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Maybe it’s because I am guilty of saying the wrong things to my kids that made me decide to re-post this … and don’t take it personally, but this one is for me … not you!

When I read the following story, by singer/songwriter Jason Gray, I could relate to his first interaction with his son.

As a parent, I say the wrong things to my kids so often. I sometimes feel that if a caricature were drawn to represent me as a mom, one (either or both) of my feet would be sketched into the gaping hole on the middle of my face!

Please read Jason’s story of foot in mouth disease (thanks once again to Ann Voskamp for sharing this story, with such perfect photography, on a holy experience Caring For The Right Thing At The Right Time)

“The other night while we were washing dishes, my son Jacob said he’d seen a trailer for a movie he wanted to see.

“Oh yeah? Which one?” I asked.
“The new Red Dawn.”

“Ugh.” I said. “Why would you want to see that one? You know they’ve been sitting on it for a couple of years because they knew it was a stinker. I think they’re only releasing it now because it’s got Thor and Peeta in it and they’re hoping they can cash in on their popularity and at least get something back for their poor investment.”

Jacob continued, unfazed. “It’s also got an actor in it who I used to love when I was a kid—Josh from Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh. I’d really like to see what he’s doing now.”

Undeterred, I continued my diatribe. “Well, I loved the original when I was a kid in the ’80s, but this one got TERRIBLE reviews. It’s going to be bad. I’m just telling you because I don’t want you to waste your money.”

About the time these last words came out of my mouth, I began to realize how much of a self-righteous jerk I was being.

Unfortunately this is not uncommon for me—I can be oppressively opinionated and uppity. By God’s grace, however, I am learning to recognize it better and quicker.

I’m so grateful for growing conviction, the evidence that God is still at work in my life.

A part of my problem is that sometimes I care about the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sometimes I care about fairness instead of generosity.

Sometimes I care about someone else’s theological accuracy when quiet listening would be better.

In this particular instance I was caring more about the quality of a film than I was caring about the quality of a conversation with my son. (In fact, I think he knew that I wouldn’t care for this movie but brought it up anyway, risking my scorn. Brave.)

Of course it’s good to care about things, and it’s good that I care about things like well-crafted films and good storytelling.

I care, too, about nuanced and cathartic acting performances that are as delicious to the soul as a fine meal is to the palette. I am grateful for my capacity to enjoy these and other forms of art-making: books, music, painting, and on down the list.

I care about these things because I’m convinced that beauty matters and is both a grace to be enjoyed and a calling to participate in.

But in that moment with Jacob, my care for a certain kind of beauty turned ugly because I was picking the wrong thing to care about.

Consequently I failed to recognize a more subtle and significant beauty that was being offered to me: the beauty of my son sharing his simple desire to see a movie—one that reminded him of fond memories of his childhood.

In that moment I had also been offered a chance to create something beautiful myself: a generous response with the power to foster a culture of kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home. What work of art—be it a song, a book, or a film—can compare to this?

By God’s grace I recognized what I’d done early enough to maybe do something about it.

“Ah Jacob. I’m sorry. What a jerk I am sometimes. Can we try this again, would you let me? Let’s start over. Tell me again what movie you want to see.”

He laughed, but played along. “Dad, there’s this movie I really want to see. It’s called Red Dawn.”

“Oh yeah? Man I loved that movie when I was kid. Tell me more about it, why do you want to see it?”

“Well, it’s got Peeta from The Hunger Games in it. It’s also got Josh from Drake and Josh” and just looks kind of cool to me.”

He was creating something beautiful of his own by graciously playing along with me, giving me a chance to make amends. This is the beauty of grace.

“Awesome! Well, let me know when it comes out and maybe we can watch it together.” I said, smiling.

“Okay, dad,” he said, smiling back. He had accepted my apology and offered me a way back into his world. He is a kind boy.

Later that night my youngest son Gus asked if I’d lay by him in his bed a little bit before he went to sleep.

After a little reading (from The Jesus Storybook Bible—so, so good, check it out if you haven’t already!), we lay there a bit in the dark.

Kipper and Jacob had come upstairs and were across the hall talking with their mom, laughing, being rambunctious and making some noise.

I sensed it was distracting Gus in the quiet of the moment we were sharing.

With every word and bark of laughter he heard from across the hall his body would tense. I could tell he was about to holler down the hall for them to be quiet because he was trying to sleep.

I was about to say, jokingly, “Man, your brothers are noisy!”

But remembering my earlier moment with Jacob, I wondered if there was something else I might say that would be better, something that might help foster kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home.

What was the right thing to care about?

“It’s nice to hear their voices, isn’t it?” I whispered to Gus in the dark.

“Yeah,” he said as his body noticeably relaxed.

He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “That’s just what I was going to say.”

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When I met the lovely lady, who is my guest poster today, I was in the phase of life that she is now …

Still young, not an expert yet in marriage, housekeeping, meal preparations or child rearing

… wait!

I am still not there!

When I met her she was a single woman, always looking so bright and cheerful and perky.

I was a wife and mom of one child, with one on the way.

