Let It Shine

Today is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of July, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of God find you today. Whatever is going on, just stop. Stop and embrace the peace. Let it hold you.

Day 23,481

We had a great day at the library, yesterday. It was just busy enough that it didn’t get boring, but not busy enough to be crazy. And there weren’t any over-challenging patrons. A very pleasant day.

Today, C and I will be going to Bass Hall for the 1:30 performance of Oklahoma! We are really looking forward to that.

Tomorrow, I have jury duty. Not really looking forward to that. But not dreading it, either. Something different to do on a Monday, when I never have a work shift, anyway. I just hope it doesn’t carry over into Tuesday.

The Texas Rangers beat the Washington Nationals, last night, 3-2, on a walk-off home run by Adolis Garcia (“El Bombe”). After losing 2-1, the previous night, their record is back to two games below .500, 34-36. They are in second place in the AL West, 10.5 behind the Astros, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race.

The Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Guardians 4-2, to improve their record to 41-31. They are now in second place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and in the first of three Wild Card spots. The other two Wild Cards are currently Toronto and Tampa. Again, if the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs. I’m sorry, Mr. Manfred, but this just doesn’t seem right.

I just sent an email to the MLB about that issue. I’ll let you know if they respond. Hahaha!

The Yankees still have the best MLB record, at 52-20. However, the have lost two games in a row, and were no-hit (??) last night. Unfortunately, it was the Astros who no-hit them, so I can’t exactly be happy about that, can I? Today, the Athletics have the worst record, at 24-49. The Yankees continue to have the best run differential, at +141, but the Dodgers aren’t far behind them, at +130. The Nationals (with whom the Rangers are struggling!) have the worst, at -113. Come on, Rangers!! The Red Sox have the longest current win streak (YAY!!) at six games, and the Diamondbacks have the longest current losing streak at five games.

The Rangers will play the Nationals this afternoon, at 1:35, while we are watching Oklahoma! at the Bass Hall. The Sox will play the Guardians at 1:40 EDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

What I Long For, by Daryl Madden

I longed for the day
Of future years
I long for the past
Now that they’re here

I’m looking forward
To what happens today
But the gift of this moment
I let pass away

And even of heaven
Where I long to be
I can lose focus
To let life pass by me

So let all my longing
Be now in a prayer
In dealing with you, Lord
In heaven right here

So much truth here, in this lovely poem. Please visit Daryl’s site, using the link provided above, for more.

O Lord our God, grant that we may have fellowship with you every day. May our hearts be ready to fulfill your commandments and to do what you want in all things. Hear our prayer. Hear and answer when we pray for the nations, for the whole world, and let your holy will be done. Remember all who are in distress, and lead them on the right way. May we go with joyful hearts wherever you lead us. Your name will be our help, your glory will come, and the world will be full of your love, your power, and your splendor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the fellowship we have with God, in Christ, and the desire to see others have that same fellowship
2. that my desire to draw people into the love of God supersedes my devotion to any other "cause"
3. for this moment, right here, right now (yes, the one that's already gone), because that is all we truly have
4. for the heart of gratitude that God has grown in me
5. for the admonition in Isaiah 58 to stop blaming and slandering, and to pour out our lives for the hungry and afflicted

Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is thanks.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)

That is one of 72 times that the word “thanks” appears in the NIV. 33 of those appear in the Old Testament, and 39 in the New. I’m actually a little surprised that it doesn’t appear more often. However, if you take off the “s,” the word “thank” appears another 35 times. And “thanksgiving” another 22. Three more times for “thankful.” So there’s a total of 132 appearances of some form of the word in the NIV Bible.

I think God desires for us to be thankful. Do I think it’s because He desires the attention? Does it make Him feel better when we say “thanks”? You know, the way it makes you feel better when one of your kids or a close friend says “thank you.”

Here’s the thing. Actually, I’m posing a question. Which do you think is more healthy for you, a life of complaining about things, or a life of gratitude?

As you know, I start each day’s devotional with gratitude (after a brief prayer, sometimes an inspirational poem, and a verse to jump off from). This sets the stage for the day. But it would be even better (and a practice that I need to begin) if I said some thanks before I even put feet on the floor.

Dallas Willard once said that, before he got out of bed in the morning, he would meditate through either the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm. Both worthy things, and a great way to start the day. And I’m sure gratitude was a part of that. How much better to simply start the day with some thanks, before ever getting out of bed? (Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not at all being critical of Dallas Willard!)

I mean, how many of us jump out of bed all happy and cheerful? If you do, I don’t want to be around you. Even my wife, who is more of a morning person than I, doesn’t exactly spring out of bed in the morning. So stopping to express some gratitude would certainly help. It would set the stage for a better day, I believe, and prepare me for pretty much anything that could come my way.

I’m still not doing any “springing,” though.

It also would make me think, to be aware. I sometimes have to think about what I’m grateful for. Some days, it’s harder than others. Other days, I might lie there for a half hour, giving thanks.

The writer of today’s reading gives his own suggestions. “Thanks for a good night’s sleep. Thanks for a bed and a pillow. Thanks for hot water. For indoor plumbing (ever lived without it?). For toothpaste. For soap. Thanks for a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat, and coffee to drink, hallelujah, amen!”

I know that my mother is thankful for being able to go out shopping with my wife, yesterday.

There’s a book that has been on my TBR list for a while, now, and I think I may try a bit harder to get it read, this year. It’s by Anne Lamott, and it’s called Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. And, judging from the fact that our Father knows every word before it comes out of mouth, and knows what we need before we ask it, those are three pretty good prayers.

As “Bob” has advised, try it today. “See how many things – including diverse things – you can say ‘thanks’ for today.” It just might change your whole outlook.

Of course, if you enjoy your whining and complaining, never mind.

