Doers Get More Done

The management team at Home Depot must have read the book of James.
Their advertising slogan sounds downright Biblical.

James had a lot on his mind when he sat down to write a letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Suddenly free from the burden of Mosaic law, the new Christian community still needed some guidance on how to live this redeemed life in Christ. Brother James put down into succinct words a handbook of sorts: “How to Live Like a Christian”. Or maybe he was preaching to himself.

James kicked off his letter with a section on unbelief and doubt, testing and trials, and temptation. Were these topics top-of-mind because he had firsthand experience with them? Did James struggle with anger, an uncontrolled tongue, selfish ambition? Was he a good religious Jewish boy who went through the motions, but found religion worthless?

These were the things on James’ mind as he composed his letter.
The remedy?

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Yes, we need to hear the Word, read the Word, sing the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, memorize the Word, and meditate on the Word. But the way to inject real vitality into our spiritual lives is to be a doer of the Word.

Another James — James Moffat, Scottish Bible scholar — had something to say about this pithy, convicting verse.

When the sermon is done, it is not done;
something remains to be done by the hearers.

Perhaps this should be painted on the inside frame of our church doors, making it the last thing we see as we leave.

When the Word has been read,
and the sermon has been said,
and the songs have been sung,
the doing isn’t done, it’s begun.

Sweet Baby James

Back in 1970, James Taylor wanted to give his newborn nephew and namesake something special, so he wrote the babe a lullaby. That song, “Sweet Baby James” was the title track for the album that catapulted Taylor to fame and fortune. He still sings the song at the end of almost all his concerts. “Sweet Baby James” ended up being pretty sweet for Uncle James.

I’ve been humming that song because my Bible Reading Plan for 2023 kicked off with a stroll through the book of James. Before diving into the first chapter, I had to stop and think about the writer of this letter. Who was he? Why did he write it? To whom did he write?

The book of James was written by Jesus’ half-brother. No other book of the Bible was written by someone who knew Jesus as a child or who lived in the same house as teenagers.* The two boys grew up together, played together, did chores together. They probably shared a bedroom, or bed, or mat. Three more brothers were added to the family and at least two sisters. (Mark 6:3) That had to have been one lively household.

We are not given a peek into the early home life of Joseph and Mary’s family, so we are left with conjecture and holy imagination. However, it couldn’t have been easy for James to follow Jesus, the Son of God, in birth order. Having the sinless one as an older brother might have been challenging.

None of Jesus’ younger half-siblings were part of His earthly ministry. They are rarely mentioned in the gospels and when they are, it isn’t in the best light. “When his (Jesus’) family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.'” (Mark 3:21)

It appears that not one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters were at the execution of their oldest sibling. From the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary into the care of John, the disciple.

Then, in Acts 1:14, there’s a breakthrough. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” His brothers! James even got a one-on-one encounter with his brother after the resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:7)

By the time James wrote his handbook on how to live like a Christian, he had fully accepted Jesus’ Messiahship, calling Him “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1) . Not once did James portray Jesus as anything less than Lord. There were no old childhood memories dredged up. The division in the family over Jesus’ ministry was not mentioned. The words “Mom always loved you best,” were never recorded. James saw the glory and he became a believer and leader of the early church.

James’ death is not recorded in the New Testament, but historians believe he was either stoned to death or beaten to death with a club. All for love of his Brother, the Savior.

Are you reading along with me?
What has James been teaching you?

*I stand corrected. James is not the only book of the Bible that was written by someone who knew Jesus as a child or who lived in the same house as teenagers. The short book of Jude was also penned by a half-brother of Jesus. I’m so grateful for someone who not only reads, but also checks up on me! Thanks, friend!

Regular Church

There are over 45,000 church denominations worldwide.*
Here in America, we have 33,000.*
Within the denomination of my childhood,
there are 44 different branches.
I have no idea why we got chopped up into

When I was a kid, I went to a little Methodist church in a small midwestern town. It wasn’t a mega-church, or a seeker-friendly church, or a church with a cool name. The pastor wasn’t exactly dynamic. We sang hymns and prayed The Lord’s Prayer together. Nobody was concerned with cultural trends or the latest technology or staying relevant. We were as common as they come.