With peanut butter and Cheerios as my most common fashion accessory.

I will not divulge her name, or where we met. Suffice it to say that her ‘about’ page at Autocratricks will tell you what is most important. I will share that from the moment I first met her, until yesterday when I read her latest post, I have known her to be a woman of grace and joy.

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Enjoy the joyful sharing of this delightful, inspiring, grace-filled mom of four boys …

The Glamourmom is a rare type of bird with attractive plumage.  Some say its origins date back to the time of the Egyptians, in which pigments and powders were used to great effect in creating an attractive display.  There are those who claim that this bird no longer exists (see Dodo), or indeed that it never has (see Unicorn); but, in truth, examples of this exotic species may be found throughout the world.  One may find a Glamourmom by nosing out its heady cloud of perfume or by following the envious glances of the Common Dowdyfrau (this latter species exists in abundance around suburban areas, in particular).  A theory exists, although as yet unsubstantiated, that (under rare circumstances) the Lesser Gymbunnikus (itself an exotic) may in fact transmogrify into a Glamourmom with some considerable pain and effort, but that – should it take place at all – this transformation is temporary, at best.

–          Excerpt taken from A.Kratt-Rick’s A Rare Bird, Indeed

 

I saw a Glamourmom with my own eyes the other day.  She was dressed in a crisp flight attendant’s uniform, the snug jacket and short skirt neat on her slim form; she wore heels and bright red lipstick (no smudges!), and she was waiting for her Kindergartener to emerge from class.  I must admit, I stared a bit.

There are plenty of pretty Mammas around our school – many of them neatly dressed, even when conforming to the West Coast uniform of motherhood; yoga pants (crusty toddler-prints optional) – and I would never disparage the natural beauty of these lovely ladies.  But the Glamourmom is altogether another breed.  This is the woman whose hair, when long, is smooth and lush – never lank and frumpy; when she wears a short style it looks pixie-ish – not mannish.  Her makeup is always impeccable and she may even go to such lengths as applying false eyelashes and having regular manicures.  Undoubtedly, inside those stylish heels, her feet are also uncalloused and her toenails well-groomed.  In short, this is a woman who Takes Trouble.

Me, on the other hand?  Well, I remember a time when I used to Take Trouble – although I never achieved the kind of cool elegance of a Glamourmom.  To begin with, when I went through phases of being especially careful about my appearance, I didn’t have any kids.  The last time I flew internationally (just over a year ago), I was packing up all the necessities for the flight – and I had to chuckle at how times had changed.  When I was kid-free, I’d include in my carryon: Breath-freshener, Visine, moisturizer, make-up remover, make-up, eyecare stuff, perfume, hair-styley things… (the list goes on).  But with kids, it has been all about Gripe water, Tylenol, kid snacks, breast pump, bottles, Rescue Remedy, extra outfits, entertainment and novelties for the boys, etc. (another long list – but almost none of it for me, and especially none with the aim of improving my appearance before disembarking).

Before I’d go away on holiday (holiday? Ha!), I’d spend weeks exfoliating, layering on self-tanner, moisturizing, waxing, grooming and otherwise preparing to look my best in all the vacation photos.  These days, if we do get away, I expend more energy on finding co-ordinated outfits for the boys (easier to organize, and cute in photos) and preparing them for the inevitable upheaval from their regular routines than I do on my appearance.

So, life has intervened: four kids, a recent shoulder surgery (putting paid to any efforts at fitness during my convalescence), and general exhaustion have taken their toll – and I have discovered that I have now become a perfect specimen of the Common Dowdyfrau.  Things just got a bit too tricky, and I forgot to care.  Until I have a night out, that is – and then I scramble around, trying to figure out what fits and what I might have worn to the previous night out (so long ago it was) so that I can just throw that on in a pinch.  The last time we went out I settled for a silky tunic with microsuede leggings (supposed to look like real suede – wishful thinking) and threw on some earrings, which I promptly snatched off when I realized that they looked clunky next to my decade-old glasses (my contacts are bugging me, but I’m not ready to bite the bullet of replacing them) – I was not going to spend the whole night squinting at West through red, rheumy eyes.  So it is clear that I am no longer practiced at looking my best.

However (and this is a big however), we birds are a resourceful bunch.  I have looked in the mirror (as it were – I *obviously* don’t often actually look in the mirror) and realized that I have let my plumage fade.  It’s time to fluff those feathers and make some changes.  Now, don’t go expecting any miracles – my life isn’t an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ (sadly) – but I think that a few tweaks are in order.  Decisions need to be made:

Hair – too long to be flattering (on me), but just long enough to stick in a ponytail.  So maybe just a touch-up on the highlights and leave it at that

Makeup – yes (that one’s easy.  Have lots, just need to apply)

Clothes – will be ruthless in culling old maternity things from my wardrobe (even if they are ohsocomfy) – keep transitioning into leggings; not ready for pants with zips

Shoes – polish/replace/consider a heel (considered it – not happening)

Self – smile more (doing that) and do a bit of running again (have begun.  Just need to keep going.  Maybe tomorrow)

OK, so maybe not big changes.  Still, all my boys want at this age is a Mamma who can keep up with them and give them cuddles.  That might be hard to do in heels and tailored clothes – right?

