Inscape

“Artists make us insiders to the complexity and beauty of what we deal with every day but so often miss. They bring to our attention what is right before our eyes, within reach of our touch, help us hear sounds and combinations of sounds that our noise-deafened ears have never heard.”

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Today is Sunday, December 10, 2017. Day 21,822.

Only 15 more days until Christmas!!

George MacDonald, born on this date in 1824 (died 1905), said, “How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”
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The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is cachinnate, a verb, meaning, “to laugh loudly or immoderately.”

Today is Human Rights Day, first established in 1948. Because humans have rights, whether we like them or not.

we are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach in Fort Worth, TX. The worship gathering begins at 10:15. We usually arrive between 8:00 and 8:30, to help with setup.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)
Sunday – Second Week of Advent

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
Psalm 101:1
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Psalm 93:5
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Luke 7:24-28
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 149
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Pages 138-140)

In this segment, Eugene Peterson gets somewhat “artsy.” He begins by referring to the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who coined a term, “inscape.” In juxtaposition to “landscape,” which is “what we see spread out before us against the horizon,” “Inscape is the intuitive sense that what we see is a living, organic form that strikes through the senses and into the mind with a feeling of novelty and discovery. Inscape is what something uniquely is, that which holds together whatever you are looking at or listening to, gives it distinction.”

We find this in many forms of art, whether it be painting, sculpture, music, or poetry. “Artists make us insiders to the complexity and beauty of what we deal with every day but so often miss. They bring to our attention what is right before our eyes, within reach of our touch, help us hear sounds and combinations of sounds that our noise-deafened ears have never heard.”

Sometimes we are surprised, thinking we have never heard or seen this before. But in reality, it was there all the time. “It was all there before us in the tree we walked past every morning on our way to work, in the face that we thought we knew through and through, in the whispers of wind in the willows and the lapping of waves on the beach.

“The artist helps us see what we have always seen but never seen, hear what we hear daily but don’t hear, fell what we have touched a hundred times but never been touched by, recognize that we are living a story and not just drifting through fragments of journal jottings or disconnected bits of gossip.”

Artists bring us in touch with true reality.

Hopkins never defined the term he coined, “but he used it frequently enough in his journals and notes to give us a feel for what he is reaching for.” Said Hopkins, “All the world is full of inscape and chance left free to act falls into an order as well as purpose.”

Father, help me to see “inscape” as I look around, as I go about my daily business. Show me true reality in this life, things that I have passed by hundreds, even thousands of times, yet not truly seen. Show me yourself in this world, Father. Show me love in this world, peace in what I encounter, and give me joy over all things.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Dear Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved, may your rule be completed in us – may your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven. Give us today the things we need today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us. Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from everything bad. Because you are the one in charge, and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours – forever – which is just the way we want it! (Dallas Willard)

Grace and peace, friends.

Wisdom Workshop

Today is Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Day 21,817.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Psalm 95:1-2
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.
Psalm 123:1-2
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 7:17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
John 3:16-18
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 
Psalm 3:1-5
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day. Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Pages 137-138)

The thing about church is that it really cannot be “described or defined from the outside.” People, of course, try to do so all the time, but they cannot describe or define what they cannot see. But church needs to be entered. “It is a creation of Christ for growing up in Christ. It is not a museum through which we can stroll and see exhibits of what has happened throughout history, precisely labeled with names, dates, and locations.” Sure it takes place in history, but there is so much more than history there. “There is the life of Christ, the work of the Spirit, the plan of God.”

And there are parts that can, indeed, be “defined and described.” Leaders, creeds, buildings, conflicts, politics, and so on. But the parts don’t add up to the whole.

Verse 10 of Ephesians 3 says it well: “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” This is the “complex interior heart of church.” “Wisdom is knowledge in action, embodied in the life of the church. Wisdom is the practice of resurrection.” And church is where this wisdom takes place.

“Church is the workshop for turning knowledge into wisdom, becoming what we know.”

Father, build this wisdom within us as we practice this thing we call “church.” Help us to get it right. I also pray that we will not be discouraged when people do try to define or describe us from the outside. We see what they cannot, because we are a part of what they cannot see. Most of all, help us to grow up in Christ and practice resurrection in our daily lives.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Judger

Today is Saturday, December 2, 2017. Day 21,814.

23 days until Christmas.

“No man was ever wise by chance.” (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
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Mandy Patinkin is 65 years old today. I would dare to say that his most famous movie line is probably, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is literatim, an adverb, meaning, “letter-for-letter; literally.”

