God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of May, 2022, the seventh Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

I had a really great day at work, yesterday. It was fairly busy, which is nice, because it makes the day go by faster. As is usually the case (not always, though), it got a little busier, closer to closing time, and we wound up having a family checking out books right at 6:00 PM. We don’t mind, though . . . that’s why we are there, right?

C finished her bowling and arrived safely in Indianapolis, at R’s house, yesterday evening. Today, they are planning to visit the cat cafe that we went to last year. Good times. C is aware that we don’t need any more cats. I hope.

The Texas Rangers won big, yesterday, behind a grand salami by Marcus Simien, which happened to be his first home run as a Ranger! Finally! Final score was 11-4, over the struggling Athletics. Taylor Hearn, the starter, gained his third win of the season. The Rangers remain in third place in the AL West, but gained another game on the Astros, who have lost two in a row. They are still 3.5 out in the Wild Card race, though. They play the Athletics again today, to close out the series, at 3:05 CDT. They are 22-23, only one game below .500.

The Boston Red Sox split a double header with the Orioles, winning the first game 5-3 and losing the second 4-2. The Red Sox are now 22-25, still in fourth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They will play Baltimore again today.

The Yankees (33-14) lost a game, but continue to have the best MLB record. The Reds (16-30) and Nationals (17-31) are in a virtual tie for the worst record, with only .006 percentage points between them. The Blue Jays, Rangers, and Reds all have four-game winning streaks. The Rangers are on the verge of a sweep, if they can win today. The LA Angels have a four-game losing streak, the current longest. I am not unhappy about that at all. The Dodgers continue to be way ahead of everyone in run differential at +117. The Pirates continue to be way below everyone, at -82. The Rangers are green!! They have a +7 run differential. The Red Sox, after splitting that double header by the exact same number of runs, remain at +17.

The PWBA Twin Cities Open tournament has finished all qualifying rounds, and the finals will be at 4:00 PM, this afternoon, on CBS Sports Network. The top five bowlers are 1. Missy Parkin (San Clemente, CA) 2. Danielle McEwan (Stony Point, NY) 3. Bryanna Cote (Tucson, AZ) 4. Shannon O’Keefe (Belleville, IL) 5. Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine) Dasha is the reigning champion for this tournament, so I’m glad she made the finals. Kelly Kulick bowled the only 300, so far, but just missed the cut for qualifying round 4. She still made cash, though, as did Diana Zavjalova, from Latvia, and Daria Payak, from Poland. Stefanie Johnson, from McKinney, TX, was in the top 12, but didn’t make the finals. Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, who was last week’s top seed, placed sixth. Jen Higgins and Verity Crawley, two of my other favorites, did not cash in this tournament.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(Collect for Seventh Sunday of Easter, The Book of Common Prayer)
Lord our God, we thank you for allowing us to experience your power. We thank you that we need not be occupied with material things only. We thank you that your Spirit comes to our aid again and again. Grant that we may continue to have your help, and let many hearts find what a grace it is that in spirit we may walk in heaven even during this transitory life with all its foolish ways. We may say with complete assurance that everything tormenting and burdening will pass by. It passes by, and we go joyfully and confidently toward your kingdom, which continually gains in power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the abundant riches of God's mercy and grace
2. for the constant help and power of God that enables me to not be concerned about material things
3. that God, through my practice of spiritual disciplines, prepares me for whatever may come in my life
4. for my journey of faith, and the fact that, at 64 years old, my faith in God is stronger than ever
5. for "eternal intersections" where God's grace connects with our groping faith
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, 
whose sin is put out of sight! 
Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, 
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
(Romans 4:20-21 NLT)

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

That “Anonymous” person sure said a lot of wise things.

Any time we have an important undertaking ahead of us, whether it be a vacation trip, or some kind of work project, we prepare. We bring suitcases into the house the night before and start packing (our cats promptly position themselves on the suitcases, thereby making packing much more challenging). My wife makes lists of things to make sure we don’t forget. If I’m cooking a recipe, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients measured out before I start.

We prepare. And, as the quote above says, that is not wasted time. It ensures that there are no hitches as the event gets under way. Or at least increases that probability. I suppose there is no way to completely ensure that nothing will interrupt the process.

But there is another thought around the word “prepare.” Consider Psalm 23:5.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
(Psalms 23:5 NLT)

The word “prepare” generally means “make ready.” That can mean a number of things depending on the context. We’ve covered the idea of preparing things ahead of time, but it can also mean the act of, say, cooking. When we prepare a meal, we are actually cooking it, making it ready for consumption.

God prepares a banquet for us, right in front of our enemies. But guess what . . . I love Dallas Willard’s perspective on this. We do not hoard this banquet. We share it. Yes, with our enemies! We invite them to share in our blessings.

God also prepares me for whatever is coming next. As I practice disciplines (and I’m still not very good at that, mind you), He prepares me for the events of the day, of the week. If I am walking in His kingdom, I am prepared for anything that might happen, and nothing takes me by surprise. It is certain that nothing takes Him by surprised, because He is all-knowing, and already knows what is coming.

God prepares me, defends me, and will make straight paths for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

One other thought I just had. Jesus is clear that I’m not supposed to worry over what may happen tomorrow. If I am to succeed in that (and I frequently do not), I have to trust in His preparations for me. I have to not lean on my own understanding (or lack thereof, more likely) and trust that He is making my paths straight.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
(2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

I really like today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2022. Penney Schwab is the writer. She speaks of her heritage of faith, but makes the statement that she cannot point to the exact day or hour when she first began trusting in Christ. I can identify with this statement.

It is popular to be able to declare the exact hour that one “became a Christian.” For many people it is the repetition of a quite unbiblical phenomenon known as “the sinner’s prayer.” Believe me when I say that no such thing exists in God’s Word.

I can’t say when my journey of faith began, because I have loved Jesus for longer than I can remember. I do know that, at the age of nine, I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church, in Mineral Wells, Texas, and professed to be a believer in Christ (that was how one “joined the church,” also). But was that when I was “saved?” I don’t know. I had been going to Sunday School and memorizing Scripture and singing hymns and songs of praise for years before that event.

Later in my life, some well-meaning “evangelist” convinced me that, because I couldn’t remember saying the “right words” (again, I am confident that Scripture knows of no such “right words”), that I wasn’t really saved. So I got baptized again. I told people that I had really gotten “saved” that time.

I look back on those days with a small amount of embarrassment, but “it is what it is,” as “they” say. When we are in college, we tend to be somewhat gullible. Some folks never stop being gullible.

But I can share the kind of heritage that Ms. Schwab shares in this reading. I come from a long line of Christian people. I don’t know much about my great-grandparents, but I know that my grandparents were followers of Christ. Every time we went to visit them (both sides of the family) we went to church on Sunday mornings. On my mother’s side, it was always Crim’s Chapel Baptist Church, out in the country, near Henderson, TX. I always felt loved when I was there.

I remember on those Sunday mornings, after the service was over, it seemed like people gathered outside and talked for at least an hour, before finally dispersing to their homes and Sunday lunches. It probably wasn’t as long as it seemed to a young boy.

On my father’s side, it was either Pirtle Methodist Church, in Pirtle, TX (look it up), or whatever small Texas town that my step-grandfather happened to be ministering in at the time. Buffalo, Lovelady, Grapeland, Clute (that one was tough . . . down on the Gulf of Mexico, a looooong way from Minerals Wells), Edgewood, and maybe some I’ve forgotten.

