The Bookshelf: I Want to Live These Days with You

I Want to Live These Days with You: A Year of Daily DevotionsI Want to Live These Days with You: A Year of Daily Devotions by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good Introduction

The daily readings in this year-long devotional form a good introduction to the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The writings are classic and well-suited to the different seasons of the year, but the book would have been improved greatly by identifying the source of the material in each daily reading and by putting dates or day numbers on each entry.

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A gift of divine grace (a #TBT post)

Rembrandt’s “Adoration of the Shepherds”

It doesn’t look promising for the people of Judah.

From Isaiah 7:18 through the end of chapter 8, it’s a message of despair. Armies will march. People will be humiliated. The population will be diminished to the point that just a couple of animals can provide enough food. They will find themselves oppressed by the nation to whom they turned for help. Spiritually, they will turn from God seeking the advice of spiritualists and the occult.

The dismal news comes to a climax in Isaiah 8:22: “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”

But … (don’t you love it when God says, “but.”) … into the darkness comes a great light. Continue reading

The Bookshelf: CSB Notetaking Bible

With Bible art journaling being all the rage, this may be an unpopular opinion.

I don’t like it.

It might be more accurate to say that I don’t like much of what I see posted online. It’s not the art itself. Much of what I have seen online is beautiful. I just don’t like that the words – the Word of God – is obscured by watercolors and markers that must bleed through to the opposite side of the page to create rather a mess of the text on the other side.

Bibles like the CSB Notetaking Bible may be one way to avoid this pet peeve of mine.

The Bible comes with a cloth over board cover featuring a flowery design that is repeated on the inside front and back covers. It is also available in a brown color with a diamond pattern and in genuine leather.

Inside, wide margins are lined at intervals that may be too small for people with larger handwriting. An additional lined page is included at the end of each book to allow for more space on which to write notes.

The text itself  is in a small font, but is clear and easy to read on cream-colored pages.

I particularly liked the reading plan included in the CSB Notetaking Bible. The plan includes a reading from the Psalms each Sunday with daily readings from the Old and New Testaments and special readings for the days prior to Easter and Christmas. It’s a plan designed to take the reader through the entire Bible in a year.

The concordance seems sizeable for a Bible of this size, and the colorful maps illustrate significant episodes including the travels of Abraham, the Exodus, the journeys of Paul and more.

Overall, this is a beautifully designed Bible, but it’s impractical for me, however, since I take copious notes during sermons and study times and would quickly run out of space in the lined margins.

If, however, you are interested in a Bible with wide margins to give you the space you need to be able to do artwork or to take notes during devotions or sermons, the CSB Notetaking Bible is an excellent choice.


Disclaimer: Thank you to B&H Publishing for providing me with a copy of the CSB Notetaking Bible in exchange for my unbiased review.



Advent Encounters: Mary, Part One (a #TBT post)

The Annunciation by Matthias Stomer (early 17th century Dutch artist)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

Oh, Mary. This is just the beginning of your story.

And I have questions, questions, questions … and not like the ones in the song. I’m guessing you pretty much had no idea that your baby boy would bring sight to the blind man or calm a storm with his hand. Maybe you did, but that would make you one of the very few who understood who your son was and what he would do as the promised Messiah.

All that aside.

Did you scream when the angel appeared? I mean, a mouse running across the floor is likely to make me yelp and this is an ANGEL!

Just how old were you? Folks who follow your son centuries later are all out of whack. Scholars tell us you were pretty young, but we insist on portraying you as a 20-something (or older) in various art forms. You could really help us maintain continuity if you could let us know.

Were your parents at home when the angel popped in? Did they freak out when they heard a man’s voice in your room?

And about Joseph. I know what the book of Matthew tells us, but what was it like, one-on-one when you told him about the angel’s visit?

I know this comes later, but why visit Elizabeth? I guess the angel’s mention of her prompted thoughts of her which might logically lead to a visit, but you had just received some seriously life-changing news and you decided to go off for a visit.

Speaking of that visit, please tell me someone went with you that the Bible never names. I’d hate to think of a young woman making such a long, dangerous trip alone.

