Justice and Mercy

Today is Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Twenty-first day of Lent.

Day 22,294

Opening Day is tomorrow!!!

Quote of the Day

“We must seek the loving-kindness of God in all the breadth and open-air of common life.”
George A. Smith, American clergyman, 1817-1875

Word of the Day

Impedimenta ~ baggage or other things that retard one’s progress, as supplies carried by an army: the impedimenta of the weekend skier. (Dictionary.com)

Once again, I really have nothing much to write about, personally. C is doing pretty good. Her chest still hurts when she moves certain ways, but the bruising is getting gradually better. She’s going to have a busy weekend, coming up. Saturday brings a gathering of our church’s ladies for some kind of conference. The good thing is that they are meeting at a home and watching conference sessions via live stream. Then Sunday, she has to work. (Sad face) Her company is doing a major software rollout and she will have to actually go in to work.

Oh, and right! Baseball starts tomorrow!! Officially. I mean, there have been games. The Rangers played a couple of exhibition games this week, and there has been one series already played in Japan. But for everyone else, Opening Day is tomorrow. The Rangers play the Cubs in Arlington, and the Red Sox play the Mariners in Seattle.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:3

Today I am grateful:
1. That baseball is starting back up
2. That C continues to feel better
3. That God is doing some really cool things in our life and in the life of our church (more to come later on that)
4. That God promises wisdom to those who seek her
5. That God will do what he says he will do

Give praise, you servants of the LORD;
praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,
from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down
let the Name of the LORD be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

(The Book of Common Prayer, from Psalm 113)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “Leaders Should Beware the Justice of God.”

And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, I’ll collect the strays, I’ll doctor the injured, I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.
Ezekiel 34:15-16

Peterson points out that he can’t find anyplace where Jesus quoted from Ezekiel 34. But there are things that Jesus stated that makes it clear that he had read and meditated on the words of Ezekiel. “A piece of writing that was so important to Jesus simply has to have something important for us.”

There is a strong sense of compassion running through this passage. Ezekiel, as he writes, looks at his countrymen and “sees them as people who have been treated badly, exploited, and used by others.” God uses Ezekiel as his spokesman, and is angry “over what is happening among the human beings he has created to live in a very different way.”

So, “God sets out to do himself what needs to be done for the people he creates and loves. There has been a disastrous failure in leadership. Though it was his original plan that men should exercise leadership that would express love and justice, it simply isn’t happening. So God takes the initiative. He will shepherd himself, taking care of the unfortunate and the weak and exercising a careful rule over ‘the fat and the strong’ (verse 16, RSV).”

These words were written long before Jesus spoke his harsh words against the Pharisees of the New Testament. God proclaims his judgment on “the fat and the strong.” The ambition of human beings seeks “status and prosperity. But every leader who rejects God’s way of mercy and healing should anticipate his judgment.”

These are dark times in our own nation. Our politicians and corporate businessmen are “fat and strong” and preying on the weak of our nation. I struggle with the question . . . should I be praying for God’s judgment on them, or should I be praying that he has mercy and works change in their hearts?

Father, this requires wisdom that can only come from you. I don’t think it’s wrong to pray for justice in our world. But I think it might be wrong for me to desire to see your judgment fall on anyone, no matter how wicked. Give me wisdom as I pray.
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

Soli Deo Gloria!

Inadequate But Enough

Today is Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Fifteenth day of Lent.

Day 22,287

EIGHT DAYS until Opening Day!!!

Quote of the Day

“We are here on Earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.”
W.H. Auden, U.S. critic and poet, 1907-1973
The Quotations Page

Word of the Day

Wellspring ~ a source or supply of anything, especially when considered inexhaustible. (Dictionary.com)

Now that everyone knows who needs to know, I can tell the rest of the world. It’s been a harrowing week, as C had a car wreck on the way home from work Monday evening. I received her call shortly before six PM Monday. She had had a major wreck. She came over a small hill on Hwy 183 (a hill that creates a bit of a blind spot, exacerbated by the fact that, at that time of day, one is driving straight into the sun), and the traffic had stopped in front of her. She hit the car in front of her pretty hard. Her car is officially totaled. She seems to be mostly okay, although she has some horrendous bruises where the seat belt was strapped across various parts of her body, and some bruising in her right foot, most likely from the pressure of pressing on the brake. But, again, she seems to be mostly okay. Last night, when she got home, she said it hurt to breathe, but this morning, she said that’s better. We are keeping an eye on the bruising, as it looks really bad. I’m still not convinced that she doesn’t need a doctor to look at it.

