. . . According to His Excellent Greatness!

Good morning. It is Tuesday, December 31, 2013. The last day of 2013. 46 days until pitchers and catchers report. 90 days until Opening day.

Today is “No Interruptions Day.” I think that only applies if you have to work today. If that’s the case, then ignore all interruptions today so you can get that last minute project finished.

One of my Christmas presents will be fulfilled today. Someone is coming this morning to tune our piano. It has been a very long time since it has been tuned, and I would like to start playing it more often, so Christi agreed to have it tuned. Since it’s been so long, it may take a couple of visits, because the pitch will likely need to be raised a bit.

Christi still isn’t feeling great. The drainage/congestion seems a little better, but overall, she’s still feeling poorly, and coughing a lot. We’ve been taking it easy, though, so that should help. It’s been a very restful vacation, even if we haven’t accomplished very much.

Who was born on New Year’s Eve?

Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Stuart, English “pretender to the throne,” 1720, Henri Matisse, painter, 1869, Jason Robards, Sr., Actor, 1892, Odetta Holmes, singer, 1930, Anthony Hopkins, actor, 1937, Sarah Miles, actress, 1941, Andy Summers, guitarist, The Police, 1942, Ben Kingsley, actor, 1943, John Denver, singer/songwriter, 1943, Burton Cummings, singer, The Guess Who, 1947, Tim Matheson, actor, 1947, Donna Summer, singer, 1948, Bebe Neuwirth, actress, 1959, Val Kilmer, actor, 1959, and Nicholas Sparks, author, 1965.

Tim Matheson is an actor who is mostly remembered for his role in the movie Animal House. However, before that movie came out, he starred in a less familiar movie about professional bowling, called Dreamer.


(From The Divine Hours)

Psalm 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psalm 144:5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Psalm 71:23 My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Psalm 89:47 Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Praise the Lord!” The scripture reading is Psalm 150.

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

What a fitting ending to the segment on celebration, as well as for the whole book. This psalm is a call to exuberant, rambunctious praise! “Praise him according to his excellent greatness!” I wonder if we have missed that. I wonder if our praise is exuberant enough. If we truly praised God “according to his excellent greatness,” what would it look like? “Big bands, drums, and dancing may not even be exuberant enough.” From the lofty chorales of Bach to Duke Ellington’s “Praise God and Dance,” the ways that we can praise God are virtually limitless. As we leave 2013 and enter 2014, may we resolve to praise God more exuberantly, more rambunctiously.

The book offers this final prayer:

Lord, help me to be unrestrained and exuberant in my praise. Remove
from me all fear of embarrassment, all concern about how I look to others.
Bring me to my feet, shouting and clapping your praises. Thank you, Lord!

Father, help me to praise you more in the coming year. May I make my praise to you glorious and uplifting. May the praise that I offer you be fitting to your “excellent greatness!” May my devotion to you in the coming year be more sincere, more complete. May I find myself walking more closely by your side. Teach me to praise you with reckless abandon, not caring what anyone else thinks or says. Let my life be about you and your glory.

I pray for this day, that Christi will continue to feel better. As the new year approaches, I pray that you will help me make more time for music in my life. That is something that has suffered drastically in past years. Help me to recover that which was so important to me in years gone by. May we have some together time today and tomorrow, as we finish out the last of the holidays until May.

Your grace is sufficient.

I pray that you have good reason to celebrate as the new year approaches. Everyone be safe, tonight, please!

Grace and peace, friends.

Celebration in Suffering

Good morning. I think it’s Monday. December 30, 2013. One more wake-up left in this year. 47 days until pitchers and catchers report. 91 days until Opening day. For all but twelve teams, football season is over.

Today is “National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.” We know this more commonly as “baking soda.” Baking soda has many uses. Just click on the above link to find out about them.

We had a delicious lunch yesterday, with Rachel and Justin, and watched many episodes of Adventure Time on Netflix. Adventure Time is a Cartoon Network production that is very strange and entertaining. It features Jake the Dog, Finn the Human, Princess Bubblegum, Lady Rainicorn, and Marceline the Vampire Queen, just to name a few. After they left, Christi and I watched more Parenthood.

We were planning to go to Mineral Wells today, to do some work around my parents’ house, but Christi just isn’t feeling up to it today. She still has a rough cough and is not feeling well. Plus, today’s high is only going to get to the lower forties, and some of the work is in the back yard. We will see about going on Wednesday or next Sunday, whenever Christi is feeling better.

I just had a brief interruption to go buy the donuts.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1916, the murder of one Grigory Yefimovich Novykh occurred. If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you don’t recognize that name. Perhaps you recognize the name Rasputin? As the gramophone played Yankee Doodle, Prince Feliks Yusupov offered Rasputin “two cakes laced with cyanide of potassium, along with a similarly doctored glass of Madeira. Yet despite a dosage theoretically ‘enough to kill a horse,’ the intended murder victim, a bearded and brooding holy man, continued to chat calmly with his host.
“After the clock chimed midnight Yusupov could wait no longer. Drawing a revolver, he shot his visitor in the back, knocking him to the ground. but instead of dying the victim rose to his feet and charged out into the garden. There another assassin waited. He shot the holy man twice, and then the two murderers rolled him up in a blue rug and pushed their grisly package through a hole they had carved through the frozen surface of the Moika Canal on the Neva River. When the body was recovered three days later, water was found in the lungs. The murdered man had finally drowned, after surviving both poison and bullets.”

Today’s birthdays are Rudyard Kipling, author, 1865, Jack Lord, actor, 1928, Del Shannon, singer, 1934, Sandy Koufax, pitcher, 1935, John Hartford, country singer, 1937, Paul Stookey, 1937, Mel Renfro, football player in the Landry era, 1941, Fred Ward, actor, 1942, Michael Nesmith, 1942, Davy Jones, 1945, Jeff Lynne, musician, 1947, Tracey Ullman, singer, 1959, A.J. Pierzynski, catcher, 1976, Grant Balfour, pitcher, 1977, and Eliza Dushka, 1980.

