Never

Today is Saturday, the eighth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,312

Fifteen days until Hamilton!

Yesterday was a sad day, as we learned of the deaths of two more entertainment giants. First, I learned that Sidney Poitier passed away at the age of 94. Most people remember him for To Sir With Love, but I remember him more for A Patch of Blue. Minutes after I learned of his passing, I learned that Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and Mask, among others, had also passed away, at the age of 82. Both of them died on Thursday.

It was, of course, another great day at the library. In addition to working the computer center, which seemed busier than usual, with more people needing extended help, I was asked to jump over and do some shelving for the last couple of hours. Due to some unusual “projects” going on at the time, the shelving hall had gotten very backed up. There’s a chance that I might be doing a little more of that today, in between my times at the circulation desk. I believe my manager sent out an email asking the circ manager if I could do shelving during my “off-desk” hours.

Of course, I’m totally fine with this. Whatever they need me to do, I’m cool with.

Today, I am due in at 9:30, working until 6:15.

It is currently 45 degrees (which I believe is warmer than yesterday’s high), and is projected to reach 64 later today. It is currently cloudy, but is expected to be clear, this evening. Tonight’s low is expected to be 45. The temp range for the next week seems a bit more “normal” for this time of year, ranging from just below freezing in the morning to as high as 68 one day.

I finished reading A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, last night, and posted my review of it in my other blog. I am currently reading, at the recommendation of one of the librarians, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens). This volume contains both stories, along with quite a bit of critical content. I will try to get through all of the critical content after reading the stories. After completing two books in the first week of 2022, I am ahead of schedule on my reading challenge for the year. I’m sure that will not last long.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Little Quiet Moments, by Daryl Madden

In the midst of life
An offer here for free
To take a little moment
To be still and be

A moment to ponder
A change of attitude
Practicing of wonder
To foster gratitude

A moment of dwelling
With our being whole
To open to Spirit
And center the soul

A moment of vision
Perspective to see
Of the infinite ways
That Gods’ blessing me

Little quiet moments
An insight of gleaning
That seem to give the rest
Extra special meaning

This poem inspired by a quote from Fred Rogers: “How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration and meditative poetry at the link provided above.

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for books and the authors who write them
2. for all of my new friends at the Hurst Public Library
3. for the fullness of joy in the presence of the Father
4. that I have a part in God's story, no matter how small it may seem
5. that God will never leave us or forsake us

Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, we get to the book of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth was an “outsider,” not born into the faith. “But she came to find herself gathered into the story and given a quiet and obscure part that proved critical to the way everything turned out.”

In the midst of all the great names of faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon), we find this ordinary, seemingly random person. You and I, along with Ruth, might find ourselves saying, “Surely there is no way that I can have any significant part on such a stage.”

Of course, Ruth said no such thing, because she wasn’t even aware that there was a stage. But we, as we look back on this story, can easily find ourselves wondering how we, as similarly ordinary people, can possibly have a part in God’s great plan.

Says Peterson, “The book of Ruth makes it possible for each of us to understand ourselves, however ordinary or ‘out of it,’ as irreplaceable in the full telling of God’s story. We count–every last one of us–and what we do counts.”

“Blessed be GOD! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.”
(Ruth 4:14 MSG)

As Rich Mullins said, in "Who God Is Gonna Use," 
"You never know who God is gonna use
A princess or a baby
Maybe even you or me."
"Behold, I will do a new thing . . ."
(Isaiah 43:19)

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
(Job 12:12 ESV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
(Proverbs 16:31 ESV)

That Isaiah verse has popped up a lot, since January 1. I suppose that is always a theme for the “New Year,” that God is doing a “new thing.” But then, He is always doing a “new thing,” isn’t He? We read that favorite verse from Lamentations frequently, that talks about His mercies being “new every morning.” We wake up every morning to a new day. And who doesn’t remember the old cliche, from the seventies, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!” (Okay, maybe it was earlier than the seventies.)

Cliche as it is, it’s true. Every day is the “first day of the rest of your life.” What do we do about that? And, no matter how old we get (I’m almost 64, now), God can and will keep using us to do “new things.” We are never too old to be a part of God’s great story!

Speaking of “never,” that happens to be today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day. Harriet Beecher Stowe is quoted as saying, “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

The word “never” occurs in 186 verses in the Bible (in the English Standard Version). The first four of those are in Genesis 8 and 9, when God promises that He will never again destroy the earth in the way that He did in the flood. In Judges 2:1, “the angel of the LORD” says, “I will never break my covenant with you.”

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
(Psalms 34:5 ESV)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(Psalms 55:22 ESV)

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
(Psalms 112:6 ESV)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
(Isaiah 51:6 ESV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
(Daniel 6:26 ESV)

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
(Zephaniah 3:15 ESV)

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14 ESV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
(John 6:35-37 ESV)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
(John 10:28 ESV)

There are many more occurrences of the word, a number of them more negative. But the point I make, here, is that God has made promises that He will not leave us, and that those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him, will not be put to shame, cast out, or perish. There are other places where the word “never” is exclusively used in the KJV, but the ESV uses a word such as “not.” Deuteronomy 31:8 is one such place.

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

In light of all of those “nevers,” I think it is safe to say that we, as His children, should “never give up,” because it’s “never too late.” You see, if our God is always in the business of doing “new things,” then we are “never” too old to be included in those “new things.” I’m wearing out my ” key, here.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” we’ve all heard. I disagree, because I’m an “old dog” and I learn “new tricks” almost every day.

God is doing a “new thing.” You never know who He is going to use in His plan. Remember, He even used a donkey once (go back and listen to that Rich Mullins song again). He used some real jerks in the story (go back and read about Judges in yesterday’s blog). He used a “nobody” like Ruth to be the great-grandmother of King David, in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

I won’t be in the lineage of a Savior, but I know for a fact that God has used me in peoples’ lives. I am confident that He will continue to do so, even though, in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty much a nobody. But you know what?

Everybody is somebody to somebody.

Father, I am grateful to know that You will never give up on me. Because of that, I will also never give up on You and what You can do in someone’s life, or in the life of our world and culture. I will never stop calling out to You; I will never stop worshiping You; I will never stop singing and playing my instruments to You. And I believe that, no matter how old I live to be, that You will continue to do new and fresh things within me and those around me.

I continue (because I will never give up) to pray that You will intervene and eradicate the plague that surrounds us. To all appearances, it is getting worse, daily. The country where I live had 850,000 new cases yesterday, a new record. But You know this. I implore You (yes, a fancy word for “beg”) to rid us of this disease, Father. I pray that the cases will stop, that the hospitals and their workers will get some relief. I also pray that people would stop being so mean to one another. Help us to love again, Lord. Help me to do my part, even more than my part, to spread love in this world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Generosity Begets Generosity

Good morning. Today is Friday, the seventh of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

May God’s peace flood your soul, today.

Day 23,311

Sixteen days until Hamilton, assuming it doesn’t get cancelled.

I remain concerned that it will, still, as the new cases of Covid continue to break previous records. The U.S. had 751,000 new cases, yesterday.

Regarding the Church calendar, I will mostly be following whatever Pray As You Go says, this year. I’ve already noticed that they begin counting “Ordinary Time” next week. The resource I used last year counted the entire time between yesterday and Ash Wednesday as the season of Epiphany, and didn’t begin counting Ordinary Time until after Easter. If you’re confused, join the club. I will say that Pray As You Go is a ministry of Jesuit Ministries in Great Britain.

I’ve already done better with my “aspirations” for the new year. I’ve definitely done more reading, and am already just over sixty pages away from finishing my second book of the year (A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins), and we are still in the first week! Several nights, this week, after we have finished dinner and our TV watching, rather than crank up a video game, I have simply sat on the coach and read a while.

I feel like I’m doing a little better with the praying. That can always improve, but I’m finding myself stopping and whispering a quiet prayer any time I receive a prayer request on FB (or Tik Tok, but I haven’t gotten very many there, yet).

However, I have yet to make any music, this year. It will come, I am confident.

I had a great four hours, yesterday, at the library, but it is really messing up my “what day is this” bit on this week. I had to ask C if this was Friday. Of course, I always get to work on Fridays, in the computer center. This is also my week to work Saturday, which has not happened since before Christmas. In fact, I have not worked a Saturday since December 18th, and that was an “extra” shift for me.

I don’t really have much else, so on with the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Father, I ask You to be present in this time. I know that You are here, but I am asking for something deeper, more of an awareness of that presence. As I read various portions of Your Word, this morning, I pray for wisdom and insight into what lies ahead for me today and in my life.

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is with me, and there is no reason for me to be afraid of anything (unless I wander off the path)
2. that God is my refuge and my strength, my fortress and my hiding place
3. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
4. that God doesn't need perfect people to do His good work (he manages to use me, after all)(for proof of this, read Judges)
5. that every good and perfect gift comes from God
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

“How do I know my words and actions are bringing me closer to God? What things make me turn away from God?”

