Down From the Mountain

Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Today is “Drive-Thru Day.” And yes, it’s really spelled that way. I wish the Subway close to us still had a drive-thru. They bricked it up when they expanded the store. It’s still unique, though, as it is the only Subway I know of that is open 24 hours.


Yesterday was a hectic day, especially at work. Pretty busy all day long. But it wasn’t really a stressful kind of busy, like it used to be. That’s nice. Christi had meetings pretty much all day, but it makes the day go by fast, at least, when you’re busy like that.

Then we got home and had to deal with a pretty severe meltdown from Stephanie. It was probably the worst one in at least a year. I won’t go into what it was over. But after that, we barely had time to eat, when it was time to go to our Huddle group. We normally would not have met last night, but our leader is going to Africa next Monday for two weeks, and we would have gone three weeks without meeting had we not met last night. Needless to say, we were exhausted and went straight to bed when we got home.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1704, during the “War of the Spanish Succession,” England seized control of Gibraltar from France. It has remained British ever since. Between 1779 and 1783, Spain “besieged Gibraltar,” but failed to get rid of its British occupiers. In the 1960s, Spain tried again, but “the British organized a referendum in which Gilbraltarians were asked to choose between a highly subsidized and tax-free existence under democratic Great Britain or absorption into the impoverished dictatorship of Francisco Franco.” Guess which one they chose. Spain subsequently closed its borders to Gibraltar, but lifted the blockade in 1985.


Today’s birthday is Summer Glau, born on this date in 1981. Summer was born in San Antonio, Texas. She recently played a terminator in the TV series by the same name, but we love her most for her portrayal of the somewhat insane River Tam in Firefly.

Honorable mentions go to Jennifer Lopez, 44, Amelia Earhart, 1897-1939, Lynda Carter, 62, Zelda Fitzgerald, 1900-1948, Anna Paquin, 31, Kristin Chenoweth, 45, Ruth Buzzi, 77, Alexandre Dumas, 1802-1870, Robert Hays, 66, Chris Sarandon, 71, and Gallagher, 67.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Psalm 100:1-2
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. Psalm 67:1
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Father, I thank you for your presence, which is promised at all times. May you truly make your face to shine upon us today. You are worthy, indeed, to receive glory and honor and power. May my life glorify you today. Teach me your ways this morning, as I look into your words. Cause me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, just as Christ loved us.


Today’s reading in

is called “Down From the Mountaintop.” The scripture reading is Mark 9:2-9.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

This is the last reading on the discipline of Solitude. This passage describes the epitome of a “mountaintop experience.” Hopefully, we’ve all had them. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most people, regardless of faith or belief system, have probably had some kind of “mountaintop experience.” Everything seems so clear, so perfect. We don’t ever want to leave that place or that time. We want to stay right there forever. But we can’t. This reminds me of an old, old, CCM song by Chris Christian, called “Mountain Top.” And there is actually a clip of it on You Tube!

Anyway. In our passage today, even though Peter wants to camp out up there, Jesus leads them back down the mountain. Back down “to the challenges and opportunities of the daily life of faith.” That’s where our lives are lived; “in the daily pains and pleasures of this world.” The point of this is that we can’t spend all of our time in solitude. There are some of us who like solitude more than others, and would love to spend the majority of our time alone. But we can’t. I’ve had some pretty cool “mountaintop experiences” while in solitude. But we have to live our lives, and we have to live them in community.

Here is a prayer offered by the devotional book:

“Father God, help me to parlay my experiences with you into strength and
encouragement for doing your kingdom work in my daily life. Remind me
to continue to find moments of solitude in the middle of life and to have
the courage to take time out when my soul needs refreshing. In your name
I pray. Amen.”


Continuing on in The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, I’m still in Chapter Two, “Gospels of Sin Management.” The next section is called “Some Puzzling Facts,” and comes on the heels of the discussion on “Bar-Code Faith.” You can look back to Saturday’s blog entry to see that part. In this section, a Gallup Poll survey is cited, which says that 94% of Americans believe in God and 74% claim to have “made a commitment to Jesus Christ.” 34% say that they have had some kind of “new birth” experience. Willard says, “These figures are shocking when thoughtfully compared to statistics on the same group for unethical behavior, crime, mental distress and disorder, family failures, addictions, financial misdealings, and the like.” He wonders if “such a combination of profession and failure” truly be the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Or, perhaps, is our understanding of “commitment to Jesus Christ” failing to break through to “his living presence in our lives?” A Christianity Today editorial from 1990 spoke of a leader from a “certain evangelical institution” that resigned because of “moral failure.” The magazine chose not to report on the case because such cases had become so numerous that they had “been forced to set criteria to decide which ones are newsworthy.” In this instance, the leader in question “was not a top-level leader.” This is tragic! This provokes deep reflection on what is the faith and interior life of our leaders, as well as ourselves. “Are we to suppose that everyone, from Mother Teresa to Hitler, is really the same on the inside, but that some of us are just vigilant or ‘lucky’ enough to avoid doing what we all really want to do? Are we to suppose that God gives us nothing that really influences character and spirituality?” Does Jesus have no impact whatsoever on our daily lives? It has been said that we often wonder if celebrities who advertise certain products really consume those products. (Have all of those sports figures really had lasik surgery??) “This is the very question now most pressing for those of us who speak for Christ.” Something must be wrong when there are so many moral failures in our midst. “Perhaps we are not eating what we are selling. More likely, I think, what we are ‘selling’ is irrelevant to our real existence and without over over daily life.” (pp. 38-39)

I hate to stop there, but I have to, due to time restraints. This is a very thought-provoking message, and quite tragic.


Father, as I go into this day, I pray that your presence in my life would be evident to me, as I live in the “daily pains and pleasures of this world.” I also pray that the faith that I am “selling,” I am also “eating.” May I not be part of the masses that preaches a faith that is irrelevant to real existence. I believe that Jesus Christ has given me something that can empower me to live the Christian life. No, I won’t be perfect, never. But there is power in the blood, and there is power in the name of Jesus! I pray that you help me to recognize and live in that power today. I also pray that my life in Christ, this life that I live each day, may be something that is worthy of imitation, not that I desire to have my own “disciples,” but that my life might draw someone to be interested in being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day today. Give Christi strength as she goes though this day today. Flood her with your overwhelming, steadfast love today and let her feel it. I pray that her healing continues and that she will be fully released on her next doctor visit. I also pray for Stephanie today. I pray desperately that you would reach down and touch her with your hand of mercy, showing her how much she is loved, both by you and by us. Finally, I pray for my work day today, that it will go well, and that we will get everything done that needs to be done. May my life reflect the beatitudes and the fruit of the Spirit today.

