Singing, Drumming, and Dancing

Good morning. Today is Friday, the twenty-sixth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,269

Twenty-nine days until Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, this coming Sunday, November 28, is the first Sunday of Advent.

We had a most lovely day, yesterday. All of the preparations went very well, and we had a nice, safe trip to Grandma’s house in Mineral Wells. We had a great lunch together, and a nice visit, just sitting around talking (several of us may or may not have fallen asleep). After divvying up the leftovers, we headed back to Fort Worth, stopping for sodas just outside of MW at a convenience store that happened to be open.

This morning, C is back in the kitchen, prepping for today’s lunch with her sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend. They are, I believe, supposed to be arriving around 1:00 PM. Ish.

The library is closed today, so I have a second day off for the holiday.

We took some pictures, yesterday.

Mama, me, S, and C
Mama and me

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for every good and perfect gift
2. for a great Thanksgiving holiday
3. that You are the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"
4. for the things that I can learn from Jesus
5. for the ability to praise You with music, singing, and dancing

. . . whatever good anyone does,
this he will receive back from the Lord . . .
(Ephesians 6:8 ESV)

Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)(emphasis mine)

As I look at this Matthew passage, this morning, one that is so very familiar, I’m seeing something “new.” Notice the italics that I added. All of them are pronouns, which Jesus used to refer to Himself.

Jesus is the key to so much in life. It’s cliché and easy to say, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” That’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to live out. But just look at His words. “Come to me,” He says. “I will give you rest.” Who doesn’t labor? Who isn’t weary? Jesus promises rest, if we only come to Him. And only Him.

He tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him. So what is so new and different about this, that I’m seeing today, for the first time? It is this: Jesus tells us to learn from HIM. He does not tell us to learn from anyone else.

While there may be great value (and most certainly is) in learning from other humans, it is from Jesus, Himself, that we are to learn. I can surely learn from reading and studying great writers and great Christian minds, such as C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson. But I should be spending the most time and energy learning from Jesus.

He is the one who will give me rest. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

No one else can say that.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Our God says,
“Calm down,
and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me.”
(Psalms 46:10 CEV)

As I pause on this quite morning, I reflect on all the good and perfect gifts in my life, which have come down from the “Father of lights.” There is no shadow or variation in Him; He is constant and consistent. He does not change.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.”
(Micah 6:3-4 NIV)

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:6-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder and meditate upon what has moved my heart or mind. I pray these things to God, including any questions that I might have. I turn my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

Part of Psalm 149 does, indeed, cause me to have questions. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to focus on the music. We are commanded/encouraged/admonished (I can’t say for sure which word is applicable when we are dealing with poetry/songs) to sing and make music in praise to God.

First, we are told to sing His praise “in the assembly of His faithful people.” So we are to sing praises together. Whenever I see this, I am reminded of the opinion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that all congregational singing should be in unison. That’s only an opinion, of course, and only one man’s opinion. But he has a good point. Here is the quote from Life Together:

“There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of congregational singing, the ‘unmusical,’ who cannot sing, of whom there are far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the fellowship.”

I don’t necessarily agree with brother Bonhoeffer, here, but, as I said, he makes some good points. When we sing “in the assembly of His faithful people,” there really is no place for calling attention to ourselves, and I can’t think of any other reason to sing harmony in that setting. Of course, this makes me wonder, as well, how loudly I should sing in a congregational setting. I have a tendency to “belt it out,” which also tends to call attention to me.

I guess the key element in all of this is motive. Why am I singing harmony? Why am I singing loudly? If the song is a Chris Tomlin song (he has an unnaturally high voice for a man), most people can’t sing in that octave, and may need to sing it an octave lower. I once knew a man who believed his singing voice to be inferior, so he whistled the hymns.

We are then told, in Psalm 149, to praise Him with (gasp) DANCING! Oh, dear. I grew up Baptist. With a preacher who declared, from the pulpit, mind you, that “a dancing foot never grew off of a praying knee.” Well, the Bible tells us to dance, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except to say that context is very important in these matters.

We are also told to praise Him with the timbrel and harp. What’s a “timbrel?” All educated guesses seem to indicate something akin to a tambourine. So, a percussion instrument. A harp is a stringed instrument. It stands to reason, then, at least to me, that it’s okay to praise the Lord with a guitar and some drums. And dancing.

But then, in verse 5, we are even told to sing for joy on our beds! The last thing we should do every night is praise Him!

Why all this vigorous praising, singing, and dancing? Verse 4: “For the LORD takes delight in His people.” Simple answer.

I think it’s pretty awesome to think about God taking delight in us. The definition of delight is “great pleasure.” The Lord takes great pleasure in us, and I believe that Scripture tells us that this pleasure, this delight, is magnified when we are praising Him, whether it be by singing, dancing, playing a drum, or even whistling.

I did mention questions, and those come into play in the second half of this psalm, in all those bits about “double-edged swords,” “fetters,” and “shackles of irons.” It is not my intention to delve into those meanings, this morning. Today, I’m all about the praise and the great delight.

The only thing I want to say about the Micah passage involves the somewhat rhetorical questions issued in verses 6-8. Do we come before Him with offerings, calves, thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil? Do we need to be so extreme as to offer our firstborn children to Him?

