Wandering About

Today is the twenty-ninth of June, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Day 23,484

We are still getting a slight break from the heat, as the high today is only supposed to be 93. There’s a slight chance of rain on Sunday, but from July 4, until the end of the ten-day forecast, the temps are back over 100.

I can’t find any updates on the “Dempsey Fire” in Palo Pinto County since Monday, but at that point, it had burned almost 12,000 acres and was only 27% contained. We need rain badly.

Mama and I spent three hours at the dentist, yesterday morning. She’s getting that tooth capped, and all seems to be well. The dentist is not 100% sure that it will work, long-term, but he said he was doing what he would want done, so we trust that. Hopefully, this will be fine. The permanent cap will be there in a few weeks.

The Texas Rangers have done well against the KC Royas, as they should. Monday night’s game was iffy for a while, but they wound up winning 10-4. Last night, they won 8-3, so they have won the series, regardless of what happens in this afternoon’s game. They are back within one game of .500, at 36-37, still in second place in the AL West. Ten games out of first, four games out of the Wild Card.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, have lost two games in row to the Blue Jays, and have been bumped into third place in the AL East. They are only a half game behind the Jays, at 42-33, and still have the second Wild Card spot. They will play the Blue Jays again today.

The Yankees still have the best MLB record, at 55-20 (they are eight games ahead of the next team). The Athletics continue to hold down the basement, at 25-51. The Yankees, Brewers, and Nationals all have three-game winning streaks, and the Pittsburgh Pirates own the current longest losing streak, at five games. The Yankees also have the best run differential, having scored 149 more runs than their collective opponents. The Athletics currently hold the worst, having been outscored by their opponents by 112 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 14 runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 59 runs.

Today is a rather lazy day (I hope). The lawn guy is coming today, and I have a grocery order being delivered. We may have to take a guinea pig to the vet this week, but if that has to happen, I think it will be Friday, my next day off after today.

I had a good night at the library, last night, and wound up checking out about six DVDs and a book. I think that’s the most I have gotten at one time. And not all of the DVDs are for me. I got a couple of Good Witch movies for C and Mama, as well as the first season of a British comedy called The Dectectorists, which looks like fun. Then I got Deadpool 2, American Graffiti, and The Abandoned. The book is called The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, recommended by one of our librarians because I liked Daisy Jones & the Six.

I’ll start my devotional as soon as I get another cup of coffee.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, we glorify your name. How we wish our voices could ring out over all the world, telling of the great things you have done for us, praising you that we can come to you in Jesus Christ, that we can worship, honor, and thank you for all your goodness! Safeguard all your children so that they hold to faith and remain true to the message of the gospel. May we thank and praise you for all you have done this day and for your working in the hearts of many people who are still unknown to us. Your Spirit rules and calls people, to bring them to you, the Father in heaven. Watch over us and continue to bless us. Help us who belong to your people, and protect us through the night. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
But I will sing of your strength,
 in the morning I will sing of your love; 
for you are my fortress,
 my refuge in times of trouble. 
You are my strength, I sing praise to you; 
you, God, are my fortress, 
my God on whom I can rely.
(Psalms 59:16-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the strength and love of my God, who is my fortress and refuge in times of trouble
2. that we can come to Him in Jesus, and worship, honor, and thank Him for all His goodness
3. that, even when I wander from His path, the Lord is always with me, and always draws me back to Him
4. that, thought I am breakable, He will not allow me to be crushed, and He will not abandon me
5. for freedom in Christ

The word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is wander.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
take my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above."
(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, by Robert Robinson, 1758)

By definition, wandering isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. It simply means “walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way.” In fact, the word “wander” is frequently used with the word “aimlessly.”

I don’t remember if I wandered much, as a child. I know that, as I grew older, and was allowed to ride my bicycle all over town, I wandered quite a bit. I liked exploring the town.

C and I like to wander when we visit new places. Sometimes we wander, but not aimlessly, when we find a trail that we haven’t walked on. We aren’t sure where we are going, but we are following a trail.

Spiritually, however, wandering is never good. It is never good to wander through the spiritual life aimlessly. And I do tend to do that. Sometimes, I wander dangerously far from the path of righteousness. But God is faithful. When I wander, He never leaves me. In fact, even when I have wandered away from His path, He is always right beside me. It’s not His fault I’m not paying attention to His presence. He hasn’t gone anywhere.

And He is faithful to draw me back. Oh, sure, He will indulge me for a season. “Go ahead, have your ‘fun’,” He seems to say. But there will come a time when He will say “enough!” And that time may be somewhat unpleasant for me. I can say this from experience. But the end result will be safety.

Father, I pray that You keep me from wandering. And, when I do wander, I pray that You will always draw me safely back to You. I also pray that, when I do wander, You will protect me from my own foolishness. Thank You for Your presence, always with me, always watching out for me.


For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
(Romans 7:18 NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

Romans 7:18 is one of the reasons for my wandering. As long as I continue in this moral coil, this will be a struggle. As Paul says elsewhere, this keeps us humble, too.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV)

The glory of God in a “jar of clay.” We are not unbreakable. But He will not allow us to be crushed, nor will He abandon us. And, as long as we stay in that “easy yoke” with Jesus, our burden will be light.

Thank You, Father, that You will never abandon us or allow us to be crushed. Please protect this “jar of clay,” and make Your glory shine through the mud.


Eugene H. Peterson writes about freedom, but it is not any freedom that any country or government can provide or control.

“In all nations, there are people who live out a freedom that is both different and better than that claimed by their fellow citizens, whether capitalist or communist or anything in between. These people call themselves Christians.”

Unfortunately, the word “Christian” is getting some bad press in the U.S., these days, and there are some who call themselves by that name that are depending much more on that “freedom” that they get from the government than that which they get from Christ. The true Christian is free in Christ and needs no government to tell him otherwise. Notice that Peterson says, ” all nations . . . whether capitalist or communist or anything in between.”

Christians are free in Christ, regardless of the political system. Oh, sure, they may have to meet underground to worship. But physical freedom is much different than spiritual freedom.

"The Word that Christ speaks to us sets us free; the praise we offer develops freedom; the prayers we offer make freedom possible for others.
"As people faithful in worship and attentive to God's Word, we will witness to that freedom. We will be free, but not with the world's freedom. We will be Christians."

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

Father, I thank You for true freedom, freedom that we have in Christ. I praise You that this freedom cannot be taken away by any man, system, or government. It is truly in Christ, and it is protected by You. I praise You that no man can snatch me out of Your hands. My body is not indestructible, but my spirit is. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, prayer for Compline)

Grace and peace, friend.

