Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; 
therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

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

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

Today is Friday, the third of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday, working in the computer center. It was fairly busy; a little slow up until lunchtime, but it picked up after lunch. And now, I’m off work until next Tuesday night.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Rays, yesterday, 3-1, to split the series. There were multiple opportunities blown, where they had two men on base with the go-ahead run at the plate, but they just couldn’t get them across. They are now 24-26 for the season, in third place in the AL West. They are 8.5 out of first, and two out of the Wild Card race. They begin a weekend series with the Mariners tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees (36-15) continue to have the best MLB record, while the Nationals and Royals are in a virtual tie for the worst, with 18-35 and 16-33, respectively. They are separated by .013 percentage, with the Royals being on the bottom. The Blue Jays continue to win. They are now on an eight-game win streak. And the Angels continue to lose! (Wheee!!) They are on an eight-game losing streak. The LA Dodgers remain at the top of the run differential column, having outscored their opponents by 114 runs. The Washinton Nationals are all alone at the bottom, having been outscored by their opponents by 83 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by ten runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 22.

The PWBA bowlers are currently in the first qualifying round in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.

The only thing on the agenda for today is getting groceries delivered (already set up) and taking Mama to the bank to deposit some oil royalty checks. Yes, she still gets some of those, and occasionally, they are pretty good. And, since C was out of town, and we did not have our chili last Monday night, we are going to cook chili tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for all your goodness and for the peace you give us. Unite us as your people, we pray. Unite us as one people with all your children who have ever lived, as one people with all who want to serve you. The more faithfully and joyfully we are your people, the more blessing you can give. Let the material world come under your hand. Guide your children on earth. Lead us in such a way that others may be helped. When we suffer, grant us strength and understanding of your will. Protect us today and every day. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
(Ephesians 2:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this Good News of peace; praying that we can spread this message of peace to the world
2. for the hope of unity within God's people
3. that, even though circumstances may look grim, yet there is hope, and still I can praise Him
4. for the goodness of God and for all the wonderful things He has stored up for us, which is one of the reasons for all this gratitude
5. for the way true prayer makes us more honest and human

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:14-16 NLT)

Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
(Romans 9:20-21 NLT)

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. 
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you 
in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 
I have seen you in your sanctuary 
and gazed upon your power and glory. 
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. 
I will praise you with songs of joy.
 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 
Because you are my helper, 
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
(Psalms 63:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yet.” Such a small word, yet full of potential meaning and significance.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT)

In some cases, this word has a similar meaning as “still.” Even though all of these seemingly negative circumstances are prevailing, I will still praise Him. Or, “yet” I will praise Him or rejoice in Him.

There is another sense, though, in which to use the word “yet.” We might be waiting for a particular problem or situation in our lives to be resolved, and bemoaning the fact that it remains unsolved. It has not been resolved.

Yet.

In this case, the word “yet” provides hope that there is still an opportunity for the situation to be resolved. And that hope should allow joy to continue. Even when there are no blossoms on the fig trees.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
(Psalms 31:19 NLT)

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness. 
Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. 
Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

How many times, in the past couple of years, have things that we wanted been unavailable? I’m not talking about things that we need or must have. That’s a different conversation. I’m talking about things that we want.

My biggest example is cherry-flavored sugar-free sodas. There have been periods of time when I have not been able to find Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar at all. In fact, there was one long stretch when I couldn’t find any cherry flavored soda at all. There was even a stretch when we couldn’t find C’s drink of choice, Sprite Zero.

While it was certainly disappointing, and the temptation is to moan, complain, and grumble, if I force myself to stop and consider Psalm 31:19, there is no reason for grumbling.

I desperately wish more of my brothers and sisters would do the same. Instead of trying to point fingers and place blame, what if we spent more time being grateful for the things that we do have?

I saw this video a long time ago, and was able to find it again. While it is produced by a charity organization (Water is Life), it presents some stark realities. And the bottom line is, “First world problems are not problems.” Watch this video, and then, the next time McDonald’s forgets to put mayo on your burger, think about these people.

Instead of complaining, we should be singing songs like this:

O God, listen to my cry! 
Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
 Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
(Psalms 61:1-2 NLT)

For us who name Jesus as Lord and Savior, “prayer is the most comprehensive and essential of actions.”

We separate ourselves from the bombardment of outside stimuli when we engage in prayer, and, in doing so, “deliberately develop every part of our lives, body and soul, in response to God.” This is not, of course, an easy task. “It is hard, exacting work – this life of prayer – but not at all grim.” There are times when “geysers of spontaneous joy erupt and spray out goodness.” And, in addition, we need each other in this journey. While one can pray quite well in solitude, one still needs the support of other saints.

One such companion, though long passed from this world, is David, the psalmist. “Read his psalms. They are David assembling all his experiences, all his difficulties and achievements, and all his doubts and affirmations before God and finding them shaped into wholeness, into salvation – as he becomes more honestly himself and more God’s both at the same time.”

Hopefully, we can also accomplish this. In true prayer (not just daily recitations from a “shopping list”), we become more honest and human as we pour out our hearts to God, our Father. And, in that context, it might be perfectly fine to complain about the grocery store not having any Cherry Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. As long as we come away in gratitude, remembering all the blessings that we have, and the promise of eternal bliss.

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

Father, I pray daily to You. Some days, my prayers are more authentic than others. Some days, my prayers are more numerous than others. Some days, those prayers are truly in response to You, and some days, they are more oblivious to Your blessings. I do love, though, how true prayer makes me more honestly myself and more Yours, at the same time, as Peterson suggest. Help me engage more in this kind of prayer on a daily basis.

Also, I pray for more gratitude. I know I share a good bit of gratitude, each day. But do I continue in that gratitude after I have typed and shared my list? Not that my list is contrived . . . not at all. But sometimes, I walk away from it, and then later find myself complaining about something trivial, that is not at all relevant or important. I pray that You deliver me from this trivial small-mindedness and help me to remember the plight of people in countries that do not have all the conveniences that I have here. In other words, keep me mindful of the great privilege that we have in this country. Well, some of us.

I thank You for the hope that comes when we remember that, just because You have not answered a prayer in the way we had hoped, doesn’t mean that You won’t, still, or “yet.” I also pray that You help me to remember that I can still praise You, even when circumstances look grim or challenging, as the Habakkuk verse says, and as the Matt Redman song says. “Blessed be Your name, when the road’s marked with suffering . . .”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Whatever the work of peacemaking is, it cannot be thought of as simply maintaining the “rule of law” of whatever regime holds political power. The path of peacemaking is altogether different than the one that leads to mere good citizenship or the preservation of a polity. Indeed, if peacemaking involves emulating the Prince of Peace who bears the government on his shoulder as whip scars and a wooden cross, it’s clear that peacemaking is intrinsically tied to solidarity with whomever one’s regime is presently nailing to a cross. The justice of Christ’s cross is a justice of reconciliation, a pathway to peace for those who have been denied it.
(Anthony M. Barr, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

Today is Thursday, the second of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

We finally got C home, last night, but it wasn’t easy. S and I headed to the airport at about 2:45, planning to meet C when her plane landed at a little before 3:30. We got there and parked across from the expected gate. It was then that I saw, on Spirit Airlines’s terrible website (it constantly gives errors) that the plane had been diverted to AUSTIN, because of a tiny thunderstorm that was in the area for about five minutes. They would be returning, but not until close to 6:00 PM. Ugh.

So we went back home, not 100% sure that we would be seeing C last night, at all. In fact, I was prepared to drive to Austin to get her. But, eventually, everything worked out fine. C and I talked, after they finally told the passengers what would be happening. Then she texted me when their plane taxied back onto the runway. I kept checking the website, and when it finally said that the plane was “in flight,” I got S and we headed back to the airport. The ETA was 6:49, but at 6:39, while we were still a few minutes away, C texted us and said they had landed. We met her at the baggage claim, and there was much rejoicing.

Suddenly I could breathe again.

I noticed, during all of this, that Spirit’s website declared that they would soon be combining with Frontier Airlines. That figures. I wonder what you get when two terrible airlines combine?

The Texas Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, last night. Well, the Rangers didn’t actually lose (my opinion, here). MLB lost it for the, with their ridiculous Little League “zombie runner” in extra innings. The reall sad thing is that Jon Gray pitched excellently, striking out twelve batters. The Rangers are now 24-25, in third place in the AL West, eight games out of first, and 2.5 out in the Wild Card race. They have guaranteed at least a split in this series with TB. They will play again today, at 1:05 CDT.