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As I read the title, Sometimes I’m a Little too Human, I was hooked to keep reading. That is often the case when I read a blog post by Lysa TerKeurst.

This time she was talking about Valentine’s Day, and before you click off this page, let me tell you that this is not the typical Valentine’s Day post. That said, be assured that it is definitely about a love story.

I know it is early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day, but, rest assured, it is never too early to be wooed by true love.

“Which category are you in?

* You hope you’ll have something to look forward to on Valentine’s Day. Hint. Hint.

* Valentine’s Day feels more like Single Awareness Day.

* You’re totally excited and have bought all your friends stuff from the $1 aisle at Target.

* You couldn’t care less because you don’t like the color red or chocolate or roses. So there.

I’ll be honest, I’m always a little on the fence with this day. Yes, I wrote the post Valentine’s Tips To The Misters, to encourage the Misters on the fine art of doing Valentine’s Day right.

However.

It still all feels a little forced. A little too commercial.

Because at the end of the day, a woman wants to feel special. And call me crazy, but mass produced cupids just don’t cut it.

I want to be adored. Thought of. Not as an obligation, because the calendar holiday demands it. But rather, just because…

He loves me.

And it’s at this point where my Christian mind screams… Jesus does this. Let Jesus fill you. Only Jesus can adore you this way. Give your husband a break.

That’s what I call a Jesus juke.

A quick move that makes you feel slapped on the hand for being so human.

Yes, of course Jesus loves me this way. But what if I say that with my mouth, while still feeling a deep ache in my heart. A longing. To be pursued.

That’s where my friend Jud Wilhite’s new project steps in and helps me connect with Jesus in the exact way that my longing heart desires.

Here’s Jud….

Valentine’s Day can be frustrating for many of us. Perhaps you’re single and you don’t want to be, or you’re in an unhappy or disappointing relationship. Maybe you’re grieving a relationship you’ve lost.

This year, remember that God loves you the way a kind and patient husband loves his bride. He wants to pursue you, cherish you, and meet your deepest needs — and He’s the only one who can.

When God wanted to illustrate the passionate intensity of His relationship with us, He chose marriage as the metaphor.

Incredibly, it was the marriage of a prophet named Hosea and a prostitute named Gomer. God told Hosea to marry Gomer and to take her back even after she’s unfaithful. God uses their marriage to illustrate His love and care for His people, who have turned away from Him again and again.

My friend, Jud Wilhite, is offering a free 14-day Pursued challenge that’s perfect as Valentine’s Day approaches. He offers thoughts on the book of Hosea and what this story can teach us about God’s love. Visit www.pursuedbook.com/challenge and sign up for the challenge. You can also download a sample chapter of his new book Pursued

And, to reinforce the words of Lysa Terkurst, a little Love Song …

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“Hello, my name is Carole, and I like to avoid the dark of night … of life.”

So, I had a guest post all prepared and scheduled for today … and then Wednesday happened.

If you have read my Sunday guest posts for awhile, you will know that I quite like the writing of Ann Voskamp, over at A Holy Experience, and this past Wednesday was pure delight.

Ann introduces us to a delightful, plain, unassuming man … one who does not stand out like a spotlight … but one who most certainly resembles a nightlight. One who does not let the dark stop him … but one who keeps running through the dark of night.

This guy does not avoid the dark of night … he runs right through it!

Here is his story (How to get Through the Dark Places), told through the soul-whisperer herself, Ann Voskamp :

“The old cahoot ran in his boots.

Weren’t too many of anybody who believed he could.

The kids and I read about the old guy one night after supper and the dishwasher’s moaning away, crumbs still across the counter.

How the old guy ran for 544 miles. His name was Cliff Young and he wasn’t so much. He was 61 years old. He was a farmer. Levi grins big.

Mr. Young showed up for the race in his Osh Kosh overalls and with his work boots on, with galoshes over top. In case it rained.

He had no Nike sponsorship.

He had no wife – hadn’t had one ever.

Lived with his mother. Never drank. Never ran in any kind of race before. Never ran a 5 mile race, or a half-marathon, not even a marathon.

But here he was standing in his work boots at the starting line of an ultra-marathon, the most grueling marathon in the world, a 544 mile marathon.

Try wrapping your head around pounding the concrete with one foot after another for 544 endless, stretching miles. They don’t measure races like that in yards – -but in zip codes.

First thing Cliff did was take out his teeth.

Said his false teeth rattled when he ran.

Said he grew up on a farm with sheep and no four wheelers, no horses, so the only way to round up sheep was on the run. Sometimes the best training for the really big things is just the everyday things.

That’s what Cliff said: “Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go run and round up the sheep.” 2,000 head of sheep. 2,000 acres of land.

“Sometimes I’d have to run those sheep for two or three days. I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

“Got any backers?” Reporters shoved their microphones around old Cliff like a spike belt.

“No….” Cliff slipped his hands into his overall pockets.

“Then you can’t run.”