All I knew was that I loved going to Sunday school, where I put a sticker on the attendance chart every week. I enjoyed singing while Mrs. B exuberantly pounded out “The B-I-B-L-E” on the old upright piano. I adored Blondie, my teacher, who always gave out Juicy Fruit gum. I liked sitting with my parents on the red padded pews in the sanctuary. I drew pictures on the bulletin, played with the veins in mom’s hands, and elbowed dad when he started to nod off. Somehow, despite the ordinariness of that quotidian congregation, I learned to love Jesus and my Bible.

While PB and I were driving through North Carolina last month, something caught my eye. It made me laugh out loud and I told PB to turn around. Then I felt a little longing rise up inside.

Sometimes I just want an old, regular church that leads me to Canaan’s Shore. Yep, give me an old, regular church with humble worship and good ol’ gospel preaching.

Oh, and services streaming on Facebook.

(*According to Wikipedia)

PB and Andy

My mother used to say that February wasn’t good for anything but reading a good long book. I’ve adopted her philosophy with a twist. February isn’t good for anything but reading a good long book on a beach.

PB and I headed south for a couple weeks and came home when February was just about over. We enjoyed sunny skies and warm sand in our toes. We saw some sights and spent time with some lovely people along the way.

Our last stop was Mount Airy, North Carolina, the hometown of Andy Griffith, and the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry.

During the early days of the pandemic, everybody had an opinion they were happy to share. Those in a leadership position of any kind during that time know how stressful it was to maintain peace and harmony. In the midst of chaos and criticism, uncertainty and unpleasantness, PB and I escaped to Mayberry every night after supper.

A half hour with Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Goober lowered our blood pressure. We laughed a little, we learned a lesson, and we whistled the theme song. For a few moments, we harkened back to our own childhoods (like Opie’s) in small towns (like Mayberry). The TV show provided a sacred thirty minutes of simple joy and warm community, things that were sadly lacking in the world at the time.

When we made plans to take off this February and visit family in North Carolina, it was a no-brainer. PB booked a night in Andy Griffith’s boyhood home and one of the kids set us up with a ride in Barney’s squad car. We went to the Andy Griffith Museum, had lunch at Snappy Diner, and stopped in at Floyd’s Barbershop. We sat in the sheriff’s chair at the courthouse and bought a souvenir at Wally’s service station. It was a walk back in time.

Watching the Andy Griffith Show
(even if you’ve seen all 249 episodes)
while sitting in Andy’s living room
would make you smile, too.


I have a confession to make. I sample the grapes in the grocery store before I buy them. I usually swipe just one, to make sure they aren’t sour or soft. I suppose that counts as stealing, but I did the math — at $1.49 per pound (Aldi price this week), one grape costs 3/10th of 1 cent. It’s ok, right?

PB pruned our little row of grapevines this week, so I’ve been thinking about grapes a lot lately. Grapevines, vineyards, vines and branches are a big theme in the Bible. Jesus talked about them frequently. He told several stories about vineyards and on the night of His arrest, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I have another confession to make. Sometimes I dump out all the grapes at the bottom of the bag — the ones that didn’t hang on to the vine — and put the nice tight bunches back in the bag. Certainly the store figures in the inevitable loss of a handful of grapes. That’s ok, right?

Here’s the thing.
I’ve never gone into a grocery store to buy one grape.
They come in bunches.

And PB didn’t plant one solitary vine.
There is a whole row of vines that twist around each other.
They grow together, supporting each other.

One single grape
won’t make more than a few drops of juice.
A healthy vineyard
can produce barrels of wine.

What is the lesson here?

I think we are meant to be people who are twisted up and entangled with each other’s lives. It seems we’re supposed to bump up against each other and encourage each other to hold on to the vine. Certainly, we are intended to be an offering, poured out and fragrant to a world longing for a taste of goodness.

Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Apart from each other, we can do very little.
Find yourself a cluster and hang on.


I’m throwing a little celebration here on “small drop” today! 

