Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence lives with her husband and two children in the western suburbs of Chicago. She serves as the associate pastor for spiritual formation at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale, Illinois and is completing her M.Div. at Calvin Theological Seminary. Joy also holds an MCS from Regent College (Vancouver) and serves worship organizations and churches as a biblical storyteller and director of enacted scripture. She has written for many organizations, including Christianity Today International.
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- A Series on James' Letter to the Church
At Thornapple Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, MI, in the summer of 2014, our preaching pastor, Rob Peterson, planned a worship series on the book of James entitled “A Word to the Wise: Exploring the Themes in James.” The book of James is full of godly wisdom, wisdom that is needed today especially in order to develop Christian maturity and a healthy Christian community. Some of the questions addressed in James include these:
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There are some ideas I can’t get out of my head, even if they might not be very good. One idea is that it could be fun to play with pots and pans in a pool. I know this is a bad idea, ridiculous, in fact, but it still floats to the surface of my psyche at times and I push it back down, like a Dutch oven sinking to the bottom of the diving area.
Other ideas are less ridiculous.
Several of them are even liturgical.
Two weeks ago, I played the hymns for my grandmother’s memorial service. My uncles, father, and aunt had quickly gathered to plan the service, which was held only five days after her death. I wanted to serve my family and Grandma, and thought this was a good way to honor and remember her.
But I am thankful I pushed the microphone away from the piano and asked my brother-in-law to lead the hymns. Because during the final hymn, I choked up.
Right now, people are talking about the intersection of worship and work. Is corporate worship simply a place to leave our troubles at the door and refuel in the presence of Christ? Or is it a place wrestle—in the presence of God and fellow believers—with the challenges that face us in our weekday vocations?
Several years ago, I wrote a prayer for Thornapple Covenant Church to use during Advent. It is based on the meditation exercise called “palms down, palms up” in Richard Foster’s classic book Celebration of Discipline.
In this meditation exercise, Foster encourages the Christian to pray with palms down in a prayer of relinquishment and surrender. (It helps me to hold my hands in the air, rather than on my lap, imagining that God’s hands rest under my own.) Then, turn palms up to demonstrate your desire to receive.
I can’t wait until November. I’m American, and if you haven’t heard, we are preparing for a general presidential election. During a debate in March, I realized I was tired of the primaries. During the Democratic National Convention, I realized that I was just plain tired. I am tired of the war of words, the hatred, the ideologies. I am tired. I wish November would hurry up and get here, but I’d miss three months of my children’s childhood and my garden’s tomato harvest, so it’s probably not worth it.
My daughter turned six recently, and one of the gifts my husband and I gave her was a Bible. As I inscribed it, I had a moment of doubt: “What am I doing giving a child an ancient book that frequently features polygamy, patriarchy, and violence? And, at best, metaphors beyond our context! The Bible is really hard to understand! I’m still working through that! She’s only seen sheep once. And shepherds . . . never!” What I inscribed, however, was different and was an exercise in preaching to myself:
We were late to the church we were visiting after we’d made a wrong turn. While my husband took the children to children’s worship, I stood in the back of the sanctuary, singing hymns along with the congregation. And when the time came to greet each other, I moved to a row, shook hands with someone on the end, and asked, “Do you mind moving over? Then my husband can easily join me in a bit.”