The Red Sox finally won a game, beating the Reds 7-1, last night. They are now 24-27 for the season, in fifth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 3.5 out in the Wild Card race. They are playing the Athletics in Oakland tonight, at 9:40 EDT. I always feel sorry for east coast teams when they play on the west coast. Check that. I only feel sorry for the Red Sox. There are no other east coast teams for whom I ever feel sorry about anything.

The NY Yankees (34-15) continue to have the best MLB record. The KC Royals (16-33) are holding onto the worst record, for now. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to have the longest win streak, now at seven games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at six games. The Dodgers are atop in the run differential category, with +112 (it seems to be going down), and the Royals are now tied with the Pirates for the worst run differential, both at -77. The Rangers are at +12, and the Red Sox are at +22.

Today being Thursday, I will be working in the Computer Center at the Hurst Public Library, from 11:15-8:15. I have Creamy Italian Chicken soup cooking in the crock pot.

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, with all our hearts we want to thank you for giving us joy on earth and for sending us your radiant light from heaven. We praise you for the light you give our hearts, the light that lets us find great joy together because we become one in you, one in your Spirit, one in awaiting your promised good. Grant that we may be your children. May we always find the paths where you can go with us and give us what we cannot give ourselves. May our whole life glorify you and our every breath belong to you. Through communion with you may we remain in your safekeeping in body, soul, and spirit. For all you have done and for all you will do for us, we ask you to accept our thanks. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Let all that I am praise the LORD. 
O LORD my God, how great you are! 
You are robed with honor and majesty. 
You are dressed in a robe of light. 
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
(Psalms 104:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the radiant light from God, sent from heaven to light our hearts and our paths, and to give us joy
2. for the "starry curtain of the heavens," stretched out for us to see
3. that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing . . . NOTHING (not even sin!) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
4. for the hope of being mature (perfect?) in Christ, lacking nothing, being complete (teleios)
5. that God is our strong tower, to whom we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 91, Isaiah 41:10)
6. that God interacts with us, validating our language and words as we have conversation with Him
"Of one thing I am sure. Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive. Whenever I express my complaints in the hope of evoking pity and receiving the satisfaction I so much desire, the result is always the opposite of what I tried to get. A complainer is hard to live with, and very few people know how to respond to the complaints made by a self-rejecting person. The tragedy is that, often, the complaint, once expressed, leads to that which is most feared: further rejection. . . . Joy and resentment cannot coexist."
(Daily Meditation from Henri Nouwen)

Based on this quote, and my observations, there is very little joy on social media, these days.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NLT emphasis mine)

This is truly good news. This is the BEST news. This verse may very well sum up the Gospels. But here is a question: Why is it that so many people, who claim to belong to Christ Jesus, are so full of condemnation?

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
(Romans 8:10-11 NLT)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins do not separate you from God. Any preacher who tells you that is lying (maybe not on purpose, mind you, because he might actually believe it) and doesn’t understand God’s Word.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
(Psalms 62:1-2 NLT)
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 
My victory and honor come from God alone. 
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 
O my people, trust in him at all times. 
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 
(Psalms 62:5-8 NLT)
God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: 
Power, O God, belongs to you;
 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. 
Surely you repay all people according to what they have done.
(Psalms 62:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “teleios.” This is a Greek word that has a number of possible meanings. In today’s context, it means “mature” or “complete.”

“When we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

It’s kind of interesting to me, sussing out the real meaning of teleios. Bob, today’s writer, says it means “mature, . . . a state in which nothing is left out or lacking.” And, if I read the cited verse, Ephesians 4:13, in most versions, the word is, in fact, translated “mature.”

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NLT)

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:13 ESV)

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NIV)

until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 MSG)

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
(Ephesians 4:13 KJV)

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

Regardless of whether we translate it “perfect” or “mature,” I think we can probably agree that the idea behind it is completeness, which is the word way up there in the Spurgeon quote. Complete, lacking nothing, which is, in my opinion, more along the lines of “perfect.”

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the LORD, 
"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare 
and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge;
 his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only observe with your eyes 
and see the punishment of the wicked. 
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," 
and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
no harm will overtake you, 
no disaster will come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways; 
they will lift you up in their hands, 
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 
He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
(Psalms 91:1-16 NIV)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

I really like the way Eugene Peterson begins the reading for today.

“Can there be conversation between a God who speaks worlds into being and speaks our lives into being and those of us who use words to get a second helping of potatoes or to tell a checkout clerk that we were overcharged $3.50 on some broccoli? Are these words compatible? Aren’t we dealing with two completely different orders of magnitude?”

Do we, in our own minds, truly believe that our meager words are on the same level of validity as God’s words? Do we believe that our words are “worthy of being entered into a conversation with God? When we express our own unworthiness, even by not expressing it (does this make sense at all?), we initiate a conversation with God; we include ourselves in a dialogue, by answering Him.

“When our words and God’s words are joined, something new starts to happen. Our words are validated. They become authenticated. They function for the exact reason God’s words function: to reveal and create.”

Part of the meaning of being created in God’s image (remember that, back in Genesis?) is that we have language. This relates to yesterday’s reading. (Or maybe the day before . . . I can’t remember.) We have the ability “to speak and listen to words that link these mysterious interiors of our lives in love and understanding.”

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning is a resounding “Yes!” And another reason for that is that God condescends, or stoops down, as it were, to interact with us. That’s another way that He shows His great love for us. He could very well, as the Creator of the universe, He who spoke the word and brought worlds into being, sit up on His lofty throne, high and mighty, and pretty much ignore us. Which is how a lot of people already view Him, as an entity that created everything, set things in motion, and then just sat back to see what happens, without having a hand in anything else.

That is not the God we serve. The God we serve and worship interacts with us. He initiates conversation with us! And when we “respond” by not responding, because we think our words are unworthy, we have answered Him. But He answers back, continuously calling us into conversation with Him, validating our words, just as He validated Jeremiah.

GOD told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.”
(Jeremiah 1:7 MSG)

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

There is so much to be thankful for, here, today, Father. I am so thankful for the joy that comes from knowing You, but acknowledge that, as Henri Nouwen said, this joy cannot coexist with resentment. If I am complaining about anything, there is no joy present. I confess that this happened, yesterday evening. I complained a lot about the circumstances as we were delayed picking C up at the airport. I was not happy. I did not feel joy. But, all the while, You were there. I know that You never left me, nor will You ever. I pray that You can help me overcome situations like that and not resort to complaining. Remind me, quickly, when things like that happen, that You are there, in control, and that joy is still possible.

I praise Your name that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. This is such great news, and we are doing such a poor job of declaring this to the world. We are real good at declaring it to ourselves when we’ve messed up, I think. But then we turn around and refuse grace to a dying, lost world, offering up only condemnation and guilt. For far too long, Father, Your people have been trying to guilt and shame people into the kingdom. I don’t think that’s working any more (if it ever did). The “good news” is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Therefore, if there is no condemnation for me, who am I to dish out condemnation to anyone else?? God help us!

Father, You know how I love those verses and passages that talk about You being our strong tower and refuge. I love passages like Psalm 91 that tell us how You care for us and take care of us. I have long believed those verses that tell us that if we dwell in Your tent, no harm will come to us. This seems counterintuitive, especially when “harm” does come to us. But it all hinges on how we define “harm.” I believe with all my heart that there is nothing that anyone in this world can do to me that can truly, ultimately harm me. There is nothing that the universe can throw at me that can do me any ultimate harm. Because You are my God and You are with me. You will help me; You will strengthen me; You will hold me up with Your righteous right hand! And, when this life on earth is over, You will gather me up and take me Home, where I will be “teleios” for eternity.

Finally, Father (but this will not end my prayers today), I am very grateful that my words are reaching Your ears and eyes. I praise You for stooping down to interact with us. I thank You that You gave us language and that we can speak to You, respond to You, and You hear us, You understand us, and You make us able to understand You. May Your words fill me up today, Father, filling me with joy and peace, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Speak. Listen. Understand.

Today is Wednesday, the first of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,456. Hah! I don’t imagine I will live long enough for that to happen again!! And, believe it or not, I did not see that coming.

C comes home today!! C comes home today!!! And we will do the dance of joy!

She is currently en route to the Chicago airport, to turn in her rental car and catch her flight home, which is due in at DFW at 3:28 PM. S and I will be there to joyfully pick her up.

I had a busy but good evening at the library, last night. There was plenty of work to do (and still was when I left). I shelved a full cart of DVDs and audio books, a few magazines, and some CDs, as well. And I had time to sort a full cart for the new book display, and then re-shelve a number of books that had been looked at, but not checked out.

The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays again, behind another stellar outing from pitcher Martin Perez. All of the runs in the game were scored in the bottom of the fourth inning, on two Rangers home runs. Perez only gave up three hits in seven innings, and the Rangers won 3-0. John King and Joe Barlow were perfect in relief, and Barlow is nine for nine in save attempts.

