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.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
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.

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“In Your Presence, Peace Flows”

Today is Wednesday, January 3, 2018. Day 21,846.

85 days until Opening Day.

J.R.R. Tolkien, born on this date in 1892 (died 1973), said, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
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The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is sacerdotal, an adjective, meaning, “of or relating to priests or a priesthood : priestly.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 
many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. 
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. 
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 
Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.

Psalm 3

“In sickness and in hope and tears and sweat and pain. In every moment. You are here. And in Your presence, peace flows.” (Erin MacPherson, Daily Guideposts 2018)

(From The Business of Heaven)
Refreshments on the Journey

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” (The Problem of Pain)

(From The Finishing Touch)
How to Waste Time

There are countless books available, these days (and have been for decades), on how to “get the most out of your year, how to increase your efficiency, how to make every moment count, how to invest your time wisely and productively.”

Going against this trend, Charles Swindoll has decided to give us five proven ways to waste our time.

“First, worry a lot.” Start early “and intensify your anxiety as the day passes.” If you can’t come up with enough things on your own, check Facebook. But be sure to include your mistakes and failures, “what you should or could have done but didn’t.” For variety, “worry about things you should not have done but did.” Weight, marriage, job . . . all of these things provide adequate fuel.

“Second make hard-and-fast predictions.” Be as specific as possible, ignoring James 4 (“you do not know what tomorrow will bring”). Swindoll provides an example of Jimmy Hoffa, who, one month before he disappeared, announced, “I don’t need bodyguards.”

“Third, fix your attention on getting rich.” There are plenty of books written about that subject, as well, not to mention “entrepreneurial seminars and high-pressure sales meetings.”

“Fourth, compare yourself with others.” That’s a good one! And it adds fuel to number one, as well. “Not only will you ricochet between the extremes of arrogance and discouragement, you will also spend the time not knowing who you are.”

“Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies. If there’s one thing above all others that will keep your wheels spinning, it’s perfecting your skill at the Blame Game.” You can waste plenty of evenings “reveling in your feelings of hate and bitterness, stewing over those folks who have made your life miserable.”

With these five suggestions, you can “set new records in wasting valuable time.” Plus you won’t have to worry about “being happy, efficient, productive, and contented.”

All in good fun, right? But how many of us do all five of those things on a regular basis? I’m a worrier. I spend plenty of time on number one. But God would have us do otherwise. And while these things sound like “foolish exaggeration,” indeed, we do waste a lot of time on these exact things.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:13-17

Father, I confess that I do waste a lot of time worrying. I also waste a good bit of time judging, which could probably fall into category five. I probably spend a good deal of time in category four, as well. May your Spirit remind me, each day, that you are my provision and protection. You are my source, for all that I need. There is nothing to worry about, ever. In your kingdom, things are much better than I could ever imagine. Remind me of the quote from Guideposts, this morning. “In Your presence, peace flows.”
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.

I Trust In You, O Lord

Today is Thursday, December 28, 2017. Day 21,840. Fourth day of Christmas.

Four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Only four days until 2018!

Edgar Winter, born on this date in 1946, said, “The most profound, tangible influence in my life has been my wife, Monique. I don’t know that I would even be alive were it not for her, and I certainly would not be the person that I am today.”
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The word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is discrutator, a noun, meaning, “A person who disputes or doubts to an extreme or excessive degree; a caviller.”

Today is Card Playing Day. Who knows . . . if you play your cards right . . .

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)
Thursday–Fourth Week of Advent

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;
Psalm 101:6
If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 
John 5:31-36
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:13-22

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 31:14

Using a story about rock climbing, Karen Valentin defines trust in God. The rock climber trusts the one who holds the rope, and knows that that one will not let him fall. In the same way, I trust in God implicitly. I know that God will not let me fall, ultimately. He certainly lets me stray off of the path, as he has not created a robot that has no will of its own. And he will, if I stray far enough, allow me to stumble. But he always picks me back up and sets me back on the path.

The Psalmist said, simply, “I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God.” In the next verse, he said, “My times are in your hand.”