These are good questions for reflection. These days, I’m seeing a lot of videos on social media about “deconstruction” of faith. It is a disturbing, yet understandable trend. A lot of it stems from, unfortunately, the political climate of the past four-plus years, and the rabid association of the “white evangelical church” with the “extreme right.” Some of the people who are deconstructing seem to have abandoned faith altogether, while some continue to seek Jesus, but outside the confines of the traditional “church.”

It is my opinion that one cannot leave the “Church” (capital C), while it is totally possible to leave the “church.” The reason I say that is because the Church is the Body of Christ. And if one is truly a member of the Church, one cannot leave it.

For these people, their words and actions may or may not be bringing them closer to God. For some, it is obvious that they are drifting further from God. So how, indeed, do I know? And note that the questions are not in regard to anyone else but me. This is a personal reflection. It is not for me to reflect on whether your words and actions are bringing you closer to God.

If my words and actions are bringing me closer to God, I believe that my words and actions will, in turn, reflect that. It is somewhat cyclical. If I am being drawn to love others (yes, here we go again), then I think that I am drawing closer to God. If my heart is full of compassion, I believe I am growing closer to God. If we keep reading in the fourth chapter of 1 John, I think we see this to be clear. If I am growing closer to God, then I am growing in love.

If my words and actions indicate bigotry and hatred, I am most definitely not growing closer to God. And, I am learning, I cannot afford to watch or listen to too many of these deconstruction videos, because they can cloud my thinking. I don’t have good answer for these people, nor do I intend to debate them. That is not my place; not my “ministry,” if you will. I am not a “Christian apologist.” My job is to love God and worship Him, and to love and pray for other people. I will say this, though. If you are a person who feels that “Christianity” has hurt you, one of two things is true, in my opinion. Either what you encountered is not “true” Christianity, or what you were looking for was not real Christianity, but some kind of personal validation. Real Christianity, true followers of Christ, is not in the business of hurting people.

Jesus, I ask You to help me recognize both the things that draw me closer to You and the things that tend to draw me away from You. Help me to be faithful to love and pray for others, and to love and worship You. Remind me to allow others, who are more gifted in that area, to debate with the deconstructionists. Also, please remind me of the truth of the words, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

In Symphony of Salvation, in the piece about the book of Judges, Eugene H. Peterson makes this statement: “God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

I’m going to let that sit there for a minute.

“God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

This may shock some people, but, if you read the book of Judges, it is hard to disagree. I have made mention of this fact, in previous entries, but possibly the most often-repeated phrase in the book is, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

“It is always something of a shock to enter the pages of the book of Judges and find ourselves immersed in nearly unrelieved mayhem.”

I’m sorry (no I’m not), but did anyone else just see this?

The beauty of the story is that God works with us “in whatever moral and spiritual condition he finds us. God, we are learning, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people.”

Lift your hearts high, O Israel, with abandon, 
volunteering yourselves with the people—
bless GOD!
(Judges 5:9 MSG)
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
 Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “giving.”

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
(James 1:17 NIV)

“Giving” can mean a lot of things. Or at least it can be seen in a lot of different ways. I don’t really want to talk about how much C and I give to others, because I never want to appear to be boastful about it. But know this. When you give to someone, out of the kindness of your heart, or, honestly, even if it is out of a sense of obligation (but remember, “God loves a cheerful giver”), that gift comes from God. It may have come out of my heart or my bank account or my pocket, but if it is a “good and perfect gift,” it originated from God.

And yes, I believe that gifts that we give to people can, indeed, be “good and perfect.” Because I believe that the opposite of the statement is also true. (“Opposite” is probably not the right word.) If every good and perfect gift comes from God, then it can also be said that every gift that comes from God is good and perfect. So if I give a gift, and it comes from the heart of God, and I am simply the channel, then that gift is “good and perfect.”

How does this apply to prayer? I can pray to be more giving. I can pray that God opens my eyes to needs today, as I interact with people, that I might give something to help that need. That could be time, money, attention, or anything else that I might have. It might just be a friendly smile or greeting, a notion of love.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, needs love.

Father, I am grateful that You are able to use people who are not necessarily “good,” nor are we perfect, to do Your good work. Thank You for the examples of people in the Bible, people who are jerks, people who are sinful, people who just aren’t very nice or good, sometimes, yet You used them in Your plan to bring salvation to the world. This means that You can use me, even me, and You have, and You continue to, so I am blessed and honored and humbled by this.

I thank You that You have placed a generous, giving heart within me, but I do not rest on that. I believe I can do better, and You can help me do so. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:38 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Star of Wonder

Good morning! Today is Thursday, the sixth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. Today is the day of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,310

Seventeen days until Hamilton!

As noticed above, today is “Epiphany,” the day when the church celebrates the arrival of the “wise men” to visit Jesus. The season of Epiphany lasts until the beginning of Lent, which occurs on Wednesday (always Wednesday), March 2, known as “Ash Wednesday,” which comes immediately “Fat Tuesday,” or “Mardi Gras.”

It was a nice day at the library, yesterday (when is it not). It was relatively quiet, but there was a flurry of activity during the last ten minutes that we were open. I got to register a new patron, and fielded a phone call from one who thought that a book she had turned in was still showing up on her account. This call happened at 5:57, and I was not looking forward to having to initiate a “claims returned” process with only three minutes left in the day. I’m not very familiar with that process, as I don’t believe I have ever had to do one on my own, yet. Fortunately, when I looked up her account, the book in question did not show as being checked out.

As noted, yesterday, I have agreed to work an extra shift today, from 10-2. That won’t be bad, even though it is supposed to be a day off for me. I don’t have to go in early, and I’ll get home in plenty of time to get a couple things accomplished.

It’s a cold day in DFW, today. currently 30 degrees (or 32, depending on who I listen to), and only getting up to just below 40 today. Tomorrow’s low is predicted to be in the low twenties. Egad. Fortunately, there is no precipitation predicted until Saturday when temps are supposed to remain well above freezing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God,
by the leading of a star 
You manifested Your only Son 
to the peoples of the earth:
Lead us, who know You now by faith,
to Your presence,
where we may see Your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Collect for Epiphany)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. 
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose 
went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, 
and they fell down and worshiped him.
 Then, opening their treasures,
 they offered him gifts, 
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that, because of Jesus, God holds me in His arms today
3. for the "star of wonder" that led the Magi to Jesus
4. for the admonition to love our enemies
5. for strength and courage that God gives us
6. for the awe I feel when I consider His holiness

In today’s final examination of Thomas More’s meditation (the text can be found at this link), I will include thought written by Richard J. Foster, in Spiritual Classics.

“This selection by Thomas More simply does me in. The breadth of it exhausts me. One line maybe I can enter into a little, but even then some single sentences contain a lifetime: ‘To think my most enemies my best friends.’ However, the prayer is not just one sentence, but sentence piled upon sentence, covering, as it seems, all thought, word, and deed. It is too much to take in, too much to expect, too much to hope for–in myself or anyone else.

“But then I realize that More is not telling me many things but only one thing. And what is that one thing? Simply to love God. When I see this it all becomes clear. Then I can read each line as another aspect of the call to love. And so, once again, I am struck by the unity of all these writers on contemplative prayer. They all keep calling us back to our first love. Their message, it seems, keeps tune to the beat of our heart . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God.”

The main thing I want to present from Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, today, from the book of Joshua, is that everything presented in that book is grounded in the reality of real people and places. Grand ideas have no life of their own apart from the people and places in which they occurred. Says Peterson, “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less–this continuation of the salvation story–Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families, name by name, assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.”

Just as GOD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn’t leave incomplete one thing that GOD had commanded Moses.
(Joshua 11:15 MSG)

A favorite verse in Joshua is 1:9. Oddly enough, when I was in school, I memorized verse 8, but never verse 9.

Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(Joshua 1:9 MSG)

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
(Revelation 4:8 NIV)

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
(Psalms 33:8 NIV)

Today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day is “persistence.” That’s a good word.

He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
(Luke 11:8 CEV)

I’ve often wondered at this teaching of Jesus. He seems to be saying that we should “pester” God with our requests. For some reason, I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. But here Jesus seems to be telling us exactly that. There is another story that He tells, in another place, about a widow seeking justice from an ungodly ruler.

Persistence is a good trait to have. We don’t give up, or we should not give up. The book tells a story of a pianist who lost his right arm during WWI. He refused to stop playing, and began commissioning pieces written for just the left hand. That is definitely persistence.

But our persistence should be in doing good things, having good desires. As we remember that “nothing is impossible” with God, we persist, we persevere. I am persisting in my quest to have a “love revolution” in our culture. And I persist in my prayers to have that come about.

Father, I thank You for the record of the “wise men” visiting Jesus and giving Him gifts that seemed to point toward His burial preparation. I thank You for that “star of wonder.” I am also grateful for this persistent command to love each other, and more specifically, to love our enemies. Help me to do that today and every day. I pray for a Love Revolution to take hold in our country, in our world. That is only possible when people hold Jesus dear to their hearts and allow You to hold them in Your might arms.

Give us strength from the message of the book of Joshua, helping us to be grounded in its reality. I have no desire to “escape” reality. When I want to do that, I play games or watch movies. But then I return to the true reality, knowing that You exist there and that You give us mundane tasks to complete, which help us get down in the dirt with people.