The Rangers are finally at .500, 24-24 for the season. They remain in third place in the AL West, seven games out of first and only two out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, tonight, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox lost to the Reds. Seriously. I mean, what gives, here??? 2-1. The Sox are now 23-27 for the season, somehow still in fourth place in the AL East, 11.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Reds again, today, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees (34-15) took back the best MLB record spot. And, after beating the Red Sox, the Reds are no longer at the bottom of the pile. That now belongs to the KC Royals, 16-32. The Reds are actually third from the bottom, now. The Blue Jays continue to hold the longest win streak, at six games, now. And the LA Angels (more dance of joy) continue losing, now having reached a six-game losing streak. The Dodgers now have a run differential of +116, almost 40 better than the next team (Yankees), and the Pirates now have a run differential of -81. That seems slightly improved. They are only eight runs worse than the Royals, who seem determined to have last place in all categories. The Rangers are now at +13 (woohoo!!!), and the Red Sox have drifted to +16.

The only thing on our agenda today is getting C home. Nothing else matters today. I’ll probably get a load of laundry folded, but it’s not urgent.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, in your Word we trust, in your Word of eternal life, given us in Jesus Christ our Savior. We build on this Word of life in these days when it seems that everything is losing strength and value, and yet there is so much longing in people’s hearts. You will not let our hope be disappointed. What you have spoken must be fulfilled. What is promised in Jesus Christ must come into being, not only for a few but for the whole world, for which he died and was raised from the dead. Be with us. Keep us so fully alive that our lives reflect all the goodness we are allowed to experience and we overcome all the evil which tries to attack us. We thank you for calling us to life and for renewing us again and again. May your name be praised among us forever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
(John 6:33 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that true bread of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ
2. that God will not allow our hope to be disappointed; what He has spoken will be fulfilled
3. that God never changes; Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever
4. for the awesome ways that God loves us
5. for words and language, may we do better at using them

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. 
Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 
for you are my safe refuge, 
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 
Let me live forever in your sanctuary, 
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! 
For you have heard my vows, O God. 
You have given me an inheritance 
reserved for those who fear your name.
(Psalms 61:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “forever.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8 NLT)

Things change. People change. Places change. Change can be good; change can be bad. I’ve never liked change simply for the sake of change. For example, when the grocery store rearranges everything for no apparent reason.

I’ve changed. Physically, I’ve changed quite a bit over the years. I get heavier, I get lighter, then I get heavier again. I don’t have as much hair as I used to have, and it isn’t the vibrant auburn-red that it once was. Philosophically and politically, I have changed quite a bit, over the past few decades. Hopefully, I am leaning more toward Jesus, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. And I’ve changed theologically, multiple times in my life, as I reflect on God’s Word, what it says, and what it means.

But God doesn’t change. Jesus never changes. The Holy Trinity is constant. We can depend on God, especially when other people, places, and things disappoint us.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1 NLT)

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
(John 1:9-13 NLT)

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
(1 John 4:9-10 NLT)

Do you ever stop to consider what a miracle words and language is? The very fact that we have “capacity to speak words and make ourselves understood and capacity to listen to words and understand” each other is astonishing. I’ve seen the movie “Quest for Fire.” Nothing but grunts and moans and gestures. Who knows if that was really what it was like, but I still think language is a miracle.

The problem is that just because we can speak words and sentences doesn’t mean we will do it well. Or that we will speak truth. “We can, and do, speak nonsense. We can, and do, tell lies.”

Words delight us because “they bring us into understanding relations with the world and into intimate relations with people.” But words also dismay us, “even destroy us, as they misrepresent or falsify or manipulate.”

It is sad, tragic, to me, that sometimes “pastors” fall prey to the temptation to do the latter.

The church entrusts certain people to be preachers and teachers and sort of puts them “in charge of the words.” Not, of course, to the extent that the Catholic Church was in charge of them before Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation.

“Your task,” says the church to these people, “is to make sure we hear and listen to these words. If we forget or devalue these words, we are going to miss the point of everything. We are going to miss God. There is a lot going on. There are things to do and places to go and people to meet. There are babies to change and payrolls to meet, meals to prepare and cars to repair, wounds to heal and problems to solve. In the crises and the challenges, the noise and the frenzy of all this, we need someone who will faithfully and accurately say the Word, proclaim the Word, teach the Word – and stay with us as we listen and pray and believe it.”

May God have mercy on the “pastor” who strays from this path and begins teaching his own opinions as gospel.

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

Father, I am grateful that You are constant, that You never change or waver in Your ways. I praise You that You are always here, always challenging me to be better, and always drawing me back to the path when I stray from it. I praise You that You hear my cries and lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

I am also so very grateful for Your great love, love which is unimaginable, yet easy to know. Your great love for us is that which allows us, nay, calls us to be Your children, and then has procured for us a place in Your kingdom and an inheritance that can never diminish or be corrupted. What a great love!

And I thank You for words and language. Sometimes, I will speak a word and then speak it over and over, listening to it and thinking about what it means. Sometimes there are visual images that go along with those words, but sometimes there are not. When I say the word, love, though, I am filled with both visual and non-visual feelings. Some people say that “love’s not a feeling,” but I vehemently disagree. It is “more than a feeling,” yes. But it is definitely something that is felt. It becomes reality when actions accompany that feeling. Until we act upon it, it is nothing more than platitude.

And, Father, You acted on that love in the most supreme and magnificent way. You sacrificed Your Son to enable us to become Your children.

Help us to get our words better, Lord. The world is messed up, right now, especially parts of Your church in America, where “pastors” are preaching opinions, trying to manipulate people, and, in some cases, downright lying. I pray for Your intervention, that Your Church might be seen as whole and unified. I know in my heart that Your Church is alive and well, but it seems that we are having to look a little harder to see it in the midst of the mess. And maybe, just maybe, that’s Your Holy Spirit, doing some pruning. There seems to be a lot of pruning going on, right now.

But I cannot thank You enough . . . there aren’t enough words, as it turns out . . . for Your great love. And I pray for strength to continue walking that love and displaying that love to a hurting and suffering world.

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

How often do we miss the fainter note
Or fail to see the more exquisite hue,
Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet,
Eyes fixed upon some other, further view.
What chimes of harmonies escape our ears,
How many rainbows must elude our sight,
We see a field but do not see the grass,
Each blade a miracle of shade and light.
How then to keep the greater end in eye
And watch the sunlight on the distant peak,
And yet not tread on any leaf of love,
Nor miss a word the eager children speak?
Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart,
To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.
(Sonnet I, Philip Britts, 1947, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of May, 2022, the seventh Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

I had a really great day at work, yesterday. It was fairly busy, which is nice, because it makes the day go by faster. As is usually the case (not always, though), it got a little busier, closer to closing time, and we wound up having a family checking out books right at 6:00 PM. We don’t mind, though . . . that’s why we are there, right?

C finished her bowling and arrived safely in Indianapolis, at R’s house, yesterday evening. Today, they are planning to visit the cat cafe that we went to last year. Good times. C is aware that we don’t need any more cats. I hope.

The Texas Rangers won big, yesterday, behind a grand salami by Marcus Simien, which happened to be his first home run as a Ranger! Finally! Final score was 11-4, over the struggling Athletics. Taylor Hearn, the starter, gained his third win of the season. The Rangers remain in third place in the AL West, but gained another game on the Astros, who have lost two in a row. They are still 3.5 out in the Wild Card race, though. They play the Athletics again today, to close out the series, at 3:05 CDT. They are 22-23, only one game below .500.

The Boston Red Sox split a double header with the Orioles, winning the first game 5-3 and losing the second 4-2. The Red Sox are now 22-25, still in fourth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They will play Baltimore again today.

The Yankees (33-14) lost a game, but continue to have the best MLB record. The Reds (16-30) and Nationals (17-31) are in a virtual tie for the worst record, with only .006 percentage points between them. The Blue Jays, Rangers, and Reds all have four-game winning streaks. The Rangers are on the verge of a sweep, if they can win today. The LA Angels have a four-game losing streak, the current longest. I am not unhappy about that at all. The Dodgers continue to be way ahead of everyone in run differential at +117. The Pirates continue to be way below everyone, at -82. The Rangers are green!! They have a +7 run differential. The Red Sox, after splitting that double header by the exact same number of runs, remain at +17.

