Fixers

The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.”

Good morning. Today is Monday, the seventeenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,321

Six days until Hamilton!

We had a nice gathering, yesterday, for our house church. There were six of us in person, and two on Zoom. We only managed to get through one Psalm (52), but had some good discussion, and great fellowship. I really feel that we are closer to what the first century church did at their gatherings, anyway. We talk about our lives, read some Scripture, and pray together. Occasionally, we also break bread together. One thing I’m missing, though . . . we haven’t taken the supper in a while. I need to bring that up.

C is working from home, this week. She still doesn’t feel great, but feels better than yesterday. We feel like that terrible wind on Saturday blew in some junk or stirred it up in the air. Not even a hint of fever, for any of us, though. I’m sneezing and sniffling a bit, this morning, but have felt pretty much fine for a few days.

There is nothing much on today’s agenda. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to pick up my new CPAP machine, at 11:00 AM. Once I get that and get it set up, I may be looking at changing doctors. C’s doctor has moved from the clinic he was at, along with a couple other associates. I may be switching over to them. I haven’t decided, yet. It’s a lot easier for me to find time to visit a doctor’s office, these days, so they don’t have to be real close. Their new office is on South Main in Fort Worth, close to the “hospital district,” about twelve miles from my house. That’s not too bad, and is about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the time of day.

All the wrong teams won, yesterday. The Buccaneers blew out the Eagles, the 49ers beat the ‘boys, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers. I’ll probably be rooting for the Bills from this point on. It feels like rooting for the end of the world, though, so I don’t know. The Cardinals and Rams play tonight, and I literally could not possibly care less who wins that game.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 
And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." 
(Mark 2:18-22 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are being criticized for not doing “religious things,” such as fasting. They are being compared to two different groups, neither of which had much in common. It is worth noting that Jesus, in His response, refers to Himself as “the bridegroom,” and seems to indicate that his “taking away” will be of a violent nature.

As I read this, I consider the idea of “religious things,” and how I feel about them. There is certainly nothing wrong with ritual. I’m somewhat a fan of it, actually. I am drawn toward church settings that employ ritual and liturgy, even though the current setting that I attend does not. I have not, however, ever been able to get a firm grip on the ritual of fasting. I have fasted before, but not on a regular basis.

But when ritualistic things are done “religiously,” without focus on the object (i.e., the “bridegroom”), they are meaningless. Ritual for the sake of ritual is worthless.

I will confess that I have never quite understood the examples of the cloth and the wineskins. I get the technical descriptions and understand the truth that, if you patch and old garment with a piece of new material, and then wash it, the new material will shrink, and destroy the work that was done. And I understand that fermenting wine swells, which would burst a wineskin that had already been stretched out.

What I’m not sure of is how this applies to people and their relationship to Jesus and the Father. I’m looking at some commentary at the moment, in particular by Alexander MacLaren, and it says that, “The attempt was made to keep Christianity within the limits of Judaism; it failed, but not before much harm had been done to Christianity. Over and over again the effort has been made in the Church, and it has always ended disastrously,-and it always will.” This makes sense, and I can see, as the New Testament progresses, that similar disagreements arose, especially concerning things like circumcision.

I would welcome any other thoughts or suggestions regarding this. And as we, as the opening song suggests, turn our eyes upon Jesus, may the things of the earth truly grow strangely dim.

(From Pray As You Go)


I find it interesting that, in Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson takes four chapters to go through the book of Job. Today, I’m in the third of the four, which deals with Job’s “friends” who come try to “fix” him, during his suffering.

And who among us has not experienced something similar to Job? The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.” I actually love that last sentence!

And, you might notice, these people are usually full of “advice” from God’s Word! They tend to play “fast and loose” with biblical quotations. The question is, though, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they’ve said their piece?”

Many of the things that Job’s “friends” said were “technically true.” But it is that “technical” part that spoils them. “They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And here is how Job defended himself:

Then Job defended himself:
 "I've had all I can take of your talk. 
What a bunch of miserable comforters! 
Is there no end to your windbag speeches? 
What's your problem that you go on and on like this?
 If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. 
I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. 
But I'd never do that. 
I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse!
(Job 16:1-5 MSG)

“The book of Job does not reject answers as such. There is content to biblical religion. It is the secularization of answers that is rejected – answers severed from their Source, the living God, the Word that both batters us and heals us. We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.”


And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, 
holding everything in common. 
They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
(Acts 2:44-45 MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: 
Love one another. 
In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other."
(John 13:34-35 MSG)
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives 
and splashes over on everyone around you, 
just as it does from us to you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG)

Father, as I turn my eyes toward Jesus, this morning, I pray that my focus may stay sharp. By this point in my life, I am surely an “old wineskin,” but have I been fully stretched to my maximum capacity? I think not. I believe there is still room for me to be stretched, and You continue to do so, as each year goes by. I pray to You, constantly, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. And just when I think I’ve got Your way figured out, You take me a little deeper and show me something that, while it may not be “new,” it is new to me. I pray that I will continue to be receptive to that wisdom and knowledge, as it comes.

I also pray that I would never fall prey to the temptation to be like Job’s friends. We all think we’ve got all the answers, and it is very easy to sit around and instruct someone who is suffering, to tell them why they’re suffering, and what they did wrong to get there. When, truthfully, we have no idea whatsoever. I pray that, when I encounter suffering in others, I would have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it. I also pray that I might have the wisdom to not “say” at all, but to merely sit and listen, or simply be with the person, sitting in silent support. May we not be guilty of citing chapter and verse without having Your mind and heart on the matter.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Father, I pray for continued work in the area of racial reconciliation. We seem to have moved tremendously backward in recent years, and, sadly, driven largely by people claiming to be followers of Christ! May it never be, Lord! Help us, Your people, to be compassionate people who fight for the equality of all men, especially considering how we have been graciously given the salvation that began with Israel! Were it not for Your compassion and Your equal treatment of all people, we “Gentiles” would be permanently lost! Oh, how we seem to have forgotten this. God have mercy on us and help us!

Finally, in the spirit of yesterday’s readings, I invited Jesus to intervene and intercede in our world today. Jesus, please bring forth healing. We beg You to eradicate this plague from our world, and I pray that Your people would demonstrate more willingness to stop thinking selfishly and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


Today I am grateful:

1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation
2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them
3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people
4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts
5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, 
standing tall in his bright presence, 
fresh and celebrating— 
to our one God, 
our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master,
 be glory, 
majesty, 
strength, 
and rule before all time, and now,
 and to the end of all time. 
YES. 
(Jude 1:24-25 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Inviting the Lord

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

As threatened predicted, it was 27 degrees when I got up, this morning. It is already up to 30, by this writing time, and supposed to get up to 56, later this afternoon. All of that wind, yesterday, must have stirred up some serious stuff in the air, though. I’m feeling better this morning than I did last night, but C has some coughing going on. No fever, not even close, for either one of us. My eyes were itching like mad, yesterday evening, but they are better, this morning.

I’ll be going to the house church gathering, this morning, but C will stay home and probably get on Zoom. I don’t have a lot of time, though, so this may actually not get finished until this afternoon.

The football playoffs have begun. Yesterday, the Bengals beat the Raiders, and the Bills beat the Patriots. The first one, I had no opinion about, whatsoever. The second one, though, I’m glad the Bills won. I have at least one friend who is predicting that they win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that can’t happen, though. The Bills, like the Vikings, don’t win Super Bowls. If they do, the end might be near.

Today, I’m cheering for the Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys) and the Steelers. As for the Eagles and Buccaneers, can I root for a tie? Or for both of them to lose? I can’t bring myself to cheer for either team. I also have no opinion concerning tomorrow night’s game between the Cardinals and Rams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Trust in Him and do not fear.
The peace of God will protect your hearts. Alleluia.”

