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In Sunday School, children are sometimes taught this acrostic:

J – Jesus first
O – Others next
Y – Yourself last.

Is this formula too childish, too simplistic to be true? Certainly it runs utterly against the grain of our culture, which advises us to look out for “number one.” Even in our spiritual communities we often hear people give advice to others who are spending their lives serving Jesus to, “take time out for yourself…  if you don’t, you’ll burn out.” How do you think Mother Teresa would have responded to such a suggestion?

Wrestle with these questions this week:

What is the source of the deepest and most lasting joy I know?
How does this joy compare to the fleeting frivolities that advertise themselves as being the source of true happiness?
In times of crisis, confusion or depression, distress and grief, what does it mean to be able to “rejoice in the Lord always?”

Consider the possibility that the best time we can take for ourselves is our time of contemplation and prayer before God, our time in conversation with the Holy Spirit. Could it be that our “burn out” is directly related to our neglect of our relationship and conversation with Jesus Christ?

Prayer for Illumination:

Author of grace and our Eternal Guide, Jesus,
As I make my pilgrimage through this life,
shed your light upon my way; keep me from slipping or going astray.
Speak to me in the recorded witness of community and church
that through the Spirit’s interpretation of the Scriptures
I may find direction, strength and joy;
through Christ Jesus, Shepherd of my soul. Amen.

Music for Contemplation

This fall Christian musician Todd Agnew released a new album called “Need.” In that album, the first song is titled “Joy Unspeakable.” Let me share the lyrics of this song and a link to listen to this album:

Album “Need” by Todd Agnew

Joy Unspeakable

I’ve found His grace is all complete.
He supplies my every need, mm…mm…
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free…indeed.
What kind of joy is this?

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

I’ve found the pleasure I once craved.
It’s joy and peace within….within.
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
from the awful gulf of sin.

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

I’ve found the joy no tongue can tell.
How its waves of glory roll!
It’s like an overflowing well…
springing up within my soul.

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

It’s joy unspeakable…
joy unspeakable…
What kind of joy is this!?

If we could all
just stop throwing stones,

and stoop, knees bent
and write in the dust,

we’d see that the dust
was once stone –
grand, and hard, and proud, and tough –
now ground and dissolved
in grace and tears.

So… how much better
to be a grain of dirt

on that kind prophet’s hands
than a stone
in the cold, accusing Temple
of the pure.

(from The Open Office: a tool for groups exploring a rhythm of life that has a liturgical edge to share resources.)

How often are we like the stone… cold, hard-hearted, distant and judgmental to those we love and to those around us. May the Spirit of Christ break up the hardness of our hearts, grind us into bits of dust through his grace, love and mercy. May we have a heart of tenderness, kindness, compassion for others.

Beannacht (“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

(Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, by John Donahue)

Where the mist rises from the sea
Where the waves creep upon the shore
Where the wrack lifts upon the strand
I have seen the Lord.

Where the sun awakens the day
Where the road winds on its way
Where the fields are sweet with hay
I have seen the Lord.

Where the stars shine in the sky
Where the streets so peaceful lie
Where the darkness is so nigh
I have seen the Lord.

The Lord is here
The Lord is there
The Lord is everywhere.
The Lord is high
The Lord is low
The Lord is on the path I go.

Landscapes of Light: An illustrated Anthology of Prayers; David Adam

Psalm 84; The Message.

What a beautiful home, God of the Angel Armies!
I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God of Angel Armies! King! God!
How blessed they are to live and sing there!

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives becomes roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn–Zion! God in full view!

God of the Angel Armies, listen:
O God of Jacob, open your ears–I’m praying!
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.

One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God,
than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
It’s smooth sailing all the way with God of the Angel Armies.

view of hand-painted Good Shepherd mural

view of hand-painted Good Shepherd mural

The Good Shepherd mural was created as a portable backdrop solution for contemporary worship services… it is 20′ wide by 6.5′ high, made of five panels with canvas stretched on a lightweight wooden frame. The mural backdrop was originally created for contemporary / Spanish services at Coburn Memorial United Methodist Church in Salisbury, NC and was used there for about a year. Then it was used in the Spanish contemporary services in the Hispanic/Latino Mission of the Waynesville District, Western North Carolina Conference for a couple years. The mural is currently in storage.

To see the original design, the painting process and photos of the entire mural, go to This is an example of the use of visual art in worship.

Here are some other interesting resources / examples of the use of visual art in worship.
10. visualimagebookcover1 Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) By William A. Dyrness

The Breathing | Space alternative worship team will create a once-a-month worship event called breathe | deep. The first event will not be planned or advertised until there are 100-125 active and committed participants /  members of Breathing | Space small groups. All who come to be part of this community will be encouraged to pray for and prepare for the first breathe | deep worship event.

The worship gathering will be designed with some of the following elements:

  • visual art, imagery in worship
  • creative storytelling/teaching about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ
  • prayer and meditation stations
  • communion – the sacred mystery
  • tapestries / wall hangings
  • use of technology
  • natural elements
  • creative writing
  • music – vocal and instrumental

This worship event will be created by a team of people who are a part of the Breathing | Space community. Anyone connected with the community will be encouraged to participate in the monthly planning process and bring their gifts, insights and creativity to the planning  “table”.


Cynthia on Twitter

August 2020