A Kingdom of Masterpieces

Today is Tuesday, the thirty-first of May, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,455

Later, this morning, it will be time to take Mama to her follow-up visit to the podiatrist after having her toenail removed. It has been two weeks, and the appointment is for 11:00, this morning. We’ve been taking diligent care of the toe, each day, and it looks pretty good, at least as far as we know.

It is Tuesday, so I will be heading in to the library at 4:15 today, to work my four-hour shelving shift. I’m not planning to come home with another book, but who knows? Last week, I found a Dave Barry book and checked it out. I finished it last night, and it was hilarious. You can find my review of Best. State. Ever. at my other blog or at Goodreads.com. It’s exactly the same review, copied and pasted from Goodreads to my blog.

The Texas Rangers tunned the Tampa Bay Rays, last night, beating them 9-5. In the first inning, Eli White robbed the Rays of a three-run home run, and then hit a two-run homer in the bottom half. Rookie Josh Smith went 3 for 4 in his MLB debut, while his wife watched from the stands. That was very exciting, as well. Glen Otto got the win for the game. The Rangers are, once again, one game under .500 at 23-24, seven games out of first place and three games out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, today, at 7:05 CDT. Martin Perez will get the mound for Texas.

The Boston Red Sox had the kind of day you don’t want to talk about, yesterday, losing to the Orioles 10-0. I can’t even wrap my head around how that happened. The Sox are 23-26, in fourth place in the AL East, 10.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Cincinnati Red tonight. I’m afraid to look.

The New York Yankees and LA Dodgers are in a literal tie for the best record in MLB. Both of them are 33-15. The Cincinnati Reds and KC Royals are in a literal tie for the worst record. Both of them are 16-31. This is weird. The Toronto Blue Jays have the longest current win streak, at five games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at five games. The Dodgers are still way ahead of the pack in run differential, at +118. The Pirates are still at the bottom of the heap, with -83. The Rangers are at +10, and Boston is at +17.

I didn’t get to recap the PWBA Twin Cities Open, yesterday, as I ran out of time. Shannon O’Keefe climbed the ladder, winning four games in Sunday’s final show to take home the trophy. She beat Dasha Kovalova 227-159 (Dasha had a horrible game, missing non-split spares). O’Keefe then defeated Bryanna Cote (pronounced “coat-tay”) 228-163. The third game was a little closer, but not really, as Shannon beat Danielle McEwan 247-204. In the final round, O’Keefe beat the top seed Missy Parkin 213-192.

The St. Petersbury-Clearwater Open begins Thursday, June 2, at Seminole Lanes, in Seminole, Florida. The format will be identical to that of the Twin Cities Open, with practice on Thursday, two six-game qualifying rounds on Friday (cutting to top cashers), a six-game round Saturday morning to cut to top twelve, who will then bowl a six-game round Saturday evening to determine the top five for Sunday’s final ladder elimination. There will be 94 bowlers competing in this event, including all of my favorites.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we want to find our joy in you and in all your promises to us. For you have promised that in the midst of all the pain and sorrow, you are preparing what pleases you and serves your honor in every heart. May we experience in our lives the fulfillment of many of your promises, so that again and again we can go forward joyfully, rising above difficult times and situations. Have mercy on us and protect us in your strength. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
(1 John 2:24-25 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, through all circumstances, whether pleasant or painful, the Lord is preparing within me that which pleases Him and glorifies Him
2. for all the teaching I've had in my life, even that which was wrong, because it makes me think about things
3. that I am God's "masterpiece," created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared in advance for me
4. that, in Jesus Christ, God has ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation
5. that prayer pulls me toward the center; in praying, I become "most human" (Eugene Peterson)

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
(1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “masterpiece.”

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

“Masterpiece” is defined as “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.” Many of are more familiar with a translation such as the ESV that uses the word “workmanship” (the KJV also uses that word) to translate the Greek word “poiema,” which, as I have discussed in this blog before, related to our word “poem.” In fact, I believe I once quoted the Passion translation, which says, “We have become his poetry.”

A masterpiece is also that which is created by one’s own hands. We don’t get “cookie cutter” masterpieces. Masterpieces don’t get created by mass production, or by a bunch of monkeys jumping around on typewriters. Masterpieces are works of artistry, labors of love.

And you and I, if we are followers of Christ, are God’s labors of love, truly His masterpieces. I’ve seen it said (can’t remember where), “God don’t make no junk.” Ecclesiastes 3, a quite famous and popular chapter, thanks to Pete Seeger, says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”

I believe this is important for us to grasp, during these challenging days. Humanity is in the midst of a time when we are being made to feel inadequate. Everywhere we look, there are advertisements that threaten to make us feel like we are less than adequate if we don’t drive this car (it parks itself! “That’s so you!”), drink this beer, wear this brand of shoes or clothes, or use this brand of makeup. I mean, honestly, what was the intent of makeup to begin with, if not to convince someone that they weren’t “pretty” enough without it?

True story. I once worked with a pastor who said, when it was suggested that his wife didn’t have to put on makeup, “Well, she was wearing makeup when I married her!” I have no respect for that person, whatsoever, and he has no business shepherding God’s people. And that’s a rabbit trail I don’t intend to pursue, this morning.

The point is, we are God’s masterpieces, the works of His hands. Psalm 100 says this:

Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
(Psalms 100:3 NLT)

We are not all the same. God did not use cookie cutters when He created us. We are all unique in some way. And while some of us are not as “beautiful” as others (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?), we are each beautiful in our own way, as well, because we are His masteripieces!

And that means that, no matter what some bully or marketing scheme or abusive spouse or parent is trying to tell you . . .

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NLT)

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.
(1 Corinthians 12:13-14 NLT)

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NLT)

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
(Revelation 5:9 NLT)

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
of the world."

I remember growing up, singing that song in Sunday School. (Later, someone decided we needed to add “brown” in between “red” and “yellow.”) The beautiful scene in the book of Revelation, where the multitude of people proclaim the worthiness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is a wonderful depiction of the reality of that love that Jesus has for “all the children of the world.” In recent years, that passage in Revelation has become one of my favorite Bible passages. The diversity depicted is beautiful.

And God truly has ransomed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” And, even though we may all look different, we are also all the same, because we are equal in standing with Jesus Christ. Once again, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

I also believe that these verses, quoted above, further illustrate the idea that we are all God’s masterpieces. Especially that verse in Galatians that tells us that the differences that once separated us by race or sex or economic status have been eradicated.

It is simply beautiful, in my opinion. It is also my opinion that, if we are true followers of Christ, we will see and acknowledge that same beauty in all tribes, languages, people, and nations.