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 
And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
(John 2:1-11 ESV)

Notice the setting of this, the first recorded miracle that Jesus did. It is a wedding, a celebration. It is a social event, “the coming together of family and friends.” Who among us has not been involved in a setting such as this? It is, in fact, somewhat ordinary.

Notice the invitation. Amusingly, it may seem like more than in “invitation.” Mary seems to be almost demanding that Jesus intervene in the situation. The question is, how often do we feel this need in our world? How often do we actually invited our savior to intercede “into even the simple needs of the day?”

I find this to be an excellent question to ponder. Sure, we pray. We ask the Lord for big things, to heal people from pancreatic cancer or leukemia or Covid-19. I will say that I frequently give thanks to the Lord when I make it through a “stale” green light at an intersection. But how often do we ask for the help of our Lord for simple things, the basic needs of the day? Or, as in the case of this wedding, an even seemingly frivolous thing. They were running out of wine. The only consequence this could possibly have is that the party might be less than stellar!

Here’s another good question to ponder. “Do you take time to acknowledge the Lord’s generosity when you experience it?” As stated above, I do, sometimes give thanks for seemingly insignificant things. But I’m not terribly consistent about that. Yes, I have a gratitude list every day. But it often focuses on “big” things, “religious” things, like salvation, grace, mercy, and so on. The unfailing, steadfast love of the Lord. You know . . . things like that. Occasionally, you will see me be thankful for things like coffee and grapes.

How often do we acknowledge the basic generosity of the Lord in our lives? The Bible says that He is good to all and that He even makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

There may be a temptation to say, “Well, that was Mary, His mother, who asked that. Of course He is going to do that for her!” My response to that is to say that I am His brother. I am an adopted brother of Jesus Christ, a sibling of the Son of God. And, He loved me enough to die for me. Why, then, would He not answer my invitation to intercede in my life and in my world?

It is always good to remember, though, that little line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(From Pray As You Go)


Still, I know that God lives—
the One who gives me back my life— 
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. 
And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— 
see God myself, with my very own eyes. 
Oh, how I long for that day! 
(Job 19:25-27 MSG)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 18:19 NIV)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NIV)


Today I am grateful:

1. the calming effect of the purring cat who is sitting in front of me
2. my coffee
3. for modern technology that allows us to communicate and minister to one another over long distances, virtually instantly
4. for the love and care of the community of saints
5. that I have the ability to invite Jesus into any situation in my life

Father, I am so grateful for the things listed, above. I am especially grateful, this morning, for the thought that I can invited Jesus to intercede in the simplest areas of my life. If I see a need in this world, all I need do is ask Jesus to intervene. And, if it lines up with Your will, something will happen. That’s where my faith needs to line up. That’s where my confidence needs to rest.

The world is full of questions, right now, about where You are, if You exist, and why there is so much evil in the world. I don’t need to focus on those questions, because I don’t have the right answers, or at least not answers that would satisfy the people asking the questions. I need to focus on loving You, loving my neighbor as myself, and loving the saints as You have loved us. Thank You for all of Your gifts and blessings. Thank You for stretching us when we need stretching. I do believe; help my unbelief. All glory to You, through the son and by the Spirit.

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.

Was Job Patient?

Today is Saturday, the fifteenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

By the way . . . that is not just a filler that I put in here. While it may seem somewhat “automatic,” I really do wish for the peace of Christ to be with everyone who reads this.

Day 23,319 (the number of days since I was born)

Only eight days until Hamilton, if the show goes on as scheduled.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it was a lovely day at the library, yesterday. There was a flurry of activity around one point, and while I was unsuccessfully attempting to help one patron send a document to our printers from her phone (more on that in a minute), there was one person using the fax, and another waiting to use it.

The reason I was unsuccessful in helping the first patron was that she didn’t seem to know what to do on her phone, and was not patient enough to keep trying. She seemed really jittery, as well, and finally just gave up and said she would go home and do it. I don’t think there was any frustration with me, or at least I didn’t sense that.

In the meantime, the person using the fax finished, and actually helped the next person fax her documents. I thanked her profusely for this after I got done with the patron I was trying to help.

I also spent some time helping with the shelving again. I sorted several carts while sitting at my desk in the computer center, and then, from about 4:00-5:40, I shelved two carts of books in the stacks. The librarian that was on duty in the computer center was fine with me doing that. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I said it really didn’t matter, that I wanted to do whatever they needed me to do. That was the truth, too.

So today is my Saturday off, and we are planning to head to Mineral Wells in a little while to visit Mama and get me a couple cases of Crazy Water #4.

Oh, and C has been given permission to work from home over the next two weeks. As of right now, there were 827,132 new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., yesterday. That number seems to change, though, as I’m looking at two days ago, which now shows 869,783.

While I have had various allergy symptoms over the past couple of weeks, I have exhibited none of the common symptoms of any of the Covid variants.

It’s cold today. Currently 33 degrees, and the high is only projected to be 36. Tonight’s low is predicted to be just below 30, but tomorrow’s high is 57. There is little-to-no precipitation predicted. In fact, I saw something yesterday that indicated that north Texas is experiencing a drought. But that seems to be rather normal for this time of year.

Oh, I almost forgot. I got a call about my new CPAP yesterday, finally. I have an appointment Tuesday morning to pick it up. The total cost is going to be close to $1000. The good news is that all of that will go toward our deductible for the year. I won’t have to pay it all at once, either. There is an up-front charge, a couple months of “rental,” and then a final charge, after which I will own it.

And now, on to the important stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." 
(Luke 12:32-34 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that it is our Father's "good pleasure" to give us the Kingdom
2. that my treasure is in heaven
3. for the capacity God gives us to be kind to one another
4. that God has patience with us and can handle our questions of frustration
5. for the opportunity to look back on the week and assess any growth (or lack thereof)

Have you ever heard someone say something about the “patience of Job?” I have decided, over the years, that that phrase is incorrect. Job was anything but “patient.” He suffered, and he endured the suffering, true. He was faithful, never giving in to the temptations (and advice) to give up. But he was far from patient.

“Job did not take his sufferings quietly or piously. He disdained going for a second opinion to outside physicians or philosophers. Job took his stand before God, and there he protested his suffering, protested mightily.”

"All I want is an answer to one prayer, a last request to be honored: 
Let God step on me—squash me like a bug, and be done with me for good. 
I'd at least have the satisfaction of not having blasphemed the Holy God, before being pressed past the limits. 
Where's the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? 
Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I'm made of iron? 
Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don't even have any boots!"
(Job 6:8-13 MSG)

And Job’s suffering was not unlike our suffering, in this life. He suffered “in the vital areas of family, personal health, and material things.” But Job stayed faithful, having this firm conviction:

Because even if he killed me, I'd keep on hoping. 
I'd defend my innocence to the very end. 
Just wait, this is going to work out for the best—my salvation! 
(Job 13:15-16 MSG)

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


So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
(Romans 14:19 ESV)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)


Pray As You Go does a thing on Saturday that they call the “Saturday Examen.” What is examen? “A devotional exercise involving reflection on and moral evaluation of one’s thoughts and conduct, typically performed on a daily basis.” In the Catholic tradition, it is something that is done at the end of the day. I like PAYG’s idea of doing it on Saturday, at the end of the week. There is encouragement to look back on the week, reflecting on things that God has done, or, perhaps, on events that created tension or disharmony, or attitudes that could have been better. What went well? What didn’t go so well?

In the past week, I gained a fresher perspective on the purpose of God’s Word in my life; that it is not so much a moral code to try to live by, but stories told, with an invitation for me to live in them. It is God’s story, and I am invited to see my own story in the context of His story (and no, I am not trying to be clever with the word “history”). One of the keys in this is to never be satisfied with where I am, to never stop learning.

The idea of the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men was reinforced, something we all need to be reminded of, occasionally. I was also reminded that the people God used in the Bible were pretty ordinary, for the most part, and not always the most exemplary of characters.

The concept of doing good things for people that don’t like us was also reinforced, another thing that we need to be constantly reminded of.