Your grace is sufficient.


Come down from the mountaintop with Jesus and live the life in the valley of this world. He has given us the power to do this effectively.

Grace and peace, friends.

Rising Early To Pray

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 20, 2013.

Today is Lollipop Day.


Christi is painting Stephanie’s room. It’s going to be a lighter blue than the current color, to match the new sheet/comforter set that will go on her new bed. New floor, new bed. Man, she’s livin’ it up. It’s probably going to be at least another week, though, before it’s all ready.

Today should be a pretty typical Saturday (except for the room painting part). We do have to pick up our lawn mower sometime today, though. It’s been in the shop for a while. And I have to practice a little harder today, as we’re doing a couple of songs that I’ve never played before in the worship celebration tomorrow.

Tragedy struck Six Flags Over Texas yesterday evening as a woman’s seat restraint apparently came loose on one of the drops on the Texas Giant roller coaster. I tell you what, I’ve ridden that several times since they rebuilt it, and seriously felt like I was going to come out of the seat during those drops. Not sure I’ll be riding it again, which is a shame, because it still remains one of the most enjoyable roller coasters I’ve ever ridden. I don’t know if they will close it down or not.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1944, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, having been made chief of staff of the Reserve Army, left a briefcase under a table at the Wolfsschanze conference, attended by Adolf Hitler and several others. There was a bomb hidden in a shirt in the briefcase. Unfortunately, Colonel Brandt, who had been sitting next to von Stauffenberg, had moved the briefcase over, to get more leg room. When the bomb exploded, it killed four people (included Brandt), but did little harm to its target, Hitler. Stauffenberg had begun as a supporter of Hitler’s, but when he saw “atrocities committed by the SS” in Russian, he began to lose faith in Hitler. By mid-1944, it was clear that Germany was going to win the war. Clear, that is to everyone but the fanatical Nazis. Unaware that his plot had failed, von Stauffenberg “flew back to Berlin to help take over the government.” When he arrived, the SS was already “rounding up most of the conspirators.” He and three others “were taken to a courtyard at the War Ministry and shot.” Other plotters, all over Germany, were arrested and executed, some after torture. Some were strangled with piano wire attached to meat hooks, “their death agony filmed for Hitler’s enjoyment.” Close to 5000 people were eventually executed, and another 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. Hitler’s determination never diminished, and he was quoted as saying, in December, “We’ll not capitulate. Never. We can go down. But we’ll take the world with us.”


Today’s birthday is Diana Rigg, born on this date in 1938. Rigg played the beautiful Miss Emma Peel on the sixties TV show, The Avengers. I had quite an intense crush on her. Here is a fan made video of some clips from the show, set to the music of Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible.”

Honorable mentions go to Carlos Santana, 66, Natalie Wood, 1938-1981, Kim Carnes, 68, Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008, John Francis Daly, 28, Judy Greer, 38, and Stephen Strasburg, 25.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Psalm 103:1
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:4-5
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. Psalm 145:18-20
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12

Father, as my soul blesses your name this morning, I pray that your word would truly light up my path. Teach me your paths as I look into your words this morning. Be near to me as I call upon you, hopefully, in truth. I will meditate on your mighty deeds, O Lord.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Rising Early to Pray.” The scripture reading is Mark 1:32-39.

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

You can see how popular Jesus had gotten from Mark’s description (perhaps slightly exaggerated) that the “whole city” had gathered at the door of the place where Jesus was healing and casting out demons. In the middle of this hectic time, Jesus rises early, before sunrise, to go out to “a desolate place” to pray. Even his disciples did not know where he had gone. By the time they find him, Jesus is refreshed and ready to move on to the next town. This passage is one of several where Mark mentions Jesus’s habit of going to deserted places to pray. “Our own spiritual formation will be strengthened if, in our busy, crowded, and noisy lives, we find regular times and places for quiet, for prayer, for listening to God. Time alone with God gives us renewed energy to live fully engaged with the world again.”

How many of us neglect this need to be alone to “recharge?” Read this quote from A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L’Engle:

“Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total
disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody – away from all those
people I love most in the world – in order to regain a sense of proportion.”


After a long absence, which I will blame on lack of time in the mornings, due to my new schedule (but is, in reality, more caused by my inability to manage time properly), I’m getting back to The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. I’m still in Chapter Two, “Gospels of Sin Management.” The section I’m reading today is called “Bar-Code Faith.” Most of us should be familiar with bar codes by now. Almost every item that you can purchase has one. Our smart phones can scan them, now. I can add food to my calorie tracker (My Fitness Pal) by scanning the bar code on the package with my phone. However, if the wrong bar code is on the package, the scanner doesn’t care. It simply reads the bar code. “If the ice cream bar code is on the dog food, the dog food is ice cream, so far as the scanner knows or cares.”

So what is the point of this? The author describes a radio program where a “prominent minister” spent about fifteen minutes stating that justification, or the forgiveness of sins, “involves no change at all in the heart or personality of the one forgiven.” It is something entirely external, “located wholly in God himself.” The point is that our belief that salvation is by the grace of God alone is “totally independent of what we may do.” Being a Christian “has nothing to do with what kind of person you are.” (Emphasis mine)

Consider the “bumper sticker theology” I referred to the last time I posted something from this book. This theology, Willard calls it “the theology of Christian trinkets,” says that there is something about us that works like the bar code. “Some ritual, some belief, or some association with a group affects God the way a bar code affects the scanner.” We have a moment of mental assent to some creed, we join a certain church; God “scans” this and “forgiveness floods forth.”

Of course, there is much discussion about what a “good” Christian would do or not do. However, one does not have to be a “good” Christian to be forgiven.

