What Is God’s Will?

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, September 18, 2014.

Today is Cheeseburger Day. I was torn between “Respect Day” and “Cheeseburger Day.” I guess you can respect the cheeseburger.

I didn’t make it to work quite as early as I had planned, yesterday, but that was largely because I forgot that I had planned to do that. How embarrassing. It was an okay day, though, even though I stayed a little more than an hour over, as we got 191 packages from UPS yesterday morning.

Not much else going on, other than Christi still having vertigo when she tilts her head to the right. Also, the Rangers have won five games in a row. Too little, too late, but they have a chance to seriously damage Oakland’s wild card possibilities. That’s always fun. Unless you’re the Athletics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock,
in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.

Psalm 101:6
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:15-18

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:1-5

This passage is, of course, abused a lot. “Don’t judge!” say the people who are guilty of sin. But that’s all of us, isn’t it? The problem is that we tend to do exactly what Jesus warns against, here. We judge people without checking our own baggage first. One of my favorite phrases that has been thrown around Facebook is, “Don’t judge people because they sin differently than you.” Do you go to the office and participate in destructive office gossip, tearing down individuals, and then proceed to throw bricks at homosexuals? That’s our favorite “sin” right now, isn’t it? That and abortion. We are quick to thrust the harshest penalties on anyone who violates one of our “pet sins.” But then we take our ichthus adorned cars out on the road and drive like maniacs, cutting people off and giving them one-finger salutes. Then we wonder why the world won’t listen to our “good news.”

Yes, we are all sinners, and we are all hypocrites at one time or another. But if we act high and might and self-righteous in our hypocrisy, we cannot expect to have any success in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. In order to display the Gospel to people, we must stop the judging and begin to have compassion for everyone. EVERYONE.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Discerning the Father’s Will.”

Our Father knows each of us by name. That boggles the mind, doesn’t it? But he cares. he really cares. Somehow, he manages to be “deeply involved in the little drama of our personal existence.” Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Luke 12:7) “Within this climate of trust the Christian confidently searches to discern the Father’s will.” This is the environment from which our decisions become clear and our actions grow. It can be much more clear than we think. “The sounds of inner peace, harmony, and consonance resonate in the heart attuned to the Father’s will, while agitation, conflict, dissonance, and contretemps resonate in the untuned heart singing its own song.”

‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance,
and how you cannot bear with those who are evil,
but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not,
and found them to be false.”

Revelation 2:2

Father, I have let too much time go by. I pray that you continue to move me away from judgment and toward compassion. You have done miracles in me over the last decade, and I praise you for this. The “log” in my eye is much smaller than it used to be, and I am not quite so quick to point out the speck in the eyes of others. However, I still have my moments, and I pray that these moments will become fewer and fewer. Make me a person that is driven by the compassion that have for all men. May I display the life and attitudes of Jesus Christ in all that I do every day.

I pray that this day will go smoothly. I pray that Christi’s vertigo will go away, and that we will have safe passage to and from work today. May our work day go smoothly, and may we accomplish whatever needs to be done, while, at the same time displaying your Kingdom to those around us. Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth. I pray for Stephanie, as always, that you would show your love to her and give her wisdom and understanding.

I still cringe when I read some of the stuff I see on Facebook that is posted by Christians. I long for the day when we will stop the name-calling, stop idolizing political stands and moral issues, and begin to follow Christ and share his Kingdom instead of throwing bricks. If we are called by Christ to do anything, it is to make disciples.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Let Jesus Be Who He Is

Good morning. It is Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Hump day.

Today is International Country Music Day International Country Music Day. So all you country music lovers celebrate!!

I need to hurry it up a bit. I was planning to try to get in a bit early today, as we had a bunch of work left over when I left. I’ll try to get everything done, here. I apologize if it seems truncated.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared,

Psalm 76:11
Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.

Psalm 119:169-170
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Psalm 54:6
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

Psalm 119:14-17

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Patient In Love?”

What would happen if you suddenly discovered that all of your motives for ministry were egocentric, all about you? What would you do if you got drunk and committed adultery last night? What if you failed to respond to a genuine and desperate cry for help, and the person committed suicide?

