Archives For adoration

A song that talks about how we don’t have to fully know who God is to worship Him.
“Just a glimpse” by Israel Houghton

“I don’t have to fully know
Just how far Your love can go
To sing of Your love for me
I don’t have to comprehend
How Your mercy never ends
To sing of Your mercy

And all I need is
All I really need is
Just a glimpse of You
And I’m in awe
Just a glimpse of You
My God
Just a glimpse of You
And all I can do is worship
All I can do is worship You Lord, yeah

And I don’t have to clearly see
How amazing grace can be
To sing of Your grace for me
And I don’t have to fully grasp
The measure of Your holiness
Oh, to sing holy holy, holy holy

And all I need is
All I really need is
Just a glimpse of You
And I’m in awe
Just a glimpse of You
My God
Just a glimpse of You
And all I can do is worship
I worship You

All go ahead and worship him tonight
We worship You
We lift up our voices in praise
And thanksgiving Lord
We worship You
I worship You, yeah, yeah, yeah
We worship You Lord
In spirit and truth
We worship You
We stand in child like amazement
Oh, with our eyes wide open
We worship You
With our hands stretched wide
We worship You
With our hearts wide open Lord
We worship You”

I don’t share the following quote lightly. The next few days are some of the busiest of the year for me. But this encourages me to find and take the time in the midst of serving and participating, to do the one thing I need to do.

“It is tempting to always keep busy; there’s so much to do and there are so many in need.
But the point of all this running around is to support the real work of life.
“You are anxious and worried about many things,” Jesus once told Martha, who was “burdened with much serving.” And then he said, “There is need of only one thing.” Mary, Martha’s sister, instead sat at his feet, and today she washes them with oil.
It’s not easy to know how to direct our energies, but if our busy lives, even lived in service to others, never allow us to stop and be with the ones we love, then our purpose is defeated.
It is Holy Week, a time for contemplation. So take a break from much serving and find the one thing that is most needed.”
Amy Andrews in “A Book of Grace-filled Days”

In between American Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent, this song [another one by Andrew Peterson] speaks of the tension between good gifts and living in the ‘not yet’:

Can’t you feel it in your bones
Something isn’t right here
Something that you’ve always known
But you don’t know why

‘Cause every time the sun goes down
We face another night here
Waiting for the world to spin around
Just to survive

But when you see the morning sun
Burning through a silver mist
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

‘Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother’s kiss
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall

Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall

Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this

Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips

But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this

‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun

Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning

Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on
And when the world is new again
And the children of the King

Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it’s a better thing
A better thing
To be more than merely innocent

But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it’s waking up
And I’m waking up

‘Cause I can hear the voice of one
He’s crying in the wilderness
“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Come back soon
Come back soon

“God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form…The perfect surrender and humiliation was undergone by Christ: perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man.”
C.S.Lewis

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“That man should be made in God’s image is a wonder,
but that God should be made in man’s image is a greater wonder.
That the Ancient of Days would be born.
That He who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle?”
Thomas Watson

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The Singing of Angels
by Howard Thurman
“There must be always
remaining in every life,
some place for the singing of angels.
Some place for that
which in itself
is breathless and
beautiful.
Old burdens become lighter
deep and ancient wounds
lose much of their old hurting.
Despite all the crassness of life,
all the hardness and
harsh discords,
life is saved by
the singing of angels.”

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Maybe it is a greed on my part, this desire I have to celebrate Christmas again, six months after December 25th. Or maybe it reveals a desire to live outside the constraints of time, to deny that I live in a time-bound world. Or maybe it’s because I remember what fun it was to celebrate Christmas in July every summer at camp.

But truly, I want to celebrate Christmas today because once every twelve months is not enough to marvel at the wonder of the incarnation, of God taking on flesh.

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A few years ago day I spoke with a man about this, after he commented that Islam and Protestantism had a lot in common.
“Yes, ” I replied, “except for Jesus.”
“Jesus ate and drank,” he answered. “God doesn’t do that.”

We chatted a little longer about the mystery of God becoming man, me from the position of belief, him from the position of unbelief.

Finally he asked me a question, almost with disdain, to prove that Jesus was just a man. “What has Jesus ever created?”

My response was a paraphrase of Colossians 1.
“He is the image of the invisible God.
by Him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
 whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by Him and for Him.”

