Prayer Is the Key

Good morning. It is Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Last day of June. The year is half over.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is disinformation. This is a noun, meaning, “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.” “In 1939, a writer describing Nazi intelligence activities noted, “The mood of national suspicion prevalent during the last decade … is well illustrated by General Krivitsky’s account of the German ‘Disinformation Service,’ engaged in manufacturing fake military plans for the express purpose of having them stolen by foreign governments.” Although the Nazis were accused of using disinformation back in the 1930s, the noun and the practice are most often associated with the Soviet KGB. Many people think disinformation is a literal translation of the Russian dezinformatsiya, which means “misinformation,” a term the KGB allegedly used in the 1950s to name a department created to dispense propaganda.”

I promise you, there will never be any deliberate disinformation in this blog. :-)

Today is Meteor Watch Day. “Legend has it that if you wished upon a shooting star the wish would come true. It is believed to have originated in Greece, when a Greek astronomer Ptolemy, around AD 127-151, wrote that the Gods occasionally, out of curiosity, peer down at the Earth from between the spheres. When this happened stars sometimes slip through the gap, becoming visible as shooting stars. It was though that because the Gods were already looking at us, they would be more receptive to any wishes we made!”

Last night’s band practice was brutal, but I still loved it. I met a few more people, including one trombone player who was not there last week. We played all of the music that we might play in Friday’s concert. I say, “might play,” because the director said that he wasn’t exactly sure how much time we would have. So there might be a piece or two that gets cut. There is a wide variety of music, including standard marches, patriotic music, and show tunes. And, of course, we will play the Stars and Stripes Forever.

Tonight is Huddle night, so there won’t be any practice time, this evening. My chops held out pretty good, though for the entire two-hour practice. There are few places that need some serious work, but I don’t know if I will have a lot of time before Friday. I don’t feel too bad, though, as I have only had two rehearsals, and am still, basically sight-reading most of this music.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Psalm 79:13

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

How, then, do we learn to pray?

While Tim Keller was being treated for thyroid cancer, he made some “practical changes” to his devotional life. These are also changes that I am looking at, but I wanted to give this book a second, more close, reading before doing so.

First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one. That enabled me to begin praying through the Psalms regularly, getting through all of them several times a year. The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.

He has a chapter, later in the book, devoted to praying the Psalms, and also recommends several other books that speak of that practice, which will come up later, as well. It took a few years to see some real fruit, after these changes, but Keller says that he found “new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer.” The two kinds of prayer that are discussed in the introduction “grew together like twin trees.” The stimulate each other. “The result was a spiritual liveliness and strength that this Christian minister, for all my preaching, had not had before.”

In spite of all of this, he says, prayer is a difficult subject about which to write. The reason, he says, is that, “before it, we feel so small and helpless.” Even the great preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones once wrote that “he had never written on prayer because of a sense of personal inadequacy in the area.”

As chapter one comes to a close, Keller says this:

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change–the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.
We must learn to pray. We have to.

(pp 17-18)

Father, I long for this deeper sense of “self-knowledge,” this experience of deep change and the “reordering of [my] loves.” At this point, I am not as much interested in the “unimaginable things” that you will give me, although that thought is certainly exciting, as I am in simply drawing closer to you. I want to know you more; I want to love you as God. I acknowledge that this is the key to everything I need to do and be in life. Teach me to pray.

I pray for this day. I am still a bit weary, so I need strength for this day. Give us smooth and safe passage to work and back today. I pray for the work day, itself, that it will also go smoothly for both Christi and me. May you give us just the grace that we need for this day alone. Give us this day our daily bread. Show us you today. I pray also that you would show yourself to Stephanie, perhaps in new ways. Draw her to you today, in prayer and meditation. May you draw Rachel and Justin closer to you today, and give strength, grace, protection, and provision to my mother. I pray that our time together this weekend will be very sweet.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we draw closer to God today, seeking that reordering of our loves in order to know him more fully.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Prayer, Devotions, Psalms, Word of the Day, Holidays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God is Good! All the Time!

Good morning. It is Monday, again, June 29, 2015. Only one more day left in June.

