Extravagant Love

Today is Sunday, the nineteenth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,474

Today is Father’s Day, so I wish a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I hope you are able to love on your kids today, and spend some time with them. Some of us will have to love some of our offspring from afar, and that’s okay, too. My father, of course, has been gone for seven years, now, and is still sorely missed. But he is more than fondly remembered for the love that he showed and care that he gave.

Today is also Juneteenth, but that holiday will be observed tomorrow. Since it was finally made a federal holiday last year, most banks will be closed, as well as the post office. I’m not sure about the library where I work, but I don’t ever work on Mondays, anyway.

The Rangers game was terrible, yesterday. Taylor Hearne did not have his best stuff, and they lost 14-7. It was actually quite a bit worse than the score indicates, too. But today’s another day. They are 31-34 for the season, still in second place, nine games out of first. They are also still four games out in the Wild Card race. They will play Detroit again today, in Detroit, at 12:40 CDT, with Dane Dunning taking the mound to try to win the series.

Almost as if the two teams are joined at the hip, the Red Sox also suffered an embarrassing loss, yesterday, losing to the Cardinals 11-2. They are now 35-31 for the season, still in fourth place, 1.5 behind Tampa and 14.5 behind the You-Know-Whos. They have another game with St. Louis today.

The Yankees have the highest everything right now. Best record, 49-16, highest run differential (+144), and longest win streak (nine games). Massive sighs. The Athletics have the worst record, at 22-45. The Nationals, though, have the worst run differential, at -115, as well as the longest losing streak, at eight games. The Rangers’ run differential sits at zero, today, and the Sox are at +45, after losing by nine runs, yesterday.

In the PWBA, the top 30 are currently in the fourth round of qualifying in the U.S. Women’s Open in South Glens Falls, NY. After three rounds, the top thirty were, in order, Cherie Tan (Singapore), Jordan Richard, Lindsay Boomershine (I like her name), Shayna Ng (another Singapore bowler), Shannon Sellens, Stefanie Johnson (from Texas), Erin McCarthy, Hui Fen New (Singapore), Shannon O’Keefe, Danielle McEwan, Rocio Restrepo, Birgit Noreiks (Germany), Liz Johnson, Daphne Tan (Singapore, Cherie’s sister), Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine), Verity Crawley (England), Missy Parkin, Bryanna Cote, Kerry Smith, Kayla Bandy, Clara Guerrero (Columbia), Chelsey Klingler, Sydney Brummett, Breanna Clemmer, Olivia Farwell, Hope Gramly (also from Texas), Jenny Wegner (Sweden), Diana Zavjalova (Latvia), Jen Higgins, and Josie Barnes.

This morning’s round will cut to the top 24, who will bowl in match play one round this evening, and two rounds tomorrow, to determine the top five, who will be on the live TV broadcast Tuesday night.

We aren’t going to church, today, as C has not been feeling well. She does not have Covid, though. Just some kind of cold or allergies, or something.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, O great and almighty God, we thank you that you have given us the Savior, in whom we can become united and have peace on earth. May he, the Savior, work powerfully among us. May your Spirit come into people’s hearts so that they learn to acknowledge you as their leader and their God and to rejoice in their lives, which are intended for eternal life. Bless us through your Word and through all the good you do for us. Constantly renew and strengthen us in faith and in patience through the grace you send us. Remember all the peoples who should become yours in the name of Jesus Christ. May they all confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the honor of God the Father. We praise you for the promise you have given us of a wonderful new day of help for all. We praise you that you have created all people to recognize their true calling and their way to salvation. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that unfailing love and unshakable covenant of peace from God, our Father
2. for the love that I had from my earthly father for all the years he was with us, and that he did his best to train me up in the love of the Lord
3. for the faithful love of my two wonderful daughters
4. for the extravagant love that our Father in heaven has lavished upon us
5. for the equality of all people in Jesus Christ (the reality is not necessarily realized, but it is still the reality . . . the ground is level at the foot of the cross)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32 NIV)


The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is extravagant. You have to look pretty extensively to find that word in any version of the Bible. It occurs a single time in the NLT, in Revelation 18:3, in reference to the sins of the Great Babylon. It does not appear in NIV, ESV, or KJV.