I love to quote Micah 6:8, because it is major truth. God has shown us what He desires, even demands, from us. “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s it.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I have praised You with guitars, pianos, keyboards, trombones, and singing. I may have even praised You with a tambourine, occasionally. I don’t know about dancing. I’m not very good at that, but I know I have “moved to the music,” sometimes. My heart’s desire is to know You more and to praise You more, so I pray that You will always put it in my heart to continue to praise You. I also pray that I will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before and with You. I praise You and thank You for Your presence with me, this morning, and every morning, and every minute of every day. I celebrate Your presence, and I rest and draw refreshment from Your presence.

I pray that You will increase our wonder when we consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I also pray that You will increase our capacity to suffer with others, at least to have empathy with those who suffer through either poverty or injustice. And may You give strength to all who suffer persecution for their faith.

"Father,
I expend so much energy wondering what Your will is for my life.
Could You make it any clearer?
Give me a gospel-motivated resolve to carry out Your clear and good purposes -
living justly,
loving mercy,
and walking humbly with You.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

God will bless you,
if you don’t give up
when your faith is being tested.
He will reward you
with a glorious life,
just as he rewards everyone who loves him.
(James 1:12 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Grace and peace, friends.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, the twenty-fifth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today, and may you find, in your life, that you have enough.

Day 23,268

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I wish all who read this a peaceful and safe day. May your heart be filled with gratitude.

Only thirty more days until Christmas. You knew that was coming.

We are doing the “Secret Santa” thing at the library, so I signed up for that. I’m quite fond of “Secret Santa.” Our library does it a little differently than I’m used to, but it’s fun. Instead of one gift, we are doing three gifts, spaced out a week apart. The first one is due next Wednesday, then one each on the following two Wednesdays. I’ve got all three of my gifts ordered, and at least one of them should be here on Monday, so I will have it in time for the first week. I don’t work next Wednesday, though, so I will take it up there Tuesday night. Then I will get mine from my Secret Santa when I go to work my extra shift on Thursday.

We are also having a Christmas lunch on Wednesday, December 8. I am scheduled to work that day, but would have made an extra trip for that, even if I wasn’t. During the lunch, which also features a dessert contest (I probably won’t cook something for that, but I’m not sure, yet), there will be a gift exchange, of the type that we used to call “Chinese Gift Giving,” which is probably no longer politically correct. Anyway, you pick a number and when your number is drawn, you select a wrapped gift and open it. The next person has the option of “stealing” your gift or picking a new one. It’s wacky fun. That reminds me . . . I need to get a gift ordered for that event, too. I wonder what I could get that would make a bunch of librarians steal from each other . . .

C is already preparing food for our Thanksgiving lunch. Currently, the sopapilla cheesecake is cooking. She also has green bean casserole and corn casserole to make. And ham to warm up, but it’s already cooked. Somewhere around noon, we will head to Mineral Wells to celebrate the day with Mama. She’s making devilled eggs and mashed potatoes, and maybe a dessert. Oh, and some crescent rolls, I believe.

We’ll be having basically the same thing tomorrow with C’s sister and family, and I believe they plan to bring some turkey, because two of them don’t care for ham.

Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

The choir and trumpets made one voice
of praise and thanks to GOD—
orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to GOD:
Yes!
God is good!
His loyal love goes on forever!
Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of GOD.
(2 Chronicles 5:13 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have enough (more than enough, in fact)
2. for Your presence in my life; if that was all I had, it would be enough
3. that You are good and Your "loyal love goes on forever"
4. for music and song, the choir and trumpets that make one voice of praise and thanks to You
5. for a pervasive sense of well-being
6. that I have been crucified with Christ, and that the life that I now live, I live by faith in Him
7. that all creation sings Your praises

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
(Psalms 95:2 NIV)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Just a quick reminder that Thanksgiving and all its celebrations is not about how perfect the table or the decorations look. It’s not even about how perfect the food is or looks. It’s a celebration of the heart. It shouldn’t matter if you’re eating ramen on a card table. It is what is in your heart that matters.

If there is sadness or grieving in your heart, that’s okay, too. This Thanksgiving (just like many before it) will be that way for some people. And you can be sad and grieving and still be thankful. There are many who are experiencing their first Thanksgiving without one of their parents, today. I know of one who is having his first Thanksgiving without his wife. A couple I know lost a son, unexpectedly and suddenly, this week. And I have a friend who had cancer surgery yesterday.

It’s not all puppies, unicorns, and rainbows today. I’m good, yes. I’m about as happy as can be. But I am aware that it’s not that way for many. So, if you are one who is sad and grieving today, that’s perfectly okay and normal. I pray that you can find something to be thankful for, especially as you share memories of your loved ones. More importantly, I hope you are not alone.

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
(Leviticus 16:21 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer
I
who live,
but
Christ
who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore,
under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
casting all your anxieties on him,
because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

If we say we have
no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

If you can truthfully say the words of Galatians 2:20, you have plenty for which to be thankful today, regardless of your circumstances.

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Stop fighting,”
he says,
“and know that I am God,
supreme among the nations,
supreme over the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 GNB)

I pause during this quiet time and close my eyes to ponder my circumstances. I am blessed beyond imagination. Life is good. You are good! Thank you, Father!

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
(Jonah 3:1-5 NIV)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:10 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue in awareness of God’s loving presence in this place, I read these passages again, looking for anything in God’s Word that catches the attention of my heart and soul. Is there a command for me? Is there comfort for me? I talk to Him about what I have read and what has moved me, and enjoy His presence.

Psalm 148 continues the trend of the final few psalms in simply giving praise to the Lord. Or, rather, commanding all of creation to give Him praise. In our selection, this morning, we only read the first four verses that address the heavenly hosts and sun, moon, and stars.

