Good morning. Today is Wednesday, May 8, 2013. 34 working days to go.
Today is “No Socks Day.” Our friend Jacob should like that. He, apparently, hates socks. I’m not a big fan of them, myself. Unfortunately, the will not allow me to wear sandals at work. However, I am not currently wearing socks. So happy No Socks Day!!
(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1884, Harry S. Truman was born, “in a small bedroom in his parents’ house in the dusty market town of Lamar, Missouri.” His background was rather unremarkable. He was not well educated; he never attended college. He failed as a haberdasher and barely survived as a farmer for almost ten years before entering politics. He was a “classic ‘machine politician,’ a creature of the corrupt Kansas City party boss, Thomas Pendergast.” He was elected to the US Senate, but even that was “largely engineered by the Pendergast machine.” More “back-room politics” got him nominated to run as Franklin Roosevelt’s vice-president in 1944. When Roosevelt died suddenly in 1945, Truman became President. His association with Pendergast caused Republicans to call him the “reductio ad absurdum of the common man.” He was privately prejudiced against blacks and Jews. However, these were private prejudices, and his public character was that of “uncommon sense and granite integrity.” He kept that famous sign on his desk, “The buck stops here.” He served for almost eight years as President, and achieved the “greatest election upset in American history in 1948.” Who can forget this headline?
Among his accomplishments: “he authorized the first use of the atomic bomb to end the war with Japan, helped create the United Nations and NATO, initiated the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War, and let the free world’s confrontation with Communist aggression by authorizing the Berlin Air lift and intervening in Korea.” Truman died on December 26, 1972, just shy of his 89th birthday.
Today’s birthday is Robert Johnson, born on this date in 1911. Johnson was a blues guitar player, and is probably most famous for his alleged deal with the devil from his song, “Crossroads.” Admittedly, Johnson had a technique that has puzzled many over the decades, not the least of which was Eric Clapton, who has been so fascinated with Robert Johnson that he released an entire album of covers of Johnson tunes. Of course, one of Clapton’s most famous songs is Cream’s cover of “Crossroads.” Here is Johnson’s “Crossroads.”
Here is Clapton’s, with Cream.
The circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death, at the age of 27, are very strange, indeed. The cause of his death is unknown to this day. Blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson claims that Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband, because he had been flirting with the guy’s wife at a dance he was playing. He grew ill over the next couple of days, and reportedly died in “a convulsive state of severe pain” (Wiki). A musicologist, Robert “Mack” McCormick, claims to have tracked down the man who killed Johnson and gotten a confession from him, but would not reveal the identity of the man. True or not, it’s a fascinating story around a fascinating blues legend who inspired many players since.
Honorable mentions go to Oscar Hammerstein I, 1847, Robert Johnson, 1911, Don Rickles, 1926, and Ricky Nelson, 1940.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.~~Traditional Doxology
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Psalm 84:10
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2
Father, I pray that you shine this great light on me this morning, as I have walked in darkness. Send out your light and truth and let them lead me today, that I may go to your holy hill. Let me praise you with my whole being this morning, Lord! Teach me something new today; something of you that I have never seen before.
In Touch Magazine led me to John 14:1-4 this morning.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Jesus gives us assurance, here, that our eternal destination is a real place, a tangible place. But the phrase that resonates the most with me, this morning, is the very first sentence. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Oh, how much time we spend in this life doing exactly the opposite of this! How much of your day is your heart troubled? The comfort of Jesus bids us to let that trouble go and rest in him. Our eternal resting place is secure. He is readying it for us and will return someday to take us all there. That calms my spirit; it rests my soul; it causes my heart to not be troubled.
If you recall, yesterday’s reading from Tabletalk Magazine cited Isaiah 61:1-3. Today’s reading leaps over to a passage in Luke, chapter 4. In that chapter, Jesus enters the synagogue, takes a scroll and reads these words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
He spent the rest of his days on earth proclaiming good news to the poor, liberating the captives, giving sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free. He continues to do those things today. More importantly, he proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy!
Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “The Appearance of Righteousness.” The scripture reading is from Matthew 23.
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (5-7)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (27-28)
So Jesus talks to the scribes and Pharisees in these verses and we all jump up and cheer, and say, “Yeah!!” Not so fast. What Jesus is condemning, here, is called “hypocrisy;” “playacting.” “The dichotomy between appearance and reality, between word and deed, draws Jesus’ most profound criticism.” And it is a result of practicing the disciplines out in the open, right in front of other people, so that they can see your spirituality. Let’s take a poll: How many people went to church last Sunday morning, sang hymns or worship songs, prayed, listened to the preacher, maybe put some money in the offering plate or bag, and even said “Amen” a few times? How many of the same people had an argument with their family on the way home? Or complained about the preacher’s sermon on the way home? Or, even worse, gossiped about some church member on the way home? We are all really good at putting on a show. (Just so you understand, the finger points back at him who is typing, too.) We all fall so short of the ideal. The point, though, of this reading, is not to make us all feel guilty for being hypocrites, because we all are, at some time. The point is that we need to practice our disciplines in private. We need to pray in our “closets” (I don’t literally pray in a closet . . . it’s dark in there, and I wouldn’t be able to see my pray list). We need to give generously, but quietly. And if we fast, we need to do it in a way that is not obvious.
