Don’t Panic

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

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.

As Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Making Disciples v. Preaching at People

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,329

Today is my half-day, at the library, from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. The reason for the fifteen bit is that I’m working until we close, which is 8:00 PM. Then it takes a few minutes for everyone to get their stuff together and get out the back door, so, in order for it to be four hours, the schedule is bumped to the quarter-hour. That is why my eight-hour days begin at 9:15 instead of 9:00, as well. We close at 6:00, but work until 6:15. For some reason, on Saturdays, we start (officially) at 9:30 and only get forty-five minutes for lunch. I have not asked for the logic behind that decision, I just go with it.

Nothing of any interest happened yesterday. It was a pretty lazy day. I did some chores, my usual Monday stuff. I still have a little bit of laundry to finish today.

We have been notified that we need to get Magnolia (cat) vaccinated against rabies. We thought this had already been done, but C got a call from the Watauga animal shelter, yesterday, saying that we had until Friday to provide proof of that, or we would get a citation. I had several possible reactions to that, one of which was, we don’t live in Watauga, so let them go ahead and cite us. However, the probable more right thing to do, especially as one who is supposed to be a “peacemaker,” is to get the shot and provide the proof. We got a voucher with Maggie to get it done at a place called TCAP (that stands for Texas Coalition for Animal Protection), and I can take her pretty much any morning this week. So I plan to take her to the Hurst location tomorrow, sometime between nine and noon, which is when they do vaccinations.

I’ve been playing the latest game craze to hit social media, Wordle. Here is my score for today.

Wordle 220 5/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜
⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨⬜🟩🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

If you are interested in trying it, here is the link. Everyone gets the same word, each day, and the word changes every day. You get six guesses. The yellow blocks show that the guessed letter is in the word, but in the wrong position. The green blocks show that the correct letter is in the correct position. The empty blocks are just wrong. LOL. I have played ten times with a win percentage of 90%. I missed one a few days ago. The word was “prick.” I would never have guessed that. Modern culture assigns a not-so-nice meaning to that word. But it is a verb, though, meaning to “make a small hole in something with a sharp point.” You know . . . Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a spindle, right? Anyway.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Can Take You, by Daryl Madden

To listen so intently
The into flowing through
That takes you to the place
Only music can take you

To move the soul so deeply
Beyond what we construe
That takes to you the Grace
Only prayer can take you

To dwell within the scene
Of vision in the view
That takes you to the space
Only beauty can take you

To hope within the promise
To receive what we pursue
That blesses the embrace
Only God can take you

Oh, the places that music, prayer, beauty, and God can take me . . . please check out more of Daryl’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
 let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
and why are you in turmoil within me? 
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 
(Psalms 43:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music, prayer, and beauty, and the places that they can take me
2. that my soul is not "cast down," and that I am able to praise the Lord
3. that God is a friend to those who revere Him (Psalm 25:14)
4. that God has given me the faith to faithfully pray, and then watch to see what He will do (Psalm 5;3)
5. that I am content and protected beneath the wings of my God and Father
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
And he said to them, 
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, 
but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
And these signs will accompany those who believe: 
in my name they will cast out demons; 
they will speak in new tongues; 
they will pick up serpents with their hands; 
and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; 
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 
(Mark 16:15-18 ESV)

In this passage (allegedly not found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells His disciples, His followers to go and proclaim the good news to all of, or “the whole” creation. The KJV translated the word “kosmos” as “world,” where the more modern translations use the more-inclusive “creation.” What is our reaction to this command? The more popular version of it is found in Matthew 28, and is referred to as “The Great Commission.” Some people say that the Bible says that we are supposed to preach the Good News to everyone we meet.

No one I know does that, not even the people who claim to believe that this is what the Bible teaches. They would never get anything else accomplished, nor would they be able to hold down any kind of reasonable employment. I dare say that most employers would not tolerate someone who never did anything but preach at people while on the job.

And, sadly, that is what a lot of people do when they try to proclaim the Good News. They preach at people. And I can tell you from experience that this bothers people. Dallas Willard once opined that Jesus did not mean that we were supposed to go out and “bother” people.

I have also heard it said that, in the Great Commission, the Greek language implies that it should say “As you go . . . ,” indicating that we should be speaking the Good News in the context of our daily lives. This I find easier to believe. It is also worth noting that the Matthew version uses the phrase “make disciples” or “teach” (KJV) rather than “proclaim.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It takes a lot more investment in someone to make them a disciple than it does to just proclaim the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stand on a street corner and preach than it is to take the time to actually teach someone how to be a disciple of Jesus.

For me (and I am most certainly not saying that I have done a good job of obeying this command), the way to discern what is being asked of us is to look at what Jesus did. While He did do some preaching (there are several “discourses” recorded in the Gospels), the majority of His time was spent with those twelve guys, teaching them how to be disciples.

