We’ll Get There Yet

Tuesday, 5-28-1957

My Dearest,

You will not likely get this until you get back from the retreat on Friday. At first I wasn’t going to write and then I thought you would probably like some mail when you got back and would be wondering what I am going to do.

As far as I know I will try to come down for commencement. Wolcotts want to go out to Arlene’s for supper, or to get cleaned up before the meeting. However, if we get there a little ahead of time, I would rather stop at the school and eat supper with you. But this far ahead, I can only plan and wait until the last minute to see if anything else turns up. More scarletina, etc. Snyders have planned for so long and now they are sick with some of this, either measles or scarletina and don’t think that they will get down for commencement.

The car problem [dropped tail pipe and muffler, oil leak?] didn’t seem right and I asked Ralph yesterday if such a job would be one that you could do. I know that you like to tinker with the car and to save some money if possible. He said that he had tried it once, but had to end up taking it to the garage to finish it. With older cars some of the nuts get so rusted that it is hard to work with, and unless you have a place to drive it up on, it is really hard. The money problem was holding me up, too.

Then a letter came from Fields [a missionary organization]. I glanced inside and thought they had made a mistake and sent Bob Harper’s [My dad’s brother] receipt to us. So I laid it aside and later my curiosity got the best of me, wondering how they could make such a mistake. Behind the paper which is the same size as their receipts was a check of $25 from Bob and Jennie. So with that I called up Arnold and Don’s and they said they could take it today—so they have it now. He said he thought there was exhaust trouble too, and estimated the cost at $20, and I asked him to grease it while he had it.

By the time I paid insurance, sent out some Lord’s money, and had to get David some shoes on Saturday, I was glad to see that check. Wonderful how the Lord times the needs and the supply of them. So I hope that this meets with your approval – I figured that you would have plenty to do here in the next couple weeks, and if possible I know they would be able to use you at camp helping to get ready to open up. Beds, etc. all have to be set up. All of us could go up some days. Wash woodwork, etc. in readiness for this.

Frosted last night, but today is lovely. The two boys are outside playing. The last day of school for the others. David is going to work in the garden this afternoon. So I hope that I get to see you on Friday night. I just finished typing the programs for the recital. Now I must get to a huge washing.

Danny made me laugh this week. He pointed to your navy picture on the dresser: “Daddy’s picture” — then he chuckled. “In a dress!” Danny also had another milestone — he asked me to take him to the bathroom yesterday! But the next time he forgot. We’ll get there yet.

Love from all of us. We do love you, and are looking forward to summer. You would enjoy a big croquet game going on outside the window here – Danny and Jimmy. Nothing like it on record!

Always yours,

I wrote Bob & Jennie a thank you for the gift


Talking Faith with a Salesman

[No date]
Another hard rain last night

My Dearest,

Lots of confusion around here. While I was getting ready for prayer meeting yesterday Dale Sowers [Fuller Brush sales guy?] came in – and talked and talked. He always brings up scripture and the sum of it was 1. Can the Bible be all true? 2. He believes Jesus is God’s Son – but not God. Sounds foolish to us that have always believed, but I can understand that.

What seemed to impress him most was just before he left he asked about your salary – not what it was, but what denomination paid it. When I told him how it was received he really gasped. “You mean – before I come back to deliver you will have to ask the Lord for enough for this?” I said that that was precisely what had happened the last time — and it came in the mail before he came!! “Now,” I said “Do you see why I can unreservedly believe the promises of the Bible as God’s word and true, and that Jesus is God?” But I sometimes feel his interest is insincere – just a good salesman. He actually sees no need of a Saviour.

As he left Danny came downstairs from his nap – with a case of diarrhea drooling all over the room. Just cleaned that up when David came in from school white as a sheet and dropped down sick. So I called up and said I couldn’t get to prayer meeting. David was back to normal this a.m. and went to school. Jimmy seems to be getting over the measles like it was the three day ones. Dorothy is up today. I’ve been mending.

Counting the days,

Going to Bed Before Dark

Wednesday, May 8, 1957

My Dearest John,

I have been sitting at the desk this morning getting things ready for prayer meeting tonight and will take time to get a note off to you before starting the more mundane tasks around the house.