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

There has never (and I say that in all seriousity) NEVER been a time in my life when I questioned my faith in God. There have been a few times when I questioned my salvation, but God always came through with a resounding “yes!” at those times.

The most memorable came in 1984. I had recently become divorced (several days before Christmas in 1983), and was taking some time in the summer to get away from things. I spent a week (maybe two, I can’t remember) at my grandmother’s house, outside of Henderson, and my grandmama’s house in Pirtle. One day, I was walking around in front of my grandmother’s house, where there used to be a swing set. Me and my cousins spent a lot of time out there. I was struggling, dealing with the emotions of what had been happening in my life.

In desperation, I cried out, “God, am I really Your child?”

Almost forty years later, and I’m getting chill bumps just remembering what happened next.

I swear to you, God reached down and HUGGED ME! I have never felt anything quite like it. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had in my entire life.

For anyone who foolishly declares that God does not exist . . . I can’t prove it. But I know you are wrong.

Today, I am 64 years old, just like in that Beatles song. My faith is stronger than ever. There are always questions, and, these days, I’m questioning more things than ever. But my salvation and faith in God are not part of those questions. I know that God loves me, and I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to either decrease OR increase that love.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14 NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

“God comes to us; we come to God; the meeting is salvation.”

It’s because of statements like this that I believe that salvation, rather than something that has a definitive moment, is more of a lifelong process. One popular writer (I can’t remember who, so this isn’t exactly a quote) said that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

This “meeting” of which Eugene Peterson speaks is not a single event. “We celebrate this meeting in our acts of worship.” In these times of worship, we find that “God’s coming and our coming result in real meeting, not simply an appearance of it.”

I’m quoting more because I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s exquisite wordsmithing.

“Worship heightens our awareness so that we can become conscious of the eternal intersections that take place in our hearts when God’s grace connects with our groping faith.

“Worship intensifies joy as the Word of God is spoken clearly and the voices of praise are harmonized in being and coordinated in affirmation.”

I had a meeting with God, that day in 1984. God came, I came, and we met together. And make no mistake. Even though I’m the one who asked the question, I in no way believe that I initiated that meeting. That was one of many “eternal intersections” where God’s grace connected with my groping faith in a powerful way.

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

Where do I even begin, Father? I am moved, this morning, beyond words. Yet I have somehow managed to type a plethora of them. I am still grateful for that “meeting” we had, back in 1984. It was truly a life-altering event, that I still remember quite vividly. In fact, I still have the Blue Jay feather that I found on the ground immediately following that meeting. It is a marker, a reminder of that time, as if I needed one.

These “eternal intersections” of which Peterson speaks are incredible, Father. If we were to truly examine our lives, we would find that there have been countless numbers of those intersections where Your grace connected with our groping faith. And if anyone says that their faith is never groping, I’m calling them liars. Or maybe their faith is in the wrong place. My faith, while strong in You, is week in me. I have little faith in my ability to stay connected. But that’s why it is faith, in the first place, right? My faith isn’t supposed to be in me, it is in You. The questions come from within me, and are about me and my place, not about You.

I mean, there will always be questions about You, because, until I get to meet You “in person,” there will be things that I do not comprehend about You.

I am grateful for the heritage of faith that I share in my family. I pray that I have done an adequate job of passing it along. I fear, at times, that I have failed, but that is not in my hands, is it? I do know that I am fully convinced, as Abraham was, that You are completely and utterly faithful to do that which You have promised. You will do what You say You will do. I praise You for that.

I also praise You for preparing me, daily, for life. I don’t always walk in that preparation, I confess. You make my paths straight, but it’s I who walk crookedly. Sometimes I must appear spiritually “drunk,” I must stumble around so badly. But praise to You for always bringing me back to that straight path. You show me the way, Father, and I know that in Your presence there is joy forevermore, and pleasures everlasting. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Faith cannot be acquired by a decision of the will: it is a gift from God. Yet it can be given to everyone who seeks it. As Jesus says, “Seek, and ye shall find.” What counts here is trust. Faith is not dependent on reason – on theories, theological systems, or other intellectual explanations. It is belief, precisely in the absence of these things. Mary had reason enough to doubt the angel who came to her from God, but instead she believed – “Here am I, a handmaiden of the Lord” – and received the Word in her heart. It can be that simple!
(J. Heinrich Arnold, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Have Mercy

Today is Sunday, the twenty-second of May, 2022, the sixth Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ surround you today.

Day 23,446 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Almighty Father in heaven, we stand before you as your children, whom you want to protect through the need of our time, through all sin and death. We praise you for giving us so much peace in an age full of trouble, and for granting us the assurance of your help. Even when we suffer, we do not want to remain in the darkness of suffering but want to rise up to praise and glorify you. For your kingdom is coming; it is already at hand. Your kingdom comforts and helps us and points the way for the whole world, that your will may be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
"O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; 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 Sixth Sunday of Easter)

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.
(Psalms 22:22 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace of God, that passes all understanding, through the most difficult of times
2. for the love of God, that also passes all comprehension
3. for the great mercy of God, that is beyond comprehension, mercy in which Christ paid the price for our sin and redemption
4. for the Word made flesh, which is restoring all things
5. for the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control; may all of these be visible in all of God's children

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
(Psalms 51:10-12 NLT)

Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(Psalms 51:15-17 NLT)

It occurred to me, last night . . . I’m sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this, but my mother loves me. My mother loves me with a love that is deeper than life itself.

God loves me more. God loves you more.

I want you to just think about that for a minute and try to digest it.

I was wondering if today’s prayer word would be “maybe.”

But it’s not . . . it is “merciful,” which is much better than “maybe.” Jesus tells His listeners, in the Sermon on the Mount,

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 NIV)

The reading for today briefly traces the etymology of the word. It was first used in the thirteenth century, and comes from the Latin for “price paid,” or “wages.” It also comes from the same word as French for “thank you,” which is merci. It also shares the same root as “merchandise.”

I find this interesting, especially in light of the way we use the word. When thinking of the mercy of Jesus, we see that He did, in fact, pay a price for our sin. He purchased us (merchandise?) with His blood, and set us free from sin, for which we joyfully say, “merci.”

Father, I cannot adequately thank You for the mercy that You have shown us, as Your people, and me, individually. I look back at my life and see so much mercy that I am astonished. It began before I was born, of course, and has continued, and goes forward through the rest of my life and eternity. I cannot even really comprehend the scope of it. But I am grateful, and will at least try to thank You, even though my gratitude falls short.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

When the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: "Death is swallowed up in victory" "O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
(1 Corinthians 15:54 Phillips)

Eugene Peterson tells us that “the world gives us a bad education” by turning words around backward, mispronouncing them, distorting them, and so on. “Live spelled backward is evil. Evil captured the headlines in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and it captures them still. But it is the live Jesus who has captured history–and captures us.”

The elements of life can be used against their intended purpose. The letters of the alphabet “can be used to confuse, to lie, and to destroy. They are reversed and perverted by cruelty and mockery, sin and death.”

