Abide In Me

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”~~Rainer Maria Rilke

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is first-foot, “the first person to cross the threshold of a house on New Year’s Day.” I guess that would be me, since I went outside and came right back in, after I got up this morning.

Today is Commitment Day. This fits nicely with the theme of New Year’s Day, as it is always seen as a day of new beginnings.

We had a nice time with Rachel and Justin, last night. After they arrived, we talked for a while, then decided on ordering Italian food to be delivered to the house. We played Cards Against Humanity until around 10:00 or so, and they decided to head on back to Denton. Christi and I then watched episodes of Criminal Minds until about 12:30, stopping to watch the midnight celebration in Chicago as the new year came to pass in Central Standard Time.

I’m not sure what we have planned for today, so we’ll see what happens. It’s nice to have one more three-day-weekend to begin the new year. Next week will be tough, simply because it will be the first full week of work after having a couple of extremely truncated weeks.

Sunday morning, we are having a prayer and worship gathering at our church. There won’t be a sermon, just several prayer times, along with some worship songs. As for tomorrow, I don’t know what will happen, then, either. I did a bit of grocery shopping after work, yesterday, since I got off at noon, again, so we don’t need to do much, if any, of that.

I just remembered, we don’t have any 2016 calendars, yet! That will probably be on the agenda for the weekend, too!

On this date in:

45 BC–The Julian calendar took effect for the first time
1772–The first traveler’s cheques went on sale in London
1773–The hymn that would eventually become known as “Amazing Grace” was first used to accompany a sermon by John Newton, in Olney, England
1788–The first edition of The Times is published in London
1801–The Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland were united to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1808–The importation of slaves to the U.S. was banned
1863–The Emancipation Proclamation took effect in the Confederacy
1873–Japan began using the Gregorian calendar
1885–Twenty-five nations adopted Sanford Fleming’s proposal for Standard Time, as well as time zones
1890–The Tournament of Roses Parade was held for the first time, in Pasadena, California
1892–Ellis Island opened to begin processing immigrants into the U.S.
1902–The first American college bowl game, The Rose Bowl, was held in Pasadena, California, between Michigan and Stanford
1908–The ball dropped for the first time in New York City
1934–Alcatraz became a U.S. federal prison
1939–Sydney, Australia, records a record temperature of 113 degrees F
1939–William Hewlett and David Packard formed the Hewlett-Packard company
1954–NBC made the first coast-to-coast color broadcast, telecasting the Tournament of Roses Parade
1971–Cigarette ads were banned on television
1984–American Telephone & Telegraph was busted up by the gummint
1985–The first British mobile phone call was made

Today’s birthdays include:

1449–Lorenzo de Medici
1484–Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli, Swiss Reformer
1735–Paul Revere, American patriot
1752–Betsy Ross, American seamstress
1895–J. Edgar Hoover, American FBI director
1900–Xavier Cugat, Spanish musician
1911–Hank Greenberg, American baseball player
1919–J.D. Salinger, American novelist
1919–Carole Landis, American actress
1919–Rocky Graziano, American boxer
1922–Jerry Robinson, American comic book artist, Batman
1935–B. Kliban, American cartoonist
1938–Frank Langella, American actor
1942–Country Joe McDonald, American musician
1958–Grandmaster Flash, Barbadian musician
1964–Dedee Pfeiffer, American actress, Michelle’s sister
1980–Elin Nordegren, Swedish model and Tiger’s ex-wife

B. Kliban was a popular cartoonist, born in Norwalk, CT, in 1935. He was probably most famous for his cartoon cats. He passed away in 1990. My favorite cartoon of his was this one that I believe I have posted before.


Johann Bernoulli, Johann Christian Bach, Hank Williams, Maurice Chevalier, Victor Buono, Cesar Romero, and Townes Van Zandt are among notable deaths on this date.


It’s a new year, so I’ll be starting some new devotional books. I’m also still working out how my daily prayer routine is going to look. Having read Timothy Keller’s book on prayer twice during 2015, I’m looking at some of his suggestions. I think I am leaning toward Keller’s suggestion of incorporating Evocation, Meditation, Word Prayer, Free Prayer, and Contemplation. In terms of how this will look in regard to this blog, I’m not sure, yet. I have a pretty limited amount of time, during weekday mornings. What may wind up happening is that this blog may become the “setup” time for the prayer time.

The resources that I will be using this year are: Daily Guideposts 2016, Praying With the Psalms, by Eugene Peterson, Devotions from the World of Sports, by John & Kathy Hillman, and My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. In addition, I will be ending each evening with a reading from Good Night, God, by David C. Cook. That seems like a lot, and may wind up being too much for my allotted time, especially considering that I intend to engage in some more serious Bible reading, as well. We shall see.

I’ll begin each morning’s devotional with the reading from Praying with the Psalms, by Eugene Peterson. I can think of no better way to begin a day’s spiritual exercise, than with the “prayer book” of the Scriptures.

