Decoding the Beauty in the Universe

If it is true that, as we age, we become even more of whatever we have been all our lives, then Luci Shaw is becoming more and more difficult to “shelve.” A poet and essayist well into her eighties, she continues to tackle topics ranging from quantum mechanics and the incarnation to the haecceity** of things and what it means to “doubt faithfully.”

Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace examines these themes and more within the context of Luci’s decoding of the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe in which we see God’s fingerprints and His invitation to become part of the creative process.

In four places in Scripture, God is identified metaphorically as a potter, and, made in His image, we also delight in the creation of useful and beautiful things. This response to beauty should not surprise us, for it is a “mark of the Maker,” and Luci Shaw has concluded that “beauty doesn’t reside simply in what we observe or the fact that we can see and take note, but in how we perceive and distinguish with all our senses.” The glory of this is that as seers, we become “partners in revelation to bring beauty into view.”

A collector of pottery through the years, Luci invites her readers to consider the beauty that results when something is imprinted or stamped upon clay — or upon a life.

**To discover the meaning of “haecceity” and to read this post in its entirety click on over to The Perennial Gen where I’m sharing my review of Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace.

I hope you will join the conversation over there as we wonder out loud together: Can we live in awareness of the rich evidence of purpose, the fingerprints of God upon His world, and then invite others into the creative process?


I  am participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Gracesimply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This book was provided by InterVarsity Press in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Diversity and the Church: A Culture with No Excuse

I started listening to NPR a number of years ago because I felt a need to hear a different voice, to listen well, and to give consideration to viewpoints that I did not share. Since then, as the tone of challenging conversations around race and politics has become more shrill, and as opinions have become more ironclad, I’ve been thankful for quiet voices of reason that remind me of the holiness of diversity and the call to love.

Deep divides within the church on everything from immigration and the role of women to worship style and the definition of family challenge the body of Christ to be the force that passes through our differences all the way to grace. In the month of February, The Redbud Post is focusing on diversity as a spiritual issue with a collection of writings from Redbud members that challenge readers to practice the “love that suffers long and is kind” in living out our many roles as believers. A studied intention to live as an Ambassador of Unity invites me to trade my litmus tests for conversations with real people and to seek out opportunities within the body of Christ to remember that we are one.

I invite you to join me today over at The Redbud Post to read my essay in its entirety.   Over the past year I have intentionally read books to broaden my own narrow world, and I’ve folded two of them into the post. And while you’re there, take some time to look around and even subscribe to the post so you can receive regular infusions of goodness to your inbox each month.


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The “More” You Were Made For

“Again!” he demanded with a giggle, his eyes sparkling with joy and anticipation. And so we did it. We read the book again . . . and again.

My grandson doesn’t look for thrills in the new and different. He finds his greatest joy in more and more of what he knows and loves. The truth is, I want to accommodate his requests, but I get bored with the same old words and pictures.

“Let’s read this one!” I offer and try to tempt him with the brightly colored illustrations because I’m weary of the same, old same-old.  I’m the girl who curates a varied menu, struggles with a homeschool curriculum, and despises shopping because repetition is where my soul goes to die.

However, when I’m with my grandson, he schools me in the delight of the present moment. His fondest dream is to keep on doing what we’re doing, and in his joyful abandon, he turns my heart toward God.


I’m kicking off the 2018 project for God-sized Dreams in which we will be discussing You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream by Holley Gerth. At the rate of two chapters per month, this is very relaxed and fun, and you’re welcome to join the discussion on Facebook or Instagram each Friday.

Click here to read the rest of my insights on Chapter 1, and be sure to share your thoughts on where God is leading you in pursuit of His glorious More in 2018.

The More You Were Made for


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Loving My Mid-Life Christmas

For the past several years, change has been the only constant in our Christmas celebration.

Grown up sons marry, pack up their collection of treasured ornaments, and hang them on their own trees. College guys come home when they can and join in the fun on an intermittent schedule. Teens branching into individualized creativity grab an ax, stride manfully into the woods, and return bearing a Charlie Brown tree for their bedroom, which they will festoon with enough lights to interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Our Christmas gatherings have become a moving target with a schedule that requires both flexibility and diplomacy, but I’m learning to appreciate the Christmas that is and to let Christmas past be past — fondly remembered but not slaying my enjoyment of the here and now.

Alexandra Kuykendall, author of Loving My Actual Christmas, struggled with loving “Christmas present” as well. Visions of Pinterest perfection left her exhausted and so done with Christmas that she finished the season by stripping the decorations off the tree and stuffing them into their boxes, not caring if she ever saw them again.

In addition, Norman Rockwell gatherings around a flawless feast didn’t match the reality of the recent loss of her father and the empty chair at the table

Alexandra wanted to make some changes that would bring joy back into her celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She conducted an experiment which she hoped would help her to capture the essence of the season, and Loving My Actual Christmas is her lab report. Each of the four weeks of Advent and the lighting of each of the four candles represents a theme, so the Kuykendalls implemented those themes as the framework for their actual Christmas.

Who among us doesn’t appreciate a little more Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in our celebration of Jesus?

I’m sharing my review of Loving My Actual Christmas over at The Perennial Gen, so I hope you’ll click on over and join us there. Insights from the book may be just what you’re looking for to align your own celebration with the reality that surrounds you, and while you’re visiting, be sure to check out the collection of other posts.

You’ll be inspired by the wisdom there as you put down solid roots into the dirt and light of midlife.

 

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Additional Resources

Alexandra shares even more details about her Christmas experiment on her own podcast, The Open Door Sisterhood. She also engaged in a soulful and enlightening conversation on the Ears to Speak podcast, episode 5 in which she discussed the Christmas realities of budgets and complicated relationships, planning realistic and joyful traditions, and her journey of discovering how to live out a Christmas that is full of love and is spiritually intriguing to the people around you.