I took her to get a rental yesterday morning, before we went to work. Since the car is now totaled, we will be getting a settlement from the insurance. They will send the payoff to the credit union and send us the difference, which, fortunately for us, will be close to $5000 that she can put toward a new car.

Most importantly, we are praising God that she was not seriously injured (and no one else was, either). Through all of this, we come out of it still proclaiming that “God is good.” After the initial shock from Monday evening, I spent most of yesterday with an amazing sense of calm and God’s presence in my life and hers.

That’s pretty much it for today.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 16:8

Today I am grateful:
1. That C was not seriously injured (or worse) in the car accident.
2. That no one else appeared to be injured in the accident.
3. That our insurance company appears to be handling things quite smoothly.
4. That God knows what he is doing when he gives me a task.
5. That God will equip me for any job he gives me.

May the God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great shepherd of the sheep,
by the blood of the eternal covenant,
equip you with everything good that you may do his will,
working in you that which is pleasing in his sight,
through Jesus Christ;
to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Thanks be to God.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Hebrews 13:20-21)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “God Sees Our Competencies Clearly.”

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 (The Message)

“In the really important things of life, we are terrifyingly unqualified. And if we don’t know it, we are in for a lot of trouble.”

In my 61 years, I have found this statement to be disturbingly true. Even at this late stage in my life, I see how terribly unqualified I was/am as a parent. I can see how inadequate I have been as a husband. And I have seen how inadequate I have been as a Christian. (Don’t read these statements as me beating myself up . . . it’s just a simple acknowledgement of the way things are.)

“And then around the periphery of these core elements of incompetency as human beings, there are many other instances that remind us of our lack of know-how. But the piece of wrong thinking that fuels these inadequacies is that we think of ourselves in terms of roles of functions or positions or performance.” In the Scripture passage for today, Jeremiah tries to disqualify himself based on his age. He is young and inexperienced. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he tells God.

God’s response is to dismiss Jeremiah’s disclaimer. “Never you mind,” God says, in essence.

“Jeremiah, forget about what you think about yourself or what the neighbors think of you, how old you are or whether you are a porter or stonemason or teacher. I am in charge here, I’m giving the orders, I am telling you where to go. I am going with you, and if you get into trouble, I will rescue you. I am the ground for your life, your work, who you are and what you do. I am the reality who determines your reality.”

We would all do well, young or old, 20 or 80, to insert our own name in the beginning of that paragraph.

Consider what happens when you meet someone new at an event. What is usually one of the first questions that arises? “What do you do?” Why do we define ourselves by the answer to that question?? What if, instead of “What do you do?” the next time you meet someone new, you ask them, “Who are you?” Of course, they will probably look at you quizzically and repeat their name to you. But then, you say, “I heard your name. But who are you?”

Me? I’m one who is following God, not defined by my occupation, talents, strengths, or weaknesses. I’m not an inadequate parent, spouse, or Christian. I simply am. I exist in the paradigm of the Kingdom of God, and I walk with him in that Kingdom, in the easy yoke of Jesus. I mistakenly step outside of that, sometimes, but the shock always reminds me to quickly step back in. God is in control. When he gives me a task, it means he believes I am qualified for the task, and whatever I am lacking, he will supply.

This, my friends, is faith.

Father, I thank you for the truths above. I thank you that I don’t need to worry about my inadequacies or strengths or weaknesses. I praise you that you are in control of all things, and that you know what you are doing. I praise you for your protection over C Monday evening. I know that you seem my occasional almost tears as gratitude that you put your hand around her right before that accident occurred. Thank you. I love you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Soli Deo Gloria!!

Fullness of Joy and Pleasures Forevermore

Today is Monday, March 18, 2019. Thirteenth day of Lent.

Day 22,285

Ten days until Opening Day!!

Quote of the Day

“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”
C.P. Snow, English novelist and scientist, 1905-1980
The Quotations Page

Word of the Day

Bracketology ~ a system of diagrammatically predicting and tracking the process of elimination among sequentially paired opponents in a tournament, especially an NCAA basketball tournament. (Dictionary.com)

It’s good to be home, but I wish I was still sleeping. I got used to sleeping until close to 8:00 AM every morning. Plus I just didn’t sleep well last night, for some reason. But here we are, back to Monday, and back to the “real world,” this morning. Not that we weren’t in the “real world” for the last five days.