But going back to this passage in Mark. What is the “good news?” That question is answered in Mark, as well, back in chapter 1.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

I believe that the “gospel,” as proclaimed by Jesus, is that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” or, in other words, here. This is the message that we have to proclaim to the world. The kingdom is here; change the way you are thinking about life.

If Jesus really said the things recorded in this passage (again, not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), He made some rather bold statements about how His followers would be identified. My take on this requires me to contextualize it into our own culture, and I believe that it simply speaks to the kind of faith that we will see in disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t think we would find a lot of agreement about it, if we were to gather a dozen or so followers of Christ in the same room. Depending on where we got them, some would want to take this more literally than others. I mean, I suppose we still have “snake-handler” Christians around us somewhere. I seem to recall some news about some around Fort Worth, just a few years ago.

And some would, no doubt, use this passage as ammunition for their refusal to take part in any Covid-preventing measures. My faith, however, does not lead me down that path. Where it leads me is to walk on a path of love and faithfulness, of compassion and generosity and kindness. If you have read this forum very much, you have seen that I believe that I have, basically, two jobs: love God and love people. That is where my faith leads me, and it leads me to trust that God is looking out for me and has my best interest at heart (behind His own best interests, of course).

Part of the good news is this: God loves us. He loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to spend not only this life, but all eternity in His presence. And He has gifted us with His presence as we live and walk on this earth. What more could we ask for?

Pieces of this taken from today’s episode of Pray As You Go.

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.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13 ESV)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “feathers,” as in Psalm 91:4.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:4 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the protection that I feel, sheltered beneath Your “feathers” and “wings.” Your faithfulness is, indeed, my shield, and I find that I have nothing to fear in this world.

I thank You for the faith that You have given me, faith that enables me to pray in the face of insurmountable odds, and then wait to see what You will do. No, my prayers are not always answered the way I would like them to be. But that is part of my faith, that allows me to accept the answers You give as Your will. I know that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. There are times when I cannot comprehend Your ways and thoughts, and that is where faith comes into play, the faith of which Jesus spoke. I may not handle snakes or drink poison, but I trust in You, so I’m not afraid to walk out my front door and get in my car to drive somewhere.

I am also thankful that You have given me the faith to believe in the gospel, that Your kingdom is at hand, that it came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and that it remains on earth, with the presence of Your Holy Spirit, which You have given us, Your Church. May we walk in Your kingdom, and may we faithfully and adequately proclaim this kingdom while we walk here, and may we also faithfully teach others to walk in it, as we make more disciples. But, in doing this, may we not just preach at people. Help us to be more invested in the lives of others, because this is how we are going to reach them in Your name.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Lessons in Futility

Today is Monday, the twenty-fourth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,328

I’m having one of those “difficult-to-get-going” kind of days. I’ve been up since 6:45, it’s currently almost 9:30, and I’ve just started typing. I have managed to have breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, though.

The big thing today is our Hamilton experience from yesterday. We got to the Bass Performance Hall in plenty of time. There was quite a line going into the building, but it was moving quickly, as they checked for either negative Covid tests or vaccine cards outside the front doors. Everything went really smoothly to get in. We stopped at the merch counter first and got a t-shirt and a shot glass that says, “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

The production was not at all disappointing. The closer we got to the time, the more excited I got and the less worried I was about how it would stack up to the original cast. I had seen one “bootleg” video, made at the Broadway show, and the version that is on Disney+ (edited for a few language places, of course). We both felt that the weakest part was the Schuyler Sisters, but they were still good. The people that played Hamilton, Washington, Mulligan/Madison, and Laurens/Philip were all very good. The guy that played Lafayette/Jefferson was good, but there is no way he was going to be as good as Daveed Diggs, and, in the same vein, the guy that played Burr was also very good, but I don’t see anyone being as good as Leslie Odom, Jr., in that role. Oh, and our King George III was excellent. He played the role a little differently than Jonathan Groff, and that’s okay. It was a great performance, though, greeted by a rousing ovation at the end. And, of course, I was crying at the end. The ending of this show wrecks me every time. I mean . . . how many Broadway productions do you know of that end with A SOB?? It could be argued that Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was really the star of the story.

As predicted, we picked up Applebee’s for dinner (and Sonic drinks, of course) on the way home, watched an episode of Lucifer and chilled for the rest of the evening.

