Think About These Things

Today is Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“Being angry and resentful of someone is like letting them live rent-free in your head.” – George Foreman

Word of the Day

Biffy – A toilet; the room or outhouse containing this.

Today is Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. I didn’t make any, so . . .

I finally made it to band practice, last night. We are rehearsing for an indoor, more formal concert in early March (probably March 7), that will be Disney/Star Wars themed. We had a number of new people last night, and the room was full.

Apparently, there was some violence in Playa del Carmen, early Monday morning. I found out when one of the “Star Friends” from our 2010 trip to Cancun put out a Facebook notification that she was safe. It was the last night of their BPM Festival. That stands for “Beats Per Minute,” and it is an electronic music festival. Gunfire broke out in a club, killing five people. One person was killed in the rush of people trying to escape, and the US embassy confirmed that one was a US citizen. There are numerous comments that people who live there deal with this sort of thing every day. When we traveled to Cancun, we never felt unsafe, but we rarely left the confines of the resort. We did, however, take a local bus to a Walmart store.

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Psalm 31:23

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Psalm 118:28

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. Psalm 119:147

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. John 14:21

(From The President’s Devotional)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the full light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny . . . it is the light that guides your way.

(From Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius)

We are all aware that extra calories we consume will eventually be stored as fat in our bodies. We also know that a dollar put into a savings account will grow based on the current interest rate. There is no mystery in either case.

What we tend to forget is that the same is true, spiritually. “Today, if we consume frantic media, gossipy conversation, indulgent stimulation, or worrisome thoughts, then we will have frantic, gossipy, indulgent, and worrisome lives.” If we abide by the words of Philippians, quoted above, and the advice of Marcus Aurelius, “our character and our peace will grow stronger.”

“Dear God, help me purify my thoughts. When I am distracted, help me constantly refocus on the things that matter most. Amen.”

Father, I echo Joshua’s prayer. I get too easily distracted. My thoughts are scattered and they wander. I get caught up in the frantic media if I am not cautious. Help me to ignore that stuff, and to not be involved in “gossipy conversation” or “worrisome thoughts.” Especially the worrisome thoughts. I am so guilty of those. Teach me the calmness and peace that comes from thinking and meditating on your words.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Quotes, The Divine Hours, The President's Devotional, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Childlike Trust

Today is Monday, January 16, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

That reminds me of this song.

Word of the Day

Rectitude – rightness of principle or conduct; moral virtue.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I don’t have a link to a web site for that. But it’s a day when we should all pause and consider what we are each doing to improve relationships between people of all kinds, beyond just race and skin color.

I missed my first playoff pick of the season last night when the Steelers prevailed over the Chiefs, 18-16. Earlier in the day, the Packers pulled of a last second win over the Cowboys in a game that seriously lacked defense. The final score was 34-31. We actually watched that game. Up until the last 30 seconds, that is, when the power went out due to the storm we were having. The game was tied 31-31 when the power went out, and the Packers had the ball. Twenty years ago, I would have had to wait until the power came back on to find out what happened, but last night, Facebook on my iPhone was my friend, so I knew that the Packers kicked a field goal with three seconds left in the game. I’m not unhappy about that. I was mostly rooting for the Packers. It was a fun game, but if the Cowboys hadn’t made some sloppy mistakes early in the game, they probably would have won.

Next week, the conference championships will be played. Packers vs Falcons and Patriots vs Steelers. I predict the Packers and the Patriots in the Superbowl. Or is it Super Bowl? I don’t know. Whatever.

Back to work today.

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

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

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 
before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Psalm 96:12-13

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! 
He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. 
He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. 
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, 
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. 
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
Psalm 147:7-12

(From Living the Message)

I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help. 
Like servants, alert to their master’s commands, like a maiden attending her lady, We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy.
Psalm 123:1-2 (The Message)

“Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust.” God does not exist to simply indulge our whims; he is a God we can trust with our destiny. “The Christian is not a naive, innocent infant who has no identity apart from a feeling of being comforted and protected and catered to but a person who has discovered an identity that is given by God which can be enjoyed best and fully in a voluntary trust in God.” Our trust and hope in God should not come out of a sense of fear, panic, and insecurity. It should come from freely given faith and love.

Father, help me along the path toward this kind of trust. Yes, I proclaim that I still need the help of your Spirit to achieve this trust, even after all of these years. Because I am human, because I am finite, because I am still imperfect, I fail in my trust of you. I do believe that I have long since passed out of that sense of fear, panic, and insecurity. Yet, those still creep up on me and surprise me from time to time. Mostly my lack of trust comes in personal areas surrounding work and other things. It’s hard to put into words, but I have faith that you understand what I mean. Give me childlike trust that is not naive.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Living the Message, Prayer, Psalms, Quotes, The Divine Hours, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Worship Is Not Meant to Satisfy

Today is Sunday, January 15, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“The more we love someone, the less we flatter them; it is by excusing nothing that true love shows itself.” ― Molière

Word of the Day

Cantankerous – difficult or irritating to deal with.

