Sticking Around to See What Happens

Today is Friday, the twenty-second of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,416

It was a mostly quiet day at the library, yesterday. There were spurts of busy-ness in the Computer Center, and most of that occurred after 5:00 PM. I won’t be back there until next Tuesday evening.

The Texas Rangers came back and won a game, last night! They beat the Mariners 8-6, after falling behind on Taylor Hearn’s terrible pitching in the first inning. So they avoided a sweep by the Mariners. They are currently 3-9, for the season, still in last place in the AL West. They begin another three-game series in Oakland, tonight, at 8:40 CDT. I find it interesting that they seem to have changed the west coast game times. I don’t know if twenty minutes makes that much difference to the rest of us, as I’m still not likely to stay up to watch the game. There might be some fans at the game tonight, but Oakland’s attendance has been pathetic. In fact, a couple nights ago, their AAA team had a bigger attendance than they did.

One thing I’m happy to see is that the Astros are in fourth place, with a 6-6 record. I’m not happy to see LA in first place, but “it is what it is,” right?

Boston lost another game to the Blue Jays, 3-2, which makes two consecutive losses and they lost the series. So they have dropped below .500 again, and are in fourth place in the AL East. These teams are not making it easy for me to stay interested in baseball, this season. Already.

How much longer do we keep saying, “It’s early, still”?

There’s nothing really on the agenda for today. Probably some laundry. Maybe a quick trip to the store for a couple of things. C is working from home, and I’m off today, so we are all home together. Dinner tonight will probably be our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust.

And, at the last minute, we have decided that we are going to go to Scarborough Rennaissance Festival tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Friday in Easter Week)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
(Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is always right beside me in this journey, to help me when I need to take up my cross and follow Him
2. that Jesus is the water of life, satisfying every thirst
3. for God's marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, and His forgiveness, and that He knows my heart better than I do
4. that God's Word is living and active
5. that God watches over His Word to make sure it accomplishes what He sent it out to do

Today’s prayer word is “cross.” Obviously, this one could have a veritable plethora of meanings. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”

The reading for today speaks of a medically chronic condition with which the writer suffers. I respectfully disagree that this is a “cross” that she must bear. Many people use the phrase, “I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” or something like that.

The reason that I disagree that a medical diagnosis is a “cross” we must bear is that it is not something about which we have a choice. Jesus bids us “take up our cross daily.” This is something we choose. There is a reason that, accompanying that command is also the command to deny ourselves.

Jesus took up His cross and He died. It was His choice. It was not something He was forced to do; He gave up His life willingly.

Most of us don’t do a very good job of taking up our “crosses,” myself included. I didn’t make it through a couple of weeks of Lent, with the “fasts” that I was intending. When we “give up” something for Lent, we are taking up a cross, and denying ourselves. When we choose to not participate in something that others are doing, we are taking up a cross and denying ourselves.

All that being said, I agree with the Pope Francis quote. Jesus would never ask us to take up our cross if He were not going to help us carry it. That’s why He also invites us into His “easy yoke.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that I would do better at taking up the cross that You would have me carry, each day. There are certainly things in my life that need to be avoided or eliminated. There are attitudes and personality characteristics that still need to change. In short, I need to do better at denying myself. Help me to do that, and to step into Your easy yoke as I do so. Thank You that You are willing to be right beside me in this journey.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:19-22 ESV)

The thing I want to point out in this passage is verse 20, that bit about our hearts condemning us. Who among us does not struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? How often do we feel that we are just too bad, and that there is no way God can forgive us yet one more time for the same thing? I’m reminded of a song by Twila Paris, in which, I believe, the first line says, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

I have most certainly been there. But here is the thing. “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” I am in no position to judge myself. J.B. Phillips, in his book, Ring of Truth, says, “It is almost as if John is saying, ‘If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?'”

And, in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to believe or accept God’s forgiveness. We are placing ourselves higher than Him. And we call it “humility.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I praise You for Your great mercy and grace and forgiveness. Please forgive me when I act like I know better than You and doubt Your forgiveness. Help me to accept the truth that You know better than I, and that You know my heart way better than I. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

We’re back to talking about words again. Eugene Peterson says, “Words are never truly empty.” That’s a pretty bold statement, because I’m pretty sure I’ve both heard and spoken some pretty empty words. But every word has meaning. And real, true words “get under our skin and shaper our lives.”

Especially the Word. Once again, I will share that verse from Hebrews.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
(Hebrews 4:12 MSG)

“When the Word is preached or taught, said or sung, prayed or meditated, that is not the end of it. God continues to watch over this Word, tending it and caring for it until it brings forth love, obedience, hope, belief, or joy.”

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 MSG)

We should be watching along with God, but not like spectators watch. We should be watching as shepherds, parents, lovers, and friends, “watching for signs of grace, watching for movements of joy, watching for evidence that once again the Word has become flesh.”

All too often, the leaders of the church miss out on this. Or, perhaps, it’s not “church” leaders, but itinerate evangelists or traveling preachers, who show up, preach the Word, and then disappear. But we need to “stick around and see what happens, and pastors need to lead their congregations to stick around and see what happens, to see how God performs this Word.”

We are all “great wanderers.” We hear something and ten minutes later, we’re off doing the next thing; we’ve gone shopping or turned on the television, or gone to get a snack.

“Everything that goes on in people’s lives is, or can be, connected with the Word that is proclaimed. God is watching over the Word to perform it. And we watch with him because we don’t want to miss out on a thing that comes out of these words that God puts in our mouths.”

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

Father, this is something that requires some pondering. But we definitely need Your help in this matter. We are too quick to forget the truth that You stick around and make sure that Your Word does what You say it will do. I am grateful for this, but acknowledge that I am not always so good at sticking around to see what happens. Help me to be better at this, and help me to be more faithful to watch with You, when it comes to seeing Your Word in action.

Help us to be better at believing what Your Word says, too. I’m not trying to get into any kind of prosperity gospel, here, but Your Word is truth, and it is powerful, and it dwells within us. So we need to do better at believing it, so we can see the power at work in and around us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Wisdom and Forgiveness

Good morning! Today is Friday, the fourth of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,367

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other photography at the link provided.

We had a successful and uneventful trip to get Mama, yesterday, and she is safely back here in Fort Worth, with us, for a little while. We dropped off a mail hold form at the Post Office, and left her tax documents with her CPA, and I also grabbed a couple cases of Crazy Water while in town.

The only “incident” that occurred was that my tire pressure light came on, in the car, before I got out of Fort Worth. Everything felt okay, so I didn’t stop to check it until I got to Mama’s house in Mineral Wells. The lowest tire had 30.5 (after driving that distance), so I wasn’t terribly worried about it. I just checked it, this morning, and it has 26, which is about seven pounds low. I’ll keep an eye on it, and, unless it drops drastically more between now and then, I will put some air in it Sunday afternoon.

Today is a normal work day for me, at the Hurst Public Library, in the computer center. Tomorrow is my Saturday to work the circulation desk. Sunday, our house church is not meeting, so I am going to take the opportunity to attend a Lutheran church in Grapevine, with my friend and former pastor. I’ve never been to a Lutheran service before, so this should be interesting.

The Lenten fast continues to go fairly well. As expected, keeping critical comments out of my vocabulary has been much more challenging than not eating candy. I have not been 100% successful, but am being more aware of when they occur, and able to stop them in their tracks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Nothing Called My Own,” by Daryl Madden

I know I’m in danger
But need not of fearing
If I remember
That I am nothing

I’ll know that danger
Can take nothing from me
When I feel afraid
I forget, nothing I be

And If I remember
I’ve nothing called my own
That will not be lost
At the end of life shown

That only what’s not mine
But God’s will ever live
And free me from false fears
With a heart to give

(based upon words by Thomas Merton)

This poem really spoke to me, this morning, as I recall words from a little book by Horatius Bonar, called How Shall I Go To God? It opens with the line, “It is with our sins that we go to God–for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own.” Please check out Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the WordPress community; I am constantly encouraged and uplifted by my blogging friends
2. for the safe trip to Mineral Wells and back, yesterday
3. for the wisdom taught in the book of James, difficult as it is
4. for the lineage of faith that is in my ancestry
5. for the strength of God that is helping me in my Lenten journey

The book of James is a tough book to swallow. Every time I have to read it, I cringe, because it doesn’t just step on my toes. It crushes them.