To Infinity and Beyond

Today is Saturday, the twenty-fifth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,480

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Love Conquers All Fear, by Daryl Madden

Turn to page of scripture
Through Spirit be aware
Strength within the Word
Love conquers all fear

For God’s all powerful
He’s is our ruler here
We know that God is love
Love conquers all fear

With angels in heaven
One voice rising clear
The Word of God is spoken
Love conquers all fear

Engrain it in my soul
This truth to declare
Through the grace of God
Love conquers all fear

This is a much-needed message in today’s world. The primary emotions that I seem to be seeing in our world are fear, anger, and hatred. It’s bad enough when these are coming from outside the church, but when I see them infiltrating the church, as well, it’s tragic. We need this message, badly. I am grateful to Daryl and his poems, and would love it if you would click on the above link and visit his site.

Lord our God, grant us courageous hearts, we pray. Grant that we may always find our strength and support in you and may bear with joy whatever the present days bring us. No matter how much evil occurs, we know that your peace is already prepared. We await your peace, and we are allowed to believe that everything will turn out according to your will and according to the good you have prepared for your people on earth. For in faith your people overcome the world, and at last through their faith others too may receive something from you and may lift their eyes to you, the God of truth, of justice, of salvation, and of peace. Be with us every day, Lord God. Help us. Bless us, and bless all who try to bring help where it is needed. Let us praise your name forevermore! Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that love conquers all fears
2. for the peace that God has prepared for us; may we find ourselves able to walk in it now
3. for all whose mission on earth is to spread love, rather than hatred, fear, and anger
4. that our God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, infinitely more than anything we could ever imagine
5. for the faithful mercies of the Lord, new and fresh every morning!

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
(Mark 7:14-15 NIV)

And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom. 

And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And a certain man saw it and told Joab, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak." Joab said to the man who told him, "What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt." But the man said to Joab, "Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king's son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, 'For my sake protect the young man Absalom.' On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof." Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab's armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him. 

And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, "Good news for my lord the king! For the LORD has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you." The king said to the Cushite, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And the Cushite answered, "May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man." And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" 
(2 Samuel 18:5, 9-15, 31-33 ESV)

The word for today, in Pray a Word a Day, is beyond.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
(Ephesians 3:20 NLT)

I love this verse, and I like looking at it in different versions. Oddly enough, none of them include the word “beyond,” even though one of the Greek words could be interpreted as “beyond.”

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
(Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
(Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
(Ephesians 3:20 ESV)

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
(Ephesians 3:20 KJV)

In all of those translations, we get the idea. What God is able to do exceeds, abundantly, infinitely, beyond anything we could ever imagine, in our wildest dreams!

And not only is He able, but He wants to! He desires to lavish these things upon His children.

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

This great love was, of course, most demonstrated in the unthinkable sacrifice that God made on our behalf.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
(Romans 5:6-8 NLT)

Think about people you love (or, if you prefer, animals that you love, cats, dogs, horses, whatever). Now multiply that by infinity. All the good things you want to do for those people or animals, multiply that by infinity, and that’s how much our God wants to lavish on us. Beyond all measure, beyond all expectation, beyond all imaginations.

To infinity and beyond.

Father, there aren’t enough words, nor is there enough space or time to adequately express my gratitude, right now. I’ve been sitting here, gobsmacked, for a few minutes, trying to put together something acceptable to pray and/or type, something that would convey what I’m feeling right now. But I have to depend on the Holy Spirit to translate what I’m feeling, and I’m grateful for that, as well.

Nevertheless, here I am attempting to do the impossible, to thank You for all of this. There are songs that have been written. “I stand amazed in the Presence . . . How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be! How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me!” (Charles Hutchinson Gabriel) “I stand amazed in all of Your glory, that You would die for me, I stand amazed. I stand amazed in all of Your glory, true love’s sweetest story, I stand amazed.” (Dennis Jernigan) “Amazing love, how can it be, that You my King would die for me! Amazing love, I know it’s true; and it’s my joy to honor You.” (Billy Foote, Jr.) “Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” (Charles Wesley)

Father, my heart and soul bow before You, in stunned humility, not as though I have never heard these truths, before, but because I am so apt to . . . not “forget.” I don’t forget. That’s not the right word. I don’t ignore them, either. I suppose “take for granted” is the best phrase. Forgive me for not walking in this love all the time. Draw me ever closer to You, to Your sweet mercies that are new every morning.

My God, I could go on and on. That “new every morning” bit . . . such hope; such joy; such gratitude that, no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day, it’s a new morning, and Your infinite grace and mercies are fresh and new when I awake.

Why, O why, do we not walk in this more consistently??


The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Then you can tell the next generation detail by detail the story of God, Our God forever, who guides us till the end of time.
(Psalms 48:13-14 MSG)

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
(Romans 12:11-12 MSG)

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!
(1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG)

” . . . and the future starts now!”


"God does not impose right solutions on us. God does not pull strings behind the scenes to engineer his will despite what we are doing and saying. He treats us with dignity, giving us the freedom to be in on what he does, to have a voice in the process. Prayer is our voices in the action of God. It is also God's voice in the actions of people."
(Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

I have been navigating around the concepts of free will and predestination for decades. I have gone from being firmly entrenched in “free-will-ism,” to being a staunch “five-point Calvinist,” to somewhere in between the two.

Here’s the thing. God will not be put in a box. Calvinism and Arminianism are both boxes. God is infinite and eternal and won’t fit in either box. And it is arrogant of us to think that we can squeeze Him into a box.

There are people out there who claim to not believe in God, and one of their excuses is, “If God exists, why does He allow so much evil and suffering?” The answer to that is in Peterson’s quote. “He treats us with dignity . . .” And, truthfully, those so-called “atheists” don’t like the answer to their own question, anyway, because the solution would be that God creates a bunch of cookie-cutter robot-like people who never go against His will.

I purposely avoid current events (other than baseball and bowling scores and occasional celebrity deaths) in this forum, because my opinions about those things are not part of my job description. My opinions about what happened yesterday (trust me, I have them, and many people would be unpleasantly surprised to know them) are not relevant to anything I have to say here.

But know this. The one opinion that I have that I do believe to be relevant is that, no matter what happens out there, God is in control of all things, and He is working His plan. He is not surprised by anything that we humans do or decide. Remember . . . He exists outside of time, so He is already there.

So when we run around like fools, like “chickens with their heads cut off” because things didn’t happen the way we think they should have, we are exposing our lack of trust in God.

There is a reason that God has been constantly giving me this message, recently, that His love conquers all fear. I don’t know what that reason is, exactly, and, frankly, I’m not sure I want to know. I confess that, in my flesh, I am somewhat fearful of what is ahead of us, as a nation, as a world, as the Church. But, in my Spirit, I am confident that, come what may, God loves us and has us in the palm of His hand. And the worst thing that can happen to me is that I get sent Home.

