From on High

high church-3024768_1280 pixabay

Name a Christian denomination, and chances are I’ve attended services there. Most of my years, though, have been spent in ever more casual worship services. Simple buildings. Small worship bands. Blue jeans acceptable for pastor and congregant alike. I began to wonder, in my never-ending struggle with unfounded judgement, why people bother with the expenses associated with what I refer to as “high church.”

Let me stop here and define my terms. Wikipedia describes high church’s hallmarks as “elaborate music, altarpieces, clergy vestments and an emphasis on sacraments.” I’m not referring to theology and doctrine here. I’m writing, in essence, about the outside appearances only.  

 On Christmas Eve this year, the Holy Spirit took me to task. Steve and I attended a service at a nearby Lutheran Church. Lyle Lovett was going to be the soloist. I didn’t know who he was, but the name sounded familiar, and I was curious to see what it would be like to attend a service that would be, yes, high church.

 And I learned my lesson.

 Organ, orchestra and choir? My heart soared and tears fell as I worshipped with all my heart. (Ask my husband, I’m not particularly prone to emotion. This wasn’t some drummed-up-by-the-atmosphere experience. It was me being drawn to worship by the music.) Bear in mind that, if you read much of the Old Testament, you can’t get away from the fact that music, sometimes elaborate music, is a big deal in the Bible.

 A processional entrance let by a shining metal cross? What a great reminder that Christmas isn’t just about the manger birth! It’s also about death and resurrection—first that of our Lord and later our own. We didn’t take communion, but that would have fit in quite well. 

A pastor in white robes? No, that wasn’t what I was used to, but it eliminated one more distraction. Admit it, haven’t you ever found yourself thinking just a little bit about the attire of the choir? (Oh, Susie’s blouse is beautiful. Sharon’s skirt is a little short…)

The building was huge, not particularly simple, and created with acoustics in mind. (See previous comment about music in the Bible.) And it was packed. Had we arrived 2 minutes later, we would have had to stand the whole time. So, was the building too big? We were at the third of five services, and most certainly not at the most popular time slot. Maybe sometimes big is good.

So, have you, like me, found yourself drifting toward that most ungodly stance of, “I know the best way to do church” from time to time? If so, join me now in rejecting all such notions. We serve a loving God who loves our worship. That much we know for sure. And that is enough!

 

(Photo from pixabay)

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Adventure Awaits

 

adventure

Good morning! Today I’m honored and delighted to direct you to my guest post at (in)courage. This post is a longer version of something I wrote for my own blog years ago. ‘Hope you’ll take a look, and maybe even see what else the (in)courage website has to offer.  

You can read my blog at (in)courage here.

You can sign up to receive daily encouragement from (in)courage here.

‘Hope your day is full of adventure as you continue to trust the Lord who loves us!

The Happiest People on Earth

happiest people sherrillHappy New Year!

If you’re looking for a book to add to your reading list this year, I’d like to recommend “The Happiest People on Earth” by Elizabeth and John Sherrill. It’s the story of Demos Shakarian, and it will bolster your faith. (It’s right here on Amazon)

Let me challenge you with just one quote (from page 186, in case you’re curious.) “The important thing is that He tells each of us to go. Go with whatever gift He has given—knowing that when we find that gift and use it, no matter what the condition of the world around us, we will be the happiest people on earth.”

When I was a kid, I learned to sing a song that started with these words:
“Serve Him, Serve Him, all ye little children. God is love. God is love.”

My prayer for you, as this year begins, is that you’ll find the very best way to serve our Lord, the way that he has prepared for you, and that you will join the ranks of the happiest people on earth.

Boxing Day

box and dog Erda Estremera Unsplash

December 26th is known in many parts of the world as Boxing Day. Why?

  • Because it’s the day we haul all our now-empty gift boxes away? Nope.
  • Because it’s the day we’re allowed to slug those who irk us? Absolutely not.
  • Because it’s a day to give to those less fortunate? Bingo!

Also known as St. Stephen’s Day, and tied to a rather varied list of international traditions, December 26th is supposed to be a day to bless those with less (without expecting anything in return.)

And so, it’s also a perfect day for me to give you the highlights of my pastor’s recent sermon about the Good Samaritan. (Thanks, Matt!)

• The Good Samaritan made the sacrifice of stopping. He gave up his plans.
• That same man, undervalued in the land where he was traveling, didn’t let his position influence his willingness to help.
• He basically opened his wallet, lavishly offering his possessions to whatever extent they might be needed.