The next section asks the question, “Would God really do it that way?” There seems to be a sort of “disjunction” between faith and life, here, and it disturbs many people. They call this theology “cheap grace.” They insist that being a Christian is a matter of “righteous living in the social arena, standing up against social evils in behalf of love and justice.”

“But, to be quite frank, grace is cheap from the point of view of those who need it.” Trying to make it expensive really just adds to the confusion. We are not going to “get the best of God in some bargain with him,” nor are we going to succeed in “using him for our purposes.” People who are concerned about this severely underestimate God’s intelligence. He cannot be tricked. Nor can he be cheated. “Any arrangement God has established will be right for him and right for us.”

The real question seems to be whether God would establish an arrangement that takes care of only the afterlife, with no provision for our lives on earth. “Can we seriously believe that God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched? Would he leave us even temporarily marooned with no help in our kind of world, with our kinds of problems: psychological, emotional, social, and global? Can we believe that the essence of Christian faith and salvation covers nothing but death and after? Can we believe that being saved really has nothing whatever to do with the kinds of persons we are?”

Even further, can we interpret the Bible’s description of faith in Christ to be nothing more than “sin management?” (pp. 36-38)

Sorry to leave us hanging, but there will be more on this later. This book is extremely deep and thought-provoking. It will take a while to get through it properly.


Father, there is a lot think about in the readings today. Still, I will focus on trying to have quality time alone, to refresh and to prepare for each day’s activities. I thank you for the example of Jesus, who maintained a habit of sneaking away, early in the morning, to pray, alone. If my Savior needs times like these, then I need them, oh, so much more! I take great comfort in the times that I spend in this study every morning, but I crave something deeper. I pray for an opportunity, perhaps soon, to get away to a more “desolate” place, to commune with you for an extended period of time. I don’t know how long this might last, as I am not accustomed to spending long periods of time alone. My heart’s desire is to go deeper with you, to commune with you more intimately, and to continue to learn from you, for the rest of my life. If I ever reach a point where I believe I have learned enough, I pray that you slap me down. Seriously.

I pray for this day. May we get everything accomplished that needs to be done, today. I pray that my practice will go well, and that I will sufficiently learn the new songs that we are going to play tomorrow. I pray for tomorrow’s worship celebration, that it will be acceptable in your sight, that we will truly worship you together. Fill us with your Spirit, especially Terry, as he leads. Give him confidence, along with the knowledge that all the talent in the world does not make one a good worship leader. Rather, it is the presence of your Spirit in the heart. I thank you for Terry and his heart, Lord, for his heart is truly yours. May your grace, mercy, and steadfast love surround and overwhelm him today.


Don’t neglect those times alone with God. There is great value in them.

Grace and peace, friends.

Consider Jesus

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Normally, we call this “hump day,” but this is a strange week. Tomorrow is July 4, which is a holiday in the U.S., Independence Day. So many people get a holiday. Then we go back to work on Friday. Bleah. I’ve never been fond of mid-week holidays. And then, I have to work this Saturday. Probably only four hours, so that won’t be too bad. The account that I am not working on is having a huge audit next Monday and Tuesday, so we are cramming to get ready for it. I should have taken two weeks vacation. Hahaha!

I forgot to change my Red Sox calendar to July. It’s Felix Dubront. June was better. I much prefer Jacoby Ellsbury. Oh, well.


Today is “Stay Out of the Sun Day.” Yes sir! I’m all about that! My skin and the sun have never gotten along. I’m a redhead, you see. Or at least I used to be when I had, you know, hair.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1423, the future Louis XI of France was born. He was known “as ‘the universal spider’ for the plots he spun and the enemies he entrapped as he broke the feudal power of France’s medieval barons.” He was a shrewd, intelligent, witty, devious, and ruthless man, refusing to adhere to the standards of pomp and ceremony of his day. He respected neither title nor family, and once even sent his barber to be an ambassador.


Today’s birthday is George M Cohan, born on this date in 1878. Cohan got his start doing vaudeville with his family. He is probably most known for writing the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He also composed “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “Over There.” Cohan died in 1942. Here’s a clip of “Over There.”

Honorable mentions go to Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Moises Alou, 47, Ken Russell, 1927-2011, and Betty Buckley, 66.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Psalm 98:6-7
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 33:20-22
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139:17-18

“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this
new day: Preserve me with your might power, that I may not fall into sin, nor
be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose;
through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Father, my soul waits for you, for you truly are my help and my shield. I pray that you, by the power of your Spirit, will help me to abide in you today. As I find times of refreshing in this act of abiding, may you then produce fruit in my life. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Reflecting on Jesus.” The scripture reading is Hebrews 3:1-6.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

“Spiritual existence is not isolated existence.” This is something that I have been “preaching” for a long time. We are reconciled to God by the work of Christ, but we are also brought into community, into God’s “house.” We are urged, as believers (“holy brothers” who “share in a heavenly calling”), to “consider Jesus.” What does “consider” mean? It means to think carefully about something. “The Greek word for ‘consider’ means to think about in a careful and reflective manner.” We are a community, joined with Christ as “Sanctifier and sanctified . . . one with the Lord and with each other.”

The challenge is to spend some time today meditating on this passage, starting with this prayer from Nicholas Ridley:

“O heavenly Father, the author and fountain of all truth, the bottomless
sea of all understanding: Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, and
lighten our understandings with the beam of your heavenly grace. We
ask this, O merciful Father, for the sake of your dear Son, our Savior
Jesus Christ. Amen.”


I’ve finally gotten around to chapter two of The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. This chapter is called “Gospels of Sin Management.” Right off the bat, I’m thinking this is going to be really good. There are two quotes at the head of the chapter. First is Luke 24:45-49.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The second is a quote from Canon B.F. Westcott, in The Gospel of the Resurrection.

“We have so persistently dissembled the power of the Gospel . . . that it is pardonable if those who judge of it by us should doubt whether it is anything more efficacious and inspiring than the pathetic guesses which adorn the writings of philosophy.”

So the “grand invitation” to the eternal kind of life, the “with-God” life has been diminished to the likes of a friendly bumper sticker that says, “Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven.” There was a popular song from many years ago that stated that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.”