And I will not align myself with the masses on either side of a political division. I am not Democrat. I am not Republican. And neither is Jesus. It may come as a shock to many people that the Son of God is not a Republican. I am a follower of the Son of God, who commands us to love one another.

To infinity and beyond.

Father, I praise You that You are working Your plan, and that it will not be deterred. There is no man, no woman, no president, congressperson, or any other ruler who can thwart Your plan for us. There is no dictator in any third-world country who holds any sway over what You have planned for this world. May You intervene in the hearts of Your people who act as though they believe differently. May You flood our hearts and souls with love, for one another, and especially for people who don’t believe the same way we do.

I thank You again, for the great love that You lavish on us. I pray that we would find ourselves both willing and able to turn that love around and point it toward our neighbors, toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, and toward those who have diametrically opposite political opinions from us. I pray that Your people would stop attaching themselves to political ideologies and, instead, focus on the life and teachings of the One whom they claim to follow. Turn all of us away from anything in our lives that could be considered an idol. And open our eyes to see those things, that we might forsake them out of love for You.

You love us to infinity and beyond . . . help us to do the same.

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus.


Grace and peace, friends.

Do Not Fear; Only Believe

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-second of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,477

I don’t have a lot of time, but I did want to share that Erin McCarthy climbed the ladder to win the U.S. Women’s Open, last night. She won four games (it could conceivably be said that two of her competitors lost the game) to win the title. It was a pretty amazing and fun thing to watch. There were some incredible spares made by several of the bowlers, as well as some unfortunate misses that should have been made. Erin wins $60,000 and a green jacket. Oh, and a trophy, too. The next (and final) PWBA tournament for this season won’t be until the first week of August, here in Dallas. Unfortunately, I am working most of that week, so I won’t be able to attend any of the matches.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Do You Not Believe, by Daryl Madden

I don’t see the way
Doubts I perceive
I am your God
Do you not believe?

I am afraid
Fear here surrounds
Am I your God
That lets you down?

I will be sorry
Is that your viewpoint?
Am I your God
That disappoints?

I keep up my guard
Not made a fool of
Am I your God
That isn’t love?

Come rest my child
With confidence pray
In my arms to trust
I’ll show you the way

What a beautiful depiction of a dialogue that I frequently have with God. Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided above.

Lord our God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who is close at our side as the risen and living One, we lift our eyes to you in prayer. Bless us. Bless us through your Word, and let our hearts become quiet in you. Free us from all restlessness and from the turmoil of the present age, for we belong to you, not to the world. We want to find peace in you and remain in you. You will care for us as your children, whom you will never forget in all eternity. Bless us and renew the riches of your grace in us every day, for you, O Lord our God, remain our Father. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
(John 20:21 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

 1. for the peace in which Jesus sends us into the world, freeing us from all restlessness and the turmoil of the present age
2. for the great help that God has granted me, all through my life, to get me where I am today (and I'm confident of that help, going forward)
3. for faith; for the ability to believe, yet praying that God help my unbelief
4. for the deep love that exists in relationship with God, and for the command that we love one another deeply
5. for water; cool, clear, water

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
(Mark 5:34 NLT)

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
(Mark 5:35-36 ESV)


The word for today, in Pray a Word a Day, is Ebenezer. (I capitalized it, they didn’t.)

There’s a line in an old hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, by Robert Robinson. As I search for the original lyrics, I find that they have been altered, several times, by different people. So I consulted my copy of the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. Verse 2 of the hymn goes like this:

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

I remember singing that song, as a young lad, always wondering, “what in the world is an “Ebenezer??”

Well, it turns out, this is from a passage in 1 Samuel 7, when God routed the Philistines before Israel.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
(1 Samuel 7:12 NIV)

So here’s the thing. With all due respect (and truly, how difficult is it to come with 365 different words to use in our prayers? I don’t know . . . I’ve never tried), I don’t think using the word “Ebenezer” in a prayer is going to be all that effective for me. While I acknowledge the benefit of praying Scripture back to God, there is no formula, and there are no “secret words” that are going to command God’s blessing. And if one believes that simply using the word “Ebenezer” in a prayer is going to result in special graces, then one probably should be setting up a rock while doing it.

I know. My cynicism is showing.

But here’s another thing. What if we simply do what the word calls for? And that is remembering how much God has helped us in our journey? I don’t need the word “Ebenezer” or a big rock to remember God’s help. At the same time, as I’ve mentioned previously, on multiple occasions, I do have that Blue Jay feather in a box in the garage, as a reminder of that time God hugged me.

There’s nothing wrong with reminders. And when we come to a point in our lives, a sort of “crossroads,” if you will, where God gives us that extra motivation or help to get us through, there is nothing wrong with using something to remind us of that time. And when I come to those times, I am much more apt to remember the line that says “Hither by Thy help I’m come,” than I am “Ebenezer.”

Father, I praise You for Your help in my life. I can look back on many places in my life and see how You have helped me come this far. Even as I type, memories flood in, so much so that I don’t have time to type them all. And I don’t have to type them to remember them or to be grateful for them. I just pray that You never let me forget them, just as I know that You will never forget me, and am confident that Your help will continue in my life, for the rest of my days and into eternity.


Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9 NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 NIV)

Love “deeply.” I like the way the NIV words that. “Deeply” seems better than “earnestly” (ESV). However, I also like Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message.

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.
(1 Peter 4:8 MSG)

Father, please help us to love each other deeply, as if our lives depend on it.


Father, as we go through our lives, help us to simply invite people into this wonderful relationship with You and with all the saints. This relationship, this community . . . there is nothing quite like it. There is no club, no organization, no other group that can compare with the true Body of Christ and the relationship therein. There are, unfortunately, some imposters, and, no doubt, there are even imposters that have infiltrated the Body. Nevertheless, the world will know us by our love for one another.

We cannot manipulate anyone into this love, Father. We cannot coerce them into relationship with You or with us. So let us not try. Let us simply invite and demonstrate. Let us show the world how much we love You by showing them how much we love one another.

Even so, come soon, 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.

