting Memories – Words and Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell

YouTube Video – Wanting Memories – Sweet Honey in the Rock

Rebecca Tyree Memorial Service – Video – Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Va (Hopefully the church will keep it available in the future)

_________________________________________________________________________

Soak up this life we’ve been given…and enjoy each other. See you Monday.

Bonuses:

Below you will find two blog excerpts from a blogger I just discovered this week. She doesn’t give her name but she talks a lot about life and family and occasionally about her favorite alcoholic beverages…and she swears.  I think she is British by her stories. Besides the swearing part, in her words, she communicates a welcome to those who read. She touched my heart.Photo Credit: Facebook Screenshot – I Know, I Need to Stop Talking

Photo Credit: Facebook Screenshot – I Know, I Need to Stop Talking

7 Ways to Tell if Your Church is Friendly

Rachel Carson on Writing and the Loneliness of Creative Work

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

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar – About a month ago, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement of Fortnite Dances. Like the popular game and its celebrity players, this video skyrocketed. 5 million views and Beyond the Guitar YouTube subscriptions doubled over the course of days. Now he has a second video out featuring another set of Fortnite Dances.  Gamer or not, if you love music, this is a fun sampler!Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!

2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.

3) Habits of Love – Thanks to Andy Crouch (see #4), I have discovered Richmond attorney and thought leader Justin Earley and The Common Rule. So thrilled about this. The funny thing is that I ALMOST heard Justin speak on busyness earlier this month but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise (ironic, huh?). When Andy retweeted this image from Justin’s Twitter page, I was captivated.Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!

Photo Credit: Common Rule of Life, Facebook

Meaningful Work – a Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul – Shawn Askinosie

4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children.  When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…

Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.

Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]

[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]

Bonuses:

Indoor Generation

Save the Storks – Pro-Woman, Pro-Baby, Pro-Family, Pro-Life

CNLP 192: Caleb Kaltenbach on How to Embrace an Outraged and Polarized Culture Most Leaders No Longer Like

Photo Credit: Matt Lieberman, Twitter

Photo Credit: Intelligence Is Sexy, Facebook page

On Being a Millennial Pastor – Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days – Erik Parker

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

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

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

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

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

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

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

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

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

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

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stained glass windows are such an art form.

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

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

They are beautiful and we are grateful.

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

Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

God in the Mending – Carrie McKean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me please…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fell like the snow flakes from Heaven to Hell;

Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,

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

Pleading — Cursing — Dreading to die,

Selling my soul to whoever would buy;

Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,

Hating the living and fearing the dead,

Merciful God! have I fallen so low!

And yet I was once like the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow

Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!

How strange it should be when the night comes again

If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!

Fainting — Freezing — Dying — alone,

Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan

To be heard in the streets of the crazy town,

Gone mad in the joy of snow coming down;

To be and to die in my terrible woe,

With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.

[Following lines added by an unknown author]

Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,

Sinner, despair not! Christ stoopeth low

To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,

And raise it to life and enjoyment again.

Groaning — Bleeding — Dying — for thee,

The Crucified One hung on the cursed tree!

His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,

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

Oh God! in the stream that for sinners did flow

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The End***

Photo Credit: Tobias Van Der Elst, Flickr

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

**Lyrics to At the Cross – Chris Tomlin

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Twitter; The Promise FM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh I’ve been washed by the blood

Thank You, Jesus**

*Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Duluth, Georgia

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

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

Love Atlanta – Rising Together to Serve Our City