But the list goes on, and when verse 13 says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD,” here is who that is referring to.

Sea creatures and all ocean depths
Lightning
Hail
Snow
Clouds
Stormy winds
Mountains and hills
Fruit trees
Cedar trees
Wild animals
Cattle
Small creatures
Flying birds
Kings of the earth
All nations
Princes and all rulers
Young men and women
Old men
Children

If you’re reading this, you are in one of these groups. Probably one of the last three. You might be a king or prince or ruler. If so, I would be humbly honored. Either way, just do what it says, today, and every day.

Praise the LORD.

Also? Don’t be like Jonah.

Jonah was obedient. Sort of. He was kind of like one of the sons in a parable that Jesus told. You know, where a landowner told both of his sons to go work in the fields. One said he would go, then didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t go, then later relented and went.

Jonah is a weird case, though. He initially ran away from God’s directive. Not successfully, of course, because you just can’t do that. If God wants you somewhere, you will wind up there.

Period.

Even if it takes being swallowed by a specially prepared “great fish.” (Not a whale, mind you. It’s never called a whale.) We really don’t know what kind of fish . . . it was just big.

So Jonah repented and went to Nineveh. Make no mistake, though. His “obedience” was not ever willing. He went . . . he preached repentance to the people. But then the unexpected happened.

They repented. Jonah didn’t like that, because he didn’t like those Ninevites. He really didn’t want them to repent.

How often are we like that? (Get your steel-toed shoes ready.) Are there people that you would rather not see saved? Tell the truth. Is there someone, right now, anyone, that you can think of that you would just as soon see die and go to hell?

If you’re a Republican, I bet I can name at least one. If you’re a Democrat, I bet I can name at least one.

I might have a few that I’m struggling with. I even have a few brothers and sisters for whom I struggle with praying. Yes, I admit it.

I’m human. Not perfect. In spite of the fortune cookie slip taped to my desk that says “You shall soon achieve perfection.” Obviously, we have different definitions of “soon.”

The lesson we learn from Jonah is how to not be a prophet. God will get His desired results. He will get them with or without us. If we run away from His plan, He doesn’t suffer. It is we who suffer.

Don’t be a Jonah.

Father, I praise You for all Your glorious and wondrous creation. I join with the mountains and hills, the sea creatures and cedar trees, and all the saints who have come before me and who will come after me, in praising Your holy Name. I thank You for the music that You have placed in my heart and on my tongue and my fingertips, music which I can use to praise You. But God, I have flaws (don’t You know it?). I ask You to help me love unconditionally, especially all of those saints who call the name of Jesus. Help us all to walk more completely in His steps, and love the way He loves. Help us with our bigotry and our prejudices. Teach us Your ways, that we may all walk firmly in Your truth. And that Truth, that Way, that Life, is Jesus Christ.

Give us all spiritual renewal, Father, as well as deep repentance for the sins in which we still struggle. May You give us all readiness to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us.

"Gracious God,
the saving power of the gospel is amazing to everyone.
Some are surprised that Your grace could include and change even them;
others are shocked that their goodness and religious credentials don't earn them Your grace.
Continue to astonish the world with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Amen."

BLESSING

Happy are those who remain faithful under trials,
because when they succeed in passing such a test,
they will receive as their reward
the life which God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 GNB)

Father, as we consider this day of Thanksgiving, I pray for tensions in our nation to be healed. I pray for unity within Your Church, as there has been a rift there, unnecessarily caused by politics. May we rise above that and focus our attention on You, on Christ, and on loving You and loving our neighbors and brothers and sisters.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

God Is Good

Today is Sunday, the seventeenth of October.

May the peace of God reign in your lives today!

Day 23,229

Twenty-one days until DST ends

Our plans are gaining more traction as we make arrangements to visit R & J, next month, in Indianapolis. We are currently looking at a couple of possibilities for an airbnb house to rent for four nights. Our current plan is to fly out on Wednesday evening, November 17, and return on Sunday, November 21. I would be missing one day of work, Friday the 19th. C would miss two days, Thursday and Friday. It’s a short trip, but C would return to work on Monday, and I would be scheduled back on Tuesday.

Yesterday was a pretty good day at the library. It wasn’t terribly busy, but there were moments when it did get busy. That seems to be pretty normal for a Saturday. I think I registered about six people for new library cards.

The Red Sox made post-season history last night, by blasting two grand salamis in consecutive innings. The phenom Kiké Hernandez also had a solo homer, and the final score was Red Sox 9, Astros 5. So they head to Fenway for tomorrow’s game, tied at one apiece. In the NLCS, the Braves took a 1-0 lead, beating the Dodgers 3-2. They will play again today.

We have our church gathering, this morning, and C and I are planning to attend in person. She is still aching a bit, but the localized pains she was having earlier in the week have subsided quite a bit.

It’s 46 degrees outside, this morning. Lovely weather. Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Breathing and Praying, by Daryl Madden

And all of us breathe
Each moment each day
Sometimes we draw deep
In an intentional way

An entrance to prayer
When we begin
We say to our God
We let you in

Breathing and praying
A new view to see
That with every breath
God is praying in me

So let us acknowledge
This with every breath
For if either one stops
The result will be death

I love this poem, comparing praying and breathing. Both are essential for true life.