PCKHG

Today is Friday, the seventeenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,472

Warning: This one is pretty long. Sorry.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we come into your presence and bow down before you, the Almighty. We come before you and repent, believing in you and in your will to save us. Your will to save goes out over the whole world, over the whole godless world, that all may repent and be redeemed. Grant us the thoughts of your heart so that we may begin to understand your will. We dedicate ourselves to you, the holy, just, righteous, and merciful God. Grant that we may be your children, led and guided by you every day. Turn our hearts to you so that you can make us more and more as you want us to be. Turn our hearts to you until your goal of atonement and redemption is reached through the quiet working of your almighty power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
(Mark 1:15 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the will of God to save us and His mercy and grace in making it possible
2. for the Good News (Gospel) that the Kingdom of God is here
3. for 1984 (that year in my life, not George Orwell's book), one of the best years of my life
4. for the Lord's great mercy and blessing in my life; unexplainable and totally and utterly undeserved
5. for wonderful friends, brothers and sisters, that the Lord has placed in my life, through the years
6. for the music and artists that have inspired me and kept me on the path of life
7. that "God is so good, He's so good to me . . . there's never been anyone like You, You are worthy!" (Pat Barrett)

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
(Mark 3:24-25 ESV)

Father, I pray desperately for the Body of Christ, Your Church, both in this nation and in this world, that we would be united under the authority of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. Heal our divisions that are over irrelevant politics and cause us to be focused on loving one another.

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”
(2 Samuel 7:18 NLT)

While I realize this is King David speaking, I pray the same thing, today, Father. Who am I, what am I, that You have brought me this far? I do not pray for my “kingdom” to be expanded. I do not pray for riches or wealth, nor do I pray for fame or fortune. My humble prayer is that I might effectively spread the Gospel of Christ, that Your Kingdom is here, and that we must do better at loving one another in Your Name.

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“For you are God, O Sovereign LORD. Your words are truth, and you have promised these good things to your servant. And now, may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you have spoken, and when you grant a blessing to your servant, O Sovereign LORD, it is an eternal blessing!”
(2 Samuel 7:28-29 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is lead. (We are referring to the verb, not the element.)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
(Matthew 6:13 NIV)

I confess that I, probably like most people, when repeating the “Lord’s Prayer,” rush right through that phrase, many times without thinking. Either that, or focusing on the second half of that verse. “Deliver.”

What if there was a comma after “us?”

“Lead us.”

Full disclosure, here, I’m not making this up, it’s coming from the daily reading.

What if there was a pause after “us?”

When a shepherd leads the sheep, he sets the pace. He watches ahead for dangers or obstacles. He makes sure the sheep stay on the right path. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us,
Poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us,
Grace to cleanse, and pow'r to free:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Early let us turn to Thee;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Early let us turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor,
Early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior,
With Thy love our bosoms fill:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

(Attributed to Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836)

Yes, Father, lead us. I always thought it strange that most translations use the word “temptation” in that prayer. I do not believe any of us would ever think that You, our heavenly Father, would lead us into temptation! I can see that another acceptable word might be adversity, which would make more sense to me. One translation says, “keep us safe from ourselves” (MSG). But I like to envision Jesus, as my Shepherd, setting the pace, watching ahead for danger, and looking behind to make sure we stay on the path. He leads us, not into adversity or danger, but into safety and peace. Hallelujah! Lead us, O Lord!

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NLT)

I stumbled across this verse back in the early to mid eighties. I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life, and the Lord had brought a couple of people into my life, as well as some extremely important music albums. I started writing signs to myself and placing them in conspicuous places in the house, probably much to the confusion of my roommate at the time.

Two of those albums were Michael W. Smith’s second album, simply known as “2,” and Amy Grant’s “Straight Ahead.” In addition, a fellow trombone player in the seminary symphonic band introduced me to Daniel Amos, which changed my life forever, but that’s a story for another day.

One of the songs from the MWS album was called “I Am Up.”

I am up
Like the sun is up
I can feel my life on a rise
I am up
Like the stars at night
I get up on bein' alive
I am up
Like the Lord is up
And my life is filled with His life
I was freed and I am saved
I am up
I am up

That’s the chorus. The last verse goes like this:

There are times life is so fine I can't contain it
Everywhere I look I see what God had done
And I don't have to work and worry to sustain it
When I walk with God His joy will always come
When I walk with God His joy will always come

Another important song was the title track of the Amy Grant album.

Day by day, dream by dream
I fight to find the way to go
Every day opens a different door
Every dream shadows the one before
But slowly I can see
The way You've made for me

Straight ahead, I can see Your light
Straight ahead, through the dark
Straight ahead, there's no left or right
Straight ahead, to your heart

Carry on through the night
When the road is hard to find
Lying lights tell me to turn around
Lying thoughts tell me I'm lost not found
But clearly I can see
You're waiting there for me

Those two songs don’t seem much alike, do they? But I did mention that it was a very difficult time in my life. And, by His grace, I determined that, while 1983 was probably the worst year of my life, 1984 would be the best year (at least up to that point). And it was.

You might wonder what any of this has to do with Colossians 3:12. I’m getting there. In the middle of all of this, I found (or, perhaps it might be better to say that God planted it) that verse. I think the most modern version of the Bible we had back then was the NIV.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NIV)

Since it uses the word “compassion” instead of “tenderhearted mercy,” one of the signs I put up said, simply, “PCKHG.” I pronounced that “puckhug.” Patience; Compassion; Kindness; Humility; Gentleness.

That sign was right by my front door, where I had to look at it every day when I left the house. It reminded me, then, and still reminds me (the verse, not the sign . . . it is long gone) today how I am to “dress” myself each day when I go out into the world.

I think it is safe to say that the world could use a lot more “PCKHGs.”

Oh . . . and the best thing that happened to me in 1984? December 7. First “date” with C, my wife of almost 37 years.

Father, You are so good. I look back up at that verse from 2 Samuel, from that prayer of David, and I can only shake my head in wonder at Your goodness and mercy. I am absolutely and utterly unworthy of the favor that You have shown me in my life. I deserve the opposite. Why on earth You never struck me dead on the spot, I cannot explain, other than to simply believe that there must be something left that You have for me to do on this earth.

Best I can figure, that “something” is to spread those PCKHGs around as much as I can. I thank You and praise You for the people who kept me sane and on Your path, back in those days. Some of them, I can’t remember their names. But I can remember most of their faces, and how they ministered to me. I praise You and thank You for those friendships. And I pray that, even this late in my life, I might be able to be that kind of friend to someone.

I am also so very grateful for the family that You have given me and placed me in. I have thanked You many times for that, and it can never be enough. Thank You for bringing my wife into my life in 1984, and for keeping us together all these years. It is You and only You that has accomplished that.

I don’t want to leave this place, this morning, Father. But I have things to do. I praise You for Your goodness. And like Pat Barrett said, “there’s never been anyone like You; You are worthy!” Only You are worthy of my worship and praise and adoration, Lord. And, while I must leave this room, I don’t have to leave You. Thank You for coming with me wherever I go. Help me to spread the love and mercy of Your Kingdom as I venture out into the world today.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and make everything right!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

What Makes A “Strong” Christian?