"Prayer is the act that pulls us into the center of what it means to be ourselves.
"In praying, we are becoming most human."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am grateful for prayer, even though I must confess that I do not engage in it enough, not nearly enough. I don’t come close to praying “without ceasing.” While I can acknowledge that I do pray many times, during any given day, there are also long periods where it is the furthest thing from my mind. I pray that I might remember more often, and when I tell someone I am praying for them or will pray for them, I ask that Your Spirit would remind me so that I do not forget and, thereby, let that someone down.

I thank You and praise You for the diversity within Your kingdom. The beautiful color palette of humanity is represented completely and perfectly withing Your kingdom, and we who would give preference to a particular race or color are simply wrong. I pray that that same sense of equality and diversity would work its way into our society, as well, although I fear that this will never happen. I know it will happen in eternity, as represented by John’s Revelation. I long to take part in that worship service that is described. I have no idea what “heaven” is going to look like, but I know I want to be there (wherever “there” is) and I know I want to participate in that multitude.

In the meantime, please continue to give us new songs to sing that praise Your holy name and lead us in that direction.

I praise You that You have made us masterpieces and You make everything beautiful in its time. Help us to see things with Your eyes; help us to see people with Your eyes, that we might see how beautiful they are to You. Help us to set aside our judgments, that are based on whatever they are based on. For some it is skin color; for some it is economic status; for some it is social status; for some it is language; and for some it is sexual orientation. There are, I’m sure, many other considerations. I guess I probably left out the biggest one in this country, right now, which is political affiliation.

So I pray, most desperately, that You would cause Your people to stop putting so much emphasis on political affiliation and simply be affiliated with You and Christ. Let the power of the Holy Trinity dwell within us, overcoming all obstacles and overcoming all of the tricks that our enemy is using to divide us. A house divided cannot stand. Father, please unite Your House. Make us like that multitude in Revelation.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Peace and war start within one’s own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our families. Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another. It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband. In order for love to be genuine, it has to be above all, a love for our neighbor. We must love those who are nearest to us, in our own family. From there, love spreads toward whoever may need us. It is easy to love those who live far away. It is not always easy to love those who live right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a needy person than to comfort the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.
(Mother Teresa, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Say A Little Prayer?

Today is Friday, the twenty-seventh of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,451

I have safely delivered C to the airport, and, by the time this writing was completed, she has landed safely. She doesn’t have a lot of time to check in and get to the bowling center, as her bowling squad is at, I believe, 2:30 this afternoon. Then she has another round at 11:00 in the morning, after which she will drive to Indianapolis for her visit with R & J.

Just in case there are spelling errors or things that don’t make sense, I got up a little after 5:00, this morning, so I’m sleepy. There may be a nap in my afternoon.

The Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics, last night, 4-1, helped by a two-run shot in the ninth by Nathaniel Lowe. Martin Perez pitched very well, but did not get the win, as the game was tied when he left in the eighth inning. Fortunately, the team rallied in the ninth. Matt Bush got the win, and Jow Barlow got his eighth save (out of eight tries). The Rangers are now 20-23, in third place in the AL West, three games ahead of Oakland and Seattle. They are eight games out of first, and 3.5 behind in the Wild Card race. They will play again, tonight, in Oakland.

The Boston Red Sox trounced the Other Sox, last night, 16-7 (it was worse than it looks). The Sox are now 21-23, still in fourth place in the AL East, 10.5 out of first, and three behind the Blue Jays. They play Baltimore tonight, in Boston.

The Yankees (32-13) continue to hold the best MLB record, a game and a half ahead of the Dodgers. The Reds (14-30) continue to have the worst record. The Yankees and Brewers both have three-game win streaks, while Cleveland Guardians have the longest losing streak, also at three games. The Dodgers continue to have the highest run differential, having scored 114 more runs than their collective opponents. This is forty runs more than the Yankees’ differential, and they have the second highest. Unreal. The Pirates still have the lowest, at -83. The Rangers are at -3. Here’s hoping that number will be green by the end of the weekend. The Red Sox, who have been exploding, of late, have improved to +21.

The PWBA is currently in qualifying rounds in the Twin Cities Open, at Cedarvale Lanes, in Eagan Minnesota. There are two qualifying rounds of six games each, today. Then the field will be cut to the top 24 for tomorrow’s first qualifying round, and then the top twelve will bowl the final qualifying round to determine the top five for the stepladder finals, Sunday afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, we thank you for letting us receive so much that is good in all circumstances on earth. We thank you that we can have joy in life in spite of our shortcomings, mistakes, and worries. You bless us with heavenly gifts, so that rejoicing, we can walk on earth as if in heaven. Keep the gifts of your Spirit alive in us. Keep alive in us everything that Jesus Christ was, everything he is, and everything he will be on earth for all people. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a smooth morning getting C dropped off at the airport for her trip; praying for safe travels for her
2. that I have the day off so I could drive her to the airport to see her off (and also to rest from having to get up earlier than usual)
3. for God's comfort and peace when we are "blue"
4. that we are able to take God's comfort and pass it along to others who are in desperate need
5. that, in the eyes of God, there is no such thing as a "little prayer"

Today’s prayer word is “blue,” which is interesting, considering that yesterday’s was “color.”

Henri Matisse, French artist, is quoted as saying, “A certain blue enters your soul.”

Blue is a popular color, perhaps one of the most popular. (I used to say my favorite color was red, but I have grown a lot more fond of purple, lately.)

Blue can be a calming color, yet it is also used to describe when someone is feeling down or depressed. The blue sky signifies endless possibilities. “Blue skies smilin’ at me; nothin’ but blue skies do I see.”

Regardless of our shade of blue, at the current moment, we can have the confidence that God is walking through it with us, sharing our pain, or sharing our joy..

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Father, there is much “blue” in the world, right now, especially the midnight blue of sorrow and pain. For me, personally, I am saddened at the recent senseless loss of lives, but I am also experiencing the “blueness” of missing a loved one who is on a trip for a few days. I pray for her safety and protection on this trip. I also pray for comfort and peace for people who are grieving the loss of loved ones, precious loved ones whom they will not see again on this earth. Have mercy, Lord, have mercy. I pray for people to walk alongside anyone who is experiencing this kind of “blue,” right now, that they might receive the comfort that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
(Colossians 1:11-14 NLT)

Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.
(2 Corinthians 1:6 NLT)

Eugene Peterson writes on the subject of being asked to “say a little prayer” for someone.

What, exactly, is a “little prayer?” What does someone mean when they ask you to “say a little prayer” for them? Peterson wonders, “Do you not realize that in prayer we approach the awesome, holy God? Attend to the fiery center of all existence?”

