In Wonder, Now

It is Tuesday, the twelfth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,406

It was a pretty lazy day, yesterday, but I did manage to get a few things done. I never left the house, though, except for going to get the mail and retrieving the trash/recycling bins from the curb. Today, I will be going out to get lunch and dinner for everyone. Our tradition Tuesday meals are Subway, since I work late on Tuesdays. I get enough food for C, Mama, and S to have something for dinner while I am at work.

Tomorrow, we are going to try something new in the crockpot. I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken Soup at Emily Bites. We have found a few good recipes there, and they are all WW friendly. This one will cook while I am at work on Wednesday. And, since I am also working Thursday, now, I’ll make sure the crockpot is clean Wednesday night so I can cook our other chicken soup dish Thursday.

The Texas Rangers lost their home opener, yesterday, thanks to a couple of errors by Cory Seager, and a really horrible review call from the folks at MLB in NYC that ended the game. The current regime of “leadership” in MLB is ruining the game, in my not so humble opinion. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The final score was 6-4 in ten innings. The Red Sox lost their game to the Tigers, 3-1, so both the Rangers and the Red Sox are at 1-3 on the season. The Rangers sit in last place in the AL West, a position they have gotten far too comfortable with, and the Red Sox are also in last place in the AL East.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost, yesterday, so after only four games, there are no undefeated teams in MLB. Houston, Tampa, and Chicago continue to lead the AL, while Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego lead the NL. The Rangers play the Rockies again tonight, at 7:05 CDT. The Red Sox play the Tigers in an afternoon game, in Detroit, at 12:10 CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Sense Of,” by Daryl Madden

A sense of the morning
Of what is to be
To draw a new breath
Of possibilities

A sense in life daily
Past stress and of fear
A whisper of calling
To pause and draw near

A sense in the sunset
Of grace here to flow
Regrets of the should done
And letting it go

The sense of the Spirit
To foster and grow
With a prayer of moment
To let God’s love flow

I love the end of the third stanza, “Regrets of the should done And letting it go.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for chocolate covered toffee, such as Heath bars
2. for "now," the only time that we truly have; may God help us stop worrying about the past and the future and focus on the now
3. for the beauty, majesty, and glory of God's creation, and how He has revealed Himself to us
4. for unexpected encounters with God
5. for the faith that helps me always be ready to give an answer

Today’s prayer word is “now.”

God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.
(2 Corinthians 6:2 MSG)

How much time do we spend rehashing the past or worrying about the future? Both activities create much unnecessary stress in our lives. “Eac removes us from the present and cheats us of the full blessing of this life, this day, this moment – this ‘now.'”

I love the way that “Bob” words this next part. “The single, simple word now can be a way of awakening yourself to the beauty of your own life, a way of fully breathing in and breathing out the blessing of being alive . . . now.”

The past is gone, nothing can be done about it. The future is not yet, and while you may be able to do something to have an effect on it, worrying or stressing about it is strictly forbidden by our Lord. Praying “now,” that simple word, may be a way to focus on the only time that we can call our own, this very moment.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

“‘How can anyone see mountains and not know there is a God?'”

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Sing to GOD, everyone and everything! Get out his salvation news every day! 
Publish his glory among the godless nations, his wonders to all races and religions. 
And why? Because GOD is great—well worth praising! No god or goddess comes close in honor. 
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense, but GOD made the cosmos! 
Splendor and majesty flow out of him, strength and joy fill his place. 
Shout Bravo! to GOD, families of the peoples, in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo! 
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name, lift high an offering and enter his presence! Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness! 
God is serious business, take him seriously; he's put the earth in place and it's not moving. 
So let heaven rejoice, let earth be jubilant, and pass the word among the nations, "GOD reigns!" 
(1 Chronicles 16:23-31 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

It was just a normal average weekday when the “woman at the well” found herself discovering God in her life, as she did a normal average task that she had done countless times before, drawing a bucket of water.

“This kind of thing happens all the time. And it happens to all of us. We meet God when we least expect it in places that we never would have guessed. In the middle of routines, a sudden longing is released and comes out into the open. While passing the time of day, we hear God’s Word spoken and life is changed.”

As we go about our daily, ordinary lives, as ordinary people, we mistakenly think that God is a million miles away, but then Jesus engages us in some conversation, out of the blue, and changes our lives. “There is no style of life that exempts us from these meetings, there is no day of the week on which it may not happen, and there is no work that may not provide the scene for an encounter.”

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

On the other side of that coin (the rest of this is my thoughts), there is no place that makes it more likely to happen, no day of the week that makes it more likely to happen, and no vocation that makes it more likely to happen. Sunday isn’t special. It’s just another day of the week. It is not the “sabbath.” It’s just Sunday, and God can interact with us just as well on Thursday as He can on Sunday. (I originally typed Wednesday, but then remember that a lot of Baptists still have meetings on Wednesday evenings.)

I have met God listening to Pink Floyd on the radio in my car. I have had encounters with God on what appeared to be prank, random phone calls.

The woman in John 4 thought she was just going to the well to get a bucket of water. Not only was her life changed, but the lives of everyone she knew were changed, as well.

Another thought. This reading seems to be pointing in the direction of being the woman, who has the unexpected encounter with Jesus. We who follow Christ should also be prepared to be Jesus in that scenario. We should be ready to have an unexpected encounter (I realize that Jesus never had an “unexpected encounter”) with a “woman at the well.” This is why, I believe, that Peter admonishes us to always be ready to give an answer.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
(1 Peter 3:15 MSG)

Father, help me to always be ready to give an answer, to explain the reason for the way I live, the way I am, for the joy that overflows my soul, most of the time. I’m not joyful all the time, I confess that. I don’t know very many people who are. Also help me to always be ready for that unexpected encounter with either You or with someone else who needs an unexpected encounter with You. Help me to be that channel of Your grace, Your steadfast love and mercy, Your compassion. Let me never get so caught up in the “ordinary” that I forget to look for You.

Thank You for opening up my heart, my eyes, my soul, to wonder. I know the truth of “I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” My soul has, many times, sung “How great Thou art,” as I look around me. I, too, wonder how anyone can look at a scene like the one pictured above and not believe that You exist. I don’t get it. But I do know that it is true, and will go to my grave proclaiming Your glory and majesty.

And, finally, I thank You for “now.” I am one who spends way too much time rehashing the past (“I should have said”) or worrying about the future (“What if??”). I still beat myself up over that day, in seminary, at the Thanksgiving chapel, when I didn’t do what I felt Your Spirit urging me to do! There is no point in that, though. I can’t change the past, and there’s not an awful lot I can do about the future, either. Even preparations for the future can be derailed by unexpected encounters! So help me focus on “now,” help me “know You in the now.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
(Psalms 39:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

God of Wonders

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,401

I’ve got a thing or two that I want to get done before I go to work today, this being my first Thursday to work at the library. I’m due in at 11:15 and will work until closing time. The entire shift will be in the Computer Center, as this is replacing my previous Friday shift. I don’t work this Saturday, so my next shift will be next Tuesday evening.