Today’s reading comes from Psalm 1. (Unless noted otherwise, when I quote Scripture here, it will be English Standard Version copyright 2000 by Crossway Bibles.)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The person compared to a tree has deep roots in the ways of God. This person delights in God’s ways and meditates on them. The person compared to chaff does not care about such things, probably considering them “too limiting.”

“Thank you, God, for both the warning and the promise. The dismal prospects that surround the way of the wicked are nothing to shout about; the happy results of running in the way of your commandments are. Set my feet firmly in such a path, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

(From Daily Guideposts 2016)

All of my devotions had good ones to begin the year with, but I like the way the Daily Guideposts begins this year, with the theme for the year being “Abide in Me.” Consequently, I have already chosen my verse for this year, which will be John 15:4, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

The verse for today’s reading is John 16:13, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Erin MacPherson writes of a New Year’s Day that began beautifully; “a spectacular sunrise, bright oranges and pinks peeking out over the leafless tress in our front yard, enticing us out of our fire-warmed house, with cocoa in hand, to enjoy the view.” Unfortunately, that same day ended with a trip to the ER, when her eight-year-old son crashed his bike, dislocating his jaw.

As she sat in the hospital, fuming about the new year that had already disintegrated “into a mess of pain and fear,” the Holy Spirit invaded her mind with John 15:4-5. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

As she looked at her son, “battered and bruised but okay,” she whispered, “I’m ready Lord. Bring on the new year,” knowing that this new year would continue to bring spectacular sunrises, but would also bring more crashes, pain, sorrow, and even fear, resulting in times when she would even wonder how to take the next step forward.

“Through it all, I have no choice but to choose–intentionally, wholeheartedly, and lovingly–to abide in God. Because together we are going to bear much fruit.”

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23

Father, along with Erin, I pray, “I’m ready, Lord. Bring on the new year.” May the theme of abiding in you be my theme for the year, as well, bringing me to the place where I, too, can bear much fruit as I abide in Christ Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

If the Stick Moves, Don’t Foot It

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”~~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is stelliferous, “having or abounding with stars.”

Today is Tick Tock Day. This is a somewhat rude reminder that you probably haven’t accomplished everything that you set out to do this year, and you only have two days left to do it. Unfortunately, my response is typically, “Why bother, at this point??”

Christi went out and bought herself a new car, yesterday. We don’t actually have it, yet, because their detail department was kind of backed up, so they sent her home with a loaner, and we will go pick it up today, while we are getting new tires put on my car. I should have a picture to upload tomorrow. She’s getting another Hyundai Elantra, because she really likes those. This one will be blue, so we won’t both have the same color car, now.

I pretty much played Fallout 4 all day. I know I have barely scratched the surface.

After I finish this, today, we will take my car to the local tire place for new front tires (the rear ones seem okay), and then go pick up Christi’s car while they put new tires on mine. We might need to make a brief trip to the grocery store, but that’s pretty much all of our plans for this day.

On this date in:

1170–Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated by followers of Henry II, subsequently becoming a saint and martyr
1813–British troops burned Buffalo, NY, during the War of 1812
1845–Texas became the 28th U.S. state
1851–The first American YMCA opened in Boston
1890–U.S. troops killed more than 200 Oglala Lakota people at the Wounded Knee Massacre
1966–The Beatles began recording “Penny Lane” at Abbey Road Studio

Today’s birthdays include:

1800–Charles Goodyear, American inventor
1808–Andrew Johnson, 17th U.S. President
1936–Ray Nitschke, American football player
1936–Mary Tyler Moore, American actress
1937–Barbara Steele, British actress
1938–Jon Voight, American actor
1941–Ray Thomas, British musician, The Moody Blues
1946–Marianne Faithfull, British singer
1947–Cozy Powell, English drummer
1947–Ted Danson, American actor
1959–Paula Poundstone, American comedian
1959–Patricia Clarkson, American actress
1970–Kevin Weisman, American actor
1972–Jude Law, British actor
1973–Theo Epstein, American baseball general manager

Marianne Faithfull turns 69 years old today. Here is a recording of her singing a Kurt Weill song, “The Soldier’s Wife.”

Thomas Beckett and Grigori Rasputin are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
Acts 16:28

Pam Kidd writes of an experience in rural Africa, saying, “There’s nothing darker than a moonless night.” She describes the sky as “vivid stars that sparkle on black velvet.” She is following a friend down a steep path with many rocks. They walk in quietness until her friend says, “Pam, if you see a stick that moves don’t foot it.”

When she inquires as to what, exactly, this “moving stick” would be, she is told, “Black mamba.”

“What if there was a moving stick and I did ‘foot it?” she asks.

“Oh, Pam, it would be very, very unfortunate.”

The black mamba is one of the world’s deadliest snakes, and the people of Zimbabwe teach their children to fear them and to stay away from places that they would go. They even build their huts without chimneys in order to keep the snakes out.

They also teach their children to run away as fast as they can when they see a black mamba.

