Listening Through Lent: For Us

1 O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
beyond all thought and fantasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take
our mortal form for mortals’ sake.

2 For us baptized, for us he bore
his holy fast and hungered sore;
for us temptations sharp he knew,
for us, the tempter overthrew.

3 For us by wickedness betrayed,
for us, in crown of thorns arrayed,
he bore the shameful cross and death;
for us gave up his dying breath.

4 For us he rose from death again;
for us he went on high to reign;
for us he sent the Spirit here
to guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

5 All glory to our Lord and God,
for love so deep, so high, so broad:
the Trinity whom we adore
forever and forevermore.
~Thomas Kempis


For us, the thorns borne
For us, the promise of new life
For us, a love unimaginable.


Listening Through Lent: When I Pray

It is a season of longing and looking toward, even though we know how this story ends. There is a Japanese worship song that captures this emotional tension for me in powerful and personal ways I have seldom experienced while singing in English. A student once told me that she couldn’t tell me what this song meant, only what it meant to her. She went on to explain that she didn’t feel she could translate the Japanese to English in ways that honored her personal connection and emotion, but she could describe the effect it had on her when she sang it. Here is someone’s translation attempt:

A Little Prayer

All of the fears and suffering of my heart
Please remove it from inside of me now

Looking up at the sky as a young child
Please give me the same peace I felt then

When I prayed, the clouds above me
began to dissolve to reveal the clear sky

Even as I see the big empty sky
I know I am in the arms of a bigger God
Right now, it is only
Because of your strength that I live
~Chiisana Inori

Kono kokoro no osore ya, kurushimi no subete o
Ima watashi no uchikara, tori nozoite kudasai
Zutto osanai koroni, sora o miage nagara
Kanjite ita heian, ataete kudasai

Inori motometa toki, menomae no kumoga
Tokete yuki, tadano sumikitta sora

Konna ni ookina sora no shitade
Sora yori ookina Shu no futokoro de
Ima watashi wa tada, anatadake no
Chikara no naka de ikasareteru


この心の恐れや 苦しみの全てを
今私の内から 取り除いて下さい
ずっと幼い頃に 空を見上げながら
感じていた平安 与えて下さい

祈り求めた時 目の前の雲が
溶けて行き ただの澄み切った空

こんなに大きな空の下で 空より大きな主の懐で
今私はただあなただけの 力の中で生かされてる

I will provide two video versions of this song. The first was done by classmates of our son Chris back in high school
~Brian Vander Haak

and this is a full choral version:

Listening Through Lent: Can It Be?

    When I was in high school I was  in a male quartet, I was the baritone. We sang mostly in churches. One of the songs we sang was, “And Can It Be?” It became one of my all time favorite hymns as the words resonated in my heart.

   On more than one occasion in my turbulent life I would ask myself the question posed in the hymn. And can it be he died for me who caused His pain? Why did the Sovereign Lord choose me in Christ to know His great salvation?

   That question echoed down at various times during my earthly sojourn, and still does. There is only one answer as the hymn declares, “ so infinite His grace . . . .O my God it found out me.”

     At such a moment I understand Spurgeon’ testimony uttered on his death bed, “ I can’t remember much,” he said, “ but these two things I do, I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior.”    Here are two of my favorite stanzas.

     And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviors blood?
     Died He for me who caused His Pain? For me who Him to death pursued?
     Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in Him is mine!
   Alive in Him my living head. And clothed in righteousness divine,
   Behold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown through Christ my own.
Charles Wesley was a colossal failure as a missionary to the new American colony. The reason was he went in his own strength and  smarts. He was arrogant and introduced customs which offended many. One woman actually fired a gun at him.  On his return to England through the  preaching of a Moravian pastor he found the Savior. “I felt my heart strangely warmed”, he said. He then began to write a hymn at his conversion. Historians believe it was this hymn.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

Listening Through Lent: Cleft for Me

An English widow and her boy sixteen years old were visiting in a country place in Ireland. The mother was a member of the Church of England, and the boy was accustomed to its service. One night he wandered past a barn in which an uneducated but earnest layman was preaching. The text was Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the Blood of Christ.” Speaking of that text long after he said, “It was from that passage Mr. Morris preached on that memorable evening. Strange, that I who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh unto God in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God’s people met together in a barn, and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his name.”   This boy was Augustus Montague Toplady, author of this hymn.

