Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

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

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,464

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our Savior, you are our Lord and our Helper. Show yourself again and again in our hearts as the Savior who is strong to help us even in difficult times. Remember the many people who sigh to you. Guide them into the protection of the almighty God. Even if they suffer pain and distress and have to go through fear and anxiety, even if they die, Lord Jesus, you are comfort and help. In everything life brings us you will show yourself as the One who does the will of God and who carries it out for us on earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord takes delight in us with gladness
2. that the Lord calms all our fears with love
3. that real transformation is possible, changing the way I think, renewing my mind, by dwelling in and meditating on the Word of God
4. that by doing the things in number 3, I can live a life of love, joy, and laughter
5. that regularly gathering with other saints enhances this even more
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. . . . Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. . . . So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.
(Romans 14:1, 4, 10-13a NLT)
O God, you know how foolish I am; 
my sins cannot be hidden from you. 
Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me, 
O Sovereign LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 
Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated, O God of Israel.
(Psalms 69:5-6 NLT)

It seems to me that a large number of us needs to spend some time in Romans 14.

The prayer word of the day is “mind.” This is not the verb sense of the word, but, rather, that which is somewhat synonymous with “brain.”

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

I prefer the way some other translations word this, though.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 NLT)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:2 MSG)

In this day and age, it is not unusual for one’s mind to feel scattered. Society has pushed the myth of multi-tasking on us. Susanna asks, “How can I figure out God’s will when I can’t even navigate my day?”

The presence of God and His Word can “rewire how I see things, changing priorities, bringing peace in the midst of chaos, resetting my moods with His grace.” This is the “transforming” or “renewing” of the mind that Romans 12 speaks of.

If we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, it will certainly change the way we think.

All too often, though, and this is what causes the attitudes that Paul is speaking against in Romans 14, we allow the way we think to “transform” what God’s Word says.

Just sit on that for a minute.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
(Proverbs 31:25 NIV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:26 NIV)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 NIV)

Most people are probably familiar with Proverbs 31, and that it speaks of a “wife of noble character,” beginning in verse 10.

But that’s not what we’re talking about, here, today. I want to focus on that bit about laughing at “the days to come.”

I’m pretty sure that no one would deny that we have been living “hell on earth” for the last two years or so, maybe closer to three. First there was a pandemic (honestly, there still is . . . as much as some folks want to believe it’s over, we are still having close to 100,000 new cases a day in the U.S.). Weather has been unpredictable (February in Texas, 2021, the entire state was frozen for three to five days). Russia invaded Ukraine. Prices are skyrocketing.

Here’s the thing. Because of my faith in Christ, because of my walk with Him and in God’s Kingdom, because of abiding in His Word and His Word in me, I can do what Proverbs 31:25 says. I can laugh at the days to come.

Not because I think it’s going to be funny. I don’t think that at all. I have opinions about the way things are going. They aren’t relevant to pretty much anything, though, so I keep them to myself, for the most part. I do believe, however, that Dallas Willard nailed it when he said that, in Christ, “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” And this is the attitude portrayed in Proverbs 31:25.

The psalmist alluded to that in Psalm 73:26. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The verse immediately preceding that has long been a favorite of mine. Verse 25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Because of these things, I can “live a life filled with love, joy, and laughter.” I can, as “they” say,

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

What makes this state of mind even better is when we can enjoy it with other believers. “Honesty in worship is maintained by keeping in touch with other Christians in company before God. There are no instances that we know of when Christians have successfully severed themselves from a regular gathering in community.”

Worship is not an option, something you add on whenever you feel like it. “Community worship keeps our relationships with God from depending on our feelings (our feelings are notorious deceivers) and restrains us from indulging. It keeps us connected to the whole revelation in the whole company of all God’s people.”

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

Father, I praise You for joy. I praise You that I can look at the days ahead and laugh, not because things are funny, but because I have You, and because I desire You more than I desire anything on earth. I pray that You keep this mindset alive in me. Continue to transform and renew my mind, my way of thinking, as I continue to read, pray, and meditate on Your Word.

I also pray for continued gathering with other saints to keep this alive and enhance the mindset. As we gather, Father, help us to have joy in our lives, regardless of outward circumstances and appearances. May Your will be done on earth as in heaven; bring heaven to earth, Father. And please do it “soon.”

