Sticking Around to See What Happens

Today is Friday, the twenty-second of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,416

It was a mostly quiet day at the library, yesterday. There were spurts of busy-ness in the Computer Center, and most of that occurred after 5:00 PM. I won’t be back there until next Tuesday evening.

The Texas Rangers came back and won a game, last night! They beat the Mariners 8-6, after falling behind on Taylor Hearn’s terrible pitching in the first inning. So they avoided a sweep by the Mariners. They are currently 3-9, for the season, still in last place in the AL West. They begin another three-game series in Oakland, tonight, at 8:40 CDT. I find it interesting that they seem to have changed the west coast game times. I don’t know if twenty minutes makes that much difference to the rest of us, as I’m still not likely to stay up to watch the game. There might be some fans at the game tonight, but Oakland’s attendance has been pathetic. In fact, a couple nights ago, their AAA team had a bigger attendance than they did.

One thing I’m happy to see is that the Astros are in fourth place, with a 6-6 record. I’m not happy to see LA in first place, but “it is what it is,” right?

Boston lost another game to the Blue Jays, 3-2, which makes two consecutive losses and they lost the series. So they have dropped below .500 again, and are in fourth place in the AL East. These teams are not making it easy for me to stay interested in baseball, this season. Already.

How much longer do we keep saying, “It’s early, still”?

There’s nothing really on the agenda for today. Probably some laundry. Maybe a quick trip to the store for a couple of things. C is working from home, and I’m off today, so we are all home together. Dinner tonight will probably be our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust.

And, at the last minute, we have decided that we are going to go to Scarborough Rennaissance Festival tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Friday in Easter Week)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
(Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is always right beside me in this journey, to help me when I need to take up my cross and follow Him
2. that Jesus is the water of life, satisfying every thirst
3. for God's marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, and His forgiveness, and that He knows my heart better than I do
4. that God's Word is living and active
5. that God watches over His Word to make sure it accomplishes what He sent it out to do

Today’s prayer word is “cross.” Obviously, this one could have a veritable plethora of meanings. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”

The reading for today speaks of a medically chronic condition with which the writer suffers. I respectfully disagree that this is a “cross” that she must bear. Many people use the phrase, “I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” or something like that.

The reason that I disagree that a medical diagnosis is a “cross” we must bear is that it is not something about which we have a choice. Jesus bids us “take up our cross daily.” This is something we choose. There is a reason that, accompanying that command is also the command to deny ourselves.

Jesus took up His cross and He died. It was His choice. It was not something He was forced to do; He gave up His life willingly.

Most of us don’t do a very good job of taking up our “crosses,” myself included. I didn’t make it through a couple of weeks of Lent, with the “fasts” that I was intending. When we “give up” something for Lent, we are taking up a cross, and denying ourselves. When we choose to not participate in something that others are doing, we are taking up a cross and denying ourselves.

All that being said, I agree with the Pope Francis quote. Jesus would never ask us to take up our cross if He were not going to help us carry it. That’s why He also invites us into His “easy yoke.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that I would do better at taking up the cross that You would have me carry, each day. There are certainly things in my life that need to be avoided or eliminated. There are attitudes and personality characteristics that still need to change. In short, I need to do better at denying myself. Help me to do that, and to step into Your easy yoke as I do so. Thank You that You are willing to be right beside me in this journey.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:19-22 ESV)

The thing I want to point out in this passage is verse 20, that bit about our hearts condemning us. Who among us does not struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? How often do we feel that we are just too bad, and that there is no way God can forgive us yet one more time for the same thing? I’m reminded of a song by Twila Paris, in which, I believe, the first line says, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

I have most certainly been there. But here is the thing. “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” I am in no position to judge myself. J.B. Phillips, in his book, Ring of Truth, says, “It is almost as if John is saying, ‘If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?'”

And, in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to believe or accept God’s forgiveness. We are placing ourselves higher than Him. And we call it “humility.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I praise You for Your great mercy and grace and forgiveness. Please forgive me when I act like I know better than You and doubt Your forgiveness. Help me to accept the truth that You know better than I, and that You know my heart way better than I. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

We’re back to talking about words again. Eugene Peterson says, “Words are never truly empty.” That’s a pretty bold statement, because I’m pretty sure I’ve both heard and spoken some pretty empty words. But every word has meaning. And real, true words “get under our skin and shaper our lives.”

Especially the Word. Once again, I will share that verse from Hebrews.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
(Hebrews 4:12 MSG)

“When the Word is preached or taught, said or sung, prayed or meditated, that is not the end of it. God continues to watch over this Word, tending it and caring for it until it brings forth love, obedience, hope, belief, or joy.”

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 MSG)

We should be watching along with God, but not like spectators watch. We should be watching as shepherds, parents, lovers, and friends, “watching for signs of grace, watching for movements of joy, watching for evidence that once again the Word has become flesh.”

All too often, the leaders of the church miss out on this. Or, perhaps, it’s not “church” leaders, but itinerate evangelists or traveling preachers, who show up, preach the Word, and then disappear. But we need to “stick around and see what happens, and pastors need to lead their congregations to stick around and see what happens, to see how God performs this Word.”

We are all “great wanderers.” We hear something and ten minutes later, we’re off doing the next thing; we’ve gone shopping or turned on the television, or gone to get a snack.

“Everything that goes on in people’s lives is, or can be, connected with the Word that is proclaimed. God is watching over the Word to perform it. And we watch with him because we don’t want to miss out on a thing that comes out of these words that God puts in our mouths.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, this is something that requires some pondering. But we definitely need Your help in this matter. We are too quick to forget the truth that You stick around and make sure that Your Word does what You say it will do. I am grateful for this, but acknowledge that I am not always so good at sticking around to see what happens. Help me to be better at this, and help me to be more faithful to watch with You, when it comes to seeing Your Word in action.

Help us to be better at believing what Your Word says, too. I’m not trying to get into any kind of prosperity gospel, here, but Your Word is truth, and it is powerful, and it dwells within us. So we need to do better at believing it, so we can see the power at work in and around us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Physical and Spiritual — Inseparable

Today is Thursday, the twenty-first of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,415

There’s not much going on around here, today. We did try a new recipe (new to us), last night, that we got from Emily Bites, a cooking blog that we were introduced to at WW. This recipe is called Chicken Taco Rice Skillet. It’s not a crockpot recipe, so it took a little time, but wasn’t any harder than our normal stir fry dish. And it was absolutely delicious, a big hit with the whole family, so it’s a keeper, for sure. I tweaked it just a little bit, adding a little more chicken and used a cup and a half of brown minute rice. Everything else was per the recipe.

Tonight, we will be having another Emily Bites dish, called Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken. I also have tweaked this one a little, as well, putting in three cans of chicken soup and a whole can of water. C will add the yogurt when she gets home from work, and I will have my serving after I get home from my evening library shift. We had this one last week, and it was at least as good as the Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup we have made in the past.

I highly recommend Emily Bites for recipes. All of her recipes are WW friendly. I get semi-regular emails from the site, each one with a new recipe to try.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, 4-2, to the Mariners. Dan Dunning was the losing pitcher. They play again tonight, at 8:40 CDT (on the west coast), with Taylor Hearn taking the mound. How much longer do we keep saying “it’s still early in the season?” Not necessarily giving up, already, but it seems as though they have picked up right where they left off last season.

The Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays, last night 6-1. They are still floating around .500 (6-6), in fourth place in the AL East.