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

Today is Friday, the tenth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,465

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, Almighty God, you are our Father and we are your children, who want to live for you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Strengthen and renew our hearts. When discouragement and fear try to mislead us, may your Holy Spirit help us again and again to hold fast, for no matter what difficulties arise, your will is being done and your will is good. Your name will be honored. Your kingdom will come for all nations. Your reign will come over all peoples, for they are all yours and must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to your honor, O Father. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us. 
May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere.
(Psalms 67:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have Fridays off
2. that I was able to sleep until almost 9:00, this morning (very rare)
3. that God is constantly making me new, reviving me, day after day
4. for the promises of God that help me in this reviving
5. that the marks of a "strong" Christian are selflessness, being considerate of others, and building others up, rather than building oneself up

We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
(Romans 15:1-2 NLT)

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

The prayer word for today is “revive.”

Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.
(Psalms 119:50 NLT)

One thing that has always fascinated me is the perennial plants. Last year, my mother gave us some “Four O’clock” seeds. The proper name for these is “Mirabilis jalapa,” also called “the marvel of Peru.” We planted them in several spots in our front flower bed, and one of the plantings survived, giving us a pretty good-sized flowering plant. I have always loved Four O’Clocks.

I wasn’t sure if they would come back, but sure enough, this spring, the plant came back up (along with a couple smaller ones) and is producing more flowers. I suppose you could say it was “revived.”

God revives me, frequently. I don’t suppose it could be said that I have ever “died” spiritually, but I have certainly had periods in my life when I was not as spiritually active as others. Perhaps “dormant” might be a better word, just as a perennial plant is “dormant” during the “off-season.”

The psalmist wrote, in Psalm 119, that God’s promise revived him. And this is what I have experienced. In my lowest times, a verse of Scripture, more often than not Psalms, has “revived” me, or sparked a new interest in me, or a fresh perspective on life. Some of my favorites include:

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
(Psalms 86:11 NLT)

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)

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalms 16:11 NLT)

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NLT)

There are many more. Here are some verses that actually use the word.

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NLT)

I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.
(Psalms 119:25 NLT)

I think, based on that verse in Psalm 119, that a condition to being revived is knowing that one lies “in the dust.” In other words, I have to know that my spiritual condition is desperate before I can be “revived.”

Our God is in the business of making things new.

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

But this “newness” is not a one and done deal. God continues to make me new, throughout my life, day after day.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Being an old Southern Baptist, I must say that the first thing I thought of when I saw the word for the day was this old hymn, written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay

1. We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

2. We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

3. We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv’n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav’n.

4. Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Refrain - Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

Also, being an old Southern Baptist, I’m pretty sure I have never sung that third verse. Hahaha!

Speaking of what makes one a “strong” Christian:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 NLT)

It wouldn’t hurt to read that entire chapter.

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
(1 Peter 2:12 NLT)

Father, I pray for the ability to continue to seek to not be selfish, to not try to impress anyone else. Let my motivation be only to do what is good for others and to build them up and help them. Help me to always think of others as better than myself. I pray that this would be true for all who call the name of Jesus. May we all be “strong Christians.”

Help me to “live properly” among my neighbors, so that, should they not be believers, they will still give honor to God for my behavior.

I praise You that You are always in the business of making things new, reviving us. This gives me hope when my soul is downcast, because I am reminded, by Your great and precious promises, that You will never give up on us, and that we cannot be taken out of Your hands.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

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.

In Wonder, Now

It is Tuesday, the twelfth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,406

It was a pretty lazy day, yesterday, but I did manage to get a few things done. I never left the house, though, except for going to get the mail and retrieving the trash/recycling bins from the curb. Today, I will be going out to get lunch and dinner for everyone. Our tradition Tuesday meals are Subway, since I work late on Tuesdays. I get enough food for C, Mama, and S to have something for dinner while I am at work.

Tomorrow, we are going to try something new in the crockpot. I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken Soup at Emily Bites. We have found a few good recipes there, and they are all WW friendly. This one will cook while I am at work on Wednesday. And, since I am also working Thursday, now, I’ll make sure the crockpot is clean Wednesday night so I can cook our other chicken soup dish Thursday.

The Texas Rangers lost their home opener, yesterday, thanks to a couple of errors by Cory Seager, and a really horrible review call from the folks at MLB in NYC that ended the game. The current regime of “leadership” in MLB is ruining the game, in my not so humble opinion. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The final score was 6-4 in ten innings. The Red Sox lost their game to the Tigers, 3-1, so both the Rangers and the Red Sox are at 1-3 on the season. The Rangers sit in last place in the AL West, a position they have gotten far too comfortable with, and the Red Sox are also in last place in the AL East.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost, yesterday, so after only four games, there are no undefeated teams in MLB. Houston, Tampa, and Chicago continue to lead the AL, while Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego lead the NL. The Rangers play the Rockies again tonight, at 7:05 CDT. The Red Sox play the Tigers in an afternoon game, in Detroit, at 12:10 CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Sense Of,” by Daryl Madden

A sense of the morning
Of what is to be
To draw a new breath
Of possibilities

A sense in life daily
Past stress and of fear
A whisper of calling
To pause and draw near

A sense in the sunset
Of grace here to flow
Regrets of the should done
And letting it go

The sense of the Spirit
To foster and grow
With a prayer of moment
To let God’s love flow

I love the end of the third stanza, “Regrets of the should done And letting it go.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for chocolate covered toffee, such as Heath bars
2. for "now," the only time that we truly have; may God help us stop worrying about the past and the future and focus on the now
3. for the beauty, majesty, and glory of God's creation, and how He has revealed Himself to us
4. for unexpected encounters with God
5. for the faith that helps me always be ready to give an answer

Today’s prayer word is “now.”

God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.
(2 Corinthians 6:2 MSG)

How much time do we spend rehashing the past or worrying about the future? Both activities create much unnecessary stress in our lives. “Eac removes us from the present and cheats us of the full blessing of this life, this day, this moment – this ‘now.'”

I love the way that “Bob” words this next part. “The single, simple word now can be a way of awakening yourself to the beauty of your own life, a way of fully breathing in and breathing out the blessing of being alive . . . now.”

The past is gone, nothing can be done about it. The future is not yet, and while you may be able to do something to have an effect on it, worrying or stressing about it is strictly forbidden by our Lord. Praying “now,” that simple word, may be a way to focus on the only time that we can call our own, this very moment.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

“‘How can anyone see mountains and not know there is a God?'”