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Humble Confidence

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,461

I’ll confess that I have been slightly confused about when Ordinary Time occurs, partially because of a devotional book I used last year. The primary Church calendar, however, shows Ordinary Time to occur between Epiphany Sunday (usually the first Sunday in January) until Ash Wednesday, and then from Pentecost Sunday (which was yesterday) up until Advent. Hence today beginning the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.
Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! 
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. 
Your unfailing love will last forever. 
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the understanding that the purpose of my life is to love; to love my family, to love Jesus, to love the Church, and to love my neighbor as myself
2. that I don't have any "agenda" for my life, other than the above declaration;
3. that I am a child of God, but also that He has led me down a path of humility in that relationship, because, not only is He my Father, He is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe!
4. that I will be praising God for "ten thousand years and then forevermore" (Matt Redman)
5. that my joy is not dependent upon my happiness; I may not always smile, but there is always hope and celebration in my soul
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! 
Sing about the glory of his name! 
Tell the world how glorious he is. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
 Everything on earth will worship you; 
they will sing your praises, 
shouting your name in glorious songs.” 
Come and see what our God has done, 
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
(Psalms 66:1-5 NLT)
Come and listen, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell you what he did for me. 
For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. 
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer 
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “confident.” The quote used comes from Maya Angelou.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”

Let me say, right off the bat, that I have no problem with the thought of confidence before God. I believe that Scripture teaches this.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

But there is a stark difference between confidence and arrogance. And we must not cross that line when we come before the Lord, in my opinion. I really don’t have a problem with Ms. Angelou’s quote, either, in the context of Hebrews 4:16.

I do, however, have a problem with where today’s reading takes the idea. The writer, Jeanette, applies this to a mindset of prayer, and relates a time when friends at a Bible study told her, “Hold up your head when you talk to God. You are His child. You have every right to come to Him and ask for what you need and want.” (I added the italics.)

This, in my opinion, crosses that line. Especially that bit about asking for what we want. I started to write that I don’t have a problem asking God for things that I want. But that’s not quite accurate. I’ll admit that I do struggle some with asking God for things that I want, but don’t necessarily need. I even struggle with praying for other peoples’ prayer requests when they ask me to pray for something that they want, but don’t necessarily need. It’s not my place to judge, for sure. And I will pray for what they ask me to pray for (unless it’s political . . . I won’t go there), but I will also let God know how I feel about that.

Haha. That last sentence is kind of ridiculous, you know? “I will also let God know how I feel about that.” As if He already doesn’t know that, right??

We say, sometimes, the most foolish things about God and our relationships with Him. He knows everything! He already knows how I feel about that prayer request.

So, do we have a “right” to ask God for anything we want?

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
(John 15:7 NLT)

Here’s the thing. I think there’s a catch there. It’s not a “blank check” as some folks want to believe. Yes, we may ask for anything we want. But I firmly believe that, if I am remaining (abiding) in Christ and His words are abiding in me, that will have a drastic effect on whatever I want! I won’t want the same things.

I can speak from experience on this. Not that I have perfectly nailed down this concept of abiding. Far from it. However, as I work toward that, and when I do abide in Christ and His words abide in me, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for the same things that I would have asked for, earlier in my life.

I find myself praying that God would bless my “enemies” rather than curse them. I find myself praying more for things like unity in the Body of Christ, because that’s one of the more important things that I want when I am abiding in Him.

“Jeanette” naively compares us asking God for something to her own children asking her for stuff. She doesn’t want them to hang her head, but to ask confidently. I would like to see how faithful she is to that belief when her kids come to her in arrogance, asking for something that they want, that might harm them in some way.

Her prayer at the end says, “Dear Lord, help me remember that although You are God, You are also my Father.” I would turn that around. It’s true. He is both. But, lest we get too comfortable, we must also remember that our Father is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. A little humility is in order, I do believe.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Praise the LORD, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. 
He makes the nations submit to me. 
O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, 
mere mortals that you should think about them?
 For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NLT)

“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”
(Job 42:3 NLT)

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

And look! What more reason for humility do we need than what we find in these Scriptures?? We are but a breath, in comparison with our eternal, infinite, majestic God! “My entire lifetime is just a moment to you!” How could I come before this God with any thought of arrogance, with any though of demanding something that I seem to think I have a right to???

This life is so very short. But eternity is long. And, as the following song says, we will have 10,000 years and then forevermore to sing His praises! Hallelujah.

To me, this is a very stirring moment, as I watch and listen to Matt unable to contain his emotions while singing this praise song.

The same mindset that would have us come before our Father in arrogance also brings us the idea that we should always be smiling. And I think the bottom line in all of this is that we must remember that there is nothing “fake” about being a Christian.

The idea of “fake it until you make it” has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. This life is real. There is nothing, in my opinion, more real than walking in Jesus Christ. He is Reality.

“It is a myth that the Christian always wears a smile. There is a stream of joy that runs through the Christian life and keeps surfacing in praise and glad service. There is a powerful note of celebration in the church’s life and the Christian’s witness. But that is not the kind of smile that maintains itself by ignoring or denying everything that is troubling or difficult.”

I used to work with someone who displayed what I call “toxic positivity.” She could not bear any negative thought whatsoever, about anything.

We do, as followers of Christ, face difficulties in this world. “We must wrestle with unanswerable questions. If we take seriously the commands of God and give ourselves seriously to the task of loving our neighbors and our enemies, we are going to find ourselves in conflict with others, even find ourselves looking silly and naive – a laughingstock, in short.”

