As an English major, I love seeing words come alive in a new light, especially when it’s in the light of faith. Dale Vander Veen is a retired pastor who emails daily devotions and he graciously welcomed me to share his theological discoveries in the word solvent

I love to find ways to open the gospel in one word. And when that one word has more than one meaning, all the better.

Solvent: able to pay all legal debts (as defined by Merriam-Webster). Solvent definition from GoogleThe opposite of solvent is bankrupt: reduced to a state of financial ruin; utter impoverishment. Maybe you know where I’m going with this one. I am spiritually bankrupt. I am unable to pay my debts to God; I am ruined, utterly impoverished. My dictionary goes further in defining bankrupt: exhausted of valuable qualities.

God says, “Dale, your dictionary goes too far. You may feel that you are ‘exhausted of valuable qualities.’ I disagree. You are of great worth to me. I have claimed you as my own, redeemed you, given you a new start. I have solved your insolvency once and for all.” Wow! Paul puts it this way: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Wow again!!

Solvent: a liquid substance capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other unwanted substances (as also defined by Merriam-Webster). My sin is an “unwanted substance.” It is a deep stain, a seemingly irremovable stain. Only one liquid substance can make me better than OxiClean. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” One more Wow!!!

::– –::– –::

For nothing good have I whereby thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain; he washed it white as snow.
————————— – Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All”

…Contact Dale directly if you’d like to receive his e-devotions, too:



Ashes graphic found via GoogleIt’s been quite a few years since I’ve been to an Ash Wednesday service. I’m glad I went yesterday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Being there helped me discover something to give up for Lent this year.

One of the songs we sang was “Ashes to Ashes,” a relatively new one composed by Daniel L. Schutte (perhaps most well known for “Here I Am, Lord”). Here’s the chorus:

Ashes to ashes, from dust unto dust.
The cross on our forehead, your promise, O God.
Ready to follow the way of your Son,
to rise from these ashes, redeemed in the fire of your love.

The verses are adapted from Joel 3. Here are two of them:

Rend your hearts, not your garments;
return to the Lord
who delights when we offer
a truly humble heart.

Let us fast from unkindness
and turn from our greed,
giving bread to the hungry
and lifting up the poor.

What better things to give up for Lent than unkindness and greed? Quitting those might afford me more time to consider the needs of others, particularly the hungry and the poor – the kind of people Jesus regularly showed interest in.

I have to admit I’m quickly intimidated and overwhelmed by wondering how I can respond to the needs of the poor. Thankfully I don’t have to figure this out on my own. The final verse of the song assures me of the help of God Himself!

Though his nature is holy
yet Christ became sin,
so that we might inherit
the holiness of God.

(Chris Brunelle’s cover of “Ashes to Ashes” is here.)

Wondrous love

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

Jesus, tell me, show me, how the Father loved you when he let you die an agonizing, cruel, brutal death and didn’t do a thing to stop it. How does that express his love? And you love me with that kind of love?

::   ::   ::

John McCain tells the story of how one of his guards in the Vietnamese prison camp came to his cell every evening, risking his own life to loosen McCain’s bonds and make him a bit more comfortable for the night. Because of the language barrier, they couldn’t communicate. But one night the guard drew the sign of the cross on the dirt floor. How many other acts of selfless love have been evoked over the centuries by this sign of the cross?

::   ::   ::

I think the Father didn’t make you die on a cross, Jesus, or order you to die that way. I think he permitted you to show your love for us by your willingly enduring the worst we could do to you and then continuing to love us. Jesus, teach me to love that way. Transform me into what you would have me be. Grant me the courage, the power, and the fortitude to become worthy of being called a Christian.

Cross on a necklace

I read this several years ago
in Forward Day by Day. I think it connects
perfectly with the start of Lent.

Advent and Lent: Paradoxical seasons

I’ve often felt similarities between Advent and Lent that go beyond liturgical colors (both make purple prominent). Both seasons lead up toAdvent candles a special holiday (holy day) in the church year, giving each a sense of expectancy. In different ways, each prompt to examine our hearts and lives in light of Jesus – specifically His arrival or His death.

The other day I read something by Jeff Munroe of Western Theological Seminary that highlighted even more similarities between the two seasons, as well as the paradoxes present in each. It deepened my appreciation for the current church season…

If you attend a liturgical church [this month], you will notice that the color of the paraments – including the stole the minister wears and any hanging adornments to the pulpit or Communion table – will be purple. It is the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the beginning of a new year on the church calendar, and purple is the color of Advent. While the world anticipates Christmas in red and green, the church uses purple, the same color used during the season of Lent.

Purple is the color of royalty, but it is also the color of penitence. Like Lent, Advent is a paradoxical season. We look forward to the birth of Jesus, but we also know that he was ultimately born to die. Salvation cannot happen without the birth of Jesus, but salvation actually happens through the death (and resurrection) of Jesus.

Just as Lent is paradoxical because it anticipates both the death and resurrection of Jesus, Advent is paradoxical because it anticipates both the birth and death of Jesus. Some have seen the cross foreshadowed in the wood of the manger and the linen shroud in the swaddling clothes. As with any birth there was blood, the essence of life, when Jesus was born. There would be blood again in the Garden of Gethsemane and finally on the cross at Calvary.

Photo by Per Ola Wiberg (Powi) from Free Stock Photos.