But “in the silence of the tomb,” all of these things are “rearranged and made straight.” As Jesus is raised from the dead, the Word is “spelled right before us.” In the passage of 1 Corinthians 15, “Paul contrasts resurrection with vanity, fullness with emptiness, reality with illusion, live with evil. All his superlatives are understatements. Jesus breaks the spell of the reversed, backward spoken word.”

For years, now, I have loved the way Peterson puts words together. I have never read anyone quite like him. At times, he gets dense (not anywhere nearly as dense as Willard), but his “wordsmithing” is still beautiful. This reading is no different.

We find, in Jesus, the ultimate of “fixing” everything. It’s not all fixed, yet, that is easy to see. But one day, it will be . . . everything will be set right, and we will rejoice. I have confidence that it is not going to quite look like anything that any of us are imagining. In fact, I’m to the point where I’m really trying not to imagine it. I’m just waiting . . . and fully expect to be utterly awestruck and full of the most joy that I could ever dream of.

Father, I praise You for the work of Jesus in rearranging and making things straight, in spelling the “Word” right, after the world has spent so much time using things against their intended purposes. I pray for Your Church, that we might get it right. It’s so easy to get it wrong . . . especially these days. We are scattered, like sheep with no shepherd. We need to be following our True Shepherd, Father, so make His voice clear to us, that we might follow Him and not any humans, no matter how well-meaning they may be. I suspect that some of them aren’t as “well-meaning” as we would like to think.

My heart’s desire is to know the Word, Father, to know Him inside and out, that He might be my life and my existence, my desire and my purpose in this life. Help me to walk in Your Kingdom and stay on the path of righteousness. And help me to, as Jesus commands, love You with all my heart, love my neighbor as myself, and love other brothers and sisters the way that Jesus has loved us.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit. All praise to the Holy Trinity.

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.

“Lord, Lord!”

Today is Sunday, the fifteenth of May, 2022, the fifth Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,439

It was a pleasant day at the library, yesterday. Saturdays are typically a little different, perhaps a bit more laid-back. There aren’t as many people there, throughout the library, unless we have any programs going on, which we did not, yesterday. So we had only three of us in circulation, and there was one Youth librarian, as well as two people in the Computer center, one Adult Service librarian, and one Tech Services librarian. That was it. It never got terrible busy, although I had the privilege of issuing a handful of new library cards, as well as replacing at least one that had been lost. I also had a nice conversation about music with a patron at the end of the day.

The Texas Rangers lost in a big way (even bigger than the night before, unfortunately) as the Red Sox beat them 11-3. Boston scored first, with one run in the top of the first, which Texas quickly answered in the bottom to tie the game 1-1. But then Boston scored four in the top of the second, and the Rangers didn’t answer again until the bottom of the seventh. Glenn Otto got the loss in the game. The Rangers are now 13-19, tied for last place in the AL West, with the Athletics. The Red Sox improved to 13-20, still in last place in the AL East, only a half game behind Baltimore. The two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT.

I’ve also been following the PWBA, as their season has just kicked off with a tournament in Rockford, IL. The qualifications are over, and the finals will be this afternoon at 5:00 PM. The top five bowlers are Liz Kuhlkin, Breanna Clemmer (who was actually leading most of the week), Kelly Kulick, Shannon O’Keefe, and Stefanie Johnson, who hails from McKinney, TX. Just missing the cut was one of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, and another favorite, Birgit (apparently pronounced “beer-hit”) Noreiks, from Germany. I have several favorites, also being a fan of Shannon, who placed fourth, and Dasha Kovalova, from Ukraine, who placed ninth. Liz Johnson, one of the more famous veterans of the game, placed tenth. Several others that I follow, Daria Pajak, Diana Zavjalova, and Jen Higgins, failed to make the top twelve cut.

I might be heading to a church service, this morning, as our group will not be meeting. I’ll need to get moving if I plan to do that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Father in heaven, may we recognize and acknowledge that you are God. You have made us, and not we ourselves, to be your people and the sheep of your pasture. Baptize us with the truth we need throughout our lives. Give us the gift to discern who we are and what we should become. Free our eyes from all deception so that we can no longer delude ourselves with short-lived, earthly things. Clear our eyes to see what is eternal in and around us. Make us children, true children, who awake to exult and rejoice in what is childlike and who give thanks to you, O God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
 Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
 Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I belong to God, part of His people, the sheep of His pasture
2. for the relief that comes in knowing God's forgiveness, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; may we extend that same relief to others
3. that people will know I am a disciple of Christ by the way I love, not by the "causes" I support (or don't support)
4. for my five senses, with which I can experience the fullness of the salvation experience and the Gospel message
5. for the way God continues to show me truth through His Word

Today’s prayer word is “relief.” There’s a word that most of us could probably get behind. Who doesn’t like relief? I can remember when “relief” was spelled “R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Here are the same verses from The Living Bible:

What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.

What a relief, indeed, to know that our sins and guilt are forgiven. It’s even better than this Psalm indicates, because, in Christ, our sins are erased, rather than just covered, as though they have never happened.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the relief of forgiveness. I praise You for grace and mercy, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ that has cleansed us from all sinfulness. Even though I still fall short, daily, I have the relief of knowing that I am in good standing with You because of Christ. Help me to walk in that, free from sin in my daily life.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
(Matthew 7:21 NLT)

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
(James 2:17 NLT)

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
(1 John 3:18 NLT)

We have a lot of words that we use to describe our relationship with Jesus. Besides “Savior,” we also call Him Brother and Friend. While those two words indicate a more casual relationship (and not incorrectly, based on the relationship He had with His disciples), we must not forget that He is also our Lord. And just calling Him “Lord” isn’t enough, as the Matthew passage indicates. We must, as He said, do the will of God.

Does this mean our salvation is by works? This gets confused a lot. My take on this is that, of course, our salvation is by grace through faith. We have done nothing to earn it, and can do nothing to increase or decrease it. But, as “they” say, “the proof is in the pudding.”

How did Jesus say people would know we are His disciples? By the way we love one another.

Yep. Here we are again, pounding that “love” thing. But I tell you three times, I can’t help it! Because that is truly what the whole thing seems to be about! Jesus says that only people who do the will of God will be getting into the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This does not mean that by doing God’s will we earn entry into Heaven. This means that, if we are people who have access to Heaven, we will do God’s will. There’s a difference.

What is God’s will? It is not the “Ten Commandments” that we have to be concerned about. That is not the purpose of the Law, is it? God’s will, all of the law and the prophets, according to Jesus, Himself, is summed up in two commands. Two.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 NLT)

It can’t be any plainer to me.

So, it is safe to assume that if one is not successfully keeping those two commands, one does not have access to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Father, please help us to get this. This world, and more especially, this nation, is in desperate need of people to live out this truth. We are in desperate need of people who are willing to set aside their bigotry, surrender their so-called “rights” and love their neighbors as themselves. We seem to think we’ve got the God-loving part down, but we seem to be going about it all wrong. We seem to think that by trying to work harder to get people to hate us that we are fulfilling Your commands. Jesus did say that the world would hate us, but He most certainly didn’t tell us to try to make that happen. We seem to celebrate when we make people angry and claim that we are fulfilling Jesus’s words when we do that.

It simply baffles me, Father, and I don’t know how we arrived at this place. All I can do is continue to spread this Gospel of love, here, and I believe that this, and the ministry of prayer, is what You have called me to do. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that I might be. I don’t think I am. And I would much rather err on the side of love than on the side of hatred.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ involves all the senses, according to Eugene Peterson. “Every physical sense we possess is brought into play to receive and express the new life.” This, I confess, is not something that I have considered.