All the days of my life are in the hands of my God, whom I trust. I get up and drive to work in the morning because I trust God to keep me. And if he allows something “bad” to happen, he is still my God, and there is nothing that can happen to me that can take that away from me.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. 
Psalm 9:10
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 25:2

Father, I thank you for the trust that you have inspired in me. For most of my life, I have trusted you, as long as I can remember. That doesn’t mean my actions have been perfect, because they certainly have not. Nor is it to say that I have never doubted you. But, for decades, my trust in you has been firm. I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

God So Loved the World

Today is Thursday, December 21, 2017. Day 21,833.

Only FOUR more days until Christmas!!

Frank Zappa, born on this date in 1940 (died 1993), said, “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is brumal, an adjective, meaning “wintry.” Something we don’t see very often around here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)
Thursday – Third Week of Advent

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 
Psalm 51:15
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Psalm 86:1-2
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Psalm 85:9
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:1-4
Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. . . . who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah. Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 
Psalm 66:5, 7-9

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Almost everyone, everywhere, has seen or heard that verse, at some point during their lives. Or at least seen reference to it, when some rainbow-colored-hair guy held up a sign at a football game. And we’ve heard it in many different contexts.

For years, I read the verse as saying, “God loved the world so much that he gave . . .” But, in my later years, I have begun (with the help of some people I respect and trust) to interpret it differently, reading it to say, “This is how God loved the world; he gave his only Son . . .” Not speaking so much about the volume or quantity of God’s love, but the way he displayed it.

There is nothing wrong with either interpretation, of course. Even Eugene Peterson puts it this way, in The Message: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

I think it more important to think of it in terms of how that affects me. God loves me. Can we possibly grasp this love? In the words of Marci Alborghetti, in Daily Guideposts, “It is so far beyond any love I can conceive, much less understand. Perhaps because it is hard for me to comprehend such love, it is equally difficult for me to believe that I could be its subject. How can God love me that much?

One year, she was watching Christmas Eve Mass from the Vatican, and listened to Pope Francis explain it like this. “It wasn’t just that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, he suggested, but that God took the glorious, extraordinary step of becoming like us, to meet us where we live, to share our fears, angers, and vulnerabilities, and to show us, in the midst of our limited humanity, what love could look like.”

Can we recognize and accept that? Can I recognize that and accept it?

Father, I cannot thank or praise you enough for the extravagant love that you poured out when you became a man and shared this human life with us. I cannot even imagine the shock of transferring the infinity of divinity into the limited skin of a human. That, alone, was more of a sacrifice than any of us are willing to make, never mind the part about being tortured and dying! But you did all of this out of love for us. And the thought that I am included in this “us” is staggering, and, at times, unfathomable. Thank you, my God and my Savior!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:12

Grace and peace, friends.

Keep On Running

Today is Saturday, October 21, 2017. Day 21,772.

Ten days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Carrie Fisher, who was born on this date in 1956 (died in the celebrity massacre of 2016), said, “I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know. It was something I always did.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com is ducky, which means, “fine; excellent; wonderful.” But, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think I have every heard this word used in any sense other than sarcasm. “Well, that’s just ducky!”

Today is <em>Reptile Awareness Day. You know, just in case you weren’t aware that reptiles exist?

I haven’t had time for personal update, much, this week. I’ve been trying to make sure that I have adequate time for my devotions, each morning, which is the more important part of the day. But there hasn’t been much going on, anyway.

Except for the part where someone got hold of my social security number somehow, and started opening credit card accounts. Yes, sir, I have been Identity Thefted! I may have mentioned a little over a week ago (can’t remember) that someone had gotten into my AT&T mobile account, stored a credit card with a Wisconsin address and PAID almost $1000 toward our account. We still can’t figure that one out. I changed my password and deleted the credit card. As far as I can tell, there has been no further activity there.

The next day, I received a strange call on my cell phone. I didn’t answer, because I didn’t recognize the number, but it showed being from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Yes! Another Wisconsin thing. Turns out, it was a number from the Kohl’s corporate headquarters. They left a message, too, with a call back number (different from the originating number). So, I called the other number. I had a strange conversation with a woman, who said that the message had been an investigator. But she couldn’t tell me anything about why, and started asking for personal information. So, I ended that call, as I didn’t feel comfortable giving that out.

About a week later, we received several disturbing things in the mail. There were two letters from Kohl’s. One stating that I had shoplifted some merchandise from a store in Fresno and was responsible to reimburse them $350. The other one was that a credit card had been opened in my name, but some of the information on the application was not verifiable, so they were wanting to verify if it was me.