“Would guilt, self-condemnation, and self-hatred consume you, or would you jump into the water and swim a hundred yards at breakneck speed toward Jesus?” Would you let the darkness consume you, “or would you let Jesus be who he is – a Savior of boundless compassion and infinite patience, a Lover who keeps no score of our wrongs?”

Jesus’s disciples ran to him because they were “crazy about him.” Quoting Raymond Brown, “Jesus was remembered as one who exhibited love in what he did and was loved deeply by those who followed him.”

The message of the Gospel is directed both “to the sinner covered with shame and to the local church tentative and slow to forgive for fear of appearing lax or liberal. The number of people who have fled the church because it is too patient or compassionate is negligible; the number who have fled because they find it too unforgiving is tragic.”

Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Father, forgive me for forgetting and not leaving enough time this morning. I pray that our local church will not be the one that is too impatient and unforgiving. Let us be the opposite, and show the compassion that Jesus showed to those around him while he walked the earth. I pray that we will run to Jesus because we love him, because we are crazy about him.

Give us grace for this day, and may you show your overwhelming love to Stephanie today.

Your love is overwhelming!

Today, no matter where you are, let Jesus be who he really is in your live.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Silent Sentinels

Good morning. It is Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

Today is Guacamole Day! What a wonderful day!! Unfortunately, I had guacamole yesterday. If I had known . . .

Yesterday was an okay day. Work went well. We had free lunch catered by On the Border (hence the guacamole), and I ate too much, which made me drowsy and sluggish all afternoon. Other than that, though, I’m feeling pretty good. Christi, though, was feeling like she was catching a cold, and still has the vertigo going on, when she turns her head certain ways. This morning, she says she is feeling better, but still has the dizziness.

I guess we have our Huddle meeting tonight, being that it is Tuesday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 95:1-2
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123:1-2
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 7:17
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD; exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 68:4-5

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-33

Following up on the heels of the passage I ready yesterday, Jesus expounds a little more on the foolishness of being concerned about our earthly treasures. He tells us we don’t need to be concerned with the clothes we will wear or the food we will eat. God knows what we need, and will provide it, IF we seek first his kingdom. There is an implication here that, in my opinion, goes along with his statements about seeking the approval of men. If we give to the poor in front of others, their approval will be the only reward we receive. If we pray loudly and boisterously in front of men and receive their approval, that will be the only reward we receive. If we fast, making it obvious to others, their approval will be our only reward. If we spend our lives toiling and straining for material things, constantly worried about the clothes we wear and the food we eat, that will be our reward. All of these things are temporary. Another “reward” will be the constant anxiety of worrying about tomorrow; the constant “what if?”

But if we seek first the king of God and his righteousness, not only will we get THAT (which is much more important), we will also get all those other things that we chose NOT to strive after.

Jesus finishes up with a statement that is similar to what my mother used to say when I was a boy. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” My mother used to tell me, “Don’t borrow trouble.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Sins of Omission.”

Brennan tells a story of a time when he was with a group at Coney Island. “A few yards away in the center of the boardwalk, a man was pouring a can of beer on the head and down the blouse of a pregnant girl of maybe fifteen. He was describing aloud in lurid detail how he had sexually abused her and what he had in mind later. She appeared slightly intoxicated; at any rate, she was crying.”

The group Brennan was with decided to leave. As they were walking toward the car, Brennan heard, deep in his soul, like a bell resounding, “Who are you?”

“I stopped as if my shoes were stuck to the pavement. ‘I am a son of my Father,’ I said.”

The voice responded with, That girl is my daughter.

Brennan went back, took the girl aside and talked with her for a few minutes while people around taunted. Then he says, “That night I wept, not for them but for myself, for the countless times I have played the silent sentinel, afraid to acknowledge the presence of the Son of Man in the least of my brothers and sisters. How often I’ve seen human dignity being degraded and been content to moralize about the situation and walk away.”

