Lay Up These Words

Today is Monday, March 19, 2018. Back to work. Day 21,921.

TEN days until Opening Day!

13 days until Resurrection Sunday!

It’s the birthday of Wyatt Earp (1848-1929). He said, “Fast if fine, but accuracy is everything.” (BrainyQuote)

The word for today is dornick, a noun which means, “a small stone that is easy to throw.”

As mentioned above, I’m returning to work today, after my week long hiatus. It’s been a nice week, although somewhat strange, as C was working for half of it. But we got the pool heater working again, and I was able to get to the doctor for my med refills. I’m supposed to go back in six months for a followup. My A1C is still high, but it’s better than last time.

Band practice resumes tonight, and we only have four weeks until our next concert, which is the annual Southlake Art in the Square event. I’ll play that one, but I’ll sit out the July 3 concert. I decided that I would stick by what I said last year, and not play that event again. It’s too hot, anyway, and after what the Town Square did to us last year, I don’t feel like walking that far, carrying all my gear.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. 
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah. 
For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 
Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! 
May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! 
So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.

Psalm 61

What a beautiful prayer in the first five verses of this Psalm. “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer,” and so on. Who among us has not had a faint heart? The best thing to do when my heart is faint is so cry out to God, and ask him to “lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

(From Daily Guideposts 2018)

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

In today’s reading, Logan Eliasen shares a time when he was taking his mother to go shopping. She was waiting for him on the “sunporch,” with her Bible propped open on her lap. This Bible, he describes, “had only half a cover. The margins overflowed with her looping handwriting. The text was highlighted and underlined and highlighted again.” Here’s a saint who took her Bible with her everywhere; doctor’s offices, soccer practices, swimming pool. “She didn’t want to waste a second,” says Eliasen.

What would we look like if we all had that same motivation for God’s word? How many of us have used our Bible so much that half of the cover is gone? I’d probably get a new Bible if that happened. But why? What does it matter if it looks new? What if I pulled out my Bible when I had a moment, instead of checking Facebook on my phone?

God commanded his people to know his commands, to learn his word, to teach it to their children and their children’s children. How can we teach people what we don’t know? I’m convicted by this reading today. Oh, sure, I read portions of Scripture every day. But I bet I look at Facebook more.

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
Deuteronomy 11:18
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8

And just a quickie from Charles Swindoll’s The Finishing Touch. Obviously a baseball fan, today’s reading centered on the imminent beginning of that wonderful spring/summer thing; baseball season. What he admonishes us, though, is (hide your toes) to be kind and courteous to . . . the umpires. After all, they do have the hardest job in baseball.

I won’t go into detail as to the entire reading, but I will share the scripture at the end, which convicts me, as I have a history of yelling at umps. This passage is good for more than just how we treat umpires, too.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32

Father, I pray that you give me even more love for your word. May I look to it more than I look to Facebook or the Internet or email. May I cherish it and wear it out. And may I learn it well enough that, if called upon, I could teach it to someone younger. I also pray that the truth of Ephesians 4:29-32 would be ingrained in my heart. Teach me to be courteous and kind to all people. Even umpires.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.


Who Are You?

Today is Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Day 21,909.

THREE DAYS until Glen Rose!!

F. Scott Fitzgerald (not his birthday) said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
The Quotations Page

The word for today is benighted, an adjective which means, “intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened.” Also, “overtaken by darkness or night.”

We didn’t make it to the Y last night, but we were kind of expecting that would happen. We definitely plan to go tonight, though, followed by a Subway dinner, which we will pick up on the way home.

As it gets closer by the day, we get more excited about our trip to Glen Rose. This year, for the first time in many years, C will feel like actually walking, which we plan to do a good bit of. We may even go to the “Dinosaur State Park,” which is just up the road from our cabins. I’m sure there will be pictures, so stay tuned.

One of our plans for the weekend, though, is a pedicure before we leave for Glen Rose. I love a good pedicure. It’s more than just getting toenails trimmed. It’s more about the leg massage and stuff. And I really don’t care what anybody thinks about it.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 
God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 
They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 
Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? 
There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. 
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Psalm 53

For a number of years, now, I have looked at this Psalm (as well as Psalm 14, which is almost identical), and considered that first verse. Perhaps I am reading more into it than is there, but the idea, to me, is that it is the foolish person who declare, with no doubt in his mind, “There is no God.” The one who doubts, we call them agnostics, are not so foolish, because at least he entertains the possibility. The thing is, I can no more prove to you that God exists than you can prove that he doesn’t. I believe, based on more than I have time to type, that he exists, and that he cares deeply for his children. But to outright say, “There is no God” is foolish, because no one can know this for certain.