The LA Dodgers are currently the best in MLB, with a 9-3 record. The Cincinatti Reds are worse than the Texas Rangers, bringing up the bottom of the list, but only because they have played (and lost) two more games than Texas.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Thursday in Easter Week)

Bread of Life,” by Daryl Madden

Communion here
Of unity
That I long for
Longs for me

This living bread
Divinity
That I desire
Desires me

This gift, divine
Of grace freely
That I love
Is loving me

The bread of life
Eternity
That I consume
Consuming me

The Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ, desires me, loves me, and consumes me. This, of course, is rather oxymoronic, to say that bread consumes me. But, if we are truly walking with Him and in His kingdom, we are consumed by His grace and mercy. It’s mystical, and words don’t do a very good job of explaining it. I appreciate Brother Daryl’s poetry, and wish that you would visit his site at the link provided above.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky (there's an event going on right now, even though I couldn't see it, this morning because of the clouds - planets are lining up)
2. for the Bread of Life
3. for the example of grace, mercy, and inclusion that we get from Jesus
4. for the brightness of the future we have in Christ and His kingdom
5. that this life combines both the physical and the spiritual; we must both work and pray, and the two cannot be separated

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:8-9 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “inclusion.”

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:11 ESV)

I’m sure the word “inclusion” is a trigger word for some folks, in this day and age. But, personally, I would rather err on the side of grace and mercy, if I’m going to be wrong about something. In other words, I would rather be guilty of including too many people than not including enough. After all, Jesus chose to hang out with “tax collectors and sinners.”

But this also hearkens back to the bit, a few days ago, about angels and how we should show hospitality to everyone, because, who knows, they might be an angel. Our primary characteristic is supposed to be love. If we work harder to exclude than include, we are not showing love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to be more inclusive with my hospitality, and show grace and mercy to all with whom I come in contact. This includes not getting angry or upset when restaurants don’t get my order right, or when they are out of Route 44 cups or drink carries or tuna or whatever. People need grace, and if we don’t show them grace, how are we supposed to lead them toward You?

You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright.
(Psalms 16:6 CEV)

Think of the bright future waiting for all the families of honest and innocent and peace-loving people.
(Psalms 37:37 CEV)

Don’t be jealous of sinners, but always honor the LORD. Then you will truly have hope for the future.
(Proverbs 23:17-18 CEV)

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,” is a popular phrase, and was included in a popular song, back in a previous decade. But the truth is, for those of us who walk in Christ and in His kingdom, the future really is bright. I don’t know how innocent we are (truly, is anyone??), but if we are peace-loving, that demonstrates our love for Jesus Christ. We show that love by showing love to others. The way we love Jesus is to keep His commands, and those commands (in case you’ve missed it, here) are summed up with “love God with all your might,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then there’s the additional, “Love one another as I have loved you” that He gave strictly to His disciples, later.

My future is bright, regardless of outward appearances, because I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and will not fade. My treasure is laid up in heaven, where rust will not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. The politics of earth have no bearing on my future, whatsoever. Oh, sure, the PTBs may start WWIII anytime, now, but that has no bearing on my true future. And, once again, I will repeat the words of Dallas Willard. “This world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.”

Father, I praise You that I feel safe in this world. Sometimes I forget this, and I worry, especially when madmen seem to be in charge and in control of things. Then I remember who is really in control, and I remember that this physical body is temporary, anyway, and that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me some pain, which will also be temporary. I thank You for the bright future that I have in You, and for the way You have led me to try my best to spread love and inclusion in this world. Help me to keep doing this, and, thereby, spreading the “good news” of the Gospel, which is that Your kingdom is here, right now.

The Christian life, the Christian faith, is both physical and spiritual at the same time. It is inescapable. There are times when we want to make it purely one or the other. Heretics, allegedly dealt with long ago, would have us believe that the physical is completely evil and unnecessary. I say “allegedly,” because those types of heresies always seem to resurface, centuries later.

But we, as Christians, have to work. It is, again, inescapable. “Caulking a cracked sidewalk, washing windows, trimming azaleas, pointing eroded masonry, fixing a broken pipe, and hauling debris to the landfill.” But also included in the physical part is “healing a hurt body, training the brain to recognize truth, and disciplining bodies to behave in acts of justice and love.”

There seems to be a great dearth of “training the brain to recognize truth,” these days.

On the spiritual side, there are acts of faith that are, for the most part, invisible. “Believing in the real presence of the Christ we do not see, loving people around us when they don’t seem to deserve it and we don’t feel like it, and expecting the arrival of the kingdom of God at the very moment journalists are announcing the latest sleaze.”‘

“Everything physical is at the same time spiritual. Everything spiritual is at the same time physical. There is no separating these realities. The Saturday workers and the Sunday worshippers are the same people. Everything we do, on both days, can be to the glory of God – or could have been for his glory, for the physicality and the spirituality of both work and prayer can be perverted into prideful sin.”

I find myself grimacing at that bit about loving people who “don’t seem to deserve it,” and when I “don’t feel like it.” But that is where I have to squash pride and obey the commands of my Savior. Because . . . well, you already know, because, if you’ve read this far, I addressed that in the previous section.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray that You help me to do just that, to love people around me who don’t seem to deserve love, and to love people when I simply do not feel like loving them. Who am I to determine if someone is worthy of love?? I am not You! I am not all-knowing and all-wise! Therefore, it is simply my duty to obey Your commands. Even when I don’t feel like it.

Help us also, Father, to train our brains to recognize truth. Apparently, it isn’t always so obvious, even when we think it is. And Lord, please, please, please, help us to show grace when we think that someone else’s version of “truth” is wrong.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Remembrances

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,414

It was seven years ago, today, that my father went Home. I still remember the phone call that I received right after I got home from work on that Monday evening. He had been “found unresponsive” at the nursing home/rehab facility to which he had been taken the previous Saturday. I immediately got hold of Mama, and called C, and we raced to Mineral Wells.

In my opinion, he was already gone. We gathered around and watched nothing happen for a few hours. Other friends and family arrived to wait with us. We didn’t wait very long. There wasn’t any point in keeping the machines going. His body wasn’t breathing on its own; it was 100% machine-enabled. Mama and I made the decision.

The rest of the week was a blur, as more family arrived at the house, and friends brought tons of food. Isn’t that interesting? When someone in your family passes away, everyone brings food. That’s an odd tradition, to me. I mean, it was good food, sure, and we enjoyed it. C and I got a new recipe for strawberry cake, thanks to Mama’s friend Shirley.

I also saw my favorite and beloved cousin, Joan, for the first time in years. And isn’t that a shame, that it took a family death to bring us together again?

My mother survived on her own for almost seven years after that. Oh, she’s still alive, and doing pretty well, but has now moved in with us, here in Fort Worth. But she made it alone in her house for quite some time. She had lots of help from some really good friends, some virtual angels.

Some people lose their minds when a parent dies. A pastor, that ministered at the church Mama and Daddy were going to, lost his dad, and his life practically fell apart. It changed him, and not for the better. For me, life definitely changed. For the last seven years, I have struggled to enjoy baseball, like I used to. That was something I had in common with my father (S, too). I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that, before. But I think there’s another effect. One that I haven’t mentioned, I don’t think. And maybe I have only recently come to realize this.

My love of music has not been the same. Oh, sure, I still love music, and still play and sing when I want to. But those times seem fewer and farther between. And sometimes, it seems, I simply don’t want to listen to any music.

Anyway . . . just some thoughts in my brain, today, as we remember back seven years ago. I’ll carry on, now, with the main reason I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
(Psalms 116:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the life I had with my father, and the legacy he left behind
2. that we still have my mother with us, and for the joy that we continue to share together
3. that I still have memories and can remember good things
4. that God remembers that we are dust; we are flawed; we are far from perfect, but well on our way
5. for the power of words that contain truth

Ironically, today’s prayer word is “remember.” I don’t think I could have made that up.