Today is Fritters Day. We aren’t just talking apple fritters, either. There’s a whole world of fritters out there. In fact, it seems that if you batter and deep fry something, it can be called a “fritter.” So, Twinkie Fritters, anyone?

C got a pretty good report from the cardiologist, yesterday, albeit somewhat confusing. Basically, he said that none of the issues are bad enough to be concerned about. Yes, the monitor showed that her heart skips beats, occasionally, but not a lot in a row, so nothing to be worried about, at this point. He didn’t mention the aneurysm until she was about to leave and asked him about it. He said it wasn’t big enough to be concerned about, either. He did say that one of her valves was leaking (sounds like I’m talking about a car), but not bad enough to worry about, either. However, come back in three months.

She is going to go ahead and keep the vascular surgeon appointment on Monday, but I’m not going to go with her, since we got what appears to be good news yesterday. She wants to make sure that what the cardiologist said is accurate, and she’s reached her maximum out of pocket for the year, so the appointment won’t cost us anything.

We have Night of Worship tonight, so I’ll be heading over to Brandon’s house at 3:00 PM. I’m just taking the guitar for this one. I’ll be leading “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), “O Holy Night,” and Chris Tomlin’s version of “Joy To the World.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 115:18
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Psalm 142:5
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 108:3-4
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalm 84:10
But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 
until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 
David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

Luke 20:41-44
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 81:1-4

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Page 136)

If you recall, we left off in a fairly negative place, last time, with Eugene Peterson realizing what a challenge he had in front of him. He says, “From that moment I was faced with the complex difficulties of gathering a congregation of warring factions into a place where the wall of hostility had been broken down and a church was being built on its site.” Some of the people from that community meeting would eventually become part of Peterson’s congregation. It would take a long time for many of them to submit to being building blocks for Christ to fit together into a place of peace. Peterson recalls one who never did. “Twenty-seven years later I conducted his funeral in the church he had sat in every Sunday, as angry and sullen as the night I first met him.”

Growing up in Christ involves growing pains. One thing that Peterson learned is “that the ‘ontological church’ is the reality in which we worship and become community, and that maturity consists in a long, unhurried, prayerful life of becoming reconciled to God and to one another, and in the process realizing that each of us is part of a ‘whole structure’ (2:21) and is not permitted to impatiently ‘go it alone,’ leaving the slower or unpromising ones behind.” (The chapter and verse reference is for Ephesians.)

This thing called “church,” this place of peace, “comes into being in hostile country, among people who are strangers to one another.” At least at first. There are “some who think they are better than others and are quite willing to help God do what he has to do.” There are “some who think they are inadequate and ill-equipped for anything that has to do with God.”

Then Peterson remembers a verse from Isaiah, written thousands of years before he encounter his version of “Kedar.” “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you,” says Isaiah, in chapter 60, verse 7. This verse coming shortly after the one that says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

And that is why he kept that photograph, “Meshech and the Tents of Kedar” on his desk.

All of this forces me to stop and consider our own little congregation, this small piece of the Church with which we gather. I’m not a pastor. I’ve been a “minister,” as I have led worship in churches for many years. And I have always encountered the same kinds of people, even though the names have changed. There’s always one who can never seem to get it quite right, but really wants to. There’s one who, while at times exhibiting signs of maturity, seems extremely needy when it comes to needing the approval of others. There’s one who knows all the answers, has great knowledge of the Bible, but no sense of Spirit. There’s one who doesn’t ever seem to feel anything, but sings loudly in the worship gatherings. There’s one who seems to boast of having it all together, but tends to try to emotionally manipulate people. The list goes on.

Then there’s me. I’m the judger. And I hate that. Let me make it clear that I hate this about myself more than anything I’ve ever hated in my life. While all of those things that I typed above may be true, that’s also me judging all of them. I guess that puts me in the category of people that think they are better than others. But I’m not. Most definitely not. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Father, I’m almost at a loss for words, here. I know my faults. You know them better than I do. Help me to be one who promotes unity and brotherhood in this church. Help me to show unfailing love to all with whom we gather each week. Help me to not focus on anyone’s weaknesses, but encourage their strengths. Help me to glorify you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

“Meshech and the Tents of Kedar”

Today is Thursday, November 30, 2017. Day 21,812.

25 days until Christmas!

