Today is Tuesday, the 28th of February, 2023, in the first week of Lent.
The peace of the Lord be with you always!
It is the last day of February! Huzzah!! And it could get up to 80 degrees today. The weather to continues to act like our drunk uncle. Not that I ever had a drunk uncle. Wait . . . I might have. I did have a couple of wild uncles on my dad’s side of the family. Great-uncles, actually.
Anyway . . . we could possibly break a record for high temp today, as the previous high was 81 in 2014. The projected high for the day, though is 80. Then, in three days, it’s supposed to be back in the upper 50s. Then back to the 70s, and the last day on the ten-day forecast is 51. Up, down, all around, see my thumb . . .
Since it is Tuesday, I will be working a four-hour shift at the library tonight, from 4:15-8:15. Then I have three eight-hour shifts over the next four days, with Thursday off. S doesn’t have Club Metro this week, so Thursday should be fairly “chill.”
I should finish a book today. I’ve been reading McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, a book I ran across at the library a couple weeks ago. It’s a book of, in some ways, genre-defying stories. I have enjoyed it, as I am a big fan of short stories. As some reviewers have noted, though, it is difficult to rate a book of short stories by various authors. One is probably not going to think all the stories in the collection are “amazing.”
I didn’t get in any music practice, yesterday, but I did exercise for thirty minutes on the recumbent bike.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. (Psalms 119:135 NRSV)
Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have always been gracious to us, revealing your great goodness and power in ages past and in the present. In this revelation we live, O Lord our God. You are the almighty One, who works wonders on earth and who rules the heavens so that we can be blest and helped on our earthly paths. Let your goodness and your justice be revealed throughout all the world. Arise, O Lord our God. Let your light shine in us who believe in you. Let your light shine into the whole world. Let your name be glorified. You are indeed our Father, both in heaven and on earth. You give our lives security now and in eternity. Amen.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalms 57:10-11 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the steadfast love (chesed) of the Lord, as high as the heavens; may He be exalted and worshiped in all the earth
- for the grace of God that blesses us and helps us on our earthly paths
- that no cloud of this mortal life can hide from me that steadfast, immortal love of the Father, manifested in Jesus Christ
- for the admonition to forgive others as God, in Christ, has forgiven us
- for prayer
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually. (Psalms 105:4 NRSV)
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. (Psalms 125:4 NRSV)
As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. (Psalms 103:15-16 NRSV)
"Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy."
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
"Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our cares on you who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of this love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen." (The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV)
Stay wide-awake in prayer.
(1 Peter 4:7 MSG)
When we pray, we connect with the almighty. There are a lot of things that can affect our prayer, and they are not all good.
The emotions and subsequent actions of Ephesians 4:31 could definitely negatively affect our prayers. Have you every tried to pray in bitterness? In wrath or anger? I have. It doesn’t go well, usually. It is apparent that some of the psalmists also did that, based on psalms such as Psalm 137. It’s in the Bible, so there’s a good reason for it. But I do not believe that I would ever be able to pray that prayer back to God. I cannot see myself asking God to reward someone for dashing anyone’s babies against the rocks.
It is impossible, in my opinion, to sincerely pray for someone with malice in our hearts. I also do not believe that a prayer prayed for someone whom we are slandering (and by the way, I learned, last Sunday, that the word translated “slander” in that verse is “blasphemia.” That’s right. Blasphemy.) can be effective.
Emotions get in the way of our prayers. Of course, they can help our prayers, too. If we are working in the framework of the positive traits in verse 31, surely our prayers are better. But emotions aren’t prayer. As much as possible, we should attempt to detach our feelings when we are praying.
I think it is interesting that, in the middle of all of the negative things in Galatians 5, is a list that gets overlooked. Probably because we tend to focus on the first few things in that list. Fornication, impurity, licentiousness . . . we like to focus on those, because most Christians don’t see themselves as having issues with those. They may or may not be right in that.
But then we get this list: idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy. Then it’s back to some that we like to point out in others . . . drunkenness and carousing.
It is also interesting that the word that is so often translated as “sorcery” or “witchcraft” in that verse is “pharmakeia.” That word literally means “medicine.” I am nowhere near knowledgeable enough to comment on that, but I have thoughts that don’t belong in today’s discourse.
The rest of that list are things that are, unfortunately, commonly found in the Body of Christ. Or are they? If we are truly part of the Body of Christ, will we engage in those emotions and activities? Probably so, sadly. I mean Paul had to constantly be writing to people in the churches he started, correcting their behavior in areas like this.
Here’s the thing, people. We are human! We will always be human. We will never be perfect on this side of glory. I can only hope that, when we transition from this lift to the next, we will miraculously be changed. I believe this to be the case. I don’t want to feel many of the things that my flesh causes me to feel. I don’t want to engage in idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, or envy. I don’t want to have malice toward anyone, much less a brother or sister in Christ. I don’t want to have bitterness, anger, or wrath, or blaspheme against my neighbor.
What I want is to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as Christ has forgiven me. I want to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
And I want to stay “wide-awake in prayer.”
“Lord, forgive us for our pride, when our faith becomes a show.” Expose our faults, Father. Show us where we are trying to cover up negative traits by both pointing out the faults of others while dressing ourselves up in fake righteousness. As we continue to move through this Lenten season, engaging in self-reflection based on Your Word and the life of Christ, may we see the truth about ourselves.
But this “truth” is two-fold (at least). Yes, we are flawed. Yes we stumble and fall into pits of malice, anger, wrath, and slander. We get jealous and envious of one another. We even find ourselves engaging in idolatry, though we are loathe to admit it. But we are also free and forgiven in Christ, bathed in righteousness, and all of our sins are erased, washed away, and cast as far as the east is from the west.
Have mercy, Father. Kyrie eleison! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! May Your Spirit fill us, and in that filling, chase out all of those bad emotions and actions, leaving only room for the fruit of the Spirit, which begins with love.
All things being with love, Father, so give us love in all things. Love covers a multitude of sins, said one of Your original disciples. It not only covers those sins, it erases them. And may it blot out completely all of the wrath, malice, slander, envy and other bad things in our lives.
Father, help me to stay wide-awake in prayer.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.