Obviously, he does not have high regard for the idea of “little prayers.” Prayer should not be considered as recitation, “saying a piece before classmates and parents for their amusement.” Prayer is “inward, intimate speech, fashioned out of our deepest longings and often lapsing into inarticulate groanings.”

It is not “devotional background patter” (he compares this to “that dreadful canned music in eating establishments). It is not a device to soothe our tense nerves and cover up the “incidental noise of life.”

First, we must consider that, in the premise of prayer, we are spoken to by God. “He calls us into being by his Word and leads us into personal relationship by his Word.” All things are initiated by God. We are mistaken if we believe that, in prayer, we are initiating the conversation.

And when we are spoken to, the normal response is to reply. Prayer is “answering speech.” In fact, one of Peterson’s other books is called Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. “God’s Word addresses us at the very center of our beings–at our essential creation, in our deepest longings, regarding our ultimate destinies. We answer: We praise, we confess, we question, we adore, we doubt, and we promise. We pray.”

These prayers, as we can see in the Psalms, cover the range of emotions. “They can be spoken in any mood with the exception of the frivolous. They can deal with anything, but not with what we don’t care about.” And this is where his objection to the request for “little prayers” comes into play.

In the book of James, we see this instruction:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.
(James 5:13 NLT)

Also, in verse 14:

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.
(James 5:14 NLT)

Prayer should be the first thing we do, not the last resort. Have you ever heard someone say, after everything else has been tried, “Well, it’s in God’s hands, now.”

As if it wasn’t already.

“Prayer is not trying to get God to do what we can’t do ourselves; it is getting in on what God is already doing.”

Peterson takes us back to the idea that prayer is answering speech. “We don’t drag God into our conversation; God invites us into his.”

It is also important to note that anyone can pray. “Prayer is not for the experts. Prayer is not for the few with aptitudes for piety. You don’t have to be a saint to pray. You don’t even have to be a Christian.” I bet he got some skeptical looks and comments when he said that.

So what is the objection to being asked to “say a little prayer.” In this case, “little” has nothing to do with quantity of words. I have said plenty of “little prayers,” that were, essentially one or two sentences. No. In this case, “little” means (and I realize that the people who say this mean well) potentially insignificant. And there is no such thing as an insignificant prayer.

And I believe, with all my heart, that, in God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a “little” prayer.

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

Father, may we remember these truths when we set out to pray. May we remember these things when we request prayer. Help us to always take prayer, in all of its forms, seriously. Because, when we pray, we are truly approaching You, the Creator of all things, who has condescended to stoop down to us and hear us, inviting us to converse with You. What an honor! To be invited to engage in conversation with God Almighty! May we remember this, Father, and know that there are no “little prayers,” and that You hear all of our prayers, even the ones that may only have one word. May we answer You appropriately.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Grace and peace, friends.

From Messy to Magic

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fourth of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,448

It’s Tuesday, so I’ll be working my four-hour shift at the library, tonight, re-shelving books (or magazines and DVDs). There is, of course, a strong likelihood that more books will be added to my “TBR” list. At this point, there is not much likelihood that I will check out anything new. But you never know.

There was no baseball last night. Well, none that mattered to me, anyway. Both the Rangers and Red Sox had the day off. Just for kicks, though, the NY Yankees (29-13) still have the best MLB record, even though they have lost three in a row. They are still chasing win number thirty. The Cincinnati Reds (12-29) still have the worst record. They are also still one game behind the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox now share the longest win streak (five games) with two other teams, the San Diego Padres and the Minnesota Twins. The SF Giants and KC Royals still share the longest losing streak, also five games. The LA Dodgers continue to beat up on their opponents, having the highest run differential, at +97! That is 32 runs higher than the second place Yankees. Wow. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest run differential, at -87.

In the PWBA USBC Queens tournament, I was disappointed that none of my favorites made the final show, which happens tonight. The five ladies who will be bowling tonight, in order of seed are Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, Birgit Noreiks, from Germany, Laura Plazas, from Bogota, Danielle McEwan, from Stony Point, NY, and Hope Gramly, from Aubrey, TX.

Here are some interesting facts. The top seed for the finals, Clara Guerrero, finished 37th of 64 in the qualifying rounds. Birgit Noreiks, second seed, finished 50th in qualifying. Laura Plazas, third seed, finished 63rd out of 64 in qualifying! Danielle McEwan finished third in qualifying, and Hope Gramly finished 22nd. D-Mac was the only top ten qualifier to make the show. One of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, finished sixth, over-all, not quite making the show. If I heard correctly, she still gets a payout of $10,000, which isn’t bad for a week’s work. I wish best of luck to all five finalists, tonight. I’ll be recording the show while I’m at work, so I can watch it. I don’t really have a preference as to who wins. But I will say that I really enjoyed watching Ms. Plazas bowl, yesterday, during the last match to determine the final three spots on the ladder. I’m also glad to see someone from Texas, my home state, in the running.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We thank you, dear Father in heaven, for the many times you let us experience that we do not need to despair because of darkness, weakness, or sickness. You hear the desires of our hearts. You love us for all that we love when we love the Savior and when we praise his name. Let us remain in this spirit. Come to us with many proofs of your power, to the glory of your name. Come in the inner quiet of heart through which we are able to grasp what it means for us that you are our Father in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
(Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the time of the Lord's favor, when the captives will be released, the blind will see, and the oppressed will be set free; Good News to the poor!
2. that life can get messy, because that forces me to sit still and wait on God, knowing with great confidence that He is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming
3. that we, the people of God, are also supposed to be in the business of the things in number 2
4. for the Light of the world that overcomes the darkness
5. for the desire to seek after the wisdom that comes from above

Today’s prayer word is “messy.” As I suspected, I can’t find that word anywhere in the Bible. Here’s a quote, though, from the inimitable Audrey Hepburn:

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

There seems to be enough evidence to support that she actually said that. And it’s a remarkable statement, I think. I find that I agree with it. Yet, we, as human beings, are terrible at throwing out people. We give up on people. I see comments on social media almost every day to which I react, “I am certainly glad our Father in heaven doesn’t think that way.”

Life is messy. But that isn’t the final prognosis. Because, you see, we have a God who is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming. All of these things is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ, via the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Trinity is involved in all of these things in our lives.

All we have to do is be still and know . . . seriously, we just need to sit still for a moment and consider the work of God, His kingdom that is available right now, for us to walk in. It is at that point that the messy either gets straightened up, or maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter any more.

The writer of today’s reading, named Roberta (I suspect it is Roberta Messner), writes of something her sister once said to her. “Don’t fret, Pet. It has to bet better. You gotta have the messy before the magic.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I am reminded of the opening line’s of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Father, I thank You for the messes. It is in those messes where we realize the reality of life, and what Paul meant when he told us to give thanks in all circumstances. I also praise You that You are, truly, restoring us, renewing us, reviving us, reclaiming us, and redeeming us, all the time. All the time, because I keep wandering off the path, which causes You to have to restore me or reclaim me. I ask forgiveness for this, and ask for Your help in keeping me on the path so things don’t get quite so messy.