Today is Strawberry Ice Cream Day. That one won by just a skosh over Hat Day. Perhaps I will find a way to eat strawberry ice cream while wearing a hat.

We calculated that we drove almost 240 miles yesterday. And we had a funeral in the middle. Hopefully, people will understand if we are less than chipper or perky today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not setting out to be cantankerous (see what I did there?). But we are weary, this morning, and C is not feeling great.

The funeral went well. After the chapel service, we walked across to the mausoleum, where C’s step-dad would be interred. There was an Air Force unit there, in uniform, and they gave a gun salute, as well as the playing of Taps. Truthfully, that was probably the most emotional time for me.

After the funeral service, we all went to Ginger Brown’s for an early dinner (by “all,” I mean C, S, R, my mother, and me), before taking Mama back to Mineral Wells. We got home around 6:00-6:30 PM, weary to the bone.

This morning, we are getting ready for our worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, TX.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalm 98:1

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. Psalm 119:141

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Psalm 71:8

(From Living the Message)

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of GOD,” my heart leaped for joy. 
And now we’re here, O Jerusalem, inside Jerusalem’s walls!
Psalm 122:1-2

“Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God–it whets our appetite.” I confess that I have never considered worship in quite that light before. When we worship, it does not take care of our need for God. Rather, it deepens our need. This need for God is expressed “in a desire for peace and security.” Who among us does not desire those two things? Two Hebrew words come to mind: Shalom and shalvah.

Most people are aware that shalom means peace. However, “you can no more define it by looking up its meaning in the dictionary than you can define a person by his social security number.” The word takes in all of the aspects of wholeness that come about by God’s will being completed in us. “It is the work of God that, when complete, releases streams of living water in us and pulsates with eternal life.”

Shalvah means security. But it has nothing to do with insurance policies or bank accounts or caches of food and weapons. “The root meaning is leisure–the relaxed stance of one who knows that everything is all right because God is over us and for us in Jesus Christ.” I experience security when I realize that every moment of my existence “is at the disposal of God, lived under the mercy of God,” and I rest in that realization.

When we worship, we participate in the peace and security of God. This deepens our need for both, which God fulfills in us daily as we share in “what God initiates and continues in Jesus Christ.”

Father, as I worship today, may I experience this peace and security. May I be observant of those around me and share in their need for you. And may we come to the worship gathering, not expecting to have our need for you satisfied, but, rather, deepened and whetted, that we may seek your face and presence in all that we do throughout the coming week.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

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What Are You Afraid Of?

Today is Saturday, January 14, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” – Frederick Douglass

Word of the Day

Neologism – a new word, usage, or expression. In our society, this frequently occurs when people begin mashing words together, as in “chillax.” I hate that word, by the way.

Today is Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. That actually sounds quite delicious. Makes me wish there was a New York deli around.

The visitation for C’s step-dad went well, last night. There was no familial drama, although it was a bit different from any visitation I have ever attended. First, one of his daughters got up to speak, and then asked that we all stand and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag that was draped over his casket. He did serve in the military, so was able to have that on his casket. I can confidently say that this was the first time I have ever said the pledge at a funeral/visitation.

A short while later, one of the sons and his wife had their pastor there, who also got up and spoke a few words. From my experience, that is also an unusual practice at a visitation. At one point, C leaned over and asked, “What’s he going to say tomorrow?” My response was, “Do we still have to come tomorrow?” Nothing wrong with a little levity at a solemn event, right? All kidding aside, his words were very meaningful, and he quoted a good deal of Psalm 139, which happens to be one of my favorites, as well as a favorite of my father’s.

In a short while, I am leaving to go pick up my mother to bring her to the funeral. I believe S is planning to go with me. The funeral will be today at 1:30.

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD! Psalm 115:18

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:5

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 108:3-4

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13

“What are you afraid of?” asked the emergency room doctor of Carol Kuykendall, writer of today’s reading. Carol had gone to the ER with “a painful intestinal blockage, a periodic result of . . . ovarian cancer surgery.” After running some tests, the doctor had returned to advise that Carol needed to admitted and transported to an across town hospital. She just wanted to go home.

“What are you afraid of?” asked the doctor a second time. Carol could not find words. After insisting that her husband and daughter go home, Carol was alone with God, so she talked to him.

