Tag Archives: Carolyn Arends

It Matters How We Live

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9, NLT*

“You are not like that…” Not like what? They’re not like the people who are still stumbling “because they do not obey God’s word” (1 Peter 2:8b).

Peter’s been reminding his readers that they’ve been saved from an empty way of life and that they’re being saved… growing and being built into God’s glorious kingdom. And that they will be saved on the last day.

It’s a process, and they’re living for God.

This isn’t about coming to Jesus and then carrying on with life, theirs or ours. We belong to Him now, and our lives need to reflect that.

Can our neighbours or co-workers see the goodness of God in how we live? In our behaviour? Our words, not just about Him but about one another? Our developing peace, patience, etc. as we grow in Him? If we’re learning to bring our thoughts under His authority, that will affect our attitudes, our body language, and what comes out of our mouths.

It’s not about being saved and then forgetting God in our busyness. (click to tweet) It’s about an ever-deepening relationship with Him, craving that “pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2), actively loving Him. Obeying Him.

If we don’t let our faith affect us, we’re missing a huge opportunity – and a huge blessing. And we’re letting down both God and the people He’s placed in our lives.

Father God, we have no words to thank You for saving us, for adopting us into Your Kingdom and giving us purpose. Forgive us for our distraction, and help us to focus first on You. Change us, so that others will see Your goodness.

This week’s song is Carolyn Arends’ “This is Who You Are,” sung here in concert with Steve Bell. It’s a good reminder of our identity.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

On Joy and Interruptions

How did I lose the joy of Christmas?

It would be easy to blame the commercialism and hype. The music that starts too early in the stores. The trees that pop up, fully decorated, after Halloween – not even pausing for Remembrance Day.

Or the details, oh, the details. What to buy? Make a list. Be sure everyone gets enough – enough stuff they don’t have room or need for. Cringe when the bills come in.

Beneath it all, the dread – what if I can’t find the perfect gift for each loved one? They like money, but it always feels like I’ve failed to come up with anything better. The giving, after all, is to please them – not just a hollow ritual.

Pull out the same old decorations. Hang them in the same places. Bake. At least the baking’s fun – and the eating, if not the weight gain.

Cram an already-full schedule even fuller with extra events and gatherings – and with the unstated pressure to do it all, “because it’s Christmas.”

Jesus didn’t come to bring expectations and guilt – just the opposite. He didn’t come to drive us into debt or anxiety, but to set us free, enrich our spirits, and pour His peace into troubled hearts.

He came to interrupt our mundane lives and give us new life – abundant life. How often do I cling to the mundane instead?

I think that’s where the joy went – brushed aside because my agenda is as full as the Bethlehem inn.

This year, instead of carrying the weight of the doing, I want to cultivate the being. Being still with God, daily exploring the message of Advent. Being open to the interruptions that December brings to my plans. Not resisting the decorations as one more clutter-filled chore, but embracing the chance to love my family by creating a festive environment.

Choosing to enjoy the opportunities to spend time with friends and family. Hearing and celebrating the music of the season. Being with God, even in a crowded store, and listening for His nudges in what gifts to buy for whom.

I don’t want to miss the joy of Christmas by clinging to the mundane. I’d rather be a shepherd than a sleeping (or grumpy) citizen of Bethlehem.

Writing this post on Sunday helped me articulate the issue and put me on a better track. There’s something about identifying the problem that lets us begin to fix it.

This may be too early in the season for me to experience Christmas joy, but I’m finding meaning in deliberate, daily Advent readings, and once I stopped avoiding the Christmas activities, I’ve even begun to enjoy those. We have no decorations up yet – my husband and I are both sick. But we did a bit of shopping Wednesday night, and in God’s sense of humour, He helped us find a surprising amount of gifts (including one for us).

If you’re experiencing Christmas angst, you might check out Janice Dick’s post, “Christmas Stress.”

I encourage you to pop over to Carolyn Arends’ website and click on her song list to play “Vacancy.” It’ll bless you 🙂

Counting Our Blessings

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT*

These may be my life verses, in part because it’ll take me a lifetime to learn to live them

It all comes back to trusting God and not ourselves – trusting Him with everything that we are. The NIV renders “Seek His will in all you do” as “In all your ways submit to Him,” and it’s the King James Version that nudges me today: “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.”