I believe that I will tell the children the trip that H. LaBuff has told about in the Fields that came yesterday into the tribes of the Laos country. In case you haven’t seen it, you will be greatly interested in it and probably read it several times as I have done. Among other reasons is that Orville Carlson was one of the fellows making the trip. How often I think of the way the Lord has rewarded Hazel in giving her a real man of God for a husband when she obeyed Him. Not that Leonard wasn’t, but that she chose the Lord’s will first. Makes me wish again, and again review our lives, to see what has kept us from the foreign field when workers are sorely needed and there are places that are still offering human lives in sacrifices. Somewhere it seems that we have chosen second best – may He take what is left and use it to the fullest.

Nothing new around here in the way of news – just staying by the stuff and trying to take care of it. The youngsters are anxious for school to be out as they don’t like going to bed before it is dark, but they almost have to in order to get enough rest, especially when they play outdoors. Danny is out today – and he loves it. Seems to be about well. Has a couple of coughing spells a day, but that is all.

Mrs. Warner called and asked what the records cost. I told her six dollars. I couldn’t remember what else you said. They like Tennessee Ernie. She will be sending the money to you. I found the camp folder and will enclose it. We haven’t heard a thing from the folks and are wondering how they are.

I think I will close now – except to remind you that we all love you and are praying for you. We are earnestly praying for you these days and for the decisions that must be made. I read the book “Sister Abigail” last night – how the Lord directed and provided and used here. The same Lord is ours and is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.

All my love — Always,

E. Goudge’s Island Magic

0848813421When Hope at Worthwhile Books reviewed Elizabeth Goudge’s first novel, I wanted to read it.  The setting is St. Pierre, the capital of Guernsey, a channel island between England and France. Island Magic quenches two of my current fascinations: island culture and late 19th century rural life.

André and Rachell du Frocq are barely eeking out a living on a farm called Bon Repos (“Good Rest” or, as I like to translate it, “Sweet Tranquility”), a place that comes with a benediction written on stone outside the farmhouse:

Harbour and good rest to those who enter here,
courage to those who go forth.
Let those who go and those who stay forget not God.

The characters of André, Rachell, their five children, Grandpapa, and the stranger Ranulph— who is taken in after a shipwreck—, are vivid and unique; they linger in my thoughts days after I finished the book. Among the five siblings are a humanitarian, a poet, a failed academic, an adventurer, and a joyspring.

The story is sad and yet not without hope. The children have individual minor tragedies, they also have the confidence and security of being part of a bustling family. The tension resides between husband and wife as they begin to think about conceding failure at farming. The stranger’s assistance is helping the bottom line, but brings more marital conflict.

Typical of Goudge, there is a fairy element in the story. Themes of faith, bitterness, the value of beauty, hard work, service, gratitude, grief and sacrifice make the story shimmer. One point of the plot beggars belief. Of course I can’t identify it without giving away part of the story.

Rarely—and happily— I come across a sentence, with which I can fully relate, and about something I’ve never before seen in literature. Island Magic delivered! This is used to be me!!

How thankful she was for her one great gift—the gift of making her nose bleed at will.

Here is a great Christmas quote:

Christmas Day at Bon Repos was something terrific. The du Frocqs took the whole of December preparing for it and the whole of January recovering from it.

Goudge’s mother was a native of Guernsey; summer visits to the grandparents were part of Goudge’s childhood. Her final thoughts on island living in this book are a bit idealistic, but they reflect some of the necessities of interpersonal relationships in a closed society.

You can’t be an individualist on our Island. There’s so much magic packed into so small a space. With the sea flung round us and holding us so tightly we are all thrown into each other’s arms—souls and seasons and birds and flowers and running water. People understand unity who live on an island. And peace. Unity is such peace.



Terryisms – A Tribute to My Pastor

When there is trouble, he enters into the situation, ready to help.
When there’s a party, a ring of laughter surrounds him.
When there is failure, he brings clarity and hope.