We will feel, at times, that God is unfair. I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt that. And, even worse, there is the danger of beginning to think, “If only I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way. If I just had more faith, these blasphemous thoughts would never cross my mind. If only I could be well balanced and peaceful and accepting of God’s will in my life, like the really good Christians!”

But here’s the thing. As Christians, we are not people who never have doubts or feelings of despair. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you (and probably lying to themselves, as well). As Christians, we are people who believe in spite of those things! We obey God’s commands when we don’t feel like it, and we hope, even when it looks like there is no hope.

I certainly struggle with these things. I look around me, right now, and see very little hope for this nation. It is more divided than I have ever seen it, in my 64 years, and it is, quite frankly, so foolish that I can hardly stand it. The political division in the country right now is asinine. It makes no sense. But guess what? My hope is not in this country. My hope is not in a political party (either one, or any of the alternatives). My hope is not in a president, past, present, or future.

My hope is in Jesus. And when I look around and see no hope, I still have hope because of Him. It is because of Him that I can sing “10,000 Reasons.” It is because of Him that I can go before the God of the universe with humble confidence, and ask for whatever I want, knowing, or at least hoping, that “whatever I want” is also what He wants.

And what does He want? If you’ve read this blog at all, you already know what I’m going to say. He wants us to love Him with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love the saints in the same way that Jesus loves us.

“The picture we have of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows him agonizing over the decision of the Cross. He struggled with his own feelings. He wrestled with the will of God and finally chose the will of God. And out of this struggle came something we call good news.”

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

Father, there may be too much stuff here, today. There is certainly a lot to pray about. I pray, Father, that people would not be subjected to false teachings. I know that Your Word says they will come. And come, they have, in droves. I won’t name names, but there are certain people that I truly believe are teaching serious error in Your kingdom. I pray for truth to be known. I also pray that we, Your children, would have the confidence to come before You boldly, but also have the sense to come before You in humility. Yes, You are our Father, and You love us. But You are also Almighty God, and have all the power.

I come before You as one who has surrendered any “rights” to anything that I might want. Therefore, when I read Jesus’s words about asking for whatever I want, I take that in context of abiding in Your Word and Your Word abiding in me. I do not have a right to anything I want, because I have surrendered those rights.

I thank You for whatever life I have on this earth. I am grateful for the number of years that I have had, so far, and will graciously accept whatever number of years You grant me, going forward. I pray that, through the rest of those years, I will heed Your Word and do what You have commanded us to do. I pray that I will always shove my opinions into the “back seat,” and simply do my job, which is to love You and love people. And I pray that this example will speak more loudly than ten thousand words.

I thank You for the hope of “ten thousand years and then forevermore.” That hope is what keeps me going, some days. And I look forward with great anticipation to that day when that multitude from every tribe, nation, language, and people will stand before You, arms lifted high, shouting and worshiping Your holiness and Your Name! You are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and glory and honor and blessing! Worthy Is the Lamb! Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
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)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

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

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

Suddenly I could breathe again.

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

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

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

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

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

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

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

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Remembrances

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,414

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there are verses like these.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Remembering

Grace and peace, friends.

True Success

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. It is “Good Friday.”

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,409

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

I’m off work today, as I will be every Friday, going forward, until my schedule changes again, if it does. But the library is closed today, anyway, and, based on what I’m hearing, usually is closed for Good Friday, as all city offices are also closed.

We have a funeral to attend, this afternoon, and are about to get ready to go pick up a good work friend of C’s, and go have lunch together, and then she will ride to the funeral with us, as she also worked for the man who passed away.

I have several book reviews to write, today, at some point. I may not attend the Good Friday service this evening. I have not yet decided on that. And I’m still not sure what we are doing for church Sunday morning.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the Angels (and Ohtani!) 10-5. Included in that game was a grand slam by catcher Jonah Heim, who also batted in another run, and scored at least one more, himself. That was the first grand slam ever allowed by Ohtani, and I think I heard the radio announcers say that it was the first home run hit off of that particular pitch of his. Also included in the game was Corey Seager finally getting his first Rangers home run (he flirted with that a couple days ago, but it was stolen from him by a great outfield catch). They play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, apparently with Matt Bush starting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Good Friday)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for great discussions/conversations with C and Mama
2. for friends with which to have lunch
3. for the death of Jesus on the cross, which paid for all our sins
4. for a life that has been lived with the "correct" definition of success (obeying God's voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family)
5. that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”
(Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “success.” This is a tricky one, I think. We need to be careful, of course, how we define “success.”

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.
(Proverbs 16:3 NLT)

There is also this famous verse, not included in the reading for today.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
(Joshua 1:8 ESV)

What is success? When classmates vote “most likely to succeed,” they are probably considering who will “make a name for themselves, earn lots of money, and enjoy an illustrious career.”