But one thing we learn from this difficult book is that “Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.” The outside world looks at that statement and gives out a hearty “Ya think??”

Part of the problem, though, is that 1) the outside world seems to have the mistaken idea that the Christian church should be a model community of good behavior; and 2) the Christian church often tries to deceive the outside world into believing that it is a model community of good behavior.

James would have us believe otherwise. And, as Eugene H. Peterson points out, “Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential.” This does not necessarily involve knowing truth, although that is helpful, because “what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?”

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
(James 3:17-18 MSG)

James was traditionally known as a man of prayer, spending much time on his knees. He lived what he wrote:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.
(James 1:5-6 MSG)

“The prayer is foundational to the wisdom. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.”

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.
(James 1:17 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:22 ESV)

Or, if you prefer:

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
(Matthew 18:22 NLT)

Speaking of wisdom, in this passage of Scripture, we see the wisdom of forgiveness. And we see Peter, thinking himself extremely righteous by offering to forgive someone seven whole times, having his toes crushed by Jesus’s James-like wisdom, telling him, essentially, don’t count how many times you forgive someone.

“God – on Whose repeated forgiveness I depend – requires that I do the same for others and that they do the same for me. Not grudgingly, but from a sincere heart. . . . Forgiveness is a wisdom near to the heart of God.” (Carol Knapp)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
(Matthew 6:9-15 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s prayer word is “link.” I almost passed over this one, but I got to thinking about it. Laurence Overmire, an American poet who is also a genealogist, is quoted as saying, “All of our ancestors give us the precious gift of life.”

There is not a word of Scripture in this reading, nor is there any reference to it. It is entirely about someone’s lineage.

And when I think about my lineage, I am blessed. God didn’t have to birth me into this family. But He chose to place me in it. (Remember yesterday’s prayer word?)

My family has a long history of God-loving people in it, and I am very grateful for this. My spiritual life would likely have been much different otherwise.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You and thank You for placing me where You did. What a blessing to have been born into this family. Random luck, some would say, but I don’t believe in “luck” or “coincidences.” It was part of Your plan, and I am very grateful for this. And You kept it going, even when I tried to leave (or at least wander off) the path. You always kept me on the path, sometimes nudging me, other times outright shoving. There may have even been a few times You had to tie me up and carry me over Your “shoulder.”

Father, as Your Church continues trying to survive these years, I pray that You help us in several things. Help us to forgive the way Jesus told us to forgive, not the way Peter tried to. It is unlimited. Jesus didn’t mean seventy-seven times or four hundred and ninety times, at least that is what we believe. He seems to have been indicating that the amount of forgiveness is as unlimited as Your love. And praises be that You don’t stop forgiving us at seventy times seven times!!

I also pray that You help us, as a Church, to get along in wisdom, the way James is trying to teach us. We are strongly divided, these days, and we need Your help. There are factions that are focusing on the wrong things. We need to be focusing on Your love, the love of Jesus, and our love for each other. Maybe it really is “all about love.” And, while I wouldn’t go quite as far as the Beatles, we definitely do need love and more of it. Help us to remember that our jobs are to love You and love people, not to judge people and condemn people. That is actually Your job, and Yours alone. But You also have promised that, in Christ, there is no condemnation. Thank You for that, as well.

We are broken, Lord, all of us. So we need Your “fixing.” Give us wisdom, give us love, give us one another. And help us, as brother Daryl reminds us way back at the beginning, that we really have nothing that we can call our own.

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

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.

When the Line Fades

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the ninth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,344

There’s not much going on around here, today. C is working from home, Mama is here and planning to go back to Mineral Wells tomorrow. I have to go in to “work” for an hour today, for a meeting, and I’m planning to cook Pecan Crusted Buttermilk Chicken tonight, for dinner. I have a grocery order scheduled for delivery, around lunch time. That’s about it. Should be a “chill” day.

It was a good evening at the library (starting to sound like a broken record, right?), last night. I really love my library people, and they know it, too. There’s always something to talk about, whether it be music we like or books (imagine that), or, most recently, Wordle. I introduced one of them to Dordle, yesterday. Dordle is like “double Wordle.” Here’s my Wordle score for today:

Wordle 235 2/6*

🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Yeah, I got lucky.

And here’s my Dordle score:

Daily Dordle #0016 5&7/7
⬜⬜⬜⬜🟨 ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜ ⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨🟨⬜🟨 ⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜
🟨🟨🟨🟩🟩 ⬜🟩⬜🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟨⬜⬜🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
zaratustra.itch.io/dordle

As you can see, Dordle has two words! The way it works is, you type in a word, and it shows up on both sides (two columns of five letters), telling you if that letter is in that word and if it is in the right position. Once you get one of the words right, the rest of the guesses are dark, and it only types in the other word. So far, I have not guessed the second word first.

Dordle hasn’t quite caught on like Wordle, just yet. I have also heard that the NY Times has bought Wordle. If they start charging for it, I’ll quit playing, as I’m sure many others will.

Time for another cup of coffee. Be right back.

I’ve discovered a design that I’m getting on a new t-shirt. It will be ready next week.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are here for me;
You will not withhold Your love;
I am here for You.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
(Psalms 40:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies smilin' at me (not the song)
2. that God is good; He is truly the only One worthy of being called "good"
3. for the freedom that comes when we forgive
4. for the confidence to pray specific prayers, for myself and for others
5. for those times when the veil between heaven and earth seems to fade, and we get a glimpse of the other side

I half-expected today’s prayer word to be “everywhere,” but it is not. It is “free.” Again, I find that this is a word that could mean many things to many different people. The quote by renowned Christian author and Reformed theologian Lewis B. Smedes, says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an odd animal. Jesus had some things to say about forgiveness.

Pay attention to yourselves!
 If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 
and if he sins against you seven times in the day, 
and turns to you seven times,
 saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
(Luke 17:3-4 ESV)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(Mark 11:25 ESV)

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

I’ve struggled mightily with that last one, believe me. It almost sounds like it makes our salvation based on “works,” rather than grace. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today’s topic is “free.” When we free others by forgiving them, we also free ourselves. If I carry a grudge, I’m the one bearing the burden. I also think it is interesting that that passage in Mark doesn’t say anything about repentance. If I’m praying, and I have something against someone else, I’m supposed to instantly forgive them on the spot.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 
"Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly."
 And he said to him, 
"I will come and heal him." 
But the centurion replied, 
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, 
but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 
For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. 
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, 
and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, 
and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 
"Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment. 
(Matthew 8:5-10, 13 ESV)

Read this passage in light of yesterday’s discussion on prayer. Is prayer difficult? There is no answer to that question. Or, perhaps, the answer is, “Yes . . . and no.” The centurion found prayer to be easy. Yet, he did not deem himself worthy to have Jesus under his roof.

We, as stated yesterday, seem to prefer praying for huge things, world-wide things. Or maybe it’s that we subconsciously are praying for things that we know won’t cause us to have to do anything. There’s a thought, huh? I mean, what can I, individually, do about “world peace?” But if I pray for God to feed the hungry, He might impress upon me to take some food to someone, driving me out of my comfort zone.

What is it, though, that keeps me from voicing specific prayer requests? I don’t think it’s fear. But that might be it for some people. The fear being, “What if He doesn’t answer?” My perspective on that is that God will always answer. It just may not be the answer I want. And then I have to deal with disappointment.

There’s a thought that I see, sometimes, in contemporary music, that says, that God will never let you down.

I’m sorry to tell you this (no I’m not), but yes, He will. God will let you down. It’s inevitable. If you follow Jesus correctly, He will disappoint you. He never promised not to.

You see, it’s not about you! It’s not about me! This is one area where the modern church has completely lost its way. Was it yesterday when I read something about people turning God into an object they can use for their benefit? Turns out that’s not so modern is it?

So if I don’t ask God for something specific, I won’t be disappointed, right? But why bother praying at all, then? Why even ask for “world peace?”