He preaches with passion.
He lives to tell stories.
He sings from his toes.

He used to be a long-haired surfer dude,
the delinquent son of the math teacher,
a doubtful outcome.

Then God snatched him from the waves,
set him on dry ground,
and redirected his life.

He teaches Logic and other subjects,
but mainly he is a docent of humanity,
explaining how life works.

It’s funny: his recap of a movie
is invariably better
than the movie itself.

If Pastor Terry and Yente the Matchmaker
lived in the same town,
Yente would go out of business.

His kids talk to him. Often.
He finds any excuse to visit them,
constructs play kitchens for his granddaughters.

He can read Greek and Hebrew;
but he’s even better at reading people.
Approachable. Winsome. Accessible.

He pastors pastors,
near and far,
giving a lift with encouraging words.

We know other churches would love to have him.
But right now—and for the last two decades—he belongs to us.
The Shire is his home.



He likes to talk. He’s very good at it.
Sometimes the stuff comes out funny.
Sometimes it comes out clear.
Sometimes it comes like a freight train.
But it is always good.


•Show up to life everyday!

• Get off your attitude.

• Life is so daily.

• God hit me like a plunger between the eyes.

• Does the glove get muddy or the mud get glovey?

• Raising children is like pouring concrete: you only get one shot.

• You never know what can happen in a day.

• Don’t be old and alone.

• A litnis test

• Our goal is generational fruit:
to see our children’s children walking with the Lord.

• Never despise the day of small beginnings.

•We know there is a balance somewhere…
we see it every time we pass by,
swinging from one extreme to the other.

• Idle hands are the devil of a workshop.

• Repent as loudly as you sin.

• Take off the uniform and stop playing church.

• God isn’t up in heaven, wringing His hands,
wondering what to do next.

• Grab him by his circumcision. [He meant to say baptism.]

• Is your marriage dead?
God does dead.
He loves resurrections.

• When God redeemed me, He was pursuing you. [said to his children]



 • Unity, order, progress.

• If you really love her, you wouldn’t marry her!
[tongue in cheek advice in courtship]

• God’s story includes you.

• If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.

• Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

•When someone criticizes you and calls you a blockhead,
respond with “You don’t even know the half of it!”

 Thank you, Pastor Terry, for your work and your words on our behalf.


55 Hymns I Love to Sing



The other reason that I make music is to celebrate the
certainty of the Lord, since there is no other way I can
understand the contradictions and confusions that surround me.
— Anthony Trollope


I was raised on hymns. They were my mother’s milk, my first solids, my daily bread, my cup of tea. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing hymns, nor a time that I haven’t loved hymns. I sing hymns that sweep my soul up and bring me to the gates of heaven. I sing hymns that mourn, a haunting melody in a minor key that alone reaches the nooks and crannies of my grief.  Hymns, well-done, show me how great my God is and how much that affects my life.  They remind me of what is true, they teach me how to respond, they encourage me to change.

I’ve worshiped with Plymouth Brethren, Baptist, Evangelical Free, and Presbyterian churches. In other words, I come from a broad range of hymnody: English melodies, Fanny Crosby, revival hymns, plainsong, German chorales, psalms from the psalter, Welsh hymns, folksongs, Vaughn Williams, Luther, and one of my favorites: Claude Goudimel.   

Just as in books, there are good ones and there are raspy ones. I when hear certain hymns I think: All Skate!  Other have a sing-song rhyming scheme that sounds like a seventh grader wrote it. True, some tunes are dated and just bad. There are bouquets of flowery, sentimental sap that may not even be orthodox in their theology.

Hymn geeks know that each tune has a name. The name of the tune may come from the city where it was composed, the first words of the hymn—often in their original language—or some phrase that identifies it. Or in the case of one favorite, the tune is SINE NOMINE, meaning without a name. I included the tunes because two people out there will care to know to which tune I sing that particular hymn.