I really don’t have much else to mention, this morning. I actually just got one of the things done, which was starting the soup we will have for dinner tonight. In case anyone is interested, we call it “Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup.” All it has in it is three chicken breasts, three cans of cream of chicken soup (we usually use the 98% fat-free variety), a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and a can of water. It cooks in the crockpot on low all day, and we shred the chicken right before serving. Delicious and easy!

Oh, and one more thing. I haven’t mentioned it, lately, but today is Opening Day for baseball season. The Red Sox and Yankees were supposed to play today, but have been postponed until tomorrow. The Texas Rangers open their season in Toronto tomorrow. I reckon we will be watching.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for love; for the love God has for us and the love that I have for Him and the love He has placed in my heart for you
2. for the wonder of God's creation
3. for baseball, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox
4. that my treasures (and my heart) are not on this earth
5. that, when I walk in the kingdom of God, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be (Dallas Willard)

Today’s prayer word is “wonder.” Now, there’s a word I can be fully behind. In this case, I see the word as a noun, meaning, “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” I really like the last half of that. “Something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” That is a great way to describe the wonders of God and His creation.

You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
(Psalms 77:14 NLT)

Like the writer of today’s reading, I haven’t seen any seas parting or rivers drying up or water coming from a rock or turning into wine. But I have seen things like this:

That was beautiful and unexpected and inexplicable.

I choose to celebrate God’s wonders, and I also wonder at His beauty, love, and faithfulness. So, you see, “wonder” can be either a verb or a noun, and both ways work equally well.

And I believe this song has always said it pretty perfectly.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
(Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Luke 12:32-34 ESV)

In other verses in that Matthew 6 passage, Jesus points at some of the “wonders” of creation in His efforts to get people to take their eyes off of themselves and their problems. And, truthfully, once I have witnessed the grandeur and majesty of God’s creation, in “wonder,” how can I even consider laying up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal?

Father, I revel in Your many wonders. I am reminded of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” especially that bit about seeing the stars and hearing the rolling thunder, “Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” I thank You for the wonders that You have created and for the wonder that You placed in my heart when I gaze upon these things. I am still grateful for the opportunity that we had to visit those mountains in the photos above. You have blessed us with so many opportunities to see Your beauty, just in our country alone (and a few in Mexico, as well). How someone can gaze upon these wonders and refuse to open their hearts to Your love and grace is beyond my comprehension.

I thank You that You have led me to not place my trust in the “treasures” of this world. The older I get, the more generous I get with the resources that You have provided. This is partially because I know the truth of the old phrase, “you can’t take it with you.” But I don’t really want to take it with me, either, because I believe that my inheritance in heaven will be so much greater, beyond my wildest expectations and dreams. In fact, it too, I believe, will be wondrous. I look forward to Home, Father, wherever that will be and whatever it will look like.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Oh!

Today is Tuesday, the fifteenth of February, 2022, in the sixth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23.350

C has gone to work, this morning, to the office. She says she is feeling some better, but still experiencing what she describes as sinus headaches. My manager at the library seems to be experiencing similar symptoms and was out yesterday and will be today, as well. She also had a negative Covid test result. So far, I have managed to avoid whatever this is.

C and I got the shelf back up in the study, yesterday afternoon. We managed to find a couple of studs in the wall and got it attached to them, so no anchors were needed. Hopefully, it won’t fall off the wall again. I finished going through old files in the file cabinet, so that’s done. I have a stack of files that are going to the garage, as soon as I get the new plastic file boxes that I ordered from Amazon. They should arrive today. These are files that are important enough to not be tossed out, but not important enough to take up space in the file cabinet.

Now I just have a few stacks of papers to go through and file, and things will look much better in here. This will also be conducive to more music making in the future.

Since this is Tuesday, I will be working at the library from 4:15-8:15 tonight. This is also my week in circulation, so I will be working tomorrow and Saturday, in addition to my usual Friday shift in the Computer Center.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

GOD IS SO GOOD, by Daryl Madden

My heart would say more
If it only could
But words will suffice
That God is SO good

The gift that has rescued
From my deserved fate
Let me proclaim
God’s mercy is great!

Blessings abundant
Each day He brings
Gifts all for free
God’s grace is everything

Each moment I find
Beyond comprehending
Unconditionally
God’s love is unending

I love this poem, which was published yesterday. I’m not sure how I missed it, yesterday. Please see more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the power and love of community in Christ
2. for the wonder, amazement, and praise indicated by the simple word, "oh"
3. for simple things, like getting a shelf back on the wall
4. for my wonderful wife, who is a perfect fit for me, and whom I most definitely do not deserve
5. that God is so good, His mercy is great, His grace is everything, and His love is neverending
They are blessed who keep his commandments; they will have their eternal place. Come in, all of you, so that you may be happy and be able to say, I’ve seen him on the cross, the one who loves me. Teach me, Father, to love you, praise you and pray to you.

Today’s prayer word is “oh.” That’s it. Just, “oh.” But that word carries with it an entire dictionary of meaning, does it not? The Scripture reference is the beginning of Mary’s Magnificat, from the New Living Transation.

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.”
(Luke 1:46 NLT)

Sometimes, “oh” can indicate surprise, wonder, or praise. Sometimes, it is a response when someone gives us information, and is followed by the word, “okay.” I see that a lot. “Oh, okay.”

The Psalms are filled with the word. One of my favorite instances is Psalm 34:8.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
 Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, 
for those who fear him have no lack! 
The young lions suffer want and hunger; 
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. 
(Psalms 34:8-10 ESV)

Many is the time that I have uttered the word in amazement, when looking out over something in God’s creation. And I love to sing along with Rich Mullin’s use of it in “Step by Step,” as he sings “Oh, God, You are my God.”

“Oh, God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You!” That is my cry to You, this morning, for it is true. No matter what I go through, no matter where I have been or what has gone before, You have remained my God through all of these years of my life, and I see no reason that this should ever change. I have changed like the wind, but You remain constant, and that is the thing that has kept me following You. Your patience with me has been remarkable and most certainly praiseworthy.

As I consider Christ on the Cross, today, and the commands that He gave us, may I follow closely in His steps, walking in the rest of His easy yoke and light burden. Let me not burden myself by attempting to carry loads that are not mine to carry.

Thank You for the beauty of Your creation, both on the earth and in the skies above. May I never grow tired of the amazement and wonder that I get when I see it.

I lift up prayers, today, for C and my manager at work, and others I know who are not feeling well, right now. Please bring them healing and relief. I also pray for wisdom for decisions that need to be made in the future.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The Beautiful One

Today is Saturday, the fifth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,340

It’s still rather cold, here in DFW, but better. It’s currently 20 degrees with a projected high of 49, today. I don’t think it quite made it to 40, yesterday, but it did get above freezing, and the street in front of our house seems to be dry. I’ll probably try to leave a little early for work, this morning, just in case there is any difficulty. I’m not expecting any, but you never know.

Here’s my Wordle score for today.

Wordle 231 3/6*

⬜⬜🟨⬜🟩
🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

There’s another similar game that someone came up with, that involves math. It’s called “Nerdlegame.” It has eight spaces and involves equations. No thank you. I choose to not do math for fun. I avoid math whenever possible, and am most certainly not entertained by it.

I don’t want to risk running out of time, this morning, so I’m going to move on to my devotional content. I will say that Mama is still here, and is immensely enjoying her time here. At this point, there is no definite plan as to when she will return home, and for how long. We haven’t talked all that through, just yet.