Here’s the thing. If I’m going to ask for something specific, I’d best be ready to act when God begins answering, because His answer to that prayer might very well include me doing something. I’m encouraged to “experiment” with prayer, thinking of something to ask God for, over the next week. I’ll try to remember to revisit that, later.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

GOD is good, 
a hiding place in tough times. 
He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, 
No matter how desperate the trouble. 
(Nahum 1:7-8 MSG)
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 
(Proverbs 3:24 NIV)
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, 
because the LORD sustains me. 
(Psalms 3:5 NIV)
He will not let your foot slip— 
he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 
(Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I echo Ashley Kappel’s sentiment. I long for those moments, when it does seem as though the veil between heaven and earth is thinner, fading, and we get a glimpse of the “other side.” I hope that this experience becomes more common as I draw closer to You.

I praise You for being You . . . You are good, as Jesus said, the only One who can truly be called “good.” You are truly a hiding place, my fortress or strong tower, where I can run and hide when I feel oppressed by our enemy. You are always there to help us, and all we have to do is cry out to You in our desperate need.

I pray for the faith to pray for specific needs, things that are beyond our scope of fulfilling. Help me to believe enough to truly pray for healing, or, as the case may be, for something as small as new shoes. Show me what to pray for, and for whom to pray. And then give me the confidence to come before Your throne. I praise You for the mercy You give. You are mercy, the very embodiment of it.

And help me to always be forgiving. Even if there is no sign of repentance from the other party, help me to release whatever it is that is holding me back. I want nothing between me and Thee. Help me to be truly free, Father, and help me to free others as well. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Here, There, and Everywhere

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the eighth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,343

I’m up early, this morning. Earlier than I would like to be, but it is what it is. However, I am also striving to head back into habits that I practiced, pre-retirement; habits that were having good results in my health journey. One of those was getting up early and having a decent breakfast, first thing, heavy on protein, light on carbs. I’m also going back to tracking my food in the WW app, which I have not been doing consistently since before Thanksgiving.

This also means that I will stop staying up until almost midnight, on nights when I don’t work the next day. I need to stop doing that, anyway, because I’m frequently not able to go back to sleep after C gets up to go to her job.

Today is my half-shift day, working from 4:15-8:15. I will run out and grab some Subway for lunch, for Mama, S, and me, and get something for dinner for them, as well as C. Although this is not a week in which I would be working on Wednesday, there is a meeting that I need to attend tomorrow, so I will be going to the library at 1:45, and staying until 3:00 (or until the meeting is over). The current plan is for Mama to go back to her house in Mineral Wells on Thursday. We don’t know how long she will stay there, before coming back here, but there is no hurry to make that decision, either, as far as I know.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Into Falling Deeper, by Daryl Madden

A time of our prayer
With Savior and keeper
A gift of His grace
Into falling deeper

Deeper into comfort
Knowing of our being
Deeper into rest
Deeper into freeing

Deeper into drifting
Knowing Presence of
Deeper into dwelling
Deeper into love

Deeper into peace
Knowing of the true
Deeper into home
Deeper into You

This expresses so well what I try to do, each morning. Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at the link provided. Here is a haiku that I just wrote, inspired by Daryl’s poem.

The deeper I go,
The calmer is the water;
Drifting into peace.

And as I drift deeper, this morning, I strive to be present in the moment, “here,” as we considered yesterday.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
 Jesus, the Son of God, 
let us hold fast our confession. 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
 but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, 
yet without sin.
 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
(Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, because of Jesus, the Son of God, I have confidence to draw near to the throne of grace
2. for the power of prayer in the faith of a mustard seed
3. that God is here, there, and everywhere, present in every person's story, whether they acknowledge Him or not
4. that God willingly bestows blessings, wherever He is
5. for the words of prophets who teach us how to respond to Your presence and Your voice, rather than trying to use You for our own benefit

Today’s prayer word is “there.” Right on the heels of yesterday’s word, “here.” I can’t help myself . . . my first thought was of a Beatles song, “Here, There, and Everywhere.” In fact, as I skim down the page of the reading, the title of that song is included in the prayer for today. I’m skeptical that this was intentional.

The featured verse for today is Psalm 133:3.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. 
For there the LORD bestows his blessing, 
even life forevermore.
(Psalms 133:3 NIV)

The context of the word, today, in the reading (the author identified only as “Bob”), is good. It is as if he is directing his prayers. “I see someone sleeping on the sidewalk: ‘There, Lord.’ I pull over for an ambulance: ‘There.’ I drive by a church: ‘There.’ I pass a bunch of commuters waiting for a bus: ‘There.'”

He is condensing the verse, “for there the Lord bestows his blessing,” into simply, “There.”

I like this. I have practiced “flash prayers” before, on my previous commute to work. Not consistently, but I have done it. That consists of “flashing” a prayer at cars that I see on the way to work. Each car has at least one person in it, one soul. When you think of all of the cars that you see on the road as souls (not the cars, of course), it changes your perspective. This especially helps when someone in one of those other cars does something stu . . . foo . . . reckless.

As I type this, it dawns on me that I have missed many opportunities to practice this, during my tenure as a part time library aide. Even when I am all alone in the stacks, shelving books, I see people perusing the library. “There” is an opportunity. When I’m assisting people in the computer/media center, “there” is an opportunity. Even if I don’t have to help them, “there” is an opportunity for prayer.

The prayer in the reading says, “Father, bestow Your blessing here, there, and everywhere today. Amen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

But he's already made it plain how to live, 
what to do, 
what GOD is looking for in men and women. 
It's quite simple:
 Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, 
be compassionate and loyal in your love, 
And don't take yourself too seriously—
 take God seriously.
(Micah 6:8 MSG)
"On that great day," GOD says, 
"I will round up all the hurt and homeless, 
everyone I have bruised or banished. 
I will transform the battered into a company of the elite. 
I will make a strong nation out of the long lost, 
A showcase exhibit of GOD's rule in action,
 as I rule from Mount Zion, from here to eternity."
(Micah 4:6-7 MSG)

“Left to ourselves, we turn God into an object, something we can deal with, some thing we can use to our benefit, whether that thing is a feeling or an idea or an image. Prophets scorn all such stuff. They train us to respond to God’s presence and voice.”

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am contemplating, this morning, the thought that we are quick to pray for something huge, like world peace, but hesitant to pray for something “small,” like a new pair of shoes. What does this say about us? Do we think praying for the “big things” demonstrates great faith?? Or do we foolishly believe that You only care about those big things? Jesus said we could move mountains. We talked about that in our church gathering Sunday. But are we so “mountain-minded” that we neglect the “small things?” I’m kind of “thinking out loud” during this prayer, Father, because I’m not sure I know the answer to these questions.

I do know, though, that my perspective on Your presence needs to be refined. I know You are “here.” I know You are “there.” I know You are “everywhere.” And God, help me and forgive me if I have attempted to “use” You for my own personal gain. I don’t want to do that. Rather, I want You to use me, for Your benefit! Help me to do the things that You have already shown us; to do what is fair and just to my neighbor, to be compassionate and loyal in love, and heaven help me to not take myself too seriously.

May Your Spirit remind me, as I walk around the stacks in the library, tonight, to pray those “there” prayers for people. Everyone in the place has a story; the patrons as well as the staff. I don’t need to know (and may not want to know) those stories. But You know all the stories, and somehow, whether they acknowledge You or not, You are present in those stories.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

No, O people,
 the LORD has told you what is good, 
and this is what he requires of you: 
to do what is right, 
to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God. 
(Micah 6:8 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Sorrow and Sighing Will Flee

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of December, 2021, the third Wednesday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,288

Only ten more days until Christmas!

I woke up with allergies, this morning, so I’m feeling a bit stuffed up. It’s funny, because it didn’t start until about the time I got out of bed. A couple of sneezes, and my nose has been running like a sieve all morning. I’ve taken some Sudafed and DayQuil, though, so hopefully that will be settling down, soon. Fortunately, it is my Wednesday off work, so I don’t really have to go anywhere.

Other than a quick trip to an Amazon hub locker to pick up a Christmas gift that has been delivered..

Last night at the library was extra special. It was my shelving night, which I always enjoy, because it’s quiet and I’m pretty much alone, lost in the stacks of books (or DVDs, sometimes, but last night, it was all books). The extra special part happened around 7:00 PM. First, a little back story. A few weeks ago, the youth services manager (our library calls children “youth”) approached me and asked if I would like to participate in their monthly “story laboratory,” a thing where they start in the youth program room, but then go to different places in the library for a sort of “progressive storytime.”