Philosopher George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We remember a lot of things in our lives. Who among us has not suddenly, quite “out of the blue,” remembered something stupid we said in public? Or some mistake we made at work? Or some grievous sin we committed at one point in our lives?

We also remember good things. I remember beautiful scenes from wonderful vacation trips: the ocean, seen from the west coast, and the east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico; mountains in various parts of the country; redwood forests in California, as well as the forest on the way to the west coast of Oregon.

And we remember phone calls with bad news, like the one I mentioned above.

Memory is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, some of those things I would like to forget. Mostly the stupid things I have said and done in my life.

Apparently, according to my Bible app, “remember” is in the NIV 166 times. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a command or admonition from the Lord. Sometimes, it is in the form of a promise from the Lord. And sometimes, it is in the form of a prayer from one of God’s people to Him.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8 NIV)

“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
(Genesis 9:14-16 NIV)

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
(Exodus 33:13 NIV, Moses speaking)

Then there are verses like these.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 NIV)

We see from Scripture that our God is able to intentionally forget things! Have you ever tried to do that?? Just try and forget something, sometime! It is impossible for a human being to intentionally forget something. It’s like trying to not think about a pink elephant. Don’t do it!

(From Pray a Word a Day)(Except for the bit about pink elephants)

Father, there are things I want to remember, and things I would like to forget. I suppose there are reasons why I cannot forget some of those things; good reasons, hopefully, lessons learned. I’m not always so sure about that, though, that the lessons were learned, because I keep making some of the same stupid mistakes.

But there are also things I never want to forget, like my father’s face and his voice and his love for me. I never want to forget other people that have come through my life, and the good things they have brought to my life. And most definitely, I never want to forget You and Your benefits to my life. Help me to always remember that I belong to You.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Philippians 3:12 ESV)

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:36 ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

It is important to remember (that was not intentional) that we have not yet “arrived.” Just like Paul, I have not obtained what I am after, yet. As U2 stated so well, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Of course, I have found Jesus, or, rather, He found me, because He is the one looking for “lost sheep,” right? But I have not fully obtained the perfect salvation that awaits me at the entrance to Home.

I have not arrived; I am not perfect. In fact, I’m pretty far from perfect. But there is one other important thing to remember.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

Father, I am so grateful that You remember that we are dust. While You “command” that we are “holy,” as You are holy, or “perfect” as You are perfect, You still remember that we are dust, and that we are not, in fact either holy or perfect. We have the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, though. His righteousness has been added to my account. So You do not see, nor do You remember, my sin! Oh, Hallelujah!

I still search, and I still seek. I seek, first, Your kingdom. At least when I remember, I do that. Help me to remember to keep seeking Your kingdom, so that all other things will fall into place, as they should. Help me to lay aside the weight that I am not intended to bear, and that could mean a lot of different things. We take on weight that we should not, and that’s not always about sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to being Home, and seeing that “great cloud of witnesses” that has gone before me.

Words are important. Words are powerful, both spoken and written.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

The spoken Word of God created the universe and brought light into being. It’s quite a wonder, if we ponder it, that light was created before there were any stars. But that’s a topic for another day.

“The spoken and written word is active; it does things, makes things happen. it is so easy to lose connection with this reality and let ourselves be intimidated by force and might, by horsepower and nuclear power, by money and militancy, and by terrorism and brutality.”

A man named Vaclav Havel “sat in prison in Czechoslovakia for many years because the communist government was afraid of his words and what his words would do.” He cared nothing about politics, but was “a deeply committed Christian who wrote plays for the stage and letters to his wife.” They were afraid of him because “he wrote truth, wrote well, and used words that were full of energy.”

After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, “he stepped out of prison and was immediately made president of his country. In the speeches he made after that remarkable reversal, he spoke over and over again to the Word, to the nature of the Word, to the Word of God and the Word made flesh.”

Not all words are active, though. If we separate our own words from the life of God, without His Spirit, they are small, meager. “Words used without accuracy, without passion, and without love are lifeless. . . . Words that make and root the world, that bring truth into lives, and that ignite love in hearts are the words that are born in the presence of God.”

And the place where we get those words is in our closet, in prayer; in His presence.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, help me to remember the power of words. But also that that power is contingent upon your presence. Yes, words that do not contain Your life and wisdom can be powerful, but they are lifeless. They do great evil. We are inundated, in today’s culture, with inaccurate words, words that spread misinformation, even though they may be spoken with passion. Help us to have wisdom when we listen; give us ears to hear only truth, Father, and let that truth be from Your Word, the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Let all other words fall by the wayside.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Remembering

Grace and peace, friends.

Live Quietly and Mind Your Own Business

Today is Tuesday, the nineteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,413

I had a great night of sleep, last night, and slept until almost 8:30, this morning. In fact, I might have slept even longer, had someone not called me. I didn’t figure out what was happening in time to catch the call, but I didn’t recognize the number, so I won’t be calling them back.

I had thought to make a trip to the grocery store, today, but it’s not urgent. I will be heading out, in a little while, to pick up lunch/dinner for everyone at Subway. That’s our Tuesday tradition, since I work my four-hour shelving shift on Tuesday evening.

We are finally getting rid of the grand piano, hopefully, today. C found someone who wants it, and is supposedly having professional movers come by this afternoon, to get it. That will free up a large amount of space in the front “dining” room, which we are considering converting to a reading area, with chairs and a couple bookshelves. We can then move the exercise bike up to the front living room, next to the treadmill.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week)

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
(Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a really good night's sleep
2. for Your justice, righteousness, and faithfulness
3. for the desire in my heart to stir up love and peace, rather than anger and harshness
4. for the tasks that You have given me, praying that I might do those things while living quietly and minding my own business
5. for my brother and sisters in the faith, and the relationships You have built between us.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
(Job 19:25-27 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “stir.” This word could mean a number of things. The reading provides this verse for context.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

I used to be one who loved to argue. My father and I would engage in spirited debates, often. But, as I grew older, I found myself thinking more like he thought. I have also learned that arguing is no longer fun. Part of that is because it has gotten more hostile, for which I blame social media.

These days, arguments on social media are not “won.” No one’s mind is changed, because no one wants to have their mind changed. Everyone wants to be right, and “truth” or “facts” don’t enter into the picture whatsoever.

Because of this, I have made it my practice, my goal, to only stir up love and peace. It’s not easy to be a peacemaker, these days, because no one wants peace. They want to be right. They want the other side to . . . well, to be perfectly honest, I think that a lot of people would only be satisfied if the “other side” ceased to exist.

It’s hard to not engage. I have typed many a comment or reply on Facebook, only to delete it and not post it, because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful. So I just keep scrolling, and do my best to be one who stirs up love and tries to make peace.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

Somehow, I don’t think calling other people “stupid,” “idiot,” and “snowflake” does a thing toward spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 ESV)

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV)

We all have different tasks to do in this world. Paul goes on at length, in Corinthians, about the different gifts and body parts that we fit into. Here, we are admonished to love one another (where have I heard that before?) by minding our own business (!), and tending to the work that is set before us, no matter what it may be. Why? So that we may “walk properly before outsiders.”

I am seeing a lot of instances where people are 1) not living quietly, and 2) not minding their own business, and 3) not walking properly before outsiders.

Things look a lot better in the world when you can manage to do those things. I’m not advocating a “head in the sand” mentality. Not at all. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on in the world. But the truth is, we have no control over most of it. And spouting off our “expert” opinions about the latest current affair tends to have no effect whatsoever, other than making us look somewhat foolish. Because very few of us are “experts” about anything.

Father, help me to pay attention to what is my business, to mind my own affairs, and to live quietly, so that I may walk properly before “outsiders.” It is in this way that “outsiders” might be drawn closer to becoming “insiders.” I thank You that You have drawn me more and more toward being one to attempts to stir up love and peace, rather than stirring up anger with harsh words. I pray that I may be more and more like this.

