Faith Expressed In Love

Today is Thursday, January 17, 2019.

Day 22,225

26 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”
G.K. Chesterton, English author, 1874-1936
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is quiddity. It means, “The inherent nature or essence of a person or thing; what makes a thing what it is.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

We exercised again, last night. spending about thirty minutes on the elliptical at the Y. C had put our taco soup in the crockpot before leaving for work, yesterday morning, so it was ready to eat when we got home from exercising. We finished season one of Silicon Valley while we ate dinner. The sad thing about HBO series is that they typically only have eight to ten episodes, unlike commercial broadcast shows, which could have as many as twenty-two episodes in a season.

I think we may be planning to exercise again tonight, and maybe pick up Subway on the way home.

Oh, and I have a doctor’s appointment at 2:00 PM Friday, so I’ll be taking a half day off. So far, I have managed to avoid working a complete 40-hour week, this year. I wonder how long I can keep that going. Hahaha!

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

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Today I am grateful:
1. That I finally have an appointment for my yearly checkup.
2. That so far, my job has been much less stressful, this year.
3. For the joy of the Lord.
4. For the Word of God and all of the promises and encouragement within.
5. For the peace that passes all understanding.

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
   then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
   and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the nations,
   "The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us,
   and we are glad indeed.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
   like the watercourses of the Negev.
Those who sowed with tears
   will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
   will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

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, Psalm 126)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “God’s Whole Law: Love,” by James Bryan Smith.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27

First of all, let me point out that this is not Jesus speaking, rather a lawyer answering Jesus’s question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” When Jesus was asked what the most important command was, he also grouped those two Old Testament commands together. The first part is from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second from Leviticus 19:18.

Why does Jesus combine these two commands? “Because he knew that they were essentially one law. Love comes from one source: God.” In 1 John 4:19, John writes, “We love because he first loved us.”

“In the face of God’s magnificent love for us, we cannot but love in return.”

When we know God’s love, truly know it, it must have an effect on how we view ourselves and others. “God’s love for us results in a proper love for ourselves, and then extends to love for our neighbors.”

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, He writes this: “What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” (The Message) Join me today in examining how my faith measures up to this. Is my faith a faith that loves?

Father, as I consider these words today, help me to be honest with myself in checking the measure of my faith. Does it express itself in love towards other people? If I find that it does not, may Your Holy Spirit guide me toward that result. Then help me develop the discipline of listening to the words of Jesus.
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!

Advertisements

The Basis of My Security

Today is Monday, January 14, 2019.

Day 22,222

30 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training!

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”
Mark Twain, American author, 1835-1910
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is phatic. It means, “denoting speech used to express or create an atmosphere of shared feelings, goodwill, or sociability rather than to impart information.” (Dictionary.com)

Yesterday morning went, in my opinion, quite well. The setup was great, even though several main people were out. We all kind of pitched in together and got the sound equipment up and working, and it worked the first time! Then, since it was just me on the music, I was done practicing with plenty of time to spare. The actual worship gathering went pretty well. I had a slight rough start because I forgot to turn on my vocal reverb effect, but other than that, I think it went very smoothly.

Now, I have to focus on some wedding music, because I’m supposed to be playing piano at a wedding in must over a month. This will be a first for me. It’s on Friday, February 15.

It’s Monday again, so we start over on the week. As far as I know, there is nothing out of the ordinary happening this week, or next weekend.

Oh. I was 3-1 on my football predictions, for the weekend. The Chiefs beat the Colts 31-13 on Saturday, and the Rams beat the Cowboys 30-22 Saturday night. Yesterday afternoon, the Patriots pretty much destroyed the Chargers 41-28. The only really close game was yesterday evening as the Saints came back from a first quarter deficit of 14-0 to beat the Eagles 20-14. The Eagles had one last chance, but it all ended when a pass slipped through the hands of an Eagles receiver to fall right into the waiting arms of a Saints defender.

I’m going out on a proverbial limb to predict that the Super Bowl will be the Patriots (I’m not making that mistake again!) against the Rams.

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

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

Today I am grateful:
1. That yesterday’s setup and worship gathering went so well.
2. For the beginning of a new week.
3. For the promise of God’s hand in my life as I work to live in His kingdom.
4. For the promise that I need not be anxious for anything in my life.
5. For hope in future grace.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory to the Father, 
and to the Son, 
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be forever. Amen.
Alleluia.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is The Basis of Our Security, by Henri J.M. Nouwen.