Wow, so many to choose from today. Well, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones were part of a sixties group created for a TV show, called The Monkees. Sadly, Davy left us last year (2012). Here is a video of them “performing” “Daydream Believer.”


(From The Divine Hours)

Psa 103:20-22 Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psa 119:19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
Psa 56:12-13 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Eph 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than
all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all
generations, forever and ever. Amen.

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your
incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in my heart,
may shine forth in my life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Celebrating in Times of Suffering.” The scripture reading is Isaiah 51:9-11.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days of old, the generations of long
ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who
pierced the dragon? Was it not you who dried up
the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made
the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to
pass over? And the ransomed of the LORD shall
return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting
joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain
gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

“These words are written to Israel in exile.” The writer calls out to God and remembers His great deeds on behalf of Israel. He also prophesies that the people, “the ransomed of the LORD,” will return to their land, with singing and everlasting joy! As we find ourselves in times of suffering, it is important that we take time to call out to God, remembering that he has done great things for us in the past, and also knowing that he will deliver us in the future! “Reaching for everlasting joy through singing, dancing, and praising is essential even and perhaps especially in times of sadness, because it returns our focus to God.” Here is a quote from Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines:

“Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows
seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of
our God because his goodness becomes so real to us.”

Father, teach us to celebrate, even when we are suffering. There seems to be a lot of suffering in the lives of people whom we are close to. Sometimes, we think we are suffering, but then we see someone else, and realize we are okay. Our trials are minuscule in comparison. Nevertheless, when we are going through a trial, it seems serious; it seems large; and, sometimes, it seems insurmountable. Take us through these trials and sufferings with our eyes fixed on you, celebrating your grace, your mercy, your wonderful deeds in our lives, and throwing ourselves into worship and celebration with abandonment. Would that we could get our eyes off of ourselves long enough to celebrate in all circumstances. Teach us these things, O Lord!

I pray that Christi will begin to feel better today, and that we will be able to get out on Wednesday. I pray for everyone who will be traveling anywhere tomorrow, especially for those who will be out and about after midnight tomorrow night, celebrating a new year as 2014 arrives. Keep people safe. I pray that anyone who partakes too much in the celebrations will find someone else to drive them home. Take us into this new year with our eyes on you, looking ahead, not backwards.

Your grace is sufficient.

If you are suffering right now, in the midst of some kind of trial or tragedy, try to take your eyes off of your circumstances and look up; lift up your head, your redemption draweth nigh. . .

Grace and peace, friends.


Good morning. It is (checks calendar) Sunday, December 29, 2013. Only two more days left in this year. 48 days until pitchers and catchers report. 92 days until Opening Day.

Today is “Tick Tock Day.” Did you accomplish all your goals this year? Well, you have two days left! Tick tock, tick tock. 😀

No pressure or anything. . .

I think Rachel and Justin are coming over for lunch today. Christi’s making more Kahlua fudge, and then going to cook another batch of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (say whatever you want, I love that stuff), heat up the other ham, and then send a bunch of food home with R & J. Good times. I don’t know what else is planned for the day.

We had a good worship celebration last night, I think. Jacob preached another good message, the last in his series he called “Glad Tidings.” This one, however, was not about Christmas, but, rather, about Jesus’s promise to return. He used John 14:1-7, a popular passage.

After church, we went to Staples to get some ink for one of our printers. Staples just happens to be two or three doors down from Marble Slab. So we got some ice cream. Yum! I like Marble Slab. We grabbed something at Sonic, then headed home for a couple more episodes of Parenthood (we’re into season 3, now), and then off to bed.

Three more days off.

Today’s birthdays are Charles Goodyear, 1800, Andrew Johnson, 17th President, 1808, Pablo Casals, violinist/conductor/composer, 1876, Ray Nitschke, NFL, 1936, Mary Tyler Moore, actress, 1936, Jon Voight, 1938, Ray Thomas, The Moody Blues, 1941, Cozy Powell, drummer, 1947, Ted Danson, actor, 1947, Dave McKean, artist (works with Neil Gaiman), 1963, Dexter Holland, The Offspring, 1965, Ashleigh Banfield, journalist, 1967, Kevin Weisman, actor, 1970, Jude Law, actor, 1972, and Theo Epstein, baseball GM, 1973.

Cozy Powell played drums for a lot of bands, including Whitesnake, the Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath. He even did a brief stint with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, temporarily filling in the “P” of ELP. I saw them in Dallas, on the tour featuring the song “Touch and Go.” Powell died in 1998, following a car crash while driving 104mph in bad weather on the M4.


(From The Divine Hours)

The Feast of St. Stephen

Psa 146:1-2 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Psa 141:3-5 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Psa 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psa 19:7b The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psa 31:1-5 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him,
and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made
your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through
my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now
and for ever. Amen.”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Our Mouth Was Filled with Laughter.” The scripture reading is Psalm 126:1-6.

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

This Psalm, a “Song of Ascents,” was one of the songs sung by the people of Israel as they made their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This particular one seems to celebrate their return from the Babylonian exile. It bursts with joy, mouths filled with laughter and tongues with shouts of joy, to the point that the surrounding nations exclaim, “The LORD has done great things for them!” “God’s marvels on our behalf deserve extravagant celebration.”

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “What soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.” Reader’s Digest magazine has had, for years, a joke page called “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” When I was growing up, we had a subscription to Reader’s Digest. I hardly ever read the articles, but, as soon as the magazine came in the mail, I went straight for the joke pages. Laughter is good for us.

Just as observed yesterday, we are not supposed to live our lives in sour sobriety, never cracking a smile. We should be able to literally sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! (where?) Down in my heart! (where?) Down in my heart!” And if that joy is “down in my heart,” it should reflect on my face, as well. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean we should always be walking around with a huge grin on our faces. And it doesn’t mean we will always be smiling when we sing songs of praise at church. (And please stop asking me if I would rather be at church or having a root canal done. That’s one of the most asinine questions ever asked from a church stage.) We will experience sadness; we will experience trials; we will experience deep sorrow in our lives. Israel went through hundreds of years of captivation in Babylon. I doubt there was much laughter during those years. But when they returned. . . there was great joy, laughter, shouting, and celebration! And I guarantee you, it felt really good.