Thank You for the sense of awe I have when I consider Your holiness. And thank You for Jesus’s stories, encouraging us to be persistent and never give up on praying.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

God In Present Tense

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the fifth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. It’s the twelfth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,309

Eighteen days until Hamilton!

It was a fine day, yesterday. My evening at the library was different than usual. I was asked, at the beginning, to cover in the computer center while the full-time librarian went on lunch break, so I didn’t get a lot of shelving done. In fact, I didn’t technically put anything on the shelves, last night, as the remainder of my time was spent sorting a cart of DVDs. While that task may sound simple, it’s more time-consuming than you might think. I have to open every case to check the DVD in the case and make sure it matches the bar code number on the case. Then I have to make sure all DVDs in a multiple set (such as a season of a TV show) are in the case. Then I have to make sure that each case has one of our sticky notes with places to indicate issues with the media (won’t play, skips, and so on). Then, before putting them back on the cart in alphabetical order by title, I have to lock each case with our magnetic locking device. That is occasionally a challenging task, as sometimes those locking mechanisms don’t want to work.

At any rate, I was able to get the full cart sorted and ready for someone to shelve this morning, and then walked the shelves to straighten up some, and picked up stray books along the way, which we mark as “used” in the system. If a book is taken off the shelf, but not checked out, it is marked “used” so that the librarians know that there was at least some interest in the book. This helps them when the “weeding” times come.

I’m up pretty early, this morning, and not sure why. I am working the full day, today, 9:15-6:15, and it is the first full day since my new devotional routine began. That may have something to do with why I couldn’t go back to sleep. I also signed up to work an extra shift tomorrow, from 10-2, to cover for someone. I don’t know who, but that doesn’t really matter. I’m always willing to work an extra shift if it doesn’t interfere with any other plans, and it is only a half day, so I’ll still have time to prep for our Chicken Stir-fry tomorrow evening.

Oops. I just remembered . . . I’m supposed to start soup in the crock pot, this morning. And my coffee cup is empty. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting. The soup is started. It’s Chicken Ranch Crockpot soup, today. Chicken breast, three cans of 98%fat free cream of chicken soup, and one packet of ranch dressing mix. Oh, and a can of water, using one of the soup cans.

Okay, here we go.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Little Things, by Daryl Madden

Little gifts of kindness
Of generosity
Bring light to this world
Through humility

Little acts of love
Through the trinity
Draw the world as One
Bound Spiritually

Little prayers of faith
Through divinity
Turns the worlds direction
Oh, so gradually

All these little moments
One day we will see
In another world
Flow to eternity

The little things in life
The world sees as small
Turns out in the end
Are the greatest, of all

This is something to remember when we feel like we can’t do anything to change the world because we are only one person. One person can change the world of one other person. Please check out Daryl’s other poetry on the link provided above.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
 let them ever sing for joy, 
and spread your protection over them, 
that those who love your name may exult in you. 
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; 
you cover him with favor as with a shield. 
(Psalms 5:11-12 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for coffee
2. for little acts of love and kindness, spread around the world
3. for these quiet pauses, each morning
4. for colors; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, and all the combinations
5. that Jesus looks at me (and you) and sees good things
6. for Jesus's calling on me to follow Him
7. that God's Word is not just some literary artifact to be studied, but can be brought into present tense in our lives
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 
Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"
 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." 
Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 
Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." 
And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." 
(John 1:43-51 ESV)

When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he noted a good quality about him. What good qualities does Jesus see in us? I assure you that He does see good qualities in us. As hard as I am on myself, when I look within, I believe that Jesus, who can see all and knows me better than I know myself, looks upon me and sees some good things.

Yet I find within me things that I would have Him change. What things would you have Jesus change in you? I encourage you to talk about these things with Him, both the good things that He finds in you, as well as those things you would like to see changed.

Father, I am thankful, this morning, for the calling of Jesus on my life. Obviously, You found something in me that was worth having, or You would not have chosen me and called me. Yet, anything that You found was something that You already put there. This puts me back at Psalm 139 again. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Show me the “greater things,” Lord. Let me see where You are working in this world that seems so lacking of Your presence. Help me do the little things that You place in my path, little things that can change the world of one of “the least of these.”

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

(From Pray As You Go)

As I continue looking at the spiritual discipline of meditation, the question is posed, “What are some obstacles to meditation for people in secular careers?”

That is an interesting question, especially considering that the word “secular” did not come into use in that context until after the fifties. What, exactly, is a “secular” career? The opposite of a “sacred” career? Did not Brother Lawrence even consider the washing of dishes as “sacred?”

But I digress. It is not the purpose, here, to debate the difference between “secular” and “sacred.” I understand the meaning behind the question. All of my full-time jobs have been in a “secular” career. And while there may not be a large number of obstacles to meditation in these careers, they don’t have the advantage of having a career in some kind of ministry. For example, a pastor should have all kinds of time to meditate. Now whether or not he or she takes advantage of that is on them.

In contrast, someone working an 8-5 job in some kind of industry doesn’t have an abundance of time to stop and meditate during the day. However, those obstacles can be overcome. For example, last night, as I was walking the shelves of the library, I prayed, which can be a form of meditation. I could just as easily have gone over memorized passages of Scripture in my head, while glancing through shelves of books. The challenge is to not look at all the books and wonder, “Oh, that looks interesting; what is it about?”

One of the reasons I have, for many years, chosen to get up much earlier than I need to, is so that I can have the time to read and meditate on Scripture and other worthy writings, before I begin the tasks of my day. That’s what I’m doing right now, because I cannot guarantee that I will have a chance to have quiet reflection during my work day, even at a place like a library. Working the circulation desk is not always quiet.

But taking time to pause in the morning, like this, also helps me be more aware of times throughout the day when I can pause and reflect or pray. There is plenty to pray about, at least for me.

Meditation is an important discipline to engage in. It is a process of thinking through passages of Scripture that have been read, praying them back to the Lord, along with questions about what has been read. Is there something I need to ask Him? Is there an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak further into this passage, helping me understand it? And while there are certainly obstacles to this discipline, in “secular” careers, they can be overcome.

Father, help me to be more aware of times, during my day, when I can pause and reflect on things I have read earlier. Help me to rely on the Holy Spirit to draw my attention to these things and remember what I have read.

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson describes Deuteronomy as “maybe the longest sermon ever.” Along with Leviticus, Deuteronomy probably stands as one of the least favorite books of the Bible to read. It is, essentially, “Moses, standing on the Plains of Moab with all Israel assembled before him, preaching.”

Peterson says that this sermon “does what all sermons are intended to do: Take God’s words, written and spoken in the past, take the human experience, ancestral and personal, of the listening congregation, then reproduce the words and experience as a single event right now, in this present moment.”

Peterson rejects that thought that God’s Word is just a literary artifact to be studied, or that human experience “is dead history merely to be regretted or admired.” It all must be brought into today, into context.

This commandment that I'm commanding you today isn't too much for you, it's not out of your reach. 
It's not on a high mountain—you don't have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. 
And it's not across the ocean—you don't have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. 
No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! 
Look at what I've done for you today: I've placed in front of you 

Life and Good, 
Death and Evil. 

And I command you today: Love GOD, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by GOD, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess. 
(Deuteronomy 30:11-16 MSG)

Notice how the words “today,” “here,” and “now” keep recurring. This sermon’s importance is highlighted by the fact that this is the last stop on their long journey to the Promised Land. Moses puts their entire experience, as well as the entirety of the commands of God, into present tense.

Be vigilant, 
listen obediently to these words that I command you 
so that you'll have a good life,
 you and your children, 
for a long, long time, 
doing what is good and right in the eyes of GOD, your God. 
(Deuteronomy 12:28 MSG)

“and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
(Psalms 50:15 ESV)

In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
(Psalms 86:7 ESV)

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
(Isaiah 40:29 ESV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

Today’s word in Pray a Word a Day is “creativity.” Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Kids are naturally creative, it seems. What happens to us, though? It seems like most of us lose that creativity when we get older. There are a handful of people, who seem almost “genius-like,” who never seem to grow up. And I don’t blame them, if “growing up” means losing your imagination.

How can the word “creativity” be used in prayer, today? I will be considering this as I walk through this day. For me, it lends itself to my desire to make more music this year. Making music, whether writing it or performing someone else’s creation, is, itself, creativity. Every time I play a song, regardless of who wrote it or when it was written, I create something new. That is worth considering, don’t you think?

Also, consider . . . we were created by the Master Creator, “in His image.”

Father, fan my creativity into flame today. Make my imagination soar. As I find time to meditate on Your Word, throughout this day, and as I am called upon to pray for the needs of whoever you put in my path, make me creative in these tasks. There is nothing wrong with creativity in prayer. Thank You for giving me an imagination, and I thank You that there is still the heart of a child lurking in there, somewhere.

Father, I continue to pray for relief in this pandemic. Numbers are soaring; hospitalization are at an all-time high; make us aware of the needs, and give us a miracle. I have been asked to pray for people who have Covid, Lord, and I do that. I am asking for a miracle for one family, today, if it is not too late. They need a miraculous healing, Father. I pray Your healing blessing upon them.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Messy Community

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the fourth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. It’s the eleventh day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill you today.