I really like what today’s reading says. Written by “Barbranda,” she says “While I’ve had goals, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a master plan. I just take life step by step and make the most of the opportunities that come my way. For me, true success is obeying God’s voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family.” (I added the emphasis)

Indeed, I agree. That is what makes up true success. I have never really had what others might call a “life goal,” or “master plan.” I’ve just kind of plodded along, trying to do that same thing that Barbranda said.

" . . . and step by step You'll lead me,
and I will follow You all of my days."
(Written by David Strasser, aka "Beaker," for Rich Mullins)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41 NIV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

We need a lot of help “getting our feet on the ground and making sure we are headed in the right direction.” Our ground is, to a degree, “holy ground,” and the “‘right direction’ is toward the Cross of Jesus.'” Unfortunately, a lot of clutter gets into our lives, littering that holy ground, and voices cry out to us, distracting us from the Cross.

We have to cultivate our inwardness, and this must be intentional. “Spiritual practices, including prayer and fasting, are about getting our inside stories straight.” We must realize that a lot of, maybe most of, Jesus’s life happened “behind the scenes, in prayer. . . . It is not enough to become knowledgeable in surface facts. it is not enough to gain access to the biblical reports. We need the inside story, the God-story, that is at the heart of everything.

“Prayer grants access to inwardness, to the God-action that is taking place within us. This God-action is the most distinctive thing about us. it is more important than our circulatory systems, our brain waves, and our skeletal structures. When we realize that huge centrality, we are no longer content with prayers that are brief and occasional expressions of thanks or general laments upward. We want something comprehensive – prayer that is rigorously probing and capable of getting at the entire inside stories of our lives.”

I apologize for the lengthy quote, but, as is so often the case, I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s writing.

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

Father, this is the kind of prayer, this kind of inwardness, that I am looking for. As I walk through this Good Friday, may my heart, soul, and mind be turned inward toward this “inside story.” I want to know Jesus in this way, and I want to be walking on this “holy ground,” toward the direction of the Cross of Christ. Even if I only move 1% closer each day, I am satisfied with that, as it is progress toward true success. And “success” will be realized when I “arrive,” which will not happen until I stand face to face before You.

Help me to know as I am known. Help me to walk in the present, being aware of Your presence always with me, beside me, behind me, in front of me, above me, below me, and inside me.

May all the glory go to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Seeds of Joy

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the nineteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ fall on you, today.

Day 23,382

Funny story, but not. The Computer Center manager and I started going through my PC, yesterday morning. He determined, right away, that it was not my hard drive, and thought it was a fan hitting something. So we cleaned and sprayed air, everywhere. Finally, the noise stopped. We celebrated. I took the PC back out to the car and finished the day.

Got home from work, unloaded everything, and we had dinner. Then I came back here to the study an plugged the PC back in, and it started making the noise again. I was quite upset. In the process of checking it out again, I tilted it forward, toward the front. The noise stopped. I set it back down on its bottom, the noise started. Something, I believe, is rattling or vibrating. So the PC is currently sitting on its front, with the rear panel facing up. I don’t believe this hurts anything, based on what I can read on the Internet, because there is still ample ventilation space for the fans. Everything else seems to be working fine.

C is taking Mama back home, today, but only for a few hours. They will pick up any held mail, and begin the change of address process for her to move in, permanently with us. There will be many trips, back and forth, in the coming weeks, and we will likely be renting a truck, maybe next Saturday, to move some of the bigger things that she wants to bring here, like her recliner and other things. And we will likely have an estate sale, when we finally figure out what we want to keep and what we want to let go. Prayers for sanity and patience and endurance would be appreciated. 🙂

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be in the circulation department, today. I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing an old friend, yesterday, during my lunch time. One of my best friends from my high school days lives and works in Hurst, and was at the library, so we got to chat for a few minutes. That was nice.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Song of Ascents. 
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; 
he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in 
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace that God gives me in challenging circumstances
2. for the unlimited forgiveness that God gives (and expects from us, in return)
3. that God makes known to me the path of life; that there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in His presence
4. for the fame and awesome deeds of the Lord, and that He does not grow weary when we ask Him to repeat them
5. for the mystical relationship between Christ, believers, and the Church

Today’s prayer word is “again.”

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
(Habakkuk 3:2 NIV)

Of course, the word “again” is not in that verse. But the verse is asking the Lord to do something again, to repeat it. Many of us remember times when our children, when younger, would ask us to do things again. And again. And again. We, of course, grew tired and needed rest. But our God does not grow tired. He who watches over us does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121). And, as we famously know, His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). So He does not get tired or weary when we ask Him to repeat His great deeds. In fact, I believe that He rather likes it.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

This is one of my favorite verses. It is rich with meaning, yet simple to remember. It displays completeness in the presence of God, which, at my best moments, I experience. I have known that fullness of joy and those pleasures forevermore. Well, I haven’t known them “forevermore,” yet, have I? But I look forward to that. And through all of this, the Lord makes the path of life known to me, just as He has made it known to all of us. That path lies through the faith in Jesus Christ, walking through this world, in His kingdom, in His “easy yoke.”