Father, help us to laugh. Help us to find reason to rejoice in the great things you have done for us. When we experience sorrow, we will not laugh. But you will always deliver us out of that sorrow, somehow, and when that happens, help us to laugh, to laugh out loud! Let our mouths be filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy! Let us laugh so hard that people around us know that you have done great things in our lives! Teach us to celebrate.

I pray for this day. Keep Rachel and Justin safe as the travel to and from our house today. May our time together today be a time of joyful celebration. May we find plenty to laugh about. Let this day be a day of joyful rest.

I pray you can find something to laugh about today. Maybe this will help. . .

Grace and peace, friends.

If the House Is A-Rockin’. . .

Good morning. It is. . . um. . . what day is this?? Oh, yeah. Saturday! Saturday, December 28, 2013. Three more days left in 2013.

Today is “Card Playing Day,” a day to relax and wind down after the hubbub of the Christmas rush.

Christi’s appointments went well yesterday. She loves her foot doctor, so that one is always good. The inserts seem to be working well, and the doctor is going to keep giving her Mobic to help with joint pains. The neurologist said that, based on the description of the symptoms, Christi is having migraines. Who knew?? I’ve never had one, so I don’t know what they feel like, but I know from others who have that they can be pretty much disabling. They wanted to schedule a sleep study for tomorrow night, but the insurance company said they couldn’t do a pre-certification on the same day as the study. This is another way of saying, “No, we aren’t going to do this until after January when the patient has a new zero-balance of ‘out of pocket maximum.'” Christi hit her maximum back when she had her foot surgery. They did supposedly fax in a medication, but it wasn’t there yet when we went by CVS. The bad thing is that, according to the doctor’s office, migraine meds are very expensive, and insurance doesn’t cover them very well.

Yesterday afternoon, after having lunch, Christi and I decided to get out of the house and see a movie. I had been wanting to see American Hustle, as it has a pretty good cast in it. It’s rated R for bad language, mostly. There’s no nudity, although Amy Adams continuously wears tops that barely cover. But the cast is great. Amy, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner are all excellent in this film. It’s a film about some con artists in the seventies (yes, there are leisure suits, and there is disco) who get busted, but then are forced into helping the FBI bring down some corrupt politicians and mob people in a sting operation. It was a fun movie, with a nice twist at the end. Also, there was movie popcorn, which is always awesome!

We spent the rest of the evening finishing season 2 of Parenthood. There was a lot of yelling, and then a lot of crying. Several of the actresses in that show can cry very convincingly. I hate when they do that! Oh, and there’s this one character, named Jasmine, that I loathe. The brother, Crosby, is bound and determined to get back into a relationship with her, and she is the worst person on the planet! Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. But the other relationships in the show center around an older couple, played by Craig T Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, and their four kids, who are all grown. Two of the kids are married and have kids of their own. One is a single mother (played by Lauren Graham), and is constantly struggling with the behavior of her kids. One of the couples has a young son, named Max, who has Asperger’s. There have been many moments where Christi and I have been just about bawling because we have been there and done that. It’s a gut-wrenching show.

Today should be a pretty typical Saturday. Lunch, groceries, church, then just hanging out. I should practice the music at some point. That would probably be helpful.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1895, at the Cafe de la Paix in Paris, Louis and Auguste Lumiere “demonstrated their new invention, the cinematographe.” The first film they showed was a short clip of an oncoming train (the customers were alarmed by this). Then they showed a longer film called “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory.”

“It was the first true motion picture ever made and the birth of cinema.” Apparently, they made over 1000 movies, but stated at one point that “it is an invention without a future.”

Today’s birthdays are Woodrow Wilson, 28th president, 1856, Mortimer Adler, author, 1902, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Staple Singers, 1915, Stan Lee, comic artist, 1922, Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, 1924 (possibly 12/25), Martin Milner, actor (Adam 12), 1931, Maggie Smith, actress, 1934, Charles Neville, Neville Brothers, 1938, Edgar Winter, rock musician, 1946, Alex Chilton, the Box Tops, 1950, Denzel Washington, actor, 1954, and Sienna Miller, actress, 1981.

Here’s a clip of Edgar Winter performing “Free Ride.”


Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 67:3-5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 30:12 O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

“O God, you have caused the holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light:
Grant that I, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God,
in glory everlasting. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Rejoicing Together.” The scripture reading is Deuteronomy 14:22-26.

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

Okay. I have never, ever, heard a “tithing” sermon based from this scripture. I wonder why. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* The first time this passage caught my eye, I was amazed. God told his people to take their tithe to a place where he would choose, and basically have a huge party! If the place was too far away for them to carry their actual tithe, they could exchange it for money, take the money to the place God chose, and buy whatever their hearts desired to have their party! “If any Bible passage turns on its ear the thought of a dour god who does not want his people to enjoy life, here it is.” So the challenge over the next ten days is to have a party! Seriously. Gather some friends and family and rejoice together! Perfect time of year for that, too, because there are lots of parties on New Year’s Eve, right? I truly believe that, when we rejoice together, in the name of the Lord, whatever form it takes, he is pleased and glorified. We can enjoy ourselves in him!

Father, keep teaching us to rejoice. We have somewhere managed to develop this image that you want us to be somber and serious all the time. While there are times that soberness is appropriate, there are also times when great rejoicing and celebration are appropriate. I truly believe that you want us to enjoy our lives. You have given us great blessing. Scriptures like the one above tell us that you want us to enjoy these blessings while honoring and glorifying your name! Help us to do that. Free our minds from these misconceptions that everything must be serious, and that we can’t dare be joyful and happy with what we have been given. I pray that you help us to find time to rejoice together with some friends and family sometime soon. Put a song of joy in our hearts. Let us celebrate you and your bounty.