Did you have anyone you could turn to during your pregnancy? Anyone who would listen when you were flat-out scared about the immense responsibility that comes with a newborn? Anyone who could offer words of comfort when you were worried that something would be wrong with the baby? Or, did the whole town simply sit in judgment on you and make you face the whole experience alone?

That’s enough of the questions for now.

But, before I go, I have to tell you one thing.

I love how you expected the miracle.

The angel showed up and started talking about having a son and how great he would be and how his kingdom would never end. You simply ask how it would happen since you were a virgin.

You didn’t make the logical assumption that the angel was talking about a child you would have with Joseph at a future time.

You expected a miracle.

And you expected it to happen immediately.

That doesn’t happen today. It’s too easy to be cynical and pessimistic. We’re clinical, scientific and prone to over-rationalizing. It’s too easy not to expect a miracle.

This Advent, let me live in expectation of miracles.

These Throwback Thursday (#TBT) posts are some of my favorites from previous blogs presented here with only the slightest editing. This post originally appeared on an older blog on December 3, 2010.

Wednesday Selah: Let Us Adore by Elevation Worship

Twinkling lights, cheery greetings and joyful parties often hide a truth about Christmas.

It can be a dark season for some, as the lyrics to Elevation Worship’s Let Us Adore remind us.

For the unclean, the unholy
For the broken, the unworthy ….

For the wounded, for the hurting
For the lost, and for the lonely ….

For the outcast, the defeated
For the weary, for the weakest ….

Ten years ago, our family had its darkest Christmas when my mother died unexpectedly just four days before what was her favorite holiday. As dark and difficult those days were, we had a hope and a light. It’s the light and hope that the song celebrates in its chorus.

You came, Jesus you came
O come all ye faithful
Bow before our Savior
Come let us adore
The one who came for us
Glory in the highest
Praise the name of Jesus
Our King has come

The presence of Christ doesn’t take away the sorrow of the hurting at Christmas, but it does give you the comfort and grace to make it through you know that the One who came as a baby in the manger is the One who suffered, died and rose again. And, he will come again as the One who will make all things new.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

(Revelation 21:3-5)

And that gives you the strength to celebrate anyway, to sing when the last thing you want to do is sing, to light a candle at the Christmas Eve service when you just want to be alone, and to give to others when you have little yourself.

This is what brings light to our dark world.

This is what honors and celebrates our Savior.

Advent Encounters: Elizabeth

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
(Luke 1:24-25 ESV)

Sarah laughed.

Hannah surrendered.

Elizabeth hid.

Three women to whom three promises were given exhibited three different reactions.

Sarah overheard the promise of an angel and laughed.

Hannah kept her vow to give her child to the Lord.

Elizabeth remained in seclusion, away from the public in a silent home with a husband who couldn’t speak and probably couldn’t hear because of his impertinent request for a sign.

In the silence, the worship was deafening.

Imagine living in a time when having no children was considered a disgrace. Think of the whispers among the townspeople as the years pass on and there’s still no baby. What thoughts run through your own mind when you know ― as Elizabeth and Zechariah no doubt did ― that those who fear the Lord will be blessed with a full house and there are still only two people at your table?

And now, God promises a child.

And one is on the way even though you’re considered too old.

Of course, you worship the One who made the promise and the miracle.

In the few words that Scripture devotes to her time in seclusion, Elizabeth echoes the words of her ancestor, Rachel, as she acknowledged God for showing her favor and taking away her disgrace from among the people.

Another promised son with a God-designed destiny.

Sarah’s son Isaac became the father of Jacob, whose sons became the leaders of the tribes of Israel.

Hannah’s son was Samuel the priest who anointed Saul and David, shepherding the nation through its early days under the rule of kings.

And Elizabeth’s son would have the greatest honor of all though he would never take it for himself. Years later, people would be drawn to him ― a prophet in the desert declaring the coming of the kingdom of God, calling on all to repent. He would declare the coming of the Messiah.

This Throwback Thursday post originally appeared on a previous blog.