I have forgotten to mention a couple things. Wednesday night, I think, it was, we all watched Hamilton on Disney+. Mama really enjoyed it. Last night, we watched The Greatest Showman, and we all enjoyed that, as well. It was a lot of fun. I have no idea how accurate it was, as I know virtually nothing about P.T. Barnum and his life. But the movie was good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; 
your judgments are like the great deep; 
man and beast you save, O LORD. 
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! 
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house,
 and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
 For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light do we see light. 
(Psalms 36:5-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord
2. that I have drunk from the river of His delights
3. that the Lord has said to my heart, "Do not fear!"
4. for the beauty of God
5. for beauty in creation, that reflects the Beautiful One
"I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; 
you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!' 
You came near when I called on you; you said, 'Do not fear!'"
(Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV)
Come, let us worship and bow down.
 Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. 
We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. 
If only you would listen to his voice today! 
The LORD says, 
“Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, 
as they did at Massah in the wilderness. 
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
 even though they saw everything I did."
(Psalms 95:6-9 NLT)

We are called upon to love the Lord through the hard times, just as much as we love Him through the pleasant times. This seems challenging to some. There are types of people who simply lose their minds when things don’t go the way they think they should. And I’m not talking about how it can ruin my day if the Internet doesn’t work right. That’s just me being petty and silly.

I’m talking about folks who believe the world is ending in Revelation-style proportions if the “wrong” guy gets elected. This hearkens back to where we put our trust. If our hope and trust is in the Lord, and we listen to His voice that has said to us, “Do not fear!” then there is no place for this dismay.

“Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for HE is our God.” Let us love Him just as much when things are going great, when things seem like they are catastrophic or disastrous, as we love Him when things are just dandy. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this creates a calmness in life that is unequaled. It helps one to live life on more of an even keel, as it were. In case you don’t know what that means, to be “even-keeled” means to be characterized by stability or consistency.

And there is nothing more stable than the love of God. I promise you this is true. Because His love reaches to the heavens and stretches to the clouds. It is like the mighty mountains, and His justice flows like the ocean’s tide.

Go back up there and listen to that Third Day song again (or for the first time, if you skipped it). Read the Psalm right under it while you listen. Dwell in that for a few minutes, meditating on the mighty love of God, the unchanging, steadfast love of God. There is nothing better.

The prayer word for today is “beauty.” John Keats is quoted as saying, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

This idea of beauty can be taken several ways. The author today’s reading in Pray a Word a Day comes from the perspective of a walk through a botanical garden in New York. I can only imagine the kind of beauty that she sees there.

But I believe that we can also take that word and apply it to our God. He is beautiful beyond all imagination. He is more beautiful than anything this person saw in that botanical garden. But the thing is, His beauty is reflected in that garden, because He is, ultimately, the Creator of all of that beauty. And God, the Beautiful One, creates things that reflect His beauty.

Father, I praise You, this morning, as You are the Beautiful One. I thank You for the word You spoke to my heart when You said, “Do not fear.” I thank You that this word continues to be true for me and for anyone who chooses to believe that You are Truth.

Lord, please help us to love You the same during hard times as we do during the good times. It is easy to love You during the easy times. Oddly enough, though, we tend to only pray during the hard, challenging times. Why is that, Lord? You must think us really strange people!

Help me to see beauty today. There is a chance that there will be may children at the library today. Help me see beauty in their faces, as well as the faces of their parents. Give me grace to be patient with all circumstances that arise today, and to remember my love for You through all things. Help me to love others, as well, even, and especially, when they are failing to love You through their difficult times. Help me be one who shows them what an “even-keeled” life looks like. That, of course, requires me to live life on an even keel, so help me to do that.

I want to show love to people, Father. I want to show them Your love, and I want to show them that I love them, as well. Help us to have a love revolution in our world. I pray for Your Church to remember who is in control, here.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Leaves of sound are shed they fall
On this murmuring mind
Where the lullabies call
And from these words I sink and fall
To the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

Deep waters sound, who loves that deep?
I make my way
Up the toilsome steep
In green meadows now I sleep
In the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

And in the wind a song
And moonlight on the lawn
Draws me on, and on
And thru the day a sigh
For dreamers such as I
Who steal away
To watch and pray"
(Words and music by Terry Scott Taylor and Tim Chandler, copyright 1986 Broken Songs)
I challenge you to
find some beauty in your world
on your way, today

Grace and peace, friends.

Take My Hand

Today is Monday, the thirty-first of January, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of January.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,335

Today’s header photo is courtesy Paul Militaru. Please check out his fine photography at the link provided.

Yesterday was a day. It was, as it turns out, a pretty good day, but it was one of the more stressful days that I can remember, lately, and quite exhausting, at least mentally.

Right off the bat, let me say that no one was to blame for this. Circumstances arose that were out of anyone’s control, beginning, at least for our involvement, Saturday evening.

But what this is going to turn into, as the ongoing circumstance develops, is a praise report.

Look back a couple days ago, or so, and you will see an entry called “Disastrophe.” In it, I wrote about how the book of Ezekiel shows us that God works in and through catastrophe in our lives. We experienced the truth of this, yesterday.

The circumstance is that the plumbing in my mother’s house is clogged up, right now. Both toilets are backing up, and there are other issues, but the toilets are the primary, priority issue. We were already planning to go over there, yesterday, as S had an event at FBC that she wanted to attend, and we planned to have her there for that. So when Mama called Saturday evening to tell us about the problems, we decided to wait until Sunday morning to try to deal with them.

We dropped S off at the church and went over to the house. We chatted for a little while, serious talk about the eventuality that my mother wants to . . . okay, she doesn’t want to, but feels that the time is nigh for her to leave her home of almost sixty years. And, she expressed, to our surprise, her desire to come live with us for a while. Surprise because it had been previously expressed that she did not want to stay at our house, but might want an apartment or senior living space somewhere nearby.

After we talked a little while, and before we headed back up to the church for the worship service and lunch afterward, C took the short snake that we had brought and tackled one of the toilets. She actually got it to flush, and we went on to church.

As for plumbers, Mama had not been able to successfully contact any. She had called one that had been recommended, but had not been able to talk to them, as they had not returned her calls. While we were at church, I ran across a family friend, one of my high school teachers who is active in the visitation of elderly people who don’t get out much (we used to call them “shut-ins” when I was a kid), who gave me a name of a guy who does work like that, not an official “plumber,” but a handyman of sorts, who has actually done work for Mama before. But she was not aware that he was still doing work like that.

We got home from lunch, finally, and gave her the name. Of course, she remembered him, and still had his number. We talked some more, mostly about what kinds of things would need to happen in order for Mama to come live with us, and what kind of time line we were looking at. We are concerned with two things, at this point. One is getting the plumbing/toilets fixed asap, and the other is that there is an extreme cold front coming in mid-week, with snow and temps dropping to single digits. Doesn’t look anything like last year’s “Snovid” event, but still a bit unsettling. C really wanted to bring her home with us last night.