Father, You know my heart, and You know the heart of my gratitude, each day. You also know that some days, it is more difficult than others to come up with five things that I’m grateful for. I pray for help for those days, and I pray that You would remind me, by Your Spirit, every morning, when I wake up, to give thanks before I even get out of bed. Help me to do that, as I want the general attitude of my day to begin with thanksgiving. And then help me to punctuate the rest of my day with constant thanksgiving, giving thanks in all circumstances, as Paul tells us to do.


if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:10 ESV)

Hmm . . . I think the previous verse needs to be included in this.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:9-10 ESV)

The thing I found interesting, when including the previous verse (it would actually be helpful to read the whole passage), is that it is not just the pouring oneself out for the hungry and helping the afflicted that makes one’s light shine. It must be accompanied with the ceasing of the blame game and slandering!

And this is exactly where our society is, today, both within and without the church. We are blaming and slandering. I can hardly stand to look at my social media feeds, these days, because of all the slander and hatred being spewed out, by “Christians!!” It hurst my soul! If we wonder why our lights aren’t shining, we need to take a closer look at that.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
(Isaiah 60:1 ESV)

Father, help us to stop pointing fingers and speaking wickedness, so that we might turn our attention to the things that really matter, pouring ourselves out for the hungry and helping the afflicted in our world. These are the things that Jesus seems to care about, as He indicated in His parable of the sheep and the goats. Turn our hearts toward You, Father, toward Your generosity and Your heart for the oppressed and afflicted, for the “orphans and widows.” Have mercy, Father!


We serve a God who comes to us. He is not at a fixed point in the universe, and we do not have to work hard to find Him. Yes, the Bible tells us to “seek Him,” but it’s not like He is hard to find.

He came to us, in Jesus Christ, and He has promised to return in Jesus. We live our lives between those two events. What does it mean to live in a world where God comes to us?

“This is the expectant believer’s task: to clarify that question, to celebrate it, and to live heartily and hopefully in response to the God who comes to us. Will we live slovenly, with unbuttoned minds and disheveled spirits, thoughtlessly supposing that the same things will be forever monotonously repeated, over and over again, in creation and history? Or will we live alertly and ardently, convinced that God continues to come to us and will come to us again in Jesus? Will we believe that in expectantly waiting for his coming, being hospitable to his arrival, we are getting the most out of life?”

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

Father, help me to live expectantly, not slovenly. Keep my mind sharp as I interact with You and with my fellow human beings. Help me to resist the temptation to blame and slander, but to wait expectantly for Your coming again in Christ, all the while doing my utmost to obey His commands to love You and love my neighbor as myself. May we, as Your people, be open and hospitable to the arrival of our Savior, whenever that may occur. Thank You for being the God who comes to us and does not sit out there in the ether, waiting for us to find You. I praise You that You have condescended to interact with us, and that You initiated it all. May we respond appropriately, with worship, prayer, and thanksgiving.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

To Infinity and Beyond

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

Peace be with you.

Day 23,480

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Love Conquers All Fear, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To infinity and beyond.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

” . . . and the future starts now!”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To infinity and beyond.

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

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

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

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus.


Grace and peace, friends.

Do Not Fear; Only Believe

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,477

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Do You Not Believe, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know. My cynicism is showing.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Witness

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

Today is Thursday, the sixteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,471

I’ll be working my usual eight-hour shift in the computer center today, from 11:15 to 8:15 tonight. That reminds me, I need to start tonight’s soup in the crock pot. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

Oh. That also reminds me. Last night’s dinner was delicious! Here is the recipe for what I made last night.

Spaghetti Pie

It’s a great dish, but one that I should only try on days when I don’t work, as it is a little involved and takes close to an hour, total time. But it was well worth it.

Tonight will be our standard Chicken-Ranch Crock Pot Soup.

The Texas Rangers lost pretty badly, yesterday afternoon, 9-2, to the Astros. It was dismal. Unfortunately, they put a rookie in for his first MLB start. Against the Astros. So much for his ego. Anyway, the Rangers are now 29-33, in second place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Angels, and 9.5 behind the Astros. They are also 4.5 behind in the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series in Detroit tonight.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox discombobulated the Athletics, last night, 10-1. Egad. Of course, any time the Athletics lose, it benefits the Rangers. The Sox are now 34-29, but still in third place in the AL East, 1.5 behind the Rays, and 12.5 out of first place. Barring a complete disaster (which most of us are hoping for), there won’t be any catching the Evil Empire. Best we can hope for is a wild card, and the Sox are currently in the third wild card spot. I didn’t find out until two days ago that there will be three wild card in each league.

I’m tired of telling you who has the best MLB record. You know. 46-16. The worst record, though, seems to fluctuate, daily, lately. Today, the Athletics are the proud owners of the worst record, at 21-43. The Braves won again! They now have a fourteen game win streak! That sounds like a lot, but they have a ways to go to catch the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row. The poor Chicago Cubs have now lost nine games in a row. You-know-who also still has the best run differential, at +130. The Washington Nationals have taken over the worst, for today, at -102. The Rangers dropped back into the red, yesterday, and are now at -2. The Red Sox now have a +54 run differential, still the sixth best, but only one behind the Cardinals.

Tune in tomorrow for more meaningless but fun (at least to me) statistics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let Me Give,” by Daryl Madden

Let me give my eyes to You
Your vision of seeing
Let me give my ears to You
Your Spirit of hearing

Let me give my feet to You
To Your way of walking
Let me give my hands to You
To souls of suffering

Let me give my heart to You
To Your grace of cleaning
Let me place my trust in You
For Lord you are my king

Let me give my praise to You
My song is what I’ll sing
Let me pray a prayer to You
A humble offering

Let me give me will to You
For I can do nothing
Let me receive Your grace oh Lord
For You bless everything

Let me give my soul to You
Faithfully trusting
Let me give my life to You
In Your love of sharing

What a beautiful prayer to being the day! You can read more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link above.

Lord God, we thank you that you have upheld us and brought us to the Savior. Help us to remember this truth through your Holy Spirit, and constantly remind us while still on earth to live in heaven with all your angels. We are helpless without you. Your Spirit alone can overcome our sinful nature so that we never forget to be in heaven with the Savior now and in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father's home
2. that we are able to walk in God's Kingdom while still on earth
3. that God is control, not me
4. that I can pray with confidence, knowing that You hear, and will answer according to Your will
5. for the witness we give when we attend a house of worship together; the witness that "God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift." (Eugene Peterson)

But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
(Daniel 3:24-25 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, from Pray a Word a Day, is acceptance. The quote is from the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

There are some very wise words in today’s reading. Words that seem even more wise in the midst of today’s struggles.

