The Encouraging Assembly

1churchMy past history in relation to the local church has been disappointing, to say the least. It has left me a bit shell-shocked – so much so that returning to a physical church is daunting.

In dealing with the past, I remind myself of the lessons I have learned.  I regularly employ such questions as “What if…?” and “So what…?” in finding a way forward.  But just as I find a sense of satisfaction with the resolution I have found for the tension within, a verse plucked from God’s Word threatens the calm I thought I had found:

Hebrews 10:25 – “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

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I Was Afraid of That

ChurchsmallA friend recently shared with me about witnessing some of our local churches’ attempts at their displays during a local public event. What was relayed to me was funny, but it was also troubling. Such public displays over and above the weekly church service could be powerful, but sometimes such attempts seem to end up being either hilarious or embarrassing in my humble opinion.

When I hear of things like this, and end up shaking my head and thinking how foolish or impractical or humiliating they are, am I being overly critical? Maybe. Judgmental? I imagine so. Does it justify my staying away from and out of involvement in a local church? Now that’s a tough question.

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scarecrow on fire

We all think about suddenly disappearing.
The train tracks lead there, into the woods.
Even in the financial district: wooden doors
in alleyways. First I want to put something small
into your hand, a button or river stone or
key I don’t know to what. I don’t
have that house anymore across from the graveyard
and its black angel. What counts as a proper
goodbye? My last winter in Iowa there was always
a ladybug or two in the kitchen for cheer
even when it was ten below. We all feel
suspended over a drop into nothingness.
Once you get close enough, you see what
one is stitching is a human heart. Another
is vomiting wings. Hell, even now I love life.
Whenever you put your feet on the floor
in the morning, whatever the nightmare,
it’s a miracle or fantastic illusion:
the solidity of the boards, the steadiness
coming into the legs. Where did we get
the idea when we were kids to rub dirt
into the wound or was that just in Pennsylvania?
Maybe poems are made of breath, the way water,
cajoled to boil, says, This is my soul, freed.
Dean Young, "Scarecrow on Fire" from Fall Higher.

silence is pure

Bench"We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox."

Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

all truth is God's truth

"...but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master; and while he recognizes and acknowledges the truth, even in their religious literature, let him reject the figments of superstition, and let him grieve over and avoid men who, “when they knew God, glorified him not as God..."

St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine II.18.28


Editor's Note:  These posts will highlight ideas and images that, to me, illustrate the maxim that "all truth is God's truth".

home, where I belong

As I was driving home from work yesterday evening, this song popped into my mind...  It was sung by B. J. Thomas back in my Bible college days. I have to admit that at the time I thought it was a pretty song, and meaningful, but not very "real".  Now that it's 40 years later, it has much more meaning...


dependency and contentment

Clock“In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.”

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

disappearing into books

Woods"Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."


from "Flight" in The Faraway Nearby
by Rebecca Solnit

november angst


We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result. What if so and so wins? When we wake up to November 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NCV).

- from Max Lucado's devotional
"My Prediction for November 9"

autumn leaves

Grinning pumpkins, falling leaves,
Dancing scarecrows, twirling breeze,
Color, color everywhere,
Autumn dreams are in the air! Autumn is a woman growing old,
Ready to let what is dead go,
Her youthful radiance has faded, and that's sad,
But underneath she discovers a
spread of colors she didn't know she had. Little children screech and run,
Ghosts and goblins having fun,
Color, color everywhere,
Autumn dreams are in the air! Around her a kaleidoscope of leaves are whirling.
Deep within her visions stir of new life that will be,
A budding, a flowering, a promise unfurling.
Autumn is a woman growing old,
Ready to let what is dead go. Calico kittens, rain falling rat-a-tat-tat,
Big full moon, funny black cats,
Color, color everywhere,
Autumn dreams are in the air!

-Mary Naylor


contemporary worship?

Recently on Breakpoint I read an interesting article about how "contemporary worship" is failing to keep young people in church or even draw them back.  It's a problem I've seen growing ever since I heard a church I used to attend was struggling over the use of drums in the worship service - and the problem of producing a more "contemporary" service.  Some churches deal with the tension by having two kinds of service -- one traditional, and another contemporary thinking that segregating people according to their preference settles the issue and makes everyone happy. 

It begs the question -- what IS worship?, and that's probably a topic for another posting.  For now, here's the Breakpoint article:


Want to attract young people to church? Lose the skinny jeans. For the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John 70percentStonestreet with The Point.

It’s a familiar sight these days: Churches turning services into rock concerts, adding coffee shops, and dressing their pastors up in skinny-tight jeans and hipster haircuts. Now all of this is done in the name of appealing to young people. But new research from the Fuller Youth Institute suggests none of it works.

Writing at Christianity Today, the team described their findings at 250 congregations around the country that are effectively reaching 15 to 29-year-olds. They discovered that almost every strategy used to attract young people—culturally savvy messages, pastoral attire, church size, location, newness, or worship style—were poor predictors of long-term engagement among the youngest members.

What did work? Treating youth like adults made a huge difference. And churches small and large, traditional and contemporary, that integrated young people and gave them responsibility and leadership were vastly more successful than those that relied only on lattes and light shows.

----- from Breakpoint


rant #39

i'm really tired of people telling
those of us who are single by choice
or single because of divorce
or single because of the death of a spouse

"oh stay strong;
you'll meet that special someone.
i just know it."
maybe so...but then again
maybe not

why can't people support those of us
who are single for one reason or another
without some sort of agenda
to get us paired up.

and why do singles feel so compelled
to look for that next someone?

i'm not saying being single is a cup of tea.
but then again, it's not hell on earth either.

i confess there might have been a time
when I desired to have a mate,
maybe raise some children.

but as the years have gone by,
the LORD has also shown me
the benefits
and the riches
of being single.

and in that i rejoice.

here the rant hath ended.
go in peace.


    “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
        It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

ripening time


Merton once told me to quit trying so hard in prayer. He said, ‘How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.’ A small green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles, squinting its eyes and tightening its jaw in order to find itself the next morning miraculously large, red, ripe and juicy beside its small green counterparts. Like the birth of a baby or the opening of a rose, the birth of true self takes place in God’s time.”

from Merton's Place of Nowhere by James Finley;inspired by a post "Lightly child, lightly" by David Kanigan

the undeniable pressure of existence

Fox_running I saw the fox running by the side of the road
past the turned-away brick faces of the condominiums
past the Citco gas station with its line of cars and trucks
and he ran, limping, gaunt, matted dull haired
past Jim’s Pizza, past the Wash-O-Mat,
past the Thai Garden, his sides heaving like bellows
and he kept running to where the interstate
crossed the state road and he reached it and he ran on
under the underpass and beyond it past the perfect
rows of split-levels, their identical driveways
their brookless and forestless yards,
and from my moving car, I watched him,
helpless to do anything to help him, certain he was beyond
any aid, any desire to save him, and he ran loping on,
far out of his element, sick, panting, starving,
his eyes fixed on some point ahead of him,
some possible salvation
in all this hopelessness, that only he could see.

“The Undeniable Pressure of Existence” by Patricia Fargnoli
from Duties of the Spirit. © Tupelo Press, 2005.