Humble Confidence

Today is Monday, the sixth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,461

I’ll confess that I have been slightly confused about when Ordinary Time occurs, partially because of a devotional book I used last year. The primary Church calendar, however, shows Ordinary Time to occur between Epiphany Sunday (usually the first Sunday in January) until Ash Wednesday, and then from Pentecost Sunday (which was yesterday) up until Advent. Hence today beginning the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.
Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! 
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. 
Your unfailing love will last forever. 
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the understanding that the purpose of my life is to love; to love my family, to love Jesus, to love the Church, and to love my neighbor as myself
2. that I don't have any "agenda" for my life, other than the above declaration;
3. that I am a child of God, but also that He has led me down a path of humility in that relationship, because, not only is He my Father, He is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe!
4. that I will be praising God for "ten thousand years and then forevermore" (Matt Redman)
5. that my joy is not dependent upon my happiness; I may not always smile, but there is always hope and celebration in my soul
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! 
Sing about the glory of his name! 
Tell the world how glorious he is. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
 Everything on earth will worship you; 
they will sing your praises, 
shouting your name in glorious songs.” 
Come and see what our God has done, 
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
(Psalms 66:1-5 NLT)
Come and listen, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell you what he did for me. 
For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. 
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer 
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “confident.” The quote used comes from Maya Angelou.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”

Let me say, right off the bat, that I have no problem with the thought of confidence before God. I believe that Scripture teaches this.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

But there is a stark difference between confidence and arrogance. And we must not cross that line when we come before the Lord, in my opinion. I really don’t have a problem with Ms. Angelou’s quote, either, in the context of Hebrews 4:16.

I do, however, have a problem with where today’s reading takes the idea. The writer, Jeanette, applies this to a mindset of prayer, and relates a time when friends at a Bible study told her, “Hold up your head when you talk to God. You are His child. You have every right to come to Him and ask for what you need and want.” (I added the italics.)

This, in my opinion, crosses that line. Especially that bit about asking for what we want. I started to write that I don’t have a problem asking God for things that I want. But that’s not quite accurate. I’ll admit that I do struggle some with asking God for things that I want, but don’t necessarily need. I even struggle with praying for other peoples’ prayer requests when they ask me to pray for something that they want, but don’t necessarily need. It’s not my place to judge, for sure. And I will pray for what they ask me to pray for (unless it’s political . . . I won’t go there), but I will also let God know how I feel about that.

Haha. That last sentence is kind of ridiculous, you know? “I will also let God know how I feel about that.” As if He already doesn’t know that, right??

We say, sometimes, the most foolish things about God and our relationships with Him. He knows everything! He already knows how I feel about that prayer request.

So, do we have a “right” to ask God for anything we want?

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
(John 15:7 NLT)

Here’s the thing. I think there’s a catch there. It’s not a “blank check” as some folks want to believe. Yes, we may ask for anything we want. But I firmly believe that, if I am remaining (abiding) in Christ and His words are abiding in me, that will have a drastic effect on whatever I want! I won’t want the same things.

I can speak from experience on this. Not that I have perfectly nailed down this concept of abiding. Far from it. However, as I work toward that, and when I do abide in Christ and His words abide in me, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for the same things that I would have asked for, earlier in my life.

I find myself praying that God would bless my “enemies” rather than curse them. I find myself praying more for things like unity in the Body of Christ, because that’s one of the more important things that I want when I am abiding in Him.

“Jeanette” naively compares us asking God for something to her own children asking her for stuff. She doesn’t want them to hang her head, but to ask confidently. I would like to see how faithful she is to that belief when her kids come to her in arrogance, asking for something that they want, that might harm them in some way.

Her prayer at the end says, “Dear Lord, help me remember that although You are God, You are also my Father.” I would turn that around. It’s true. He is both. But, lest we get too comfortable, we must also remember that our Father is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. A little humility is in order, I do believe.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Praise the LORD, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. 
He makes the nations submit to me. 
O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, 
mere mortals that you should think about them?
 For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NLT)

“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”
(Job 42:3 NLT)

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

And look! What more reason for humility do we need than what we find in these Scriptures?? We are but a breath, in comparison with our eternal, infinite, majestic God! “My entire lifetime is just a moment to you!” How could I come before this God with any thought of arrogance, with any though of demanding something that I seem to think I have a right to???

This life is so very short. But eternity is long. And, as the following song says, we will have 10,000 years and then forevermore to sing His praises! Hallelujah.

To me, this is a very stirring moment, as I watch and listen to Matt unable to contain his emotions while singing this praise song.

The same mindset that would have us come before our Father in arrogance also brings us the idea that we should always be smiling. And I think the bottom line in all of this is that we must remember that there is nothing “fake” about being a Christian.

The idea of “fake it until you make it” has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. This life is real. There is nothing, in my opinion, more real than walking in Jesus Christ. He is Reality.

“It is a myth that the Christian always wears a smile. There is a stream of joy that runs through the Christian life and keeps surfacing in praise and glad service. There is a powerful note of celebration in the church’s life and the Christian’s witness. But that is not the kind of smile that maintains itself by ignoring or denying everything that is troubling or difficult.”

I used to work with someone who displayed what I call “toxic positivity.” She could not bear any negative thought whatsoever, about anything.

We do, as followers of Christ, face difficulties in this world. “We must wrestle with unanswerable questions. If we take seriously the commands of God and give ourselves seriously to the task of loving our neighbors and our enemies, we are going to find ourselves in conflict with others, even find ourselves looking silly and naive – a laughingstock, in short.”

We will feel, at times, that God is unfair. I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt that. And, even worse, there is the danger of beginning to think, “If only I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way. If I just had more faith, these blasphemous thoughts would never cross my mind. If only I could be well balanced and peaceful and accepting of God’s will in my life, like the really good Christians!”

But here’s the thing. As Christians, we are not people who never have doubts or feelings of despair. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you (and probably lying to themselves, as well). As Christians, we are people who believe in spite of those things! We obey God’s commands when we don’t feel like it, and we hope, even when it looks like there is no hope.

I certainly struggle with these things. I look around me, right now, and see very little hope for this nation. It is more divided than I have ever seen it, in my 64 years, and it is, quite frankly, so foolish that I can hardly stand it. The political division in the country right now is asinine. It makes no sense. But guess what? My hope is not in this country. My hope is not in a political party (either one, or any of the alternatives). My hope is not in a president, past, present, or future.

My hope is in Jesus. And when I look around and see no hope, I still have hope because of Him. It is because of Him that I can sing “10,000 Reasons.” It is because of Him that I can go before the God of the universe with humble confidence, and ask for whatever I want, knowing, or at least hoping, that “whatever I want” is also what He wants.

And what does He want? If you’ve read this blog at all, you already know what I’m going to say. He wants us to love Him with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love the saints in the same way that Jesus loves us.

“The picture we have of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows him agonizing over the decision of the Cross. He struggled with his own feelings. He wrestled with the will of God and finally chose the will of God. And out of this struggle came something we call good news.”

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

Father, there may be too much stuff here, today. There is certainly a lot to pray about. I pray, Father, that people would not be subjected to false teachings. I know that Your Word says they will come. And come, they have, in droves. I won’t name names, but there are certain people that I truly believe are teaching serious error in Your kingdom. I pray for truth to be known. I also pray that we, Your children, would have the confidence to come before You boldly, but also have the sense to come before You in humility. Yes, You are our Father, and You love us. But You are also Almighty God, and have all the power.

I come before You as one who has surrendered any “rights” to anything that I might want. Therefore, when I read Jesus’s words about asking for whatever I want, I take that in context of abiding in Your Word and Your Word abiding in me. I do not have a right to anything I want, because I have surrendered those rights.