1.  Doxology OLD HUNDRETH   This should be the first praise song every toddler learns. And perhaps the last song with the last breath of life.  Our church sings this, a capella, at the end of every service.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

2.  Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing NETTLETON   

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

3.  My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker (Psalm 103) NUN LOB, MEIN SEEL   The truth is that many of my favorite hymns are based on Psalm 103.  Unfortunately this one is obscure.  How do I translate to you the joy and thrill it is to sing this?  Almost every audio version I’ve found has a slow, dreary tempo when this is a vigorous and confident tune.  So here’s the best combo I can find: Listen to this version (click on 519) after you’ve opened a window with the words.

My soul, now bless thy Maker! Let all within me bless His name
Who maketh the partaker of mercies more than thou dar’st claim.

4.  Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns TRURO   I love TRURO like my friend Steph loves HYFRYDOL. We are kindred spirits in our hymn geekdom.  Listen here.

Shout, for the blessed Jesus reigns; through distand lands his triumphs spread;
And sinners freed from endless pains, own him their Saviour and their Head.

5.  Only Begotten, Word of God Eternal  ISTE CONFESSOR   There is gravitas in this ninth century hymn.  Tune is here; words are here (pause the music that automatically starts).

Here in our sickness, healing grace aboundeth,
Light in our blindness, in our toil refreshment:
Sin is forgiven, hope o’er fear prevaileth,
Joy over sorrow.

6.  Jesus Shall Reign  DUKE STREET   Besides loving ancient hymns in minor keys I love triumphal anthems.  Tune here and words here.  I love to modulate up a half key with each new verse.

People and realms of every tongue dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim their early blessings on His Name.

7.  O Sing A New Song to the Lord (Psalm 98)  LYNGHAM   To hear a large group singing this four-part fugue is glorious.

O sing a new song to the Lord, for wonders He has done.
His right hand and His holy arm the victory have won.

8.  O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus EBENEZER  The music matches the words in this piece better than any other hymn I can think of.  I hear the ocean currents. 

Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward, to thy glorious rest above.

9.  Praise To the Lord, the Almighty LOBE DEN HERREN If you don’t know this hymn, please learn it.  Every phrase is rich, solid, steady. 

How oft in grief hath not he brought thee relief,
Spreading his wings to o’ershade thee!


10. For All the Saints SINE NOMINE  Alleluia!

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.

And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong


11.  In Christ Alone  Music and lyrics here.  What is it about this modern day hymn that is so potent?  The words speak to the core issues of life and death.  The soaring intervals. 

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.


12.  Great Is Thy Faithfulness FAITHFULNESS   No other song evokes memories of mom like this one.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


13.  Holy, Holy, Holy NICAEA 

Though the darkness hide thee, though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
Only thou art holy: there is none beside thee
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

14.  Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness GERMANY  

Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

15.  Come, Ye Disconsolate  CONSOLATION

Here bring your wounded heart, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

16.  Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms

17.  Trust and Obey   One of the first hymns I sang as a girl.

For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus

18.  O Come, All Ye Faithful ADESTE FIDELIS  After I learned about Athanasius, I lift up thanks for him when I sing this carol. Why? Because much of the doctrine in it was defended by him.

Word of the Father now in flesh appearing

19.  All Glory, Laud, and Honor  ST. THEODULPH  Bach wrote a great harmonization on this tune.

Thou didst accept their praises, accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious king!

20.  We Are God’s People  This is one of our church’s favorite anthems.

He wills us be a family, diverse yet truly one,
O let us give our gifts to God, and so shall his work on earth be done.

21.  Like a River Glorious WYE VALLEY

We may trust Him fully all for us to do,
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

22.  Why Do the Heathen Nations Vainly Rage? POURQUOI FONT BRUIT

How blessed are those who trust without dissembling,
Who kiss the Son and bow in reverent fear.

23.  O for a Thousand Tongues  AZMON   There are 19 (!)  stanzas in the original lyrics.  We have great fun singing it to this tune, like a fugue.  Click on the link. Do it!

Assist me to proclaim to all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.


24.  All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name  DIADEM, CORONATION, MILES’ LANE  Diadem is my favorite setting of this anthem.

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
And crown Him Lord of all!

25.  The Lord Bless You and Keep You LUTKIN  A fitting benediction.

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord life his countenance upong you,
And give you peace.