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is piebald. This is an adjective, meaning, “having patches of black and white or of other colors; parti-colored.” I’ve seen that word before, and always wondered what it meant. Now I know.

Today is Please Take My Children to Work Day. I think there should be extra emphasis on the “Please.” PLEASE take my children to work. This day is for stay-at-home moms who never get a break.

Yesterday was a really good day, although extremely busy. It started with Christi and me driving to Southlake to get this!
trombone
Yes, we got one! It’s a very beautiful Bach 42TG with a Thayer valve. Very nice horn. The slide is amazing, the tone is very nice, and it plays nicely, too. I can’t wait to play it at our band practice tonight.

On the way home from Southlake, we stopped by the tire place, where we picked up Christi’s car. We had taken it there on Saturday, to get four new tires, but they didn’t get it ready before we had to go to church, so we told them we would just pick it up on Sunday morning. After that, it was off to the grocery store to get groceries for us and for Christi’s mom and stepdad. We had a few minutes to sit and rest after that, before taking Tessie, the dog, up to Petsmart for her regular check up and shots. She is such a joy to take up there! She actually seems to enjoy the experience. Yesterday, they had some cats there for adoption, and Tessie was calmly sniffing at their cages, and they were calmly sniffing back. When the vet came out to talk to us, she told us that Tessie doesn’t know she’s a Corgi. We replied that she probably thinks she’s a cat, as that is what she has grown up around.

After all of those errands, we finally had some time to sit and relax. We ordered food form Tony’s Pizza and Pasta, and sat down to watch TV. After a couple hours, I got up and came back to the study to play on my new trombone for a bit, working on some of the music for Friday evening’s concert. Good times!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!

Psalm 79:6-9

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

In today’s reading, Katie Ganshert writes of a ministry “on the outskirts of Nairobi,” called Beacon of Hope, where, every morning, “a man with a smile a mile wide would spread his hands and declare, ‘God is good!” The people with him would respond, exuberantly, with “All the time!” The man would raise his arms even higher and shout back, “All the time!” They would respond, “God is good!”

Many of us who attend church on a regular basis have experienced this same routine. And, how often do we see Internet or Facebook updates declaring “God is so good,” along with some good news that people are celebrating?

The reason I chose to include this in my blog today, is that, I have experienced what the author has experienced. She states that, after reading some of those Internet updates, it caused her to pause and reflect. “What about when bad things happen? What about when life feels disappointing or hurtful? Isn’t God good then too?”

We know the answer, don’t we? But do we declare it as exuberantly? “Perhaps it’s in the valleys when our declarations of God’s goodness mean the most.” And don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about putting on a show to the outside world. It is during those times that we need to declare the goodness of God to ourselves! Because it is those “low times when we need to cling to the truth of God’s goodness all the more fiercely.”

One of my strongest recollections of will be of my family declared this to each other during the days immediately following my father’s passing.

“Because God is good! All the time!”

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Father, you are good, all the time! This is not just a cliche that we repeat to make ourselves feel better. It is truth. You are good when miraculous plane landings save hundreds of people’s lives. But you are also good when those planes don’t land miraculously and hundreds of lives are lost. We don’t understand, necessarily, but it is not up to us to understand. We are not you. I trust you, Father, and I trust in your grace, mercy, and justice. I know that you are just, and in your justness, you are good, all the time! You make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike, and in that, are even good to those who deny your very existence. In the end, your goodness will shine brighter than the largest star in the universe. I so long for the day when I will praise your goodness in person, before your face! Maranatha, Lord Jesus!

I pray for this day. I pray for safe and smooth travel to work and home again. I pray for Christi’s day at work, that it will go smoothly for her. For my work, I pray that we will not have overly heavy days, leading up to our day off on Friday. Give Stephanie a vision of your great love for her, today. I pray for Rachel and Justin, that you will draw them to your heart, and show your love to them. For my mother, I pray that you will continue to hold her up, provide for her, and protect her. We look forward to some time with her, this weekend.

May your grace and mercy rain down on us all today.