What is one of the first things we tend to ask people when we first meet them?

“What do you do?” Implied, of course, in the question, is “What do you do for a living?”

Eugene Peterson recounts a time when he asked that of a person, and received a twenty-minute discourse on all of the daily activities of the person. However, at the end of it, Eugene still had very little idea about what the person actually did.

But another friend shared a similar account, in which, upon being asked what he did, another person’s answer was, “I’m changing the world.”

That is, in a way, the job description of the Church, and every person who is part of the Church. We are changing the world. I am changing the world. No, I’m not solving the problems between the Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (let’s be honest . . . Ukraine doesn’t have a “Russia” problem, they have a “Putin” problem). I’m not going to solve world hunger, or create clean water resources for third world countries.

But I’m changing the world, doing my best to influence people toward “love and good deeds” in my own little corner of the world, in what Dallas Willard would call my own little “kingdom.”

Is that what we have in mind when we prepare for worship each week? “Maybe you just expect a little inspiration or solace. Maybe you just want to get away for an hour or two from life’s daily clutter and be refreshed by some beauty and sacred order. Maybe you are following an old habit. But we are changing the world.”

Creation is in motion every time the Word of God is spoken. When we invoke the Holy Spirit, “salvation is in motion.” “Every time we open our mouths in praise, confess our faith with our lips, and believe in our hearts, the world is changed.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Wait. I thought you said we were supposed to live quietly and mind our own business.

I am firmly convinced that both are possible. You see, there are people who believe that the only way to express their faith and belief is angrily, with loud shouting. (I once worked for a manager who subscribed to the belief that he who talks the loudest wins.) My brothers and sisters, this should not be! It is possible to express our faith, to confess our beliefs, and believe in our hearts, meekly and quietly, and while minding our own business.

Father, I pray that You would help me to change my world, quietly, and consistently, without anger, without condemnation, and by stirring up love and peace. That is my desire, that is my goal. I want to know You, and I want to present You to this world, in my little “kingdom,” as the God who is there, the God who loves and cares, the God who IS compassion, and the God who saves.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends

Christ’s Light in the Darkness . . . Right at Home

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,412

I hope everyone who observes the day had a blessed Easter, yesterday. We were blessed to be able to have the Supper with our little group, after we read several of the Bible accounts of the resurrection event. We noted differences in the Gospel narratives, and celebrated the power that comes from knowing and walking with Jesus in our lives. We also spent some time praying together.

The Night of Worship that was to take place this coming Saturday has been postponed, but we are considering having a sort of prayer meeting, at some point in the near future. I’m going to suggest combining the two and kind of re-tooling the NoW thing.

This week is a “light” week for me, work-wise. I only work Tuesday evening, four hours, and Thursday, eight hours.

The Texas Rangers continue their losing ways, and lost three of the four games against the Angels. Yesterday’s loss, the second by pitcher Martin Perez, was 8-3. The highlight of that game was a two-run homer by Adolis Garcia. They have today off, after which they will begin a six-game west coast run, starting in Seattle, Tuesday. The Rangers are now 2-7 for the season, in last place in the AL West, but only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. Jon Gray will be back in the lineup Tuesday, to take the mound against Seattle.

The Red Sox beat the Twins 8-1, yesterday, finally getting above .500. The two teams are playing another game today. That seems odd, to me, because series don’t usually go through the weekend into Monday. Oh, well. Update: I just discovered that today is “Patriot Day” in Boston, and the game is played at 11:10 EDT. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon. The Sox are 5-4 for the season, in second place in the AL East, only a half-game behind Toronto.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Monday in Easter Week)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
(Psalms 46:10-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm continuing to reflect on the wonder of the resurrection of Jesus, and that the celebration doesn't end just because Easter Sunday is over
2. that the Word of God is near me, in my mouth and in my heart
3. for habits and rituals (like this one) that help me get closer to God
4. for the call to serve one another and be Christ's light in the darkness, in our own sphere of influence
5. for Abraham's example of hospitality
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

I found this, by Timothy Keller, through Facebook, this morning, and thought it was great. There is a lot of pain going through our little church group, right now, and I shared it with all of them. “On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.” ~ Timothy Keller

Today’s prayer word is “ritual.” There is a quote from Victor Hugo included. “It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky . . . a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.”

I’m a fan of ritual. I’ve got habits. Who doesn’t, right? Even in the shower, I have a ritual. Just the other day, my brain misfired, and I failed to switch hands with the scrubber at the right time, and I’m pretty sure my right arm didn’t get washed that day. I have a cup of herbal tea every night, shortly before I go to bed. And I listen to a meditation recording on one of two different apps, as I fall asleep. Except for last night, because I forgot to charge my headband headphones. And guess what? I didn’t sleep very well, last night!

What’s the difference between a ritual and a habit? Turns out, in order to be a ritual, there must be some meaning behind it. So I guess my shower habit is not, in fact, a “ritual.” The cup of tea, I believe, is, though, because I believe it helps me relax and prepare for sleep.

Rituals aren’t necessarily good, though. To some people, ritual in the church is boring. I like it, myself, and am fond of what might be considered more “high church” worship. Don’t get me wrong, I love some contemporary worship, as well. I would love to find a church that combined the two, but so far, I have not. What’s funny about this is that the Catholic church, the “highest” of high church, was probably on the forefront of introducing contemporary worship music to the masses, back in the late sixties and early seventies.

The key is in intention and meaning. If you do something just to do it, it’s a habit or a routine. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church where exactly the same thing happened every Sunday morning, in the same order. It was weird when something was added or left out. Was there meaning or intention behind that? Or was it just the way we’ve always done it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect there might have been a little of both. But you know what? I found comfort in that routine. I could always count on those things happening . . . those three hymns between the pastoral prayer and the offering; that “special music” right before the sermon; and the benediction that signaled that we could finally go home.

I am engaging in ritual right now. Every morning (not always at the same time) I sit down at this computer and start reading Bible passages, along with several devotional materials, and typing this blog. There is most definitely intention and meaning involved. The intent is twofold; one goal is to grow myself spiritually and connect more with the Holy Trinity; the other is to maybe inspire or motivate someone else to do the same. I used to write these moments in a paper journal, but one day I decided to begin recording them online. 1) That saves paper and space; and 2) other people might benefit from my journaling.

Recently, in the past couple of years, I have developed a ritual of sharing at least five things every day for which I am grateful. The intent here is not to show how spiritual I am, but, rather, to inspire others to also be grateful for the things that they have in their lives.

So rituals can be good things. I firmly believe that they help me in my efforts to draw closer to God and walk in His kingdom.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful that You created me as one who thrives in ritualistic settings. I pray that my habits and rituals, each day, will continue to help me to draw closer to You and weed out habits that aren’t good, as well as characteristics in my personality that are not healthy or helpful.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:45-49 ESV)

We frequently make the mistake of thinking that the only way we can do “great things” for Jesus is going on adventures. We want to go on that mission trip to Africa or Mexico or somewhere. Or sometimes, we even stay in our own state, but we have to get away from our local area.

As Logan Eliasen was returning from a somewhat adventurous vacation trip to Colorado, he struggled with purpose. “What am I doing here” he asked himself. But then he realized he was asking the wrong question.

“What can I do here,” he then asked.

“Here, in Iowa, I have relationships with people I care about. Here, Jesus has provided me with opportunities to share His love with others. Here, I can be Christ’s light in the darkness.”