Sometimes the messes are my fault, and sometimes they are just natural happenings, outside of my control. Help me to be repentant when they are my fault, to change my way of thinking, so that I don’t find myself in those messes. I love when You turn the messes into “magic” or into “marvelous.”

“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
(Luke 11:33-36 NLT)

“Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”

What a sobering statement by our Savior.

Father, I pray desperately that the “light” that I think I have is really “light,” and not darkness. I struggle with various “truths,” these days, because there seems to be a dearth of truth in this world. So many people out there are talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” as if to imply that there are multiple truths. I believe, with all my heart, that there is only one truth. I’m just not sure that we have found it quite yet. Sure, I know that there are pieces of it that are firmly intact. Jesus is Lord; He has lived, died, and was resurrected, paying the cost for all my sin and paving the way for me to have access to You.

But there are many what I call “peripheral” things that even people within Your Church are arguing over. We are grappling with so many things. If I’m going to be wrong about something, I prefer to err on the side of love, on the side of mercy, especially on subjects that do not, in fact, determine the eternal destination of one’s soul. And contrary to the popular belief of some, most of those issues do not, none of those issues, in fact, determine whether one is a Christian.

Please, Father, give us wisdom, sensibility, and sensitivity when it comes to these things. Help us to love more than we hate. In fact, help us to not hate at all. Have mercy on us, and then show us how to extend that same mercy and grace to everyone else.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Say “Yes!”

Today is Friday, the twentieth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,444

My day at the library was pretty good, yesterday, and went by somewhat quickly. There were periods when it was relatively busy, and the day started out fairly busy. By that I mean that there were people who needed assistance. There could be someone at every computer in the place, but if no one needs any help, it might as well be empty.

I finished a book, yesterday, The Twelve Tasks, by Katharine Wibell. I will get that review posted on my other blog, this afternoon. Late last night, I started reading Starman Jones, by Robert A. Heinlein. I realized, as I looked at my various lists, that I have not read any of the Science Fiction Grandmasters since last July.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Houston Astros, last night, 5-1. The Rangers scored first, in the top of the first inning, but the Astros quickly answered with two in the bottom of the first. It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth inning, The Rangers brought Josh Sborz in to pitch in the seventh, and he did okay, but in the eight inning, he completely lost it, and I swear to you, he couldn’t manage to get the ball all the way to home plate! I lost count of how many pitches bounced in front of the plate. He gave up a hit and walked the bases loaded before Woodward finally took him out and brought in Matt Moore. Sborz only got one out in the eighth. Moore got the second out, but then gave up a bases-clearing double, which made it 5-1.

So the Rangers are now 17-20 for the season, but still in third place in the AL West, a game ahead of Seattle and 2.5 ahead of Oakland. They are seven games behind the Astros. They play again tonight, at 7:10 CDT, on Apple TV. Martin Perez gets the start tonight. Hopefully, he can continue his good performance streak.

The reason the Rangers are still alone in third place is that the Red Sox beat the Mariners, last night, 12-6. Wow. They scored runs in five out of eight innings (they didn’t bat in the ninth because they are at home). The Sox are now 16-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 1.5 ahead of the Orioles. They will play the Mariners again tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

Someone listened to me, because the Yankees finally lost their tenth game, last night. They still own the best MLB record, though, at 28-10, 2.5 ahead of the LA Dodgers. The Cincinnati Reds (11-26) are still the worst, a game behind the Washington Nationals (13-26). The LA Dodgers have the longest win streak, at five games, and the Cleveland Guardians (can’t get used to that!) are tied with the LA Angels (yay!!!) with the longest losing streak, at three games. The Dodgers continue to have the highest run differential, at +83, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest differential, at -71. The Rangers and Red Sox both have a current run differential of -8.

It’s Friday, so I have pretty much nothing planned today. I like that. C is working from home, so we are all here, and Mama likes that. 🙂 I have to say I like it, too. C is going on a trip, though, next Friday, and I already miss her. 😦 She will have an opportunity, though, to visit with our oldest daughter in Indianapolis while on this trip, though, so that is good. I was unable to go along, because I’m scheduled to work that weekend, and, since I’m part time, I don’t get PTO. Plus, the first part of her trip is work-related.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, give us your Spirit, we pray, that we may learn to understand what we are and what tasks you have set for us. We thank you for all the light you give us. Grant that we and many others may come closer to knowledge of the truth and be at peace about all that belongs in your hands, our Father in heaven. Keep us now and forevermore in your almighty hand. May we know your goodness and the blessing it brings. For through your goodness we can endure even the hardest days and be victorious in the battle of life. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 
who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 
For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:1-5 NLT emphasis mine)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, who can reconcile God and humanity
2. for the ability to let God worry about the things that only He can control
3. that the Lord has redeemed me and snatched me from the power of the grave
4. for my beautiful and good inheritance in Christ
5. for the reality that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is actually closer to me than any human being; I pray to know this reality in every waking moment
They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. 
Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. 
Redemption does not come so easily, 
for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave. . . .  
But as for me, God will redeem my life. 
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
(Psalms 49:6-9, 15 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yes.”

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Psalms 16:6 ESV)

That verse is tricky, because the reading quotes it from the NKJV, which I don’t have in my Bible program on my PC, and have no desire to pay for. But the NKJV uses the word “yes,” where the ESV says “indeed.” The original KJV says “yea.”

I believe that I can say, along with David, that, yes, I have a beautiful and good inheritance. Truly, the lines have fallen in pleasant places, for me.

I love to cry out “yes!” in praise when I am worshiping the Lord. I say “yes!” to His mercy and grace; “yes!” to His steadfast and unending love; “yes!” to His provision; and “yes!” to His magnificent glory.

But there is another usage of “yes,” that I think needs to be highlighted.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
(2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)

You see, God says “yes!” to us, as well. Not in a “name-it-claim-it” prosperity gospel blank check kind of way. But the real and true promises of God are always “yes” in Christ. And that verse brings up another thing that I forgot about. Essentially, the word “amen” means “yes.” In fact, I recall, when listening to the album that propelled Hillsong into the limelight, back in the nineties, (Shout to the Lord) it became apparent that Australian Christians had a tendency to say “yeah,” in place of “amen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I cry out with a resounding “yes!” in praise to You. I praise You for all Your glory, Your magnificence, displayed around the world in Your glorious creation. I praise You for Your unending love, Your infinite mercy and grace. And I also praise You for Your “yes!” in the promises that You have given and their fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
(Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
(Luke 6:37 NIV)

The main thrust of this topic is forgiveness. We all have the tendency, as humans, to want revenge. Or, perhaps, we want what we consider to be “justice.” Sometimes, our idea of justice is nothing more than revenge wrapped in a different skin. But we’re human, after all, and that’s how we roll.