I also lift up Vickie, a cousin of a friend, that you would be with her during her heart surgery today. I pray for steady, sure hands for the surgeon, and acute vision that can see everything that needs to be done. May her healing and recovery be quick.

You are good, all the time!

It’s not just a clever phrase that we repeat to each other, although it can become that. It should be something that we declare to ourselves and to each other, even in the darkest of times.

God is good! All the time!

godisgood

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Intelligent Mysticism

Good morning. It is Sunday, June 28, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is cybrarian. You might be able to guess this one. It’s a noun, meaning, “a person whose job is to find, collect, and manage information that is available on the World Wide Web.” Personally, I think it’s an impossible job. Maybe not, though, considering that it did not say, “manage all the information that is available . . .” Still, I believe it to be quite the daunting task.

Today is Log Cabin Day, encouraging us to step back and get away from modern convenience for a bit, and just relax. Sadly, we have too much to do today to even think about that. But it does remind me of our stays at Paluxy River Bed Cabins, in Glen Rose.

This morning, we’re going to Southlake to look at a trombone! It looks like a good one, and appears to be, based on the serial number given by the seller, about ten years old. From the pictures, it looks to be in pretty good condition, as well. The seller agreed to take $1700 for it, down a little from the asking price on the ad. It’s a Bach 42, and appears to be a “TG,” with a Thayer valve. I’m rather anxious to check it out.

After that, we have to pick up Christi’s car, which is at the tire shop, as she needed four new tires before we could even think about getting the car inspected. The inspection isn’t due for a while, but she experienced some frightening driving conditions during our monsoon season. After that, we have to get the groceries for us and Christi’s mom and step-dad, and then Tessie, the dog, has a 1:30 appointment for her regular checkup at PetSmart (Banfield Pet Clinic). I think that’s all. Maybe.

Next weekend promises to be great fun. I will be playing with the Southlake Community Band on Friday evening, at Southlake Town Square, for their July 4th festivities. I’m not sure why they chose to do it on Friday, but I’m glad they did, because our church is having a July 4th picnic on Saturday at 5:00 PM, in place of our regular gatherings. The really cool thing is that we have invited my mother to come to these, offering to go pick her up in Mineral Wells on Friday morning, and maybe have her stay a couple of nights with us. I’m really excited about the weekend.

On this date in 1846, the saxophone was patented in Paris, France, by Adolphe Sax. Huh. I had no idea it was actually named after the inventor. In 1881, there was a secret treaty between Austria and Serbia. Must not have been very “secret.” On this date in 1894, Labor Day became an official U.S. Holiday. On this date in 1914, Franz Ferdinance, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist. Thus began what we know as World War I. Exactly five years later to the day, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, formally ending World War I. Exactly three years later, the Irish Civil War began. And on this date in 1997, Mike Tyson was disqualified in a heavyweight boxing match, for biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Today’s birthdays include John Wesley (English founder of Methodism), Richard Rodgers (American composer), Mel Brooks (American filmmaker), Pat Morita (American actor), Chuck Howley (American football player), Ron Luciano (American baseball umpire), Tom Magliozzi (American radio personality, Car Talk), John Byner (American comedian), Gilda Radner (American comedienne), Kathy Bates (American actress), John Elway (American football player), Mary Stuart Masterson (American actress), John Cusack (American actor), Gil Bellows (American actor), Felicia Day (American actress), and Kellie Pickler (American singer).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

A Psalm of Asaph.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food, the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.
How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!

Psalm 79:1-6

(If my posting of the Psalms passages seems random, it actually is not. I’m following the Psalms readings from Heart Aflame, devotions from John Calvin’s commentaries on the Psalms, edited by Sinclair B. Ferguson.)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Timothy Keller speaks of the path clearing a bit for him as he preached through Romans 8.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
(verses 15-16)

It is the Spirit who assures us that the Father loves us. It is the Spirit who enables us to approach the Father. It is also the Spirit who joins forces with our own spirit “and adds a more direct testimony.” Many modern biblical scholars see this as “a religious experience that is ineffable,” and consider this assurance of God’s love to be “mystical in the best sense of the word.” We simply cannot afford to underestimate the emotional aspect of our experience.