Wednesday Selah: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Meredith Andrews

What Israel anticipated has become our history – a history that is alive in Jesus Christ and awaiting another arrival. We wait in a different type of Advent, filled with anger, divisiveness, oppression, poverty, violence – all of which were present at the first Advent under Roman rule.

But then, as now, there were promises that brought hope. The Jewish people set their eyes on the prophecies of men like their great King David, and Isaiah, who spoke these words into the darkness of their times:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

And these words that promised a time of justice and righteousness:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

The light for which the Israelites hoped and prayed dawned in a Bethlehem stable.

Death could not extinguish the light. The crucifixion of Christ gave way to the glory of the resurrection, and the hope that lives today as we await His return in our own Advent season.

Meredith Andrews brings together the ancient Advent with our season of waiting today in her beautiful rendition of Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus. The added chorus of this song, featured in the graphic below, celebrates this more beautifully than I ever could.

Christmas can wait (a #TBT post)

Photograph taken by Michael Kappel

I had one of the coolest temp jobs ever in college. It was temp in every possible sense of the word, lasting only one night and paying pretty decently for the late 80s/early 90s.

The local mall contracted with the theater department at my college to put up the rather extravagant Christmas decorations. We would show up at the mall as the stores were closing and a mall employee would lead us through a maze of corridors behind the stores to a room that warehoused all the decorations.  A couple of pizzas and several hours later, the center stage area was transformed into a proper Santa wonderland with tall, tall trees and scads of faux snow.

Back then, we didn’t put them up before Halloween. It may not have been the week before Thanksgiving break, but it certainly wasn’t as early as election day. Of course, the commercial Christmas season was shorter back then. This year, I saw Christmas trees in the stores in mid-October when my nephew and I were looking for a new shirt for his high school homecoming. Twitter friends reported hearing Christmas music on the radio as early as Nov. 1.

The increasing length of the consume-athon that has become Advent in America is beginning to turn me from Bob Crachit into Ebenezer Scrooge.

I want to reclaim the wonder of Christmas.

I want Christmas decorations to magically appear in the stores after a proper Thanksgiving in which we have paused to remember all our blessings before we run out asking for more.

I want the Christmas music to start being played on the radio on Black Friday morning.

I want to see sparking lights adorning houses the weekend after Thanksgiving – not competing for space with the mums and carved pumpkins of Halloween.

I can only control so much of my exposure to the trappings of Christmas before the traditional start on Black Friday, but still I try, keeping my favorite scene from my favorite Christmas special firmly in mind.

This Throwback Thursday post originally appeared on a previous blog on November 16, 2010. Posting it before Christmas made it a bit more relevant, but the sentiment remains as we’re only a week into December.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Matt Maher

Let’s not move too quickly into the season. Advent is to be a time of anticipation, of waiting for the promised One. It’s easy to want to skip ahead to the celebration, but there is much to learn and to experience in the anticipation that makes the celebration all the more joyous when it comes.

That’s what I remember most about Christmas as a kid. The month of December passed so very slowly. It seemed the weeks would drag on from the time I watched Santa arrive at the mall until Christmas Eve. The anticipation continued to build day after day.

Now, I wish I could bring back those days. Now, any longing for the celebration of Christmas proper can get lost in the daily grind to which is added all the preparation for the holiday. Instead of anticipation, we’re burdened with a sense of time slipping through our fingers.

So, what do you do?


Paper plates instead of fancy place settings.

Old decorations that have been in the family for years instead of poring over Pinterest for the newest and brightest.

Limit time on social media for time in the Scriptures (particularly those prophesying the coming of the Messiah) and a good Advent devotional.

Take time for cookies and dinner and adventures with the family. The house cleaning can wait until January.

And above all, no matter how tired, how weary I get … rejoice! Help is on the way. Christ has come.

This is post in the ongoing Wednesday Selah series. After diving back into the work week on Monday and racing through all the tasks that Tuesday brings, let’s take a pause on Wednesday and lift up the name of the only One who matters – Jesus. Find out more about the word, selah, and its use in the Psalms here.