Welcome Home

Good morning. It is Wednesday, December 31, 2014. New Year’s Eve!

Today’s Word of the Day is “nye.” We’re not talking the Science Guy, here, we’re talking about “a brood of pheasants.”

Today is Make Up Your Mind Day. And well it should be, as it is the last day of the year. I have to make up my mind about a few things, one being which devotionals I’m going to read in 2015. Another being what I’m going to read next, as I finished As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden, last night. More on that in another blog post, probably this evening. For now, it will have to suffice to say that this is definitely one of the best books I have ever read!

It’s not quite as cold as it was supposed to be, this morning. It has gotten down to 32, and is supposed to get up to somewhere between 37 and 43, depending on which weather app I look at. They need to make up their mind, too! 🙂 Anyway, tomorrow and Friday, it is predicted that we will have light rain, but the temps are supposed to stay just above freezing. It’s beginning to act like winter, around here.

We probably will not go out of the house, tonight. There was something that Stephanie had wanted to do, but it’s going to be cold, with threatening precipitation, so I think we would be better off staying home. Plus I don’t want to be out on the roads after midnight tonight, anyway. I’m thinking it will be a good night to throw a log on the fireplace (and light it, of course), and sit back and watch the festivities on TV.


(From The Divine Hours)

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:21
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.
Agnus Dei
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36:5
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:1
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised . . .
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 18:1-3, 30-31
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to
be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child
by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37:3-6
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Today’s Gospel Reading

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40

Here, in my opinion, is one of the key points of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are the commands upon which everything else hinges. It can be shortened to a simply phrase, “Love God, love people.” But it goes farther than that. We are to love God with everything; with all that we have. That is the difficult part, as I’m sure the psalmist noted when he wrote, “unite my heart to fear your name,” in Psalm 86:11. My heart is so divided among many things. I’m still working on this “all” part! Just as I am still working on that part about loving my neighbor as myself.

Today’s reading (and the final one) in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Word Made Flesh.”

The well-known first verses of the Gospel of John go like this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” As a friend of the family was praying over these verses, he heard Jesus say to him, “Yes, the Word was made flesh. I chose to enter your broken world and limp through life with you.”

Brennan closes this reading, and this book, with these words: “On the last day, when we arrive at the Great Mansion in the Sky, many of us will be bloodied, battered, bruised, and limping. But, by God and by Christ, there will be a light in the window and a ‘welcome home’ sign on the door.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes,
so that they may have the right to the tree of life
and that they may enter the city by the gates.

Revelation 22:14

Father, as I reflect on another year gone by, I look forward to seeing or hearing those words, “Welcome home.” For more than 56 years, I have wandered through this life, sometimes on your path, other times so far off the path that I am amazed that you were able to guide me back. Today, I feel as though I am more firmly on the path than I have ever been, yet I still struggle to keep on the way. I pray for more breakthrough in 2015. I pray to be closer to you than I have ever been in 2015. I pray for my prayer ministry to grow, for my Facebook prayer page to be discovered by more people, and for it to begin to accomplish the purpose for which I set it up. I pray for the verse that you directed me to for my life will continue to take root, and that it will continue to be the prayer of my life. “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” That is my prayer for 2015, and for the rest of my life. Teach me your way, O Lord!

I pray for this day, that we might have safe and smooth passage to and from work. I pray that this work day might be light enough that we could get to leave early. I pray for safety for everyone who chooses to go out tonight, to celebrate the coming of another new year. I pray for Stephanie, that 2015 might be a banner year for her, as we attempt to discern your plan for her life.

May your grace shine down on us, Father, as it already has.

I cannot express the anticipation that I feel when I consider meeting my Savior face to face and hearing those words, “Welcome home!” I pray that I might also hear, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.”

Welcome home

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Is Everything

Good morning. It is post-Monday, December 30, 2014. Only two more days left in this year. 97 days until Opening Day.

Today’s Word of the Day is “nithered.” Nithered means, “Shrivelled or pinched with cold or hunger; wasted, stunted, withered.”

Today is Bacon Day, which also should be called “Ron Swanson Day.” Do I even need to say anything about this? My mouth started watering the moment I saw the title, “Bacon Day.”

The drive to work in the mornings continues to be really great. I pulled into the parking lot about twenty minutes early. Of course, I don’t dare leave later to try to compensate for that, as you never know what might happen along the way. So I sat in the break room for a little while. The day went pretty well, and the work load continues to be much lighter than usual. I’m hoping that will continue on, at least through the rest of this week, and, possibly, into next week.

It’s finally beginning to act like winter around here. The temperatures are dropping, and it is projected to be 26 for tonight’s low. That’s pretty cold for our “neck of the woods.”


(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psalm 95:1
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Psalm 144:5
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23
Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
Psalm 89:47
Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:13-17
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to
be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child
by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Matthew 22:23-33

After the Pharisees had been befuddled, the Saducees took a turn. Just like the others, they are trying to trick him. But, just like before, Jesus turns it around on them. The first part of his answer is probably the worst insult he could give these religious leaders. “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And then he proceeds to quote from the Pentateuch, the portion of Scripture that they regard the most highly. One statement I think that is very important is the part about neither marrying nor being given in marriage, in the resurrection. I find that very interesting. I think there are a lot of aspects about the resurrection and after-life that we have made up, that have no biblical foundation. But, more importantly, Jesus refers to God in the present tense, as being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is the God of the living, not the dead. This means that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive in some way, just as we will be after the resurrection.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “No One Greater Than He.”

“The faith that Jesus inspired in his disciples had such a profound impact on them that the disciples found it impossible to believe anyone could be equal or greater to him, not even Moses or Elijah, not even Abraham.” The idea that anyone could come after him, any prophet, judge, or even another messiah, and be greater than Jesus, was inconceivable. There was no one else for whom to wait. “Jesus was everything.” He was all the Jews needed and had hoped for; he would fulfill every promise and every prophecy.