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us in his little letter, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ((James 4:17)

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:16

Father, I’m not quite sure how to pray over this one. I know that there have been plenty of times that I have not spoken up or not acted when I knew what the right thing was. I confess these times and pray that you will give me the courage to speak up or act when those time occur. I know that there are some times when the fear is more for my own safety than simply being ridiculed. These days, you never know how someone is going to react. I pray for wisdom and courage to do the right thing when necessary. May we, your Church, not continue to be “silent sentinels” in our world around us and speak up when the circumstances call for it. But let us also be very, very sure that we are speaking your words and thoughts, not just our own misguided opinions!

I pray for this day. I pray that you would give us grace to seek your kingdom first today, in the midst of our daily work day. Give us safe passage to and from work, and show us how to walk with you through the work day. May the Gospel be present in our lives; may we display it to others in all that we do. I pray that you show Stephanie your overwhelming love today, and bring healing to her mind. Show her the path to walk.

May we be wise with the wisdom of God in our actions and circumstances, not being “silent sentinels,” but speaking and acting in the grace and mercy of the Lord, who is the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows!”

Grace and peace, friends.

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Consistency

Good morning. It is Monday, September 15, 2014.

Today is Felt Hat Day. I have one of those, but I don’t wear it too often, these days. It’s been to warm to wear hats to work. Maybe when it’s fall and winter, I will again.

Speaking of which, fall, I believe, begins next Monday night, at around 9:30. I’m very happy about that! I haven’t been a fan of summer since my school days. These days, summer is just a run of scorching hot days on which I still have to work.

As is our custom, of late, Christi made steak and baked potatoes last night, which were very delicious, after which we had banana bread, which was also scrumptious. She has found, I believe, the winning recipe for that stuff!! We got some good rest, as we watched several episodes of “House of Cards” on Netflix.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

(From The Divine Hours)

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Psalm 96:2-3
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Psalm 5:3
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
Psalm 21:13

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross
that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we who
glory in the mystery of our redemption may have the grace to take up our cross
and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
in glory everlasting. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:19-24

The first part of this reading is pretty straightforward. All of the “treasure” that we could gather in this life will decay. The word translated “rust” refers to more than just the oxidation process of metals. It also refers to such things as wood rot, mildew, and so on. Everything in our material world decays. And if we put our stock in those treasures, we will decay right along with them. Instead, we are to gather treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The statement that follows is chilling, and brings to mind the story of the rich young ruler that we see in Luke. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The next paragraph is not quite so clear. What kind of “light” does your “eye” allow in? If your “eye” is good, it will let in the “light” of God’s will. This eye is the one that stores up treasures in heaven. If the eye is bad, it only lets in the “darkness” of greed and material hoarding. This eye is the one that stores up earthly treasures. Jesus follows this up with the famous statement of verse 24, “You cannot serve God and money (mammon).”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Being True to Self.”

My first reaction to this title is, “What??” But let’s see what he has to say.

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

“Here is the essence of perfect sincerity in conduct – to care for nothing but God’s judgment on our actions, not to vary our attitude to suit the company we are in, not to hold one opinion when alone and adopt another in conversation, but to speak and act as in the sight of God who can read our inmost thoughts.” We must strive to make sure the outward man and the inner man match up. This is what Brennan means by “being true to self,” to the point that the thought of human opinion cannot sway us to be false.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,
with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent,
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

Philippians 1:9-10

Father, time grows short as I conclude this, this morning. I pray that I would be consistent. May my outward and inner person be one and the same, mirroring Christ in all things. Keep me from falling into sin; keep me from swaying my opinions based on who I am around; keep me from reacting harshly to situations; fill me with your Spirit today.

Keep us safe today as we drive to and from work. May our work day be productive and honoring to you. Keep Stephanie safe at home and fill her with your love. I also pray that her headache will go away.

Your grace is sufficient.

May our inner convictions and our outward actions always match.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Riding On A Merry-Go-Round

Good morning. It is Sunday, September 14, 2014. It is 64 degrees, and there is only one day over the next ten that has a projected temperature of at least 90 degrees. I think I’m going to cry.

Today is Eat A Hoagie Day. That actually sounds kind of good. Maybe I’ll do that.

