(#31Days) When the Sun’s Shining Down

October 5, 2015


In life there are many kinds of people. We tend to categorize people by personality (introvert or extrovert) or relationship status (single or dating or married) or sometimes by attitude (optimist or pessimist).

I’m a big believer that who we are is unique to us, that unique has been the plan and intention for people since creation. If you took all the labels in the world from the Meyers-Briggs to the Enneagram and everything in between, I don’t think any two humans would be exactly alike.

The thing is, that sometimes, knowing a little bit about who we are helps shape what we do, the decisions we make and the life we lead.

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

This seems like a “well duh” to some of you reading this. (Can we be friends, I need more optimism in my life?) And to others, more like me, you probably just groaned a small bit.

For some of us all the light and brightness is a little blinding. These words about blessings on the good days are hard words for some of us, myself included.

It is in the hard days and weeks and months that I find myself curled up and drawing near to the precious words of Scripture. The valley’s of life tend to open my listening ears as I bend low begging to hear a movement of God.

I resonate deeply with the hymns of old because they speak to some of those long days of life. I struggle with the choruses of our time as I struggle to see the beauty in the praise of all the good stuff all the time.

This is me. In listening closely to the words around me I have discovered I have yet another short fall. I can’t quite put my finger on the words, some would say my faith is shallow, I prefer to thing my faith is partially blind. There is a part of my faith I have yet to uncover, learn about, understand and practice fully.

There is greatness in the God I love and all that surrounds me because of him. I acknowledge that often. However, I acknowledge it much more frequently in pain than I do in peace.

This week I sit with these words and the words of the many Psalms and I practice that side of my faith that needs exercised a bit more. The side that sees the good and the great and glorifies the God of it all, right here, right now.


Blessed Be Your Name
By: Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name


(#31Days) Gracious Host

October 4, 2015

Think of a person in your life you have a deep love and affection for. You know the one. The person who you would do anything for no matter what.

There are some of those people in my life. People I am so thankful for that if they asked me to go to Mars for them I would.

The way I love them is more than casual. When I am with them I want them to know how deeply they are loved. I want to offer them food and comfort and rest. I want to meet whatever need they have and I expect nothing in return.

Then, when on occasion, they do the same for me I am a little shocked. Their affection is just icing on the cake of my deep feelings of love for them.

The one we love the most
Is now our gracious host…

Sometimes I have a hard time believing. Believing that I am worthy of being loved that much. Enough that one of those I have deep affection for would return that same deep affection.

(It’s a thought for another day but how much of that is my own pride and self-centeredness? As if I have enough love to give but no one else does? But I digress…)

What’s most amazing about this hymn is the idea that the One I cling to, the one who gave everything for me, still has love to give. Is there a better word than overwhelming? God comes and not only loves me but gives his some for me and THEN contiually loves me above and beyond any expectations I could ever fathom.

That HE would humble himself further, beyond just his son, and host me at His table again and again and again…

That’s a love I long to enjoy.


Come Share the Lord
By: Bryan Jeffery Leech

We gather here in Jesus name,
His love is burning in our hearts like living flame,
For through the loving son the father makes one,
Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord.

No one is a stranger here, everyone belongs,
Finding our forgiveness here, we in turn forgive all wrongs,

He joins us here, He breaks the bread,
The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead,
The one we love the most is now our gracious host,
Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord.

We are now a family of which the Lord is head,
Though unseen He meets us here in the breaking of the bread,

We’ll gather soon where angels sing,
We’ll see the glory of our Lord and coming King,
Now we anticipate the feast for which we wait,
Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord.


(#31Days) It Overwhelms and Satisfies

October 3, 2015


She’s about to drive my other kids crazy. 9:27am on a Sunday morning and she’s flailing her arms about making “motions” and singing at the top of her little 3year old voice:

His love never fails
Never gives up
Never runs out on me

I hear my 8year old groan and I can see my 6year old glaring in the rear view mirror.

The thing is, as sweet as it is that our daughter has retained this lovely song from VBS, these are the only words she remembers. So, she sings them on repeat over and over and over. It really is a bit like a broken record.

I half sympathize with the groans and half grin out of her sheer cuteness, I also wonder what I have retained? 

Do I hear the same things on repeat? And then, even in their truth and beauty, do I begin to groan and ignore them? Do I even wish them away sometimes just so I don’t have to hear it anymore?

Like the words of the first verse of this chorus…

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains

Higher? Stronger? Constant? These are not the words or actions defining my day to day living. (Low, tired and unpredictable come to mind however…)

Or what about this line…

It (Love) overwhelms and satisfies my soul

Not so much. My kids and their lives overwhelm my soul, all that has to be done before we move or the weight of heavy hearts around me – that overwhelms my soul, but love?

