Finding “Merry” in Good Ole “Merry Christmas”

Maybe you cringe as the sound of the word — “merry.” It has become trite — an overused word emptied of substance. It may also be a word that seems to mock you, especially this year. First, let’s put some substance back in the word-container, “merry.” Then, let’s see if it still mocks us.

Merry is a word for joy. Joy, as a word-container, holds a broad and deep cluster of concepts discoverable in the Scriptures!  When one facet of joy is absent from our hearts and lives, this does not mean that all joy is gone. We need to further explore both our lives and the joy word-containers found in Scripture to unearth other evidence and the many languages of joy available for us. This is an important way that we can take our distressed, panicky thoughts captive and live by the Spirit rather than by our limited sight (II Corinthians 10:3-5; 5:7). Boy, do I need this today!

Over a period of years I’ve researched these biblical ideas of joy, and I’ve been surprised at some of my discoveries. Certainly, ’tis the season to gift you with some of my finds — not mine to give but God’s gifts for me to share with you!

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The G. of G. #3: How Do You Build a Biblical Worldview to Apply to Politics?

Over two weeks have passed since I posted my last article in this series, The Grammar of Government. Since then, the trees have broken out in vibrant colors. Paul and I spent four days camping with two dear friends in Pokagon State Park along Lake James, just 40 minutes north of our home here in Indiana. And politics rolls on.

Our president has encountered COVID19, fought the battle with impressive medical assistance and through God’s grace, and now he seems to be even more energetic. A fascinating and helpful Vice Presidential candidate debate occurred. A Presidential candidate debate was cancelled. Political town halls and rallies are happening.  The Senate this week has held hearings to scrutinize Amy Coney Barrett (currently a circuit court judge for the seventh circuit of the US Court of Appeals, who was chosen by President Trump to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Senators bloviated. Barrett articulated. Delightfully or begrudgingly, the audience recognized in ACB refined, humble, well-rounded greatness.

How do Christians build a biblical worldview and apply it to civic and political involvement in our Constitutional Republic? In this post, rather than my writing my views, I want to pass on to you a number of articles and a resource that you can explore online to assist you in this pursuit.

I hope that these will encourage you in your personal prayer, research, and decision-making on behalf of our country. You may want to mark these sites to come back to them as you can. Continue reading

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Part 1: “The Beauty of Truth” and other Ravi Thoughts

It was just one week ago today.

I was comfortably positioned on our leather, sectional sofa in the living room, reading the news online on my laptop. An article referenced the seriousness of Ravi Zacharias’ recent, cancer battle. A minute later, the page refreshed itself (or did I click on something that refreshed it? I don’t know), and suddenly a new headline announced that Ravi’s daughter had posted that her father passed away that very morning, May 19.

I sat quietly. I didn’t call to Paul, who was upstairs. A stunning stillness washed over me. All of my adult life, Ravi Zacharias and his ministry have been “out there,” a kind of soothing encouragement, support, and inspiration. Aware of my emotional- physical-spiritual response to this news, I remembered my response to a phone call from my Aunt Miriam, sixteen years ago, to inform us that my father had just passed away, unexpectedly soon, although expected within the year, of cancer. My response then was also quietness in my spirit mixed with an utter surrender. I want to come back to the meaning of this response, but not in this initial post in this new series. First, “take a listen.” Continue reading

Categories: Biography, Perspectives on Culture, Theology | Tags: | 2 Comments

Joy to the Suffering World

I’ve been thinking so much about you, my dear readers, these weeks since I last posted. I hold various mental conversations with you as I anticipate writing a new blog post. By the time I attempt the new post, most of my ideas are gone or must go. There is just too much to talk and write about!

At this season for celebrating our Savior’s birth and incarnation, I send you my best thoughts for joy in the season to share with those you love. I pray for you — that God, who holds you in the palm of His Hand, will continue to nurture and guide you, and that you will bring joy to His heart as you love Him through your thoughts and actions.