Cliff looked down at his boots. Does man need backers or does a man need to believe? What you believe is the biggest backer you’ll ever have.

The other runners, all under a buffed 30 years of age, they take off like pumped shots from that starting line. And scruffy old Cliff staggers forward. He doesn’t run. Shuffles, more like it. Straight back. Arms dangling. Feet awkwardly shuffling along.

Cliff eats dust.

For 18 hours, the racers blow down the road, far down the road, and old Cliff shuffles on behind.

Come the pitch black of night, the runners in their $400 ergonomic Nikes and Adidas, lay down by the roadside, because that’s the plan to win an ultra-marathon, to run 544 straight miles: 18 hours of running, 6 hours of sleeping, rinse and repeat for 5 days, 6 days, 7 days.

The dark falls in. Runners sleep. Cameras get turned off. Reporters go to bed.

And through the black night, one 61-year-old man far behind keeps shuffling on.

And all I can think is:

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.

καταλαμβάνω Katalambanō – Comprehend. Understand. Master.

Cliff Young runs on through the night and there is a Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not master it.

The darkness doesn’t understand the light, doesn’t comprehend the light, doesn’t get the light, doesn’t overcome the light, doesn’t master the light.

Darkness doesn’t have anything on light, on hope, on faith.

The darkness that sucks at the prodigal kid doesn’t have anything on the light of his mother’s prayers.

The black of pornography that threatens at the edges doesn’t master the blazing light of Jesus at the center.

The pit of depression that plunges deep doesn’t go deeper than the love of your Jesus and there is no place His light won’t go to find you, to save you, to hold you.

That low lying storm cloud that hangs over you can’t master the light of Christ that raises you.

Darkness can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that,” Martin Luther King had said it, had lived it.

Only words of Light can drive out worlds of dark.
Only deeds of Light can drive out depths of dark.
Only lives of Light can drive out lies of dark.

Darkness can never travel as fast as Light. No matter how bad things get, no matter how black the dark seeps in, no matter the depths of the night — the dark can never travel as fast as Light. The Light is always there first, waiting to shatter the dark.

You can always hold His Word like a ball of light right there your hand, right up there next to your warming heart.

You can always count on it: Jesus is bendable Light, warmth around every unexpected corner.

Cliff Young runs on through the dark — because he didn’t know you were supposed to stop.

The accepted way professional runners approached the race was to run 18 hours, sleep 6, for7 days straight. But Cliff Young didn’t know that. He didn’t know the accepted way. He only knew what he did regularly back home, the way he had always done it: You run through the dark.

Turns out when Cliff Young said he gathered sheep around his farm for three days, he meant he’d run across 2,000 acres of farmland for three days straight without stopping or sleeping, without the dark ever stopping him. You gathered sheep by running through the dark.

So along the endless stretches of highway, a tiny shadow of an old man shuffled along, one foot after another, right through the heat, right through the night. Cliff gained ground.

Cliff gained ground because he didn’t lose ground to the dark. Cliff gained ground because he ran through the dark.

And somewhere at the outset of the night, Cliff Young in his overalls, he shuffled passed the toned runners half his age. And by the morning light, teethless Cliff Young who wasn’t young at all, he was a tiny shadow — far, far ahead of the professional athletes.

For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight, Cliff Young ran, never once stopping for the dark – never stopping until the old sheep farmer crossed the finish line – First. He crossed the finish line first. Beating a world record. By two. whole. days.

The second place runner crossed the finish line 9 hours after old Cliff.

And when they handed old Cliff Young his $10,000 prize , he said he hadn’t known there was a prize. Said he’d run for the wonder of it. Said that all the other runners had worked hard too. So Cliff Young waited at the finish line and handed each of the runners an equal share of the 10K.

And then the old cahoot in boots walked a way without a penny for the race but with all the hearts of whole world.

While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance.
While others impress, you can simply press on.
While others stop for the dark, you can run through the dark.

The race is won by those who keep running through the dark.

Could be the year to pull a Cliff Young. 

When those reporters asked Old Cliff that afterward, what had kept him running through the nights, Cliff had said, “I imagined I was outrunning a storm to gather up my sheep.”

And I sit there in the thickening dark.

With the One who mastered the dark and overcame the storm to gather His sheep and now there is a Light Who shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.

And you can see them out the front window, far away to the west, out on there the highway —

the lights all going on through the dark.”

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This guest post is in video form, and so freaking cute!

But don’t let the ‘little’ messenger take the focus off the message.

This post is rather contrary to my post a few days ago Letting it all Hang Out, when I shared that I have Evil Thoughts and that I often want to say some of the negative things I’m really thinking. Lets think of this post as equal representation 😉 . Honestly, the benefits of speaking blessings to others, rather than curses, has such profound benefits to the one receiving, as well as the one giving the blessing that promoting this lifestyle just makes good sense.

If we simply could spend more time building into and building up the people around us, I wonder if the environment, the community around us would change for the good.

(personally, on number 18 and 11, I would change to chocolate 😉 )

(my favorite is 14 … and 10 … and 6 … and 4 … and …)

So, what about you? What do you think people should say more often?