The world we were in was marvelous. We had such a great time, made even more great by the events of the day before we left, and the morning of our trip. All of that can be found in one of the gratitude list postings. We are actually considering a longer trip for October, for our anniversary, perhaps staying an entire week! We’ll probably decide that soon, as we want to get the cabin booked well in advance.

C is feeling better, but still experiencing some dizziness. Her head is still tender to the touch, and she has a slight headache still, but over all she is feeling much better, and it could have been so much worse.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6

Today I am grateful:
1. That C continues to feel better.
2. That we made it back home safely.
3. That S did really great while we were gone, taking care of the animals and such.
4. For the peace and quiet that we experienced over the past few days.
5. The joy of the Lord

Lord, you are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your Name:
Do not forsake us,
O Lord our God.

Thanks be to God.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Jeremiah 14:9,22)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “We Alone Can Accept God-Given Joy.”

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 (The Message)

One of the things that the book of Ecclesiastes does for us is to “help strip us of illusions and sentimentality.” One area in which we need help is in the “pursuit of pleasure.” Says Peterson, “There is no way to have an experience of God without also having an experience of joy.” Now, you might not know this if you look at the face of your average Sunday-morning church goer. But I agree with Peterson. Joy is an inherent piece of our life in God.

Peterson, however, also gives us two warnings. “First, we must not pursue pleasure, for it is a gift to be enjoyed, not a goal to be pursued.” Now, how well does that go with my chosen quote of the day, up there? I promise you, that was most definitely not planned! “The pursuit of pleasure leads to a swamp of boredom,” says Eugene. And how true that is!! The harder you go after it, the more elusive it becomes.

The second warning is that we cannot purchase pleasure. Some might disagree, but when you start trying to buy it, the price gets increasingly higher, the more you go. “Joys are given by God; man can only accept them.” And then he says this: “The one thing we can do to develop a capacity for enjoyment is to practice generosity–a kind of reckless sharing that imitates the divine largesse.” (Largesse means generosity in bestowing money or gifts upon others.)

“God is the supreme Joy Giver, the one legitimate Source of joy. . . . Joys cannot be bought, only received.” We must look to God for joy.

Also quite unexpected is the fact that I was mulling over Psalm 16:11 while I was unable to sleep, early this morning. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

“Fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” are part of our normal walk with God!

Father, I thank you for these truths, and I thank you for the joy that I am feeling, even in my somewhat groggy state this morning. Help me to sustain, no, rather, I pray that you sustain this feeling of joy throughout my day as I get back into the “normal” work routine.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Soli Deo Gloria!!

On Gossip and Hurry

Today is Friday, March 8, 2019. Third day of Lent.

Day 22,275

FIVE days until our Glen Rose weekend!!!

Quote of the Day

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.”
Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch artist, 1853-1890

Word of the Day

Roxy ~ Of fruit: overripe, almost rotten. (Oxford English Dictionary)

We made it to Friday!! Ironically, that’s about all I’ve got, this morning. There’s no news at our house, so I’ll move on to the important stuff. I can’t even think of anything going on this weekend.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:17-18

Today I am grateful:
1. For a strong woman in my life, my wife and companion who has made my life joyful, going on 34 years.
2. For the prayers of the saints (I’m talking about saints of today), faithfully praying for whatever is needed.
3. For the forgiveness of sins.
4. For Scripture that helps me keep from gossiping.
5. For worship that helps me keep from hurrying.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father:
We have sinned against you,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us all our offenses;
and grant that we may serve you
in newness of life,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

May the Almighty God grant us forgiveness of all our sins,
and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “Gossip and Hurry Are Our Enemies.”

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. 
Proverbs 4:23 (The Message)

“There were two heart-enemies that the wise men in Israel were particularly alert to, and their vigilance in regard to them continues to be helpful to us. The enemies were hurry and gossip. Hurry is the pathological form of action. Gossip is the degenerative form of speech.”

One important way to guard against hurry is engaging in worship. “Worship is the place where we are purged from hurry so that we can act in simple effectiveness.” We seek to learn what God is doing and to hear his commands to us. “Suddenly the panicky hustle is taken out of our work. Our energies are focused and become useful.”

One of my favorite Dallas Willard quotes is from advice that he gave to John Ortberg. “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” And on July 17, 2015, Eugene Peterson tweeted, “Hurry is a form of violence practiced on time. But time is sacred.”

Ironically, as I am typing this, I feel the need to hurry because I am already past the time I want to be finished.

