Dive

Today is Thursday, the twenty-third of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,478

I’m feeling much better, this morning, than I did yesterday morning. I was in a bit of a fog all day, yesterday, mostly because I simply woke up too early. For inexplicable reasons, I was awake at roughly 4:30, yesterday morning, which gave me just over five total hours of sleep. Fortunately, the lack of sleep didn’t make me grumpy (there is always that risk, with me), and I got through the day just fine. But I was in bed by 10:00 last night, and slept until about 6:30, this morning.

We watched an old movie that I ran across at the library Tuesday night. Cat Ballou, from 1965, a sort of western musical comedy, featuring Jane Fonda (very young) and Lee Marvin. It also featured Nat King Cole as half of the singing, guitar/banjo-playing (sort of) duo that sang “The Ballad of Cat Ballou” throughout the movie. The songs weren’t very good, but the movie was funny and entertaining. Lee Marvin actually played two parts in the movie. It also had Dwayne Hickman (well-known as Dobie Gillis), and Michael Callan, a rather well-known character actor who has had parts in many shows, over the years. Over all, it was just a fun movie. The reason I had checked it out was because I had memories of liking it when I was a young boy.

The Texas Rangers, after beating the Phillies 7-0 Tuesday night, beat them again, yesterday afternoon, 4-2. This means that they swept the entire series with the Phillies, for the season, two two-game sets. The Rangers are 33-35, back within two games of .500. They are back in second place in the AL West, ten games out of first, and four out of the Wild Card spots. They are off again, today, and start a weekend series against the Nationals tomorrow, in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox swept the Tigers, beating them 6-2, last night. They are 39-31 for the season, and in third place in the AL East, only a half game behind the Blue Jays. They have slowly worked their way up the ladder, this season. They are currently in the second of three Wild Card spots. First is Toronto, and third is Minnesota. The Sox are also off today, and begin a series tomorrow night in Cleveland against the now first-place Guardians.

The Yankees continue to be the best in MLB (51-18). Am I the only one hoping for a post-All-Star-game-collapse? The Athletics continue to be the worst (23-47). The Red Sox own the current longest win streak, at four games. The Cincinnati Reds are still on that losing streak, and have now lost six consecutive games. The Yankees still have the best run differential, at +145, and the Nationals have the worst, at -113. The Rangers, after that two-game series with Philly, are at +5, and the Red Sox are at +55.

This weekend should be fun. C and I have tickets to see a touring production of Oklahoma! at Bass Hall Sunday afternoon. I’m really looking forward to seeing that. Oklahoma! is one of my favorite Broadway musicals, and, from what I have been hearing, the set for this production is updated, somewhat, and more “minimal” than previous productions. However, they claim to have kept the words and music the same.

Today being Thursday, I will be working at the library from 11:15-8:15, in the Computer Center.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, grant your peace in our hearts. Grant that we may be your children, allowed to serve you in true peace through the forgiveness of sins. Turn your eyes to the world and its sin, that something new may come for all who are deeply unhappy, groaning under the anguish of their lives. Your mercy is great, your compassion is beyond measure. For Jesus Christ’s sake you will bring into the world the salvation that is promised. You will bring the great day of Jesus Christ the Savior, who has shed his blood for us. He can come to those now in need and misery, bringing his peace and his power into their hearts so that even death turns into life and everything serves your praise and glory, Lord our God and Father in heaven. Bless us and bless our nation. May life from heaven grow in those who understand you and who are to be your people. May your will be done, Lord God, until your kingdom comes in its fullness and all the world may see that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to your glory, O God our Father. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
(Colossians 3:14-15 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love that binds us together; may we fully know that love and may it control all that we do, say, or think
2. for the peace that comes from Christ; may it truly rule our hearts
3. for God's faithful provision in my life
4. for the examples of King David in his dealings with "enemies"
5. for the community of saints, past, present, and future; oh, how we need one another!

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. 

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
(Mark 6:45-56 ESV)
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood." 

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head." But the king said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?'" And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today."
(2 Samuel 16:5-12 ESV)

Father, may we seek more knowledge of this Jesus, our Savior, who walked on water, stilled the stormy seas, and healed people who merely touched the fringes of His garments! May we have the faith to fully believe these things and see such miracles occur in our own world, which has become complacent and unbelieving.

And then, Father, when I read these accounts of David, I am most impressed by his attitude toward his “enemies.” I pray that I might have the same heart as David when it comes to those who might seek to curse me or even kill me. Saul was trying to kill David, and David would not avenge himself, even though he had multiple opportunities. David would not stoop to harming Your anointed, and even felt guilty for cutting off a corner of his robe! And then, David would not allow his people to avenge him against this one who was cursing him and throwing stones at him, because he felt that You might have sent him. Such humility and grace in this man. Help me to be more like him.


Today’s word from Pray a Word a Day is teamwork.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.
(Mark 2:1-4 NLT)

I expanded the selection just a little, as the reading only features verse 3. I have stated, multiple times, in this platform, that our need for one another is crucial, it is essential. We cannot walk this journey alone. Yes, solitude is important; yes, silence is important. But not as permanent features of our lives. We need community, and we need acts of worship and service done in the community of saints. We need to take the Supper together, as the Body of Christ. Accounts such as this one in Mark 2 only scratch the surface of our need for one another.

I’m not sure that “teamwork” is the right word for this, but, for the writer of today’s reading, it does the job. I cringe when he uses a cliche, at the end, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” We aren’t living a “dream.” We are walking in the Kingdom of God, and Jesus, as well as the Father, have made it clear that we should not ever be attempting it alone.

Father, I praise You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, even those with whom I might be somewhat “estranged” for various reasons. Help us to love one another, especially when we find ourselves in disagreement over things. Help us to remember the ways that the apostle Paul described our need for one another in the Body, and how each of us has a purpose to fulfill, even if it’s something as menial as washing dishes in the church kitchen. I pray for unity within this body, and that the current fractures that seem to be caused by political issues will be healed. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cause us to focus on the things that really matter, such as walking in Your Kingdom, loving one another, and making disciples.


When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
(Psalms 94:19 ESV)

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
(Mark 10:13-15 ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
(Psalms 37:25 ESV)

Father, there are so many verses in Your Word that comfort us in our times of anxiety. So many, that we are foolish when we allow ourselves to be anxious about anything. “Be anxious for nothing,” we are told. You care for us, we are told, and we should eagerly cast our anxieties upon You! Our Savior, in Matthew 6, gives us such words of promise and encouragement, telling us how much more valuable we are than sparrows and flowers, which You care for with great love. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” Jesus tells us.