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No, once a year is not enough. So today, I’d suggest you put on your favorite Christmas hymns and spend a little time reading these two ancient meditations on this great miracle.

Bethlehem has opened Eden:
Come, let us see!
We have found joy hidden!
Come, let us take possession of the paradise within the cave.

There the unwatered stem has appeared,
from which forgiveness blossoms forth!
There the undug well is found
from which David longed to drink of old!

There the Virgin has borne a child,
and at once the thirst of Adam and David is made to cease.
Therefore let us hasten to this place
where for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child!

Ikos of the Nativity of the Lord

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♦◊♦

Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love.

Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.
Bernard of Clairvaux

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“It is I, speaks the Christ, I am he
who puts Death to death, and stands above
the fallen enemy, crushes Hades
to bland chalk, binds the dark powers, and bears
all humankind up to heavenly peaks.
Yes, says Christ, I am he.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes, Greece

“Therefore come, all human families
ruined by sin, and receive absolution
of every error. I am your liberation
and the passage of deliverance.
I am the throat-cut lamb and sacrifice,
your ransom paid, your pulse and life, your fire,
your rescue, resurrection, and your king.
I gather you in one strong hand,
and guide you to the heights of paradise,
where I will show to you your Father.”
Scott Cairns, from his book Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life

Ealing, England

Ealing, England

“In Christ we have everything….
If you want to heal your wound, He is the doctor.
If you are burning with fever, He is the fountain.

Ceuta, Spain

Ceuta, Spain

“If you are in need of help, He is strength.
If you are in dread of death, He is life.

Alcobaca, Portugal

Alcobaca, Portugal

If you are fleeing the darkness, He is light.
If you are hungry, He is food: ’O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy are they who take refuge in Him.’ (Psalm 34:8)”
Ambrose of Milan

Concord, Massachusetts, USA

Concord, Massachusetts, USA

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco


You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You;
I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen You in the sanctuary
and beheld Your power and Your glory.

Psalm 63:1-2

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

“There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in the fact that however weak we may be,
however spiritually feeble and inclined to sin,
Christ still remains our sanctuary, immovable and ever desired,
to which we shall always return.”
Father Alexander Elchaninov

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

“Splendor and majesty are before the Lord;
strength and glory are in His sanctuary.”

Psalm 95:6

Entrepierres, France

Entrepierres, France

“Grant us your light, O Lord, that the darkness in our hearts
being wholly passed away, we may come at last to the light
which is Christ.
For Christ is the morning star,
who when the night of this world has passed,
brings to us the promised light of life,
and opens to them eternal day. Amen.”
Saint Bede

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Today is the feast of Epiphany, the celebration of when God the Son was revealed as a human being in Jesus Christ [epiphany means manifestation.] Traditionally, this is the 12th day of Christmas, and marks the end of the festive season celebrating the incarnation.

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The Christmas lights and decorations are being put away. The delight we experienced 12 days earlier among our family and friends has begun to fade.And for those of us the northern hemisphere, we are living in winter light. The days are shorter. At night, the frigid air seems to sharpen the darkness. Spring seems a very, very long way off.

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Perhaps that is why Epiphany is one of my favorite days. I love yet another reminder that there is hope for the dark days ahead, a hope that is woven through Scripture.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.
…Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.

Micah 7:7

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Because of our God’s tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

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I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 8:12

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I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.
Ephesians 1:18

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“Light, glorious light
I will go where You shine
Break the dawn, crack the skies
Make the way bright before me
In Your light I will find
All I need, all I need is You”
from the song “Oh How I Need You” by All Sons and Daughters

My favorite mealtime grace these days [sung to the theme from Superman]:
Thank you Lord, for giving us food
(actions: raise right arm overhead as Superman flying)
Thank you Lord, for giving us food
(actions: raise left arm flying)
For the food that we eat
(actions: standing with both arms over head, to the left)
For the friends that we meet
(actions: standing with both arms over head, to the right)
Thank you Lord, for giving us food!
(actions: move both hands in fists to hips and stand strong like Superman)

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“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who in His goodness, grace, lovingkindness, and mercy nourishes the whole world.
He gives food to all flesh, for His loving-kindness is everlasting.
In His great goodness, we have never lack for food; may we never lack for good, for the sake of His great Name.
For He nourishes and sustains all, He does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures that He created. Blessed are You, Lord, who provides food for all.”

