[Borrowed and edited once more from a blog by Justin Taylor, Crossway Sr. VP & publisher, because the story behind the song blows me away and puts life in perspective…]

In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War.  Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).

Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning, and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.

When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a solider. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.

Longfellow later wrote to his friends [Sen.] Charles Sumner, [Gov.] John Andrew, and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg.

While dining at home on December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement. The theme of listening recurs throughout the poem, leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Respectfully… with hope… always…


what Christmas is all about

From the 1965 animated TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” based on the comic strip Peanuts, there’s a great message thanks to Charles M. Schulz…

The 25 minute special begins with the Peanuts gang skating on the pond together, singing gleefully “Christmas Time Is Here.” Yet Charlie Brown has little joy in the moment — instead, seemingly disturbed and depressed. 

He tells his buddy Linus he’s not sure as to why, to which Linus casually dismisses Charlie’s perceived typical attitude, quoting their friend Lucy: “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

As the special continues, so does Charlie’s depression. He seems increasingly disturbed at all the commercialism around him… the focus on the money… the focus on gifts… cards… Santa… even the focus on a Christmas decor lighting contest (congrats, Snoopy). 

Charlie wanders, wondering if we really understand the meaning of the season — and all the things that potentially get in the way… that is, unless we are intentional in our pause, recognizing why we share in the happiness of the holidays, the greetings of the season, and the available peace, even when life isn’t easy.

Finally near the show’s end, cumulating in a Christmas play in which the gang is dancing with great joy once again, Charlie Brown cries out:

“Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!”

To which his pal Linus, humbly, sincerely answers once more…

“Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please?

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. 

And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. 

And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ 

And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.’

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Merry Christmas, friends. 

Amidst all the joy and cheer — even and maybe especially, on the days when it is not the actual holiday — may we remember and be encouraged by what Christmas is all about.

Blessings… always…


the Hymn of Joy

“The Hymn of Joy” was a poem written in 1907 by Henry van Dyke. Intended to be musically set to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” we know it better as the song, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

Mindful of the current season, allow us to share the original poem in its brief entirety. There is one line I wish to emphasize…

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee

God of glory, Lord of love

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee

Op’ning to the Sun above

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness

drive the dark of doubt away

Giver of immortal gladness

fill us with the light of day

All Thy works with joy surround Thee

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays

Stars and angels sing around Thee

center of unbroken praise

Field and forest, vale and mountain

Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea

chanting bird and flowing fountain

call us to rejoice in Thee

Thou art giving and forgiving

ever blessing, ever blest

well-spring of the joy of living

ocean-depth of happy rest

Thou the Father, Christ our Brother—

all who live in love are Thine

Teach us how to love each other

lift us to the Joy Divine

Mortals join the mighty chorus

which the morning stars began

Father-love is reigning o’er us

brother-love binds man to man.

Ever singing, march we onward

victors in the midst of strife

joyful music lifts us sunward

in the triumph song of life

Van Dyke himself considered this “a hymn of trust and joy and hope.” Perhaps it’s due to that one line — a line most challenging in current culture… 

“Teach us how to love each other.”

Note that there is no self focus. There is no shutting down of another. There is no lack of listening nor insinuation that we are the ones who are always right.

Instead there is a focus on others — learning to love and respect them… no matter what. Maybe that’s the secret to the increased joy.

What a fantastic time of year to join in van Dyke’s call…

Learning how to love and value one another, no matter how alike… no matter how not… 



an (un)natural Christmas act

Ten years and one day ago, I penned the edited post below. For some reason, Christmastime makes us think of what is virtuous, what is good. Some of what is good feels a little unnatural…


There’s something about this time of year that makes us all think a little more about virtues… like gratitude and charity, peace and love, faith and goodwill toward men. But there’s one virtue to me, that trumps all others, even though I rarely see it mentioned on any sparkling Christmas, Hanukkah, or even Kwanzaa card.

Forgiveness. Grace and forgiveness.

This is not a one-blog discussion [as we’ve acknowledged these past ten years]. Not everyone believes in grace and forgiveness, and even those of us who do, have trouble offering such both liberally and consistently. I’ve seen Christians and non-Christians extend it. I’ve seen Christians and non-Christians withhold it – unfortunately but often understandably, usually in the name of self-protection. My guess is that old song about “knowing we are Christians by our love” might serve us better if people knew “we were Christians by our grace.” Offering grace – and not in reference to any pre-meal activity – is a seemingly unnatural act.

