Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Churchfunding: 2020 Year-End Report

It’s time again to give witness to God’s faithfulness in providing for our housing needs. As many of you know, we purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. Since this crowdfunding effort was the work of Christ’s church, we coined a new term: “churchfunding.” (Here is the post that officially launched this adventure.)

At the beginning of 2020, we owed $35,062.50 in house loans. By the end of the year, we owed only $28,782.50.

Here is how that $6,280 difference breaks down:

  • We repaid $5,180 in loans, at a little more than the promised rate of $500 per month.
  • We were forgiven $1,100 in principal and interest by several generous lenders.

In total, our house debt declined by $280 more than we expected in 2020.

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within five years—by about October of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator and prayer to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, however, let us know and we will consider prioritizing your repayment as possible.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Ironically, given the coronavirus economy of 2020, our cash flow was slightly bigger than previous years. A temporary end to piano lessons and slowdown to my Choice Books work were both offset by government stimulus efforts, and after I transitioned to teaching piano online (mostly), my student pool has ballooned to 35 as I head into 2021.

A nearly-empty Concourse A at “the world’s busiest airport” during the height of the coronavirus scare in spring of 2019. I used to service Choice Books displays two days each week at the Atlanta airport. Currently I go there one day every two weeks, though more stores are gradually reopening.

On the other hand, our vehicles are now 15 and 18 years old (go, Toyota!) and we are still years away from having saved enough for a dreamed-of western trip as a family. But, as I often pray with thanksgiving, God is meeting all our needs, which he identifies as food and clothing/shelter, and much more besides. We are grateful.

Our main house improvements this year involved windows. First, I used my spring coronavirus “vacation” to finally strip and repaint the big original steel window in our living room.

We also got the windows replaced on the northern side of the house, in the piano studio and the laundry room.

The originals were single pane and one was broken.

Other projects included painting the front door and some exterior trim…

…building a cabinet in a bathroom…

…and painting the laundry room and installing coat racks for the girls.

Next projects? Well, a dishwasher is on order. Perhaps after that we’ll get the shower in the master bedroom working? Or build more closet shelves? Or make the basement entrance functional?

Meanwhile, we’re thankful for what we have–and that God protected our house in October, when we saw the worst flash flood in our backyard that we’ve seen yet.

Water pouring over our backyard bridge. The manhole in our side yard was spewing hundreds of gallons of dirty water down our driveway, too.

Other News

Our public and private lives continue much as last year. We continue to worship with Cellebration Fellowship, where I am now responsible for scheduling music leaders for each Sunday. I take my turn leading, too, sometimes with the help of my daughters. This year we have met variously in a building, online, and in a campground.

I am thankful for the devotion to Christ that is evident in the words and actions of so many in the “Cell Fell” group. Here’s a photo of most of us from a little over a year ago:

On our street we aim to be good neighbors in Jesus’ name. Sometimes that means sharing food (which Zonya often does) or tools (as I just did now). Over Thanksgiving we loved our neighborhood by spending several hours clearing a nearby hiking trail.

Often our service is through the ordinary means of faithfulness in raising children, loving students, selling Christian books, and writing the occasional blog post.

I’ll end with four 2020 happenings that were noteworthy for our family.

First (in every way), my father passed away in February. Though we have not traveled back to Canada since his funeral (thank you, coronavirus), I miss him. He left a legacy of gentle integrity, hard work, and dependence on God’s mercy. I especially think of him while working with my hands around the house, since he was a master craftsman.

Here is a photo of my family, taken at Dad’s funeral, which happened about two weeks before the Canada-USA border started shutting down.

Second, we finally managed to go camping somewhere besides our backyard. Here is an amazing sunrise we saw from our north Georgia campsite.

Third, we got our first pets! We raised chickens from eggs this spring and bought the girls a cat for Christmas. Having animals around complicates life, but is good for all four of my girls.

You could say our pets have been babied just a little.

Fourth, my wife’s brother got married in December, and my daughters and I provided the special music. Preparing for this occupied much of our time for a couple months.


We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters.  We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2021. Please pray we will walk faithfully in the Spirit of Jesus. May God bless you and make you salt and light in your own community!