Here’s the thing, there can be too much of a good thing, but can there ever be too much of a love that never fails and never gives up?

I think not.

So, as much as it is annoying the other kids, I’m going to let the 3 year old keep singing because sometimes we really do need to hear something 100 times before we really hear it for the first time.



One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

Verse 1

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Chorus 1

Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
Your love Your love Your love Your love

Verse 2

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains

Chorus 2

Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
Your love Your perfect love oh Lord


In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love

Chorus 3

Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me

CCLI Song # 5508444

Brian Johnson | Christa Black | Jeremy Riddle


(#31Days) The Music of the Spheres aka HAHAHAHAHA!

October 2, 2015
Our Beloved Country Church

Our Beloved Country Church

We’ve got 4 kids ages 8 and under. (Actually I’m sure my son would prefer I say he’s 8.5!) Also, I’m not a morning person.

Connected? Yes, very much yes.

The first things I hear every morning range from crying (the toddler has his leg stuck in the crib AGAIN?!?) to loud humming (usually Star Wars) to the ever popular arguing (‘No it’s MY turn to brush my teeth). Add in my sluggish morning pace where it takes me several hours to trade my pj’s for a shower and real clothes and we’ve got ourselves a circus!

And somewhere in our small country church one morning we sing…

All nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres

And I laugh. Yep, I giggled in church. Who wrote this song? Did they have children? Was it a monk? Do they know the only ‘music of the spheres’ I’m hearing is my toddler banging the wooden maracas on the kitchen floor???

Yet I am struck by the words that shape this particular hymn:

“This is my Father’s world…”

Sometimes when sung within the wooden steeple of this 100 year old church the hymns sound so romantic. The peace and beauty of their words rush over you. Only to be immediately brought back to reality when your first child elbows your second child behind you as you sing.

Even when I step out on my back deck with a warm cup of coffee and big trees I hear the roaring of kids going to school and the construction trucks pouring a new driveway next door.

The immediate world around me is less a reflection of the peaceful nature of creation and more a reflection of the chaos leading up to creation itself.

While the loud of our family entices me to seek asylum in a foreign land some days, today I stop and think.

This home really is a reflection of the music of the spheres. Multiple generations, ages and stages all under the same roof.

We all entered this world the same way, as helpless children. Yet here we are. We are talking and laughing and learning and loving. We are growing and changing and becoming.

This is indeed the world the Father has given me, could there be a more beautiful reflection?


This Is My Father’s World
By Maltbie D. Babcock

1.      This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

2.      This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

3.      This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!


(#31Days) When Triumph Is Still On Its Way

October 1, 2015


Family reunion weekend. Sunday morning and we all follow my cousin to church. My two little kids head to the kids activities and my school kids decide to stay with us.

Like most times visiting a church not your own it’s a little like being a stranger in a foreign land that you’ve read about, you know just enough to get by.

That particular morning there were some songs and styles I was unfamiliar with and then I caught myself singing a phrase I knew…

And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way

A big knot caught in my throat and it was all I could do not to run away and sob. If you aren’t familiar with this chorus it continues…

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

(Desert Song, Hillsong United)

I couldn’t put my finger on it in the moment, I decided maybe I was just more emotional than usual.

Until later.

Later I remember last year. The year I spent 31 Days talking about my son and his life.

And the knot came back.

It came back because as hard as our journey seemed then, we were still in the depths of the battle. The one where we hope our way out of the dark because we believe in the light. Right then, that weekend, it just felt like we were losing.

Those words…the ones where I declared joy and praise in the midst of an unwon battle…those weren’t honest, they weren’t even close to true.

I had given up. There was no praise or joy or declarations, there was just despair. There we were, hanging on by the thin thread at the end of our rope.

As I write #31Days this year this is where I begin, hopefully not where I end.

Every day I’ll look at the words of hymns and songs and choruses that many know by heart. Yet, I’ve been challenged to ask if the words that cross my lips are the same ones resting in the depths of my heart?

For this song I’m happy to report that I am rejoicing and declaring and hoping. I have not come to this place on my own. There are some women in my life who have come alongside me in my depths of despair and shared.

Shared their own despair only to be followed by tales of hope and new life.

The battle for the grace that is my son is undecided. But I will rejoice and declare in the midst of it knowing fully that suffering is real but HOPE springs eternal.


What we talk about…Hospitality At Home.

June 18, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hospitality at Home...