Christi wound up having vertigo yesterday afternoon, so she didn’t make it to church. I’m thinking it was a combination of exhaustion from running around all morning, plus mama drama, as well, as her mother has been “misbehaving” this week. Hopefully, we will have a good day of rest today. There are a few things that Christi wants to get done today, but otherwise, it should be a nice day, with what has become sort of a tradition of steaks and baked potatoes for dinner, to close out the weekend.

I had a nice conversation yesterday evening with the younger brother of the young man who passed away on Thursday evening. Jordan had posted a few things on Facebook, and I simply responded by telling him that we had a lot of people praying for them. He responded by asking me to call him, so I did. Mostly, I just let him talk. I think he’s going to be fine. Most of the words he said were spot on, right in line with the grieving process, and he spoke quite seriously about being strong for his mother. I pretty much just affirmed and encouraged him. While Christi was finishing up her stuff, Stephanie and I went to Fogata’s for lunch (Christi told us to go without her). Jared, the young man who passed, worked a brief stint at Fogata’s as a waiter. When we told Mike the news, he was almost overwhelmed, as was another one of the waiters who remembered Jared. Mike was so upset and moved, that he offered to send a fajita dinner to the family last night. I contacted the lady who has been setting up the dinners, and we were able to make that happen. So, if you’re in the area, be sure and give Fogata’s some business! They are good people.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1741 that George Frederick Handel completed the oratorio, The Messiah, which he had only begun working on 28 days before. “The manuscript is remarkably free of errors considering its length, the speed with which it is composed, and his own infirmity—he has already suffered a stroke.” Here is the ending of the oratorio.

Today’s birthdays include Andrew Lincoln (who happens to be married to the daughter of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson), Amy Winehouse, Sam Neill, Clayton Moore, Joey Heatherton, Ivan Pavlov, Faith Ford, Walter Koenig, Mark Hall, Morten Harket, Jessica Brown Findlay, Margaret Sanger, Bowzer, Mary Crosby, and Steve Gaines.

Two actors I would feature today. Walter Koenig turns 78 today. He is most famous for playing Chekov in classic Star Trek, alongside Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. I once met Mr. Koenig at a Comic-Con. He is a tiny man, and most gracious. A very friendly man.

The other is Sam Neill, who turns 67 today. My favorite role of his is, of course, Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. Here is my favorite clip from that movie, which still ranks in my top five favorite movies of all time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

(From The Divine Hours)

. . . and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Psalm 29:9
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”

Psalm 35:1, 3
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

Psalm 72:18-19
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
Psalm 41:13
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

Psalm 91:1-10

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your
Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule my heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-18

This is a concept that is not so common among modern-day Christians. We don’t fast very much. There are certainly some who do, but it is not a widespread practice. It seems to have been a legalistic thing in Jesus’s day. I have read reports that said that Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. I don’t know how accurate those reports are. But it was certainly more common, and it was expected of a good Jew. In addition, a habit seems to have developed that a person would purposefully not anoint their head on a day when they were fasting, so as to appear more pious than others. Anointing of the head was, according to the Reformation Study Bible notes, a symbol of rejoicing. Well, one can hardly expect to be “rejoicing” when one is walking around hungry all day, can one?? Actually, yes, says Jesus. One can be expected to rejoice, because of the true purpose and nature of real fasting. It is not to draw attention to yourself. It is for the purpose of prayer and devotion, and should be a private thing, just like helping the poor and praying. Interestingly, Jesus uses the exact same phrase for the third time, at the end of this passage. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. The message is clear. If we do anything at all with the purpose of being noticed and applauded by men, that will be our only reward.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Wearing Masks.”

“In the struggle with self-hatred, we obviously do not like what we see. It is uncomfortable, if not intolerable, to confront our true selves, and so, like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self, which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy.” We inevitably employ defense mechanisms in this maneuver. Those defense mechanisms distort our perception of reality, while protecting us from “fear, loss, and emotional pain. Through the smoke screen of rationalization, projection, displacement, insulation, intellectualization, and generalization, we remain on the merry-go-round of denial and dishonesty.” I love that last sentence. Read it again.

“Through the smoke screen of rationalization, projection, displacement, insulation, intellectualization, and generalization, we remain on the merry-go-round of denial and dishonesty.”

We who ride this merry-go-round wear a thousand different masks “to disguise the face of fear.”