That is huge and profound. Our “witness” begins at home.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
(Matthew 10:5-7 ESV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

Father, let us not be so quick to need to get away from our own neighborhoods to do Your work. Remind us that we can be Christ’s light in the darkness right in our own yards, on our own streets. As for our little house church, Lord, I struggle with what kind of impact we can have. But we can do the same. We can be Christ’s light in the darkness at Brandon’s house. And we can shine in his neighborhood. After all, if we can’t shine there, what makes us think we can shine in Africa??

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!
(Hebrews 13:1-2 MSG)

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.” They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.” Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
(Genesis 18:1-8 MSG)

“Caring for others is the best thing we do. We are at our best when we are attending to the needs of others: hurts and pains, sorrows and disappointments, despair and grief, confusion and dismay. Speaking words of encouragement, binding up wounds, giving direction, sharing trouble – when we are doing these things, we are being fully human.”

We may not always do a great job at these things, and sometimes we may even do them badly. But we still need to be about caring for others, because only then are we “fully human.” And it’s not something to be done only when we “feel a gush of sentiment.” It should be part of “life together as people of God.” And we shouldn’t stop doing it just because we may not have done a good job at it.

Abraham is one of our best examples of this. Three men show up at his tent, one day, and he greets them enthusiastically and invites them to stay for a meal. “He did not treat them as interruptions to his prayers or as intrusions on his pilgrimage.” There is no indication that he knew, yet, that the men were angels.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, said, “There are no ordinary people. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

So we go full circle back to the idea of routine, habit, and ritual. This is where caring happens, in the so-called “ordinary.” It begins in our neighborhoods, where we live, and where we “go to church.” It doesn’t start on the great adventures to Africa or Mexico or even the next state over. It starts here, where we live.

“Abraham in front of his tent. A hastily prepared meal. Angels unawares.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I confess . . . I haven’t done a great job of this. I hardly know my neighbors. Motivate me to connect with them a little better, to reach to them, to see if there is anything I can do to serve them. And then I pray you guide us into service in the neighborhood where our church meets. And, most of all, help us to serve one another within our own little body of believers. Jesus, You told us to love one another the way You have loved us. I have not done well at this, either, so help me be better at it. Help me to love!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Best is Yet to Come

Today is Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, April 17, 2022.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,411

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign!
He arose!
He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
(Up From the Grave He Arose, w/m by Robert Lowry, 1874)
"O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Easter Day)
"Decision Day," by Daryl Madden

And here it is
Decision day
Did Jesus rise
What do you say?

Let our answer
Be Amen, yes!
Place in His arms
Our soul to rest

If we believe
Our answer true
Oh, truly this
Will transform you!

No death to fear
Our joy so great
With His passion
Let’s celebrate!

Please visit Daryl’s poetry blog at the link provided above.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
(Luke 24:1-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that He is risen
2. that the Lord saw fit to place me in a family that would lead me to be a believer in Him, and then drew me to Himself
3. for hugs; for being held by another human being; and that my God holds me in His hand
4. that the best is yet to come
5. for prayer, which helps me to take care of my most important need, the "God-need," and that my need for God can never be satisfied, only deepened

The prayer word for today is “hold.” Francine Rivers, American author, is quoted as saying, “God holds me in the palm of His hand and no one can take Him from me.”

This is a paraphrase of the words of Jesus, in John 10.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30 ESV)

The word “hold” can be found in many popular hymns and songs. “I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand,” is one such lyric. Rich Mullins wrote a song simply called, “Hold Me, Jesus.”

Most people, unless they have sensory issues, love to be held. Hugs are very popular. I, myself, am a huge proponent of hugs. The human touch is important to mental health, and that is one reason that so many people are suffering mentally throughout this pandemic.

As I consider the word in the context of this special day, there is another place where “hold” comes into play. In this case, it is an instance where something could not hold. The grave could not hold my Savior!

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You that You hold me in the palm of Your hand. I praise You that no one, not even me, can snatch me out of Your hand, and that no one has the power or authority to take You away from me. There is no government in the world that can do that. But I also thank You and praise You, especially today, that the grave could not hold Jesus Christ down. And it is that same power that raised Him from the dead that resides in us today, by the Holy Spirit. May we know that power, Father, as we walk through our daily lives, and may we be inspired to live in that power, and know the defeat of our enemy, first hand.

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
(John 20:3-4 NIV)

For Peter and the other disciples, as they faced this resurrection morning, “the best was yet to come.” (Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022) The had pretty much retreated to their old ways of life until everything exploded on this first day of the week.

Isn’t this true of all of us, though. “The best is yet to come.” How often have we heard this phrase in our lifetimes? I forget this, and need to remember this truth, every day. No matter how good things are, no matter how bad things may be. The best is yet to come.

Because someday, we will join Jesus in this resurrection. And, as another old hymn says, that will be “glory for me.” Written by Charles H. Gabriel:

When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Refrain:
Oh, that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

Father, even though the resurrection that we celebrate today has been the single greatest event in all of history, I believe, with all my heart, that the best is yet to come. What could be greater than the resurrection of Jesus? Everything that is depicted in that hymn, above. “When by His grace I shall look on His face.” My soul nearly explodes in anticipation of that day. It is the (or at least should be) the single direction of my life; it should be the “main thing.” And, no matter what else I pursue in this life, it should all be driven by that main thing.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always, and I confess that, because my attention span is shallow and short. I have allowed culture to influence me. Forgive me for this, Father, and help me to reverse this trend. Help me to press on, as Paul said, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call.” Help me to remember that the best is yet to come.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalms 73:2-3 ESV)

As I continue to consider the truth that “the best is yet to come,” I have to acknowledge that “I don’t yet have what I want.” And consider the needs that keep recurring. My hunger is satisfied in the morning by a bowl of cereal or some eggs and bacon. But, approximately four hours later, that hunger is back, demanding lunch.

We constantly have to buy new clothes, because, either the old ones wear out (the best reason for buying new clothes), or they become out of fashion (the worst reason for buying new clothes).

And our culture, which is well aware of these needs, exploits them. In fact, they find ways to manipulate and influence us to feel deeper “needs” than we really have. They distort the line between “need” and “want.” “The need they start with is usually legitimate, but then it is distorted and twisted into rampant and out-of-control greed.”

“A waiting heart deliberately interrupts this process in which our needs become corrupted by covetousness. We are returned to our basic needs, our God-need, and are directed to take care of that. Fundamentally, we take care of it by praying.”

God should be the first “item” on our list of needs. And we deal with that need through prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

But here is the catch. There’s always a catch, right? Just as that hunger for lunch returns, even though it was temporarily satisfied by breakfast, our need for God does not go away when we pray. In fact, not only does it remain, but it deepens! “And so we find ourselves waiting – for wholeness, for the coming of Christ. Waiting can make us impatient and irritable, or it can make us more and more helpful and ready. Waiting, for the praying Christian, is a gospel art.”

There are two kinds of waiting, as Peterson has already alluded to. One kind waits impatiently, wondering why it doesn’t already have what it wants. The other kind remembers that “the best is yet to come,” and waits with patient anticipation, reveling in the present grace of God, while also waiting for His future grace, with assurance that it is on the way.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, help me to wait in the second way. Even now, I still get impatient when I have to wait longer than I think I should have to wait for something. I get annoyed when the traffic light turns red. I get frustrated when my Sonic drinks take too long to come to me. God forgive me. There is no telling what the purpose of that delay was for. The extra time at the traffic light could be spent praying or meditating, rather than grumbling. Ditto the extra time in the Sonic stall. Yes, I want to get home, where my loved ones are waiting for me (and their Sonic drinks).