As Keller was inspired to go back to writers he had read in seminary, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Owen, he discovered that these did not attempt to separate spirit and truth, doctrine and experience.

So as Timothy pursued his deeper prayer life, he “chose a counterintuitive course.” He avoided new books on prayer, completely. He returned to historical texts of theology that had been instrumental in his initial formation. Now he could read those with questions in mind regarding prayer and experience. He found that he had missed much in his initial readings. “I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.”

John Murray, a Scottish theologian, wrote that we must recognize that there is “an intelligent mysticism” to the life of faith. He quotes Peter’s first epistle. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1:8) In this, Peter assumes “that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal.”

“Intelligent mysticism” means “an encounter with God that involves not only the affections of the heart but also the convictions of the mind. We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.”

Father, I pray that you help me discover this intelligent mysticism in my own prayer life as I go forward and attempt to learn more about communing with you in my daily life.

I pray for this day, that we may be able to get everything accomplished that needs to be done, and then have time to rest this evening. Give us wisdom as we make a decision about this trombone, this morning.

Your grace is sufficient.

I love the idea presented in today’s section of the book, the idea of “intelligent mysticism.” I think too many people run in fear at the mere mention of “mysticism.” Yet, I firmly believe that there is a place for it in our prayer lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Devotions, History, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not So Simple, It Seems

Good morning. It is Saturday, June 27, 2015,

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is preprandial. This is an adjective, meaning, “before a meal, especially before dinner.” “Preprandial came to English in the early 1800s from the Latin prandium meaning ‘luncheon, meal.'”

Today is Sunglasses Day Just might be a good day for that, too. It seems to be a bit cloudy out, right now, though, and we had rain/thunderstorms during the night.

As is typical for Fridays, I wound up having to work more than an hour over, last night. I didn’t mind, terribly, though. I was in a better frame of mind than the last time I had to do that. All this talk of “abiding” seems to have helped me along in that regard. I picked up some dinner on the way home, and Christi and I alternated between watching recorded TV shows and talking about trombones. That seems to be the topic of the month, but Christi is getting a little weary of it. I don’t blame her, really. I tend to get obsessed about things.

We have decided to move on from the two Holton trombones I found on Ebay. Both of them are pretty old. The one that has a minimum bid of $700 (a great price) was likely manufactured in the late seventies, based on the serial number, which makes it older than my current horn. The seller doesn’t know how old it is, and estimated 15-20 years, which is way off base. The other horn has a “buy it now” price of $950, but is likely pretty old, too. Both of them have a closed-wrap F-attachment system, though, and I am wanting to go for the open-wrap F-attachment, as most reviews say it has less resistances to airflow.

Currently, I am looking at a couple that are on Craig’s List, one in Southlake and one in Mesquite. The one in Southlake seems to be a relatively new Bach 42B with a Thayer valve. I know . . . I’m speaking Greek to anyone who might be reading this. Anyway, I’m currently awaiting email responses from a couple of those ads.

Today is our usual prayer and worship gathering day. This evening’s worship gathering will consist of prayer and singing, with no sermon. I’ve got the prayer portion lined out and ready to go, I think. As usual, I’m a little apprehensive about it, but it will probably be fine. Our prayer gathering is at 4:45 and the worship gathering will be at 5:45. We are The Exchange

It was on this date in 1844 that Joseph Smith, Jr and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were murdered by a mob at the Carthage, Illinois jail. Dum dum dum dum dum. On this date in 1898, Joshua Slocum, of Briar Island, Nova Scotia, completed the first solo global circumnavigation. In 1950, the U.S. decided to enter the Korean War. In 1967, the first ATM was installed in Enfield, London.

Today’s birthdays include Helen Keller (American deaf and blind activist), Bob Keeshan (American actor, Captain Kangaroo), Ross Perot (American businessman), Rico Petrocelli (American baseball player), Vera Wang (American fashion designer), Julia Duffy (American actress), J.J. Abrams (American TV/Movie writer and producer), Viktor Petrenko (Ukranian figure skater), Christian Kane (American actor and singer), Tobey Maguire (American actor), and Leigh Nash (American musician, Sixpence None the Richer).