For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever.
Selah.
(Psalms 44:6-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Autumn weather
2. for the love of family and friends
3. that You have not rejected my prayer or withheld Your love from me (Psalm 66:20)
4. for Your goodness
5. that we are already walking in Your Kingdom

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-TWO – DAY ONE

INVITATION

Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
(Psalms 66:20 NIV)

During this quiet moment, I center on the love of God, feeling it deep within my soul.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
(Psalms 106:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.
Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.
After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
(Lamentations 1:1-3 NIV)

Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. All who honored her despise her, for they have all seen her naked; she herself groans and turns away.
(Lamentations 1:8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read through these passages again, I look for words or phrases that stir within me. I pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, as I seek truth and wisdom.

The first thing is the reason given for giving thanks to the Lord. “For He is good; His love endures forever.”

God is good. If you feel compelled to say, “All the time,” in response, feel free. I don’t believe that it is possible to overstate this truth. God is good. In fact, at one point, Jesus even said that God is the only good.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”
(Mark 10:18 NIV)

Good is good, and no on is truly good but God. There are people who do good things, true. But we are born into sinfulness. At our very heart, our very nature is wickedness, and even the good things that we are capable of are “filthy rags.”

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
(Isaiah 64:6 ESV)

But God is good, AND His steadfast love endures forever. And He does not treat us as we deserve. What we deserve is what humanity received in the days of Noah. Why do I say that? Because we do things that fly back in the face of that great goodness of God. We look at all the good things that He has done for us, and promptly turn away and sin some more. Many among us refuse to acknowledge His goodness, or even acknowledge His existence.

Verse 2 of the psalm (another of the “orphan” psalms) asks a strange question. “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare His praise?” We don’t know who wrote this, but, I mean, that person was proclaiming the might acts of the Lord, right? I can proclaim His mighty acts, as can you who are reading this. Perhaps a different translation can help.

Who can list the glorious miracles of the LORD? Who can ever praise him enough?
(Psalms 106:2 NLT)

That gives the question a little more “oomph,” if you will. I can’t list them all; can you? And I certainly cannot praise Him enough. But together, we can, just maybe, come close. I kind of like the way the King James phrases this verse.

Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise?
(Psalms 106:2 KJV)

The word that is translated “fully” in the NIV comes out as “all” in the KJV. The Hebrew word, there, can also mean, “the whole.” So we are presented with an impossible task. Who can do it? It’s a rhetorical question designed to remind us of how inadequate we are, in the face of the goodness and steadfast love of God that endures forever.

If we act justly, we are blessed, but then there’s that phrase that makes me stop in my tracks. “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”

Uhoh.

There is a popular phrase that is supposed to help us make decisions. “Always do right.” But do we? Does this mean that there is no hope for us to be blessed?

I choose to think that is not what it means. Because God is good. And His steadfast love endures forever. And He does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).

At this point, it is almost as if the psalmist throws his hands up in the air and simply says, “Remember me, Lord, when You show favor to Your people.” All I can do is throw myself on the mercy of God, and cast my hope into the sea of His goodness. I don’t seem to be able to stop sinning. And I won’t be able to, until I am fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus, which is an ongoing process that will not be completed until I step over into the other plane, the true and eternal Kingdom of God, the Country of Resurrection and Life.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” said Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

I’m reminded of a song. (What? Again??) This one was recorded by Pam Thum, and is called “Life is Hard (but God is Good).”

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Life is hard, but God is good

I’ve always liked what M. Scott Peck says at the beginning of The Road Less Travelled. While it doesn’t reference the goodness of God, I still believe it is a true statement. “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Here’s the thing. Once we do accept that, and then add to it the fact that “but God is good,” then we step into the Country of Joy, which, according to Dallas Willard, is the “pervasive sense of well-being.”

Father, I praise You for Your goodness. I acknowledge that life is hard, and will continue to be so. But when we focus on Your goodness, rather than the difficulties facing us, it becomes less hard. It becomes bearable. And when we focus on Your goodness together, in numbers, as a community of saints, it doesn’t seem difficult at all. Your goodness overcomes our difficulties; Your steadfast love that never fails, that never gives us on us, and never runs out, brings us gently into the presence of joy, and makes us realize that, in You, in Your Kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine. Thank You, Father!

Lord, as we worship You today, in whatever setting we find ourselves, may You give us resurrection hope and joy. Then show us how we can share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus as we travel through our week ahead.

"Fierce God,
I want to run from pain,
hide from sorrow,
and medicate my misery.
When the foundations of my life crumble,
when all that I've put my trust in is pulled out from under me,
help me to cling to the foundation I have in Jesus Christ,
leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified.
Amen."

BLESSING

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

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
(Psalms 71:9 NIV)

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

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
(2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
(Isaiah 35:1-10 ESV)

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
(Isaiah 40:3-5 ESV)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Impregnable

Today is Wednesday, the eighteenth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,169

Tomorrow is S’s birthday!!

Today is Bad Poetry Day. Shall I regale your senses with some awful poetry? The best example that I know of is Vogon Poetry, known from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide “trilogy.” An example follows:

Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturations are to me, (with big yawning)
As plurdled gabbleblotchits, in midsummer morning
On a lurgid bee,
That mordiously hath blurted out,
Its earted jurtles, grumbling
Into a rancid festering confectious organ squealer. [drowned out by moaning and screaming]
Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles,
Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts,
And living glupules frart and stipulate,
Like jowling meated liverslime,
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes,
And hooptiously drangle me,
With crinkly bindlewurdles,mashurbitries.
Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
See if I don't!

The word for today is vamoose. Most folks probably know what this means. We tend to use it as a synonym for “hurry up!” The literal meaning is “to leave hurriedly or quickly; decamp.”