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18

Father, I don’t want to wear masks. I want to be transparent, and I believe that I pretty much am, most of the time. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I can’t hide what I am feeling. Not one bit. If I don’t agree with something, it is all over my face. If I’m upset over something, it is visible. I pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in all situations, that I might not be guilty of manufacturing a false self in order to protect myself from fear, loss, or emotional pain. I have no desire to ride on this “merry-go-round of denial and dishonesty.” This also means that I don’t want to be guilty of pretending to go along with something when I don’t believe or agree with it. Give me wisdom, Lord, as I struggle with my own faults and “self-hatred.” Help me to confront my true self with honesty and the grace that you have shown me in Christ. Then, help me to turn around and direct that same grace to others.

I pray for this day. Christi has a couple things to do this afternoon, involving her mom and step-dad, and I pray that she would have grace and strength throughout. I pray for good rest this evening, as we prepare for another work week. I am grateful that my cellulitis seems to be pretty much gone. Help me to take better care of myself in the future, in order to, hopefully, avoid this condition.

I continue to lift up the Knight/Hogan family, as they grieve the loss of Jared, who was close to all of them. May your comfort and peace overwhelm them in this time of overwhelming loss. May they truly find that your grace is sufficient.

leisure-land-merry-go-round

Let’s get off of the dismal “merry-go-round of denial and dishonesty,” and throw off the masks. May Christ shine through in all we do, as we struggle with ourselves.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Stand Out From the Crowd

Good morning. It is Saturday, September 13, 2014. It’s 56 degrees outside this morning. Mmmmmm. . .

I never got a chance to get that chocolate milk shake yesterday. But today is Defy Superstition Day. I’ll try to find some sidewalk cracks to step on while carrying a black cat under a ladder while breaking a mirror. That should do it.

Yesterday evening was a bit strange. By the time I got home, I had this awful feeling that I was catching a cold (just what I need, right?). I was very tired, and could barely stay awake through the two episodes of House of Cards that we watched on Netflix. We love that show, by the way. I can’t decide whether to love or hate Francis Underwood. So, anyway, I took some NyQuil (or at least CVS’s version of it) and went to bed around 9:00 PM. I finished a book that I have been reading for the last month (Drood, by Dan Simmons) and dropped off to sleep, to not awaken (as far as I know) until around 6:00 AM. I kept sleeping (in spite of Screamer the cat’s incessant yowling) until almost 7:00. I feel much better this morning, no hint, at least at this time, of any “cold” activity.

We received some sad news yesterday. A family that we used to go to church with, back in our South Haltom days, has had a tragedy. The oldest son in the family died suddenly on Thursday night. The preliminary findings are that it was either a heart attack or brain aneurysm. I’m not sure how old he was, but I think he couldn’t have been much more than his early thirties. We are going to take some lunch to their house today, after Christi gets done with her morning run for groceries for us and her mother.

This evening, as usual, we have our Anchor prayer gathering and worship service, beginning at 4:45 (I was told I got the times wrong last weekend). Worship happens at 5:45. If you’re in the area, you are invited to visit us at The Exchange.

(Source: This Day In History)

On this date in 1936, a seventeen-year-old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians struck out seventeen batters, setting a new American League record. That pitcher’s name was Bob Feller. He signed with the Indians when he was sixteen years old, for an autographed baseball and one dollar. My how times have changed!

Feller would go on to retire from the Indians in 1956, having won more games than any other Indians pitcher, and that even with a four year interruption, as he served in the Navy during WWII. In 1957, his jersey number, 19, was the first to be retired by the Indians organization.

Looking at today’s birthdays: Ben Savage, Roald Dahl, Milton S. Hershey, Dave Mustaine, Fiona Apple, Nell Carter, David Clayton Thomas, Jacqueline Bisset, Peter Cetera, Zak Starkey (son of Ringo), Richard Kiel (passed away this week), Claudette Colbert, Mel Torme, Bill Monroe, Jean Smart, Bela Karolyi, Daniel Defoe, Arnold Schoenberg, Barbara Bain, Don Was, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

I’m going to feature three of these, today. Fiona Apple is 37 today, an American singer/songwriter who won a Grammy from her first album, Tidal, in 1996. Here is the video for her song “Paper Bag.”