God, help me to remember the words of Dallas Willard, when he told John Ortberg to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” There is no reason to hurry. Help me to wait with the patient expectation that, yes, the best is yet to come. Someday, we don’t know when, Jesus is coming soon. If we knew when, it would be easier to be ready, wouldn’t it? But seeing as how I am always late getting ready for things, why would that event be any different? Therefore, I need to make sure I am ready now, because it could happen at any time, right? I don’t know about all the prophecy and theology behind this. I know that Paul and the other apostles believed that He would be returning in a matter of years, maybe weeks, from the days in which they were writing.

Help me to wait, Lord. Help me to live expectantly, not impatiently. Help me to know the power of the resurrected Jesus in my life, as I walk through this world and in Your kingdom. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Yes, and amen, Lord!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

True Success

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. It is “Good Friday.”

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,409

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

I’m off work today, as I will be every Friday, going forward, until my schedule changes again, if it does. But the library is closed today, anyway, and, based on what I’m hearing, usually is closed for Good Friday, as all city offices are also closed.

We have a funeral to attend, this afternoon, and are about to get ready to go pick up a good work friend of C’s, and go have lunch together, and then she will ride to the funeral with us, as she also worked for the man who passed away.

I have several book reviews to write, today, at some point. I may not attend the Good Friday service this evening. I have not yet decided on that. And I’m still not sure what we are doing for church Sunday morning.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the Angels (and Ohtani!) 10-5. Included in that game was a grand slam by catcher Jonah Heim, who also batted in another run, and scored at least one more, himself. That was the first grand slam ever allowed by Ohtani, and I think I heard the radio announcers say that it was the first home run hit off of that particular pitch of his. Also included in the game was Corey Seager finally getting his first Rangers home run (he flirted with that a couple days ago, but it was stolen from him by a great outfield catch). They play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, apparently with Matt Bush starting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Good Friday)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for great discussions/conversations with C and Mama
2. for friends with which to have lunch
3. for the death of Jesus on the cross, which paid for all our sins
4. for a life that has been lived with the "correct" definition of success (obeying God's voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family)
5. that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”
(Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “success.” This is a tricky one, I think. We need to be careful, of course, how we define “success.”

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.
(Proverbs 16:3 NLT)

There is also this famous verse, not included in the reading for today.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
(Joshua 1:8 ESV)

What is success? When classmates vote “most likely to succeed,” they are probably considering who will “make a name for themselves, earn lots of money, and enjoy an illustrious career.”

I really like what today’s reading says. Written by “Barbranda,” she says “While I’ve had goals, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a master plan. I just take life step by step and make the most of the opportunities that come my way. For me, true success is obeying God’s voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family.” (I added the emphasis)

Indeed, I agree. That is what makes up true success. I have never really had what others might call a “life goal,” or “master plan.” I’ve just kind of plodded along, trying to do that same thing that Barbranda said.

" . . . and step by step You'll lead me,
and I will follow You all of my days."
(Written by David Strasser, aka "Beaker," for Rich Mullins)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41 NIV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

We need a lot of help “getting our feet on the ground and making sure we are headed in the right direction.” Our ground is, to a degree, “holy ground,” and the “‘right direction’ is toward the Cross of Jesus.'” Unfortunately, a lot of clutter gets into our lives, littering that holy ground, and voices cry out to us, distracting us from the Cross.

We have to cultivate our inwardness, and this must be intentional. “Spiritual practices, including prayer and fasting, are about getting our inside stories straight.” We must realize that a lot of, maybe most of, Jesus’s life happened “behind the scenes, in prayer. . . . It is not enough to become knowledgeable in surface facts. it is not enough to gain access to the biblical reports. We need the inside story, the God-story, that is at the heart of everything.

“Prayer grants access to inwardness, to the God-action that is taking place within us. This God-action is the most distinctive thing about us. it is more important than our circulatory systems, our brain waves, and our skeletal structures. When we realize that huge centrality, we are no longer content with prayers that are brief and occasional expressions of thanks or general laments upward. We want something comprehensive – prayer that is rigorously probing and capable of getting at the entire inside stories of our lives.”

I apologize for the lengthy quote, but, as is so often the case, I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s writing.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, this is the kind of prayer, this kind of inwardness, that I am looking for. As I walk through this Good Friday, may my heart, soul, and mind be turned inward toward this “inside story.” I want to know Jesus in this way, and I want to be walking on this “holy ground,” toward the direction of the Cross of Christ. Even if I only move 1% closer each day, I am satisfied with that, as it is progress toward true success. And “success” will be realized when I “arrive,” which will not happen until I stand face to face before You.

Help me to know as I am known. Help me to walk in the present, being aware of Your presence always with me, beside me, behind me, in front of me, above me, below me, and inside me.

May all the glory go to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. Maundy Thursday.

May the peace of Christ be with you and within you.

Day 23,408

According to a couple of sources, “Maundy” comes from the latin word for “command,” and Maundy Thursday commemorates the command that Jesus gave His disciples, at the Last Supper, to love and serve each other. I did not know this until today. Or at least if I did, I had forgotten, which is entirely possible.

I’m pretty sure my brain is full, so that now, whenever I learn something new, I forget something old. I wonder what I just forgot?

Today will be my second Thursday in the computer center at the library. If it is anything like last Thursday, it will go by fairly quickly, as it was pretty busy, at least busier than my normal Fridays were.

I’ve started another chicken soup (not Italian, but that one was very delicious) in the crock pot for tonight’s dinner. I will have my bowl after I get home, around 8:30.

The library is closed tomorrow, for Good Friday, which, from what I hear, is normal. So I suppose it is a good thing that I switched to Thursdays, so I won’t miss any hours. C is also off tomorrow, but it will be somewhat busy. We are attending a funeral tomorrow afternoon, of the father of one of her coworkers. And then, tomorrow evening, I plan on attending a Good Friday service at the Lutheran church that we went to a few weeks ago. As for Sunday, I’m still not sure what is happening with our house church.

The Texas Rangers had yesterday off. The Boston Red Sox evened up their record, beating the Detroit Tigers 9-7. At 3-3 for the season, they are in third place in the AL East, tied with the Yankees. Today, the Rangers will face Ohtani and the Angels. Dunning will start for the Rangers.

While most of us haven’t been paying attention, the Cleveland Guardians have scored 45 runs, 44 of those in the last four games. In one game, they beat the KC Royals 17-3. They play the Giants tomorrow, so we’ll find out, then, if they are “for real.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, both really good.

Going Before You,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I AM
levelling
mountains

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

This is so true. God goes before us, sometimes levelling mountains we can’t even see before we get to them.

Where God Lives,” by Daryl Madden

And where God lives
We find beauty
His Word of peace
Flows joyfully

And where God dwells
A binding be
So intimate
Of unity

And where God grows
So peacefully
In nourishing
Community

And where God shares
His grace for free
His gift of love
Abundantly

We enter through
Humility
My prayer this day
Come live in me

Yes, Lord, please come live and dwell in me, today. Please show your support to both of these artists by visiting their websites at the links provided.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the prospect of a beautiful day, based on the weather forecast
2. that wherever God lives, I find beauty
3. that God shares His grace with us, freely and abundantly
4. for God's grace and forgiveness that completely erase our past sins
5. for the ability to repent (say goodbye) and follow in the steps of Jesus (say hello)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
(Acts 4:31 ESV)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “goodbye.” At first glance, I thought it was speaking of saying “goodbye” to a person. But this is not the case.

I won’t share the opening quote for multiple reasons, but it says something about the difficulty of saying “goodbye,” especially succinctly.

There are times in our lives when we need to say “goodbye,” not to people, but to either circumstances or parts of our lives, from which we have moved on, or need to move on. And I think therein lies the crux. There are times when we truly need to move on, but we hesitate, not unlike Lot’s wife, as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. We look back longingly at something, and, oddly, sometimes that something might even be an illness or condition we have suffered from for a long time. It’s like we get attached to that, even though it may have caused us much pain.