And yet we worry, oh, how we worry. Mostly, as a general rule, we worry about things that probably won’t even happen. We create these imaginary worst-case scenarios, and then convince ourselves (apparently not a difficult thing to do, either) that they are going to certainly happen! How foolish we are, Father. How patient You are, to still be taking care of us, in spite of our obvious lack of faith and trust, for that is what anxiety is, is it not? Anxiety is a lack of faith, period. If I am worrying about something that may or may not happen, I am not trusting in Your great care for me.

(I do understand that there are disorders of anxiety that require some deep professional help. I am not talking about those, here. I’m talking about basic worry about things.)

And, Father, we seem to find ourselves worrying over things that indicate how entitled we are in this country. We worry over what I call “first-world problems,” like when our Internet stops working or we can’t watch the sporting event that we want to watch on TV.

God have mercy on us! When I am tempted to worry and have anxiety about things, I pray that You would remind me of several things. I pray that You would remind me of these words from Your Word, that tell me how much You love and care for me, and how You will not forsake me, and that You are always with me, no matter what. I pray that You would remind me that, somewhere in the world, right this minute, there are people who don’t have clean water to drink, and people who may not have enough food to feed their families today, while I worry about what I’m going to take to work for my “lunch break” today.

And then I pray that You would remind me that the likelihood of most of the things that I worry about even happening is very slim.

I praise You for Your great care for us, Father, and pray that You would increase my faith and help my unbelief. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”


I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, 
who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! 
You have multiplied, O LORD my God, 
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
 none can compare with you!
 I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. 
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, 
but you have given me an open ear. 
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 
Then I said, "Behold, I have come; 
in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
(Psalms 40:1-8 ESV)

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
(Psalms 24:7 ESV)

“We live too much on the surface. All of us do.”

And our culture does everything in its power to make sure we keep doing that. We are “preoccupied with things like making sure the images we see in our mirrors are acceptable, getting across the street without being hit by a car, and keeping food on our tables and gasoline in our cars.”

These sound like things that fit into that bit about worrying and anxiety, up there.

The loudest voices are screaming at us: “Consume! Hurry! Buy! Don’t think! Don’t be quiet! And, above all, don’t pray (except in emergencies).”

How do we strengthen ourselves against such noise? How do we swim against the stream, like salmon in society? “Seasons of prayer and fasting, such as the yearly discipline of Lent, amplify those good murmurs of dissent that do speak against the louder messages.” And, as I occasionally mention, the spiritual disciplines, such as silence and solitude, also help.

But we are afraid of silence. Even in our churches, we seem to be afraid of silence. Most pastors with which I served, as a music minister, always wanted some music playing during the prayers, and other places in the service where silence would have been a pretty good thing. I don’t know why we are so afraid of silence, other than the possibility that we simply don’t know what to do with it. Or maybe we are afraid of our own thoughts, because that is what silence and solitude make room for.

When we practice those disciplines, like silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, we have moments with nothing to do but sit with ourselves. At least that’s how we tend to view them. It’s not true, of course, because we are with God. And, rather than simply being in the presence of our own unpredictable brains, we are in the presence of God and His Holy Spirit, who can direct our thoughts toward holy things.

“Listening, we give our attention to Jesus and dive into the depths, exploring freshly the reality beneath the surface, the wonderfully complex reality of God’s image formed in us, of Christ’s salvation worked out in us.” The quieter voice of dissent begins to be louder than those voices that scream at us. The voice of dissent says, “Deny yourself! Slow down! Live! Think! And, above all, pray.”

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

Oh, my Father, I pray for mercy and aid as we all need to do better at these things. As I type in this daily blog, I try, at times, to be one who joins in the voice of dissent, but I don’t always follow my own advice! I catch myself worrying. I catch myself hurrying. I catch myself not thinking and paying too much attention to the louder voices. And I catch myself failing to pray. Yes, I know, I type several paragraphs of prayers in this blog every day, but that’s never enough.

Remind me, Lord, to continue those prayers after I leave this place. As I drive to work, as I do my various duties at the library, remind me that prayer is not just for emergencies. How sad is it that we meander along in our lives, living on the surface until something major happens, and then we fall on our faces in anguish, pleading for Your help. Prayer is not just for emergencies. We are told to pray without ceasing. Prayer should be like breathing to us; constant and natural, habitual, because if we don’t do it, we will die.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

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

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

Suddenly I could breathe again.

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

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

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

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

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

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

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

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Little Is Much When God Is In It

Today is Wednesday, the eighteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,442

I had a pretty average evening at the library, last night. I had plenty of work, and shelved a pretty full cart of youth books, along with a partial cart of DVDs. That kept me busy for a little over three hours, and then I did my walk through the library, picking up stray books and marking them “used” in our system. We do that simply to indicate that someone at least showed some interest in the item, even if they didn’t wind up checking it out.

The Texas Rangers surprised the Angels in an eighth inning similar to what the Boston Red Sox are kind of famous for. The Rangers scored first in the bottom of the first. But the Angels answered with three in the top of the third. The Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, right after I got home. It was tied until the top of the seventh when the Angels scored on a Mike Trout solo homer. But then, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Rangers erupted for seven runs! They held on and wound up winning 10-5. Danny Santana got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 16-19 for the season, all alone in third place in the AL West. They are one game ahead of Seattle, two games ahead of Oakland, and seven games behind the first place Astros. The Rangers and Angels will play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, facing the fearsome Shohei Ohtani. Dane Dunning will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Red Sox lost to the aforementioned Astros, 13-4. Egad. They are 14-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Orioles. They have another game against the ‘stros, tonight at 6:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees still have the best MLB record, 27-9, and still have not lost that tenth game. The Cincinatti Reds still have the worst record, 10-26, but finally won their tenth game. They are only one game below the Washington Nationals, though. The longest win streak is now a tie between the LA Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, both with a four-game win streak. The Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks are tied for the longest losing streak, both at five games. The Dodgers are back on top of the run differential chart, with +81. The Pittsburgh Pirates overtook the Reds for the worst differential, now with -72. The Rangers’ run differential, after last night, is down to -5.