What am I afraid of?” She finally began to name the fears in a conversation with God. “Naming those fears in conversation with God took some of the power out of them, especially as I remembered His faithfulness within those painful memories.” By the time she was taken to the ambulance to be transported, she felt “less alone and less afraid.”

My verse for this year, a side line in the heading of this blog, is Isaiah 41:10, just a few verses before the verse that heads up this reading. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. I have asked myself, numerous times, “What are you afraid of?” In truth, we have nothing to fear. The worst possible thing that can happen to us can only send us “home.” And lesser things, while they can cause us significant pain, pale in the face of God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.
(Psalm 46:1-3

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Father, give us your peace. Teach us to not be afraid, no matter how daunting the situation may appear. Help us to trust that you are with us. Help us to not be dismayed, for you are our God. Give us your strength and help; uphold us with your righteous right hand!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

isaiah-41-10

Grace and peace, friends.

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Dissatisfaction

Today is Friday, January 13, 2017. Friday the 13th. Friggatriskaidekaphobics beware.

Quote of the Day

“I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.” – Isaac Asimov

Word of the Day

Crambo – inferior rhyme. Sounds like some kind of party game.

Today is Blame Someone Else Day. I didn’t say it was your fault; I said I was going to blame you.

So the Rosary is off for tonight. There will still be visitation for C’s step-dad, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, but, apparently, they couldn’t find a priest to do the Rosary.

R is coming over in a little while, to have lunch with us. She’s not staying for the visitation, but will come back tomorrow for the funeral. Also, we’ll be driving to Mineral Wells tomorrow morning to pick up my mother, to bring her to the service, as well. I think I may have already said that.

Yesterday, we watched some movies from Redbox. We saw Bad Moms, which we really enjoyed. It was, as expected, somewhat silly, but, in the end, had a moral of sorts. It starred Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Christina Applegate. I really like Kristen Bell, and her character was pretty adorable. Then we watched Money Monster, a movie I had never heard of, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It was a dramatic thriller that was pretty good. I don’t think I ever felt quite as on edge as it wanted me to, though. Finally, we watched Miss Perigrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which I loved, but C didn’t. It was quite strange. I still haven’t read the book, but am looking forward to reading it some day.

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Psalm 69:5

When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Psalm 65:3

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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41-42

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Psalm 25:6-8, 11

(From Living the Message)

“Deliver me from the liars, GOD! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.” Psalm 120:2 (The Message)

This is a very timely reading. “People submerged in a culture swarming with lies and malice feel like they are drowning in it; they can trust nothing they hear, depend on no one they meet.” Never have I felt that way as much as I do at this time in our society. With the proliferation of “fake news” that people spread in support of whatever they support or don’t support, I feel as if I can believe or trust no source of information. I have friends who have literally said that they don’t care what Snopes or fact checkers say, they are still going to believe whatever they have decided to believe. Christian friends, no less. I find this to be very disturbing and disappointing.

This dissatisfaction, however, is a good jumping off point for discipleship. “The dissatisfaction, coupled with a longing for peace and truth, can set us on a pilgrim path of wholeness in God.”

We need to be thoroughly disgusted with things in order to be fully motivated to set out on this path of “the Christian way.” If we continue to think that a particular presidential candidate is going to rescue us, reduce crime, increase jobs, or establish justice; if we believe that the next “scientific breakthrough might save the environment; if we think that another pay raise will reduce our anxiety . . . “we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith.” We need to be completely fed up with the ways of the world.

Psalm 120 was written by just such a person, “sick with the lies and crippled with the hate, a person doubled up in pain over what is going on in the world.” But the pain of this outcry penetrates through all of the despair “and stimulates a new beginning–a journey to God which becomes a life of peace.”

Father, help me find this extreme dissatisfaction with the world systems and processes and the utter uselessness of them. I confess that I still find too much satisfaction in things of the world. While it is okay to utilize things of the world for some things, we must not rest in the satisfaction of the world around us. I need to be disturbed, dissatisfied, and disgusted, so that I am driven to utter dependence on you and your Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

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Lists

Today is Thursday, January 12, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.” – Nicolas Chamfort

Word of the Day

Willowwacks – a wooded, uninhabited area. Also, apparently, a married couple performing folk-ish music.

Today is Marzipan Day. So, once again, I give you . . . Marzipan!

I cooked with our new oven and stove top, yesterday. It works fine. First, it was just some frozen potato skins. While those were baking, I made chili on the stove top. Later, I made chocolate chip cookies. They weren’t the best we’ve ever made, but it’s not the oven’s fault. The problem was, we were out of brown sugar (this was a rather impulsive thing, because we had chocolate chips left over from the fudge C made at Christmas, so we didn’t think to check all of the ingredients before we started), so C found a recipe that didn’t use brown sugar. They tasted fine, but they were too “floury,” or something. We still have some chips left, so we might get some brown sugar at the store today and try again.