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Sing to GOD, everyone and everything! Get out his salvation news every day! 
Publish his glory among the godless nations, his wonders to all races and religions. 
And why? Because GOD is great—well worth praising! No god or goddess comes close in honor. 
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense, but GOD made the cosmos! 
Splendor and majesty flow out of him, strength and joy fill his place. 
Shout Bravo! to GOD, families of the peoples, in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo! 
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name, lift high an offering and enter his presence! Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness! 
God is serious business, take him seriously; he's put the earth in place and it's not moving. 
So let heaven rejoice, let earth be jubilant, and pass the word among the nations, "GOD reigns!" 
(1 Chronicles 16:23-31 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

It was just a normal average weekday when the “woman at the well” found herself discovering God in her life, as she did a normal average task that she had done countless times before, drawing a bucket of water.

“This kind of thing happens all the time. And it happens to all of us. We meet God when we least expect it in places that we never would have guessed. In the middle of routines, a sudden longing is released and comes out into the open. While passing the time of day, we hear God’s Word spoken and life is changed.”

As we go about our daily, ordinary lives, as ordinary people, we mistakenly think that God is a million miles away, but then Jesus engages us in some conversation, out of the blue, and changes our lives. “There is no style of life that exempts us from these meetings, there is no day of the week on which it may not happen, and there is no work that may not provide the scene for an encounter.”

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

On the other side of that coin (the rest of this is my thoughts), there is no place that makes it more likely to happen, no day of the week that makes it more likely to happen, and no vocation that makes it more likely to happen. Sunday isn’t special. It’s just another day of the week. It is not the “sabbath.” It’s just Sunday, and God can interact with us just as well on Thursday as He can on Sunday. (I originally typed Wednesday, but then remember that a lot of Baptists still have meetings on Wednesday evenings.)

I have met God listening to Pink Floyd on the radio in my car. I have had encounters with God on what appeared to be prank, random phone calls.

The woman in John 4 thought she was just going to the well to get a bucket of water. Not only was her life changed, but the lives of everyone she knew were changed, as well.

Another thought. This reading seems to be pointing in the direction of being the woman, who has the unexpected encounter with Jesus. We who follow Christ should also be prepared to be Jesus in that scenario. We should be ready to have an unexpected encounter (I realize that Jesus never had an “unexpected encounter”) with a “woman at the well.” This is why, I believe, that Peter admonishes us to always be ready to give an answer.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
(1 Peter 3:15 MSG)

Father, help me to always be ready to give an answer, to explain the reason for the way I live, the way I am, for the joy that overflows my soul, most of the time. I’m not joyful all the time, I confess that. I don’t know very many people who are. Also help me to always be ready for that unexpected encounter with either You or with someone else who needs an unexpected encounter with You. Help me to be that channel of Your grace, Your steadfast love and mercy, Your compassion. Let me never get so caught up in the “ordinary” that I forget to look for You.

Thank You for opening up my heart, my eyes, my soul, to wonder. I know the truth of “I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” My soul has, many times, sung “How great Thou art,” as I look around me. I, too, wonder how anyone can look at a scene like the one pictured above and not believe that You exist. I don’t get it. But I do know that it is true, and will go to my grave proclaiming Your glory and majesty.

And, finally, I thank You for “now.” I am one who spends way too much time rehashing the past (“I should have said”) or worrying about the future (“What if??”). I still beat myself up over that day, in seminary, at the Thanksgiving chapel, when I didn’t do what I felt Your Spirit urging me to do! There is no point in that, though. I can’t change the past, and there’s not an awful lot I can do about the future, either. Even preparations for the future can be derailed by unexpected encounters! So help me focus on “now,” help me “know You in the now.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
(Psalms 39:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Jesus

Today is Monday, the eleventh of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today!

Day 23,405

We had another wonderful day, yesterday. The trip to Mineral Wells and back went very well, with no delays or incidents on the road. We made it to FBC just in time to get seated for the worship service, which was a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus, and looking forward to Resurrection Sunday. The music included several choir soloists, as well as the handbell choir which played during the Lord’s Supper. I was also glad to get to take the Supper with the saints at FBC.

We picked up burgers and sundaes at Braum’s and took them to Mama’s house for lunch. Then we grabbed as much as we could squeeze into the car and headed back home, listening to the Texas Rangers trounce all over the Blue Jays, 12-6. That was good fun.

The Red Sox also managed to get their first win, beating the Yankees 4-3. In other scores, the Cleveland Guardians (now that’s going to take some getting used to . . . doesn’t sound like a baseball team name at all) jumped all over the KC Royals, 17-3.

After one weekend of play, one team remains undefeated, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers are in third place in the AL West, and the Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East. Houston leads the West, Tampa the East, and the Other Sox lead the Central. Mets, Cubs, and Padres lead the NL divisions. Chicago has two first place teams.

Today will mostly be a resting day as I get ready for one of my alternating “heavier” weeks at the library (working 3.5 shifts, this week). Couple loads of laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. Later, this afternoon, there will be groceries to put away. And I will probably do some practicing, as we are getting ready to have another Night of Worship on April 23. Oh, and I almost forgot, we have the Texas Rangers’ home opener this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Days of Wonder,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I Am
remaking
all things

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

The hope of this promise is one of the things that keeps me going through this life. Please check out the beautiful poetry and lovely images that accompany it, at the link provided above.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
(Psalms 149:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the most wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for the truth that the Lord takes pleasure in His people
3. for the knowledge of God's presence
4. that God works in the "ordinary"
5. that God expects us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in His presence (Micah 6:8)

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20 ESV)

“The most extraordinary feature of the gospel is its ordinariness. The fact that the Word that created the heavens and arranges the seasons enters ordinary lives and fashions eternal life in them is truly extraordinary.”

There is so much truth to this proclamation. Even when the miracle of new birth occurs in someone, to all external appearances, they are the same, ordinary people as they were the day before. Yet Scriptures says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

What does all this mean? Is there a “secret ingredient?”

“One of the extraordinary things about Jesus was that he unassumingly took his place among the ordinary men and women around him.” Consider this scene after the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" 
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 
Jesus said to her, "Mary." 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 ESV)

The resurrected Christ appeared so ordinary that Mary thought He was a gardener.

Then we have the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:28-32 ESV)

These two travelers just thought Jesus was another pilgrim on the road.

Even the disciples, having gone fishing after the resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus when He called out to them from the shore.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
(John 21:1-4 ESV)

Until, of course, He did that thing where He told them where to cast their nets and they couldn’t pull the net in, as it was so heavy with fish.

Is Jesus trying to hide Himself from us? “He didn’t make it easy for us to see God in him.” Except, of course, when He was baptized, and then, again, at the Transfiguration.