I thank You for whatever life I have on this earth. I am grateful for the number of years that I have had, so far, and will graciously accept whatever number of years You grant me, going forward. I pray that, through the rest of those years, I will heed Your Word and do what You have commanded us to do. I pray that I will always shove my opinions into the “back seat,” and simply do my job, which is to love You and love people. And I pray that this example will speak more loudly than ten thousand words.

I thank You for the hope of “ten thousand years and then forevermore.” That hope is what keeps me going, some days. And I look forward with great anticipation to that day when that multitude from every tribe, nation, language, and people will stand before You, arms lifted high, shouting and worshiping Your holiness and Your Name! You are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and glory and honor and blessing! Worthy Is the Lamb! Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

All glory to You, Lord, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Trust His Plans

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the sixteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ envelop you today.

Day 23,379

Yesterday was another busy day. I took C’s car to the tire store, right after I finished the blog. There was a nail (or something) in the tire, so it only cost $15 to repair. While I was out, I went ahead and got her car inspected, as the inspection/license tag expires this month.

As I was heading to work, yesterday evening, the tire pressure light came on again, causing instant anxiety. I had left the tire gauge at home, so I had to wait until I got home to check the tires, but they were all okay. The warning didn’t come on, as I was driving from home to the tire store, probably because it’s not far enough. I’m thinking that it was still remembering the low pressure from the morning. These cars have some kind of calibration that has to be done in order to get the warning light to go off after air has been added. Once I did that, last night, the light went off. C is working from home, so she probably won’t drive the car today.

My PC is up at work, so the Computer Center manager can take a look at it today, so I am typing this on my laptop. It should look mostly the same, but there might be subtle differences. I will be at the library all day, today, in the circulation department. I’m not sure what to expect today, as it is Spring Break. This is my first Spring Break at the library. It might be busier than a normal Wednesday. Or not. I guess I will find out.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that C's tires were okay when I got home from work, yesterday
2. for laughter
3. that God makes everything beautiful in His own time
4. for the spiritual disciplines that help us stay on the right path and resist the world's attempts to make us fit
5. for the plans God has for me, even though I don't know what they are

The prayer word for today is “laugh.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American author and poet, is quoted as saying, “Laugh and world laughs with you.” They don’t include the next line, which kind of gets more to the point of the quote. “Laugh and world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.”

But today, we focus on the laughing part. When we laugh, we acknowledge that we aren’t taking things too seriously. It might even be said that laughing is at least a mild indicator that we are trusting God (as long as the “laugh” isn’t one of those mocking, sarcastic laughs . . . we all know what I mean).

I believe that our Father in heaven has a sense of humor. Seriously, just look at a giraffe or a duck-billed platypus. I believe Jesus had a sense of humor, and I think it can be found in some of His words, if we look closely enough. Think, for example, about His words about taking a speck out of someone’s eye when you have a log in your own. I have to believe that this example was, while making a point, intended to be humorous, as well.

I have always been fond of artists’ portrayals of Jesus laughing. There are many different versions from which to choose. While it still seems to portray Jesus as “white,” this is one of my favorites.

When is the last time you laughed in prayer? I can’t remember, either. Perhaps I need to consider that, today. And, hey, laughing doesn’t always mean you think something is funny, does it? Laughter could also indicate joy.

"Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. 
"Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."
(Luke 6:21 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
(Romans 8:26 NIV)

These verses may not seem to have much in common, but I think they can go along with the passage from Ecclesiastes, above. God’s timing is perfect. I’ve heard it said that He is never early, never late. We may not always agree with that, but “in His time,” or “in its time,” is a very important phrase in that passage. He knows His plans for us. And He makes everything beautiful, in its time, or in His time. Because of this, we do not always know how to pray. And many’s the time I have relied on that verse from Romans 8 when I didn’t know how to pray. I have trusted in the Holy Spirit to intercede for me, many times.

Eugene H. Peterson addresses something important in a reading called “On Square Pegs.” He says, “The present age prepares roles for people and expects us to fit into them.” We are expected to be “good consumers,” “indulgent hedonists,” “proud owners,” “ruthless competitors,” and “satisfied customers.” But we Christians don’t fit that mold. “People of faith have sharp, awkward edges. We are square pegs in round holes.”

Society attempts to erode those edges through many different forms of media. And, unfortunately, we do fall prey to many of them, from time to time. I have resisted some, but have also not resisted some. Paul warns us in a favorite verse from Romans.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

One of the ways that we do this is through the spiritual disciplines or practices. “With prayer and intention, we must encourage and direct the basic practices of faith to maintain our sharp identity – as creatures a little less than God – against the world that is trying constantly to adjust us into the comfortable mediocrity of being little more than animals.”

One caution, though (not from Peterson, but from me). This doesn’t mean that we have to act like jerks.

Father, I confess that there are areas where I have fallen prey to the whims and desires of this world. But there are also areas where I have not, and, by the Spirit’s power, hopefully will not. I trust in Your power and grace to keep me on Your path, and keep my edges “square.” One of the reasons that I am trying to engage in “fasting” during this Lenten season is to work on those spiritual disciplines and practices. I pray for strength as I do that. And help us all to be a little bit more kind when we are resisting the world’s attempts to make us fit.

I thank You for Your plans for me. I don’t know what they are, but I trust You; I trust that they are for my good, to “prosper” me and not harm me. I trust that Your timing is perfect, in all things. And I trust that the Spirit intercedes for me when I don’t know how to pray.

And help me to laugh more today.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Thousand Hallelujahs

Today is Sunday, the twentieth of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today.

Day 23, 355

It was an interesting day, yesterday, at the library. Not a bad day, by any means, but not ordinary. We are normally not fully-staffed on Saturdays, because there aren’t usually any programs for the children or anything like that. So there’s normally, like one assistant librarian and two aides in circulation.

Well, the assistant that was scheduled for yesterday is sometimes afflicted with migraines, and she woke up with one yesterday. Sometimes, she will make it in later, when she gets some relief, but that never happened, yesterday. So it was just the other aide and me. But we got through it fine. Debra, the other aide, is well-seasoned in circ process and procedure, having worked there seventeen years, so she knows pretty much everything to know about that department. And we both know the things that have to be done every day. There are a few “off-desk” tasks that didn’t get done, yesterday, but those are not absolute essentials. We took turns clearing the book drops and pulling holds for patrons, and the day was fine.

I will say that I processed at least six new library cards, yesterday, which is, I think, a record for me. And I love giving people library cards. At the end of the day, we had to move a bunch of furniture off of carpeted areas, because the carpet was getting cleaned last night, so I helped with that, as well. The funny thing is, that, in spite of all that, the day seemed to crawl buy.

Today, we are zooming for our church gathering, and I’m not going to be finished with this by the time we begin. I managed to sleep until after 8:00 this morning, which is very nice, for a change. I don’t think we have any other plans for the day, other than trimming my beard/hair, at some point.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing:
Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift,
which is love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtue,
without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you.
Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer)
Sing GOD a brand-new song! 
Earth and everyone in it, sing! 
Sing to GOD—worship GOD! 
Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, 
Take the news of his glory to the lost, 
News of his wonders to one and all! 
For GOD is great, 
and worth a thousand Hallelujahs. 
(Psalms 96:1-4 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for grapes and cantaloupe (and other fruit, too)
2. for Velveeta cheese and Rotel and Fritos
3. for puppies and kittens
4. for the amazing staff that I work with at Hurst Public Library
5. for a thousand Hallelujahs
They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
(Acts 2:46-47 MSG)

As author Luke continues the story of Jesus, he is the only one of the original four Gospel writers who does so. “Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God – they are in on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us.”

Because of the lives of these disciples, we seen about midway through the book,

And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.
(Acts 13:49 MSG)

When we wonder why we don’t see the kind of Holy Spirit power in our churches today, we might consider the number of people who are satisfied with being mere spectators.

