Tag Archives: wonder

Review: Letters to the Church, by Francis Chan

Letters to the Church, by Francis Chan (David C Cook, 2018)

I’ve read some impactful Christian nonfiction this year, but this book may be the most crucial.

Francis Chan writes here with a gentle, prayer-steeped tone, knowing some of what he has to say can sound hard and may be misused.

He actually pleads with readers not to use his words to berate leaders who may not be doing the best they could. And he confesses those times he’s been where some of those leaders may be. (He does warn readers who discover they’re in a church with false teaching to find a Bible-based church right away!)

So now you’re wondering what kind of book this is. It’s the result of the author’s study of what church looked like in the Book of Acts and what it looks like in other parts of the world today.

He challenges readers to “slow down long enough to marvel” [page 5] about Who God is and who we are in Him, advising, “don’t try to solve the mystery; just stare at it.” [page 7]

Chapters address wonder, pleasing God first, prayer, leadership, suffering, attitudes, and more. The focus is on simplifying, going back to the Gospel basics, and developing into an intimate capital-C Church family. The model is house churches, but it has plenty of insights and challenges that readers can apply in established building-based churches as well.

Favourite lines:

Remember it’s not about what I would like, what others would like, or what “works.” Church is for Him. [page 150]

My hope is that you will refuse to take the easy route. You need to care about His Church enough to fast and pray. You must believe you play a necessary role in the Church. [page 151]

One of the key takeaways is that each member of the church has a role to fulfill and that everyone working together is the church. The shepherds are to be training up other shepherds, not raising complacent sheep.

Francis Chan built and shepherded a megachurch in California before God called him and his family to missions in various parts of Asia. At the time of this book’s publication they were back in the United States, planting and growing house churches as part of wearechurch.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: Set the Stars Alight, by Amanda Dykes

Set the Stars Alight, by Amanda Dykes

Set the Stars Alight, by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House, 2020)

Lyrical, beautiful, heart-warming and satisfying, Set the Stars Alight is a must-read.

Page one welcomed me in like I was coming home.

Before I even reached that page, the dedication spoke to me—the part about wonder:

Hang on to it, brave ones.
And more—hang on to the Giver of it.
Though darkness may fall and times grow hard,
hold fast to this given light. [Kindle location 45]

Timely words for a hard year like 2020.

The novel follows two timelines: 1987 – 2020 and the 1800s during the Napoleonic wars, each revealing what’s needed to understand the other. It’s not choppy, switching timelines each chapter; instead, the story flows in segments with time enough to settle in place and care about the people involved.

In the contemporary thread, childhood friends Lucy and Dashel reunite as adults in a quest to locate a legendary shipwreck in the English Channel. The historical thread follows Frederick, a landowner’s son, and the young lovers Juliette and Elias.

Some of the many lines I highlighted in the book are sparks of light to hold close:

Taking note of the good, the true, the just, the miracles hidden at every turn is like…a deliberate act of defiance against the darkness. [Lucy’s father, Kindle location 431]

Such freedom, to know our limits. And to know the God who has none. [Clara, Kindle location 3347]

Others are just beautiful:

The woman had a way of almost gliding—not in the graceful, practiced way of the ladies of gothic novels, but rather more like an apparition gliding over ice. [Kindle location 1625]

Set the Stars Alight is a novel of love and loyalty, friendship and faith, that encourages wonder and affirms the value of everyday actions and individual lives. As an added bonus, readers who loved Amanda Dykes’ debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, will welcome the quiet nod to that book in chapter 25.

For more about author Amanda Dykes, visit amandadykes.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via #NetGalley.]

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The Sheep Who Attended a Writers’ Conference

It started as a joke.

One of my sons offered his stuffed sheep as a travelling companion when I packed for Write! Canada in 2012. I have a sheep of my own (named Acton) but he’s big enough to count as carry-on luggage.

Stuffed sheep in a Busy Beads toy

Taking a break between flights in Montreal

Wilhelm, on the other hand, stands maybe 4 inches tall. And he’s cute as all get-out.

He came along. We had some fun on the way.

Then I decided to smuggle him into the first conference session, just so I could say he’d been there.

I listen at Write! Canada. To the faculty, to my fellow attendees, and to God. This theme showed up early: Look. Listen. Recapture wonder and curiosity. 

Look at that face. Could it get more wide-eyed and wonder-filled?

Wilhelm rode in my shoulder bag all conference, peeking out as a visual aid to remind me of the lesson. Unprofessional? Maybe. Quirky? Yup. Conversation starter? Definitely.

We came home with two new books on writing. Have you read either of these? I confess I haven’t read the fantasy one yet, but my review of Unleash the Writer Within is here, and I highly recommend this book.