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

We Need to Talk About Singing

My husband said, “Amen,” and five voices immediately joined his as we sang our morning blessing song around the breakfast table. Seth, an overnight guest, looked from face to face with an expression bordering on terror until we sang the last note, and then blurted, “Do you do this often?”

We did.

Because we wanted our children to be singers, we sang.
Because we wanted them to know the old hymns, we passed out hymnals around the table, and we have sung our way through their pages multiple times.

Keith and Kristyn Getty have made similar choices for their young family and Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family,and Church is the first paragraph in what they hope will become an ongoing conversation about singing. When they say, “We need to talk about singing,” they’ve gone first, setting forth their heart beat concerning the massive implications of the biblical command to sing.

History is on their side. Martin Luther emphasized preaching the Word as well as singing the Word:

“Let God speak directly to His people through the Scriptures, and let His people respond with grateful songs of praise.”

Even so, the Getty’s emphasis on congregational singing feels counter-cultural in our current environment that emphasizes up-front singing. When Paul said to “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” he was addressing the whole church, not a team of specialists. He was inviting them into “one of the greatest and most beautiful tools we’ve been given to declare God’s excellence.”

Just as all Christians have been declared to be witnesses,  we are also declared to be singers, designed for singing, and even if our voices are not of performance quality, we can lift them as part of the fulfillment of our chief end: “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Awareness of our role as one puzzle piece in the cosmos, each doing one part to sing the mighty power of God puts everything in perspective and drives home the lesson that even our singing is not about us.

The Getty’s have taken Colossians 3:16 as a commandment that also specifies how we sing:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

How different our gathered worship would be if every part of it could be done “with grace in our heart to the Lord!”

“You are not singing Christianly if you are singing only with your lips. The root of true thankfulness is the gratitude in our hearts for the unmerited benefits of God’s goodness in our lives.

The camp where our family volunteers (and where, back in the day, our kids were all campers) has a robust music component to its ministry philosophy with singing at meals, in morning chapel, in Bible classes, and then at the end of the day with evening chapel and more singing. We love this because the truth goes home with the campers in memorable and shareable form, often into very dark places that would otherwise never have the light of Truth.

“Singing deep songs of the Lord keeps the right voice loudest in our ears.”

Anyone who has spent any amount of time reading the journals of well-known missionaries knows that the pages are crammed with hymn lyrics — and this is because their hearts had been shaped and deeply imprinted by the truth the hymns convey.  The vehicle of music carries lyrics deeply and effortlessly into our brains, and well-written hymns convey a freight of rich theological truth. The Getty’s mission in their creative composition of modern day hymns is to foster that same connection between spiritually compelling words and music that captures the imagination.

The aim of Sing is that believers would move toward a more robust singing life in our homes and in our churches; that we would “sing truth and sing it as though it is true.” By singing to one another, we affirm the truth and strengthen one another in our convictions. By singing to others, we invite them into the knowledge of the Truth in a way that’s winsome and challenging; and we inch our way toward bringing about the fulfillment of our own prayer:

” . . . on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

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This book was provided by B&H Publishing Group in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Word Made Flesh — A Celebration of Reading for Advent

In the month of December, the Christmas story often stands alone, lifted with huge parentheses out of the New Testament — maybe delivered in Linus’s hushed boy soprano, and then tucked away with the durable resin nativity set and the white twinkly lights until next year. It’s a great story, so it’s easy to see why authors of every creed are drawn to its rich narrative.  Left in context, of course, it holds a pivotal place in redemptive history, and since it is a Word that was given to us (John 1:14), it is natural to use words and the magic of story to give substance to our celebration.

For me, every holiday is made more festive by the inclusion of books that heighten my understanding and appreciation of the occasion and that encourage me to enter in, to be present to the beauty. That’s why I’m sharing a collection of books that will bring the sacred into your everyday celebration of Advent. Click on over to the Redbud Post to read a joyful sprinkling of content from A.W. Tozer, Madeleine L’Engle, Sarah Arthur, and Luci Shaw.

Letting our hearts rejoice in the incarnation reminds us that even within the hectic pace and hoopla of Christmas celebration, we, too, can make the Word become flesh once again, in our lives and in our deeds.

I hope you’ll join me, and may your heart be encouraged in joy!

Redbud Writers Guild

For regular encouragement, like the Redbud Writers Guild page on Facebook!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Thanksgiving Celebration and Lament

Nearly thirty years ago, I married into a family that celebrated Thanksgiving Day with All-American fervor, featuring a day-long gathering and a loaded table. As the new bride, I was eager to prove that I had what it took to be the holiday hostess. Having done my research, I had planned all the best sides, multiple-choice pie selections, and a huge bird to fill the oven — but I had not planned for my mother-in-law’s life-threatening illness.

We rejoiced when she was released from the hospital on the Wednesday before the Big Day and decided to take the party to her place. As we rose early to prepare the feast, she was delighted to be present for all the kitchen activity, savoring the aroma of fresh rolls and roasted turkey from her recliner. We set the table with her best china, rolled out the amazing feast, and gathered for the celebration.

It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

But read on . . .

CaptureI’m sharing the whole story over at (in)courage today, and the truth is, I have spent the years since that first fiasco of a feast slowly learning that whenever we gather on this planet, it is for an imperfect celebration in which our only hope for joy is to look squarely at the empty seat, at the strained relationships, at the flawed execution of all our Pinterest-worthy plans.

And then to give thanks.

I’m giving thanks for you today! May your season of Thanksgiving be filled with joy and an abiding gratitude for all that God has given — and for the Giver Himself as He presides over your celebration.

To finish reading this post, click here and join me today at (in)courage!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.