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalms 118:24 ESV)

Eugene H. Peterson writes about seeds. First, he describes the Word of God as “the seed of the Christian.” The Parable of the Sower describes this, as Jesus tells it in Matthew 13. God’s Word comes into our lives “with divine power and can, if received rightly, multiply and produce itself in a great harvest to God’s glory.” That Word gives us “reason, strength, direction, and sense,” and makes it possible for us to live “a new life in Christ.”

But Peterson also describes the Christian as “the seed of the church.” This is a little more mystical, I think. He says, “The Christian is to the church what the Word of God is to the Christian. . . . The church is not just an aggregate of Christians. It is not simply a collective term for talking easily about many individuals who have similar beliefs about God.” (For one thing, our beliefs may or may not be all that similar.) But the Church, as the Body of Christ, is organic, an entity unto itself.

This is not visible, of course. It cannot be seen from the outside, just by looking. We cannot tell if someone is a Christian just by looking at them, “because the life of Christ is a hidden life. it is revealed in many particular visible expressions, true, but its essence is hidden.” The Church looks, visibly, just like any other organization or institution. Unfortunately, in some cases, it acts that way, too. “But from the Word of God, we know something else is really taking place. It is an organic spiritual body, with Christ as head and all of us are members. As we are incorporated into it, we live lives not our own. We become participants in the church’s life. We become seeds.”

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

Father, I thank You for Your presence in my life. I am grateful that You make known to me the path of life, that there is fullness of joy in Your presence, and that there are pleasures forevermore at Your right hand. I look forward to experiencing those, not only in this life, but when I finally arrive Home.

I am thankful for Your great deeds and the awe for You that Your Spirit has grown into my life. I do ask You to repeat Your marvelous works in our world and in our lives. Help me to remember the great things that You have done for Your people, over the centuries, that I might ponder them and ask You to do them again. I thank You for the peace You place in my life, and ask You to keep it constant, especially through these uncertain times, times when new things are happening in our lives.

I thank You for that mystical relationship between us, Christ, and the Church. It is not always easy to comprehend, but it something that we can certainly ponder and contemplate, to our benefit. It is something that we will never fully comprehend, until that day when the shadows are removed from our eyes and we know as we are known.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Gobsmacked

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

Today is Thursday, the seventeenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,380

Today is also St. Patrick’s Day. March is a busy month. St. Patrick’s, Ides of March, my birthday, Spring Break, and the Vernal Equinox. Oh, and the change to fake time, which may be on the verge of being permanent real time.

It was a pretty quiet day at the library, yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect, it being Spring Break. But it was also a beautiful day outside, so that may be why we didn’t get a lot of traffic. I’m off today, and will be back in the Computer Center, tomorrow.

The weather is pretty nice again today, with a high of 78 predicted, but possible thunderstorms late this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
(Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a growing sense of awe, wonder, and mystery surrounding my Father in heaven
2. for the utterly astonishing mercy, unconditional love, and faithfulness of God; I am gobsmacked
3. for the community of saints; oh, how we need each other
4. that, though I may not be the wisest, the mightiest, or the richest, I can boast I know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
5. that Jesus teaches me to die so that I can live

Today’s prayer word is “glorious.”

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

There are a lot of things that we might think are “glorious.” But truly, our God is the only One worthy of the adjective. One of the definitions is, “having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.” There are many things in our physical world that might evoke such feelings. A beautiful sunset, the ocean waves crashing on the shore, whether it be rocks or a sand beach, a beautiful mountain range, or a dense, green forest. I have seen all of these things.

I have not “seen” God. Yet I know that He is beautiful; He has a striking beauty and splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration in me. Therefore, He is glorious. In the words of one known only as “Susanna,” “I am stunned by His mercy. I am gobsmacked by His unconditional love. I am awed by His faithfulness.” Yes, she said “gobsmacked.” That’s a British adjective that means, “utterly astonished; astounded.”

I, too, am all of those things in the presence of God.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
(John 7:38 ESV)

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 ESV)

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

It’s only two paragraphs, so I’m going to quote the Peterson reading in its entirety.

“A gospel paradox: in getting us ready to live, Jesus gets us ready to die. First he gets himself ready to die so that he can live. Then he gets us ready. Our habit is to think life first, then death. Jesus radicalizes our perceptions: first death, then life. This death is not primarily biological, although it will eventually include that.

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

“Death, Then Life” is the title of this reading. Just as we have traditionally gotten evening and morning reversed in our thinking (the ancient Hebrews considered evening as the beginning of the new day), we may have the whole death and life thing reversed. In order to truly live, a lot of things must die first.

