Return to Radnor Lake

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature” (Henry David Thoreau).

Of all the choices and decisions I’ve made of late, precious few were any better than returning to Radnor Lake for a hike.

It’s been way too long since I last had a good long hike into nature and away from the things of man. I relish the quiet calm of nature, listening to my own thoughts, but more often listening to the still small voices of nature.

It almost seems like to speak would be to profane the sacred silence around me, so I often keep quiet and try to pay attention. Those two qualities work well not just on a hike but in any suitable occasion.

I counted 11 deer, plus countless squirrels, some turkeys, a swimming muskrat, and a busy little woodpecker. On the whole, the hike lived up to my expectations.

I often wonder if this current culture isn’t allergic to silence. You never hear dead air in any media format. People will fill any kind of silence with inane talk and chatter. It’s like we’re (me included) addicted to noise.

But there’s something curative and refreshing about peace, silence, quiet, and nature. I’m sure Thoreau was onto something with Walden Pond.

More Good Music

I recently rediscovered the early solo recordings of one Rod Stewart.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of just about everything he’s ever done, starting way back with the Jeff Beck Group and The Small Faces all the way to the present.

But there’s something about the Mercury recordings he did that are magical. I think most people will agree that Maggie May is a classic. There are plenty of other gems from this era, including Reason to Believe, You Wear it Well, and Mandolin Wind, among others.

I listen to these recordings and most of them sound fresh. Maybe it’s because they sound a lot like the Americana/Roots music coming out these days. Maybe ol’ Rod was ahead of his time.

It’s just good driving during rush hour/laying in bed with your headphone on/road trip/anywhere music.

Here’s the link if you’re interested:

Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

Breath of God

“Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Living God,
You breathe in us
on all that is inadequate and fragile,
You make living water spring even
from our hurts themselves.
And through you, the valley of tears
becomes a place of wellsprings.
So, in an inner life with neither beginning nor end,
your continual presence makes new freshness break through. Amen”
(Brother Roger of Taize).

The Psalmist declares that God keeps a record of every tear you shed. He collects those tears in a bottle. God isn’t a stranger to your sorrow or taken aback by your tears.

He above all knows what great sorrow is. God in Jesus was the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. God knows.

All of us will at one time or another walk through that dreaded Valley of the Shadow of Death, either for ourselves or for a loved one. It will feel like the end of all our hopes and dreams. You will feel like you can never feel happiness or joy or anything else besides sadness.

But God walks with His children even in the deepest darkest valleys. Even there, He is with you. He will be with you from beginning to end and beyond.

Emmanuel means that God is with us. Always.

He Is

I’ve fallen in love with a worship song recently. I love that it is taken almost verbatim out of Revelation 5. I also love that it has the call and response very much like a liturgy. I first heard it when I was live-streaming a funeral for two of my friends’ infant son and the words haunted me then as they do now.

The song by Andrew Peterson is full of hope and promise, both of which we all need, and seems fitting in this Advent season of waiting.

“Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!”

A Slightly Different Take

I think for me sometimes I can take in the words to a hymn or chorus or passage of Scripture so often that it becomes rote and loses its meaning for me.

Every now and then, it helps to have a different arrangement or translation to bring out the truth of the text.

In this case, it’s a very familiar passage from John 1 that is very relevant to the Christmas season. I love the way the Message makes it come alive in a fresh new way:

“The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish” (John 1:9-14, The Message).

Advent Hope

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).

Jesus didn’t come all the way to earth merely to tell us to be nicer to each other.

He didn’t travel the cosmos only to tell us to be more tolerant and accepting.

He came to set us free.

If Jesus was only a good teacher and a moral human being, then His death was pointless and we are all still dead in our sins, without hope, and to be pitied above all others.

But Jesus was (and is) God in the flesh who took on our humanity, bore our sins, and gave us His perfection that we who were dead might live.

Advent is the anticipation of all that. Advent is the eager awaiting of the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Jesus.

We wait, but we wait with hope and certainty. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Why I Go to Church

First of all, I miss Rich Mullins. I miss his unique voice set in the midst of a Christian music industry where there is a lot of sameness. What he says here is spot on.

I still believe that Church isn’t a place you go on Sunday. It’s not a brick and mortar building. It’s God made visible, made up of living stones like you and me. It’s the people of God doing the work of God in the power of God for the glory of God.

But even so, I don’t do Sunday church services because I’ve got it all together. At least that’s not the way it should be. I may act all high and mighty and superior on Sunday because I show up, but if I’m honest, I know I need help. I know I need other believers to hold me accountable and to encourage me and to challenge me out of my comfort zone.

If I really had my life together, I might as well stay home. But I don’t. So I heed the verse from Hebrews about not neglecting the gathering together of the saints because we need each other. We’re stronger together than we are apart.

That’s why I go to church.

An Advent Prayer

I can’t guarantee that what follows isn’t a repeat of something I’ve posted before, but if so, it’s worth reading again.

“Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!'” (Henri Nouwen).

As I am learning this Advent season, this is a time to celebrate the Once and Future King. It is a time not only for looking back in fondness to the Christ child in the manger but for looking forward in faith to the returning and conquering Messiah.

May we not forget the real reason for the season, the joy that so often gets lost and buried beneath all the activities and events and mad holiday rush. May we all make room and time to reflect that the infinite God became small and helpless so that we could become sons and daughters of God.