Here’s an example. Every Sunday morning, a group of people get to the elementary school where The Exchange meets, to unload a trailer and set up the cafeteria for a worship service, a gym for the children’s ministries, and a couple other rooms for nursery and preschool. It’s all done before the “regular” people get there for worship celebration. They have no clue how it happens. They just get there, and this place has been miraculously transformed into “church.” We don’t all stand around saying, “Hey! We did this for you! Look at what we did! We got up early on Sunday morning so you can have church!” We don’t want that! And that’s not why we do it. We do it for Jesus. It’s a service to our King. And we don’t care if anyone else ever recognizes us for it. THAT is what Jesus is talking about!
“Beginners in the spiritual life are apt to become very diligent in their exercises. The great danger for them will be to become satisfied with their religious works and with themselves. It is easy for them to develop a kind of secret pride. . . . But those who are at this time moving in God’s way will counter this pride with humility. They will learn to think very little of themselves and their religious works. Instead, they will focus on how great and how deserving God is and how little it is that they can do for him. The Spirit of God dwells in such persons, urging them to keep their treasures secretly within themselves.”~~John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul
I didn’t have time to get to one of the 19 Mercies yesterday, but I’ll get back to it today. I’ve gotten to number four, which is “Cry Out For the Spirit.” “Only the Spirit of Jesus Christ can accomplish the profound inner realities of a deeper faith, a real conversion of heart, a radical break with sin, a more reckless trust, a more forgiving, loving heart. So I urge you to spend time pleading for more of His Spirit and reading more of His Word.” Unfortunately, many of us think the Spirit will just act in our lives while we sit passively by. But initiative is necessary on our part. I need to cry out for a “mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit” in my life. This should be a continuous prayer in my life, not unlike one I find myself saying more and more, these days, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!” I need to add to this a prayer crying out for more of his Spirit. Coupled with that should be daily doses of reading scripture, with emphasis on the New Testament. Not that we need to throw out the Old, like certain “denominations” do, but the New Testament is where the words and actions of Jesus are, and it is him we are trying to emulate. Can we not spare a few minutes a day, out of our busy lives, to read and meditate on the words of Jesus? Reading his word is still the main way he speaks to us.
Yet, we must not work out of guilt. It’s a fine line, a tricky thing. We are not legalistic about this. I try to pray at certain times every day. But if I don’t have the time or ability to do so, for some reason one day (or even if I forget because of business at work), there should be no guilt. We have to get away from this idea that God is disappointed in us because we didn’t do thus and so and such and such a time. But if we really want his Spirit in our lives, we will do the things that will avail us of that potential. I ran into a lady who is a “life coach” at our church picnic Sunday night. She said something that really made me stop and think about my life. She said that we do the things that we want to do. So if we say, “I really want to lose weight,” her question would be, “Well, why aren’t you, then?” Ummm . . . Yeah. You see, we do exactly what we want to do. If I really want to get closer to Jesus and have more of his Spirit, then I will do the things that are necessary for that to happen.
O God, I seek you, but my heart is fickle.
I believe; please help my unbelief. When all I can do
is want to want You, take my crumb of faith and break it
like bread to feed thousands, beginning, by Your mercy,
with me. You reject no desperate, sinful, seeking child.
You say only and always, Come! I come to you, God.
Pour out Your Spirit on me.
Speak Your words of life to this child.
I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Father, take this day and make it glorious for you. Give me more of your Spirit today. Remind me throughout this day to cry out for your Spirit constantly. Give me your words of life, feeding me with the crumbs of my faith, faith that you gave me to begin with. I thank you for the gifts of faith and repentance, with which I was able to believe in you. As I go through this day, may I do the disciplines that I do secretly, never seeking any kind of recognition or human reward for my actions. When I work, let the things that I do at work be done as offerings to you. Yes, I work to get paid, but there is a higher calling in place, here. Let me work for you; let me glorify you in all that I do. Let everything that I do be done in love.
I rejoice in the assurance of an eternal home with you. I pray that I might live my life in such a way as to point others toward this home. Help me to help others find your peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding. Teach me to, like Jesus, share good news with the poor, liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. That all sounds so dramatic. How can I do those things? By your grace; by your mercy; by your Spirit.
May this day bring peace to Christi and me, in our workplaces. May this day be full of you! Give us the grace for today, to meet any challenge head on, and to do our work productively and effectively. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show her your steadfast love today. I also pray for Rachel and Justin (I pray for them every day), as they finish up another semester and get that much closer to achieving their goals. Give them grace and mercy, show them your love and peace.
I pray for extra grace for a family from our “huddle” group today. They are experiencing some true, deep struggles right now. I know I’m not telling you anything new. Father, shower them with your presence today.
There’s a lot of stuff up there. My encouragement today is to find time to cry out for his Spirit in your life. Seek him today, and nothing more.
Grace and peace, friends.