Today, C works from home (and for the rest of the week). Monday is one of my normal days off every week, and I don’t work until 4:15 tomorrow. I have no concrete plans for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Long Winding Way, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

I shall
not tire of
seeking

©2022 S. Michaels
A Waking Season
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please click on the link to see the poem in its best environment, as there is always a beautiful image accompanying the verse.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
 he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
(Psalms 40:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books, and that I can read
2. that I can pray about anything and everything; really . . . everything
3. for Jesus's question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
4. for the way Ecclesiastes teaches us the futility of trying to find meaning without God
5. for God, the Source of all things
“You will guide our feet into peace”
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 
And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 
"What do you want me to do for you?" 
He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." 
And Jesus said to him, 
"Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." 
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 
(Luke 18:35-43 ESV)

I love this passage, and the question that Jesus asks the blind beggar. I easily envision Him asking the same question of you and me. Sometimes, when I ask people for prayer requests, I ask, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?”

Who among us has not read the book of Ecclesiastes and wondered at the “vanity” of it all? If read in the wrong spirit, this book of the Bible, possibly most famous for the lines quoted in Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” could be depressing.

What Eugene H. Peterson gets out of it, as described in day 21 of Symphony of Salvation, is that the writer of Ecclesiastes has set out to “expose our total incapacity to find the meaning and completion of our lives on our own.” It seems that we are always looking for something . . . some way to be other than what we are. “We explore the countryside for excitement, search our souls for meaning, shop the world for pleasure. We try this. Then we try that. The usual fields of endeavor are money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.”

Oddly enough, the author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t say much about God. He “leaves that to the other sixty-five books of the Bible.” Here’s an example of the lesson that is to be learned.

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.] 
There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke. 
What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth. 
The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. 
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. 
Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. 
All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. 
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. 
Everything's boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. 
What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There's nothing new on this earth. 
Year after year it's the same old thing. 
Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"? Don't get excited—it's the same old story. 
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. 
And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered. 
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 MSG)

You see? Like I said, if this is read at face value, it’s depressing. Why bother at all, if these things are true?

Peterson calls this a “John-the-Baptist kind of book.” He says that “Ecclesiastes sweeps our souls clean of all ‘lifestyle’ spiritualities so that we can be ready for God’s visitation revealed in Jesus Christ. . . . It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging.”

The words of the wise prod us to live well. 
They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. 
They are given by God, the one Shepherd. 
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. 
There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. 
The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. 
And that's it. 
Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 MSG)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
(Philippians 1:9 NLT)

Always be humble and gentle. 
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 
(Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need,
 and thank him for all he has done.
(Philippians 4:6 NLT)

Father, I don’t worry as much as I used to. Thank You for that. I don’t know if I pray more or not. I know I don’t pray enough; we can never pray enough. And there are so many prayer needs in front of me, right now. Sometimes I don’t feel up to the task. You know what they are, and in my private prayer moments, I voice them to You, specifically. There are healings needed for illnesses, both Covid and non-Covid-related. There is comforting needed for lost loved ones, and for hopeless situations. There are people who need You in their lives and don’t realize it. And there is rampant division in our world, in our country, and even in Your Church. It is that last thing that hurts my heart the most. I pray for unity and peace within the Body of Christ, that we would all focus on the “greatest commandments” of Jesus.

I thank You for how well Ecclesiastes points out the futility and vanity, utter uselessness of attempting to find meaning through the various pursuits that do not involve You or Your wisdom. I am grateful for the way You have moved my heart to see these things and believe them. I confess the times that I engage in some of those pursuits, anyway, even though those times have been fewer in recent years. Thanks for that, too!

May I, as the author Ecclesiastes suggests, find whatever I have to do, and do it with all my might. May I “eat, drink, and be merry,” but all the while remembering that You are the source of that life, of the food and drink, as well as the merriment.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

GOD's there, 
listening for all who pray,
 for all who pray and mean it.
(Psalms 145:18 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Called By Name

Today is Friday, the twenty-first of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,325

Only two more days until Hamilton!

Yesterday’s grocery order from Amazon Fresh was fine. Delivered on time and they had everything that I ordered. The young man even put them in the garage, which surprised me. Still, it won’t be my “go-to” source, as they don’t provide some of our favorite things, such as Nick’s Ice Cream. I noticed that they also do not have Halo Top Sea Salt Caramel, which is one of C’s favorites.

Not much else was accomplished, yesterday. C’s foot doctor appointment went well, and her broken toe has finally healed to a point where the doctor is not concerned about her re-breaking it. Still, she is supposed to wear the boot if she does any major walking or exercising. And she was advised to keep exercising to an elliptical or recumbent bike.

Being Friday, it is my day to work a full eight hour shift in the computer center at the library. I anticipate the computers to get busier as the year progresses, especially as it approaches tax season. But I haven’t been there through a tax season, yet, so I really don’t know.