Thirteen years ago, on February 2nd, this little experiment began and I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing, or if I’m doing it right, or if it’s even worth doing! I do know my little blog isn’t fancy-schmancy or in a league with the big-girl bloggers out there. But I’m content with a small space to articulate my small thoughts to my small audience! So, happy birthday, “small drop”! 

As I hit this milestone, some thanks are in order. 

Thanks to my son-in-law, Noah, who said to me one January day, “You should have a blog.” Within a few seconds and a few clickety-clacks on my laptop, a new babe was born! I was extremely intimidated and it took me a month to get enough nerve to publish my first post.

Thanks to my two girls, who encouraged me by saying that I did, indeed, have something to say, and then told their girlfriends to read their mom’s blog. However, if my daughters were the only ones who ever read this, it would be enough for me. 

Thanks to my sons, who let me use their experiences to demonstrate grace.

Thanks to my grandchildren, who garner more “likes” than any other type of post.

Thanks to PB, who doesn’t mind when I sit him down and plop the computer in his lap and say, “Want to read my blog?” To which he responds, “Did you write about me?”

Thanks to my friends who intentionally stop by, as well as readers who drop in by accident. You have no idea how it thrills my heart to know you’ve been by for a visit!

One more: Thanks be to God, who was the original Word that became flesh and lived among us for awhile. And continues to live among us. Amen!

Advent All Year

Another Christmas season has come and gone.
Advent is over.

We prayed, “O come, O come, Emanuel.”
We waited through dark midwinter days.
We let our hearts prepare Him room.
We listened for the angels’ song — Gloria!
We received the wondrous gift of the little Lord Jesus,
asleep on the hay.

Advent is over.
Or is it?

If Advent is the season of reflective preparation for the coming of Christ, then it’s still Advent! The weeks that lead up to Christmas are a yearly reminder for us to get ready for round two. We get a practice run every 12 months, a rehearsal, a warm up lap.

The Big Advent event is still on the horizon.

We are still praying, “Come Lord Jesus.”
We are still waiting for the Day of the Lord.
We are still preparing our hearts and making room.
We are still listening for a glorious trumpet blast.
We are anticipating the mighty shout of a conquering King.
We better not be asleep on the hay.

So keep singing “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee!”
And keep waiting and watching, with joyful anticipation.
Continue to make room in your heart and home and calendar.
Listen every day for the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Be generous givers and grateful receivers.
Stay awake!

It’s Advent all year.

New Year’s Prayer

I like old prayers. Those Puritan preachers had a way with words. The Valley of Vision is a book of prayers that is never far from my reach.

One of my favorite old dead guys is John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. He was a man of prayer who wrote a special liturgy just for New Year’s Day in 1755. But we can pray it all year long, if we dare.

I am no longer my own but Yours.
Put me to what You will,
rank me with whom You will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for You,
or laid aside for You,
exalted for You,
or brought low for You;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to Your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am Yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
Let it be confirmed in heaven.

Borrowing Prayers from John Baillie
Praying Up With John Baillie

2023 Bible Reading Plan

If I fail to plan, I can plan to fail. Hence, I like to create a roadmap to help me stay on a good path in the year ahead.

After spending last year in a long, leisurely stroll through the Psalms, I’m anxious to get back into some New Testament books. I’ve made a tentative plan for 2023, but will stay open to the Spirit’s leading in the months to come.

This year I’m going for a good mix of Old and New Testament, some gospel words of Jesus, a little history and several weeks focusing on the word joy. There’s enough variety to keep it interesting and several places to start fresh if I run off the rails. The year will start with a slow walk through James and end with a faster jaunt through 1 and 2 Samuel. In September, I’ll start looking for an Advent study to close off 2023. Sounds like fun! You’re welcome to join me!

It looks something like this:

January 2 – April 7: James, studying 6-12 verses per week
April 9 – June 30: “Joy” word study
July 3 – September 8: Parables in Matthew
September 11 – November 24: 1 and 2 Samuel, reading 5 chapters per week
November 26 – December 31: Advent study, TBD

(To see past years’ plans, click on 2023 Bible Reading Plan on the top menu and scroll down.)