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
Psalm 18:33

“What is the basis of our security?” That’s a question that may bring up a number of answers: “success, money, friends, property, popularity, family, connections, insurance, and so on.” Many of us may even say that God is the basis of our security. And that may be, to a large degree, true. But then what happens when a job is lost and the money stops coming in? Or when the circle of friends begins to fall apart? Or when our reputations becomes tainted?

“A spiritual life is a life in which our security is based not in any created things, good as they may be, but in God, who is everlasting love.” I like to think that this is at least partially true for me. As Nouwen points out, I may never be completely free from my attachments to this world, but I had, as he says, “better not belong to it.”

“What is the basis of your security? Is it success or money, property or popularity, friends of family, connections or insurance? Or is the Lord your God, who has set you securely on the high places?”

“Lord, may my spiritual life be rooted not in the fleeting security of created things, but in the steadfast security of your will, flowing from your everlasting love for me. Amen.”

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!

For the Common Good

Today is Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

Day 22,217

35 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

“What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death.”
Dave Barry, U.S. columnist and humorist
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is pawky. Chiefly a British word, it means, “cunning; sly.”

C has a wicked catch in her right shoulder blade area, so we didn’t go exercise, last night. I stopped at Subway for dinner, though, on the way home. It still hurts, this morning, but she says it is some better.

Not much going on this week, otherwise. I’m thinking on what songs I’m going to lead, this Sunday. So far I’ve decided on “Word of God Speak,” and “10,000 Reasons.” I planning to simply focus on worshiping God.

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

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

Today I am grateful:
1. For the victory of which that verse speaks. I may not be experiencing all of the effects of it right now, but it is certainly there for me to grasp.
2. For the blood of Jesus, that has cleansed all my sin.
3. For the privilege of intercessory prayer.
4. For the miracle of God hearing and listening to our prayers.
5. For puppies and kittens.

O God, you have made of one blood
all the peoples of the earth,
and sent your blessed Son to preach peace
to those who are far off and to those who are near:
Grant that people everywhere may
seek after you and find you;
bring the nations into your fold;
pour out your Spirit upon all flesh;
and hasten the coming of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Extraordinary Grace-Gifts,” by Frederick Buechner

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7

When someone is described as being “charismatic,” what do we typically think of? If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you probably think of a celebrity who has that certain je ne sais quoi about them. (Did you know that literally means, “I do not know what?”) They have what we might call “presence.” But they don’t have to be celebrities to be charismatic. We might run across that quality in people who are “nobodies” or even children.

If we consider, though, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, or that guy who “risked his neck smuggling Jews out of Nazi Germany,” and put them in everyday street clothes, we more than likely would not recognize them. Buechner calls these the “true charismatics,” because the word comes from the Greek charis, which means “grace.”

Side note . . . today is the first time I have heard that the word means “grace.” For most of my life, at least since the word “charismatic” began being used to describe a sect of Christianity, I was told that the word meant “gifted.” But it doesn’t. It means “grace.” I verified it, Buechner is right.

It is out of graciousness that “God gives certain men and women extraordinary gifts or charismata such as the ability to heal, to teach, to perform acts of mercy, to work miracles.”

And many of these people do not have what we would consider “presence.” “You don’t feel any special vibrations when they enter a room.” But they are the true miracle-workers.

Paul claims that we have all been given some kind of gift of the Spirit, some kind of “grace,” and for what purpose? “For the common good.” We are given this grace to share with others, not to draw attention to ourselves. This is me, not Buechner speaking, here. I believe that this is one area where the charismatic movement of the late twentieth century missed the proverbial boat. The “gifts” tended to be about “me.” Look at me, I’m speaking in tongues. Look at me, I’m prophetic.

That’s not the purpose of the gifts of grace at all. Again, they are “for the common good,” for the edification of the body of Christ.

Consider, if you will . . . “What extraordinary grace-gifts has God give you for the purpose of working ordinary miracles? How can you exercise them each day for God’s glory and the common good?”