Peterson goes on to write about speech. “Speech is evidence of intelligence, meaning, and dignity. But very often it is evidence of stupidity, triviality, and nonsense.” Guess which one is most exemplified on Facebook. I know . . . that’s not technically “speech.”

When we use the gift of speech for gossip, we betray its nature. The Bible can protect us against this. We find it hard to read, sometimes, because of its sheer honesty and directness. “But we read it anyway and in the process find our hearts addressed cleanly. We read it, listening and praying, and find our hearts strangely warmed.”

May we strive today to use speech in the way it is intended; “to convey intelligence, meaning, and dignity.” And may we live in a way of “simple effectiveness,” not in a hurry.

Father, when I am tempted to hurry today, draw me into worship. When I am tempted to gossip, lead me to Your Word. Help me to guard my heart against both of these abuses.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer)

Soli Deo Gloria!!

God Cares About the Little Things

“The gospel is not just a statement about the big issues and the deep realities; it is also about the time of day and the feeling you have when you get up in the morning.”

Today is Thursday, March 7, 2019. Second day of Lent.

Day 22,274

SIX days until our Glen Rose weekend!!!!

I had some things to deal with this morning that put me behind, so I had to forego the quotes, words, and personal stuff.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!
Psalm 9:11

Today I am grateful:
1. For warmer temperatures today and the rest of this week.
2. For Mark 10:21; “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
3. That Jesus is teaching me how to do that.
4. That God cares about the small stuff.
5. That I can feel free to pray about anything.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace
in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Romans 15:13)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “Nothing Is Unimportant to God.”

Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech.
In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out

Proverbs 1:20-21 (The Message)

In this reading, Eugene Peterson insists that grace permeates even what we call our “secular lives.” Of course, Dallas Willard would argue that there is no such thing as a “secular reality,” but that’s another topic for another day. But the Bible addresses aspects of our lives that could be described as “non-religious.”

“The Word of God to us is not only the radical invasion into our lives by Christ, not only that tremendous life-changing reconciliation that puts us in relationship with the Eternal Being, but also a detailed concern with our humanity. The gospel is not just a statement about the big issues and the deep realities; it is also about the time of day and the feeling you have when you get up in the morning.”

You can find almost everything in Proverbs! “Ants, spouses, overeating, compliments, curiosity–every detail of life is of infinite, eternal importance. Loneliness is as important a reality as divine love. The factory is as high on the agenda as is faith.” Our family lives are as important as the life of the Trinity. Words of men are set alongside words of God. “Nothing is excluded from life; everything is included.”

We make a mistake when we assume that God doesn’t care how we feel when we get up in the morning, or how stressed we get during that morning drive to work. He is involved in all of it. Because He is there; right there with us; all the time.

“Have you ever avoided praying about something because you felt God would never be interested in such a ‘small’ matter?” In the words of Bob Newhart, “STOP IT!!” (You may not have seen that skit from Mad TV.) Seriously, though, let Proverbs show you how much God cares about everything in our lives.

Father, thank You for this truth, so well-illustrated in Proverbs. I am grateful that You care about things that we may think You don’t, because we believe they are too trivial or small. Let us bring our entire lives before You, not just the major things ore the crises. Help us to believe that You care about it all.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Glory to God whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine:
Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church,
and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Ephesians 3:20-21)

Soli Deo Gloria!!

Separating Our Lives

Today is Wednesday, February 27, 2019.

Day 22,266

15 days until our next Glen Rose weekend!!!

Quote of the Day

“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.”
Paul Dirac, English physicist, 1902-1984
The Quotations Page
I’m not sure if he means that poets try to tell people something they already know, or they do it in a way that no on can understand. Perhaps it is both. I’ve seen some poetry that I certainly couldn’t understand. Nevertheless, I’m a fan of poetry. After all, I am a musician, and even without lyrics, music is poetry.

Word of the Day

Imaginarian ~ A person concerned with imaginary things; a fantasist. Also: one who stresses the imagination. (Oxford English Dictionary)

I’m going to Vegas in May! It will be my first time ever. C is taking her usual trip to the Open Championship tournament for bowling. It’s a “team-building” trip for them, when ten of them go and participate in the tournament, bowling in the team event, as well as the doubles and singles event. Several weeks ago, C asked me if I wanted to go with her this year. I said, “Heck, yeah!” So I’m going to Vegas! We’ll be spending one night at the South Point, where the tournament is being held, and two nights at The Mirage. We booked my flights and hotel last night. The trick will be hoping that the travel person at USBC can get C on the same flights. We’re paying for my flights and the two nights at the Mirage. USBC pays for C’s flights and the one night at South Point. While there, we will be going to see the Cirque de Soleil show, “Love,” which features all Beatles music. I have been wanting to see that for years.

