Archive for February, 2021

What Wonderous Love is This


Written by Peggy Stackle.

The old hymns of the church are where I first learned theology.  Yep, I’m a traditionalist and it’s the old hymns that taught me how to sing God’s praises.  One of my happiest memories was standing up to sing during the Sunday worship service at Hollywood Presbyterian church.  I was between my mother, an alto, and my dad, a base, and being immersed in amazing sound in harmony.   What Wondrous Love Is This, is an American folk hymn. The words were published about 1811 in a camp meeting songbook.  The words from the first stanza include: “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the heavy cross for my soul, for my soul, to bear the heavy cross for my soul.”  This is what Lent is all about.  It’s an astounding feeling knowing that God loves each of us as He does.  How do we deal with that?  How can we return His wondrous love?  The answer is easy, the implementation isn’t.  We demonstrate our love for God in our relationships with others.  This has been made more difficult during this time of pandemic.  In order to preserve our health, we have to give up being around each other.  We must meet by Zoom – NOT a fan.  Human touch has a healing effect.  One of the best things you can do when visiting the elderly or someone who is living alone is give them a hug. I’m a hugger and I’m part of a group of huggers.  So here’s a hug for you: (8).  You’re the 8, the hug is parenthetical.  God’s love for you is real.


Written by Columba (521-597), an Irish abbot and missionary who spread Christianity through Scotland. He founded the Abbey of Iona, which was a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries.

O Lord, give us, we beseech You, in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son, our God, that love which can never cease, that will kindle our lamps but not extinguish them, that they may burn in us and enlighten others. You, O Christ, our dearest Savior, yourself kindle our lamps, that they may evermore shine in Your temple, that they may receive unquenchable light from You that will enlighten our darkness, and lessen the darkness of the world. Lord Jesus, we pray that You give Your  light to our lamps, that in its light the most holy place may be revealed to us in which You dwell as the Eternal Priest, that we may always behold You, desire You, look upon You  in love, and long after You, for Your sake. Amen.


What Wonderous Love: St. Olaf Choir.

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Inner Character


Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013), an American theologian, philosopher and author.

To fulfill the high calling that God has placed upon us in creating us and redeeming us, we must have the right inner substance or character. We must come to grips with who we really are, inside and out. For we will do what we are. So we will need to become the kind of people who routinely and easily walk in the goodness and power of Jesus our master. For this, a process of “spiritual formation”—really, transformation—is required. Spiritual formation for the Christian is a Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self—our “spiritual” or invisible aspects of human life—in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself. In the degree to which such a spiritual transformation to inner Christlikeness is successful, the outer life of the individual will become a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus. We will simply “walk the walk,” as we say.

Christlikeness of the inner being is not a merely human attainment, of course. It is, finally, a gift of grace. Nevertheless, well-informed human effort is indispensable. Spiritual formation in Christ is not a passive process. Grace does not make us passive. Divine grace is God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own. It informs our being and actions and makes them effective in the wisdom and power of God. Hence, grace is not opposed to effort (our actions) but to earning (our attitude). Paul the apostle, who perhaps understood grace as none other, remarks on his own efforts for Christ: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). The supernatural outcome that accompanies grace-full action stands out.


Written by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), a Spanish priest and theologian who founded the Jesuits. Jesuits served the Pope as missionaries.

As he sat by the river,

the eyes of his understanding began to be opened;

not that he saw any vision,

but he understood and learnt many things,

both spiritual matters and matters of faith and of scholarship,

and this with so great an enlightenment

that everything seemed new to him.


In the Cross of Christ I Glory: Kelvedon Green.  The text of the hymn is loosely based on Galatians 6:14. The hymn was written by John Bowring in 1825. The first line of the hymn is inscribed on his tombstone.

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Easter in the Redwood Grove


Written by Judith Walters.

During this past year of social isolation due to the Pandemic, we have been attending church online in our homes, or sitting 6 feet apart wearing a mask, on the church patio.  Far from normal, it has been such a different experience. Usually, Easter and Christmas are the times when throngs of people feel compelled to attend church in a building. Thinking that being there is a ritual necessary to being “Christian.”  In my childhood, we attended church, Sunday School, and choir every Sunday.  On Easter Sunday, it was important to have a new outfit that  matched my sister’s, a new hat, gloves, and patent leather Mary Jane shoes.  My hair was tied in rags the prior night to make long curls.  Colored eggs, Easter baskets and a special Ham or Lamb dinner completed the occasion.