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

This applies to more than the rampant complaining and whining that is going on in social media circles, right now. It also applies to how upset I get when things don’t go the way I think they should, like when I was trying to switch mobile carriers Tuesday afternoon. It was a terrible and complicated process that looked, on the surface, like it shouldn’t take very long.

I got quite upset. And it didn’t help anything. I also got frustrated as I tried to cancel the one remaining line on our ATT plan, yesterday evening, so that account would be closed out. The issues were most definitely caused by ATT, but there was nothing I could do to change those. So my frustration only served to raise my blood pressure and make everyone around me uncomfortable.

So today’s word is good for me. And while the word acceptance can apply to a wide range of things (accepting people for who they are, for example), the focus today is on accepting things as they are, if I have no means of changing them. If I can do something to change it, then my responsibility lies in doing that thing, but my emotions still need to remain in check.

Father, I confess my failure to keep emotions reigned in when things are outside my control. Things happen the way they happen, and I can do nothing about that. I can’t control the complexity of processes when it comes to certain things in life. I can’t control which TV channels are provided by which carriers. I can’t control whether other people will answer their phones or respond to voice mails. I can’t control whether technology will work properly. What I can control is the way I react to these things. I pray that Your Spirit will fill me with His fruit, each day, and that I might dwell completely within Your Kingdom as I walk through each day. But also, let me take this life one step at a time, and not get ahead of myself.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”
(Matthew 6:7 NLT)

While this verse refers to how we pray, audibly, using words, I think there might be something here that we can apply to the concept of silence. And that’s not all. I think it also has some wisdom in the subject of anxiety.

Of course, Jesus spoke a good bit about anxiety, as well, didn’t He?

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? 
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Luke 12:22-34 NLT)

Another reason to not pile on the needless words or “vain repetitions” is found in the verse immediately following the one that heads up this section.

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
(Matthew 6:8 NLT)

I’ll admit that I’m on the fence about something when it comes to prayer. And that is the matter of whether I need to ask God more than once. I have a prayer book where I keep requests that are sent to me. And I do go through the requests on a semi-regular basis. But I also stop and whisper a prayer immediately, in most cases, when I see a prayer request.

I really don’t think it is an issue to be concerned about. The important thing is where our heart is when we are praying. Am I repeating prayers because I’m anxious about something? When I pray for something once and let it go, do I find myself being doubtful or anxious, or am I confident that God hears and will answer according to His will?

He knows what we need before we ask. Therefore, I believe, it is pointless to blather on about things. Jesus’s model prayer that follows these instructions is short and to the point. It takes five short verses (six if you add the benediction that was added in later manuscripts).

Have you ever heard someone pray out loud, in church, for ten or fifteen minutes? I really believe that that is what Jesus is addressing, here.

Don’t babble on, don’t be anxious, don’t pray for show. And, honestly, I have found, sometimes, that prayers in silence do a lot more for my state of mind than praying out loud.

(Inspired by Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help us to pray better. Help me to pray better and more faithfully. I also pray for a better mindset when it comes to prayer. Help me to have consistent faith and practice, believing that You will answer my prayers, but not always, necessarily, the way I think they should be answered. After all, You are God, not me. I don’t need to explain the situation to you; I don’t need to tell you what kind of disease a person has. I don’t need to be frantic or anxious. There are no “emergencies” in Your Kingdom. Help us/me to live in this world with that same point of view. You are in control. Help me to remember that at all times, and to pray with that truth in mind.

As for praying without ceasing, that means not praying out loud for a long time, but, rather, walking through my day with my mind and soul focused on You, remaining, as much as possible in constant contact with You and being aware of Your presence throughout the day.

Why do we go to church?

This is a question that a former pastor (and still good friend) used to ask us. To our frustration, he never answered it. Hah!

I believe I have found an answer (at least partial) from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning, in his book, On Living Well.

First of all, he points out that worship is not voluntary. It is a requirement for anyone who calls the name of Jesus. But it is also not coerced. In generations past, the “church” official attempted to coerce people into going to church, even to the point of being punished when they were not in attendance. “But coercion is no attribute of God.”

One answer to the above-mentioned question, of course, is that we go to church to worship. But, some may object, we can “worship” anywhere, and this is, to a degree, true.

I believe that Peterson nails down a major reason for going to church, for meeting together with the saints on Sunday morning (or whatever day your group meets). That reason is for a witness; “a witness that God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift.”

You see, there are people in this world who are not aware that God is present and speaking and saving and giving Himself. They believe that, if He exists at all, He is remote and silent. Oh, sure, He’s a nice idea when crisis comes, but “they don’t know that God is right now speaking and changing lives and pouring out abundant life.” They need to know these things, and one way we show them is by the witness of “going to church.”

“When you walk into a house of worship and take your place – singing, praying, listening, receiving – you are a witness to this action of God, the greatest of all actions in the world. You are irreplaceable in this witness. No one has your particular slant on it.”

Each of us is unique. If one hundred people gather to worship and you are missing, the other hundred cannot replace you. Evangelism, says Peterson, “begins in the act of worship.”

Father, I pray that we would do better at being that witness for You. I am grateful that You are speaking to us and changing people and lives and giving Yourself to us that we may live. May we gladly and joyfully receive Your gifts, and spread them around our little “kingdoms” with great joy. Let us not become affected by the distress in the world, right now. Let the circumstances of life not steal our joy in You. These things, You have told us, will always be around. They were around when You walked the earth, they were around when Your disciples started Your Church, and they are around now. You are still in control, and You are still acting in people and circumstances. And it is our duty and responsibility, our requirement, to worship together, that You might be glorified.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! 
Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Little Is Much When God Is In It

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,442

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:15b-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

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

The prayer word for today is “morsel.”