However, Eugene Peterson likes the word, apparently, and it occurs multiple times in The Message. This particular verse is featured in today’s reading.

I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant.
(Isaiah 63:7 MSG)

And what a word to describe the love of God for us. Extravagant! There are, of course, many other words that have been used, over the years, to describe God’s love. Frederick M. Lehman may have said it best, in 1917, when he wrote the song, The Love of God. In the chorus (or refrain, if you prefer, he wrote:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
the saints’ and angels’ song.

And then, the last verse, one of my favorite hymn verses of all time:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
and ev’ryone a scribe by trade;
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.

He doesn’t use the word “extravagant,” but it certainly fits.

Father, I praise You for Your extravagant love. Your love split seas and rivers in half, crumbled walls, even made the sun move backwards. Your love created things out of nothing, and miraculously fed your people with food from heaven. And then, when we thought it couldn’t get any more extravagant, Your love died for us, and then rose from the grave so that we could live in eternal glory in Your Kingdom. Extravagant, indeed. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
(Galatians 3:26 NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Father, today, I pray for racial equality in our land, and throughout the world. If we truly believe the words of Paul in Galatians, let us strive to make things better for all people, because we see all people as equals in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! And it is back to Your extravagant love that has provided this truth for us!


Eugene Peterson continues writing on the Sabbath. He makes a bold claim: “Keeping the Sabbath is easy: we pray and we play, two things we were pretty good at as children and can always pick up again with a little encouragement.”

He calls praying a “great act of freedom in relation to heaven.” Through prayer, we exercise our “bodies and minds in acts of adoration and commitment, practices of supplication and praise, and ventures of forgiving and giving.”

He calls playing a “great act of freedom in relation to earth.” Through playing, we “exercise our bodies and minds in games and walks, in amusement and reading, in visiting and picnicking, in puttering and writing.”

Easy, he says, yet we, in our society find it so hard. Part of the reason for that is that our culture doesn’t encourage us to keep a Sabbath. In fact, if anything, it is out to steal it from us. For many of us (and I have been fortunate in this respect, for most of my adult life), we are expected to work our jobs, seven days a week. Many people find themselves unable to attend worship services because of the demands of the job, as accomplishment and profit are king in America.

And the bottom line, says Peterson is that “after a few years of Sabbath breaking, we are passive consumers of expensive trash and anxious hurriers after trash pleasures.”

Ouch. Explicitly descriptive, but truthful.

“We lose our God and our dignity at about the same time.” And this is why Peterson encourages us to keep a Sabbath. “Guard the day. Protect the leisure for praying and playing.” And for those of you who think you are too mature to “play,” I give you this:

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the nose-thumbing)

Father, I praise You for the Sabbath. I thank You for the command that we have a day to rest, a day to pray, and a day to play. I realize Your command said nothing about playing, but I find myself in agreement with Peterson, whom I respect deeply, and trust just as deeply. I pray that You would remind all of us, frequently, that we need to take a day off to pray and play, a day off from the hustle and bustle that this culture demands from us. I also pray that, not just on the Sabbath, but all days, that You would help us to demolish the very concept of “hurry,” as it steals from us in many ways. You are not in a hurry. Why should we be?

Sometimes I find myself in a hurry to be Home. I also need not do that. Help me to live the life that You have planned for me, at the pace You have planned. I do pray that I will accomplish all that You have for me to do, and that I will reach and inspire all that You have for me to reach. May my presence in social media platforms be one that shows love and forgiveness to all, and inspires all to know the kind of gratitude that we should have toward You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


I realize Mercy Me changed the meter, but I’m okay with that.

Grace and peace, friends.

Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

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

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

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

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

Today is Friday, the third of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday, working in the computer center. It was fairly busy; a little slow up until lunchtime, but it picked up after lunch. And now, I’m off work until next Tuesday night.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Rays, yesterday, 3-1, to split the series. There were multiple opportunities blown, where they had two men on base with the go-ahead run at the plate, but they just couldn’t get them across. They are now 24-26 for the season, in third place in the AL West. They are 8.5 out of first, and two out of the Wild Card race. They begin a weekend series with the Mariners tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees (36-15) continue to have the best MLB record, while the Nationals and Royals are in a virtual tie for the worst, with 18-35 and 16-33, respectively. They are separated by .013 percentage, with the Royals being on the bottom. The Blue Jays continue to win. They are now on an eight-game win streak. And the Angels continue to lose! (Wheee!!) They are on an eight-game losing streak. The LA Dodgers remain at the top of the run differential column, having outscored their opponents by 114 runs. The Washinton Nationals are all alone at the bottom, having been outscored by their opponents by 83 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by ten runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 22.

The PWBA bowlers are currently in the first qualifying round in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.

The only thing on the agenda for today is getting groceries delivered (already set up) and taking Mama to the bank to deposit some oil royalty checks. Yes, she still gets some of those, and occasionally, they are pretty good. And, since C was out of town, and we did not have our chili last Monday night, we are going to cook chili tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for all your goodness and for the peace you give us. Unite us as your people, we pray. Unite us as one people with all your children who have ever lived, as one people with all who want to serve you. The more faithfully and joyfully we are your people, the more blessing you can give. Let the material world come under your hand. Guide your children on earth. Lead us in such a way that others may be helped. When we suffer, grant us strength and understanding of your will. Protect us today and every day. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
(Ephesians 2:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this Good News of peace; praying that we can spread this message of peace to the world
2. for the hope of unity within God's people
3. that, even though circumstances may look grim, yet there is hope, and still I can praise Him
4. for the goodness of God and for all the wonderful things He has stored up for us, which is one of the reasons for all this gratitude
5. for the way true prayer makes us more honest and human

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:14-16 NLT)

Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
(Romans 9:20-21 NLT)

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. 
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you 
in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 
I have seen you in your sanctuary 
and gazed upon your power and glory. 
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. 
I will praise you with songs of joy.
 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 
Because you are my helper, 
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
(Psalms 63:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yet.” Such a small word, yet full of potential meaning and significance.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT)

In some cases, this word has a similar meaning as “still.” Even though all of these seemingly negative circumstances are prevailing, I will still praise Him. Or, “yet” I will praise Him or rejoice in Him.

There is another sense, though, in which to use the word “yet.” We might be waiting for a particular problem or situation in our lives to be resolved, and bemoaning the fact that it remains unsolved. It has not been resolved.

Yet.

In this case, the word “yet” provides hope that there is still an opportunity for the situation to be resolved. And that hope should allow joy to continue. Even when there are no blossoms on the fig trees.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
(Psalms 31:19 NLT)

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness. 
Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. 
Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

How many times, in the past couple of years, have things that we wanted been unavailable? I’m not talking about things that we need or must have. That’s a different conversation. I’m talking about things that we want.

My biggest example is cherry-flavored sugar-free sodas. There have been periods of time when I have not been able to find Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar at all. In fact, there was one long stretch when I couldn’t find any cherry flavored soda at all. There was even a stretch when we couldn’t find C’s drink of choice, Sprite Zero.

While it was certainly disappointing, and the temptation is to moan, complain, and grumble, if I force myself to stop and consider Psalm 31:19, there is no reason for grumbling.

I desperately wish more of my brothers and sisters would do the same. Instead of trying to point fingers and place blame, what if we spent more time being grateful for the things that we do have?

I saw this video a long time ago, and was able to find it again. While it is produced by a charity organization (Water is Life), it presents some stark realities. And the bottom line is, “First world problems are not problems.” Watch this video, and then, the next time McDonald’s forgets to put mayo on your burger, think about these people.

Instead of complaining, we should be singing songs like this:

O God, listen to my cry! 
Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
 Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
(Psalms 61:1-2 NLT)

For us who name Jesus as Lord and Savior, “prayer is the most comprehensive and essential of actions.”

We separate ourselves from the bombardment of outside stimuli when we engage in prayer, and, in doing so, “deliberately develop every part of our lives, body and soul, in response to God.” This is not, of course, an easy task. “It is hard, exacting work – this life of prayer – but not at all grim.” There are times when “geysers of spontaneous joy erupt and spray out goodness.” And, in addition, we need each other in this journey. While one can pray quite well in solitude, one still needs the support of other saints.