Are we only forgiven? Is that all there is to it? While it is certainly true that we are not perfect, there is quite a bit of “room between being perfect and being ‘just forgiven.'” I can be a lot more than “just forgiven” and still not be perfect. “Perhaps you could even be a person in whom Jesus’ eternal kind of life predominates and still have room for growth.”

This “bumper-sticker theology” has even made its way onto other “Christian trinkets” (I call it “Jesus junk”). Bookmarks, decorative plaques for the wall, and so on. Yes, we are forgiven, and no we are not perfect. So, in its simplistic essence, the statement is true. However, it communicates much more than that to the world. It says that forgiveness is all Christianity is about. “It says that you can have a faith in Christ that brings forgiveness, while in every other aspect your life is not different from that of others who have no faith in Christ at all.” (pp. 35-36)


Father, I thank you for your forgiveness. As I consider Jesus today, thinking on my savior and the “house” that he has created with us, your children, may I be drawn closer to perfect. I am not foolish enough to think that I will ever be “perfect.” I have way to many flaws, some of them very serious. As I attempt to learn this thing called “abiding” (and I’ve been here before), may you truly show me what it means. As I rest in you, pondering Jesus, considering his teachings and thoughts, show me your way; teach me more about you and what it means to live this eternal kind of life right now. I am not simply looking forward to a life of rest in whatever “heaven” turns out to be. I am looking for the “with-God” life that I can live right now. Unite my heart to fear your name. Help us to communicate to a world that needs you that we are, oh, so much more than “just forgiven!”

I pray for this day, that it would be filled with you. As Christi goes about her work day, I pray that your light will fill her life and shine out of it like the sun; that she will be filled with your love. I pray the same for Stephanie, that anyone with whom she interacts today will feel the love of Jesus coming from her. May I exhibit Jesus as I work today, manifesting the beatitudes and fruit of the Spirit. Teach us all to abide, that we may “bear fruit.”


Consider Jesus today.

Grace and peace, friends.

Slowly and Prayerfully

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Three more days and we’re on vacation!! And work has gone very smoothly the last couple of days, which is really helping me wind down toward this much-needed vacation.

There really isn’t much else going on around here.


Today, of course, is “Juneteenth,” which celebrates the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. It’s also the day I started working at Special Dispatch in Arlington, 18 years ago. Of course the company that I started working for 18 years ago, no longer exists, and I now work for CEVA Logistics.

Today is also “Sauntering Day,” which encourages everyone to just slow down and enjoy the world around you. Go for a saunter. I like that idea. Is that anything like “surrying?” You know, “Surry down to a stoned soul picnic?” Apparently, Laura Nyro made up that word.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1867, Mexican Emperor Maximilian von Habsburg was executed by firing squad, having been found guilty of “usurping the power of the legitimate government and using a foreign army to wage war against Mexico.” How on earth was a Habsburg Emperor of Mexico? He was the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph and had been persuaded by “Mexican reactionaries, French Emperor Napoleon III and his own ambitious wife Charlotte” to accept this crown. He reigned for three years and nine days. His last words are said to have been “Viva Mexico.”


Today’s birthday is (oh, my, how to choose, how to choose) Charles Spurgeon, born on this date in 1834. Spurgeon is hailed by many to be one of the greatest preachers that ever lived. He is even called “The Prince of Preachers.” He pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for 38 years. It is estimated that he preached to 10,000,000 people in his lifetime. He passed away in 1892, at the young age of 57.

Honorable mentions go to Blaise Pascal, 1623, Moe Howard, 1897, Lou Gehrig, 1903, Lester Flatt, 1914, Ann Wilson, 1950, Kathleen Turner, 1954, Meredith Brooks, 1958, Robin Tunney, 1972, Poppy Montgomery, 1972, and Doug Mientkiewicz, 1974.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. Psalm 67:1
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Psalm 31:1
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. Psalm 66:16

Father, I pray that you would show me something unique during my devotional time this morning. As I meditate on your words, may they come alive to me, as they never have before.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “The Beginning of Knowledge.” The scripture reading is Proverbs 1:1-7.

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

This passage explains that the book of Proverbs is “not just a collection of clever sayings.” The book is designed to “educate the young and inexperienced and to shape them in the right conduct.” It is a book “of spiritual and moral formation.” Many verses of Proverbs have been committed to memory by many people. If we read this book often, there are certain texts that will speak to us. “With open, well-formed hearts, we will hear God’s voice, if we read slowly and prayerfully, letting the Lord speak to us through the text.” This prayer is offered in the book:

Father God, I am so often in a hurry, skimming or reading as fast as I can,
so I can be on to the next thing. Help me to slow down, so I can be shaped
by the texts I turn my attention to this week. Help me to read prayerfully,
so that I can hear your voice through the words. In your name I pray.
Amen.


Continuing on in The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard (still in chapter one), we read that those of us who have been touched by God’s forgiveness and have received his new life are now, not only entered into God’s rule, but have become “bearers of that rule.” After Jesus had spent some time with his followers, he sent them out to do what he did. They were to Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:9) Even those who rejected them were to know that “the kingdom of God has come near.” (v. 11)

But there are still other kingdoms that are “at hand,” as well. There are people on earth who are allowed to have “a ‘say’ that is contrary to [God’s] will.” There is certainly a “kingdom of darkness” here, as well as many little individual kingdoms of people trying to run their own show, so to speak. So there is a combination of the “already here” as well as the “not yet” aspects of God’s rule on earth.

Teresa of Avila spoke of an “interior castle” within the human soul, a place that has many rooms that are being “slowly occupied by God, allowing us time and room to grow.” Nevertheless, “right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God’s stands his kingdom, always ‘at hand.’ It is that of Jesus and his heavenly Father. It can be ours as well. The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real.” (pp. 28-30)


Father, I have, for as long as I can remember, believed firmly that your kingdom is real. I cannot look back in my life and find any time when I did not believe in you and your kingdom. I pray that I continue to integrate my “rule” into yours, that the “many rooms” of my “interior castle” are, indeed, being slowly occupied by your Spirit, and that I am truly growing in you. As I seek your wisdom, through scripture and meditating on it, I pray that you give me the patience to slow down, to “saunter,” as it were, through your word, taking time to ponder it, to meditate, to see what it is that you are speaking to me through those words. This is not, as some fear, a sitting down and emptying the mind and soul, opening it up to spiritual attack. It is with the purpose of being filled with you and your Spirit, as you teach me more and more about yourself.