I’m off work today, as this is my “light week.” I’m about to head to the store to grab a few things. The lawn guy is coming around noon, and I’m planning to cook Pecan-Crusted Chicken for dinner tonight. I’ll be at work tomorrow, 11-8, so we will likely have some crock pot soup for tomorrow’s dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Father of us all, grant that we may know something of you in our hearts. Each one of us is different, with his own particular needs, but we are all your children and should all become children of your Spirit. Then even in the difficulties of life, in the many struggles, temptations, and sorrows, we can keep up our courage and remain in the Spirit, who is victorious in every aspect of life. Protect and strengthen us on all our ways. We praise you for all you have done and for all the help you have given us. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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 8:15b-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my coffee
2. to be an heir of God and co-heir with Christ
3. that all I really need to be willing to do is small acts of daily kindness
4. that all of our small acts of daily kindness can add up in the community of saints
5. for the priesthood of all believers
6. for the availability of God's Word in my language (something many of us take for granted)
Sing praises to God, sing praises; 
sing praises to our King, sing praises! 
For God is the King over all the earth. 
Praise him with a psalm. 
God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne.
(Psalms 47:6-8 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “morsel.”

Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
(Proverbs 17:1 ESV)

I can attest to the truth of this Proverb. Not that I have ever been reduced to only being able to eat a “dry morsel.” But I have certainly feasted in a house full of strife, and the meal leaves much to be desired.

But, truthfully, that is not really the thrust of this word, today. The idea in today’s reading coincides with a song I have heard that says, “Little is much when God is in it.”

We all have this desire to do “big things” for God, right? I used to want to be a rock star, then I wanted to be a “Christian rock star.” I wanted to do great things for God. There is also a possibility that I really just wanted to be noticed and famous.

At this point in my life, having never been famous or a rock star, I simply want to be willing to do small things for God. “Little acts . . . in the Lord’s faith hands become precious morsels that go down sweet.” Simple acts of kindness are sometimes all that is needed in this world, today. Other people can handle the big stuff. I just want to be one who shows love and kindness in my own little corner of this world.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You would allow me to be a “precious morsel” in Your kingdom, showing small acts of kindness to people with whom I come in contact. Let me be willing to provide the simplest of acts, maybe nothing more than a friendly smile, a cup of water, or a generous tip to a server. You have given me this desire, so I pray for opportunities to live it out.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.
(Romans 16:1-4 NLT)

But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:17-18 NLT)

What happens when you have a bunch of morsels all together? You get a meal! Even Paul, that “giant” of faith, didn’t do things by himself. His work could hardly be called a “morsel,” but he collaborated with others, and he always was sure to give them credit in his greetings.

What was the first thing in creation about which God said it was “not good?”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
(Genesis 2:18 NLT)

As much as I enjoy being alone, we are not expected to be alone in our work for God. We need each other. We need community. There are some things that I can do alone, sure. Some of those “morsels” I mentioned above can be done by myself. But I could never have donated 1700 pairs of socks to a homeless ministry by myself.

Just something to ponder, this morning.

Father, I thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ; the ones I know personally, and gather with regularly, as well as all the ones that I have never met and will never meet until the day we all stand in glory together. Together, we can do great things. May we spread Your love, mercy, and grace around the world!

One of the beautiful things about this community of saints is this thing that we call “the priesthood of all believers.” I have heard that phrase for most of my life, having grown up Southern Baptist. One of the things that this means, and probably the most important in Baptist life, is that we don’t need a priest (as in Catholic) to read and interpret Scripture for us. This was one of the big tenets of the Reformation, because, before Martin Luther came on the scene, the average parishioner did not have their own copy of the Bible. And it wasn’t available in their language, anyway, as all the copies were in Latin. So only the priest could read it.

One thing this does not mean, however, is that everyone’s interpretation is valid. That would be pure chaos. We still need people who are educated in biblical history and context. But, more importantly, we need the Holy Spirit. And it is my contention that no one can truly understand the Bible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. And no one who is not in Christ has the Holy Spirit.

The other piece of the priesthood of all believers is that we have the ability, in this community of saints, to be priests to one another, ‘with each of us mediating grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and with each of us capable of connecting with another in a way that brings God’s love home with personal force.” Eugene Peterson even goes so far as to word it “the leadership of all believers.”

“Leadership is that capacity everyone has for taking the first step, making it possible for others to follow–the capacity to connect with another so that others can get in on what we are in on. What we are ‘in on’ is Christ.”

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

My desire and hope in this is that I am taking those “first steps” by promoting the love of God through any forum I can access. If I can get just one or two people to follow in that, then maybe they can also be leaders in their own community, as well, and maybe we can have this “love revolution” that I’m praying for.

Father, I thank You for this idea of the priesthood of all believers. I thank You that, first of all, I have the access to read and understand Scripture in my own language. I also thank You that, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to be priests and leaders to one another, showing Your love, mercy, and grace to not only all other believers, but the rest of the world, as well. I pray that there would be more of a spirit of unity in Your Church, and that we would focus on the things that really matter, like walking in Your kingdom, and displaying the love of Christ in our world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

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.

Physical and Spiritual — Inseparable

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,415

There’s not much going on around here, today. We did try a new recipe (new to us), last night, that we got from Emily Bites, a cooking blog that we were introduced to at WW. This recipe is called Chicken Taco Rice Skillet. It’s not a crockpot recipe, so it took a little time, but wasn’t any harder than our normal stir fry dish. And it was absolutely delicious, a big hit with the whole family, so it’s a keeper, for sure. I tweaked it just a little bit, adding a little more chicken and used a cup and a half of brown minute rice. Everything else was per the recipe.

Tonight, we will be having another Emily Bites dish, called Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken. I also have tweaked this one a little, as well, putting in three cans of chicken soup and a whole can of water. C will add the yogurt when she gets home from work, and I will have my serving after I get home from my evening library shift. We had this one last week, and it was at least as good as the Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup we have made in the past.

I highly recommend Emily Bites for recipes. All of her recipes are WW friendly. I get semi-regular emails from the site, each one with a new recipe to try.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, 4-2, to the Mariners. Dan Dunning was the losing pitcher. They play again tonight, at 8:40 CDT (on the west coast), with Taylor Hearn taking the mound. How much longer do we keep saying “it’s still early in the season?” Not necessarily giving up, already, but it seems as though they have picked up right where they left off last season.

The Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays, last night 6-1. They are still floating around .500 (6-6), in fourth place in the AL East.