(From Daily Guideposts 2018)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 
Isaiah 30:21

Who are you?

How would you answer that question?

Many of us would answer the question with what we do. “I’m a musician.” “I’m a project manager.” “I’m a director.”

Why do we have so much trouble defining who we are?

I believe it’s because many of us simply do not know who we are, so we embrace what we do and let that define us. I have worked, in recent years, to stop that.

I am a follower of Jesus. Not to perfection, by any stretch of the imagination. Some days I don’t follow him very well at all. But that’s who I am. I am a God-child, follower of Christ. I’m a lover, not a fighter. What I “do” is pretty irrelevant. Maybe not to my boss, mind you, but in the grand scheme of things. I’m a musician, and maybe that’s more a part of who I am than what I do. I like baseball and books. I spend way too much time playing PS4 games. I could ramble on. But the most important thing that I am is a Christ follower, followed by husband, father, and son (not necessarily in that order).

With that in mind, it also helps describe where I get my guidance. To whom do you look for guidance? Who you say you are gives a clue. To me the main Source of all wisdom, guidance, and strength is God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26

Father, I thank you for making me who I am. I pray for more guidance along the way. Direct my paths, make them straight. By your Spirit help me to trust you more than I trust my own “wisdom.” Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

That I May Not Sin With My Tongue

Today is Friday (we made it), February 16, 2018. Day 21,890.

22 days until our Glen Rose weekend.

Sonny Bono, born on this date in 1935 (died 1998), said, “People have said to me, You can’t write songs. You can’t play an instrument. But I’ve got 10 gold records.”

The word for today, from Merriam-Webster, is yuppify, a verb which means, “to make appealing to yuppies; also : to infuse with the qualities or values of yuppies.” I wasn’t aware that “yuppy” was still a thing. Isn’t “hipster” the new “yuppy?”

I think C is feeling a bit better. She was in much better spirits after work, yesterday. Apparently, there are quite a few folks who are suffering from this bout of the flu for two weeks or longer.

I have been wondering how I managed to escape getting the flu (at least so far). I had something last week, but I don’t believe it was flu because I never got fever, and it only lasted a few days. There appears to be some evidence that (you may call me crazy, but I don’t care) my daily consumption of Crazy Water (alkaline water from Mineral Wells) has helped boost my immune system and helped me fight off the flu.

Nothing on the agenda for the weekend, other than getting a new tire for C’s car. It seems that she has a bubble on her tire.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” 
I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. 
My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah. 
Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! 
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. 
Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! 
I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 
Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand. 
When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah. 
“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. 
Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” 

Psalm 39

Verse 1 is a challenge, isn’t it? Guarding my ways, “that I may not sin with my tongue.” I’m pretty sure I “sin with my tongue” multiple times a day.

For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.
Jeremiah 31:25
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
Proverbs 24:3-4

Jon Sweeney, in Daily Guidposts 2018 reminds us, today, of the need to take frequent times throughout the day to center our thoughts and pray. “I pray, and I walk, and sometimes I pray and walk at the same time.”

I find that I do a lot of that, as well. There are many times that I walk from my workstation in the warehouse to the break room, and I pray as I walk. It helps, when I remember. It breaks up the day’s stress and centers my spirit in His Spirit.

Father, I pray for two things today (at least in this prayer). Help me to guard my ways, that I might not sin with my tongue. Then remind me to pray throughout the day, to center my spirit within your Spirit, that I might be protected from the stress and anxiety of the normal day. May you reign strong in my work day today, Father.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Only Way To Have A Friend . . .

Today is Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Day 21,887.

One day until Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent, if you aren’t aware, which is the forty-day season leading up to Easter). This year, it happens to coincide with Valentine’s Day, as well as the day pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

Peter Gabriel (co-founder of Genesis), born on this date in 1950, said, “I think it is the weak and the young and the minorities that you need to look after to get a healthy creative environment – to get a lot of choices, a lot of different styles of music, a lot experimental stuff that everyone else feeds off.”