The other translations suggest the intent of “acknowledge Him” is “submit to Him” or “seek His will,” and again that needs to be part of the wholehearted trust the psalmist is calling for.

But “acknowledge Him” can be a little bit more. Let’s think about gratitude.

The other day a friend spoke about the value of starting each day with a prayer of thanks to God: for the new day, for family and friends, for so many things we start to take for granted. Then I read Carolyn Arends’ post, Worship Con Queso, on how the physical things we enjoy can prompt our hearts’ gratitude to the Giver.

God blesses us in so many ways, with good things and best of all with His presence even when things aren’t so good. (click to tweet) Whether we list them in a gratitude journal or simply whisper thanks, let’s notice.

God our abundant Provider, who lavishes gifts upon us, open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hearts to receive and to overflow with praise and adoration to You, the Giver of all good gifts. The Giver of life and hope and salvation.

Here’s a good reminder song: “Count Your Blessings.” I’m not sure who’s singing.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Theology in Aisle Seven, by Carolyn Arends

Theology in Aisle Seven by Carolyn ArendsTheology in Aisle Seven, by Carolyn Arends (Christianity Today, 2012)

One of the things I most appreciate about Carolyn Arends’ writing is her honesty. If she’s exploring a question or a doubt, she does it with transparency. If she’s sharing a life lesson learned, she invites us into the story to experience the lesson too. If she’s praising God, it’s authentic. And it’s all beautifully written. Songwriters and poets, more than most, develop the art of evocative words.

Theology in Aisle Seven is a collection of 25 of Carolyn Arends’ monthly columns in Christianity Today. I had read some of them online before buying the book, and they’re just as good on a second reading as they were on the first. I’ll be reading it again, one brief article at a time, so I’ll have time to better digest it. As the introduction says, it would make a good daily devotional book.

Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, describes the book as “an overview of the Christian life in 25 snapshots.” [Kindle Location 90]

The book’s subtitle is “The Uncommon Grace of Everyday Spirituality.” It’s an easy read in a conversational style, but there’s a lot to chew on. Chapters range from deep spiritual topics like the love and wrath of God, being peacemakers, and mortality to more earthy things like laughter, fitness, neighbours and grief.

And the title? You’ll have to read the particular chapter that birthed it, but I can tell you it relates to how we try to organize and compartmentalize our faith to be neat and tidy.

Here are a few of my favourite lines, to pique your interest:

If the psalmist is right—that there truly is nowhere we can go to flee God’s presence—why do we act like his attendance is intermittent? And why do we assume it’s dependent on us? [Kindle Location 153]

At the end (and only at the end) of the human rope is strength and peace beyond compare. [Kindle Location 214]

Humility not only helps us in the offering of our prayers. It is also essential to recognizing their answers. [Kindle Location 840]

Canadian author Carolyn Arends is perhaps best known as an award-winning singer/songwriter. Her most recent album is Love Was Here First. She’s the author of Wrestling With Angels (another book I highly recommend) as well as a variety of online and print articles. I hope Theology in Aisle Seven will become the first in a series of her collected short works.

For more about Theology in Aisle Seven, click the link in the title to visit the author’s website. You’ll find a list of chapters, a brief description, and links to order. The book is only available in ebook format, but where the chapters are short, if you don’t have an e-reader or tablet you could easily read them on your computer with the free Kindle or Adobe Digital Editions (for everything other than Kindle format) downloads.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Accept the Gift

All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].
Proverbs 15:15, AMP*

I’m reading Brenda Wood’s evocative book, The Pregnant Pause of Grief: the First Trimester of Widowhood, and most of her scripture quotes come from the Amplified Bible. This one hit me in a new way that I hadn’t seen in the versions I usually read.

It echoed what my husband had said only hours earlier: “You have the choice to enjoy each step of what you’re doing, or to let it make you miserable.” (Okay, I didn’t take notes… this is my paraphrase. But he’s a wise man.)