What are our “moving sticks?” What do we teach our children to run away or keep away from? Moving cars, deep, rushing water, rude friends, cruel attitudes. As adults, we should learn to run away from negative influences and attitudes, rampant selfishness, and other harmful attitudes. Pam’s friend, Paddington, had some wise words. Avoid the “moving stick.” Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Don’t “foot it.”

Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it.
Proverbs 11:27
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Matthew 10:16

Father, help me to avoid the “moving sticks” in my life; selfishness, negative attitudes, and the like. Those things that would seduce me away from the glory that is yours, as was discussed yesterday, should be avoided at all costs. As 2016 approaches, I pray for a closer walk with you, more intimacy with you through Christ and the Holy Spirit. May the Trinity come alive in my life this next year.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Disasters and Mercy

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”~~Aesop

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is bonhomie, “frank and simple good-heartedness; a good-natured manner; friendliness; geniality.” We could all do with a bit more bonhomie in our lives.

Today is Candy Cane Day. Isn’t that the fake CB name that the kids in Joyride came up with, that caused the truck driver to terrorize them?

We had a wonderful Christmas Day! After finishing up everything yesterday morning, we got packed and headed to Mineral Wells. We unloaded all the food and gifts into Mama’s house, and had lunch soon after. When we were all full from the delicious food, we moved over to the living area to exchange our gifts. Mama was very happy with the Keurig that we got for her, along with three boxes of coffee, and a carousel pod holder for the K-cups. We also got her an 8X10 of the photo of her and Uncle Buddy, from her trip to Marshall last week. CVS did a great job of copying and printing that picture, and it was quite inexpensive.

After sitting for a while, we went to the hotel to check in. Unfortunately, the elevator is broken and we are on the second floor. The had a room on the first floor, but it did not have a sofa bed for Stephanie. We took a short nap and then went back over to Mama’s for dessert and more visiting. Around 9:00PM, we headed back to the hotel, trying to stop at Jack in the Box for something to take back with us, but the drive-thru line wrapped all the way around the building. It was that way when we went back to Mama’s, as well, since they were almost the only place open. We had noticed, earlier, that Burger King was open, so we gave up on Jack and headed to the King, which was in the same direction as the hotel, anyway. We got some small burgers and fries and brought them back with us.

We got a good night’s sleep, and got up just in time to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast. After I finish this and take a shower, we will be heading back over to the house, and then, eventually, downtown, where we will visit Jitterbeans Coffee Shop, where I will have another delicious cup of Aztec Spice Hot Chocolate. We have nothing else planned for today.

On this date in:

1776–The British were defeated at the Battle of Trenton. Remember George Washington crossing the Delaware yesterday?
1799–4000 people attended George Washington’s funeral
1846–“Trapped in snow in the Sierra Nevadas and without food, members of the Donner Party resort to cannibalism.”
1871–Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated for the first time in an opera called Thespis. It would be four years before they would work together again.
1898–Marie and Pierre Curie announced the isolation of radium
1919–Harry Frazee, owner of the Boston Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the Evil Empire
1933–FM radio was patented
1941–President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill that established the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day
1986–The soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, aired its final episode, after being on the air 35 years
1996–JonBenet Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family’s home

Today’s birthdays include:

1791–Charles Babbage, English mathematician and inventor
1891–Henry Miller, American writer
1914–Richard Widmark, American actor
1921–Steve Allen, American comedian
1947–Carlton Fisk, American baseball player
1954–Ozzie Smith, American baseball player
1963–Lars Ulrich, Danish drummer and Napster-killer, Metallica
1979–Chris Daughtry, American singer

Carlton Fisk is a retired MLB catcher who played for the Boston Red Sox. In the 1975 World Series, Game Six, he hit this walkoff home run to win the game and force Game Seven. Even though the Sox lost the series, I still believe this to be the best World Series ever, at least in my lifetime. Game Six is definitely regarded to be one of the most exciting World Series games in history.

Melvil Dewey, Harry S. Truman, Jack Benny, Dian Fossey, Curtis Mayfield, Jason Robards, Armand Zildjian, and Gerald Ford are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is a difficult one, called, “How to Contemplate Calamity.”

John Piper begins with the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2005. As I looked at historical events on this date, I was somewhat taken aback at the number of calamities that occurred on December 26. The Donner Party, the discovery of JonBenet Ramsey’s body (even though she probably died on Christmas Day), multiple earthquakes, Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees . . . Okay, that last one might not really count as a calamity, and I certainly am not comparing it to cannibalism, murder, and earthquake/tsunamis.

But what is the point of all of this? When Job learned of the deaths of all of his children, due to a natural disaster, his response, recorded in Job 1:21, was “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” As he contemplates the earthquake/tsunami from 2005, Piper offers several points.

1. “Satan is not ultimate, God is.”

