Friday Morning Coffee #54: Strange Week and New Music

Good morning, friends. 

This has been a strange week. It was 70 degrees on Wednesday, and I was basking in the sunshine in a tank top, breathing deeply the damp earth smell of spring. Thursday, it snowed. And that was just the weather.

In the midst of some research on Tuesday, I made the week's strangest discovery: Rachel Baker, the sleeping preacher. Yes, she preached in her sleep. (There is some obvious skepticism about whether she was actually sleeping.) She lived in New York in the early 19th-century, and although she claimed not to support women preaching, crowds would gather around to hear her nocturnal sermons.

My friends in the library found Rachel Baker's story to be just as fascinating and astounding (and, dare I say, amusing?) as I did. After one of them discovered a pamphlet recording her experiences in the rare book collection, our faithful librarian Jim was kind enough to make each of us a replica of the thin book, complete with period-appropriate twine binding. That makes for a good day for this book- and history-loving girl.

* * *

On a completely different note, I've been reflecting on some new music this week. Andrew Peterson recently released Resurrection Letters: Prologue. I will let you read the story behind the project in his own words here if you're interested.

This brief EP has been a good meditative tool for me during this Lenten season, as it focuses on the death and burial of Jesus. It is bringing me back to Christ on the Cross, the pain of His suffering, the devastation of His death. It will be, appropriately, followed up with Resurrection Letters: Vol. I (on the resurrection) just in time for the Easter celebration. I am thankful for music like this to help guide me through the rhythms of the church calendar. 

I'll leave you with a little taste of the Resurrection Letters: Prologue: the song "Last Words (Tenebrae)" on Jesus' words spoken from the Cross.

Billy Graham and the Legacy of the Gospel

People around the world are mourning the death of Billy Graham, who passed away yesterday at the age of 99. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential church figures of the 20th century. 

Billy_Graham_bw_photo,_April_11,_1966.jpg

I swim in the stream of his legacy. I attended a seminary which he helped to found, and I'm thankful to have his signature on my seminary diploma. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of his influence.

But I don't want to talk today about his accomplishments or the way he's shaped the Christian church as we know it. If you would care to read more about his life, ministry, and legacy, Christianity Today (of which he was a founder) has a lovely special issue in Billy Graham's honor

Today, I'm thinking about what was even more dear to Billy Graham's heart - the Gospel. As I've been thinking of his legacy, I'm reminded how simple that Gospel message is. It is simple enough that we can summarize its basic truths in one sentence: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) 

The message of the Gospel is profound. There is a reason why we devote time to understanding the theology behind it, why we want to study it and dissect it and diagram it. There is a reason why we treat it with awe, not wanting to oversimplify it, not wanting to twist it into something it is not. There is a reason why we look at the historical sweep, the context of Jesus Christ's coming, the prophecies He fulfilled and will fulfill. It is right and good to dedicate this thought and study.  

But in the midst of this complexity, the Gospel message is still simple. It is hard. It is beyond our full comprehension. We could spend a lifetime diving the depths of its riches. But it is simple: God loves you. He entered time and space to make a way for relationship with you. In Him you find complete forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. 

This simple-yet-profound Gospel message changes lives. It changes families and cultures. It touches our minds, our hands, our feet. It transforms. 

Billy Graham never forgot this simple Gospel message, and he never forgot its power. This is, perhaps, his most precious legacy.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

- Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Friday Morning Coffee #53: Always the Best Robe

We've entered the Lenten season, and it has me thinking about self-reflection and repentance. 

Reflection and repentance can be twisted into gloomy and harmful things. They can decay into morbid introspection, spiritual self-obsession, and emotional self-flagellation, leaving us with the rotting flesh of guilt and shame, of fear that we'll never be good enough for God to love us.

Thanks be to God - this is far from the picture we're given of life in Christ. We repent because He has called us beloved sons and daughters - and not worms. We repent because the Holy Spirit is at work enlivening and reorienting our hearts to love God rightly and to delight in obeying Him.

We reflect, we repent, and we run after godliness because we have the assurance of grace. The road of reflection and repentance always leads us back to the open arms of the Father. 

On this Friday morning, I wanted to share with you a beautiful Puritan prayer I came upon this week as I've been thinking about this...

I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
   no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
   and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
   for you always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
   always returning home as a prodigal,
   always saying, Father, forgive me,
   and you are always bringing forth the best robe.
Every morning, let me wear it,
   every evening return in it,
   go out to the day's work in it,
   be married in it,
   be wound in death in it,
   stand before the great white throne in it,
   enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of
   the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
   the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
   the exceeding glory of Christ,
   the exceeding beauty of holiness,
   the exceeding wonder of grace.