The PWBA Twin Cities Open tournament has finished all qualifying rounds, and the finals will be at 4:00 PM, this afternoon, on CBS Sports Network. The top five bowlers are 1. Missy Parkin (San Clemente, CA) 2. Danielle McEwan (Stony Point, NY) 3. Bryanna Cote (Tucson, AZ) 4. Shannon O’Keefe (Belleville, IL) 5. Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine) Dasha is the reigning champion for this tournament, so I’m glad she made the finals. Kelly Kulick bowled the only 300, so far, but just missed the cut for qualifying round 4. She still made cash, though, as did Diana Zavjalova, from Latvia, and Daria Payak, from Poland. Stefanie Johnson, from McKinney, TX, was in the top 12, but didn’t make the finals. Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, who was last week’s top seed, placed sixth. Jen Higgins and Verity Crawley, two of my other favorites, did not cash in this tournament.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(Collect for Seventh Sunday of Easter, The Book of Common Prayer)
Lord our God, we thank you for allowing us to experience your power. We thank you that we need not be occupied with material things only. We thank you that your Spirit comes to our aid again and again. Grant that we may continue to have your help, and let many hearts find what a grace it is that in spirit we may walk in heaven even during this transitory life with all its foolish ways. We may say with complete assurance that everything tormenting and burdening will pass by. It passes by, and we go joyfully and confidently toward your kingdom, which continually gains in power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the abundant riches of God's mercy and grace
2. for the constant help and power of God that enables me to not be concerned about material things
3. that God, through my practice of spiritual disciplines, prepares me for whatever may come in my life
4. for my journey of faith, and the fact that, at 64 years old, my faith in God is stronger than ever
5. for "eternal intersections" where God's grace connects with our groping faith
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, 
whose sin is put out of sight! 
Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, 
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
(Romans 4:20-21 NLT)

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

That “Anonymous” person sure said a lot of wise things.

Any time we have an important undertaking ahead of us, whether it be a vacation trip, or some kind of work project, we prepare. We bring suitcases into the house the night before and start packing (our cats promptly position themselves on the suitcases, thereby making packing much more challenging). My wife makes lists of things to make sure we don’t forget. If I’m cooking a recipe, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients measured out before I start.

We prepare. And, as the quote above says, that is not wasted time. It ensures that there are no hitches as the event gets under way. Or at least increases that probability. I suppose there is no way to completely ensure that nothing will interrupt the process.

But there is another thought around the word “prepare.” Consider Psalm 23:5.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
(Psalms 23:5 NLT)

The word “prepare” generally means “make ready.” That can mean a number of things depending on the context. We’ve covered the idea of preparing things ahead of time, but it can also mean the act of, say, cooking. When we prepare a meal, we are actually cooking it, making it ready for consumption.

God prepares a banquet for us, right in front of our enemies. But guess what . . . I love Dallas Willard’s perspective on this. We do not hoard this banquet. We share it. Yes, with our enemies! We invite them to share in our blessings.

God also prepares me for whatever is coming next. As I practice disciplines (and I’m still not very good at that, mind you), He prepares me for the events of the day, of the week. If I am walking in His kingdom, I am prepared for anything that might happen, and nothing takes me by surprise. It is certain that nothing takes Him by surprised, because He is all-knowing, and already knows what is coming.

God prepares me, defends me, and will make straight paths for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

One other thought I just had. Jesus is clear that I’m not supposed to worry over what may happen tomorrow. If I am to succeed in that (and I frequently do not), I have to trust in His preparations for me. I have to not lean on my own understanding (or lack thereof, more likely) and trust that He is making my paths straight.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
(2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

I really like today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2022. Penney Schwab is the writer. She speaks of her heritage of faith, but makes the statement that she cannot point to the exact day or hour when she first began trusting in Christ. I can identify with this statement.

It is popular to be able to declare the exact hour that one “became a Christian.” For many people it is the repetition of a quite unbiblical phenomenon known as “the sinner’s prayer.” Believe me when I say that no such thing exists in God’s Word.

I can’t say when my journey of faith began, because I have loved Jesus for longer than I can remember. I do know that, at the age of nine, I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church, in Mineral Wells, Texas, and professed to be a believer in Christ (that was how one “joined the church,” also). But was that when I was “saved?” I don’t know. I had been going to Sunday School and memorizing Scripture and singing hymns and songs of praise for years before that event.

Later in my life, some well-meaning “evangelist” convinced me that, because I couldn’t remember saying the “right words” (again, I am confident that Scripture knows of no such “right words”), that I wasn’t really saved. So I got baptized again. I told people that I had really gotten “saved” that time.

I look back on those days with a small amount of embarrassment, but “it is what it is,” as “they” say. When we are in college, we tend to be somewhat gullible. Some folks never stop being gullible.

But I can share the kind of heritage that Ms. Schwab shares in this reading. I come from a long line of Christian people. I don’t know much about my great-grandparents, but I know that my grandparents were followers of Christ. Every time we went to visit them (both sides of the family) we went to church on Sunday mornings. On my mother’s side, it was always Crim’s Chapel Baptist Church, out in the country, near Henderson, TX. I always felt loved when I was there.

I remember on those Sunday mornings, after the service was over, it seemed like people gathered outside and talked for at least an hour, before finally dispersing to their homes and Sunday lunches. It probably wasn’t as long as it seemed to a young boy.

On my father’s side, it was either Pirtle Methodist Church, in Pirtle, TX (look it up), or whatever small Texas town that my step-grandfather happened to be ministering in at the time. Buffalo, Lovelady, Grapeland, Clute (that one was tough . . . down on the Gulf of Mexico, a looooong way from Minerals Wells), Edgewood, and maybe some I’ve forgotten.

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

There has never (and I say that in all seriousity) NEVER been a time in my life when I questioned my faith in God. There have been a few times when I questioned my salvation, but God always came through with a resounding “yes!” at those times.

The most memorable came in 1984. I had recently become divorced (several days before Christmas in 1983), and was taking some time in the summer to get away from things. I spent a week (maybe two, I can’t remember) at my grandmother’s house, outside of Henderson, and my grandmama’s house in Pirtle. One day, I was walking around in front of my grandmother’s house, where there used to be a swing set. Me and my cousins spent a lot of time out there. I was struggling, dealing with the emotions of what had been happening in my life.

In desperation, I cried out, “God, am I really Your child?”

Almost forty years later, and I’m getting chill bumps just remembering what happened next.

I swear to you, God reached down and HUGGED ME! I have never felt anything quite like it. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had in my entire life.

For anyone who foolishly declares that God does not exist . . . I can’t prove it. But I know you are wrong.

Today, I am 64 years old, just like in that Beatles song. My faith is stronger than ever. There are always questions, and, these days, I’m questioning more things than ever. But my salvation and faith in God are not part of those questions. I know that God loves me, and I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to either decrease OR increase that love.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14 NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

“God comes to us; we come to God; the meeting is salvation.”

It’s because of statements like this that I believe that salvation, rather than something that has a definitive moment, is more of a lifelong process. One popular writer (I can’t remember who, so this isn’t exactly a quote) said that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

This “meeting” of which Eugene Peterson speaks is not a single event. “We celebrate this meeting in our acts of worship.” In these times of worship, we find that “God’s coming and our coming result in real meeting, not simply an appearance of it.”

I’m quoting more because I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s exquisite wordsmithing.

“Worship heightens our awareness so that we can become conscious of the eternal intersections that take place in our hearts when God’s grace connects with our groping faith.

“Worship intensifies joy as the Word of God is spoken clearly and the voices of praise are harmonized in being and coordinated in affirmation.”

I had a meeting with God, that day in 1984. God came, I came, and we met together. And make no mistake. Even though I’m the one who asked the question, I in no way believe that I initiated that meeting. That was one of many “eternal intersections” where God’s grace connected with my groping faith in a powerful way.

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

Where do I even begin, Father? I am moved, this morning, beyond words. Yet I have somehow managed to type a plethora of them. I am still grateful for that “meeting” we had, back in 1984. It was truly a life-altering event, that I still remember quite vividly. In fact, I still have the Blue Jay feather that I found on the ground immediately following that meeting. It is a marker, a reminder of that time, as if I needed one.

These “eternal intersections” of which Peterson speaks are incredible, Father. If we were to truly examine our lives, we would find that there have been countless numbers of those intersections where Your grace connected with our groping faith. And if anyone says that their faith is never groping, I’m calling them liars. Or maybe their faith is in the wrong place. My faith, while strong in You, is week in me. I have little faith in my ability to stay connected. But that’s why it is faith, in the first place, right? My faith isn’t supposed to be in me, it is in You. The questions come from within me, and are about me and my place, not about You.

I mean, there will always be questions about You, because, until I get to meet You “in person,” there will be things that I do not comprehend about You.