“The God who created rocks, trees, torsos, and tongues and became flesh in Jesus Christ recovers and redeems our five senses in the practice of faith, love, and hope.”

There is, of course, a lot that we cannot sense. “We cannot see God, we cannot handle the Spirit, and we cannot hear the angels.” However, there is some great bit of what Peterson calls “sensuality” (how often we see that word in the context of spiritual things??) in the life of faith. “Baptismal waters, Eucharistic bread and wine, and anointing oil.” One psalmist told us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Jesus, Himself, spent a great deal of time “touching and being touched, speaking and listening, seeing and being seen.” While He did forgive sins (one of His main purposes for being here), He also “restored sight and speech and hearing and recovered the use of arms and legs so that men and women could live the faith in their hearts as well as with their bodies.”

I love this next sentence. “Senses dulled by sin are sharpened in holiness.” Jesus’s physical body, as He walked on earth, was how the “life of God was experienced and expressed in revelation to us; our bodies are also the means by which the life of God is experienced and expressed in faith.”

We are not believers that all material things are evil and only spiritual things are good. That is heresy, dealt with in early centuries of the history of Christianity. Jesus taught using the senses, speaking of the taste of salt, and the “phenomenon of light.”

“We become more physical, not less, as we become and mature as Christians. Our physical capacities and the exercise of our senses make it possible for us and for those around us to experience God, who revealed himself in the flesh of Jesus.”

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

Father, I thank You for my senses. I am grateful that I have all of mine, with minimal diminishing. I thank You that I can taste salt, and thereby understand what Jesus teaches when He uses that example. I am grateful that I can see light, which also enables me to see colors in creation. In that, I can understand what it means to be the “light of the world.” I am even more thankful for hearing (perhaps my favorite of the senses), because I can hear worship and praise of You being expressed. I am thankful for the sense of smell, in part because it enhances the sense of taste, but also because I can enjoy the scents of nature, like the freshness of rain. And I am thankful for the sense of touch, which is so very important in the human life, as Jesus also illustrated in His willingness to touch even the most “unclean” of persons.

I pray that all of my senses will be used to glorify You in this life, and that they will also help me to experience the fullness of my salvation, as I long for and look forward to the day when I am Home.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Grace and peace, friends.

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place

Today is Friday, the sixth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,430

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday. There were a couple of challenging patrons, but I always have help from at least one other manager or librarian during my time, there, and they were graciously helpful. As usual, I learned more about my job while I was there, and it is always good to learn new things, so that I can help the next person better.

The Rangers didn’t play yesterday, but the Red Sox did, and lost tremendously to the LA Angels, by the score of 8-0. The sad thing is, Boston’s starter, threw five shutout innings! It was the bullpen, once again, that blew the game and gave up 8 runs. The Sox are now 10-16 for the season, tied with Baltimore for last place. They begin a series with the Other Sox (11-13) tonight, in Boston.

The Rangers begin their series in NYC, against the Evil Empire tonight. Game time is . . . oops. No they don’t. Tonight’s game has already been postponed, and a double header is planned for Sunday. So there you go.

Those Yankees still hold the best record in MLB, at 18-7, but are only a half game ahead of Milwaukee’s Brewers and the Mets. The Reds have now lost nine consecutive games and are 3-22. There remain five teams who have yet to win ten games. The aforementioned Reds, the Washington Nationals, the Detroit Tigers, the KC Royals, and the Chicago Cubs.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; 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)

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
(Psalms 34:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies and mild weather, today
2. for all things that are lovely, and for the loveliness of the Name of the Lord
3. that God will show me the right path to follow; that His Spirit will lead me forward on firm footing
4. that God is rooting out all false gods from my life, any idols that may be in His place in my heart
5. for the hope that you will see these things and be inspired to practice your own gratitude

Today’s prayer word is “lovely.”

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8 NLT)

We have the ability to choose what we allow our minds to dwell on. One of my favorite Dallas Willard quotes is in regard to this. “The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon and think about.”

The casual observer might be forced to think that the majority of US citizens are choosing to dwell upon the most negative things possible. Paul gives us this admonition in Philippians, a most wonderful encouragement, to think about, to dwell upon, whatever is “lovely.”

What are some things that are “lovely?”

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude
(Psalms 84:1-4 NLT)

The dwelling place of the Lord is lovely. Now, we know that when the descendants of Korah wrote this psalm, they were speaking of a physical building. But we now think of the “dwelling place” of the Lord as the human soul. Therefore, I must believe that the soul of a human being is “lovely.” Believe me, that is extremely difficult, sometimes, especially when confronted with a human being who seems to have no soul.

The name(s) of the Lord is “lovely.”

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; celebrate his lovely name with music.
(Psalms 135:3 NLT)

There is a song that I like, called “Tremble.” It’s all about the wonder and beauty of the name of Jesus. The bridge says this:

Your name is a light that the shadows can't deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome

The name of Jesus is lovely, indeed, and most worthy of the attention of our minds.

This is the value of meditation and contemplation, the classic disciplines. By practicing these disciplines (and there is a difference between the two), we train our minds to do exactly what Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 4:8, to think upon things that are “lovely.”

And what Dallas Willard said is true. As human beings, we have the unique ability to control what we allow our minds to dwell on. The problem is, we simply fail to do that, most of the time. Just because a thought pops into our head, doesn’t mean it has to stay there, right?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me, today, to dwell upon what is lovely. If a negative thought comes into my brain, help me to push it right on through, dwelling on the loveliness of Your name or Your dwelling place. May I look upon every human being as lovely in Your sight, because You created all of us in Your image. I pray that all of Your people would do the same, and treat others with dignity and respect, even if they don’t agree about things. Your Name is lovely. The Name of Jesus chases shadows away and will not be overcome. Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble! Hallelujah!

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.
(Psalms 25:4 NLT)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
(Psalms 143:10 NLT)

As I reflect on the things that are lovely, meditating on and contemplating the name and characteristics of the Holy Trinity, then the Spirit of God can “lead me forward on a firm footing.” The Lord can “show me the right path,” and “point out the road for me to follow.” But this takes work on my part. Yes, I can pray for God to do these things, and He does answer prayer, but it’s not just automatic. I have to do the work required to learn these things. I must practice the disciplines in order to train my mind to think about the things that are pure and lovely.

Father, I praise You that You will point out the path, show me the road, and help me keep my feet on that path. But I ask You to help me practice the disciplines that will enable me to hear You when You guide me. Help me to learn how to pay attention. When I have trained my mind, heart, and soul to listen to You and focus on Your loveliness, then fear has no place in my life. Regardless of the circumstances that I see in the world around me, I will have no fear if I am simply focusing on the right things. So help me to focus on the right things. Help me practice those disciplines.

"Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus' name, Amen."
(From The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer)

Eugene Peterson expresses a wonderful sentiment in a reading called “Do It Yourself.” He relates a personal story, in which he attended a concert by Pete Seeger (I’m not at all jealous)(yes, I am, that was sarcasm), where Seeger played the banjo and sang folk songs. Peterson was inspired by Seeger’s banjo playing, to the point that he went and bought a second-hand banjo and found some used instructions books and tried to learn how to play, himself.