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

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
(Psalms 68:4 ESV)
But I will sing of your strength;
 I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. 
For you have been to me a fortress 
and a refuge in the day of my distress. 
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, 
for you, O God, are my fortress, 
the God who shows me steadfast love. 
(Psalms 59:16-17 ESV)
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; 
I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 
(Psalms 104:33 ESV)
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, 
and the prisoners were listening to them, 
and suddenly there was a great earthquake, 
so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. 
And immediately all the doors were opened, 
and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 
(Acts 16:25-26 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is a good one, and one that I have been working on for years.

Simplicity.

Irish writer and poet, Thomas Moore, is quoted as saying, “The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

We, as humans, we tend to complicate things, don’t we? The writer of this reading, identified only as “Julie,” speaks of planning a “simple” dinner with friends, which quickly becomes more and more complicated, in the planning process. But, she says, she needs to remember that “freedom and beauty are found in simplicity.”

I keep being drawn back to that bit from Brother Andrew where he insisted that something as mundane as washing dishes is “prayer.” I went for a walk one afternoon, and was drawn closer to the Lord simply through the interaction with nature, having a great experience just watching a stream flow under a bridge on which I was standing.

I long for more of this simplicity, and it is only my own fault that I don’t experience it more. I mean, seriously . . . all I would have to do is go out and sit in my back yard for a while and be silent and alone, just contemplating the Lord and His Word.

Father, I thank You for all that You do and have done and will do in our lives. I am thankful that You have put it in my heart to not be just a spectator in Your kingdom. There is more that I could be doing to participate, though, so I’m not resting on any accomplishments. Show me where I can do better and act more faithfully.

I praise You for the songs. I thank You for the strength and power that comes in singing Your praises, those “thousand hallelujahs” that can issue forth from the mouths of Your saints. In fact, I wait in great anticipation to be part of that scene depicted in Revelation where the millions of saints sing praises to You, saints from every nation, tribe, and tongue. I pray that You open my heart, open my mouth, and loosen my tongue, that I might sing more praises to You.

Show me more ways toward simplicity, Father, in all that I do. Help me to not complicate things, but work toward simplifying them. Show me the simplicity in the everyday tasks that I do, and the value that they provide my soul.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

When the Line Fades

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the ninth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,344

There’s not much going on around here, today. C is working from home, Mama is here and planning to go back to Mineral Wells tomorrow. I have to go in to “work” for an hour today, for a meeting, and I’m planning to cook Pecan Crusted Buttermilk Chicken tonight, for dinner. I have a grocery order scheduled for delivery, around lunch time. That’s about it. Should be a “chill” day.

It was a good evening at the library (starting to sound like a broken record, right?), last night. I really love my library people, and they know it, too. There’s always something to talk about, whether it be music we like or books (imagine that), or, most recently, Wordle. I introduced one of them to Dordle, yesterday. Dordle is like “double Wordle.” Here’s my Wordle score for today:

Wordle 235 2/6*

🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Yeah, I got lucky.

And here’s my Dordle score:

Daily Dordle #0016 5&7/7
⬜⬜⬜⬜🟨 ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜ ⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨🟨⬜🟨 ⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜
🟨🟨🟨🟩🟩 ⬜🟩⬜🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟨⬜⬜🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
zaratustra.itch.io/dordle

As you can see, Dordle has two words! The way it works is, you type in a word, and it shows up on both sides (two columns of five letters), telling you if that letter is in that word and if it is in the right position. Once you get one of the words right, the rest of the guesses are dark, and it only types in the other word. So far, I have not guessed the second word first.

Dordle hasn’t quite caught on like Wordle, just yet. I have also heard that the NY Times has bought Wordle. If they start charging for it, I’ll quit playing, as I’m sure many others will.

Time for another cup of coffee. Be right back.

I’ve discovered a design that I’m getting on a new t-shirt. It will be ready next week.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are here for me;
You will not withhold Your love;
I am here for You.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
(Psalms 40:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies smilin' at me (not the song)
2. that God is good; He is truly the only One worthy of being called "good"
3. for the freedom that comes when we forgive
4. for the confidence to pray specific prayers, for myself and for others
5. for those times when the veil between heaven and earth seems to fade, and we get a glimpse of the other side

I half-expected today’s prayer word to be “everywhere,” but it is not. It is “free.” Again, I find that this is a word that could mean many things to many different people. The quote by renowned Christian author and Reformed theologian Lewis B. Smedes, says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an odd animal. Jesus had some things to say about forgiveness.

Pay attention to yourselves!
 If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 
and if he sins against you seven times in the day, 
and turns to you seven times,
 saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
(Luke 17:3-4 ESV)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(Mark 11:25 ESV)

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

I’ve struggled mightily with that last one, believe me. It almost sounds like it makes our salvation based on “works,” rather than grace. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today’s topic is “free.” When we free others by forgiving them, we also free ourselves. If I carry a grudge, I’m the one bearing the burden. I also think it is interesting that that passage in Mark doesn’t say anything about repentance. If I’m praying, and I have something against someone else, I’m supposed to instantly forgive them on the spot.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 
"Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly."
 And he said to him, 
"I will come and heal him." 
But the centurion replied, 
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, 
but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 
For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. 
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, 
and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, 
and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 
"Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment. 
(Matthew 8:5-10, 13 ESV)

Read this passage in light of yesterday’s discussion on prayer. Is prayer difficult? There is no answer to that question. Or, perhaps, the answer is, “Yes . . . and no.” The centurion found prayer to be easy. Yet, he did not deem himself worthy to have Jesus under his roof.

We, as stated yesterday, seem to prefer praying for huge things, world-wide things. Or maybe it’s that we subconsciously are praying for things that we know won’t cause us to have to do anything. There’s a thought, huh? I mean, what can I, individually, do about “world peace?” But if I pray for God to feed the hungry, He might impress upon me to take some food to someone, driving me out of my comfort zone.

What is it, though, that keeps me from voicing specific prayer requests? I don’t think it’s fear. But that might be it for some people. The fear being, “What if He doesn’t answer?” My perspective on that is that God will always answer. It just may not be the answer I want. And then I have to deal with disappointment.

There’s a thought that I see, sometimes, in contemporary music, that says, that God will never let you down.

I’m sorry to tell you this (no I’m not), but yes, He will. God will let you down. It’s inevitable. If you follow Jesus correctly, He will disappoint you. He never promised not to.

You see, it’s not about you! It’s not about me! This is one area where the modern church has completely lost its way. Was it yesterday when I read something about people turning God into an object they can use for their benefit? Turns out that’s not so modern is it?

So if I don’t ask God for something specific, I won’t be disappointed, right? But why bother praying at all, then? Why even ask for “world peace?”

Here’s the thing. If I’m going to ask for something specific, I’d best be ready to act when God begins answering, because His answer to that prayer might very well include me doing something. I’m encouraged to “experiment” with prayer, thinking of something to ask God for, over the next week. I’ll try to remember to revisit that, later.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

GOD is good, 
a hiding place in tough times. 
He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, 
No matter how desperate the trouble. 
(Nahum 1:7-8 MSG)
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 
(Proverbs 3:24 NIV)
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, 
because the LORD sustains me. 
(Psalms 3:5 NIV)
He will not let your foot slip— 
he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 
(Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I echo Ashley Kappel’s sentiment. I long for those moments, when it does seem as though the veil between heaven and earth is thinner, fading, and we get a glimpse of the “other side.” I hope that this experience becomes more common as I draw closer to You.

I praise You for being You . . . You are good, as Jesus said, the only One who can truly be called “good.” You are truly a hiding place, my fortress or strong tower, where I can run and hide when I feel oppressed by our enemy. You are always there to help us, and all we have to do is cry out to You in our desperate need.