I pray for this day, as it unfolds. May we get our chores done, practice accomplished, and then have a joyful worship celebration this evening. As we approach the beginning of a new year, may we look forward to a stronger, deeper devotion, as well as stronger, deeper relationships with one another.

Your grace is sufficient.

Have a “rejoicing party!” If the house is rockin’. . .

Grace and peace, friends.

Make A Joyful Noise

Good morning. It is Friday, December 27, 2013. Only four more days left in this year.

Today is “Make Cut-out Snowflakes Day.” Interesting.

Not much happened yesterday. We watched some TV, Christi took a nap because she’s still coughing stuff up. It’s really no fun having a cold during your vacation time, but that’s the breaks, I guess. So far, I still feel fine. She’s at a couple of doctor appointments, right now, first a neurologist to see if she can figure out what’s causing the headaches she’s been having, lately, and then, a follow-up to her favorite doctor, the foot doctor. She may or may not give her another steroid injection, but the inserts that she got last time seem to be helping quite a bit.

We had a lot of food left over from Christmas, much of which did not get prepared, even, so Sunday, we’ll cook up another big meal and send a lot of it home with Rachel and Justin. Monday, we plan to go back to Mineral Wells and do some work for my parents, such as cleaning out an old shed they have in the back yard. Tuesday, which is New Year’s Eve, we have no plans, as of yet. And that’s perfectly fine with us. Unless we wind up going to some kind of gathering, we probably won’t even stay up until midnight. But who knows?

Today’s birthdays are Louis Pasteur, bacteriologist, 1822, Marlene Dietrich, actress, 1901, Scotty Moore, Elvis’s guitarist, 1931, Les Maguire, pianist for Gerry and the Pacemakers, 1941, Mike Pinder, Moody Blues, 1941, Mick Jones, guitarist (Foreigner), 1944, Gerard Depardieu, actor, 1948, Terry Bozzio, Missing Persons, 1950, Dean Palmer, baseball player, 1968, Matt Slocum, Sixpence None the Richer, 1972, and James Mead, guitarist for Kutless, 1982.

Lots of music birthdays today. Here’s a clip of the last one, James Mead, playing guitar with Kutless on “What Faith Can Do.” Great song.


Psalm 96:7-9 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Psalm 62:5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Make A Joyful Noise.” The scripture reading is Psalm 100:1-5.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

I’ve always loved this Psalm. It may not be my very favorite, but it’s right up there. It is “a joyous, universal call to praise and thanksgiving.” There is even a sense of resting included in the line about being “the sheep of his pasture.” We are well-tended by our Creator, and our joyful celebrations can certainly include a time of resting. When we confess that God loves us with a never-ending, steadfast love, it opens the way to complete joy. C.S. Lewis, in Reflections on the Psalms, said this:

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not
merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed

Father, as I continue to learn more about celebration to close out this study on disciplines, I pray that you free my spirit to enjoy you and celebrate you spontaneously. I pray that I will not care who might be around when I’m inspired to celebrate. I will gladly appear to be a fool to complete my joy in you. I also pray that we will continue to meet together with other believers to celebrate and rejoice together, remembering the great things that you have done in our lives. Give us both heart and voice to “make a joyful noise” to you, O Lord!

I pray for the rest of this day. I pray that Christi will feel better after taking the meds that her doctor called in for her. Give us good rest for the rest of this day, and prepare our hearts to meet together with our church family tomorrow, in order to celebrate and worship you. I pray that you give Jacob and his support team great wisdom and discernment as they lead our church into 2014.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord today. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it will be beautiful to his ears!

Grace and peace, friends.


Good morning. It is Thursday, December 26, 2013. The day after Christmas. Five more days until 2014.

Today is “Thank You Note Day.” Does anyone still do that?

These last couple of days have been a true blessing, other than Christi and Stephanie not feeling up to par. Christ’s coughing a good bit, this morning, but Stephanie seems to be feeling a little better. She got to feeling pretty down before we left Mineral Wells yesterday, but was better later in the evening. We had a great time visiting with my parents yesterday, along with Rachel and Justin. It was a great day.

Not much going down today. Or tomorrow, either, for that matter. We do have a wicked pool leak, though, so someone is coming by to take a look at that tomorrow. Oh, and someone is supposed to come look at our mailbox lock today. There is no evidence that this has happened, thus far.

All in all, today is a lazy day. My favorite kind.

Today’s birthdays are Charles Babbage, inventor, 1792, Henry Miller, author, 1891, Mao Tse-Tung, Chinese Prime Minister, 1893, Richard Widmark, actor, 1914, Steve Allen, comedian, 1921, Phil Spector, wall of sound, 1939, Carlton Fisk, catcher, 1947, and Chris Daughtry, 1979.

Carlton Fisk was the catcher for the Boston Red Sox during the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Here is a clip of his famous walk-off home run that finished what many believe to be the greatest World Series game in history, Game Six of the 1975 World Series.


Psalm 26:8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.
Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:12-13 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Psalm 86:11-12 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Psalm 116:5-6 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Psalm 146:2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Celebrating the Jubilee.” The scripture reading is Leviticus 25:8-12.

“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.

The Jubilee was a pretty big deal to ancient Israel. Marked by the sounding of “the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month,” it was a new beginning for everyone. “All people get a new start.” I can only imagine the intensity of this year-long celebration of new beginnings. It is a strong witness to the hope of God’s mercy and grace. And, if we fast-forward to the New Testament, we can see that this Jubilee was a foreshadowing of the completed work of Jesus Christ, who is our “Jubilee.”

Blow, ye the trumpet, blow!
The gladly solemn sound
Let all the nations know,
To earth’s remotest bound,
The year of jubilee is come!
The year of jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

(William Walker)

Father, we have celebrated the coming of our Savior in recent days. May we recognize the new beginning which he has provided for us. May we celebrate our own “Jubilee,” as Israel celebrated so many thousands of years ago. May we, as forgiven sinners, constantly return to our “home” in Jesus Christ, remembering always that he has opened heavens doors that we may all enter in.