The LA Dodgers are currently the best in MLB, with a 9-3 record. The Cincinatti Reds are worse than the Texas Rangers, bringing up the bottom of the list, but only because they have played (and lost) two more games than Texas.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Thursday in Easter Week)

Bread of Life,” by Daryl Madden

Communion here
Of unity
That I long for
Longs for me

This living bread
Divinity
That I desire
Desires me

This gift, divine
Of grace freely
That I love
Is loving me

The bread of life
Eternity
That I consume
Consuming me

The Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ, desires me, loves me, and consumes me. This, of course, is rather oxymoronic, to say that bread consumes me. But, if we are truly walking with Him and in His kingdom, we are consumed by His grace and mercy. It’s mystical, and words don’t do a very good job of explaining it. I appreciate Brother Daryl’s poetry, and wish that you would visit his site at the link provided above.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky (there's an event going on right now, even though I couldn't see it, this morning because of the clouds - planets are lining up)
2. for the Bread of Life
3. for the example of grace, mercy, and inclusion that we get from Jesus
4. for the brightness of the future we have in Christ and His kingdom
5. that this life combines both the physical and the spiritual; we must both work and pray, and the two cannot be separated

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:8-9 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “inclusion.”

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

I’m sure the word “inclusion” is a trigger word for some folks, in this day and age. But, personally, I would rather err on the side of grace and mercy, if I’m going to be wrong about something. In other words, I would rather be guilty of including too many people than not including enough. After all, Jesus chose to hang out with “tax collectors and sinners.”

But this also hearkens back to the bit, a few days ago, about angels and how we should show hospitality to everyone, because, who knows, they might be an angel. Our primary characteristic is supposed to be love. If we work harder to exclude than include, we are not showing love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to be more inclusive with my hospitality, and show grace and mercy to all with whom I come in contact. This includes not getting angry or upset when restaurants don’t get my order right, or when they are out of Route 44 cups or drink carries or tuna or whatever. People need grace, and if we don’t show them grace, how are we supposed to lead them toward You?

You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright.
(Psalms 16:6 CEV)

Think of the bright future waiting for all the families of honest and innocent and peace-loving people.
(Psalms 37:37 CEV)

Don’t be jealous of sinners, but always honor the LORD. Then you will truly have hope for the future.
(Proverbs 23:17-18 CEV)

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,” is a popular phrase, and was included in a popular song, back in a previous decade. But the truth is, for those of us who walk in Christ and in His kingdom, the future really is bright. I don’t know how innocent we are (truly, is anyone??), but if we are peace-loving, that demonstrates our love for Jesus Christ. We show that love by showing love to others. The way we love Jesus is to keep His commands, and those commands (in case you’ve missed it, here) are summed up with “love God with all your might,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then there’s the additional, “Love one another as I have loved you” that He gave strictly to His disciples, later.

My future is bright, regardless of outward appearances, because I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and will not fade. My treasure is laid up in heaven, where rust will not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. The politics of earth have no bearing on my future, whatsoever. Oh, sure, the PTBs may start WWIII anytime, now, but that has no bearing on my true future. And, once again, I will repeat the words of Dallas Willard. “This world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.”

Father, I praise You that I feel safe in this world. Sometimes I forget this, and I worry, especially when madmen seem to be in charge and in control of things. Then I remember who is really in control, and I remember that this physical body is temporary, anyway, and that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me some pain, which will also be temporary. I thank You for the bright future that I have in You, and for the way You have led me to try my best to spread love and inclusion in this world. Help me to keep doing this, and, thereby, spreading the “good news” of the Gospel, which is that Your kingdom is here, right now.

The Christian life, the Christian faith, is both physical and spiritual at the same time. It is inescapable. There are times when we want to make it purely one or the other. Heretics, allegedly dealt with long ago, would have us believe that the physical is completely evil and unnecessary. I say “allegedly,” because those types of heresies always seem to resurface, centuries later.

But we, as Christians, have to work. It is, again, inescapable. “Caulking a cracked sidewalk, washing windows, trimming azaleas, pointing eroded masonry, fixing a broken pipe, and hauling debris to the landfill.” But also included in the physical part is “healing a hurt body, training the brain to recognize truth, and disciplining bodies to behave in acts of justice and love.”

There seems to be a great dearth of “training the brain to recognize truth,” these days.

On the spiritual side, there are acts of faith that are, for the most part, invisible. “Believing in the real presence of the Christ we do not see, loving people around us when they don’t seem to deserve it and we don’t feel like it, and expecting the arrival of the kingdom of God at the very moment journalists are announcing the latest sleaze.”‘

“Everything physical is at the same time spiritual. Everything spiritual is at the same time physical. There is no separating these realities. The Saturday workers and the Sunday worshippers are the same people. Everything we do, on both days, can be to the glory of God – or could have been for his glory, for the physicality and the spirituality of both work and prayer can be perverted into prideful sin.”

I find myself grimacing at that bit about loving people who “don’t seem to deserve it,” and when I “don’t feel like it.” But that is where I have to squash pride and obey the commands of my Savior. Because . . . well, you already know, because, if you’ve read this far, I addressed that in the previous section.

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

Father, I pray that You help me to do just that, to love people around me who don’t seem to deserve love, and to love people when I simply do not feel like loving them. Who am I to determine if someone is worthy of love?? I am not You! I am not all-knowing and all-wise! Therefore, it is simply my duty to obey Your commands. Even when I don’t feel like it.

Help us also, Father, to train our brains to recognize truth. Apparently, it isn’t always so obvious, even when we think it is. And Lord, please, please, please, help us to show grace when we think that someone else’s version of “truth” is wrong.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Remembrances

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,414

It was seven years ago, today, that my father went Home. I still remember the phone call that I received right after I got home from work on that Monday evening. He had been “found unresponsive” at the nursing home/rehab facility to which he had been taken the previous Saturday. I immediately got hold of Mama, and called C, and we raced to Mineral Wells.

In my opinion, he was already gone. We gathered around and watched nothing happen for a few hours. Other friends and family arrived to wait with us. We didn’t wait very long. There wasn’t any point in keeping the machines going. His body wasn’t breathing on its own; it was 100% machine-enabled. Mama and I made the decision.