In news, one of the first things that I saw this morning was that Michael Lee Aday, the singer known as Meatloaf, has passed away at the age of 75. While I wasn’t a huge fan, I do like some of his songs, probably my favorite being “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” His death is not really a surprise, as his health has not been good for a number of years.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
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. 
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for central heating and a roof over my head
2. for a hot cup of coffee
3. that we don't have any ice and snow on the roads
4. that God called me by name and chose me to be His child
5. for the message of love that I have to share

I’ve been beginning each morning’s devotional time with a reading plan from the YouVersion app on my phone. The one I’m reading is one that takes me through the whole Bible in a year. I haven’t done that in a while, so I thought I would try it this year. I noticed a couple things in the reading this morning.

First, in Luke 16, I caught this statement of Jesus.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
(Luke 16:15 ESV)

Specifically, the last sentence. I’m going to be spending some time meditating on and pondering that sentence. “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Consider that this could cover an awful lot of things.

The next thing I noticed was in Genesis 28. Jacob has had his “ladder” encounter with God, and God has promised him blessing. Here is part of Jacob’s response.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
(Genesis 28:20-22 ESV)

The italics were added by me. Jacob’s “vow” was conditional. It’s like he was making a “deal” with God. Seriously, God just appeared to him in this vision and made all these great promises to him, and his response is to say that, okay, if You’ll do all of these things, then You will be my God.

I’m not impressed by Jacob’s “devotion.” I prefer the attitude of Job, in this case. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) That is the attitude I try to maintain. God is my God, regardless.

“‘I have chosen you out of the world, so that you might go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

“As I listen to this chant, I remind myself that God calls me, calls me by my name. However unsuitable or unworthy I may think I am, God has chosen me.”

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 
and have authority to cast out demons. 
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 
James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 
Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 
and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 
Then he went home.
(Mark 3:13-20A ESV)

I am asked to look at the names and nicknames of these twelve whom Jesus called. I only notice “nicknames” of three of them. Four, counting Simon “the Zealot,” but I don’t think Jesus gave him that nickname. We know that Peter comes from a Greek word meaning “rock” or “stone,” and that Jesus said, at one point, “on this rock I will build my Church.” Of course, it is possible that the “rock” to which Jesus was referring was Peter’s declaration, not Peter, himself.

The other nickname is for James and John. “Sons of Thunder.” It’s easy to see why, too, if we read more about them in Scripture.

What were these twelve called to do? They were called to “preach” or share the message, proclaim the Word, the Good News of the Gospel, and to have authority to cast out demons.

Does Jesus have a name for me? Good question. He knows me by my name. Jeffrey. I believe that He only calls me positive names. He might call me “child,” He might call me “brother.” I am both of those. But He might also call me “overcomer,” even though I don’t feel like I overcome very often.

What has He called me to do? I believe Jesus has called me to love. He has given me a “message” to share. I am not an “evangelist,” per se. I have a treasure in this “jar of clay,” though, and that treasure is the love of God. It is my job to love Him and to love people, without judging.

I have run out of time, now, and must get ready for work.

Father, I pray for this message of love to be spread through me. I am Your child, I know this and believe it. I am honored and humbled by Your choosing of me, and while I may not (most definitely) have a place as important as those initial twelve, You have chosen me and called me by name. Thank You, Father, for this choosing. Help me to be faithful to do the loving that I am called to do, and may it be without judgment toward anyone.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Over and Over and Over Again

Today is Thursday, the twentieth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,324

Only three more days until Hamilton!

There’s not a lot going on around here, today. It’s one of my days that I’m always off (Monday and Thursday), so I’m home all day, and C continues to work from home, probably through next week, as well. She has an appointment with her foot doctor, later this morning. I ordered some groceries, but they’re coming from Amazon Fresh, because Albertson’s was booked up until tomorrow afternoon. I needed some things for this evening’s dinner, which will hopefully be chicken stir-fry.

I could have ventured out to the store, in person, but it’s really cold out there, today. Currently 24 and only supposed to get up to 34 today. Now, the low for tomorrow morning is predicted to be 18. In DFW, Texas, that’s stay-in-the-house cold. Fortunately, the precipitation possibility remains very low until Monday, when it is supposed to be above freezing all day. And, also, it has been in the sixties and seventies for the past week, for the most part, so the ground is probably still fairly warm, in comparison.

So I’ll move on to the devotional. I’ve already said some prayers for people, this morning. There are troubles all around, and people are losing loved ones all around us, as well. Some Covid-related, some not. These are simply tough times. I received word this morning that a young woman we have been praying for for the past two weeks, who had leukemia, but also came down with Covid, passed away, yesterday. She has seven kids, all home-schooled. It’s tragic, and it breaks my heart. And we wonder, when things like this happen, why God doesn’t act. Or maybe He did. His ways are so much higher than ours, and His understanding is infinitely beyond ours. But I guarantee that the “world,” the skeptics, mock statements like that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your Window, by Daryl Madden

Through Your window of presence
In prayer to reside
Of the Spiritual world
We’ll dwell on that side

Through Your window of grace
An insight is shown
Through the vision of soul
The unknown is known

Through Your window of sight
The world disappears
A glimpse of heaven
Of being appears

Through Your window of love
Of heavenly grace
Our home found in You
We can always embrace

Right about now, I’m longing for that third stanza, for the world to disappear. Please check out Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided.

