1388. Everything that is born in the great matrix of life is sustained by roots that reach into the deep mystery of God’s life. ~J. Philip Newell

With you is the source of life, O God.
You are the beginning of all that is.
From your life the fire of the rising sun streams forth.
You are the life-flow of creation’s rivers,
the sap of blood in our veins, earth’s fecundity,
the fruiting of trees, creatures birthing,
the conception of new thought, desire’s origin.
All these are of you, O God, and I am of you.
-A prayer by J. Philip Newell

There are many images of the church in the Bible, but we will mention just three: the church as the Body of Christ, the People of God and the Bride of Christ. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:10; 4:15) and Christians are the body. “People of God” is another image of the church. God says of the church, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10 NIV). The church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7; 21:9), suggestive of a special and sacred family relationship between Christ and the church.

The concept of the visible and local church also touched briefly on the challenges and tensions that sometimes result in churches. Critics point to divisions and disagreements among Christians as evidence of a lack of unity and, hence, a lack of real biblical support undergirding the Christian church as a whole. Is this true? In some cases Christians do indeed need to admit to shortcomings and, at times, un-Christ-like behavior. But in looking at the bigger picture, the Christian church has always been united on key points of belief such as the reality of a personal, loving God, salvation that is found in Christ through His death and bodily resurrection, human depravity and the need for redemption through Christ and more. This “mere” Christianity or core of unshakable truths has united Christian churches throughout the centuries and continues to do so.

When it comes to the essentials or primary matters, Christians are united, but when it comes to nonessentials or secondary matters, there is room for some disagreement. This disagreement, however, does not change the unity on the foundations of Christianity such as the person of Christ and His role in human redemption. ~3 Excerpted paragraphs from an article by Paul Velarde

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. . .” -Job 12:7-8  ✝

**Images found on Pinterest

1387. In the early Celtic churches, earth, sea, and sky were, rather than enclosed sanctuaries, the temple of God. The high-standing crosses were gathering places. ~J. Philip Newell

The world is holy.
We are holy. All life is holy.
Daily prayers are delivered on the lips
of breaking waves, the whisperings
of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
-Terry Tempest Williams

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The church is not a building, but a body of believers with a specific nature and purpose. These biblical roles or ministries of the church are foundational to it. Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator. We are to praise and glorify God in worship. As such, every Christian needs to be part of regular fellowship and worship. Edification is also a role of the church. It involves edifying believers, but also nurturing, building up or helping believers to mature in Christ.

Evangelism is also a key role of the church. This means reaching out to a lost world with the Good News about Jesus. Since people often have questions or doubts about Christ and Christianity, knowing the truth and being able to defend it is also part of the role of the church. But beyond evangelism in the sense of reaching out with the gospel, the church must also express compassion and mercy tangibly by helping others. In following Christ’s example to love others, the church, too, must seek to make a real difference in the world while not neglecting to share the message of Christ. If a church fails to fulfill any of these key roles – worship, edification, evangelism – then the church is not functioning as God intends. Granted, there are times when churches face challenges and struggles to one degree or another, but a healthy church seeks to overcome such challenges in a way that honors God and His intentions for His church. (This paragraph and the one above it are excerpted from an article by Paul Velarde_)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19-20  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie

1386. A true worship of God, therefore, can neither be contained between the four walls of a sacred building nor restricted to the boundaries of religious tradition. ~J. Philip Newell

The Christian church is not a building,
but a body of believers united in Christ.
Its role is to worship God, nurture and edify
and reach out to a suffering world.
~Robert Velarde

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What Is the Church?
Excerpts from an article by Robert Velarde

When most people hear the word church they probably think of a building. Maybe it is a fancy building or a simple building where believers gather. But biblically speaking, a church is much more than a building. In fact, some would say that the church is not a building at all, but is all about the people.

The early Christian church had no buildings, at least not in the sense of what we would consider church buildings today. First century Christians were often persecuted and, as a result, often met in secret usually in homes. As the influence of Christianity spread, eventually buildings dedicated to worship were established and became what we know today as churches. Church structures facilitate the role of God’s people, but they do not fulfill it.

When speaking of the church, theologians often use terms such as the visible and local church as opposed to the invisible and universal church. The visible and local church is, of course, the physical churches that we see around us and around the world, as well as the members of those churches. The invisible and universal church, however, refers to all believers everywhere and is one church, united in Christ, not many physical churches.