The rest of the week was a blur, as more family arrived at the house, and friends brought tons of food. Isn’t that interesting? When someone in your family passes away, everyone brings food. That’s an odd tradition, to me. I mean, it was good food, sure, and we enjoyed it. C and I got a new recipe for strawberry cake, thanks to Mama’s friend Shirley.

I also saw my favorite and beloved cousin, Joan, for the first time in years. And isn’t that a shame, that it took a family death to bring us together again?

My mother survived on her own for almost seven years after that. Oh, she’s still alive, and doing pretty well, but has now moved in with us, here in Fort Worth. But she made it alone in her house for quite some time. She had lots of help from some really good friends, some virtual angels.

Some people lose their minds when a parent dies. A pastor, that ministered at the church Mama and Daddy were going to, lost his dad, and his life practically fell apart. It changed him, and not for the better. For me, life definitely changed. For the last seven years, I have struggled to enjoy baseball, like I used to. That was something I had in common with my father (S, too). I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that, before. But I think there’s another effect. One that I haven’t mentioned, I don’t think. And maybe I have only recently come to realize this.

My love of music has not been the same. Oh, sure, I still love music, and still play and sing when I want to. But those times seem fewer and farther between. And sometimes, it seems, I simply don’t want to listen to any music.

Anyway . . . just some thoughts in my brain, today, as we remember back seven years ago. I’ll carry on, now, with the main reason I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
(Psalms 116:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the life I had with my father, and the legacy he left behind
2. that we still have my mother with us, and for the joy that we continue to share together
3. that I still have memories and can remember good things
4. that God remembers that we are dust; we are flawed; we are far from perfect, but well on our way
5. for the power of words that contain truth

Ironically, today’s prayer word is “remember.” I don’t think I could have made that up.

Philosopher George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We remember a lot of things in our lives. Who among us has not suddenly, quite “out of the blue,” remembered something stupid we said in public? Or some mistake we made at work? Or some grievous sin we committed at one point in our lives?

We also remember good things. I remember beautiful scenes from wonderful vacation trips: the ocean, seen from the west coast, and the east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico; mountains in various parts of the country; redwood forests in California, as well as the forest on the way to the west coast of Oregon.

And we remember phone calls with bad news, like the one I mentioned above.

Memory is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, some of those things I would like to forget. Mostly the stupid things I have said and done in my life.

Apparently, according to my Bible app, “remember” is in the NIV 166 times. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a command or admonition from the Lord. Sometimes, it is in the form of a promise from the Lord. And sometimes, it is in the form of a prayer from one of God’s people to Him.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8 NIV)

“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
(Genesis 9:14-16 NIV)

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
(Exodus 33:13 NIV, Moses speaking)

Then there are verses like these.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 NIV)

We see from Scripture that our God is able to intentionally forget things! Have you ever tried to do that?? Just try and forget something, sometime! It is impossible for a human being to intentionally forget something. It’s like trying to not think about a pink elephant. Don’t do it!

(From Pray a Word a Day)(Except for the bit about pink elephants)

Father, there are things I want to remember, and things I would like to forget. I suppose there are reasons why I cannot forget some of those things; good reasons, hopefully, lessons learned. I’m not always so sure about that, though, that the lessons were learned, because I keep making some of the same stupid mistakes.

But there are also things I never want to forget, like my father’s face and his voice and his love for me. I never want to forget other people that have come through my life, and the good things they have brought to my life. And most definitely, I never want to forget You and Your benefits to my life. Help me to always remember that I belong to You.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Philippians 3:12 ESV)

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:36 ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

It is important to remember (that was not intentional) that we have not yet “arrived.” Just like Paul, I have not obtained what I am after, yet. As U2 stated so well, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Of course, I have found Jesus, or, rather, He found me, because He is the one looking for “lost sheep,” right? But I have not fully obtained the perfect salvation that awaits me at the entrance to Home.

I have not arrived; I am not perfect. In fact, I’m pretty far from perfect. But there is one other important thing to remember.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

Father, I am so grateful that You remember that we are dust. While You “command” that we are “holy,” as You are holy, or “perfect” as You are perfect, You still remember that we are dust, and that we are not, in fact either holy or perfect. We have the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, though. His righteousness has been added to my account. So You do not see, nor do You remember, my sin! Oh, Hallelujah!

I still search, and I still seek. I seek, first, Your kingdom. At least when I remember, I do that. Help me to remember to keep seeking Your kingdom, so that all other things will fall into place, as they should. Help me to lay aside the weight that I am not intended to bear, and that could mean a lot of different things. We take on weight that we should not, and that’s not always about sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to being Home, and seeing that “great cloud of witnesses” that has gone before me.

Words are important. Words are powerful, both spoken and written.

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)

The spoken Word of God created the universe and brought light into being. It’s quite a wonder, if we ponder it, that light was created before there were any stars. But that’s a topic for another day.

“The spoken and written word is active; it does things, makes things happen. it is so easy to lose connection with this reality and let ourselves be intimidated by force and might, by horsepower and nuclear power, by money and militancy, and by terrorism and brutality.”

A man named Vaclav Havel “sat in prison in Czechoslovakia for many years because the communist government was afraid of his words and what his words would do.” He cared nothing about politics, but was “a deeply committed Christian who wrote plays for the stage and letters to his wife.” They were afraid of him because “he wrote truth, wrote well, and used words that were full of energy.”

After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, “he stepped out of prison and was immediately made president of his country. In the speeches he made after that remarkable reversal, he spoke over and over again to the Word, to the nature of the Word, to the Word of God and the Word made flesh.”

Not all words are active, though. If we separate our own words from the life of God, without His Spirit, they are small, meager. “Words used without accuracy, without passion, and without love are lifeless. . . . Words that make and root the world, that bring truth into lives, and that ignite love in hearts are the words that are born in the presence of God.”

And the place where we get those words is in our closet, in prayer; in His presence.

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

Father, help me to remember the power of words. But also that that power is contingent upon your presence. Yes, words that do not contain Your life and wisdom can be powerful, but they are lifeless. They do great evil. We are inundated, in today’s culture, with inaccurate words, words that spread misinformation, even though they may be spoken with passion. Help us to have wisdom when we listen; give us ears to hear only truth, Father, and let that truth be from Your Word, the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Let all other words fall by the wayside.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Remembering

Grace and peace, friends.

Live Quietly and Mind Your Own Business

Today is Tuesday, the nineteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,413

I had a great night of sleep, last night, and slept until almost 8:30, this morning. In fact, I might have slept even longer, had someone not called me. I didn’t figure out what was happening in time to catch the call, but I didn’t recognize the number, so I won’t be calling them back.