We plan to go back to the Y to exercise again tonight. Trying to get back into that routine. Even though I have been eating much better, which is evidenced by my much improved blood sugar, the weight is not coming off. It seems that one of the side effects of glimepiride is “unexplained weight gain.” In my case, I guess that translates to not losing any. But hopefully, when they recheck my readings in April, they will take me off of the glimepiride.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. 
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

Psalm 5:7-8

Today I am grateful:
1. For an opportunity to go to Las Vegas.
2. For the love of God.
3. For the easy yoke of Jesus.
4. For God’s deliverance in our lives.
5. That even my play and entertainment can be grounded in my love for God.

O God, the life of all who live,
the light of the faithful, 
the strength of those who labor,
and the repose of the dead:
We thank you for the blessings of the day
  that is past,
and humbly ask for your protection
  through the coming night.
Bring us in safety to the morning hours;
through him who died and rose again for us,
your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

(The Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for Protection)

“I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience et cetera doesn’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.”
C.S. Lewis, Collected Letters

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “God Joins Us in All of Life.”

I’m GOD, your God, the very God who rescued you from doom in Egypt, Then fed you all you could eat, filled your hungry stomachs.
Psalm 81:10 (The Message)

“The common, always prevalent temptation is to separate our leisure, our entertainment, the light side of our lives, from God and his freedom-giving stance in our lives.” I would go beyond that and even say that we are sorely tempted to separate our “religious life,” our “with-God life,” from every other category of our lives. We go to church, where we worship and pray. We might even pray at home. But at work, we’re at work, and leave the “religion” at home.

But the Psalmist would have us believe that “both our work and our pleasure can have a better, firmer source of action than the ones usually provided for us by cheap advertising and our own ephemeral dreams. The base for both work and play is in what happened back in Egypt: God’s deliverance and gift of new life.”

Let’s get more personal with it. In the middle of our celebrations and festivals, we can hear “the penetrating voice bringing the past into our present.” Listen for the voice of Jesus as He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30, NIV). We learn that escape from slavery doesn’t mean that we don’t have to labor any more. “But what has happened is that he has joined us in the living of our lives, freed us from the slavery of brute circumstance and irrational sin, and welcomed us to the new, joyous work of sharing his ministry with him.”

In this we can see that God’s deliverance of the Hebrew children from Egypt can have real application for us. “Christ freed us from a meaningless, self-serving existence; then he invited us to share his ministry.” What does that mean for your life and my life today?

Father, thank You for the record we have of Your deliverance of the Israel from Egypt. Thank You that this deliverance has meaning for us, today. I thank You that Jesus has invited us to walk in His easy yoke and that He will share in our work. Help me to be aware of these things during my work and “play” today.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Soli Deo Gloria!

I Must Have God

Today is Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Day 22,262

19 days until our next Glen Rose weekend!!!

Quote of the Day

“Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956

Word of the Day

Prodigal ~ wastefully or recklessly extravagant. Also, giving or yielding profusely; very generous; lavish. You know, when I was growing up, hearing the parable of “the prodigal son,” I always misunderstood that word. And the fact is, the word, “prodigal” is not in the Bible anywhere (paragraph headings don’t count; those aren’t “inspired”). I used to think it mean “lost” or “missing” or maybe even “rebellious.” And, as Timothy Keller pointed out, it may be God who is actually “prodigal,” for is He not extravagant in the grace and love with which he lavishes us? He is “very generous,” and He yields profusely. Just something to think about.

Yesterday was the first full Friday I have worked in several weeks. Fortunately, I only wound up working about a half hour over, getting off around 5:00 PM. I picked up Subway on the way home and C picked up our Sonic drinks. We watched a couple episodes of “The Keepers” on Netflix. I would not recommend this show for the faint of heart. It concerns the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik in November of 1969. The corruption and sheer horror of depravity that was uncovered in that Catholic school in Baltimore is mind-boggling. “Disturbing” is not a strong enough word.

After that, I played Metro: Exodus on the PS4 for a couple hours.