My Top Books of 2022

‘Tis the season for book lists. I’ll join the party.

To be honest, 2022 wasn’t a great reading year for me. Maybe it had something to do with a major life change (retirement), but I had a hard time focusing and concentrating. Maybe it was because I kept picking bad books. All I know is, I gave up on more books than ever before. I managed to plow through 28 books this year, which is about half of my usual. Here are my top five.

5. Surrender to Love, by David Benner
My word for 2022 was “hesed”, the Hebrew word for love. I thought to myself, “I’m going to learn how to love. I’m going to become a more loving person. I’m going to get this love thing down.” Then I read Surrender to Love and everything shifted. My quest to become a better lover had to start with learning how to be a better receiver of the Father’s love. When I tried to imagine God thinking about me, I usually assumed He was somewhat frustrated and disappointed. I began contemplating the fact that God bursts with love for me, and that love swells in His heart when He thinks of me. I don’t know if I got any better at loving other people this year, but I did find a deeper appreciation for the length, width, depth and height of His love for humans, including me.

4. Reforesting Faith, by Matthew Sleeth
Trees were a major theme for me this year. I read books about trees, I listened to podcasts about trees, I listened to sermons on trees. And I spent a lot of time walking in the woods. I read Matthew Sleeth’s book in January and thought about it all year. He points out, “Other than God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing. There is a tree on the first page of Genesis, in the first psalm, on the first page of the New Testament, and on the last page of the Revelation. Every significant theological event in the Bible is marked by a tree.” His comparison of human lungs and tree roots still blows my mind.

3. Deeper, by Dane Ortlund
Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly was my 2020 book of the year, so I was eager to read his next offering. It did not disappoint. He addresses the broad idea of what it means to grow in faith and mature in Christ. Then he gives practical advice on how to do that without becoming formulaic. I turned many of his ideas into prayers: “Lord, help me to trade in my snorkel and face mask for scuba gear that takes me down into the depths I’ve never peered into before.” (I can’t find my copy. If I lent it to you, could I please have it back?!) 🙂

2. How It Went, by Wendell Berry
My absolute favorite fiction book series is Wendell Berry’s Port William novels. I read all of them in 2017 and it was pure joy. I’ve been thinking about re-reading the series, just because I miss the characters and Berry’s way of writing about them. So imagine my delight when I saw a new addition! I couldn’t push the “Buy Now” button fast enough. At 88 years old, Berry still has the ability to write words that make me ache and smile all at once.

1. The Songs of Jesus, by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller
My 2022 book of the year is The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. This book saved my life this year. I’ve never spent an entire year in one book of the Bible, but God knew this was exactly what I would need in 2022. The Psalms became my anchor, my refuge, my strength. Along with reading the short passage, reflection and prayer each day, I made notes and highlighted key words in my Illuminated Scripture Journal book. But mostly I prayed the psalms. They gave me words I didn’t have, expressed emotions I was afraid to feel, and taught me the language of praise.

As Dane Ortlund states in Deeper, “The Psalms are the one book in the Bible addressed to God. In it God takes us by the hand and gives us words to speak back to Him.” The Psalms did indeed take me deeper into the heart of God. They will continue to be my lifelong companions.

I discovered more resources that kept pouring the richness of the Psalms into my heart and mind.

  • In The Lord I Take Refuge podcast, by Dane Ortlund
  • Hidden Streams podcast, by Chad Bird
  • Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms
  • Music by The Corner Room, The Psalms Project, Poor Bishop Hooper and many others

“We cannot bypass the Psalms. They are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest. That’s it: open your Bibles to the book of Psalms and pray them — sequentially, regularly, faithfully, across a life-time. This is how most Christians for most of the Christian centuries have matured in prayer. Nothing fancy. Just do it.” — Eugene Peterson, Answering God

Here’s to a prosperous reading year in 2023!
Sing some songs of Jesus in the year ahead!

My Word for 2022
Be Like a Tree
Tree of Life
10 Things I Learned in January
The Bible Project, Tree of Life series:
Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, by Michael Card