Shortly before we were getting ready to leave, Mama tried to call the guy, but he did not answer. She left him a message. We went to Braum’s to get her some milk and orange juice (and I needed to use the restroom). We got the milk and OJ, but someone was in the men’s room the entire time we were there! I waited close to fifteen minutes, too! One customer, as I was leaving opined that he would have just used the ladies’ room, as they are single occupancy. C even offered to stand watch while I did that, but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Silly, perhaps, but whatever.

So we went back to the house (I figured I could wait on the restroom until we hit up a convenience store on the way out of town in a few minutes) to deliver the milk and OJ. Just as we were saying our goodbyes, the phone rang. Mama figured it was a good friend who was supposed to call her back, but it was the handyman. We waited while she talked to him. He is supposed to be there, sometime this morning, with a super-duper snake machine, and feels that he can fix the problem.

So let’s lay out how we believe God worked through all of this. I realize that skeptics would call all of this coincidence. I, personally, do not believe in coincidence or “luck” (even though I do, sometimes, use the word “lucky”). I ran into my old teacher/family friend at church, who gave me the name of the handyman that my mother had used before and trusted. Now, here’s the thing that blows my mind. If I had not been delayed at Braum’s, trying to use the restroom, an inconvenience and annoyance to me, because whoever was in there wouldn’t come out, we likely would not still have been at Mama’s house when the guy called back, and would have left her with little peace about what was going to happen. As it turns out, we had great peace when we left, and were able to relax and get a good night’s sleep when we got home.

So, catastrophe, yes. Stressful, to the max, yes. But God worked. It is not finished yet, but we at least have something in the works that has good potential. And there is the beginning of a plan to move my mother into our house, soon. No idea how soon, but it’s at least in the works.

Well, that got long, and probably could have been its own entry, but I’ll carry on from here. Today is a typical Monday. C is back at the office again, and I’ll be doing some housework, during the day. It’s my “heavy” week at the library, working Tuesday evening, all day Wednesday, Friday (weather permitting), and Saturday.

I have also managed to get in my Wordle for the day.

Wordle 226 4/6*

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
For you are my rock and my fortress; 
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; 
Make your face shine on your servant; 
save me in your steadfast love! 
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD! 
(Psalms 31:3, 16, 24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way God works through apparent catastrophes
2. that the Lord is my rock and my fortress and that He leads me and guides me
3. for the sovereignty of God over all creation
4. that You are holding me by the hand, leading me to live right and well
5. that You bind up that which was broken (Ezekiel 34:16)
“Hear My Prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee.”
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 
He lived among the tombs. 
And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 
for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. 
No one had the strength to subdue him. 
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 
And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
 I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 
For he was saying to him, 
"Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 
And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, 
"My name is Legion, for we are many." 
And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 
Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 
and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." 
So he gave them permission.
 And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; 
and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
(Mark 5:1-13 ESV)

Can you picture this scene in your imagination? What do you think this “wild man” looked like? Living in the tombs, according to Luke’s version, he was also naked, wearing no clothes. Night and day, he would cry out or howl and cut or bruise himself with stones. Sounds like the making of a good adventure movie, doesn’t it? Can you imagine what the howls sounded like?

Notice that the demons inside the man recognized Jesus immediately, running to Him, and throwing the man down at His feet. The “spokesdemon” even begged Jesus not to torment him. I wonder how Jesus looked at this man . . . what kind of expression did He have on His face?

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 
And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, 
the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 
And those who had seen it described to them 
what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 
And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 
And he did not permit him but said to him, 
"Go home to your friends and tell them
 how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 
And he went away and began to proclaim 
in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. 
(Mark 5:14-20 ESV)

Can you now imagine the man, clothed, and sitting in front of Jesus, “in his right mind?” Why do you think the people begged Jesus to leave? Was it because they were so selfish that all they could think about was their pigs? I suppose that is always possible, knowing humanity the way we do. But I think there is also a key in verse 15. “They were afraid.” Something, someone “Other” was in their midst. Someone who had the kind of power that could do this thing, someone who was more powerful than whatever it was that had plagued this man for a long time.

I can’t help but wonder what it felt like to be in His presence at that moment. I have to believe that the air must have been thick with the power and presence of God. I mean, I know what it feels like when I get a taste of His presence in my room, here. This had to have been multiplied exponentially!

Do we know someone who might be suffering in the way that this man was suffering? Perhaps not possessed by “legions” of demons, but suffering in some other way. How can we pray for these people? We can speak to God, through Jesus, the One who has this kind of power, and we can have confidence that He will answer.

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)

"I am GOD. 
I have called you to live right and well. 
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe." 
(Isaiah 42:6 MSG)
Of David.

 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. 
(Psalms 138:1-8 ESV)

In that Isaiah passage, there are several translations that have God saying, “I will hold your hand,” or, “I will take you by the hand.” Surely we are all familiar with the image of God holding us in His hand. Who doesn’t know the old gospel song, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands?” But how often do we think of God, whose “hand” is big enough to hold the world, taking our hand and holding us by the hand?

What a wonderful image. Just as God called Isaiah to “live right and well,” my God has called me to do the same, and He has pledged to take responsibility for me. There are many times in my life that I have experienced Him holding me in His hand or in His arms. But I have also known times when I believe that He is holding me by the hand and leading me.

Someday, that righteous right hand that gives me the confidence to “be not afraid,” will take my hand and lead me Home.

And today’s prayer word is “broken.” How’s that for “coincidence?” The verse given is short and sweet, from Ezekiel 34:16, where God says,

"I will . . . bind up the broken . . ."
(NASB)

Most translations render that “injured” rather than broken. However, the KJV says this:

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
(Ezekiel 34:16 KJV)

Father, in the spirit of Ezekiel 34:16, today, I ask You to bind up my mother’s “broken” plumbing. Bring healing to whatever needs to be fixed in her house, please. I call upon that same power that Jesus had when He cast the legions of demons out of that wild man in the tombs, restoring him to his right mind. I call upon You who take us by the hand, that same hand that holds the entire world, to lead us onward, to lead us Home, eventually. You have given us grace upon grace, and I pray that this continues, as You demonstrate how You work in and through disasters and catastrophes. You have given peace in the midst of the “storm,” Father, and I thank You for this.

I pray that as cold weather approaches our area, it will not be as severe as last February’s winter storm. I pray that it would not even be as severe as is being predicted, and that we would not have any travel/transportation issues in our area, and that no one’s electricity or other means of power/heating will stop working. Protect us, Father, those of us who follow You as well as the ones who do not. I do not wish calamity on anyone.

Thank You for Your absolute sovereignty over Creation, for it gives me confidence to trust in You and hope that all things will work out for our good. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Panic

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

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 Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Making Disciples v. Preaching at People

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,329

Today is my half-day, at the library, from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. The reason for the fifteen bit is that I’m working until we close, which is 8:00 PM. Then it takes a few minutes for everyone to get their stuff together and get out the back door, so, in order for it to be four hours, the schedule is bumped to the quarter-hour. That is why my eight-hour days begin at 9:15 instead of 9:00, as well. We close at 6:00, but work until 6:15. For some reason, on Saturdays, we start (officially) at 9:30 and only get forty-five minutes for lunch. I have not asked for the logic behind that decision, I just go with it.

Nothing of any interest happened yesterday. It was a pretty lazy day. I did some chores, my usual Monday stuff. I still have a little bit of laundry to finish today.