Can we truly call ourselves disciples if we do not feel the same way? Do we believe these things about Jesus?

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written,
King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16

Father, I confess . . . I have not lived as though I believe these things about Jesus. My heart even hurts right now, as I realize that I have not acted as though I believe Jesus Christ is everything. Sure, I have vigorously and enthusiastically lifted my hands in worship as I’ve sung “You Are My All In All,” but have I truly believed it? I’m sure I believe it when I sing it, and when I say it, but my daily life, the thoughts, speech, and actions of the day to day drudgery, do not bear this out. Change me, O God, change me! I want to act like I believe that Jesus is everything. There is no equal to him; there is no one greater, and there never will be. Let this be the cry of my heart; let this boil over “from the inside out,” Lord! Remind me of this throughout this day, Father, especially as I go to work and interact with people there.

I pray for this day. May our trip to work be safe and smooth, and may we continue to enjoy this time of year when many people are taking vacations, making traffic smoother. I pray for our work day, that it will be a good day. May our evening together be restful and pleasant. I pray for Stephanie, that you might show her your unfailing love and grace, and that she might understand as best she can. Teach us all how to love you more, as we strive to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom.

What do you believe about Jesus? Do your thoughts, words, and actions bear this out? I have much to meditate on after this reading. My heart is troubled.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Hope of Glory

“Christmas arouses longing for the Parousia, the Second Coming. It awakens hope in that heralded upheaval, that upcoming earthquake that makes radical discipleship possible, ushering in as it will the ultimate fulfillment of human history.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Monday, December 29, 2014. Only three more days in 2015. 98 days until Opening Day.

Today’s Word of the Day is “scission.” 1. “Division of a previously united body of people into mutually opposing parties; a split, a schism.” 2. “The action of undergoing division; an instance of this. Also: a rent, a fissure. Now rare.” 3.”The action of cutting something. Now rare.” 4.a. “Chem. Breakage of a bond, esp. in a long-chain polymer so as to produce two shorter chains; an instance of this.” b. “Nuclear Physics. The event of separation of the parts of a nucleus undergoing fission, as opposed to the process as a whole.”

Today is Tick Tock Day, a day designed with no other purpose than to stress you out and put pressure on you to make last-minute efforts to complete you goals for the year.

Yesterday seemed busy, but it was mostly in the late morning, early afternoon. Christi went out to run some errands, including the grocery shopping. She called me at one point, and asked me to help her bring in the groceries at her mom’s place, which I gladly agreed to do. After we got stuff put away over there, I suggested that I take her car and get the groceries brought in at our house while she went to Sonic and the BBQ place for our late lunch (she can stay in the car at both locations, so I’m doing the more physical work while she picks up the food). That worked out nicely. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and watching TV. We watched the finals of the Chameleon Bowling Championship, in which we saw Ronnie Russell bowl a 300 game! I’m pretty sure that was the first time I have ever witnessed that. He lost the final round to D.J. Archer, who finally won his first title match ever. It was a great match that went down to Archer’s final shot in the tenth frame. We spent the rest of the evening watching episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Netflix. I probably shouldn’t admit that I like that show.

Back to work today, for three days, off Thursday, work Friday. Last holiday until Memorial Day. I would like to have a serious conversation with whoever thought that up. Why are all the holidays in the last seven months of the year?


(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high.
The LORD judges the peoples;

Psalm 7:7-8
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92:1-4
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to
be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by
adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ,
to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Thoughts for the New Year
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:6
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Psalm 28:26

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Matthew 22:15-22

At this point, it is possible that Jesus has grown visibly weary of this constant badgering by the religious leaders, as he calls them out on this question. That’s just my speculation, however. His answer to their question shuts them up to the point that they “marveled . . . left him and went away.” But the Sadducees are coming next.

Jesus’s advice holds true for us today. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Coming in Glory.”

“Contemplating the crib (meaning, looking at Jesus while loving him), the Christian’s faith flames into joyous expectation that the Christ who came in history will one day come in glory.” We read Paul’s words in Colossians 3:4, When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Paul is obviously referring to an event yet to come. “Christmas arouses longing for the Parousia, the Second Coming. It awakens hope in that heralded upheaval, that upcoming earthquake that makes radical discipleship possible, ushering in as it will the ultimate fulfillment of human history.”

This goes hand in hand with our recent sermon series at church, in which our pastor said that the fact that Jesus came once, combined with the promise that he will come again, compels us to make disciples.

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have,
so that no one may seize your crown.

Revelation 3:11

Father, as the new year approaches, that time when we make a really big deal out of starting over (in reality, it’s just another day, isn’t it?), I pray that my thoughts would be drawn to gaining wisdom from you, that I might not be found a fool in your eyes. Help me to not care if the world thinks me a fool, as long as I am doing what is expected of me in your Kingdom. Teach me to number my days, that I might gain a heart of wisdom. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Teach me to commit my work to you and to trust you implicitly.

I also pray that I might look at Christmas in such a way that my faith is indeed flamed into joyous expectation of your Second Coming, and that, in doing so, I am compelled to obey your commands to make disciples. Take away the fear that has crippled me so badly over the years, in this endeavor. Give me the boldness and confidence that can only come from you, that can enable me to share the Kingdom.

I pray for this day, that our travel to work will be smooth and safe. I pray for the work day ahead, that it will not be stressful, and that, in all things, our hearts will be set on you, and that we might love you, follow Jesus, and share the Kingdom. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show your unfailing, overwhelming love to her.

As this new year approaches, look to the manger to excite your faith about the promise of the return of Christ in glory.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Abba of Jesus

Good afternoon. It is Sunday, December 28, 2014. Only three more days in 2014.

Today’s Word of the Day is “Childermas.” This has a couple of meanings. 1. “The festival of the Holy Innocents (28 December), commemorating the massacre of the male children of Bethlehem by Herod (Matthew 2:16).” 2. “The day of the week corresponding to the day on which the festival of the Holy Innocents falls, considered to be unlucky throughout the following year.”

Today is Card Playing Day. The idea behind this is that, a few days after Christmas, people need a break, and some time to simply relax. Sitting around playing card games is a great way to do that.

There’s not a lot going on around here, this weekend. We had a good time at church last night, and had Christmas leftovers for dinner. Christi and I finished watching the SyFy miniseries Ascension, which left me totally confused at the end. It’s like it didn’t end, but just stopped. Otherwise, it was a pretty good show.

Today, we plan to get the house straightened up from Christmas. It still kind of looks like we just opened presents. We might take down decorations . . . I’m not sure when that’s happening. Christi wants to get some things together to take to Goodwill, to get donations in before the end of the year. I’m not sure if we will go bowling or not, today. Mostly, we want to get rested for the week.

At this point, we don’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve. We both have to work that day, so we’ll be a little tired. We’ll probably stay up, but I don’t imagine we will go anywhere.

(Source: This Day In History

It was on this date in 1869 that the “Knights of Labor,” a tailors’ union in Philadelphia, held the first Labor Day ceremonies in American history. It wasn’t until 1884 that the American Federation of Labor organized an annual observance, setting aside the first Monday in September as a holiday for laborers. Oregon would be the first state to designate the day as a holiday, in 1887, and in 1894, Congress made it an official legal holiday “for all federal employees and the residents of the District of Columbia.”

Today’s birthdays include Denzel Washington, Stan Lee, John Legend, Maggie Smith, David Archuleta, Sienna Miller, Woodrow Wilson, Martin Milner, Noomi Rapace, Mortimer Adler, Pops Staples, Johnny Otis, Edgar Winter (Beaumont, TX), Alex Chilton, Twila Paris (Fort Worth, TX), and Elaine Hendrix.

Edgar Winter is an American musician, most known for his work with The Edgar Winter Group. He is the younger brother of blues guitarist/singer, Johnny Winter, who passed away earlier this year, at the age of 70. Edgar was born on this date in 1946, making him 68 today. Both Edgar and Johnny were albino. His most popular single, released in 1973, was the instrumental, “Frankenstein.” That same year, he had a lesser hit with “Free Ride.” Here is a clip of the album version of “Free Ride.”


(From The Divine Hours)

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Psalm 66:16
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Psalm 17:6
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14
Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!

Psalm 31:11-16
The Gloria
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be,
world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to
be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child
by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:1-14

The first part of this parable is very similar to the parable of the vineyard and tenants. God has invited the Jews to the wedding feast, but they are refusing to attend. Not only are they refusing to attend, they have also violently reacted to the messengers that God has sent their way. The King in the parable, representing God, has now sent his servants out to the rest of the world, inviting them to the wedding feast.

Verse 11 is where it gets tricky. The king comes in to view the guests, and a man is there with no wedding garments. The man is bound and cast out “into the outer darkness,” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then comes that chilling statement, “For many are called but few are frozen.”

This is a difficult passage for many people, and even the commentary in The Reformation Study Bible is open to interpretation. I do agree with the RSB, but not all will. Everyone who hears the gospel is invited, but that does not guarantee inclusion. No one will enter the Kingdom of heaven without being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In spite of what many well-meaning people will tell you, there are NOT “many roads to God.” The only way to the Kingdom is through the righteousness of Christ, which is a gift to those who have been chosen. There is also a clear reference to the fact that there is no middle ground between heaven and hell. All who attempt to enter the Kingdom without being clothed in the righteousness of Christ will be cast into “outer darkness.” Hell is real. Jesus speaks frequently about it, and quite clearly.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Intimacy with His Father.”

“A central theme in the personal life of Jesus Christ, which lies at the very heart of the revelation that he is, is his growing intimacy with, trust in, and love of his Abba.”

Jesus, being raised in Nazareth by Mary and Joseph, was surely brought up in the strict teachings of the monotheistic traditions of their community. There should be no doubt that he prayed the Shema three times a day. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (see Deuteronomy 6:4). “Jesus was surrounded with the Absolute, dominated by the One, the Eternal, the ‘I Am Who I Am.'”

During his time on earth, “Jesus experienced God in a way that no prophet of Israel had ever dreamed or dared.” He was inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and he “gave a name for god that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel. The name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene Carpenter: Abba.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Philippians 2:9

Father, may I know you even a fraction as intimately as Jesus knew you during his time on earth. May I know you as Abba, the way Jesus knew you. As 2015 approaches, may I continue to seek intimacy with you through Jesus. Give me the ability to be deliberate as I go through the year. I have found that I frequently forget to do this. This is compounded by the thing that I asked for prayer for in yesterday’s prayer gathering, the fact that I allow circumstances and people to control my emotions and state of mind so much.

I pray for this day. Give Christi strength as she heads out to do the grocery shopping for us and for her mom and step-dad. May she find your grace as she spends the time by herself. I pray that you would draw her spirit closer to yours during this time, and that your grace would rain down on her. As we spend the afternoon relaxing, prepare us for the work week ahead, that we might work from our rest.

I pray for the family of Tammy, Stephanie’s friend across the street, as she has apparently lost her father this past week. May you bring comfort to them, Lord.

What would our lives be like if we could experience God the same way Jesus did while on earth? May we know his Abba as our Abba!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Heartbeat of Our Lives

Good morning. It is Saturday, December 27, 2014. Four more days left in 2014.

Today’s Word of the Day is “partied-out.” Someone at the OED really has a sense of humor. Partied-out means exactly what you would think it means. “Exhausted from celebrating, drinking alcohol, etc.; hung over; tired of parties.” I would add “eating” in there, as well.

Today is Visit the Zoo Day, which, apparently fall on December 27 each year. It just happens to be on Saturday, this year. With our temperatures expected to reach the low to mid sixties today, it might just be a perfect day to visit the zoo.

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty nice day, especially at work. The drive in was a breeze, taking just about forty minutes. We got a light load of freight in, for receiving, and were actually done with everything by 3:30 PM! So we went home! I was home before 5:00 PM (only that late because, of course, Sonic drinks were necessary). We ordered pizza for dinner, and settled in to watch some TV shows from the week, including Major Crimes, The Mentalist, and The Librarians. The most recent episode of The Librarians was, in our opinion, the best one, yet. The writing seems to have been better than the previous few, and, for added attraction, Bruce Campbell played Santa Claus!! He was quite good in the role, too! I stayed up and watched a movie on Amazon Prime (using our new “Fire TV”), then went to bed.

Today could be pretty busy. Christi needs to go back to Car Max in Irving to sign final financing papers for Rachel’s new VW Passat, plus there are a couple other errands that need to be done. Then we have prayer gathering and church, this evening, beginning at 4:45 PM. As always, just in case anyone is interested, you are welcome to visit us. We are The Exchange (meeting in the upstairs youth area of Harvest Baptist Church).

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1900 that Carry Nation took an ax and gave her mother . . . no, wait. Wrong story. Carry Nation did, however, take a hatchet and smash up the bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. She caused several thousand dollars in damage (quite a bit for 1900, I would imagine), and landed in jail for her actions. She was released shortly afterward, however, and went on to become famous in her hatchet-wielding crusade against alcohol. Why did she hate alcohol so much? It seems she married a hard drinker, whose drinking killed him early, leaving her alone to support their young child. Women in those days didn’t have the same rights they do in our society, and in such circumstances, life became pretty much impossible for them. After marrying preacher and lawyer (how on earth can those two words even be used in the same description of a person???) David Nation, and moving to Kansas, she became involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Kansas became the first state to enact prohibition, but it was not enforced well, which led to Carry’s belief that she needed to take matters into her own hands. No pun intended.

Today’s birthdays include Hayley Williams, Louis Pasteur, Marlene Dietrich, Masi Oka, Gerard Depardieu, Cole Hamels, Heather O’Rourke, Johannes Kepler, William Masters, Scotty Moore, Michael Pinder, Mick Jones, Cokie Roberts, Terry Bozzio, David Knopfler, Matt Slocum, Cas Haley, James Mead, and Rick Porcello.

Heather O’Rourke was a child actress whose most famous role was the little girl in Spielberg’s hit haunting move, Poltergeist. She was born on this date in 1975, but, sadly, passed away at the age of twelve. Here is a clip of her famous scene in Poltergeist, as she announces the arrival of the ghosts.


(From The Divine Hours)

The Feast of the Nativity

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7
My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
Psalm 59:10
I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
Psalm 52:9
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”
Psalm 2:7
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:7-10
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Psalm 85:8-13
O God, you have caused the holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light:
Grant that I, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns,
one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.
And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Matthew 21:33-46

This parable was boldly spoken directly to the people whom it was about, the religious leaders. The master of the house is God; the vineyard is his Kingdom; the servants are the prophets, and, of course, the son is Jesus. The tenants are those in the house of Israel who are opposing Jesus. Jesus graphically describes the Kingdom being taken away from the Jews and given to all the world, including the Gentiles. I like verse 45. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.” Duh. They wanted to arrest Jesus, but were still afraid of the crowds. They had to come up with a way to turn the general public against him.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Spirit of Christmas.”

Brennan tells of a documented miracle that occurred in Lourdes, France, in 1957. A French father took his son, blind from birth, on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The son was ten years old, and, upon arriving at the shrine, begged his father to pray for him. The father did, praying aloud, “Lord, give my boy his sight.” According to the story, the boy’s sight was given to him instantly! As he looked around, he saw flowers and trees, green grass and open sky. As he turned and looked into his father’s eyes, “the eyes that went with the only voice he had known during ten long years of darkness and loneliness,” he said, “Oh boy! Everybody’s here!”

“This,” says Brennan, “is the spirit of Christmas. Everybody’s here! The deep, passionate love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and brother, is the breakthrough of Bethlehem and the heartbeat of the Christian life.”

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

John 4:50

Father, may this spirit of Christmas accompany my life always! Let the “deep, passionate love of Jesus Christ” be my heartbeat as I live this life. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name!

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi’s safety as she is out running errands. Thank you for all of your provision for our family. Your gifts are lavish and your grace is amazing. I pray for our prayer and worship time, this evening, that your name would be glorified in all that we do. I also pray that we will have ample time to rest up for the coming week of work, and that you will cause to pause and reflect as a new year approaches.

May the deep, passionate love of Christ be the heartbeat of your life in the coming year!

Grace and peace, friends.

Kneeling At the Manger

Good morning. It is Friday, December 26, 2014. Day after Christmas. Five more wake-ups left in 2014.

Today’s Word of the Day is “rechauffe.” Rechauffe means to be reheated, warmed up again, or made from leftovers. Pretty appropriate word for the day after Christmas, no?

Today is Candy Cane Day. We actually did not have any of those this year. But if you did, enjoy them on their special day.

Christmas Day was very nice. Rachel and Justin had spent the night on Christmas Eve, so, after everyone got up, we had exchanged our gifts, and Christi finished preparations for the Christmas lunch. We took that over to Mineral Wells, and had a very nice afternoon with my parents. Christi was really wiped out, as she worked very hard on both days, so she pretty much went straight to bed as soon as we got home from there. It was a very nice day, though, and I think everyone was happy.

I got an Amazon Fire TV, which I really like, so far, and several books, including the latest Dresden Files book by Jim Butcher, Prayer, by Timothy Keller, and Brennan Manning’s autobiography, All Is Grace. Looks like my first-of-the-year reading is all set!

What did you get for Christmas?


(From The Divine Hours)

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.
Agnus Dei
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 31:24
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:6-8
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”~~Luciano De Crescenzo

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Four Shepherds’ Visit.”

Brennan relates a French story that is told in “the forests of Provence in southern France.” It tells of four shepherds who traveled to Bethlehem to visit the newborn baby in the manger. Three of them brought gifts of eggs, bread, cheese, and wine. But the fourth brought no gift. He was called “L’Enchante.” As the first three talked with Mary and Joseph, they talked about “how well Mary looked, how cozy the cave was and how handsomely Joseph had appointed it, what a beautiful starlit night it was.” They told Mary and Joseph that, if anything else was needed, they only need ask. Someone then asked, “Where is L’Enchante?” They looked all around for him. “Finally, someone peeked through the blanket hung against the draft, into the creche. There, kneeling at the crib, was L’Enchante–the Enchanted One. Like a flag or a flame taking the direction of the wind, he had taken the direction of love. Through the entire night, he stayed in adoration, whispering, ‘Jesu, Jesu, Jesu–Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.'”

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?
Isaiah 40:18

Father, may I be more like L’Enchante today, kneeling in my heart, at the foot of the manger, whispering, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu!” May my heart be filled with adoration for my Savior today, letting all other things take a back seat to his love for me.

I pray for this day, that our travel to and from work will be safe. I pray for safe travel for all who will be returning to their homes after the holiday. I pray for peace as we continue to celebrate the birth of our Savior. May you show your steadfast love to Stephanie, Rachel, and Justin.

Thank you for Christmas!

May we all find ourselves kneeling by the manger, along with L’Enchante.

Grace and peace, friends.

Thanks Be To God For His Inexpressible Gift!

Good morning. It is Thursday, December 25, 2014. Merry Christmas to all!

Today’s Word of the Day is “nativity.” (I’m not making this up, it really is the OED word of the day!) Nativity has multiple meanings. It is the feast of the birth of Jesus; more simply, it is the birth of Jesus. It is a work of art depicting the birth of Jesus. More archaically, it can mean the birth of anyone. It used to refer to a person’s birthday. It was also once used to refer to the creation or origin of something. I’ll stop there, as there are still more. You can check it out by clicking on the above link.

Decides being Christmas Day, today is also Pumpkin Pie Day. We still have some left from last night, I think, so I might have a piece. I’m not sure, though, because there is delicious Kahlua fudge that Christi made, plus I made these cookies!
They are also delicious. My mother is making dump cake, and has banana bread and fruitcake, as well. Heck, I may just skip lunch and go straight for dessert.

We had a pretty good Christmas Eve celebration last night. Everyone behaved well, there was lots of good food, and plenty of good conversation. Gifts were exchanged, and I believe everyone was happy. After Christ’s Mom and Don left, Rachel, Justin, and I sat around talking to John (Christi’s sister’s soon-to-be-husband) for at least an hour or two. I’m not sure what Christ and Karen were doing during that time. After they left, we all sat around for another hour or so, watching some strange You Tube videos (Nostalgia Critic and Cinema Snob), followed by an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Don’t judge me.

This morning, so far, only Christi and I are awake. I just heard a door, elsewhere in the house, so chances are, I will have to interrupt the blogging for Christmas morning gift-opening. Christi will be working on today’s lunch, in a little while, and we will pack it up and drive to Mineral Wells, probably aiming to arrive there between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.

Unfortunately, we must go back to work tomorrow, but just for one day, and it will be the weekend again.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1621 that the Puritans attempted to abolish Christmas. “Their objections were religious. Not only were there no grounds for believing Christ was born on December 25th, but the Bible had also not established the practice. Further, they objected that for many people, Christmas observance was a sacrilege; a time of heavy drinking and pagan customs. ” So, Christmas has not always been quite so popular, as it turns out.

“After the Puritans came to power in England, they began issuing laws against Christmas in 1642. In 1647 Parliament passed a law that the feast of the Nativity of Christ should be no longer observed. Some English folk protested through pamphlets, others by holding celebrations in defiance of the law, still others by refusing to open their shops. At Oxford, Ipswich, and Canterbury, people rioted. A mob beat the Mayor of Canterbury senseless, breaking his windows as well as his bones. Thousands vowed that if they could not have Christmas, they would bring the king back to his throne.”

I, personally, agree that there are no grounds for believing that Jesus was born on December 25. I have also noted that there is no Biblical command to observe or celebrate the birth of Christ, while there are such for commemorating his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, I have no problem with Christmas celebrations, and I have a strong suspicion that Jesus doesn’t mind, either, as long as we are celebrating for the right reasons. I daresay, he is none too pleased with the commercialism, nor the horrific scenes that American retailers have promoted on “Black Friday.”

Christmas birthdays include Jimmy Buffett, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Barton, Annie Lennox, Sissy Spacek, Dido, Rod Serling, Barbara Mandrell, Shane MacGowan, Cab Calloway, Robert Ripley, Louis Chevrolet, Rickey Henderson, Ron Foos, Conrad Hilton, Anwar Sadat, Mac Powell, Alannah Myles, Larry Csonka, Orlando Gibbons, Carlos Castaneda, Nellie Fox, Noel Redding, and The Veronicas (Lisa and Jessica Origliasso).

Wow! So many! Annie Lennox is a Scottish singer/songwriter who was part of the hit duo, The Eurythmics. (I just realized they spelled “rhythm” wrong in their name!) She has since had a successful solo career, as well as getting involved in political activism and philanthropy. For her Christmas birthday, here is her rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” I really like her recording of this song.


(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.
Psalm 101:6
If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
John 5:31-36
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:13-22
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15

Today’s Gospel Reading

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32

This conversation is continued from the passage I read yesterday. In fact, the paragraph break seems to come in the middle of Jesus’s statement. It’s like he barely took a breath between saying, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things,” and “What do you think?”

In this passage, Jesus makes a very pointed comparison between the religious leaders and the son who said he would go work in his father’s vineyard, but then did not do what he said he would do. The one who first said he would not go, but later repented and went, is the one who did his father’s will. I cannot even imagine the anger that these leaders must have felt when Jesus told them that tax collectors and prostitutes would go into the kingdom before them!