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

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

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

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

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just something to ponder, this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

True Evangelism

Today is Thursday, the twelfth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,436

It was a pretty good day, yesterday. The library was moderately busy, but not too much so. I issued at least five new library cards before lunch, which is an unusual amount. I also replaced a few cards for people, as well.

We had a new version of our crockpot chicken soup, last night. I thought of this a week or so ago. I got some Alfredo sauce mix, and instead of Ranch mix, I sprinkled it in the crockpot with the chicken and the cream of chicken soup. That’s the only difference, but then we served it over cauliflower linguini, and it was most delicious!

The Texas Rangers lost last night’s game, 8-2, to the KC Royals. They had won Tuesday night, but I didn’t have time to talk about that, yesterday morning. The Rangers are now 12-17 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, a half game ahead of the Athletics. They finish the series with KC tonight, at 7:05, and tomorrow, the Red Sox roll into town. That should be an interesting series, as the two teams have had similar starts to the season.

Speaking of the Sox, they lost last night, to Atlanta, 5-3. They are now 11-20 for the season. Their next game is tomorrow night, here in Arlington.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“This Day Is,” by Daryl Madden

It’s blessed to us
A gift of His
And that is what
This day is

Let us receive
His love, adore
That is what
He’s longing for

His love to share
Abundantly
That is where
Our joy will be

Of heaven here
His love to bind
That’s how this day
Becomes divine

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

Lord our God, we thank you that we can be children of your Spirit. We thank you that because you have called us, we receive eternal gifts that enable us to stand firm even when many sorrows and burdens weigh us down. For you are our life, and in all the darkness, even that of death, you give us light and strength and joyful hope. Keep these alive in us. May an ever brighter light shine on all that you have already put into our hearts, on all that draws us daily to you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”
(John 14:23 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, a gift of blessing from God
2. for His eternal gifts that help me to stand firm, even when things threaten to weigh me down
3. for faith, without which it is impossible to please God
4. for the Word of God and the impact it has had on my life
5. for the Gospel of Christ, that the kingdom of God is here, now, available for us to live in right now
6. for the love of my wife

Today’s prayer word is “faith.” About time we got around to that one, right?

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
(Matthew 19:26 NLT)

“I understand the power of faith. I can touch it on my daughter’s face, smell it in the roses gracing my garden, and read it in the Bible. It’s forever. And it’s mine.” ~ Heidi

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Faith is real. We are mocked, frequently, by people who think that faith is unrealistic, that we are believing in a myth. That’s fine. Let them think that. But even they exhibit faith. Every time someone sits in a chair or turns on a light switch, they practice faith. My faith is just a little bit bigger. I believe that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected. I believe that I, too, will one day be resurrected to live with Him in eternity. I don’t know what that will look like. But I believe it. Because God has given me faith. My faith is a gift from Him.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

Father, thank You for my faith, and for the faith of all of Your children. I pray that our faith will ever increase as we draw closer to the Day of the Lord. I pray that this faith will lead us into the most wonderful love that this world has ever seen. And I pray that this faith will cause us to never worry about or fear the things that are happening in this world, today.

My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart.
(Proverbs 3:1 NLT)

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
(Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NLT)

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

I have, through life, endeavored to remember the things that my parents taught me. There were certainly times when I strayed, but God has always brought me back to the path.

We tried, as parents, to commit ourselves “wholeheartedly” to God’s words. We taught them to our children, and now, they are grown. One of them still lives with us, but the other is pretty far away. We continue to pray that God will keep her in His sight and draw her closer to Him. It is no longer up to us.

Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise? I used to believe it was. But this is considered “wisdom” literature in Scripture, just as the Psalms are “poetry” and “songs.” It is not always wise to attempt to build a theological system on poetry, songs, and wisdom. But, then again, it is wisdom. Maybe it is not so much a promise as it is a truth.

Father, I thank You for the things that my parents taught me, as I grew up. I thank You that these things have stayed with me, well into adulthood. I pray that those same things will stick in the hearts and minds of our daughters as they grow older. And may we all continue to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Your Word.

I’m going to talk about an unpopular word, for a minute. Well, it’s unpopular with half of the country, at least. “Evangelism.” What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the label we give to all those words and gestures, acts of witness both deliberate and subconscious, that get out the news in a person way that God is alive in the world, that it is his will that we experience his love, and that Jesus Christ provides the way in which we get in on it.”

There are many who do not quite grasp this “good news.” Many do not understand that “God is for them;” many who “don’t know the way and are wasting their lives hunting and pecking, guessing and groping, hoping that they will get lucky someday with a lottery ticket to heaven.”

On a side note, there are also quite a few who are not interested at all, and don’t even believe that there is a heaven.

The true Christian knows that God is for us and knows that the way to get to Him is through Jesus. “We don’t know everything about these great issues, but we know at least that much.” We also know that we have an obligation to share this “good news.”

Another side note: there are those who believe that this “obligation” requires us to mention Jesus in every single conversation that they have. I have even heard suggestions on how to manipulate conversations with random people, say your barber or someone, around to salvation and Jesus. I am not one of those people. I am, however, as Paul suggested, ready to give an answer should someone ask the reason for my hope.

Part of the problem is that we think we have to put on big productions in the name of “evangelism,” you know, like with “football-stadium crowds and television glamour.”

“But most evangelism is incremental and unobtrusive. Most evangelism takes place in the world as Christians live and work alongside one another in families and at jobs over the course of ten and twenty and thirty years. The primary field for evangelism is not with strangers who cross our lives briefly but with the people with whom we live and work and socialize over a lifetime. That is why it is so difficult–we must learn how to communicate through the ordinariness of our lives the extraordinariness of God’s grace. We need constant stimuli and direction in both what to say and how to say it right with our words and our lives.”

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

Here’s the thing: the people who believe that we must constantly be talking to strangers about Jesus (they claim that the Bible says that we have to talk about Jesus to everyone we meet . . . this is not true) would rather do that than with the people they live and work with every day. Why is that? More than likely because, in their everyday lives, they do not live according to the words of the One whom they want to talk about to all the strangers.

I’m doing some conjecture here, but it is based on observation. A lot of these people, who would manipulate a conversation with their hairdresser, treat their co-workers with contempt and scorn, abuse their families, and possibly other things, as well. They spew hatred on social media toward people who don’t think the way they do, and call them things like “idiot” and “stupid.”

