Pilgrimage

It is Thursday, the twenty-third of September, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,205

Nineteen days until our 36th anniversary!

Today’s header photo is, once again, courtesy of Paul Militaru.

At this point, there are no plans, as to what we might do to celebrate, this year. I’m working the evening of October 12, which is the actual anniversary. However, I am off on Wednesday of that week, because the library is having a special event on that Thursday, October 14. So instead of working Wednesday of that week, I will be working Thursday, from 12:00 to 9:00 PM. So, depending on how C is feeling that week, we may try to have a nice dinner out on Wednesday. I looked into a cabin for the weekend before, but they were booked up until Halloween weekend, and I have to work that Saturday, so we will look into a cabin stay later, maybe in November. I’ll have to wait until the November work schedule comes out to see what Saturdays I am off. Since I won’t be working Mondays after October 1, when I have a Saturday off, we could stay over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights, and return on Tuesday in time for me to be at work by 4:15 PM.

I also don’t have an anniversary gift, yet. In years past, our “gift” has always been a big trip somewhere. But since C is still recovering from her back surgery, we thought it best to forego that, this year. So I’ve got to come up with a gift. The “official” gift for 36 years is antiques. I’m pretty sure C has no interest whatsoever in antiques, so I’m not sure what to get for her. I don’t have long, either, so I’d better hurry, huh?

I’m off work today, and the rest of the week. My next scheduled shift is Monday. Today is payday for City of Hurst employees, though, and the pay week begins tomorrow. I have no plans for the day, at all. The yard needs to get mowed by the end of the weekend. I may do that today. Or I may not. I may wait until tomorrow or Saturday. I do plan (I guess there is a “plan,” after all) to cook Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner tonight. I hope to get some serious reading done today. I’m tenaciously slogging through book five of George Martin’s GoT series, A Dance with Dragons. A co-worker complimented my resolve, last week, especially considering that Martin is unlikely to ever finish the series, since HBO ruined it for him. Oh, well. I’m stubborn, that way.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Strange, mysterious,
Are Your ways, my awesome God!
All glory to You!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
(Psalms 51:10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a heart that is ever clean, not because of my own righteousness, but because of the blood of Jesus
2. that You are constantly renewing a right spirit within me
3. for Your loving presence that I feel, this morning
4. for the inheritance that is waiting for me
5. for Your awesome deeds

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK EIGHTEEN – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart.
(Psalms 139:14 GNB)

As I pause here, I consider the words in the Good News Bible, “strange and wonderful.” We say that God works in “mysterious” ways. If we were being more honest, might we not say “strange?” Do we fear that we will offend the Almighty if we call Him strange? I believe He is above being offended.

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 84:1-7 (NIV)

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

BIBLE READING: 1 SAMUEL 9:15-17; 10:1 (NIV)

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: 
“About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” 
When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”
Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance? 

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I am surrounded by Your loving presence, this morning. This enables me to find hope in Your words, when the words of others, all around, tend to seem hopeless. Direct my thoughts and meditations to places in Your Word, that I might receive truth and inspiration therein.

Psalm 84 is one of those that is definitely singable. In fact, Matt Redman gave us a pretty good way to sing it, a number of years ago.

No, most certainly, when the “Sons of Korah” wrote this psalm, they had a physical location in mind. There was a physical Temple, with the “courts of the Lord,” and a place called “Holy of Holies.”

We live in the aftermath of Jesus, when the veil/curtain that separated the courts from the Holiest place was torn in two, from top to bottom, forever removing the barrier between us and the Father. So the “dwelling place” of our God is now within us, in our souls.

That being said, there is something special about being in a “house of God,” which is one thing I do miss, as we are part of a “house church,” currently. But our God does not dwell in buildings made of brick and mortar. His dwelling place is with us.

We are blessed, too, when our strength is in Him, and our hearts are set on pilgrimage. What does “pilgrimage” mean? For the ancient Israelites, it meant a yearly, long (for some of them) trek to Jerusalem, an uphill climb that spawned a group of Psalms known as “Songs of Ascent.” The word, though, simply means, “a pilgrim’s journey.”

So what is a “pilgrim?” The literal definition is “a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.” But it can also mean, “a person regarded as journeying through life.” I lean toward the second definition in our context. I’m not traveling to a sacred place.

Or am I?

Truly, my final, ultimate destination is “Home.” Not this house that I currently live in, in Fort Worth, Texas. This is a temporary dwelling. Someday, it will eventually be lived in by strangers. Or perhaps demolished and something else built here. Just like everything else on this planet, it is temporary.

