Connecting shouldn’t be so hard, but mostly it is. I’ll admit, not for everyone. But it is enough of an issue that many books have been written about the subject. There are apps for your phone and services on the internet to try to help bridge the gap between strangers. Some of those, unfortunately, lead to situations where loneliness turns into harm or even criminality. But even the danger of that potential doesn’t keep people away. Because as hard as connecting might be, being alone is even harder.

I’d like to say that church is a great place to connect with others, and it should be. Actually, it is, for many people. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to locate a good number of people who sit in church and feel alone in the crowd. Finding the sources of dis-connect is not very difficult.

People feel disconnected because face to face conversation is becoming rarer. Even now I’m communicating with you from behind a screen. Facebook could never survive if it were really Face-To-Facebook. And I hope some people would never say in person what they’re willing to pound out on the keyboard in a flurry of angst and anger. I wish they wouldn’t type it either, but that’s another post.

People feel disconnected because life to life intersections are brief. We are in a hurry. No matter how many posts I read encouraging us to slow down and smell the roses, there aren’t many people taking that advice. So my communications with real humans are brief, terse, to-the-point. If they last too long there is an intrusion on the next appointment. The rush lasts all day until the end of day when we crash and try to grab too-little sleep before it starts all over again. Relationships take time. We don’t have any to spare.

People feel disconnected because the word on the street is that people are dangerous, people are users, and people are haters. I don’t believe it, except when I’m not paying attention. Just a few minutes with the news will tell me that we have reached the end of social relationships and community kindness. Most of the shows presented for our viewing pleasure involve killing, theft, kidnapping, explosives, abuse and the general degradation of humanity. Even if it all wraps up in the hour, next week we are back to it. The message is pounded into our minds … you are in danger, you have no real friends, you are being used, and people generally hate one another.

Now that I’ve succinctly diagnosed our culture in one blog post, I wonder if there are any connecting factors we can find. In spite of the walls thrown up all around us, I don’t think humans are best when they are alone. And everyone seems to know it. So where do we go from here? It’s hard to say for every individual, but generally, I think we have to accept three things if we want to be in connection with other people.

~Connecting With Others~

We have to accept that relationships cause pain. If we want a pain-free existence, then we can’t entrust our hearts and friendship to other humans. It is just part of the human condition that we let each other down, we sometimes speak careless words, and we sometimes flat-out fail to be what we could be. By this, I do not mean we should endure purposeful infliction of pain. I do mean, though, that it is impossible to avoid pain totally if we want to be connected to others. Relationships are risky but worth it.

We have to accept that the great benefit of connection outweighs the risk. Jesus spoke to a woman who came to draw water at a well at noon. I question her timing in the desert climate, but I guess there was a purpose to it. Who else is going to be drawing water at noon? Nobody. Perfect timing for someone who felt like a reject – and honestly was probably treated like a reject except for the one person she lived with. In her conversation with Jesus, he revealed that he knew she had endured five marriage breakups. Five. Maybe some had died, but surely not all. What moves a woman toward connecting when she has lost it four times? Then five times? I admit there could be a lot of cultural questions and strategies for survival in the background of this story but it remains that she kept trying to find a meaningful connection. when she found out who Jesus was she ran to town to tell those people – perhaps the very people who had looked down their noses at her – that she had found the Messiah. The importance of connection even pushed her over the boundary of potential rejection!

We have to accept that connection is not just for other people. Some people reading this will say, “true, but not for me.” But no matter who we are, what we’ve done, how we think others see us, or whatever else is standing in our way of reaching out, everyone needs a connection. Earlier in this post I mentioned church. The one place that the church excels beyond other connecting places is that everyone there has a common connection in Jesus Christ. This, even more than religious practices or beliefs or forms, is what connects believers. It’s the one place where an 80-year-old and a 20-year-old can find a connection that transcends culture and peculiar interests. Jesus connects all together. If the spirit you found at the bar didn’t leave you filled, perhaps the Spirit you find at the Church may make a real difference in your life.

~A Place for Sinners Saved By Grace~

I’m not saying that if we all just go to church then all our connecting struggles will be solved.  But I am saying that there’s a spiritual level of connection that alleviates loneliness and reminds us that we are all in the same boat. Sinners saved by grace is our banner. That’s an inclusive and warm invitation to find connection outside of the rat-race of human scrambling for wealth, achievement, business, and recognition. Church causes us to stop, rest, reflect, converse, and receive blessing. It calls us to community … connection … face to face talking and caring. No, not perfectly. Its kind of risky joining for the first time. If you’ve been a part of church for a long time but still feel lonely, it’s time to explore either some avenues (ministries) within the church where you can build relationships around common efforts. We have to admit there are some unhealthy church communities where finding friends is not really an option. So either way, choose to be a part of a church to find connection. And it may not be the only solution.  Connecting shouldn’t be that hard, but it mostly is.

Out here hope remains, JED.