I could very well be wrong, but this doesn’t seem very “Christlike” to me.

I am, at heart, evangelical. I happen to be white. However, I am most definitely NOT a “Christian Nationalist,” which is what “evangelical” has come to mean in our current culture.

I can’t help but wonder what brother Peterson would have to say about that.

Father, I thank You for the “good news,” and I thank You that You given us this news to share with others. I pray for the ability to share this Gospel with the people with whom I live and work on a daily basis. I pray also that I would be able to share it in the way that I live and the words that say, both toward random people, as well as those with whom I am in contact on at least a semi-daily basis. I thank You fort he social media platforms I have to share the Gospel. And I thank You for the simplicity of this Gospel, which is nothing more than the fact that Your kingdom is here, now, and that we can walk in it right now.

I pray for the souls of the people who claim to know You and claim to follow Jesus, but turn around and treat their fellow man with hatred. I pray for Your intervention in these circumstances. And it is because of these circumstances and others in our world that I pray, daily . . .

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything GOD does is right— 
the trademark on all his works is love. 
GOD's there, listening for all who pray, 
for all who pray and mean it. 
My mouth is filled with GOD's praise. 
Let everything living bless him, 
bless his holy name from now to eternity!
(Psalms 145:17-18, 21 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Tell You Three Times

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

Today is Tuesday, the third of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,427

So there really isn’t a lot to write about, this morning. Not a lot happened yesterday, and there was no baseball. Okay, there was baseball, sure. But the Rangers and the Red Sox didn’t play, which means, for me, effectively, there was no baseball.

The Rangers play the Phillies today at 5:45 CDT (that seems really early), and the Red Sox play the Angels at 7:10 EDT (a much more normal time).

I work, this evening, at the Hurst Public Library, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. This is probably my favorite activity at the library, because I get to interact with books more than people. Heh. I have a sticker on one of my metal cups that says, “Books are better than people.” I realize God doesn’t agree with that sentiment, and, in reality, I don’t either. However, I would still rather interact with a book than another human.

C is working from home today, which is always nice, and I will venture out into the wild suburbs, in a little while, and get lunch/dinner for us from Subway and Sonic.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Vine Life,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

Keep on
abiding
in Me…

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

Please check out more of this inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. 
Remain in my love. 
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, 
just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. 
Yes, your joy will overflow! 
This is my commandment: 
Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 
You are my friends if you do what I command."
(John 15:9-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for coffee and breakfast; and chocolate
2. for water to take showers
3. for the peace that comes from keeping one's minds fixed on God
4. that our God is always near
5. that in His presence, there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)
6. that everything that I have (for I truly "own" nothing) belongs to and was given to me by my Father in heaven
7. for the spirit of generosity and sharing that He has placed in our hearts, that we do not hoard any of the aforementioned gifts for ourselves

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
(Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 NLT)

For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
(Job 33:4 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “near.”

Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time.
(Jeremiah 23:23 NLT).

One of the most comforting things about this journey in Christ is the constant nearness of God. There’s a fifty-dollar word we use to describe our belief about God’s presence. It is “omnipresent.” It means pretty much the same thing as “ubiquitous.” He is everywhere, and all at the same time.

At least a decade ago, I started calling God “omnichronological,” as well. The reason being that God also exists outside of time. So not only is God everywhere at once, He is also everywhen at once.

So, considering the truth that God is always near, then I might also consider that God is near me, now and here; God is near me at my birth; God is near me on my deathbed (or wherever I am when that time comes).

Psalm 139 is another Scripture that states this very well.

You go before me and follow me. 
You place your hand of blessing on my head. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 
I can never escape from your Spirit! 
I can never get away from your presence! 
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
 if I go down to the grave, you are there. 
If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
(Psalms 139:5-10 NLT)

“To know He is near–to practice His nearness–is to be filled with the pleasure of God.”

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)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I abide in Your nearness; I relish and embrace the truth that You are always with me. It brings me great comfort to know that, no matter where I go, I cannot get away from Your presence. And, while it is difficult to grasp or comprehend, I am grateful that You are already with me in my future, whatever it may hold. I am also grateful that You are present in my past, and have been watching over me my whole life. May I always know Your nearness, Father, even when I am not looking for it.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

You are not imagining things. That verse has already occurred in this blog once, up above. And when it showed up in my Daily Guideposts 2022 reading for today, I figured that means it’s important.

To illustrate that verse, Erin MacPherson uses a personal experience with her dog, who, when afraid of something, would keep his eyes on hers, constantly, until the “danger” was past. Her conclusion: “When things are frightening, scary, or just new, I want to keep my eyes trained on the One I can trust.”

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

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Oh, Father, if we would only learn the truth of these things; if we would only learn that, if we keep our spiritual eyes fixed on You, that we would have unbreakable peace, even in the most unstable circumstances. I have know this peace, but I confess that I have also been nearly shattered by similar circumstances, because I failed to keep my eyes on You. Your Word tells us that You will give us “perfect” peace, if we keep our eyes fixed on You. There is very little in this world that I would consider perfect. Okay, there is nothing perfect in this world. We use the word to describe a lot of things, but, in truth, only You are worthy of that word of description. Only You are perfect, and Your peace is perfect because it comes from You.

James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from” You, and that You never change. Keeping my eyes fixed on You also means that I will never lean on my own understanding of things, but, rather, acknowledge You in all my ways. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use my brain. Heaven forbid! You gave me a brain, and I intend to use it. But when I rely more on my own thinking than on what You and Your Word tell me, then I create trouble for myself. So, help me to keep my eyes fixed You at all times, and to remember that, no matter what happens in my life, You are going to work it out for my good, because You are good and You only do good.

Eugene Peterson continues talking about money in today’s reading. Yesterday’s referred to the stewardship of all things that God has given us, and today singles out the resource of money, which Peterson describes as “holy.” He points out that not everyone believes that money is holy, but states that this is a “Christian and biblical conviction.”

