Tag Archives: O Magnum Mysterium

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3, Christmas Poems, Overcoming Anxiety, and Which Is It? Christmas or XMas?

The countdown is done. Christmas Day looms. For those with an Eastern Christmas, there is still a week to go. We loved celebrating two Christmases when we lived in Egypt. Then there are the 12 days of Christmas still ahead until Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). So we continue to celebrate. Sweet especially for those of us dealing with COVID interruptions or other struggles (loss, holiday work,etc.). Here are my faves this week. Please share some of yours as well …and Happy Christmas!

1) Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3Nathan Mills‘ most recent piece is an original composition entitled “Dreams”. He plays it on this amazing smart guitar – the Lava Me 3 guitar. Check it out below:

2) Christmas Poems – Christmas is the kind of holy day that inspires poetry. This week, I had the opportunity of catching the online program A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture. Created and produced by the Fellowship of Performing Arts, it was a lovely mix of classic Christmas songs, poems, and monologues. Some surprisingly humorous and some deeply spiritual. Two poems, both by Scottish poet George MacDonald, were powerfully performed.

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

My absolute favorite Christmas poem is “Little Jesus” written by English poet Francis Thompson. It’s a bit long but such a treasure.

LITTLE JESUS

by Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel like to be

Out of Heaven, and just like me?

Didst Thou sometimes think of there,

And ask where all the angels were?

I should think that I would cry

For my house all made of sky;

I would look about the air,

And wonder where my angels were;

And at waking ’twould distress me–

Not an angel there to dress me!

Hadst thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys?

And dist Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles? Did the things

Play Can you see me? through their wings?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes, with playing on our soil?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small:

And Thou know’st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father’s way–

When Thou was so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–

So, as a little child, come down

And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say: “O Father, I Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.”

And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue

Hast not changed since Thou was young!

3) Overcoming Anxiety – Even as lovely and magical a time as Christmas can be, we can experience anxiety. Over family gatherings, or under-performing on gift buying, or just a creeping loneliness. Whatever our anxiety, the 4-step approach for overcoming anxiety is a healthy practice. Thanks to NICABM.

Infographic: A 4-Step Approach for Overcoming Anxiety – NICABM

4) Healing From Harm – We hope as parents that we do no major harm to our children. Unfortunately, there are relationships between parents and children that can go terribly wrong. Counselor Adam Young tackles this topic (and others) really well in his podcast . I listened to Episode 23 this week where he interviewed a woman named Autumn, on her relationship with an abusive mother. The title of this episode is “How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You”. Her story gives hope. The dialog between her and Young is both instructive and prescriptive. To be able to get actual help from a podcast is a blessing. Especially in a time when counselors are hard to find (not enough of them or over-scheduled in these days of heightened mental health issues thanks to COVID).

One of Young’s free resources is “How to Write a Story”. I’m excited about this assist, because writing the story of my life since my earliest memories is actually on my list for 2022. Not that my parenting was harmful – I had a wonderful mom and step-dad, but my biological father was neglectful and then eventually just disappeared from our lives. I know the wounds of that have had impact, and actively recalling my growing-up years seems a way to take hold of anything that has harmed and can still be having impact on my family. By the way, this is not an exercise in blaming parents. We all have failings in this area. It’s an exercise to reframe memory such that it doesn’t control us.

Words That Harm, Words That Heal: A Short Guide for Parents – Justin Coulson

Any resources you recommend for healing from harm? Please comment below.

5) Which Is It? Christmas or XMas? – The great thinker and writer C. S. Lewis became a Christ-follower at the age of 33 (in 1931). He did not come to this decision lightly having first rejected God altogether, as a public and punishing atheist, and then a theist, and finally a Christian…the most reluctant convert. He never looked back. His writing and teaching since then have greatly influenced generations to follow. Even the most uncertain have been riveted by his works on the beauty and reality of God, and Jesus, the Son and Savior.

Again, in watching A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture, I heard, for the first time, Lewis’ essay Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter From Herodotus. He writes of the irony of Christmas celebrated in the two ways done in the West – the sacred and secular – and how we as Christians blend the two. It is a rich narrative, short and very much worth the read. He targets the United Kingdom but it could be about the US as well. We rush around buying, buying, buying, and then partying, partying, partying. To the point, we end up in a heap on Christmas Day with the children wondering aloud “Is there anything else?” As they are practically covered over with wrapping paper and presents. Our little grands said themselves, so wise for so small, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, but we get all the presents”.

I don’t mean this as a rant…just wanted to point to the brilliant, short piece by Lewis…and maybe to call for a pause in the rush. I’m almost past caring that I get equally amazing gifts for the grands. It’s ok for the other grandparents to shine. I’m just thankful to have them all in my life.