Photo Credit:  unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo

Among Grandmother’s Books


Hazel Felleman came to work for The New York Times as a teen-ager in 1905.  Eventually, she edited the Queries and Answers column, answering the questions of readers. I imagine we would not have heard of Ms. Felleman had Wikipedia been around. Often she would receive letters containing a snippet of poetry. Readers would ask if she could tell them the source of the poetry. She would answer and publish the poem as well.  So often did the questions come about the same poem that she began to keep records of the answers and ultimately published a book of poetry called The Best Loved Poems of the American People (still available on Amazon!). She explains in the preface:

The majority of inquiries that I receive are for favorite poems, and since not a day passes that does not bring to my desk a large sheaf of letters from all parts of the country, it is only natural that I have learned something of the poetry preferences of the American people. I have used this knowledge rather than my own personal liking in the selection of these poems; but I feel free to say that there are few of the poem that I would not have included myself.

Ms. Felleman worked for The New York Times for 46 years and retired in 1951. She died on April 30, 1975. You can read her interesting obituary HERE

Recently I stumbled upon a stack of books that belonged to my grandmother. As a book hound, I was immediately interested. I loved my grandmother as a child but circumstances led to my not seeing her much in the last years of her life. That’s a story in itself, but suffice it to say that it was neither her nor my choice that we didn’t see one another. But back to the books. Her books were not my usual interest, but I procured a couple of them and brought them home. One of them was a book of poetry. Yes, Hazel Felleman’s Best Loved Poems book.

Now I must confess that poetry is not my great love. However, the snippets of paper and pencil markings seemed to give me a guided tour of what may have been my grandmother’s favorite poems. There are nearly 700 pages of poetry, assembled according to subject matter, but I decided to at least thumb through it. I admit that some of the poems caught my eye … and some caught my heart.

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. – Robert Frost

I  noticed familiar names like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, RudyardStockSnap_WAFKX8JUDB Kipling, Edwin Markham, Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth and that poet best known as Unknown. I expect that if Ms. Felleman couldn’t find out who wrote it, then the author is truly unknown. I began marking the poems that really struck me. These are the ones I want to revisit sometime when I’ve wandered through the entire volume.

Lines keep running through my mind …

I am weary of the Garden, Said the Rose;

For the winter winds are sighing,

All my playmates round me dying,

And my leaves will soon be lying ‘Neath the snows.


If you should go before me, dear, walk slowly

Down the ways of death, well-worn and wide,

For I would want to overtake you quickly

And seek the journey’s ending by your side.


I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

I’d like to be the help that you’ve been always glad to be’

Id like to mean as much to you each minute of the day

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.


If you want to have the kind of a church, Like the kind of a church you like,

You needn’t slip your clothes in a grip, And start on a long, long hike.

You’ll only find what you left behind, For there’s nothing really new.

It’s a knock at yourself when you knock your church; It isn’t the church – it’s you.


While posting a few of these in entirety on my Facebook page I realized that poetry resonates with a wide range of people. I think I was missing out on something, not being enamored with poetry.

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t know what will become of this book. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will happen upon it once I’m gone and think to themselves that they might like to read the poems that Poppy liked. I hope so.

…And few shall know we ever lived a hundred years from now… Mary A. Ford

Out Here Hope Remains, JD.

Did Not Overcome

The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. – John 1:5, AMP

I hope your new year is beginning with brightness and optimism. Resolutions, plans for new ways to approach our issues, and the hope that things are going to be different in the next 365 days than they were before. After the fireworks and shifting the Christmas decor back into the attic we look around and things remain about the same. Those struggles? Still there. The pain? It still hurts. The issues? They’re nagging. The hope for something different … it is dimming.

What really changed in our new year’s celebrations? Just a replacement of the old calendar with a new one and acquiring the new habit of writing 2018 instead of 2017. (As a bonus, though, it’s easy to correct the 7 to an 8!) I know that sounds pessimistic, but if any of us were thinking that the arrival of January meant brand new life, we were wrong.

I do, however, believe in the potential for new life. It just doesn’t come from a calendar. Into a sin-soaked and sin-darkened world the Light of Jesus came. The darkness didn’t get him … wouldn’t accept him … even today it yammers about him. The darkness tried to kill him. Couldn’t. The darkness tried to kill his people. This resurrection thing is just hard to overcome! The darkness tries to deny him. He keeps saving anyone who will believe in him.

New life comes from the light of the world. New life comes from living in the light of grace. Grace doesn’t deny sin, it heals and lets in the light. New life comes from yielding to the Spirit. The more I try to fix my own life the worse things get.  New life comes from the story of the light. The more I get to know him the more I love him.

“Grace shatters our darkness. Grace explodes on us with penetrating, heart-exposing light. Grace illumines our dank hallways and our dark corners. The Son of grace shines the light of his grace into the darkest recesses of our hearts, not as an act of vengeance or punishment, but as a move of forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace”. – Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Can We Find New Life When We Feel We Live in the Darkness?