I am grateful for the heritage of faith that I share in my family. I pray that I have done an adequate job of passing it along. I fear, at times, that I have failed, but that is not in my hands, is it? I do know that I am fully convinced, as Abraham was, that You are completely and utterly faithful to do that which You have promised. You will do what You say You will do. I praise You for that.

I also praise You for preparing me, daily, for life. I don’t always walk in that preparation, I confess. You make my paths straight, but it’s I who walk crookedly. Sometimes I must appear spiritually “drunk,” I must stumble around so badly. But praise to You for always bringing me back to that straight path. You show me the way, Father, and I know that in Your presence there is joy forevermore, and pleasures everlasting. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Faith cannot be acquired by a decision of the will: it is a gift from God. Yet it can be given to everyone who seeks it. As Jesus says, “Seek, and ye shall find.” What counts here is trust. Faith is not dependent on reason – on theories, theological systems, or other intellectual explanations. It is belief, precisely in the absence of these things. Mary had reason enough to doubt the angel who came to her from God, but instead she believed – “Here am I, a handmaiden of the Lord” – and received the Word in her heart. It can be that simple!
(J. Heinrich Arnold, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Shred of Hope

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-fifth of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today. I sincerely mean that.

Day 23,449

I’m out of time, this morning. I’ll recap the PWBA tournament and update baseball stuff tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we stand before you and rejoice that we may have fellowship with you through the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant us the light of your Spirit. Grant our hearts strength for life. Open for us the paths of life, that we may find joy and hope in spite of all the suffering we must go through on earth. Let all humankind be entrusted to your care. Rule over them with your power, whether they are aware of it or not, and take world history into your hands so that all people may receive your mercy. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Corinthians 1:7-9 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have ever spiritual gift I need, and that Jesus is here to keep me strong, even in the face of temptation and failure
2. that God is faithful to do what He says He will do
3. for fresh cherries; it's cherry season!
4. that I can find shelter in the shadow of God's wings (Psalm 36)
5. for hope in the face of tragedy
Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
 Defend me with your might.
 Listen to my prayer, O God. 
Pay attention to my plea. 
For strangers are attacking me; 
violent people are trying to kill me. 
They care nothing for God. 
Interlude 
But God is my helper. 
The Lord keeps me alive! 
May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
 Do as you promised and put an end to them. 
I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you; 
I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good. 
For you have rescued me from my troubles 
and helped me to triumph over my enemies.
(Psalms 54:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “relax.”

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” — Sydney J. Harris, American journalist

While I understand the sentiment behind the word, I would prefer to think more in terms of “be still.” When I think of “relax,” I think of shutting off all senses, not paying attention to anything.

The idea behind the reading is taking time to notice things, in this case, specifically while walking a dog. Kind of a “stop and smell the roses” mentality, which, in my opinion, is far different from “relax.” “Relax” is what I’m trying to do right before I fall asleep.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 NLT)

You can “be still” without relaxing. To be still is to stop fretting, stop worrying, stop needless activity. There is a time when activity is necessary; there is also a time to be still (I’m having flashbacks to Ecclesiastes 3, right now).

Father, help us to be able to be still and know that You are God. There is a time for action, a time for activity. But there is never a time for worry and fret. These are two activities that never accomplish anything. We are mourning, today, Father, and there is much fretting and arguing going on in the midst of it. Help us to take a moment, be still, and know that You are God. Then help us to know when it is time for action, and what the appropriate actions are.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! 
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
 letting them drink from your river of delights. 
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.
(Psalms 36:7-9 NLT)

Father, I thank You for Your protection over our house, today. I am grateful that we can find shelter in the shadow of Your wings. I realize that there are questions abounding, in the face of yesterday’s tragedy. There will be some who wonder how I can be grateful for that shelter when such tragedy is allowed to happen. I don’t have the answer to those questions. Other than to say that You allow humans to make choices, and there are many humans who are going to choose evil. How this reconciles with Your sovereignty, I am clueless. I’ll confess that. I simply must accept that it does, somehow, and that someday I will understand.

I praise You for Your precious, unfailing love. Please let me keep drinking from Your river of delights, for You truly are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.

Speaking of “light,” it is a common symbol among Christians, and central in our faith. It is a symbol for Jesus Christ.

“As light pours into our lives from the sun, so Christ’s love arms and illuminates us in mercy and grace. The light that is Christ reaches into all that is our world. It also reaches into all that is the person.”

God loves the world (John 3:16). God saves the person. “This is the great epiphany; Christ enlightens everything and everyone, draws our fragmented and shadowed lives into an experienced wholeness.”

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

For anyone who might not be aware (I do have readers in other countries), yesterday, at least nineteen fourth grade children and two adults were killed by a shooter at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. Uvalde appears to be about fifty miles west of San Antonio. I live in DFW, TX, about five or six hours north of there.

It is very tempting to not bother, today. It’s tempting to just throw my hands up in the air and say, “What’s the use?” When I first began, up at the top, with my daily gratitude list, I sat there for a few minutes, on the edge of despair. How can we find something to be grateful for in the face of this senseless tragedy? Where is the hope?

I hope I’ve already answered those questions. My hope is in the Lord. My hope is not in a government, regardless of which party you support. I don’t have much hope in my country. I’m pretty sure it’s doomed. But God is alive and well, and His real Church is alive and well, and I can find shelter in the shadow of His wings. That is where my hope is, and that is why I carry on with the message that I try to put forth in this blog.

Jesus is the Light of the world. He is our only hope. And I will continue to try to walk in His steps and follow His commands to love God and love people.

Father, I thank You for the light that shines in the darkness, even when the darkness seems to be overwhelming. There is much darkness in the world today, but Your light, even the smallest spark of it, cuts through that darkness like a beacon of hope. I praise You for hope, no matter how small it is. As long as there is a shred of hope, we are okay.

I pray for the families affected in Uvalde. I pray for parents who have lost their babies. I pray for the families of the two adults. I pray that, somehow, they might be able to find peace. I pray that there are true followers of Christ in the area who will step up and help these people. I pray that political whoremongers, both right and left, would shut their mouths, and allow these families to grieve. Yes, something needs to be done, something more than “thoughts and prayers.” No, we aren’t really sure what that something is. We need wisdom, Lord. But first, we need to be still and know that You are God.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.
(H.J. Iwand, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

From Messy to Magic

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fourth of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,448

It’s Tuesday, so I’ll be working my four-hour shift at the library, tonight, re-shelving books (or magazines and DVDs). There is, of course, a strong likelihood that more books will be added to my “TBR” list. At this point, there is not much likelihood that I will check out anything new. But you never know.

There was no baseball last night. Well, none that mattered to me, anyway. Both the Rangers and Red Sox had the day off. Just for kicks, though, the NY Yankees (29-13) still have the best MLB record, even though they have lost three in a row. They are still chasing win number thirty. The Cincinnati Reds (12-29) still have the worst record. They are also still one game behind the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox now share the longest win streak (five games) with two other teams, the San Diego Padres and the Minnesota Twins. The SF Giants and KC Royals still share the longest losing streak, also five games. The LA Dodgers continue to beat up on their opponents, having the highest run differential, at +97! That is 32 runs higher than the second place Yankees. Wow. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest run differential, at -87.

In the PWBA USBC Queens tournament, I was disappointed that none of my favorites made the final show, which happens tonight. The five ladies who will be bowling tonight, in order of seed are Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, Birgit Noreiks, from Germany, Laura Plazas, from Bogota, Danielle McEwan, from Stony Point, NY, and Hope Gramly, from Aubrey, TX.

Here are some interesting facts. The top seed for the finals, Clara Guerrero, finished 37th of 64 in the qualifying rounds. Birgit Noreiks, second seed, finished 50th in qualifying. Laura Plazas, third seed, finished 63rd out of 64 in qualifying! Danielle McEwan finished third in qualifying, and Hope Gramly finished 22nd. D-Mac was the only top ten qualifier to make the show. One of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, finished sixth, over-all, not quite making the show. If I heard correctly, she still gets a payout of $10,000, which isn’t bad for a week’s work. I wish best of luck to all five finalists, tonight. I’ll be recording the show while I’m at work, so I can watch it. I don’t really have a preference as to who wins. But I will say that I really enjoyed watching Ms. Plazas bowl, yesterday, during the last match to determine the final three spots on the ladder. I’m also glad to see someone from Texas, my home state, in the running.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We thank you, dear Father in heaven, for the many times you let us experience that we do not need to despair because of darkness, weakness, or sickness. You hear the desires of our hearts. You love us for all that we love when we love the Savior and when we praise his name. Let us remain in this spirit. Come to us with many proofs of your power, to the glory of your name. Come in the inner quiet of heart through which we are able to grasp what it means for us that you are our Father in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
(Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the time of the Lord's favor, when the captives will be released, the blind will see, and the oppressed will be set free; Good News to the poor!
2. that life can get messy, because that forces me to sit still and wait on God, knowing with great confidence that He is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming
3. that we, the people of God, are also supposed to be in the business of the things in number 2
4. for the Light of the world that overcomes the darkness
5. for the desire to seek after the wisdom that comes from above

Today’s prayer word is “messy.” As I suspected, I can’t find that word anywhere in the Bible. Here’s a quote, though, from the inimitable Audrey Hepburn:

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

There seems to be enough evidence to support that she actually said that. And it’s a remarkable statement, I think. I find that I agree with it. Yet, we, as human beings, are terrible at throwing out people. We give up on people. I see comments on social media almost every day to which I react, “I am certainly glad our Father in heaven doesn’t think that way.”