Today’s quote, from the great Henry David Thoreau, is, “The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.”

Before I get to the birthdays, I want to talk about yesterday. It was my first day at the new, part time, job as a library aide for the Hurst Library. It was wonderful. I’ve already told several people that I have not been this happy at a job since my very first job, when I worked as an attendant at a local miniature golf course, which was owned by the family of one of my childhood best friends.

I learned quite a bit, yesterday, and I will get to see how much of it I remember when I go back at 1:00 PM today. My shift today is only four hours, 1:00 – 5:00. As previously stated, I am a “floater,” going between circulation, the computer center, and shelving. I will be training in circulation for the first two weeks, then moving on to one of the other areas. I believe I have met all of the managers, as well as the Library Director and Assistant Director. I even learned a few things that I probably won’t be doing, just to see the processes.

I already have a library card, which I processed, myself. I have not used it, yet, though. One of C’s former work friends quipped on Facebook that she wondered how many books I would bring home the first day. Well, I didn’t bring home any. Hah!

One of the coolest things this library has (I was totally blown away by this) is the technology on the outside book drop. As books are placed on the conveyor, one at a time, the system scans the book, and then sorts it into one of five different canvas totes, inside the building. Pretty amazing. It’s not a super-deep sort, but it sorts between adult books, youth books, and media, and I forget what the other two totes are for.

So, yesterday, I had experience checking out books, checking them in (which involves mostly scanning them to see if the drop system already processed them) capturing holds for customers, creating new library accounts, modifying existing accounts, and some sorting, as well. It was a great day, and I really enjoyed the people I worked with.

C asked me, while I was on my lunch break, if I was happy. I sent her this:

I would be even happier if 1) the Social Security people would get off their you-know-whats and get my benefits processed, 2) the sleep study folks would get back with my doctor, and 3) my COBRA information would arrive in the snail mail so I can get my health insurance going again.

I’m not asking for much, right?

And now for the birthdays:

1587 1st English child born in New World (Virginia Dare)
1750 Antonio Salieri, Italian composer (Tarare), born in Legnago, Republic of Venice (d. 1825) (accused of murdering Mozart in Amadeus)
1774 Meriwether Lewis, American explorer, soldier and public administrator who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition, born in Ivy, Virginia (d. 1809)
1834 Marshall Field, American entrepreneur and the founder of Marshall Field and Company, born in Conway, Massachusetts (d. 1906)
1856 Charles H. Gabriel, American Gospel composer, born in Wilton, Iowa (d. 1932)("Send the Light")
1873 Otto Harbach, American songwriter (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), born in NYC, New York (d. 1963)
1904 [Francis] Max Factor, American CEO of Max Factor Cosmetics, born in St. Louis, Missouri
1920 Shelley Winters [Schrift], American actress (Lolita, A Place in the Sun, A Patch of Blue & Poseidon Adventure), born in St. Louis, Missouri (d. 2006)
1925 Brian Aldiss, British sci-fi author (Super-Toys Last All Summer Long, Helliconia trilogy), born in East Dereham, Norfolk (d. 2017)
1927 Rosalynn Smith Carter, American 1st lady (1977-1981), born in Plains, Georgia
1928 Marge Schott, American MLB owner (Cincinnati Reds), born in Cincinnati, Ohio (d. 2004)
1933 Roman Polanski, Polish-French film director; US fugitive (Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Pirates), born in Paris, France (married to Sharon Tate at the time of the Manson murders
1934 Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder (15 x MLB All Star; World Series 1960, 71 [MVP]; Pittsburgh Pirates), born in Carolina, Puerto Rico (d. 1972)
1934 Vincent Bugliosi, American attorney and author (Helter-Skelter), born in Hibbing, Minnesota (d. 2015)(it has been alleged that much of what he wrote in Helter Skelter is inaccurate)
1936 Robert Redford, American actor (Sting, Candidate, Natural, Great Gatsby), born in Santa Monica, California; still alive at 85
1943 Martin Mull, American actor and comedian (Bad Manners, Flick, Serial), born in Chicago, Illinois
1945 Sarah Dash, American rock vocalist (Patti LaBelle & Bluebirds), born in Trenton, New Jersey
1949 Nigel Griggs, English musician (Split Enz), born in Hatfield, United Kingdom
1950 Dennis Elliott, English rock drummer (Foreigner), born in London, England
1952 Patrick Swayze, American actor and dancer (Dirty Dancing, Ghost), born in Houston, Texas (d. 2009)
1957 Denis Leary, American actor and comedian (Rescue Me), born in Worcester, Massachusetts
1957 Ron Strykert, Australian rock guitarist (Men At Work-Who Can it Be), born in Korumburra, Victoria
1958 Madeleine Stowe, American actress (Tropical Snow, Bad Girls), born in Los Angeles, California
1969 Christian Slater, American actor (Robin Hood, Untamed Heart, Heathers), born in New York City, New York
1969 Edward Norton, American actor (American History X), born in Boston, Massachusetts
1970 Malcolm Jamal Warner, American actor (Theodore-Cosby Show), born in Jersey City, New Jersey
1977 Régine Chassagne, Canadian musician (Arcade Fire), born in Montreal, Quebec
1978 Andy Samberg, American comedian and actor (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), born in Berkeley, California
1981 Jon Schneck, American musician (Relient K), born in Eustis, Florida
Shelley Winters, best supporting actress Oscar for this film
Règine Chassagne is the singer in this video. Her birthday might be tomorrow, rather than today. I love the modulation in this song.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The LORD has ascended with trumpets blaring.
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.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for how well the first day on the new job went;
2. for the hope of someday hearing those shouts and trumpets blaring around Your throne;
3. that You are a fortress within a fortress; a citadel within a citadel; doubly secure and impregnable;
4. that because of the work of Jesus Christ, I dwell within You and Your fortresses, and there is no safer place I could be
5. that You are my God for ever and ever.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK THIRTEEN – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