He then begins to discuss the ancient concept of “tithing.” This is a practice that puts the aforementioned conviction into practice. “it is an offering of the firstfruits of our labor to the God who made this world of soil and rock, barley and grapes, silver and gold and tin–up to and including embossed plastic credit cards.”

Traditionally, the tithe was the first ten percent of any moneys received through our labor. “It is based on the conviction that we would have gotten nothing from all our sweat and exertion if God had not first given us ground to use, muscles to work, brains to think, and communities to live in and be employed in.”

Remember–yesterday’s reading asserted that everything that we see (and even things we can’t see) was created by God and given to us to use. And remember James 1:17, quoted in my last prayer, tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. So whatever we accomplish in our work is accomplished using things and resources that we got from our Father. Therefore, we give back to Him a portion of what we receive from that labor.

Peterson maintains that, “if we do not being with giving . . . we inevitably become dominated by the spirit of acquisition: getting and getting and getting. We become obsessed with keeping control of what we have. We scheme and covet. And in so doing, we profane our money. We violate the holiness of our money.” Does this sound or look familiar to us?

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

We must be careful, though, and remember these words of Jesus:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
(Matthew 23:23 NLT)

Tithing can feed pride. “It can create snobbish elitism. . . . It can develop into self-righteousness that assumes that God is now obligated to take special notice.”

And we all out to rest assured that God is never, NEVER “obligated” to us for ANYTHING!!

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV)

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

A lot of this all boils down to another thought from Jesus, found in Matthew 16.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
(Matthew 16:24-25 NLT)

If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be focused on “things,” and our “right” to possess them. This, after all, is one of our biggest problem areas in today’s culture (I speak only for Western culture). We are all about our rights and what is “mine.” Tragically, even modern “Christians” (for so they believe themselves to be, even though their actions and words contradict that belief) have been loudly proclaiming their rights and ownership of possessions, recently.

But, as A.W. Tozer insists, in The Pursuit of God, this “self-life” is actually my enemy. And if I allow this enemy to live, I will lose everything. This is why I must keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. And this mindset, this way of life, produces a kind of generosity that can change the world, if not the entire world (for what can one man do to change the world?), at least for one or two souls.

Father, I praise You for the spirit of generosity that You have placed within my family. You have created in us a mindset of sharing, of not holding on to possessions, of not hoarding money. Certainly, we do save some, and even that might be an indication of a small lack of faith, but we do believe in being prepared. But we are not hoarding, thinking that it is “never enough,” to the harm of our fellow travelers on this earth. We do ask for discernment, that we might know when a person’s need is truly worthy of our support, if it is legitimate, lest we fall for scammers. But even then, it is the thought in our heart that is most important, and if someone is scamming, they must, in the end, answer to You for misusing resources provided by You.

All that I have is Yours. I have nothing, I “own” nothing that You did not give me. Once again, in the words of Horatius Bonar, my sin is the only thing that I have that can call my own. Everything else comes from You. All praise and glory belongs to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.
(Isaiah 26:3 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Gifts, Things, and Their Proper Use

Today is Monday, the second of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,426

We had a wonderful time with our church group, yesterday morning. We managed to do all of the things that we are supposed to do when we gather together. We fellowshipped, we read Scripture, we broke bread (the Supper), and we prayed. There may or may not have been a lot more fellowshipping than the other things.

C and I stopped by Lone Star BBQ for lunch (and tragically neglected to stop at Sonic for drinks), and we watched the Rangers while we ate lunch. I did eventually go back out for the Sonic drinks.

The Texas Rangers beat the Braves in one of their best wins to date. Final score 7-3, and it was yet another win for the starting pitcher, this time, Taylor Hearne getting his first win. The Rangers scored first, in the opening inning (and I do believe that the announcers said that was the first time that has happened, this season), and never looked back. They were ahead for the entire game. This improves their record to 8-14 for the season. Also, they won the series, which may also be the first for the season. They remain in last place, but are only two games behind the Athletics. The Rangers are off today, traveling to Philadelphia for a two game stand with the Phillies before heading to New York to face the dreaded Evil Empire.

The Boston Red Sox lost the game and the series to Baltimore, 9-5. How embarrassing. They are now 9-14 for the season, still in fourth place, but only a half game ahead of those Orioles. They also have the day off today, and will be playing the LA Angels in Boston, tomorrow.

The New York Yankees continue to hold the best record in MLB, but only a half game ahead of the cross-town rival Mets. The Cincinnati Reds have now lost six consecutive games, and continue to be the worst, at 3-19. There are still ten teams out of thirty who have yet to win ten games. The Rangers are tied for fifth-worst, with Baltimore. But they are only a half game behind Boston and the Other Sox.

Today should be an easy day for me. C did some laundry over the weekend, so the only thing I’m washing is our comforter because a cat barfed on it last week. I bet you would have been just fine not knowing that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lost In,” by Daryl Madden

Focus upon me
Control here this day
Lost in stress and fear
Can’t find the way

Turn to the horizon
Of light birthed to shine
Lost in peace and beauty
A taste of the divine

Surrender of the will
With offer of a prayer
Lost in emptiness
I need a Savior here

Found in Your Presence
Embrace of our God
Lost in love and wonder
Eternally awed

Father, may I be lost in Your love and wonder, this morning.

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.
(Psalms 24:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the rain received overnight
2. for a really good church gathering, yesterday morning
3. for the saving work of God, through the Son and by the Spirit
4. for the goods and possessions that the Lord has allowed me to use and take care of for Him
5. for the generosity that He has placed in my heart, when it comes to sharing those goods and resources

So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?
(Acts 15:10 NLT)

“Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!”
(Joshua 23:14 NLT)

“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
(Joshua 24:14-15 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “save.” There are different meanings to this word, as is frequently the case.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV)

This verse, of course, signifies one meaning of “save,” the one in which God saves us, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. And God is passionate about saving. His highest purpose, outside of glorifying His own name, has been to reconcile creation to Himself.

We also, however, speak of “saving” in context with work, these days. Ever since computers became a prevalent part of the work environment, saving has become of utmost importance. In fact, when I interviewed for my library aide job, I was asked a question.