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I knew it … but I wasn’t sure.

I thought I was alone … but felt confident that there must be others.

I felt guilty for my thoughts, my feelings … but …

When I read a post at www.incourage.me, called “When She Looks Like Jesus,” by Amber Haines (of The RunaMuck blog), I knew I was not alone, I knew there was at least one other kindred pilgrim out there who … who …

struggled to love the church.

Okay, so maybe that is not news to you. Maybe you just read my words and made the big ‘L’ on your forehead, and said, “DUH!’ Remember though, my hubby has given his life to her … our bread and butter is provided by her … our family is expected to represent her well! And here I am saying, for all to read and know, that I struggle to love her! This is where you might want to drop to your knees and pray for the sanity of my poor hubby!

But, this is not about hubby, or where he works, or what instrument I can play (I can play iTunes … but that is it). This is about my struggle, as a fellow pilgrim, to love …

her.

Oh, I don’t hate her, it’s just that, like myself in my own Christian life, I know that she could be better … has the ability to be better.

So, if you are like me, and

you struggle to love her

Or, maybe

you have only known oneness in her community

Check out the pilgrim heart of Amber Haines:

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Once she loved me. She had held my face and known me like a mother knows a child: the smirk, the thumb smearing dirt from the face, leaning her forehead into mine. She was with me. She put her hand on my back and prayed for me deep. She made a home for me, served hot bread and good wine, but it’s been a long time.

Our baby has been sick again, and I’ve travelled. I’ve fallen in love with Jesus’ people from all over. My brothers and sisters here have had to divide and conquer. I don’t have a group here anymore. On Sunday mornings, I’ve gone back to her, and when she opened the door, she didn’t know my name, and I had a hard time recognizing her face.

I haven’t known how to find my way back home.

Waking in the morning, waiting for the coffee, I’m not sure the exact thing that makes me so angry. It feels chronic, like green eyes and Scottish blood. My heart beats like stomping feet. I pour the drink and go to the quiet room for my routine time alone, my quiet time. I’ve said that I’m not afraid anymore. I threw fear off like an ugly coat. I’m afraid my fear turned to anger. I peal it back – down to the anger. Down to the fear beneath. The fear that always, every single time, opposes love.

This pilgrim thing is not my favorite part.

I cling to the ones who share my strange taste in music. I cling to those of you who write in the same vein. I touch the spines of my favorite books like pictures of old friends. Once a couple asked why I don’t ever just write what I mean. I cling to you okay with the I-don’t-knows. I keep kilter with the ones who are a little off a rocker, more comfortable on porches with ashtrays and melting ice cubes.

I don’t belong here. I’m the girl from the woods with a Bible in her hand, and I don’t always understand why I don’t much feel at home.

I walk with Jesus, and the more I do, the more homesick I am. Are you a wanderer, too?

I have friends who have never understood the struggle with love for church. I’m not sure people understand that I don’t mean THE church. The picture I have of the spotless bride of Christ (she is me), and then that after party? Oh I am so good with that. I love her now and forever. It’s just the going to church thing, like it’s a place on a mountain where God hovers like a cloud.

Church is not what happens on Sunday mornings, is it? Is it?

Maybe it is. Maybe that’s a big part of it. Maybe I wanted it to be the whole. Maybe I wanted Sunday mornings to mean nothing at all.

If a hammered dulcimer plays, you can guarantee that my husband and I are about three seconds from a good lip quiver, because hammered dulcimers sound like Rich Mullins, and his music points home. At church, Josh had the dulcimer, and Seth had guitar, and then Shelly put her hands in the air exactly how I know we’ll all be doing when we see Jesus face to face. We were throne-room singing. That’s usually why I go.

When I first sat down, I looked around and saw in the sea of people only two that I know. But next to me were two of the only people of color in the room. At the awkward meet-and-greet part, I couldn’t place her accent, but she’s not from anywhere close to here. I wondered how far away from home she felt, her Spirit-Filled Bible in her lap. I felt close to her.

On my other side came to sit one of our elders, and he is one of those tender-tough ones, looks like he could beat your face in or kiss it – either one. When we sang our Rich Mullins, he might have been deaf for the tones, but he sang like he had written every word. I fell in love with him there, a man who is tender-tough. When I turned to him at the awkward meet-and-greet, he said my name and asked of my sons.

I was angry because church hasn’t felt like home in a long time. I’m starting to think it was never meant to feel like home, not any more than Rich’s music and my Mama’s banana pudding. But at church, when I got Titus early from nursery, and I asked the people in the back to pray, he limped his unfed body into mine like he would fall asleep. They gathered around us, and one whispered over us in praise. One said Jesus is Healer; that is His name. One said Seth and I were brought together to bring forth a godly generation. One prayed against the fear and brought the Bible verses out. They put their hands on my back, called me Moses.

Once in a while you find yourself in the arms of your broken church, and she looks exactly like THE church, and THE church looks like Jesus. It’s worth pressing on, going to commune with the homesick ones, going to find a hand to hold, a bag to carry, wine to taste.

