Good morning. Today is Friday, November 23, 2012. Today is “Black Friday.” It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and as another blog aptly stated, only in America do we trample each other in the retail stores exactly one day after giving thanks for everything we already have. However, there is one good thing about this Black Friday. Sonic has breakfast burritos for half-price all day long! Today is both “Eat A Cranberry Day” and “National Cashew Day.” They might be good together!
Oddly enough, the day after Thanksgiving, the only “thanks” I see on Facebook is someone being thankful that they got ten hours of sleep. I guess the “thanksgiving” is over. I’m challenging myself to keep it going. My heart’s desire is to live a life of gratitude and service. I’m thankful, today, that my family was together yesterday for Thanksgiving in Mineral Wells. We had a really great day together. Here’s a photo that I took of all of us.
On this date in 534 B.C., Thespis of Icaria became the first actor to portray a character onstage.
On this date in 1644, John Milton published a pamphlet criticizing censorship, called Areopagitica.
On this date in 1876, corrupt Tammany Hall leader, Boss Tweed, was delivered to authorities in New York City, after being captured in Spain.
The first jukebox began operation in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco on this date in 1889.
On this date in 1890, King William III of the Netherlands died without a male heir. A special law was passed to allow his daughter Princess Wilhelmina to become his heir. I suppose this is the “Queen Wilhelmina” that the lodge and state park in Mena, Arkansas are named after.
The first edition of Life magazine was published on this date in 1936.
Also on this date in 1936, blues legend Robert Johnson made his first recording.
The first episode of Doctor Who was aired on BBC on this date in 1963. It starred William Hartnell.
On this date in 1966, Elvis Presley’s movie Spinout opened in U.S. theaters.
On this date in 1990, Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, passed away at the age of 74.
On this date in 1996, Rachel Whiteread won a 20,000 pound award for the best British modern artist and a 40,000 pound Foundation art award for being the worst artist of the year. Okay… (Those are British monetary pounds, not units of weight.)
Today’s birthdays include Franklin Pierce (14th President), 1804, Billy the Kid (which one??), 1859, Boris Karloff, 1887, Harpo Marx, 1888, R.L. Burnside (Mississippi Blues musician), 1923, Hal Lindsey (Late Great Planet Earth), 1929, Krzysztof Penderecki (composer of “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima”), 1933, Luis Tiant (baseball pitcher), 1940, Tom Joyner (radio DJ), 1949, Bruce Hornsby (musician), 1954, Maxwell Caulfield (actor in “Grease 2”), 1959, Adam Eaton (baseball player), 1977, Jonathan Papelbon (ex-closer for the Boston Red Sox), 1980, Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), 1992.
Today is the day that we at the Bickleyhouse get out the Christmas decorations! The tree, the lights, our special ornaments, and all the other trimmings that go around the house will go up today. Unless the wind keeps gusting at 30mph outside. In which case the lights may have to wait.
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. (Psalm 97:9)
Father, I pray for a vision of you this morning as I look into your word.
Today, I’m reading Isaiah 2:12-19.
12 For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower, and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
If you remember, verse 11 ended with the phrase, “and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.” Verse 12 begins a description of “that day.” Verse 17 echoes that phrase. Everything that exalts itself as being higher and more important than the Lord will be brought down in that day, most importantly, the “lofty pride of men.” All of the idols that men have produced to try to take the place of the Lord will be destroyed, and people will try to hide from God in caves and even holes in the ground. I believe this day will come, eventually, and I believe it will be every bit as horrible as Isaiah describes it.
In today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest, called “Distraction of Antipathy,” the scripture reading is Psalm 123:3. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. I had to look up “antipathy.” It means a deep-seated dislike or aversion toward something or someone. It is the opposite of sympathy.
Chambers states that what we have to be most careful of is not what would damage our belief in God, rather, what would damage our “Christian temper.” “The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God.” I can let out a hearty “AMEN” to that! There are certain areas of our temper that, if we dare indulge them, they distract us from our faith in God.
“It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.” The ironic thing is that, as I sit here working on this devotional, I’m being distracted by moving files onto my Sony Reader. So while I’m reading this page from My Utmost For His Highest about being distracted, I’m distracted. I think I just got smacked. I’m laughing about this, but at the same time, it is sobering, because I see exactly what Chambers is talking about, here. I find it much to easy to get distracted by things that don’t matter, even though, in my own way of thinking, they do matter, because I’m working on the collection of theology and devotional books that I want on my ebook. But that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I’m supposed to be focusing on God and on my devotion for him, pondering the mysteries of his word in an effort to firm up my faith and get closer to him. The “cares of this life” can even come in the form of something with a noble purpose.
Another thing that Chambers mentions that can distract us is the need to always be vindicated. He quotes a prayer from St. Augustine, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” I don’t have to explain myself; I don’t need for people to always understand me. I must also never allow discernment to turn to criticism. That’s a tough one. We have a tendency to criticize if we discern that someone is not making spiritual progress, but “God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” I’ve been guilty of that one, too.
There are many things than distract us from our faith in God. How do we keep ourselves focused? Sheer discipline. As Chambers said, “Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.” Blinders on, face straight ahead, eyes on God. It doesn’t mean that we don’t pay attention to things in life that must be handled. We still have to be responsible. But we can’t afford to allow things, trivial things, menial things, to distract us from our faith.
Father, I confess that I’ve been too easily distracted, especially today. I’ve been all over the place, mentally, today, and it has not made for a productive devotional time. It seems to hinder me when I have a seemingly unlimited amount of time during the morning. I guess I work better under pressure of a deadline. But I have gained wisdom from the writing of Chambers today. Hopefully, I have been given notice of the dangers of distraction and allowing the “cares of life” to get in the way of my devotion to you. I pray for more focus, sharper vision, and the ability to keep my eyes on the task at hand, especially when doing something as important as this.
I also pray that your Spirit would keep me from becoming critical when I think that someone is not making spiritual progress, or getting of the path. You have called me to intercessory prayer, not criticism, and I sometimes fall into the trap of being critical instead of praying. Sometimes, I even foolishly try to turn my criticism into prayer! Convict me quickly when I attempt to do this. Keep my eyes on you and your path, and may I follow Jesus all the way.
I pray for this day, as we spend this day with family. Today is the day we get out the Christmas decorations and “deck the halls.” I pray for peace today, and a good time with everyone as we decorate the house to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I pray for safe travel for all who may be returning home from Thanksgiving celebrations. I also pray for peace at the madness that is the mall today. May we, your children, not get caught up in the frenzy of commercialism that is “Black Friday.”
C.S. Lewis said, “We are far too easily pleased.” We could just as well insert the word “distracted” in that sentence, too. I pray that we will all be able to be better focused on that which is important as we launch ourselves full-force into this “holiday season.”
Grace and peace, friends.
PS, lest you think I’m “distracted” by all that trivia at the beginning of the blog entry, I do that after I’ve written everything else in the blog, even after I type “Grace and peace, friends.” :-)