An Ocean of Ink

Last week I came across the words of an old hymn,
“The Love of God”.
It was written by Frederick Lehman in 1917.

Lehman pastored several churches in the midwest, but what he really loved to do was write songs. At age 50, he came up against some hard times and moved his family to California where he got a warehouse job packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. After hearing a rousing sermon on God’s love one Sunday evening, he couldn’t sleep. Words to a song began to form and he continued composing as he packed fruit the next morning. Soon two stanzas were complete. He felt it needed a third verse, but nothing came.

Several days later, he opened a book and a handwritten poem fell out. It had been a gift from someone who explained that the poem had been found 200 years earlier, written on the cell wall of a prison. One of the guards had found it after the prisoner died and he jotted the words down before painting over it.

When Lehman read the poem,
he knew immediately it was his third verse.
It was a miraculous, perfect fit.

Later, it was discovered that the poem dated back to 1000 A.D. and was written by a Jewish Rabbi. Somehow the Hebrew was translated to English and found its way to a prison cell. Somehow it was preserved by a guard and passed through hands until it landed in a book on Frederick Lehman’s shelf. Somehow the rhythm of the poem matched the meter of Lehman’s song exactly.

The hymn was completed in 1917, while these world events were being played out:

  • America declared war on Germany, sending the first combat troops to France
  • A world-wide influenza pandemic struck, killing 20 million by 1920
  • 15,000 African Americans silently walked down 5th Avenue in New York to protest racial discrimination

Things haven’t changed much.
We still need the love of God desperately.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every tree on earth a quill,
And everyone a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure;
The saints’ and angels’ song!”

10 Things I Learned in April

1. Don’t put away the turtlenecks until May.  We were in the 30s this week.  As in degrees.  To clarify: I personally haven’t been in the 30s for two decades.

2. Gathering twelve women together on a snowy weekend in April can begin a movement.  What IF we lived and loved like Jesus?

3. There are crystals in my ears. If one of them should happen to dislodge and fall into one of my three semicircular inner-ear canals, the room starts spinning.  Thankfully, a friend told me how to get that crystal back where it belongs. The Tilt-A-Whirl has mercifully stopped.

4. Spring cleaning feels good. The best part is looking out freshly washed windows. Gosh, it’s a beautiful world out there.

5. Cell phones are wonderful and horrible. PB and I spent three hours trading in our old cell phones for new models. As the afternoon frittered away, I wondered, “What if we sent a monthly bill to church members, required them to update their Bibles every few years at an outrageous price, made them sign a contract and then preached a three hour sermon?”

6. My new favorite old dead guy is Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was a priest and a poet in the 1800s. He wrote this: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. The birds sing to Him. The thunder speaks of His terror. The lion is like His strength. The sea is like His greatness. The honey like His sweetness. They are something like Him. They make Him known. They tell of Him.” Why don’t we talk like that anymore?

7. It’s possible to spend six weeks studying 25 verses. The little obscure book of Philemon had much to teach. Who knew?

8. I need daffodils in the spring, but I never think about it when it’s time to plant in the fall. So I took drastic measures – I’ve set a reminder to go off on my phone on September 1, 2016 that says, “Buy daffodil bulbs.” I suppose I should also set a reminder for October 1 saying, “Plant those darn bulbs, for goodness sake.”

9. I’m glad I’m not planning any grad parties or wedding receptions this summer.  In fact, I won’t be pulling together any massive galas for the rest of my life.  The next big family fete will be grandson Hudson’s high school graduation…in 2030.

10. If ever there was a song to close April and usher in May, it’s this one by James Taylor. Stay with it to hear the transition from “Before This World” to “Jolly Springtime.”

“Yes the winter was bitter and long
So the spring’ll be sweet.
Come along with a rhythm and a song
Watch creation repeat.”

april may

Star of Wonder

star of wonder

I couldn’t resist closing out the Advent series on stars with this song.

JJ Heller is one of my favorite artists, singing about one of my favorite topics, the Star of Wonder.

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

Flourishing with Sandra McCracken

The book of Psalms has the shortest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 117 — 2 verses) and the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119 — 176 verses).  This book contains some of the most beautiful poetry ever written, although the 150 pieces were composed over 3,000 years ago as songs to be sung in worship.

Someday I hope to hear King David in concert singing the original scores. Until then, we are left with pages and pages of inspired lyrics. Song writers find the Biblical poetry irresistible because it lends itself so easily to melody. If I tried to set one to music, I’d definitely pick Psalm 117. 

Sandra McCracken came out with an album this year called “Psalms” and she’s fearless, because she tackled Psalm 119.  It’s my favorite track.  She captured the mood of this acrostic poem without using all 176 verses. Bless her.

I wondered why she used the word “flourishing” in the song and in the title, since it doesn’t appear in the Psalm.  I don’t know what got into me, but I sent her an email asking about it.  To my surprise and delight she graciously responded!  With her kind permission, here are Sandra’s comments and the song:

“The word ‘flourishing’ as connected to Psalm 119 feels like the heart of the passage, in that what it is to love and obey is not intended for the sake of rigidity, but abundant life.  Looking back at the idea of ‘shalom’ in Genesis, the word ‘flourish’ to me summarizes in a fresh way who and what we were made for, according to the good design of our Maker.”  