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“Peel an orange. Do it lovingly–in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rind; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.”
Robert Farrar Capon

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The hungry orphans in the movie adaptation of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” sing one of the best songs about the glories of food:
“Food glorious food
What is there more handsome
Gulped swallowed or chewed
Still worth a kings ransom
What is it we dream about?
What brings on a sigh?
Piled peaches and cream about six feet high”
[complete lyrics here]
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Tomorrow is the American celebration of Thanksgiving. Like many holidays, we’ve come very far from the original intent of the pilgrim feast. It’s now a time to travel to one’s family, or to invite friends together to share an extravagant meal. For Christians, it is often seen as a time to give thanks to God for what He has done in the past year, a time to stop and consider the blessings that have come from His hand.

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But there is a more basic aspect of the holiday that is often forgotten: the simple focus on God’s provision of a good harvest. The British refugees had arrived to a new land in late November, and suffered a harsh winter [half of those who had arrived on the Mayflower had died by spring]. As the pilgrims settled in, Native Americans shared seeds and fishing knowledge. As the first anniversary of their arrival approached, the pilgrims set aside a time to feast and give thanks for the crops and other food.

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Now we live in an age of what I call ‘industrial food’. Storage and transportation and agribusiness separate us from the simple but profound miracle of God’s creation of fruits and vegetables and grains and meat. Bananas magically appear in our supermarkets regardless of what latitude we live on. A bad rice harvest in one part of the world is made up by a good harvest in another. Apples are sold in May as well as October, bred for long term storage. Still, food remains one of God’s greatest gifts to us–why else do we feel the urge to take pictures of special meals and post them on social media? Or watch hours of cooking shows?

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This Thanksgiving I want to pause and take some time to thank God for His amazing provision of food that has sustained me throughout this past year. As I do this, I have to resist the temptation to think it’s trivial to be thankful for strawberries and cheese. I need to remind myself that food is one of God’s great delights, and a precious sign of His eternal faithfulness to us. Instead of taking these gifts for granted, I want to become, as Jesus counseled, like a child, and shout, “Thank You, Lord, for giving us food!

I will thank Him, as my friend Edwina did one meal, for the beautiful colors on my plate. I will thank Him for mangoes and salmon, for ginger and pears, for hamburgers and pulled pork, for breakfast waffles and chocolate tarte, for milk and cream and butter, for eggs scrambled or fried or boiled, for barley and wheat germ, for blueberries and bacon, for corn and fresh-squeezed orange juice that tastes like sunshine. I will thank Him for the energy and nourishment these give to my body, for their delightful scents and aromas, for the pleasure of all the delicious tastes I savor, and for the incredible variety He gives us to enjoy. How wonderful are the edible works of our creative, good, and loving heavenly Father!

What foods are your favorites?

He waters the mountains from His upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of His work.

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He makes grass grow for the cattle,

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and plants for people to cultivate—

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bringing forth food from the earth:

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wine that gladdens human hearts,

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oil to make their faces shine,

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and bread that sustains their hearts.

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Psalm 104:13-15

“I am struck by the reason given for Israel’s frequent slides into idolatry. We are told that, over and over, they forgot what God had done for them, and began to worship other gods.
Doesn’t it seem strange that turning away from God is blamed on a failure of memory? What about, “The children of Israel found the worship of a fertility goddess more interesting”? Or, “The children of Israel got tired of traveling all the way to Shiloh to worship the Lord, and longed for the convenience of an Ashera pole”?
But no, the Bible tells us they strayed because they forgot. Without the bright truth of Yahweh’s covenant before them, the prevailing beliefs of their time must have seemed reasonable, even practical.
I believe God knew this would be a struggle for His people, and that’s why so many of Israel’s faith traditions – the feasts, the fasts, the tassels, and tefillin – are devoted to remembering. It is why we were given Holy Communion, and the reason behind many of our Christian holidays.”
James Witmer

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“Memory is one of the highest powers in our nature. By it day is linked to day, the unity of life through all our years is kept up, and we know that we are still ourselves. In the spiritual life, recollection is of infinite value.”
Andrew Murray

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Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-7

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“Like the Israelites, we could collect stones–small ones, that is–for each item of thanks that we listed in our prayer journal. We could put them in a glass jar that could be left out in plain view. Every day we would see it and remember what God had done for us. So I bought a set of jars, and we started filling them.” from Our stone jar

Post it: God at work

September 30, 2015 — 2 Comments

The humble post-it played a supporting role in a movie I recently saw, “Still Alice”, about a college professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. To help jog her memory, Alice begins to post reminders to herself around the house, particularly in the kitchen and the bedroom where she will be sure to see them. Those reminders are themselves a poignant reminder–they show how important our memory is in the daily routine of our lives.