I pray for the faith to pray for specific needs, things that are beyond our scope of fulfilling. Help me to believe enough to truly pray for healing, or, as the case may be, for something as small as new shoes. Show me what to pray for, and for whom to pray. And then give me the confidence to come before Your throne. I praise You for the mercy You give. You are mercy, the very embodiment of it.

And help me to always be forgiving. Even if there is no sign of repentance from the other party, help me to release whatever it is that is holding me back. I want nothing between me and Thee. Help me to be truly free, Father, and help me to free others as well. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

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.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Here, There, and Everywhere

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the eighth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,343

I’m up early, this morning. Earlier than I would like to be, but it is what it is. However, I am also striving to head back into habits that I practiced, pre-retirement; habits that were having good results in my health journey. One of those was getting up early and having a decent breakfast, first thing, heavy on protein, light on carbs. I’m also going back to tracking my food in the WW app, which I have not been doing consistently since before Thanksgiving.

This also means that I will stop staying up until almost midnight, on nights when I don’t work the next day. I need to stop doing that, anyway, because I’m frequently not able to go back to sleep after C gets up to go to her job.

Today is my half-shift day, working from 4:15-8:15. I will run out and grab some Subway for lunch, for Mama, S, and me, and get something for dinner for them, as well as C. Although this is not a week in which I would be working on Wednesday, there is a meeting that I need to attend tomorrow, so I will be going to the library at 1:45, and staying until 3:00 (or until the meeting is over). The current plan is for Mama to go back to her house in Mineral Wells on Thursday. We don’t know how long she will stay there, before coming back here, but there is no hurry to make that decision, either, as far as I know.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Into Falling Deeper, by Daryl Madden

A time of our prayer
With Savior and keeper
A gift of His grace
Into falling deeper

Deeper into comfort
Knowing of our being
Deeper into rest
Deeper into freeing

Deeper into drifting
Knowing Presence of
Deeper into dwelling
Deeper into love

Deeper into peace
Knowing of the true
Deeper into home
Deeper into You

This expresses so well what I try to do, each morning. Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at the link provided. Here is a haiku that I just wrote, inspired by Daryl’s poem.

The deeper I go,
The calmer is the water;
Drifting into peace.

And as I drift deeper, this morning, I strive to be present in the moment, “here,” as we considered yesterday.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
 Jesus, the Son of God, 
let us hold fast our confession. 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
 but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, 
yet without sin.
 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
(Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, because of Jesus, the Son of God, I have confidence to draw near to the throne of grace
2. for the power of prayer in the faith of a mustard seed
3. that God is here, there, and everywhere, present in every person's story, whether they acknowledge Him or not
4. that God willingly bestows blessings, wherever He is
5. for the words of prophets who teach us how to respond to Your presence and Your voice, rather than trying to use You for our own benefit

Today’s prayer word is “there.” Right on the heels of yesterday’s word, “here.” I can’t help myself . . . my first thought was of a Beatles song, “Here, There, and Everywhere.” In fact, as I skim down the page of the reading, the title of that song is included in the prayer for today. I’m skeptical that this was intentional.

The featured verse for today is Psalm 133:3.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. 
For there the LORD bestows his blessing, 
even life forevermore.
(Psalms 133:3 NIV)

The context of the word, today, in the reading (the author identified only as “Bob”), is good. It is as if he is directing his prayers. “I see someone sleeping on the sidewalk: ‘There, Lord.’ I pull over for an ambulance: ‘There.’ I drive by a church: ‘There.’ I pass a bunch of commuters waiting for a bus: ‘There.'”

He is condensing the verse, “for there the Lord bestows his blessing,” into simply, “There.”

I like this. I have practiced “flash prayers” before, on my previous commute to work. Not consistently, but I have done it. That consists of “flashing” a prayer at cars that I see on the way to work. Each car has at least one person in it, one soul. When you think of all of the cars that you see on the road as souls (not the cars, of course), it changes your perspective. This especially helps when someone in one of those other cars does something stu . . . foo . . . reckless.

As I type this, it dawns on me that I have missed many opportunities to practice this, during my tenure as a part time library aide. Even when I am all alone in the stacks, shelving books, I see people perusing the library. “There” is an opportunity. When I’m assisting people in the computer/media center, “there” is an opportunity. Even if I don’t have to help them, “there” is an opportunity for prayer.

The prayer in the reading says, “Father, bestow Your blessing here, there, and everywhere today. Amen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

But he's already made it plain how to live, 
what to do, 
what GOD is looking for in men and women. 
It's quite simple:
 Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, 
be compassionate and loyal in your love, 
And don't take yourself too seriously—
 take God seriously.
(Micah 6:8 MSG)
"On that great day," GOD says, 
"I will round up all the hurt and homeless, 
everyone I have bruised or banished. 
I will transform the battered into a company of the elite. 
I will make a strong nation out of the long lost, 
A showcase exhibit of GOD's rule in action,
 as I rule from Mount Zion, from here to eternity."
(Micah 4:6-7 MSG)

“Left to ourselves, we turn God into an object, something we can deal with, some thing we can use to our benefit, whether that thing is a feeling or an idea or an image. Prophets scorn all such stuff. They train us to respond to God’s presence and voice.”

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

Father, I am contemplating, this morning, the thought that we are quick to pray for something huge, like world peace, but hesitant to pray for something “small,” like a new pair of shoes. What does this say about us? Do we think praying for the “big things” demonstrates great faith?? Or do we foolishly believe that You only care about those big things? Jesus said we could move mountains. We talked about that in our church gathering Sunday. But are we so “mountain-minded” that we neglect the “small things?” I’m kind of “thinking out loud” during this prayer, Father, because I’m not sure I know the answer to these questions.

I do know, though, that my perspective on Your presence needs to be refined. I know You are “here.” I know You are “there.” I know You are “everywhere.” And God, help me and forgive me if I have attempted to “use” You for my own personal gain. I don’t want to do that. Rather, I want You to use me, for Your benefit! Help me to do the things that You have already shown us; to do what is fair and just to my neighbor, to be compassionate and loyal in love, and heaven help me to not take myself too seriously.

May Your Spirit remind me, as I walk around the stacks in the library, tonight, to pray those “there” prayers for people. Everyone in the place has a story; the patrons as well as the staff. I don’t need to know (and may not want to know) those stories. But You know all the stories, and somehow, whether they acknowledge You or not, You are present in those stories.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

No, O people,
 the LORD has told you what is good, 
and this is what he requires of you: 
to do what is right, 
to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God. 
(Micah 6:8 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Lute and the Plectrum

Today is Friday, the fourth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,339

It is currently 20 degrees outside, and everything is still covered in ice/snow. Mostly ice. I received word about 3:25 PM, yesterday, that the library would be closed again, today. So I don’t have to worry about getting out there and driving until tomorrow. We are supposed to get above freezing sometime this afternoon, possibly up to 40 (although the hourly only shows it getting to 37). It is sunny outside, as well, though, so hopefully, even though it looks like it will get down to 20 again tonight, the roads will be clear in the morning.

We have had no more power outages since night before last, which is good. I know at least one family that had to get a room in a hotel, because their power has been out since early yesterday. They live in a rural area, north of DFW, though. I’m not sure what’s going on with their power.

There are no plans for the day, since I would have been working. We were going to have our pizza tonight, but we don’t have enough ingredients to make two of them, so I’m not sure, at this point, what we will do. I may make a trip to the store, this afternoon, though. I don’t know what the shelves will look like. We may just order out, this evening.

I got lucky with my Wordle guess today.