If any of us could have gone into a little parish Church in a quiet village in the eastern part of Devonshire, about the time our national Declaration of Independence was issued, we should have found a vicar leading the devotions of the people, who was thus described: “He had an ethereal countenance and light, immortal form. His voice was music. His vivacity would have caught the listener’s eye, and his soul-filled looks and movements would have interpreted his language, had there not been such commanding solemnity in his tones as made apathy impossible, and such simplicity in his words that to hear was to understand. From easy explanations he advanced to rapid and conclusive arguments, and warmed into importunate exhortations, till conscience began to burn, and feelings to take fire from his awe-kindled spirit, and himself and his hearers were together drowned in sympathetic tears.” This is a word picture of Augustus Montague Toplady and his preaching.

In the Gospel Magazine for March, 1776, there appeared an article on the National Debt of England. Its enormous amount was given, how much was the annual interest; and the article ended with these questions and answers: “How doth the Government raise this interest annually? By taxing those who lent the principal and others. When will the Government be able to pay the principal? When there is more money in England’s treasury alone than there is at present in all Europe. And when will that be? Never.” Following this article the editor, Mr. Toplady, proceeded to write what he called “A Spiritual Improvement of the Foregoing,” in which he tried to estimate how many sins each of the human race had committed, supposing he broke some law of God once a day, twice a day, once an hour, and so on, and then he asks the same questions concerning these debts we owe to God, that had been asked as to the debt owed by the Government of England. “When shall we be able to pay off this debt we owe to God? Never. But will not God accept of us less that we owe, and so enable us to pay? Impossible!” And then he turns to Christ as the only hope. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, and then he gives this hymn.”

Gladstone has translated this hymn into both Latin and Greek, but it has been also translated into a great many of the living languages of the world, as well as into the dead ones. Rev. Dr. Pomeroy, during a tour through Eastern countries, found his way into an Armenian Church in Constantinople, while the congregation was singing. The words he could not understand, but it was evident that the singers were singing “with the understanding”, and were in earnest in their song. All sang with closed eyes, as if in prayer, and as the melody proceeded, he saw that tears were starting here and there and trickling down the singers’ cheeks. He was interested to know what words could awaken such emotions, and found that it was a translation into their language of our English hymn “Rock of Ages.”

from “Stories of The Great Hymns of the Church” – Silas H. Paine

shared by Retha Rodenberger McAfee and Harry Rodenberger



Augustus M. Toplady   and Thomas Hastings

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

Save from wrath and make me pure.


Could my tears for ever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone;

In my hand no price I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.


While I draw this fleeting breath,

When my eyes shall close in death,

When I rise to worlds unknown,

And behold Thee on Thy throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

Listening Through Lent: Walk With Me

I want Jesus to walk with me
I want Jesus to walk with me
All along my pilgrim journey
I want Jesus to walk with me

In my trial, Lord, walk with me
In my trials, Lord, walk with me
When the shades of life are falling
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

In my sorrow, Lord walk with me
In my sorrows, Lord walk with me
When my heart is aching
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

In my troubles, Lord walk with me
In my troubles, Lord walk with me
When my life becomes a burden,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me


What more can I hope for
than to never be alone
in my fears, my worries, my troubles, my burdens,
when my heart aches with the joy
that God is here, with me, for me,
and I am here, with Him, for Him,
because of Him.
~Emily Gibson


Listening Through Lent: O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile

I must confess, sometimes I struggle with the Good Friday service and the heaviness of Lenten traditions. Sometimes I wonder why we clothe ourselves in sadness for what happened on the cross when we already know that the story doesn’t end with Friday. We live with feet placed in two worlds, in the frustrating tension that comes with knowing the joyful end of the story, the other part of us still caught waiting in the midst of much ugliness yet to be cleared away. I find this tension to be a bottomless ache; I feel it keenly when I see the brokenness of the natural world around me, be it one of the many injured animals in my neighborhood, or the endless mounds of garbage clogging up the waterways: a cycle that hurts people and creatures over and over again. How our earth aches for all things to be healed from the brokenness brought on by the sin of the first man.

