Thinking In the Presence of God

Good morning. It is Sunday, August 16, 2015. Three more days until Stephanie’s (and Justin’s) birthday.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is shill. To shill is “1 : to act as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler),” or “2 : to act as a spokesperson or promoter.”

Today is Rollercoaster Day. I love roller coasters. Hard to say what my favorite is, but I am a big fan of the “Wild Mouse” or whatever it might be called in your particular location. I know they had one at Hershey Park, when we went there. The last one that was in the DFW area, that I remember, was at Forest Park, just outside the Fort Worth Zoo, when they used to have a small amusement park there. Here is a POV video that someone made of the one at Hershey Park.

We have a very nice lunch with Lindsey, yesterday. We met her at O.C. Burger and spent a couple of hours catching up on what’s going on with her. We first met Lindsey when Rachel was in college at UTD. They became really good friends, and we kind of treated Lindsey like our daughter from Oklahoma.

Our prayer and worship gatherings went pretty well, last night, although our attendance was a bit down for worship. The message, still from Haggai (chapter 2, now), was one of encouragement in times when we are considering giving up. The key verses, to me were ones when God promised to bring glory to the meager attempts that the people were making to rebuild the temple. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts. (v 9)

After church, we picked up Sonic drinks and food from Taco Bell, and relaxed at home for a while.

Today, the only thing on the agenda is grocery shopping, which we will try to do around noon. That’s my goal for getting finished, this morning.

On this date in 1896, the Klondike Gold Rush was begun when Skookum Jim Mason, George Carmack, and Dawson Charlie discovered gold in a tributary of the Klondike River in Canada. Somehow, ice cream bars resulted. In 1930, the first color sound cartoon was made, by “UB Iwerks.” And, in 1954, the first edition of Sports Illustrated was published. The person on the cover had a horrible season. Okay, I made up that last part.

Here’s that cartoon, called “Fiddlesticks.”

Today’s birthdays include Charles Bukowski (American poet), Fess Parker (American actor), Frank Gifford (American football player/announcer), Robert Culp (American actor), Eydie Gorme (American singer), Julie Newmar (American actress), Lesley Ann Warren (American actress), Kathie Lee Gifford (American actress), James Cameron (Canadian film director), Madonna (American singer), Angela Bassett (American actress), Timothy Hutton (American actor), Steve Carrell (American actor/comedian), Christine Cavanaugh (American voice actress), Vanessa Carlton (American singer/songwriter), Yu Darvish (Japanese pitcher), and Rumer Willis (American actress).

Julie Newmar was born on this date in 1933, and is 82 today. I know her best as “Catwoman” on the sixties TV show, Batman. In my mind, there has never been a better Catwoman.

I wonder if Batman ever got that kiss . . .

Wenceslas, King of the Romans, Jakob Bernouli, John Pemberton, Robert Johnson, Babe Ruth, Margaret Mitchell, Bela Lugosi, Admiral William Halsey, Jr., Elvis Presley, Amanda Blake, Mark Heard, Stewart Granger, John Roseboro, and Bobby Thompson are among notable deaths on this date.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading will be Genesis 50, Exodus 1, and Matthew 23.

Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 91:16.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

“Believers will never be exempt from troubles and embarrassments. God does not promise them a life of ease and luxury, but deliverance from their tribulations. . . . He puts much honour [sic] upon them in the world, and glorifies himself in them conspicuously, but it is not till the completion of their course that he affords them ground of triumph.” (p 229)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

The last time we visited this text, we saw Martin Luther encouraging meditation as a sort of bridge to prayer. Beginning on page 90, Timothy Keller describes Luther’s method of meditation. Luther treats each passage as a sort of garland. In case anyone doesn’t understand that, a “garland” is a sort of wreath, made from flowers and leaves, either worn on the head, or hung in decoration. So Luther divides each passage into pour parts, or strands of the garland. In the first, he looks for instruction in the passage. What does God demand from us in this passage? “Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.” In this manner, each passage becomes “a school text, a song book, a penitential book, and prayer book.”

As we look for the instruction in a text, it might come about that we have to study it a little more to discern the meaning. The example given is, when reading the Ten Commandments, what if one is not quite sure what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain?

Once the instruction is drawn out, how can we turn it into praise or thanksgiving? Then, how can it prompt us to confession and repentance? Finally, in what way does it lead us to petition and supplication? A very specific example is given, using on the first two words of the Model Prayer, “Our Father.”

“For example, if we ponder the very beginning of the Lord’s Prayer–‘Our Father’–it could work like this: As instruction, it shows us that we cannot know God only on our own but must do so in community with others. Jesus did not teach us to pray ‘my father’ but ‘our father.’ We may go on to praise God for all the friends who have helped us in our spiritual journey and for being a God who creates community and bonds of love. We may go on to confess that we do not pray much with others and do not allow our friends to hold us accountable on the consistency of our Christian walk. Finally, we may begin to pray for more close friends with whom we can share our walk of faith.”

While this may seem a bit complicated, it can generate its own energy, if practiced. “It ingeniously forces you off the theoretical plane to consider what that biblical truth you are pondering should actually do to you and in you–how it should lead you to praise God, to repent and change your heart, and also what it should lead you to do in the world.” As this habit is developed, we might even find ourselves turning to it throughout the day, “naturally turning your heart toward God.”

All of this is not quite Bible study, and not quite prayer. Rather, it might be said to be “thinking in the presence of God.”

Father, I pray that your Spirit might lead me to do more of this thinking in your presence. I see this “bridge” between Bible reading and prayer to be a good thing. I frequently find that I struggle to stay focused in prayer, and this is just the sort of thing that might help me. I pray that, each day, you would help me to find a passage to do these four things with, to start my day of prayer. Then, as is suggested, direct my thoughts to that passage throughout the day. Help me to find my delight in you, Lord, above all things.

I pray for this day. Lord, I pray right now, somewhat desperately, to help us through the crisis that has arisen this morning, with Stephanie. I pray for wisdom and understanding for her, and for us, as well. May you intervene in this circumstance and make it turn out for the best. I pray for our errands today, that they will go smoothly, and that we will get good rest during the rest of the day, for the work week coming up.

Your grace is always sufficient.

The four “strands” of meditating on a passage: Instruction, Thanksgiving, Confession, Prayer. “Thinking in the presence of God.”

Grace and peace, friends.

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