Hallelujah! Thank GOD! And why? Because he’s good, because his love lasts.
(Psalms 106:1 MSG)

As I pause in this quiet, I think about praising God. The question, “Why?” in the middle of The Message translation helps me to realize that I really don’t need a reason, do I? But in case I do, the psalmist provides one; a simple one. Praise Him (that’s what “hallelujah” means . . . “praise the LORD”) because He is good, because His steadfast love is everlasting. I meditate on this as I attempt to fend of temptations and distractions.

BIBLE SONG

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.

Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.

Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,
consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
(Psalms 48:1-3, 12-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him.
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
(Exodus 14:5-6, 10-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord, this morning, I read these passages, looking for something that stirs my soul. Some of these thoughts will translate into prayers as I meditate on them.

Psalm 48 is full of the imagery of protection. Raised high on a mountain, the City of God is, itself, a fortress. But look at the language. Verse 3 says that the Lord is in her citadels. The word translated “citadels” in the NIV is ‘armôn, which means, “to be elevated.” The KJV translates it “palaces;” the NLT says “towers;” the ESV also says “citadels.”

But then, it says that the Lord, who is within her citadels, is her “fortress.” This word, misgab, is an “inaccessible place.” It is “refuge” in KJV, “defender” in NLT, and “fortress” in ESV. Oddly enough, The Message renders it “impregnable,” which is closer to the literal meaning of the Hebrew word.

Disclaimer: I know virtually no Hebrew. All of this is coming from a resource I have on my computer, e-Sword.

So, the way I’m reading this is that God’s holy city, His holy mountain, is a fortress within a fortress. It is at least doubly-secured, and it is impregnable. The last three verses of the psalm are instructing the reader to walk around this fortress, count the towers, consider the ramparts (more defensive wording, indicating thick walls), view the citadels.

“This God is our God for ever and ever.”

And this God was the same God who led the people of Israel out of Egypt. And when Pharaoh changed his mind (again) and chased them, they found themselves trapped between his army and the Red Sea. They turned against their leader (as humans are wont to do) and said things like, “So what?? You led us out here just so we could die here?? We should have stayed in Egypt!” (They would make similar statements over the course of the next few years, as well.)

Moses’s response was one of the best speeches in Scripture.

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
(Exodus 14:13-14 NIV)

Where do you feel trapped today? (I sound like a preacher giving an invitation.) But seriously. What, in your life, has you afraid? See the words of the Sons of Korah and Moses.

Our God, who is God for ever and ever, is an impregnable fortress, within the fortress of His holy city, His holy mountain. This city we will someday see coming down out of heaven, as seen in Jesus’s Revelation to St. John. Go back and read that word . . . IMPREGNABLE. “Unable to be captured or broken into; unable to be defeated or destroyed; unassailable.”

Just sit back and let that sink in for a moment.

Do you believe it?

Father, I praise Your Name! Why? Because You alone are worthy of it, for one thing. But if I need other reasons, there are plenty here, today. I praise You that You are my fortress, my ramparts, my citadel, and that You dwell within another citadel/fortress, known as Your holy city. You are a fortress within a fortress, a high, lofty refuge that is unable to be captured, broken into, defeated, or destroyed. And I, along with all the saints, past, present, and future, dwell within You. There is no safer place for me to be.

And it is from this safe place, this citadel, that I cry out to You on behalf of all world leaders, governments, and needs of this world, that You would rise up and defend the needy and oppressed of this world. Take down corrupt powers, Father, and help those who need Your help. I lift up the continent of Australia, that they might feel Your presence among them today. And I pray for all areas where there is war and strife, most especially, today, the country of Afghanistan. I also pray for Your protection over our brothers and sisters in that country.

"Faithful God,
this life is filled with more than enough trouble and tears to dominate my vision and distract me from seeing you.
When captured by anxiety,
I turn defensive and hostile,
of no use to you or others.
Take the blinders of fear away and turn my eyes to heaven,
to see you and be confident of your goodness,
so that I can once again serve you here on earth.
Amen."

BLESSING

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.
(Psalms 16:11 MSG)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV)

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
(Ruth 1:16 ESV)

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:16 ESV)

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
(1 Corinthians 3:9 ESV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
(Ephesians 6:10 ESV)

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
(1 John 4:9 ESV)

Or, perhaps, that He might live through us.

I pray for our world, today. The pandemic rages on, and people have grown complacent about it, especially in my country. Please heal us, Lord, and take this plague from our midst. Turn our attention toward You again, and away from politics and politicians. Even Your own people, those who claim to follow Jesus, have slipped into this trap, Lord. We care little for those around us and have embraced a form of “patriotism” that has become idolatry. Heal Your Church, Father. Turn our eyes toward Jesus, and Him alone. May we look full in His wonderful, beautiful face, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
(Psalms 59:16 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Ordinary Life

Today is Friday, the eleventh of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,101

Nine days until Father’s Day

The big news around the Bickleyhouse today is this:

Player to be named later

Yes, we adopted another kitten last night. She is a Seal Point Siamese. One of my Facebook friends called her an Applehead Meezer. We don’t know if she is full-blooded or not, and we really don’t care. We got her from a family in Denton (about a mile from R’s house), who still owns the mom and the dad. As the caption states, we have not named her yet. Or, as I have told some folks, she has not yet told us her name.