Unleash the Writer Within cover artThe Write's Complete Fantasy Reference

Wonder: 4 links + an assignment

It was almost a year ago at Write! Canada that God challenged me to open my eyes and see with wonder–a lesson I too quickly forgot! He’s been reminding me again, and it’s finally time to read my copy of Margaret Feinberg’s Wonderstruck that’s been waiting since Christmas. Part of the reminder came through some blog posts that I encourage you to read if you’re at all in need of a wonder-attitude-enthusiasm infusion.

At Hello God, Welcome to My Classroom, Linden Barrick muses on how rarely we encounter something special that brightens our spirits, when there are special touches in every day. [Read Where is My Enthusiasm]

Jon Rouse encourages us to learn to live each day aware of God’s presence and of the good things around us. [Read Life So Aware]

At Magellan Life Coaching, Reba J. Hoffman looks beyond the “glass half-empty or half-full” and urges us to enjoy the water. [Read Drink What’s There]

And author Grace Fox calls us to see again with childlike wonder. [Read Rediscovering the Wonder of Creation]

Those were the four links. Here’s the assignment:

Take a minute, or two, or three… what do you see in this photo? Really see? Yes, there’s a dandelion, and weed or no, it’s kind of pretty. See the delicate white blossoms on what’s probably another weed? Take a look at the grass (and weed leaves!) How many different types of leaves are there? How many different shades of green?

There is wonder all around us, my friends.  The universe is practically dripping with it. Wonder and the glory of God. May He open our eyes to see and our hearts to receive. Have a wonder-full day!


Isn’t it an evocative word?


After my devotional post this week (Surrounded by Glory), author/illustrator Janis Cox alerted me to a new book and Bible study releasing Christmas Day by Margaret FeinbergWonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God.

The book is described as

A personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. Wonderstruck will help you:

  • Recognize the presence of God in the midst of your routine
  • Unearth extraordinary moments on ordinary days
  • Develop a renewed passion for God
  • Identify what’s holding you back in prayer
  • Discover joy in knowing you’re wildly loved

I don’t know about you, but that tugs at my spirit.

Janis invites us to

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter (#livewonderstruck), Facebook  or her blog.

To read Jan’s full post, click here.

Surrounded by Glory

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Psalm 19:1, NLT*

My part of Canada is just heading into winter’s cold. We have crisp mornings with each grass blade sheathed in white and with cars covered in etched patterns of frost. The change is new enough that I might see mist rising from the still-warmer lakes on my way to work.

Beauty is everywhere.

I’m challenged by how rarely I stop to take notice, and I’m reminded of how God nudged me in June to be alert to find wonder. How quickly I’ve forgotten!

It’s not just the beauty or the details. And it’s not just about stopping to enjoy it. It’s God – in the details, giving us a glimpse of who He is. It’s amazing.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries
[From “Aurora Leigh”]

Magnificent and lavish Creator God, forgive us for getting used to the glory that surrounds us and for taking it for granted. Awaken us to see what You’ve made, and to see the hints of who You are. Earth is so crammed with Heaven that it’s dripping with Your glory. Open our eyes. Captivate us. Draw us to worship, to wonder, to adore.

Todd Agnew’s song, “Isaiah 6,” is about the glory of God. Don’t miss the line about God’s glory filling the whole earth.

*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.

A Satisfied Soul

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5, NIV*

In last week’s post, I was caught by the promise of forgiveness, healing, and rescue from the pit. They shaped my prayers, both for those who don’t yet know Jesus and for myself.

Later we had a beautiful snowfall, and I thought about how something will occasionally renew my sense of wonder. These same verses came back to mind.

I’ve praised and thanked God for forgiving all my sins and healing all my soul’s diseases. I’ve committed to Him any diseases I’ve nurtured or kept from Him, praying in trust and thankfulness that He wants to finish what He started. I thanked Him for rescuing my life from the pit.

In prayer for certain hurting people, I claimed the rest of the passage and prayed for renewal. For me, I thanked God without thinking about what it meant.

LORD, what does it mean to tell my soul You crown it with love and compassion?

That you satisfy its desires with good things so its youth is renewed?

What sort of things does a soul desire?

When something renews my sense of wonder, everything feels more alive. The world is brighter, my faith more vibrant. Hope glows, excitement and possibilities dance.

Father, please open my soul to be satisfied by the good things You provide: Your own presence with me, sunlight on icicles, a flight of birds. A rainbow. A good story. A miracle. Help me let You renew my soul’s youth… my innocence?

String these moments together to make a lasting change. Help me embrace them and renew my soul. Forgive me for how quickly I’ve forgotten and subsided under the daily stress. Help me let Your renewal glow within me, a holy light to warm and heal.

Oh, LORD, I praise You for Your mercies toward me – mercies You promise are new every morning. Let my soul not forget Your benefits, nor discount them as “only for others.”

I’m not being a bother or an inconvenience to accept these benefits from You. Instead, I’m actually blocking Your will if I don’t. Your love and grace initiated this, and my proper response is joyful acceptance.

And wonder.

Today’s song is “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul“, sung here by Andrae Crouch and choir.

*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.