“All those who sow, weeping, go out with songs of joy.”

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 
and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 
for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 
And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." 
And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 
(Mark 3:7-12 ESV)

People always flocked to Jesus because of what He was doing, not because of who He was. This is typical of human nature. We tend to read a passage like this and think that, because there were great crowds following Him, He was “successful.” This has translated into today’s mega-church. There are certain pastors around the country and the world who have managed to draw great crowds. But are they really “successful?”

I believe the measure of “success” is in the results. “The proof is in the pudding,” I’ve heard. For Jesus, I believe that, in the passage above, the evidence of success is in verse 11. The demons fell down before Him and declared His identity.

Just because a “church” is large does not mean that it is “successful.”

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.

There is a quote from Thomas Merton, in Spiritual Classics, which has grabbed my attention. “There are so many Christians who have practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and of the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness.” This quote is in a larger piece that speaks of the gift of contemplation to the Christian life.

Contemplation, as defined by Merton and others in the book I am reading, is nothing more than a way of paying intimate, close attention to God and His love for us, as well as our love for Him. In fact, Merton says that contemplation increases our love for Him. “It is the work of love and nothing is more effective in increasing our love for God.”

The condition, though, is closeness to God. We cannot remain at a distance, we cannot confine our lives “to a few routine exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty.” Oddly enough, such people do, in fact, avoid sin and “respect God as a Master.” But, says Merton, “their heart does not belong to Him. They are not really interested in Him, except in order to insure themselves against losing heaven and going to hell.”

Do we only invite God when we need to “smooth our difficulties and to dispense rewards?”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalms 1:1-6 ESV)

What obstacles stand in our way, in regard to this kind of interaction with God? What stereotypes do we need to work on, either about God, ourselves, or prayer?

One way of entering into contemplative prayer is to choose a passage of Scripture with rich meaning, such as Psalm 23, and read it, reflectively. When a particular phrase or word grabs the attention, focus on it. Contemplation is not, as some mistakenly think, “emptying the mind.” Far from it. However, it is largely intended to be wordless. This is harder for some of us who are inundated with words every day.

It is also suggested that visiting a quiet chapel, garden, or park would be helpful, if one is able to do that. I would go sit in the back yard, but, as mentioned earlier, it is prohibitively cold for that kind of activity, today.

Going back to that idea about us not having any idea of the immense love of God for us, Richard Foster comments that Merton seems to be teaching that “at its core contemplation is simply and profoundly falling in love with God over and over and over again.”

I am a little surprised that, after devoting four chapters to Job, Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, only devotes one to the Psalms. However, in that one, I believe he does them justice.

The Psalms are a prayer book/song book. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms the prayer book of the Bible. If I’m not mistaken, the Psalms are where Peterson began when he began paraphrasing The Message. His reasoning was to get prayers in the hands of the people.

You see, we have misconceptions about prayer. We tend to think we aren’t “good enough,” and need to wait until we “clean up our act.” Or, we believe our vocabulary to be inadequate. Peterson’s response to these ways of thinking was to put the Psalms in peoples’ hands and tell them, “Go home and pray these. You’ve got wrong ideas about prayer; the praying you find in these psalms will dispel the wrong ideas and introduce you to the real thing.”

People are generally shocked when they do what he asked.

Please, GOD, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. 
Treat me nice for a change; I'm so starved for affection. 
Can't you see I'm black and blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? 
GOD, how long will it take for you to let up?
(Psalms 6:1-3 MSG)
God, don't just watch from the sidelines. 
Come on! Run to my side! 
My accusers—make them lose face. 
Those out to get me—make them look Like idiots, 
while I stretch out, reaching for you, 
and daily add praise to praise. 
(Psalms 71:12-14 MSG)

“Untutored, we tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose that there must be an ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not.”

GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. 
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; 
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; 
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
 then guide me on the road to eternal life. 
(Psalms 139:1, 23-24 MSG)

These are not the prayers of “nice people. And, if there is any doubt about that (I’m adding this part myself), one need only look as far as Psalm 137.

Alongside Babylon's rivers we sat on the banks; 
we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion. 
Alongside the quaking aspens we stacked our unplayed harps; 
That's where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: 
"Sing us a happy Zion song!" 
Oh, how could we ever sing GOD's song in this wasteland? 
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, 
let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves. 
Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you, 
If I fail, O dear Jerusalem, to honor you as my greatest. 
GOD, remember those Edomites, 
and remember the ruin of Jerusalem, 
That day they yelled out, "Wreck it, smash it to bits!" 
And you, Babylonians—ravagers! 
A reward to whoever gets back at you for all you've done to us; 
Yes, a reward to the one who grabs your babies and smashes their heads on the rocks!
(Psalms 137:1-9 MSG)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
(Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19 ESV)

These are a couple of good verses to spark some contemplation, by the way.