We first called the number on the letter about shoplifting. Again, we had a very strange conversation with a woman who didn’t seem to know anything at all about the situation. All she would say is that if we filed an ID theft report and forward that to them, it would clear it up. When we asked to speak to a manager, she said there weren’t any. At Kohl’s corporate office. No managers. We ended that call, and tried the other number about the credit card. We got slightly better results, there, but it was still not handled well.

That same day, we also received a credit card from Target and a credit card from WalMart, neither of which I applied for. I immediately called the numbers on the backs of both cards. The guy I spoke with at Target was extremely helpful (I’m not 100% positive, but I’m pretty sure he was also in the United States, which I’m 99% sure the Kohl’s people were NOT), and informed me that the fraudulent people had, in fact, used the $500 temporary limit, but that I would not be responsible for any of it. He said the card would be turned off immediately, and that I would receive a form in a few days that I need to complete and send back. The WalMart people were just as helpful and professional as Target. They did, however, forward me to someone with the bank that backed the card. There had been no usage on that one, but it was also turned off immediately.

I called our local police department to report ID theft. They took down information for a report, but since nothing happened in our city, they couldn’t file an official identity theft report. I get that. But at least they have the data.

I also filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission. That seems to be the most important thing to do. And I emailed that report to Kohl’s on Friday. In addition, I put a fraud alert on all three credit reporting companies. I’m seriously considering putting a credit freeze on all three of them today. That will cost me a little bit, but it would, no doubt, be worth it.

Oddly enough, after most of these phone calls, and after dinner was ready, we sat down to eat, and decided to watch last Sunday night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” with John Oliver. After spending a few minutes going over some recent news reports, John Oliver settled into the week’s story. The Equifax security breach. I swear I am not making this up!!

We got the Kohl’s credit card in the mail, yesterday.

In other news, the Dodgers made quick work of the Cubs, beating them in the NLCS 4-1. At least the Cubs won a game. The Yankees, after falling behind 2-0 in Houston, proceeded to win three consecutive games in NY to go ahead 3-2 in the ALCS. But last night, back in Houston, the Astros put it to the Yankees, beating them 7-1. The final game of that series is tonight at 7:00 CDT. The World Series begins Tuesday night.

I have also learned that today is the 62nd anniversary of the birth of Rich Mullins, who died in 1997. Here is a video of his song, “The Color Green.”

I also just became aware that today is also Keith Green’s birthday. He was born in 1953, while Mullins was born in 1955. Green died in 1982. Here is his song, “O Lord, You’re Beautiful.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Psalm 95:2
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Psalm 84:8
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 
Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Psalm 57:7-11
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 10:14-17
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:3-5

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 12:1

In today’s reading, Julie Garmon writes, again, about her daughter, Katie, whose divorce was final in April (unspecified year). In August of the same year, she had “double hernia repair surgery.” Katie planned to run a half-marathon in October, only six weeks after the surgery.

Julie was skeptical regarding the health safety of running so soon. But Katie insisted that it was something she needed to do.

At 7:55 AM on the day of the race, Katie texted her mother “Say a prayer that I finish strong.” Julie texted Isaiah 40:31 back to her. They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Later, another text came. “Pray. Mile 8. This is hard.” Julie texted back, “Praying. I love you!”

Then came, “Mile 10. Can barely move my legs. Pain in my side. Keep praying.” Julie really wanted to say, “Just quit!” But she wrote, “I’m praying. Text me when you finish!”

Then, a little after 10:00 AM, came the photo of Katie crossing the finish line! She called Julie and said, “Thanks for praying, Mom. When I wasn’t sure if I could keep going, I knew you and God wouldn’t let me quit.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve want to just quit this race, to lay everything down and just live however I want to. I have watched numerous friends fall along the wayside, as the years have gone by. One in particular, with whom I went to high school and grew up in Sunday School, is pretty much an atheist, now. Another dear friend, while I think he still believes, won’t set foot in a church.

How have I held on? There’s nothing special about me. I’m not a super-Christian with super faith. I’ve had sin in my life that would make some of you run and hide. There are only a couple of explanations as to how I have endured some of the circumstances that have come my way. One is the grace of God, because he chose me and will not let me go. The other is the same thing that kept Katie going in the story above. My parents praying. And, most certainly, grandparents, too, when they were still on this earth.