Father, I pray, today, that You would remind me of the grace-gifts that You have given me; show me how I can best use them to build up the Body of Christ and to glorify Your great Name.
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!

What Do I Think About God?

Today is Monday, January 7, 2019.

Day 22,215

37 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

“There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.”
Casey Stengel, American baseball player and manager, 1890-1975
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is salvific. It means, “of or relating to redemptive power.” (Dictionary.com)

We had a great worship gathering, yesterday. I think the music went quite well, and Jacob’s message was great.

After church, we had Lone Star BBQ for lunch, and then C went out table shopping. We are replacing the table in our breakfast nook. She went all the way to Nebraska Furniture Mart. Not in Nebraska, but almost. I think it’s in The Colony, which is almost in Nebraska. Or McKinney. One of those. Anyway, she picked out four different table sets and sent me pictures. Then we had a phone conversation about which one would work best, and agreed on one. It’s supposed to be delivered Thursday, I think she said. And, thankfully, she paid the extra $50 to have them assemble it.

It’s Monday, and also the first full work week since before Christmas. At least I won’t be getting my days mixed up. We might go to the YMCA tonight and start exercising again. More on that later.

Oh. The Ravens did not play like a playoff team, yesterday. I was not at all impressed by their quarterback. He didn’t seem to have much of a clue. They played like rookies, making sloppy mistakes. They lost much worse than the 23-17 score indicated. So, next Saturday, the Colts will play the Chiefs and the Cowboys will play the Rams. On Sunday, the Chargers will play the Patriots, and the Eagles will play the Saints. I don’t have any real predictions, other than to say I will be super-surprised if the Cowboys beat the Rams. Okay, yes I do. I think the NFC championship will be between the Rams and the Saints. I think the AFC championship will be between the Chiefs and the Chargers.

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

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Romans 14:6

Today I am grateful:
1. For the salvific power of Jesus Christ.
2. That God saw fit to choose me to be a part of His kingdom.
3. That He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in the struggles of this world.
4. For the forecast of some pretty days this week.
5. For worship songs that inspire me.

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being:
We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us
by your Holy Spirit,
that in all the cares and occupations of our life
we may not forget you,
but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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

(From Faith That Matters
Who Is God to You? by A.W. Tozer)

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15

Just a few verses away from my “life verse” (Psalm 86:11), resides this gem of a verse. My reading for today springs from it, opening with this statement: “The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.” That’s a statement that should make us all step back and examine the worship gatherings of our various churches. The quality of worship depends on the whether “the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”

What is the church’s idea of God, what does she say about God, what is her message? I see signs on my drive to work; we get flyers in our mailbox. Many of the sermon series that I see really don’t have much to do with God. They have a lot to do with worldly things, like relationships and money, but little to do with God.

“What comes into your mind when you think about God?” The answer to that question might very well predict our spiritual future. The answer to that question, especially for our “religious leaders,” might also “foretell where the church will stand tomorrow.”

When I think about God, my thoughts typically line up with the above verse from Psalms. He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (mercy) and faithfulness. He is here. He is there. He is wherever I am and wherever you are. He is always. God is present with me now, and will be present with me all day. He is other.

Father, I pray that You maintain right ideas about Yourself in my spirit and mind today. Show me what You are doing, that I might “rightly worship You in fullness.” Keep me firmly entrenched in Your mercy and grace.
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!

Watchful

Today is January 2, 2019. Ninth day of Christmas.

Day 22,210

42 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain, U.S. humorist and writer, 1835-1910
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is neoteric. It meaans, “modern; new; recent.” Also, “a new or modern writer, thinker, etc.” Welcome to the neoteric year.

Well, it’s been a great year, so far. Haven’t worked a day, yet. But that all changes today. Well, at least the working part. The weather is “iffy,” this morning, but there is currently no ice or snow on the ground. The temperature is right at freezing, and it’s drizzling a bit. I’m not sure what the chance of accumulation is, but it shouldn’t be much, yet. And the temperature should be above freezing by 9:00 AM.

Yesterday was a nice day. Unfortunately, C wasn’t feeling great for a good bit of the day, but we enjoyed our steaks for lunch. C was having some painful gas issues, and is still experiencing some pain, this morning. Hopefully, that will get better. We didn’t do much of anything, as predicted. We watched some TV and I played on the PS4 for a while. Then I watched an episode of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, and finished off the night by reading Ready Player One for about an hour.