Today is our first Night of Worship this year. We’re meeting at our pastor’s house tonight, instead of Brandon’s house. They are having some work done on their house, so we moved it for this month. The set list will be as follows: Word of God Speak, Great Are You Lord, Come Fall On Us, Surrounded (Fight My Battles), Lord I Need You, Oh How We Love You, Stand In Your Love, God Is So Good, I Surrender, Sails, Reckless Love, and Death Was Arrested.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.

Psalm 3:3-4

Today I am grateful:
1. That I didn’t have to work too late last night.
2. That the sounds of baseball have begun in Arizona and Florida.
3. For an opportunity to be in community tonight, worshiping, praying, and breaking bread together.
4. The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.
5. For opportunities to seek and find God.

That this day may be holy, good, and peaceful,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That your holy angels may lead us in paths of peace and goodwill,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be pardoned and forgiven for our sins and offenses,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That there may be peace to your Church and to the whole world,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may depart this life in your faith and fear,
and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit in the 
  communion of all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “Longing for God’s Freshness.”

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.
Psalm 42:1 (The Message)

Peterson’s words are so poetic that I dare not attempt to paraphrase them.

"A deer thirsty for water is the metaphor. 
What water is to the deer, God is to me.
I simply must have God. And it must be the living God.
Nothing stale or stagnant.
The deer runs past all the mud puddles and swamps and marshes to 
  clear, flowing streams.
I don't want my God out of a bottle.
I don't want what is left over from God after last week's 
I want him fresh, flowing, living.
What I learned in Sunday school in the third grade will not 
  satisfy me.
What I read in the Bible last week will not satisfy me.
What someone told me this morning on television or radio 
  will not quench my thirst.
I want to get to the water myself.
Every natural appetite is a reminder of this thirst for God.
Every thirst,
  every hunger,
  every longing for satisfaction--
it is a metaphor for the fundamental desire in our lives 
  for God."

(The arrangement of the text is mine.)

This stirs my soul in ways I cannot even begin to describe. I have, over the course of the last week or so, been reading a book called The Cloud of Unknowing. It was written by an anonymous fourteenth century mystic. It is stretching me in ways I never thought I could be stretched, devotionally. The premise of the book is that, in contemplating God, He is all we need contemplate. In other words, during contemplative prayer, we should think of nothing, desire nothing, seek nothing, other than God, Himself, resting solely in His existence. We should entertain no other thoughts during this time. It is difficult, because our minds are not trained in this way. It is hard for me to sit still and silent for any length of time without a kabillion thoughts running through my brain, unbidden, most of them. I have to retrain my brain to reject them, that I might focus solely on God and nothing or no one else.

There are people who are uncomfortable with this kind of contemplation, and I get it. There are portions in the book that dangerously edge toward practices resembling Buddhism. But I’m not one to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Because, as Eugene Peterson has made so eloquently clear, I need God. I must have God. He is the only One who can quench my thirst.

Lamentations 3:23 says, “They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!” (The Message) “They” being God’s mercies. His mercies are new every morning. Says Peterson, “God did not go on hiatus last week or last year. He is present at the start of every day and when you to to sleep at night. Don’t rely on a dim memory of God; seek him in every moment.”

Father, this reading renders me almost speechless. I don’t know what to pray other than to ask you to help me get to You in this way. Show me the fresh, living water stream that is You. Help me to seek You in every moment, fresh. Quench my thirst, but increase my thirst for You, as well. Let my desire be for only You.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. Psalm 42:11 (The Message)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Which Is Real, Mood or Faith?

Today is Friday, February 22, 2019.

Day 22,261

20 days until our next Glen Rose weekend!!

Quote of the Day

“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”
Thomas Aquinas, Italian Theologian, 1225-1274

Word of the Day

Futilitarian ~ a person who believes that human hopes are vain, and human strivings unjustified. (Dictionary.com)

Again, there’s really nothing happening around here that’s worth writing about, so I’ll get on with the devotions.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 

Psalm 1:1-3

Today I am grateful:
1. For the Word of God, upon which I can meditate.
2. That God is good, all the time.
3. That God is always faithful, even when I’m not.
4. That the truth is not dependent upon my feelings.
5. That I can praise and bless God even when my moods are sour.

Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is, “Moods Are Fickle, but God Is Faithful.”

I bless GOD every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. 
I live and breathe GOD; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: 
Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out.