Mark Twain, born on this date in 1835 (died 1910), said, “Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is nostrum, a noun, meaning, “a scheme, theory, device, etc., especially one to remedy social or political ills; panacea.” Also, “a medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine,” and, “a medicine made by the person who recommends it.”

Today is Stay Home Because You’re Well Day. I have to say I love this one. Perhaps I’ll try it some day. But not today, because I’m all out of PTO for this year.

We used the new dishwasher last night, and it seems to have worked just fine. Interesting discovery: this washer has a “Sensor” setting, which allows the dishwasher to determine how long it should run based on the volume and dirtiness of the dishes. It takes, on average, two to three hours to run. I thought that seemed like a really long time, but when I consulted the guide book, I discovered that it does, in fact, have a “1-hour” setting, but that setting actually uses more water and energy than the longer cycle. Who knew?? So we will just be letting it do its own thing. It is also very quiet.

C made dinner for us last night, and already had it simmering when I got home from work. She’s doing better, for the most part, and has cut back to only a half pill of pain killer a couple times a day. I’m not sure when she will be going back to her actual work place, but she continues to work from home. The important things are the two appointments, Friday and Monday, at the different heart doctors.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 81:1-4
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
Psalm 71:15
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Psalm 147:7
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Matthew 6:25-30
You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65:9-13
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Gloria
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Pages 133-136)

Eugene Peterson relates a personal experience from his days in Baltimore, where he moved to start a new church. As he sets the stage for this story, he takes note that, in spite of all of Paul’s talk of peace, there was a “conspicuous absence of peace in the world and in his life” as he wrote. Paul wrote (or dictated) Ephesians from a Roman prison cell. While he uses the “broken wall as a metaphor for church that welcomes all, church that is open to all, church that is hospitable to all, he is locked behind the walls of a Roman prison.” From the records that we have, we also know that the first century churches were quite full of contention. So what happened to that broken wall?

Peterson shift to a photo that he has on his desk, an aerial view of a community in the suburbs. Tract homes, each one fenced, each one with a swimming pool in the back yard. He had labeled the photo, “Meshech and the Tents of Kedar.”

Huh?

When he was organizing the church in Baltimore, he was new to the ‘burbs. In his home town, they didn’t have many fences. People were free to walk across each others’ yards, and there was one community pool, where all were welcome. What he realized in this new suburb was that “everyone was a stranger to his or her neighbors.” As he began planning this church, he believed that the hard part would be getting the people to come worship God, and that developing a “sense of community would be easy.”

He was wrong.

“It wasn’t long before I had people worshiping God on Sunday mornings.” It was awkward, at first, to be sure, but people were willingly there. “But getting them interested in each other was another thing entirely. They didn’t want to be neighbors. They wanted to be self-sufficient, independent.” At one point, a newly formed community association had a meeting. Peterson attended, not sure what he would encounter. He was completely taken by surprise. “It was the most contentious gathering of people I had ever attended.” What he eventually realized was that “These people don’t like each other.” They didn’t really know each other, but what they didn’t know, they didn’t like. Every time someone spoke, there was an immediate challenge or refutation. The talk was all rude. (This reminds me a lot of Facebook.)

Now, back to the title of the photo. Remember that? Meshech and the Tents of Kedar. Peterson was taken back to Psalm 120. Verse 5. “Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!” The writer of the Psalm is surrounded by people who don’t want peace, who “hate peace” (verse 6).

That’s how he felt the night of that association meeting. His purpose was to develop community and get people to worship God, but he found himself in a place where “community” was the last thing people wanted.

Father, while I don’t like leaving this on a negative note, I pray that you would continue to work this sense of community into us. I have struggled with this. I barely know my neighbors, and the people who live more than one house away, I don’t know at all. I have been guilty, we have been guilty of that sense of “self-sufficiency,” and our time at The Exchange has changed that. We are still growing in that aspect, and I want to continue to do so. Make us more aware of the interdependence that we, your people, have with one another. We need each other. Help us to know that, and help us to help each other more.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Life Meanders

Today is Wednesday, November 29, 2017. Day 21,811.

26 days until Christmas! 120 days until Opening Day.

There are too many important birthdays today!! C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Vin Scully, John Mayall, Ronnie Montrose, and Mariano Rivera, to name a few.

Mariano Rivera, born on this date in 1969, said, “I have nothing to ask for, thanks to God. Everything I have, God has given me.”
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Madeleine L’Engle, born on this date in 1918 (died 2007), said, “In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord I could not call on him to come.”
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C.S. Lewis, born on this date in 1898 (died 1963), said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is sagittate, an adjective, meaning, “shaped like an arrowhead.”