I pray for the rest of this day, that we will simply rest in you, and that Christi and Stephanie will feel better.

Let Jesus be your Jubilee today!

Grace and peace, friends.

Celebrating Feasts

Good morning. It is Tuesday (I’m not calling this one “post-Monday”), December 24, 2013. One more day until Christmas. Eight more days until 2014. 53 more days until pitchers and catchers report. 97 days until Opening Day.

And, it’s Christmas Eve.

Besides being Christmas Eve, today is also “Eggnog Day.” I’m sure I’ll have some today, but I probably won’t try to make my own, as suggested by the referenced website.

I can’t access my email, currently. Very strange. I use ATT U-Verse web-based mail, and every time I log in, it tells me that my session has expired and I need to log in again. I called tech support and received a recorded message that stated that this was not an isolated incident. So I will wait until they get this fixed.

Yesterday turned out to be kind of weird. We had two trucks to load, and they were both late. The first one, scheduled at 9am, arrived at 10. The second one, scheduled at 1pm, arrived at 3pm! But the guys got it loaded pretty quick, and I still managed to get out at 5pm. We were hoping to get away early, though, to begin our holiday. We are closed today and tomorrow, but I’m on vacation for the rest of the year.

Today, there’s stuff to do! I have to practice some more for the Christmas Eve service. We are having ours at 4:30 this afternoon. I’ve seen at least two churches that are having FOUR services today! Gah!!! I have to wrap some presents. We have to cook for tonight, because Christi’s family is coming over to have Christmas tonight, as is her family tradition. So, tonight, we shall have a house full of Christmas cheer. At least I hope it’s not a house full of Bah! Humbug! 😀

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

It was on this date in 1888 that painter Vincent Van Gogh “hacked off his own left earlobe to give to a favorite prostitute, a certain Rachel.” This happened after having spent most of the year living with fellow painter Gauguin, in a little yellow cottage, seen in Van Gogh’s paintings, in Arles, a little town northwest of Marseille. Vincent’s brother, Theo, had hoped to provide him with some stability by arranging for Gauguin to live with him. But after several months of living together, they discovered that they were “artistically and temperamentally incompatible.” On Christmas Eve, Van Gogh attacked Gauguin with a razor, but failed to harm him. It was after that that he returned to the cottage and cut off his earlobe. Gauguin, not surprisingly, left Arles, never to be seen by Van Gogh again. Four months later, Van Gogh “committed himself to an asylum.” After a year, he returned to Paris, only to take his own life on July 29, 1890.

Don McLean wrote this beautiful and time-tested song about Van Gogh.

Christmas Eve birthdays include Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, 1491, James Prescott Joule, physicist, 1818, Johnny Gruelle, creator of Raggedy Ann, 1880, Howard Hughes, billionaire, 1905 (in Humble, TX), Fritz Leiber, Science Fiction author, 1910, Ava Gardner, actress, 1922, Lee Dorsey, vocalist (Working in the Coal Mine), 1924, Mary Higgins Clark, suspense author, 1929, Doyle Bramhall II, blues guitarist, 1968 (Dallas, TX), and Ryan Seacrest, TV and radio host, 1974.

Doyle Bramhall II is a blues guitar player who grew up around the blues and was born in Dallas, TX. Here is a You Tube clip of a solo he plays alongside Eric Clapton.

(E-mail just started working!)


Fourth Week of Advent

Psalm 66:16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Psalm 67:1-2 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Psalm 119:54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Psalm 61:1-5 Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah.
For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Celebrate Your Festivals.” The scripture reading is Nahum 1:15.

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off.

Celebratory gatherings of God’s people are important components of our lives. “God’s people gather together to hear stories of faith, remember the acts of God, offer thanksgiving, and renew vows.” Passover was one of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, as it celebrated their delivery from slavery in Egypt. Observing special seasons of the year, or even the liturgical calendar, can be an important part of our spiritual formation. As I was growing up, in a small Southern Baptist church, I didn’t hear much about the “Christian calendar.” I never heard of Advent until I got to college. I don’t blame anyone for this. As Southern Baptists in the sixties and seventies, we tried to be the complete opposite of Catholics, so anything that resembled Catholicism was shoved right out. I’m surprised we even recognized Good Friday. But as I’ve grown older, I have learned that the rich traditions of the Catholic Church are worthy of recognition. There is much to be learned from the liturgical calendar, and it’s not all wrong. There is still much that I’m ignorant of when it comes to the calendar, but I’m continuing to learn.

Some folks that I know have gotten all wrapped up in observing ancient Jewish festivals, and even go so far as to have a “seder” each year, observing Passover. I don’t think we need to go that far, personally. While I realize that Jesus observed Passover with his disciples for the “last supper,” he took it a little further and modified it for those of us who would follow in the steps of him and his disciples. I also don’t think we need to get all wrapped up in the various feasts from the Old Testament, or try to make them hold significance to us in the New Covenant era. I could be very wrong, but I don’t believe that OT feasts hold any significance to Christians, other than to show us the history whence Christ came.

All of that being said, I agree with the opening statement of today’s reading. It is important for us to gather together, as Christian family, outside of the regular, weekly, worship times, to celebrate together. “Feasts” are good times; they are times when we can hear those stories, remember the great acts of our mighty God, give him thanks, and even renew vows to him and to one another. This time of year is a good time to do that. Many families get together over the course of the next few days. There is joy, remembrance, and perhaps some sadness as we remember loved ones who have passed on ahead of us. Sometimes acquaintances are renewed, and sometimes relationships are restored.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, may there be more togetherness and less isolation. May we not try to be islands among the millions. Let us celebrate together!

The book offers this prayer:

Lord God, thank you for the beautiful rhythm of the church year. Help
me to honor you as I remember and celebrate all the ways you have been
with me. As I reflect on the wonder of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection,
help me to learn more about you and your ways. What better cause for
celebration than the knowledge that Jesus rose again! In your name I pray.