Here’s the thing. As much as he enjoyed the concert, and likely would have enjoyed another, the “distinctive thing in that experience was not that I wanted to go back and here Pete Seeger sing again but that I wanted to do it myself.”

And then, as he has a way of doing, Peterson applies this to the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. “That is what pastors should want to take place when they teach and preach the Scriptures–not to have people become dependent on them but to have people become eager to get the Bible in their own hands and become competent in reading it.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this way of thinking. Sadly, however, when I observe the world around me, I see a veritable plethora of people who have not, in fact, studied the Scriptures, themselves, but, rather, are spouting nonsense that they have heard from other people, who may or may not have studied Scripture, or have studied it wrongly.

I have several goals with this blog. One is simply nothing more than to have a record of my daily devotions. Years ago, I decided that keeping them online would take up a lot less space than writing them in notebooks, and would be quicker, as well. I can type a lot faster than I can write. But another goal (as well as a corresponding goal for my Facebook posts and TikTok posts) is to inspire people to 1) read and study the Scriptures themselves, and 2) practice daily gratitude.

Don’t read what I say and just believe it (or not believe it, for that matter). Be like the Berean Christians in Acts who “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” And, for heaven’s sake, don’t just believe something because a pastor said it from a pulpit.

But more than anything, I want to inspire you to be grateful. I want to inspire you to think about things that are “lovely.” I want to inspire you to love God and love people, to take part in a Love Revolution.

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

Father, I pray that people will see this blog, read it, and then take it upon themselves to think about things that are pure and lovely, to love You and to love each other, and then to practice their own gratitude. I pray that people would see Your loveliness reflected in the way I live, not the ugliness of the world around me. Help me to reflect Your love and mercy and grace, rather than everything negative in the world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Keep Calm and Rest in the Lord

Today is Thursday, the fifth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,429

It seems like a lot happened yesterday. The yard people came, there was a grocery trip (I forgot a major component of what I was planning to cook for dinner last night, so that plan was delayed until Friday), and quite a few packages were delivered. All of that, along with a piece of mail being misdelivered next door, resulted in our doorbell ringing more times in one day than it has in a long time.

The Texas Rangers have a four-game win streak after beating the Phillies 2-1, last night, in ten innings. It was quite a game. We didn’t watch the whole game, but tuned in right as the Phillies home run in the bottom of the sixth inning was being overturned because of fan interference. Martin Perez, for the second straight outing, pitched deep into the game, giving up no runs. Yet, his record remains 0-2. Something is very wrong with the way MLB decides on pitching wins and losses.

So the Rangers are now 10-14 for the season, joining the ranks of teams that have won at least ten games, and they are no longer in last place! Yes, indeed, the Athletics lost again, extending their losing streak to six games, so the Rangers are ahead of them by .017 percentage points and a half game. They have a rare second day off, today, before facing the Evil Empire in NYC, tomorrow night. NY lost a game, yesterday, so hopefully, we can help them lose some more.

I’m not sure I want to talk about the Red Sox. They went into the tenth inning tied 4-4 with the Angels. But Matt Barnes could only get two outs in the tenth, and they gave up SIX runs in the top of the tenth. They wound up losing 10-5. Ugh. So they are now 10-15 for the season, and still in fourth place, but only one game ahead of Baltimore. They have one more game against the Angels tonight.

The Yankees (18-7) continue to hold the best record in MLB, followed closely by the Dodgers (16-7). There are five teams who have yet to lose ten games. The Cincinnati Reds have now lost eight consecutive games and are 3-21 for the season. There are six teams that have not yet won ten games.

This being Thursday, I am working from 11:15 to 8:15, this evening, in the Computer Center. I’m hoping for a relatively stress-free day. I do hope for some activity, though, so it won’t seem draggy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me.
(Psalms 116:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. to wake up and spend time with God
2. for the encouragement and opportunities to be still before the Lord and know that He is God
3. for Psalm 121 and Psalm 23
4. that God is good and a strong refuge in time of trouble
5. for the desire to seek truth and not speak unless I know something is true

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”
(Acts 16:25-31 NLT)

After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did evil in the LORD’s sight. So the LORD turned them over to King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim.
(Judges 4:1-2 NLT)

But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died. When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple.
(Judges 4:21-22 NLT)

“Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. 
May she be blessed above all women who live in tents. 
Sisera asked for water, and she gave him milk. 
In a bowl fit for nobles, she brought him yogurt. 
Then with her left hand she reached for a tent peg, 
and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer. 
She struck Sisera with the hammer, crushing his head. 
With a shattering blow, she pierced his temples. 
He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet. 
And where he sank, there he died. 
(Judges 5:24-27 NLT)
“LORD, may all your enemies die like Sisera! 
But may those who love you rise like the sun in all its power!” 
Then there was peace in the land for forty years. 
(Judges 5:31 NLT)

Jael is one of my Bible heroes. Judges 4 and 5 are the only places she is mentioned.

And I can’t help but wonder, in that Acts passage, how many of us would have hung around after that earthquake had released us from our bonds?

Today’s prayer word is “stillness.”

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 NLT)

While the content of today’s reading in the book is rather silly and convoluted, the sentiment is not. When we can’t make sense of our lives, or things aren’t quite going the way we think they should be, we humans tend to start going into all kinds of gyrations to figure things out.

Stillness is not our “go-to” solution. We tend to get frenzied in activities, trying to figure things out.

But there are numerous passages in Scripture that encourage us to simply be still and wait before the Lord. And while that will not always result in us understanding exactly what is happening or why, it should, at least most of the time, result in peace. Because one thing that being still before God does is calm our own soul with His steadfast love and mercy.

“Be still and know . . .” Rest in Him.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
(Psalms 37:7 NLT)

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
(Exodus 14:13-14 NLT)

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 
He lets me rest in green meadows; 
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
 He renews my strength. 
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, 
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. 
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. 
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. 
My cup overflows with blessings. 
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, 
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:1-6 NLT)

Thank You, O my Father, for giving me the ability to be still each morning. These last couple of weeks have been better, because I have made myself avoid other distractions, at least for the most part, until I am finished with my devotions. This helps me to exercise the discipline of stillness. Your Spirit, through this, gives me rest, and helps me to “be still and know” that You are God, and to know that I am blessed in You. This helps me to not worry about anything. Not that I have much to worry about, anyway, but You know how we are. Everything could be totally awesome, and we manufacture things to worry about.

I pray for stillness in all of Your people, Father. May we all learn how to be still before You, so that we may discern Your peace in all matters. I pray for unity among Your Church, Lord. This is my desperate plea.

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; 
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
 The LORD himself watches over you! 
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, 
both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.
(Nahum 1:7-8 NLT)

You are my peace, Father. You are my refuge, and You are my help. I pray Psalm 121 over my family, this morning, Father, as You are the One who watches over all of us, and You do not slumber nor do You sleep. Thank You for keeping us from harm and watching over our lives, as we come and go, both now and forever. You are Good, Father, indeed, a strong refuge. I pray that You continue to be close to us, and I believe that You will, because I believe that You are faithful to do the things that You say You will do.

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
(James 3:5-6 NLT)

“Not long after we learn to speak the English language coherently, we realize that a surprising number of apparently grown-up people persist in using it to speak gibberish. Words are used with total disregard for their meanings. Sentences are constructed that are out of touch with reality. Speeches are made, sermons preached, books written, and television talks given that on examination turn out to be mainly nonsense.”