Psalm 34:1-3 (The Message)

There is a common mistake that is made among Christians, sometimes. We try to “draw some transcendent meaning out of the good days and bad days, to suppose that we are better Christians on good days and worse Christians on bad days.” But our moods are not truthful; emotions can be deceptive, fickle. The faithful preacher must attempt to persuade his congregation to keep in touch “with a way of life that is rooted in a faithful God, not in fickle moods.”

Enter Psalm 34.

This Psalm is replete with contrasts, ups and downs, and doesn’t split them up into good days and bad days. “It combines them all in a life of blessing.”

The first verse, in the ESV, says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will be in my mouth continually.” This sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I mean, seriously, “at all times? Continuously??” Peterson prefers his own translation of this verse. “I bless GOD every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise.”

This does not say, “I will always be happy.” It says, “I will bless God every chance I get.” This doesn’t describe a person who is always in a good mood, but one who is intent on declaring the truth, even when he doesn’t feel like it; being grateful, even if he doesn’t feel grateful.

It is not a lie to thank God when I don’t feel thankful. it is not hypocritical when I praise God when I’m about to lose my faith. “Speak the truth no matter how you’re feeling. It will remain long after your feelings change.”

Father, help me to make this a part of my day today! Help me to praise You when I don’t feel positive; to be thankful when I don’t feel like it. Remind me that my moods and emotions do not dictate truth.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Prophet and the General

Today is Wednesday, February 13, 2019.

Day 22,252

Spring Training begins today!!!!

“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven.”
John Lubbock, British statesman, 1834-1913

The word of the day is cacophony. It means, “harsh or discordant sound : dissonance; specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases.”

Tonight is the wedding rehearsal, at 6:00 PM. Ish. That’s the scheduled start time. However, it may be a little delayed, depending on peoples’ arrivals from work. I’m taking a half day of PTO so I don’t have to carry my keyboard gear to work with me. I’m getting gradually more confident with the music, but I will still be terribly nervous tonight and Friday night. I’m honored and excited to do this, and will be grateful when it is over. I’ve got at least one other project I need to spend some time on.

Unless you live under a rock (or in a country where it’s not a thing) you know that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the biggest day of the year for the greeting card industry. With the possible exception of Mother’s Day. Having been together for almost 34 years (35 if you count the first year of “dating”), C and I have long ago agreed that “celebrating” Valentine’s Day is somewhat foolish for us. Cards are expensive, flowers have jacked-up prices for this day, and any restaurant that we might visit will be packed to the proverbial gills. We might go out for a steak lunch on Saturday. Plus we have our semi-annual trip to Glen Rose next month.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
Psalm 56:12

Today I am grateful:
1. For almost 34 years of marriage, and a love that doesn’t need cards and other acts to prove itself.
2. That the Spirit reminded me to pray through some things yesterday.
3. That God works in mysterious ways.
4. That God doesn’t always work the way we thing He should.
5. For the times that I am spurred on to obedience, no matter what I’m feeling.

Seek him who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night;
who calls for the waters of the sea
  and pours them out upon the surface
  of the earth:
The Lord is his name.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Amos 5:8)

How did I do yesterday? I did manage to remember the suggestion of praying through the Ten Commandments, along with a couple other things. I made it a little more than halfway through the commandments, and may try to complete that today. I didn’t get to the Apostle’s Creed, which I may still try to work through. Finding the text online shouldn’t be difficult. I will say that it was interesting to try to pray through the commandments. It’s a good exercise, I believe, reading them and trying to discern if I have been guilty, at any point, of violating them.

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is called “What Gets in the Way of God’s Work?”

So Naaman with his horses and chariots arrived in style and stopped at Elisha’s door. Elisha sent out a servant to meet him with this message: “Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be as good as new.”
2 Kings 5:9-10, The Message

This is a curious, and somewhat amusing, story. Naaman was a general in Aram’s army. He was afflicted with what was probably leprosy, “a grievous skin disease.” It was a captured Israelite slave girl who suggested to her “mistress” that he should go visit Elisha, the prophet of God, to be healed. This, in itself is somewhat astounding (it was yesterday’s reading, by the way, that I didn’t share here).

Naaman gets approval from his king to go to Israel, but instead of seeing the prophet, he starts with the king of Israel, who was so upset that he tore his clothes. Elisha heard about this and asked the king what he was so upset about. “Just send the guy to me,” he said. Which is where our story picks up today.

Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house. But instead of Elisha coming to the door, he sent a servant who told the general what to do.