We have been notified that we need to get Magnolia (cat) vaccinated against rabies. We thought this had already been done, but C got a call from the Watauga animal shelter, yesterday, saying that we had until Friday to provide proof of that, or we would get a citation. I had several possible reactions to that, one of which was, we don’t live in Watauga, so let them go ahead and cite us. However, the probable more right thing to do, especially as one who is supposed to be a “peacemaker,” is to get the shot and provide the proof. We got a voucher with Maggie to get it done at a place called TCAP (that stands for Texas Coalition for Animal Protection), and I can take her pretty much any morning this week. So I plan to take her to the Hurst location tomorrow, sometime between nine and noon, which is when they do vaccinations.

I’ve been playing the latest game craze to hit social media, Wordle. Here is my score for today.

Wordle 220 5/6*

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If you are interested in trying it, here is the link. Everyone gets the same word, each day, and the word changes every day. You get six guesses. The yellow blocks show that the guessed letter is in the word, but in the wrong position. The green blocks show that the correct letter is in the correct position. The empty blocks are just wrong. LOL. I have played ten times with a win percentage of 90%. I missed one a few days ago. The word was “prick.” I would never have guessed that. Modern culture assigns a not-so-nice meaning to that word. But it is a verb, though, meaning to “make a small hole in something with a sharp point.” You know . . . Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a spindle, right? Anyway.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Can Take You, by Daryl Madden

To listen so intently
The into flowing through
That takes you to the place
Only music can take you

To move the soul so deeply
Beyond what we construe
That takes to you the Grace
Only prayer can take you

To dwell within the scene
Of vision in the view
That takes you to the space
Only beauty can take you

To hope within the promise
To receive what we pursue
That blesses the embrace
Only God can take you

Oh, the places that music, prayer, beauty, and God can take me . . . please check out more of Daryl’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
 let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
and why are you in turmoil within me? 
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 
(Psalms 43:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music, prayer, and beauty, and the places that they can take me
2. that my soul is not "cast down," and that I am able to praise the Lord
3. that God is a friend to those who revere Him (Psalm 25:14)
4. that God has given me the faith to faithfully pray, and then watch to see what He will do (Psalm 5;3)
5. that I am content and protected beneath the wings of my God and Father
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
And he said to them, 
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, 
but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
And these signs will accompany those who believe: 
in my name they will cast out demons; 
they will speak in new tongues; 
they will pick up serpents with their hands; 
and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; 
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 
(Mark 16:15-18 ESV)

In this passage (allegedly not found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells His disciples, His followers to go and proclaim the good news to all of, or “the whole” creation. The KJV translated the word “kosmos” as “world,” where the more modern translations use the more-inclusive “creation.” What is our reaction to this command? The more popular version of it is found in Matthew 28, and is referred to as “The Great Commission.” Some people say that the Bible says that we are supposed to preach the Good News to everyone we meet.

No one I know does that, not even the people who claim to believe that this is what the Bible teaches. They would never get anything else accomplished, nor would they be able to hold down any kind of reasonable employment. I dare say that most employers would not tolerate someone who never did anything but preach at people while on the job.

And, sadly, that is what a lot of people do when they try to proclaim the Good News. They preach at people. And I can tell you from experience that this bothers people. Dallas Willard once opined that Jesus did not mean that we were supposed to go out and “bother” people.

I have also heard it said that, in the Great Commission, the Greek language implies that it should say “As you go . . . ,” indicating that we should be speaking the Good News in the context of our daily lives. This I find easier to believe. It is also worth noting that the Matthew version uses the phrase “make disciples” or “teach” (KJV) rather than “proclaim.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It takes a lot more investment in someone to make them a disciple than it does to just proclaim the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stand on a street corner and preach than it is to take the time to actually teach someone how to be a disciple of Jesus.

For me (and I am most certainly not saying that I have done a good job of obeying this command), the way to discern what is being asked of us is to look at what Jesus did. While He did do some preaching (there are several “discourses” recorded in the Gospels), the majority of His time was spent with those twelve guys, teaching them how to be disciples.

But going back to this passage in Mark. What is the “good news?” That question is answered in Mark, as well, back in chapter 1.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

I believe that the “gospel,” as proclaimed by Jesus, is that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” or, in other words, here. This is the message that we have to proclaim to the world. The kingdom is here; change the way you are thinking about life.

If Jesus really said the things recorded in this passage (again, not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), He made some rather bold statements about how His followers would be identified. My take on this requires me to contextualize it into our own culture, and I believe that it simply speaks to the kind of faith that we will see in disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t think we would find a lot of agreement about it, if we were to gather a dozen or so followers of Christ in the same room. Depending on where we got them, some would want to take this more literally than others. I mean, I suppose we still have “snake-handler” Christians around us somewhere. I seem to recall some news about some around Fort Worth, just a few years ago.

And some would, no doubt, use this passage as ammunition for their refusal to take part in any Covid-preventing measures. My faith, however, does not lead me down that path. Where it leads me is to walk on a path of love and faithfulness, of compassion and generosity and kindness. If you have read this forum very much, you have seen that I believe that I have, basically, two jobs: love God and love people. That is where my faith leads me, and it leads me to trust that God is looking out for me and has my best interest at heart (behind His own best interests, of course).

Part of the good news is this: God loves us. He loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to spend not only this life, but all eternity in His presence. And He has gifted us with His presence as we live and walk on this earth. What more could we ask for?

Pieces of this taken from today’s episode of 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.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13 ESV)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “feathers,” as in Psalm 91:4.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:4 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the protection that I feel, sheltered beneath Your “feathers” and “wings.” Your faithfulness is, indeed, my shield, and I find that I have nothing to fear in this world.

I thank You for the faith that You have given me, faith that enables me to pray in the face of insurmountable odds, and then wait to see what You will do. No, my prayers are not always answered the way I would like them to be. But that is part of my faith, that allows me to accept the answers You give as Your will. I know that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. There are times when I cannot comprehend Your ways and thoughts, and that is where faith comes into play, the faith of which Jesus spoke. I may not handle snakes or drink poison, but I trust in You, so I’m not afraid to walk out my front door and get in my car to drive somewhere.

I am also thankful that You have given me the faith to believe in the gospel, that Your kingdom is at hand, that it came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and that it remains on earth, with the presence of Your Holy Spirit, which You have given us, Your Church. May we walk in Your kingdom, and may we faithfully and adequately proclaim this kingdom while we walk here, and may we also faithfully teach others to walk in it, as we make more disciples. But, in doing this, may we not just preach at people. Help us to be more invested in the lives of others, because this is how we are going to reach them in Your name.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

All Creation Sings

Good morning! It is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of December, 2021, the second day of Christmas.

The peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,299

Only six days until 2022!

Yesterday was a lovely day, for the most part. The one thing that was a bit of a “downer” was that S’s stomach was upset for most of the day. It’s never fun to be feeling sick on Christmas.

We had our morning gift-unwrapping via live Zoom with R & J, which was great fun. Eventually, I may run down everything I got for Christmas, but I’ll need to have everything in front of me, or have pictures of it all, which I have not done yet. C is still asleep, so I don’t want to open the study door, because it goes into the bedroom and I don’t want to bother her. I will say that the highlight of the gifts was the trombone kazoo that C found for me. There’s quite a story behind that.