Wordle 230 2/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

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.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing; I have breath, so I'm praising the Lord
2. that God is constantly making all things new
3. that we have heat and electricity and plenty of food
4. that, in God's kingdom, I have nothing to fear
5. that prayer is like God "strumming my heart with His fingers"
Praise the LORD! 
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, 
in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
Great are the works of the LORD, 
studied by all who delight in them. 
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, 
and his righteousness endures forever. 
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; 
the LORD is gracious and merciful. 
(Psalms 111:1-4 ESV)

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
(Romans 8:19 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, 
are being transformed into the same image 
from one degree of glory to another. 
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
 teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, 
so walk in him, 
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, 
just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
to which indeed you were called in one body. 
And be thankful. 
(Colossians 3:15 ESV)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
(1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV)

Can we find a common thread in all of these passages? They occur in a reading on prayer, in the Spiritual Classics book. In this reading, prayer is likened to a lute player strumming his lute. In this imagery, the lute is the heart of the player, and the strumming is done with a plectrum (in modern days, we call this a “pick”), which is God’s Word, or the recollection of it, as well as the Name of Jesus.

The question is asked, do we view prayer as more of a burdensome duty or obligation? Can this idea of playing a musical instrument make it more a gift of grace? As a musician, I can identify with the attitudes presented. There are times when it’s a burden to grab my guitar or turn on my keyboard and begin playing.

In this reading, a selection written by Andre Louf, the idea presented, if I am understanding it correctly, is akin to the thought, “just do it.” However, it isn’t as simple as that. Before the section on prayer, there were a few readings on meditation, which is a precursor to prayer, and away to allow the Word of God to begin doing the “strumming” on our hearts. It reminds me of a song (that I never liked very much) in which the singer said that someone was “strumming my heart with his fingers.” Through meditation and contemplation, we allow the Spirit of God to begin the work of prayer in our hearts. And then, it becomes a gift of grace.

I have experienced this, in my own prayers. There have certainly been times when my prayers were mechanical, more of a burden or obligation than a joy. However, like practicing a musical instrument, there are times when it is more important to simply do the duty. It will not always be a joy. But the more we practice, the more it will become joyful.

That passage from Colossians 3 is instrumental in this endeavor. We allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (and trust me, this is a choice that we must make), work to be thankful (another choice that must be made), and then allow His Word to dwell in us richly. All of these are choices that we must consciously make. They won’t just happen. Just like becoming proficient in any musical instrument will not just happen.

Louf makes a statement that prayer can’t be learned from someone else. Actually, Louf is quoting Callixtus II, a fourteenth century Byzantine monk. “Nobody can learn how to see. For seeing is something we can do by nature. So too with prayer. Authentic prayer can never be learnt from someone else. It has its own instructor within it. Prayer is God’s gift to him who prays.” I agree with this to a point. However, we must not allow this idea to keep us from reading what other great people have to say about the subject. And it certainly doesn’t prohibit the use of pre-written prayers.

All of this was launched by the question, “is praying difficult?” And the question is not answered. In fact, Louf goes so far as to say that “No one is going to give you the answer to that question.” There will be some who try to tell you that it is easy. I say they do not fully comprehend prayer. As we learn to allow ourselves to be, in a sense, taken out of ourselves by the Spirit, prayer becomes more of an intricate part of our being. And we learn that prayer can be both difficult and easy.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me. 
(Psalms 23:4 ESV)

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.
(Luke 12:22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “step,” in the sense of taking one step at a time. A Chinese proverb is quoted. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” I once had a pastor who spoke of something he called the “one-percent grade.” As long as you are moving upward at even a one-percent grade, you’re doing okay, he would say. And, of course, we’ve all heard the famous statement that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And, for a little levity, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.”

The kingdom life doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” It’s easy to interpret some of the commands in this way, but that only leads to a life of impossibility and frustration. It eliminates the concept of “grace” altogether. It is good to know that God remembers that we are dust; He knows we are imperfect.

Father, as I pray for You to keep teaching me how to pray, I also ask for more of an understanding of how prayer works, how I am to go about it. I pray that You would, indeed, strum my heart with Your Words, with the Name of Jesus, reminding me constantly who I am and whose I am. I pray for consistency, but I also pray for real, authentic prayer in my life, prayer that comes, not necessarily easily, but naturally, as I become more and more consumed by Your Word.

Remind me, please, that I have nothing to fear in Your kingdom, and that, as long as I am moving in Your direction, thought it be only one step at a time, I am doing okay.

I pray for people I know who are still without power. Please intervene and give them power and heat, that they may be safe and warm in their homes. I pray for any who might be without shelter, during this time, that they might be able to find someplace warm to stay. I also pray that they would have food to eat.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

Grace and peace, friends.

This Is the Way; Walk In It

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the ninth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,252

Three days until C’s birthday!

Not a lot has happened, to speak of, since I finished yesterday’s blog. We did have a pool guy come and look at our panels to see why the indoor panel wasn’t connecting properly with the outside panel. Turns out that connection isn’t really “wireless” like we thought it was. And the wire that connects the two is pretty much shot. About two feet of the wire is exposed, as it comes out of a plastic conduit to attach to the outdoor box, and that has had sunlight exposure for, oh, around twenty years, now. Ironically, after the guy left, I went to the back door to look at the inside panel, and it was, once again, connected. He must have wiggled the wire or something.

Anyway, we have a few options, and he is going to get us estimates on all of them. Well, not the first option . . . I think we have ruled out trying to “fish” a new wire all the way through all of that conduit and down through the wall at the back door. That would be very difficult, and might not work at all. The other options, though, involve attaching an antenna to the box outside, and either having a remote in the house or using phone apps to control the equipment. I think my first choice would be the phone app. There might actually be an option that enables both the remote and the phones. He’s going to check on that, too.

After some careful thought, I decided, yesterday evening, to go back and revise my answers on my WW app. I decided to tell it that I am not “living with” type 2 diabetes. And, in truth, I don’t believe that to be false. I’m not “living with it.” It is controlled, quite well. In fact, just two days ago, my glucose reading was below 80, which is actually below recommended levels before eating breakfast. Anyway, what this did was lower my daily allotment of points down to 25, but allow me to, once again, have fruit at zero points. I still get avocados at zero points, too! One thing that seems true, across the board, though, is that tuna is no longer zero for any of us. That’s sad, because we eat a lot of tuna. But it is still very low in points, a whole twelve-ounce can (nine ounces after draining) comes in at only three points. And my black-eyed peas are still zero points, so one of my favorite lunches is still very low in points. Yes. I mix black-eyed peas and tuna. Don’t judge until you’ve tried it.

Today is my half day at work, from 4:15-8:15, this evening. I plan to head up to a grocery store, right after I finish this, to get more (you guessed it) bananas and grapes. Then I’m going to get Subway for lunch for us (C works from home today). That way S can have the second half of her ham sandwich for dinner tonight, and C can do whatever she wants, and I will throw something together after I get home. I won’t be staying up too late tonight, as I work again, full shift tomorrow, 9:15-6:15.

I am still currently reading The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life, by Robert E. Webber. It’s slow going, as it is rather dense. But it is interesting, and I believe it will be, in the long run, helpful.

Today is World Freedom Day, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. “If you don’t know what it means to be afraid to voice your opinion, then you can consider yourself very lucky to live in a place where liberty is a priority as well as a basic human right. And like all good things, liberty should be celebrated, and that’s what World Freedom Day is all about.”

The word for today is serein, “fine rain falling after sunset from a sky in which no clouds are visible.” I just realized that my “word of the day” link is a day behind, but I don’t really care. I don’t think I have ever experienced, or at least noticed serein.

Today’s quote is from Edith Wharton, an American author. “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.”