Jesus asks us to love totally and completely at all times, sharing that love with all people in all situations, in the same way that we love ourselves. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and we are asked to follow him.

But can we do it? No, no way. Unless…unless we’ve asked him to take control of our lives. Then Christ, working in us, can provide lavish love to others—even those who hate or misuse us—regardless of the cost.

Boxing Day is here. And the New Year is coming. So it’s time. It’s time to ask the Lord to empower us with a new and mighty measure of love, generosity, compassion and understanding. May the True Good Samaritan change your life today!

Photo by Erda Estremera via Unsplash.com

The Wow Factor

 

wow unsplash Ben White

I was loading clothes into the car when I heard, “Nana! Hi, Nana!” With his mom’s permission, Nick ran for me, unable to hug me because his hands were too full of little cars. I hoisted him up to eye level, and then he saw it—a newly assembled fort awaiting him in his backyard, complete with a rock wall (of sorts) and a wavy slide.

“Oh, my house! My house!” he cried, hardly able to contain himself as we made our way through the fence and over to the gift his mom had found and his dad and “Pop” had worked on most of the day.

You’ve all seen moments like that, times when a child responds to life with unbridled glee. When do we begin to lose that enthusiastic voice of youth coupled with an untarnished gratitude for the good gifts of life? Nick didn’t pause to decide whether or not the green and yellow canvas tenting on his fort were the colors he would have chosen. He was unfazed by the fact that the swings were not yet attached. He was excited about the gift as it was.

Are we? Do we approach our days ready to be excited about what God provides—when, where and how he provides it? Do we say “Oh, wow!” enough? Or has our richly blessed western culture caused us to be jaded, no longer noticing life’s daily blessings?

Let me challenge you to begin anew today to be wowed by God, to open your eyes in a fresh way and proclaim your joy, whether silently or aloud, over the many good gifts, large and small, that will come your way. And won’t you let me know what you discover?

Thanks be to our Father from whom all good gifts come!

*Photo (not my grandson, by the way) by Ben White on Unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

Brownies and a Dime (or A Little Bit of Sin) by Beth Smith

Brownies Michelle Tsang via unsplash.comI love this story about “a little bit of sin.” Two teenagers wanted to see the latest movie, one their father was quite sure was inappropriate.

“There’s only a little bad language in it,” they pleaded. “There’s almost no violence, and, while they talk about sex, you never see any on screen.” The father was adamant. The teens were upset. Eyes were rolling. Grumbles were rumbling.

But this was a very creative dad who loved his children and wanted to make a point. He headed to the kitchen to bake a batch of brownies. The house was filled with the tantalizing aroma of the coming chocolate treat. The teens soon made their way to the kitchen, begging for brownies.

“Help yourself!” the father said, “But before you dig in, you should know that I added just a little bit of dog poop to the recipe. There’s not much. You won’t be able to see it. I’m pretty sure you won’t even taste it. It probably won’t hurt you a bit.  So go ahead. Have all you’d like.”[1]

They got the point. That’s the way sin is in our lives. It doesn’t matter how much or how little, it’s still there.

First John 1:10 says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him (God) out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Fine! But how about those of us who have really messed up? Some of us have had this thought, “I’ve done so much wrong, really evil stuff. I know I’m beyond redemption, beyond forgiveness.” Not true! Those who are forgiven much love him all the more. None of us are beyond His forgiveness. We’re like the lost coin in the parable that Jesus told. Let me recount it for you.

Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and carefully search until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8-10 NIV).

The lost coin in this scripture was a silver drachma. It was probably only about the size of a dime, but it was worth about a day’s wages. It was worth the search! And we’re worth the search. If we’re feeling lost, either eternally or temporarily, we can be sure that God desires to find us and to help us find him. He searches for us and joyfully receives us.

Next time you see a dime, let it remind you to cry out, “Here am I, Lord. You’ve found me.”

 

Photo by Michelle Tsang via unsplash.com

[1] http://www.snopes.com/glurge/brownies.asp , accessed 6/2/2015 reported that, “Our earliest sighting of this item comes from a August 2001 web site posting, and it has since appeared in at least one gook. However, even in its earliest incarnation the author was not identified, which makes it difficult to determine whether the story is a true account or a work of fiction.”  This author found it uncredited on several websites.