The trombone kazoo

After the gifts were unwrapped, C cooked a couple of dishes, and we left some at home, because S did not go to Mineral Wells with us. Remember, her stomach was upset. And this was genuine. Sometimes, she just doesn’t want to go, but this time, she really didn’t feel well. Trust me, there was evidence.

We had a great visit with Mama in Mineral Wells. We started out with another Zoom visit with R & J, and Mama opened her present from them. I don’t remember everything that she got from them, but there were a couple of LED nightlights, which I thought were very cool and decorative. I may consider getting something like that for our home.

We decided to go ahead and have lunch before opening our other presents to each other. It was a nice lunch, more ham, corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, fudge, pecan pie, and I’m probably forgetting something.

We surprised Mama with a new 42″ Amazon Fire TV for her den. Amazon just started marketing those, this year, and I was excited to be able to get one for her. We use the Fire Stick in our TV and love it. The new Fire TV basically does the same thing, but it’s built into the TV. We also started an Amazon Prime account for her so she can have Prime Video alongside her Netflix. We successfully got her cable hooked up to the TV, so she can now watch all of her favorite things on a full-sized TV instead of having to watch Netflix on a tablet.

This morning, our house church will not be meeting. I had thought about trying to visit the Anglican church I had visited before, but I won’t be finished in time. Their service begins at 10:00 AM, and it is currently 9:43. I slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

C is off for the whole week. She will likely have to log on to work a few times, but won’t have to go to the office until next year. It’s my “light” week, meaning that I’m only scheduled to work Tuesday night and Friday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, 
and his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning. 
(Psalms 30:4-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful celebrations we had with our family
2. for the joy that we celebrate during this season
3. that I can cast my anxiety on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
4. that we are a people called to peace, who can comfort one another in our afflictions
5. for the admonition and ability to let the Word of God dwell in us, richly
6. for my imperishable inheritance, waiting to be revealed to me
7. that darkness will never overcome the light

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
 who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace. 
And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 NIV)

There’s a progression here, that I can appreciate. First, we can cast our anxiety on the Lord. He can take it. He can hold, on His “shoulders,” the anxiety of the entire planet. He cares for us, and will gladly take our anxiety from us, if we would only surrender it. Second, we can comfort one another in our troubles (some versions say “afflictions”). Anxieties are certainly troubles. I know people who struggle with anxiety. It can most certainly be an “affliction.” We can comfort each other in these afflictions. The reason we can do so is that we have been comforted by our Father in our own afflictions, and, perhaps, surrendered our anxieties to Him. Third, we can let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts. We have been called to peace. This seems to be a thing that a lot of us struggle with comprehending. While it may be true that “peace” is not necessarily the absence of conflict, we should, in my opinion, most certainly not be involved in creating conflict.

I do like what comes next in Colossians 3, which is a wonderful chapter, in its entirety anyway. If you keep reading after verse 15, you get this:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, 
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
And whatever you do, in word or deed, 
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the thought behind that first line. We need to let God’s Word dwell in us, “richly.” I used to think this meant we had to do things like memorize it and study it intensely, knowing all of the ins and outs of Scripture, backwards and forwards, even learning some of the Greek and Hebrew nuances.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with knowing all of these things, I don’t believe that is what it means to allow the Word of God to dwell in us. I like the mentality that is presented in the likes of Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat This Book. This is also the idea that has been presented in the devotional book that has been the main thrust of my devotions this year, Seeking God’s Face. It’s this concept of lectio divina, or “divine reading.” This involves four stages (I don’t always manage to do all four of them). The first is simply reading this passage(s) at hand. The second is to meditate or reflect on the words that have been read. This is where I begin to catch certain words or phrases that stir within me or catch my eye. We sometimes use the phrase “jumps out at me.” During the meditation/reflection phase, we focus on those particular words or ideas.

The third stage is response. This is the piece where I pray back to God the things that He has “nudge” me with, during the reading and reflection. It is in this stage where we might also have questions to ask God about the passages that we have read.

The final stage, and, truthfully, the one that I fail to complete most often, is the contemplation stage. This is the stage where we rest in silent contemplation of the things that have been learned and/or prayed during the time. Nothing else should happen during the contemplation time. Of course, the brain will be active. It is impossible to simply shut it off. But we can direct it, and simply sit in silence, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds, regarding the things we have read. The difference between this phase and the reflection/meditation phase is that, in this phase, we are not specifically pondering a particular word or phrase or idea. We are allowing God, via the Spirit, to direct the process.

This, in my opinion, is the best way to allow the Word of God to dwell in us, richly.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
According to his great mercy, 
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
 to an inheritance that is imperishable, 
undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 
who by God's power are being guarded through faith 
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 
(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 2

INVITATION

A psalm of thanksgiving. 

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 NLT)

As I pause, in quietness, this morning, I reflect on the joy of the season, and the admonition in the above Scripture, to both worship in gladness and to sing with joy.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. 

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 his salvation known 
and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 
He has remembered his love 
and his faithfulness to Israel; 
all the ends of the earth 
have seen the salvation of our God. 
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn— 
shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, 
the world, and all who live in it. 
Let the rivers clap their hands, 
let the mountains sing together for joy; 
let them sing before the LORD, 
for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalms 98:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning. 
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I reflect on them, looking for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder what has connected with my heart and mind, and respond in prayer to the Lord, finally turning my thoughts to Him and resting in His presence.

Father, as I ponder these things, I know that singing “a new song” is something of which You are more than worthy! You are worthy of every song we could ever sing, new and old alike. As a song says, You are even worthy of every breath that we could ever breathe. As the Psalm says, You have made Your salvation known and revealed Your righteousness to the nations. And yet, the “nations” seem to be unable to see. Open their eyes, Father! Open their eyes, that they might see Your great salvation and Your awesome righteousness, and begin to worship You! But in the meantime, until the people do it, let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing for joy; let all creation sing!

I ponder the incomprehensible truth that Jesus was with You from the beginning, and that all things were made through Him. I do not understand this; I confess. I also confess that I don’t need to understand it. I revel in the truth; I see the glory; I feel the majesty; in Him is LIFE, the LIGHT of all mankind! Darkness will never overcome this light!

Father, as I look around me and see this creation, all of which was created through Jesus, present with You for all eternity, help me to see and savor the majesty, the wonder, the beauty, and the complexity of it all.

"Eternal, 
almighty God,
how did Your hands,
which flung galaxies into elegant orbit,
become the awkwardly uncontrolled hands of a newborn?
How does Your eternal being get inseparably woven into time-bound humanity?
While the how of Your incarnation widens my faith,
may the wonder of why You've done this for me bring deep joy today.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, the twenty-fifth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today, and may you find, in your life, that you have enough.

Day 23,268

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I wish all who read this a peaceful and safe day. May your heart be filled with gratitude.

Only thirty more days until Christmas. You knew that was coming.

We are doing the “Secret Santa” thing at the library, so I signed up for that. I’m quite fond of “Secret Santa.” Our library does it a little differently than I’m used to, but it’s fun. Instead of one gift, we are doing three gifts, spaced out a week apart. The first one is due next Wednesday, then one each on the following two Wednesdays. I’ve got all three of my gifts ordered, and at least one of them should be here on Monday, so I will have it in time for the first week. I don’t work next Wednesday, though, so I will take it up there Tuesday night. Then I will get mine from my Secret Santa when I go to work my extra shift on Thursday.