In the temple of my inner being,
in the temple of my body,
in the temple of earth, sea, and sky,
in the great temple of the universe
I look for the light that was in the beginning,
the mighty fire that blazes still from the heart of life,
glowing in the whiteness of the moon,
glistening in night stars,
hidden in the black earth,
concealed in unknown depths of my soul.
In the darkness of the night,
in the shadow of my being, O God,
let me glimpse the eternal.
In both the light and the shadows of my being
let me glimpse the glow of the eternal.
From SOUNDS OF THE ETERNAL
by J. Philip Newell

Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. ~Job 11:7-9  ✝

**Image is the remains of Tintern Abbey in Britain. It cannot contain God nor the light.

1385. The whole fabric of Creation is woven through the thread of God’s light. ~J. Philip Newell

How does one separate
the mystery of God
from the mystery of Creation?
Is the sanctuary of a church
more holy than the sanctuary
of earth, sea, and sky?

One of my fellow bloggers recently posted an article about his faith and churches, and as I read the comments of others about what he said, I was disturbed to see how many had negative feelings like I once did about churches. In my twenties I left the church, but I eventually came to realize it was not God nor a church per se that had let me down and hurt me. For God had not failed to be God nor had Jesus failed to be my Savior; it was the flaws and frailties of humanity that had caused my disillusionment. So I’m going to start a three-part series tomorrow about my take on the church and why I worship in one as often as I can. I pray you will read what I have to say even if you have a low regard for churches and then mull over the points I make. I know I am just another flawed human being who struggles like everyone else to make some kind of sense about this thing called life but now I’m also one who no longer questions God nor His truths. There are those who say that Jesus is a myth or a sort of “urban” legend, but for two thousand years no one has been able to prove that He wasn’t exactly who He said He was and is. I was just a proverbial lost sheep and He pursued me for decades until at last I became silent enough to hear His call and now know Him to be the way, the truth, and the life that will lead me home. And it is my most fervent prayer that you who read my thoughts over the next 3 days will feel a close connection to God and Jesus as well. You are on their radar; I know that for certain.

*Crepuscular rays (also known as sunbeams, sun rays, angel light, or God rays) are atmospheric optics that appear to radiate from a point in the sky…

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. ~Psalm 19:1-2  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage created by Natalie

1382. Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon…

…A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed,
we would launch one. It would explode high in the air-
explode softly-and send thousands, millions,
of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth –
boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either –
not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four,
with the sharpener built right in.
~Excerpted lines by Robert Fulghum

Today I ran across this photo that I took one afternoon last fall. I had been outside looking for signs of coming fall when I noticed a large patch of weeds in my front flowerbed. After I sat down to pull them, I heard a strange, fiery kind of noise overhead. It wasn’t a fire breathing dragon as I first feared it might be but instead this hot air balloon making its way right over the top of my house. The big bright balloon was a colorful, fanciful thing, and for some strange reason the first thing I thought of was Fulghum’s whimsical parody about a Crayola bomb. At least to me the balloon looked like something that might be on a mission to drop something fun on those of us below. In fact the balloon itself almost looks like a crayola drawing. Then as I pondered writing about the pretty thing, I remembered the old 5th Dimension’s song from the 70‘s wherein the listener is hears “Would you like to ride in my beautful balloon…

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.
The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon;
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon.
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky.
Suspended under a twilight canopy
We’ll search the clouds for a star to guide us.
We can float among the stars together,
you and I, for we can fly.”
~Excerpted and edited lyrics
by the 5th Dimension

Something extraordinary had turned an ordinary day into one of delight especially for my inner child.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into eternal continuity that keep us.
Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.
So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.
~Excerpt from TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US,
by John O’Donohue

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. -Psalm 23:6 ✝

 

1360. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. ~Rumi

The Wine and the Cup

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The wine of divine grace is limitless:
All limits come only from the faults of the cup.
Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon;
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.
Grant a great dignity, my friend, to the cup of your life;
Love has designed it to hold His eternal wine.

~Rumi

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. ~Excerpt from Galatians 1:15  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest; specical effects done on iPiccy

1358. If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

Gardening about enjoying the smell
of things growing in the soil,
getting dirty without feeling guilty,
and generally taking the time to soak
up a little peace and serenity.
~Lindley Karstens

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However many years she lived, Mary always felt
that ‘she should never forget that first morning
when her garden began to grow’…I am sure there is
Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough
to get hold of it and make it do things for us.
~Excerpted lines from THE SECRET GARDEN
by Frances Hodgson Burnett

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

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At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago…Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment….And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles… Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraging thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. ~Excerpted lines from THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. ~Genesis 2:8  ✝

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…” ~Jeremiah 29:5  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; text added to the collage by Natalie; collage created by Natalie