Not only have I stayed the course (not perfectly, again, please, please understand that . . . I strayed off of said course plenty of times), but I am discovering new things about God, faith, and this life in the Kingdom every single day! And I’m almost sixty years old! God is so good, so beautiful, and so loving!

So, pray for your children, and keep running the race set before you, knowing that, if you “wait for the LORD,” your strength will be renewed.

Father, thank you for all that you have done for me and my family. Thank you for praying parents and grandparents. Thank you that you remind me to pray for my own children. I pray that you always draw them closer to you. And thank you for continuing to teach me new things so that my faith doesn’t grow stale.

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.

Here

Today is Thursday, October 12, 2017. Day 21,763. Today is the 32nd anniversary of our wedding!

Luciano Pavarotti, who was born on this date in 1935 (died 2007), said, “If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them.”
BrainyQuote

The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is interdigitate, which means, “to become interlocked like the fingers of folded hands.”

Today is Pulled Pork Day. I haven’t had breakfast and I’m hungry, so that’s probably why this one caught my attention. Plus the other choices are boring.

Well, the unthinkable has happened. The Yankees beat the Indians in the ALDS. The wild card is going to face the Astros in the ALCS and the team with the best record in the AL has been eliminated. That’s no surprise, though, as it happens frequently. So I guess it’s not so “unthinkable” after all, is it? But it changes my allegiance for the ALCS, and I will be throwing all my cheers Houston-ward. Sorry, Cayman Thorn. And seriously, if it winds up being the Dodgers (who swept their NLDS) and the Yankees AGAIN (they’ve met ELEVEN times in the World Series), I probably won’t even check the scores. You know what? I take that back. I will suck it up and root for the Yankees. Yes, I will. So there.

After I finish this blog and C finished painting, we will head to the grocery store to pick up some food for S so she won’t starve over the long weekend. Then we will head out to Glen Rose, to Paluxy River Bed Cabins, where we will spend three wonderful nights “away from it all.” I can already feel the stress falling off of my shoulders.

Today marks, as previously mentioned, the 32nd anniversary of our wedding. C admits that she barely remembers that day, as she spent the night before in the hospital, suffering from endometriosis, a quite painful condition. She was released in time, though, and the wedding went on. She has since put up with me for those 32 years, saying that they are “thirty of the best years” of her life. We don’t talk about those other two. While I won’t call our love/relationship “unique,” because that word means that there is only one of something and nothing else like it, I do believe that our marriage is special. We have operated for all 32 years under the belief that we are equals in this partnership. Neither one of us assumes authority over the other one, and most decisions are made together. There are times when one of us will defer to the other for a decision. Haha. Truthfully, there are many times when neither one of us wants to make the decision! But we have grown comfortable together, over the years, kind of like wearing your favorite jacket that always feels just right. Not to compare marriage to a jacket, but I sincerely believe that anyone who has been married for this long (or even twenty years) knows exactly what I mean. The love I have for my wife is so deep that it grips my very soul. To try to remove it would rip my soul out of my being. To help celebrate, I offer this song, which has become one of our favorite song in recent years, and we might even consider it “our song.”

The words to this song fit our experience so vividly, it’s weird. It did all begin with the “touch of a hand.” More like a finger. And C’s legs are always a problem for her, specifically knees. In fact, she is having knee replacement on October 31, to get the second knee done. Perhaps, after that, her legs will both work just fine. People do fall in love in mysterious ways. And, “me, I fall in love with you every single day.”

Okay. Enough mushy stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

The Call to Prayer
Let us bless the LORD from this time forth for evermore. Hallelujah!
Adapted from Psalm 115:108
The Request for Presence
Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
Psalm 86:16
The Greeting
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah.
Psalm 32:7
The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. 
Psalm 54:4
A Reading
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:21-22
The Morning Psalm
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:1-3
The Gloria
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.
The Lord’s Prayer
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!
(Paraphrased by Dallas Willard)
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon your church the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.†
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Luke 24:38

In today’s reading, Erika Bentsen writes about her experiences in cattle ranching. I normally don’t care for the readings she writes because she feels the need to write about rupturing a disc in her back in every. single. reading. But there’s a lesson in this one that I believe I needed to hear.