Father, I pray that you would inspire your Church to gather together more often, in a variety of forms and purposes. While it’s good that we gather to worship you regularly, bring us together more often to celebrate, to feast, to fellowship, to remember the things that you have done in our lives. Our culture has gotten too used to doing the Christian life alone. I have been very guilty of this, thinking, at times, that all I need is these brief times of devotion, along with a weekly worship service. But I have found, through experience, that meeting together at other times, with smaller groups of varying makeup, can be very beneficial, and draw us closer together as a family. Some of these meetings really don’t even have to be about “church.” May we not be “loners,” Father, but be more willing to meet together.

I pray for this day. May we be able to get everything accomplished that we need to do today. I pray that your presence would fill my practice today, and that you would fill our hearts with celebration and joy as we meet together for a short Christmas Eve service later today. I pray for all of the church staff people who are having multiple meetings over this day, and having already experienced more meetings previously. Lord, this season should not be about being so busy! I pray that people will be able to take time to just sit and reflect, and not have to work so much at worshiping you. May we all experience rest in the midst of our celebration and worship.

I pray for our family gathering tonight. There is always potential for tension and stress during these gatherings, and I pray that there will be none tonight. Fill our home with your joy and compassion this evening. May the words of scripture written on the framework of this house come alive, as your Word is alive within us! Fill this place with your Spirit!

I pray that you will find good cause to celebrate and feast over the next couple of days. Take time to reflect on the blessings you have in your life, and be thankful.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praying the Psalms

Good morning. It is Monday, December 23, 2013. Christmas Eve Eve, as it were. Two more days. Nine more days until 2014. 54 days until pitchers and catchers report. 98 days until Opening Day.

Today is “Festivus,” a made-up “holiday,” invented by Dan O’Keefe, but made popular by the TV show “Seinfeld,” in 1997.

We successfully finished our Christmas shopping yesterday, as Stephanie and I went out and got a few things. It was a very enjoyable time that we had together! And I must say that Michael’s, the arts and crafts store, has a very efficient system for dealing with these Christmas crowds. While we were standing in a lengthy line (moving very fast) a couple of ladies came by with scanners. One of them started scanning the stuff in our basket, while the other one bagged it. They scanned all the merchandise to a card with a barcode on it, and handed us the card. When we got to the checkout counter, the girl at the register simply scanned the card, we paid, and we were outta there! I salute Michael’s for the best Christmas shopping experience of the year!

We pretty much didn’t do anything for the rest of the day. Today is our last working day of 2013. I might be gloating a little. I’ll pray for forgiveness.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1790, Jean-Francois Champollion was born. Who is that, you ask? Only one of history’s greatest archaeologists, and “the man who deciphered the Rosetta Stone,” giving us understanding to the system of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Other birthdays today include Joseph Smith, Jr. (dumdumdumdumdum), 1805, Dick Weber, pro bowler, 1929, Paul Hornung, pro football player, 1935, Jerry Koosman, the guy on the other half of Nolan Ryan’s rookie card, 1942, Harry Shearer, actor, 1943, Susan Lucci, (Erika Kane), 1946, Adrian Belew, musician (King Crimson), 1949, Corey Haim, 1971, Victor Martinez, baseball player, 1978, and Cody Ross, baseball player, 1980.

Corey Haim was an actor who became famous during his childhood years, often alongside the other “Corey,” Corey Feldman. Unfortunately, Haim passed away in 2010. Here’s a clip from the great eighties vampire movie, The Lost Boys. There is some brief offensive language toward the end of the clip.


Fourth Week of Advent

Psalm 31:23-24 Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Psalm 31:2-3 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.

Psalm 31:19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Clap Your Hands, All You Peoples.” The scripture reading is Psalm 47:1-9.

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah.
God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!

This is one of the psalms that is known as an “enthronement psalm.” It celebrates God’s reign as “King of all the earth.” It calls upon all people of the earth to celebrate with “loud songs of joy!” When I acknowledge the place of the “King of all the earth,” it gives me a great sense of security and hope. God is in control of all things, no matter how chaotic this world seems to be, at times. This knowledge keeps me going, through all the chaos. If I didn’t believe that God was in control, and his sovereign will was being worked out, I would be too afraid to leave my house. Ever. But because God is in control, I boldly drive to work every morning. If it’s my time to suffer, then I will suffer with grace (hopefully), and endure whatever he has planned for me. I just hope it doesn’t hurt too much. I’m a sissy when it comes to pain.

Thomas Merton said, in Praying the Psalms:

“St. Augustine [says] that God has taught us to praise Him, in the
Psalms, not in order that He may get something out of this praise,but
in order that we might be made better by it. Praising God in the words
of the Psalms, we can come to know Him better. Knowing Him better
we love Him better, loving Him better we find our happiness in Him.”

I’m a big fan of praying the Psalms. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy using The Divine Hours for prayer times. Most of the prayers in that series of books are direct quotes of Psalms. I’m thinking about, in 2014, getting back into my old habit of reading five Psalms a day, which, effectively, takes one through the entire book of Psalms in one month. I would read the Psalm corresponding to the day of the month, and then add 30 to that until five of them have been read. For example, on January 1, I would read Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, and 121. I would save Psalm 119 until the 31st of the month. So there would be a few months were that particular Psalm would not get read.

But I digress. The point of today’s reading is the celebration offered by certain psalms like Psalm 47. Reading psalms like this one is just one way to help us practice the discipline of celebration.

Father, help me to celebrate more. Specifically, help me to celebrate you more. There are plenty of people in our world who “celebrate” at the drop of a hat. But their celebration is shallow and meaningless. Their celebration is more of a way to block out the pain and emptiness of their world by endless drinking and sensuality. I want to celebrate your sovereignty, your authority over all creation, your mercy and grace in my life and the life of my family and friends. I want to flaunt your grace in the face of the apparent chaos of this world, letting everyone around me know that there is a strength available that is much stronger than anything I could muster.