So…have a happy Christmas, Dear Ones. For those who get caught up in the maddening rush without the transforming experience of Christ in it, watch for the Hound of Heaven …In the flurry of activity to make Xmas happen, you might chance to notice, like C. S. Lewis did finally, that persistent wooing of God to draw us to Himself…out of His deep love for each of His created ones.

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly,

‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!” – Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

Bonuses:

Labor to Give (Or Take) No Offense – Jon Bloom

5 Keys to a Great Apology (and Why Leaders Need to Apologize First) – Carey Nieuwhof

Photo Credit: Greg Mathias, Twitter

One of my favorite “Christmas songs”:

The most beautiful and powerful Christmas cantata I’ve ever heard: “Saviour – The Story Of God’s Passion For His People” – written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell – the cantata itself begins 9:45 minutes into the video. 

[Product description: Saviour is a pop-classical oratorio created by Bob Farrell and Greg Nelson, in performance around the world since 1994. Recorded live at Gateway Church, this spectacular performance features full orchestra and choir with standout solo performances by Steve Green, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Keron Jackson. – Available on DVD.]

Funny pic captured by our daughter – vultures at Voter Registration – must have gotten wind of the rumored registering dead voters:

Pic below from my dear friend Marc Merlin who captures the most fascinating images at a favorite cemetery – Oakland in Atlanta:Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Instagram

A favorite Christmas tradition – canstruction for the food bank:

All the candles lit – focused on the coming Christ:

The Christmas cactus – somehow it knows – just days ago, nothing, no buds, nothing – and then…it blooms.

Worship Wednesday – Connect the Dots to Christmas – O Magnum Mysterium

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” –  Galatians 4:4-7, ESV

Christmas. At this time of year, it is everywhere. The folding together of secular and sacred. The parties. The music. The food. Gift-buying, giving, and receiving.

Whatever our take on Christmas…whatever we believe…one thing is clear. No matter how hard some will try to blur the message…even Christians in our own small endeavors to insist on our observances…one thing is clear.

There would be no Christmas apart from the coming of Christ.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, powerfully preached this message during our recent Advent service. After his welcome to the church, he railed for 5 minutes (to make the point) on the tangle of Christmas distractions. The stuff of Christmas that can make us anxious and fearful of not getting it right – for ourselves, our families, and God Himself.

[Here’s the link to the sermon podcast, and here’s the link to the service from Facebook Live.]

Then (hang in there, past that 5 minutes), and Pastor Cliff launches into a beautiful challenge of how we have the privilege of connecting the dots of how the Lord Jesus permeates all that is Christmas.

“What if we just acknowledge and see the joy that everything that happens during the Christmas season is literally a direct or indirect response to one person – the person of Jesus. He is literally the linchpin of all that we get right and all that we get wrong, whether people know it or not. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. There is a ton of joy that we can, at least, just acknowledge…that all of this is literally connected back to Jesus.” – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

He called us to connect the dots of how Jesus is celebrated in the  great lyrics of the Christmas hymns. Even in the holiday programs of schools today – we can take the secular and remember the sacred.

We connect the dots – from the cradle of Christ to the cross…and to the commission He has given us in the culture of our day. Not in weird “Christiany” ways, but lovingly leaning into others’ lives, as Jesus did. Inviting those in our circles into the story of Christ…the story of Christmas…connecting the dots.

Rather than offering a song of worship today, I’d love to suggest a few moments of quiet. Reflecting on the wondrous nature of this season…this world-transforming birth of Jesus. It doesn’t really matter when he was born…it matters that he separated himself from the eternity he has always known to become human, for our sakes. For our sakes.

American composer Morten Lauridsen‘s O Magnum Mysterium is one of my favorite Christmas sound experiences. It is not intrusive. The lyrics in Latin don’t distract. It can be a call to quieten our hearts and to breathe in the great gift of Jesus to a world so in need of him.

Connecting the Dots at Christmas – Ken Shigematsu

Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Music, Geese in Flight, Restaurant Salad, a Bookstore, Procrastination in Writing

Blog - Friday Faves

At a conference and am running late so this will be a super quick run-through of five of my favorites of this week. Happy Friday!

  1. Christmas Music – We start listening to Christmas music in October. There are so many songs that take us right to the throne-room of God Himself. This one by the King’s College Choir is so exquisitely beautiful. Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (“O Great Mystery”). Enjoy –

2) Geese in Flight – In the Fall, seeing Canadian geese (and sometimes even snow geese) flying in formation gives me so much joy. My husband’s family lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware, and the migratory return of geese northward is a common and extraordinary sight.  Greg Richardson wrote a piece this week on spiritual life and geese in flight. He reminded me of a long-favorite short essay – 7 Lessons from Geese.