Peter Cetera is, unbelievably, 70 years old today. Cetera was lead singer and bass player for Chicago until 1984. He departed the band to pursue a troubled solo career after their album, Chicago 17, arguably the best album in the band’s history. Here is the video for my always and forever favorite song of theirs, “Hard Habit to Break.” It is unfortunate that it is my favorite, because it reminds me of what was probably the most difficult time of my life. But it also reminds me of the beginning of the best time of my life, so that’s okay. :-) Oh, for those who don’t know, Peter Cetera is the one with the high voice.

And finally, David Clayton Thomas. He turns 73 years old today, and was the voice of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Here is a clip of one of their great songs, “God Bless the Child.”

I hope you have enjoyed these musical selections as much as I did. :-)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
Psalm 46:8
O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.
Psalm 59:9
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Luke 21:33

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
1 Chronicles 16:10
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Psalm 27

Today’s Gospel Reading

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15

If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, these two verses have caused quite a conflict in your life. Out of all of the phrases in the Model Prayer, Jesus chooses this one to backtrack and highlight with further commentary. Not hallowing the Father’s name. Not bringing in the Kingdom. Not daily provision. Not deliverance from the devil. Forgiveness. He seems to be making MY state of forgiveness contingent upon whether or not I forgive others! Doesn’t this go against all of what we believe about grace?? The point is, if we have not received enough grace to forgive others when they “trespass” against us, then we had best not count on receiving God’s forgiveness. Even those words fall far short of what I’m trying to say here. If I cannot forgive my brother, then I cannot claim to have received God’s forgiveness. So if I’m harboring a grudge against anyone, I had best step back and examine my own faith. We must relinquish those feelings! It doesn’t matter who we are holding a grudge against. It doesn’t matter what they have done to us. Hear this well! Jesus thought it important enough to be the only phrase in the Model Prayer to add further commentary to! The bottom line is that we, as Christians, cannot afford to ignore these two verses.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Noncomformity.”

“The crowd does not take kindly to noncomformity.” Haha! That seems like an incredible understatement, does it not? What distracts us the most from our goal of living out of the center of God’s holiness and will for our lives? Could it be the “scorn of our peers?” Do we worry all too much about what others will think about us if we get a little too radical? Unfortunately, there seem to be those who carry that so far as to trample others completely, with no regard, whatsoever, for their feelings. That’s a topic for a different day, though. How much do I fail to do because I fear ridicule? It seems that I would argue, publicly, opinions about my favorite baseball teams before I would defend my devotion to Christ. How wrong is that? “The irony is that the opinions we fear most are not those of people we really respect, yet these very persons influence our lives more than we want to admit.” Now, there’s a statement to really think about! I guess I hadn’t considered that, at all.

When we live “out of the center,” we become liberated Christians. Alfred Camus is quoted as saying, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very act of existence becomes an act of rebellion.” Brennan follows this up by saying, “There is nothing more maddening to the mob than a free person.”

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
1 Corinthians 9:19

Father, help me to be free from the “mob mentality.” And it is sad that, sometimes, this means even rejecting what a large number of well-meaning Christians want me to think or believe. Help me to live out of the center of your holiness and your will for my life. I would desire that my “very act of existence” would be an “act of rebellion.” I desire that because I desire to be yours and yours alone. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Make the life of Christ my life. Make the characteristics of the Beatitudes and the Fruit of the Spirit be the very lifelines of my life. Teach me to be aware of your presence all day, every day.

Father, I pray for this day. We have already been active. I pray that the Knight family will be able to enjoy the lunch we took over for them. I pray for comfort and peace for them at this terrible, unexpected loss on Thursday evening. We cannot even imagine the heartbreak and sadness that they are experiencing. May you draw them very close to you during this time. I pray for us as we continue to take care of the day’s errands and activities. I pray for our worship time this evening, that it will be glorifying to you and that your name will be lifted high. May the Gospel be clear tonight, and may our prayer time exalt your name. Bring us ever closer to you through our worship and through the words that Jacob will speak tonight. Teach us how to glorify you with our finances.

stand-out-from-the-crowd1

May we all have the faith to stand out from the crowd. And, yes, I do believe that we can collectively accomplish that, because we do not all have to look the same.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Don’t Sit On the Fence; You Will Get A Sore Arse

Good morning. It’s Friday! September 12, 2014.