Father, there have been a couple of good topics today. I pray for us, Your people, that we would dispense with any misplaced notions of what constitutes “success.” May we always see success through Your eyes, and the eyes of Jesus, taking note that the result is what marks whether something is successful. Regardless of how many people flock to our ministries or church services . . . are we reaching the “least of these?” Are we clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, providing healing help to the sick, comforting the dying, freeing the oppressed?

Help me to do better at understanding Your immense love for us/me. Help me to be better at contemplating these things, trying to simply sit and love You, looking at You without adding my own words (which is really hard). Draw me into depths of intimacy with You that defy explanation and description. Give me “experience” with You that cannot be described. Help me to fall in love with You over and over and over again.

And, as for prayer, I have long been aware that prayer is not just for “nice” or “good” people. If it were, I would not bother, because, most of the time, I am neither one. But also, give me patience and tenacity, especially when, after we have been praying, a mother of seven home-schooled children dies anyway. This kind of thing affects me greatly. But let it affect me in the right direction, driving me further into You, rather than away from You. You have blessed us with the Psalms, and I have been diving into them a lot for the past decade or so. Remind me that I need to stay in them more. Help me to embrace the language of prayer that we get from the prayer book of our Bible. And help me to be as honest as possible when I pray.

Thank You for Your everlasting love.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. 
I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:6 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Psalms and how they help me pray
2. for the everlasting love of God and how contemplation helps me enter into that love and fall in love with Him all over again'
3. that "success" isn't measured by how many people we attract
4. that those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy (Psalm 126)
5. for the sweet mercies of God, falling from heaven, fresh every morning
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Rumors or Reality

Good morning. It is Wednesday, the nineteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,323

Only four days until Hamilton! I’ve gotten both emails and phone calls encouraging me to visit the Bass Performance Hall website to see protocols for entering the theater, so it appears to be on schedule.

I’m up before C, this morning. She gets up at 6:45 when she’s working from home. I sometimes sleep until she gets up, but this morning, I was awake, so I got up. I will admit it was a rough night of sleep with the new CPAP machine. It’s different, and I think the pressure is lower. I just have to get used to it. I believe it will get better.

I work from 9:15-6:15 today, in circulation. The schedule has settled back into normality, now, so that’s good. Last night went well, and there were only a couple of carts to be shelved. A third one was added, later, by the tech services folks, but I didn’t have time to get to it.

I’m moving on to the devotional, because I don’t want to run out of time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

open to the word of God.

Heart humbled to his will.

offered is the servant of God."

“In all that is going on around me, all the movement, all the noise, Can I find a moment of calmness and stillness now, Can I feel God’s presence here,  And surrender myself to it, Opening myself to listen to God’s word?”

Father, still my heart and soul as I enter into Your presence, seeking life and wisdom from Your Word. Guide my meditations, this morning.

And David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 
And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth." 

And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!" 

Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 
And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 
And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 
The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field." 
Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 
and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand." 
When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. 
The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 
(1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 ESV)

This is a long, familiar, passage of Scripture, often referred to as the story of David and Goliath. Often cited in sporting events, we see an underdog defeating the favorite “champion.” We often celebrate when an underdog wins (unless the favorite was the team we always root for, of course).

But we go deeper into this story. The thing that I take away from it is nestled in verse 37. The faith of David is seen in his statement to Saul. “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul had no comeback to this, and simply told David to go, “and the LORD be with you.”

It is easy to see David as being cocky and arrogant in this story. He was young. We really don’t know, I don’t think, how old he was, but they keep calling him a “youth.” The Hebrew word is “na’ar,” which literally means, “a boy” or “a girl,” somewhere between birth through adolescence. But he was old enough to have worked as a shepherd, and he had, reportedly, killed a lion and a bear in that service. And arrogant as he seemed, he credited the Lord with those feats.

And he was ready to give God all the glory in this battle, as well. As we look at the different “players” in this story, Saul, Goliath (and his shield-bearer), David, and God (mentioned eight times), I see God as the most important. That may be obvious to some, but maybe not to others. I believe that the Lord directed that stone, as it flew from the slingshot in David’s hand.

There is an aspect to this story that we don’t, I believe, often consider. In the midst of the miracle, there is something we miss. David was a child. Maybe he was twelve or thirteen. Maybe. But he was most definitely younger, by at least a few years, than the minimum age that we in the U.S. determine a young man or woman old enough to go to war. He grew up in a culture that was well-familiar with battle and war. And he willingly, as a child, went out to fight against and kill a man.