This seems to be true for all subjects and topics under the sun, but religion seems “to get more than its fair share of this babble.” “Lies and blasphemies, ignorance and gossip, and malice and hypocrisy permeate discourse on God, sin, and salvation with dismaying regularity.” And all it takes, apparently, is the appearance that one knows what one is talking about for others to take one seriously.

“Truth is at risk in the world. If we think the wrong things about God, we are disoriented in reality.” And there certainly does not seem to be any shortage of people thinking wrong things about God.

Make no mistake, the first century was no better. This is part of the reason for James’s letter, appearing late in the New Testament. James points out the dangers of the tongue (and, if he were present today, I assume that he would include the fingertips on a keyboard, as well), and the need to be careful how we speak. “If we do it badly, we do great damage.”

Sadly, in today’s world, and in the far-reaching morass that is social media, there are many people who cannot be bothered with sussing out truth. They (we?) latch onto something that fits in with their preconceived opinions, and run with it, never stopping to find out if it is really true. I mean, if it’s my opinion, it must be true, right?

Wrong.

Just yesterday, I found out that something I had thought was true was not true. And I accepted the correction after proof was provided. It’s all good. I hopefully didn’t make an idiot out of myself. I am not afraid, or resistant, to admit that I am wrong. And, when I am thinking that I might share something on social media, I generally attempt to find out if it is true, first.

“We need all the help we can get to learn the truth so that we will not be taken in by those who are false to the truth.” And one thing that I do know that is true . . . there are people out there who are intentionally spreading lies.

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

Father, this gives me even more cause to be still. For, in order to fully know the truth about matters, it is necessary to close one’s lips, cease the movement of one’s tongue, and learn truth. If we cannot be still enough for one moment, in order to learn the truth about things, we are utterly deserving of any consequences that come from this. Our society is hurtling down a destructive path, right now, with total disregard for truth. Misinformation is flying out of peoples’ tongues and fingertips faster than ever, in the twenty-first century. Of course, You have the benefit of already knowing how all of this will end. Frankly, I don’t know if I want to be around to see it.

I do enjoy life, though, Father. It is usually pleasant. However, I always look forward to being Home, and for all of this strife, division, worry, and unrest to be over for all eternity. Sometimes, it seems impossible that all of the people who call themselves Christian will be able to live in unity for all eternity. I mean, I confess fully, there are people that I cannot imagine spending eternity with, because I can’t stand to be around them on earth. But this is something I have to deal with. This is something that either will be fixed before we leave this plane, or it will be fixed immediately upon our arrival in the next. I actually take some comfort in thinking that it really isn’t my job to “fix it,” but Yours. However, I do have to allow You to work in me, in order to fix things on my end.

Honestly, I feel like I’m rambling, now, but I also think that rambling in prayer is perfectly fine. I will wrap it all up by asking You to help me, again, to be still and know, not only that You are God, but to also know the truth about matters. And if I cannot know the truth, then help me to simply keep my mouth shut about it. And may all Your enemies did like Sisera!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.

Open Heart; Open Hands

Today is Wednesday, the fourth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter. May the fourth be with you.

More importantly, peace be with you.

Day 23,428

I had a good evening at the library, last night. There were no carts left for me to shelve, so I began working on a project for one of the Adult Services librarians. This involved pulling books from the New Bookshelf. Our “new books” have red dots on the spine label, and the number of the month that they were acquired is written on them. So I pulled any books that were marked from last December or earlier. These were all placed on carts, which wound up back in that librarian’s work area. (This area is affectionately known as “The Pit.” It’s like a large cubicle at the back of the library, shared by four of the most wonderful people I know.)

I was able to peel off the red dots from all the books on one of the carts, so that was also helpful. The librarian will get the rest of them done, and then all of those books will wind up in our regular stacks, later this week.

My “To Be Read” list increased by at least twenty books while I was doing this. Hahaha!

The Texas Rangers pulled off a good win against the Phillies last night (is there such a thing as a “bad” win?), 6-4. The Rangers did score first again, but fell behind just as quickly when the Phillies scored three in the bottom of the first. The Rangers came back, though, tying the game in the top of the fourth (on a solo home run by new dad Jonah Heim), and then going ahead in the top of the sixth. Brock Burke (3-0) got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 9-14 for the season (this is their second three-game win streak, by the way), and are still in last place in the AL West. However, they are only a half game behind the struggling Athletics, who have lost five consecutive games. The Rangers and Phillies will play the last game of this series tonight, at 5:45 CDT (in Philadelphia).

The Boston Red Sox shut out the LA Angels, last night, 4-0, behind a strong start by Michael Wacha (3-0). The Sox are 10-14 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East. They are eight games behind the Evil Empire, who has won eleven consecutive games. The Sox will play the Angels again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees continue to hold the best MLB record, but only one game ahead of the Mets, who have lost two more than the Yanks. The sad Cincinnati Reds have now lost seven straight games and only won three for the year. They are the first team to lose 20 games, this season. The Rangers have improved a little, and are tied for sixth worst in MLB, and the Sox are tied at eighth from the bottom.

There are almost 140 games left, so there is still a lot of season left.

I’m off work today, and plan to get in some serious reading, today, and maybe a little music, as well. Hopefully, our lawn guy will be able to get the lawn mowed before the afternoon storms roll in.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, 'Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:' Regard not our sins, but the faith of Your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Daily Devotions)

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, with new opportunities; may I make heavenly choices, rather than selfish choices
2. for the fruit of the Spirit; may it be evident in me today
3. for the ability to be honest and transparent, and, therefore, vulnerable
4. for a generous spirit; may all followers of Christ share all things, as opportunities arise
5. for the testimonies of saints that inspire me to live a better life

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
(Acts 16:13-15 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD.
(Judges 2:11-12 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They forgot about the LORD their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.
(Judges 3:7 NLT)

Once again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight, and the LORD gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil.
(Judges 3:12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “honesty.” That’s a word that brings fear into the hearts of some men.

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” ~ Mother Teresa

I believe that this is a valuable admonition. I like to think that I’m an honest person; most of the time. I know that I’m pretty transparent, as my wife constantly reminds me that my feelings are written all over my face, even when I don’t express them verbally. It’s like I exude this aura that screams out that I don’t like something.

I don’t know if it’s true that “honesty is the best policy.” At least not always. There are definitely times when we should keep our feelings and opinions to ourselves. Especially when those opinions would create more division than already exists. I have lots of opinions about things. I lean away from sharing them here, because, as you already know if you are a faithful reader, my opinions about things are not in my job description. In the long run, in the big picture, they simply don’t matter.