Day 23,308

Nineteen days until Hamilton!

It’s chilly, this morning, some would say cold, but not as cold as the last two mornings. I do not think C had to scrape ice off her windshield, this morning. As I begin, this morning, it is 34 degrees, with a projected high of 65. A nice day.

I don’t believe I have mentioned our neighborhood cat. He lives across the street, and is named Dommy (or Dommie, not sure how they spell it). Several times a day, he activates the motion sensors on our cameras in front of the house as he makes his rounds. We actually enjoy watching this. Twice, yesterday, he followed exactly the same path, across the sidewalk in front of our porch, and then down the driveway on the driver’s sided of my car. I’m thinking about finding something to give to the folks across the street for him. I need to find out if he is also an indoor cat, or strictly outside.

I have a little bit of laundry to do today, as well as a side trip to a different grocery store. There is at least one thing we need more of that we can only get at Walmart Neighborhood Market. Maybe I should sign up for their delivery service, as well.

I work my four hour shelving shift this evening, from 4:15 – 8:15. So, at some point, I will go out and pick up Subway for lunch for S and me, and get a salad for C for her dinner. I also just remembered that I need to swing by CVS to get some scripts for S. Hopefully there won’t be four people in line getting Covid tests.

I finished my first book of the year, yesterday, so that’s good. It is called The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski (Polish). It introduces a beloved character known as The Witcher. I plan to read more of his books, and believe we have most of them in the library. Next up is A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, author the best-seller, The Girl on the Train. Believe it or not, I am also still working through The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. Hopefully, I will finish that soon. It is actually a good book, but not an easy read. Lots of footnotes and historical information.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Spirit Blessed, by Daryl Madden

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
As colors rising to express
To start this day with our request
In the light of dawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With humble will let us confess
To Your power we attest
Unto our knees of falling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
When we are put to the test
Through Your grace let us profess
Your Word of wisdom spawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
Let this weary soul find rest
And turn to you when we are stressed
When we feel darkness calling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With our praise, our joy express
In sharing prayer, let us invest
Our daily path of walking

I like the rhythm of this poem, as well as the prayer expressed. Yes, Spirit, come!

For great is the LORD, 
and greatly to be praised, 
and he is to be feared above all gods.
 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, 
but the LORD made the heavens. 
Splendor and majesty are before him; 
strength and joy are in his place. 
(1 Chronicles 16:25-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the splendor and majesty of the Lord, and the strength and joy we receive from Him
2. for the opportunity to spend more time with Jesus, as He asks me, "What are you looking for?" (John 1:35-42)
3. that Jesus revealed the way to God; it is not hidden
4. for the enlarged capacity to love each other and be more generous with our resources
5. for the communities that God has placed us in, messy as they are
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, 
"Behold, the Lamb of God!" 
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, 
"What are you seeking?" 
And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), 
"where are you staying?" 
He said to them, "Come and you will see." 
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him,
 "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). 
He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 
"You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). 
(John 1:35-42 ESV)

Jesus asks the question, here, “What are you seeking?” This could be stated as “What are you looking for?” I believe that we could hear Jesus asking us that same question today. What is my answer? What am I looking for?

The answer to this question varies, depending on the day, depending on my spiritual state of being. Today, my answer is going to be more spiritually-leaning than materially-leaning. I am looking for Him. That’s not just a “Sunday School” answer, either. I really am looking for Jesus; I’m looking for God. Not that I have not found Him, mind you. But that I am looking for more depth of relationship. I am looking to be more like Jesus so that I can be more in tune with what God wants for my life.

Apparently, the two disciples that were following Him weren’t quite ready for the question. The best they could come up with was, “Where are you staying?” To which He simply replied, “Come and you will see.” So Jesus invites me to come and see where He is staying. What do I find there? What does He say to me? How do I respond?

Obviously, these are questions that require the use of imagination, and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe I would find a simple abode, simply furnished with basic necessities, no frills or extras. Jesus would only have what He needed to live. And I believe that, as I spend time with Him, He would ask me again, “What are you looking for?” Or maybe, “What do you want?” I don’t believe He is satisfied with the first answer to His question. And my response would be what I typed earlier. “I want to know You. I want to know as I am known.”

Reading/listening to this passage again, I use my imagination and consider spending an afternoon with Jesus. What would this feel like? My heart’s desire is to spend more time with Him during 2022.

(Questions taken from Pray As You Go)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

As I continue to look at Thomas More’s “A Godly Meditation” in Spiritual Classics, the question is asked, “What lessons can I learn from Thomas More’s attitude and his meditation?” I posted the parts that spoke most to me a couple days ago, but if you want to read the entire thing, it can be found here.

What I learn or see in this meditation is an attitude of contentment and humility, or at least the desire to have more of both. There is value in setting our minds on the Lord and, for the most part, ignoring “the blast of men’s mouths” (I can’t get over how much I love that phrase). More expresses a deep desire to know the Lord and His ways, as opposed to the world and its ways. He desires no worldly company. He desires to “lean unto the comfort of God.” In our current culture, it is popular to use the phrase “press into God.” I, personally, prefer the concept of leaning. I’m not trying to force my way in; rather, I am depending on Him, leaning on Him.

More desires to know his own wretchedness and to have a deep humility and meekness about him. Death is not something to be ignored, but should be something of which we are very aware. It is reality. It does not go away if we ignore it. He uses the phrase “to abstain from vain confabulations.” I had to look that up. It basically means conversation. So there is a deep desire to have all conversations be meaningful.

But I think the most powerful piece of this comes toward the end. ” To think my most enemies my best friends; for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.” As Jesus told us, we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Thomas More bears this out in this meditation. And, as he ends it, he stresses that all of these attitudes are worth more than “all the treasures of all the princes and kings.” This seems to line up with the sentiment concerning wisdom, that we get from the book of Proverbs.

Father, I pray that You would help me develop the kind of mindset found in Thomas More’s meditation. And, as I hear Jesus asking me what I am looking for, I continue to answer that I am looking for You, and a deeper relationship with You, that I might be more like Jesus in every way.

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene Peterson briefly examines the book of Numbers from a perspective of “growing up” in community.

When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at GOD’s command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored GOD’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to GOD’s command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment GOD issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at GOD’s command and they marched at GOD’s command. They lived obediently by GOD’s orders as delivered by Moses.
(Numbers 9:17-23 MSG)

“Many of us fondle a romanticized spirituality in our imaginations. The ‘God’s in his heaven/all’s right with the world’ sort of thing.” I love this, because it is, to a degree, true of many people. This tends to express itself in a longing for a simpler time, “nostalgia,” as it were. Or perhaps even wishing to be born back in “Bible times.” That’s kind of amusing, because, if you read the Bible accurately and carefully, there is no indication at all that life was easy, or that serving/worshiping God was a piece of proverbial cake. The books of Numbers through at least Judges show us what a mess these people were.

As communities, we need organizational help. We need relational help. “The people who find themselves called and led and commanded by God find themselves in the company of men and women who sin a lot – quarrel, bicker, grumble, rebel, fornicate, steal – you name it, we do it. We need help in getting along with each other.” I can think of no time when that has been more obvious than the present day.

Perhaps we need the prayer of Moses.

“Please forgive the wrongdoing of this people out of the extravagance of your loyal love just as all along, from the time they left Egypt, you have been forgiving this people.”
(Numbers 14:19 MSG)

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(Luke 10:22 ESV)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
(John 17:3 ESV)

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:26 ESV)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
(Ephesians 1:17 ESV)

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:19 ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 ESV)

The word for today, in Pray a Word a Day, is “enlarge.”

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
(1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV)

Today’s writer, identified only as “Bob” (didn’t we already have a “Bob?”), writes this:

“It’s a great word to pray, and it can apply to so many areas of concern and desire. For God’s kingdom to rule in my life: Enlarge. For my capacity to love others: Enlarge. For my ability to give generously: Enlarge. For the church’s influence in my community: Enlarge. For the ability to see clearly, speak constructively, and work creatively: Enlarge.”

I’m not really a big fan of the “prayer of Jabez” fad from a decade or so back. However, taken in the context of the above paragraph, it is worthy of consideration. I don’t pray so much for God to “enlarge my border.” I don’t need more territory. However, along with “Bob,” I could use more of God’s kingdom rule in my life, more capacity to love others (and how!), more of a mind to give generously, more of a positive influence from the Church, and more ability to see, speak, and work clearly, constructively, and creatively.

Father, as I walk through this day, I do pray that You would enlarge these capabilities within me, especially that one about loving others. This is a topic that You have me stuck on, now, for a number of years, and it’s not going to stop. I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want to rest until I see at least Your people following this command to love You and love people as we love ourselves. I can’t get over how difficult this seems to wrap our heads around. Help us, oh, God! Enlarge our hearts and fill them with Your love for each other.