One such companion, though long passed from this world, is David, the psalmist. “Read his psalms. They are David assembling all his experiences, all his difficulties and achievements, and all his doubts and affirmations before God and finding them shaped into wholeness, into salvation – as he becomes more honestly himself and more God’s both at the same time.”

Hopefully, we can also accomplish this. In true prayer (not just daily recitations from a “shopping list”), we become more honest and human as we pour out our hearts to God, our Father. And, in that context, it might be perfectly fine to complain about the grocery store not having any Cherry Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. As long as we come away in gratitude, remembering all the blessings that we have, and the promise of eternal bliss.

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

Father, I pray daily to You. Some days, my prayers are more authentic than others. Some days, my prayers are more numerous than others. Some days, those prayers are truly in response to You, and some days, they are more oblivious to Your blessings. I do love, though, how true prayer makes me more honestly myself and more Yours, at the same time, as Peterson suggest. Help me engage more in this kind of prayer on a daily basis.

Also, I pray for more gratitude. I know I share a good bit of gratitude, each day. But do I continue in that gratitude after I have typed and shared my list? Not that my list is contrived . . . not at all. But sometimes, I walk away from it, and then later find myself complaining about something trivial, that is not at all relevant or important. I pray that You deliver me from this trivial small-mindedness and help me to remember the plight of people in countries that do not have all the conveniences that I have here. In other words, keep me mindful of the great privilege that we have in this country. Well, some of us.

I thank You for the hope that comes when we remember that, just because You have not answered a prayer in the way we had hoped, doesn’t mean that You won’t, still, or “yet.” I also pray that You help me to remember that I can still praise You, even when circumstances look grim or challenging, as the Habakkuk verse says, and as the Matt Redman song says. “Blessed be Your name, when the road’s marked with suffering . . .”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Whatever the work of peacemaking is, it cannot be thought of as simply maintaining the “rule of law” of whatever regime holds political power. The path of peacemaking is altogether different than the one that leads to mere good citizenship or the preservation of a polity. Indeed, if peacemaking involves emulating the Prince of Peace who bears the government on his shoulder as whip scars and a wooden cross, it’s clear that peacemaking is intrinsically tied to solidarity with whomever one’s regime is presently nailing to a cross. The justice of Christ’s cross is a justice of reconciliation, a pathway to peace for those who have been denied it.
(Anthony M. Barr, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

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.

God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

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.

The Colors We See

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

May the peace of Christ find you, today.

Day 23,450

Just a little catching up to do, as I ran out of time, yesterday morning. Yesterday turned out to be a great day at work, and our lunch event went quite well. It was the quarterly birthday lunch that we have, and, for this one, the theme was soup and salad. About five or six of us brought some kind of soup to share, and there was a veritable plethora of salad ingredients from which to choose. I brought our latest soup creation, the “Creamy Italian Chicken,” and it was well-received.

I’ll give a quick recap of Tuesday night’s PWBA USBC Queens tournament finale. It was fun to watch, as I really didn’t have a strong feeling about who would win. Danielle McEwan, fourth seed, defeated Hope Gramly (from Texas, so I wouldn’t have minded if she had won) in the first game. Then Laura Plazas, a tiny bowler from Columbia who was third seed, narrowly defeated McEwan in the second game. Plazas missed two “easy” spares (is there really any such thing??) in the game, but, thanks to a split in McEwan’s tenth frame, had an opportunity to win the game by getting two strikes and five pins. She got two strikes and six. But alas, Ms. Plazas fell to the number two seed, Birgit Noreiks, from Germany, who then went on to win the tournament, beating Clara Guerrero, also from Columbia, in the final match. It was Birgit’s first major tournament win.

This week, beginning with qualifying rounds today, the PWBA is in Minnesota, for the Twin Cities Open. Oops. I’m wrong. Practice is today, and qualifying rounds will be tomorrow and Saturday, with the live finale on CBS Sports on Sunday afternoon. I will be able to see some of the qualifying, probably, on Bowl TV. At least tomorrow’s, but I am scheduled to work this Saturday.