I pray for this day. May Christi have a good day at her work today, and may her foot continue to heal. She says it is getting better every day, and I praise you for this. I pray that by next week, it will be even better, that we may thoroughly enjoy our vacation trip. I pray for Stephanie as she continues to do the “homework” that Jacob has given her. Show her your truths and yourself as she reads your words. I pray for my own job today, that it will go well and that things are beginning to wind down toward the end of this week and the end of this client account.

I lift up Melinda Jernigan to you today, as she has somehow broken her leg and is waiting this morning to get it set and put in a cast. Relieve her pain and make her healing quick. I pray also for Dennis, as he has to lead a conference this weekend, in the midst of this struggle.

Your grace is sufficient.


If you take time to read some scripture today, do exactly that; take time. It is so easy to rush through. I have been very guilty of that, myself. We must, as state above, read “slowly and prayerfully, letting the Lord speak to us.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Mary Pondered

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Four more days until we’re on vacation! Galveston is calling my name! The ten-day forecast has possibility of isolated t-storms on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but I don’t care. We won’t be here, and I will still be able to see the ocean. Well . . . it’s technically the Gulf of Mexico, but I still count that as “ocean.” Just typing that made me relax a little.

I have two friends who have been out of work for a desperately long time. Both have been without jobs for over a year, one, I think, getting close to two years. I’m calling on the blogosphere to pray for them. Debbie, who lives in the same area we live in, and Mike, who lives in Indianapolis, but is willing to re-locate. He’s even gone back to school to get some different education in hopes of expanding his possibilities. Please pray for them.


Today is Sushi Day and Go Fishing Day. Haha. That kind of makes sense. But you need to go fishing first, then you can have your sushi. By the way, did you know that “sushi” is NOT raw fish? There are some who mistakenly believe that sushi must be raw fish and that if it doesn’t have raw fish in it, it’s not sushi. The sushi is actually the “vinegared rice.” It can pretty much contain anything, even just vegetables. I have grown very fond of sushi over the last few years, and have tried several different kinds. Odds are, I won’t have any today, though. Not likely to go fishing either. Oh, well.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1815, Napoleon’s career ended at the battle of Waterloo. His 72,000 strong army was defeated by “a mixed force of 68,000 British Dutch, Belgian and German troops, strongly reinforced by some 45,000 Prussians led by the 72-year-old Field Marshal Prince Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher.” That, of course, makes me think of this!

Anyway, the Allied army was commanded by none other than Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Of Napoleon and Wellington, it was said, by Victor Hugo, “Wellington was the technician of war, Napoleon its Michelangelo.” After losing the battle, Napoleon abdicated four days later. “It must have galled him that his defeat came at the hands of the British, whom he had once derided as ‘a nation of shopkeepers.'”


Today’s birthday is Blake Shelton, born on this date in 1976. Yes, the year that I graduated high school, this 6’5″ country superstar was born. And yes, I’m choosing a country superstar as my highlighted birthday today. Everyone who knows me well knows that I’m not a big country fan. But there are a few artists that I respect and appreciate. Having watched a couple of seasons of The Voice (a singing competition that leaves American Idol in so much dust it’s not even funny), I have really grown to like Blake Shelton. The interaction between him and Adam Levine on The Voice is enough to keep me interested in the show, even if the talent wasn’t amazing. By the way, Blake is probably going to win this season, either with The Swon Brothers or Danielle Bradbery. I personally cast ten votes for Michelle Chamuel, because I see her as the underdog. Plus, she’s quirky, from the same state as the Red Sox, and . . . she’s not country. Anyway, here’s a video of Blake’s newest song, “Boys ‘Round Here.”

Honorable mentions go to E.G. Marshall, 1914, Red Adair, 1915, Lou Brock, 1939, Paul McCartney, 1942, Roger Ebert, 1942, Carol Kane, 1942, and Ray Lamontagne, 1973.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Psalm 47:5-8
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. Psalm 119:147
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
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Father, I echo the words of the psalmist who asks you to give glory to your name alone. Not to us, O Lord, not to us. Your love is steadfast and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. All glory goes to you. Help me to abide in your word this morning, that I might know the truth. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Mary Pondered the Words in Her Heart.” The scripture reading is Luke 2:8-19, a very familiar passage.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” All of the events and words that related to the life of her son, Jesus, she treasured and pondered. My mind and heart cannot even fathom what Mary went through. The last glimpse we get of Mary is in Acts 1:14, where it is stated that she regularly gathered with other believers to pray. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has this to say of Mary, and of meditation: “Just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.” What a beautiful quote.


In chapter one of The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard has been talking about living “upside down” and “right-side up.” (I didn’t start writing about this in here until I was well into the chapter, but one of the things he states is that most people are living life “upside down.”) We have been invited by God to come out of the darkness and live “right-side up.” But this doesn’t make sense to many people. “Jesus came among us to show and teach the life for which we were made.” He has opened access to “the governance of God,” and has “set afoot a conspiracy of freedom in truth among human beings.” He overcame death and remains among us, to this day, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we study his words and believe them, we integrate our little kingdom with “the infinite rule of God.” This is “the eternal kind of life.” And it is here. Now. It is not something to be accepted now and enjoyed later. It is “something to be entered now.” (pp. 27-28)


Father, I thank you that you invited me and drew me into your kingdom. I thank you that it is present and active now, and not something that we are waiting for. I pray that you help me to enjoy this “eternal kind of life” that is present in my life now. Keep my little kingdom integrated with your kingdom, that your rule and reign might supersede mine. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!” Yes, Lord!

May I ponder the words of scripture just as Mary pondered the events and words about Jesus that were given to her. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. Guide me by your Spirit as I meditate on your words every day. Remind me to engage in meditation each day. I so easily forget. It’s not a habit yet. My heart’s desire is to be so immersed in your word that it becomes like breathing to me.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi’s foot will continue to heal. I pray that she has a good day today, and that she will be able to work out a detail that has come up. I pray for Stephanie today as she continues to look for Jesus in Colossians 1. I thank you for pastors with a heart of compassion that treat her with dignity and respect. And I pray for my day, that you help me maintain a positive attitude to get through these last four days on this account. Then I pray for one of the most relaxing vacations ever, next week.

I also pray for Debbie and Mike, that you might give them jobs. Hasn’t it been long enough? I don’t challenge you, I simply ask that question. As the psalmist and other scripture writers said, at times, “How long, O Lord? How long?” How long must these go without work? Teach them whatever you need to teach them. May their ears and hearts be open to your words.

Your grace is sufficient.


Ponder the words of God today, just as Mary pondered words about Jesus. I pray that all who read this might enter into this “eternal kind of life” that is now.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Your Kingdom Come”

And we’re back to Monday again. How does that keep happening?? Today is Monday, June 17, 2013. There are now 5 more work days left on this account.

We have decided on Galveston for our vacation next week. We booked a condo in Galveston, right across the road from the ocean. If you’ve ever been to Galveston, you know that that’s where most of the hotels and condos are. There are very few that are actually on the beach. This one is on, I think, the 8th floor, so we’ll have a nice balcony view of the ocean from way up high. Steph gets her own bedroom, too. She’s very excited about that, as she usually winds up sleeping on a sofa bed. Since the last time we were in Galveston, they have completed the Galveston Pleasure Pier. It’s where the Flagship Hotel used to be, which was where the original Pleasure Pier used to be back in the forties. We’re looking forward to visiting the pier. There’s what appears to be a very relaxing 2-hour train ride around the city/island that we plan to take in, and I’m looking forward to going on one of the ghost tours that they have in Galveston. I’m fascinated by things that are allegedly haunted and have never been able to actually take one of these tours. It all depends on how much walking there is and if Christi feels up to trying one. Steph will more than likely stay at the condo. Anyway, it’s going to be a fun, relaxing, well-deserved week. We’ll be leaving Sunday, right after church, and returning Friday evening. Because that’s when the condo was available.

We had a great day yesterday. The morning went well at church. Of course, there were lots of tears as we hugged our pastors and told them “farewell.” Jacob preached a good message, and we had a great time playing in the worship band. We added a new (only not so new, because everyone else already knew him) electric guitar player yesterday, and it added so much to the mix! After church, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Fogata’s, for lunch. Then Christi and I dropped off Stephanie and went out to do some shopping. We bought fertilizer, a spreader, weed killer, pool chemicals, you know, fun stuff like that. 😀 Then we got drinks from Sonic (because we always get drinks from Sonic) and headed back home for a little rest before we started working with the stuff we bought. Yes, I did a little yard work on Father’s Day. Not much, though. Later, we had ice cream from Braum’s. Yum!


As much as I’ve tried to avoid it, today is “Eat Your Vegetables Day.” Whatever.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought in the American Revolutionary War. It was only two months after the first battle of the Revolution, and most of the action actually occurred on nearby Breed’s Hill. Bunker Hill just happened to be the highest of the three hills looking down on Boston Harbor. Cannon fire from British ships in the harbor had failed to dislodge the Americans, so “General Sir William Howe led his force of 2,300 men to remove the Yankees.” Is that all it takes to remove the Yankees? 😀 Anyway, it was at this battle, as the British advanced, that American General Israel Putnam said, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” While this sounds like a ridiculous idea (why let them get that close, right?), apparently the accuracy of the firearms of that day was not exactly, well, accurate. The stand was successful for a time, but the Americans began to run out of ammo and weapons, and were forced to retreat. At the end of the day (really, at the end of the day), the battle was over. The British had 226 dead and 826 wounded. The Americans had 140 dead and 301 wounded. “Even though they lost the battle, the Americans were jubilant. They had demonstrated that untrained militia, hastily assembled, could trade blow for blow with professional British soldiers, and American determination was strongly boosted.” Even so, the Revolution would last over six more years.


Today’s birthday is Igor Stravinsky, born on this date in 1882. Stravinsky was a composer, best known, perhaps, for his controversial piece, The Rite of Spring, which caused a riot the first time it was performed in public. Here is a video clip of Stravinsky conducting a portion of Firebird. I’m not sure of the orchestra, but it says he was 82 years old at this performance.

Honorable mentions go to M.C. Escher, 1898, Barry Manilow, 1943, Dave Concepcion, 1948, and Greg Kinnear, 1963.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Psalm 96:9
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— Psalm 18:46

Father, as I worship you this morning, through my devotional, I pray that you reveal yourself to me. Open my eyes and ears that I may see and hear what you have to say to me today.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Meditate on It Day and Night.” The scripture reading is Joshua 1:7-8.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

God indicates to Joshua that “effective leadership calls for concentrated meditation and musing on the law of God.” We, like Joshua, should “talk about the word, think about the word, and obey the word.” Every verse of scripture is “a potential summons from God.” As we read and meditate on the words of God, perhaps we should be asking, “What is God summoning me to do through these words?”

Here’s a quote from Lilias Trotter, in The Way of the Sevenfold Secret:

“You must look up with the vision of the heart to the Person of
Christ, and listen for the impress of His will on your will through His
words, that is, through the Book of the Gospel that was written to be
the means of communication with the souls of His people. As you
become familiar with them He will by His Spirit bring them to your
memory as you need them, to be your defence in the dangers of the way,
even as David said in the Psalms: ‘Thy word have I hid in my heart that
I might not sin against Thee’ (Ps 119:11, KJV).”


As I continue reading The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, he begins to discuss God’s kingdom. He has been talking about our own personal “kingdoms” up to this point. Like our kingdoms, God’s is “the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done.” Everything that obeys him, either by nature or by choice is within his kingdom. Of course, this is where any similarity to ours ends. We see in Psalm 145:13, that the kingdom of God has existed from creation and will never end. “It cannot be ‘shaken’ (Heb. 12:27f) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder.” This is something that I think many humans have a difficult time processing. There has never been, and never will be, an danger of God’s kingdom not becoming exactly what God purposed it to be. It is not “a socially or political reality at all. Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart, is the only place in all of creation where the kingdom of God, or his effective will, is currently permitted to be absent.” I’m not sure I agree with that statement. But I believe I understand what Willard is getting at. I’ll have to ponder that some more. Admittedly, a lot goes on in the world that cannot truly be said to be “God’s will.” These are things that I have struggled to reconcile with God’s sovereignty.

Moving on. This kingdom of God is not, as many believe, primarily in the hearts of men. It does exist in the hearts of men, and governs them through their hearts, but it is not confined to their hearts. “It is not some matter of inner attitude or faith that might be totally disconnected from the public, behavioral, visible world.” We must also keep in mind that this kingdom did not begin with Jesus’s presence on earth. It merely became accessible to humans with the advent of Christ. When we pray, as directed by Jesus, “Your kingdom come,” we are not praying for it to begin to exist. “Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded.”

As we learn about his kingdom, and how this works in with our own little kingdoms, we learn that, within his dominion, he has given each of us a “range of will.” And we need to learn to “mesh our kingdoms with the kingdoms of others. Love of neighbor, rightly understood, will make this happen.” And here is a key statement, in my opinion: “But we can only love adequately by taking as our primary aim the integration of our rule with God’s.” Remember, loving our neighbor is the second greatest command. The first is seeking first the kingdom of God. “Only as we find that kingdom and settle into it can we human beings all reign, or rule, together with God. We will then enjoy individualized ‘reigns’ with neither isolation nor conflict.” (pp. 25-27)


Father, as I try to understand this writing, I turn to your Spirit to help me. I realize that, while your will is ultimately performed in all of creation, that you seem to have given us a measure of our own will. How does this reconcile with your sovereignty? I confess that I struggle with this comprehension. Yet I trust you implicitly. I trust your sovereignty, and I trust your will. I pray that you help me integrate my “rule” with yours. And, as I interact with others, especially other believers, help us all to “mesh our kingdoms” together for your glory. I see that as the primary purpose for what we call the Church.

As I continue to meditate (help me remember to do that during this day) on the verse that I have chosen, I pray for the Spirit to speak truth and wisdom to me. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Keep this in front of me all day today. Remind me what I’m supposed to be doing, as I go about my daily work and family responsibilities.

I pray for this day. It is currently thundering outside, and raining. I pray that peace will return soon, and that Stephanie will not be frightened while at home today. I pray for Christi’s day, that her foot will continue its healing process, and that she will be able to take it easy on it. May her day be free from stress and anxiety. I pray for Stephanie today, as she looks for Jesus in your word. I also pray that I will have a good day, and help me meet any challenges with effectiveness. I pray that we may be able to “finish strong” over these last five days.

I pray for Rob Shepherd and Stephen Haggerty, currently in Russia, building an orphanage. I pray for their safety and effectiveness in ministry. I also pray for Dave Woodbury, on mission in China. I pray for his safety, as well, as he ministers on this trip. May they all work to your glory and have success in whatever they are doing on their trips.

Your grace is sufficient.


While this kingdom stuff can get confusing, let us all strive to mesh our own “rule” with that of God, seeking his kingdom first.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Kingdom Set Aside

Good morning. Today is Thursday, June 13, 2013.

There’s not a lot to report today. I had to work late yesterday, kind of doing damage control, as the temp that was (and I do emphasize the word “was“) working with us had a bit of a meltdown the night before. Based on emails that I can see (and ones that I don’t see), things are going pretty smoothly this morning. Oh, and I officially have vacation scheduled the week of June 24. Woot! I wish we could afford to go back to Cancun. Not yet, though.


Today is Sewing Machine Day. Okay. Well, we have one of those. I’m not sure if I have ever used one of those things.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
323 BC. “Towards evening today in the fabled city of Babylon he died, still only 32. In his twelve years and eight months as King of Macedonia he changed for ever the Western world. He was Alexander the Great.” Oh, the conspiracies abounded. There were bad omens. “Alexander’s pet lion was kicked to death by a donkey.” “Pet lion???” Ravens fought over the walls of Babylon and one fell dead at Alexander’s feet. Perhaps conspirators had poisoned his wine. However, modern historians believe that, “already weakened by alcohol,” he died from malaria. Told by his mother that Zeus was his father, rather than Philip II, shortly before he died, he order “all Greeks to worship him as a god.” Over time, this thought was eventually transformed into “the divine right of kings.”


Today’s birthday is Malcolm McDowell, born on this date in 1943. Malcolm is, of course, and actor that goes way back. He has had a wide diversity of roles, from “Alex” in A Clockwork Orange (I still haven’t seen that movie), to Paul Gallier in the 1982 remake of Cat People (loved that movie!). He even played Caligula in the movie of the same name. He’s had a recurring role in The Mentalist as Bret Stiles, a religious cult leader. He has been in 224 titles in his career as an actor, including 11 titles that are currently in production. I used to think he was related to Roddy McDowall. Then I realized their names weren’t even spelled the same. I like them both pretty equally. Well, except that Roddy passed away in 1998.

Honorable mentions go to Basil Rathbone, 1892, Paul Lynde, 1926, Whitley Streiber, 1945, Dennis Locorriere (Dr. Hook), 1949, Ally Sheedy, 1962, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, 1986.



TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1, 3
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Psalm 86:4
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57:5

Father, I pray that you would “gladden the soul of your servant” today, as I look into your word to find grace and truth for my day ahead. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Guiding the Nations.” The scripture reading is Psalm 67:1-5.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

This psalm is a strong call for the people of the earth to give praise to God. While his actions definitely include his “chosen people,” they reach far beyond that simple demographic. We have readily acknowledged that God can guide individuals through “circumstances, signs, dreams, visions, and angels.” But have we considered that he can also guide and entire nation? Is that difficult for us to fathom? It really shouldn’t be. The Old Testament is replete with examples of God guiding entire nations to do things. And if he can guide nations, then he can certainly guide individual bodies of believers, right?

The question is asked, “If God can guide the nations, how does this impact your vision about how God can guide you in the greatest concerns of your life?” The problem is, the thought of God guiding nations and other large bodies of humanity has a reverse effect on me. It tends to make me think that God is not so concerned about guiding one individual. Now, mind you, I don’t believe that, it’s just the way my brain works. The “correct” answer is that, if God can easily guide a whole nation of people, then he can certainly guide me with ease, as well.