I’m pretty sure our plan is to get back to working out at the Y soon, but that may not kick in until next week. I’m sure it will be packed tonight. New Years’ resolutions, and all, you know.

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

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.”
Isaiah 12:1

Today I am grateful:
1. That there is currently no ice on the roads.
2. That my PTO resets today.
3. That I have a new day to try to walk in God’s Kingdom.
4. That I love to read as much as I do.
5. That C and I both have jobs that are steady and consistent. I may have to work late on Fridays, but at least I get to work.

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord,
to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom:
Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies;
that we, surely trusting in your defense, 
may not fear the power of any adversaries;
through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

(From Faith That Matters)

In the Morning, Trust God, by Eugene Peterson

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

“The work of God begins while we are asleep and without our help.” I need to let that statement sink in for a minute. God’s work begins without me and doesn’t need my help. In fact, there are times, when I try to help, that I probably mess things up. Think back to Abraham and Sarah and that mess with Ishmael.

As we go through our day in worship and obedience, God’s work continues. The sacrifice mentioned in this verse is not so much something that I do for God, “but simply setting out the stuff of life for him to do something with.” When we offer these things to God, “we give up ownership and control, and watch to see what God will do with it.”

An important word in all of this is “watch.” We set our lives before Him and watch to see what He will do. “Morning prayer places us before the watchful God, readying us to enter the day watchful for dangers to recede, for the dangerous day to fill with God’s angels.”

“Lord, this early hour I bring to you all of my apprehensions–trusting you, watching you. Amen.”

Father, truly I lay myself before You this morning, and am ready to watch.
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!

Blessed Be Your Name

It is January 1, 2019. Happy New Year!! Also, the eighth day of Christmas.

Day 22,209

43 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

“The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is auspicate. It means, “to initiate with ceremonies calculated to ensure good luck; inaugurate.” (Dictionary.com)

So today, we auspicate a new year. Or, last night, I suppose. I was up for it. S was up for it. C was not up for it. 🙂 S and I watched the last few minutes of 2018 fade into the foggy distance. We also watched the local NBC affiliate, channel 5, running their countdown approximately twenty seconds behind. Perhaps there was simply a slight delay in their broadcast feed. Both S and I observed that our clocks were turning over minutes right at twenty seconds before the TV was changing.

Then, at midnight (or twenty seconds after), Reunion Tower exploded (not literally) with, allegedly, fifteen THOUSAND pounds of fireworks! It was pretty incredible.

So it’s 2019, now.

In many ways, today, January 1, is just another day. It doesn’t feel any different from yesterday, other than the fact that we are at home, not at work. Feels like Saturday, actually. I’m not a huge fans of mid-week holidays. It makes for an awkward work week. But, as “they” say, “It is what it is.” But what if it isn’t??

I don’t make New Years’ Resolutions. So don’t expect any of that from me. However, I have aspirations, goals, if you will. Not really measurable, mind you. I would like to be healthier, this year. Part of that is measurable in the form of pounds, but that’s the only part, really. I would like to drastically improve my spiritual walk with God in Christ. I plan to get more serious about working the spiritual disciplines in my life, which is going to require me to get off butt and find a place/time to practice solitude on a regular basis. I also plan to work on the discipline of silence, which can be practiced anywhere. It does go hand in hand with solitude, but can also be practiced at work and elsewhere. Those are the two biggest ones I need to work on, but I’ll be working on improving the prayer, life, as well, along with my worship, which, even though I play/sing in the worship band at church, could use some improvement.

We don’t have much in the way of plans for today. We’re going to cook steaks for lunch, and I’ll probably drive over to Sonic at some point for some drinks. Otherwise, it will simply be a day of relaxing.

My devotional books, at least to start the year will be as follows:
Daily Guideposts 2018, 364 readings by the usual assortment of Guideposts writers. This year’s theme is In the Shadow of Your Wings.
Faith That Matters, 365 devotions from classic Christian leaders, including Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, A.W. Tozer, N.T. Wright, James Bryan Smith, Eugene Peterson, and Brennan Manning (I’ll have to work in that reading for February 29, I guess)
Every Step An Arrival, a 90-day devotional for exploring God’s Word, by Eugene Peterson. So, after the end of March, I will take on another short devotional book to replace that.