Today is Chocolate Milk Shake Day. To celebrate, I’m beginning the day with Cafe Mocha coffee. Not quite the same, but who knows. The day is young. I wonder if Sonic will have them on sale today . . .

I’ve been feeling progressively better each day, but it has still been strange. Yesterday, right after lunch, I really started feeling bad. I started fearing that I might not even make it through the afternoon. Then, suddenly, around 3:15, when I went to my afternoon break, I felt better. Much better. I even stayed almost an hour over to try to get our box count down. Then, on the way, I was pretty hungry. This morning, I still feel pretty good, so maybe I’m on the “home stretch,” if you will.

I don’t know of any plans this weekend. I probably need to keep resting as much as I can, just to completely knock out this illness.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD,
who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!

Psalm 135:1-3
I say to the LORD, You are my God; give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD!
Psalm 140:6
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
Psalm 97:9

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
1 Timothy 2:1
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:16

These are just a few of the verses that tell us how important it is to intercede for each other. And we can’t intercede for each other if we don’t communicate our needs to each other. So there is responsibility on both sides. If you need prayer, TELL SOMEONE! And if someone asks you to pray for them, DO IT! Even if you aren’t sure you agree with what the are asking for, you can still pray for God’s will to be done in their life.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:13

Would God actually “lead” us into temptation? I like the way Eugene Peterson puts that verse in The Message. “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” While not a “literal” translation, I’m not sure it doesn’t capture the meaning better. We (those who are forgiven) pray this prayer because we don’t trust ourselves. I trust God to protect me; I do not trust myself to stay out of trouble. Therefore, I ask God to “lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” He may test us, for sure. But he will also not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Unfortunately, in recent years, people have perverted that verse and begun to proclaim that “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” This is simply not true, folks. Also, the idea is not so much being delivered from “evil” as it is the “evil one,” which means that Peterson may have hit much closer than most modern translations.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Making the Choice.”

“The crisis of American spirituality, put bluntly, is Spirit versus flesh . . . We do not choose decisively between God and Mammon, and our procrastination constitutes a decision itself.” We’ve all heard the cliche, right? “Not to decide is to decide.” I like what Brennan says next: “we carefully distribute ourselves between flesh and Spirit with a watchful eye on both.
dont-sit-on-the-fence
I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.

It’s like we are watching to see which way is going to turn out best before we decide. Well, we simply cannot afford to do this. “The unwillingness to sustain ourselves in the continual self-awareness that we are sons of the Father in Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, causes a spiritual schizophrenia of the most frightening kind.” I am not so much afraid to tell you who I am. The truth is probably more along the lines that I don’t KNOW who I am! I must give “the deep inner assent to my Christian identity.” I cannot afford to be afraid to lose my life in order to save my true identity. “God calls me by my name, and I do not answer,” because I do not know my name.

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
Revelation 3:12

Oh, Father! I fear that I have frequently fallen into this trap of sitting on the fence to see which way looked better. The problem is, I’ve read the book. I know how it ends. I KNOW which way is better! Please give me the power, by your Spirit, to dig deep down and give complete assent to my identity in you. Show me who I am, Father! Let me know my name, that I might answer you when you call. Brennan’s words are tragic, as they apply to many in the world of Christianity. We seem stuck on the proverbial fence. And that ought not be. Give us the presence of your Spirit, that we might commit to you, wholeheartedly, and live our lives in the fullness of your Spirit.

I pray for this day, that we might have safe travel to and from work. It’s threatening to rain again, so keep us safe in the traffic. May our work day go smoothly. Give Stephanie your overwhelming love today. I pray for your blessings on the rest of our family, as well, those whom we don’t see every day. Show your love to them, as well.

Your grace is sufficient.

Hey, all you “desperadoes!” Come down from your fences and “let Somebody love you.” :-)

Grace and peace, friends.

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