I love The Message version of the Luke passage.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:37-38 MSG)

And wouldn’t you know it? I can tie this all back around to that thing that I keep harping on. Love. And that “golden rule” thing that Jesus talked about. You know the one . . . treat others the way you want to be treated. There’s a thing making the rounds on TikTok, currently. It says, “Turns out when you treat people the way they treat you . . . they get mad.” Well, duh.

We live in an age of unprecedented picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults. Unless, of course, they’re on the same political side as we are. Then, their faults don’t matter. If we were following the commands of Jesus, that wouldn’t be happening. Plain and simple.

This is why I’m paying less and less attention to politics. It’s hard to avoid, sometimes, because it gets right in your face. I just try to move my face.

Just say, “Yes!” to forgiveness and treating people the way you want to be treated. Say “Yes!” to being Christlike.

Father, I pray for us. Not just us in the U.S., but “us” all over the world. I pray for all the people who claim to be following Christ, but insist on disobeying the commands of Jesus to not be judging and picking on people, and treating them the actual opposite of the way they would like to be treated. Help us to love, Father. Help us to say “yes” to forgiveness and love; “yes” to mercy and grace. We love receiving Your mercy and grace; help us to also love dispensing that mercy and grace, and help us, that our mercy and love would be like Yours, infinite and never-ending. I know that’s ultimately impossible, but at least we could try, You know?

Here’s a brief word from Eugene Peterson.

“Worship centers our life. In worship, we let God have the first word. We set the mood of days to come by practicing adoration and praise. We establish a sense of reality in which the ‘great invisibles’ (God, Christ, and Spirit) can be as fresh and present to us in daily life as our family members and workplaces and job lists.”

(From On Living Well)

Okay, just stop for a moment. Can you even imagine that sense of reality of which he speaks? Can you imagine a sense of reality in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are as real and fresh to you as your family?? Can I truly conceive of practicing a reality in which God is as close and real to me as my wife, mother, and daughter that live in the same house as me?

But here’s the thing.

He

Is

Closer!

This is reality, folks! God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is literally closer to us than even our families! We just have to enter into a reality where we can feel this and experience it. And this begins, according to Peterson (and I find myself, as usual, in agreement with him), with worship.

Just say “Yes!” to worship!

Father, I pray for the ability to worship You in such a way that leads to this reality. Frank Laubach believed that we could live in such a way as to consider You during every minute of every day (at least the ones in which we are awake). What would our lives look like if we could achieve this? If, during every minute of my waking hours I knew of Your presence within me and all around me, as the prayer of St. Patrick envisions, what would my life look like? I want to know this reality. I desire to live and walk in this reality. Help me to say “yes” to this kind of worship and experience.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

This song wrecks me, every time.

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.

The Love that Comforts and Provides

Today is Friday, the eighth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign within you, today!

Day 23,402

Today is a very special day. It is my mother’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mama!! I love you!

I’ve already been out and got flowers and donuts to help the celebration, and we plan to have Freebirds today, at some point, probably for dinner tonight. C also made a strawberry cake for the occasion. Yum!!

My first Thursday at the library was a good day. It was a lot busier in the Computer Center than a typical Friday, which helped the day go by faster. I had a couple of patrons that needed extensive help, and I was able, for the most part to get them what they wanted.

I literally have nothing else on my agenda for today, other than going out to pick up the Freebirds (and Sonic drinks of course) later. Oh, and watching the Texas Rangers opening game, later, this evening, as they open the season in Toronto.

In baseball news, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Mets, Reds, Astros, and D-backs, won their opening day games. The Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins games were both postponed and will hopefully happen today. Everyone else is scheduled to play today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; 
call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples! 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wondrous works! 
Glory in his holy name; 
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually! 
(Psalms 105:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the lifelong instruction and wisdom of godly parents
2. the comfort that God gives us in our sufferings and afflictions; comfort with which we can, in turn, comfort others
3. the love of God that results in His provision for our lives
4. the things I can learn from studying my past experiences
5. that God gave me a brain and the ability to use it

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
(Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “comfort.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days.”

We all have difficult days. Some of us have more difficult days than others, seemingly more than our fair share of them. There are some good words in 2 Corinthians about comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The word appears a few more times in 2 Corinthians, as well. God comforts us, why? Not so that we can just feel better and not be sorry for ourselves. It is so that we can, in turn, comfort others.

The Bible is very clear, throughout, that this life is not all about me, and is not for me to benefit. Yes, I do receive benefits from the Christian life. But it doesn’t stop there. I’m not like the Dead Sea, that is all receiving and no giving. Anything I receive, I should be, in some way, giving away. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. We cannot pay God back. That is simply impossible. But we can “pay it forward.” We can take the comfort which God gives us in our sorrow and in our difficulties and comfort someone else who has experienced loss or is having a bad day.

“God often redeems our sufferings by equipping us and giving us opportunities to extend comfort to others. Sometimes we do that in person by sitting or crying with a struggling or heartbroken friend, but always we can pray for God’s comfort to visit them.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 
And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
They said to him, "Twelve." 
"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
And they said to him, "Seven." 
And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)

When we re-read these miracles of Jesus, what is our intent? Is it just to refresh our memories? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, with Jesus and His disciples. He wants them to dwell on the two particular miracles of which He speaks. “For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation – the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.”

Jesus warned them against the teachings of the religious leaders, teachings which would have us believe that God withholds blessings based on legalities; teachings that resemble those of today’s “religious leaders.” Finally, the disciples did understand. “He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at east can discover a reason.” The lesson here was that God cares for His children, and will provide for their necessities. And it is love that is the driving force of this provision.

You see, the disciples were failing to trust. Look at verse 16. They discussed among themselves the fact that they had not brought any bread. After all that they had seen Jesus do. “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when His children want it.”

All too often, we, as humans, remember the loaves but forget the Father, even as, in our theology, we “forget the very Logos.”

The care the Father has for us is care for the day (see Matthew 6). “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years – in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

“The moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.”

(All above quotes from Creation in Christ, by George MacDonald, referenced in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

The Spiritual Discipline being highlighted, here, is that of study. That may sound odd, as we normally consider study to be a discipline that involves books and reading. However, Jesus has called His disciples, here, to study, dwell upon, and learn from their experience. We should do the same. It is worthwhile to look back upon our experiences and learn from them. We can learn much, both from experiences when we felt God moving in our lives, and experiences when we felt far from Him.