We have a couple of choices that are floating around. C thinks she might be Sophie. I’m wondering if she is Cleopatra. We have also tossed around the idea of Elvira. Not because we like the queen of horror movies, but because . . . okay, there’s this podcast, see? Called My Favorite Murder, and one of the hosts used to have a Siamese cat named Elvis. At the end of every episode, she would say, “Elvis, want a cookie?” and Elvis would say, “Mrowr!” Well this cat is a girl, so we don’t want to name her Elvis, you know.

Anyway . . . as soon as there is a name, we will let everyone know.

We stopped by R and J’s house before coming home, to show them the new kitty. That was a nice addition to the day. I think everyone in the family knows, by now, so it’s safe to let out that they are planning, it seems, to move to Indianapolis. Yes, the one in Indiana. Why Indiana? They have friends there. R can continue to keep her current job with pretty much no regard for where she lives. J would probably have to find a new one since he works for UNT. They have actually made an offer on a house out there.

That’s about it for current events, so on to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalms 27:8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You have said, "Seek my face."
2. for kittens, puppies, rainbows, and other things that make children smile
3. for the ability to take my everyday life, the most mundane things, and offer them up to you as a "living sacrifice," embracing all that You do for me
4. that I own nothing, yet have everything (2 Corinthians 6:10)
5. for Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 3 – DAY 6

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, at this time to reflect on seeking God’s face. My gratitude is flowing, this morning, like a river after the spring rains.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

LORD, remember David and all his self-denial.
He swore an oath to the LORD, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
(Psalms 132:1-5 NIV)

For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
(Psalms 132:13-16 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
(Romans 12:9-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy God’s presence, this morning, I reflect on these two passages, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and ponderings, leading me toward a deeper understanding of my walk with Christ.

I am drawn to the idea of the “living sacrifice” presented in Romans 12. How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices? I like the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
(Romans 12:1 MSG)

It’s not a matter of going out and doing spectacular things for God, though that is certainly a good thing. It’s a matter of taking that everyday life, your ordinary life, the mundane things you do every day, and offering them up to God. I love the idea of “embracing what God does for you.”

I am reminded of Brother Lawrence, who is well known for this thought of finding God in even the most mundane tasks, like washing the dishes.

But the real nuts and bolts of offering up your life as a living sacrifice comes in that second passage from Romans 12, this morning. Let’s go back up there and read that again.

It starts with, “Love must be sincere.” The NLT words that, “Don’t just pretend to love others.” “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Let’s be clear on this. It does not say, “Hate evil people.” And this cliché about “love the sinner, hate the sin,” is all well and good, but most people who say that don’t really love the sinner. You can tell by how they treat the sinner, all the while forgetting that, oops, I’m a sinner, too!

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

We haven’t been doing too good with that one through a pandemic, have we . . . what with all this insistence on “my rights,” and “my freedoms,” and acting like being required to wear a mask is like the most inconvenient thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your entire life.

If we are offering up ourselves as living sacrifices, we are also giving up our so-called rights.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I’ll confess that we could do better at the hospitality thing. We don’t invite people into our home very often. We could definitely do better. I think we do alright at the sharing part, though.

How are we at blessing those who persecute us? Let’s get real for a second. I don’t know that I have ever been really persecuted. So I don’t think I have had a chance to test that one.

Then, at the end, Paul lays it down with telling us to “live in harmony with one another.”

Boy, do we have some work to do.

Father, Your Church is in disarray, these days. We aren’t doing a great job of living in harmony, nor are we doing very well at honoring each other above ourselves. I pray for the Holy Spirit to have His way with us in these times. I pray that Your people would open their hearts to Your Spirit in such a way that we might be truly transformed into a people of love, a people who take Your Words seriously, and not just the parts that we like. I pray for my own attitudes toward others, which, I think I can say, is improving, these days. But we could do better in the hospitality arena. Help us in that area. Lead us all toward a deeper fellowship with You and with one another.

Loving Father,
how quickly we can become discouraged about your church,
especially when we measure it by attendance,
political influence,
budget,
or programs.
Free us from trying to size up your church by the pattern of this world.
Instead,
keep us in your way of simple service and humble love,
energized in your mission,
always encouraged,
knowing your hands guide and keep your people.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 27)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 MSG)

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
(Psalms 69:30 MSG)

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
(James 1:17 NLT)

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
(2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT)

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:20 NLT)

Father, these last Scriptures are sinking deep into my soul. I give You thanks and praise in all circumstances. You are my keeper, my provider, my Rock and my salvation. You are my fortress and my deliverer. You are my hiding place, where I can run when I feel afflicted. I shout Your name with a praising song, today. I will tell of Your greatness in my prayers of thanksgiving. Indeed, everything that is good and perfect in my life comes from You. I do not “have” anything. I own nothing, and yet have everything. All glory to You, Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.

Lord, give all of us a deeper gratitude for the work of Christ on the cross. I pray, today, for those who live in poverty and injustice. May Your Spirit prevail and justice be done for all. I also pray for the equal treatment of women in our society, and in all of the world, as well.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends!

Kitty update: It appears that her name is Cleo (Cleopatra).

Praise Report

I’m posting this rare extra entry today to report that I have just heard that Zach Schroeder’s spinal tap results are back and they have confirmed that he does NOT have MS!