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

As I continue looking at Augustine’s writing on fasting, I see that he uses a word that is not used much these days. “Ostentation” is indicated as something that should be avoided in fasting. What is that? It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I’ve seen the word “ostentatious” a number of times, and confess that I was unclear on its meaning. Now I’m more clear.

Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel accounts, in the Sermon on the Mount.

“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)

So, instead of ostentation, we are to exhibit joy when we are fasting, not sadness or gloominess. If we practice fasting in order to attract the attention of others, Jesus is quite clear that that will be the extent of our reward.

“In his fasting, therefore, let a man rejoice inwardly in the very fact that by this his fasting he is turning away from the pleasures of the world to make himself subject to Christ, who in the words of this precept wants him to have his head anointed. With the same intent he will be washing his face, that is, cleansing his heart whereby he is to see God.”

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

Father, indeed, you are glorious, and I am, indeed, “gobsmacked” by Your mercy, faithfulness, and unconditional love. It is all of these things, along with Your great kindness, that lead me down the ongoing path of repentance, constantly revising the way I think about reality. And reality, for me, is what I run into when I am wrong. And I’m wrong a lot. Oh, how I love You, Lord! Your glory is everlasting and beyond my comprehension. The word “glorious” isn’t even adequate to describe You.

I am so very grateful that I know You, Lord, and that is the only truth in my life that is worth boasting about. Well, maybe not the only truth. I feel justified in boasting about the things in my life that You have placed there, such as my loving wife and family. But all of the things that I could boast about have come from You, and are from nothing “good” that I did. I am not very wise, not very mighty, and my “riches” are made up by much more than material things.

I praise You that I have been, for the most part, delivered from any kind of envy about anything that my “neighbor” might have. I am, by Your grace and Holy Spirit, quite content with all that I have. I am also praising You for the relationships that I have that make life so much easier, beginning with my family, and continuing into the community of saints, and I use the definition of saints that says that it is everyone who calls on the name of Jesus.

Thank You for teaching me how to die in order to live. We’re still working on that, because there are plenty of places I have not yet surrendered to You. But, like I said . . . we’re working on it, and for that, I thank You for Your great, and seemingly infinite (thought I think it probably isn’t) patience with me. Help me to eradicate illusions, self-will, and sin in my life.

All glory to You, the One and only glorious God, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

All Creation Sings

Good morning! It is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of December, 2021, the second day of Christmas.

The peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,299

Only six days until 2022!

Yesterday was a lovely day, for the most part. The one thing that was a bit of a “downer” was that S’s stomach was upset for most of the day. It’s never fun to be feeling sick on Christmas.

We had our morning gift-unwrapping via live Zoom with R & J, which was great fun. Eventually, I may run down everything I got for Christmas, but I’ll need to have everything in front of me, or have pictures of it all, which I have not done yet. C is still asleep, so I don’t want to open the study door, because it goes into the bedroom and I don’t want to bother her. I will say that the highlight of the gifts was the trombone kazoo that C found for me. There’s quite a story behind that.

The trombone kazoo

After the gifts were unwrapped, C cooked a couple of dishes, and we left some at home, because S did not go to Mineral Wells with us. Remember, her stomach was upset. And this was genuine. Sometimes, she just doesn’t want to go, but this time, she really didn’t feel well. Trust me, there was evidence.

We had a great visit with Mama in Mineral Wells. We started out with another Zoom visit with R & J, and Mama opened her present from them. I don’t remember everything that she got from them, but there were a couple of LED nightlights, which I thought were very cool and decorative. I may consider getting something like that for our home.

We decided to go ahead and have lunch before opening our other presents to each other. It was a nice lunch, more ham, corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, fudge, pecan pie, and I’m probably forgetting something.

We surprised Mama with a new 42″ Amazon Fire TV for her den. Amazon just started marketing those, this year, and I was excited to be able to get one for her. We use the Fire Stick in our TV and love it. The new Fire TV basically does the same thing, but it’s built into the TV. We also started an Amazon Prime account for her so she can have Prime Video alongside her Netflix. We successfully got her cable hooked up to the TV, so she can now watch all of her favorite things on a full-sized TV instead of having to watch Netflix on a tablet.

This morning, our house church will not be meeting. I had thought about trying to visit the Anglican church I had visited before, but I won’t be finished in time. Their service begins at 10:00 AM, and it is currently 9:43. I slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

C is off for the whole week. She will likely have to log on to work a few times, but won’t have to go to the office until next year. It’s my “light” week, meaning that I’m only scheduled to work Tuesday night and Friday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, 
and his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning. 
(Psalms 30:4-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful celebrations we had with our family
2. for the joy that we celebrate during this season
3. that I can cast my anxiety on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
4. that we are a people called to peace, who can comfort one another in our afflictions
5. for the admonition and ability to let the Word of God dwell in us, richly
6. for my imperishable inheritance, waiting to be revealed to me
7. that darkness will never overcome the light