I am attaching chapter 5 to this blog of the book I am currently writing, A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy.

I had expected to post it a few weeks ago, but I’ve struggled through this chapter. If you have not read any or all of the previous chapters, I think you can approach this chapter as a stand alone for the most part. I lived this chapter, which is why I struggled through it and why it took so much time.  Click below to access it. You may want to print it and write all over it.

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Categories: Being Like Jesus, Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth, Theology | Tags: , | 2 Comments

From Richard Wurmbrand to Our Suffering Sovereign

I’ve finished another chapter draft in the book I am writing, A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy. I will give you a link to it below. This is how the chapter starts:

Richard Wurmbrand retells a fascinating Jewish legend in his book, 100 Prison Meditations. Moses is sitting at a well when three men, one at a time, stop by. (Apparently, Moses is simply an observer, out of sight.)

The first man unknowingly loses his purse of money in the sand. After he leaves, a second man passes through, finds the purse lying in the sand by the well and gladly takes it with him. Later, a third man comes to the well, drinks, and falls asleep there. The first man returns for his purse and kills the innocent, third man, believing him to be the thief.

Moses questions God. Continue reading

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Chapter 2: The Ground Under Our Feet

Today’s post will not be long. I have another chapter to offer you along with some gorgeous pictures of our back yard in fabulous fall colors. I hope the pictures make you smile. And if you want to explore the chapter, you can.

I’ll only post one or two more chapters, and then then I’ll go back to writing my regular, topical blog posts (which may sometimes relate to the book). I will be taking down my chapters by the end of the year, so they will not be permanently on this blog site.  If you’d like for me to write on a particular topic, do submit a comment and let me know!

Since my last post almost a month ago,

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Navigator’s Guide, Chapter 1; Banking on The Cure

Back so soon! Yes, I am.

I was going to upload my draft of chapter one two weeks ago, and then last week, but life took over as you realize from reading my previous two posts.

Uncle Bud is dancing in heaven, or whatever he is doing. I know my dad is dancing. What would Uncle Bud be doing? I hope you read my last post about him. I’d like to upload some more pictures and a video of Aunt Mary being given the folded flag by a military representative of the president of the United States, followed by the 21 gun salute and taps. Very moving.  Maybe I’ll do that yet this fall. Keep an eye out!

 I’ve revised my chapter one for my upcoming Bible Study, A Traveler’s Guide Through Suffering and Joy, and I want to make it available to you for your blessing and to offer me constructive input. I’ve made available the chapter of introduction, and I expect to upload chapters 1, 2, and maybe 3. You can print them and put them in a binder to use. And if you’re not interested, just enjoy the posts. 

Readers of the downloads should know that chapter one is a set-up for the theology of suffering and joy that will be explored in the following chapters. The chapter of introduction sets up the project. Chapter one sets up the practical theology to be explored in the chapters to follow.

Here is a draft of chapter 1:

Chapter 1 A Traveler’s Guide – Three Cosmos

Now, for those of you who are not interested in perusing the Bible study, let me encourage you (and every reader) with the words of a hymn, “Come, Ye Disconsolate.” I’ve seen three verses to this hymn, but the first two were written by the Irish poet and author, Thomas Moore, who lived from 1779 – 1852. 

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.”


How do these words minister to your heart?  What Scriptures support its theme?

Thomas Moore’s life was not one that I would hold up as an example of Christian piety, but I am sure there is more to him than what I’ve read. He lived a worldly life, it appears to me. I’m not sure of the depths of his Christian faith, but he did write a good number of hymns. (I believe I read 32.) His wrote much poetry as well as biography, satire, and other works.

Moore did experience much suffering in his private life. All five of his children died young — in infancy, youth, or young adulthood. The one who lived the longest lived to be 27. The parents outlived their children. Interestingly, this hymn was published in 1816, before any of the children died. The first to die was the following year.  God had given him solace before he needed it. I wonder if his own hymn ministered to him and his family.