Christian Kane is one of my wife’s favorite actors and singers. We first saw him as “Lindsey” on Angel, the Buffy spin-off. He has since been in a couple of other TV shows, including Leverage and, most recently, The Librarians. He also starred in a movie last year, called 50 to 1, which told the true story of a long-shot Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird. Christian is also a country music singer/songwriter, who has recorded both in his own name, and with a band that was simply called Kane. Here is a song from his most recent CD release, “The House Rules.” He was born in Dallas, TX, and turns 41 years old today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!
They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams.
He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them.
He gave their crops to the destroying locust and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost.
He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts.
He let loose on them his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels.
He made a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death, but gave their lives over to the plague.
He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won.
He drove out nations before them; he apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.
Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies,
but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow.
For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel.
He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe.
He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage.
Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song.
Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine.
And he put his adversaries to rout; he put them to everlasting shame.
He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

Psalm 78:38-72

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Timothy Keller writes of the “confusing landscape that one will find while seeking to learn how to pray. Somewhere in the last generation or so, there has been a growing interest, in Western culture, in “spirituality, meditation, and contemplation.” Perhaps it started when The Beatles began showing interest in Eastern mysticism, and perhaps it was “fueled by the decline of institutional religion.” As time goes by, the number of people who experience any kind of regular religious routine is shrinking. Yet “some kind of spiritual craving remains.” Each year, many people make pilgrimage to “ashrams and other spiritual retreat centers in Asia.” Not too long ago, even Rupert Murdoch tweeted that he was learning Transcendental Meditation.

Similarly, there has been a resurgence of interest in prayer in the Christian church. “There is a strong movement toward ancient meditation and contemplative practices.” The “spiritual disciplines” have been very popular in the past decade or so.

The problem with this is that it is not what might be considered a “single, coherent ‘wave.'” This is where the “confusing landscape” idea comes in. Many more fundamentalist types reject contemplative spirituality as though the devil, himself, came up with it. So the simple act of seeking resources to help learn to pray becomes much less simple.

I hate to leave things on a “cliffhanger,” here, but that is the end of the particular section, and I must move on.

Father, as I continue in this course of seeking to learn to pray more effectively and powerfully, I pray for wisdom. I pray for anyone out there who is on the same journey, that your Spirit might direct and protect; direct to the true and right way, and protect from errant ways. I desire truth; I desire the most intimate communion with you that is possible. As I move forward, I will be uttering these words time and time again, “Lord, teach me to pray.” I will look at the prayers of Jesus, and I will look at the teachings/observations of other men, as well. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.

I pray for this day. May your name be lifted high and glorified as we pray and worship you, this evening. May your grace rain down on us and empower us. May we all learn better means of communing with you. I also pray that we would have adequate time to rest today and tomorrow, as a new work week approaches.

Your grace is sufficient.

Learning to pray is, unfortunately, more complicated than it needs to be, due to the well-meaning efforts of humanity. May we seek the face of God in our efforts, and learn in his Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Devotions, History, Prayer, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Am In the Way

Good morning. It is Friday, June 26, 2015. Only four more days left in June.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is waddy. It’s a noun with a simple definition. “Cowboy.” That’s it. Where did that come from? No one seems to know for sure. “It’s easier to rope a wild mustang than to round up the origin of waddy. Some folks claim it comes from wadding (the material used in stuffing or padding) because waddies were once extra hands hired to fill in when extra cowhands were needed. But other evidence suggests that waddy originally referred to a cattle rustler, a usage that wouldn’t support the wadding theory. There is also an Australian waddy meaning “stick” or “club,” but definitive evidence of a connection between the Australian and American words remains elusive. All researchers can say with certainty is that waddy has been used to refer to a cowboy since at least the late 19th century.”

Today is Chocolate Pudding Day. Any time the word “chocolate” is involved, I’ll pick that one. Especially over Take Your Dog To Work Day. I can’t even imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs (some of them, at least). But if everyone took their dog to work today? Egad!! I would much rather eat chocolate pudding.