Blog - Geese - Leadershiponpurpose.orgPhoto Credit: leadershiponpurpose.org

3) Restaurant SaladO’Charley’s – where kids eat free – or at least they did when our kids were little. My absolute favorite salad is their Southern Pecan Chicken Salad (so much crunch and chew with fried chicken, dried cranberries, pecans, and Mandarin oranges. Also just the best Balsamic vinaigrette. Dave prefers O’Charley’s California Grilled Chicken Salad – similar array of textures and sweet and sours, but healthier. Not distracting me from my favorite. [Our friend didn’t even order the salad; the Fish & Chips is also yummy!]Blog - OCharleysBlog - OCharleys - foodspotting.comPhoto Credit: Foodspotting.com

4) Bookstore – I’ve actually never been to this bookstore but the video below captured my book-lover heart. It’s a part of the Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I saw the video as part of watching the livestream of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation conference last week. If you love books and best practices, watch the video. Your heart will sing.

4) Procrastination in Writing – I knew I had this conference this week and could have already written the pieces for this week beforehand – even Friday Faves could have been of a different week’s “faves”. But, no! Procrastination is a struggle for me. So many choices, so many other things easier to be distracted by than focusing on writing. Jerry Bridges, a successful and prolific author, writes sympathetically and encouragingly about procrastination – something he has also struggled with. Such a helpful article. If I hadn’t procrastinated, I would list out some of his helps…but instead I leave you with a graphic from an altogether different article. Sigh…

Photo Credit: Tom Gauld, Gointothestory.blcklst.com

What are some of your faves of this week? Hope your weekend is full of making more.

The Shepherd and His Sheep – We Want for Nothing – The Unity of His Word to Us

Blog - Sheep & Shepherd - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.” – Ezekiel 34:11

What a joyful thing to know that God, as our Shepherd pursues us and will care for us through all our days, even the most gloomy ones. We are in a season of life when we really need to hear from God on a time-sensitive matter. There are moments in these days that we strain to hear and wonder if we will. Then a passage, well, a couple of passages, pierces through that momentary silence. Our faith is renewed and riveted on the Good Shepherd…and we wait on Him.

Yesterday, Dave and I were at a leader training through Movement Church. Pastor Cliff led us through this worship exercise. As a group, we stood and read Psalm 23, together and out loud. We read it 5 or 6 times. About the 4th time, he led us to whisper it. I was so moved by this. It was like being with David, the author of the Psalms. I thought of him, possibly whispering these words, as comfort to himself and to his men. Maybe they were in hiding from the murderous hordes of King Saul. Or maybe they were in the quiet of their camp, sorting out the confusing betrayal of David’s son Absalom. I could hear that shepherd-king David, whispering those words to a God who loved him and would never leave him.

Then we read again in a louder voice, almost a battle cry. Then back to regular volume…and done. Done and transformed.

[You might want to take the time to do this as well. A beautiful experience.]BLog - 23rd Psalm

After we finished this, we reflected on the God who shepherds us – who perfectly knows His sheep, faithfully feeds His sheep, leads us and protects us. Psalm 23 points us to that Good Shepherd.

Then Cliff took us to Ezekiel 34. You know those times when you re-read a familiar passage and it’s as if you are reading it for that very first time? That was my experience. To see the glorious unity between Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34 reminded me all over again how I love how God draws us to Himself through His Word.

In Ezekiel 34, the people of God were in a difficult place (vv. 1-10). Those shepherding them at the time did not know these “sheep”. They did not feed the sheep, selfishly caring for their own needs over that of the flock. They did not lead – leaving them to scatter. They did not protect them. It was a timely warning and indictment for us in leadership if we lead without caring for the people as God cares.

Then the prophet Ezekiel spoke a word of deliverance from the Lord to His people (vv. 11-22). God Himself, who knows His sheep, would gather them. He would feed them. He would lead and protect them. We are His sheep, and no matter our circumstances, we can rest in His Word that He will not leave us in our difficult situations alone.

Finally, the Lord speaks into the future of His people (vv. 23-31).

“I will appoint over them a single shepherd, My servant David, and he will shepherd them. He will tend them himself and will be their shepherd. I, Yahweh, will be their God, and My servant David will be a prince among them. I, Yahweh, have spoken.” – Ezekiel 24:23-24

King David, who penned Psalm 23, had long since died. There would come One from the lineage of David who would be this Good Shepherd. The Word and Promise of God in human form – this glorious anointed one, Jesus. Thus we are taken from the Psalms through the Prophet Ezekiel to the Gospel of John in the New Testament.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. “ John 10:14-16

This Sunday morning is bright with promise of a God who shepherds us. As we wait to hear His direction in our lives, we can stand on His promise that He knows us and our need, He will lead us, He will feed us, and He will protect us. If that doesn’t lead us to worship, I don’t know what would.

The Story Behind the Psalms