In the case of Job, Satan only had as much authority as God would allow. “God gave Satan permission to afflict Job.” But God is seen as the decisive cause. Many people struggle with this thought and completely reject the idea that God could ever cause affliction. I believe that these people don’t truly understand Scripture. I know that’s a bold statement, but I believe that Scripture is pretty clear about this. The writer of Job, at the end, says, And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. (42:11) “Satan is real. Satan brings misery. But Satan is not ultimate or decisive. He is on a leash. He goes no farther than God decisively permits.”

2. “Even if Satan caused the earthquake in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, he is not the decisive cause of over 200,000 deaths; God is.”

In Job 38:8-11, God proclaims that he has authority over the seas (including tsunamis) when he says, “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” We saw Jesus, in Luke 8:24, rebuke the wind and the waves in the sea, showing ultimate control over nature. ” In other words, even if Satan caused the earthquake, God could have stopped the waves.”

3. “Destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy.”

There is nothing simple about thinking about natural disasters. There is no easy answer. But we know from Scripture that God was not punishing Job. What came upon him was meant to be purifying. However, we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children. Job had his own doubts about them, even offering sacrifices on their behalf in case they had committed some sins. It is possible that the calamity that struck them was judgment. If that is the case, then the same calamity that brought judgment on Job’s children was mingled with mercy for Job. This, Piper says, is true of all calamities. They mingle both judgment and mercy.

The clearest illustration of this is Christ and the cross. The cross of Jesus was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins. It was mercy on us, because someone else was bearing the punishment of our sins on our behalf. As another example, Piper cites the curse on the earth. It is seen as judgment to those who do not believe in Christ, but for us who believe, it is considered “merciful, though painful, preparation for glory.”

4. “The heart that Christ gives to his people feels compassion for those who suffer, no matter what their faith.”

This is where we tend to fail on a magnificent level. The Bible tells us, in Romans 12:15, to “Weep with those who weep.” Note that it does not say, “Unless God caused the weeping.” Piper astutely says, “Job’s comforters would have done better to weep with Job than talk so much.” Unfortunately, we are way too much like Job’s “comforters.” We tend to try to explain to people why these bad things are happening to them, instead of simply weeping for them over their misfortune, pain, loss, or sickness. “Pain is pain, no matter who causes it.” All have sinned; we are all in this together.

5. “Finally, Christ calls us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it.”

This is a much-needed message in the political climate of our nation today. We have Christians refusing to consider offering aid and refuge to people of certain races because they might be terrorists. I thank God that He does not operate this way! If he did, none of us would be saved, because we are all sinners. . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God did not wait for us to stop sinning or prove that we could maybe sin just a bit less before showing love and mercy to us. The meaning of mercy is “undeserved help.” We are told by our Savior to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

Father, teach us mercy. When we experience calamity, teach us empathy and compassion, even toward those whom we might feel don’t deserve it. Make us more like Christ. Teach us mercy.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Merry Christmas

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”~~Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is crèche, “a set of statues that represents the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth and that is displayed during Christmas.” What I did not know was that the word can also mean, “a place where young children are cared for during the day while their parents are working : a day care center.” Other choices for word of the day today were “outglitter,” from the Oxford English Dictionary, and “munificence,” from Dictionary.com. Outglitter, a verb, means exactly what it looks like it means. Munificence means, “the quality of being munificent, or showing unusual generosity.” All three are certainly relevant to the day.

Today, besides being Christmas, is Pumpkin Pie Day. Well, we don’t have any of that, here, this year, and unless my mother got one, we won’t have on in Mineral Wells, either. Which is okay with us. I don’t dislike Pumpkin Pie, but I certainly don’t feel like I have to have some, either. I’d rather have Dump Cake and Kahlua Fudge.

Today is Christmas. I wish everyone who reads this a joyous and happy Christmas Day. If you don’t observe or celebrate Christmas, I wish you joy and happiness, as well.

Our Christmas Eve service was nice, last night. It was enjoyable to celebrate in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ. It was simple and meaningful. Afterward, I headed back home to celebrate Christmas with Christi’s side of the family. Rachel and Justin had already joined us. Others started arriving around 6:00-6:30. We had a total of 11 people in the house. I’m not going to really comment much on the evening. Let’s just say we survived. I got some cash, and these four books.
Christmas books
Some good reading for the new year, and all from my Amazon Wish List! Christi must have shared the list with her sister! Praying With the Psalms will be one of my devotional books for 2016! I’m very excited about that, as I am quite fond of Eugene Peterson and his work on the Psalms.

We will probably be opening our gifts, pretty soon. Then Christi will cook some more green bean casserole, and we will load up truck and move to Beverly . . . Hills, that is. . . No, wait. Sorry. Sometimes my brain just takes off in the wrong direction. But it’s not really the wrong direction, because we will be heading west, to Mineral Wells, to spend the weekend with my mother, and to celebrate Christmas with her. It will be bittersweet, as it is our first Christmas without Daddy.