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight Gingrich


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A Song: “Before All Things (Colossians 1:15-20)”

Our church is enjoying a sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. At the start of the series, it was suggested that the musicians in our midst might want to compose new songs based on the letter. I immediately thought of the “hymn” in Colossians 1:15-20 and decided I’d like to put it to music. This task has proven difficult however, since the passage doesn’t follow the rhythms or rhymes of English poetry, despite being full of other poetic features.

This week I meditated on the passage again (in Greek and English) until I could more or less say it by memory (in English). On Wednesday some musical lines finally started to come, but I wasn’t very impressed. Thursday morning my wife recalled and played Andrew Peterson’s fine arrangement of this passage (“All Things Together“). Hearing Peterson further opened my musical streams and also gave me the idea of beginning each verse with questions. Finally better music started to come, and that day I composed most of this song.

After a couple more days of adaptations and valuable feedback from my family, I am content with the result. Today–the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection–my family and I recorded the song. Special thanks to my daughters for sharing their pleasant voices, which made the song so much better, and to my wife for willingly overseeing lights and camera.

I do not pretend this is great music, but I am happy that it meets my original goals of sticking closely to the biblical text and yet being singable by a congregation. I envision a soloist singing the questions at the start of each verse, with the congregation responding. The rest of each verse could be either sung by the soloist or, with a little practice, by the entire congregation. The chorus and bridge are simple for all to sing.

In writing this song I tried to follow the text of Colossians as closely as possible (using the ESV translation), with minor adjustments to ease the rhythm and retain clarity. I also tried to follow the original structure of this “hymn,” which has two stanzas (1:15-16 and 1:18b-20–the two verses of my song) tied together by several transitional lines (1:17-18a–the chorus of my song). There is an “extra” line in the second stanza of the song that breaks the rhythm–an exclamation that Jesus is preeminent (first) not only in the original creation, but also in the new creation. I saved that line for the bridge of my song.

Here is this passage in Greek. This note was written by me in June 2014, when I first became fascinated with the literary structure of this passage. I knew very little Greek at the time, but I shared it on Facebook with this comment: “Sunday school thoughts: Here, from today’s CLP lesson, is the central ‘Christ poem,’ Colossians 1:15-20–in Greek! Even those of us who don’t know Greek can see something of the poetry of Christ’s firstborn status both as creator and as re-creator.”

Bible students may recall that this passage is sometimes called a “Christ hymn”; it is often praised for its “high Christology.” While it is true that this passage describes Jesus in terms fitting for an anointed king, the word “Christ” itself is conspicuously missing from the passage and its immediate context. Instead, we find the language of sonship: “the Father… delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:12-13). This sonship language ties directly into the firstborn imagery in the hymn.

These observations explain the answers I provided to the opening questions in each verse. Who is the One whom the song discusses? “Jesus, God’s own Son”; “Jesus, the Son of God.” 

Here are the lyrics to the song:


BEFORE ALL THINGS
(Colossians 1:15-20)

Verse 1:
Who is the image of the invisible God?
Jesus, God’s own Son
Who is the firstborn of all creation?
Jesus, God’s own Son

For by him all things were created,
In heaven and on earth,
Visible and invisible.

Whether thrones, dominions, rulers
Or authorities
All were created through him and for him.

Chorus A:
And he is before all things
He is before all things
And all things in him hold together
He is before all things
He is before all things
And he is the head of the body, the church.

Verse 2:
Who is the beginning?
Jesus, the Son of God
Who is the firstborn from the dead?
Jesus, the Son of God

For in him all the fullness
Of God was pleased to dwell
And reconcile through him all to him

By the blood of his cross
Making peace with all
All whether on earth or in heaven.

(Chorus A)

Bridge:
He’s the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things he might be first

And the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things he might be first

You’re the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things you might be first

And you’re the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things you might be first

Chorus B: (2x)
And you are before all things
You are before all things
And all things in you hold together
You are before all things
You are before all things
And you are the head of the body, the church.

You are the head of the body—You’re first!

Optional ending: (Repeat as desired)
Jesus, you are first
In all things you are first
In all things you hold first place of all

Jesus, you are first
We worship you as first
We worship you as first over all

Copyright April 9, 2020 by Dwight Gingrich. To be freely used for nonprofit uses only by the church of Jesus. All other rights reserved.