I am a pilgrim, and I get so homesick.

Little church, you don’t have to know my name to be beautiful. I just want to see Jesus. Let me be like the child to you.

Suffer me not.

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The beautiful poetry of the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3 is almost like a lullaby, gentle and predictable. Beautiful, though it may be, this portion of scripture is also a reminder of the ‘ying and yang’ of life, of blessings and curses, of beginnings and endings.

The first comparison, “a time to be born, and a time to die …” is the most basic beginning and ending, and it is here that I want to spend some time.

After months of begging, those who were born to me have finally started to hand me their ‘guest post thoughts’ for me to share.

Today, my middle daughter,

the people-loving,
driver-learning,
last-minute planning,
gentle-hearted feeling,
I’ll-try-anything-once,
favorite red-head daughter is sharing her thoughts … on being born, and dying. I think she has brilliantly reflected on this reminder of the cycle and circle of life … of course, I am her mom 😉 .

Reflections on Ecclesiastes 3:2a

“A time to be born and a time to die.

For us as humans, we all have a time when we are birthed into the life God gave us, and then another time where we all will die. This is the same for each and every person on earth, every living thing God created.

Ever.

So, we aren’t the only ones who have to go through this circle of life. We aren’t the only ones who are gonna go through life, saying hello and goodbye to others. We will all feel the brute of death, and we will all feel the joy of life- and those are what make our lives so meaningful and important.

To think that God made each and every person you come across, that he’s made people you will never meet ever in your lifetime, that he’s planned out who is going to come into your life- it is that fact that should truly shock you, and leave you awestruck.

God has created so much for his children. So much for such little praise. He always provided, even in the smallest of ways. And we still never notice how unending his love is for us!

God’s love is truly unfathomable, and most of the time, we don’t give him a second look.

God made the sun, moon and stars. He created this place, earth, that we call home. He created US.

He birthed the sun into it’s seemingly infinite existence, and yet it will cease to be when he comes to bring his children to heaven. Isn’t is ironic how he also gave his one and only son life, just so the son could die in order to give us a continuance of life in heaven? All stories have a beginning, and all stories, no matter how many sequels, prequels, and series there are.

Your story is the only exception. His grace has given you an infinite epilogue.”

“Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.”
Ecclesiastes 3:15

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6a00d83524c19a69e2013486815013970c-320wi

Since I often write about different hymns and other worship music, this guest post by Tsh Oxenreider, who writes at http://simplemom.net, seemed a natural addition.

I received this, by Tsh, through my subscription to (in)courage.me (http://www.incourage.me/2013/08/11-of-the-greatest-hymns-in-church-history.html), in a post called “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History.”

As I started reading, statements kept coming to mind, such as:

“she better not miss …”

“I bet she forgot …”

“… better be there”

And when I got to the end of her list of the “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History” I was in agreement with her choices. And, other than a few seasonal songs of faith (ie. “Silent Night” or “The Old Rugged Cross”) I think her list was complete …

… of course she did miss “Jesus Loves Me” … and if you have been reading my posts you will know how near and dear that one is to my heart. heck, I would make that one #1!

Nonetheless, she has a great assortment of hymns that have stood the test of time! I wonder what will be sung a hundred years from now …

“Plato once said, “Music is… wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” God has created music similar to certain extravagant parts of creation, like the redwoods and the turquoise Mediterranean waters and the northern lights: it begs us to stop everything and pay attention.

And when truly excellent music angles our attention heavenward? It changes you. And when enough lovers of God collectively listen to the words and the music—it can cause a shift in the Body, the Church. It changes us.

There are many, many hymns in thousands of languages throughout the history of the Church (all of which began first as poetry). But there are a few select hymns that have stood the test of time and are with us today because they have changed us as a Body. Their birth shifted our collective trajectory for the better.

Here are some of the greatest hymns to have changed the Church. I’ve included certain versions I love, plus a final playlist at the end.

(Note: I am a native English speaker, so my list of faves falls in that category—but there are countless hymns full of truth in languages all over the world.)

8th century

1. Be Thou My Vision

This humble prayer began as a medieval Celtic poem in the eighth century, but it wasn’t translated into English and put to music until 1905, by Mary Byrne.

Recording by Abigail Zsiga

1225

2. All Creatures of Our God and King

A bubbling brook in a thick forest

St. Francis of Assisi was known as a lover of nature and animals, and he also loved music. He wrote over 60 hymns, including this one in 1225 reflecting his compassion for creation. It caused the Church to stop and recognize the power and significance of nature, and not just human nature.

Recording by Patty Griffin

1674

3. Doxology

Thomas Ken was born in 1637 and orphaned soon after. Raised by his sister and her husband, he became an Oxford scholar and eventually became chaplain to members of royalty before becoming a bishop in the Anglican church. He wrote a manual of prayers in 1674, including a three-verse one simply named Morning Hymn. The doxology (which is simply a combination of two Greek words to mean ‘word of glory’) as we know today is the final verse of this poem, and it’s often sung without music.