Life is messy. But that isn’t the final prognosis. Because, you see, we have a God who is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming. All of these things is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ, via the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Trinity is involved in all of these things in our lives.

All we have to do is be still and know . . . seriously, we just need to sit still for a moment and consider the work of God, His kingdom that is available right now, for us to walk in. It is at that point that the messy either gets straightened up, or maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter any more.

The writer of today’s reading, named Roberta (I suspect it is Roberta Messner), writes of something her sister once said to her. “Don’t fret, Pet. It has to bet better. You gotta have the messy before the magic.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I am reminded of the opening line’s of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Father, I thank You for the messes. It is in those messes where we realize the reality of life, and what Paul meant when he told us to give thanks in all circumstances. I also praise You that You are, truly, restoring us, renewing us, reviving us, reclaiming us, and redeeming us, all the time. All the time, because I keep wandering off the path, which causes You to have to restore me or reclaim me. I ask forgiveness for this, and ask for Your help in keeping me on the path so things don’t get quite so messy.

Sometimes the messes are my fault, and sometimes they are just natural happenings, outside of my control. Help me to be repentant when they are my fault, to change my way of thinking, so that I don’t find myself in those messes. I love when You turn the messes into “magic” or into “marvelous.”

“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
(Luke 11:33-36 NLT)

“Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”

What a sobering statement by our Savior.

Father, I pray desperately that the “light” that I think I have is really “light,” and not darkness. I struggle with various “truths,” these days, because there seems to be a dearth of truth in this world. So many people out there are talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” as if to imply that there are multiple truths. I believe, with all my heart, that there is only one truth. I’m just not sure that we have found it quite yet. Sure, I know that there are pieces of it that are firmly intact. Jesus is Lord; He has lived, died, and was resurrected, paying the cost for all my sin and paving the way for me to have access to You.

But there are many what I call “peripheral” things that even people within Your Church are arguing over. We are grappling with so many things. If I’m going to be wrong about something, I prefer to err on the side of love, on the side of mercy, especially on subjects that do not, in fact, determine the eternal destination of one’s soul. And contrary to the popular belief of some, most of those issues do not, none of those issues, in fact, determine whether one is a Christian.

Please, Father, give us wisdom, sensibility, and sensitivity when it comes to these things. Help us to love more than we hate. In fact, help us to not hate at all. Have mercy on us, and then show us how to extend that same mercy and grace to everyone else.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

More Mary, Less Martha

“The Christian faith must never be restricted to what we are comfortable with: taking care of only ourselves. We are in on something large.
“Without the vision, our church reduces itself to repetitious programs and rituals. Without the vision, our church looks at people as customers who help us pay the bills and put on the programs.”

Today is Monday, the twenty-third of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,447

We had a nice time with our little church gathering, yesterday. We elected to meet outside, at a nearby park, as our host was experiencing some issues at the house. It was chilly, but we had some good discussing and prayer. Yes, I said, “chilly,” in Texas, on May 22. We have been coming very close to triple digits, over the last two weeks, but it is currently 65 degrees, with a projected high of 78, and was in the low sixties, yesterday morning.

The Texas Rangers didn’t fare too well against the Astros, over the weekend. They lost three of four games, never by a huge amount, but they still were only able to win one. So they are now at 18-22 for the season, still in third place in the AL West, still two games ahead of the Mariners, thanks to the Red Sox. They have a day off today, and will play the Angles in LA tomorrow night. I will not be staying up to watch that, as the game will not begin until after 8:30 CDT.

As stated, the Red Sox swept the Mariners over the weekend, and have improved their record to 19-22, slightly better than the Rangers. They are still in fourth place in the AL East, three games behind the Blue Jays. Their next game will be in Chicago (Other Sox) tomorrow night.

The NY Yankees (29-22) continue to hold the best MLB record, but are on a two-game losing streak, as they seek to be the first team to win thirty games. The Red are still at the bottom, with 12-28, still one game behind the Nationals. The LA Dodgers continue to hold the highest run differential, with +88, and the Pirates, after losing to the Cardinals 18-4, now have a run differential of -88. The Rangers are at -9, after their Houston weekend, and the Red Sox are at +1! The Red Sox also have the best current win streak, at five games. The KC Royals, Seattle mariners, and SF Giants all have four-game losing streaks going.

The PWBA is in the midst of the USBC Queens tournament, in Addison, IL. They are winding down to tomorrow night’s ladder finals. One of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, has just finished defeating Liz Johnson one of the veterans of the game, to advance to the next round, which should be happening shortly. Still undefeated in match play are Verity, Danielle McEwan, Birgit Noreiks, and Clara Guerrero, who defeated Shannon O’Keefe, this morning.

After the next round, the final two winners will face off at 1:30 PM, to decide who will have top seed in tomorrow night’s finals.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear God and Father of us all, sanctify us in your truth. Your Word is truth. We come before your presence and ask you to touch us with your Spirit, to shape our lives in the truth and in the joy of your name. Touch us with your Spirit, that we may carry out our tasks in your service. May your face shine on us and on all needy people who turn to you. May your power be given ever more fully, and may your cause become great in the world until at last it brings new life to all nations. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:16-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, ultimately, all of us who follow Christ are "not of the world"
2. for truth, found in the Word, which is Jesus Christ
3. that the most important thing we can do, the only thing worth being concerned about, is to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him (Luke 10:41-2)
4. that the Lord has given me vision to see the world as "large and generous" (Eugene Peterson)
5. for the love shared within the Body of Christ
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. 
I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
 I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. 
I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people.
(Psalms 52:8-9 NLT)

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NLT)

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT)

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19 NLT)

I’ve always loved the story of Mary and Martha, in the Gospels. Sometimes, I feel sorry for Martha, but most of the time, I find that I want to be more like Mary.

Now, certainly there are “Marthas” in this world who see Mary as being rather lazy. But the issue is not laziness. Mary was so enthralled with Jesus that she did not want to leave His presence. Martha was busy, busy, busy, but Mary wanted to soak in all of Jesus that she could.

When Martha complained, Jesus let her know that some things are more important than others.

There is a lot of noise in our world today. There are a lot of demands on our time. Some of them are worthy; some of them are beyond unworthy. For the most part, social media and the entertainment business fall into the “unworthy” category. Both, however, can have positive uses and purposes.

We also get tangled up in work responsibilities, which, sadly, cannot be avoided, at least until the blessing of retirement comes along. Even then, for some of us, at least a part time job is required.

I begin every day by sitting down here, in a quiet room (mostly), reading some Scripture, praying, and meditating a bit. Sometimes noise distracts me. Other times I am able to shove it aside and focus. Sometimes, responsibility gets in the way. By that I mean that thinking about it hinders my devotion. Only occasionally am I forced to cut things short because of time, and that usually when I have allowed the noise to distract me.

Jesus’s point rings loudly and truly. “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” Or, as the ESV puts it, “one thing is necessary.” Eugene Peterson translates it, “One thing only is essential . . . it’s the main course.”

We need to hear loudly and clearly what that “one thing is.” It is not a political party or cause. It is not even a moral cause. It is sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from Him. It is taking time away from the hustle and bustle of worldly concerns (some of them necessary, eventually) to rest in Him. This is the one thing; this is essential; this is the only thing worthy of being concerned about.

Father, I pray for the ability to focus on this “one thing.” Help me to keep the “main thing the main thing.” There are plenty of concerns to distract me; some of them necessary, some of them not at all necessary. But there will be plenty of time, later, to take care of those concerns. Help me to walk through each day, connected to You after having sat at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him. Help me to be more like Mary, so that, ultimately, I can be more like You.

“God’s world is always larger than our world,” says Eugene Peterson, and how true this is. What he calls “the vision” shows us just how large it is. “The Christian faith must never be restricted to what we are comfortable with: taking care of only ourselves. We are in on something large.”