Well, that’s pretty sad. Hmm. Not where I wanted to end this. Yet, there is serious and needed consolation in this hymn that is not sad, but communicates a quiet sweetness which is quite clear in verse two.

We don’t need to know anything about the author of these words  to find them useful — as a balm and encouragement.

“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.” Isn’t it interesting that just as our past can impact our present, so also our future expectations can influence our today?

Actually, we can leverage our future to grasp support and strength for today. Not only is there comfort here; there is motivation. Listen to Hebrews 12:1-3, and hear the encouragement and motivation. Jesus provides both the inspiration and the strength:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, 

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,

so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus, for the joy set before Him — leveraged His future to draw stamina for the current calling.

I’ve thought of this concept often, and wanted to share this idea with you. I have to ask Jesus to help me leverage that eternal perspective for the current moment, because it does not come naturally to me. It is supernatural. 

“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure.”

Uncle Bud is cured.

Aunt Mary, his wife of nearly 41 years, is banking on the cure.

So am I.



Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth, Theology | Tags: , | 2 Comments

So Jesus Made Haste — For Uncle Bud

It was just a week ago today that I posted, saying that I never expected a month to pass before my next post, but it had. So, why am I posting just a week later?[1] I just have to tell you. This past week has been like a life time for me.

In the last post I threw out the Latin phrase “festina lente” which means “make haste slowly” and I said that this should be my motto. I noted that I can do the “lente” part, the slow part, and Jesus, in the fullness of time, will do the “festina” part, making haste.

And so Jesus has made haste in our family, for the fullness of time did come for our dear Uncle Bud, just last Sunday morning as he was finishing a good breakfast in the cafeteria of the nursing home. Uncle Bud, Sir Uncle Bud, as some of us called him, had just finished his typical breakfast. Two eggs over easy and toast. Delicious. He was in good spirits and appeared to be doing pretty well for his 97, nearing 98 years.

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A Traveler’s Guide: Making Haste Slowly

I never expected a month to pass before I would submit more material to you from my coming book (a faith walk), A Traveler’s Guide Through Suffering and Joy!

Oh, I have been writing. “Festina lente” — “make haste slowly” should be my motto. I think this oxymoron suites my life.

As a child I was a “slow learner,” and then I caught up. So as an older person (what I call “Early Old” – the 60s), I can be a slow writer. I do hope to catch up. Just like the tortoise. I will catch up, and maybe even move ahead.  “Hare, hare!”

Simmer, simmer, write, write, exhaustion, distraction, distraction, exhaustion, family activity, church/friend activity, exhaustion, simmer, write. . . .  (Stuff inside exhaustion and distraction some headaches and an angry body.) Sometimes my faith walk is a faith crawl, with a snooze tucked in.

Ah, I do have some pages for you to read. Let me see. . . .

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The Ancient Paths and A “New Ology” to Enlighten Our Way

It’s time.  Time for a new topic and study. Of course, our previous theme, “spirituality,” is involved in everything we consider on JNC.

I think about you all as friends with whom I’d like to discuss all sorts of things. I’ve been tempted to go in five directions. Then, a month ago,  a friend asked me a question and put a particular expectation on me. Suddenly, I have direction. Wow.

For several years, I’ve been seeking God’s guidance on what to do with all the work I did to produce my doctoral dissertation. I have been willingly distracted by our move from Arizona to Indiana, getting settled in, spending time developing deeper relationships with some family members, searching for a church home, making new friends…. You understand. I was satisfied to procrastinate (while praying for God’s direction).

When Sandy, my close friend from high school, and her husband who live in South Carolina visited us last month, Sandy wanted to know what I have done with my dissertation. Was the book ready? She wants to teach it at her ladies’ Bible study at her church beginning this January. Sandy put a fire under me!

If I pursue this, would you be interested in having access to this Bible study that unfolds a biblical theology of suffering, but not only of suffering but of suffering and joy? Would you be interested Continue reading

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