One of the things that I need to do better at, going forward, is listening for the “voice” of God. Whether that be an audible voice, or the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, I need to be attuned to what He is saying to me. And I need to be aware of the fact that Jesus is willing to do good things for us, as He was willing to touch the leper and heal him.


Father, as this week draws to a close, I am thankful for the things You have taught me. I am always glad to have a reminder of Your sovereignty in this world, because the world constantly tries to make me think otherwise. The world loves chaos, and seems to thrive on that. But I know that You are in control of all things. I am grateful for the reminder of Job’s persistence before You. I’m not concerned at all with whether Job was a real person or not. The story has value, either way. It shows us that, while You are sovereign, You can take questioning. We cannot offend You or hurt Your feelings. And You will, eventually, answer.

I thank You for the many stories that have been presented to us in Your Word, stories into which we can enter and live. I thank You for imagination, that allows me to consider my own place in Your story by considering how I would have reacted in any of those Bible stories. And I thank You for the prayers of various people recorded in Your Word, that can give me inspiration for my own prayers.

Help me to be a better listener, next week. Let me focus on improving that skill. Increase my faith in You, as well, believing that You are always ready and willing to do “good things” for me. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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


Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Meditations

Good morning. Today is Friday, the fourteenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,318

Only nine more days until Hamilton, and, as of this morning, there is still now word of it being postponed or cancelled.

The shower is fixed. It didn’t take them very long at all. It wasn’t cheap, but plumbing seldom is, right? And the invoice showed the whole charge on one line, so I don’t know how much was parts and how much was labor. The thing is, I really don’t care. The shower is fixed. And they showed up early.

That’s right. I said early. About two hours early, in fact. I got a call at around noon asking if it was okay if they come on over. Of course, I said, “Sure!”

The service I used was ABC Plumbing, from Watauga. They are very close to where we live.

I didn’t get much else done, yesterday, as I didn’t feel great. I did fold/put away some laundry, and got the dishwasher loaded and the trash taken out. As for how I felt, it was weird. My nose seems to have settled down from the allergies/mountain cedar from the past couple of weeks. But I had a very mild bit of chest . . . I wouldn’t even really call it “congestion.” Felt more like asthma, which I have not had trouble with in years. And of course, just like anyone else, I worry about Covid, so I was constantly taking my temperature all day. It never got above 97.9, so that allayed my fears about that. (Worldometer shows that the U.S. had 806,493 new cases, yesterday.) Then, later in the evening, my stomach felt weird, slightly nauseated. I had some peppermint tea before going to bed, took some NyQuil, and this morning I feel pretty good.

Tomorrow, we are planning a trip to Mineral Wells, at least for a couple hours. I need some Crazy Water, and we always need to visit Mama, so we plan to have some lunch with her. I’m off work tomorrow, so it’s a perfect day for it. Other than the fact that it will be cold (high of 37 and low Sunday morning off 27).

I work today, from 9:15-6:15, in the computer center.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Being Something Beautiful, by Daryl Madden

Being something beautiful
Beginning with a prayer
To feel His love surrounding
And know that truth so clear

Being something beautiful
An easy thing to do
Surrendering to God
And let Him transform you

Being something beautiful
Let us each proclaim
For we are in God’s eyes
All one in the same

Being something beautiful
Can be found right here
Through blessing of His presence
Grace is everywhere

Being something beautiful
Our message, let it be
The Word to every soul
In them is what we see

Being something beautiful
Our joy this day to share
With our unique own giftings
With a heart to care

May we all “be something beautiful” today. Please check out Daryl’s other inspiration poetry on the link provided above.

Blessed are you, O LORD;
 teach me your statutes! 
With my lips I declare 
all the rules of your mouth. 
In the way of your testimonies I delight 
as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on your precepts 
and fix my eyes on your ways. 
I will delight in your statutes; 
I will not forget your word.
(Psalms 119:12-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty I see all around me, both in physical surroundings and in the people I meet; let us all strive to be something beautiful today
2. for the gifts/talents/blessings that we all have to share with one another
3. for Psalm 119 and how it teaches me to meditate on God's Word
4. that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
5. that the Word of God is in my heart

Blessed are you, O LORD; 
teach me your statutes! 
With my lips I declare 
all the rules of your mouth.
 In the way of your testimonies I delight 
as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on your precepts 
and fix my eyes on your ways. 
I will delight in your statutes; 
I will not forget your word. 

Even though princes sit plotting against me, 
your servant will meditate on your statutes. 
Your testimonies are my delight; 
they are my counselors. 

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; 
and I will keep it to the end. 
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law 
and observe it with my whole heart.

 I entreat your favor with all my heart; 
be gracious to me according to your promise. 
(Psalms 119:12-16, 23-24, 33-34, 58 ESV)

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
(Psalms 139:13-14 NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David. 

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? 
How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
Look on me and answer, LORD my God. 
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," 
and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 
But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing the LORD's praise, 
for he has been good to me. 
(Psalms 13:1-6 NIV)
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. 

I waited patiently for the LORD; 
he turned to me and heard my cry. 
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
out of the mud and mire; 
he set my feet on a rock 
and gave me a firm place to stand. 
He put a new song in my mouth, 
a hymn of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear the LORD 
and put their trust in him. 
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, 
who does not look to the proud, 
to those who turn aside to false gods. 

Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, 
the things you planned for us. 
None can compare with you; 
were I to speak and tell of your deeds, 
they would be too many to declare. 
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— 
but my ears you have opened— 
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 
Then I said, "Here I am, I have come— 
it is written about me in the scroll. 
I desire to do your will, my God;
 your law is within my heart."

 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
 I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know. 
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; 
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. 
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness 
from the great assembly. 

Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
 may your love and faithfulness always protect me. 
For troubles without number surround me;
 my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. 
They are more than the hairs of my head, 
and my heart fails within me. 
Be pleased to save me, LORD; 
come quickly, LORD, to help me. 
May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; 
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. 
May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!" 
be appalled at their own shame. 
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
 may those who long for your saving help always say, 
"The LORD is great!" 
But as for me, I am poor and needy; 
may the Lord think of me. 
You are my help and my deliverer; 
you are my God, do not delay.
(Psalms 40:1-17 NIV)

Father, this morning has been all about simply reading and meditating on Your Word. I have no pithy words of wisdom or insight to share. I share only Your Word, allowing anyone who comes across this an opportunity to just read Your Word and meditate on it, themselves. Sometimes, that is the best thing for us.

I do, as the Psalmist repeatedly states, delight in Your Word and in Your precepts, pondering them, meditating on them, sometimes many times in a day. I bless You as You continuously teach me Your paths. Your Word is worth more to me than many riches, sweeter than the richest honey. I pray, as the Psalmist, for understanding, that I might keep Your Word and walk in Your paths.

Also, like the Psalmist, I praise You that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I marvel at all of creation, Father, but especially at the workings of the human body and mind. But, like the Psalmist, I also “wrestle with my thoughts.” I recognize the benefit that we have, as humans, that we have total control over what we allow our minds to dwell on. This does not stop, however, unwholesome or unhelpful thoughts from running through my brain. Most of the time, I do pretty good at letting them just run right on through, but, sadly, there are times when I allow them to stop and visit for a while. Help me to be better at not allowing that. Help me maintain thoughts of love, peace, and helpfulness in my mind, and allow only positive, godly thoughts in my spirit. I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation! I will sing Your praise, for You have been good to me!

The truth that my days, my life, are already written in Your book, is too much for me to fathom. Help me to be what You have called me to be; teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. And help me to heed Your most often repeated command to “be not afraid,” for there truly is nothing that man can do to me, ultimately, to harm me. This world, because of You and my place in Your Kingdom, is a perfectly safe place for me to be. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life; 
you will fill me with joy in your presence, 
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. 
(Psalms 16:11 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“I Am Willing”

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the thirteenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,317

Ten days until Hamilton, if the show goes on as planned.