When I interviewed for the library aide job, I had asked them if there would ever be opportunities for me to read to people. I was, initially, told no, that the part time aides didn’t really do that. However, Ms. Beverly remembered me asking that, and asked if I would like to participate in one of their Story Laboratory nights. I said yes, of course.

I didn’t know when it was coming, but thought it should be coming up. Well, it turned out, it was last night. Since I don’t work every day, she didn’t really have an opportunity to remind me, otherwise I would have dressed a little more “festively.” So what we did, last night, was several of us read portions of “The Night Before Christmas” from a pop-up book that was very cool. We had a small group of about four children and their mothers. I had so much fun! I got to read the bit where Santa calls out all the reindeer names.

Oh, and by the way . . . did you realize that its “Donder,” not “Donner??” I learned that last night. I made sure to enunciate that one clearly.

I also pointed briefly at my own beard when I got to the part about Santa’s beard being as white as snow, and said, “Just like mine!”

I have nothing on my agenda for today, other than the aforementioned trip to the Amazon hub locker. I’m planning to make chicken stir-fry for dinner tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You Can Steal, by Daryl Madden

You can steal my happiness
But you can’t steal my joy

You can take my trust away
But faith you can’t destroy

You can take my job today
But not my purpose be

You can make me miserable
But God loves you and me

Even if it’s comes to death
And you kill my body

Still I know that I can rest
In life eternally

My words are bold and I will fail
Through struggles to endure

Let me dwell upon this truth
Gods’ faith in me secure

I like this one because it reminds me of some of my favorite things that Dallas Willard said. One is his definition of joy, as “a pervasive sense of well-being.” The other is his statement that, in God’s kingdom, “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” Please check out Daryl’s other poems, at the link provided.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; 
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; 
they shall obtain gladness and joy, 
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 
(Isaiah 51:11 ESV)
Sing for joy, O heavens,
 and exult, O earth; 
break forth, O mountains, 
into singing! 
For the LORD has comforted his people 
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
(Isaiah 49:13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my coffee
2. for everlasting joy, and the eventual absence of sorrow and sighing
3. that You can calm the storms
4. for Your forgiveness; help me to always forgive others as You have forgiven me
5. that, no matter what I am going through, You are with me, and will never leave me or forsake me

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
(Colossians 3:13 NIV)

Get rid of all bitterness, 
rage and anger, 
brawling and slander, 
along with every form of malice. 
Be kind and compassionate to one another, 
forgiving each other, 
just as in Christ God forgave you. 
(Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)
When you pass through the waters, 
I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, 
they shall not overwhelm you; 
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, 
and the flame shall not consume you. 
(Isaiah 43:2 ESV)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 
"Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" 
that is, 
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 
(Matthew 27:46 ESV)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 
As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
(Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ADVENT – DAY EIGHTEEN

INVITATION

How beautiful on the mountains 
are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, 
Breaking the news that all's well, 
proclaiming good times, 
announcing salvation, 
telling Zion, 
"Your God reigns!" 
(Isaiah 52:7 MSG)

As I pause during this quiet moment, I am pondering the eternal presence of God in my life. I am reveling in the truth that, no matter what I am going through, He is with me.

BIBLE SONG

You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
 you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 
You forgave the iniquity of your people 
and covered all their sins. 

I will listen to what God the LORD says; 
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— 
but let them not turn to folly.
 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, 
that his glory may dwell in our land. 

Love and faithfulness meet together; 
righteousness and peace kiss each other. 
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, 
and righteousness looks down from heaven. 
The LORD will indeed give what is good, 
and our land will yield its harvest. 
Righteousness goes before him 
and prepares the way for his steps. 
(Psalms 85:1-2, 8-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The desert and the parched land will be glad; 
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; 
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. 
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, 
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; 
they will see the glory of the LORD, 
the splendor of our God. 

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened 
and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 
Then will the lame leap like a deer, 
and the mute tongue shout for joy. 
Water will gush forth in the wilderness 
and streams in the desert. 

And a highway will be there; 
it will be called the Way of Holiness; 
it will be for those who walk on that Way. 
They will enter Zion with singing; 
everlasting joy will crown their heads. 
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
 and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
(Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-6, 8A, 10B)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. I linger over them, giving them my full attention (hopefully). As I look for potential questions for God, I pray my life to Him, enjoying and resting in His presence.

Father, I see, this morning, that more than once I have read the promise that “sorrow and sighing” will “flee away.” While I don’t feel especially sorrowful, this morning, nevertheless, these words bring me great comfort. It seems that there is always something to “sigh” about, in this life, and the promise that You are with us, with me, through all things, brings great comfort. To know that, one day, the response of sighing over things will no longer be necessary or even desires, is very sustaining. We seem to have had much to sigh about in the past couple of years.

But the truth remains that, in Your kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place to be. The truth also remains that, in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine. I take note of the fact that You never promise us that we will not pass through the waters; You do not promise us that we will not walk through the fire. You do promise Your presence and that, when we do walk through the fire, we will not be burned. You also promise us that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from Your love.

I will listen to what You say, Father. You promise peace to us, Your faithful servants. Your salvation is near to those of us who fear You, and You will give what is good. However, let us also be aware that not everything we desire is, in fact, “good.”

May we walk in that way of holiness, that we may enter Zion with singing, that gladness and joy may overtake us, and sorrow and sighing flee away. May all this come about through Your Son and by Your Spirit.

"Incarnate Lord,
why do we easily consider our bodies as shameful or something to get beyond,
when You're quite fond of them?
Forgive us for trying to be more spiritual than You are by denying our human earthiness.
Overtake us with joy that You have come physically to this world,
taking a face and sharing our flesh,
for truly begin our Immanuel,
'God with us.'
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed be the Lord, 
the God of Israel; 
he came and set his people free.
(Luke 1:68 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

By His Wounds

Good morning to you! Today is Thursday, the eleventh of November, 2021.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,254

Tomorrow is C’s birthday! At this point, there are no special plans for the day, but I may come up with some kind of surprise before today is over. S and I have a small gift to give her tomorrow, but her big present is the trip to Indiana, next week, to see R & J. The second big present is hanging from the ceiling in the garage, the new opener. I have to work all day tomorrow, but maybe we will do something different for dinner tomorrow night, rather than our usual pizza. But if she wants to do the pizza, that’s what we will do. This is also my week to work Saturday, so perhaps we will do something Sunday for lunch.

Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. We are certainly grateful for all people who have served in the military in any capacity. This day is to honor those who are still with us, as opposed to Memorial Day, which is to honor those who are no longer with us. So if you are a military veteran, and you happen to read this, know that you are appreciated here.

I had a good day at the library, yesterday. It was mostly quiet, with a few flurries of activity. It looks like I will be working with the same group of people on Saturday, in the circulation department, which is fine. The three of us who worked yesterday make a pretty good team.

We all got a bonus, yesterday, from the City of Hurst. It was a surprise to me, in a couple of ways. I was expecting a bonus, because we were told about it at the “Hurst Way Conference,” back a couple weeks ago. One surprise was how early we got it. Everyone at the library (and the Community Services Department, which shares the building), said that they usually don’t get the bonus until after Thanksgiving. The other surprise was that there was a 1% of salary included with the bonus, which I did not think part times were supposed to get. Bonus bonus!! Hahaha! The longer I work at the Hurst Public Library, the more impressed I am with the culture of the city.

I’m currently reading two books (I don’t recommend that, necessarily, but it gives me flexibility, as one is a real book and the other is on Kindle, which I can read more easily in bed). The real book is The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. I am learning some really valuable history about spirituality, from ancient times to the present. The other book is fiction, part of the Nursery Rhyme Murder collection. It is Humpty Dumpty, by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin.

I want to recommend a news podcast/newsletter to anyone who might be interested. It is Axios, and you can look at it or subscribe through this link. I listen to a daily morning podcast called “Axios Today,” and also get a few newsletters via email.

Pardon me a moment, while I engage in kitten cuddles.