What We Talk About
When We Talk About
Hospitality at Home…

I remember being asked on a “get to know you” questionnaire one time, “What brings you joy?”  While other people answered “My job” or “My kids”, my first response was, “Having people in my home.”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my kids too, but I sincerely mean it when I say I love having people in my home. For dinner, for coffee, for playdates, for absolutely no good reason at all.  That is what brings me joy.  To feed and nourish and create space — whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

We all have different gifts and different personalities, so it stands to reason that hospitality at home comes more naturally to some of us than it does to others.  Some of us (ahem…me) get a strange thrill out of planning and decorating and cooking purely for the benefit of others.  Even if it does mean we run around like an absolute maniac two hours before everyone is due to arrive. (Not that I’ve ever done that).

But if your idea of hospitality is a scene from Martha Stewart or Better Homes and Gardens, I might beg you to NOT show up at my house.

Because here’s what you need to know about hospitality:

It isn’t about you.

It has little to do with you or your personality or your gifts or your home or your cooking ability.  That takes some of the pressure off, right?

Hospitality at home is about the people you invite into your home and your life. It’s about the guest and her needs, not the host and how spotless her home is or how good the food was.  It’s about caring for people’s basic needs to create a safe space.  A place where people can cry, laugh, be vulnerable, and walk away knowing they are loved.  Hospitality shouldn’t be draining.  It should be life giving!

And here’s something else you need to know about hospitality at home (brace yourself because you might not like me so much after this): if you claim to follow Jesus, it’s not optional.  

But here’s the other piece of good news.  Hospitality at home doesn’t have to be complicated.

You see, hospitality at home can happen around a simple cup of coffee or a gourmet meal.  It can happen in an immaculate mansion or a sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment.  It can happen in the midst of crying babies, messy kids, piles of laundry, and to-do lists.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up my less than perfect home and I was the only one who truly noticed that things were out of place.

If you’re like me and you simply adore having people over (like your husband has to limit you because you’d have people over every day kind of person) then you probably don’t need much help from me.

But if this is new for you and it’s hard, that’s okay!  Start small.  Put on a pot of coffee and invite just one person over.  Maybe someone you already know and connect with well.  Go ahead and clean as much as feels necessary for you to be comfortable and enjoy your time.  But make it about their comfort and their needs instead of yours.  The first time might be hard, but the second, third, fourth times…they’ll be easier.

And yes, store bought cookies are completely acceptable.

By Amanda Boils
Amanda writes from her beautiful country community in Michigan surrounded by her husband and 2 small sons.


What We Talk About…Relaxation

June 16, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Relaxation…

Lost. The Following. Downton Abbey. The Paradise (my newest obsession). House of Cards. Bloodline. Seriously, I could keep going. Really. I LOVE binge watching TV. And, yes, these are all shows I’ve watched – to completion. It’s kind of a tragedy. Or is it?

I’ve recently undergone a life change. For the last six years, I’ve been a high school English teacher. Two of those last six years have been spent being a mama to two babies – two and fourteen months currently – and being a Shakespeare-slinging, grammar Nazi. (Ok, really more of a Steinbeck-slinging, grammar Nazi since I’ve taught American Lit the last four years. I love Steinbeck. If he was alive, we’d hang out on the reg). In addition to being the average working mom, I was also driving (with my husband), making a forty-five minute commute each way to work. Man, those days were looooonnnnggg. Because, you know if you work outside the home, your job doesn’t stop once you arrive at your home sweet home; it just changes. Kids picked up, dinner made, dinner fed, dinner consumed by an exhausted mama in two minutes, kitchen cleaned, babies bathed, maybe have time and energy to play with babies, babes in bed. In my life during that time, the kiddos went to bed really early because we had to awaken them each morning at 5:45. Horrific tragedy, I tell you. So there we were: 6:30, and the kids were in bed. We had the potential-filled hours of 6:30-10 to do WHATEVER we pleased. And, let me tell you; we did good deeds for those who needed it, we baked extravagant goodies that we pinned from Pinterest so that we could keep up with the status quo, we had LOTS of sex, we cleaned the house in tip-top shape from dusting the highest shelf to the nasty grime no one likes to talk about that lurks on the bottom of the toilet. (You know it’s there). If you aren’t one-hundred percent perceptive, you’ve probably used your high-level critical thinking skills to infer that I was might have been being slightly hyperbolic – I’m a former English teacher after all; the traits die hard. I’m being brutally honest here. That time from 6:30-10 was mostly spent watching TV. Binge watching shows on either one of our drugs of choice: Netflix or Amazon. I accept the fact that you, dear reader, are probably judging me right now. There are so many other things I could’ve been doing, like the aforementioned list. But hear this; I was beyond exhausted each and every night. I truly needed these three and half hours to become a zombie, checking out of my life and checking into someone else’s. That sounds so terrible after writing it, but, oh, is it true for me!