I am, in a sense, on a “pilgrimage” to another land, another place, a place that will be permanent. A place whether neither moth nor rust can corrupt, and thieves cannot break in and steal. An incorruptible inheritance. It is not depressing to me to think these things. On the contrary, it is uplifting and exciting, and fills my heart with longing. These kinds of thoughts have also had an impact on my “collectible” nature. I used to collect a lot of things. I still have a corner shelf full of Marvin the Martian stuff. I have quite a bit of baseball memorabilia. But I have pretty much stopped getting new collectibles.

Why?

Because, what good are they? That’s why? After I move on from this plane, there might be one person left who cares about the baseball stuff, and after her, who will care? And surely no one will care about the Marvin the Martian stuff.

Listen . . . have you ever been to an estate sale? If you have not, I challenge you to find one soon. Go to a house where the owners are no longer alive, and all of their stuff is being sold off. C and I went to one in Cleburne, earlier this year and scored an almost mint-condition set of designer luggage for $75! I’m sure that this luggage cost well over $500 when new, and would never have considered buying it at that price.

But don’t go, necessarily, for bargains. Walk around. Look at the stuff. There will be clothes, decorations, kitchen appliances, books, records. Essentially, you will see someone’s life for sale.

I’m going to get to a point, here in a minute. Thank you for your patience. Again, this is not designed to be depressing, but, rather, the opposite. But for someone who has no hope in Christ, I can see how depressing it can be.

Almost every day, now, I see, on Facebook, some kind of post that either begins with “Remember when” or “Does anyone remember . . .” My generation is stuck living in the past. They cry and moan about how different things are and how “kids today just don’t appreciate . . . ” (fill in the blank). I’ve gotten to where I will scroll past most of those. I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to focus on what was. I want to look forward! I want to see what’s coming!

“You can’t take it with you.”

That reminds me of another song, this one by the Alan Parsons Project.

Well, I sympathize completely,
But there's nothing I can do.
I am just a humble servant
With a message here for you.
Well I know you have good reasons
And there's things you've got to do,
But the boatman won't be waiting
And he's leaving here with you.
And you can't take it with you,
No matter what you do.
No, you can't take it with you,
Not the place you're going to...

I’m on a pilgrimage to another land. I’m heading Home, and none of this junk can go with me. And the beauty of it is that, when I get there, when I find that mansion that my Savior is preparing for me, the furnishings will be infinitely more beautiful and grand than anything I have ever “possessed” on this planet. Either that, or they will be entirely simple, and I will be oh, so satisfied, because I will be gazing at the face of my Lord.

Father, I thank You for these truths. I praise You that there is an eternal Home waiting for me, that Jesus has prepared for me. I thank you, actually, that I cannot, in fact, take any of this junk with me. If I could, I would be burdened over trying to decide which things to take and which things to leave. And when all I ultimately want is You, anyway, why would I want to be burdened with all of this junk? I praise You that You dwell within us, and that one day, we will also dwell within You. I don’t really know what that great city is going to look like, with its streets of gold, and its river running through the middle, and that strange fruit tree that grows twelve different kinds of fruit. I fully expect that fruit to be the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted. Father, I pray that You would rescue Your children from the snares that they have fallen into, what with all of this living in the past. May we look forward, with hopeful eyes, to that Home where You will someday take us!

Don’t always be asking, “Where are the good old days?” Wise folks don’t ask questions like that.
(Ecclesiastes 7:10 MSG)

Father, I pray for a yearning to know You more and the power of Your resurrection. Let me also experience the joy of Your salvation, as well. I pray for any family members or friends who do not have a joyous relationship with You.

"Governing God,
You have ordained prime ministers and presidents,
premiers and governors,
mayors and civic officials to support a flourishing social life.
Today I pray for these leaders,
that You would lead them to rule wisely and well,
for the good of all people.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

“Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!
(Matthew 5:4 GNB)


By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
(Psalms 65:5 ESV)

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
(1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
(Philippians 1:21-23 ESV)

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
(Colossians 1:4-5 NLT)

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT)

Most of our “worst-case scenarios” end in death. One of my biggest fears is being first in line, at the railroad crossing, when the train derails. I mean, seriously, there is nowhere to go, nowhere to run. You might be able to get out of the car before train cars crash into it. Maybe.

But for those of us who are believers in Christ, what happens after death? Scroll up a bit . . . read about that eternal inheritance I’ve been going on about. So the worst thing that can happen to me on earth? My “worst-case scenario?” Sends me to my eternal Home.

So what do I have to fear?

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.