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
 who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace. 
And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 NIV)

There’s a progression here, that I can appreciate. First, we can cast our anxiety on the Lord. He can take it. He can hold, on His “shoulders,” the anxiety of the entire planet. He cares for us, and will gladly take our anxiety from us, if we would only surrender it. Second, we can comfort one another in our troubles (some versions say “afflictions”). Anxieties are certainly troubles. I know people who struggle with anxiety. It can most certainly be an “affliction.” We can comfort each other in these afflictions. The reason we can do so is that we have been comforted by our Father in our own afflictions, and, perhaps, surrendered our anxieties to Him. Third, we can let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts. We have been called to peace. This seems to be a thing that a lot of us struggle with comprehending. While it may be true that “peace” is not necessarily the absence of conflict, we should, in my opinion, most certainly not be involved in creating conflict.

I do like what comes next in Colossians 3, which is a wonderful chapter, in its entirety anyway. If you keep reading after verse 15, you get this:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, 
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
And whatever you do, in word or deed, 
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the thought behind that first line. We need to let God’s Word dwell in us, “richly.” I used to think this meant we had to do things like memorize it and study it intensely, knowing all of the ins and outs of Scripture, backwards and forwards, even learning some of the Greek and Hebrew nuances.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with knowing all of these things, I don’t believe that is what it means to allow the Word of God to dwell in us. I like the mentality that is presented in the likes of Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat This Book. This is also the idea that has been presented in the devotional book that has been the main thrust of my devotions this year, Seeking God’s Face. It’s this concept of lectio divina, or “divine reading.” This involves four stages (I don’t always manage to do all four of them). The first is simply reading this passage(s) at hand. The second is to meditate or reflect on the words that have been read. This is where I begin to catch certain words or phrases that stir within me or catch my eye. We sometimes use the phrase “jumps out at me.” During the meditation/reflection phase, we focus on those particular words or ideas.

The third stage is response. This is the piece where I pray back to God the things that He has “nudge” me with, during the reading and reflection. It is in this stage where we might also have questions to ask God about the passages that we have read.

The final stage, and, truthfully, the one that I fail to complete most often, is the contemplation stage. This is the stage where we rest in silent contemplation of the things that have been learned and/or prayed during the time. Nothing else should happen during the contemplation time. Of course, the brain will be active. It is impossible to simply shut it off. But we can direct it, and simply sit in silence, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds, regarding the things we have read. The difference between this phase and the reflection/meditation phase is that, in this phase, we are not specifically pondering a particular word or phrase or idea. We are allowing God, via the Spirit, to direct the process.

This, in my opinion, is the best way to allow the Word of God to dwell in us, richly.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
According to his great mercy, 
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
 to an inheritance that is imperishable, 
undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 
who by God's power are being guarded through faith 
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 
(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 2

INVITATION

A psalm of thanksgiving. 

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 NLT)

As I pause, in quietness, this morning, I reflect on the joy of the season, and the admonition in the above Scripture, to both worship in gladness and to sing with joy.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. 

Sing to the LORD a new song, 
for he has done marvelous things;
 his right hand and his holy arm 
have worked salvation for him. 
The LORD has made his salvation known 
and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 
He has remembered his love 
and his faithfulness to Israel; 
all the ends of the earth 
have seen the salvation of our God. 
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn— 
shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, 
the world, and all who live in it. 
Let the rivers clap their hands, 
let the mountains sing together for joy; 
let them sing before the LORD, 
for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalms 98:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning. 
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I reflect on them, looking for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder what has connected with my heart and mind, and respond in prayer to the Lord, finally turning my thoughts to Him and resting in His presence.

Father, as I ponder these things, I know that singing “a new song” is something of which You are more than worthy! You are worthy of every song we could ever sing, new and old alike. As a song says, You are even worthy of every breath that we could ever breathe. As the Psalm says, You have made Your salvation known and revealed Your righteousness to the nations. And yet, the “nations” seem to be unable to see. Open their eyes, Father! Open their eyes, that they might see Your great salvation and Your awesome righteousness, and begin to worship You! But in the meantime, until the people do it, let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing for joy; let all creation sing!

I ponder the incomprehensible truth that Jesus was with You from the beginning, and that all things were made through Him. I do not understand this; I confess. I also confess that I don’t need to understand it. I revel in the truth; I see the glory; I feel the majesty; in Him is LIFE, the LIGHT of all mankind! Darkness will never overcome this light!

Father, as I look around me and see this creation, all of which was created through Jesus, present with You for all eternity, help me to see and savor the majesty, the wonder, the beauty, and the complexity of it all.

"Eternal, 
almighty God,
how did Your hands,
which flung galaxies into elegant orbit,
become the awkwardly uncontrolled hands of a newborn?
How does Your eternal being get inseparably woven into time-bound humanity?
While the how of Your incarnation widens my faith,
may the wonder of why You've done this for me bring deep joy today.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Come and See what God has Done

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, the twenty-second of December, 2021. 12/22/21, a palindrome. It is also the fourth Wednesday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,295

Only three more days until Christmas!