Today is Square Dancing Day. So swing your partner round and round, and so on.

We finally got our dishwasher. The installer didn’t show up until after 5:00 PM, and it took until about 7:30 to get it done, so, since the kitchen was pretty much fully occupied, I wound up going to Taco Bell to grab us some dinner. But it got installed, and it seems to work perfectly.

We’re having a Night of Worship this Saturday. It will be my first one since August. It will be interesting, as our primary leader had shoulder surgery just over a week ago, and won’t be able to play guitar.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Psalm 86:4
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119:10
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 7:17
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
John 6:24-27
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:1-5

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Page 133)

I really like the segment on this page. An observation that Eugene Peterson makes is that, as Paul has kind of shifted gears in Ephesians 3, the first two chapters were, in a sense, training our imaginations to think bout God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit first, in this journey of growing up in Christ. But then, we get to step back and take a breath, because we can’t keep up this level of intensity for very long.

Our life, this Christian life, has a goal. Paul expresses it in Philippians 3:14-15. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.” “The mature life doesn’t dillydally. It doesn’t chase after fads.” (Emphasis mine) Who remembers “The Prayer of Jabez?” I remember being greatly disappointed at the number of my friends and associates that chased after that fad.

However, at the same time, our “goal” cannot ignore things like spouse, children and neighbors. The people that are in our lives cannot be perceived as obstacles to our goal of the “upward call!” This journey, this life, is not a “straight run on a track laid out be a vision statement formulated by a committee.” Believe me, I’m not a fan of vision statements. “Life meanders much of the time.” I love that sentence! “Unspiritual interruptions, unanticipated people, uncongenial events cannot be pushed aside in our determination to reach the goal unimpeded, undistracted.” This type of goal setting, the kind found in “a leadership-obsessed and management-programmed business mentality that infiltrates the church far too frequently, is bad spirituality.” Get that? “BAD SPIRITUALITY!!”

“Maturity cannot be hurried, programmed, or tinkered with.” Any attempt to take short cuts will “land us in the dead ends of immaturity.”

Father, I first want to thank you that we have landed in a fellowship of believers that does NOT think like the goal setting mentality. Sure we have goals. But not like that. I thank you for a pastor that seems to get this. Now, help me stay focused on the journey while allowing myself to be interrupted and distracted by the people that are in my life, people that I should show more care and love toward. The only people who are an obstacle to my journey of growing up in Christ are those who would entice me down a wrong path. Give me wisdom and discernment to know the difference.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

About Me, Yet Not About Me

Today is Sunday, November 26, 2017. Day 21,808.

29 days until Christmas.

Charles M. Schulz, born on this date in 1922 (died 2000), said, “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.'”
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The word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is nummit, a noun, meaning, “a light meal, esp. one taken in the middle of the day.”

Today is International Aura Awareness Day. Supposedly, we all give off one of those. I’ve never seen one though. Have you?

Nothing much happened yesterday. Except that I bought and cooked some pretty darned good hamburgers. I had been hankering for a good cheeseburger for a couple of days. You know the kind, right? The old-fashioned diner/cafe style of burger. Not even a Whataburger would satisfy this desire. So C suggested that I buy some of the pre-formed patties at Kroger, that have bacon and sharp cheddar mixed in. So I did, along with some buns and sliced cheese. Oh, and some pre-cooked bacon to add to them. They were delicious!!

We’re getting ready to go to our worship gathering, this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach St., in Fort Worth.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 32:11
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 50:2
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:4
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-20
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your wellbeloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Page 132)

Paul does something at the beginning of Ephesians 3 that he doesn’t do often. He inserts himself into the story. But he does it “considerable reticence.” He doesn’t normally write about himself, because he doesn’t want to distract from the Gospel message. “But every once in a while the door opens just a crack – a word, a phrase. We get a glimpse of Paul the man at work, writing, praying.” In this passage, he calls himself a prisoner, a servant, talks about how the mystery was made known to him, and then throws this phrase out there: “I am the very least of all the saints.” In 1 Timothy he calls himself “chief of sinners.”

In all, there are eleven first-person pronouns in this passage.

“It’s enough, just enough to be reminded that the language of mature spirituality cannot be depersonalized into abstract propositional ‘truths.’ This man is living everything he is saying.”