The word for today, from, is Aesopian, an adjective which means, “conveying meaning by hint, euphemism, innuendo, or the like.”

C made it through her first day back at work. This morning, she still doesn’t feel great, but she’s going back in. We’re hoping she’s on the down side of this stuff, with just the residual coughing left. Unfortunately, that sometimes lasts weeks.

On a positive note, I broiled some nice ribeye steaks for us, last night, which we ate along with some broccoli and salad. We had originally planned to have this Sunday evening, but C did not feel like eating anything Sunday night, so we put it off. I did a fairly good job on the steaks. Slightly over-cooked, but still delicious.

It’s still up in the air, as to when we’ll make it back to the Y. We will go back, though. I’ve managed to drop fifteen pounds, this year, and I want to keep going.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. 
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. 
But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. 
Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. 
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. 
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. 
The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:34-40

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 
Jeremiah 31:3
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Roberta Messner reminds us, this morning, in Daily Guideposts 2018, that, in terms of being friends, we seldom do better than eighty percent. It’s true, I suppose. How many of us fulfill the statement from Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” I dare say we struggle to love our spouses one hundred percent of the time, much less another person in our lives.

As for me, I’ve not been a great “friend” to anyone, I fear. I’ve been pretty much a loner all my life. Sure I’ve had “best friends.” I could name a few right now. But the last “best friend” I had, I’ve only seen once in the last twenty years, I think. Oh, sure, we’re still friends, and I still love him, which is what makes friendship a great thing. But have either one of us been “good friends” to each other?

Kerry Livgren and AD recorded a song years ago, called “The Only Way To Have A Friend Is To Be One.” And the best example we have of this is, of course, our Savior. Jesus is that friend who “loves at all times.” He is truly the best of best friends. He will never fail us, even when we fail him. Then he give us that commandment. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That’s more than eighty percent.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Father, teach me to be a “friend.” Teach me, Lord Jesus, to love as you have loved. Teach me, Holy Spirit, to walk in the paths that the Father and Son have laid down for me.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Comfortably Numb

Today is Monday, February 5, 2018. Day 21,879.

Cory Wells (Three Dog Night), born on this date in 1941 (died 2015) said, “My last name is Wellsley, but a lot of people say it’s Lowendowski, which is my mother’s last name, and I had it changed to my father’s when I was 18.”

The word for today, from Merriam-Webster, is spavined, an adjective which means, “affected with swelling.” Also, “old and decrepit : over the hill.” I find the juxtaposition of those two definitions both amusing and dismaying.

We wound up not going to the SB party last night, as C wasn’t feeling 100%. She had a bit of a cough, and just wasn’t feeling good. S had spent part of the afternoon feeling poorly, as well, so we decided to not go. I didn’t want to go by myself.

We did watch the game, though, which turned out to be about the most exciting SuperBowl game I have ever seen. There was only one punt, few penalties, only two turnovers, and it went down to the last second. Exactly how a championship game should go. Of course, technically, all games go down to the last second, but this game could have gone either way at the end. Of course, the best the Pats could do at that point was tie the game with a TD and 2 point conversion, forcing overtime. But last night was the “Iggles'” night. Nick Foles was stellar, and the coach made some bold and daring play calls, one of which proved to be the deciding play of the game. I believe I heard the announcers say that it was the only time in SuperBowl history that a quarterback caught a touchdown pass.

It’s Monday, so it’s back to work for us. Band practice tonight.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! 
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
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. 
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 
What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. 
Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 
The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 34

This is a great Psalm. I have long found great comfort and refuge in the verses of Psalm 34. The common theme seems to be deliverance. Note that, again, there is no promise that God’s children will not see troubles or afflictions. We most definitely will. However, he will deliver us from those troubles and afflictions. And pulling all of this together, in my opinion, is verse 8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”

We often make statements, somewhat flippantly, that “God is in control.” But do we really believe that? Thanks to Daily Guideposts 2018, I have “stumbled” onto a verse that I don’t remember noticing before. I’ve read it before, of course. But obviously did not take note of it. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” The prophet then continues with this prayer: “Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.”

So, yes. God IS truly in control. We may think we are, but we don’t even have the ability to direct our own steps.