I have to confess that this puzzles me a little bit. Because I don’t see it as Jesus intentionally making it difficult for us to see God in Him. Rather, I think He tries to make us feel comfortable in His presence.

There is something about the Transfiguration which I had not considered until a few weeks ago, when I heard what was probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject. The pastor who was preaching that morning, at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine, TX, wondered if maybe what the three disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured, that which caused them to be “terrified” (Mark 9:6), was the same vision of Christ that John the Revelator saw.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:12-16 ESV)

Here were these three ordinary fishermen, who had been walking with this “ordinary” guy for a little while, and suddenly, they see this?

Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Jesus appeared to Mary as looking like an ordinary gardener, and He appeared to those two travelers as just another person on a journey. If we saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way John the Revelator did, we, too, I’m sure, would fall “at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

So, in between the appearances of Jesus in the New Testament, and His appearance that “every eye will see,” at the end of days (I’m not including the “Rapture” because I do not believe in that as a separate event from the Second Coming), we see Jesus walking in around in you and me. Ordinary people carrying around a miracle in our “jars of clay,” so that, hopefully, other ordinary people will see Him and take note of this great salvation that we have.

But there’s a catch. It’s that pesky bit about “love.” Unfortunately, people aren’t seeing a lot of Jesus in those who are supposed to be carrying Him around, because the hate that they are spewing is louder than the Gospel.

That just needs to stop. Period.

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

Father, I thank You for all of the “ordinary” that we see in Scripture, especially surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly, He did many extraordinary things, things that drew attention to Him and showed Your might power in this world. But He also appeared so very ordinary, as evidenced by the Scripture passages above. So ordinary that people didn’t realize who He was until He spoke or acted.

I pray for Your children today. We are walking around in our world, supposedly carrying the truth of the Gospel in our “jars of clay,” so that it is evident that we are nothing special, but the message we are carrying is so very special. But that message is getting obscured by a lack of love and compassion in those who are making the most noise.

I pray for them to be either silenced or have a severe, drastic change of heart. And, lest I be misunderstood, by “silenced” I am not praying for You to smite anyone. I’m simply praying for their voices to be drowned out by the prevalent voice of Your love and compassion and mercy coming from the rest of us.

I pray for Your truth to be known. I don’t claim to understand all of Your ways, and know that I will not understand them until the day that I stand in Your presence (or fall on my face, which is more likely). So, in that case, I choose to err on the side of love and mercy, rather than on the side of legalism and judgment. Hopefully, I am not erring at all.

May Your grace and mercy be known in all the world, and may the earth be filled with the knowledge of You as the waters fill the seas. I think that’s a hymn somewhere.

Give us glimpses of extraordinary Jesus, our Savior, as we walk through this ordinary world in our ordinary mortal coils.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

God of Wonders

Today is Thursday, the seventh of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,401

I’ve got a thing or two that I want to get done before I go to work today, this being my first Thursday to work at the library. I’m due in at 11:15 and will work until closing time. The entire shift will be in the Computer Center, as this is replacing my previous Friday shift. I don’t work this Saturday, so my next shift will be next Tuesday evening.

I really don’t have much else to mention, this morning. I actually just got one of the things done, which was starting the soup we will have for dinner tonight. In case anyone is interested, we call it “Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup.” All it has in it is three chicken breasts, three cans of cream of chicken soup (we usually use the 98% fat-free variety), a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and a can of water. It cooks in the crockpot on low all day, and we shred the chicken right before serving. Delicious and easy!

Oh, and one more thing. I haven’t mentioned it, lately, but today is Opening Day for baseball season. The Red Sox and Yankees were supposed to play today, but have been postponed until tomorrow. The Texas Rangers open their season in Toronto tomorrow. I reckon we will be watching.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for love; for the love God has for us and the love that I have for Him and the love He has placed in my heart for you
2. for the wonder of God's creation
3. for baseball, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox
4. that my treasures (and my heart) are not on this earth
5. that, when I walk in the kingdom of God, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be (Dallas Willard)

Today’s prayer word is “wonder.” Now, there’s a word I can be fully behind. In this case, I see the word as a noun, meaning, “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” I really like the last half of that. “Something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” That is a great way to describe the wonders of God and His creation.

You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
(Psalms 77:14 NLT)

Like the writer of today’s reading, I haven’t seen any seas parting or rivers drying up or water coming from a rock or turning into wine. But I have seen things like this:

That was beautiful and unexpected and inexplicable.

I choose to celebrate God’s wonders, and I also wonder at His beauty, love, and faithfulness. So, you see, “wonder” can be either a verb or a noun, and both ways work equally well.

And I believe this song has always said it pretty perfectly.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
(Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Luke 12:32-34 ESV)

In other verses in that Matthew 6 passage, Jesus points at some of the “wonders” of creation in His efforts to get people to take their eyes off of themselves and their problems. And, truthfully, once I have witnessed the grandeur and majesty of God’s creation, in “wonder,” how can I even consider laying up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal?

Father, I revel in Your many wonders. I am reminded of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” especially that bit about seeing the stars and hearing the rolling thunder, “Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” I thank You for the wonders that You have created and for the wonder that You placed in my heart when I gaze upon these things. I am still grateful for the opportunity that we had to visit those mountains in the photos above. You have blessed us with so many opportunities to see Your beauty, just in our country alone (and a few in Mexico, as well). How someone can gaze upon these wonders and refuse to open their hearts to Your love and grace is beyond my comprehension.

I thank You that You have led me to not place my trust in the “treasures” of this world. The older I get, the more generous I get with the resources that You have provided. This is partially because I know the truth of the old phrase, “you can’t take it with you.” But I don’t really want to take it with me, either, because I believe that my inheritance in heaven will be so much greater, beyond my wildest expectations and dreams. In fact, it too, I believe, will be wondrous. I look forward to Home, Father, wherever that will be and whatever it will look like.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“Come Quickly, Lord, to Help Me”

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today.

Day 23,386

Yesterday turned out to be a very good day. We got S to her appointment early, and the doctor was ready, so we started early. The setting was a bit unexpected, being in an old office building in The Stockyards of Fort Worth. He had a single room office on the second floor, down a narrow hallway from the elevator. However, the man was charmingly friendly, and upbeat, reassuring us from the start that there would likely be no change in S’s status with the SSA.

There was a brief “interview,” for which C and I were allowed to stay and help with answers. After that, though, there was some testing, for which we had to leave the office. He said it would be a couple of hours, so we set off walking back to Main St., to see if we could find some coffee and breakfast. It was windy and cold, and C didn’t wear a jacket. She was in long sleeves, but it was still chilly. We found a place called The Biscuit Bar. The first place we went into was just a coffee shop, with no real food offerings. It smelled really nice, though.