As of this morning, there has been no news on the above subject, other than an email from Bass Performance Hall, describing procedures for gaining entrance. I’m still skeptical, however, considering that the Houston run of the same show has been postponed. Also, the U.S. had 829,209 new cases, yesterday. I don’t think that’s the record, but it’s close.

I got a few things accomplished yesterday. I tried to fix the leaky shower faucet, but, when I got the knob and cover off, saw that the cartridge looked nothing like the one on the video I had watched, so I elected to reassemble it and call a professional. I have a plumber scheduled to come between 2-4 today.

I got groceries, yesterday, and wound up making an in-person visit to Walmart Neighborhood Market. They didn’t have any pickup times left for yesterday. I got most of what I wanted, but the had not one single grape in the store. So, when I got home, I set up a small delivery order from Albertson’s, and got some more grapes, watermelon, canteloupe, and a couple other things.

I am planning to cook pecan-crusted buttermilk chicken for dinner tonight.

I’m thinking this will be a day when I don’t do much. As of right now, I’m not planning on even leaving the house, except to take out the garbage, later. That could change, but I’m feeling lazy today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; 
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
 I will sing to the LORD, 
because he has dealt bountifully with me. 
(Psalms 13:5-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord
2. that the Lord truly has dealt bountifully with me/us
3. that Jesus was not hesitant to touch the leper in Mark 1
4. that all aspects of life are "sacred"
5. for grapes

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 
Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 
Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 
“Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 
But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. 
As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. 
(Mark 1:40-45 NLT)

Here we have a situation that should not have happened. In the world in which Jesus lived, lepers didn’t just wander around approaching people, and people most certainly did not reach out and touch lepers! But somehow, this leper was able to get close enough to Jesus to beg for healing.

And Jesus touched him.

Consider the “prayer” of the leper. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” There is great faith in this petition. The leper believes that Jesus can heal him. He’s not sure, however, that Jesus will be willing to do so.

This sentiment occurs in a lot of my prayers. I do believe that God can do the things I ask, but I’m not sure if He wants to or will. There are some folks who would assert that God most definitely wants to heal everyone. I question that opinion, because if God wanted to heal everyone, He would heal everyone. Those same folks would turn it around on the head of the petitioner and say that their faith wasn’t strong enough.

I have little tolerance for such malarky.

I, like the leper in front of Jesus, accept that whatever happens is God’s will. Now, this is not something that I would say to someone who just lost a loved one because God did not choose to heal them. In the same vein, the statement that “everything happens for a reason,” is not always the best thing to say to someone. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. But wisdom would dictate that it is not necessarily the right thing to say in certain circumstances.

It is worth noting that, not only did the man receive physical healing, but he was restored to his community. What parts of our lives need this compassion of Jesus? Perhaps more importantly, where can we show this compassion to others?

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

(From today’s episode of Pray As You Go)


In Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, I have reached the chapter on Nehemiah. Peterson chooses to emphasize the mistaken division between “sacred” and “secular,” in his reading.

“Separating life into distinct categories of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life, a life lived to the glory of God.”

This practice is widespread today, but in another book I’m reading, I learned that the current usage of the word “secular” did not appear in our culture until sometime in the fifties. Oddly enough, that is about the same time that the concept of “youth” began encroaching upon church culture, as well. But that’s a topic for another day.

“Nehemiah worked with stones and mortar.” He was, in effect, a building contractor. Ezra, his coworker, “was a scholar and teacher, working with the Scriptures.” In our modern culture, we would say that Ezra’s vocation was “sacred,” and Nehemiah’s was “secular.”

We would be wrong.

Even the “godless” surrounding nations were aware that the work which Nehemiah was doing was God-driven.

When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.
(Nehemiah 6:16 MSG)

Neither Ezra’s job nor Nehemiah’s job was more or less important than the other. They needed each other. “God’s people needed the work of both of them. We still do.”

You’re the one, GOD, you alone; You made the heavens, the heavens of heavens, and all angels; The earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them; You keep them all alive; heaven’s angels worship you!
(Nehemiah 9:6 MSG)


To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, 
ever singing your praise! 
Selah. 
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 
As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it 
a place of springs; 
the early rain also covers it with pools. 
They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. 
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 
Selah. 
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! 
(Psalms 84:1-12 ESV)

Jesus, I thank You that You were not afraid to touch that leper (or others that we find in Scripture). I confess that I struggle with the approachability of some people. I’m not enough like you; there are people I don’t want to “touch,” whether physically or otherwise. At the same time, I am one who does enjoy physical touch, so not being able to freely hug people, over the last two years, has been challenging. Help me to see heaven in the eyes of everyone I encounter, even those who may not embrace You and Your teachings. Help me to not be afraid to touch or get involved in someone’s circumstances, when it is called for. Open my eyes and heart to opportunities to be Your hands and feet, Your eyes and ears, and even Your mouth, in this world.

Lord, I make the mistake, sometimes, of separated sacred and secular. It’s what I grew up learning, and, for me, became especially notable in the arena of music. But, in a sense, all music is sacred. Help me to look at everything I do, from washing dishes, cooking meals, taking out the trash, shelving books in the library, to singing worship songs, as sacred. Because my life is sacred in Your eyes, and my time is sacred. Even when I play, it can be sacred, because everything I do is an offering to You.

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” It is only recently that I have begun to look at that from the perspective of where Your “dwelling place” is, now. Your dwelling place is within us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Speak, LORD, For Your Servant Hears”

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the twelfth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,316

Eleven days until Hamilton, if the show goes on.

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

What I really need to work on this year, is staying focused. I am so easily distracted, and I don’t think I’m alone. Our culture is driving us in that direction. We had a discussion in our house church, last Sunday, about our attention spans, and how short they tend to be now. For a good indicator of that, see how long TV commercials are, now (if you even still watch them . . . almost everything we watch is on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, now).

But I’ve been up since about 7:30, and still have not managed to start my devotional. I will say that I have listened to a Bible reading and done some praying, though, so there’s that.

It was nice being at the library, last night. I like all of my roles at the library, but Tuesday evening may be my favorite. That’s when I do shelving for four hours. It’s nice, because I’m by myself, either sorting books or media in a back room, and then pretty much alone in the stacks as I re-shelve the material. It’s quiet, and there’s a lot of time to ponder things. Plus I am always discovering new books I want to read or new movies/TV shows that I want to see. My “Want to Read” list on Goodreads has grown quite a bit, since I started this gig.

What’s on the agenda for today? I think I may have to make an in-person grocery trip. There are a few things we need, and Albertson’s doesn’t have them all. And Walmart Neighborhood Market doesn’t have any pickup times available today. Between being short-staffed, and people doing more pickups because of Omicron spread, they are being beat up pretty badly, these days.

I also plan to get on the treadmill at some point, today. I’ve been planning that all week, though, and it hasn’t happened, yet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; 
seek, and you will find; 
knock, and it will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives, 
and the one who seeks finds, 
and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
(Luke 11:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for beautiful music, with which I can praise God, both in listening and in playing/singing
2. for the faithfulness of the Lord and His promises
3. for water, water to drink, water in oceans and lakes and rivers and waterfalls
4. that, even when I mistake or simply don't hear the "voice" of God, He keeps calling me (1 Samuel 3)
5. for the clear call of God for us to love one another, because "love is from God" (1 John 4:7)

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 
The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 
Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, "Here I am!" 
and ran to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. 
And the LORD called again, "Samuel!" and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." 
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 
And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 
And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant hears." 
And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 
And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. 
(1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20 ESV)

There’s a lot I could say about this passage, this morning. So much that my mind is kind of whirling around with all the thoughts. So I’m trying to focus on something. I’ll point out a couple of things.

First is the usage of the phrase, “not yet.” It occurs thrice in the passage. It first occurs in verse 3, where it says, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” This may be nothing more than a literal statement that a physical lamp was still burning that night. But I’m leaning toward reading more into that, considering the statement in verse 1 that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days.” That, in itself, displays the inadequacy of Eli and his “ministry,” and we find out, later, that his sons were pretty skeezy characters.