I pray for this day, as Christi and I head to work. Keep us safe as we travel to and from work. I expect traffic to be light this morning. May our work day go smoothly and quickly today. As we make our final preparations for the Christmas celebrations, may we keep in mind the real reason we are celebrating. May we never forget the reality of the baby that was born, whenever it really happened, born in a scenario that was nowhere near as pristine as we want to make it out to be. Nevertheless, may we never forget that this baby was God in the flesh, born to die for our sins, to be the only “person” to ever be truly resurrected, to ascend to your right hand, and to eventually return to judge this earth. This is Christmas.

I pray as always that you be especially near to Stephanie, and that you would give her understanding, as well as show her the path for her life. I also lift up Brandon Gaines to you, our friend and brother, as he lost his father a few days ago, on the anniversary of his mother’s death. Dear Father, I pray that you would be especially close to Brandon, Kristen, and Ava today, as well as the rest of his family, as they bury his dad today.

Do you have a favorite Psalm? If so, try praying it to God today. Read it out loud, as if you were praying it yourself.

Grace and peace, friends.

Spontaneous Celebration

Good morning (at least it was when I started this). It is Sunday, December 22, 2013. Three days until Christmas. 10 days until 2014. 55 days until pitchers and catchers report. 99 days until Opening Day.

Today is “Date Nut Bread Day.” No. No thank you. You can have mine.

We had, in my opinion, an awesome worship celebration last night at The Exchange. And not just because I got to lead three songs. I mean, that was great fun; felt like old times. But I think the worship was good, and Jacob’s sermon was another great one. He keeps showing me stuff I’ve never seen before. Last night, his sermon passage was Isaiah 11:1-10. He took that passage and made direct correlation to Genesis 3:8-19. It was beautiful and well done. Jacob Seay, I salute you!!

After church, we stopped at Sonic for dinner, and headed home, where we pretty much chilled for the rest of the evening. We even had eggnog with brandy in it. Yes, brandy. I read an article that said that brandy was best in eggnog, between brandy, rum, and whiskey. I know it’s just one person’s opinion, and I had never had brandy before. So I decided to try it. I don’t think I would like brandy by itself, because it smells like wine. But the eggnog was very delicious!

We didn’t get our mail, though, because, for some reason, the lock on our mail slot has decided to stop working. This is disturbing. I guess I’ll have to call the post office Monday. We’ve had issues before, but were able to fix it with good ol’ reliable WD-40. You know the saying, right? “If it moves and shouldn’t, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move and should, use WD-40.” That’s pretty much all you need to know. Well, WD-40 didn’t work this time.

Christi is making the Kahlua fudge today. We cleaned out the bowl after she poured the fudge into the pan for cooling. It was delicious, warm, gooey, chocolaty goodness. That description doesn’t even begin to do it justice. You should be very jealous. And your mouth should be watering all over your keyboard or smartphone or whatever device you are using to read this.

Today, I hope to take Stephanie out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. Well, I guess it’s not technically “last-minute,” because it’s still three days until Christmas. One thing I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (do you understand?) do AGAIN is go to a mall on Christmas Eve. I did that once. It was probably at least 30 years ago, and the memory is still fresh. It was, perhaps, the most horrible thing I have ever experienced. Just thinking about it makes me want more eggnog.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1793, Captain of Artillery Napoleone Buonaparte “was promoted to the rank of brigadier general” at the age of 24. This was a reward for his “heroic achievements during Republican France’s victorious Siege of Toulon.”

Today’s birthdays are Rene-Robert Cavelier La Salle, French explorer, 1643, Abigail Adams, second First Lady, 1744, Thomas Cook, English tour director, 1808, George Eliot, Victorian novelist, 1819, (both of the last two are listed as having birthdays of November 22 by other sources), Frank Kellogg, Secretary of State, 1856, Connie Mack, baseball executive, 1862, Edgard Varese, composer, 1883, Wiley Post, aviation pioneer, 1899, Claudia A “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson, First Lady, 1912, Barbara Billingsley, June Cleaver, 1915, Gene Rayburn, game show host, 1917, Geraldine Page, actress, 1924, Gunther Schuller, composer, 1925, Steve Carlton, MLB pitcher, 1944, Diane Sawyer, newscaster, 1945, Rick Nielsen, guitarist for Cheap Trick, 1946, Steve Garvey, 1st baseman, 1948, Maurice and Robin Gibb, The Bee Gees, 1949, and Jordin Sparks, 1989.

Muarice and Robin Gibb were co-founders of The Bee Gees. Maurice passed in 2003, while Robin passed last year (2012). Here is a You Tube of what is probably my favorite Bee Gees song.


Sunday Fourth Week of Advent

Psalm 47:5-8 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Jeremiah 23:5-6 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.'”
Psa 111 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

“Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Awake, Awake, Utter a Song!” The scripture reading is Judges 5:1-5, 12a.

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!
“Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the LORD I will sing; I will make melody to the LORD, the God of Israel.
“LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, even Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel.”
“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, break out in a song!”

This song gives praise to God for his deliverance, as well as for people cooperating with God. “Deborah’s prayer of praise holds as much gratitude for the turning of the people’s hearts toward God as for the turning of the battle to Israel’s favor. Deborah rejoices to see the Israelites once again worshiping God and placing themselves in his hands.” Perhaps we can be inspired by Deborah to come up with our own song of praise.

“Lord, as you awaken us to delight in your praise,
grant that we may know you,
call on you, and praise you;
for you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in you. Amen.”

Father, may I find myself erupting in spontaneous songs of praise each day! I have so much to be thankful for in my life. There is no reason why I should not burst into songs of praise frequently throughout my days. I pray that your Spirit would remind me throughout my day, of the great and wonderful gifts that I have to praise you for. Teach me to celebrate more.

I pray for this day, that we would have good rest and that we would be safe when we venture out. Even though we worshiped you last night, keep us mindful of your grace and mercy in our lives throughout this day.

Your grace is sufficient.

We have no idea what kind of “musician” Deborah was, and it really doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a skilled singer to sing a song of praise to God. The Psalms tell us to “make a joyful noise to God,” so I encourage you to simply do that. Whenever his Spirit leads you, let yourself erupt in spontaneous praise for his goodness.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Celebration of Joy

Good morning. It is Saturday, Decmeber 21, 2013. First day of Winter. It’s 41 degrees and raining, here.