I’m also going to begin reading Conversations: The Message Bible with its Translator. I’m anticipating that it will take me longer than a year, but we will see.

I also need a verse for the year. For the last couple of years, I have used the verse on the bookmark that accompanies my Daily Guideposts book. I believe this year, I will also do that. It is Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” Pinions are, essentially, feathers.

Finally, of course, my “life verse,” which will never change. God drew me to this verse decades ago. Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”

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

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
Psalm 145:10

Today I am grateful:
1. For new beginnings. Even though this day is just another day, we tend to look at New Year’s Day as a time to begin again, to reflect on what has been, and to look forward to what will be.
2. Again, for my wife. I am more blessed than words can express. Yesterday, while off work, she hung two light fixtures in the house. She just can’t stand sitting around, doing nothing for too long.
3. For the anticipated blessings of a new year. There will be challenges, no doubt. And we will pray that we can meet those challenges head-on with faith and confidence in God’s hand.
4. For a day off, savoring this one, because, outside of PTO, it is the last one until Memorial Day. I’d really like to have a serious talk with whoever planned out the year that way.
5. For the overwhelming steadfast love of God.

O God, the King eternal, 
whose light divides the day from the night 
and turns the shadow of death into the morning:
Drive far from us all wrong desires, 
incline our hearts to keep your law, 
and guide our feet into the way of peace;
that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, 
we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for the Renewal of Life)

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

(From Faith That Matters)

The Spiritual Work of Gratitude, by Henri Nouwen

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 1:21

It is easy to be grateful for the good things in life. I come up with five things every morning. And, as noted, they are, at least so far, always “good” things. But, says Nouwen, “to be grateful for all of our lives–the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections–that requires hard spiritual work.”

There it is. “Hard spiritual work.”

All too often, that frightens us, that thought of “hard spiritual work.” Somewhere along the way, we have been fed a false bill of goods that this “Christian” life is supposed to be easy. Sure, Jesus calls us into his “easy yoke.” But that’s HIS yoke that is easy! And the reason His yoke is easy is that He is God! When we walk alongside Him in that “easy yoke,” He is doing the bulk of the work. But He is not doing all of the work, and that’s where a lot of us get off track.

One preacher I know used to say (maybe he still does), “The Christian life isn’t hard; it’s impossible.” If that is taken out of context, one’s reaction might be, “Well, then, why even try.” But the point is that I can’t do it. Not by myself. The “hard spiritual work” must be done in the context of walking in the yoke of Christ, alongside Him, allowing Him to take on the hardest part of the work. But I still have to work; I still have to do it.

I alluded, earlier, to the Spiritual Disciplines. Well, I alluded to a few of them. There are more. These disciplines are the “hard spiritual work” that I must do in order to be, as Nouwen suggests, “grateful for all of” my life.

We are most fully grateful when we can say, without flinching, “thank you” to “all that has brought us to the present moment.” There are things and people that I would just as soon forget. But those things and people, along with the ones I want to remember, have made me who I am today, for better or worse. And if I try to forget those things and people, I “cannot claim the fullness of [my being] as a gift of God to be grateful for.”

“Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” And what better day to begin that than New Year’s Day?

Can we truly join Job in saying “blessed be the name of the Lord?”

“Lord, cultivate within me a spirit of gratitude for all you’ve given and all you’ve taken away. Blessed be your name, Lord. Amen.”

I know this is already too long, but I feel compelled to share this prayer from The Valley of Vision.

O my God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
   my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
   in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
   ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
   ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
   ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
   crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
   for adorning it, sanctifying it,
      though it is fixed in barren soil;
   for the body thou hast given me,
   for preserving its strength and vigor,
   for providing senses to enjoy delights,
   for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
   for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
   for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
   for a full table and overflowing cup,
   for appetite, taste, sweetness,
   for social joys of relatives and friends,
   for ability to serve others,
   for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
   for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
   for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
   for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
   for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love the above the powers of language
      to express,
   for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Yes, and amen, Father! May I look back with gratitude to all of the people and events of my life, even those that I would rather forget, and be eternally grateful to You for bringing me to where I am today. Draw me closer, in 2019, closer to Jesus, closer to 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!