Nevertheless, there was still opportunity for God’s Word, because His “lamp” had not yet gone out.

The other usages both occur in verse 7. “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”

SERIOUSLY, ELI????

I mean, we don’t know how old Samuel was, at this point . . . no real clue. But how long had he been “ministering” with Eli, and he still did not know about God or His Word?? So Samuel is totally not to blame for not recognizing God’s voice, at this point.

Samuel mistakes God’s voice for Eli three times before Eli figures out what’s going on. Finally, Eli tells Samue what to do, Samuel does it, and the rest is history. He becomes one of the most famous prophets ever to exist in Israel.

How can we apply these things to ourselves, in our day and culture? First of all, I know about God and His Word. So I don’t have Samuel’s excuse when I don’t here His voice, or mistake His voice for someone/something else. There is so much “noise” in our world, today. Much of it is literal noise. This is why the disciplines of silence and solitude are so important. But they are also very neglected. I know I don’t practice them very often. And, truthfully, while it is difficult to find a place to practice those, I could go sit in a chair in my back yard, next to the pool and have “relative” silence. Sure there is noise, but there’s no coherent noise. And I could be alone for a while, assuming S doesn’t come out and bother me.

I know that I have felt/heard things in my spirit before, and wondered if that was God’s “voice” or just my own brain coming up with something. But I need to do better at knowing His voice and acting on it.

Second, we can learn something from Samuel, here. Obviously, he is still a child, more than likely pre-adolescent. And we have the teachings of Jesus that speak of us receiving the Kingdom “like a child.” Samuel was quick to obey, and when he finally understood what was happening, he did exactly what Eli (bless his heart) told him to do.

“Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.”

That’s my lesson for today. When I hear the voice of God (whether literal or figurative), that needs to be my response.

“Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.”


For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 
(Matthew 25:35 ESV)
He said also to the man who had invited him, 
"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 
and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
(Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 
For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. 
(James 1:22-27 ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4:7 ESV)


Father, as I walk through this world, in Your Kingdom, engaging with people and situations, I pray for the child-like faith of Samuel, to be able to jump up and say, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears,” whenever I hear Your voice. I do not believe I have ever heard Your voice, audibly, but I do believe that I have heard Your Spirit speak to me many times. Sadly, some of those times, I did not heed, and suffered for it. Oh, I did not necessarily “suffer,” in a physical way. Sometimes, it was in a spiritual sense. I have one instance in mind, over thirty years ago. My spiritual growth suffered because I did not do what I felt You telling me to do.

Father, Your lamp has not yet gone out in our world, in our land. Truthfully, I don’t believe it will. And Your Word is prevalent in our land, at least in this country. That doesn’t mean we are paying attention to it, though. Help me to be more aware of Your Word, and help me to find make time to practice silence and solitude so that I can meditate on and contemplate You and Your Word. My initial tendency is to feel overwhelmed and think that I don’t have enough time for all of this. But, truthfully, I have lots of time. I’m just not using it very wisely, sometimes. I pray for wisdom in that regard, as well.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD is near to all who call on him, 
to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:18 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“You Go and Do Likewise”

Today is Tuesday, the eleventh of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,315

Twelve days until Hamilton.

I must confess that I am not confident that the Hamilton show will go on as scheduled. I have no communication, thus far, from Bass Performance Hall. However, I have seen that dates in Houston, the week before our run begins, have been postponed due to outbreaks in the touring company. I have to assume that it is the same group that would be performing in Fort Worth, beginning on the nineteenth. Whatever will be, will be, though, and I shan’t worry about it.

C is working from home, today, which is always nice. It is a normal Tuesday for me, and I will be heading in to the library at 4:15, to work until the library closes at 8:00. Then I am off until Friday.

We had to buy a new electric can opener, which was already delivered, this morning. That may not seem like such a big deal, but the can opener we are replacing came with the house. It’s a Black and Decker under-the-cabinet space-saver can opener that is almost twenty-three years old. A piece broke off a couple weeks ago, and it will no longer hold cans up, and keeps dropping them. Plus the handle won’t stay engaged, so it becomes harder and harder to open a can. We did not get another similar opener, as B&D seem to be the only company that makes those, and they are almost $400, which is ridiculous! We got a counter-top Cuisinart for less than $50, which, in my opinion, is still quite a bit to pay for a can opener. But it is stainless steel, and has a nice, wide, heavy base. It looks nice.

So, now, the microwave that is installed over the stove is the only original appliance left in the house. The stove and dishwasher have both been replaced, and the refrigerator has been replaced twice. The hot water heater was replaced last year, and the garage door opener was also replaced last year. The heating unit is still original equipment . . . I don’t really consider that an “appliance,” but maybe it is. But the A/C is not original, and the blower in the attic was replaced a number of years ago.

Nothing really on my schedule for today, so who knows what I’ll get done? I need to get someone to come look at our dripping shower faucet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Jesus answered, 
"The most important is, 
'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 
The second is this: 
'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 
There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for our cats
2. for oceans and forests
3. for the parable of the Good Samaritan
4. that Jesus Christ emptied Himself for us
5. for the awe I feel in the presence of the holiness of God; may that holiness permeate my being, today

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 
He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 
And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." 
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 
Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 
He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." 
(Luke 10:25-37 ESV)

This passage was in my daily reading in the plan that I’m currently following in the YouVersion Bible app. Several things truck me, this morning, as I was listening to it.

The first thing is Jesus’s response to the lawyer’s answer to His question. The lawyer, of course, responded with words primarily from Deuteronomy 6:4-6, which is known as the “Shema.” The part about loving your neighbor as yourself is found in Leviticus.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

First, Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered correctly. It’s what He said next that I really haven’t paid close attention to, before today.

” . . . do this, and you will live.” 

Wait.

WHAT??

What was the original question?

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

So, Jesus’s answer to the question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life,” is, essentially, “love God and love people.” As you can see, I’ve paraphrased that.

Jesus didn’t say anything at all about trusting Him for forgiveness of sin, repentance, praying the “sinner’s prayer” (which isn’t anywhere in the Bible, anyway), or any of the stuff that a modern-day evangelical would tell someone if they asked that same question!

Don’t worry. I’m not going down a path of “works salvation,” here. But I do need to spend some time processing what Jesus told this guy. Unfortunately for the lawyer, he couldn’t leave well-enough alone, and had to ask that next question, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke indicates that the lawyer was trying to justify himself by asking that.

So then Jesus proceeds to tell the famous “Good Samaritan” parable. Now . . . we don’t really know much about the man who was attacked by robbers, just that he was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. I suppose it is safe to assume (is it ever safe to assume?) that he was Jewish, a Hebrew. We all know what happens next. A priest and a Levite, two examples of people who should be the most devoutly religious sort of folk, avoid the injured man, no doubt with some kind of religious reason, perhaps even following “The Law” in doing so.

Then the Samaritan shows up. Samaritans were half-breeds. They were absolutely hated by the Jews. So this guy comes along and gives aid to someone whom he knew would, if they simply met on the street, absolutely loathe him. That would be something like an illegal immigrant giving assistance to a KKK member.

Then Jesus asks the lawyer which one proved to be a “neighbor” to the robbed man. Of course, the lawyer says, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’s response speaks loudly to all of us.

“You go, and do likewise.”

It’s important to maintain the proper perspective, here. The person who showed mercy did not show mercy to someone whom he hated (at least we are not told that). He showed mercy to someone whom he knew would hate him!

A few chapters earlier, Dr. Luke records Jesus saying this:

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, 
do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 
To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, 
and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 
(Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

Of course, we all know verse 31 as “The Golden Rule.” And it is this kind of radical behavior that sets true Christians apart from the rest of the world. It also sets “true Christians” apart from all the pretend “Christians.”