Not sure what the problem was, but MS has been ruled out.

Father, we praise you for this good report today! We pray that you will continue to heal your servant, Zach, so that he can be fully recovered and get back to his ministry with the youth of The Exchange.

To the praise of His glorious grace!

Grace and peace, friends!

I Will Praise the Lord As Long As I Live

As usual, I’m a little later getting around to my blog on Saturday morning. I love Saturday morning…a couple of cups of coffee, nice and relaxing, not hurrying to do anything at all.

We had a great time last night, driving around a little bit, looking at Christmas lights. Could be my imagination, but it seems there are more people doing lights this year. We saw some very pretty lights on some even prettier houses.

For some really fantastic Christmas light work, have a look at this.

There are quite a few others that do the same. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work that goes into something like this. That’s probably my favorite contemporary Christmas arrangement by the TSO.

Here’s another one that’s fun.


Psalm 146:1-6

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;

I can certainly echo the words of the author as he says, “Music has always been as necessary to me as breathing. Melodies tend to stick to me like glue, playing over and over in my ‘inner ear’ tape deck.” I guess, now, it would be an “mp3 player,” not a “tape deck.” The book was written in 1988…hahaha. Different songs evoke different emotions in my soul as I hear them. Recently, I’m hearing a lot of this song…

I’m usually in tears by the time it’s over. Music plays my emotions like Phil Keaggy plays the guitar.

I’m almost equally moved by visual examples of the hand of God’s majesty. The ocean, mountain ranges like the Grand Tetons, amazing natural beauty like the Grand Canyon (sorry, Christi), snow-covered trees (I pretty much have to rely on photographs from others to see those), a beautiful sky at sunset.

“But God’s unshakability is appreciated even more when seen against the backdrop of human weakness and transience. In verse 3, above, David points out that there is “no salvation” to be found in “princes, in a son of man.” The final destine for all is the grave.

“As the year draws to a close, I need to reevaluate my commitment to the Lord. Have I kept my priorities in order? Have I praised the Lord every day through meditating on His Word, through prayer, through music? Have I let the plastic things made by humans blind me to authentic masterpieces created by God? Have I cultivated a sense of His presence, so that I can know Him whom I’ve never seen? Am I worshiping Him with my whole person or with my head?” These are all very good question to ponder as a new year approaches rapidly.
(From A Musician Looks At the Psalms, by Don Wyrtzen)


A MINISTER’S CONFESSION

O God,

I know that I often do your work without your power,
and sin by my dead, heartless, blind service,
my lack of inward light, love, delight,
my mind, heart, tongue moving without your help.
I see sin in my heart in seeking the approbation of others;
This is my vileness, to make men’s opinion my rule, whereas
I should see what good I have done, and give you glory,
consider what sin I have committed and mourn for that.
It is my deceit to preach, and pray,
and to stir up others’ spiritual affections
in order to beget commendations,
whereas my rule should be daily
to consider myself more vile than any man in my own eyes.
But you show your power by my frailty,
so that the more feeble I am, the more fit to be used,
for you pitch a tent of grace in my weakness.
Help me to rejoice in my infirmities and give you praise,
to acknowledge my deficiencies before others and not be discouraged by them,
that they may see your glory more clearly.
Teach me that I must act by a power supernatural,
whereby I can attempt things above my strength,
and bear evils beyond my strength,
acting for Christ in all,
and have his superior power to help me.
Let me learn of Paul whose presence was mean,
his weakness great,
his utterance contemptible,
yet you did account him faithful and blessed.
Lord, let me lean on you as he did, and find my ministry yours.

(From The Valley of Vision)

I love the line that says, “You pitch a tent of grace in my weakness.” That is great. There is so much truth in all of these prayers; so much to meditate on.


Prayers from the Presidential Prayer Team

PRAY FOR OUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS

A $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill has been introduced in the Senate that would fund the government through fiscal year 2011. The bill is said to be loaded with earmarks from both sides of the Congressional aisle.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland) has expressed doubts that Congress can wrap up its business and get out of town by the weekend. Sen. Reid (Nevada) says the Senate may still be there on Christmas Eve.

Pray for our Congressional members to be diligent in their deliberations, even as they desire to get home.


Lord, I thank you so much for music, and what it has meant to me for my whole life. You created me with a passion for music, both for listening to it and for creating it. I cannot thank you enough. I believe that heaven will be filled with music as we praise you for all of eternity. There will be new songs, new music that we have never heard before, and it will never get boring, like all the radio stations here that play the same dozen songs over and over.

I also praise you for the vast beauty that you have placed in our world. I have seen majestic mountains, glorious waterfalls, intimidating canyons, snow-covered landscapes, enormous oceans with whales frolicking, and sunsets that looked like a painter had splashed his brush across the sky. All of this created by you, to display your majesty and glory! Thank you, Lord, for all of these things draw my soul to you and cause me to worship you!

As I lead others to worship you through the ministry that you have given me, I pray that the strength and power in which I do this will be yours. I am frail and feeble, but you are shown to be strong through me. I am glad that you have pitched “a tent of grace in my weakness.” I praise you for grace!

I pray that our worship tomorrow will be acceptable to you. I also pray that we will have a good time of fellowship tonight at our Christmas party. I thank you for Ron and Linda Nuzum and their willingness to open their home to us for this event.


I dare say you will not get through this day without hearing some music. It is everywhere. Pay attention, though, to its effect on you. How does it make you feel? Hopefully, at some point, it will lift you to God.

Grace and peace, friends.