Naaman was furious. First of all, he was insulted because Elisha didn’t come to the door himself, but only sent a servant. Didn’t Elisha know that he was a general?? Second, he was upset that he was told to go dunk himself in the muddy old Jordan river. “The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean,” he said in verse 12. So he stomped off in a huff.

His servants caught up with him and talked some reason into him. He finally did what Elisha told him and wound up coming out totally healed, his skin as new as a baby’s.

Eugene Peterson wonders how many of us are guilty of similar attitudes. “We recognize our need, so we go to a church or a friend or a pastor for help. But then what is offered is so beneath our dignity or diverges so wildly from our expectations that we angrily go away.” We are disappointed because we expected excitement, drama, or action, maybe even something original! “And what did we get? The same old thing, the old virtues, the grace of God, and the love of Christ.”

What do we have to lose? Only pride. What do we have to gain? “Possibly everything. The real question is, Do we want to be healed?”

So, when we pray, do we find ourselves edging into a practice of trying to “mansplain” to God how He should be helping someone with their problem? Or even worse, do we miss something that He might have done because He didn’t do it in quite the way we expected? “Can you trust God to act as he sees fit?”

Father, I thank You for this strange lesson. I pray that You help me to always be looking for how You are working, regardless of how I think it should look. And if I get instruction from You that seems below my so-called “dignity,” let me dump my “dignity” in the garbage for the greater glory of serving You.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Soli Deo Gloria!

Prayer: History, Forgiveness, and Others

Today is Sunday, February 10, 2019.

Day 22,249

THREE DAYS until Spring Training!!!!

“We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is finicky. It means, “extremely or excessively particular, exacting, or meticulous in taste or standards.” In other words, “cat.”

I got new glasses ordered, yesterday. My distance vision had changed a bit, but my vision for computers/music had not changed enough to replace those glasses. I will still need two pair. The doctor told me that we could combine distance/medium-range/reading all in one pair, but he didn’t seem to think I would like it. And since I already have a good pair for medium-range, I just left it that way. I added the “transition” to the new pair, this time. They change darker when outside.

The rest of the day was nice. I picked up lunch right after my eye doctor, and by the time we ate, it was time to go get the groceries.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. The main worship leader is sick, and, to my knowledge (although he has never told me decisively), will not be there. So Brandon and I will each be leading two songs. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, Texas. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15 AM.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
Psalm 35:18

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters at The Exchange Church.
2. For my brothers and sisters in Christ, all over the world.
3. That the dream I had last night was just that – a dream.
4. For the privilege of praying.
5. For the three lessons involving prayer.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 96:9)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is called, “Prayer Lessons from History’s Wisest Person.” Peterson is speaking of Solomon. I would take issue with that (I rarely do with Eugene Peterson), and say that Jesus was history’s wisest person. Nevertheless, the lesson is a good one.

Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My Name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place. Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive.
1 Kings 8:29-30

“In Solomon’s prayer, we can see three areas in which the visible is a conduit for the invisible, and they are areas that we are still involved with today.”

First, is history. Solomon remembers the great acts of God from the past. “A poor memory is a threat to our prayers.” If, when praying, we forget the actions of God in the past, we will likely pray with “small faith and for tiny ends.”

The second thing is forgivness. Solomon specifically prays that God will forgive. “Self-deception and selfishness are threats to our prayers as well.” Too often, our prayers are an attempt to get God on our side, to do what we want Him to do. Peterson says, “the visible church is a check against that. Forgiveness is the turning point in prayer, the transition from seeking our own way from God to yielding our lives to him so that he may perform his will in it.” Remember that line from Jesus’s model prayer. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The third area involves others; foreigners, strangers. “Our prayers are strangled when they become too narrow.” How often do we only pray for ourselves, our familes, and our close acquaintances? We must be more sensitive “to the vast church of Christ and the world Christ is seeking to bring into fellowship with him. The visible church is proof against that, bringing people together under one roof whom you would ordinarily not associate with.”

Our pastor has really driven that home in past weeks. The church is made up of people with whom we would normally not associate. People with whom we otherwise have nothing in common. And we must get along because Christ died for all of us, regardless of race, sex, hobbies, and political persuasions.

Three areas in prayer: history, forgiveness, and others.

Father, may I be mindful of all of these things as I pray, today and every day. Let me never forget Your might acts in history, both my history and the history of Your people. May I always be humble and remember whence I came, the marvelous forgiveness with which You have blessed me. And may I expand the scope of my prayers to the world Church and beyond.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Soli Deo Gloria!