Is there a passage of Scripture that you have wished was set to music? Do you have any feedback on my efforts here? You may share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Churchfunding: 2019 Year-End Report

A new year means it’s time for another update on our “churchfunding” house loan adventure! How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us buy this house.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2019, we owed $41,687.50 in house loans.1  By the end of 2019, we owed only $35,062.50.

Here is how that $6,625 difference breaks down. We repaid $5,750 in loans in 2019 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. Also, two lenders forgave a total of $750 in principal. In total, we were forgiven $875 in principal and interest in 2019. We are thankful for this generosity! $875 (forgiven) plus $5,750 (paid) equals $6,625. This means our house debt declined by $625 more than we expected in 2019.

Since we began repayments in April of 2016, a total of 28 lenders have receive partial or total repayment. Another 33 lenders are still awaiting their first repayment.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment? At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within six years—by about October of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator (and prayer!) to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, however, feel free to let us know and we will consider prioritizing your repayment as possible.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is still tight, but slightly better than a year ago, thank God. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, but my number of piano students grew in 2019. I temporarily reached 30 students, finishing the year with about 27—about nine more than a year ago! In addition, as was true a year ago, I have more students who hope to resume or begin lessons in January. By now my biggest growth obstacle is time—do I really want to begin teaching Friday evenings or Saturdays?

Our largest expense in 2019 was finally getting three big trees removed from our backyard. What a relief!

One tree was dead, two were unhealthy, and all three were a hazard not only to our house, but even more to our neighbor’s house. Several initial quotes back in 2016 were for $5000 and $6000, so we cut vines off around the base of the trees, waited for the vines to die and drop, and prayed whenever it got windy. A shout-out to Boutte Tree, who gave us a fair deal ($3,240) and demonstrated a lot of expertise getting the job done!

Other “extra” expenses for 2019 included:

  • A 1-1/2 year Greek class I finished in July (highly recommended—see here)
  • Physical therapy for my shoulder (covered under Samaritan Ministries–mention us if you sign up!)
  • Continued cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters (see videos below)

House projects in 2019 were very minor,  though I did do some flood-proofing in the basement and also began soundproofing the door between my piano studio and Zonya’s kitchen—a much-needed effort!

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $215,000.

Church and Witness

As I shared last year, we are no longer actively pursuing a formal church plant in our neighborhood. We have been attending Cellebration Fellowship in Clarkston, GA, for over a year now. The people there have been welcoming, and we have fit in as we are able. I’m recruited to play piano most Sundays and I preached one sermon this year; the girls enjoy Sunday school; and we’ve all been blessed by the various personal expressions of friendship we’ve received. Loneliness is still real for most of us, however, and Zonya and I are experiencing the common midlife awareness that life has not turned out as we once dreamed.

Despite our questions, “the house that God bought” saw ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • A neighbor girl who often comes looking for our daughters
  • A hungry man who sometimes knocks on our door
  • Several new neighbors glad for friendship and support
  • Our own children, whom Zonya faithfully homeschools
  • A couple who stays overnight when they come to Atlanta for medical appointments
  • My blog writing efforts
  • Praying for God to put his angels around our neighborhood each night
  • International students who came for a vegetarian Thanksgiving

Dad’s Health

At risk of turning this post into a virtual Christmas letter, I’ll mention one more big change in our family in 2019: This fall we learned that my dad’s cancer has returned, with a tumor in his chest (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). In early December we traveled to Canada, where we helped Dad and Mom and my siblings weigh this sorrow and make decisions about treatment. Dad and Mom have decided not to pursue any chemo, but simply to trust to God the number of his remaining days. Doctors predict less than six months; God knows.

It was a special privilege to spend time with Dad during this visit, joining him and Mom at the medical clinic when the results of his latest biopsy were shared, hearing stories from his boyhood days, and praying together as a family. Thanks to each of you who are praying for Dad!

Me with my parents, Ken and Elaine Gingrich.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters.  We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for the coming year. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2020 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight Gingrich

  1. Accountant readers might notice that figure is $250 less than what I reported a year ago. That is because on December 31, 2018—after I published my 2018 year-end report—one lender changed his $250 loan into a gift. (Thanks again!)

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