In The Finishing Touch, Charles Swindoll talks about ruts. The central person in today’s reading is Henri Nouwen, who, in his book In the Name of Jesus, confesses to being in a rut for close to half of his life.

“As I entered into my fifties and was able to realize the unlikelihood of doubling my years, I came face to face with the simple question, ‘Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?’ After twenty-five years of priesthood, I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues. . . . something inside was telling me that my success was putting my own soul in danger. . . . I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term ‘burnout’ was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death.”

At this point, Henri asked God to show him where to go. But he prayed specifically, asking God to be direct and not vague about it. Says Nouwen, “God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.'” He left his “prestigious role as a distinguished professor” and moved to the L’Arche community for mentally handicapped people.

“The lessons awaiting Nouwen were numerous: some painful, a few humiliating, but all of the then necessary. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he experienced a change deep withing his own being. The master teacher learned to be the humble servant . . . the self-confident, proud individualist became a compassionate, caring friend.”

How entrenched am I in my ruts? Says Swindoll, “this rut of religious activity can numb our souls.” Sometimes I fear that my soul has been numbed, indeed. Like Nouwen, I find myself, lately, praying poorly. I will be sixty years old in just over two months. But I’m not too old to jump out of the “rut of religious activity” and try to make a difference in my life. Yesterday morning, our pastor spoke a message from John 12, focusing on verses 24-25, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

To save my life, I have to give it up. What will that look like?

One thing I know. Looking back up at the Psalm that began today’s devotional, I know that God will deliver me. He will pull me out of this rut and show me the way. I have before, and I know I will again, “taste and see that the LORD is good!”

Father, show me the way. Draw me out of the rut of activity that I have sunk into. The activities, themselves are not bad. But I need a fresh encounter with you, along with the establishments of some disciplines to propel me closer to you and your kingdom. Show me the way. Direct my steps, because when I try to direct them, they go awry.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Dear Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved, may your rule be completed in us – may your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven. Give us today the things we need today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us. Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from everything bad. Because you are the one in charge, and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours – forever – which is just the way we want it! (Dallas Willard)

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy Comes In the Morning

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), February 1, 2018. Day 21,875.

56 days until Opening Day. That’s for baseball season, in case anyone is wondering.

Langston Hughes, born on this date in 1902 (died 1967), said, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

The word for today, from, is epistemic, an adjective which means, “of or relating to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.”

Not a lot going on around here. We are continuing our trips to the YMCA, so we’ll be going tonight and tomorrow night, at least. Our church is having a Superbowl party Sunday night. More about the gathering than the football.

I’m rooting for the Patriots, in case anyone wonders.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
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. 
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
  Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” 
  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
  that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30

This is a beautiful Psalm, with the ever-popular “joy comes in the morning” theme. Over and over in the Psalms, we find the idea that we can cry out to the Lord for help, and he will rescue/heal/deliver us. There is never, of course, a promise that we will not go through troubles. There is, however, an assurance that “joy comes in the morning.”

I know I already put a lot of C.S. Lewis in this blog, but in a different reading, this morning, I found this nugget, from one of his letters. “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” (From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145:18
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:13-14
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.
Luke 22:42

Erin MacPherson, in Daily Guideposts 2018, reminds us that the nature of that last phrase, “Not my will, but yours, be done,” is at once both terrifying and hopeful. If we can truly pray that prayer, we have accepted God’s will in whatever situation we are praying for. I remember reading or hearing, a couple weeks back (I can’t remember the source), that praying in the name of Jesus means praying as He would pray, or agreeing with Him in prayer. It is certainly more than just tagging, “In Jesus’s name” at the end of our prayers. If we are walking with Him, and living in Him, our prayers will be as though He were praying. But whatever we pray, to say, “Not my will, but yours, be done” is the ultimate expression of our faith in the Father.

(From The Business of Heaven, C.S. Lewis)
What are We to Make of Christ?

“‘What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.

“The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, ‘This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go,’ but He says, ‘I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.’ He says, ‘No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.’ He says, ‘If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way. I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.’ That is the issue.” (From What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?)

There’s enough in there to chew on for a lifetime.

Finally, this morning, Charles Swindoll, in The Finishing Touch quotes Elton Trueblood, concerning the nature of joy, which brings us full circle back to the topic of our Psalm reading for the day.