“If a patron needs help with a document they are working on, what should be the first thing you do?” (I’m paraphrasing . . . I don’t remember the exact wording of the question.)

Embarrassingly, I got it wrong. They even warned me not to overthink the question, but I did, anyway. The answer, which was obvious after they said it, was “save.” We all got a good laugh about that, and I still got the job.

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
(John 5:17 NIV)

The Holy Trinity is passionately at work to save us. “We are all a work in progress, and He is constantly working to help and heal, save and sanctify, strengthen and supply.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You for Your passionate work of salvation. There is much that I confess that I do not understand about it. My thoughts and beliefs on it have changed constantly throughout my life. But the one thing that has remained constant is that my salvation is by grace through faith. And You have kept that faith alive in me. I thank You that You are always at work, and I pray that You help me see where You are working, that I might join in and work with You. Help me to stay in the easy yoke of Christ, so that the burden is light.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
(Psalms 139:13 NIV)

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
(Psalms 139:16 NIV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
(1 Peter 4:10 NIV)

When I was being knitted together in my mother’s womb, God gifted me. One of those gifts emerged early in life, as I began playing piano in third grade (I think). It became evident, as I continued learning, that piano would not be my only musical talent. It was soon apparent that I could carry a tune, as well, and then I learned guitar and, and finally, trombone.

Through the years, I went through college and then seminary, learning even more about music, and, more specifically, about using it in the service of God. While I never had a full time position at a church, I served for many years as a bi-vocational music minister, and then “worship leader,” as it came to be called.

During all of those years, my love for the Word of God was also increasing and flourishing. Little did I know that, while I was being knitted together in my mother’s womb, the gift of prayer was being nurtured. That particular gift didn’t emerge until about a decade ago, when, during a hiatus in the music ministry, I strongly felt God’s urging to venture into the area of intercessory prayer.

I began, and still do to this day, posting a single, simple question on Facebook, every day.

“What can I pray for you today?”

It has been well-received and appreciated. It seems to be understood that it is a sincere question, from the heart, with a sincere desire to do exactly what it asks. Some days, even for an entire week, sometimes, there is no response. Other days, there are quite a few. I do not gauge the “success” of the post by how many prayer requests I get. In fact, I don’t gauge the success of the post at all. It is there, just like these daily devotional blogs, for anyone who needs to see it. And if there is a response, I try to always pray right that minute (as soon as I see it).

The point of all of this is that we never know what gifts might emerge at any point in our lives. I still play the music. Mostly in the form of an electronic keyboard, now, and occasionally the guitar. I still sing whenever I get the chance. The trombone seems to have fallen by the wayside, for now. I went through a stint with a community band, back a few years ago, and have considered getting involved with them (or a different one) again, now that I am semi-retired.

But my bigger thrust, these past few years, has been prayer. So I’ve written all of this because maybe there is someone out there, today, who things that they have used up their gifts or maybe even that they don’t have any. Everyone has a gift from God, I promise you. It may not be an “up-front” gift. Prayer is more of a “behind-the-scenes” gift. It might be a pretty smile that can lift someone’s day. You just never know.

Father, I thank You for the gifts that You have given me, throughout my life. I thank You that, just like the psalmist, You knit me together in my mother’s womb, and that You had written all of my ordained days in Your book before I was even born. This is one of those pieces of “salvation” that I struggle with understanding, that whole dynamic between “free will” and Your sovereignty. And I’m not launching out into that, today. I’m simply thanking You for what You have done in my life, and for what You will do, going forward. I have no clue what awaits me, in the rest of my life, but I do know that I look forward to it. What I also look forward to, as You well know, is being Home, where I can worship You forever, and, as I understand things, maybe prayer won’t be necessary any more.

According to Eugene Peterson, “almost half of [Jesus’s] parables are concerned with the wrong and right attitudes toward money.” Jesus talked about money more than He talked about most other subjects. “He warned of the perils involved in getting money–in keeping, in hoarding. And he spoke of giving money.” The making of money was not the end in itself, but a means to an end. Money can be a great servant to mankind, but it can also bring great peril. “Many have started out to get money and have found that money has gotten them.”

I’m reminded of a song by one of my favorite rock bands, Rush. The song is called “The Big Money.” It’s the opening track on their 1985 album, Power Windows. That is my favorite album of theirs, having quite a few really good songs that have some very thoughtful lyrics.

Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies

Sometimes pushing people around
Sometimes pulling out the rug
Sometimes pushing all the buttons
Sometimes pulling out the plug
It's the power and the glory
It's a war in paradise
It's a Cinderella story
On a tumble of the dice

Big money goes around the world
Big money take a cruise
Big money leave a mighty wake
Big money leave a bruise
Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals
Big money make a mighty head
Big money spin big wheels

Sometimes building ivory towers
Sometimes knocking castles down
Sometimes building you a stairway
Lock you underground
It's that old time religion
It's the kingdom they would rule
It's the fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

Big money goes around the world
Big money give and take
Big money done a power of good
Big money make mistakes
Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul

I think that Jesus’s attitude (and, subsequently what ours should be) about money can be summed up in two lines of that last verse: “Big money done a power of good; Big money make mistakes.”

The word we always hear when the “church” speaks about money is “stewardship.” What is a steward? It is a person who manages someone else’s goods and possessions. Jesus says we are stewards and God is the owner.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalms 24:1 NIV)

Everything that exists belongs to God. “The natural world, the world of people, the world of things, the world of the spirit–the earth is the Lord’s. . . . It is false and arrogant to say that any of it is our own. it has been put in trust to us. We have received it to enjoy it, to use it, to increase it, and to distribute it. But God is still the owner. We only manage his resources, taking care of the life and goods that he has given.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the part from Rush)

Father, I am very grateful for the many gifts, goods, possessions, and resources with which You have gifted me. Over the years, I know that I have made bad decisions and choices regarding some of these. But I also am aware of how my attitude has changed about possessions. I no longer look at any of these things as “mine.” Everything that I can see belongs to You. Everything that I cannot see belongs to You. I cannot rightfully consider anything to be “mine.” You have allowed me to take care of things. Even the people in my life are Yours.