As a result of this ruptured disc, she can’t work in cattle ranching the way she once could. She currently does work on a ranch, but was experiencing doubts about her usefulness. Raising cattle had been her life. “Now what?” she asks.

Right as she was having those thoughts a neighbor called about a heifer that was calving, and she needed help/advice. Erika immediately asked how long the heifer had been in labor. The answer, twelve hours, was too long for the calf. Unsure if either could be saved, she rushed to her neighbor’s corral. The calf was still alive, but the cow’s pelvis was malformed. She immediately told the neighbor to call the vet, that they would have to do a C-section on the cow.

The vet arrived in time. Both calf and cow were saved. The neighbor’s words, “If you hadn’t been here, those two wouldn’t be here.”

Here–right where my back problem left me, where there’s less stress, more love, more peace, and more opportunity to help others with the skills I’ve learned.”

Here is where we are. Here is, most likely, where we belong.

I have had a love/hate relationship with my job for several years now. I’m frequently unhappy with management, and have, occasionally, sent out resumes, searching for a new job, closer to home. I drive sixty-plus miles a day, round trip, and am on the road for over two hours a day. Some days, it’s exhausting. The job, itself, isn’t difficult, but it can be quite stressful, at times. But it is where God has me, for now, and I need to be content with that. He has me here for a reason, and, until I accomplish whatever reason that is, I will stay. It’s the right thing to do.

Father, thank you for Erika’s words, today. And even though I have to drive so far, and deal with management that is frustrating, at times (who doesn’t, right?), I commit to you that I will remain here until you move me elsewhere. In the meantime, help me to fulfill your purpose in this job, around these people. Help me to be a light in the darkness, not part of the darkness, itself. Help me to show the atheist that you exist and that you love him. Help me to lead the one who has strayed back to your heart. And help me to do my work fully engaged, not constantly thinking about when my next break or lunch or end of day is.
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.

God Is Near. God Is Able. God Is Good.

Today is Saturday, September 30, 2017. Day 21,751. Last day of September. 12 days until our 32nd anniversary.

Buddy Rich, who was born on this date in 1917 (died 1987), said “You only get better by playing.”
BrainyQuote

Word of the Day

Songuary ~ “Interpretation of dreams; (also) a book in which dreams are interpreted.”

Today is Hot Mulled Cider Day. That sounds delicious. I may have to try that this fall.

Time is running short. That sounds silly on a Saturday, but C’s company picnic begins at 10:00, and she signed me up for the Cornhole tournament, which starts at 11:00. So I have to go a little quicker this morning. I won’t use the word “hurry,” because I’m trying to, as Dallas Willard encourages, ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life. I do, however, need to stay focused and not let things like Facebook and email distract me.

The Red Sox lost yet another game to Houston, last night, this time only 3-2, at least. But the Yankees won, reducing the lead to two games. The magic number remains one, with two games left. I have this horrible feeling that it’s all coming down to Sunday night. If they tied for the division, I’m not sure, at this point, who would get the title. Apparently, there would be a one game playoff in New York. Ugh. So, c’mon Red Sox, and . . . no. I simply cannot root for the Boo Jays. It’s all on the Red Sox. They have to win. Oh, and by the way, Cleveland has a chance to finish up with the best record in MLB. That would make me very happy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:3
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Psalm 119:18
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalm 57:9-10
Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
Psalm 106:3
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Revelation 22:10-15
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Psalm 33:6-11

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
Matthew 10:29

Katie Ganshert writes of the time when their new adopted daughter from the Congo finally arrived at their home. The parenting was a challenge, especially, as she said, “Parenting a toddler who has been through significant trauma, doesn’t know the meaning of trust, and can’t understand English.”

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. They soon discovered that their new daughter, Salima, had special needs. Katie felt ill-equipped to handle this new challenge, and quickly began to feel as though she were drowning.

Then she just happened to open her Bible to Matthew 10:29, quoted above. “It was like a whisper to my heart. The same God Who sees every sparrow is the same God Who brought my daughter home and the same God Who will equip me to parent her through the tough times. He is the God of the miraculous and the God of the everyday and the God of the unseen.

“He sees. He cares. he knows, even when nobody else can.”

Or, to put it like our pastor did, one Sunday morning: “God is near. God is able. God is good.”

Father, in all circumstances, help me to see the truth of these words. You are near. You are able. And most of all, most importantly of all, you are good.
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.