This resurrection life is “irreducibly personal; it is about us. But it is also a life that is mostly not about us. It is about God.” When we get egotistically verbose, it “diminishes the authenticity of the language of witness.” But at the same time, we have to include enough of ourselves to make it personal.

Father, give me grace to know and realize that this life is both about me, yet not about me. May I never insert myself into the story to the point of absurdity. Help me to mirror Paul when telling my own story, with great humility and reticence inserting myself into the witness. But may I also remember that it is mostly not about me, but about God.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Presence of God in Everything

Today is Saturday, November 25, 2017. Day 21,807.

30 days until Christmas.

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, born on this date in 1914 (died 1999), said, “You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is torporific, an adjective, meaning, “causing sluggish inactivity or inertia.” An appropriate WotD for Thanksgiving weekend, don’t you think?

Today is Small Business Saturday. Always occurring the Saturday after Thanksgiving (and, of course, the Saturday after Black Friday), this day encourages people to shop at small businesses in the area. Please try to do that today. The big box stores don’t need any more of your money.

We did pretty much what we planned to do, yesterday. Nothing. Okay, it’s pretty much impossible to do “nothing.” But you get my meaning, I hope. I cooked “breakfast” at around noon-ish: eggs, sausage, and biscuits. We sat around and watched TV all afternoon, then we heated up some leftover ham and stuff for dinner. I played on the PS4 for a couple of hours, then went to bed a little early, actually. C wound up sleeping on the couch again, to give her leg more comfort.

C has an appointment with the cardiologist next Friday, and then her appointment with the vascular surgeon is the following Monday. I’ll probably be taking off early from work that Monday in order to go with her to that one. She has a friend taking her Friday.

Today, I’ll probably get to the grocery store, so I don’t have to do that on Sunday. I like to get as much as possible of “chore” stuff done on Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 
Psalm 57:8
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Agnus Dei
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the Glory of God the Father.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Psalm 31:5
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Matthew 18:19-20
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. 
Psalm 71:1-9

(From Practice Resurrection)

(Pages 129-131)

We begin chapter 7, “Church and God’s Manifold Wisdom: Ephesians 3:1-13.”

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Take care you don’t know anything in this world
too quickly or easily. Everything
is also a mystery and has its own secret aura in the moonlight,
its private song.

(Mary Oliver, “Moonlight”)

As Eugene Peterson summarizes what has gone before, he says, “The single most significant thing to know is that Christ is involved in everything that is going on whether in redemption or judgment, in rebuke or blessing.” We have seen the usage of the word “church,” for the first time in Ephesians 1:22-23. We see that Christ and the church are joined together as head and body. Jesus Christ is the head of the church and the church is the body of Christ. If we try to examine one without the other, we come up with major misunderstandings.

We also understand “the primacy and presence of God in everything.” This has been huge in my life in recent weeks, the truth that God is present everywhere, even in the air that I breathe. But the “Christian life” in our culture is treated as “an extra, something we get involved in after we have the basic survival needs established and then realize that things aren’t yet quite complete.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with becoming a Christian in those circumstances, but we have to realize that there is no such thing as “before Christ” in our lives. “Just because we have no awareness of the presence and action of God previous to our knowledge of it does not mean that God was absent.” The Christian life does not begin with us.

Paul, in Ephesians, is calling us to grow up in Christ. “Growing up in Christ means growing up to a stature adequate to respond heart and soul to the largeness of God.” Personally, I’m still growing, and probably will be until I finally meet him, face to face.

Ephesians addresses, quite radically, the way we think about church. Again, in our culture, church is almost considered an “extra,” something that we tack on to being a Christian. But it’s not an “add-on,” not “a program or cheerleader, to help us be faithful and better Christians.” This has been addressed previously, but if we believe that church exists to do something for us, or even for us to do something for it, we are thinking wrongly. This is why so many people “try church” and reject it because, “I didn’t get anything out of it.” It’s not there for you to get something out of it.

All that being said, though, we do, indeed “get something out of it.” We get family. We get brothers and sisters gathering to praise and worship, to fellowship, to share in victories, and to share in defeats. We rejoice together, we mourn together. When one member is hurting we rally around that one to lift him up. We bring meals to each other. And then, when we gather to worship, we focus on the presence of God in our midst, not on the “performance” that is going on front and center. At least that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

That last paragraph didn’t come from the book. That was all me.

Father, as we, the church, gather together, may we know the working of your power in our midst. May we see the unsearchable riches of Christ, both as we gather together, and as we live our lives separately. May we always know that we are linked together by your Spirit.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.