Jesus, thank You for showing us the Father. You are the only way to get to Him, and I praise You that You have shown us this. I also praise You for giving me the capacity to believe this and live in it. Thank You for the communities in which You have placed us. They are messy, Lord. Really, really messy, even the small ones. Or perhaps it just shows up more in the small ones, because it’s not so easy to get lost in the crowd. Whatever. I still thank You and pray for Your guidance and leadership in these communities. Make Your pillars of fire and cloud more obvious to us.

Lord, the Covid virus continues to rampage through our society (and our world). Please relieve us from this plague. We implore You to eradicate this virus. I also pray for unity within both our nation and Your Church (I’m always much more concerned with the Church), that we may succeed together.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pattern of Christ

Here we go! Today is Monday, the third of January, 2022. It’s the tenth day of Christmas. It is also considered “The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus” on the Church calendar.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,307

Twenty days until Hamilton!

I don’t really have much to write about, this morning. No news, really. C is at work, and things are moving back into more of a normalized schedule. This is my week to work four days. Or three and a half, I guess. I work tomorrow evening for four hours, Wednesday all day, Friday all day, and Saturday all day. The floor has been swept (by the new Robot Vac we got for Christmas), and a grocery order has been placed, for delivery this afternoon.

We’ll be back to having our Monday night chili for dinner, and I’m back to tracking my food intake on the WW app. I gained roughly twenty pounds between Thanksgiving and now, but have actually dropped a couple in the past week, so we are back on track.

I have some laundry to do today, and, at some point, I need to get some go-juice in my car. But, honestly, that could even wait until tomorrow, if I don’t have to go anywhere today.

I decided on January 1 to do a whole Bible reading plan on the Youversion app. My plan, this year, is to listen to the entire Bible in those readings, as it will read some versions out loud. I’m listening to the ESV, which is still my favorite version.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We give You praise, adoration
Love and affection
In awe of Your glory
The wonder of who You are
We give You praise, adoration
Love and affection
In awe of Your glory
The wonder of who You are

We're building You a throne upon our praise
We're building You a throne upon our praise
(Building You A Throne, by Maximilian)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 
but also to the interests of others. 
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the awe of the glory of God and the wonder of who He is
2. for the ability to count others as more significant than myself (and the struggle that goes along with that)
3. for the holiness of God, and that this holiness affects every part of my life, because He is present with me (Leviticus)
4. that I can place every part of this life before God as an offering (Romans 12:1-2)
5. that, even though I am just one, when we work together, we can do wonderful things
Have this mind among yourselves, 
which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, 
though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, 
by taking the form of a servant,
 being born in the likeness of men. 
And being found in human form, 
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, 
even death on a cross. 
Therefore God has highly exalted him 
and bestowed on him 
the name that is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

How is my mind similar to the mind of Christ? How is it different? To be honest, I don’t see that many similarities. I see a lot of differences. Sure, I am working on that bit about considering others more significant than myself. I’m struggling with the part about doing nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. But I live in a society that does nothing but try to train me to do otherwise. Everything in this culture points to ME, ME, ME!

I suppose I do try to look out for the interests of others, but even that is a challenge. So how, exactly, is my mind similar to that of Jesus Christ? That’s a good question, and I will be reflecting on that more, during this day. There are major differences, the most obvious being that I am not God; I am not perfect, therefore, my mind is not perfect. But I am striving, at the beginning of this new year, to bring everything about my being into subjection to Jesus. I know, there are people who would cringe at that language. But here’s the thing. God is my Creator; He is the Center of everything; He is the reason we exist! So, it is my duty to live for Him, not for myself.

The question, then, is what do I need to let go of in order to make more space for God to act within me? The answer is in those Scriptures, in the second chapter of Philippians. I need to let go of those selfish ambitions; that conceit; I need to let go of think of myself as the most significant, and begin to think of others as more significant than myself.

I listen to this Scripture reading again, imagining myself approaching the manger that holds the infant Jesus. What words do I find on my lips and in my heart?

Lord Jesus, I worship You. I cannot imagine what words would have been on my heart, had I been present at Your manger. I thank You for the fact that You emptied Yourself in order to identify with us. I cannot begin to imagine what pain this was for You, how alienated You must have felt. I pray for the ability to empty myself, this year, today, this moment. Help me to consider others more significant than me. Help me to ditch the arrogance of my culture and begin to live for You and for the benefit of others. Help me to empty myself. Help me to align my life with Yours.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

(From Pray As You Go)

Today, I consider a reflection question from Spiritual Classics. To view the reading click back to yesterday’s edition. It was an excerpt on Godly meditation, by Thomas More. The question today is, “How can I be more single-hearted in my attachment to God?” This is an excellent question for meditation, and hearkens me back to my life verse, which is Psalm 86:11.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
(Psalms 86:11 ESV)

As I consider that verse and the question, I look back at More’s meditation. The beginning of it says:

"Give me thy grace, good Lord, 
To set the world at nought, 
To set my mind fast upon thee. 
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths."

This is one way I can be more single-hearted. As I pray for my divided heart to be united, I can strive to “set the world at nought,” and to set my mind fast upon Him. I love the phrase that More uses, “the blast of men’s mouths.” That is truly what it is. Nothing but a blast of hot air, coming from most humans, especially those in any kind of authority or leadership position.

It helps, as well, to look back up there at that passage from Philippians. I cannot have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus if I am hanging on “the blast of men’s mouths.” In order to be single-hearted toward God, I must shut them out, completely. Even if I agree with them! Do you see that? The last thing I need, in the midst of this struggle, is to have my human opinions validated! My opinions need to be squashed! Only the truth of God matters. Unfortunately, this “truth” is not always as clear as some folks would make you believe. This is the reason for meditation and contemplation.

Father, I pray Psalm 86:11 again. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth, and only Your truth. Unite my divided, selfishly conceited heart, to fear Your name! Show me the way of love and peace, the way of Christ. Teach me to walk in His steps and in His words, that I might live this life in love, love for You and love for my neighbor, considering them to be more significant than myself. Help me to not hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.

As I move on into the reading from Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, today’s reading focuses on what is probably the least popular book of the Bible, Leviticus. Tell me I’m wrong. If you are person who loves Leviticus, more power to you.

The opening paragraph of the reading says, “One of the stubbornly enduring habits of the human race is to insist on domesticating God. We are determined to tame him. We figure out ways to harness God to our projects. We try to reduce God to a size that conveniently fits our plans and ambitions and tastes.”

Oh, yes! Isn’t this the truth??

But “God cannot be fit into our plans; we must fit into his.” He is not a tool; He is not an appliance; He is not a blank check or credit card, regardless of what some TV evangelists might try to tell you.

"Do what I tell you; live what I tell you.
 I am GOD. 
"Don't desecrate my holy name. 
I insist on being treated with holy reverence 
among the People of Israel.
 I am GOD who makes you holy 
and brought you out of Egypt to be your God. 
I am GOD." 
(Leviticus 22:31-33 MSG)

There is a recurring word in that passage that tells us that God is set apart from us. He is “other.” He is “above our attempts to enlist him in our wish-fulfillment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world.” He is alive on HIS terms, not ours.

What we can learn from reading Leviticus in a different light (not just a list of rules) is “that this holy God is actually present with us and virtually every detail of our lives is affected by the presence of this holy God.” We stand in His presence at every moment. Just read Psalm 139, one of my favorites.

Paul even helps us with this a little, in Romans.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: 
Take your everyday, ordinary life—
your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—
and place it before God as an offering. 
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 
Instead, fix your attention on God. 
You'll be changed from the inside out. 
Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. 
Unlike the culture around you, 
always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, 
God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
"I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood;
 I won't avoid or shun you; 
I'll stroll through your streets.
 I'll be your God; you'll be my people." 
(Leviticus 26:11-12 MSG)

Father, I am grateful for Your presence in my life, Your holy presence! I am so thankful for the effects that Your presence and Your holiness has on every aspect of my life. Help me to be more cognizant of this, as I walk through each day.

“I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.”
(John 13:15 MSG)

But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, 
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; 
against such things there is no law. 
And those who belong to Christ Jesus 
have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(Galatians 5:22-24 ESV)
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, 
not busy at work, but busybodies. 
Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, 
take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him,
 that he may be ashamed.
 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. 
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 
(2 Thessalonians 3:11-16 ESV)

Today’s word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “together.”

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” ~ Mother Teresa

I am only one person. You are only one person. Sometimes, I feel like my prayers are like little mosquitos around God’s head, just puny little annoyances. But that’s just our enemy talking, and he talks through a lot of different sources.

Consider the humility of Mother Teresa. She said that she never does great things. But most of the world knows who Mother Teresa was. Only a handful of people know who I am. But it doesn’t matter who knows who I am. What matters is that I do my part in trying to bless those around me.

Very seldom does it feel like all of my devotional materials line up the way they have today. When it happens, it is mind-blowing. And I’m going to end where I started, in Philippians. Back to Philippians 2:3-4.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
(Philippians 2:3-4 MSG)

Can you imagine what this world would be like if we all did this? Heck, even if, say, ten percent of us did this??