Today let me simply borrow from one of my favorite books, What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. I read it several years ago, and it changed the way I think. Here is Yancey’s insight as to the challenge of extending forgiveness:

“I and the public know

What all school children learn,

Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return.

W.H. Auden, who wrote those lines, understood that the law of nature admits no forgiveness. Do squirrels forgive cats for chasing them up trees or dolphins forgive sharks for eating their playmates? It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, not dog-forgive-dog. As for the human species, our major institutions – financial, political, even athletic – run on the same unrelenting principle. An umpire never announces, ‘You were really out, but because of your exemplary spirit I’ll call you safe.’ Or what nation responds to its belligerent neighbors with the proclamation, ‘You are right, we violated your borders. Will you please forgive us?’

The very taste of forgiveness seems somehow wrong. Even when we have committed a wrong, we want to earn our way back into the injured party’s good graces. We prefer to crawl on our knees, to wallow, to do penance, to kill a lamb – and religion often obliges us. When the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV decided to seek the pardon of Pope Gregory VII in 1077, he stood barefoot for three days in the snow outside the papal quarters in Italy. Probably, Henry went away with a self-satisfied feeling, wearing frostbite scars as the stigmata of forgiveness.

‘Despite a hundred sermons on forgiveness, we do not forgive easily, nor find ourselves easily forgiven. Forgiveness, we discover, is always harder than the sermons make it out to be,’ writes Elizabeth O’Connor. We nurse sores, go to elaborate lengths to rationalize our behavior, perpetuate family feuds, punish ourselves, punish others – all to avoid this most unnatural act.”

This is tough. At a time of year when a focus on virtues is both apparent and appropriate, have we taken time to ask ourselves: 

Is there anyone out there I need to forgive? 

Are there any situations in which I have justified withholding forgiveness? 

And is there anything for which I am punishing myself?

Today’s conversation is merely a beginning point in the dialogue. One blog [nor ten years of blogs] will not change the world nor those financial, political, even athletic institutions. Our hearts, however, can be changed… through the blessing that comes via a powerful, unnatural act.



30 things

I’m one of those persons who believes gratitude can be endless; there is always something to be thankful for… on good days, bad days, all days in between. In fact, even in sadness and sorrow, we can still be thankful to the great big God of the universe. It’s profoundly amazing — even  in those times of sadness and sorrow  how the intentional expression of thanks positively impacts our entire health and well-being.

What are you thankful for? (… a small compilation of your gratitude — edited for the purposes of conciseness…)

  • I’m thankful for my family and friends.
  • I’m thankful that there is breath in my body for another day.
  • I’m thankful for my my job.
  • I’m thankful for a few days off work.
  • I’m thankful for the Hallmark channel and all the sappy movies.
  • I’m thankful the election is over and there are no more political ads! (At least for a while.)
  • I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve others in disaster recovery!  
  • I’m thankful for our veterans.
  • I’m thankful to be cool. (Thanks, Josh.)
  • I’m thankful for trees that are green in the summer, with red, orange, and yellow in the fall, and snow covered or icy in the winter and beautiful flowers in the spring. I love how God uses his creativity to make the world we live in so beautiful!
  • I’m thankful for my church.
  • I’m thankful for my ‘hood.
  • I’m thankful for coffee and wine. Sometimes more wine.
  • I’m thankful for a good book.
  • I’m thankful my cancer is gone!
  • I’m thankful for snow.
  • I’m thankful for no snow.
  • I’m thankful that God knew we would need a plan of redemption that Jesus was willing to fulfill.   
  • I’m thankful for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs!
  • I’m thankful to be getting married in less than 2 weeks!
  • I’m thankful the Halloween candy is gone!
  • I’m thankful my kids are home.
  • I’m thankful for the Ronald McDonald House.
  • I’m thankful for my animals.
  • I’m thankful for planes, trains, and automobiles that help us get where we need to go.
  • I’m thankful for a renewed understanding of community.
  • I’m thankful for Game Day!
  • I’m thankful that even through the hard stuff, God showed me things. I’m ok.
  • I’m thankful for “The Office,” “Friends,” and Netflix.
  • I’m thankful I only have to cook once this week, even if it is a really big once.

So again I ask: what are you thankful for?

Shall we practice gratitude?

As our nation pauses this week, may we practice gratitude —  being always aware of the blessing and benefit from the intentional expression of thanks. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends… always…


taking notes on the 4th

Declared in Congress, July 4th, 242 years ago today:

“… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Taking notes…

Truths… we don’t question these… this is reality… always accurate and in play…

Self-evident... it’s obvious… it doesn’t have to be nor should have to be explained… to any…

All… all people… men and women, it would now say…

Are created equal… regardless of who you are, what you look like, color or creed, gender, generation, ethnicity, intellect, or faith… whether you’re a Democrat or Republican… voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or none of the above… equal, it says… not better… not worse… no superiority… 

Endowed by their Creator… acknowledging God and him having an active role in our existence… he is an active God, giving us something… endowing… shows we recognize that not only do we not have life all figured out, but we aren’t even capable… it’s a “God thing” — not a ‘me’ or ‘we’ thing… we leave God out sometimes… often, maybe… seems we’re missing something… really important…

Unalienable Rights… what are those?… something that can’t be sold or transferred or taken away, I’m told… something permanent — with us/for us always here on Earth… and God is declared the giver of those… not man… not government… man and government are not to be equated with God… they can’t… they aren’t the same…

Among these are Life… Ah, I see now why we squabble… so many issues with so many angles in regard to what this looks like… what does the unalienable right to Life look like, especially when considering an infant, a criminal, or one at war… not arguing… just asking… desiring dialogue, always… wish we all asked and listened more than ranted and raved… we could learn so much if we listened better — tolerated, even considered varied perspective…

Liberty… Oh, let freedom ring!… maybe this is what’s hardest for us… Liberty is an unalienable Right… and it feels so good!! … but what happens when your freedom encroaches upon my freedom?… but what if it doesn’t… what if it really doesn’t… what if someone else’s Liberty doesn’t really obstruct or impede… what if the real issue is that I want you to think like me… I want the rights of others to align with me being the one who thinks rightly…

And the pursuit of Happiness… isn’t this an individual thing? … do I need everyone to think like me and embrace what I believe and accept how I behave in order for me to be happy?… seems like we can be pretty blindly selfish at times… yes, me included…

Thinking maybe there is something we can still learn here, even though it was 242 years ago…

“The Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled,” concluded that day…

“… support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

A recognition of the divine, Providence, a commitment to one another, our fortunes, and honor…

… learning how to honor one another…

Still taking notes….

Respectfully on the 4th of July…


an imperfect reflection

[Intramuralist Note: Beginning the week of April 1st, new posts will appear on Sundays and Wednesdays. We want you to be able to depend on what day posts will appear. So thank you. We so appreciate you joining in the conversation!]


It’s Easter.

For Christians across the globe, it’s one of the holiest, most meaningful days of the year. It’s one of the few days, the stores close, families gather, and we reflect upon what’s most important.

The focus is Jesus — a man recognized by most all major religions as truly walking this planet some 2,000 years ago… the only central leader of a faith whose body isn’t dead, decaying in a tomb somewhere… and how all but one of his inner circle is said to have died a martyr’s dead; people don’t willingly die for something they believe to be untrue.

Jesus is a person.

Jesus is not a doctrine or a theology. He is a person.

And that’s what makes him different.

A Christian’s faith is not in any well-defined dogma — in some magic “fix-it” or “fix-me” formula. Our faith is instead in a person. Jesus asks us to look at him, who he is, and become more like him.

I look at the extent of his character, all those traits that make him stand out more than any of the rest of us… he is kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting. He accepts people where they are at. It’s not that he doesn’t care how we live, but he doesn’t get hung up on where we’re at. He accepts us where we are, as we are, and encourages each of us to grow.

But here’s the thing…

As one who desires to love Jesus back, I am not all of the above. I am not always kind, compassionate, servant-hearted and certainly not accepting. Sometimes I’m unloving. Sometimes I’m arrogant. Sometimes, too, in fact, I’m a total, broken mess.

All that brokenness makes me an imperfect reflection of who Jesus really is.

Thank God that we each have opportunity to be the recipient of his amazing, unending, extravagant grace. As a mess, I need that. Daily.

And I think that’s part of the problem in the world today; we make assumptions about each other and the imperfect messes that we each are.

For those who are believers, we sometimes forget that we are imperfect. We sometimes allow ourselves to think we are somehow different than those around us — like any of us need a savior less than another. Sometimes we get puffed up or uncaring or treat others in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

For those who are skeptics, we sometimes forget that Christians are not Christ. We sometimes allow ourselves to base our faith on people other than Jesus — like if his followers are like that, “no way do I want to be.” Sometimes we get puffed up or critical or treat believers in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

The reality is that we — me —we are imperfect reflections of Jesus.

In my desire to love Jesus back for who he is and all he has done — walking this planet, exemplifying a wisdom and perfection that I humanly cannot — I deeply wish for each of us is to be more kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting.

Such a pursuit is life-changing.

Such is what I’m so thankful for at Easter.

Blessings, friends… always… to all…

a miracle in disguise

One of the things I don’t think this world does very well is consistently honor those who think differently than we do. Even though technically after the season, the Intramuralist wishes not to miss the messages of peace on Earth and “goodwill to men” that are visible when we do honor and respect one another. Thus, as told by Morris M in “TopTenz” and Rheana Murray in the New York Daily News some 5 years ago, note just one of the practical ways we can love on one another, starting with this special season of the year…


“If you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet, getting into a car crash the week before Christmas is probably the last thing you want to do. So when Kim Kerswell rear-ended Sherene Borr on her way to get some last-minute presents, she had plenty reason to curse life out, big time. Only it turned out life was dealing her an unexpected favor…”


Single mom Kim Kerswell thought getting into a pricey fender-bender was the worst thing that could have happened to her weeks before Christmas.

It turned out to be the best.

Not only did the woman she hit forgive any damages to her car, she volunteered to save Christmas for Kerswell and her family.

“You could tell she was stressed,” Sherene Borr told the Daily News on Tuesday.

Kerswell rear-ended Borr in a Milford, Mass. parking lot last week, outside the Panera Bread where Kerswell works. As the women exchanged information, Kerswell divulged she was struggling to make ends meet, and raising two kids on her own.

An accident was the last thing the 30-year-old mom needed.

“She wasn’t sure if they could even afford Christmas,” Borr said.

“I explained to her that I grew up in a single mom family, and know how difficult it is.”

Borr, 37, offered to adopt Kerswell’s family for the holiday season and make sure her children had presents under the tree.

“For me, she’s like an angel,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

Borr, who also has two children, enlisted friends to help purchase all the gifts — including One Direction memorabilia for Kerswell’s 12-year-old daughter and a toy truck for her 3-year-old son.

“I have a good sense of when people are really in need,” Borr said. “I could just tell. We both ended up in tears.”

Borr, who is Jewish, adopts families every Christmas season with help from her synagogue. She’s making sure Kerswell is stocked with groceries, gift cards, and toys and clothes for her kids.

Kerswell vows to pay Borr’s kindness forward when she can.

“I know things are going to get better and when they do, my daughter and I, and my son, we’re going to help another family,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

The moms say they’ll “absolutely” be friends well after the holidays are over.


“Think about that for a second. Some people freak out if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Go smashing into their car and there’s no telling what might happen. But Borr not only didn’t get mad, she went out of her way to help this clearly stressed-out woman provide a Christmas for her kids that would have been unthinkable under normal circumstances. It just goes to show that, even in our rough-and-tumble world, people are still capable of the most heart-warming actions.”

Oh, how I love the practical ways we can show love and respect to one another. May we always be challenged to grow in this area… to value all…


one word in a new year

So there are certain things the Intramuralist will always advocate for…

… respect…
… humility…
… growth…
… intentionality…

… each near the top of the list.

A year ago, we introduced the new year concept of picking a word — a single word.

As blogged by the self-described “regular guy,” Mike Ashcraft, on his “MyOneWord” site (with a few select edits by moi):

“I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Just a couple days after one holiday and a couple of days before the next, the week between gives me a chance to think about the year that was, and the year that is lies ahead.

