We've been hanging out in the book of Ecclesiastes this fall and its been fabulous. This Sunday morning I teach on Ecclesiastes chapter 12. Sunday evening I teach on Ecclesiastes chapter 9. I'm digging the words of Professor Solomon.
Here's a question I was asked last week by a thoughtful young woman. I thought I would throw it out to you all and see what you thought about it. I'd be interested to hear what you think:
"After reading Ecclesiastes, do you believe that Solomon was a Christian?"
Sometimes when I spend time with God in the mornings I like to read from an old hymnal . Though often disregarded in contemporary churches, the language and theology of the old hymns of the faith can be so rich - and enriching - and can help us appreciate the church mothers and fathers who have gone before us as a great cloud of witnesses.
The last few weeks I've read and re-read the great hymn, "Be Still, My Soul" (written by Katherine von Schlegel in 1752, music by Jean Silbelius). Meditating on God's character and his promises have done just that: stilled my soul when things felt turbulent and uneasy.
Consider reading the stanzas below slowly and meditatively.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.
In my seminary class, our professor talked a few weeks ago about "just because" theology. And I just can't get it out of my head.
Remember when you were a kid, he said, and you asked your parents why you had to do something they told you. You received one of two lines from your parents: either "because I told you so, that's why" or, if they were tired and were trying to avoid being long-winded, "just because."
God does that with us. If you asked God, 'why do you love me so much?' With a smile on his face, he would respond, by saying "just because." It's a part of His character to love you. Love is a part of His nature. He is not like love. Scripture says that He is love, the embodiment of love in all of its essence.
Aren't you glad that we serve a God that loves us just because. And, in terms of our identity, it's important to make sure that we have a "just because" theology - a theology that lives in grace and freedom and gratitude because we have a Poppa God who loves us just because He does.
Unfortunately we didn't get many great pictures from the wedding (the lighting in the church and at the reception made it difficult for a simple digital camera to get great shots, so we'll just wait for the terrific pictures from the wedding photographer).
But, nonetheless, here are a few from Alan and Julie's big day. (Click to enlarge).
I turned the corner in the hallway before the ceremony and spotted my dad adjusting my brother's bow tie. I love this shot. I think it's my favorite.
I used to have a hotmail email account. I thought it was awesome. Until I saw the capabilities, amount of storage and the simple user interface of gmail. Then I realized that hotmail stinks, along with yahoo and juno (but who uses juno anymore anyway?)
Gmail rocks. Google is unbelievable; their email doesn't disappoint.
And I'm in the giving mood. I've got 95 free gmail accounts I can give away.
Anyone interested? Email me here and I'd be glad to send you an invite to open a gmail account. You won't be sorry.
My good friend Scott Hackman, who runs the premier, free trade coffee company called One Village Coffee told me that OVC was featured in a recently online article of Relevant Magazine. Check it out here.
I received word that someone from the resonate community has been in a serious accident. This morning Kyle Hoff was struck in the head by a piece of heavy machinery on a construction work site and has experienced severe head trauma. He was rushed to Hahnemann Hospital in Philly and is in the trauma center. Presently he has bleeding on the brain and no feeling below his shoulders. At this point, the doctors believe that the spinal cord injuries he has suffered are permanent. Please pray for healing, strength, hope and understanding.
and his wife Brittany have been a part of resonate almost from its beginning
and are actively involved in Dave and Janice Allem's Community Group. We'll update you when more information becomes available. In the meantime, pray for the Hoffs.
UPDATE: I had a chance to visit Kyle this morning (Thursday) and spend significant time with Brittany and with Kyle's family at the hospital. He is still in the ICU. He has a lot of swelling and bruising around the spinal cord. Several doctors came in to check his prognosis and explain the current status to the family. He will be going in for a CAT scan today. Continue to pray for Kyle's recovery, wisdom for the doctors and the emotional state of the family, especially Brittany.
Now that the dust has settled a bit from the big weekend - the wedding of my younger brother - I'll share a few reflections and memories.
Well, Alan and Julie are married. And everyone had a terrific time. Everyone.
The whole day from start to finish was the perfect balance between having fun, celebrating and understanding the solemnity of a wedding. The ceremony was very personal and very "them."
Lots of fun little things in the ceremony that were very much Alan and Julie style: the groomsmen wore tuxes and sandals. They had two "flower guys" - friends they wanted in the wedding, but didn't know what to do since all the traditional male roles were taken. They read letters to each other in the ceremony. During "the kiss" he dipped her for a long, passionate wet one, which was met by loud cheering. The processional music was a Nora Jones CD and the recessional music was Shrek's "I'm a Believer." It was filled with laughter and smiles, but it was also filled with tears at the specialness of the event.
It's fair to say that yes, it was the greatest honor of my life to officiate my younger brother's wedding. I almost made it through the ceremony without getting emotional. Key word: almost.
Towards the beginning, during the worship song "Wonderful Cross," I looked over at my dad, the best man, and saw him crying. My dad is emotional. He tears up a lot. But I am not sure I have seen him be that emotional before. He wasn't crying. He was really crying. He said it was such an honor that his younger son asked him to be the best man while his older son officiated that wedding. I can (sort of) grasp why he was so emotional. And after seeing him, that did me in.
I collected myself and was doing fine again until I started speaking personally to Alan, telling him that as his older brother I looked up to him so much and how grateful I was to have a brother who I loved so much and was so proud of. Then came the tears. And the shaky voice. The meaningfulness, the significance, of the moment got me. Then it was one....long...awkward....silent...pause...until I could collect myself again. Oh well. I guess I am not surprised by the show of emotion, and neither was Alan or Julie.
The reception was a blast. Alan and Julie had a terrific time, always laughing and smiling and working the room like a young couple should on their wedding day. Good food, good music, lots of people (friends of ours, family, people who attended Pierced, etc) and a lot of fun. It was held at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, a venue that we had never been to, but found it to be a perfect venue for the amount of people -over 400 - and the type of people Alan and Julie are - fun, eccentric, always up for a new experience. (They were going to rent a mechanical bull for the event, but insurance said that there is too much exhibit glass in the room and nixed it). It was fitting that the couple's first dance was on the dance floor right next to the Steer Roping exhibit and a picture of the most famous rodeo clown who passed away 25 years ago. That just about sums it up right there.
After a few more renditions of the Electric slide, the garter and bouquet toss, the dollar dance, some kind words spoken by Julie's dad, the wedding toasts and the groomsmen decorating the getaway car to perfection, they were off to their honeymoon to St. Martin. I'm eager to talk to them in a week and hear what their reflections are about the event, but I am sure they would tell you that they had no regrets.
Megan and I had many worlds colliding at once, making it very surreal for us. We had extended family that flew in from as far away as Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Florida, Indiana and of course, Pennsylvania. We had friends from Souderton come as well, so they got to see our "old life" out West. We had friends from college that Alan and I both knew from our time there. We had old friends from Colorado Springs and our old church there as well. So it made for some surreal introductions. And it left us feeling like we didn't spend enough time with a lot of friends and family that we really wanted to (but I guess that's better than feeling like you had too much time with each other and you can't wait to leave).
We're exhausted, but not surprised. It was a terrific weekend (in addition to eating at Chipotle three days in a row for lunch - no exaggeration) with the only thing we would have changed would be the weather (gray, overcast, mid 40's, but it did snow for the first time this season up on Pikes Peak, which was beautiful). But if that's the only thing that went wrong, I'd say that was a pretty great wedding weekend, one that we will always look back on with the fondest of memories. (I'll post pictures in a little bit...)
Alan and Julie: congratulations. Julie, so glad you are a part of the Briggs family.