I had thought to make a trip to the grocery store, today, but it’s not urgent. I will be heading out, in a little while, to pick up lunch/dinner for everyone at Subway. That’s our Tuesday tradition, since I work my four-hour shelving shift on Tuesday evening.

We are finally getting rid of the grand piano, hopefully, today. C found someone who wants it, and is supposedly having professional movers come by this afternoon, to get it. That will free up a large amount of space in the front “dining” room, which we are considering converting to a reading area, with chairs and a couple bookshelves. We can then move the exercise bike up to the front living room, next to the treadmill.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week)

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
(Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a really good night's sleep
2. for Your justice, righteousness, and faithfulness
3. for the desire in my heart to stir up love and peace, rather than anger and harshness
4. for the tasks that You have given me, praying that I might do those things while living quietly and minding my own business
5. for my brother and sisters in the faith, and the relationships You have built between us.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
(Job 19:25-27 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “stir.” This word could mean a number of things. The reading provides this verse for context.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

I used to be one who loved to argue. My father and I would engage in spirited debates, often. But, as I grew older, I found myself thinking more like he thought. I have also learned that arguing is no longer fun. Part of that is because it has gotten more hostile, for which I blame social media.

These days, arguments on social media are not “won.” No one’s mind is changed, because no one wants to have their mind changed. Everyone wants to be right, and “truth” or “facts” don’t enter into the picture whatsoever.

Because of this, I have made it my practice, my goal, to only stir up love and peace. It’s not easy to be a peacemaker, these days, because no one wants peace. They want to be right. They want the other side to . . . well, to be perfectly honest, I think that a lot of people would only be satisfied if the “other side” ceased to exist.

It’s hard to not engage. I have typed many a comment or reply on Facebook, only to delete it and not post it, because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful. So I just keep scrolling, and do my best to be one who stirs up love and tries to make peace.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

Somehow, I don’t think calling other people “stupid,” “idiot,” and “snowflake” does a thing toward spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 ESV)

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV)

We all have different tasks to do in this world. Paul goes on at length, in Corinthians, about the different gifts and body parts that we fit into. Here, we are admonished to love one another (where have I heard that before?) by minding our own business (!), and tending to the work that is set before us, no matter what it may be. Why? So that we may “walk properly before outsiders.”

I am seeing a lot of instances where people are 1) not living quietly, and 2) not minding their own business, and 3) not walking properly before outsiders.

Things look a lot better in the world when you can manage to do those things. I’m not advocating a “head in the sand” mentality. Not at all. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on in the world. But the truth is, we have no control over most of it. And spouting off our “expert” opinions about the latest current affair tends to have no effect whatsoever, other than making us look somewhat foolish. Because very few of us are “experts” about anything.

Father, help me to pay attention to what is my business, to mind my own affairs, and to live quietly, so that I may walk properly before “outsiders.” It is in this way that “outsiders” might be drawn closer to becoming “insiders.” I thank You that You have drawn me more and more toward being one to attempts to stir up love and peace, rather than stirring up anger with harsh words. I pray that I may be more and more like this.

What is one of the first things we tend to ask people when we first meet them?

“What do you do?” Implied, of course, in the question, is “What do you do for a living?”

Eugene Peterson recounts a time when he asked that of a person, and received a twenty-minute discourse on all of the daily activities of the person. However, at the end of it, Eugene still had very little idea about what the person actually did.

But another friend shared a similar account, in which, upon being asked what he did, another person’s answer was, “I’m changing the world.”

That is, in a way, the job description of the Church, and every person who is part of the Church. We are changing the world. I am changing the world. No, I’m not solving the problems between the Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (let’s be honest . . . Ukraine doesn’t have a “Russia” problem, they have a “Putin” problem). I’m not going to solve world hunger, or create clean water resources for third world countries.

But I’m changing the world, doing my best to influence people toward “love and good deeds” in my own little corner of the world, in what Dallas Willard would call my own little “kingdom.”

Is that what we have in mind when we prepare for worship each week? “Maybe you just expect a little inspiration or solace. Maybe you just want to get away for an hour or two from life’s daily clutter and be refreshed by some beauty and sacred order. Maybe you are following an old habit. But we are changing the world.”

Creation is in motion every time the Word of God is spoken. When we invoke the Holy Spirit, “salvation is in motion.” “Every time we open our mouths in praise, confess our faith with our lips, and believe in our hearts, the world is changed.”

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

Wait. I thought you said we were supposed to live quietly and mind our own business.

I am firmly convinced that both are possible. You see, there are people who believe that the only way to express their faith and belief is angrily, with loud shouting. (I once worked for a manager who subscribed to the belief that he who talks the loudest wins.) My brothers and sisters, this should not be! It is possible to express our faith, to confess our beliefs, and believe in our hearts, meekly and quietly, and while minding our own business.

Father, I pray that You would help me to change my world, quietly, and consistently, without anger, without condemnation, and by stirring up love and peace. That is my desire, that is my goal. I want to know You, and I want to present You to this world, in my little “kingdom,” as the God who is there, the God who loves and cares, the God who IS compassion, and the God who saves.

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

Christ’s Light in the Darkness . . . Right at Home

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,412

I hope everyone who observes the day had a blessed Easter, yesterday. We were blessed to be able to have the Supper with our little group, after we read several of the Bible accounts of the resurrection event. We noted differences in the Gospel narratives, and celebrated the power that comes from knowing and walking with Jesus in our lives. We also spent some time praying together.

The Night of Worship that was to take place this coming Saturday has been postponed, but we are considering having a sort of prayer meeting, at some point in the near future. I’m going to suggest combining the two and kind of re-tooling the NoW thing.

This week is a “light” week for me, work-wise. I only work Tuesday evening, four hours, and Thursday, eight hours.

The Texas Rangers continue their losing ways, and lost three of the four games against the Angels. Yesterday’s loss, the second by pitcher Martin Perez, was 8-3. The highlight of that game was a two-run homer by Adolis Garcia. They have today off, after which they will begin a six-game west coast run, starting in Seattle, Tuesday. The Rangers are now 2-7 for the season, in last place in the AL West, but only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. Jon Gray will be back in the lineup Tuesday, to take the mound against Seattle.