We are also having a Christmas lunch on Wednesday, December 8. I am scheduled to work that day, but would have made an extra trip for that, even if I wasn’t. During the lunch, which also features a dessert contest (I probably won’t cook something for that, but I’m not sure, yet), there will be a gift exchange, of the type that we used to call “Chinese Gift Giving,” which is probably no longer politically correct. Anyway, you pick a number and when your number is drawn, you select a wrapped gift and open it. The next person has the option of “stealing” your gift or picking a new one. It’s wacky fun. That reminds me . . . I need to get a gift ordered for that event, too. I wonder what I could get that would make a bunch of librarians steal from each other . . .

C is already preparing food for our Thanksgiving lunch. Currently, the sopapilla cheesecake is cooking. She also has green bean casserole and corn casserole to make. And ham to warm up, but it’s already cooked. Somewhere around noon, we will head to Mineral Wells to celebrate the day with Mama. She’s making devilled eggs and mashed potatoes, and maybe a dessert. Oh, and some crescent rolls, I believe.

We’ll be having basically the same thing tomorrow with C’s sister and family, and I believe they plan to bring some turkey, because two of them don’t care for ham.

Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

The choir and trumpets made one voice
of praise and thanks to GOD—
orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to GOD:
Yes!
God is good!
His loyal love goes on forever!
Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of GOD.
(2 Chronicles 5:13 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have enough (more than enough, in fact)
2. for Your presence in my life; if that was all I had, it would be enough
3. that You are good and Your "loyal love goes on forever"
4. for music and song, the choir and trumpets that make one voice of praise and thanks to You
5. for a pervasive sense of well-being
6. that I have been crucified with Christ, and that the life that I now live, I live by faith in Him
7. that all creation sings Your praises

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
(Psalms 95:2 NIV)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Just a quick reminder that Thanksgiving and all its celebrations is not about how perfect the table or the decorations look. It’s not even about how perfect the food is or looks. It’s a celebration of the heart. It shouldn’t matter if you’re eating ramen on a card table. It is what is in your heart that matters.

If there is sadness or grieving in your heart, that’s okay, too. This Thanksgiving (just like many before it) will be that way for some people. And you can be sad and grieving and still be thankful. There are many who are experiencing their first Thanksgiving without one of their parents, today. I know of one who is having his first Thanksgiving without his wife. A couple I know lost a son, unexpectedly and suddenly, this week. And I have a friend who had cancer surgery yesterday.

It’s not all puppies, unicorns, and rainbows today. I’m good, yes. I’m about as happy as can be. But I am aware that it’s not that way for many. So, if you are one who is sad and grieving today, that’s perfectly okay and normal. I pray that you can find something to be thankful for, especially as you share memories of your loved ones. More importantly, I hope you are not alone.

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
(Leviticus 16:21 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer
I
who live,
but
Christ
who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore,
under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
casting all your anxieties on him,
because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

If we say we have
no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

If you can truthfully say the words of Galatians 2:20, you have plenty for which to be thankful today, regardless of your circumstances.

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Stop fighting,”
he says,
“and know that I am God,
supreme among the nations,
supreme over the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 GNB)

I pause during this quiet time and close my eyes to ponder my circumstances. I am blessed beyond imagination. Life is good. You are good! Thank you, Father!

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.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

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 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
(Jonah 3:1-5 NIV)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:10 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue in awareness of God’s loving presence in this place, I read these passages again, looking for anything in God’s Word that catches the attention of my heart and soul. Is there a command for me? Is there comfort for me? I talk to Him about what I have read and what has moved me, and enjoy His presence.

Psalm 148 continues the trend of the final few psalms in simply giving praise to the Lord. Or, rather, commanding all of creation to give Him praise. In our selection, this morning, we only read the first four verses that address the heavenly hosts and sun, moon, and stars.

But the list goes on, and when verse 13 says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD,” here is who that is referring to.

Sea creatures and all ocean depths
Lightning
Hail
Snow
Clouds
Stormy winds
Mountains and hills
Fruit trees
Cedar trees
Wild animals
Cattle
Small creatures
Flying birds
Kings of the earth
All nations
Princes and all rulers
Young men and women
Old men
Children

If you’re reading this, you are in one of these groups. Probably one of the last three. You might be a king or prince or ruler. If so, I would be humbly honored. Either way, just do what it says, today, and every day.

Praise the LORD.

Also? Don’t be like Jonah.

Jonah was obedient. Sort of. He was kind of like one of the sons in a parable that Jesus told. You know, where a landowner told both of his sons to go work in the fields. One said he would go, then didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t go, then later relented and went.

Jonah is a weird case, though. He initially ran away from God’s directive. Not successfully, of course, because you just can’t do that. If God wants you somewhere, you will wind up there.

Period.

Even if it takes being swallowed by a specially prepared “great fish.” (Not a whale, mind you. It’s never called a whale.) We really don’t know what kind of fish . . . it was just big.

So Jonah repented and went to Nineveh. Make no mistake, though. His “obedience” was not ever willing. He went . . . he preached repentance to the people. But then the unexpected happened.

They repented. Jonah didn’t like that, because he didn’t like those Ninevites. He really didn’t want them to repent.

How often are we like that? (Get your steel-toed shoes ready.) Are there people that you would rather not see saved? Tell the truth. Is there someone, right now, anyone, that you can think of that you would just as soon see die and go to hell?

If you’re a Republican, I bet I can name at least one. If you’re a Democrat, I bet I can name at least one.

I might have a few that I’m struggling with. I even have a few brothers and sisters for whom I struggle with praying. Yes, I admit it.

I’m human. Not perfect. In spite of the fortune cookie slip taped to my desk that says “You shall soon achieve perfection.” Obviously, we have different definitions of “soon.”

The lesson we learn from Jonah is how to not be a prophet. God will get His desired results. He will get them with or without us. If we run away from His plan, He doesn’t suffer. It is we who suffer.

Don’t be a Jonah.

Father, I praise You for all Your glorious and wondrous creation. I join with the mountains and hills, the sea creatures and cedar trees, and all the saints who have come before me and who will come after me, in praising Your holy Name. I thank You for the music that You have placed in my heart and on my tongue and my fingertips, music which I can use to praise You. But God, I have flaws (don’t You know it?). I ask You to help me love unconditionally, especially all of those saints who call the name of Jesus. Help us all to walk more completely in His steps, and love the way He loves. Help us with our bigotry and our prejudices. Teach us Your ways, that we may all walk firmly in Your truth. And that Truth, that Way, that Life, is Jesus Christ.

Give us all spiritual renewal, Father, as well as deep repentance for the sins in which we still struggle. May You give us all readiness to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us.

"Gracious God,
the saving power of the gospel is amazing to everyone.
Some are surprised that Your grace could include and change even them;
others are shocked that their goodness and religious credentials don't earn them Your grace.
Continue to astonish the world with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Amen."