Today is “Humbug Day.” Awww. . . If you’re stressed out and struggling with all this “Christmas Spirit,” let it out today. Try to get it out of your system, then enjoy the last four days of the season.

Here’s something that might help. I found this adorable video on You Tube, made by a Grade Six International Class somewhere, set to the music of Sufjan Stevens’s “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” This song is on a five disc set called Songs for Christmas. The album includes traditional songs, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Lo! How A Rose E’er Blooming,” as well as more quirky tunes like the one above.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The work day went fine, as we had only one truck to load. At around 12:30-1:00pm, our manager arrived with lunch, and we all enjoyed barbecue from Bodacious. It was pretty good stuff. I had stopped at Walgreen’s on the way to work and picked up a small box of candy for each of the guys, and I surprised them with that gift during lunch. I got to leave work around 4pm to start the weekend. I work Monday, and that’s my last work day for the year.

Christi worked from home, and had a pretty good day, but a somewhat hectic morning. She has been busy, though, as Christmas presents abound in our living room! None of them are on the floor under the tree, however. They are all on the piano and the nearby desk. Trixie, the cat, would have a field day with presents on the floor!

Today, we will probably get our grocery shopping done. We have to make a trip to the local liquor store (gasp), because Christi needs some more Kahlua for her most excellent recipe of Kahlua fudge! Plus I need a little “something” for the eggnog, right? Found an article that highly suggests brandy. Never thought of that.

Anyway. . . we have our usual church service at 5:45pm today. Looks like I’m leading three of the songs this evening. So I’ll need to get some practice in at some point. Then I’m leading the Christmas Eve service on Tuesday evening, just me and my guitar. I might oughta put some new strings on my guitar.

Today’s birthdays are Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1117, Roger Williams (the English theologian and colonist), 1603, Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1804, Josh Gibson, pro baseball player, the “Negro Babe Ruth,” who allegedly hit over 800 home runs, 1911, Phil Donahue, talk show host, 1935, Jane Fonda, actress and fitness guru, 1937, Frank Zappa, rock musician, 1940, Carl Wilson, Beach Boys, 1946, Samuel L. Jackson, actor, 1948, Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks, 1950, Chris Evert, tennis player, 1954. Lee Parnell, country singer, 1956, and Ray Romano, actor, 1957.

Frank Zappa was an innovative rock musician, always known for doing strange and unique things in his compositions. In this You Tube clip, he shows Steve Allen how to play the bicycle.


Third Week of Advent

Micah 4:2 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
Psalm 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 18:46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.
Psalm 75:2 “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.”
Mic 5:2-5a But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

“O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who
watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship
may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Today, in A Year With God, I begin reading the section on the final discipline, Celebration. Celebration is defined as, “Utter delight and joy in ourselves, our life, and our world as a result of our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.”

It is said that, “Celebration is perhaps the most overlooked discipline.” I tend to agree with this. Many Christian people look at celebration as being a bit hedonistic. Of course, anyone who loves and follows the writings of John Piper knows that he uses the word “hedonism” in his description of the Christian life. I know many who are made very uncomfortable by that. I, for one, think it’s great. Hedonism simply means that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life. While we, as Christians, may not agree with that 100%, if we alter the idea to include that our pleasure and happiness in God is the most important goal in life, then it fits. God calls his people to celebrate. There are festivals all over the Old Testament, as well as spontaneous and joyful praise. When the Bible depicts the woman dancing through the streets, singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands,” I have a mental image of wild dancing and tambourines! It’s a celebration. When the ark returned to Jerusalem, David danced so hard he exposed himself! The book that is in the middle of the Bible (also my favorite book of the Bible) is filled with praise and celebration (along with some not-so-celebratory stuff). Jesus celebrated more calmly (perhaps. . . we really don’t know) when he attended a wedding in Cana and “performed the ultimate party trick of turning water into wine.”

For us, celebration is simply enjoying God. John Piper reworded the Westminster Confession by saying, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.” Dallas willard says, “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness. We concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us.” In this way, celebration is linked with worship. At this point I note that, for as long as we have been attending worship at The Exchange, the worship time has been called a “Worship Celebration.” Willard continues by describing celebration as, “The completion of worship, for it dwells on the greatness of God as shown in his goodness to us.”

The central emotion involved in celebration is joy. Jesus spoke of one of the purposes of his teachings in John 15:11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

The first reading in this discipline is called “Singing to the Lord a New Song.” The scripture reading is Exodus 15:1-2, 20.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

This is only one of the many accounts in the Bible where we see God’s people reacting with joyful singing and celebration. There is usually an account of reciting his mighty deeds and remembering how marvelous he is. The festivals that they observed each centered around a specific event in their history. Sometimes there is just a spontaneous recitation of his deeds in their lives.

The ten day challenge is to write down a list of things to praise God for, reading or singing the list aloud in celebration. Then add more to the list each day, perhaps expanding the scope. This has potential to be a very joyful exercise, doesn’t it?

Father, I am so very thankful for the many blessings that you have given me and my family over the years. As I work on this challenge, I pray that you open my mind to remember specific instances of great blessing in my life, and that I might sing aloud your praises as I think upon these things. May the next ten days be a joyful celebration of the blessings that you have given me!

I pray for this day. I ask that we can get our errands done in a timely manner, and that you keep us safe as we drive around today, especially in the rain. May we be people of peace as we encounter others during this day, and especially over the next several days, as Christmas approaches. Of all people, Father, your people should be most joyous at this time of year. Let us not express grumpiness, rudeness, or impatience toward anyone during these days (or any other day for that matter).

May we celebrate with joyfulness during our worship celebration tonight. Teach us your ways from your word. Show us the beauty of the season that we might truly celebrate your grace.

I would encourage you who read this to enter into this challenge, as well. Make a list of things you are thankful for. Even if you don’t believe as I do, there is surely something in your life that you are thankful to have.

Grace and peace, friends.