The nature of what follows makes it seem ridiculous to share trivia in today’s blog.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He who has an ear,
Let him hear what the spirit
Says to the churches.
(Revelation)

the voice of mirth
and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom
and the voice of the bride,
the voices of those who sing,
as they bring thank offerings
to the house of the LORD:
“‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
for the LORD is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first,
says the LORD.
(Jeremiah 33:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your steadfast love, which endures forever
2. for Siamese kittens (especially Cleopatra)
3. for the Light of Christ, which dispels the darkness within me
4. that by Your wounds, I am made whole
5. that You were pierced for my transgressions; crushed for my iniquities
6. that You are faithful and will surely bring to completion what You have started

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Come to me,
all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 GNB)

Come to me, all you
Tired and weary from burdens;
I will give you rest.

As I pause, during this quiet moment (and watch the aforementioned Siamese kitten bat at the cursor on my computer screen), I am grateful for the little things in life, the little comforts and pleasures that are far from necessary, but add such value to my life. I am grateful, Father, so grateful.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
(Psalms 127:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or thoughts that stirred within me. I linger over them, giving them my full attention. Do I find something that I wish to ask the Lord about? I pray my life to God, in meditation and contemplation. I spend time resting in God’s presence.

The song of ascents that is featured today is attributed to Solomon. Is it ironic that it includes the repetition of the word “vain,” especially if we think that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes? (I’m still on the fence about that, myself, but it can be argued, and I’m certainly not an expert.)

What is interesting is that this song seems to include two completely unrelated topics. In fact, the second half (last three verses) of the psalm look like something straight out of Proverbs.

Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the word “vain” in the song. If God is not in it, whatever you do is vanity. You can work your fingers to the bone, and if God isn’t in it, all you’re gonna get is, well, boney fingers. You can stay up late and get up early, and if the Lord is not involved, all you’re going to get is tired. And the end of verse 2 even implies that all of that extra labor is useless anyway, because God grants sleep to those He loves.

I find an interesting translational difference, as well. While the NIV says “toiling for food to eat” in verse 2, the ESV says, “eating the bread of anxious toil.” KJV says, “to eat the bread of sorrows,” and the NLT says, “anxiously working for food to eat.” It seems to me (again, no expert in Hebrew) that the NIV leaves something to be desired, here, as it doesn’t include the concept of anxious or sorrow. There is something deeply sad about the other translations.

The point to me is that it is vain to work anxiously for food, bread, to eat. And the key word in that is “anxious.” It is not vain to work to provide for the family. Not at all. That is our ordained lot. Even Adam and Eve had to do some measure of “work” in the garden. It only became “anxious” and “sorrowful” after the Fall.

If we consider this psalm, together with Isaiah 53, I think we gain insight. I also have to wonder about the chapter division, at this point. It seems like the first six verses of 53 continue the thought presented at the end of 52. Let’s consider them together.

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-6 NIV)

Right off the bat, this clears up who the “he” is in Isaiah 53. Sure, we assume, if we read it without the end of chapter 52, that it is talking about Jesus. But if we do read it in context, with 52, it is much clearer. There is always a danger when we don’t read Scripture in context. And it is good to remember that the chapter and verse divisions are not “inspired,” per se. The chapter divisions were not added until the early thirteenth century. The verses were not even added until much later, 100-300 years, depending on Old or New Testament.

So, I’m considering a total of nine verses, here, rather than just the six originally called for by the devotional book. The point of Isaiah 53:1, I believe, is that the questions are outlandish. Who could believe this?? That the “powerful arm of God” could be revealed in such a way as this?? This person described displays anything but power! “disfigured beyond that of any human being;” “his form marred beyond human likeness.” The sight of Jesus being crucified was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.

And it did not appear to be at all kingly or majestic. I’ve read detailed descriptions of what happened to Jesus between the time He was arrested in Gethsemane and the time He was removed from the Cross. I haven’t seen Mel Gibson’s passion movie, so I can’t say for sure, but based on pictures from the film, he may have gotten it pretty close. It would make modern “slasher” films look tame.

Yes, He was disfigured beyond recognition, to the point that He did not even resemble a man. As it says in 53:1, who would believe this??

And even before the horrific punishment was meted out upon Him, He apparently wasn’t much to look at. The traditional artists’ rendering of Jesus seem to be quite inaccurate. For one thing, most of them paint Him as a white man. But they also make Him quite lovely and attractive. Almost angelic, right?

But Isaiah says that “He had no beauty of majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

“Who has believed our report??”

But verse 5 holds the key. Actually beginning in verse 4. “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering.”

"He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was on Him,
and by His wounds
we
are
healed."

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

It’s difficult to express where my mind is going, right now. This “report,” as it is called by Isaiah, is outlandish; it is preposterous. The Creator of the universe is revealing His powerful arm in this?? In a mangled man, pierced, crushed, punished for our transgressions??

Father, I cannot cease to be amazed at this. I cannot express the depth of wonder at what was done here. I bow my head in shame (guilt?) as I consider what my Savior did on our behalf, and, by comparison, what little regard I have had for it, throughout my life. Oh, sure, I have sung the hymns and prayed the prayers, and I have given thanks and all that. But there is much in my life that would contradict what I say I believe. Or at least, historically, there is. I’m looking back on things that You claim You don’t remember. Lucky for me, eh? I’m not being sarcastic, here. I’m not taking this lightly. Truly, Your Word tells us, in many places, that You will remember our sins no more. They have been cleansed by the work of this suffering servant. They are part of the iniquities and transgressions for which Christ was pierced and crushed. Father, this prayer might ramble a bit . . . I’m sorry.

I praise You for what I’m reading in these two chapters from Isaiah. I praise You for this unbelievable report! That You chose to reveal Your “powerful” arm in this way. I cannot bear the thought of what Jesus endured for us. Perhaps that is why it is not given in such brutal detail in the Gospels. We get just enough information. It is our own historians and theologians who have “blessed” us with the gruesome details of Jesus’s walk to the Cross. So, rather than focus on my past, because You say You don’t remember it, I will look forward to the future, where You already are, as well. I will focus on the part that says that I am made whole by the wounds experienced by my Savior. Some translations say “healed,” and that’s great, but some people want to make that all about physical healing. It is so much deeper than that. Physical healing is wonderful, but, unless You build the house, it is in vain. Physical healing means nothing if I am not made whole in Spirit. And You have made me whole.

I praise You Father! All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit. Let this house be built by You, and let the labor not be in vain. You grant rest to those who love You and worship You. You grant peace to us who follow You; peace that passes all understanding; peace that flies in the face of what is going on in the world, today. Peace that tells me that this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.

I pray, Father, for a constant yearning to know You more, and the diligence and discipline to seek You. May all Your saints know and experience, daily, the joy of Your salvation. And I pray for any family members or friends who have not experienced this joy.

"Suffering Savior,
throughout Your whole life you tasted loneliness and rejection,
grief and pain;
like us You knew the suffering of this world.
But You knew another suffering far beyond any link to my pain and tears.
You suffered the wrath of God against the sin of the world;
You took on my punishment so I might go free.
I worship You,
my crucified Lord.
Amen."
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts

BLESSING

Show me how much you love me, LORD,
and save me according to your promise.
(Psalms 119:41 GNB)

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:45 ESV)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
(John 15:13 ESV)

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 ESV)

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV)

Father, may we, Your people embrace these truths, that You, in the form of that Suffering Servant, came not to be serve, but to serve, and to give Your life for us. May we express that same love outwardly, and seek not our own good, but that of our fellow human beings. I live this life in the hope and faith that You, who began this “good work” will bring it to completion; You are faithful; You will surely do it.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Morning and Evening

Today is Saturday, the second of October, 2021

May the peace of God reign in your life today!

Day 23,214

Ten more days until our 36th anniversary!

I woke up early, for some reason, this morning, between 5:30 and 6:00. I did go to bed a little earlier, last night, than I have during the rest of the week. I was tired and sleepy, so I turned off my game and went to bed.

The library was rather slow, yesterday, which is not surprising. However, the computer center was occupied by a few people for most of the day. At one point, I think there were as many as five patrons in there at once. I gave assistance to several patrons who needed help printing things, but the majority of them already knew what they were doing and didn’t need my help. Over all, it was a nice, peaceful day. I also helped out circulation by covering a lunch break at noon, as they only had two people for the first half of the day. I think the other new part timer, the guy who started at the same time as I, worked four hours, because he was there at closing time.