Essentially, what I see here is this. If I am one who is inheriting eternal life, I will obey these things. I will love God with all of my being, and I will love my neighbor as myself. I will love my enemy. I will render assistance to someone who is in need, even if I know that they hate me.

And I truly believe that I am told that I should not fight back. To me, that is what “turning the other cheek” means. And look . . . we are even allowed some naturally human selfishness through all of this. Jesus actually gives us an out at the end of this. Even if the motivation is that I want to be treated this way, myself, it’s okay! It is fine for me to treat others the way that I want to be treated. That is commendable.

I can only assume that there are a lot of people out there, pretending to be Christians, who really want to be treated with bigotry and hatred, since that’s how they are treating anyone who is not like them.


Father, I pray for more of this in my own spirit, today. I have seen something new in Your Word today. Of course, it is not “new.” It has always been there. But today, for whatever reason, You chose to have Your Spirit reveal this to me in a fresh way. And You have be drawing me, more and more, into this kind of attitude and behavior, for many years, now. Keep drawing me; closer and closer to You, and deeper and deeper into this kind of mindset. I want to be part of a Love Revolution. I want to be able to love You fully, with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to love my neighbor as myself, including anyone who might despise me or abuse me. I want to love my brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way that Christ has loved us. Make me able to do these things, please. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

And I pray, Father, for You to rescue Your Church. Or maybe the real Church is not in any danger. Maybe You are pruning. Help us to stay faithful and strong, as I can see times of persecution around the corner. But the “church” as an institution is faltering. Help us to be more faithful to follow Jesus and obey His teachings, rather than follow the prejudices of bigoted leaders.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

God is serious business, take him seriously; he’s put the earth in place and it’s not moving.
(1 Chronicles 16:30 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Better Country

Good morning. Today is Monday, the tenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your spirit.

Day 23,314

Thirteen days until Hamilton! So far, it is still on.

So it’s back to a more “normal” week for me, this week. I only work two days at the library, this week, tomorrow evening, and all day Friday. Unless, of course, I get “summoned” to work an extra shift, like last week. At this point, I don’t really have any major plans. There are household chores to do, which I usually try to get done on Mondays. For example, I am currently vacuuming the floors while I type this, thanks to the new robot vacuum we got for Christmas. That saves me some time, but it also cuts out some steps that I usually get on Mondays. So there’s definitely a tradeoff, there.

I need to leave the house for a few minutes, later, as I have a couple of packages to pick up at a nearby Amazon Hub locker. I also want to get some more reading accomplished. So far, I’ve already finished three books, this year! In the interest of full disclosure, however, two of those were started last year.

We had a good time at our church gathering, yesterday. There were only four of us at the house, but there were three more on Zoom. We had some good discussion that started on Psalm 51, but kind of went all over the place. I think we plan on starting to look at either First and Second Samuel, or the life of David, soon, to go along with our readings in Psalms.

We had a good lunch from Applebee’s, after which C went up to CVS to pick up some scripts for S, and I called Mama. We had a nice conversation, in which I talked more about football than I have the whole last year. Haha. The Dallas Cowboys have made the playoffs again, with one of the best seasons they have had in quite some time. But the interesting thing about yesterday is how many of the playoff spots were still up in the air for the last week of regular season play. I may or may not watch any playoff games. I’m not much of a football fan, and haven’t really rooted for the Cowboys since Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer as the head coach.

And with that, I think I have written more about football than I did all last year.

We lost two more celebrities, yesterday, one of which was a big shocker. Bob Saget, most famous for Full House, was found dead in a Florida hotel room. He was only 65 years old. At this point, no cause of death has been announced. Not too long after we learned of that, it was announced that the actor who played Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman, had also passed away. He was 87. This is starting to look like 2016, which I unaffectionately refer to as The Great Celebrity Massacre of 2016. As we know, the 2022 list actually started on 12/31/21 with Betty White.

I guess I should get into the devotional for the day, as it is after 9:30 already.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Enough, by Daryl Madden

In this lonely world
Life can be so tough
Sharing of Your love
Am I good enough?

Life can be exhausting
Each day the road is rough
In helping all the broken
Do I do enough?

Trying to be holy
Sometimes I have to bluff
In living out my faith
Do I believe enough?

I say I don’t ask these
But that is just fluff
But when I do
Say, enough is enough

Asking the wrong questions
Dealing with this stuff
For all I need to know
That Jesus is enough

I love this, because I believe that we do, indeed, spend too much time worrying about whether we are “enough,” or if we are doing “enough.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is sovereign; even when it doesn't look like it, even when everything seems to be "off the rails," God is sovereign and ruling
2. for the gospel proclamation that the Kingdom of God is here, now
3. for the promise of a "better country," a heavenly country
4. for my partner in life
5. for my church family, who also serve to help strengthen me, as we bear one another's burdens

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; 
repent and believe in the gospel."
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. 
(Mark 1:14-20 ESV)

It is believed by many (and I tend to be one of them) that the entire Gospel of Jesus is presented in that one sentence in verse 15. The time has come, the opportunity is here. The rule or reign of God is near, at hand. Jesus commands us to think differently and put our trust in this good news.

The kingdom is here, it is now. It has been here ever since Jesus set foot on the earth. It is not something that we are waiting for, when we die. We are walking in it now.

It is also worth taking note of who Jesus went to first. He did not come on the scene and immediately seek out the “preachers,” the “religious” people. He went to the everyday workers, the fishermen. Truthfully, I have been a part of both scenarios. I spent a large part of my life being “religious.” The older I get, the less “religious” I am. I’m trying to be more ordinary. There is value in the ordinary, the daily work of the ordinary people. This is where the true work of the Kingdom takes place.

The question is asked, as I listen to today’s Pray As You Go presentation, “What would be your response to the Lord’s call, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people”?

I would love to think that I would have followed Him, just as Simon and Andrew did. We are told that they left their boats and equipment immediately and began following Jesus. But, truthfully, I cannot really answer that question. What is worth pondering, this morning, though, is, is there something that I need to abandon immediately in order to follow Him more fully?


Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, I get to the reading that encompasses First and Second Kings. The main thrust of this reading is the sovereignty of God. This is one of the major truths of everything we read in the Bible.

God is Sovereign.

He rules. “Not only in our personal affairs but in the cosmos. Not only in our times and places of worship but in office buildings, political affairs, factories, universities, hospitals–yes, even behind the scenes in saloons and rock concerts.”

Sure. It doesn’t always look like it. “Most of us are knocked around much of the time by forces and wills that give no hint of God.” But remember the title that is given to Jesus: King.

How do we manage to live in this, “in a world that is mostly either ignorant or defiant of it?” We allow our minds and imaginations and behaviors to be shaped “by the reality of God rather than by what is handed out in school curricula and media reporting.” And Peterson believes the books of Kings to be invaluable resources in this realm.

In the story, which begins, actually, in the Samuels, we know that the people having kings was not God’s idea, but theirs. “Since they insisted, he let them have their way.” However, in that allowance, He did not abdicate His sovereignty. In fact, He was not even delegating sovereignty to those kings. They were supposed to represent His sovereignty.

As we know, this did not ever work very well. But what we do see is that, “in the midst of the incredible mess these kings are making of God’s purposes, God continues to work his purposes and uses them in the work–doesn’t discard them, doesn’t detour around them; he uses them. They are part of his sovereign rule, whether they want to be or not, whether they know it or not.”

Hezekiah at least had an idea of this.

And Hezekiah prayed—oh, how he prayed! 
GOD, God of Israel, seated 
in majesty on the cherubim-throne. 
You are the one and only God, 
sovereign over all kingdoms on earth, 
Maker of heaven, 
maker of earth. 
Open your ears, GOD, and listen, 
open your eyes and look. 
Make all the kingdoms on earth know 
that you are GOD, the one and only God. 
(2 Kings 19:15-16, 19 MSG)

Speaking to the Assyrians through His prophets, God says this:

Did it never occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action, Using you as a doomsday weapon, reducing proud cities to piles of rubble, . . .
(2 Kings 19:25 MSG)

“The books of Kings provide a premier witness to the sovereignty of God carried out among some of the most unlikely and uncooperative people who have ever lived.”