Father, I pray for the pattern of Jesus Christ to become evident in all of our lives. I pray that, as I live in this world, as I walk around in this world, that people would be able to tell, by my actions and attitudes, that I have been with Jesus. Open our eyes, Lord, to the damage we do when we do things out of selfish ambition or conceit. Open our eyes to the harm we do to the Gospel of Christ when we act selfishly. Take our ears and diver them from the blasts of men’s mouths! Help us to hear only You. Thank You for Your holy presence in our lives and in our world. And help us to do more good in this world, “together!” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Surely Goodness and Mercy

Good morning (it will be afternoon before I am finished). Today is Saturday, the first of January, 2022. The eighth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be upon you today!

Day 23,305

Twenty-two days until we finally get to see Hamilton. Hoping that the current surge of Covid Omicron variant doesn’t wind up canceling this one.

It’s a new year, and with the new year come new devotional materials. So things will begin looking a little different from last year. Some things will stay the same, but others will change. I will continue to try to make note of where we are in the Church calendar, hence the mention of the eighth day of Christmas, above. I have a couple of sources to help me keep up with that.

Yesterday was another great day at the library. It was somewhat slower than usual, for the whole library, as well as the computer center. There were only a handful of staff people there, so it was very quiet. I had an unusual experience as I helped a gentleman scan and attach documents to an HOA website, so he could try to get permission to add solar panels to his home. It was very complicated, and reinforces my opinion that I will NEVER live in an HOA.

C wasn’t feeling well, yesterday, so I picked up Subway for dinner for last night. We did wind up staying up until the end of 2021, though. Actually, I think C had to, to make sure that their systems came back online at midnight, as scheduled. She and I counted down the new year together, watching the last minute or so from a New Orleans broadcast.

At any rate, 2022 is here. So far, I don’t feel any different. That’s not one hundred percent true, but it has nothing to do with what day it is. Yesterday, as I was listening to “The Blessing” (I posted the video at the end of yesterday’s blog), something “flipped” inside. I can’t really put a finger on it, or put it in words, but some attitudes changed. As 2022 gets into gear, I don’t have any “resolutions.” I don’t do those any more , haven’t for at least a decade. I don’t really have any “goals,” either, as goals are supposed to be measurable. Well, I take that back. My Goodreads reading goal for 2022 will be fifty-two books, just like it was in 2021. I’m going to try to share my Year in Books from Goodreads. Hopefully that link will work. There is one error in it, though. I actually only read 48 books. For some reason, it has The Hobbit in there twice. I only listened to the audio version. I did not read a physical book again.

I do have some “aspirations,” I suppose. I want to read more, pray more consistently, love better, make more music, and spend a little less time playing video games.

To begin the year, I will focus on the following resources:
Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson (sixty days)
Daily Guideposts 2022
Pray a Word a Day, a new Guideposts resource

I may or may not choose to add another resource. There is one that I will use after the sixty-day Peterson book. On Living Well: Brief Reflections on Wisdom for Walking in the Way of Jesus, also by Eugene H. Peterson. I’m not sure how many days it will take, but I’m confident that there aren’t 365 readings in it.

Actually, I believe I have just decided to also include Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, a Renovare resource edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. It is a different format than I’m used to, having a weekly reading for fifty-two weeks. Not sure how that will play out in my daily readings, but it will be fun to explore.

So there it is. Oh, and Happy New Year to all who make it over here, either on purpose or by serendipity.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Eternal Father, 
You gave to Your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to of our salvation:
Plant in every heart,
we pray,
the love of Him who is the Savior of the world,
our Lord Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
in glory everlasting.
Amen."
(Collect for January 1, The Holy Name, The Book of Common Prayer)
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, 
for he has done marvelous things! 
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 
The LORD has made known his salvation; 
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 
(Psalms 98:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for new beginnings
2. for God, for His very existence and who He is
3. for the marvelous things that God has done
4. that God is always doing "new things"
5. that the goodness and mercy of the Lord are actually chasing us, pursuing us

My verse for 2022 will be Psalm 145:18. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 

My word for 2022 (I don’t remember if I had one for 2021) will be “pray.” Because that’s what I need to do more of.

“First, God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God.”

Thus begins the first reading in Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation.

And, if we look at the first verse of Genesis in The Message, the first three words are, “First this: God.”

God looked over everything he had made; 
it was so good, 
so very good! 
(Genesis 1:31 MSG)
See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 
(Isaiah 43:19 NIV)

Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.
(Job 8:7 NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you," 
declares the LORD, 
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future.
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

These are great verses to begin a new year. Especially a new year that has been preceded by two really sketchy years. Things have not been great. Understatement of the century. But we, we who are followers of Jesus Christ, have a hope for our future, most especially the future that we will have beyond this world, beyond this mortal coil.

Things keep happening. People are losing loved ones. Beloved celebrities (ones that we thought would live forever) are leaving us. But we followers of Jesus cannot afford to fix our eyes on these things. We must keep our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our salvation, Jesus Christ. Our God is always doing a “new thing.”

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s word for prayer is “goodness.”

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:6 ESV)

It is worth noting that the Hebrew word that is translated “follow,” can also mean “chase” or “pursue.” So we consider that the goodness and mercy of the Lord are actually chasing us or pursuing us, and that kind of implies that we might be actually, sometimes, running away?

Just food for thought there.

Father, I praise You for the “new things” that You are constantly doing. I thank You that Your goodness and mercy are chasing and pursuing us . . . much more actively than simply “following,” which kind of implies a passive nature. You are chasing us down with Your goodness and mercy! Help me to stop running from them and let them catch me! I praise You that You are You, that You exist, from before eternity past beyond eternity future. And I praise You that You have made a way for us to exist with You, through the work of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith and our salvation. Help me to embrace this salvation, more than ever, this coming year.

I continue to pray for this pandemic to end, Lord. Please wipe this virus off the earth, that we may return to some kind of normalcy. I also pray, though, for the compassion of human beings to be restored. There is so much meanness and hatred in our world, today. I pray for Your followers, Your children, to rise up and insist on LOVE! Again, I start a campaign for a love revolution! Make it so, Father!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

He Is For You

Good morning. Today is Friday, December 31, 2021. New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2021, and the seventh day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,304

I wonder if there are “reverse friggatriskaphobics” who are afraid of Friday the 31st . . .

One more day until 2022! Which is slightly redundant, given my statement in the first paragraph. And, technically, not even a full day. Seventeen hours and twenty-nine minutes, as of the exact time I am typing this paragraph.

Will we be staying up to welcome 2022? I might still be up, but it won’t be for that specific reason. In the grand scheme of things, this is just another day. Nevertheless, I do wish everyone who reads this a blessed, peaceful, and prosperous 2022.

Either later today, or tomorrow, I will share a complete list of my reading accomplishments for 2021. That may actually happen in my other blog, as well. I’m up early, this morning, because I have get to work today. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get my blog done and not be rushing out the door at 9:00.

Today is my day in the computer center, so it should be a pretty good day. Who am I kidding? It would take a major catastrophe to not have a good day, working at the library.

Oh! I almost forgot to say something about our sushi experience, last night. As previously mentioned, we met with some church friends for dinner last night, at Goldfish Sushi, next door to the Hoffbrau Steakhouse in Haltom City. It was amazing! We all go the $22.99 all you can eat deal, so we were all able to share all of the appetizers and sushi. We got an appetizer called “Honeymoon,” which was, essentially, stuffed jalapenos, tempura-fried. They were delicious. Then, we had a variety of sushi rolls, including Crunch Orleans Roll (Crispy crabmeat, Avocado, Crawfish with 4 season sauce), Rainbow Roll (California roll over tuna, salmon, w/tuna, shrimp and Redsnapper, raw fish), Crunch Roll (Crabmeat, Cream cheese, Avocado Crispy crunch with spicy mayo, Eel sauce), Hawaiian Roll (California roll topped Fresh Tuna, raw fish), Spicy Tuna Roll, Watauga Roll (Shrimp tempura, cream cheese, avocado roll over crab stake spicy mayo, wasabi, eel sauce and crunch), Volcano Roll (California roll topped w/ scallop, crabmeat baked special volcano sauce), and I swear there was one called King Tiger Roll, but I can’t find that on their menu online. There is one called White Tiger that is “Spicy crab, cucumber, avocado roll, top seared white tuna, scallion masago, spicy ponzu sauce.” I’m not sure if that is it or not. Then there was a dessert that was very simple, a small orange (maybe a “cutie” or “clementine”) cut into four pieces with chocolate sauce drizzled on top.

It was all quite delicious. My favorite was the Crunch Orleans Roll and the Honeymoon appetizer, which may only be available on the all you can eat menu, as I do not see that listed as an appetizer on the online menu. The service was also wonderful and friendly. Our friends are regular customers, so that probably helped. Hahaha. I feel pretty certain that we will be back.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Who will roll away
the stone from the entrance of
the tomb of our lives?
(based on Mark 16:3)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, 
who does not turn to the proud, 
to those who go astray after a lie! 
(Psalms 40:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the "new song" that God has put in my heart and in my mouth
2. that He has caused me to put my trust in Him
3. that the steadfast love and mercies of the Lord, which are "new every morning," actually no nothing of boundaries such as days, hours, weeks, and years
4. for twenty-three thousand three hundred and four days of life (so far)
5. for the hope of wisdom
6. for the hope of the love of God and loving my neighbor as myself

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
(Revelation 22:13 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Good verses with which to end a year. And while I realize, contextually, that Jeremiah 29:11 is specifically a prophecy to Israel, how can it not be applicable to us who are the “new Israel?” God certainly does not have plans for evil for us. He has a future and a hope planned for all of us who are in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah!

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! 
Serve Yahweh with gladness. 
Come before his presence with singing. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 WEB)

I pause, at this moment, to reflect on the grace of God throughout the past year, as well as the promise of hope and His grace into the next. Truly, December 31 is just a day, and January 1 is just another day. The grace and steadfast love of the Lord knows no boundaries such as days, hours, weeks, and years. I am grateful for this.

BIBLE SONG

A prayer of Moses the man of God.

 Lord, you have been our dwelling place 
throughout all generations. 
Before the mountains were born 
or you brought forth the whole world, 
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

You turn people back to dust, 
saying, "Return to dust, you mortals." 
A thousand years in your sight 
are like a day that has just gone by, 
or like a watch in the night. 
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— 
they are like the new grass of the morning: 
In the morning it springs up new, 
but by evening it is dry and withered.

 Teach us to number our days, 
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; 
establish the work of our hands for us— 
yes, establish the work of our hands.
(Psalms 90:1-6, 12, 17 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 
"'"The LORD bless you and keep you; 
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."' 
"So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
(Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, I mull over these passages, reading them again. I pray the prayer of Moses back to God, verbatim, reflecting on its appropriateness for the last day of a year, humanly speaking.

I also take note of that bit about a thousand years being like a day to Him. See the comments in my earlier reflection between the invitation and the bible song. “From everlasting to everlasting You are God.” From eternity past to eternity future, God is the Lord; His majesty is never-ending and His rule will remain, while we will turn to dust. However, it is only our bodies that will return to dust while our souls live on, with those new, glorified bodies that we have yet to even imagine.

Verse 12 is literally the reason that every blog entry begins with how many days I have been alive. Trivial? Perhaps. And, while I confess that I began that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I still take it somewhat seriously. I have been around a lot of days, but those twenty-three thousand three hundred and four days (it seems larger when it’s typed out) have gone by in a flash. It seems like only yesterday that my family was moving from a rental house to the house where my mother still lives. But it wasn’t yesterday. Ironically, it was November 22, 1963.

Yes, that’s right. The day that C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died.

I’ll bet that’s not what you expected to see. Of course, we all know what date that is. And those two deaths were overshadowed by the more famous death of JFK.

But I digress.

What is the point, here? Sometimes, I’m not sure. But I think, for me, today, it’s this: God is God from everlasting to everlasting. We are dust; from dust we came, to dust we shall return, and our puny little existence is nothing more than a mote of dust in comparison to eternity. We would do well to consider this. Not so that we feel badly about ourselves, but maybe, just maybe, so we don’t get so cocky. Because mankind has gotten quite cocky, especially in the USA.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I also think it highly appropriate to end the year with the Aaronic blessing from Numbers.

Father, I pray for wisdom for us. I pray that as we all “number our days,” that we may truly “gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom seems to be in short supply in our land, these days. And lest I point any unnecessary fingers, may it start with me. Give me wisdom. Give me the wisdom to know what opinions matter and what opinions don’t. Give me wisdom, today, tomorrow, and for 2022, to know how to love You and love my neighbor as myself. Give me wisdom to know how to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, just as He loved us, and gave His life for us!

I pray for the blessing to be on all who read this blog today (or whenever they read it . . . even if it’s way into next year, may all who read this be blessed with Your richest blessings).

Father, I pray for spiritual renewal for all of Your children. May we know You as never before. May we realize that knowing You is the absolute most important thing we can do; more important than any human-invented “cause,” and infinitely more important than my opinion about anything! May You lead us into repentance as we look back on the past year. May we fully know the knowledge and experience of Your forgiveness.

"Covenant-keeping God,
at the end of another year I thank You for keeping me connected and at home in You through the Holy Spirit by Your free,
unchanging love and by the strong intercession of Jesus.
In Your faithfulness,
continue to preserve and keep me and all Your people from the power of evil throughout the coming year.
In Jesus's name,
amen."

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"May His presence go before you
and behind you,
and beside you,
all around you,
and within you,
He is with you,
He is with you,
In the morning, 
in the evening,
in your coming,
and your going,
in your weeping,
and rejoicing,
He is for you!"

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Name Alone

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the thirtieth of December, 2021, the sixth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,303

Only two more days until 2022!!

Temperatures continue to be unseasonably warm (albeit comfortable) as we have a projected high of 76 in DFW today. However, the weekend looks like it will be, how you say, “brisk.” No, let’s don’t mess around. It’s going to be freakin’ cold Sunday and Monday mornings. We’re talking in the twenties, and low twenties, at that. In fact, Saturday’s temps will go from a high of 73 to a low Sunday morning of 20! At least the temperature is supposed to get above freezing Sunday afternoon before dropping back down to 24 Monday morning. And both days are slated to be “sunny.”

Not a lot happened, yesterday. I got a package returned to Amazon, via the UPS store, and picked up Sonic drinks while out. There seems to be a growing shortage of Sprite Zero at the Sonics, so C had to drink Diet Coke. We got our grocery delivery from Albertsons and everything was good on that, except they were out of Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar products. No worries. If we run out, we have plenty of Coke Zero. And if we run out of that, we have plenty of water.

C has a prescription ready to pick up at CVS, and I tried to get it yesterday, but the line was wrapped around the building, and she said she didn’t have to have it until Friday. So I will try again today.

We made chili for dinner last night, the first meal we’ve cooked since Christmas. We don’t normally have chili on Wednesday, so that was a departure from our normal schedule. Which is fine, because the “schedule” has been anything but normal this week. So much so that I’m still having trouble remembering what day it is. I do know that tomorrow is Friday, and I am supposed to work. So I will need to get to bed at a more decent time tonight, and get up before 9:00, because I’m supposed to be at work by 9:15. And I don’t want to have to rush through the last blog of the year, right?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
 Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
(Psalms 33:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the ability and skill to "make melody to Him," and to sing new songs to the Lord
2. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which endures forever (see Psalm 136)
3. for the promise of Home
4. that only the name of the Lord is worthy to be exalted
5. for the many names of God and what they all mean for us

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
(Psalms 36:5 NIV)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 
"I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, 
but will have the light of life." 
(John 8:12 ESV)

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
(John 17:16 ESV)

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
the holy habitation of the Most High. 
God is in the midst of her;
 she shall not be moved; 
God will help her when morning dawns. 
(Psalms 46:4-5 ESV)

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
(Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

"Let not your hearts be troubled. 
Believe in God; believe also in me. 
In my Father's house are many rooms. 
If it were not so, would I have told you 
that I go to prepare a place for you? 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
I will come again and will take you to myself, 
that where I am you may be also."
(John 14:1-3 ESV)
He will come again,
and will take us to Himself;
I long to be Home.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Shout praises to the LORD,
 everyone on this earth. 
Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the LORD! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 CEV)

As I pause, this morning, I’m reflecting on Home. While there is nothing I can do to hasten my arrival there (it is God’s purpose that keeps me here), I can express my desire to be there, and, hopefully, prepare myself for the eventual transition. Dallas Willard once opined that some people’s transition from this life to the next might be so smooth that they don’t even realize that they “died.”

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD. 

Praise the LORD from the heavens; 
praise him in the heights above. 
Praise him, all his angels; 
praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 
Praise him, sun and moon; 
praise him, all you shining stars. 
Praise him, you highest heavens 
and you waters above the skies. 

Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
for his name alone is exalted; 
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.  
And he has raised up for his people a horn, 
the praise of all his faithful servants, 
of Israel, the people close to his heart. 

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:1-4, 13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. 
(Luke 2:36-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me, lingering over them, giving them my attention. I pray my life to God, resting in His presence.

In the midst of Psalm 148, such a great panoply of praise, one phrase catches my attention, today. It comes in verse 13: “His name alone is exalted.”

We “praise” a lot of things and people in this world. WE speak fondly of our favorite places, people, foods, books, songs, games, and so on. But there is only One who deserves to truly be worshiped.

He goes by many names. 
YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) - I AM
El Shaddai - God Almighty
Adonai
Elohim
El Elyon
El Olam

There are many suffixes to the name, Jehovah. 

Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace
Jehovah Jireh - The Lord will Provide
Jehovah Tsidkenu - The Lord our Righteousness
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord is my Banner
Jehovah Sabbaoth - The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah Maccaddeshcem (M'Kaddesh) - The Lord who Sanctifies
Jehovah Rohi - The Lord my Shepherd
Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord who Heals

I’m sure I have not exhausted the list . . . these are just some of the “bigger” ones, or more well-known names of God.