Today, I work 9:30-6:15 in circulation. The whole time won’t be at the desk though. I like how they do that. Each employee gets at least one hour away from the front desk in a full day shift, either processing on-shelf holds for patrons, or clearing out the automatic book drops. If there is nothing else to do, we also process “deaccessions,” books that are being removed from the library and given to the Friends of the Library for book sales.

After today, I don’t work again until next Tuesday.

I have a grocery pickup order at Kroger, today, scheduled to be picked up right after work, and then a small order being delivered from Albertson’s, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A new day awaits,
Drawing strength from the Spirit;
Opportunity

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
(Psalms 91:14-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that because of Your great grace and mercy, I know Your Name
2. that You have satisfied me with long life
3. that You have given me the gift of song, that I might sing Your praises, morning and evening
4. that You give us the ability to love our enemies
5. that my sins have been removed from me, as far as the east is from the west, from vanishing point to vanishing point

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK NINETEEN – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing to the glory of his name! Offer glory and praise!
(Psalms 66:1-2 WEB)

During this quiet moment, I rest in Your peace, confident of Your presence in my life, many times, in spite of myself. Thank you, Father!

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.

It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!
(Psalms 92:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites.
(2 Samuel 1:1A NIV)

David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):
“A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!”
(2 Samuel 1:17-19 NIV)

Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

“Daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

“How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.

“How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”
(2 Samuel 1:23-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages over, meditating on the words and the meanings (as the Spirit leads me). I seek only God and His wisdom, more than HIs blessing. I just want to know Him and His presence.

I’m moved by the psalm, this morning, moved by the idea of singing praises to the Lord, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Now, obviously, I can’t go cranking up my “lyre” or “harp” while the rest of the house is asleep. So this idea can be modified, of course. For example, C is awake, now. She woke up in the middle of this paragraph. So I could now, very easily, either grab my “lyre” (I would play the guitar), or turn on my “harp” (I’ll substitute my Nord keyboard), and sing a song of praise. In fact, I believe I will do that. I’ll be right back.

I’ll share what I sang with you (not my singing, but the original recording).

So, at the inspiration of God’s Word, I have praised the Lord and made music to His Name, this morning. If the Spirit reminds me (and I listen), I will endeavor to do the same, sometime this evening, after work and dinner. The psalmist even breaks it down to proclaiming God’s love in the morning and His faithfulness at night. However, I do not think it necessary to be legalistic about that.

And for what reason do we sing? Because He has made us glad by His great works! (Verse 4) We sing for joy because of the works of God’s hands. His works are great and His thoughts, far beyond what we could ever think, are vastly profound.

I want to touch briefly on the Old Testament reading, as well. What we see today is David’s lament over the deaths of Saul (yes, Saul) and Jonathan. It is certainly easy to comprehend that David would mourn and lament over the death of the best friend he had ever had (“you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (verse 26).

But here is a lesson for a large portion of “Christendom.” David mourned and lamented the death of . . .

his mortal enemy!

We should all ponder that for a bit.

Saul had repeatedly tried to kill David, for no other reason than sheer jealousy. Yet David consistently honored Saul, and refused to seek vengeance, and even, as discussed, I believe, yesterday, felt guilty over cutting a corner off of Saul’s robe (when he could have easily slain him).

Yet David mourned and lamented his death, saying repeatedly in 2 Samuel 1, “How the mighty have fallen!”

I believe this is a lesson for all of us to consider. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t, as far as I know, have any enemies. But there are certainly people out there that I don’t like very much. Nevertheless, I am called upon, by God, to love them as myself, and if they are my brother in Christ, I am commanded to love them as Christ has loved me. If I should dare be glad when something “bad” happens to them, I deserve the worst of hells.

Father, I praise You for the works of Your hands, for the depths of Your love to me, and the profundity of Your thoughts. I am constantly amazed at the idea that I might be included in those thoughts. What am I that You are mindful of me?? This is not false humility, Father, a contrivance to get You to be kind to me. It is the way my heart feels. You are the Creator of all I see around me, the origins of the entire universe. I cannot even fathom Your existence in eternity past and eternity future, because my feeble brain is captured in time. But You are. Before the foundations of the earth, You are, and after everything we know ceases to exist, You are! I thank You for Your love to me and mine. I thank You for Your love to my “enemies.” Help me to love them as my neighbor, as myself. And please, Father, by Your Spirit, enable me to love all the saints as Christ has loved me, with total abandon to my own welfare.

God, You are good, You’re so good to me! And You are truly worthy; You are the only One worthy of my praise and worship. Lead me to worship You more and more, Lord, in the morning and in the night, and throughout the day, as well.

Father, I pray that You would give Your Church a deep understanding of her mission. Give us “kingdom vision, godly stewardship, and effective organization.” I lift up all church staff members, this morning. May You fill them with Your Spirit and lift them up to do the work that You have given them to do.

"God of life,
it's tempting to avoid facing death and experiencing grief because it seems so dark and bottomless.
Because Christ faced death and defeated it,
help me to face this last enemy courageously and honestly,
with sorrowful tears and sure faith,
because I know I belong,
in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior,
Jesus Christ."

BLESSING

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5 WEB)

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
(Hebrews 1:3A NIV)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:6-7 NIV)

These are some very important words. The writer of Hebrews wanted his readers to understand the significance of Jesus, in regard to God. The Son, Jesus, is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”

In Jesus’s own words, He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. He is the only way to the Father. And if we know Him, we know the Father.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!
(Psalms 113:3 ESV)

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
(Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT)

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
(1 John 1:9 NLT)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Wonderful, Mighty;
To us a Son is given;
Everlasting, Prince of Peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Forgiveness

Today is Friday, the twentieth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,171

Seventeen days until Labor Day, the next official holiday in the U.S.

The birthday celebrations have taken a bit of a bittersweet turn. The first thing that is causing this is that our dog, Tessie, is not doing well. Over the course of the past week or so, she has developed a condition in her hind legs that is giving her tremendous struggle in walking. It seems like it hurts her, but we are not sure. She hasn’t eaten consistently and, when she has eaten, she has some pretty gross diarrhea. So we aren’t sure what’s in the future for her.

The other thing has to do with our church. There seems to have developed a rift in our fellowship over some opinions that were shared last Sunday, concerning the vaccine and some who have elected to not receive it. That’s all I’m going to say about it, as the situation seems to be being resolved.

In the meantime, we are considering going to the zoo, later today. S has said that she would like to do that, and we haven’t been there in quite some time.

Today is World Mosquito Day. Why on earth would we have a day that celebrates mosquitos?? They answer that question in the link, should you care to read it.

The word for today is mickle. This is an archaic word that means, “great; large; much.”

Today’s quote, from Oscar Wilde, is, “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”

And now for today’s birthdays, right after I get back with another cup of coffee:

1561 Jacopo Peri, Italian composer and singer who wrote the 1st recognized opera "Dafne", born in Rome (d. 1633)
1833 Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States (Republican: 1889-93), born in North Bend, Ohio (d. 1901)
1890 H. P. Lovecraft, American horror writer (At the Mountains of Madness, Weird Tales), born in Providence, Rhode Island (d. 1937)
1905 Jack Teagarden [Weldon Leo Teagarden], American trombonist and actor (Meet Band Leaders), born in Vernon, Texas (d. 1964)
1907 Alan Reed, American actor (Breakfast at Tiffany's) and voice artist (Fred Flintstone, Lady and the Tramp), born in NYC, New York (d. 1977)
1918 Jacqueline Susann, American author (Valley of the Dolls), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 1974)