That, in turn, followed something God helped me see a few days earlier. I’m stepping into a writing opportunity that has me a bit scared. It’s also really exciting for me, but that day anxiety was following me around like the proverbial rain cloud. In the middle of the grocery store, I realized I had more choices than just the vegetables.

I could choose my attitude.

I was the only one choosing the anxiety-cloud heaviness. I could just as easily choose anticipation and a bit of glee. So I did. I let myself accept the good thing He wanted to give me, instead of letting fear turn it into a burden.

I guess for some of us, troubles aren’t the only things that test our faith and build endurance—gifts are, too.

This learning to take every thought captive and to let God renew our minds is one hard lesson. We’ll be still working on it when He calls us Home, but let’s encourage one another on the journey.

God our Creator and our loving Parent, every good gift comes from You, and You are not the author of fear. Help us learn to bring our thoughts under Your rule and to cultivate joy and contentment whatever our circumstances. And when You give us a good gift, help us not be afraid to open it.

What more appropriate song than “Seize the Day,” by Carolyn Arends?

*Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Let God Make it Plain

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.
Philippians 3:15, NLT*

Perhaps only the Apostle Paul would have the confidence in the soundness of his teaching to be able to say this. Specifically, he’s been talking about counting everything else as worthless compared to gaining Christ, how he hasn’t “arrived” yet but how we all need to press on to grow closer to Jesus. [Read Philippians 3]

It’s the general application of this verse that interests me today, though. There is a spiritually mature view, and those who haven’t reached that level of growth won’t necessarily agree with it.

There are plenty of areas where there’s no “right” answer and Christians can safely hold their own opinions. Some of these areas are a bit dicey and we’re well advised to consider our words and actions so we don’t cause a more vulnerable believer to fall into sin. [Read 1 Corinthians 8:9-12]

There are doctrinal differences among the denominations that God will somehow work out in the end. And there are core truths of the faith which are non-negotiable for those who want to follow Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Paul used his position of authority to call out sin and call for church discipline. But when it came to teaching, he gave the truth and stopped at that. He prayed for believers to grow in understanding [Read Colossians 1:9-14], but he didn’t bully or badger or fret to get people’s agreement.

God has been so patient in bringing me to understand elements of His truth and to learn to live them. I’m sure it’s the same with you. And we still have much to learn—about God and about life in general.

Just as we’re on the journey, so are our brothers and sisters in Christ. So are our family and friends. Paul’s example here is freeing. We can pray, speak when appropriate, and remember that God is even more invested in revealing His truth to each heart.

God who is Truth, in whom is no shadow of lie or deceit, thank You for drawing us to know You and Your ways. Because You know each person so intimately, You know the best way and timing to make Your truth plain to us. Make us receptive so we can learn quickly, and grant us patience with one another in the process. Help us trust You to be about Your work. Nudge us when You have a word or deed for us to contribute, and nudge us even more when we’re to keep our hands and voices out of the way.

Our song this week is an older one from Carolyn Arends: I Can Hear You. Praise God that His voice does break through all the noise in our lives.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

6 Links on Living Slower, Plus a Song

Rainbow: be still and trust GodAt The Write Conversation, Edie Melson encourages us to Be  Still and to realize that there is Time Enough.

At Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog, he explores The Practice of Stillness.

At The Kill Zone, Jordan Dane shares Ten Simple Relaxation Techniques and Stress Relievers for Writers.

At This Day With God, Mark Shields offers simple advice on Using Time Wisely.

At Hearing the Heartbeat, Carolyn Watts invites us to live gently, not urgently.

Bonus song: Here’s a surprisingly peppy call to Be Still, from Canadian singer-songwriter Carolyn Arends. It’s so catchy, it’ll get in your head and remind you all day to slow down. 

Because God Said So

For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light.
Psalm 56:13, NLT*

In this psalm David declares his trust in God and praises God for His promise. Twice he asks “What can men do to me?”

The first time, he follows with a list of what his enemies want to do to him. The danger is real. He asks God to prevent them from harming him. He reminds himself of how intimately God cares for him, and then he reaffirms his choice to trust in God.