I love that quote! Because it directly lines up with who we are, as well. We are pretty unlikely and mostly uncooperative people, I think.

These are the words that David spoke to Solomon, as David was about to did:

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:16 NIV)

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 
'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “partnership.”

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)

The devotional book only cited verse 9, but I can’t just quote that verse without the other three, as they complete the thought. Specifically that line at the end of verse 12, that, on the surface, appears to be confusing. Wait . . . I thought we were talking about two people, not three!

But if you consider that God is the third strand of that cord, it completes the truth. I am not very strong alone. With a partner, a collaborator, I am stronger, and if God is in the center of it, we are unbeatable.

Ultimately, my wife is my partner. I am stronger with her. We have overcome obstacles in our thirty-six years together; obstacles that would have been impossible without God in our midst.


Father, like the people referred to in Hebrews 11, I long for that “better country.” I make frequent references in this forum to “Home,” and that is what I long for. However, that longing is not so strong that it makes me of no use in this life. I am not “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” But neither am I completely entrenched in the things of this world. I won’t deny that there are some things of the world that I enjoy. But if Your plan was to bring us all Home today or tomorrow? You would get no complaint from me!

I embrace Your sovereignty, and have for many years, now. The longer I live, the more understanding I have concerning this idea of sovereignty. We are not robots. You do not control every single thing that I do. At least I don’t think You do. I have a measure of “free will” within the confines of Your sovereignty. But You are working Your plan, as we can clearly see throughout the pages of Scripture, and You are using ordinary people like us to do it. The pages of the books of Kings show us this. What a mess! Just like the pages of the book of Judges! We talked about this in church, yesterday morning, about how messy we are, but we are still loved by You and You still use us in Your kingdom. We are very grateful for this, and honored and humbled to be a part of Your story.

I thank You for my wife, Lord, for the partnership that You put together over thirty years ago. She is more than I ever deserved and I am so grateful for the love that You made between us. Thank You for Your hand in our lives and our family. I pray that You continue to direct us all through this life, and embrace Your promise that we need not fear because You are right here with us, all the time.

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.

Never

Today is Saturday, the eighth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,312

Fifteen days until Hamilton!

Yesterday was a sad day, as we learned of the deaths of two more entertainment giants. First, I learned that Sidney Poitier passed away at the age of 94. Most people remember him for To Sir With Love, but I remember him more for A Patch of Blue. Minutes after I learned of his passing, I learned that Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and Mask, among others, had also passed away, at the age of 82. Both of them died on Thursday.

It was, of course, another great day at the library. In addition to working the computer center, which seemed busier than usual, with more people needing extended help, I was asked to jump over and do some shelving for the last couple of hours. Due to some unusual “projects” going on at the time, the shelving hall had gotten very backed up. There’s a chance that I might be doing a little more of that today, in between my times at the circulation desk. I believe my manager sent out an email asking the circ manager if I could do shelving during my “off-desk” hours.

Of course, I’m totally fine with this. Whatever they need me to do, I’m cool with.

Today, I am due in at 9:30, working until 6:15.

It is currently 45 degrees (which I believe is warmer than yesterday’s high), and is projected to reach 64 later today. It is currently cloudy, but is expected to be clear, this evening. Tonight’s low is expected to be 45. The temp range for the next week seems a bit more “normal” for this time of year, ranging from just below freezing in the morning to as high as 68 one day.

I finished reading A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, last night, and posted my review of it in my other blog. I am currently reading, at the recommendation of one of the librarians, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens). This volume contains both stories, along with quite a bit of critical content. I will try to get through all of the critical content after reading the stories. After completing two books in the first week of 2022, I am ahead of schedule on my reading challenge for the year. I’m sure that will not last long.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Little Quiet Moments, by Daryl Madden

In the midst of life
An offer here for free
To take a little moment
To be still and be

A moment to ponder
A change of attitude
Practicing of wonder
To foster gratitude

A moment of dwelling
With our being whole
To open to Spirit
And center the soul

A moment of vision
Perspective to see
Of the infinite ways
That Gods’ blessing me

Little quiet moments
An insight of gleaning
That seem to give the rest
Extra special meaning

This poem inspired by a quote from Fred Rogers: “How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration and meditative poetry at the link provided above.

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books and the authors who write them
2. for all of my new friends at the Hurst Public Library
3. for the fullness of joy in the presence of the Father
4. that I have a part in God's story, no matter how small it may seem
5. that God will never leave us or forsake us

Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, we get to the book of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth was an “outsider,” not born into the faith. “But she came to find herself gathered into the story and given a quiet and obscure part that proved critical to the way everything turned out.”

In the midst of all the great names of faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon), we find this ordinary, seemingly random person. You and I, along with Ruth, might find ourselves saying, “Surely there is no way that I can have any significant part on such a stage.”

Of course, Ruth said no such thing, because she wasn’t even aware that there was a stage. But we, as we look back on this story, can easily find ourselves wondering how we, as similarly ordinary people, can possibly have a part in God’s great plan.

Says Peterson, “The book of Ruth makes it possible for each of us to understand ourselves, however ordinary or ‘out of it,’ as irreplaceable in the full telling of God’s story. We count–every last one of us–and what we do counts.”

“Blessed be GOD! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.”
(Ruth 4:14 MSG)

As Rich Mullins said, in "Who God Is Gonna Use," 
"You never know who God is gonna use
A princess or a baby
Maybe even you or me."

"Behold, I will do a new thing . . ."
(Isaiah 43:19)

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
(Job 12:12 ESV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
(Proverbs 16:31 ESV)

That Isaiah verse has popped up a lot, since January 1. I suppose that is always a theme for the “New Year,” that God is doing a “new thing.” But then, He is always doing a “new thing,” isn’t He? We read that favorite verse from Lamentations frequently, that talks about His mercies being “new every morning.” We wake up every morning to a new day. And who doesn’t remember the old cliche, from the seventies, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!” (Okay, maybe it was earlier than the seventies.)

Cliche as it is, it’s true. Every day is the “first day of the rest of your life.” What do we do about that? And, no matter how old we get (I’m almost 64, now), God can and will keep using us to do “new things.” We are never too old to be a part of God’s great story!


Speaking of “never,” that happens to be today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day. Harriet Beecher Stowe is quoted as saying, “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

The word “never” occurs in 186 verses in the Bible (in the English Standard Version). The first four of those are in Genesis 8 and 9, when God promises that He will never again destroy the earth in the way that He did in the flood. In Judges 2:1, “the angel of the LORD” says, “I will never break my covenant with you.”

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
(Psalms 34:5 ESV)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(Psalms 55:22 ESV)

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
(Psalms 112:6 ESV)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
(Isaiah 51:6 ESV)

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

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
(Daniel 6:26 ESV)

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
(Zephaniah 3:15 ESV)

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14 ESV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
(John 6:35-37 ESV)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
(John 10:28 ESV)

There are many more occurrences of the word, a number of them more negative. But the point I make, here, is that God has made promises that He will not leave us, and that those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him, will not be put to shame, cast out, or perish. There are other places where the word “never” is exclusively used in the KJV, but the ESV uses a word such as “not.” Deuteronomy 31:8 is one such place.

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

In light of all of those “nevers,” I think it is safe to say that we, as His children, should “never give up,” because it’s “never too late.” You see, if our God is always in the business of doing “new things,” then we are “never” too old to be included in those “new things.” I’m wearing out my ” key, here.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” we’ve all heard. I disagree, because I’m an “old dog” and I learn “new tricks” almost every day.