Birthdays for November 9:

Gail Borden, American manufacturer, inventor of condensed milk, 1801-1874
Hedy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress (Samson & Delilah) and inventor (radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes), 1914-2000
Whitey Herzog, American baseball manager, 1931 (90)
Carl Sagan, American astronomer, 1934-1996
Bob Gibson, American HoF baseball pitcher, 1935-2020
Mary Travers, American folk singer (Peter, Paul and Mary), 1936-2009
Tom Fogerty, American musician, brother of John (Creedence Clearwater Revival), 1941-1990
Susan Tedeschi, American blues musician (Tedeschi Trucks Band), 1970 (51)
Tom Fogarty played rhythm guitar
Susan Tedeschi, singer. Married to Derek Trucks, the guitar player next to her. He is the nephew of Butch Trucks, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Morning Moon, by Daryl Madden

A page of life
Will be here soon
A prayer within
The morning moon

A being of
Two sides to see
An offer here
Which will I be?

To let the dark
Now fade away
Rejoice within
The light this day

Still the silence
Of the soul
Align my will
To Your control

As birds prepare
Their symphony
Lord let my song
Be one with Thee

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.”
(Isaiah 12:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is what turned Your wrath away from us
2. for the nice weather we have been having, lately
3. that our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, is not hidden from us; He is always there, telling us which way to walk
4. that You, in Your longing to be gracious to us, have arisen and shown compassion upon us
5. for Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY THREE

INVITATION

Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28 ESV)

As I pause during this quiet moment, I reflect on the propitiation of Christ, and its effect on God’s wrath for sin.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.

LORD, do good to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
the LORD will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be on Israel.
(Psalms 125:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
(Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
(Isaiah 30:18-21 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read over these passages again, noticing how the Lord might be speaking to me through them. I will dwell, briefly, in meditation, over any word or phrase that jumps out at me. I will contemplate the wonderful truth found therein, praying my thoughts to God, my life to Him. I will take refreshment in His presence.

The comparison of us who trust in the Lord to Mount Zion, “which cannot be shaken but endures forever,” is huge. Who among us has been “shaken?” And what does that mean?

The Hebrew word in that verse is translated “removed” in the KJV. I think “removed” carries a little bit better connotation than “shaken.” In terms of my faith, I have certainly been “shaken,” many times in my life.

But I have not EVER been “removed!”

I have not fallen away; been carried away. I have not lost my faith.

Make no mistake . . . this is not because of the strength of my faith or my trust. This is because of the strength of the Lord God Almighty. He has held me fast; He has kept me from ultimately falling away; when I stray from the path, He brings me back, He preserves me. The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. Whom, then, shall I fear?

Because of His great power and His very great and precious promises, I am like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken.”

Hallelujah!

I will pray, along with this unnamed psalmist, that the Lord will “do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.” Of course, we know, from Jesus, that there is none good, but God. Nevertheless, we who walk in Him can be, by association, considered to be “good,” because we have the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us.

Where do we find our strength? The Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah, “in repentance and rest,” and, “quietness and trust.” But then, we see that His people “would have none of it.”

Do we find ourselves in the same place, today? To some degree, I believe we do. We still feel like we always have to be “doing.” And the Christian life, this walk with Christ is not something we do. It is something we be. Yes, there is action that needs to be taken. But it begins with being. Our salvation is not based on something we do. It is utterly, entirely based on what God did.

What has God done? Among other things, He has risen up and shown us compassion (Isaiah 30:18). Why? Because He longs to be gracious to us!

I’m intrigued by verses 20 and 21. Verse 20 speaks of “teachers” not being hidden any more. What I am getting from this is not physical, human “teachers.” The Hebrew word in that verse has some interesting meanings. In most cases, the word is considered a verb, which means “to throw,” or “shoot.” I’m also seeing “point” as a possible meaning. And isn’t this what teachers do? They point to what we need to be learning. They are indicators.

I will confess that I might be reading way more into this than is there, but here’s what I am getting from these two verses.

God, in His longing to be gracious, has risen up and shown us compassion. He has given us “indicators,” signposts, perhaps, a “voice behind” (verse 21) us that says, “This is the way; walk in it.”

If you’re like me, and you are sometimes, you don’t always walk in that way. I know I don’t. Why? Because I’m not paying attention to the “teachers,” the “pointers,” the indicators that are right in front of me. They are not hidden from me. The way in which I should walk is not a mystery! Truthfully, there is no mystery to it.

This doesn’t give me the exact detail of everything I need to do, obviously. There’s not going to be a sign at every corner, that says, “Buy this car. Go to this school. Buy those bananas.” We do have to make some decisions, and a lot of those decisions have no bearing, whatsoever, on how our lives are going to turn out.

But we have many, many directions and pointers. Many are in Scripture, and if we have looked at His Word, and read it, and digested it, then, when important decisions have to be made, we should be able to hear that voice telling us “This is the way; walk in it.”

Father, I praise You that Your Holy Spirit, among other “signs” that You have given, is right there with us, all the time, telling us “This is the way; walk in it.” I pray for the wisdom and discipline to listen and heed His whisperings along the way. I am eternally grateful for Your graciousness and compassion, shown to us in many, many ways, but most especially in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. We cannot thank You enough. We can try, though. And I will try; I will utter thanksgiving on a daily basis, and will never run out of things for which to be thankful. Thank You for giving me a heart that is full of gratitude. Help me to walk in the way that the Holy Spirit tells me. Help me to walk in the ways that Your Word has already told me.

I pray for the call upon us to follow Christ into our communities, workplaces, and wherever else we go. May His light shine in and through us, all the time. This means we must, MUST, set aside our own preferences and “rights,” sacrificing for the good of others, loving others as we love ourselves, and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ as You have loved us. I pray for the peace and well-being of our communities, our cities, our states, our countries, our world, Your Church.

"Saving God,
startle me with the wonder of Your forgiveness,
the joining of justice and compassion in Jesus.
Because of Your mercy in the cross of Jesus,
You will not hold against me any of my sins.
Let me rest in the just verdict of Your salvation,
free forever from condemnation.
Amen."

BLESSING

Let your steadfast love come to me,
O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
(Psalms 119:41 ESV)

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
(John 6:27 ESV)

Then he said to me,
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
Not by might,
nor by power,
but by my Spirit,
says the LORD of hosts.”
(Zechariah 4:6 ESV)

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

Father, I pray for Your Church, that we might, indeed, arise and shine. Rescue us, Lord! Unite Your Church in Your truth, and Your truth alone. We are scattered, Lord, as sheep without a shepherd. We have committed idolatry by following after men instead of You. Save us, O God! Cast off the scales from our eyes; show us Your truth. Jesus is Truth; Jesus is Life; Jesus is Way. Take our eyes off of politics and politicians and conspiracies. Help us regain an attitude of humility and sacrifice for our fellow man.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Worship Him

Today is Monday, the eighth of November, 2021.

May God’s peace reign in your heart today.

Day 23,251

Four days until C’s birthday!

Today’s header photo is from Paul Militaru. Please check out his photo blog.

We had a mostly nice day, yesterday. The worship time at FBC Mineral Wells was pretty awesome. We had a great lunch from Natty Flats BBQ (although slightly delayed, as they were shorthanded).

This brings up an important point. I know from experience, it is quite easy to get impatient when I have to wait longer than usual for a food or drink order. But please keep in mind . . . it is not the fault of the person/persons serving you and they are most definitely not deserving of our wrath. Many people have left the restaurant/serving industry because of how rudely they have been treated during the past eighteen months or so.

Most especially, if you call Jesus your Savior, you must be patient and kind with people.

After lunch, we had a nice time of conversation with my mother, during which many topics were discussed. Our trip home was safe, but had a few tense moments. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m off work today, and only have a few chores planned. I’ve already been to the grocery store, which is why I’m running a tad behind with the blog, this morning. We have a pool tech coming, sometime this afternoon, to check on why our indoor control panel won’t connect with the outside panel. That’s about it.