I’m pretty sure that, as of right now, all the Christmas gifts have been delivered, except for one, which is now showing a delivery date of 12/28. Oh, well. Unfortunately, that particular one goes along with three or four of the other gifts. That’s no big deal, though. It will all come together, in due time. And, from past experience with Amazon, it could still change. I know they have, before.

We are talking about plans for Friday and Saturday, at least cooking plans. There’s a lot of cooking to be done, and the bulk of it will happen both Friday morning and Saturday morning. Not on purpose, I wound up with at least forty pounds of ham in the fridge. I ordered two whole hams from Albertson’s, earlier in the week, fully expecting a couple of hams that were approximately twelve pounds each. They delivered two hams that were approximately twenty pounds. Egad! My whole lower shelf in the fridge is filled with ham. And one twenty pound ham would have been plenty for both days. We may give one away. I don’t know.

Today is my last full work day until New Year’s Eve. In fact, my next work day, after today, will be next Tuesday, 12/28. And there is at least one meeting that I will be involved with, today. There is a Circulation staff meeting from 1-2, this afternoon. And then, if it happens, the Adult Services “stand up” meeting is at 2. That manager has been out for a bit, and isn’t scheduled back until 12/30, so that meeting may not happen. My monthly “one-on-one” with her was also scheduled for today, so I’m not expecting that to happen, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And Jesus said to him, 
"'If you can'! 
All things are possible for one who believes." 
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 
"I believe; help my unbelief!" 
(Mark 9:23-24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the belief that God has placed in my heart, even thought it is still tainted with unbelief
2. that God is love and whoever abides in love abides in Him
3. for the security that comes in living as one of His "sheep"
4. for the ability and willingness to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters, just as Christ laid down His life for us
5. for all the things that God has done
Anyone who does not love does not know God,
 because God is love. 
(1 John 4:8 ESV)
So we have come to know 
and to believe the love that God has for us. 
God is love, 
and whoever abides in love abides in God, 
and God abides in him. 
(1 John 4:16 ESV)
By this we know love, 
that he laid down his life for us, 
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 
(1 John 3:16 ESV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. 
Abide in my love. 
If you keep my commandments, 
you will abide in my love, 
just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, 
that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be full. 
"This is my commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this,
 that someone lay down his life for his friends. 
(John 15:9-13 ESV)
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe! 
(Psalms 150:4 ESV)
And it was told King David, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 
And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 
(2 Samuel 6:12-15 ESV)
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. 

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 
"What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!" 
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! 
(Psalms 30:1-12 ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" 
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 
(John 7:37-39 ESV)

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

But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; 
against such things there is no law. 
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-FIVE

INVITATION

God, come back! 
Smile your blessing smile: 
That will be our salvation. 
(Psalms 80:3 MSG)

As I pause, this morning, I reflect on love. God’s love for us, made evident in the coming of Jesus. Our love for God, made evident in the way we live, as well as how we lay down our lives for the kingdom of God and for one another.

BIBLE SONG

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

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

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

BIBLE READING

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
though you are small among the clans of Judah, 
out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are from of old, 
from ancient times." 

Therefore Israel will be abandoned 
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, 
and the rest of his brothers return 
to join the Israelites. 

He will stand and shepherd his flock
 in the strength of the LORD, 
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. 
And they will live securely, for then his greatness 
will reach to the ends of the earth. 
(Micah 5:2-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I reflect on what the Lord might be saying to me through them. I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, allowing my spirit to respond to the Lord in prayer and meditation. I enjoy His presence, this morning, preparing myself for the day ahead.

Father, I cannot get away from these passages on love and laying down our lives for one another. Teach me Your ways, Lord, that I might walk in Your path. Show me how to best lay down my life for the sake of my brothers and sisters and others in this world. Teach me how to love the way You have loved. Just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for me, show me how to do the same for others. In our culture, Father, this has become quite a challenge, over the past couple of years.

Time is short, Father, so I must bring this to a close. You are our great Shepherd, Father, and I am thankful for the security that this brings my soul. I find it easier and easier to obey that often-stated command, “Fear not,” as I find myself resting more and more in Your provision and safety. Thought this world is harsh, I find myself resting in the shadow of Your wings and in the cleft of the rock, where You have hidden me. But even as Job said, Lord, even if You see fit to slay me, yet will I trust You.

I will listen to what You say, Lord, and You promise peace to us. Only let us not turn to folly, Father. Let us not turn to folly and chase after the wind and vanities.

"God of place and time,
You chose the little town of Bethlehem to be the birthplace of David and of David's greater Son.
Make us aware of Your active purpose in our towns and neighborhoods,
so that we see them as places of promise in our time.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.