Otherwise, we continue to just chill at home for the next couple of days. We may go visit our pastor’s step-dad today or tomorrow. He is still in the hospital after having surgery to remove a cancerous spot from his mouth. He’s having a tough go of it, because he can’t eat or drink anything for around three weeks. I can’t even imagine!

It has been reported, on Yahoo!, that the San Diego Chargers are planning to move to Los Angeles. Seriously?? Don’t they already have enough teams?

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. 
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. 
For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 81:1-4

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

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. Psalm 71:15

Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” Psalm 58:11

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

(From The President’s Devotional)

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

We love to be on lists, don’t we?

“We feel honored to be among the most accomplished, the brightest, the powerful.” I’ve been on lists. I frequently made the Dean’s list in college. I was on the honor roll many times in public school. I got a music award as a junior in high school. It was awarded to one student per school.

But think about Jesus. He wasn’t on any of those kinds of lists. “He was counted among the outcasts, the rejects, the condemned.” Those are bad lists to be on. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3) Jesus is a constant reminder that lists are overrated.

If we want to be a friend of the world, we will seek to be on its list of accolades. “But if we want to be a friend of the Most High, then we must seek to imitate him.”

“Dear God, let me discount the value of place and position. Help me seek first your kingdom, your character, and your righteousness. Amen.”

Father, I pray for the spiritual fortitude to seek your righteousness and holiness, rather than the approval of the world. Let me not worry about any “lists” that the world might make. At the same time, I do desire to do the best job at whatever it is I set out to do, but not for man’s approval. I also pray that I would never seek “religious experience” over your righteousness and holiness.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

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Subversive

Today is Wednesday, January 11, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“I have always found that actively loving saves one from a morbid preoccupation with the shortcomings of society.” ― Alan Paton

Word of the Day

Myrmidon – a person who executes without question or scruple a master’s commands.

Today is Learn Your Name In Morse Code Day. Because why? Because, that’s why!

Both of us have stayed home from work today, and will for the remainder of this week. C really struggled with this, because there are things going on at work that she feels like she needs to be there for, but everyone has told her to take as much time as she needs. I think she finally agreed and decided to stay home the rest of the week. I think that was the right choice, because I really feel that she needs some really good rest.

The funeral for her step-dad will be at 1:30 on Saturday. They will have a rosary/visitation from 6:00 to 8:00 on Friday evening. I’ve never witnessed a rosary before. I’m interested to see how that plays out. My mother will be coming for the funeral. We will go pick her up on Saturday morning and take her back home Saturday evening.

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Psalm 86:4

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! Psalm 119:10

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 7:18

(From Living the Message)

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Matthew 13:10-13 (The Message)

Jesus was subversive. Take a moment to thank about that. Have you ever considered it? Subversive means, “seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.” While that may not have been Jesus’s primary reason for being on earth, it certainly applied to him.

Everyone called him Rabbi. Rabbis don’t make things happen. They are important, but they aren’t world changers. And when something happened or was said that would draw extraordinary attention to him, Jesus cautioned people not to say anything. He preferred to remain “under the radar,” at least until the time was right.

His favorite form of communication was the parable. Parables are subversive. “Parable sound absolutely ordinary; casual stories about soil and seeds, meals and coins and sheep, bandits and victims, farmers and merchants.” In addition, the vast majority of Jesus’s parables were what we would call “secular.” Only one was set in “church,” and only a couple mention the name of God. When people heard these stories, realizing that they were not about God, and were unthreatening, they would relax. “They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imagination. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts.”

“Jesus continually threw odd stories down alongside ordinary lives and walked away without explanation or altar call. (Notice that Jesus never used an altar call.) The word parable literally comes from Greek, para, “alongside,” bole, “thrown.”

It was like planting a seed in the imagination. And parables certainly did not make things easier. There was nothing simple about them. Just note the disciples’ question in the passage quoted above. Parables force us to “exercise our imagination, which if we aren’t careful becomes the exercise of our faith.”

Father, give me a heart to understand Jesus’s parables. I know that there are places where he explains them to his disciples. Help me to understand them with my own faith. I’ve prayed before . . . help me to believe the words of Jesus and put them into practice in my life. All of the words. Not just the ones I like. Give me the faith to understand and practice the ones that make me uncomfortable, as well. Help me to also understand the subversive nature of Jesus and his ministry on earth. If I am to walk as he walked, there must be at least a hint of that subversive nature in me, as well.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

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