What he is calling “vision,” I’m sure is not the same thing as “dreams and visions.” Rather, it is expanding one’s perspective of the world. When we don’t have this “vision,” the world is small. It’s rather like looking through a telescope from the wrong end. “With the vision, the world becomes large and generous. And our lives collect, they accumulate, and they become community and church.”

This next bit is important, I really believe, and I have seen it happen many times. “Without the vision, our church reduces itself to repetitious programs and rituals. Without the vision, our church looks at people as customers who help us pay the bills and put on the programs.” (emphasis mine)

Father, You have, I believe, given me at least a bit of “the vision.” You have led me to a place where I view the world as “large and generous.” You have given me a heart that is generous, and that desires to care for other people, rather than only caring about myself. Make no mistake, I’m still plenty selfish, at times, so there is always room for improvement. But You have molded my heart to a point where I have a much larger picture of the world than I once did. I thank You for this, Father.

I pray for our churches, that all who are part of the Church, the Body of Christ, would have this same vision, and see the larger world. I pray that churches and pastors would stop the practice of seeing people as “customers who help . . . pay the bills and put on the programs.” Your Church is not about putting programs; Your Church is not about marketing schemes. Your Church is about following Christ, having a presence in the world, and helping others in the name of Jesus, thereby, hopefully, creating more disciples.

Just a quick word on how I think this vision thing fits in with the story of Mary and Martha. To some, it might appear that Martha had the larger vision, that of caring more for others. However, in truth, Martha’s vision of caring for others was a bit short-sighted, and selfish. It was Mary who actually had the larger vision, being able to abandon the short-term goals for something much larger, as she learned how to walk in the steps of Jesus and care for a much larger world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Have Mercy

Today is Sunday, the twenty-second of May, 2022, the sixth Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ surround you today.

Day 23,446 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Almighty Father in heaven, we stand before you as your children, whom you want to protect through the need of our time, through all sin and death. We praise you for giving us so much peace in an age full of trouble, and for granting us the assurance of your help. Even when we suffer, we do not want to remain in the darkness of suffering but want to rise up to praise and glorify you. For your kingdom is coming; it is already at hand. Your kingdom comforts and helps us and points the way for the whole world, that your will may be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
"O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Sixth Sunday of Easter)

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.
(Psalms 22:22 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace of God, that passes all understanding, through the most difficult of times
2. for the love of God, that also passes all comprehension
3. for the great mercy of God, that is beyond comprehension, mercy in which Christ paid the price for our sin and redemption
4. for the Word made flesh, which is restoring all things
5. for the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control; may all of these be visible in all of God's children

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
(Psalms 51:10-12 NLT)

Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(Psalms 51:15-17 NLT)

It occurred to me, last night . . . I’m sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this, but my mother loves me. My mother loves me with a love that is deeper than life itself.

God loves me more. God loves you more.

I want you to just think about that for a minute and try to digest it.

I was wondering if today’s prayer word would be “maybe.”

But it’s not . . . it is “merciful,” which is much better than “maybe.” Jesus tells His listeners, in the Sermon on the Mount,

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 NIV)

The reading for today briefly traces the etymology of the word. It was first used in the thirteenth century, and comes from the Latin for “price paid,” or “wages.” It also comes from the same word as French for “thank you,” which is merci. It also shares the same root as “merchandise.”

I find this interesting, especially in light of the way we use the word. When thinking of the mercy of Jesus, we see that He did, in fact, pay a price for our sin. He purchased us (merchandise?) with His blood, and set us free from sin, for which we joyfully say, “merci.”

Father, I cannot adequately thank You for the mercy that You have shown us, as Your people, and me, individually. I look back at my life and see so much mercy that I am astonished. It began before I was born, of course, and has continued, and goes forward through the rest of my life and eternity. I cannot even really comprehend the scope of it. But I am grateful, and will at least try to thank You, even though my gratitude falls short.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

When the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: "Death is swallowed up in victory" "O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
(1 Corinthians 15:54 Phillips)

Eugene Peterson tells us that “the world gives us a bad education” by turning words around backward, mispronouncing them, distorting them, and so on. “Live spelled backward is evil. Evil captured the headlines in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and it captures them still. But it is the live Jesus who has captured history–and captures us.”

The elements of life can be used against their intended purpose. The letters of the alphabet “can be used to confuse, to lie, and to destroy. They are reversed and perverted by cruelty and mockery, sin and death.”

But “in the silence of the tomb,” all of these things are “rearranged and made straight.” As Jesus is raised from the dead, the Word is “spelled right before us.” In the passage of 1 Corinthians 15, “Paul contrasts resurrection with vanity, fullness with emptiness, reality with illusion, live with evil. All his superlatives are understatements. Jesus breaks the spell of the reversed, backward spoken word.”

For years, now, I have loved the way Peterson puts words together. I have never read anyone quite like him. At times, he gets dense (not anywhere nearly as dense as Willard), but his “wordsmithing” is still beautiful. This reading is no different.

We find, in Jesus, the ultimate of “fixing” everything. It’s not all fixed, yet, that is easy to see. But one day, it will be . . . everything will be set right, and we will rejoice. I have confidence that it is not going to quite look like anything that any of us are imagining. In fact, I’m to the point where I’m really trying not to imagine it. I’m just waiting . . . and fully expect to be utterly awestruck and full of the most joy that I could ever dream of.

Father, I praise You for the work of Jesus in rearranging and making things straight, in spelling the “Word” right, after the world has spent so much time using things against their intended purposes. I pray for Your Church, that we might get it right. It’s so easy to get it wrong . . . especially these days. We are scattered, like sheep with no shepherd. We need to be following our True Shepherd, Father, so make His voice clear to us, that we might follow Him and not any humans, no matter how well-meaning they may be. I suspect that some of them aren’t as “well-meaning” as we would like to think.

My heart’s desire is to know the Word, Father, to know Him inside and out, that He might be my life and my existence, my desire and my purpose in this life. Help me to walk in Your Kingdom and stay on the path of righteousness. And help me to, as Jesus commands, love You with all my heart, love my neighbor as myself, and love other brothers and sisters the way that Jesus has loved us.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit. All praise to the Holy Trinity.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Say “No!”

Today is Saturday, the twenty-first of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,445

We are planning another trip to Mineral Wells, today, and will be heading out as soon as I finish this, so I need to get moving. In fact, C has already left in her car, and Mama and I will be heading out in mine. That way, we can maximize what we can bring back by lowering the back seats in my CR-V.

The Texas Rangers held on in a fantastic game, last night. Martin Perez was stellar (again, I am so happy to be wrong about him) and pitched a complete game for the Rangers, shutting out the Astros 3-0. Boy was it a “nail-biter,” too, as the tying run was at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. But he got the batter to pop-fly out to end the game. The Rangers are now 18-20, in third place in the AL West, six games out of first. They are two games ahead of Seattle and 2.5 ahead of Oakland. They play the Astros again, at 6:10 CDT tonight. Jon Gray is slated to take the mound for Texas.

The Red Sox continue their winning streak, dominating the AL West teams. They beat the Mariners (we Rangers fans are grateful) 7-3. The Sox are now 17-22, in fourth place in the AL East, 11.5 games out of first. They play the Mariners again, today, at 4:10 EDT, in Boston.

The Yankees continue to have the best MLB record, at 28-10. The Reds continue to have the worst, at 11-27, but are only a single game behind the Nationals. Both teams lost their last game. The LA Dodgers are continuing to have the longest win streak, at six games. The other LA team has the longest losing streak, at four games. The Dodgers have the highest run differential, at +86. The Pirates continue to have the lowest, at -73. The Rangers now have a run differential of -5 again, and the Red Sox, after a couple games against Seattle, have improved to -4.

The PWBA is bowling in Queens, this week. I have been following that a little bit. Qualifying round three is happening today, with two squads, one having already bowled, and the other bowling at 1:00 PM. Currently, Dasha Kovalova is in the lead, followed by “G.G.” Mason and Danielle McEwan. Jen Higgins is in fourth place. Some of my other favorites are farther down. Daria Pajak is in eleventh place, Verity Crawley is in 22nd place, and Shannon O’Keefe is all the way down in 37th place. The top 36 will advance to match play tomorrow. The live finals will be on CBS Sports Network Tuesday evening. I’ll have to record that, as I will be working.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, you have revealed your righteousness to us in the gospel, your righteousness that comes to us through faith and continues in faith. Grant that we may understand your righteousness and live by it even in a crooked generation. Then to our joy the gospel will bear fruit. Protect us in the midst of temptation and conflicting opinions so that we are raised above them and remain free, with our thoughts on you and your true and loving righteousness. Your righteousness gives us hope for the many, many people who still need help to realize that their lives are not of passing value but of eternal worth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
(Romans 1:16-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the righteousness of God, revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ
2. for the freedom from being trapped by temptations and conflicting opinions of this world
3. for the ability to say "no" to political drama, hatred, and abuse, especially on social media
4. that God gives us enough Jesus (daily Bread) to get through each day without worrying about the next
5. for the possibility of diversity in worship
If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. 
Do I eat the meat of bulls? 
Do I drink the blood of goats? 
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 
Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
(Psalms 50:12-15 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “no.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Yesterday’s was “yes,” today’s is “no.” Let’s see where they are going with this.