- A Puritan Prayer: "Continual Repentance" in The Valley of Vision

You Are Worth More Than Cilantro

I stop by the window, and I bend down to stare into the long green pot. It has become part of my morning routine, when my sleepy eyes are still only half-open. And my afternoon routine, when I wait for the microwave bell to announce my lunch is ready. And…well, I suppose the “routine” is that I stare into the pot every time I pass it, every time I notice it sitting in front of the tall window beside our bathroom.

green-2551467_1280.jpg

At first, I was staring through cling wrap beaded with moisture. I clapped my hands the day I saw a thin green tendril erupting from the soil. I pulled the plastic film away, giving the single sprout room to grow, and hoped it was only the first.

Each day, I look for more. There are over a dozen now. A few sluggish ones pushed up to the sunlight only this morning.

I stare down at them, watching the soil like the tiny clay birds that perch on the pot’s edge. I look at the growing leaves, and the way they lean toward the morning light. I press a finger into the soil’s edge, wondering if they need watering. I look at the ones close together—do they need separated? I run my fingers gently over tiny leaves miraculously supported by thin stems, because I’ve heard this will help them to grow straight and strong. So much attention to watching things grow.

Oh you of little faith—does the Heavenly Gardener not tend to you with even more care? Does He not provide what you need to flourish and grow? Does He not rejoice as He sees you? Are you not even more so under His loving eye?

Are you not worth far more than a sprig of cilantro?

Everyday Disciple: Stephanie's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."


Steph and I first met the summer after I graduated from high school, when we worked as camp counselors for the summer. Little could we have dreamed that six years later, she'd be in my wedding...or that I'd be marrying her brother. 

When we gather for the holidays, Steph always has stories to share about her students. She cares deeply for the children in her classroom and is personally invested in seeing them thrive. It's a delight to see - and I'm excited to share her story with you today. 

* * *

Initially, I chose to study nursing in college. I had aspirations of becoming a missionary, and I knew it would equip me with a practical skill to work internationally. After wrestling through my first year of nursing classes and not doing well with blood in labs, though, I dropped my major.  

It was a very difficult decision for me, but I decided to switch my major to elementary education. My hope was that I could serve and minister to children through this profession. I also saw how teaching could be a way to serve and enter countries that are otherwise closed to outreach. I now teach first graders at a public elementary school. 

One of my greatest joys in teaching is helping kids to appreciate reading and watch them fall in love with a certain author or series. We celebrate these authors, check out their websites, and practice making their styles of illustrations. I have repeatedly seen my students get hooked on a series that we are reading in class. 

My other greatest joy is teaching relational skills to first graders. I love doing role play, in which we act out situations so that the students can see how to handle a situation in a healthy way. The joy comes when I see a student, or even an entire class, embrace those behaviors. I often think that this is a missed opportunity at school.

Each morning, we stand for the pledge and have a moment of silence. Since my first year of teaching I have felt led to pray for my class silently during our moment of silence. I then choose one student that day to be encouraged. I remind the class that our words have power, and we can use our words to bring people down or build them up. I call on two or three kids who raise their hands, and they encourage the student of the day. They share things like “He is kind” or “She is honest.” My prayer is that they continue to use their words powerfully in a loving way! 

Steph work.jpg

My students aren’t the only ones being formed in my classroom—I am too. I am reminded of God’s character and am stretched as a follower of Jesus through my job as a teacher. 

As I see kids in need of consistent structure, affirmation, discipline, and love, I am reminded that we need the same things from God and of how He delivers in His steadfastness and loyalty toward us.

I am shaped more into His likeness as I learn to love all of my students, especially on the days when a student is very challenging. 

When my work environment is plagued by gossip, comparing, or power struggles, I learn to invest in and encourage others instead of complaining about these issues. This has led me to host a weekly devotion time before school.

As each new year brings its own different challenges, God refines my heart as I learn to handle situations that test me and to trust Him in the midst of them. 

One of the current struggles in education is the constant pressure that teachers and students feel to perform well on testing. That pressure can sometimes cause me to compare myself to other teachers and question my abilities as a teacher. 

My faith influences me in this struggle, reminding me that God has handcrafted each of my students. He has carefully designed them, and they are all different. I have to remind myself that my identity and my students’ identities are not found in test scores.  

My faith community also encourages me in moments of struggle like this, when I’m doubting my abilities, feeling discouraged, or worn down physically. I need them to be my cheering section from time to time and remind me why I teach: in order to be a source of encouragement, education, and love in a child’s life.

I used to only place value in work that showed immediate growth. I think that is part of why I liked missions trips so much. I could see a house being built or a person praying to God for the first time. I could see a room filled with powerful worship. 

In the classroom, day to day life can look a little mundane. I am learning, though, that God is still working powerfully through small moments. I can give love and encouragement to children every single day. I can give them my attention and have a patient heart. I can model for them healthy relationships and a diligent work ethic. I do not know the lasting effects, but I choose to believe that God is shaping their hearts and hopefully making a lasting impact.


If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.