A time existed when I felt guilty for these copious hours spent, surrendering my brain to a talking box. I should be doing something, right? Like making lunches for the next day, doing another foreboding load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, picking out my clothes for the next day, reading a book, exercising, or, the one for which I feel real conviction, reading the Bible and praying. Sidenote: I have gotten better about the last, and most important, item on the list, but that’s a post for another day. But that, with the exception of the previously mentioned sidenote, is the problem. These are all activities I could do. As we all know, the American way of life is to do, do, do. When, at the end of a frazzled day, all I wanted was to be, be, be. All day, I ran from one activity to the next; I talked, listened, organized. I was simply tired of doing; at the end of the day, I just wanted to sit. And, you know what, I think that is totally permissible. I was talking with a good friend once about this very topic, and she said something to me that basically rocked my world on this subject, altering my guilt for zoning out for three blissful hours each night. She asked, “How many hours are you awake?” I thought for a moment; ok, maybe several because I can’t do simple math. Don’t forget that I was an English teacher. My answer? “17.” Full of wisdom, she continued, “Of those seventeen hours, roughly fourteen of them are comprised of you doing something. What’s the big deal if the last three are spent doing nothing? You need to have time to rest and recharge.” I could’ve kissed her I was so happy. My guilt regarding those three hours each night started to fade. And, the more I thought about it, she’s totally right (as usual; she’s one of those friends I compare to Mother Teresa). If I am to work and think and fret and do for fourteen hours, you better believe that I need to rest for at least a couple hours in order to do it all over again day in and day out.

Rest, relaxation. Why is it so difficult for us to do? By nature, I’m a doer, so it’s counterintuitive to who I am. Several years ago, when I was working for a great missional company called YouthWorks, my supervisor told me that I had issues taking breaks and resting. Since then, I’ve always known that resting is challenging for me and that I need to take more opportunities to do it. When I would, though, I’d often feel guilty, like my aforementioned guilt for binge watching TV. It’s also so difficult for us to rest because of our culture. Almost every daytime TV show or magazine constantly advertises things for us women to do: lose twenty pounds, bake this gluten-free, paleo, nut-free something (I call it a monstrosity), etc. To add to that pressure, Pinterest reminds us of all the cool food we “should” whip up and  the 101 projects we “should” make out of pallets to do for our kids. And the worst just might be Facebook. Through the comfort of our dirty shorts, stained T-shirts, and dust-ridden houses, we can peek into others’ lives – into what they’re doing. Whether that’s the type of people who post their superwoman-like to-do lists they’ve accomplished or the fun pictures of moms doing awesome things with their kids. As a culture, we think we “should” always be doing something more. However, as I constantly need reminded, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the ways of the world; our lives should be defined by a different  paradigm. I recall that after seven days of creating the world, for goodness sake, that the LORD rested. I’m also reminded of the time that Jesus fell asleep on a boat and, upon waking, promptly commanded the storm to cease. And, I think there might be something in the Bible about a Sabbath, a day of rest. (Another post for another day). Now, we might not be creating the world or telling storms to back off, but we are all doing important work everyday. God’s work. The work of loving, healing, restoring, forgiving, thanking, giving. And that, my friends, needs rest.

Earlier, I mentioned a life change I’ve undergone. I’ve recently changed career paths from a high-school teacher to a full-time teacher of my own children and of other little ones, providing day care. It’s relatively new, as in two weeks, so I’m still in the adjusting phase. However, I will say that I still do enjoy zoning out by watching some TV in the evenings after the kiddos say goodnight. Granted, that checking-out process isn’t as long as it was before, but I’m still a regular customer to binge entertainment. And do I feel guilty? Nope. No matter what phase or stage of life we are all in, we have to admit, although begrudgingly at times, that we are all human; shock, I know. We need rest. If our Lord and Savior needed rest, then, heaven help us, we surely do, too. So, if you’re tired, rest. Sleep, read a book, take a walk, binge watch hours of Pretty Little Liars (Wait. I must’ve typed in the wrong show). Rest. And, whoever said “no rest for the weary” was truly ignorant of the best four-letter word there is. REST.

By Katie Tanner
Katie comically shares her stories in between kids, life and some needed TV time from her lovely home in Central IL.


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