This is not simply some fairy tale, with a glamorous ending. This is life in the trenches, and, perhaps something that should be considered as we ponder the miracle. To me, it is chilling. It is brutal. But, to David, it seems to have been just another day. The reason I even bring this up is because it is far too easy for us, sitting in our easy chairs, to judge others.

I never had to go fight in a war. I was never in the military. I missed out on the draft, by the grace of God, I say. Others weren’t so lucky. Some of my friends enlisted and served willingly. God had other plans for my life. And I am grateful beyond measure that I never had to face any of that. So I read this story, now, from a slightly different perspective, understanding that I don’t truly understand anything about war and its elements. There is also a lot I don’t understand about how God works and the things He does. But I, like David, trust Him to fight my “battles” for me.

Father, in this tale of underdog beats champion, I see Your strength and I see Your purpose. I see Your orchestration of events. But it is easy for me to look at this history, which I have read hundreds of time, and see how You worked through it. In fact, every time I read it, I can see more of You. It’s not so easy to look at current circumstances and feel the same way, because we haven’t seen the outcome. We have no idea what is “around the bend” for us. What I do know, though, is that, as I walk in Your Kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. And, like David, I trust in Your hand to provide and protect me. And, like Job, I can firmly say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

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

(From Pray As You Go)

As I quoted a verse from Job, it reminds me of Eugene H. Peterson’s chapters on Job in Symphony of Salvation. I find it interesting that Peterson thought Job to be important enough to dedicate four chapters to the book. The fourth one is called “Entering the Suffering,” and primarily deals with our tendency, as humans, to try to prevent and/or alleviate suffering.

Peterson cautions against doing like Jobs “friends,” who pontificated while believing that they could actually “fix” his troubles, or make him “better.” I addressed that in a previous blog entry.

“We may look at our suffering friends and imagine how they could have better marriages, better-behaved children, better mental and emotional health.” The first thing we need to know is that, regardless of how well-intentioned (or even accurate) our assessment may be, “we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems.” Never, EVER tell someone, “I know how you fell.”

No. You don’t. Even if you have been through the same thing, yourself, you most certainly DO NOT KNOW HOW THEY FEEL!

A second thing to understand is that they may not want our help or advice. Notice that Job never asked his friends for advice.

There is an ironic third thing to understand. “More often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more. When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.” This thought is directed more toward people who have this fallacious idea that God never wants His people to suffer.

So, looking back up there at our natural tendency, which is to prevent or alleviate suffering, perhaps we should not focus on that, but, rather, simply focus on “entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able – entering the mystery and looking around for God.” Don’t feel sorry for the person who is suffering. “Look up to them, learn from them, and – if they will let us – join them in protest and prayer.”

Granted, it is difficult to know exactly how to follow Job’s lead, here. But we do know that God finally spoke. His answer, though, wasn’t exactly what Job was looking for.

And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: . . . 
Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!  . . . 
"And have you ever ordered Morning, 'Get up!' told Dawn, 'Get to work!' So you could seize Earth like a blanket and shake out the wicked like cockroaches? . . . 
"Can you get the attention of the clouds, and commission a shower of rain? Can you take charge of the lightning bolts and have them report to you for orders? 
(Job 38:1, 4, 12-13, 34-35 MSG)

The book of Job should be read “prayerfully and meditatively” as we face questions that arise during suffering, when our lives don’t turn out the way we planned or expected. We can ask the questions . . . there is no harm in this. We may get stock answers from “friends,” but we keep asking, maintaining our dignity in suffering. Eventually, we realize that “suffering calls our lives into question, not God’s. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us.”

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
(Job 42:5-6 MSG)

Father, may we all stop living by rumors and strive to know You in reality.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I pray that, as I walk through this day, I will be aware of the suffering of people. Perhaps not anyone I encounter directly, but simply knowing that there are people who are suffering. If any of my friends enter into such suffering, help me have the wisdom to enter into it with them, not offering advice or help, but, rather, simply being with them. When things don’t go the way we expect, may Your Spirit enable us to ask hard questions of You, boldly, not unlike David as he faced Goliath, knowing that You can take it, and will not be angered or offended at our questions. Most of all, make Yourself known to us, through all of our life-circumstances, good or “bad.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The revelation of GOD is whole and pulls our lives together. 
The signposts of GOD are clear and point out the right road. 
The life-maps of GOD are right, showing the way to joy. 
The directions of GOD are plain and easy on the eyes. 
GOD's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, 
with a lifetime guarantee. 
The decisions of GOD are accurate down to the nth degree. 
God's Word is better than a diamond, 
better than a diamond set between emeralds. 
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring, 
better than red, ripe strawberries. 
(Psalms 19:7-10 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have the ability to read, and comprehend what I read
2. for the ability to quiet my soul and know the presence of God
3. that I have learned to trust in the Lord in all circumstances
4. that my life has been relatively free from suffering and has been peaceful
5. for the Word of God and the value it has in my life

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Prayer for Unity

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,322

Only five days until Hamilton!