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A few weeks later, I visited a church that had just finished a week of VBS for kids [does everyone know that acronym for Vacation Bible School?]. On both sides of the church, long sheets of white paper were hung up, covered in colorful post-its.

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The youth pastor explained that the post-its were God-sightings from the week. Any time someone saw or experienced God at work, they made a note on a post-it and put it on the roll of paper. Now on Sunday the entire congregation was able to see the evidence of God’s presence and care.

I don’t know how long the church will leave up these sheets plastered with bits of testimonies, but I hope it’s longer than a week. With the start of school, and the pace of life returning to a faster hum, it’s a challenge to stop and take the time to consider the grace and faithfulness of God that is at work in our daily lives.

We run the risk of developing what Pope Francis calls “spiritual Alzheimer’s”, ‘a progressive decline of spiritual faculties where people forget their personal history with the Lord and lose their memory of the ‘first love’ of their encounter with Him.’

In the daily press of activity, it may not seem so crucial to remember what God has done. But when trouble comes, being able to remember His care and how He has worked in the past becomes vital. It encourages us to know that He is continuing to work, even if we aren’t aware of it yet.

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That’s what the psalmist did during a time of great distress when he felt abandoned and his soul would not be comforted.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
…Has His unfailing love vanished forever?
Has His promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all Your works
and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:6-12

I think it’s significant that the deeds of the Lord which the Psalmist remember were not limited to events he experienced personally. Since we belong to a world-wide and historical communion of faith, learning about what God has done and is doing in the lives of others is just as important as what He is doing in our individual lives. That’s why it was a blessing for me to see the wall of God-sightings at the church. I was encouraged to witness all the different people who had been touched by His grace in a single week.

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Not all the notes were about spectacular sightings. Sometimes, God works in a big way, doing a miracle like parting the Red Sea. Other times, we see a sign of His gentle faithfulness, like a hand on someone’s shoulder, or the simple beauty of a wildflower. IMG_5598
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Matthew 6:28-30

A few God-sightings from my life recently include:
*Driving up a big hill just as a family from church was walking, so I could give them a ride

*Reading about how You have worked in a woman’s life here

*Listening to a friend share about how to draw closer to You

*Hearing gospel music playing at the vegetable stand
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Where have you seen God at work in your world this week?
How do you want to make note of them?

“To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it.
A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset;
but to poets, artists, and saints,
the world is transparent like a window pane––it tells of something beyond…
a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen

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“You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing,
walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
G. K. Chesterton

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For if we have no real interest in praising Him, it shows that we have never realized who He is.
For when one becomes conscious of who God really is, and when one realized that He who is Almighty, and infinitely Holy, has ‘done great things to us,’
the only possible reaction is the cry of half-articulate exultation
that bursts from the depths of our being in amazement at the tremendous, inexplicable goodness of God to men.
Thomas Merton

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“…to receive it and to recognize its divine source are a single experience.
This heavenly fruit [like a peach] is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew.
This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows.
It is a message. We know we are being touched
by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore.”
C.S.Lewis

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For several years now, every morning I spend a few minutes writing down things I am thankful for. I don’t find it difficult to come up with a half dozen or more every day. The items range from the profound like how God is working in my life to the mundane like enjoying a good box of chocolates.

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But today I remembered that making a note of what I’m thankful for isn’t the same as actually giving thanks to the Giver for these gifts. I may spend a few moments appreciating the delights of Massachusetts ice cream or a friend’s invitation to go walking. But I’m forgetting to consider that my gracious Father has given these delights to me.

 

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And in that forgetting, I’m missing out on another gift. For when I do take another moment or two and pause to say ‘thank you’ to the One who has given me such rich gifts, I’m reminding myself that God loves me. He has not only created me, He sustains me with the commonplace and the spectacular.

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If I find a box of the world’s finest chocolates at a rest stop, I will certainly be thankful for the unexpected treat. But how much more I will enjoy them if a friend, knowing how much I like chocolate, gives me a box , and perhaps includes a thoughtful note with it. When I take a bite, I am not just appreciating the wonderful taste. I’m also feeling loved.

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C.S .Lewis knew this and wrote:

“One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. If I could always be what I aim at being, no pleasure would be too ordinary or too usual for such reception; from the first taste of the air when I look out of the window…down to one’s soft slippers at bed-time…These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”

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My long list of thanks is a display of my Father’s love and faithfulness to me, as well as His power, creativity, and abundance. The gifts He gives show that He is thinking of me. They express His care for me. And they tell me something of His character. Yes the gifts are wonderful, but how much more the Giver.

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Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9

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What gifts have you been given by Giver this week?
How do they express His love and care for you?

“Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise You…The thought of You stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises You, because You made us for Yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in You.”
Augustine

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“For if we have no real interest in praising Him, it shows that we have never realized who He is. For when one becomes conscious of who God really is, and when one realized that He who is Almighty, and infinitely Holy, has ‘done great things to us,’ the only possible reaction is the cry of half-articulate exultation that bursts from the depths of our being in amazement at the tremendous, inexplicable goodness of God to men.”
Thomas Merton

♦◊♦

I will praise the Lord at all times; my mouth will continually praise Him.
Psalm 34:1

…what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life if gone, a new life burgeons!
II Corinthians 5:17 The Message

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I heard someone point out recently how repetition can be dulling which is why romance with its fresh experiences of love can be so appealing.
Perhaps that’s why God woos us with new mercies, new wine, new life.

And the best way to respond to the refreshment He lavishes on us?

Sing a new song of praise to Him;
play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.

Psalm 33:3

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Sing a new song to the Lord,
      for He has done wonderful deeds.

Psalm 98:1

Yes, that’s right:
I will sing a new song to you, my God;
   on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you.
Psalm 144:9

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I’m grateful for the creative souls who write the new songs for me to sing. One that I’ve been enjoying these past few months is “Great are You Lord” by a folk/acoustic duo, All Sons and Daughters on their eponymous album, All Sons and Daughters [which is filled with wonderful songs]. Take a moment and enjoy the beautiful music video.

I’d also love to learn what new songs you’ve been singing these days. Leave a comment and share with us!

The ultimate promise

April 8, 2015 — 2 Comments

Springtime is such a hopeful, joyful season–
new sprouts come to dead wood

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new colors bloom in tired landscapes
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The spring season in our life is also full of joy–
a new marriage
2015 4 7 archive easter products 2015-04-05 010 a new baby

and full of hope–
a new class, a new habit
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a new start.

But new isn’t always joyful or hopeful.

Sometimes new is unsettling–
in a new job, a new neighborhood, a new country
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Sometimes new is uncomfortable–
in new shoes
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or with new construction.

Sometimes new is painful–
from a new family configuration because of graduation
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or death.

Throughout scripture, however, when God promises something new, it is always joyful and hopeful:
a new name
a new heart
a new spirit

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a new creation
a new birth
a new life

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a new covenant
a new commandment
a new way

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It’s the newness of growth where there was stagnation,
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the newness of life where there once was death,
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the newness of healing where there once was pain.
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And it’s the ultimate promise,
“I make all things new.” [Revelations 21:5]
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Where is God bringing new growth in your life?

What new compassions has God given to you today? [Lamentations 3:22-23]

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The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Isaiah 35:1

Speaking of who God is

April 1, 2015 — 4 Comments

“It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
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The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
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The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
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The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
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The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
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The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
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The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
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And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
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MORAL.
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!”
John Godfrey Saxe’s version of the famous Indian legend
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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. I John 1:1-4

I have been meditating a lot lately on a simple sentence from the book of Psalms: “Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10**]

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However, knowing who God is–that’s not so simple. Immediately I encounter two significant challenges. The first is the capacity of my mind, which is limited.

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The second is the ‘size’ and complexity of who God is. It’s like a fly trying to grasp what an elephant is like.

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The analogy of a fly for a human being who is made a little less than God [Psalm 8:5] turns out to be more appropriate than you might think. Because the lowly fly is another of the Creator’s incredible creatures.**

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When it comes to seeing, instead of having a single eye, a fly has three to six thousand visual receptors in a compound eye. Each receptor functions as an individual eye. What the fly perceives is like a mosaic created by all the receptors.**

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The downside of this arrangement is that a fly is short-sighted, unable to focus, and has limited color vision. But still, I think it’s impressive that a 6 millimeter-long creature can see anything at all. Perhaps just as impressive that I can contemplate the One who made me.

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I can accept that I may be slightly more incredible than a house fly, and that I have–let’s say–ten thousand mental receptors. Even then, the image I form of God is going to be partial and incomplete.

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Just like these pictures of an elephant that show the amazing variety of colors, textures, and shapes that make up the whole.

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Hard, soft, smooth, hairy, wrinkly, dusty, wet, gray, pink, ivory, pointed, round, curved, squat, long. These are all aspects of one creature.

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When it comes to who God is, a list of how He is described in the Bible would easily include a couple hundred words**:

King and Father,
Creator and Sustainer,
Shepherd and Rock,
Comforter and Convictor,
Redeemer and Judge,
Rescuer and Intercessor,
Almighty and Counselor.

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Given who God is in all His glory, how can we ever know Him? Thankfully, the multifaceted, complex, ineffable** God stooped down and took on human form in Jesus so we could see and touch and hear Him.

When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. [Phillipians 2:6-8, The Message]

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But that is only one glimpse of who God is.

Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. [Phillipians 2:9-11, The Message] Littletons, Seven Fountains crucifix 073

The season of Lent is a good reminder of how amazing God is in all of His fullness. Jesus humbled and Jesus exalted, the suffering servant and the Lord of lords, separated by death and coming again as the triumphant king.

I have a lot to learn.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” I John 3:16

**Links
Be Still by Stephen Curtis Chapman

the lowly fly is another of the Creator’s incredible creatures.**

What the fly perceives is like a mosaic created by all the receptors.**

a list of how God is described in the Bible**

ineffable**: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words

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Recently I have been lamenting [and what an apt word that is] the deep pain and hurt I have caused in someone’s life. The damage rose out of my selfishness which, like ordinary mold, comes in thousands upon thousands of varieties. In its myriad forms, my selfishness generates both sins of commission and sins of omission. On a daily basis, I caused hurt by my unloving actions as much as by my unloving failure to act.

This morning as I lamented, I turned to the day’s entry in “God the Enough”, a little devotional guide by Selwyn Hughes. There was God’s incredible response to my lament:

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21

Hughes goes on to ask:
“Is there enough grace in the heart of God to meet and overcome the difficulties created by evil?”

That is a question I have been wrestling with on a personal level. Is there enough grace to meet the difficulties of *my* evil?

The answer is “Yes, in Christ.” And three weeks into Lent seems a good time to ponder how God brought this grace into our world. Hughes explains it like this:

“Sin is without a doubt the biggest problem God has ever had to deal with. When we read the four gospels we see something of the pain God has gone through in order to defeat sin and its consequences. They spell out in terms that are crystal clear how much anguish sin brought to the heart of the Deity. The theologian Martin Kahler worded it like this: ‘The four Gospels are shaped as passion narratives with long introductions. At the heart of each Gospel is a pool of pain.’

Throughout the centuries, Christians have always evaluated the horror of sin by the suffering needed to atone for it. Cornelius Plantinga, in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, spells out the issue in these poignant words:

‘The ripping and writhing of a body on a cross, the bizarre metaphysical maneuver of using death to defeat death, the urgency of the summons to human beings to ally themselves with the events of Christ and with the Person of those events, and then to make that Person and those events the center of their lives—these tell us the main human trouble is desperately difficult to fix, even for God, and that sin is the longest running of all human emergencies.’”

I was struck by the idea that sin is not just my problem, it is God’s problem too. I think I’ve viewed my sin akin to losing at musical chairs. I tried, I failed, and I had to leave the game.

But God viewed my wrongdoing [and everyone else’s] as a problem for Himself. Not only did I suffer the loss of His fellowship, He suffered the loss of mine because the loss brought on by sin goes both ways.

His love for me is not all about me. It’s about Him. Why else would He want to make things right again? Only Love would be willing to sacrifice in order to rescue the lost beloved.

This brings me back to my lament. I see that God is able to sympathize with my sorrow over sin because He also experienced this. But His “pain of searing loss” was on a different level. His sorrow over the suffering of Jesus was pure, undeserved, gracious. He knew beforehand how exquisitely painful the experience would be, yet He was still willing to endure it. Not only for my sake, but also for His.

I am more than ever in awe of His amazing, holy love for me. For this love generates grace abounding, grace all-sufficient, grace increasing without end. Amen.