Recording by Gungor

1758

4. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Robert Robinson was a rather difficult, headstrong boy, so when he turned 14 in 1749, his mother sent him to London for an apprenticeship (his dad died several years prior). He got in to even more trouble in London, and when he was 17, went with some of his friends to a meeting to make fun of Christians where George Whitfield would be preaching. It moved him deeply, and began his search for God where he finally became a Christian three years later.

He became a pastor, and at age 23, he wrote this poem to accompany one of his sermons, its words full of admittance to his own fleshly nature compared to God’s divine. It was set to music in 1813.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1773

5. Amazing Grace

Considered a folk hymn, it was first published in 1779 but originally written for a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773 by John Newton, an English poet. Its focus is on the redemption found only in Jesus—a simple but profound truth during a lot of Church division.

The song actually wasn’t too popular until the American 2nd Great Awakening in the early 19th century, and it then became widely known as an African American spiritual.

Recording by Jadon Lavik

Waterfall dripping off the side of a mountain

1835

6. Just As I Am

When poet Charlotte Elliott was at a dinner party in the early 19th century, an elderly man asked her if she was a Christian. She considered his question inappropriate, but later asked him what he meant. Charlotte eventually decided to follow Christ after talking with him, and wrote Just As I Am in 1835 soon after, remembering his words that she could come to Jesus “just as she was.”

This later became a popular song during Billy Graham’s crusades in the 20th century.

Recording by Nichole Nordeman

1861

7. Holy, Holy, Holy

Reginald Heber’s widow found the words to his poem written in private (we’re not sure when), but it was years later, in 1861, when a publisher found it and asked John Dykes to compose the music. He wrote it in 30 minutes and first named it Nicea, in honor of the First Council of Nicea in 325, the first effort to attain consensus in the Church.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1863

8. Before The Throne

Charitie Lees Smith was the daughter of an Irish pastor and his wife, and in 1863, at age 22, she wrote a poem called The Advocate to accompany one of his sermons. She continued to write other poems and eventually had them published in 1867 in a book titled Within The Veil.

Almost every line of her poem is taken directly from different parts of Scripture, making it rich with theology—useful for sermons. We’re unsure when its name was changed and music was written for accompaniment.

Recording by Shane & Shane

1873

9. It Is Well

Abolitionist activist Horatio Spafford had a nice life in the Chicago suburbs with his wife and five children and always welcomed guests in their home. Then in 1870, his 4-year-old died of scarlet fever, and in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of his investments (which were in Chicago real estate).

In 1873, the family wanted to sail to Europe for much-needed time away from their tragedy and to help in a revival, but on the day of departure, Horatio had a last-minute business emergency. He sent the family on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days. But their ship was struck by another ship and sank in 12 minutes—the remainder of his four children died and only his wife was saved and brought to England. He immediately set sail to be with his wife, and as his ship passed the place where his daughters drowned, he penned It Is Well, and music was composed to accompany it in 1876.

Recording by Sara Groves

Wildflowers in a field of green grass

1885

10. How Great Thou Art

Carl Bobert was a Swede was walking home from church and listening to the church’s bells in 1885. A sudden, awe-inspiring storm gripped his attention, and then just as suddenly as it arrived, it subsided to a calm. After watching this display of nature, he went home and penned this poem. He published it in 1886, then it was matched to a Swedish folk tune in 1888, and then translated in to German in 1907, Russian in 1912, and finally English in 1925.

Recording by Martina McBride

1923

11. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas Chisolm spent most of his life sick, but in a rare bout of health, he went on a missions trip. While traveling, he corresponded with William Runyan, a good friend of his, and they often exchanged poems they had written. Runyan found this poem of Thomas’ so moving that he composed music to accompany it, publishing it in 1923. It wasn’t noticed until several years later by a Moody Bible Institute professor, who requested it be sung in their chapel services.

Recording by Sarah Macintosh

11 great hymns that changed the Church | incourage.me

There are many, many more hymns (heck, I didn’t even touch any of the 6,000 hymns written by Charles Wesley!). They are poetry of our history, and I think it’s important to keep teaching these words and melodies to the next generation, so that we can keep these doctrinally-rich hymns in the Church.

Here’s the playlist, so that you can pipe each of these hymns throughout your home or in your ears today. They’ll help keep your focus heavenward.

Which hymn is your all-time favorite?

{Photos by Tsh}

 

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A Tank

Sometimes I come across a story that, true or not (snopes says it is not), it just makes me hope that it is, because the story has so captured my imagination, my emotions or my heart. Such was the following story:

 

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie,as I looked at him lying in his pen..  The shelter wasclean, and the people really friendly.I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhereI went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.

Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted tosettle in to my new life here, and I thought a dogcouldn’t hurt.  Give me someone to talk to.And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the localnews.  The shelter said they had received numerouscalls right after, but they said the people who had comedown to see him ju st didn’t look like “Labpeople,” whatever that meant.  They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things,

which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennisballs, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.  See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it offwhen we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home).  Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.

Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls — he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed inhis mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes.

I guess I didn’t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once hesettled in.  But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like “sit” and “stay” and”come” and “heel,” and he’d follow them – when he felt like it.