1923 Jim Reeves, American country singer and actor (Gun Fury, Kimberley Jim), born in Panola County, Texas (d. 1964)
1926 Frank Rosolino, American jazz trombonist (The Frank Rosolino Sextet), born in Detroit, Michigan (d. 1978)
1931 Don King, American boxing promoter best known for his association with Mike Tyson and for his unusual hairstyles, born in Cleveland, Ohio
1932 Anthony Ainley, British actor (Doctor Who), born in Stanmore, Middlesex (d. 2004)
1935 Ron Paul, American author and politician (3 times presidential candidate, 1988, 2008, 12), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1942 Isaac Hayes, American musician and composer (Shaft), born in Covington, Tennessee (d. 2008)
1943 Sylvester McCoy, Scottish actor (Seventh Doctor in Doctor Who), born in Dunoon
1944 Graig Nettles, American MLB 3rd baseman (NY Yankees, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians), born in San Diego, California
1946 Connie Chung [Constance Yu-Hwa Chung Povich], American news anchor (NBC, CBS), born in Washington, D.C.
1946 Ralf Hütter, German musician (Kraftwerk), born in Krefeld, Germany
1947 James Pankow, American trombonist, arranger and composer (Chicago - "Make Me Smile"; "Colour My World"), born in St. Louis, Missouri
1948 Robert Plant, English rock vocalist (Led Zeppelin), born in West Bromwich, England
1949 Phil Lynott, Irish rock singer and bass player (Thin Lizzy - "The Boys Are Back In Town"), born in West Bromwich, England. (d. 1986)
1951 Greg Bear, American sci-fi author (2 Hugos, Eon, Eternity), born in San Diego, California
1952 John Hiatt, American singer and songwriter (Have a Little Faith in Me), born in Indianapolis, Indiana
1952 Rudy Gatlin, American country singer (Gatlin Bros-Broken Lady), born in Olney, Texas
1952 Doug Fieger, American singer–songwriter (The Knack - "My Sharona"), born in Oak Park, Michigan (d. 2010)
1954 Al Roker, American weatherman (NBC, Today), born in Queens, New York
1956 Joan Allen, American actress (Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker, In Country), born in Rochelle, Illinois
1956 Rick Olsen, American rock guitarist (Berlin-Take My Breath Away)
1962 James Marsters, American actor (Spike-Buffy the Vampire Slayer), born in Greenville, California
1966 "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, American heavy metal guitarist (Pantera), born in Arlington, Texas (d. 2004)
1970 Fred Durst, American singer (Limp Bizkit), born in Gastonia, North Carolina
1971 Brad Avery, American musician (former guitarist for Third Day)
1974 Amy Adams, American actress and singer (Arrival, Man of Steel, American Hustle), born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
1979 Jamie Cullum, English singer-songwriter, pianist and radio presenter, born in Rochford, England
1992 Demi Lovato, American actress (Camp Rock) and singer/songwriter (Unbroken), born in Albuquerque, New Mexico
James Pankow, trombone player, is the writer of this suite of songs
James Marsters

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.
As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory.
(Psalms 48:9-10 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your steadfast, unfailing love
2. for the victory of Your strong right hand
3. for forgiveness, which is central in Your model prayer for us, and central to our very existence
4. for Your great and might acts, both in history and in our lives
5. for loving us, in spite of ourselves

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK THIRTEEN – DAY SIX

We will celebrate and praise you, LORD! You are good to us, and your love never fails.
(Psalms 106:1 CEV)

I pause for a moment to reflect on Your unfailing love, so grateful that Your love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of Asaph.

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.
(Psalms 50:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
(Exodus 14:26-31 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my meditations and prayers.

The visual of Psalm 50:2 is beautiful to me. God shines forth from Zion, perfect in beauty.

When we read things like Psalm 50, it is easy to allow our misconceptions about God come through. I’ve written before about the dangers of thinking about God in terms of “us vs them.” We get this cockamamie idea in our brains that God is “on our side,” and then we read things like: “Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.”

We then read our preconceived incorrect thoughts about God into those verses and get all self-confident in our “causes” and believe that God is going to come down and wipe out all of “them,” whom we foolishly believe to be the sole source of all the evil in the world.

But here’s the thing. When God does come and send devouring fire before Him and His raging tempest, it’s not going to be pretty or pleasant. And many, if not most, of us are going to be surprised at the results.

I’ve said it before, and I will, no doubt, say it again.

God is on God’s side. And we need to (all of us) do a much better job of making sure that we are on His side.

When Pharaoh chased Israel into the middle of the Red Sea, God came, with a raging tempest. He instructed Moses to stretch his hand back out over the sea so that the walls of water would crash back down, engulfing the Egyptians. “Not one of them survived.”

The words of Moses turned out to be true. “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”

What is sad is that what is stated in verse 31, “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant,” didn’t stick. It lasted only a few chapters, in fact.

So fast-forward a few thousand years. If the fickle human beings that saw, first hand, the miracles of the Lord, couldn’t be faithful to Him and His Word for more than a few days or weeks, how do we expect to do better?

The beauty of all of this is that He knows it. Nothing that we do surprises Him. He knows everything that there is to know about us, and, because He is outside of time, He already knows everything we are going to do before we do it. Therefore, I think it is even safe to say that He isn’t even “disappointed” in us, not the way we tend to get disappointed in one another.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
(Psalms 103:14 NLT)

And, in the words of a great Easter song that used to love to sing, “But still He loved me . . .”

Let’s go back to that one prayer that we have. You know the one . . . we usually call it “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Is it a coincidence that “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” is pretty much right smack in the middle of that prayer? I’d like to think not. I’m not much of a believer in coincidences.

Now, let’s go back up to that bit at the top about some church issues. While I’ve been typing this blog (which has taken most of the morning), people have been talking. There have been multiple conversations, both in texting and verbally. It looks like things are working out, which is good, because we believe that this church is worth preserving. I don’t think any of us simply want to walk away. Forgiveness is central. It is the center of this prayer, and it is the center of our lives.

Honestly, we can’t survive without it.

Father, thank You. Thank You for forgiving us for our sins. Thank You for loving us, when we get so unlovable. Thank You for being faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to You. Thank You that “Your love never fails, it never gives up; it never runs out.” And thank You for giving us the ability to forgive one another. Help us to be stronger, though, and to not be so easily offended. Help us to be stronger for one another; help us to love one another and carry one another’s burdens. Also, help us to reach out when there are misunderstandings, rather than jerking our knees.

Please give us the Christlike ability to deny ourselves and serve others. Give us the commitment to do justice and show mercy. And please show mercy to those who are imprisoned, and give grace to those who minister to them.

"Strong and mighty God,
retrieve holy fear for you from the depths of fright and anxiety.
Make me deeply intimate with your awesome presence and mightily aware of your costly mercy.
Mingle in my heart a holy fusion of reverence,
love,
awe,
and trust,
freeing me to lovingly,
willingly yield my all to you.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.
(Psalms 16:11 CEV)

Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.
(Proverbs 20:30 GNB)

The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.
(Psalms 118:22-23 NLT)

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30 NLT)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

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.

Fuhgeddaboudit

Today is Sunday, the twenty-fifth of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,145

Twenty-five days until S’s birthday. And she still hasn’t given us her birthday list. Hint, hint.

We had a wonderful visit with R & J, yesterday, and got to ride in their new car. Actually, C and I both got a chance to drive it. We had lunch at our old standby, Hoffbrau. This time, I tried their grilled salmon, which was good. The best part was the roasted corn on the cob. I even ate the steamed spinach.

I’m going to give Mama a moment to process that.

As I stated, yesterday, we aren’t having church, this morning. C and I may run up to a local weekend farmer’s market and see what they have. I’ve got a few things ordered to be delivered from Albertson’s between 10 and 11, things that I forgot yesterday, so we may run up to that market after those get delivered, before going to Applebee’s for our traditional Sunday lunch.

I decided, yesterday, to go ahead and complete the job application for the Watauga Library assistant job. It’s part time (don’t know how many hours) at $12.40 an hour, and is literally five minutes from my house. Since the bus driving gig seems to be delayed for a bit, I’ll see what comes from this one. If they show any interest, I may move on that one, instead. If they don’t, I’ll just keep looking.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing.
(Psalms 37:25-26 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this day of rest;
2. that You are trustworthy and faithful in all that You do;
3. that You guide me in Your truth and teach me, so that I have put my trust in You;
4. that no one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame (Psalm 25);
5. for the joy that comes from knowing that You have forgotten my sins forever.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TEN – DAY ONE

INVITATION

The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.
(Psalms 145:13b NIV)

I pause for a moment of silent meditation, considering Your faithfulness and trustworthiness in all that You do.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.

I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good.
(Psalms 25:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
(Genesis 12:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

Holy Spirit, as I read these passages again, please direct my thoughts, my meditations, and my prayers into Your will. Teach me Your ways; guide me in Your truth.

The psalm is a great one, focusing on trust. The psalmist makes a simple declaration, “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” Then he repeats it in verse 2, “I trust in you.”