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Kneeling in His Presence.”

“Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated, and brought about Christmas?

“God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.”

“And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:12

Abba, Father, I praise you, this morning for entering our world as Jesus, in weakness and vulnerability. I praise you that you came in such a way that enabled us to know you. I thank you that your advent in this world confounded the religious leaders who would imprison us with man-made rules. Thank you for allowing us to get close to you, Jesus! I pray that, as we celebrate this Christmas morning, we will be all that much closer to you. May we spread the joy of the Christmas event as we go about our lives, today, tomorrow, and every day.

I pray for safe travel for all on this day, and for us as we travel to Mineral Wells later. I pray that our hearts will be drawn ever closer to you, and that our time with my parents will be a blessing to them, just as they have been a blessing to us, over the years. May your grace fill us all as we acknowledge the birth of your Son.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Grace and peace, friends.

“I Done It For Love”

Good morning. It is Wednesday, December 24, 2014. Christmas Eve!

Today’s Word of the Day is “pfeffernuss.” Pfeffernuss is, “A small, round, sweet biscuit flavoured with spices such as ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, etc., and typically eaten during the Christmas season.”

Today, fittingly, is Egg Nog Day! I had some last night, but I will most certainly have some more today. The linked article encourages making your own. I won’t be trying that. There is too much other stuff to cook/make today. Do you drink Egg Nog? If so, do you “nog” it, and with what? As of last year, I pour a spot of brandy in mine. It’s quite delicious!

Yesterday was crazy! It started out for me with a rainy trip to work, which made traffic interesting, to say the least. It didn’t slow me down too much, but it was stressful. There was a combination of things that pretty much made me miserable on this trip to work, one of which was the aforementioned rain. The other was the prospect of working late, and not knowing how late we would be working, since we would have to stay and finish all the work that came in. We are on a 24 hour clock for receiving, so if we are going to be on holiday during the week, we must finish everything the evening before. It turned out that we only got 108 packages from UPS, which was rather light. The mood of the entire team lifted tremendously when that happened. We wound up only having to stay about 30 minutes over (well, it was 30 minutes for me . . . some of the people came in earlier).

While I was working, Christi was running around with Rachel and Justin, shopping for a new car. It took somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to eight hours, and Christi didn’t get home until long after I did. They were successful, though, and landed a 2013 VW Passat, and the payments are actually going to be lower than the payments for the Elantra that was totaled. So that’s a bonus.

Today, there is cooking, cleaning, and family for dinner. Wait. That sounds wrong. We aren’t eating family for dinner. There will be family at the house for Christmas Eve dinner, which is Christ’s family’s tradition. I’m making some cookies that I’ve never tried before, so that will be interesting. There will also be ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (because you have to have green bean casserole!!), pumpkin pie, and I’m not sure what else.

Tomorrow, after we have our Christmas, we will take pretty much the same meal over to my parents’ house in Mineral Wells, to celebrate Christmas with them.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

On this date in 1223, Francis of Assisi put together what is, as far as we know, the first recorded “live” manger scene. In the village of Greccio, Italy, Francis resided in a hermitage built by Giovanni da Vellita. The hermitage was located in front of some caves. On Christmas Eve, Francis invited the villagers to a Christmas Eve mass. The people came with torches in hand, singing Christmas songs. As they climbed the steep path to the cave, they were surprised by a manger scene in one of the caves. It included an ox and a donkey, as well as a man and woman in costume. Francis chanted the Gospel account of the birth of Christ and preached a sermon about the birth. “He promised his listeners changed lives if they would place their faith in Christ, the babe of Bethlehem.”

Christmas Eve birthdays include Ryan Seacrest, Ava Gardner, Howard Hughes, Kit Carson, Mary Higgins Clark, Emanuel Lasker, Johnny Gruelle, Harry Warren, Fritz Lieber, Lee Dorsey, and Doyle Bramhall II.

Harry Warren was an American songwriter and lyricist. According to Wikipedia, he was the first “major American songwriter to write primarily for film.” Among his credits are “Jeepers Creepers,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Harry was born on Christmas Eve, 1893, and passed away on September 22, 1981. Here are The Flamingos, performing “I Only Have Eyes For You.”

Just for kicks, here is Art Garfunkel’s version.


(From The Divine Hours)

Fourth Week of Advent

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise him, all creatures here below;
praise him above, you heavenly hosts;
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:30-38
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.

Psalm 24:1-6
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Matthew 21:23-27

I have always been fond of this little encounter. It conjures up an almost Monty Python-esque scenario as the chief priests and elders murmur among themselves. Once again, Jesus has them stuck, and they know it. Jesus will continue raking them over the coals in tomorrow’s reading.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Meaning of Christmas.”

I have to say that one of my favorite things about this book has been that almost the entire month of December has been devoted to readings that, in one way or another, are related to Christmas. Brennan has brought more meaning to my Christmas this year than I have had in many years past.

In today’s reading, Brennan tells a story of a young Richard Ballenger, whose mother was wrapping packages on Christmas Eve. She asked her son to shine her shoes for her. The seven-year-old soon presented the shoes, along with a proud smile. “His mother was so pleased that she gave him a quarter.”

As she went to put on her shoes on Christmas morning, she noticed something in one of them. Inside the shoe was a quarter wrapped in a piece of paper, on which was written, “I done it for love.”

“When the final curtain falls, each of us will be the sum of our choices throughout life, the sum of the appointments we kept and the appointments we didn’t keep. The glory of the shipwrecked will be that they habitually failed to turn up for duty. In their defense they claim they were detained by a baby in swaddling clothes. When interrogated as to why they hung out at the stable, they answer, ‘We done it for love.'”

We, the shipwrecked, preserve the meaning of Christmas as “the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history.”