He never really seemed to listen when I called his name — sure, he’d look in mydirection after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever.

When I’d ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn’t going to work.  He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.

I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for th e twoweeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on searchmode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  Iremembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guestroom, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the”damn dog probably hid it on me.”

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up theshelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toysfrom the shelter…I tossed the pad in Reggie’sdirection and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the mostenthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home.  Butthen I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that?  Comehere and I’ll give you a treat.”  Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction — maybe “glared”is more accurate — and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down …. with his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either, I thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.

I had completely forgotten about that, too.

“Okay, Reggie,”  I said out loud,

“let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”

ToWhoever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the sheltercould only be opened by Reggie’s new owner.I’m not even happy writing it.  If you’re reading this,

it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab

after dropping him off at the shelter.

He knew something was different.

I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip,but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong.

And something is wrong…which is why I haveto go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it

will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls.The more the merrier.  Sometimes I think he’s partsquirrel, the way he hordes them.  He usually alwayshas two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third inthere.  Hasn’t done it yet.  Doesn’tmatter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it, so becareful – really don’t do it by any roads.  I madethat mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands.  Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I’ll go over themagain:  Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,”  “stay,”  “come,” “heel.” 

He knows hand signals:”back” to turn around and go back when you putyour hand straight up; and “over” if you put yourhand out right or left.  “Shake” for shakingwater off, and “paw” for a high-five.  Hedoes “down” when he feels like lying down — I betyou could work on that with him some more.  He knows”ball” and “food” and “bone”and “treat” like  nobody’s business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats.

Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule:  twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six inthe evening.   Regular store-bought stuff; the shelterhas the brand.

He’s up on his shots.Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info withyours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for whenhe’s due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the vet.

Good luck getting him in the car.

I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time.I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggieand me for his whole life.  He’s gone everywherewith me, so please include him on your daily car rides ifyou can.  He sits well in the backseat, and hedoesn’t bark or complain.  He just loves to bearound people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition isgoing to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that’s why I need to shareone more bit of info with you….

His name’s not Reggie.

I don’t know what made me do it, but

when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told themhis name was Reggie.

He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it

and will respond to it, of that I have nodoubt.  But I just couldn’t bear to give them hisreal name.  For me to do that, it seemed so final, thathanding him over to the shelter was as good as me admittingthat I’d never see him again.  And if I end upcoming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, itme ans everything’s fine.  But if someone else isreading it, well … well it means that his new owner shouldknow his real name.  It’ll help you bond withhim.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a changein his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.

His real name is “Tank”.

Because that is what  I drive.

Again, if you’re reading thisand you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on thenews.  I told the shelter that they couldn’t make”Reggie” available for adoption until theyreceived word from my company commander.  See, myparents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’veleft Tank with … and it was my only real request of theArmy upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone..call the shelter … in the “event” … to tellthem that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily,my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoonwas headed.  He said he’d do itpersonally.  And if you’re reading this, thenhe made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting downright depressing,

even though, frankly, I’m justwriting it for my dog.  I couldn’t imagine if I waswriting it for a wife and kids and family … but still,Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost aslong as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that youmake him part of your family and that he will adjust andcome to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dogis what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to dosomething selfless, to protect innocent people from thosewho would do terrible things … and to keep those terriblepeople from coming over here.  If I have to give up Tankin order to do it, I am glad to have done so.  He ismy example of service and of love.  I hope I honoredhim by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough.I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off atthe shelter.  I don’t think I’ll say anothergood-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the firsttime.  Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if hefinally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank.  Give him a good home,

and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.

Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, evennew people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star

when he gave his life to save three buddies.

Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking onthe hardwood floor.  He sat in front of me, his headtilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

“Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and eachtime, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posturerelaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to floodhim.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buriedmy face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me.Your old pal gave you to me.”  Tank reached up andlicked my cheek.  “So whatdaya say we play some ball?”

His ears perked again.”Yeah?  Ball?  You like that?  Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

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Normally, when I feature a guest post I spend more time introducing it than it’s content lasts.

Today is different.

I will only say that when I started reading I had not noticed who wrote it. All I knew was that I was captivated by this post … and thought that you might be too:

““I don’t have much time left, really.”

My father’s voice on the other end of the line reminds me of my grandfather’s.

It’s been nearly ten years since I heard that voice. I’m making beds. I can see Dad at his breakfast table.

“At best, maybe fifteen years. I’m on my last chapter.” He pauses and I let the empty space beckon answers.

Grandpa died at eighty. Dad will turn sixty-three this coming year.

“I need a plan. I don’t think I’ve had one.”

I pull the sheets up, smooth out the bed’s coverlet in coming light, then wait, listening to Dad think.

I’m hesitant to say anything. Best he find the way.

But I’m still, just standing here, knowing that we are moving out into hallowed ground. I wait. Then venture into the space with only a question.

“Well, how do you want that last chapter to read, Dad?”

“I want to end happy.”

I sit on the edge of the bed, sunlight warm on my back, and ask slowly, “And what do you think brings happiness?””

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Are you captivated? Click here to finish reading.

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