26.  God Himself Is with Us ARNSBERG  Simple, solemn beauty.

Like the holy angels who behold Thy glory,
May I ceaselessly adore Thee.

27.  All Creatures of Our God and King  LASST UNS ERFREUEN  Mr. Bean almost ruined this for me.

Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care.

28.  Jesus, Lover of My Soul  ABERYSTWYTH  Another minor key masterpiece!

All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

29.  Infant Holy, Infant Lowly    This Polish Christmas carol is a simple lullaby packed with truth.

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
Praises voicing, greet the morrow,
Christ the Babe was born for you!

30.  Now Thank We All Our God NUN DANKET   Not just for Thanksgiving, this one is always relevant.

Who, from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

31.  O God Beyond All Praising  THAXTED 

And whether our tomorrows be filled with good and ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still.

32.  O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High!  DEO GRACIAS  THis one is dense and thick and chewy.

That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!

33.  What Wondrous Love Is This?

And when from death I’m free,
I’ll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

34.  Amazing Grace  NEW BRITAIN  How did I forget about this before?

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

35.  God Be in My Head 

God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at my end, and in my departing.



36.   St. Patrick’s Breastplate ST. PATRICK

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

37.  Awake, My Soul, in Joyful Lays LOVING KINDNESS

When trouble, like a gloomy cloud, has gathered thick and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood, His loving kindness, oh, how good!

38.  The Church’s One Foundation AURELIA

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.

39.  Rejoice, the Lord Is King DARWALL

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

40.  When All Thy Mercies ST. PETER    Fernando Ortega sings this well.

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love, and praise.

41.  The God of Abraham Praise  LEONI  I love this Jewish melody.

I shall behold His face, I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.

42.  Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!  HYFRYDOL

Jesus! what a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my strength, my victory wins.

43.  How Sweet and Awful Is the Place  ST. COLUMBA  This lilting Irish melody is quietly powerful.

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.

44.  O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly  THIRD MODE MELODY  If you’ve seen Master and Commander, you’ve heard this haunting tune.

Beneath the shadow of Your wings I sing my joy and praise.
Your right hand is my strong support through troubled nights and days.

45.  Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence  PICARDY  This French Carol has very little ornamentation. It is solemn, simple, and powerful.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,  our full homage to demand.

46.  Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed? MARTYRDOM  One of the foundations of my youth.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do.


47.  And Can It Be  SAGINA 

Amazing love!
How can it be that Thou, my Lord,
shouldst die for me?

48.  Children of the Heavenly Father  One of my brother’s signature songs.

Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth, and their sorrows all He knoweth.

49.  Fairest Lord Jesus  CRUSADER’S HYMN 

Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration
Now and forevermore be Thine.

50.  Gloria Patri

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen, Amen.

51.  Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee  HYMN TO JOY

Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

52.  My Jesus, I Love Thee  GORDON

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.

53.  I Will Sing of My Redeemer 

How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.

54.  Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted  O MEIN JESU, ICH MUSS STERBEN  Wow. This hymn. Oh, my.

Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

55.  Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today  EASTER HYMN  Belt this one out at the top of your lungs!

Lives again our glorious King; Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died, our souls to save; Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

What are a few of your favorites?


Okay, I’ve already realized a few glaring omissions. Humor me?

♥ To God Be the Glory (we sang this at our wedding)
♥ Blessed Assurance
♥ Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near (Psalm 119 X)

thank you!



Lift Up Your Hearts



Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants,

and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace.

Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce.

And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten-thousands in our fields.

Let our cattle bear, without mishap and without loss.

Let there be no outcry in our streets.

How blessed are the people who are so situated.

How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

Psalm 144:12-15




The holiday season is upon us.

And along with our many celebrations comes a higher concentration of human beings in limited spaces. Homes that usually house one family, will receive extra visitors.

Grandparents will join their children and grandchildren for meals and games. Uncles and aunts and cousins will arrive from far-away places.

Bedrooms will swell with overnight guests. Showers will require more hot water than is available.

Dishes will pile up.

Toilets will plug.