I don’t have much to report, this morning. I got everything together for the prayer and worship gathering for Saturday evening, and I printed out all the concert music that I will need for the rehearsal and for next Friday evening’s concert at Southlake Town Square. I didn’t practice, though.

I’m still looking at trombones. This is difficult, especially looking on the Interwebs, as you can’t physically handle them. There are a couple of Holton trombones on Ebay that look good, but I’m just hesitant about going that direction.

This time next Friday, I will probably (hopefully) still be asleep. Since July 4 falls on Saturday, this year, we will get Friday off. It will be a busy holiday weekend, though, as I will be playing with the Southlake Community Band on Friday, and our church will be having a picnic on Saturday. Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

. . . and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle.
They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law.
They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them.
In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap.
In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light.
He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?”
Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel,
because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power.
Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.
Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;
he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas;
he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings.
And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.
But before they had satisfied their craving, while the food was still in their mouths,
the anger of God rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel.
In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.
So he made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror.
When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly.
They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.
But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.

Psalm 78:7-37

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Timothy Keller writes about Flannery O’Connor, a writer whose name I have heard, but never read. After reading this book, I have a strong desire to at least read her book on prayer. As she struggled with success as a writer, she verbalized those struggles into prayer, keeping a journal. As she vented her feelings, she described

effort at artistry in this rather than thinking of You and feeling inspired with the love I wish I had. Dear god, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . what I am afraid of, dear god, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way.

What a profound statement, and could it be true of all of us? “I do not know You God because I am in the way.” Augustine of Hippo recognized something similar, “that living well depended on the reordering of our loves.” When we love success more than God and our neighbors, it hardens our hearts. It dulls our feelings and our senses. This, in turn, “makes us poorer artists.” O’Connor, being a gifted writer, had to constantly reorient her soul in prayer. She even struggled with the things she wrote in her journal, being afraid that, instead of praying, she was just venting.

One thing that she did learn is “that prayer is not simply the solitary exploration of your own subjectivity. You are with Another, and he is unique.” Consider that God is “the only person from whom you can hide nothing.” And if we come before him with that in mind, we will begin to see ourselves in a totally unique way. “Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.”

A consistent thread throughout O’Connor’s journal is a sincere desire to learn how to pray. At the conclusion of one entry, there was a simple cry, “Can’t anyone teach me how to pray?” She was not alone. Many people ask this same question every day.

“There is a sense of the necessity of prayer–we have to pray. But how?”
(From pages 10-13)

Father, these words of Flannery O’Connor resonate within me. I still struggle with knowing how to pray. Even though we have the simple words of Jesus in front of us (and these do help, they really do), there is still a strong sense of not really knowing how to approach you, or how to talk to you. I find myself, so many times, trying to use fancier sentences, when I know that my words cannot impress you. Then, there are other times when I find myself explaining the situation that I am praying about. What nonsense? I do not need to explain to you what is wrong with Joe or his marriage. You know all of these things. All I need to do is pray to you, calling out the desires of my heart to you. Heal this person. Restore this person’s marriage. Draw this person closer to you. What more do I need? Prayer is sometimes muddled by the usage of too many words.

And this idea of me being in the way . . . what a profound statement!! Father, drill that into my heart. I cannot see you or know you if I am in the way. Help me to not love success or anything else more than you. Help me not love the journey more than the destination. You are the destination. You are all there is.

I pray for this day. May our trip to work be smooth and safe. May our Friday work day be a good day, and may all of our tasks be completed with efficiency. I thank you for prayers that have been answered. May you show your great love to Stephanie, today. Show her how much you care for her. Draw Rachel and Justin closer to you, and strengthen my mother for whatever lies ahead for her. We all are hanging on your grace, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.

“I do not know You God because I am in the way.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We HAVE to Pray

Good morning. It is Thursday, June 25, 2015.

There were several good choices for word of the day. I chose futile, from Merriam-Webster. Futile is an adjective, meaning, “serving no useful purpose : completely ineffective,” or, “occupied with trifles : frivolous.” I had to choose that word, you know, because . . .

Today is Global Beatles Day, celebrating those four young men from England, who changed the face of music forever. Goo goo ga joob.

All of the road-closing around Grapevine, due to flooded roads, is really messing up my drive home. Getting to work in the mornings is more difficult than usual, but not as bad as getting home, for some reason. Yesterday, my GPS once again took me to places I had never been before. The trip took about an hour and a half (including about 5 minutes at a Sonic to get our obligatory drinks). It was scenic, at least. :-D

Tonight is Christi’s Huddle night. I will spend that time preparing for Saturday’s prayer and worship service, which will be different than our normal worship gathering. We have had one similar, before, and will be spending the time alternating between praying and singing. I will be leading the prayer portion of the service. I’m always nervous about this, as I believe it to be very important, and want to do it well. For this service, we will be praying through the different aspects of the Model Prayer from Matthew 6.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Psalm 78:5-7

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

As Timothy Keller concludes the introduction to his book, he summarizes the purpose of the book, and what he has concluded in the introduction, that “prayer is both conversation and encounter with God.” There are traditional forms of prayer with which we are all familiar–adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. These are “concrete practices as well as profound experiences.” We should not let the familiarity of these forms create a shallowness in our prayers. “We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.”

The aspects of awe and intimacy, struggle and reality, will not occur each and every time we pray. It’s much like what we call those “mountaintop experiences” that we have, throughout life. Every single time we pray will not be profound. But we should make sure that those aspects are present in our prayers “over the course of our lives.”

Keller cites a book written by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, called Praying: Finding Our Way through Duty to Delight. He specifically likes the subtitle to the book, saying, “That is the journey of prayer.”

Part One of the book is called “Desiring Prayer.” The first chapter is “The Necessity of Prayer.”

In the fall of 1999, Timothy Keller was teaching a Bible study course on the Psalms, when it became obvious to him that he was “barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer.” Then came 9/11. Keller is pastor of a large church in Manhattan. He describes the atmosphere in the city as “a kind of corporate clinical depression, even as it rallied.” His wife suffered with Crohn’s disease, and Keller, himself, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

In the middle of all of this, his wife asked him to pray with her every night. They had never managed to be disciplined enough to do this. I can identify with that, myself. Here is what she said to him:

Imagine you were diagnosed with such a legal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine–a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No–it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.

This was more than twelve years ago, and Keller can’t remember missing a night since then, even if it had to be by phone, even when they were in different parts of the world. This led Keller into a deep search to improve his prayer life. He found that he was not alone in his search.

Father, we have to pray. Even pseudo-spiritual rapper MC Hammer recognized that, decades ago, when he sang, “We’ve got to pray, just to make it today.” There is so much going on in our world that we cannot afford not to pray. We have to pray. Teach me to pray. I’ve read this book once, already, and am now reading it more slowly, paying more attention to every detail. I want to learn from Tim Keller, and from anyone else I can get my hands on, who has studied this necessity of life. Most of all, I want to learn from Jesus. So, Father, point me to Jesus, point me to anyone else who can teach me all I can learn about prayer and how it can strengthen us and empower us in our lives.

I pray for this day, that our trip to work would be smooth and safe. I pray for the road conditions in Grapevine and surrounding areas to improve. May you decrease the drama that Christi continues to experience in her job. May you help us both to be good representatives of your Kingdom at our jobs. May you show your overwhelming love to Stephanie, Rachel, Justin, and my mother. I pray this every day, but I mean it. I also give you thanks for this new opportunity to be involved in music again.

Your grace is sufficient.

It cannot be emphasized enough. We have to pray. If we say we believe in Jesus, we simply cannot make it without prayer. If Jesus, himself, needed it, consistently, how much more do we?

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Two Kinds of Prayer

Good morning. It is Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Hump Day.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is anastrophe. This is a noun, meaning, “inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect.” An example I will give. Talk like Yoda, you will. “Your father, he is.” A name there is, for the way Yoda talks, I never knew.

Today is Fairy Day. No, I’m not being politically incorrect. I’m talking about those mythical creatures that, if we were honest, most of us probably really wish existed. You know, Tinkerbell, and all her friends (although she doesn’t seem to have any friends in that story). Toot-toot and all his buddies in The Dresden Files. Those guys love pizza. Who knows . . . if you leave some pizza out tonight . . .

The Huddle meeting last night was pretty good. Everyone was there, for a change. After reading a passage from Ephesians, and looking at another variation on the triangle,
Identity Triangle

we got into a really good discussion about what it means to “abide.” We even discussed what it looked like for Jesus to abide, and for his disciples to abide, considering that they didn’t have any of the resources that we believe we have to have in order to accomplish this. In short, we came to the conclusion that we tend to making abiding a lot more difficult than it really is.

Today being Wednesday, we will have the evening free at home together. I do need to work on the prayer service that is coming up this Saturday evening, but I can do most of that while Christi is at Huddle tomorrow night.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

A Maskil of Asaph.
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Psalm 78:1-4

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

I have begun re-reading this book, by Timothy Keller, in my devotional times, and will share bits of it, as I see appropriate. In the introduction, Keller discusses two different types of prayer. One he calls “communion-centered,” and the other he calls “kingdom-centered.” Over time, different authors and groups of people have debated which one is better. Tim Keller will argue that we need them both equally.

He begins by looking at the Psalms, where he believes we can find great examples of both kinds of prayer. In Psalm 27:4, for example, we find David saying, 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. David basically says, here, that “nothing is better than to know the presence of God.” Because of that, he writes, in Psalm 63, O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. (Verses 1-3) As the Psalmist experiences the presence of God, he then says, My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food (verse 5).

There are even more examples, however, of what Keller calls “Psalms of complaint, of cries for help, and of calls for God to exercise his power in the world.” There are even “stark expressions of the experience of God’s absence.” In these cases, it is apparent that prayer becomes a struggle. Psalm 10 begins with the Psalmist asking God why he stands far away, why he hides. “The prayer ends with the psalmist bowing to God’s timing and wisdom in all matters yet fiercely calling out for justice on the earth.” Keller describes this as “the wrestling match of kingdom-centered prayer.”

There are other places in Scripture that give us more theology regarding prayer. In Hebrews, the writer tells us that “Jesus Christ stands as our mediator so that we, though undeserving in ourselves, can boldly approach God’s throne and cry out for our needs to be met (Heb 4:14-16; 7:25).” Romans 8:9-11 shows us that, through the Holy Spirit, God dwells within us, and, in Romans 8:26-27, he helps us in our prayers. Because of this indwelling of the Spirit, according to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, we are able to “gaze and contemplate the glory of Christ.”

Timothy Keller insists that “these two kinds of prayer are neither opposites nor even discrete categories.” As we adore God, we bring supplication. When we pray for God’s name to be “hallowed,” we also ask that he will show his glory to the world, that all the world would know him as God. When we seek God’s kingdom, we must also know him. Even the beginning of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which tells us that the purpose of man is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever,” reflects both “kingdom-prayer and communion-prayer.”

“We may pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, but if we don’t enjoy God supremely with all our being, we are not truly honoring him as Lord.”

Father, as I go through this day, may I successfully engage in both kinds of prayer. May I seek to know you and enjoy you with all my being, while, likewise, praying for your kingdom to come in all its glory. Teach me to pray, Father! Thank you for this resource on prayer, and I pray that as I continue to read it, I will learn some truths that will bring my prayer life to new heights.

I pray for this day, that we will have safe travel to and from work. I pray for Christi’s day, that the drama will not be present, and that her stress level will be reduced. May you surround Stephanie with your great love today, and show her the path for her life, in service to you. May you be strength for Rachel and Justin, especially as Rachel attempts to finish up her Master’s program, this summer. And may you continue to be a firm foundation for my mother.

Your grace is sufficient.

I love that last quote from this section of Keller’s book.

“We may pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, but if we don’t enjoy God supremely with all our being, we are not truly honoring him as Lord.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Prayer, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | Leave a comment