Three times in the psalm, he praises God for “His promise” and I think that’s the promise that David would be king. At this point he’s still on the run from King Saul and is in the hands of the Philistines.

Logic and faith say he can’t be killed before God accomplishes His purpose, so David has confidence that his enemies won’t be allowed to kill him.

Most of us don’t have a specific, personal promise from God guaranteeing we won’t be harmed. We do have lots of promises, though. And if we don’t have physical enemies, we still have spiritual ones that would bind or hamper us and keep us from the life God promises.

One of the “enemies” stalking me is anxiety. Today’s verse is one I’m using as a prayer-promise. Another is “who the Son sets free is free indeed.”

Perhaps my favourite “weapon” this year is “I have a Good Shepherd.”

Father, Saviour, show us the individual promises to cling to for protection from the unseen forces, thoughts and behaviour patterns that want to deny the new life You’ve promised to grow in us. Yes, they could do it – if not for Your promises. Help us be confident in You, help us walk in Your presence and in Your life-giving light.

Here’s Carolyn Arends singing “I’ve Got a Hope.”

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Following the Leader

In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
Exodus 15:13, NIV*

This is part of the Israelites’ song after God brought them through the Red Sea on dry land and let the sea flow back to drown the enemies on their trail.

God rescued the people, and the word “redeemed” here reminds me that His work with Israel in the Old Testament was often a prophetic picture of His work to rescue and redeem us all through Jesus.

Today’s verse declares that the God who has shown Himself mighty to save is able to lead His people into the land He has promised. They didn’t make it easy for Him, and He had to keep reminding them to obey Him.

He led them out, but because of disobedience, that generation lost the chance to be led in to the Promised Land.

Believers in Christ face the same danger. He’s rescued us from bondage to sin’s destructive ways. Let’s not drop our guards now and get stuck in the wasteland, or what Mark Buchanan calls the “borderlands” in his book, Your God is Too Safe.

We need to trust and honour Jesus as Lord as well as Saviour. All the way into the deepening relationship He that promises, and that we won’t fully experience in this life. But let’s get further up and further in, as much as we can.

Our God and Shepherd, Strong Deliverer and Redeemer, thank You for saving us and promising us abundant life. Help us rely on Your unfailing love and live in trusting obedience to Your guidance. 

Our song is Carolyn Arends’ “Go With God.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Goodness of the Lord

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14, NIV*

This verse gave me a lot of comfort during a hard time. I don’t know the translation a friend sent to me, but the wording for verse 13 is “I would have despaired if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (It’s similar to the NASB translation of Psalm 27:13)

I clung to that promise, repeated it over and over, and although that crisis has passed the words are still on my fridge. Things were bad, and I needed help believing there would be good days ahead.

The verse has been going through my head again this week, in the form of a song by Carolyn Arends, “Land of the Living”. Just the chorus:

I would despair
If I did not believe
That I would see again
Your hand in the land of the living.

And I saw something deeper: the promise doesn’t say anything about what this goodness will look like. Doesn’t say the pain will go away, health or wealth be restored, wars and natural disasters cease.

What it says is that we will see the goodness of the Lord.

See the goodness of the Lord.

One of the points I took from Ann Voskamp’s amazing book, One Thousand Gifts, is that sometimes God’s goodness—the grace He gives us—is hard to recognize. It comes disguised as what we call more bad news or hard times.

She also points the way to see it: “praise precedes the miracle”. As we pray, praising God for who He is, asserting our confidence in Him, He helps us recognize His hand even in the hard experiences.

If the circumstances don’t change, or while we’re waiting for the change, don’t we need to recognize—to see—the goodness of the Lord present with us? Don’t we need His goodness to get us through? That’s grace.

Father God, Giver of all good gifts, open our eyes and our spirits to see Your goodness here with us, in the land of the living. We will still pray in trust that You will deliver us from our hard places and heal our hurts, but in the here and the now, help us praise You. Praise You with no strings attached: not if You work things out a certain way, but because of who You are. And we will remember that the praise does precede the miracle, whatever that miracle will turn out to be.


I couldn’t find “Land of the Living” as an audio file, so here’s a video of my first favourite Carolyn Arends song: “Seize the Day.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.