Consider today . . . who do you need God to be in your life today? Call on the Name of God that you need the most today. Do you need peace? Do you have physical needs of provision? Do you need protection? Do you need healing? Or do you just need to know that He is there? Call on Him, and He will answer. If you seek Him with all your heart, He will hear you and He will make Himself known to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

Father, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that I have ever sought You with “all my heart.” For surely, there is always a piece of my heart that longs for the things of this world. Otherwise, I would have ceased chasing after anything sinful, long ago. So I need You to do what Psalm 86:11 asks for. Unite my heart to fear Your Name. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. My heart’s desire is to be whole-hearted toward You, so that I might truly know You and see Your face. I know that, someday, I will see what can be seen of You, in glory, and I truly long for that day, because I grow weary of the fight in this world. Yet I know that I am still here for a purpose, and I want to fulfill that purpose for You. So keep drawing me closer, and keep showing me Yourself, that I might come closer to calling on You with my whole heart.

Your Name, alone, is to be exalted and worshiped. Help me to worship You more faithfully, Father. And for anyone who stumbles across this, today, Lord, I pray that one of those many names of Yours will inspire them to call upon You for whatever they need in Your life. Show Yourself, faithfully, to all who call upon You, that Your name may be glorified, on earth as it is in heaven. I seek no recognition, as I am only a channel of the words that Your Holy Spirit puts in my brain and on my heart. I pray that I am “hearing” correctly, though. Let me never say or do anything that brings dishonor to Your Holy Name!

Father, please give Your children the commitment to do justice and love mercy. I pray for the rights and protection of children in our land and around the world. And, for anyone who is lonely, today, may You, Jehovah Shammah, show Yourself to them as their faithful companion.

BLESSING

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel! He has come to save his people.
(Luke 1:68 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Good morning (probably afternoon by the time this is finished). Today is . . . must be Wednesday, because I worked at the library last night. Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of December, 2021. The fifth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill your body, soul, mind, and spirit, today.

We’ve been staying up really late and sleeping late, this week. This doesn’t make it any easier to remember what day it is, especially since C has been off work all week. She does have to work some on Friday, but only from home. It’s the year end, and things always change and/or roll out on December 31/January 1, so she has to be available.

We slept until after 9:00, this morning. It may have been close to 10:00. I really can’t remember. I cooked some breakfast for us all, because I was hungry, before sitting down to do my morning devotional, so it’s running pretty late today.

There is very little on our “agenda” for today. C has already cut up the extra ham and put it in the freezer. We never found anyone who needed it. I’m sure we could have if we had tried a little harder, but there were several interested parties, who never followed through with coming to get it. So it’s in our freezer for future meals.

C is planning to put up a new set of LED lights in S’s room, today. The old set has quit working, probably due to some cat activity in the room. Some people blame aliens, some blame gremlins. We always blame cats.

I have a small grocery order set to deliver between 1:00 and 2:00, and we have one box that needs to be taken to the UPS store to return to Amazon. And, of course, there will be Sonic drinks, at some point. We have had an issue, though . . . our closest Sonic seems to have run out of Sprite Zero, which is C’s drink of choice.

I might try to get some serious reading done today. I would like to get at least one more book finished before 2022. I’m currently reading The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the book that introduces the character known by many as The Witcher, aka Geralt of Rivera. The Witcher is a wildly popular video game series (I have played one of them) that has also now become an immensely popular Netflix series, now in its second season. The books are written in Polish, but have been translated to English. I’m a little less than a fourth of the way through it, currently.

I also checked out another book, last night. I was supposed to shelve it, but when I saw it, I realized that I “need” to read it. It is the latest by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On the Train, and is called A Slow Fire Burning. I have read both of Ms. Hawkins’s books, the other being Into the Water, which was also very good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, to begin. The first is:

Lessons of Receiving, by Daryl Madden

Of our Gods great wisdom
His plan of conceiving
In nature surrounding
Are lessons of receiving

In humble flowers
Who open to light
Welcome the gift
With colors bright

Of trees standing tall
With branches raised
In calm and in storm
Arms stretched in praise

And of the pasture
Letting rain seep
To nourish the soil
Of roots growing deep

Why as His children
So difficult be
To accept the graces
That are blessed to me

We expect and we take
What’s given for free
Oh Lord, let me learn
From the flowers and trees

Let’s cherish each blessing
To receive gratefully
Well find in this way
We’ll live joyfully

I pray that we can receive these blessings and not simply expect and take what is freely given. In addition to cherishing each blessing, I also pray that we will cherish one another, in this Kingdom walk. Please check out Daryl’s poetry in the provided link.

The other is another one of Susan’s short poems.

Carpe Deum, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

This is
your time, give
your all

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please see more of her beautiful and inspiring Haikus at the provlided link.

As 2022 approaches, just around the bend, it is, indeed “your time.” It is my time, to give my all to Jesus. In the coming year, while I don’t do resolutions, and can’t rightfully say that these aspirations are truly “goals” (they have to be measurable to really be goals), I do have desires and aspirations for the new year. I want to read more books; I want to pray more consistently, and I want to do even better at this thing of “loving one another.”

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 
"Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. 
Remove this cup from me. 
Yet not what I will, 
but what you will." 
(Mark 14:35-36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus said, "not what I will, but what You will."
2. that the Kingdom of God is within us
3. that we have this Helper, the Holy Spirit
4. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world
5. for Jesus, the Light of the world 

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
(Luke 17:21 KJV)

"If you love me, 
you will keep my commandments. 
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Helper, 
to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, 
whom the world cannot receive, 
because it neither sees him nor knows him. 
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more,
 but you will see me. 
Because I live, you also will live.
 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, 
and you in me, and I in you. 
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, 
he it is who loves me. 
And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, 
and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
Little children, 
you are from God and have overcome them, 
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
(1 John 4:4 ESV)

“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

We spend so much energy looking all over the place for God’s kingdom. We buy up stacks of books (nothing wrong with books, mind you . . . some of my greatest inspirations have come from them) and flock to listen to inspirational speakers. But, “if we follow Jesus’s teachings, we need look no further for the kingdom than what we carry inside. Everywhere, all the time.” What we are so frantically searching for is right here, “in plain sight.” (Jacqueline F. Wheelock in Daily Guideposts 2021)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

Sing to the LORD, all the world! 
Worship the LORD with joy; 
come before him with happy songs! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 GNB)

I pause, briefly, as I consider the presence of the Lord and His Kingdom, here within me, and all around me.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm. 

I will sing of your love and justice; 
to you, LORD, I will sing praise. 
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— 
when will you come to me? 

I will conduct the affairs of my house 
with a blameless heart.
 I will not look with approval 
on anything that is vile. 

I hate what faithless people do; 
I will have no part in it. 
The perverse of heart shall be far from me; 
I will have nothing to do with what is evil. 

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, 
that they may dwell with me; 
the one whose walk is blameless 
will minister to me.
(Psalms 101:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. 
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, 
you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 
For my eyes have seen your salvation, 
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
and the glory of your people Israel." 
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from these meditations, and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

I feel like caution is necessary in the reading of Psalm 101. While I do want to be “blameless” in my life and in my actions, and I do intend to sing of the love and justice of the Lord, the sentiment of hating what “faithless people do” can easily lead down a dark path. Mind you, I’m not being critical of God’s Word, here, but we also must remember that these are songs and prayers of a man who, even though he was a “man after God’s own heart,” was also guilty of rape, murder, and various other heinous sins.

So, how “blameless” was he, exactly? I, too, desire to have “nothing to do with what is evil,” but at the same time, if I am going to be any kind of inspiration or minister to others, I must find myself in the company of “evil” people, from time to time. And we cannot truly be only in the company of the “faithful in the land.”

I’m not really sure how to interpret this psalm, or how to apply it to my own life in the twenty-first century. I think that, as best I can, I need to walk blamelessly, and to avoid those things that are “vile.” But we all slip, sometimes, some of us more than others. We all fall into the devil’s traps. And part of the division that we are finding ourselves in the midst of right now is due to an oversimplification of the sentiments of this particular psalm (and others like it).

We also have to be careful in how we determine who those “faithful” are. For me, it is people who are truly trying to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. Those are the people in whom I delight. Those are the people who are trying their best to do all those things Jesus said we should do for “the least of these.” Those are the “faithful” in whom I delight.

Father, I praise You for Jesus, the light for the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel. I thank You that He has come to bring salvation to us, as well as show us the Kingdom. He has let us know that the Kingdom dwells within us. It is not over there, hiding. It is not in the great halls with the eloquent speakers. It is not in the “Christian” book stores. It is within me, and within every other person who has taken that step into the easy yoke of Jesus and begun to walk with Him in Your Kingdom.

Help me to display Jesus, the Light of the world, in my life and through my words and actions. I pray for the joy of salvation to be experienced by all people, everywhere. I pray for a deeper understanding of the Gospel, in the coming year. And I pray for any family members and friends who do not know the love of Jesus in their lives.

"Faithful God,
in our world,
where evil is serious,
pain is no illusion,
and our guilt is real,
open our eyes to see how justice and mercy take the shape of a Savior dying on a cross for us.
With Simeon,
may all people see that Your justice and mercy meet when Jesus is born for our salvation.
Amen."

BLESSING

"Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! 
He has come to the help of his people and has set them free."
(Luke 1:68 GNB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. 
Amen. 
(Revelation 22:21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.