The Biscuit Bar was just okay. The menu looked good (although a bit pricey), but their coffee machine was on the fritz, so they only had plain black coffee (which was all we wanted, but still not a good thing), and they only had one kind of soda available. There were a lot of “out of order” signs on their self-serve devices. The food was just okay. It wasn’t hot at all, and my tots were practically room temperature. We definitely would not go back there.

After breakfast, we looked for a place to shop, but none of the shops opened until 11:00 AM, and it was just after 10:00. So we headed back to the office building and sat in chairs across the hall from the office. We hadn’t been there long when I got a text from the doctor saying that they were almost finished. He gave us a verbal report when we went back in, and not much had changed. S’s IQ was actually a few points lower, but that is because, he explained, she is older than the last test. The level didn’t actually declined, there is just a bigger gap between her age and the level at which she is performing. Ironically, she spells at a collegiate level, and can read words at an eleventh grade level. However, her comprehension and math skills are at about fifth grade.

He saw no reason for her status to change, going forward. That is good news. So, hopefully, she will begin receiving her SS benefits from my record soon, and we will get her on Medicare.

We had a late lunch, and then I went to my evening shift at the library, which was pretty nice. I’m off today, and not planning to do much at all. I even slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Holy Invitation,” by Daryl Madden

It’s so beautiful
A Holy invitation
Of us to reflect
On our Lord’s creation

A practice so important
To be aware and find
Precious little moments
To draw unto divine

For its these little moments
As rain drops fill the sea
That prepare the soul
For greater ones to be

So draw close to Him
Through nature of a prayer
With vision of His view
A taste of heaven here

Please check out Daryl’s other poems at the link provided.

And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
(Matthew 20:32-33 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for good results from S's evaluation, yesterday
2. for a day with no real "agenda" today
3. for that question from Jesus, "What do you want me to do for you?"
4. for the constant presence of God in my life
5. for the knowledge that I can be "strong and courageous" when I am doing the work that He has set forth for me, knowing full well that He will never leave nor forsake me

Today’s prayer word is “come.” The thought is a prayer for Jesus to come help us.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
(Psalms 22:19 NIV)

This is not the only place where that phrase occurs.

Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
(Psalms 40:13 NIV)

You probably have noticed that I close out every day’s prayer with these words.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

We know that God is not removed from us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, we do not always feel that presence. It is not unthinkable nor unacceptable to need to pray that prayer, “Come quickly, Lord, to help me.” And, in fact, simply taking a deep breath, closing one’s eyes and whispering, “Come,” can be helpful.

This is good to remember when circumstances become overwhelming. I have been also known to breathe the “Jesus prayer,” multiple times a day.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

While it does not contain the word or request to “come,” it has, in my opinion, the same effect.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
(1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV)

Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.
(Proverbs 19:15 NIV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

After we pray for the Lord to come quickly and help us, our typical response should not be to just sit and wait. There are times when that is acceptable, when we need to simply “be still and know.” But most of the time, we should either get busy working or keep working on whatever it is we are doing. David reminds Solomon to be strong and courageous, but also adds the phrase “do the work.” And it is possibly Solomon who tells us later,

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
(Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ESV)

You may say, “that’s easy for you to say, you’re retired!” True, but I still “work.” I have work to do, around the house, and I have my wonderful part-time job at the library, which, as delightful as it is, is still “work.” But I also have the “work” of being faithful to God and proclaiming my gratitude each day. This, too, is “work” that we need to be about. Each of us has different “work” to do, and it isn’t always about the nine-to-five that gets you your paycheck.

So, after you pray to God to come quickly and help you, get busy doing the work that He has for you to do. And be “strong and courageous” about it, because He is with you.

I love what Eugene Peterson says in the short reading called “The Unspeakable Ordinary.” And, once again, this hearkens back to the mention of Brother Laurence, the other day, and his pots and pans.

“We do not become more spiritual by becoming less material. The life of faith takes place where there are rocks and water.” Our lives of faith are mixed in with everything else in our lives: “violence and sex and greed and commerce and government.” Life is unspeakably ordinary, for most of us, and this is where we meet God. We do not become more spiritual by trying to extricate ourselves from this life. The life of faith is quite ordinary.

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

I haven’t taken a look, yet, this week, at the selection on Fasting in Spiritual Classics. This segment is from William Law (1686-1761), and Anglican Priest who lived during the Enlightenment. His most famous writing is called A Serious Call To A Devout and Holy Life.

In this book, Law makes a distinction, in the idea of “private prayer,” to say that “Private prayer . . . does not suppose that no one is to have any witness of it.” He strongly encourages that we should allow near relations to witness our devotion. Then he uses the same word that Augustine used, “ostentation.” Let me look that up again. It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I have added the emphasis.

We are not to “make public ostentation to the world of our fasting,” says Law. So, the idea of “private prayer” or “private fasting” has more to do with the motivation and heart behind it than it does to do with who witnesses it.

Law brings up the record of Cornelius, from the book of Acts. “Now that this fasting was sufficiently private and acceptable to God appears from the vision of an angel with which the holy man was blessed at that time.” Yet, Cornelius’s family and household servants must have been aware of this fasting, “and were made devout themselves by continually waiting upon him, that is, by seeing and partaking of his good works.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'”
(Acts 10:30-31 ESV)

We must not allow legalism to turn Jesus’s words into absurdity. Law even adds what seems to be a bit of humor (in my opinion) when he says, “For if no one was to fast in private or could be said to fast in private but he that had no witnesses of it, no one could keep a private fast but he that lived by himself.”

Oddly, it may be the case that Law used the Gentile Cornelius as his example because the legalists of his day might be inclined to not accept Cornelius as acceptable to God. This might cause Law’s modern readers (you and me) to take a step back and examine our own tendency to legalism. .

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

Father, I rejoice in the truth that You will never leave nor forsake me, and that I can be “strong and courageous” as I tend to the tasks that You have placed in my life, be they as mundane as sweeping floors and washing pots and pans. Nevertheless, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by anything at all, remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, that all I need to do is whisper “come quickly to help me” and You are right there with me.

I thank You for the example that William Law has given us, in regard to private prayer and fasting, because it sheds “new” light on the subject. Help me to not ever be ostentatious in my prayer or fasting. May it never be for the vulgar purpose of impressing or attracting notice. Keep me humble, Father.

As I walk through the rest of this day, may I find myself resting in Your love and mercy, rejoicing that Your mercies are “new every morning,” and that Your faithfulness is great. I love You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.