C is leaving for Addison, IL, tomorrow morning, to take part in the Women’s Open Championship, which is being hosted at the same center the PWBA just finished with, Stardust Bowl. She will be bowling tomorrow evening and Saturday morning, after which she will drive southeastward to Indianapolis, to visit with R & J for a few days, before coming home on June 1. This works out well with my work schedule, as I will be able to drive her to the airport tomorrow morning, and then pick her up on Wednesday, as I will not be working next Wednesday.

The Texas Rangers beat the LA Angels, last night, 7-2, after losing Tuesday night, 5-3. The Rangers are now 19-23 for the season, still in third place in the AL West. This was a two-game series with the Angels, so they split it. Tonight, Martin Perez will start a four game series against Oakland, also on the west coast, so the games will be late.

The Boston Red Sox, after beating the Other Sox 16-3 Tuesday night, lost 3-1 last night. The Red Sox are 20-23 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East. They will play the Other Sox again, tonight.

While I wasn’t looking, the Yankees won their thirtieth game (and their thirty-first), and continue to dominate MLB, at 31-13. The Reds continue to hold down the cellar, but only because the Nationals have played two more games than them. Both teams have lost thirty games. There are currently eight teams with two-game win streaks. But only one with a six-game losing streak, which would be the KC Royals. The Dodgers continue to dominate the run differential column, with +101, and the Pirates continue to bring up the rear with -83. The Rangers are currently at -6, and the Red Sox are at +12 (that 16-3 win over the Other Sox certainly helped that statistic).

Since this is Thursday, I’ll be heading in for my regular 11:15-8:15 shift at the library, in a couple hours.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for wanting to give us happiness and for holding our earthly life firmly in your hands. May we have the confidence that we are in your hands. Grant us the light of faith. Let this light of faith guide us in material things and help us to wait in patience until the doors open for us to pass through according to your pleasure. So bless us all. Bless our life. May we grow joyful and free of heart through all that Jesus Christ gives. On the foundation he establishes for us may your divine working, your fatherly love, lift and support us throughout our lives. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my life is held firmly in our Father's hands
2. for joy, that circumstances of life cannot steal or wither
3. for all the colors that I can see, both in nature and in humanity
4. that my heart's desire is to desire God more than anything in this world
5. that God is constantly teaching me to pray, working on the interior life as much as, if not more than, the exterior

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

Listen to my prayer, O God.
 Do not ignore my cry for help!
 Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. 
My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. 
They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down. 
My heart pounds in my chest. 
The terror of death assaults me. 
Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking. 
Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! 
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. 

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. 
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. 
But you, O God, will send the wicked down to the pit of destruction. 
Murderers and liars will die young, but I am trusting you to save me. 
(Psalms 55:1-7, 22-23 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “color.”

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalms 19:1 NIV)

I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, when the sky is splashed with the most beautiful colors. Countless people, upon seeing a photo of one, will say something like, “God’s paintbrush.”

It’s more than just the sky, too. I’ll never forget our first trip to New England, back in 2000. We went in October, for our fifteenth anniversary. Never had we seen such vibrant colors in the trees. There were a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” on that trip.

I cannot imagine not being able to see color. I also celebrate the colors that I see in humanity. What a wonderful mosaic picture it will be when we all get to heaven, and join in that majestic choir that is depicted in the book of Revelation, singing the praises of the Lamb together.

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)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You for color. Of course, we understand that the phenomenon of color is caused by light, which is one of the first things You spoke into existence. Without light, there would be no color. Jesus is the Light of the world. Therefore, He is the source of all color. I am grateful for the many wonders that the miracle of color brings to me. I am also grateful for the palette of colors in the human race. Some people believe we should be “color-blind” when it comes to humanity. I believe the opposite. I think we should celebrate the colors, not ignore them. You do not show favoritism, and neither do we. But ignoring the colors in the human race would be like not being able to see the colors in the sunset. It would make life plain.

It is true, Father, that in many ways we are the same. But we are also all different. You created us each in a unique way, and I celebrate this uniqueness. All praise to You, Father!

