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

1338. The joyful heart sees and reads the world with a sense of freedom and graciousness. John O’Donohue

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

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As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

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Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

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As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

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As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

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As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

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May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god. ~John O’Donohue

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Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. ~Psalm 100:2  ✝

**All photos found on Pinterest;
special effects on the last two were done by me on iPiccy

1305. [L]et us linger awhile in the wonderful old Lilac walk. It is a glory of tender green and shaded amethyst and grateful hum of bees. ~Alice Morse Earle

There are a thousand ways
to kneel and kiss the earth.
~Rumi

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Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.
~Mary Oliver

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker… ~Psalm 95:6  ✝

**Image via Pinterest

1244. August breathes its final, burning breath today and so tomorrow we welcome long-awaited September’s arrival. ~Natalie Scarberry

Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning.
Ladies bathed before noon after their three o’clock naps.
And by nightfall were like soft teacakes
with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum.
The day was twenty-four hours long,
but it seemed longer.
~Excerpted lines from
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
by Harper Lee

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I used to teach TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and it was and is one of my favorite pieces of American literature. I especially loved this passage above as it described the older women of my childhood. Now that spring flowers have gone I’m like those ladies Harper Lee describes in her novel because by day’s end I am frosted with sweat and talc.

Spring flowers are long since gone.
Summer’s bloom hangs limp on every terrace.
The gardener’s feet drag a bit on the dusty
path and the hinge in his back is full of creaks.
~Louise Seymour Jones

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Much of summer’s bloom hangs not just limp but some of it is fried to a crisp. As for my feet, they are dragging more than a bit on my dusty paths and “the hinge in his back is” definitely “full of creaks” so much so that it’s begging me daily to stop the torturous activity.

The summer days are fading, as they must
From endless hours to short and fleeting light
The bird’s once bright, immortal tune,
now cries A melancholy aura to the dusk.
~Shannon Georgia Schaubroeck

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As night falls, the birds’ tunes are as melancholy as I feel, but my melancholy has nothing to do with lamenting the fading of summer. It has more to do with being weary from the long trek through the burning cathedral with a high pressure dome for a ceiling that is the reality of July and August in Texas. But I can’t say I wouldn’t do it all over again, for the garden feeds my soul and in it I find so many reasons to praise the Lord over and over again.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear His voice… ~Psalm 95:6-7  ✝

**All images via Pinterest; collage at top created by Natalie

1235. SPLENDOR of ended day, floating and filling me! ~Walt Whitman

Stranger, if you passing meet me
and desire to speak to me,
why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?
~Walt Whitman

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I felt suddenly like Walt Whitman last night
in the parking lot of Rainbow Foods,
still dazzled from a poetry reading I’d attended,
fresh ponds of rain shining between cars.
I smiled at boy pushing shopping cart;
he smiled back, it was wonderful!
Inside, I watched a man with dreadlocks
carefully bag the cookies he bought.
I observed four brown-eyed children unload
a paycheck’s worth of groceries for their mother.
Listen, I know we’re all of us hiding bruises,
but when a veil seems to lift,
it doesn’t always reveal sorrow.
I saw ordinary people holding doors
for each other, saying please, and
the sky, when I left, was incredibly lavender.
~Francine Marie Tolf

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. ~1 Chronicles 16:29  ✝

**Image via Pinterest