May her anointed music continue to flourish.

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

Flourishing (Psalm 119)


Farther Along


story song

I borrowed a line from my son on Easter Sunday:

“The resurrection was the greatest fourth quarter comeback in history.”

If that’s the case, then the 50 days between the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the longest post-game wrap-up ever.

Those poor disciples.

They spent most of their three year internship with Jesus a few steps behind.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand?'” (Mark 4:13)

“Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

“But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him.” (Mark 9:32)

“They kept asking, ‘What does He mean?  We don’t understand what He is saying.'” (John 16:18)

For three days they hid out, fearing for their lives after the crucifixion of their Teacher.

For forty days, the resurrected Jesus popped in and out of their gatherings, alive and well and….unexplainable.

For another ten days they waited for……something.  Jesus said, “wait” so they hunkered down in Jerusalem not even knowing what they were waiting for.

Ten days.

That’s a long time for eleven men to sit around.

I hope one of them remembered Jesus’ words from their last meal with Him:

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)

I often feel like I’m two (or twenty) steps behind Jesus.  I wonder why He makes me wait so much.  I wish there were more explanations for the crazy things that happen in my life and in the world.

The disciples obeyed and waited and, before long, they “got” it.  That’s what it looks like to be a follower of the Risen Christ.  When I get a little farther along, more understanding will come to me, too.  I just need to keep moving along, to get a little farther than yesterday —

don’t stop, keep walking.

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

“Farther along we’ll know all about it.  Farther along we’ll understand why.  So cheer up, my brothers, live in the sunshine.  We’ll understand this, all by and by.”

“Farther Along” by Josh Garrels

farther along

For This I Have Jesus

story song

PB says he takes it with a grain of salt when parishoners go through the line after church on Sunday, shake his hand and say, “That was a good sermon, Pastor.”  But if someone should happen to call the church office on Wednesday to say, “That was a good sermon on Sunday, Pastor”, then he’ll believe it.  If they’re still thinking about it three days later, the message must have gotten through.

Back in October of 2014, PB said something that stuck with me.

Three months later, I’m still thinking about it.

Now, that’s a good sermon.

I don’t remember the context or the scripture or the point of the message.

But I wrote down five words:

“For this, I have Jesus.”

I’ve said those words many times since.

I’ve said that phrase many times this week.

When missing dear ones, in other counties or other countries —

for this, I have Jesus.

When praying with a family in a pediatric hospital waiting room —

for this, we have Jesus.

When gathering around the Word with sisters asking hard questions —

for this, we have Jesus.

When rocking the baby girl who can’t sleep because of a cough  —

for this, I have Jesus.

When talking to friends who are struggling, but managing to hang on —

for this, we have Jesus.

When lying awake at night thinking of a million things I need to do —

for this, I have Jesus.

When the phone rings at half past midnight for the pastor to come —

for this, we have Jesus.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

This week, this is my story, this is my song:

For This I Have Jesus, written by Graham Kendrick

(Please excuse the amateur, homemade recording.  Ignore the mistakes.  Let the words land soft in your heart.)

This I Believe

Sometimes I just have to get back to the basics.

Sometimes I just have to say it out loud.

Sometimes I just need you to hear me say it out loud.

This is what I believe.


I’m not apologizing for it, I’m not ashamed to say it, and I’m never going to stop hanging on to it.

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

This is my creed.

(Get ready, Emanuel.  We’re going to proclaim this.)

This I Believe, Hillsong Worship

Far Kingdom


If I had to choose one thing that had the most impact on me in 2014,

I would choose the study on “Heaven” we did at our church.

I didn’t know Heaven was so exciting, so beautiful, so immense.

I wasn’t aware that Heaven was so much fun and full of adventure.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that far kingdom, seeming not so far.

That’s why this song has been playing in my ears as I drift off to sleep lately.

(Plus, I have a soft spot for husband/wife duos from the midwest.)

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

Far Kingdom, by The Gray Havens

Home for the Holidays #13


 This is the moment I wait for all year.

Light reflecting in the faces of loved ones.

Row upon row of candles snuffing out the darkness.

The presence of Emanuel dripping warm.

Oh Holy Night.

“God, You’re here to rescue and heal us.”

You Are Emmanuel — New Nation Music


soonI suppose every generation wonders — is this the final age?  Will we be the fortunate people who actually hear the trumpet sound, see the sky split open, transport to another realm?

Maybe it’s common for people my age — with children raised, careers winding down, youthfulness fading — to spend time considering eternity.

Perhaps in every century, believers have observed signs of a world “groaning as in the pains of childbirth”, waiting for its deliverance.

I just know that since meeting every Wednesday this fall with fifty beautiful women and studying Heaven in depth, I can’t stop thinking about it.  Heaven has become near and dear — a real place, a true home.

I don’t know the time or date,

but I do feel a stirring in the world and in my heart.

Could be soon.

This week, this is my story.  This is my song.

“Soon” by Hillsong United