There have been some big changes made to WW (Weight Watchers), beginning today. My plan has changed quite a bit, based on some answers I gave to questions upon opening the app, this morning. The biggest thing for me is, based on my ongoing bout with type 2 diabetes, fruits are no longer zero points. That means I have to count grapes!! Egad! But, as a trade-off, I can now have avocados/guacamole for zero points! And, when I eat a cup of non-starchy veggies, I get to add a point back. So that’s cool. Just some adaptation to be made, but I plan to carry on and keep moving forward.

Today is World Orphans Day.

The word for today is angakok, “a shaman in Inuit society.” “Inuit” is what we used to call “Eskimo.”

Today’s quote is from Winston Churchill, British statesman. “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Birthdays for November 8:

Julian of Norwich, English saint, 1342-1416
Vlad the Impaler (really!), Wallachian prince, the inspiration for Dracula, 1431-1476 (It should be noted that most sources do not provide a day of the year for Vlad's birth. My guess is that it has been put on this date because it is also Bram Stoker's birthday.)
Edmund Halley, English mathematician and astronomer (Halley's Comet), 1656-1742
Bram Stoker, Irish author (Dracula ), 1847-1912
Hermann Rorschach, Swiss psychiatrist (inkblot test), 1884-1922
Margaret Mitchell, American author (Gone with the Wind), 1900-1949
Joe Flynn, American actor (McHale's Navy), 1924-1974
Patti Page, American singer (Tennessee Waltz), 1927-2013
Bert Berns, American songwriter (Twist and Shout, Piece of My Heart, Hang on Sloopy), 1929-1967
Darla Hood, American child actress (Little Rascals), 1931-1979
Ben Bova, American sci-fi author (Exiled from Earth), 1932-2020
Bonnie Bramlett, American blues-rock vocalist (Delaney and Bonnie), 1944 (77)
Bonnie Raitt, American blues singer/songwriter/guitar player (Something to Talk About), 1949 (72)
Jerry Remy, American baseball player and broadcaster (Boston Red Sox), 1952-2021
Gordon Ramsay, British chef (Hell's Kitchen), 1966 (55)
Bonnie Bramlett
Another Bonnie

I really wanted to post a video of Gordon Ramsay freaking out over raw food, but there were too many bad words.

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.

All your works
shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints
shall bless you!
(Psalms 145:10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all the saints, who are constantly giving You thanks and praising Your Name
2. that I am alive and breathing
3. for our good visit with Mama yesterday
4. for the rest You give when we step into the easy yoke of Christ
5. that my help and salvation is from You, in the Name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY TWO

INVITATION

Then Jesus said,
“Come to me,
all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NLT)

I pause, now, during this very quiet moment, peacefully sleeping kitten nearby, and consider the rest that Jesus gives to those who are weary. If our burdens are heavy, we need only step into His “easy yoke,” and allow Him to carry the bulk of the load. It doesn’t mean we don’t work . . . but it does mean our work is much easier.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

If the LORD had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.

Praise be to the LORD,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalms 124:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, in order to force myself to pay more attention to the words. How has the Word of God moved me? I ponder and meditate on what has connected with my heart and my mind. I pray to God what has moved me, turning my every thought to Him and quietly enjoying His presence.

Along with Israel, I can firmly say, “my help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth!” Through Him, in His power, by the power of His Holy Spirit, I have escaped the “fowler’s snare.” The binding traps of the enemy have been broken.

As the Church, the new Israel, I do believe that we can confidently believe that the Lord is on our side. That means the Church, capital C, world-wide, and does not at all apply to any single country. However, lest we get too big-headed about it, we should remember that, in the big picture, the Lord is on HIS side. We should, therefore, be careful to be found on His side, as well. Let us not champion ourselves and hope that the Lord joins in. Rather, let us champion Him and His purpose, joining in His “cause,” the only cause worthy of defending.

Isaiah 6 is, indeed, a beautiful passage. When I was in music school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, it was presented as the biblical model of a worship service. I do believe there is something to be said for that, however, I don’t feel that it needs to be adhered to, rigidly.

There are certainly characteristics of the chapter that should be found in any worship service, regardless if it is in a huge cathedral or an intimate living room in a house.

First, God is central. Worship is all about God. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this. Worship is not, and never has been, about us. When we make it about us, it is not “worship.” It is idolatry. Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on His throne. We have no other description of what the Lord looked like, other than the fact that the train of His robe was really, really big.

Second, it is worth noting that the attending “living creatures” (these seem to be the same beings that Ezekiel saw), covered their faces and their feet with four of their six wings. I’m not sure what that means for us, to be honest, other than that we had best be careful how we conduct ourselves in worship. If the seraphim, these terrifyingly majestic beings, felt the need to cover their faces and feet, I believe we would do well to exercise a bit of humility in the holy presence of God.

Side note . . . maybe they aren’t the same creatures Ezekiel saw . . . they are only described as having four wings. He saw four of them. We do not know how many seraphim Isaiah saw, and it really doesn’t matter.

Third, the seraphim “sang” a hymn to the Lord. Maybe they weren’t singing. Whatever they were doing shook the very foundations of the temple, their voices were so powerful. This tells me that, when we praise the Lord, it needs to be

loud.

Now, this doesn’t mean the musical instruments need to be blasting through the speakers. What it does mean is that the sound of our voices should not be timid, but strong. How beautiful is it to hear the sounds of many voices, singing in unison, the praises of our God?

Side note . . . I believe it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who preferred unison singing when congregations sang together. While harmony is pretty, unison is more powerful.

Fourth, back to humility. Note Isaiah’s response to this vision. “Woe to me! I am ruined!” While the narrative doesn’t specify this, I have a vision of Isaiah falling on his face while he cried out those things. He recognized his own impurity, his own uncleanness, his SIN! Isaiah! The called prophet of God! When we come into the powerful presence of God, there is no room for pride and arrogance! I am not calling for shame. That is a tool of our enemy, the devil. Not shame, but recognition of, acknowledgment of, our condition before Him. He is HOLY! We are most definitely NOT holy!

He is “Other.”

Fifth, there is cleansing. Now, I don’t know how literally to take this passage. I know people who are way smarter than me when it comes to theology. But could it be that Isaiah’s sins were atoned before Christ’s blood was shed? This puts Isaiah in a rather special place, does it not? But that’s what one of the seraphim told him, the one who touched Isaiah’s lips with the burning coal. I know . . . vision. Not reality. Nevertheless, before we can be sent out on mission, naturally, we must be cleansed. Our cleansing comes from the shed blood of Christ, but there must be confession, just as Isaiah did.

Finally, there is an invitation and an acceptance. The invitation comes from the Lord. It’s more of a challenge, actually. “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah responded. “Here am I! Send me!”

I do not see this as an argument for the traditional evangelical invitation at the end of every service. I personally am not in favor of those, and feel they are largely unbiblical and manipulative. But that’s just my opinion, arrived at after years of observation and Scripture-searching.

There’s a twist, here, though. If you keep reading beyond the selected passage for the day, you will see that Isaiah’s message was anything but the traditional, evangelistic message.

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
(Isaiah 6:9-13 NIV)

Father, I am grateful that I can proclaim, along with David, that You have rescued me from the “fowler’s snare,” that I have escaped from the traps of our enemy. Why do I manage, though, to find myself back in them, after having escaped?? That is a question that I will have to wait to have answered. Until that day, I will strive to keep my feet out of those snares. They are broken (the traps, I mean). . . they cannot hold me. So if I find myself back in one of them, it is my own doing, even though I am free to walk away at any time. I thank You that I am part of Your Church, a small piece of “all the saints,” who praise Your Name and give You thanks, daily. I pray for the times of worship that we have, that they will be You-centered; that our attention will be on Your glory and majesty, and that we, like the seraphim, will practice humility as we cry out praises at the top of our lungs, praises to You, who are completely and utterly “Other,” and “Holy, holy, holy!” And then, just like Isaiah, when we acknowledge our sinfulness and our unworthiness to be in Your presence, cleanse us from our impurities, and send us to proclaim whatever message You give us to proclaim. Most importantly, may we listen to You for that message, for we will not all have the same message. All praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit!

"High and exalted God,
Your holiness crushes my pride and pretense,
and I cry, 
'Woe is me.'
Thank You for Jesus,
the cleansing fire from Your heavenly altar who takes away my guilt so I may hear Your call.
Amen."

BLESSING

LORD,
give me your unfailing love,
the salvation that you promised me.
(Psalms 119:41 NLT)

Father, take us through this day, make us humble, and make us kind to one another.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the Lord make your love
increase and overflow
for each other and for everyone else,
just as ours does for you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Pray For the Peace of Your Cities

Today is Saturday, the sixth of November, 2021.

Day 23,249

Daylight Saving Time ends tonight, in the U.S. Clocks “fall back” one hour.

Six days until C’s birthday.

The garage door opener finally arrived, yesterday, and will be installed, this morning. The installer is scheduled to arrive between 10:00 and 12:00 today. It will be nice to have a working opener again, and this one supposedly will be operable by phone.

I had a great day at the library, yesterday. It seemed busier, at times, than a normal Friday, so far. I had more opportunities to help people than before, which was good. I also had some good conversations with some of the other library folks. I love talking to my new friends. My next shift will be Tuesday evening, doing shelving.

Thanksgiving is later this month, in the U.S. As far as the library schedule goes, I will be off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, but am scheduled to work that Saturday.

There are no solid plans for anything today. C says she is going to mow the yard, as she has been cleared by her back doctor to do so, since we have a self-propelled mower. He advised her to not be “throwing bags of mulch around.” Which we don’t do, anyway.

Today is Numbat Day. What’s a numbat, you ask? My spell-checker certainly doesn’t know. It’s an adorable Australian marsupial, that’s what.

The numbat, noombat, walpurti (Myrmecobius fasciatus)

The word for today is melancholic, “disposed to or affected with melancholy; gloomy.”

Today’s quote is from James Russell Lowell, an American poet. “All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.”

Birthdays for November 6:

Adolphe Sax, Belgium musician and inventor (saxophone), 1814-1894
John Philip Sousa, American "march king" (Liberty Bell March), 1854-1932
Walter Johnson, American Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, 1887-1946
Jonathan Harris, American actor (Dr. Smith on Lost in Space), 1914-2002
Ray Conniff, American bandleader, 1916-2002
Mike Nichols, German-American film director (Catch 22), 1931-2014
Sally Field, American actress (Gidget, Flying Nun), 1946 (75)
Glenn Frey, American rock singer (Eagles, Take It Easy), 1948-2016
Peter DeLuise, American actor (21 Jump Street), 1966 (55)
Emma Stone, American actress (La La Land), 1988 (33)
Saxophone, invented by Adolphe Sax
Glenn Frey

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.
(Psalms 140:13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a warm cup of coffee
2. for dwelling in Your presence
3. for the love of Christ
4. for the city in which I live; I pray for its peace and security and prosperity, for the sake of Your houses of worship within her
5. that when I get lost, You are still seeking me

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

For this God is our God forever and ever.
He will be our guide even to death.
(Psalms 48:14 WEB)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to become aware of Your presence and to be thankful for You and Your work in my life. I experience repentance for my shortcomings and failures, and feel the comfort of forgiveness.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalms 122:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
(Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 NIV)

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for a word or idea that has stirred within me, lingering over it and giving full attention to it. As I meditate on the readings, I look for things I might want to ask God about. I pray my life to Him and rest in His presence.

The Psalm reading, one attributed to David, begins with a popular verse. I remember a Sunday School song, from my childhood: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'” Indeed, this speaks of a love of the worship of God. It need not be specific to a place, though. For David, it was, perhaps, specific, but it would not have been about the Temple, because it wasn’t built until Solomon was king.

I had a flash of inspiration (I think) while reading Psalm 122, this morning. Many people take it literally, and do pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.

But what if we applied that to the city where we live? “May there be peace with your walls and security within your citadels?” What if I prayed that daily for Fort Worth, Texas? “For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'” I have no family and friends in Jerusalem. But I have family and friends in Fort Worth and surrounding cities and towns. “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” The house where I go to worship the Lord is in North Richland Hills. The house where my mother goes to worship is in Mineral Wells (we will be attending there tomorrow, in fact). Therefore, I will pray for the prosperity of those cities, for the sake of the house of the Lord.

Apparently someone other than “the Teacher” wrote the last bit of Ecclesiastes 12, as he is spoken of in third person. We are told that he was, indeed, wise, and that his words were upright and true. And after all was said and done (and heard), the conclusion of the matter was simple. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

“Duty.” We get a lot of talk about “duty,” especially around election day. But here is stated the “duty” of all people, all over the world.

“Fear God and keep His commandments.”

And what are His commandments? You know what I’m going to say.

  1. Love God with all your being
  2. Love people, your neighbor as yourself, and your brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loved us

According to the Son of God, those two sum up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets.

Father, I pray for the peace and security of Fort Worth, Texas. I pray for the prosperity of the city in which we live, for the sake of family and friends and for the sake of Your “house,” which exists in many places in that city. I pray for the peace, security, and prosperity of Mineral Wells; for Longview; for Henderson; for Grand Prairie; for Indianapolis, IN; and for any other city or town where I have family and friends. May all cities, wherein dwell Your people, experience peace, security, and prosperity, for the sake of Your house. I pray, also, for a love revolution. I pray that Your Holy Spirit convict every single follower of Christ of the need for a massive shift toward love, both love for You and love for our fellow man, regardless of what he/she thinks or believes. This is Your command, and the bottom line, the conclusion of all wisdom, is that we should fear You and keep Your commands. All glory and honor to You, through the Son and by the Spirit!

I pray that Your Church would have clear vision for mission; I pray that leaders would be servants, that we would be godly when it comes to the stewardship of the goods You have provided us, and that we would be effectively organized to love the people around us and share the Good News of the Gospel of Christ in whatever ways You have equipped us.

"Living God,
the teacher has fine guidance,
but I need more than advice to keep Your commands.
In my frustrated attempts at obedience,
fix my eyes on Jesus,
eagerly looking to Him to forgive and set things right.
My prayer is to change,
to become more and more like Jesus,
energized to go all-out,
not out of nervous anxiety but in loving reverence of You.
Amen."

That prayer from the devotional book brings up a good point. If there is ever any anxiety in your heart, soul, or spirit, about sharing the Gospel with someone, then someone has done something wrong. There is no place for anxiety-inducing manipulation in the Kingdom of God. Period.

BLESSING

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 WEB)

So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
(Luke 19:10 NIV)

For it is by grace
you have been saved,
through faith—
and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works,
so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

The comfort of these verses, and others like them, is indescribable. Yes, God is with me, so there is nothing to fear. Ever. Yes, I get “lost,” along the way, as I foolishly chase after something unworthy of my attention. But Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We normally only apply that verse to those who are “Lost,” with a capital L. You know . . . the ones we say are “going to hell.” But I get lost sometimes, too. So do you, and if you say otherwise, you’re either a liar or just naïve. And, to me, the fact that it is all grace, through faith, makes it even more beautiful and comforting. I can’t save myself, and I don’t have to try. And my boasting remains in God and God alone.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Trust in the LORD
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways
submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.