On this date in:

800–Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor
1066–William the Conqueror was crowned king of England
1776–George Washington crossed the Delaware (although, probably not standing up in a rowboat) to attack English Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, New Jersey
1818–The first performance of “Silent Night” occurred in the church of St. Nikolaus, Oberndorf, Austria
1868–President Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardon to all Confederate soldiers
1974–Marshall Fields drove a vehicle through the gates of the White House, resulting in a four-hour standoff. Isn’t Marshall Fields a department store??
1990–The first successful trial run was made of the system which would become the World Wide Web. The birth of the Interwebs!

Today’s birthdays include:

1583–Orlando Gibbons, English composer
1642–Isaac Newton, English scientist
1821–Clara Barton, founder of the American red Cross
1870–Helena Rubinstein, Polish-born American cosmetics industrialist
1887–Conrad Hilton, American hotelier
1890–Robert Ripley, collector of odd facts
1899–Humphrey Bogart, American actor
1907–Cab Calloway, American bandleader
1918–Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt
1924–Rod Serling, American television writer, The Twilight Zone
1925–Carlos Castaneda, Peruvian-born author
1927–Nellie Fox, baseball player
1940–Phil Spector, American music producer. And murderer?
1945–Noel Redding, English musician, Jimi Hendrix Experience
1946–Larry Csonka, American football player
1946–Jimmy Buffet, American singer/songwriter
1948–Barbara Mandrell, American singer/actress
1949–Sissy Spacek, American actress
1954–Annie Lennox, Scottish singer
1955–Allanah Myles, Canadian singer
1958–Rickey Henderson, baseball player
1971–Dido, English singer
1972–Mac Powell, American singer/songwriter, Third Day
1975–Hideki Okajima, Japanese pitcher
1984–The Veronicas, Australian twin singers

Rod Serling was the mastermind behind TV shows such as The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. He was born on this date in 1924, and passed away in 1975.

Bonus: Here’s one for Humphrey Bogart, born on this date in 1899. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Blondell, Billy Martin, Dean Martin, JonBenet Ramsey, Denver Pyle, James Brown, and Eartha Kitt are among notable deaths on this date.

Update . . . we have opened our Christmas presents. I got a new portable “Peak” music stand from Rachel and Justin. I got a hardback copy of The Institutes of the Christian Religion from Christi. And the surprise gift of the morning was this:
Christmas gift
I was not expecting that, at all!


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14-17

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those
with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:1-20

That’s all for today. No commentary, just words from the Scriptures.

Merry Christmas!

Father, I pray that all will have peace and joy in their lives today, no matter what their circumstances. Not all will have happiness, but joy is possible through Christ. May everyone know the free gift of grace that you have given us! Thank you, Lord, for your gift to us!

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Undeserved Gifts

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”~~Charles Dickens

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is metagnomy, ” The acquisition of information by paranormal means; divination, clairvoyance.”

Today is Egg Nog Day! And we have Egg Nog, because I bought some at the store last Sunday. I must be sure to have some this evening, at the Christmas Eve festivities. I put a drop or two of brandy in mine. What do you put in yours?

We had the most wonderful time last night!

Oh, but wait. I have to start this story correctly. At around 9:30 or 10:00, yesterday morning, our manager got a call from our client, telling us that we were to turn away UPS and FedEx deliveries, for the rest of the year! Needless to say, we were all stunned, because there are still four more working days in this year (yesterday made five). I also received an email from the same guy instructing me to not process any more URDNs until after January 2. URDN means “Unreceivable Discrepancy Notice.” It’s what I do. I handle the “problem children.” Anyway, there we sat, suddenly with nothing to do. We were told we could go ahead and finish up anything we received on Tuesday. That took about thirty minutes. So I got approval from my manager to leave at noon. That would fulfill the minimum of four hours that I have to work in order to get paid for the holidays. I’m already scheduled off next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I won’t be back until Thursday, December 31, and may only stay four hours that day.

Then I went to Arlington and had lunch with Christi. We ate at Damian’s Cajun Soul Cafe, one of the places she has discovered while working at USBC. I had fried fish, which was delicious, the best I’ve had in a very long time. Christi had a smothered pork chop, which was also quite good (she gave me a bite). The place must be doing great, because it was constantly crowded, the whole time we were there.

We had decided that we would go look at Christmas lights last night, depending on if I had to work late. Since I got to work the opposite of late, we started looking on the Interwebs to see where would be a good place to go look. It was there that we discovered that they have a huge display set up at Texas Motor Speedway, called “Gift of Lights.” It’s a drive through display with millions of lights and hundreds of different kinds of displays, ranging from the patriotic to sports themes to traditional Christmas. There were even a few Hanukkah displays. It costs $25 per car, and if you pay online and print your ticket, you get to skip a VERY long line to get in. It took about an hour to drive through. We took a few pictures, which Facebook conveniently arranged in a collage for me. I have set it for public viewing, so if you care to see it, you can click here.

Today, of course, is Christmas Eve. Christi’s family will be over, this evening, for dinner and gift exchange. That’s pretty much all I’m going to say about that, because, you know, “if you can’t say something good . . .” 🙂 I’m going to try and make it to our church’s Christmas Eve service, which will be at 5:00PM. If you’re in the area and find yourself with nothing to do around that time, come check it out. We are The Exchange Church.

