For the Beauty

A young man sat on a lush green hillside above his hometown. Wildflowers bobbed their heads and the leaves rustled in the gentle breeze. As the serene country landscape and winding river below stirred his heart, he picked up his quill and these words spilled onto the page in front of him.

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth 
Over and around us lies

Christ, our Lord, to You we raise
This our sacrifice of praise!

The first lines of something wonderful! The story goes that as poet and hymn-writer Folliot S. Pierpoint was wandering through the beautiful British countryside near Bath in 1863, his mind was filled with all the incredible gifts that God has given us. Stunning creation. Our deepest and most meaningful relationships with one another. And best of all – Jesus Himself, His life given freely so that we could live. 

For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower, 
sun and moon and stars of light

Christ, our Lord, to You we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

Christ, our Lord, to You we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!

For Yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given, 
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven.

Christ, our Lord, to You we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!

It’s such a simple hymn, written for communion services to remind the church that the only thing we have to offer God in response to His gifts to us is a heart of praise. Over time, it was changed to reflect our thanksgiving for all the gifts God has given to us, but the original use of the song brought Christ’s sacrifice into a sharper focus: He is the ultimate gift. His life poured out for us, bringing peace and joy that nothing else can hold a candle to. 

Let the glorious hope of the Resurrection of Christ ring in your heart today. When you see the bud on the tree. When the seed goes in the ground and the flowers begin to bloom. Even when the grass needs mowing, the fridge needs stocking, the messes need cleaning — these too are evidence that God’s goodness knows no bounds.

Because of Jesus. He is the joy of our hearts, our true peace, our eternal hope.

Christ, our Lord, to You we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!

Hallelujah, amen.

A small grove of trees

Radical Love

The sun came up a few mornings ago and immediately disappeared behind a large band of dark clouds. 

They aren’t storm clouds. In fact, these clouds are notorious for ushering in warm weather as they arch across the sky. When I first moved here thirteen Augusts ago, I didn’t understand the clouds at all. They were so different than I was used to! The shapes and colours didn’t mean the same thing that they did back home. It has taken me a while to adjust to a different kind of sky.

We’re all adjusting to a different kind of sky these days. Life in a pandemic, even life in the year 2020, has new restrictions, new realities, new requirements, new definitions… it all feels a bit disorienting.

There’s an old hymn that has been ringing in my heart. I think back to my growing up years in an aging country church plunked right down in the middle of a field, hot summer sun beating down, ceiling fans spinning fast enough to lift the old roof right off. The windows were wide open, carrying voices raised to the beat of an ill-tuned piano, fingers dancing across the keys without thought for flats that were supposed to be naturals and naturals that were supposed to be flats.

We worshiped with gusto. I can still hear the blessed voice of one of our elderly ladies soaring over everyone else as we sang,

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul 
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Some hymns simply fill me with nostalgia; others are stalwart reminders of an incredible truth my heart needs to hear even after over three and a half decades wrapped up in the love of Christ. I’ve recently learned this hymn was written by a Sunday School teacher who devoted her life to teaching youth about Jesus. Priscilla Jane Owens never left her hometown of Baltimore. She put down roots in her church and committed over fifty years of her life to teaching children and youth in her Sunday School classes, penning hundreds of songs that taught Christ’s love. This song was based on Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV) – 

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus bridges the gap between a holy God and unholy humans. He is the mediator. He is the One through whom we have access to the Creator of all. Because of Jesus, we have eternal hope. And when we build our life on Him, ultimately we cannot lose. We have been given a gift that cannot be taken away, a treasure in heaven that cannot be stolen or destroyed.

1 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV) says – 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Society’s growing hostility to God and His Word brings a sense that we are in the middle of an ocean where the strong tides are lifting and the cables are straining.

It’s not a new thing for Christians to believe things and live in ways that are incompatible with the culture they’re in. Even Jesus promised “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16). When we choose to follow Christ and live the way He calls us to live, we can expect suffering and loss. We can expect to be misunderstood and possibly even cancelled.

But Jesus also said, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world!” (16:33).

His way is not our way. 

Jesus doesn’t manipulate us into believing in Him. He doesn’t uncover our sins for the world to judge us and cast us aside. Jesus doesn’t cancel anyone.

When He taught about being the Bread of Life, many people turned away from Him because it was too hard to understand or believe. He asked the disciples if they wanted to leave too. Their reply has always struck a chord in my heart:

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

May those words pierce our hearts and bring us to life today. 

May they give us the courage to be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. To get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. To be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave us. (Ephesians 4:2-3, 31-32)

May we live out this radical love of Christ today with our families, in our churches, in our communities and in our world.

My view of the sky one summer morning.

We Are Not Missing Out

I was scrolling my social media feeds the other day and I noticed one of my friends went on a trip. Another was out to dinner. Still another, at the movies.

I exhaled, stomach drawn in with that familiar sinking feeling.

My mind searched for the last time we went on a trip. I couldn’t remember dinner at an actual restaurant without kids. And the movies? Nope. As I thought of my own adventures over the past few months, I started to wonder if maybe summer really hasn’t been all that great.

Wait a minute! This is ridiculous! Just stop.

The struggle is real. As I see what others are doing, I’m tempted to compare and measure and see where I stand. And in the middle of my jealousy, my own beautiful life begins to look bleak and unsatisfying.

Lord forgive us!

Comparison is a sneaky thief, always trying to steal what’s right in front of us. And it’s always followed closely by the temptation to let jealousy and envy move into our hearts and bring all their toxicity.

Not today, friends.

Instead, let’s take a really good look at our own camera roll and see these beautiful moments right in our hands! It would be a shame to trade them for the shadow of someone else’s Instagram posts.

In this process of letting go of my measuring stick and embracing my own life, I am discovering something amazing: when I truly see the good things that God has given to me, other people’s good things are easier to celebrate!

It’s actually quite a gift.

God is so good! And everything good in our lives is because of Him! We are not missing out. And the amazing thing is, He’s not just blessing those people over there, He’s blessing us too in a million big and little ways. Our hearts need the clarity to recognize His goodness and respond in the only way we can – with a life of worship.

hymn 40

From the old red hymnal