For myself, it’s usually more the need to move on and say goodbye to attitudes or ways of responding to certain life situations. My biggest struggle, which I have, I believe, been fairly open about, here, is moving on from being judgmental toward people. And I think more people struggle with that than are willing to admit.

So, perhaps I will spend some time, today, thinking about what I need to say “goodbye” to.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

There is another word for this concept. It is “repent.” I used to think that “repent” meant to turn away from sin with great sorrow. That’s not what it means (even though the dictionary indicates that). The word literally means, in Hebrew, to turn back or turn around; retreat. In the New Testament Greek, it means to think differently or reconsider. So, essentially, “repent” means to change the way one thinks about something. Sorrow and regret may or may not be involved.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
(John 13:9 NLT)

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
(Psalms 51:7 NLT)

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

When we “repent,” or say “goodbye” to certain things in our lives, and truly let them go, as previously stated, it is like turning around and changing direction. And then, if we were to turn back and look at where we had been, by the grace of God, we can no longer see those tracks.

It’s like walking through a patch of snow and then turning around to see your tracks erased by newly fallen snow. That’s what the grace of God and His forgiveness are like. When we repent, when we change our way of thinking, our past sins are erased. They are not just covered, but it is as though they never happened. And in some, almost “magical” way, it is absolutely true that they never happened. I believe that, while consequences for some actions may always be with us, God can change our past. That is what the blood of Christ does for us, as it washes us “whiter than snow.”

(Gratitude to Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022)

In a reading called “On Religion and Faith,” Eugene H. Peterson addresses the difference between religion and faith. And I find this to be relevant to the discussion on repentance and saying “goodbye.”

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
(Luke 18:8 NLT)

“Surely he will find religion (institutions, creeds, documents, artifacts, and the like), but he may not find faith. Faith is deeply personal, dynamic, and ultimate. Religion, however, is faith’s expression. For example, religion is concerned about institutions (churches), documents, statements of belief (Bible and theology), and our convictions and moral codes. Religion is important but not ultimately important.

“Religion is a means, not an end. Faith is the only end.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

And repentance happens by faith, not by religion. You can quote creeds and attend institutions and proclaim moral codes all day long, but until you follow Jesus Christ by faith, you accomplish nothing at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. You make life more difficult and miserable for people around you.

Father, we need a fresh revelation on the difference between religion and faith. There is a lot of religion in our world, right now, and many people are running away from the “church” (institution) because of it, in an attempt to actually find faith. Help us to focus more on deeply personal and dynamic faith, and follow in the steps of Jesus. Help us to say “goodbye” to bigotry and prejudice and judgment, and to turn around, repent, and say “hello” to grace and forgiveness.

Thank You for the grace and forgiveness that washes us clean, like freshly fallen snow, and makes it appear that our past sins have been erased. Truly it is said that You cast our sins as far as the east is from the west, which, if considered in a straight line, is infinity. Perhaps we do not consider that enough. Perhaps Resurrection Sunday is a good time for that.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

In Wonder, Now

It is Tuesday, the twelfth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,406

It was a pretty lazy day, yesterday, but I did manage to get a few things done. I never left the house, though, except for going to get the mail and retrieving the trash/recycling bins from the curb. Today, I will be going out to get lunch and dinner for everyone. Our tradition Tuesday meals are Subway, since I work late on Tuesdays. I get enough food for C, Mama, and S to have something for dinner while I am at work.

Tomorrow, we are going to try something new in the crockpot. I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken Soup at Emily Bites. We have found a few good recipes there, and they are all WW friendly. This one will cook while I am at work on Wednesday. And, since I am also working Thursday, now, I’ll make sure the crockpot is clean Wednesday night so I can cook our other chicken soup dish Thursday.

The Texas Rangers lost their home opener, yesterday, thanks to a couple of errors by Cory Seager, and a really horrible review call from the folks at MLB in NYC that ended the game. The current regime of “leadership” in MLB is ruining the game, in my not so humble opinion. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The final score was 6-4 in ten innings. The Red Sox lost their game to the Tigers, 3-1, so both the Rangers and the Red Sox are at 1-3 on the season. The Rangers sit in last place in the AL West, a position they have gotten far too comfortable with, and the Red Sox are also in last place in the AL East.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost, yesterday, so after only four games, there are no undefeated teams in MLB. Houston, Tampa, and Chicago continue to lead the AL, while Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego lead the NL. The Rangers play the Rockies again tonight, at 7:05 CDT. The Red Sox play the Tigers in an afternoon game, in Detroit, at 12:10 CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Sense Of,” by Daryl Madden

A sense of the morning
Of what is to be
To draw a new breath
Of possibilities

A sense in life daily
Past stress and of fear
A whisper of calling
To pause and draw near

A sense in the sunset
Of grace here to flow
Regrets of the should done
And letting it go

The sense of the Spirit
To foster and grow
With a prayer of moment
To let God’s love flow

I love the end of the third stanza, “Regrets of the should done And letting it go.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for chocolate covered toffee, such as Heath bars
2. for "now," the only time that we truly have; may God help us stop worrying about the past and the future and focus on the now
3. for the beauty, majesty, and glory of God's creation, and how He has revealed Himself to us
4. for unexpected encounters with God
5. for the faith that helps me always be ready to give an answer

Today’s prayer word is “now.”

God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.
(2 Corinthians 6:2 MSG)

How much time do we spend rehashing the past or worrying about the future? Both activities create much unnecessary stress in our lives. “Eac removes us from the present and cheats us of the full blessing of this life, this day, this moment – this ‘now.'”

I love the way that “Bob” words this next part. “The single, simple word now can be a way of awakening yourself to the beauty of your own life, a way of fully breathing in and breathing out the blessing of being alive . . . now.”

The past is gone, nothing can be done about it. The future is not yet, and while you may be able to do something to have an effect on it, worrying or stressing about it is strictly forbidden by our Lord. Praying “now,” that simple word, may be a way to focus on the only time that we can call our own, this very moment.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

“‘How can anyone see mountains and not know there is a God?'”

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Sing to GOD, everyone and everything! Get out his salvation news every day! 
Publish his glory among the godless nations, his wonders to all races and religions. 
And why? Because GOD is great—well worth praising! No god or goddess comes close in honor. 
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense, but GOD made the cosmos! 
Splendor and majesty flow out of him, strength and joy fill his place. 
Shout Bravo! to GOD, families of the peoples, in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo! 
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name, lift high an offering and enter his presence! Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness! 
God is serious business, take him seriously; he's put the earth in place and it's not moving. 
So let heaven rejoice, let earth be jubilant, and pass the word among the nations, "GOD reigns!" 
(1 Chronicles 16:23-31 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

It was just a normal average weekday when the “woman at the well” found herself discovering God in her life, as she did a normal average task that she had done countless times before, drawing a bucket of water.

“This kind of thing happens all the time. And it happens to all of us. We meet God when we least expect it in places that we never would have guessed. In the middle of routines, a sudden longing is released and comes out into the open. While passing the time of day, we hear God’s Word spoken and life is changed.”

As we go about our daily, ordinary lives, as ordinary people, we mistakenly think that God is a million miles away, but then Jesus engages us in some conversation, out of the blue, and changes our lives. “There is no style of life that exempts us from these meetings, there is no day of the week on which it may not happen, and there is no work that may not provide the scene for an encounter.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

On the other side of that coin (the rest of this is my thoughts), there is no place that makes it more likely to happen, no day of the week that makes it more likely to happen, and no vocation that makes it more likely to happen. Sunday isn’t special. It’s just another day of the week. It is not the “sabbath.” It’s just Sunday, and God can interact with us just as well on Thursday as He can on Sunday. (I originally typed Wednesday, but then remember that a lot of Baptists still have meetings on Wednesday evenings.)