The Red Sox beat the Twins 8-1, yesterday, finally getting above .500. The two teams are playing another game today. That seems odd, to me, because series don’t usually go through the weekend into Monday. Oh, well. Update: I just discovered that today is “Patriot Day” in Boston, and the game is played at 11:10 EDT. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon. The Sox are 5-4 for the season, in second place in the AL East, only a half-game behind Toronto.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ 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 Monday in Easter Week)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
(Psalms 46:10-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm continuing to reflect on the wonder of the resurrection of Jesus, and that the celebration doesn't end just because Easter Sunday is over
2. that the Word of God is near me, in my mouth and in my heart
3. for habits and rituals (like this one) that help me get closer to God
4. for the call to serve one another and be Christ's light in the darkness, in our own sphere of influence
5. for Abraham's example of hospitality
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

I found this, by Timothy Keller, through Facebook, this morning, and thought it was great. There is a lot of pain going through our little church group, right now, and I shared it with all of them. “On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.” ~ Timothy Keller

Today’s prayer word is “ritual.” There is a quote from Victor Hugo included. “It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky . . . a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.”

I’m a fan of ritual. I’ve got habits. Who doesn’t, right? Even in the shower, I have a ritual. Just the other day, my brain misfired, and I failed to switch hands with the scrubber at the right time, and I’m pretty sure my right arm didn’t get washed that day. I have a cup of herbal tea every night, shortly before I go to bed. And I listen to a meditation recording on one of two different apps, as I fall asleep. Except for last night, because I forgot to charge my headband headphones. And guess what? I didn’t sleep very well, last night!

What’s the difference between a ritual and a habit? Turns out, in order to be a ritual, there must be some meaning behind it. So I guess my shower habit is not, in fact, a “ritual.” The cup of tea, I believe, is, though, because I believe it helps me relax and prepare for sleep.

Rituals aren’t necessarily good, though. To some people, ritual in the church is boring. I like it, myself, and am fond of what might be considered more “high church” worship. Don’t get me wrong, I love some contemporary worship, as well. I would love to find a church that combined the two, but so far, I have not. What’s funny about this is that the Catholic church, the “highest” of high church, was probably on the forefront of introducing contemporary worship music to the masses, back in the late sixties and early seventies.

The key is in intention and meaning. If you do something just to do it, it’s a habit or a routine. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church where exactly the same thing happened every Sunday morning, in the same order. It was weird when something was added or left out. Was there meaning or intention behind that? Or was it just the way we’ve always done it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect there might have been a little of both. But you know what? I found comfort in that routine. I could always count on those things happening . . . those three hymns between the pastoral prayer and the offering; that “special music” right before the sermon; and the benediction that signaled that we could finally go home.

I am engaging in ritual right now. Every morning (not always at the same time) I sit down at this computer and start reading Bible passages, along with several devotional materials, and typing this blog. There is most definitely intention and meaning involved. The intent is twofold; one goal is to grow myself spiritually and connect more with the Holy Trinity; the other is to maybe inspire or motivate someone else to do the same. I used to write these moments in a paper journal, but one day I decided to begin recording them online. 1) That saves paper and space; and 2) other people might benefit from my journaling.

Recently, in the past couple of years, I have developed a ritual of sharing at least five things every day for which I am grateful. The intent here is not to show how spiritual I am, but, rather, to inspire others to also be grateful for the things that they have in their lives.

So rituals can be good things. I firmly believe that they help me in my efforts to draw closer to God and walk in His kingdom.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful that You created me as one who thrives in ritualistic settings. I pray that my habits and rituals, each day, will continue to help me to draw closer to You and weed out habits that aren’t good, as well as characteristics in my personality that are not healthy or helpful.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:45-49 ESV)

We frequently make the mistake of thinking that the only way we can do “great things” for Jesus is going on adventures. We want to go on that mission trip to Africa or Mexico or somewhere. Or sometimes, we even stay in our own state, but we have to get away from our local area.

As Logan Eliasen was returning from a somewhat adventurous vacation trip to Colorado, he struggled with purpose. “What am I doing here” he asked himself. But then he realized he was asking the wrong question.

“What can I do here,” he then asked.

“Here, in Iowa, I have relationships with people I care about. Here, Jesus has provided me with opportunities to share His love with others. Here, I can be Christ’s light in the darkness.”

That is huge and profound. Our “witness” begins at home.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
(Matthew 10:5-7 ESV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

Father, let us not be so quick to need to get away from our own neighborhoods to do Your work. Remind us that we can be Christ’s light in the darkness right in our own yards, on our own streets. As for our little house church, Lord, I struggle with what kind of impact we can have. But we can do the same. We can be Christ’s light in the darkness at Brandon’s house. And we can shine in his neighborhood. After all, if we can’t shine there, what makes us think we can shine in Africa??

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!
(Hebrews 13:1-2 MSG)

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.” They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.” Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
(Genesis 18:1-8 MSG)

“Caring for others is the best thing we do. We are at our best when we are attending to the needs of others: hurts and pains, sorrows and disappointments, despair and grief, confusion and dismay. Speaking words of encouragement, binding up wounds, giving direction, sharing trouble – when we are doing these things, we are being fully human.”

We may not always do a great job at these things, and sometimes we may even do them badly. But we still need to be about caring for others, because only then are we “fully human.” And it’s not something to be done only when we “feel a gush of sentiment.” It should be part of “life together as people of God.” And we shouldn’t stop doing it just because we may not have done a good job at it.

Abraham is one of our best examples of this. Three men show up at his tent, one day, and he greets them enthusiastically and invites them to stay for a meal. “He did not treat them as interruptions to his prayers or as intrusions on his pilgrimage.” There is no indication that he knew, yet, that the men were angels.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, said, “There are no ordinary people. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

So we go full circle back to the idea of routine, habit, and ritual. This is where caring happens, in the so-called “ordinary.” It begins in our neighborhoods, where we live, and where we “go to church.” It doesn’t start on the great adventures to Africa or Mexico or even the next state over. It starts here, where we live.

“Abraham in front of his tent. A hastily prepared meal. Angels unawares.”