He believes, according to verse 3, that “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” I, too, believe this. It is something that I consistently rest in. While there have been times in my life where I have been ashamed, those times were caused by me NOT, temporarily, putting my hope and trust in the Lord.

I love the requests in the remainder of today’s passage:

Show me Your ways
Teach me Your paths
Guide me in Your truth and teach me
Remember Your great mercy and love
Do not remember the sins of my youth, but remember me according to Your love

Because why?

Because, “you, LORD, are good.”

And has He not already promised us that He will not remember our sins? This is one of those truths about God that has astounded me for decades. You just try and forget something. Go ahead. Try.

I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but never on purpose. The harder you try to forget something, the harder you remember it. It’s like trying to not think about a purple elephant.

See? You’re thinking about purple elephants.

But God (I love those two words) repeatedly says, in His Word, that He will forget our sins. It’s not always worded exactly like that, but that’s what it means. Here are some verses to back this up.

“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
(Hebrews 8:12 NLT)

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
(Psalms 103:11-12 NLT)

“But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help. You have grown tired of me, O Israel! You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings. You have not honored me with sacrifices, though I have not burdened and wearied you with requests for grain offerings and frankincense. You have not brought me fragrant calamus or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your faults.
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
(Isaiah 43:22-25 NLT)

Those are just a few. There are others. The point is that God willfully, intentionally forgets our sins. He will not remember them. That is His promise, and, as stated above in a different psalm, He is trustworthy in all He promises.

The only thing I’m going to say about the passage from Genesis involves one little phrase in verse 4. “And Lot went with him.”

It’s a thing that we all suffer from. We hear God’s Word and we obey . . . sort of. Abraham’s obedience was slightly tainted by him taking his nephew along for the ride. The consequences of that little slip were tremendous. Abraham would never have been involved in the whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing if he had left his nephew at home. There would be no pillar of salt standing in the desert.

But it is also important to note that Abraham still wound up where God wanted him. He just had a slight detour.

Father, I praise You that You have the ability to forget our sins. I trust in that. I can’t forget them, and I know that I frequently bring them up, or perhaps it is my enemy that brings them up in my mind, trying to make me feel shame. But Your Word says that if we hope in You, there is no shame. I am getting better at throwing that back in my enemy’s face, too. I may not be able to forget my sins, but I can rest in the confidence that You can and You have, and that my past has been rewritten by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank You, O my Father!

I also praise You that, even when our obedience is incomplete, You can still manage to get us to where You want us to be, just like Abraham.

Lord, please give us increased fellowship with the risen Christ in our lives. Give Your people spiritual renewal and refreshment.

"God of Abraham,
in your call is a claim--
that I am yours.
Thank you for the grace that has found me and makes me willing and ready,
with my whole heart,
to live for you,
to go where you send,
to follow where you lead.
As you have blessed me,
make me a blessing.
In the name of the One to whom I belong,
amen."

BLESSING

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven.
(Philippians 3:20 NIV)

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
(John 14:2-3 NLT)

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NLT)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
(Revelation 21:1-4 NLT)

I’m just sitting down here waiting for Home . . .

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Calmed

Today is Thursday, the tenth of June, 2021

Peace be with you! Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,100

Ten days until Father’s Day

We had a cool thing happen, yesterday evening. I got home from work to an empty porch. In context, that’s not a good thing, because I had a notification that an Amazon package had been delivered. S had not brought it in, she said. She didn’t know one was out there to be brought in (which, in fact, it was not). Not too long after C got home, a few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Thinking it was the second package that was due to be delivered, C went to the door.

She actually let out a startled yell when, unexpectedly, a man was standing at the door holding a package. Turns out, the first package had been delivered to the house behind us, same house number, different street. How very kind of him to bring it to us! The sad thing was that, on this occasion, I could find no way to leave feedback on the mis-delivery. At least we got the package. That’s what really counts.

The other one arrived a while later, found safely on the porch.

Here’s to good neighbors.

My health metric numbers continue to be encouraging, although my blood sugar was a bit low, this morning, at 76. BP was good at 105/67, and my weight was exactly the same as yesterday, which is just about a pound heavier than Saturday, which is normal for me. My weight fluctuates, normally, to be anywhere from one to three pounds heavier, mid-week, than it was on the weekend. I don’t get it, I never have, but I have come to accept it. If I graphed it, it would make a perfect bell curve. So my body seems to be acclimating to the med changes made a couple weeks ago.

Did I mention that my work is having an ice cream truck stop by this afternoon? I believe I will stay inside. Heh.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
(Psalms 27:6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for good neighbors
2. for singing and making melody to the Lord
3. that I have two jobs--love God and love people
4. that my opinions do not figure into those jobs
5. that there is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to meditate on the goodness of God, praying for unity among His people.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 131:1-3 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
(Romans 8:1 NIV)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:12-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit here, I become aware of God’s presence. It’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is simply think about it. It’s not like you’re “conjuring” God’s presence. It is always there. But by thinking about it, you become aware of it.

Being aware of His presence, now, I read these passages again, asking Him to point me toward words or phrases that speak directly to me.

I am immediately drawn to the word “calm” in Psalm 131. I have been feeling more calm, this week, thanks to my meditations and the Holy Spirit. The psalmist says, “I have calmed and quieted myself.” He does not concern himself with great matters, he says. I am getting more and more like that, these days.

In a recent interview, Amy Grant said that her basic life principle (I’m paraphrasing greatly, here) was that she had two jobs and one prayer. The two jobs, biblically, are to love God and love people. The prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, which centers around forgiveness.

Once, when someone was pressing her for an opinion regarding gay people, her response was that her opinions were not part of her job description for those two jobs.

What a brilliant answer! And I agree 100%. God doesn’t want or need my opinions, which makes them irrelevant in most cases. My opinion on what I want for dinner tonight is more relevant than my opinions about politics. God wants me to love Him with my whole being, and to love my neighbor as myself. I would add to that Jesus’s “new command” to love my brothers and sisters as He has loved us. My opinions about controversial issues do not it anywhere in those two jobs.

This philosophy/attitude creates a great calmness in my soul, just as the psalmist has experienced.

But the really great news is that, even if you are one who angrily expresses your opinions on social media, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation,” if you are in Christ Jesus.

If you can read that verse without getting some kind of emotion going, maybe you’re not “in Christ Jesus.” That verse contains the heart of the Gospel, and maybe the best news in the whole Bible.

It goes back to what Jesus did and what that accomplished. What He did was die on the cross, and then rise from the dead. What it accomplished was to erase my sin for all eternity. That’s why there is no condemnation for me.

Ever. Even for the sins I have yet to do. Because I will.

My obligation, then, is to live by the Spirit. And what does that look like?

Go back up there and read the two job descriptions.

Father, my praise is not enough. My “hallelujahs” are not enough. They are all I have, along with the life that I can live in Your honor. But they will never be enough. And they don’t have to be “enough” because You do not expect repayment. All You expect is for me to love You and love people. You have been giving me more of that mindset, recently, and it is wonderful. The peace and calm in which I have been walking, lately, is marvelous. I pray that You continue holding me in such a way as to prevent the enemy from working into my psyche, to create disharmony and unrest. Let me be a servant to You and to people, as I walk through this world. May my overflowing cup splash out onto all around me, displaying the wonders of Your love, mercy, and grace.

Thank you,
almighty God,
that we are free in Christ Jesus--
free from the pointing finger of condemnation,
from the curse of the law,
the bullying of sin,
the sting of death,
free from fear.
But more than that--
freed to love you,
to willingly yield our lives to you,
to know you,
and to cry from our hearts,
"Abba, Father."
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 20)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?
(Job 38:25-27 NIV)

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.'”
(Job 42:2-4 NIV)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
(2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

Just some reminders that “bad” things always manage to work out for our good.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
(Romans 8:28 NLT)

I praise You, Lord, that You do work all things out for our good. As You work Your plan, we are the beneficiaries of Your steadfast love, mercy, and grace. May we walk calmly in that truth, today, love You and loving the people around us.

Lord, give us a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Christ, especially that bit about no condemnation. I pray that we might experience the fullness of our adoption as Your children, as we anticipate our eternal reward. Give us glimpses of Home! May we all have vibrant prayer lives, as we care for one another as we should.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends!