Golden by Justin Zorn & Leigh Marz–Book Review

This book about silence covers a lot of territory — everything from individual spiritual practices to public green spaces and noise abatement regulations to neurobiology to the way that technology destroys our quiet time. It may change your ideas about what silence really is and how to achieve it. For example, we are prey to both internal and external “noise”, and we can experience silence even in an environment that is not completely quiet. Often our deepest experiences of silence involve a feeling of transcendence and connectedness rather than complete absence of sound.

It is not specifically Christian, but a number of Christian disciplines are discussed (also included are practices from other religious traditions). At the end of the book there is a listing of thirty-three ways to find silence, which recaps all the methods presented. You can also view some of what is said through a Christian lens — for example, at one point the authors discuss what they consider to be “the default position of our minds” –which is ME. To me that rings true, and is an indicator of original sin, since in Latin the term for sin is curvatus inse, which means turned into oneself. In another place, they interview people about that feeling they call “flow” or the “sweet spot” when we may not be quiet, but have the feeling that we are somehow “tuned in,” doing just what we were created to do in a way that is almost effortless (I would call this feeling God’s pleasure).

VERDICT: 3 STARS. Interesting and informative, but don’t expect to agree with all the views presented.

For more book reviews see:

until Leaves fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin–Book Review

It’s Not Your Turn by Heather Thompson Day–Book Review


Are You Willing to Change?

“All human nature vigorously resists grace, because grace changes us, and the change is painful.”

Flannery O’Connor

“The goal of spiritual practices is not altered states but altered traits.”

From Golden by Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz

These are two quotes that I’ve written down in my journal recently. They remind me of the fact that our Christian faith is always challenging us to become better people, to become more like Jesus. That change can take many forms and is different for each of us. Often, we’re afraid of what that change may mean to our lives. Will we have to move? Give up the job or the money that makes us feel secure? Will we have to sacrifice what we consider to be “righteous” anger? Or maybe we’ll have to actually try to make friends with our neighbors, even the ones we find annoying?

However, when we open ourselves to the possibility of change, when we give it a try, we often find the rewards are great. If we line ourselves up with God’s will for our lives, we feel His pleasure, and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

So, ask yourself today, am I willing to change for the sake of Christ? What might that look like?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

For more about change see:

Prayer Changes Me

Change My Heart

Inner Change

One Final Song for the Road

As I mentioned before, as my husband and I traveled to and from the AFLC Annual Conference in Wisconsin, we spent a lot of time listening to Christian music. I’ve shared a few of those songs already, and today I’ll mention one more.

Gene Watson’s ‘Jesus Is All I Need’ (Step One Records, 1997) was part of an album project which Gene had decided to undertake – a country music collection made up entirely of religious material.

The recording of this particular album became a family affair; six of the ten featured tracks were written by Gene Watson’s cousin Bobbie Joyce Harris Bost, while his sisters Virginia Ruth Watson Thompson and Mary Lois Watson Templeton, provided many harmony vocals. I hope you enjoy as you listen!

For more country music see:

Come On In

On the Wings of a Dove

Go Rest High On That Mountain

Love is (illustrated by Paola Escobar) –Book Review

This lovely book consists entirely of the words of Corinthians 13:4-7 — often described as “the love verses”. The illustrations are brightly colored scenes from nature that will enchant both children and parents.

The text is taken from the NLrV translation (an adaptation of the NIV for early readers) and is easy enough for youngsters aged 4-8 to read and understand. How can you go wrong with words taken directly from scripture? This one is easy to recommend!

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It does not dishonor other people. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails.”

VERDICT: 5 STARS: A delight to the eyes and perfectly biblical!

For more books for children see:

God is Hope by Amy Parker–Book Review

Song of Creation by Paul Goble — Book Review

Manger by Lee Bennett Hopkins — Book Review

Let Us Not Stop Meeting Together

It’s not always easy to attend a church conference. For my husband and I, it meant two days of driving, a lot of fast food (not our favorite) and giving up the daily routines that make us comfortable. It’s tempting to say, “let’s just forget it this year, and stay home.” After all, we can read the reports and check out the website for more information. We’ll see some pictures and get more information from The Ambassador. Do we really need to be there?

Well, there are reasons to spend the time and money to attend a conference. We get to see other members of the denomination we’ve met in the past. We pray together. We hear about what other congregations are doing. We learn things. We sing new songs. We’re inspired and encouraged. There is something about worshipping with a large group of that lifts us up. So, yes, despite the inconveniences, making an effort to be there is worthwhile.

Guess what? The same reasons apply to attending your local congregation. During the COVID pandemic, many people became accustomed to simply “watching” church on the internet. Others lost the habit of church attendance altogether. It’s certainly easier to sleep in, stay in your pj’s and listen to the sermon when it fits into your schedule. However, if you do that, you’re missing out on the many blessings I listed above.

There’s a reason for church conferences, and a reason for church services. We need to be a community. We need to be together. That’s part of being the body of Christ, and the BIble commands it.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Hey God, Can We Talk by Sarah Bowling–Book Review

I received this book free on my kindle from (if you haven’t signed up, check it out as a source for free and discounted books). I used it as part of my morning devotional time, reading a chapter each day.

In each chapter author Sarah Bowling describes a different prayer technique. Many are well-known — the daily examen, lectio divina. Others are less familiar, but all are biblically based and practical. For example, she suggests reading some of the Psalms of David alongside the events that were transpiring at the time the psalm was written.

Sarah gives examples from her own experience, and in some cases interviews friends to give different perspectives. She emphasizes the two-way aspect of prayer — not just talking to God but also listening. She also encourages sticking with a particular method for a while, but also moving on to try something different if a practice becomes dry, or just doesn’t work for you.

Best of all, there were questions at the end of each chapter that I used for journaling. At the end of the book, there is a short recap of each method.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to deepen their prayer life

For more about prayer see:

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Be Thou My Vision by Jonathan Gibson–Book Review

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

A Generational Change

At the AFLC Annual Conference, my husband and I noticed that the current group of leaders are retiring and being replaced by a new generation — a change is in process. The current president, Pastor Lyndon Korhonen had announced his intention to step down after 9 years in office. The newly elected president, Micah Hjermstad (who previously held the office of Association Secretary) is much younger. Pastor Bob Lee, who has been the editor of The Ambassador (the denomination’s magazine) for years, also retired. Once again, the newly elected editor is younger. I’m sure this is happening in other positions as well.

This is actually a good thing — the faith and the ideals of the Association are not dying out but being carried forward by a new group of Christian leaders. We give thanks for that! But for those of us who are older, it’s also a bit sad. Are we still needed? Are all of our tasks completed? What do we do next?

In the book of Proverbs, we read:

“The glory of young men is their strength,
    gray hair the splendor of the old.” Proverbs 20:29

and Job 12:12 tells us:

“Wisdom is with aged men,
And with length of days, understanding.”

Yes, we still have work to do. We may not have the strength needed to do all the daily tasks, but we can advise; we can mentor; we can write and research and study; we can pray; we can encourage. Roles may change, but until we are called home, we all have our part to play, our place in the body of Christ.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another,” Romans 12:4-4

For more about passing the faith on see:

Family Faith

All the Saints

Paul, Barnabas & Timothy

Some Lutheran Humor

The Bible tells us that laughter is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22), so it’s not surprising to find that borne out by science Laughter is, indeed, good for our health. It reduces stress, fights against depression and sorrow, fosters a positive outlook on life, and relieves tension. Laughter also lowers blood pressure, and impacts the cells in your body, preventing disease and setting you up to live long and strong. Although our annual church conference is serious business, there are moments of humor, and I thought I would share a few of these with you today. Maybe you will find a way to pass these small jokes along and make someone’s day a little merrier!

Q: Who was the best businesswoman in the Bible?

A: Pharoah’s daughter. She went to the Bank of the Nile and drew out a small prophet (profit).

The Bible tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17, but sometimes this process creates a lot of sparks!

Of course, there were many more puns, jokes and good-natured teasing, as we went about the discussing matters that were important for our entire church body. The WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation) sang their report, which was hilarious. It does us all good to remember that is part of life, too, and a bit of it, used correctly, can defuse a difficult situation, lift spirits, and inspire hope. As Christians, we have lots to be joyful about, so don’t forget to laugh!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

For more about laughter see these posts:

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Meter–Book Review

More Easter Laughter

Take Time to Laugh

Another One for the Road

This hymn is another favorite of mine that my husband and I listened to on our road trip to attend the recent AFLC Annual Conference. The text of “When Morning Gilds the Skies” is from an anonymous German hymn, “Beim fruhen Morgenlicht”. The date is unknown, but possibly as early as 1744. It was first published in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern. Edward Caswall (1814-1878), who was ordained as an Anglican priest, and later converted to Catholicism was the first to translate the hymn into English, likely from several variations of the text. The tune was composed by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), an accomplished and popular choral director in England.

For more hymns see these posts:

Nearer to Thee

Funeral Songs

O Holy Night

Lots of Prayer

Sven Oftedahl, who was a professor at Augsburg Seminary and a President of the Lutheran Free Church (predecessor of the AFLC) called the annual conference the “powerhouse” of the denomination. What fuels that power? In my opinion, it is prayer.

If you attend an AFLC conference, you will be given many opportunities for prayer. The daily meetings begin with a devotion given by one of the pastors, and of course, a prayer. Each committee report ends with a prayer for the activities, the people, the needs and the hopes of that particular ministry. During committee reports, there is also time for anyone attending to comment, make suggestions, or pray. Sometimes a prayer request will be given to those leading the conference — maybe because someone has been taken ill, or a difficulty has come up–in that case, we stop to pray for that situation. There are also regular prayer breaks throughout the day, when we gather in small groups with those around us to pray together. Of course, there is prayer before meal breaks, and prayer during the evening worship services.

What is the result? Well, there is remarkably little conflict. People get to know one another. Prayer creates a bond that continues even when the conference ends. As congregations, I think we could all take a page out of the AFLC’s book — the more we pray together, the closer we will be to one another and to God. So, pray, pray, pray.

 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2 42

For more posts about prayer see:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Prayer and Charity