I’ve piddled a bit too much, this morning, and found myself with barely an hour to get my devotional in. It wouldn’t matter, but I have to go pick up my new CPAP machine, this morning, at 11:00 AM. I figure I will probably stop by Subway afterward, for lunch for C and S (and their dinner, as well), since C is working from home, this week. Then I get to work at the library from 4:15-8:15, this evening.

The Rams pounded the Cardinals 34-11 last night, so the divisional rounds are set. Saturday, the Bengals will play the Oilers Titans, and the 49ers will play the Packers. Honestly, I don’t care at all about either of those games, other than I find that I cannot root for Aaron Rogers after his fiasco behavior regarding Covid vaccines.

On Sunday, the Rams will play the Buccaneers and the Bills will play the Chiefs. I’m rooting against the Buccaneers and for the Bills. But I really don’t care. I probably won’t watch any of the games.

I can’t help but wonder . . . if the Super Bowl winds up being the Bucs and Packers, will it be the lowest-watched Super Bowl in TV history? At least half of the country hates both quarterbacks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Restore My Being, by Daryl Madden

Into your Presence
I come before
In my humanness
A time to adore

With shoulders of burden
Of stress that I store
It all melts away
Poured out on the floor

And worries and fears
As I start to pray
For by your grace
They all drift away

The greatest of all
Through the mercy of You
For all of my sins
Are washed away too

To restore my being
Of blessing to find
Gives this broken soul
A taste of the divine

A lovely prayer to begin my morning. Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

"My soul rests, my soul rests, in your embrace
My spirit sings, my spirit sings all your praise."
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 
and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 
And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 
how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 
And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." 
(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t recall ever hearing of this before, but I believe it is significant and something important for which to be praying.

Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in the realm of Christianity. In the reading from Mark, the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus and His followers for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” This sounds a lot like yesterday’s reading, where they were criticized for not doing “religious things.”

So Jesus is criticized for not being religious enough. Legalism abounded in His day, just as it does today. Even today, in the midst of “Christianity,” there is a way of thinking that says, “You can’t be a Christian and ___________.” But truly, Jesus knows nothing of this way of thinking. According to Scripture, there is only one way to be a “Christian” (by the way, that word only occurs three times in the whole Bible, and none of those describes how to be one), and that is to be a follower of Christ.

The modern “church,” just as the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, is quick to be critical. This surely accounts for the division in the church, especially in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but the “church” in the United States (perhaps even the “Church”) is as divided as the nation is, pretty much 50/50. It’s very sad. There is a severe shortage of “love one another.”

The thought, in the reading, that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around, leads me down a path of realization that the law has a purpose, but it is not the purpose that many people try to use it for. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of all. Scripture is clear that the law’s intent was to point out our flaws and shortcomings, not to be followed jot and tittle.

As we pray, we need to be praying for unity within the Church of Jesus, the Body of Christ. We need to stop being so judgmental and critical of one another (I have been guilty of this, myself, and it is something I have struggled with mightily over the past years). We are all only human, we are made from dust, and we are far from perfect, all of us. We will make mistakes, and none of us has a corner on the market of “truth,” or what is wrong and right. We all have our own opinions about things, but those opinions, in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. Our job is to love God and love people. Those are the two commands upon which the entirety of the Law and Prophets hinge, according to Jesus, Himself.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be aware of the time of prayer that is being called for, for unity in the Church. I pray that we can somehow manage to set aside our differences of opinion (largely on things that are not of eternal significance) and love one another. I pray that some can stop being critical of others for not being “religious” enough, and I pray that the other half can stop being critical of those they deem to be “too religious.” May we all simply follow Christ, doing the things that He said and did, and love one another, doing whatever needs to be done for “the least of these.”

Help me to find some time to be quiet and reflect as this day continues.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock,
 in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my strength, my rock, and my fortress
2. for the possibility of unity within the Body of Christ; I believe it is possible
3. for the privilege of prayer, and the responsibility, as well
4. for times of quiet and reflection, during the day
5. for the blessing of my life and family
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Fixers

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

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,321

Six days until Hamilton!

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Pray As You Go)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today I am grateful:

1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation
2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them
3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people
4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts
5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, 
standing tall in his bright presence, 
fresh and celebrating— 
to our one God, 
our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master,
 be glory, 
majesty, 
strength, 
and rule before all time, and now,
 and to the end of all time. 
YES. 
(Jude 1:24-25 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Inviting the Lord

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

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Pray As You Go)

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Was Job Patient?

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

May the peace of Christ be with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, on to the important stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

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

Grace and peace, friends.