Where you will see me being honest is in my imperfections; my humanity; my shortcomings. Because everyone needs to know that I don’t think I’m superman. Far from it. My understanding of things is very limited. While I like to think I’m a relatively intelligent person, I am also well aware that I don’t know it all. As is true for all of us, the amount of stuff that I don’t know is exponentially greater than what I do know. So, in areas like this, I choose to be honest and transparent, which, yes, make me vulnerable, and that’s okay.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to make the right choices daily, when it comes to honesty and transparency. I believe that vulnerability is akin to meekness and eliminates any chance of being arrogant. I don’t want to be seen as arrogant, so help me to be more vulnerable and humble. I know how dangerous it is to pray for humility. It’s kind of like praying for patience. It always brings a testing, almost as if You say, “Okay, you asked for it, here it is!” Be that as it may, I’m still praying for those characteristics to be evident in my life. But I also pray for the ability to keep my mouth shut when my opinion is not needed or helpful.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

Daily Guideposts writer Carol Knapp points out that this verse is not so much a “to-do” list to be checked off, but more of a way of living. It is not as if I should get out of bed every morning and think, “Okay, today I have to love someone; I have to be joyful; I have to display peace; I must exhibit patience,” and so on.

Rather, Paul is simply stating a fact, here. If we are in Christ, we have “nailed the passions and desires” of our “sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24). And, if we are, therefore, living by the Spirit, this fruit will be evident in our lives. In addition, if you look carefully, you will see that this mirrors the characteristics of our Savior.

One other thing that Ms. Knapp said that I like. One of her daily priorities is to ask herself, “Did I benefit someone today?” I like this thought, although I might word it differently. Did I help someone today? Did I make someone feel better today? Did I leave something positive with them? Twice, recently, I have simply thanked restaurant employees for being there. You might be surprised at how much difference something that simple can make.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
(John 15:5, 8 NLT)

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
(Romans 14:17-19 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I pray that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident in me, today. As I do whatever I do, today, go wherever I go, may my countenance reflect the characteristics of Jesus Christ, and may I spread love all around. I also pray that I might find an opportunity to truly help someone today, even in a small, simple way.

As we attempt to work out these things, this “fruit,” we sometimes fall into a bad habit of trying to keep God to ourselves. But we cannot do that. “He is not a private acquisition.” God is a generous God. Only a fool would not know this, because all you have to do is look around you to see how generous God is. I mean, look at all He has given us!

And, if we are truly related to Him, truly His children, “we participate in the sharing. We join in the giving.” This truth speaks volumes, when we stop and consider the people who are not sharing and giving, who hoard God’s blessings and refuse to share because they deem the needy to be unworthy or even unclean. (My honesty is showing.)

“The Christian is not a person who hides in a bunker but a person who explores all reality. When Christians keep to themselves what they ought to generously give, they deny the spirit and command of their Lord.”

Dorothy Day once wrote, “I did not see anyone taking off his coat and giving it to the poor. I didn’t see anyone having a banquet and calling in the lame, the halt, and the blind . . . I wanted, though I did not know it then, a synthesis. I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too.”

Dorothy found this life, became a Christian. “She went on to become one of the most effect apostles to the poor and oppressed that America has seen. She did it as an act of faith, through prayer and in love. She experienced the gift. In response, she gave. Will we?”

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

I pray, Lord, that I will never be found to be one who hoards Your blessings. You have created a generous heart within me, over time. You have chiseled away the tendency to look at things and consider them “mine.” You have blessed us with plenty, with an abundance, and given us the willingness to share this abundant life with others. I pray that this may grow even more. May we glorify You through our generosity and sharing.

I pray even more so that Your Church would live in the same way. I pray for Your intervention in the hearts of those who claim to follow Christ but hold on to everything with a tight fist, instead of an open hand. May You soften the hearts of those who would love country more than people.

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.

Abiding in Christ

Today is Sunday, the first of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,425

It seems as though it has been a really busy week. Between working four days (three of those consecutive) and then going to Mineral Wells on Friday, there has been a lot going on. I am grateful to have a day, today, where (hopefully) nothing is expected other than going to our house church.

C and Mama got a lot accomplished, yesterday, I think, while I was “working” at the library. It was pretty dead at the library, yesterday, so not a lot of actual work was involved. I’m not sure if the pretty weather kept people away or what.

The Texas Rangers managed another win, yesterday, beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1. And the starting pitcher got the win! Dane Dunning finally got a win. The Rangers are now 7-14 for the season, in last place in the AL West, 6.5 games out. The LA Angels are currently in first place, at 14-8. The Rangers and Braves will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Taylor Hearne still seeking his first win.

The Boston Red Sox blew a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, last night, and lost in the tenth, 2-1. This behind seven innings of stellar pitching by Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox are looking a lot like the Rangers, this season. That’s distressing. They are 9-13 for the season (having played one more game than the Rangers), and are in fourth place in the AL East, thanks to Baltimore being worse. Those two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 1:05 EDT, in Baltimore.

The NY Yankees have sneaked into the top position in MLB, with a 15-6 record. They are a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and the cross-town rival Mets, who both have 15-7 records. The LA Dodgers have fallen to fifth overall. The Cincinnati Reds (3-18) continue their losing streak (now at five games), to hold down the worst spot in MLB. The Washington Nationals are next, at 7-16, followed by the Orioles and Rangers, both at 7-14. The Reds have a run differential of -56. This means that their opponents have outscored them, over the span of 21 games, by 56 runs. In comparison, the Rangers only have a -10 run differential.

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 Third Sunday of Easter)

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
(Acts 2:42-44 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the opportunity to gather with other saints, this morning, to devote ourselves to the reading of Scripture, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers 
2. for the life that I have had so far
3. for the hope that I have in God, and that I am calling out His name
4. for the boldness, and the ability to live out the truth and words of Christ, that comes from being associated with Him
5. for a day of rest

Today’s prayer word is “longevity.” I have to confess, I’m scratching my head over this one. I’m not sure what they are getting at, so let me get on with the reading.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
(Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)

Verses like these are dangerous, because people tend to key in on the wrong things. The focus becomes material, the word “prosperity” is highlighted, and suddenly, there is a group of people proclaiming that if you memorize Proverbs, you’ll get rich.

If you think I’m joking, think again. I have heard things just as outlandish as that.

The writer of today’s reading, Susanna, speaks of an Italian village that has over three hundred centenarians (that’s people over one hundred years old, in case you don’t know that word). As I searched to try to get validation of that statistic (yes, I’m a “fact-checker”), I found that there seems to be more than one such Italian village.

Scientists believe the key to such longevity is a combination of genes, lifestyle, and diet. Just yesterday, I saw a report that the oldest person on the planet is a French nun who enjoys wine and chocolate. Seriously, she is 118 years old and has a glass of wine every day.

Longevity is, indeed, a mystery. It does seem that the average European life is a bit longer than the average American life, though. It also seems that there is quite a bit less stress over there than over here. The USA is an incredibly stressful place to live.

But here’s the thing. Susanna mentions this, and I firmly believe it, as well. “God already knows how many days I have on this earth. My longevity is anchored in Him. Following His loving commands, centering my life in His words of hope, brings peace and long life. Abiding in Him is good for body and soul.”

I already feel like I’ve had a good, long, life. And I’m only 64 years old. That French nun has lived 54 more years than I. I can’t even fathom living another 50 years. But if I do, I pray that it will be in continued abiding.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I don’t pray for more longevity. I am not asking for 50 more years of life. However, what I do ask is that, for all the years that I have left here, be it one or be it 50, that I spend those days abiding in You and following Your commands. Help me to center my life in Your words of hope, that I might display the love that You have for all people, in everything that I do and say. I am grateful for the life that I have had, so far. My lot has fallen in pleasant places.