On this date in:

1777–Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island, was discovered by James Cook
1851–The Library of Congress burned (when “library” and “burned” are used in the same sentence, I am traumatized)
1865–The Ku Klux Klan was formed. On Christmas Eve??? Seriously????
1906–The first radio broadcast was transmitted by Reginald Fessenden. It consisted of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech. The real questions is: Was anyone still awake when it was over?
1955–NORAD tracked Santa for the first time
1968–The crew of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon

Today’s birthdays include:

1809–Kit Carson, American frontiersman
1880–Johnny Gruelle, American cartoonist, creator of Raggedy Ann
1893–Harry Warren, American composer/lyricist, “Chattanooga Choo Choo, I Only Have Eyes for You”
1905–Howard Hughes, American film producer and inventor
1910–Fritz Leiber, American fantasy/science fiction writer
1922–Ava Gardner, American actress
1927–Mary Higgins Clark, American author, A Stranger is Watching
1968–Doyle Bramhall II, American guitarist
1971–Ricky Martin, Puerto Rican singer
1974–Ryan Seacrest, American TV host

Harry Warren was born Salvatore Antonio Guaranga, in Brooklyn, New York. He has a list of hits that he co-wrote, which includes the above mentioned “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” as well as “Forty-Second Street,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” and this song:

Vasco da Gama, Johns Hopkins, Peter Lawford, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, Bobby LaKind, Norman Vincent Peale, and Johnny Oates are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

“For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
John 4:37-38

Writer Mark Collins writes of a tradition in Pittsburgh, known as “the Pittsburgh parking chair.” This tradition is not well known down here, in Texas, because, well, snow. Enough snow that shoveling out parking places is necessary. You see, in this Pittsburgh (and other northern states) tradition, if a person shovels out a parking space for their car, they reserve it by placing an object, usually a folding chair, in that space. It’s not a “legal” thing, but it is respected. If you find a parking space and something odd is sitting in it, a folding chair, a vacuum cleaner, a garbage can, sawhorse, or anything else, you don’t park there.

While it might seem selfish, especially in the season of gift-giving, Collins reminds us of the difference between gifts and things that are earned. If you do the hard, back-breaking work of shoveling out a parking space, you have earned that, it is rightfully yours. Therefore, it is most definitely not selfish to place a chair in it to reserve it for your car.

Gifts, however, are undeserved. That’s the whole point of a “gift,” isn’t it? Perhaps we are more selfish by expecting gifts at Christmas time. But the fact that gifts (and grace) are undeserved is what makes them special. What we truly deserve is a stocking full of coal. But what we got was forgiven. The greatest gift of all: all of our sins washed away forever.

I know I don’t deserve that.

Christmas is tomorrow. I wish that, for just one day, we could all set aside what we think we deserve and revel in the gift of grace that we have received that we did not deserve. We celebrate the birth of Christ, something that we are not told in Scripture to do. Nevertheless, it has become a tradition. Let us, along with that, celebrate the undeserved gift of forgiveness.

Father, let me not forget this gift, this undeserved grace that has been lavished upon me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. As we gather together this evening to exchange physical, material gifts, may we remember the intangible, the non-material gift that we have all been given. The one we deserve the least.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Balancing Mystical and Rational

Good morning. It is Monday, July 20, 2015. I am off work today, because I’m working this coming Saturday.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is longanimity. This is a noun, meaning, “a disposition to bear injuries patiently : forbearance.” The example sentence used is, “The fans showed longanimity by coming back year after year to cheer on the perpetually losing team.” Applicable, I believe to the Red Sox nation for the 86 years between 1918 and 2004, as well as to Cubs fans for over 100 years. Darned goat.

Today is Moon Day, celebrating 46 years since we first made footprints on the Earth’s only natural satellite.

As stated above, I am enjoying a rare Monday off, but will pay for it this coming Saturday. A three-day-weekend in exchange for a one-day-weekend. Not the best trade in the world, for my money, but it is what it is, at least for now.

I got to go see Jurassic World, yesterday afternoon, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it has replaced Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as my current favorite movie. Also, due to these circumstances, V For Vendetta has dropped out of my top five movies, to the number six spot. My top five movies are, in this order, Jurassic World, Sweeney Todd, Jurassic Park (only the first one, please), The Princess Bride, and Amadeus. While it may seem that this has happened only because Jurassic World is my most recent movie, that is simply not true. I am going to see it again, today. It has been a long time since I have seen the same movie two days in a row (perhaps the first Jurassic Park?). I knew, when I heard the original theme music in the first minutes of the movie, that it was going to be legen . . . wait for it . . . DARY! And, I am not ashamed to confess, I was literally crying at the end. And I mean literally literally, not figuratively, as is the idiotic custom for people to use in our current culture. There are multiple shoutouts to the original movie, one being the appearance of the original Asian scientist in the genetics lab. Another was the stumbling upon the original visitor’s center from the first movie, and, yes (mild spoiler alert), the appearance of the original T-Rex!!!! I’m getting goosebumps just typing all of this, folks! I can’t wait to see it again, this afternoon! This will be a DVD I will definitely buy!