Here is another nugget from Eugene Peterson: “The Christian faith does not turn us into robots who are conditioned to behave in moral ways by reflex. The Christian faith does not lobotomize us so that we don’t have to think through anything. Jesus said, ‘Learn from me’ (Matthew 11:29). He intends to shape our minds, inform our intelligence, and mature our judgment so that we can understand and participate in the meaning of new life.”

The disciples were so fortunate to have that in-person experience with Him. We, on the other hand, must learn these things from a distance.

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

Father, I thank You that You have given us brains and the ability to think things through, and that You do not expect us to be pre-programed robots, conditioned to behave in certain ways. While I am expected to surrender my “rights” and walk according to the words and steps of Jesus, I still have the ability to make decisions and think about things. Those decisions are not always the right ones or, perhaps, not the best ones. But I am still me because You did not use cookie cutters to create us. If that were the case, all eight billion of us would have the same DNA, wouldn’t we?

I am grateful for Your work in my life, and that I can and should look back on my life and study it and learn from it. It is not a looking back, like Lot’s wife, where I regret that I have left some things behind. That is looking back and longing. I prefer to look back to learn, to learn from the times where I can see Your hand at work, and to learn from the times where I ignored Your hand and went my own way. It turns out that Your love and compassion for me worked through those times, even.

I am also thankful for that love and compassion that drives Your provision for Your people. We are quick to be able to quote the numbers, how many people were fed, how many loaves the little boy had, and how many baskets of food were left over. We like to memorize statistics. But we miss the point when we do that. With only a couple of fish and some loaves of bread, the miracle would have been just as powerful if fifty people were fed. The numbers are not the point. Your love, compassion, and overwhelming provision are the point. The same love that dropped manna from the sky for Your people, Israel, who were also quick to forget Your love and compassion only days after they had seen the miracle of the Red Sea parting and their enemies’ chariots drowned in the same sea.

Forgive us for being so quick to forget, and help us to remember to study; both Your written Word as well as the past events of our lives. I thank You for people like George MacDonald, Eugene Peterson, Richard J Foster, and Emilie Griffin (and others) who have written so that we can more easily remember.

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.

Love Extravagantly

“We do not qualify as biblical simply by quoting the Bible.
“We are biblical only when we share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall, when we carry the cross of Jesus, and when we love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.”

Today is Tuesday, the fifth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,399

We had some “weather” last night. Thunderstorms rolled through a bit later than originally expected, hitting us late in the evening, and going on until around 11:00 PM or so. As far as I know, we just got heavy rain and wind. I never heard any hail and didn’t see evidence of anything else. But it rained quite a bit. There were tornado warnings southeast of us.

I don’t have much on my agenda today. I’ll go out and get Subway for lunch for S, Mama, and me, and will include dinner for them and C, because I will be at work this evening, from 4:15-8:15. Typical Tuesday, in other words. I’m also really close to finishing my current read, an ARC of When Earth Shall Be No More, a science fiction novel by Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan. I’m 92% through, and, unless something drastic happens, I can already tell you it’s getting a five-star rating. I’ll also try to get in an episode or two of The Stand miniseries.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”
(Luke 6:27-31 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the rain received last night, and that we had no damage from the storms
2. for the "golden rule"
3. that our Father delights in us, and surrounds us with His shield
4. that God gives me songs to glorify Him in thanksgiving
5. for the hope and ability to love extravagantly

Today’s prayer word is “favor.” That’s a dangerous word, there, and I feel it is misused by many. But let’s see the referenced Scripture verse.

Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
(Psalms 5:12 NIV)

This is also a word that is dependent upon a particular translation of the Bible. NIV has “favor,” ESV has “favor,” and KJV also has “favour.” But the NLT says this:

For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love.
(Psalms 5:12 NLT)

And here is The Message:

You are famous, GOD, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.
(Psalms 5:12 MSG)

Interestingly, when I look at “KJV+” in my Bible app, it shows that the Hebrew word translated as “favor” in most translations can also mean “delight.” Well-played, Mr. Peterson.

My problem with the word “favor” is that, to many people, it indicates “special treatment.” Even the writer of the reading, the ubiquitous “Bob,” says, “Even so, I beg for Him to single me out and toss me a rose, so to speak.” (You would have to read the rest of the reading for that rose bit to make sense.)

I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not comfortable asking God to single me out. It’s like asking Him to help me “win.” Of course, I want to win. Who doesn’t? But the Christian life isn’t about “winning.” It’s about sacrifice and giving.

Side note: Part of my dislike of the concept of the word has to do with one particular person who, when asked a simple greeting question that we all usually ask one another, “How are you?”, would respond with, “Blessed and highly favored.” Ugh.

So when I think of the word “favor,” or “delight,” I see God delighting in all of His people! In the NIV, it is the “righteous” who are surrounded by God’s favor, or decked out in delight, as The Message says. “The righteous” is a group of people. It is all of the followers of Jesus.

I will, occasionally, pray for favor, but not so much for myself. I might pray for someone to find favor when going for a job interview or something like that. But I prefer to think of this one more in terms of “delight,” as Peterson rendered it. God, our Father, delights in us, in all of us! And, in that way, He shows US favor.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
(Psalms 69:30 NIV)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalms 100:4-5 NIV)

My regular readers will note that I have a gratitude list up at the top of the devotional section each day. There are always at least five things, sometimes more. This has been a practice of mine for several years, now, and it launched out of dissatisfaction upon seeing people suddenly get thankful because it was November.

That’s the month in which Thanksgiving occurs in the United States, for my readers who live in other countries. I find it somewhat . . . I don’t know what the word is . . . it’s not “hypocritical,” necessarily. But it chafes me that people who grumble and complain the other eleven months of the year are suddenly all thankful for thirty days.

So I took that and ran with it, and kept it going, and have done it ever since. Every day. It’s not for show; it’s not to appear “religious;” it is not to appear more “favored.” It is to inspire others to be thankful. It is to display an attitude that, even in the toughest of times, I can find something for which to be thankful. Some days, it is hard to come up with five things. Other days, it is hard to keep it to only five. Because frequently I find that I have the same mindset of the composer of Psalm 23. “My cup overflows.”

At some point, a few months ago, I decided to wade into the murky waters of TikTok, and I started publishing a short video of my gratitude, where I read the Scripture passage that is before my gratitude list, along with the points of gratitude. I also post the list on Facebook, as well as a daily post asking, “What can I pray for you today?”

Again, I want to be clear: I am not “tooting my own horn,” here. I am not attempting to look like I’m super-spiritual. I am anything but super-spiritual. I sin; I fall short; I do grumble, much more than I should; I forget about the many blessings that I have in my life (see yesterday’s blog). But in my imperfect state, I want others to see that you don’t have to be perfect; we just have two jobs to do, you know. Love God and love people. You can make that as complicated as you want, but it still boils down to those two jobs. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

In today’s reading, Shawnelle Eliason (one of my favorites) writes this prayer. “Lord, forgive me when grumbling lives where gratitude should. Amen.” I heartily echo that plea.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

And to kind of go along with what I said up there about the two jobs, here is this from Eugene Peterson:

“We do not qualify as biblical simply by quoting the Bible.
“We are biblical only when we share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall, when we carry the cross of Jesus, and when we love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.”

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

Father, I thank You for making me grateful. Yes, I am grateful that I am grateful. But it is because You have placed that spirit of gratitude within me. I could never do that by myself. Everything I do, at least anything that is positive and worthwhile, comes from You.

I praise You that we, Your people, are covered by Your delight. Yes, You “favor” us, You delight in us. But let us not get all selfish and self-centered about that delight, because it is not about me, an individual. It is about us, Your people, the saints, the Church, the Body of Christ. As an individual, I have a place to fill in that Body, so I pray for the ability to fill that place. I do not pray to be singled out, to be thrown a “rose,” or to receive special favors. I don’t want that. But I do desire to know that delight that You have for all of us, and I desperately want to pass that delight along to others.

Which brings me to that last bit. Lord, help me to be truly “biblical,” in the sense that I “share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall,” that I can successfully carry the cross of Jesus (which, no doubt, means different things for each of us), and that I can “love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.” That last one, to me, is the most important and the most desirable.

Help me, O my Father, to love extravagantly.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Larry Norman can be heard on this song.

Anxiety and Chesed

Today is Monday, the fourteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,377

Today has also become known as “Pi Day,” as it is 3/14. Pi, of course, begins with 3.14. And because of the homonym, it has also become a good day to have a piece of pie. I will not be doing that, however, because I’m going to try to get back on track with my eating habits, today. We darn nearly finished that cookie cake yesterday. I think there are a couple bites left, and I think I will let other people finish it off.

I had a wonderful day/weekend for my birthday. I got a new PS4 controller (red), which I had requested because my original controller only holds a charge for a couple of hours, now. I also got a few new books from my Amazon wishlist. They were The Healing Light, by Agnes Sanford, God’s Message for Each Day, by Eugene H. Peterson, and A Closer Walk, by Catherine Marshall. I also got a new PS4 game, Dying Light 2: Stay Human.

The Peterson book is a 365 day devotional, so I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to start it now or wait. What I may do is wait until I’ve finished the current Peterson book in my devotional arsenal, and then begin it mid-year. The other two books landed on my wishlist because of inspiration from the Spiritual Classics book I am currently reading.

We decided on Cotton Patch for lunch, yesterday, which turned out to be a delicious choice. I had a chicken fried steak, which was wonderful. We watched part of Hamilton! on Disney+ while eating lunch, and then C moved some stuff from the garage to the curb for the bulk trash pickup this week. She claims we can once again get a car in the garage. This is also because we got rid of a king-sized bed and a futon on Saturday.

This is a normal Monday for me. No work at the library, a couple of “chores,” probably, and we will attempt to get some of Mama’s billing accounts set up for automatic payment. She will likely return home to Mineral Wells, later this week, maybe just for a day. I believe she is ready to call this “home,” now. A difficult transition and decision, as it would be for anyone, and we have tried to make it completely her decision, letting her know that she is welcome here whenever she decides it is time.

This is my “long” week at the library, with shifts tomorrow evening, and all day Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. There are no threats of freezing temperatures this week, and very little threat of any precipitation, except for maybe today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.
(Psalm 16:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a wonderful weekend, with the love of family and friends
2. for cookie cakes
3. for the "chesed,", the steadfast love and mercy of God
4. that we can control what we allow our minds to dwell upon (this includes anxiety)
5. that all who are on God's side are considered "saints"

Starting today with the prayer word, which is “chesed.” That is a Hebrew word, which I’m fairly familiar with, but always need to be reminded about. Hebrew words that begin with “ch” are not pronounced like “cheese.” It’s a somewhat awkward sound for English-speaking folks, sort of a hard “H” sound, not quite “K” and not quite “H.” The e is short, in both instances. “Jewish Awareness Ministries” puts it like this: “pronounce with the guttural “ch” and two short “e’s.”  The accent is on the first syllable.”

But what does it mean? The writer, Bob, puts it like this: “Chesed is a Hebrew word from the Bible that is so rich that no English word captures its full meaning.” I agree with this statement, even with my limited knowledge of Hebrew (and by “limited” I mean hardly any). You will see this word translated in several different ways, across various translations. One translation might say “lovingkindness.” Another might say “steadfast love,” while yet another will say “mercy.” All of them are correct.

I confess that I rarely, if ever, have used this word in prayer, but I certainly have used its English renderings quite a lot. I can see, though, that it would certainly be a good word to use in prayer, in a variety of different circumstances. Perhaps after today, I will try to remember that. While I don’t believe that using another language in prayer will make God pay closer attention, I can see the value of using a word that has such rich meaning.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.
(Psalm 17:7 ESV)
Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.
(Psalm 17:7 NKJV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

Here’s something to think about. One little line in today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, by Edward Grinnan.

“Too often my worries occupy the space where God’s love and grace can abide.”

That’s worth pondering for a bit. While we can never be separated from God’s love and grace, I believe it is accurate to say that they cannot abide and grow in the same space where we allow worry or anxiety to live.

It’s hard not to worry; I know this for a fact. Some of us are more inclined to it than others. To some people, anxiety is debilitating, and they actually need professional help. But for most of us, it is just a condition that we allow to thrive within our spirits, and we do have some control over that.

fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

It’s always good to read Matthew 6:25-34. I’ll only put the last two verses here.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:33-34 ESV)

The next selection on fasting, from Spiritual Classics, is written by one of “the most important convert[s] to Christianity after St. Paul,” Augustine of Hippo. He teaches us things about fasting from a writing called “The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.” In this, he emphasizes the fact that we should not be engaging in spiritual practices or disciplines to show others how devoted or spiritual we are.

We must, when engaging in any discipline, such as fasting, be sure that “no spirit of self-display creeps in, no craving for human applause.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

In these disciplines, we are striving “to be directed towards inward joys,” not “outward rewards.”

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

“For a long time, all Christians called each other saints.” Thus opens a short reading from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning. All followers of Christ were “saints,” regardless of whether they were “good” Christians or not. “It was not a title given after a spectacular performance; it was a mark of whose side they were on.”