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

Father, as we live through this Christmas Eve day, I pray for the masses who don’t know this Savior, this baby in swaddling clothes. I pray for the shipwrecked who do not even realize that they are shipwrecked. I pray that we, your children, can be effectively about our business of sharing your Kingdom in such a way that will convince people of the need to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I pray that we will realize that this might mean not being so defensive about how people wish us happy holidays, or whether they do so at all. I pray that we will realize that this means seeking peace for all people all over the world, even those who would cross our borders illegally. I pray that we realize that this means taking care of whose who are closest to your heart, the widows and orphans, those who truly have no family on earth. We are all broken, Father, but not irreparably! Not irreparably, because you have provided the means of fixing us! May the star of Jesus Christ shine brightly through his disciples this Christmas!

I pray for this day, that all the preparations and festivities will go smoothly. May we celebrate the birth of Christ this evening in a completely stress-free environment, and may the message of the Gospel be clear as we celebrate.

Thank you for the event which we are celebrating today and tomorrow. May it be a celebration in our hearts all year long.

May your shipwrecked soul find rest in the harbor of this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

He did it for love.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Shipwrecked At the Stable

“But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Tuesday, December 23, 2014. Christmas Eve Eve!

Today’s Word of the Day is “zaibatsu.” A zaibatsu is a “powerful financial and industrial conglomerate of Japan.”

Today is Roots Day, a day that encourages us to explore our family ancestries. The fact that it comes right before Christmas emphasizes the importance of family during the Christmas season.

We had a very interesting night last night. Which may be the understatement of the year. After working about an hour late, due to high volumes, I got home, and we began discussing what was for dinner. I, for some reason, had an inexplicable desire for Mexican food, but something different than Fogata’s, for a change. We decided to try a little restaurant that we had seen in a shopping center in North Richland Hills, called Malli’s. Someone whom I know (I can’t remember who), had said that it was good. Stephanie, of course, did not want to go, so we agreed to bring something home for her. It was just okay, not great. Their queso and salsa were both very delicious, I will say that. There were aspects of the meal that were quite good, but others that weren’t good at all. Their nachos, for example, had very little cheese (???) on them, and were made with small pieces of fajita meat, rather than seasoned ground beef. The flautas were extremely dry. The quesadillas, on the other hand, were very good, as were their gorditas. So it was a mixed bag. I doubt we will go back, though. We got Stephanie some cheese enchiladas, rice, and queso sauce. I don’t know if she liked them, as we went to bed pretty soon after we got home.

I was awakened around 12:30 AM by Christi, who said that Rachel was stuck at the car rental place at DFW. She had returned from her trip to Virginia, and had arranged a rental car to drive home. If you recall, from a couple days ago, she had had an accident in hers (turns out it’s totaled). She had turned in the Enterprise car Saturday morning, and booked one from Advantage for the return last night, and was planning to turn it in today, when Christi was going to meet here there and take her home (or, perhaps shopping for a new car). Well, it turns out Advantage at DFW will not rent “locally!” Why they did not inform Rachel of that small detail when she booked the car, I have no clue! So Christi drove to DFW to rescue Rachel, brought her back to our house, and I think Rachel took Christi’s car back home to Denton. Christi will take the day off today, as she has no car to drive. Thanks a lot, Advantage. I guess we should have just kept the Enterprise car and paid a couple more days of rental, plus airport parking. Hopefully, this will all be over soon, as they may have already found a good car to replace the wrecked one. The payout from insurance, by the way, will be a little more than $100 more than what we owe on it, so that’s a bonus.

I will likely have to work late today, too. Since we are off the next two days, we have to stay until everything is finished tonight. Plus, we are three people short, because “it’s going to slow down in December,” so the company lets people wait until the end of the year to take all their vacation. I may jump on that bandwagon, next year, and just save all three weeks until December. 😛 Not really. I couldn’t stand to do that. I need time off during the year.

Also, I should not forget to make note of the fact that the rock and roll world lost a legend, yesterday. Mr. Joe Cocker passed away, yesterday, at the age of 70. I’m not sure what caused his death. I was surprised and saddened to hear of this, though, yesterday afternoon.


(From The Divine Hours)

Fourth Week of Advent

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Psalm 66:16
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Psalm 67:1-2
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
Psalm 119:54
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah.
For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Psalm 61:1-5
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Matthew 21:18-22

First of all, it should terrify every single Christian that Jesus has the power to do this! If we are not bearing fruit, like this fig tree, he can, apparently, say the word, and we will wither to the point of never bearing fruit again. Now, perhaps, I am “over-interpreting” this, and it simply applies to the upcoming destruction of Israel. I think it should still motivate us to be fruit-bearing.

The other incredible statement in this passage is regarding faith. Once again, Jesus describes what can be done with faith, without doubting. If we have faith, he says, we will receive whatever we ask in prayer. That should also motivate us to better, stronger faith.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Infant Jesus.”

Those “disciples” who seek a “triumphant Savior and a prosperity gospel” will forever be scandalized by the “Bethlehem mystery.” The fact is, we truly do not know exactly where Jesus was born! Yes, it was Bethlehem, and yes, it was in a stable, but that’s it. That’s all we know. The circumstances surrounding Jesus’s birth were pretty unremarkable (excepting, of course, the horde of angels that appeared to the shepherds, and that star that lead the “wise men”). Jesus’s parents were really of no significant social consequence. In fact, based on the offering they gave after he was born, they were pretty poor. His “welcoming committee” (at least at the stable) was a bunch of dirty shepherds. “But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.”

My, how we have “prettified” the birth of Christ. We have turned something that we were never commanded to do in the first place into something glorious and majestic. “Pious imagination and nostalgic music rob Christmas of its shock value, while some scholars reduce the crib to a tame theological symbol.”