Some days I still don’t get it. How could he live, die, resurrect, and love a sinner like me? Why is there darkness still around when the King of Light is reigning? Why … why … why … humans have been asking for eons. But the transformational power for new hope and new life comes even in my hours of wondering and weakness. It’s not a change of calendar, it is a change of Savior. Thank you, Jesus, for your great love for all who trust in the Light that the Darkness could not, and never will, overpower.

“When I endure, in the darkness of faith, the prolonged wait for the God who comes, he has already come to me and is embracing me silently, with the same embrace with which I, in faith, embrace him. – Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

Whether you find yourself in darkness or light, remember, out here hope remains. JD



Book Question and Winner!

Congratulations to Rusty Pettus for being randomly chosen to win the Tim Keller book. Thanks to all of you who commented (and for your kind comments). I will do another giveaway soon … just a small way of sharing with others! 

Until then … as we wrap up 2017 … what’s the best book you read this year on a spiritual theme? I think we can stipulate that the BIBLE is the very best….so other than that? Would love to hear what book has impacted your faith and spiritual journey this year.

I had a goal on Goodreads to read 25 books this year. I finished 21 and am close with a few others…I might make it! It’s hard to pick one that was most beneficial to me. I do think, though, that the one that touched my heart the most was MONDAYS WITH MY OLD PASTOR.  Check it out!

TKellerOnce again, Rusty will be receiving the excellent Tim Keller book of devotionals from Proverbs. Rusty is the minister for the Natural Bridge Church of Christ in Lynn, Alabama. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter


Here’s a New Year prayer I found in the Spill The Beans publication that I’d like to share:

Sweep out the old.

Sweep in the new.

Sweep out fear.

Sweep in love.

Sweep out war.

Sweep in peace.

Sweep out poverty.

Sweep in sharing.

Sweep out all that breaks God’s heart.

Sweep in love and compassion.

The gifts of God for us to share.


Wherever life finds you today, remember that out here hope remains. JD



As we approach the end of this year, I appreciate this prayer. It is found in the Sarum Missal, an 11th-century book of prayer and worship practices. I wasn’t thumbing through the Sarum Missal, however. I found this prayer in Elizabeth Goudge’s Diary of Prayer, a book I’ve come to appreciate. It has prayers for each day of the year. So today’s prayer is this one:

We beseech thee, O gracious Lord, let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of thy Son’s Incarnation; that so we may escape the darkness of this world, and by his guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness. 

The country of everlasting clearness. What an expression of hope and recognition that we do see through a glass darkly, as Apostle Paul said.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly [in a riddle] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The darkness of this world is demonstrated daily in communities where we live. The atrocities of far away places have us shaking our heads; the violence that takes place within our villages stuns us. Only the light of the Son of God can provide illumination for the path out of the darkness. 

We should long for a country of everlasting clearness. To be able to understand God’s plan and know His love with complete clarity – that blessing awaits us in another time. To share with others a fellowship untinged by mixed motives and doubtful questions will be pure joy. To be secure without consideration of what might happen or how to survive the things that do happen will be such a relief. To be in a country of everlasting clearness

I’m hoping that our new year leads us closer to that place. I know only Jesus, light of the world, can show us the way. 

And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim… Isaiah 32:3

Until then, out here hope remains. JD


Every Cloud Wears a Rainbow

Every Cloud Wears a Rainbow

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. – Genesis 9:13

She was born in Philadelphia in 1847. As a young girl she was interested in writing, her first poem published when she was only 12 years old. Lizzie De Armond was a believer in Sunday School and worked tirelessly writing hymns for children as well as material that could be used in classes. Her best known hymn is seldom heard in churches today. The first stanza is as follows:

If the dark shadows gather as you go along,

Do not grieve for their coming; sing a cheery song.

There is joy for the taking; it will soon be light.

Every cloud wears a rainbow if your heart keeps right.

We have been thinking a lot about clouds and storms, floods and rainbows in the past week. We have witnessed horrors and heroics. Most of us will go about our lives as usual, while many thousands are pulling out wet carpet, tearing out cabinets, and feeling quite hopeless. It seems trite to suggest that those who are hurting so deeply should ‘sing a cheery song’, but it is true that ‘there is joy for the taking’. Every cloud does wear a rainbow.

One Jan­u­ary 1st, De Armond writes, “Now in the light of the glad New Year, 1915, if an­y­thing I have writ­ten has helped to lift one soul above the cares and wor­ries of ever­y­day life, and brought it near­er to the great lov­ing heart of Je­sus, the joy is mine, but the glo­ry be­longs to God.”

Lizzie’s husband died in 1923, leaving her with eight children to raise. She had let her writing efforts go dormant for a while, but now she took it up with renewed vigor to support her family. She found a rainbow in that dark cloud.

I don’t know what 600 year old Noah thought when he saw his first rainbow, but I know what we should think. On our darkest day, God still keeps his promises. In fact, it’s often after the storm that we see so clearly His presence. Keep your heart right and you’ll see it. Every cloud wears a rainbow.                   

Thanks for reading. JD