The word simply means “being set apart for God’s side.” We are not “cogwheels.” We are not “the keyboard of a piano on which circumstances play hit tunes or parade music. It means we are chosen out of the stream of circumstantiality for something important that God is doing.”

And what is God doing? The same thing he always does. (I can’t help but think of “Pinky and the Brain,” right now.)

God saving; He is rescuing, blessing, providing, judging, healing, and enlightening. “There is a spiritual war in progress in our world, an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in a continuous and an energetic battle against all of it.

“God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. Go is for heaven an against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.”

And we, His “saints” are “enlisted on his side in the contest.”

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

Father, I embrace the words “saint” and “chesed” in today’s readings. I acknowledge Your “chesed” in all aspects of my life. Your steadfast love, Your mercy, Your lovingkindness, and all other meanings of that word are what sustains me every day. It is because of this that I am able to be considered a “saint.” I love that “saint” doesn’t have anything to do with my performance. It is human beings who have tried to change the meaning of the word, to make it indicate some kind of super-spiritual person. But, in truth, all who call the name of Jesus, who are called to be on Your side, are truly saints. The Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of saints, and this is true of us, whether we are very good at it or not. I do pray that we will all be better at it, growing constantly in the love of Christ.

It is also Your chesed that helps us when we get anxious. Your mercy and steadfast love are the best thing for us to focus on when we get anxious. Because of Your great lovingkindness, we truly have nothing to fear, looking toward that day when we will all be Home, where we will be totally and forever “safe.”

As I continue to ponder the discipline of fasting, I pray that I will never engage in any kind of spiritual discipline in order to receive the applause of men. Even this blog is not so much to get recognition or reward (if it were I would have given up long ago), but serves a couple of purposes. First, it is a record that I can go back and re-visit, if necessary, and second, it is for the potential inspiration of anyone else who happens across it. I pray that the words typed here would do just that; be an inspiration for anyone who stumbles onto it.

All glory to You, Lord, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent)

Grace and peace, friends.

Presence in Absence

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your life today!

Day 23,376

And today marks my 64th revolution around our sun, the beginning of my 65th year. I almost gave myself an extra year. Must have gotten a little carried away with “spring forward,” there. Today also marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, or, as I like to call it, “Fake Time.”

I got a couple of early birthday presents Friday evening, delivered by carrier, from R. I went ahead and opened those, and received a library scented candle, and a book, Just Kids, by Patti Smith, that has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. It’s memoir, by a singer/songwriter who was influential in the emergence of punk rock in New York City, in the seventies.

Last night, we cut into this wonderful thing:

It is very delicious, although we may have finally succeeded in getting too much icing on the cookie. “I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do,” to quote King George, from Hamilton.

We will be going to our house church gathering, in a little while, and since the time is later than usual (fake time), I need to get moving. I’ve only had one cup of coffee, too, for Pete’s sake.

Who is Pete, even? I’ve always wondered that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have successfully completed another revolution around the sun; by "successfully," I mean still alive
2. for the legacy of faith in my life; it's not perfect, but it's consistent; through all these years, God has kept me in His hands
3. for a godly wife and mother; between the two of them, they have helped keep me on the path
4. for days of rest
5. that God is always present, even when it seems He is absent

Today’s prayer word is “sabbath.” That is very interesting, considering that today is Sunday. Of course, Sunday is not the “sabbath,” even though the modern evangelical church has considered it to be so, as long as I can remember. The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day. That’s why we have denominations like Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe they are more righteous than the rest of us because they observe a literal, legalistic “sabbath.”

All of this misses the point of “sabbath,” in my opinion.

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
(Hebrews 4:4 ESV)

Did God need to rest? Of course not! How would God be “tired?”

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:4 ESV)

But humans need rest, and God knew that. Which is why there were laws concerning the Sabbath. I insist that we, who are under grace and not law, and who are not Israel, do not observe the Sabbath, as such. There are some who disagree with me, and that’s fine. But we need rest, and the principle is still in play.

Rest is important for the human body. When we sleep, it repairs itself. I have learned more about sleep and what it does for the body, in the last couple years, than I knew my whole life. Rest is crucial. So taking a “sabbath” rest each week is good. It is helpful, and it is necessary. Just don’t get legalistic about it. For me, “rest” might be sitting in my easy chair playing on the Playstation. Or it might be reading a book. But it also might be bowling. Recreation can be rest, in my opinion.

It has nothing, however, to do with whether or not I can buy pantyhose on Sunday. Not that I need pantyhose. I don’t even know if “blue laws” are still a thing in Texas. I just did a small bit of research and found that the only thing that cannot be sold at all on Sunday is hard liquor. Beer and wine after noon, and car dealerships must close either Saturday or Sunday and have the ability to decide for themselves. But there was a day when you could not buy certain items (like pantyhose, which was ridiculous, because the likelihood of church ladies needing new pantyhose on Sunday morning was, at one time, pretty high) on Sunday.

But I digress.

The important thing is that we, as humans, recognize our need to have a day of rest, at some point in the week. In my opinion, it could be Wednesday. Doesn’t matter what day. Just rest.

How does this fit into prayer? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think the soul needs rest, just like the body needs rest. So, maybe there need to be times where we turn off all the social media and televisions and podcasts and simply turn our spirits, restfully, toward the heavens for a while.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Maybe we can make some correlation between “sabbath” and Lent. Honestly, I never thought of that until today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1Peter 1:3 ESV)

We are in between times. In between the wonder of Christmas and the joy of Easter. It’s a long stretch, and this season of Lent lasts forty days, in the middle of it. Many people never recognize Lent at all. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think I even heard of it until at least my college years, and possibly after. And, although I may not actively participate ever year, at least it is on my mind, during the time.

I think the placement of it, in the Church calendar, is good. While we know that God is always present, there is a sense of “absence,” during this time of Lent. And maybe, just maybe, what Lent is about is “finding God in the in-between times of life, seeing how He might be present in a veritable absence.” (Rick Hamlin)

Father, I pray for more of a sense of Your presence during this season. As I consider the relationship between the sabbath and Lent, may I have a heightened sense of You and Your presence. Help me to rest better. Help me to “sabbath” better. And may the season of Lent be a sort of long sabbath for me, especially along the lines of that which I am trying to give up or avoid, the act of being critical about things and people. It’s going “okay,” but could be better. You have given me more of an awareness of when I do fall into it, and that is good.

I thank You for sixty-four years, and pray for a few more. Maybe many more. I don’t know how many I want. I want however many You want for me. I’m not picky. I do enjoy this thing we call life, though. And it is more enjoyable when You are surrounding me. Thank You for being part of my life all these years, and please keep being part of it.

I love You, Father. Through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.