There is only one route that will fully heal our hurting world, and there is only one who can walk it: God, the true first man, the Second and better Adam. And so this hymn walks us to the hill where he died, and invites us to feel the heavy darkness of Good Friday. If anyone knew abuse and injustice, was it not Jesus? If anyone has known the wrenching pain of sin and tasted its consequences, was it not Jesus? He endured silence from heaven as he chose to bear the “guilty” status in our place. He knew the ultimate of loneliness and isolation.

The final lyric of this hymn points to the ending we already know in part and await in full. In the ring: our sin and God’s love, facing off for a final time. But there is no contest—our sin has no endurance for such a cosmic fight. Our sin, though it has crushed us and our world in many ways, cannot stand against Christ. His love for us has overpowered sin. The victory is his, and always will be.
~Breanna Randall
(Yangon, Myanmar)

O come and mourn with me awhile;

O come ye to the Savior’s side

O come, together let us mourn;

Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.


Seven times He spoke, seven words of love;

And all three hours His silence cried

For mercy on the souls of men;

Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.


O break, O break, hard heart of mine!

Thy weak self-love and guilty pride

His Pilate and His Judas were:

Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.


A broken heart, a fount of tears,

Ask, and they will not be denied;

A broken heart love’s cradle is:

Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.


O love of God! O sin of man!

In this dread act Your strength is tried;

And victory remains with love;

For Thou our Lord, art crucified!

 ~Frederick W. Faber


Listening Through Lent: Be Still

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
~Katharina von Schlegel

Be still our souls as we bear the cross of grief or pain.  It can be caused by our own sin or the sin of others or of this fallen world.  It is our cross. Significant because of what our Savior suffered in our place on a real cross, torn, bleeding and dying. We can never imagine the depths of horror we would have suffered  if Jesus hadn’t hung there in our place. Our cross of grief or pain pales in comparison. Yet we can leave it daily, hourly, in our God’s hands. He will use it for good in our lives and will provide the comfort we need to get through it. He never minimizes our pain. He will always faithfully provide for us as our friend, walking with us, crying with us, hurting with us. For Jesus said he endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy set before him, for his bride, his church who he loved with everything he could give.

What’s more he has not left us as orphans but guides us as we seek to know the answers in our dark days. All his creation which had the knowledge of he who brought the world into existence saw him who created – bleeding and dying not understanding why.

We lose our nearest friends only to know his love, his heart who soothes us. For one day he will restore the times the locust have eaten up.

We are nearer now to our heavenly home than ever we have been. Through our travail of griefs and fears they will be gone in an instant. Our joys restored as we gaze on our beautiful Creator, our King and our God. So has this faithful author, Katharina von Schlegel, 263 years ago penned these words for us to meditate.

Thank you, dear sister.
~Jan Lovegren



Listening Through Lent: What is Truth?

The late Steve Jobs stated:  “Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is the result of other peoples’ thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

This modern way of thinking where there is no absolute truth is wrong and is not new. Listen to what Pilate says at Jesus trial in John 18:38. Retorts Pilate, “ What is Truth!” As then, today much of what is taught and received is based on a persons’ subjective feelings rather than on the absolute objective dogma “ doctrine” on who Christ is and what he has done. Subjective teaching and learning has permeated much of what is taught even in our churches where feelings of what matters to you are what counts. Having said this we must not be stoic lacking emotions, rather emotions should flow from what the Bible teaches about Christ, who, he is and what he has done for us.

An exposition from Alexander MacLaren gives us a good illustration of fact and truth, showing that the Gospel is a teaching of historical true facts. Christ came to earth went to the cross and gave himself for us. These truths are solid realities of facts. MacLaren illustrates. “ Suppose four people, for instance, standing at the foot of the Christ’s cross; four “other” evangelists than the four we know. There is a Roman soldier, there is a Pharisee; there is one of the weeping crowd of poor women not disciples; and there is a disciple. The first man tells the fact; a Jewish rebel was crucified this morning. The second man tells the fact; a blaspheming apostate suffered what he deserved today. The woman tells the fact a poor gentle, fair soul, was martyred today; and the fourth one tells the fact; Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for our sins. The three tell the same fact; the fourth preaches the Gospel that is to say the fact of Christian teaching the plus the Gospel’s explanation; {dogma] doctrine if you will, this makes all the difference.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, Jesus of Nazareth died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. That turns the story of facts into teaching which molds our life. We have a religion with its basis in Divine truth. The revolt against “man’s” dogma is often in danger of casting away God’s truth. Hold on to the objective truth that declares the Divinity and sacrifice of Jesus Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Remember our feelings and our knowledge will not work without the objective facts of the Gospel that requires our obedience.


1. Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word,

Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.

Tell how the angels, in chorus, sang as they welcomed his birth,

“Glory to God in the highest!  Peace and good tidings to Earth.”


2. Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past,

How for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.

Tell of the years of His labor tell of the sorrow He bore;

He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.


3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain,

Tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again.

LOVE in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see;

Stay, let me weep while you whisper, LOVE paid the ransom for me.


Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;

Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.


Jesus answered “I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE, no
man cometh to the Father but by Me. John 14:16

~Nick and Diana Laninga


Listening Through Lent: Every Stone Shall Cry

1. A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbour heaven,
a stall become a shrine.

2. This child through David’s city
shall ride in triumph by;
the palm shall strew its branches,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
though heavy, dull and dumb,
and lie within the roadway
to pave his kingdom come.

3. Yet he shall be forsaken,
and yielded up to die;
the sky shall groan and darken,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
for gifts of love abused;
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s blood again refused.

4. But now, as at the ending,
the low is lifted high;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
in praises of the child
by whose descent among us
the worlds are reconciled.
~Richard Wilbur


Feeling heavy, dull and dumb,
I could be convinced
I’m no more than a simple rock
among a multitude of rocks~
inconsequential and immobile,
trod upon and paved over,
forgettable and forgotten.

I could believe
there exists no pulse
in my stony heart.

I could believe
I am incapable of love
if I turn away
from a God descending to walk
on the same humble ground where I lie.

Yet even the low are lifted high by His descent–
every stone,
even the dumb and lifeless,
shall cry out in community with Him,
even the silent will find a voice to praise.

Even my own voice,
meager and anemic,
shall be heard.

Even a barn can harbor heaven,
straw a bed of spun gold,
a stall becomes a shrine.

I am no longer forgotten.
In fact, never forgotten.
So hard to reconcile,
if the stones and barn and stalls
have known all along,
so should I.
~Emily Gibson


Listening Through Lent: Were You There?

While pondering about a hymn to use for Lent there is one that keeps playing in my head. It is the title “WERE YOU THERE ?”

This song was likely composed by African-American slaves in the 1800’s. The song was first published by Barton in 1899 OLD PLANTATION HYMNS. Barton adds “There are some of the more recent plantation hymns which have added an element of culture without diminishing religious fervor. One of the best of these is “WERE YOU THERE ?” It dwells on the details of the crucifixion, and the separate stanzas add only a single line to the song. It is a tender and beautiful hymn, the climax of its effect depending largely on the hold and slur on the exclamation “OH” with which the third line begins and the repetition and expression of the word “TREMBLE ! TREMBLE ! TREMBLE !”

Having said this I would like to add that this song can only truly be sung by those who have who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and can answer by God’s grace “I” was there. Himself for me!

  1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! TREMBLE!

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

  1. Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? Where you there?

Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! TREMBLE!

Where you there when thy nailed him to a cross?

  1. Where you there when they pierced him in the side? Where you there?

Where you there when they pierced him in the side?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! TREMBLE!

Where you there when they pierced him in the side?

  1. Where you there when they laid him in the tomb? Where you there?

Where you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! TREMBLE!

Where you there when they laid him in the tomb?

  1. Where you there when He rose up from the dead? Where you there?

Where you there when He rose up from the dead?

Oh! It makes you want to shout! GLORY! GLORY! GLORY!



Three men shared death upon a hill
But only one man died;
A thief and God Himself-
Made rendezvous.

Three crosses still
Are borne up Calvary’s hill
Where sin still lifts them high;
Upon the one sag broken men
Who cursing die,

Another holds the praying thief,
Or those who penitent as he,
Still find the Christ
Beside them on the tree.
~Miriam Le Fevre Crouse.


On which cross are You?
Jesus keep me near the cross!

~Nick & Diana Laninga