However, my most memorable Easter, occurred in my 30’s, and not in a Church building.

I was visiting a friend who lived on 2 acres of Redwoods in Northern California. My friend a Catholic, and I a Protestant, decided to celebrate Easter Sunday in the majestic Redwood

grove on her property.  Bible in hand, without much of a plan, we walked to our service.

I remember singing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”(no accompaniment), reading Scripture passages of the Resurrection, saying the 23rd Psalm, sharing our unifying thoughts, and closing with the Lord’s Prayer and singing “Amazing Grace.”  This could not have been a more simple service of our combined beliefs. Standing In the midst of these ancient, stately Coastal Redwoods, I remember feeling that we were in a Cathedral in a forest, closer to God than in any building most people call a church.  I will never forget that experience, the simplicity that we can be so close to God  in celebrating Jesus’ resurrection in a quiet Redwood grove on Easter Sunday.  A gentle wind, chirping birds, and our small voices, God was surrounding us with His Glory!  

This year Easter may be celebrated in my backyard, where I will prepare an altar with a cross and flowers. Or, along the beach.  Wherever I am, I will experience God’s Glory and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Hallelujah!


From the Roman Breviary,. the liturgical book of the Latin Church. Published in 1482, it became known as the Liturgy of the Hours.

O Lord,

be our Sanctifier and the Shepherd.

Strengthen and help us,

that in our daily life walk with you,

we serve you in all quietness of spirit;

through Jesus Christ our Master. Amen.


Hymn of Nature: Written by Jon Schmidt in 2006, with Stephanie Wayland at piano.

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Repent and Believe


Written by Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), a Catholic missionary nun who served the poor in the streets of Calcutta.

As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.


Written by Ruth Haley Barton, a contemporary author, spiritual director and founder of Transforming Center. This prayer is adapted from Ted Loder’s Guerrillas of Grace.

Holy One, there is something I wanted to tell you, but there have been errands to run, bills to pay, arrangements to make, meetings to attend, friends to entertain, washing to do… and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you, and mostly I forget what I’m about or why. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Eternal One, there is something I wanted to tell you, but my mind races with worrying and watching, with weighing and planning, with rutted slights and pothole grievances, with leaky dreams I keep trying to plug up; and my attention is preoccupied with loneliness, with doubt, and with things I covet; and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you, and how to say it honestly or how to do much of anything. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Almighty One, There is something I wanted to tell you, but I stumble along the edge of a nameless rage, haunted by a hundred floating fears and … I forget what the real question is that I wanted to ask. and forgot to listen anyway because you seem unreal and far way, and I forgot what is it I have forgotten. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ. O Father in heaven, perhaps you’ve already heard what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to ask is forgive me, heal me, increase my courage, please. Renew in me a little of love and faith, and sense of confidence, and a vision of what it might mean to live as though you were real, and I mattered, and everyone was sister and brother. What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is don’t give up on me, don’t become too sad about me, but laugh with me, and try again with me, and I will with you, too. What I wanted to ask is for peace enough to want and work for more, for joy enough to share, and for a awareness that is keen enough to sense your presence here, now, there, then, always.


Just as I Am: Travis Cottrell. Written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835. It has been set to at least four different hymn tunes.

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The Blessings of Pets


Written by Barbara Conrad.

He prayeth best, who loveth best, all things great and small.

For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all.”

Inspired by a verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

We know that every one of us is blessed just to be alive on this earth.  Many of us are blessed to have beautiful and loving families.  Some of us choose to add a pet to our households.  God created ‘All creatures, great and small’. That certainly includes our Charlie, a mixed-breed dog, who was found wandering on the desert behind Victorville.  He was malnourished with some medical issues. Luckily, he was rescued, treated and eventually became our pet.  Perhaps my family made a turnabout in this doggie’s life, but this creature of God brought a large dose of love to us.  We are grateful to God for this big ball of fur with a waggling tail, a wet nose and those big brown eyes.  Charlie and I walk nearly every day on the beautiful horse trails in the area.  He brings joy to so many folks who stop to pet this irresistible no-longer-a-stray dog.  Everybody wins!  God must be smiling.


Attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi (c1181-1226, an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Claire, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land.

Heavenly Father, our human ties with our friends of other species is a wonderful and special gift from You. Our goodness is turned upon every living thing and Your grace flows to all Your creatures. From our souls to theirs goodness flows, touching each of us with the reflection of Your love. Grant to our special animal companions long and healthy lives. Give them good relationships with us, and if You see fit to take them from us, help us to understand that they are not gone from us, but only drawing closer to You. Grant our prayer and watch over our animal friends until they are safely with You in eternity, where we someday hope to join them in giving You honor forever. Amen.


All Things Bright and Beautiful: The Tabernacle Choir.  Arranged by John Rutter and based on an English hymn published in 1848.

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Thinking God’s Thoughts


Written by A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), an American pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor. This is excerpted from his book “Rut, Rot, or Revival.”

To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. Those thoughts you are having—and your head buzzes with them all day long and into the night—are earthly thoughts—thoughts of a fallen race. They are the thoughts of a lost society. They should not be our thoughts …  There also has to be a lot of meditation. We ought to learn to live in our Bible. Get one with print big enough to read so it does not punish your eyes. Look around until you find a good one, and then learn to love it. Begin with the Gospel of John, then read the Psalms. Isaiah is another great book to help you and lift you. When you feel you want to do it, go on to Romans and Hebrews and some of the deeper theological books. But get into the Bible. Do not just read the little passages you like, but in the course of a year or two see that you read it through. Your thoughts will one day come up before God’s judgment. We are responsible for our premeditative thoughts. They make our mind a temple where God can dwell with pleasure, or they make our mind a stable where Christ is angry, ties a rope and drives out the cattle. It is up to us. What should you then do? Examine yourself. Have you found yourself in that awful circular grave, not making any spiritual progress? Have you found that the passing of time upon which you have leaned so heavily has become a broken reed and is not helping you at all?


Written by Scott Cairns, a contemporary American poet, professor, librettist, and spiritual  essayist.

Ever-Merciful God, Compassionate Teacher, Holy One Among Us who leads us now and ever, we lean into your ready embrace, and ask that you revive in us your teaching, that we may this day turn onto the path that we should travel. We ask this in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Blest by the Tie that Binds: The Burbank First United Methodist Church Choir. The hymn was written by John Fawcett, an English preacher influenced by George Whitefield, in 1782.

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Christ and the Fine Arts


Written by Ruth Grendell.

My mother gave me the book, Christ and the Fine Arts, by Cynthia Maus for my sixteenth birthday.  It contains stories, poetry, music, and pictures/paintings describing many aspects of Christ’s life. Throughout the years the book has become a valuable resource for exploring the meaning of God’s presence in my life.  The contents have been used for quiet reflections, presentations to groups and to prepare comments in the classroom.

The book has strengthened my relationship with God. It has a prominent place available on our bookcase.  Stories are one of the oldest arts and Jesus used the parables to reveal important lessons about our interactions with God and with others.  Poetry and music are so closely aligned and revealed comments related to many of my favorite hymns.  In my piano lessons, I learned to value the works of famous authors… Some of my favorites include:  Savior Like a Shepherd Lead us, Love That Will Not Let Me Go, I come to the Garden Alone, Abide with Me, and I Need Thee Every Hour.  I keep a hymn book on my piano. Descriptions of favorite gospel songs include:  He Never Said a Mumbling Word, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and Standing in the Need of Prayer

The three pictures/paintings and explanations of Hofmann’s Christ in Gethsemane depicting Him as a man of prayer and acquainted with grief; Ruben’s depiction of Christ on the cross; and the famous Rafael’s portrayal of the Transfiguration are so meaningful to me during this Lenten Season and at this time in my life.


Written by Marcia Meier, a contemporary writer and artist.

O, great Creator

Guide my hand

Open my heart

Quiet my mind

Allow your inspiration to flow to and through me

Make me your instrument for creativity

Allow my words to move and touch others

To soothe, to bring awareness, to make life easier for others

To bring about justice and foment peace

May I always work in a way that brings your Holy Spirit and love to others

May your vast love hold me safe and keep me whole as I create and write in service to you and the world.