God is doing a “new thing.” You never know who He is going to use in His plan. Remember, He even used a donkey once (go back and listen to that Rich Mullins song again). He used some real jerks in the story (go back and read about Judges in yesterday’s blog). He used a “nobody” like Ruth to be the great-grandmother of King David, in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

I won’t be in the lineage of a Savior, but I know for a fact that God has used me in peoples’ lives. I am confident that He will continue to do so, even though, in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty much a nobody. But you know what?

Everybody is somebody to somebody.


Father, I am grateful to know that You will never give up on me. Because of that, I will also never give up on You and what You can do in someone’s life, or in the life of our world and culture. I will never stop calling out to You; I will never stop worshiping You; I will never stop singing and playing my instruments to You. And I believe that, no matter how old I live to be, that You will continue to do new and fresh things within me and those around me.

I continue (because I will never give up) to pray that You will intervene and eradicate the plague that surrounds us. To all appearances, it is getting worse, daily. The country where I live had 850,000 new cases yesterday, a new record. But You know this. I implore You (yes, a fancy word for “beg”) to rid us of this disease, Father. I pray that the cases will stop, that the hospitals and their workers will get some relief. I also pray that people would stop being so mean to one another. Help us to love again, Lord. Help me to do my part, even more than my part, to spread love in this world.

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.

Generosity Begets Generosity

Good morning. Today is Friday, the seventh of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

May God’s peace flood your soul, today.

Day 23,311

Sixteen days until Hamilton, assuming it doesn’t get cancelled.

I remain concerned that it will, still, as the new cases of Covid continue to break previous records. The U.S. had 751,000 new cases, yesterday.

Regarding the Church calendar, I will mostly be following whatever Pray As You Go says, this year. I’ve already noticed that they begin counting “Ordinary Time” next week. The resource I used last year counted the entire time between yesterday and Ash Wednesday as the season of Epiphany, and didn’t begin counting Ordinary Time until after Easter. If you’re confused, join the club. I will say that Pray As You Go is a ministry of Jesuit Ministries in Great Britain.

I’ve already done better with my “aspirations” for the new year. I’ve definitely done more reading, and am already just over sixty pages away from finishing my second book of the year (A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins), and we are still in the first week! Several nights, this week, after we have finished dinner and our TV watching, rather than crank up a video game, I have simply sat on the coach and read a while.

I feel like I’m doing a little better with the praying. That can always improve, but I’m finding myself stopping and whispering a quiet prayer any time I receive a prayer request on FB (or Tik Tok, but I haven’t gotten very many there, yet).

However, I have yet to make any music, this year. It will come, I am confident.

I had a great four hours, yesterday, at the library, but it is really messing up my “what day is this” bit on this week. I had to ask C if this was Friday. Of course, I always get to work on Fridays, in the computer center. This is also my week to work Saturday, which has not happened since before Christmas. In fact, I have not worked a Saturday since December 18th, and that was an “extra” shift for me.

I don’t really have much else, so on with the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Father, I ask You to be present in this time. I know that You are here, but I am asking for something deeper, more of an awareness of that presence. As I read various portions of Your Word, this morning, I pray for wisdom and insight into what lies ahead for me today and in my life.

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is with me, and there is no reason for me to be afraid of anything (unless I wander off the path)
2. that God is my refuge and my strength, my fortress and my hiding place
3. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
4. that God doesn't need perfect people to do His good work (he manages to use me, after all)(for proof of this, read Judges)
5. that every good and perfect gift comes from God

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

“How do I know my words and actions are bringing me closer to God? What things make me turn away from God?”

These are good questions for reflection. These days, I’m seeing a lot of videos on social media about “deconstruction” of faith. It is a disturbing, yet understandable trend. A lot of it stems from, unfortunately, the political climate of the past four-plus years, and the rabid association of the “white evangelical church” with the “extreme right.” Some of the people who are deconstructing seem to have abandoned faith altogether, while some continue to seek Jesus, but outside the confines of the traditional “church.”

It is my opinion that one cannot leave the “Church” (capital C), while it is totally possible to leave the “church.” The reason I say that is because the Church is the Body of Christ. And if one is truly a member of the Church, one cannot leave it.

For these people, their words and actions may or may not be bringing them closer to God. For some, it is obvious that they are drifting further from God. So how, indeed, do I know? And note that the questions are not in regard to anyone else but me. This is a personal reflection. It is not for me to reflect on whether your words and actions are bringing you closer to God.

If my words and actions are bringing me closer to God, I believe that my words and actions will, in turn, reflect that. It is somewhat cyclical. If I am being drawn to love others (yes, here we go again), then I think that I am drawing closer to God. If my heart is full of compassion, I believe I am growing closer to God. If we keep reading in the fourth chapter of 1 John, I think we see this to be clear. If I am growing closer to God, then I am growing in love.

If my words and actions indicate bigotry and hatred, I am most definitely not growing closer to God. And, I am learning, I cannot afford to watch or listen to too many of these deconstruction videos, because they can cloud my thinking. I don’t have good answer for these people, nor do I intend to debate them. That is not my place; not my “ministry,” if you will. I am not a “Christian apologist.” My job is to love God and worship Him, and to love and pray for other people. I will say this, though. If you are a person who feels that “Christianity” has hurt you, one of two things is true, in my opinion. Either what you encountered is not “true” Christianity, or what you were looking for was not real Christianity, but some kind of personal validation. Real Christianity, true followers of Christ, is not in the business of hurting people.

Jesus, I ask You to help me recognize both the things that draw me closer to You and the things that tend to draw me away from You. Help me to be faithful to love and pray for others, and to love and worship You. Remind me to allow others, who are more gifted in that area, to debate with the deconstructionists. Also, please remind me of the truth of the words, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

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


In Symphony of Salvation, in the piece about the book of Judges, Eugene H. Peterson makes this statement: “God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

I’m going to let that sit there for a minute.

“God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

This may shock some people, but, if you read the book of Judges, it is hard to disagree. I have made mention of this fact, in previous entries, but possibly the most often-repeated phrase in the book is, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

“It is always something of a shock to enter the pages of the book of Judges and find ourselves immersed in nearly unrelieved mayhem.”

I’m sorry (no I’m not), but did anyone else just see this?

The beauty of the story is that God works with us “in whatever moral and spiritual condition he finds us. God, we are learning, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people.”

Lift your hearts high, O Israel, with abandon, 
volunteering yourselves with the people—
bless GOD!
(Judges 5:9 MSG)

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
 Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)


Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “giving.”

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
(James 1:17 NIV)

“Giving” can mean a lot of things. Or at least it can be seen in a lot of different ways. I don’t really want to talk about how much C and I give to others, because I never want to appear to be boastful about it. But know this. When you give to someone, out of the kindness of your heart, or, honestly, even if it is out of a sense of obligation (but remember, “God loves a cheerful giver”), that gift comes from God. It may have come out of my heart or my bank account or my pocket, but if it is a “good and perfect gift,” it originated from God.

And yes, I believe that gifts that we give to people can, indeed, be “good and perfect.” Because I believe that the opposite of the statement is also true. (“Opposite” is probably not the right word.) If every good and perfect gift comes from God, then it can also be said that every gift that comes from God is good and perfect. So if I give a gift, and it comes from the heart of God, and I am simply the channel, then that gift is “good and perfect.”

How does this apply to prayer? I can pray to be more giving. I can pray that God opens my eyes to needs today, as I interact with people, that I might give something to help that need. That could be time, money, attention, or anything else that I might have. It might just be a friendly smile or greeting, a notion of love.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, needs love.


Father, I am grateful that You are able to use people who are not necessarily “good,” nor are we perfect, to do Your good work. Thank You for the examples of people in the Bible, people who are jerks, people who are sinful, people who just aren’t very nice or good, sometimes, yet You used them in Your plan to bring salvation to the world. This means that You can use me, even me, and You have, and You continue to, so I am blessed and honored and humbled by this.

I thank You that You have placed a generous, giving heart within me, but I do not rest on that. I believe I can do better, and You can help me do so. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:38 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.