Not much else happening today. I need to put up some laundry and do the dishes. Boring, household stuff. So, on to the fun and important stuff, in that order.

On this date in 1807, Nicephore Niepce received a patent from Napoleon Bonaparte for the Pyreolophore, the first internal combustion engine. In 1871 British Columbia became part of Canada. In 1881, Sitting Bull and the last of his fugitive people surrendered at Fort Buford, North Dakota. On this date in 1903, Ford Motor Company shipped its first car. In 1926, the Southern Methodist Church Convention votes to allow women ministers. And, as mentioned above, on this date in 1969, Apollo 11 made the first successful manned moon landing. Oh. One more. On this date in 1976, Hank Aaron hit home run number 755, which would be the last home run of his career.

Today’s birthdays include Alexander the Great (Greek King of Macedonia and conqueror of Persia), Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand mountaineer), Cormac McCarthy (American author), Natalie Wood (American actress), Diana Rigg (English actress), John Lodge (English musician, The Moody Blues), Kim Carnes (American singer/songwriter), Carlos Santana (Mexican-born American guitarist), Dan Shaughnessy (American sports writer), Chris Cornell (American singer, Soundgarden, Audioslave), Reed Diamond (American actor), Omar Epps (American actor), Judy Greer (American actress), Gisele Bundchen (Brazilian model), Stephen Strassburg (American baseball player), and Julianne Hough (American dancer).

John Lodge is the bass player, as well as singer and songwriter, for The Moody Blues, having been a member since 1966. Here is a clip of their song, “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band).”

Peregrine White, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Bruce Lee, James Doohan, and Tammy Faye Bakker are among notable deaths on this date.


Today’s reading from my Bible reading plan is Genesis 5-6, Psalm 12, and Ephesians 3.

The Psalm reading from Heart Aflame is 84:7-10.

They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

There have been many theologians in the past who would insist that the knowledge of God “is above concepts. It is a knowledge that registers itself in the soul passively without an idea.” (Timothy Keller quoting Thomas Merton) The more mystical push toward not thinking about God or speaking to him.

Paul, however, in the New Testament, transcends this idea. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15) We are praying to the Father, using words, through the Son, who is THE Word.” Martin Luther insisted that we cannot go to God outside of using his Word. “We must first hear the Word, and then afterwards the Holy Ghost works in our hearts; he works in the hearts of whom he will, and how he will, but never without the Word.”

It is good to strike a balance between two extremes. J.I. Packer says, “there is [indeed] a place for silence before God . . . after we have spoken to him, while joy at God’s love invades the soul.” Consider the fact that, when two people love each other, sometimes they simply sit in silence and gaze into each other’s eyes. However, they will also, still, search for words to express the way they feel about each other. Such it is with us and God. God has found his Words, and given them to us. We, upon reading, hearing, and pondering those words, respond back to him with similar words.
(pp 56-59)

Father, as I pray to you, may my prayers reflect your Word back to you. May my understanding of you grow as I reflect more deeply on passages of Scripture that I read. May I also, like the Psalmist, be content to merely be a doorkeeper in your house, as opposed to having the highest honor in the tents of the wicked. Help me to balance silence and words in prayers, seeking to know you more, but also seeking to glorify you in word, as well as in deed. May I, like Paul, seek to pray with my spirit, as well as with my mind.

I pray for this day, that Christi will have a good day, today, free of drama and stress. May her travel home be safe, this afternoon. I pray for safe passage to and from the mall, this afternoon, and a good time of fellowship with Jacob, as we watch a movie together. I pray for your grace and mercy to rain down on the rest of our family, Stephanie, Rachel, Justin, and Mama, as they do what they need to do today.

I pray for more rain for the drought-stricken people of California. They got some rain last night, in areas from San Diego to Los Angeles. May they get similar relief as to what you gave us in Texas, back in May.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we find a good balance between the mystical and the rational as we continue to gain knowledge of our Father and how to pray to him.

Grace and peace, friends.

Serve the Lord with Gladness

Good morning. It is Sunday, May 31, 2015. It is the last day of May. I’m looking at a weather forecast that shows 0% chance of rain for the next seven days.

I’ve got three good words of the day today. I can’t pick, so I’m just going to share all of them. From the OED, it is quiddle. No, that’s not the broom game that Harry Potter played. That was Quidditch. Quiddle is a verb, meaning, “To discourse or expound upon a subject in a trifling or frivolous manner.” It can also mean, “To fiddle or play about with,” or, “To quibble or cavil about insignificant details; to fuss; (also) to busy oneself with unimportant matters or trivial tasks; to fritter away time.” Great word! I plan to use that one.