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
(Psalms 73:25 NLT)

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
(John 3:30-36 NLT; the words of John the Baptizer)

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
(Colossians 3:2 NLT)

Father, my heart’s desire is that I desire nothing more than You. There is nothing on earth that is worthy of the same desire that I should have for You. I say “should have,” because that desire is not always as it should be. Help me to repent of this and to focus my desire on You. I do not desire, however, to be “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” (I bet You’ve never heard that one before.) Let my desire for You work itself out in the way I interact with people and circumstances on earth. Let it work out in love for You and visible love for other people. After all, love cannot simply be words and thoughts. Love must be shown in action. I cannot simply say, “I love you” to people. I must demonstrate this love by the things that I do. So help me to do that more and more, especially during these challenging days.

“There is nothing more important for a pastor to do than teach people how to pray,” says Eugene Peterson.

I know many pastors who would not agree with this statement, but I find that I do agree with it. He is quick to clarify that he doesn’t mean teaching people to say their prayers better. “The term prayer refers to the cultivation of your interior self, the experienced practice of God’s presence in the entirety of your life, not just the ‘religious’ parts.”

This, to me, is quite deep and profound. “In prayer,” he says, “we deal with our most ordinary self, everybody’s ordinary self, and learn to answer in the simplest and most direct language the God who speaks to us.”

I’ve heard many public prayers that were anything but simple and direct.

Peterson, here, is focusing on the interior, though, not the outward. There are countless books and lectures on how to deal with the outward pieces of our lives. It seems, these days, that there is a higher emphasis being placed on the interior life. I’m seeing a lot more focus on meditation and such. This is good, but not so much when it is misdirected.

When Peterson says he wants us to “get good at prayer,” he is not referring to the words we say when we pray out loud in public. Nor is he referring to getting the words right when we are praying in private. There is no set form or formula of words that will magically cause God to answer the way we want Him to.

What Peterson is getting at is living a life of prayer. “Prayer” begins deep inside us. Sometimes, there is no more adequate prayer than the word “help.” On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the ten minute public prayer by deacon so-and-so at the end of the weekly church service is never warranted. God is not impressed by the number of and largeness of the words we use, nor is He impressed when we put on our deep, “pastoral” voice when we pray.

I believe what God is “impressed” (I don’t even like using that word, because, I mean, what in the world could we ever do that would “impress” the Almight??) with is the quality of our interior life.

And this is what Peterson is getting at when he speaks of teaching someone how to “pray.”

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

Father, I have a feeling that, when Jesus’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray, this was not what they had in mind. Or maybe they did. I’m not sure that the answer He gave is what they were looking for, either. Were they asking for a formula to gain Your approval? I’m not wise enough to know. And, while a large part of Christendom takes what Jesus answered with as a formula, I see it more as a guide. I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with quoting the prayer verbatim. I do it frequently. But I also believe that it is something we can use as a sort of “springboard.” It seems to cover all of the necessary categories of prayer.

And I believe it addresses the interior life quite well. It speaks of our relationship with You, to begin with, with a desire that Your most Holy Name be hallowed or revered in all the earth. It speaks of a desire that You would bring about Your kingdom on this earth and that Your perfect will would come to pass. These are interior desires more than outward circumstances. Attitudes are addressed in the prayer of Jesus. And maybe it’s more about attitude than we realize.

As I continue, at this late state in my life, to learn how to pray, I ask that You would keep working in my interior life, drawing me ever closer to You. Because I find that the places I struggle the most with are inside me; thoughts that come to my mind, frequently unbidden, with which I must wrestle, and sometimes just push on out the other window. I acknowledge that, just because a thought comes to mind, doesn’t mean I must entertain it.

So help me to work this out, Lord, as I continue to learn to pray. And then, I ask, please keep me in more of an attitude of prayer all day, that I might be in constant connection with You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I want to end this by sharing a weekly devotional from a local Lutheran church that I visit, sometimes. It’s not directly related to today’s blog (or is it?) but most definitely related to our week, here. The hymn included, “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” is most certainly appropriate.

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.

“Lord, Lord!”

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,439

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

Here are the same verses from The Living Bible:

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

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It can’t be any plainer to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.