“The Christian is joyful, not because he is blind to injustice and suffering, but because he is convinced that these, in the light of the divine sovereignty, are never ultimate . . . the humor of the Christian is not a way of denying the tears, but rather a way of affirming something which is deeper than tears.”

Father, thank you for joy. Help us be joyful in all circumstances. Show us the true joy and peace that comes in knowing Christ. Teach us to pray in His Name, and always show us Truth. Above all, remind us that no matter what we are going through, joy comes in the morning.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

The Least of These

Today is Thursday, January 4, 2018. Day 21,847.

84 days until Opening Day.

Oscar Wilde said, “But what is the difference between literature and journalism? …Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.”
The Quotations Page

The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is hornswoggle, a verb, meaning, “bamboozle, hoax.”

Not much to talk about, around here. I’m starting back up with band practice in Southlake, this coming Monday evening, so that will be new. I’ve been off since the July 3 concert of last year. But I’m looking forward to getting back into it. I need to be playing.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah. 
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. 
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4

In today’s Daily Guideposts reading, Stephanie Thompson reminds us that the time we spend waiting, for whatever reason, can also be time waiting to hear from God. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)

(From The Business of Heaven)
An Upside Down World

“While we are in this ‘valley of tears,’ cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous. For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order–with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order? How can you find any image of this in the ‘serious’ activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heartbroken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis? No . . . It is only in our ‘hours-off,’ only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” (Letters to Malcolm)

(From The Finishing Touch)
Upholding Human Dignity

Some years ago, an 84 year old Swedish woman sat on her balcony for two months before a neighbor discovered that she had died. The neighbor felt badly for not realizing it sooner, saying, “I hope this dreadful story makes us better at keeping in touch with our old neighbors.”

“Isolationism,” says Chuck Swindoll, “is a human tragedy.” This scenario could have easily played out in any country, city, or town. “For fear of poking our nose in someone else’s business or getting involved in something that could backfire on us, we have trained ourselves not to stop, look, or listen.”

Certainly, we must be cautious. Who hasn’t heard of someone who unwittingly stopped to help an apparent stranded motorist, only to be robbed, or worse? Yet, “somewhere between prudent caution and total isolation there is some sort of measured space worth the risk.”

Our world has grown fast-paced (even more so since 1994 when this book was published). Technology makes us more and more insignificant. We all struggle to be loved for who we are, yet tend to put up these fake personas on social media. We get voice mails when we call people. Some would rather send texts than talk to people in person. I, personally, do not enjoy having “conversations” via text message. For one thing, it takes too long to type a message of any length on the tiny phone “keyboard.” When we call “customer service,” we get someone in a far-away country, with little or no real understanding of the issues we are facing. We can even drive to a local ATM at any time of day or night, and get instant cash without any kind of human involvement.

“Machines write for us, answer phones for us, get money for us, shop for us, think for us, rent cars for us.” All of this has resulted in a tragic loss of human dignity. Dallas Willard defines “dignity” as that which cannot be exchanged for something of greater value. For example, we can exchange a few dollars for a hamburger. But there is nothing of greater value that should be exchangeable for a human life. That is one reason human trafficking is so horrible. But I digress.

Our excuses for the devices that rob us of this dignity is that they save time, allowing us to be more efficient. Plus they keep “us from getting hung up on knotty things like relationships and people-related concerns.”

Says Swindoll, “What’s so healthy about becoming completely untouchable? What’s so healthy about high-tech efficiency? What’s so healthy about computer-generated letters from one friend to another? What’s so healthy about spending the day talking to machines?”

A machine can’t give you a hug when you are grieving. They don’t really “listen” to you, because they are incapable of caring. Neither can they give you affirmation when you’re down or confront you when you’re wrong. “When you need reassurance and hope and strength to go on, you cannot replace the essential presence of another human being.”

Remember, Jesus came to save people, “human beings with names and personalities and fingerprints and faces. Upholding human dignity is worth the effort every time.”

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 
They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 
I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139

Father, remind me today of the need to uphold human dignity, with every person I meet. No matter how annoying I think a person might be, they are a creation of yours, made in your image, and deserve the consideration of someone who will deal with them as though they were Jesus. As Rich Mullins once noted, after treating someone rudely, “I just know that was Jesus.” Remind of this today. Everyone I meet is one of the least of these.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.