“But the shipwrecked at the stable tremble in adoration of the Christ child and quake at the inbreak of God almighty. Because all the Santa Clauses and red-nosed reindeer, fifty-foot trees, and thundering church bells put together create less pandemonium than the infant Jesus when, instead of remaining a statue in a crib, he comes alive and delivers us over to the fire that he came to light.”

By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Isaiah 45:23

Father, I pray to be one of the shipwrecked at the stable. Let me never feel like my life is so good that I don’t need to be bowing down to Jesus in abject poverty. May I celebrate the poverty with which he appeared in this world, and the amazing power and majesty that this event brought to us. May I truly appreciate the pandemonium that this event brought to the world. Help me to see through all the trappings and finery of the Christmas season, through the pageantry and beautiful music, through the Santas and the reindeer and Frosty the snowmen . . . through all of these to the infant in the manger that grew up to die for us. May I be filled with joy this Christmas, Father; joy for the Savior who came as an infant in a stable, born to parents no more significant than I. Hallelujah!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

I pray for this day. I pray for safe travel this morning, as it appears to be raining outside. I pray that our work load today will be smaller than yesterday’s, and that we will not have to stay terribly late tonight. These are selfish things, I know, but preparations must be made for family Christmas celebrations. I pray that we can remember the true meaning of what we are celebrating as we gather together. I pray for Stephanie, that you would reveal to her the true meaning, and that she would grasp it. I pray for Rachel, that you would give her something positive over the next few days. She needs something good. Fill her with your grace and help her find joy.

I pray for two of Christi’s work associates, who both lost parents on the same day. May your comfort be with them.

Help us find your grace, this Christmas.

Grace and peace, friends.

Shipwrecked and Rescued

Good morning. It is Monday, December 22, 2014. Only three days until Christmas!

Today’s Word of the Day is “fissile.” 1. “capable of being split or divided in the direction of the grain or along natural planes of cleavage.” 2. “capable of undergoing fission”.

Today is Forefathers’ Day , a day set aside to commemorate the pilgrims who sailed across the ocean to settle in a new land, and, eventually, form the United States of America.

We had a nice time yesterday, except for the part when we dropped off something at Christi’s mother’s apartment. I’m not even going into that. But we finally got (I think) all of our Christmas shopping finished, as we loaded up on candy stocking stuffers. After that, we went bowling again. That was great fun. We bowled two games, in which Christi averaged about 138, and I averaged 167. Stephanie averaged around 65, which is not bad for her, either, especially since she started bowling without the rails.

After bowling, we went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch. I still had a $25 gift card that I got from work, so that paid for a good portion of our lunch. The food was okay, but not great. I was actually slightly disappointed.

We spent the rest of the evening just resting up for the work week. We’ll be at work today and tomorrow, then off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, then have to work again on Friday.

Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys have, apparently, won their division for the first time in I don’t know how long. Weird. I’m not really a fan, but I guess I’m happy for them. I’m not happy for Jerry Jones, but, oh, well.


(From The Divine Hours)

Fourth Week of Advent

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Psalm 31:23-24
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
Psalm 31:3
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126 A Song of Ascents
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at
his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Matthew 21:12-17

Matthew seems to mention this event, almost in passing. But the words of Jesus are important. “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” he says. Basically, the temple had been turned into a market place. I’ve heard all the explanations about what was going on, regarding buying sacrifices for people who traveled long distances, as well as changing currency for the temple tax, and so on. The bottom line is that the house of the Lord is not a place for taking advantage of people, to turn a profit. It is a house of prayer, a place to serve people.

As Jesus hung around in the temple, afflicted people came to him for healing. Children cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Maybe they sang. But the religious leaders couldn’t stand this. They confronted Jesus, apparently to get him to deny the truth of what the children were saying. But he would not. He simply quoted more Scripture to them, and left, traveling to Bethany, no doubt the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Shipwrecked At the Stable.”

“The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life-and-death grip to one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything. The shipwrecked find it not only tacky, but utterly absurd to be caught up either in tinsel trees or in religious experience–‘Doesn’t going to church on Christmas make you feel good?’ They are not concerned with their own emotional security or with any of the trinkets of creation. They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for a new shot at life. At the stable in a blinding moment of truth, they make the stunning discovery that Jesus is the plank of salvation they have been clinging to without knowing it!

“All the time they were battered by wind and rain, buffeted by raging seas, they were being held even when they didn’t know who was holding them. Their exposure to spiritual, emotional, and physical deprivation has weaned them from themselves and made them reexamine all they once thought important. The shipwrecked come to the stable seeking not to possess, but to be possessed, wanting not peace or a religious high, but Jesus Christ.”

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus,
called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

1 Corinthians 1:2

Father, I praise you for drawing me to the stable. I have clung to the plank of salvation that is Jesus. Have I yet to come to the place, though, where I desire to be possessed more than to possess? I truly believe that I am closer than I have ever been in my life. I pray for Jesus in my life. Not that I don’t believe that he is here, but this prayer is for a closeness with Christ that surpasses everything else. This prayer is that I might truly know him, above all things. The lights and decorations of Christmas are nice, and pretty. But they are not the true meaning, even when we examine the symbolism of them. The real meaning of this season, nay, the real meaning of life, itself, is Jesus Christ. Without him, there is no meaning. I pray that this message would be clear, that the Gospel would shine clearly throughout Christmas, and throughout the rest of the year.

I pray for this day, that we would have safe travel to and from work. I pray for a good work day today, and that we would be able to display your Kingdom in all things. May you speak to Stephanie during these days, that she might understand the true meaning of Christmas. May your Spirit be real to her, and teach her your ways.

I pray for Samantha, as she has back surgery today. May the surgery be successful and, after recovery, relieve the terrible pain that she has been enduring. I pray for Craig, as he takes care of her and the kids during her recovery. May your grace and peace shine down on all of them.

The beautiful writing of Brennan Manning is such a great description of our encounter with Jesus. I pray that all the “shipwrecked” will discover that the “plank” that they are desperately clinging to is Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace, friends.