“The oldest, shortest words–‘yes’ and ‘no’–are those which require the most thought.” ~ Pythagoras

Many times, when we say the word “no,” it is preceded by the word, “oh.”

“Oh, no,” we might say when we hear some bad news. But the word, itself, as Bob tells us in the reading for today, can be used as a simple prayer. He hears a siren in the distance, and immediately prays, “No,” which means, “Don’t let the worst happen. Don’t let anyone be hurt.” When we see an act of hatred being perpetrated, we can pray, “no.” “Lord, please stop this senseless hatefulness.” When we have a friend or brother or sister who is hurting (whether physical or otherwise), we can pray, “No.”

We can also say “no” to temptations. I say, “No,” daily to temptations to engage on social media, knowing that it will do now good. I saw one such post, last night, copied and pasted by a dear friend, who simply doesn’t get what is happening. But I choose not to engage in that platform, because no one every changes anyone else’s mind on social media by arguing.

I choose, rather, to say, “Yes” to propagating love. There are some who would disagree with me and tell me, rather firmly, that I must call out those who are spreading lies and misinformation. I get it. I respect that, as well. But that is not my calling. That is not where the Lord has me. And, I am even beginning to carry that a little further. Going forward, I plan to resist even hitting the “like” button on political posts with which I agree.

Here’s the thing (see? said it again). I am not in the business of “taking sides.” I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am a follower of Christ (I even hesitate to use the term “Christian” right now because of the negative baggage it carries with it). And what I feel that I must make known is that I am a follower of Christ before anything else. I am a follower of Christ before I am an American citizen.

And, as a follower of Christ, I believe that my singular “cause” is to spread the love of God around in my own little corner of the world. And that means that I simply must ignore all the political drama that is going on, because it also means that I am supposed to show love to people on both sides of those issues.

So let’s circle back around to “no,” because I kind of drifted back into “yes.” Today, and going forward, I pray “no” to politics and drama. I say “no” to temptations to argue. I say “no” to slander and abuse, no matter what kind. I say “no” to hatred and bigotry and misogyny.

But I say “yes” to love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray for the strength and wisdom to continue to say “no” to engaging on social media. Give me the strength to walk the middle of the road when it comes to that sort of thing. But make it the middle of that “narrow” road that leads to You. This does not mean that I intend to compromise. The opposite, in fact, because I believe that the act of taking sides in politics is, in itself, a compromise. I have watched myriads of well-meaning people get trapped into the “idol” of politics, to the point that they have, by all appearances, placed their hope and trust for the future in a human. They have also put country over You, and, by their actions, indicated that they actually don’t have a lot of faith in You.

I lament over the state of Your “church” in this country, right now. I pray for unity within the Body. I know that the true Church, the Body of Christ, is fine, well, and healthy. It is the sickness within the rest of the institution that is most visible, right now, though. It is that sickness that is spreading hate rather than love. Have mercy, Father, have mercy. Please show us the way of love.

“Lord, help me to say ‘no’ today to everything that is contrary to Your good, perfect, and pleasing will. Amen.”

Give us today our daily bread.
(Matthew 6:11 NIV)

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:34 NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
(Philippians 4:6 NIV)

There are several ways to read that verse in Jesus’s model prayer. Today’s reading focuses on the “today” part. Or, “this day,” as some translations put it.

Sometimes, we focus on the “bread” part. Eugene Peterson’s The Message even puts it with that emphasis on it.

Keep us alive with three square meals.
(Matthew 6:11 MSG)

I like to focus, sometimes, on a different meaning of “bread,” though. I like to capitalize the “Bread,” making it speak of Jesus, who is the “Bread of life.” I want enough Bread for today. I’m not concerned with having enough to eat, although I am grateful for daily provision. I confess that I frequently take that for granted, because we have not had to be concerned about where our next meals were coming from for a very long time.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on being concerned only about having what we need for “today.” Regardless of whether we are speaking of physical bread or the grace provided by the Bread of life, I am asking for just enough for today. I’m not worried about tomorrow. I like how Peterson words Matthew 6:34.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
(Matthew 6:34 MSG)

What does the Philippians verse say? “Do not be anxious about anything!” I added the exclamation point. Say “no” to worry and anxiety. Yes, inflation is high, higher than it’s ever been. But do we trust God? You wouldn’t think so by how some people are losing their minds.

“Do not be anxious about anything!” On this verse, Peterson says this:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.”
(Philippians 4:6 MSG)

And here’s a different kind of perspective. On the one hand, don’t worry. On the other hand, when we do worry (because we certainly will, right?), instead of blasting it all over social media, which makes us look foolish and look like we don’t trust our God, PRAY!! And don’t pray for God to get rid of all of the political party you don’t agree with! That’s not the answer. Pray quietly and peacefully, in that closet that Jesus talks about, not out loud all over social media. If you hate democrats or republicans, go ahead and tell God that. Quietly. But then sit back and let Him speak back to you. (Hint: If you think you hear Him say it’s okay that you hate democrats or republicans, it’s not God’s voice you heard.)

Father, in these difficult times, please strengthen our faith; help us to not worry about tomorrow, or even a few hours from now. Help us to turn that worry over to You in the form of prayer and faith. Help us to say “no” to worry and fret. And give us the confidence and trust in You that would enable us to voice those concerns, but then also give us the wisdom to voice them only to You, not the whole world. You, after all, are the One who has the power and control over everything. Help us to remember that our “job” on this earth is to love You and love our neighbors, and, in this process, to try to make more disciples. I daresay we aren’t bringing in very many disciples when our worry over world situations speaks so much louder than our alleged love.

And as for “daily bread,” I pray for enough Jesus to get me through this day. May my life imitate His; may my walk look like His, and may my words sound like His. May I be able to shout His love louder than the world shouts hatred, greed, and lies. But, oh, dear Father, please help me make sure that what I’m shouting is truly love and not just another form of hatred, greed, or lies.

Here’s another brief statement about worship, from Peterson:

“The fragments of our lives find an inner coherence in the act of worship. The contrasts and diversities among us that sometimes seem like chaos are centered when we assemble as God’s community in worship. Our worship restores us to a wholeness that keeps us sane in the midst of bedlam, joyous in the face of doom.”

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

I love this paragraph, even if it seems almost cryptic. But in the true Body of Christ, there will be “contrasts and diversities.” Just look at the twelve disciples. Talk about a band of veritable “ragamuffins.” They weren’t all fishermen, you know. There was a tax collector and a zealot in that group. That’s like having a Democrat and a Republican in the same group. But it worked, didn’t it?? Because . . .

JESUS WAS THE CENTER!!

The True Church of Christ is never going to be represented by a gathering of people who all think alike and believe the same things. Our little group of believers that meets in a house on Sunday mornings is just about as diverse as it can get. I promise you that we don’t all think alike. For one thing, there are some gun lovers worshiping with some who don’t like guns. I promise you that there are some Republicans worshiping with some, well, at least non-Republicans. But we all set aside those opinions when we gather, and, in unity, worship God by devoting ourselves to His Word, fellowshipping together, praying together, and breaking bread together.

And this helps keep us “sane in the midst of bedlam, joyous in the face of doom.” Because, as anyone who has read the end of the book knows, the earth is most certainly doomed.

Father, I thank You for the possibility of diverse worship. I thank You that Your Holy Spirit is able to bring together people who do not necessarily think the same about some issues, and that we can all worship You together, with like-mindedness when it comes to You. We may not even like the same kind of “worship music,” yet we can still glorify You together. We come from different backgrounds, some “Baptist,” some more “Pentecostal,” and some even from no denominational affiliation at all, yet we can joyfully worship You together. I praise You for this, Father. Together, we say “no” to any kind of discriminatory action when it comes to who is welcome to worship You with us.

I pray desperately that Your Church can continue to walk in peace in this world. There may come some actual persecution, one day, but I don’t think it’s going to look like what a lot people think it is. Help us to stay on firm, level ground, at the foot of the Cross, and not allow opinions about things that are not relevant or essential to cloud our thinking. Help us to stay connected to You and only You, Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.