BLESSING

Happy are those who remain faithful under trials,
because when they succeed in passing such a test,
they will receive as their reward
the life which God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 GNB)

Father, as we consider this day of Thanksgiving, I pray for tensions in our nation to be healed. I pray for unity within Your Church, as there has been a rift there, unnecessarily caused by politics. May we rise above that and focus our attention on You, on Christ, and on loving You and loving our neighbors and brothers and sisters.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Dandelions in the Wind

Good morning to you! It is Wednesday, the tenth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God rain down on you today.

Day 23,253

Two more days until C’s birthday!

We tried out something completely new to us, yesterday, since we got the new garage door opener installed, last Saturday. We had an Amazon package delivered, yesterday, and I discovered, while setting up the app on my iPhone, that could enable Amazon to open my garage and deliver packages inside. That was successfully done, yesterday. However, we are still “on the fence” as to how comfortable we are with random Amazon delivery people having our garage door code.

The guy who looked at our pool equipment on Monday got back with us yesterday with an estimate of putting in a smart-phone operating system. Looks like it will cost right at $2000 for that. C is not in favor of that. In her own words, “I can walk to the panel on the side for $2000.”

Today is the one day of the week when both C and I work away from home. She’s in the office on Wednesdays and I work every other Wednesday at the library. I have started our Chicken Taco Soup in the crockpot, for dinner tonight. I decided, last week, I think, that I would switch our stir-fry night to Thursdays on weeks when I work Wednesdays, and do a soup on Wednesday.

I’m still reading The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. I’ve made it to chapter 4, but likely won’t get a lot of reading done today. I’m debating taking this one to work to read during lunch, mostly because of the density of the subject matter, and I like to be able to take notes while I read it. I have plenty of other stuff I can read while at work, books that don’t make me think quite so much. Haha! I’ll probably take my Kindle or iPad with me and read one of the Nursery Rhyme Murders collection that I am also currently reading. It’s called Humpty Dumpty.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

House of Prayer, by Daryl Madden

In this sacred space
So blessed to be here
In dwelling within
Your house of prayer

The Spirit surrounding
Your peace is heard
As the silence proclaims
Your glorious Word

As incense arising
Your Presence abounds
As prayer has anointed
This holy ground

Love of the knowing
Of heavens view
Joy overflowing
In light pouring through

“The Spirit surrounding Your peace is heard As the silence proclaims Your glorious Word.” My spirit is almost overwhelmed by those words. Brother Madden, your poetry is greatly appreciated, here.

And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.”
(Isaiah 12:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your presence in this place (and everywhere else, wherever I am)
2. for Your marvelous deeds among the people, and the exaltation of Your Name
3. that You teach us how to rest
4. that You, the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth, do not grow tired or weary
5. that we, when we hope, trust, and wait in You, will renew our strength and soar like eagles

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

“Are you tired?
Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 MSG)

I pause for reflection during this quiet moment. The peace is almost overwhelming, especially as I make myself aware of His presence. I am moved into prayer and meditation already.

Father, make Yourself known among the peoples. Display Your mighty handiwork among the nations! Shout aloud Your glory and grace to us! Make us fall on our knees in humility and surrender, as we praise Your holy and precious Name!

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
(Psalms 126:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, more slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I slowly repeat them, meditating on them, “chewing” on them. I pray my thoughts to God, praying my life to Him, letting Him know and shape the desires of my heart. If I delight myself in Him, He gives me the desires of my heart. I rest in and enjoy the presence of my Savior.

Oddly enough, it seems as though I could read Psalm 126 and then continue straight on into the passage from Isaiah, almost without pausing for a breath.

There is great joy in the psalm. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” I can echo those words, today. While things are far from perfect, the Lord has been increasing my joy, of late. “Sure,” you may say. “That’s easy for you to say, because you have recently retired and are now working at your dream job in a library.”

I’ll give you that. But this presence of joy began long before any of that was even a glimmer of hope. And there were certainly some scary “hiccups” in the process. For the past few years, God has been drawing me into this country of joy. Joy, according to Dallas Willard (there he goes again, Dallas Willarding) is an overwhelming sense of well-being. It is regardless of circumstances.

And I can recognize, even when troublesome things may be happening, or on the horizon, that the Lord has done great things for us. Unlike Israel, in this particular song of ascents, I don’t need any fortunes restored. Nevertheless, I can rejoice in knowing that He has done great things for me/us. And, I can most certainly pray for those who are sowing with tears, that they might reap with songs of joy; that those who go out weeping, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

But why do we complain? That is a very valid question. I could easily reword the beginning questions in the passage from Isaiah. “Why do you complain, Church??” What on earth is wrong with you? My social media feed is replete with Christians complaining! Non-stop! I simply do not get it.

Wait. Does that sound like I’m complaining? I’m not, really. More like shaking my head in disbelief. You would think the end of the world was at hand because of who is in the White House. We have grown so very short-sighted.

Then the big question hammers down. It actually begins a few verses before we started reading today.

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
(Isaiah 40:21 NIV)

It is almost as though Isaiah is dumbfounded, here.

I am impressed with the need to continue reading.

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?”
says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
(Isaiah 40:22-26 NIV)

Does anyone else get this picture in their head?

That, my brothers and sisters, is the rulers and princes of this world in comparison to the Lord God Almighty!

He is the everlasting God; the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary. His understanding cannot be fathomed by me, by you, by Stephen Hawking, by Elon Musk, by anyone.

And look. One of the most-quoted verses in the Bible. “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Jacob/Israel was not soaring. They were complaining. A lot like the modern Church. We have lost sight of the majesty and glory of our creator, and have glued our eyes to earthly weakling princes and presidents.

This is a call for the Church to regain perspective. Unfortunately, only about forty or so people will see this. But hey . . . you never know what effect the message of the Gospel will have. So I write it. I write it because it has been given to me, this morning. This is what God is saying to me, today, so I share it with the handful of folks who will see this humble blog entry.

Spread the word, though. God is God. Trump is not God. Biden is not God (and he’s not the devil, either, in spite of what some think). They are nothing but dandelions in the wind of the breath of our God.

Father, maybe we do need our “fortunes” restored. If I consider that the ability to soar like the eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not be faint, are aspects of “fortune,” then, yes, God, please restore our fortunes! Remind us that the rulers of this world are nothing more than chaff in the wind, as Your breath, blowing away the seeds on a dandelion puff. In truth, we are all like that, in Your presence. We are weak; but Your presence makes us strong. We are finite; but Your Spirit, as we dwell in Christ, makes us eternal. Our only hope is in You, Lord, so please help us to stop putting our hope in other things. I pray that Your Church would cease putting her hope in dandelions. I praise and magnify You, the Creator of the ends of the earth; You who does not grow tired or weary; You who never sleeps or slumbers; You who are constantly watching over us, Your people. Help us to rest in this truth, Father!

"Everlasting God,
through Christ's resurrection You guarantee life restored,
sharing Your glory,
victory,
and righteousness.
Inject my everyday living with that bright hope,
lifting my heart,
giving fresh legs for weary days,
and steadying a sometimes woozy and wobbly faith.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

Let your love,
GOD,
shape my life with salvation,
exactly as you promised;
(Psalms 119:41 MSG)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
(Galatians 1:10 ESV)

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 1:2 ESV)

Dandelions in the wind.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalms 27:4 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.