Tozer wrote about this, showing how material possessions, or “things,” that You created before Your crowning creation of “man,” eventually pushed You off of the throne of man’s heart. When sin entered the world, Your gifts became a potential “source of ruin to the soul” (The Pursuit of God). Things took over our souls, which also pushed out any possibility of peace. We cannot have peace when we are constantly fighting over and trying to manipulate things.

So I praise You, Father, that You have moved things out of the central shrine of my heart. I confess that there are times when other things do temporarily move in, but Your Spirit works within me to alert me and help me move You back into Your rightful position in my life. This all sounds rather arrogant, and I don’t mean it to. I do understand that the earth is Yours and everything in it. I believe that the entire universe belongs to You and that You are sovereign over everything that happens within it. I pray that all my worship and prayers reflect that, as I go forward in this life.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

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

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pretender

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of God be with you today!

Day 23,421

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Ordinary Day Becomes,” by Daryl Madden

An ordinary morning
As light comes to this day
A breath of fresh air
Clouds drift on their way

Flowers come to blossom
Branches of trees sway
Colors here awaken
Of vision to portray

Between the birdsong calling
Of silence to convey
Listen here dear soul
What Spirit has to say

And through our connection
Of binding here to pray
This journey now becomes
An extraordinary way

Father, I pray that this “ordinary morning” helps my journey to become an “extraordinary way.” Help me to listen to what the Spirit has to say to me, today.

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” 
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: 
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
And the four living beings said,
 “Amen!” 
And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
(Revelation 5:11-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this ordinary morning, and hopes that it will become extraordinary
2. for the vision of worship in Revelation 5
3. for the belief that God has placed in my heart; may I embrace it fully
4. for the command to really love others, and to not just pretend (Romans 12:9)
5. for the ability to embrace change in my life
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. 

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “believe.” The opening quote is from positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

I almost stopped typing in the middle of that and erased it. Because why? Because, here’s the thing: Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded or called upon to believe in ourselves. That is simply not a biblical concept.

There are, however, plenty of Scriptures to tell us that we are loved by God. And we are called upon and commanded to believe in Him. So, in obeying the command to believe in God, we must believe that we are beloved of God. The danger is that somehow we have to do that without becoming prideful.

So, yes. Believe. But not in yourself; not in your own ability. Believe in God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He who watches over you never slumbers or sleeps. Believe that He watches over your life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am constantly praying the prayer that that father prayed in the New Testament. You know the one. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Yes, that one. Help me to believe. Help me to believe in Your constant, never-fading love for me. Help me to believe in Your mercy and grace and forgiveness, because every time I sin, that belief wavers. How could you possibly still be forgiving me for that same sin?? But You do, because You already have, and that is a mystery that I still cannot fully fathom.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

I don’t believe I’ve ever read that version of that verse before. The ESV is more succinct, saying, “Let love be genuine.” But I like the idea presented in the NLT. It takes more words, but I think it says it better. The KJV uses the word “dissimulation.” I’m 64 years old, and I’m pretty sure I have never heard that word before. I guess I have read it, because I grew up with the King James Version. But I sure don’t remember it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation.

The Greek word could also be translated “hypocrisy.” The dictionary says it means “pretense.” So, it looks like the NLT nails it. And, oddly enough, the human-added subheading at the beginning of that paragraph says, “Marks of the True Christian.

Indeed . . .

One way to love someone is to care for them or care about them. And the way we care about or for others is to get to know them. What makes them click? What “floats their boat?” What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they need?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me. I’ve not done a good job at this. I’ve certainly pretended to love some people. But have I truly loved them in my heart? Have I loved them with my actions? I’ve heard the cliché, “Love’s not a feeling; it’s a verb.” But how do I do that? Please show me how to love, really love, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And then show me how to love my co-workers. Maybe first, please show me how to best love my family. I wear the shirt, “Love one another.” But I need to do more than wear a shirt.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation.
(Psalms 68:4-5 ESV)

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 NLT)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
(James 1:27 NLT)

There are times when living in both of the above thoughts will require change. In order to fully believe in God and to believe that He loves us and has forgiven us might require change. It might require (gasp) repentance!

When I use that word, though, I am not using it in the typical “evangelical” sense of “being sorry for my sins.” I’m using it in the purest form, which simply means to turn around, to change my way of thinking, to think differently about something. That is literally what repentance means. So, in essence, “change” and “repent” are kind of the same word.

In order to truly love someone without hypocrisy or pretense, change might be required, as well.

We don’t like change. We’re all familiar with the series of jokes that ask the question, “How many ___________ does it take to change a light bulb?” You can insert whatever you want in the blank and come up with a humorous answer. I once heard, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer was, simply, “CHANGE?????”

I grew up Southern Baptist so I can make fun of them all I want. There’s an old saying . . . “We’ve never done it that way before!”

But sometimes, we have to. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, and that takes work and adjustments and variations.

There are also times when we want change. We are tired of the “status quo.” “Life isn’t quite what we had hoped for, and we look for something new.”

But what makes the difference is how we involve God in that change. How do we approach the work? “God is shaping. His hand is molding. We can discover his ways in the changes of our own lives.”

“Change will probably always be uncomfortable. But we can begin to see it as desirable because the One who knows us best is carefully orchestrating the transitions of our lives.”

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

Father, the thoughts that are presented above require change in my heart. Maybe not so much the act of believing, although there is always room for improvement in my “belief department.” But most assuredly the “love department.” I do not feel that I have done a good job following that command, and I need You to help me change. I know that You have already been at work in that area; You have been working there, building and shaping, for close to a decade, now. There is nothing that You cannot accomplish in me, I do believe that. But I also know that I am, at times, stubborn and resistant to change. (Someone who knows me might read that and laugh. “At times?? Hah!”)

Father, I want to fully love people, but first I want to fully love You with every fiber of my being. Back to those two commands, aren’t we? Love You; love people. But do it according to Scripture. Help me to not just pretend, but to really love, both You and the people. I do know that when I pretend to love You, I am only fooling myself, though.

Grace and peace, friends.