The wonderful chaos of Christmas is behind me and there’s the proverbial ‘calm after the storm.’

What will you do with the relative calm of the next few days before work and routine begins again?

Once the presents have all been unwrapped and company has gone home, we’re great at looking ahead to next year and all the ways we want it to be different. We’re ready for a fresh start. A new wall calendar. Maybe a gym membership. Perhaps a January cleaning or organizing spree.

But what about bringing this year to a great close?

How can you finish the journey of 2017 well?

Think about this like a journey on an airplane. You take off, reach cruising altitude a few months into the year, then you can feel free to move about the cabin a while.

Soon after Christmas you hear the captain say: ‘Flight Attendants, please prepare the cabin for final approach.’ This means your trip is almost done. The journey is about to end. You are getting ready to land. But have you prepared for landing?

If you don’t intentionally land in a plane, what do you do?

You crash.

I suspect most of us just crash at the end of the year. We’re exhausted from the speed in which the year ended, and slightly dazed from the Christmas celebrations. Engines off. No preparations made for a final approach. We just shut down and crash until the new year appears.

And in our exhaustion, we fail to make time to intentionally land the year we’ve just lived.

I want to invite you to use this week a little more intentionally — not just to prepare yourself for 2018, but to bring 2017 to a close — to finish well.

For many of us, the end of one year and the beginning of the next happen in the same moment. There is a ten second count down. There are kisses and confetti, party horns and people all around us. Fun, but not a real conducive environment for reflection and stillness.

Can I suggest you schedule time in these days between the holidays to finish well in 2017?

Make an appointment with yourself.  Carve some space over the next few days. Don’t just wait for the new year to begin — but rather land the plane before you take off again.

This time of year provides an incredible opportunity to look at the past and the future — without regret or fear. We just need to prepare to land.

You can find a great resource to guide you through a personal retreat here.

Finishing well is a critical part of starting strong. Maybe, this will become your favorite week as well!”

The days until the end of the year are nearly done. But let us start 2018 well… with respect for all… humbly, always… being intentional… and committed to individual growth.

Cheers, friends. And happy new year!


victors in the midst of strife

Still desiring to intentionally focus on what’s most important and the joys of the season, I’ve repeatedly had one song running in my head (… and thank God it was neither about Grandma getting run over or whatever marshmallows have to do with Christmas).

I can’t shake the words shared in “The Hymn of Joy.”

More commonly called “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” after the hymn’s first line, Henry van Dyke penned the poem in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the infamous “Ode to Joy,” the final movement of Beethoven’s final symphony.

Van Dyke felt he shared “simple expressions,” expressions of feeling and “desires in this present time.” As I keep singing along with the ongoing tune, I can help but believe the “present time” extends to now.

He starts first with praise, recognizing someone, something bigger than he…

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love…”

He then shares a vulnerability, transparency, and submission — a submission that is nothing short of beautiful…

“Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.”

And then the power that submission has, with a clear awareness that sin is real for each of us, although it doesn’t have to be damning…

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away…”

The great big God of the universe is acknowledged as the source of gladness and light — no doubt a gladness that extends to peace, hope, and a true, unshakable inner joy…

“Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

And while the rest of the joy-filled song of trust and hope goes on to acknowledge more of the characteristics and creation that can only be attributed to God, there is one line in the song that seems the reason it resonates so loudly in my head — the reason it’s evident of the feelings and desires of this present time.

It’s an area where each of us seems challenged… and where each of us could indeed grow… no matter our age, stage, or any ethnic, religious or other demographic category…

Right after acknowledging the works of the Almighty — both on this Earth and in each of us — Van Dyke writes:

“Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine…”

Look at the unparalleled joy when we learn to love one another!

And yet, too often, for too many self-justifying reasons, we — yes, we — intentionally withhold love from another. We act as if another doesn’t deserve our love and respect. They are less worthy, we have somehow concluded.

Oh, how we fail some days amidst the strife. Oh, how so often intelligence seems to get in the way. Intelligence and wisdom are so not the same thing.

Lord, teach us how to love each other.

Let us “join the happy chorus…”
Let us recognize you “reigning o’er us…”
Let us be “victors in the midst of strife…”

In this present time.