From Merriam-Webster, the word is perseverate. This is verb, also, meaning, “to repeat or recur persistently,” or, “to go back over previously covered ground.” No doubt, there can be much perseverating while quiddling.

From Dictionary.com, the word is moonbow. This is a noun, meaning, “a rainbow caused by the refraction and reflection of light from the moon.” Doesn’t that just sound beautiful? Can you imagine what that guy from the You Tube video would do over a moonbow??

Today is Macaroon Day. More cookies!! Great. Now I’m hungry.

Our prayer and worship gatherings went pretty well, last night. I was really pleased with the prayer gathering. We seemed to really connect last night. After church, my friend Rob and I went out to Mi Cocina for dinner. We had a very good, long, conversation that spanned a number of topics. It was a really good time.

In the meantime, the Red Sox came close being no-hit by rookie pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, en route to an 8-0 loss. I’m hoping this afternoon’s game will be better. But at least I’ll be in the “all-you-can-eat seats.” 😀 Before the game, though, there are things that need to be done, so I need to get on with things, here.

It was on this date in 1971 that Memorial Day fell on Monday for the first time, according to the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act.” Just remember we pay these people for stuff like this. On this date in 1929, the first talking Mickey Mouse cartoon was released, called “The Karnival Kid.” On this date in 1911, the unfinished superstructure of the R.M.S. Titanic was launched. It would be completed on April 2, 1912.

Today’s birthdays include Walt Whitman (poet), Norman Vincent Peale (positive thinker), Don Ameche (actor), Clint Eastwood (actor/director), Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul, & Mary), Johnny Paycheck (singer), Joe Namath (pantyhose-wearing quarterback), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Tom Berenger (actor), Lea Thompson (actress), Corey Hart (wears his sunglasses at night), Brooke Shields (actress/model), Kenny Lofton (baseball player), Colin Farrell (actor), and Jake Peavy (pitcher).

John Bonham was Led Zeppelin’s drummer. He was born on this date in 1948, and died in 1980. Here is the song, “When the Levee Breaks,” from their fourth album, which was untitled, but is frequently called either “Runes,” or “Zoso.”

Oddly enough, a notable death on this date is one Millvina Dean, a British survivor of the Titanic (see above note about the launching of the Titanic). She was two months old at the time of the disaster, making her the youngest passenger on the ship.


To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.

Psalm 65:1-3

(From Solid Joys)

Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.
2 Chronicles 12:8

Today’s reading is “The Gain of Serving God.”

“Serving God is utterly different from serving anyone else.” Our God, it is stated in Scripture, is a jealous God. He desires for us to understand the benefit of serving him, and that we enjoy it. Psalm 100:2 tells us, Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! We can find the reason for this gladness in Acts 17:25, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

We can serve with gladness because we are not under the burden of trying to meet God’s needs. As we serve him, he meets our needs! “Serving God always means receiving grace from God.”

There is a story in 2 Chronicles (where the initial verse is taken) about Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. Rehoboam ruled the Southern Kingdom, and chose to abandon the law of God. As all Israel followed Rehoboam in serving other gods, the Lord sent Shishak, king of Egypt, against them, with 1200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. As Shishak approached Jerusalem, the Lord, in his mercy, sent the prophet Shemaiah to the council of Rehoboam and the princes of Judah. “Thus says the LORD, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.'” (2 Chronicles 12:5)

Immediately, the king and the princes humbled themselves, saying, “The LORD is righteous” (v. 6). The Lord showed mercy, declaring that they would not be completely destroyed. However, they would become slaves/servants to Shishak, as discipline for their disobedience, so that they would be able to see the difference between serving the Lord and serving rulers of other countries.

Serving the Lord is not burdensome. Rather, it is “a receiving and a blessing and a joy and a benefit.” It should not be considered “burdensome giving to God but a joyful getting from God” (emphasis mine).

Father, may we gain understanding regarding serving you. So often we resist serving you, but in the process, we become slaves to something/someone else. We say that we don’t have time to serve you, then become slaves to our jobs or our families or some hobby or sport. Forgive us, Lord, and grant repentance, that we might truly serve you, and in doing so, gain everything. I am reminded of the popular quote from C.S. Lewis, who said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.” I pray that your Spirit will guide me to serve you with gladness, knowing that, in serving, I receive.

I pray for this day, Lord, that we might be able to accomplish all that we need to do. I pray for safety and a joyful time as I attend a baseball game this afternoon. I don’t pray for anyone to win, as I don’t perceive that you are that concerned with who wins a baseball game. I pray for safety for everyone in attendance, and that all may have a good time. Help me to be considerate of everyone around me, and that I might display your Kingdom while I am there. I pray for our family, that you will provide for them everything that they need, grace and mercy for each day, and protection for them, as well. Hold us up in your mighty arms, Lord.

I pray for Andy, in California, that you would bring healing where needed, and that you would provide shelter and sustenance for him.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we gladly serve and obey God each day of our lives, knowing that in serving, we receive all that we need.


Grace and peace, friends.