Lamb of God Most Holy: Wells College Choir. This hymn was written by Nikolaus Decius about 1541 and translated to English by Arthur Tozer Russell in the mid-1800s.

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Written by Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996), a Dutch priest, professor, writer, and theologian.  This is an excerpt from his book “The Way of the Heart.”

Silence is the way to make solitude a reality. The Desert Fathers praise silence as the safest way to God. “I have often repented of having spoken,” Arsenius said, “but never of having remained silent.” One day Archbishop Theophilus came to the desert to visit Abba Pambo. But Abba Pambo did not speak to him. When the brethren finally said to Pambo, “Father, say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified,” he replied: “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.”


Written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), a nun and missionary who served the poor in Calcutta.

We cannot find God in noise and agitation.

Nature: trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence.

Top 150 Bible Verses About Wisdom Stock Photo (Edit Now) 483227779The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.

What is essential is not what we say

but what God tells us and what He tells others through us.

In silence He listens to us;

in silence He speaks to our souls.

In silence we are granted

the privilege of listening to His voice.

Silence of our eyes.

Silence of our ears.

Silence of our mouths.

Silence of our minds.

…in the silence of the heart

God will speak..


As Gentle as Silence: Marilla Ness. The song was written by English hymn writer Estelle White and first published in the 20th Century Folk Hymnal.

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Written by Peggy Stackle.

Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley is a new hymn to me.  It’s actually an American spiritual, part of the public domain and undated.  It portrays the true humanity of Jesus Christ in enduring the trials and temptations of life just as do all other humans.  The first stanza is:

Jesus walked this lonesome valley, He had to walk it by Himself;

O Nobody else could walk it for Him, He had to walk it by Himself.

The last stanza is:   

You must go and stand your trial, you have to stand it by yourself.

Yes, we each have to face our own trials but one of the great things about being Christian is that we have a community of other Christians around us who will stand by us, support us and pray for us. Almost two decades ago I had a surgery (PTE) and I did not keep it a secret.  I told everybody about it and gave them the date, time, and location.  I wanted everyone I knew to pray for me and the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, absolutely everybody.  It’s a good thing too.  There was an issue trying to revive me the last time.  Afterword my doctor asked me about my amazing recovery and asked if I had a community of support.  “You bet” I said, my family, friends, church, and my sister had put the prayer request out on the internet.  It went around the world.  The doctor told me that patients who have a strong support community do better.  Yes, I was the one under the knife but I did not walk that lonesome valley by myself.  The prayers of my community and those way beyond its boundaries surrounded me and kept me safe.


A Puritan prayer from the book “The Valley of Vision.”

Lord, high and holy, meek, and lowly, You have brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see you in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Your stars shine. Let me find your light in my darkness:

     Your life in my death,

     Your joy in my sorrow,

     Your  grace in my sin,

     Your  riches in my poverty      Your  glory in my valley


Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley: Pete Seeger/Arlo Guthrie. This folk hymn combines the styles of African-American spiritual with Appalachian folk music.

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Written by C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), an English writer, professor, and lay theologian. This is an excerpt from his book “Miracles.”

In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection. Only a few days after the Crucifixion when two candidates were nominated for the vacancy created by the treachery of Judas, their qualification was that they had known Jesus personally both before and after His death and could offer first-hand evidence of the Resurrection in addressing the outer world. A few days later Peter, preaching the first Christian sermon, makes the same claim—‘God raised Jesus, of which we all (we Christians) are witnesses’. In the first Letter to the Corinthians, Paul bases his claim to apostleship on the same ground—‘Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?’.  As this qualification suggests, to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection. . . The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the ‘gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. . . The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.


Written by Michaela Youngson, a Methodist minister from London, a poet, and broadcaster.

Your love was too strong, too wide, too deep for death to hold. The sparks cast by your love dance and spread and burst forth with resurrection light. Gracious God, We praise you for the light of new life made possible through Jesus. We praise you for the light of new life that shone on the first witnesses of resurrection. We praise you for the light of new life that continues to shine in our hearts today. We pray that the Easter light of life, hope and joy, will live in us each day; and that we will be bearers of that light into the lives of others.    Amen.


The Wonderful Cross: Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. This worship song incorporates the hymn When I Survey the Wonderous Cross, written by Isaac Watts in the early 1700s, with modern lyrics.

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