The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
(Psalms 16:6 NLT)

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.
(Jeremiah 33:3 NLT)

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
(1 John 4:7-12 NLT)

Father, I praise You that You have caused me to be one who calls out Your name. I know that the songs that I have sung have not been sung in vain, and that the thirst in my soul, that thirst for Home, will one day be permanently quenched.

I pray for the promise that You gave Jeremiah, that, if I call out to You, You will reveal remarkable and wonderful things. I’m not asking You to tell me the future. Rather, I’m asking You to reveal wonderful things about Yourself to me. Honestly, I’m not terrible concerned with the future, other than the certainty that I will one day live in eternity, worshiping You with all the saints. I just want to know You and know You more.

“Our association with Jesus will teach us, as it taught Peter and John, the deepest truths about ourselves and the highest truths about God. We need not be theologians or experienced in the ways of the world or longtime church members or leaders of the community or overly intelligent. We need only to be with Jesus–to associate with him in prayer and imitation. And as we do, people will wonder at our boldness as we live out in words and actions the truth of humanity and God as it is seen in Jesus Christ.”

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

Father, this little reading fits hand-in-hand with my previous prayer. Because that is my desire, to live life in association with Jesus Christ, being taught the deepest truths about myself and the highest truths about You. I’ve attempted to be a theologian, at times, and found that it only produces a sort of arrogance that is dry and not nearly as deep as it pretends. I’ve been a “leader” in churches, and found this experience to leave something to be desired, as well. I have no more aspirations to be a “leader.” I want to be a follower, a simple follower of Christ, that I can live out His truth in words and actions as I walk through this world in Your kingdom.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
(Acts 4:13 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Signpost Up Ahead . . .

Today is Monday, the twenty-fifth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be within you, today!

Day 23,419

Today, I’m attempting to begin a new habit/ritual. I’ve tried this before, but it didn’t stick. But I’m going to attempt to get my morning devotional actually finished in the morning, from now on, and get it done before I give significant attention to anything else. Facebook is not open; my email is not open. Only this tab is open, along with one where I can look up anything I need to know, such as how many days since I was born.

The following was added after the devotional was completed.

The Texas Rangers failed in their bid to sweep the Oakland Athletics, as Marcus Semien was the only batter to get any hits until the top of the ninth inning. Jonah Heim and Nathaniel Lowe got hits in the ninth, but the Rangers were unable to bring them home, and lost the game 2-0. They are now 5-10 for the season, still in last place in the AL West. Their next game is today, back in Arlington, against the Houston Astros. Dane Dunning (0-1) will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Boston Red Sox dropped another game to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2. They are now 7-9 for the season, and remain in fourth place in the AL East. The Yankees and Blue Jays are tied for first place. The Sox will play the Blue Jays tonight, in Toronto, at 7:07, EDT.

The LA Dodgers continue to hold the best record in MLB, at 11-4, followed closely by the NY Mets, at 12-5. The Cincinnati Reds finally managed to win another game, but still hold down the bottom of the list, at 3-13. The Rangers are third from the bottom, but only because the Nationals have somehow played 3 more games than they.

Today is an “always off” day, but I have some things that need to get done, so I will be moderately busy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for In the Morning)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day; may it be lived in Christ's kingdom
2. for the many examples of prayer given to us in Scripture
3. for what Christ did for us in His life, death, and resurrection
4. that I have no need nor cause to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)
5. that if I take delight in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)
6. for the joy and peace that comes from knowing these things

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:4-6 NLT)

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
(Matthew 6:30 NLT)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 NLT)

There’s enough good stuff in those verses to get one through a whole week, I believe. Truly, we have no cause to worry about anything. Nevertheless, worry, we do. It seems to take much more work than it should to delight myself in the Lord, every day. And this, even knowing the truth of that verse in Psalm 37!

I am thankful for this reminder, this morning.

Father, thank You for reminding me that I don’t have anything to worry about. Thank You for the reminder that, if I take delight in You, You will give me the desires of my heart. Thank You for the example of the wildflowers and the birds, and the reminder that I am much more valuable to You than they. And thank You for the joy and peace that comes from knowing all of these things and trusting in You.

Eugene Peterson gives us “Three Short Thoughts on Direction.”

“All life is a pilgrimage. We are on our way to a destination.”

This is undoubtedly true of all of us. Even those who don’t think they are moving in any direction are on some kind of pilgrimage. This life is a journey, and there is a “final destination,” somewhere.

“Christians believe that we are on our way to God and that our companion is Jesus Christ.”

Even though we consider that God is “omnipresent,” there is still a sense that we are traveling toward Him. This is truly a mystery, and I am incapable of fully comprehending the truth that I am on my way to God, but God is also my traveling companion, because we also believe that Jesus is God.

Jesus is most definitely my companion, especially if I consider that I am walking in His “easy yoke.” If I am yoked with Him, He is right beside me. This is something that I confess that I fail to take into consideration at all times.

Is it even possible to do this? Frank Laubach believed that it was. He was a missionary to the Philippines in 1915. In 1930, he went to Mindanao, the second-largest of the Philippine islands, where he eventually taught about half of the population of that island to read and write. It was during this time that he wrote the letters that would eventually be compiled in Letters From A Modern Mystic.

Laubach came to believe (and, presumably, practice) that one could, in fact, be aware of the presence of God during every moment of one’s existence. Here is an excerpt from that book.

“We used to sing a song in the church in Benton which I liked, but which I never really practiced until now. It runs:

"Moment by moment, I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

“It is exactly that ‘moment by moment,’ every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions: First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master. Open your soul and entertain the glory of God and after a while that glory will be reflected in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head.”

And it is with this constant thought that Jesus is our companion on this journey that helps us know this “moment by moment” reality.

“One of the primary (maybe the primary) signposts showing the way is the Cross of Jesus.”

How does the Cross show us the way? It is more than just by wearing it on a chain around our necks or having it hung on the wall in our house. It is on the Cross that Jesus was lifted up to draw all men to Him. It is the Cross that is probably what many of us think of when we think of Jesus.

Sure, we consider His life, and most definitely His resurrection. But separating all of time is the Cross of Jesus. Without the Cross, His life would have been nothing more than a good example. Without the Cross, there would have been no resurrection. And without the Cross, there would be no “body and blood” to consume whenever we partake of the Supper.

The Cross points us to the way of sacrifice. The Cross points us to the way of putting others before ourselves. And, through the Cross, we gain the power to do that.

Jesus, I thank You for the Cross. I thank You for the life lived before that dreadful event, and I thank You even more for the power and miracle of the Resurrection that came after. As I continue to walk on this journey of life, may I see the Cross every day as my signpost, directing me to my destination. I thank You for inviting me on this journey, and for giving me the many other human companions that You have given me along the way.

Some of those companions seem to have wandered off the path, or simply stopped. I pray for those, Lord, that You might reach out to them and draw them back to Your path, letting them know that there is no condemnation for them, as they are fully forgiven by the very Cross of which we are speaking.

I believe, with all of my heart, that I will reach my destination, and I believe that You are my companion along the way. I thank You for this, as well. Help me to consider You, the Father, and the Spirit during every moment of every day. Perhaps this an unrealistic expectation, but Laubach didn’t seem to think so. So I will pray for it, and I will endeavor to do so. Nevertheless, I will not “beat myself up” when I fail. Because You, Lord Jesus, are full of grace and mercy, for which I also praise You.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

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.