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

Father, I confess . . . I haven’t done a great job of this. I hardly know my neighbors. Motivate me to connect with them a little better, to reach to them, to see if there is anything I can do to serve them. And then I pray you guide us into service in the neighborhood where our church meets. And, most of all, help us to serve one another within our own little body of believers. Jesus, You told us to love one another the way You have loved us. I have not done well at this, either, so help me be better at it. Help me to love!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Best is Yet to Come

Today is Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, April 17, 2022.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,411

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign!
He arose!
He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
(Up From the Grave He Arose, w/m by Robert Lowry, 1874)
"O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; 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 Easter Day)
"Decision Day," by Daryl Madden

And here it is
Decision day
Did Jesus rise
What do you say?

Let our answer
Be Amen, yes!
Place in His arms
Our soul to rest

If we believe
Our answer true
Oh, truly this
Will transform you!

No death to fear
Our joy so great
With His passion
Let’s celebrate!

Please visit Daryl’s poetry blog at the link provided above.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
(Luke 24:1-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that He is risen
2. that the Lord saw fit to place me in a family that would lead me to be a believer in Him, and then drew me to Himself
3. for hugs; for being held by another human being; and that my God holds me in His hand
4. that the best is yet to come
5. for prayer, which helps me to take care of my most important need, the "God-need," and that my need for God can never be satisfied, only deepened

The prayer word for today is “hold.” Francine Rivers, American author, is quoted as saying, “God holds me in the palm of His hand and no one can take Him from me.”

This is a paraphrase of the words of Jesus, in John 10.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30 ESV)

The word “hold” can be found in many popular hymns and songs. “I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand,” is one such lyric. Rich Mullins wrote a song simply called, “Hold Me, Jesus.”

Most people, unless they have sensory issues, love to be held. Hugs are very popular. I, myself, am a huge proponent of hugs. The human touch is important to mental health, and that is one reason that so many people are suffering mentally throughout this pandemic.

As I consider the word in the context of this special day, there is another place where “hold” comes into play. In this case, it is an instance where something could not hold. The grave could not hold my Savior!

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You that You hold me in the palm of Your hand. I praise You that no one, not even me, can snatch me out of Your hand, and that no one has the power or authority to take You away from me. There is no government in the world that can do that. But I also thank You and praise You, especially today, that the grave could not hold Jesus Christ down. And it is that same power that raised Him from the dead that resides in us today, by the Holy Spirit. May we know that power, Father, as we walk through our daily lives, and may we be inspired to live in that power, and know the defeat of our enemy, first hand.

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
(John 20:3-4 NIV)

For Peter and the other disciples, as they faced this resurrection morning, “the best was yet to come.” (Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022) The had pretty much retreated to their old ways of life until everything exploded on this first day of the week.

Isn’t this true of all of us, though. “The best is yet to come.” How often have we heard this phrase in our lifetimes? I forget this, and need to remember this truth, every day. No matter how good things are, no matter how bad things may be. The best is yet to come.

Because someday, we will join Jesus in this resurrection. And, as another old hymn says, that will be “glory for me.” Written by Charles H. Gabriel:

When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Refrain:
Oh, that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

Father, even though the resurrection that we celebrate today has been the single greatest event in all of history, I believe, with all my heart, that the best is yet to come. What could be greater than the resurrection of Jesus? Everything that is depicted in that hymn, above. “When by His grace I shall look on His face.” My soul nearly explodes in anticipation of that day. It is the (or at least should be) the single direction of my life; it should be the “main thing.” And, no matter what else I pursue in this life, it should all be driven by that main thing.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always, and I confess that, because my attention span is shallow and short. I have allowed culture to influence me. Forgive me for this, Father, and help me to reverse this trend. Help me to press on, as Paul said, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call.” Help me to remember that the best is yet to come.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalms 73:2-3 ESV)

As I continue to consider the truth that “the best is yet to come,” I have to acknowledge that “I don’t yet have what I want.” And consider the needs that keep recurring. My hunger is satisfied in the morning by a bowl of cereal or some eggs and bacon. But, approximately four hours later, that hunger is back, demanding lunch.

We constantly have to buy new clothes, because, either the old ones wear out (the best reason for buying new clothes), or they become out of fashion (the worst reason for buying new clothes).

And our culture, which is well aware of these needs, exploits them. In fact, they find ways to manipulate and influence us to feel deeper “needs” than we really have. They distort the line between “need” and “want.” “The need they start with is usually legitimate, but then it is distorted and twisted into rampant and out-of-control greed.”

“A waiting heart deliberately interrupts this process in which our needs become corrupted by covetousness. We are returned to our basic needs, our God-need, and are directed to take care of that. Fundamentally, we take care of it by praying.”

God should be the first “item” on our list of needs. And we deal with that need through prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

But here is the catch. There’s always a catch, right? Just as that hunger for lunch returns, even though it was temporarily satisfied by breakfast, our need for God does not go away when we pray. In fact, not only does it remain, but it deepens! “And so we find ourselves waiting – for wholeness, for the coming of Christ. Waiting can make us impatient and irritable, or it can make us more and more helpful and ready. Waiting, for the praying Christian, is a gospel art.”

There are two kinds of waiting, as Peterson has already alluded to. One kind waits impatiently, wondering why it doesn’t already have what it wants. The other kind remembers that “the best is yet to come,” and waits with patient anticipation, reveling in the present grace of God, while also waiting for His future grace, with assurance that it is on the way.

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

Father, help me to wait in the second way. Even now, I still get impatient when I have to wait longer than I think I should have to wait for something. I get annoyed when the traffic light turns red. I get frustrated when my Sonic drinks take too long to come to me. God forgive me. There is no telling what the purpose of that delay was for. The extra time at the traffic light could be spent praying or meditating, rather than grumbling. Ditto the extra time in the Sonic stall. Yes, I want to get home, where my loved ones are waiting for me (and their Sonic drinks).

God, help me to remember the words of Dallas Willard, when he told John Ortberg to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” There is no reason to hurry. Help me to wait with the patient expectation that, yes, the best is yet to come. Someday, we don’t know when, Jesus is coming soon. If we knew when, it would be easier to be ready, wouldn’t it? But seeing as how I am always late getting ready for things, why would that event be any different? Therefore, I need to make sure I am ready now, because it could happen at any time, right? I don’t know about all the prophecy and theology behind this. I know that Paul and the other apostles believed that He would be returning in a matter of years, maybe weeks, from the days in which they were writing.

Help me to wait, Lord. Help me to live expectantly, not impatiently. Help me to know the power of the resurrected Jesus in my life, as I walk through this world and in Your kingdom. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Yes, and amen, Lord!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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 1:3-6 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.