First Or Last?

Good morning. It is Friday, December 19, 2014. Just 6 more days until Christmas! My last day of PTO for this year.

(New feature)Today’s Word of the Day is syncretic: “characterized or brought about by a combination of different forms of belief or practice.”

Today is Underdog Day. So go ahead; cheer for the unlikely winner today. Or watch cartoons featuring a little dog that wears a leotard.

We had a great time, yesterday. After the doctor’s appointments (the dental appointment was canceled, because the dentist we were taking Stephanie to doesn’t take Medicaid for patients over 21), we went and had breakfast for lunch at Joe’s Coffee Shop in Watauga. Or is that Haltom City? Anyway, they always have a good breakfast. After that, we took our new bowling balls to Watauga Brunswick Lanes, and had the pro there fit us and drill the balls. Christi decided on a fingertip grip, rather than conventional. We aren’t sure, but it may be her first time to use fingertip. I have used fingertip for years, but it has been twenty years or more since I have been fitted, so the pro wanted to do a new fitting, rather than copy my old ball. We also both elected to have slugs and grip inserts put in the balls. He said it would be about thirty minutes to an hour, so we left to go look for bowling shoes and bags. Academy Sports does not have any bowling equipment. Dick’s Sporting Goods, even though the Interwebs claim they do, did not have bowling equipment.

So, we wound up back at the pro shop, where I found some decent bowling shoes for about the same price they were selling for on Amazon. Then we looked at several rolling bags that he had, which fit two balls and shoes, and picked out one of those, so we can both put our bowling balls in the same bag. It’s pretty likely that we will always be together when bowling, so that’s a good thing. He had our drilling finished, and all he had to do was determine which finger grip inserts to put in them. Within fifteen minutes we were bowling with our brand new Columbia 300 Throw Down balls. I have used Columbia 300 bowling balls for about 30 years. Of course, they really aren’t “Columbia 300” any more, even though they carry the logo. They are made by Ebonite.

Anyway . . . Stephanie bowled with us, and we had an awesome time. Christi did very well, and by the end of game two, had really found a groove! She got three strikes in a row, at least twice, and finished game two with a 172, significantly above her average from twenty years ago. I failed to break 100 the first game, as I had a little more trouble figuring out the new ball’s breaking characteristics. Also, my “style” suffers severely, from lack of usage. But the second game was much better, with a 162. Christi beat me soundly, 319-259, for the two game score. We plan to get in more practice, and possibly join a league next year, sometime, maybe over the summer.

We were so tired from the bowling, that we came home and collapsed to watch TV for a little while. Then Christi had her Huddle group, after which she stopped and got some dinner to bring home for us. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic day.

Today, we plan to go out and get some last minute Christmas shopping finished up; gift cards, cash, stocking stuffers, and so on. Also that evasive oil change. Looks like I’m going to have to skip the car wash for now, as there is a 60% chance of more rain today.

(Source: This Day In History)

On this date in 1986, Michael Sergio was sentenced to a fine of $500 and 100 hours of community service. His crime? Parachuting onto the field at Shea Stadium in the first inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox.

And people blame Bill Buckner . . . sheesh. Lo, and behold . . . Buckner was batting when the incident occurred!!

Today’s birthdays include Alyssa Milano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cicely Tyson, Jennifer Beals, Mike Lookinland, Kristy Swanson, Al Kaline, Robert Urich, Alvin Lee, Maurice White, William Parry, Ford C Frick, Ralph Richardson, David Susskind, and Robert Sherman.

Kristy Swanson is an actress who was unfortunate enough to play the part of “Buffy Summers” in the original movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The movie was quite awful. Fortunately, Joss Whedon was able to resuscitate the character into a very successful TV show.

Alvin Lee was the lead guitarist and singer for the blues/rock group, Ten Years After. He was born on this date in 1944, and passed away last year, on March 6. Here he is with a virtual army of other guitar players. I’m not sure what this performance is taken from, but it’s a lot of fun.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Third Week of Advent

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Psalm 147:7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Psalm 57:5
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110:4
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:1-4
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are
sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and
deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:9-12
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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:20-28

In The Reformation Study Bible, this passage is prefaced with the heading, “A Mother’s Request.” I wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this shameless request by their mother. Or, do you think they put her up to it? Who knows? We really aren’t given any insight into the motive behind the request. Either way, it is quite arrogant, especially when they answered in the affirmative Jesus’s question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” Was Jesus surprised by this request? Of course not. You cannot surprise God! Nevertheless, I can easily see him shaking his head as he responds, “You do not know what you are asking.”

I am not surprised at the reaction of the other ten. But then, Jesus gathered them all together, and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they still weren’t quite getting it. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” He had just alluded to this a short while ago, in the parable of the landowner, when he said, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” This turned their world upside-down, just as it does ours, today. We want to be first. We don’t want to serve or be “slaves” to one another. Just look at the way we drive! We cannot stand the thought of someone getting in front of us! I struggle with this on a daily basis, as I drive to work. But God is steadily working on this attitude in me. I’m finding it much easier to allow plenty of space between me and the car in front of me; space for someone else to slide on in, if they need to. I don’t need to be concerned about who gets in front of me. Ever.

And, you know, even this gets tricky. If I’m letting people in front of me, all the while thinking, I’m going to be last so I can be first, I’m still not quite getting it, am I? I need to be letting people in front of me because I care nothing for my own status or position. All is for Jesus; all is for Christ. It is all about him; none of this is about me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m first or dead last. God will take care of me.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Gigantic Secret.”

“‘Christmas for the pagans is small publicity,’ Chesterton said, ‘for the Christian it is a gigantic secret.’

“And the gigantic Christmas secret is that Emmanuel, God-with-us, is a baby boy ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ When Jesus Christ is born in me, hope burns brightly and everything else fades into twilight. The roof can collapse, winter heat becomes unavailable, fair-weather friends shift their allegiance, popularity wane. The Kingdom of Christ Jesus remains alight within me. As Don Quixote tells Aldonza in The Man from La Mancha: ‘Wins and losses don’t matter, all that matters is following the quest.'”

. . . who through him are believers in God,
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:21

Father, as this Christmas season progresses, I sense more of the joy than I have felt in many years. I am savoring that, to the point that I almost wish it was still another week or so until Christmas Day. The funny thing is that this really should not be an issue, at all, as I should feel this joy all year long. So that’s what I pray for. May this baby be born in my all year long, and may the attitude of not caring if I am first or last be prevalent in my thoughts, words, and actions, every day of the year. May I be willing to be the servant of all, and pour myself out for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ, love them the way you have loved us, which is one of the commands that you have given us. May I grow to the point that I am constantly pursuing this idea of intimacy with Jesus in my life, thinking more about him than I am anything else. Let this color everything I do every day, and may my heart be undivided toward worshiping, thanking, and serving you through Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day, that we would have a good time as we go out and about. May we get everything accomplished that we need to do. I pray for your grace to fill this family during this season, and the rest of the year, as well. As our celebrations approach, next week, I pray that we would do a good job of sharing the Kingdom with our friends, co-workers, and family members. Especially those who tend to annoy us more. May your grace rain on Stephanie during this Christmas. I pray for Rachel, in the aftermath of her accident, that she would be okay, mentally, and not be overwrought over it.

Do you want to be first? We might wind up being first in line, here on earth, but that won’t get us far in the Kingdom. Kingdom rules are different.

Grace and peace, friends.

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