I have met God listening to Pink Floyd on the radio in my car. I have had encounters with God on what appeared to be prank, random phone calls.

The woman in John 4 thought she was just going to the well to get a bucket of water. Not only was her life changed, but the lives of everyone she knew were changed, as well.

Another thought. This reading seems to be pointing in the direction of being the woman, who has the unexpected encounter with Jesus. We who follow Christ should also be prepared to be Jesus in that scenario. We should be ready to have an unexpected encounter (I realize that Jesus never had an “unexpected encounter”) with a “woman at the well.” This is why, I believe, that Peter admonishes us to always be ready to give an answer.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
(1 Peter 3:15 MSG)

Father, help me to always be ready to give an answer, to explain the reason for the way I live, the way I am, for the joy that overflows my soul, most of the time. I’m not joyful all the time, I confess that. I don’t know very many people who are. Also help me to always be ready for that unexpected encounter with either You or with someone else who needs an unexpected encounter with You. Help me to be that channel of Your grace, Your steadfast love and mercy, Your compassion. Let me never get so caught up in the “ordinary” that I forget to look for You.

Thank You for opening up my heart, my eyes, my soul, to wonder. I know the truth of “I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” My soul has, many times, sung “How great Thou art,” as I look around me. I, too, wonder how anyone can look at a scene like the one pictured above and not believe that You exist. I don’t get it. But I do know that it is true, and will go to my grave proclaiming Your glory and majesty.

And, finally, I thank You for “now.” I am one who spends way too much time rehashing the past (“I should have said”) or worrying about the future (“What if??”). I still beat myself up over that day, in seminary, at the Thanksgiving chapel, when I didn’t do what I felt Your Spirit urging me to do! There is no point in that, though. I can’t change the past, and there’s not an awful lot I can do about the future, either. Even preparations for the future can be derailed by unexpected encounters! So help me focus on “now,” help me “know You in the now.”

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
(Psalms 39:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Jesus

Today is Monday, the eleventh of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today!

Day 23,405

We had another wonderful day, yesterday. The trip to Mineral Wells and back went very well, with no delays or incidents on the road. We made it to FBC just in time to get seated for the worship service, which was a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus, and looking forward to Resurrection Sunday. The music included several choir soloists, as well as the handbell choir which played during the Lord’s Supper. I was also glad to get to take the Supper with the saints at FBC.

We picked up burgers and sundaes at Braum’s and took them to Mama’s house for lunch. Then we grabbed as much as we could squeeze into the car and headed back home, listening to the Texas Rangers trounce all over the Blue Jays, 12-6. That was good fun.

The Red Sox also managed to get their first win, beating the Yankees 4-3. In other scores, the Cleveland Guardians (now that’s going to take some getting used to . . . doesn’t sound like a baseball team name at all) jumped all over the KC Royals, 17-3.

After one weekend of play, one team remains undefeated, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers are in third place in the AL West, and the Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East. Houston leads the West, Tampa the East, and the Other Sox lead the Central. Mets, Cubs, and Padres lead the NL divisions. Chicago has two first place teams.

Today will mostly be a resting day as I get ready for one of my alternating “heavier” weeks at the library (working 3.5 shifts, this week). Couple loads of laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. Later, this afternoon, there will be groceries to put away. And I will probably do some practicing, as we are getting ready to have another Night of Worship on April 23. Oh, and I almost forgot, we have the Texas Rangers’ home opener this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Days of Wonder,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I Am
remaking
all things

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

The hope of this promise is one of the things that keeps me going through this life. Please check out the beautiful poetry and lovely images that accompany it, at the link provided above.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
(Psalms 149:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the most wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for the truth that the Lord takes pleasure in His people
3. for the knowledge of God's presence
4. that God works in the "ordinary"
5. that God expects us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in His presence (Micah 6:8)

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20 ESV)

“The most extraordinary feature of the gospel is its ordinariness. The fact that the Word that created the heavens and arranges the seasons enters ordinary lives and fashions eternal life in them is truly extraordinary.”

There is so much truth to this proclamation. Even when the miracle of new birth occurs in someone, to all external appearances, they are the same, ordinary people as they were the day before. Yet Scriptures says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

What does all this mean? Is there a “secret ingredient?”

“One of the extraordinary things about Jesus was that he unassumingly took his place among the ordinary men and women around him.” Consider this scene after the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" 
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 
Jesus said to her, "Mary." 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 ESV)

The resurrected Christ appeared so ordinary that Mary thought He was a gardener.

Then we have the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:28-32 ESV)

These two travelers just thought Jesus was another pilgrim on the road.

Even the disciples, having gone fishing after the resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus when He called out to them from the shore.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
(John 21:1-4 ESV)

Until, of course, He did that thing where He told them where to cast their nets and they couldn’t pull the net in, as it was so heavy with fish.

Is Jesus trying to hide Himself from us? “He didn’t make it easy for us to see God in him.” Except, of course, when He was baptized, and then, again, at the Transfiguration.

I have to confess that this puzzles me a little bit. Because I don’t see it as Jesus intentionally making it difficult for us to see God in Him. Rather, I think He tries to make us feel comfortable in His presence.

There is something about the Transfiguration which I had not considered until a few weeks ago, when I heard what was probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject. The pastor who was preaching that morning, at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine, TX, wondered if maybe what the three disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured, that which caused them to be “terrified” (Mark 9:6), was the same vision of Christ that John the Revelator saw.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:12-16 ESV)

Here were these three ordinary fishermen, who had been walking with this “ordinary” guy for a little while, and suddenly, they see this?

Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Jesus appeared to Mary as looking like an ordinary gardener, and He appeared to those two travelers as just another person on a journey. If we saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way John the Revelator did, we, too, I’m sure, would fall “at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

So, in between the appearances of Jesus in the New Testament, and His appearance that “every eye will see,” at the end of days (I’m not including the “Rapture” because I do not believe in that as a separate event from the Second Coming), we see Jesus walking in around in you and me. Ordinary people carrying around a miracle in our “jars of clay,” so that, hopefully, other ordinary people will see Him and take note of this great salvation that we have.

But there’s a catch. It’s that pesky bit about “love.” Unfortunately, people aren’t seeing a lot of Jesus in those who are supposed to be carrying Him around, because the hate that they are spewing is louder than the Gospel.

That just needs to stop. Period.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I thank You for all of the “ordinary” that we see in Scripture, especially surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly, He did many extraordinary things, things that drew attention to Him and showed Your might power in this world. But He also appeared so very ordinary, as evidenced by the Scripture passages above. So ordinary that people didn’t realize who He was until He spoke or acted.

I pray for Your children today. We are walking around in our world, supposedly carrying the truth of the Gospel in our “jars of clay,” so that it is evident that we are nothing special, but the message we are carrying is so very special. But that message is getting obscured by a lack of love and compassion in those who are making the most noise.

I pray for them to be either silenced or have a severe, drastic change of heart. And, lest I be misunderstood, by “silenced” I am not praying for You to smite anyone. I’m simply praying for their voices to be drowned out by the prevalent voice of Your love and compassion and mercy coming from the rest of us.

I pray for Your truth to be known. I don’t claim to understand all of Your ways, and know that I will not understand them until the day that I stand in Your presence (or fall on my face, which is more likely). So, in that case, I choose to err on the side of love and mercy, rather than on the side of legalism and judgment. Hopefully, I am not erring at all.

May Your grace and mercy be known in all the world, and may the earth be filled with the knowledge of You as the waters fill the seas. I think that’s a hymn somewhere.

Give us glimpses of extraordinary Jesus, our Savior, as we walk through this ordinary world in our ordinary mortal coils.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.