Diapers will stink.

Toddlers will make watching a good movie almost impossible.

Glasses will break.

Toys will become tug-of-war victims.

Along with all the laughter, memories, jokes, conversations, and good food, offenses will come.

Patience will run short.

Fatigue will settle in.

Someone will most likely get sick. Loud crying will echo throughout the house.

There will be spankings and rumors of spankings.

And then the end will come.

We tend to anticipate the joys of Thanksgiving and Christmas, without remembering the tensions that accompany sinners wherever we go.

Our celebrations always bring with them difficulties, because we by nature are difficult to get along with.

So, how shall we then live, given our own weaknesses and failures?


By faith.

By faith we must trust that our mixed-bag celebrations are the context God is using to grow strong sons and grandsons.

By faith we must trust that these sorts of tensions are fashioning our daughters and granddaughters into beautiful palatial pillars.

By faith we must believe God is re-making us into his own image through our flawed efforts to please him.

And that is exactly what we are endeavoring to do here this morning.

We are trusting he will change us as we seek to please him.

How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.

Let us therefore worship the Triune God.

guest post from my husband,  Curt Bakker

Facing East

Spiritual journeys fascinate me.  When folks move to a completely new paradigm, I’m very interested to know what, how and why. It seems to follow a trajectory of curiosity, questions, wondering, answers, doubt, more questions…and one day you wake up changed.

A father figure in my life left a fundamental/evangelical belief to join the Orthodox church.  In fact, several people I know have either converted to Orthodoxy or have considered it.  So I decided to read Facing East to better understand what appears a mysterious and very “other” faith.  Icons, incense, chanting, chrismation, standing for worship, prostration, saints’ days, long beards in black robes are images that came to mind when I heard the word Orthodox.  And yet we worship the same Trinitarian God.

Frederica Mathewes-Green is an excellent tour guide to Orthodoxy.  She writes in a warm, personal tone, with an exceptional ability as a wordsmith.  (I enjoyed her movie reviews and columns in World Magazine, back in the day.)  Facing East takes the reader through one year in the church calendar as a pilgrim’s journey.  By the end of the church you feel you know the folks of the mission church her husband leads.

What I appreciated the most in this book were the ancient prayers and hymns. 

In vain do yo rejoice in not eating, O soul.
For you abstain from food,
But from passion you are not purified.
If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.

When thou comest, O God, to earth with glory, and all creatures tremble before thee, and the river of fire floweth before the Altar, and the books are opened and sins revealed, deliver me then from that unquenchable fire, and make me worthy to stand at Thy right hand, O righteous judge.

When I asked a friend about the attraction to Orthodoxy she explained that she was tired of worshiping with her head only, like her faith was just something that went on in her brain.  She loved the physicality of Orthodox worship. 

Mathewes-Green is a compelling writer.  She throws in commentary on art by Christians, popular and not; you laugh and sigh at her distress when her daughter gets a nose ring. Catch some of her phrases:

Margo [choir director] is trying hard to get us aloft; the choir is sinking, singing ever slower and more and more flat.

From my perspective, there’s nothing sacrosanct about “dignified” hymns a couple of hundred years old. All of those four-lines-and-a-chorus hymns now have a man-made quality to me; they’re all us talking about various aspects of God or ourselves.  In comparison, the ancient liturgies have been washed through multiple centuries and cultures and have stood mostly unchanged; what endures has the scent of eternity.  It’s stone-washed worship.

[About a widow] Adversities hone her like flint.

For me, a writer, it’s more literally the hands and the head, because that’s all I’ve got.  I sit at my computer most the day, tapping…watching, absorbing, percolating, trying to transmit it all back on a little square screen.  No tools to do this with but fickle, ephemeral words, stacked on one another like figments in the air.  Sometimes I think I’d feel more satisfied at the end of the day if I could display some visible, concrete object my hands and head had made, no matter how humble–even if it was only a well-crafted chili dog.

The Eastern and Western church are often divided on the dates of the church calendar.  I’m glad that this year we will be celebrating Pascha on the same day.  To my Orthodox friends: Many years!