I’m still reading chapter 1 of The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. (I’m working quite slowly through this book, as I want to “digest” it properly.) In yesterday’s segment, I discussed the idea that, in our efforts to rule our own kingdoms, we, as humanity, attempt to do so on our own, in our own strength, therefore getting quite off the path that God desires for us. Willard writes that, in cooperation with God, however, we “discover the effectiveness of his rule with us precisely in the details of day-to-day existence.” Do we think that God doesn’t care about the minute details of our lives? I have thought that. How could the Creator of the universe be bothered with little details in my life. Frank Laubach discovered that God does, in fact, care. As he cultivated a habit of turning his mind to Christ frequently throughout his day, he found that there was “a sense of cooperation with God in little things” that was astonishing to him. He had never felt this way before. “I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work, to be sure, but there is God working along with me.” (From Practicing His Presence, by Frank Laubach)

“When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion increases.” What did Jesus say in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25? Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Willard goes so far as to say that “the heavenly Father has in fact prepared an individualized kingdom for every person, from the outset of creation.” That is difficult for us to wrap our heads around, isn’t it? But Willard says “we have a very weak imagination toward God, and we are confused by our own desires and fears, as well as by gross misinformation.” We must learn to trust God with what he has given us, and he will gradually increase our “kingdom” until we have what he planned for us. Look at verse 34 in the parable: Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ (pp. 23-25)

Now, this sounds dangerously like prosperity gospel, doesn’t it? But I know Dallas Willard well enough to know that this is NOT what he is espousing here. This will become more clear as I keep reading in days ahead.


Father, I pray that I would continue to seek your guidance in my life on a daily basis. The timing of this segment on the discipline of guidance is very good, as there may be a major decision for me to make soon. And, right now, I can tell you, I’m not at all clear on which way I should decide. In fact, what was clear to me before has suddenly become quite muddy. Therefore, I need your wisdom in this decision (should it come up at all). I believe that you can guide an individual just as well as you can guide a whole group of people. I also believe that you care about my daily activities, and that I need to be faithful to submit everything in my little “kingdom” to you. Give me faith as I “rule” my realm. May I submit all to you and allow your cooperation in my area of influence, thereby also allowing you to expand that influence. As I pray daily, keep me faithful to stay focused on the needs that I am called to pray for. I also pray daily that you form the life of Christ in me as I live, and that your peace will not only flood my soul, but overflow onto all around me.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi as she continues walking in a regular shoe, that she will not overdo it and wind up back in the boot. She’s having a little soreness and swelling this morning, so I pray that she will take it a little easier today. I pray for her work day, that it will go smoothly, and that her job will remain secure (or that something better will come along). I pray for Stephanie today, that you would be her light today, and show her how to “rule her kingdom.” I thank you for some recent developments at my job that could make these last seven days on this account a little better. Give me the grace and strength to get through them, and then have a wonderful week of vacation.

Your grace is sufficient.


God can certainly guide us as individuals, and consider that he has a “kingdom” already set aside for you to “rule.”

Grace and peace, friends.

In Community, Not Alone

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, June 12, 2013.

Amber the Cat seems to be slowly improving. But we are still having to hand-feed her. This is a slow process. But the doctor did say that it takes close to a week for any kind of gastro-intestinal thing to get over. She seems to be eating more each day, even if it is a fight to feed her. She does occasionally get up and drink some water, too. And we think she looks better this morning.

Seven more work days on this account. I had a nice conversation with our top manager yesterday (he kind of inherited this account when our actual account manager took another job). He finally told me that they appreciated everything I have done through this, and that he didn’t think they could have made it without me. I asked for the week off immediately after we are done with it, and he said just send him the vacation request and he would run it through. So, I’m planning to be on vacation the week of June 24. I may sleep the whole week. Probably not. But it will be the most stress-free week I’ve had since February.

Monday afternoon, on the way home from work, I had a sort of “epiphany.” It could have very well been the “voice” of God, through the Holy Spirit. But regardless of what you believe about stuff like that, it suddenly dawned on me that I was taking all of this crap (sorry if that word offends you) too personally! None of this is personal. Of course, I hate it when my company fails at something. And we’ve been having service failures right and left as this account has continued to wind down. It seems like people care less and less about our performance. And I’ve been taking it too personally, which has caused me stress like you can’t even imagine! (Well, maybe you can; if you can, I pity you.) At that very moment, it was like all the stress that I had been feeling just melted away. Yesterday wasn’t much better than the day before. There were things that went wrong, and things that I had to fix right off the bat when I got to work. Yes, I got frustrated about a few things, but at the end of the day, I could say that I was amazingly UN-stressed! Thank you, Lord, for that!

In other news, Christi is OUT OF THE BOOT!!! Her doctor was, once again thrilled with her progress, so she can wear regular tennis shoes with inserts in them! Still no strenuous exercise for four weeks, when she sees the doctor again, but in a couple of weeks, she can start some light walking exercise. We are all very happy!


Today is Red Rose Day. Isn’t that the haunted house in Seattle that Stephen King wrote about? Oh, wait. No. That’s “Rose Red.” Sorry.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1937, eight of Stalin’s top commanders were executed for charges of treason, one of them being Marshal Mikhail N. Tukhachesvsky. This was part of Stalin’s plan to purge Russia of all opposition (even potential) to his regime. “Among the targets of scrutiny were former aristocrats, tsarist officers and anyone associated with Trotsky’s command of the Red Army during the Civil War.” Over the next year, this purge continued with the following losses occurring either through death or imprisonment: “three of five marshals; fourteen of sixteen army commanders; 60 of 67 corps commanders; 136 of 199 division commanders; 221 of 397 brigade commanders; and some 35,000 lower-ranking officers–in all amounting to about half the officer corps. Their replacements were for the most part unfit or untrained as commanders.” All of this, of course, resulted in some embarrassing and disastrous defeats during 1939-1941.


Today’s birthday is Anne Frank, born on this date in 1929. Born Annelies Marie Frank, she is probably the most famous of all of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Anne and her sister Margot both died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, after their family had been betrayed and captured. Anne was fifteen when she died in 1945. Otto Frank was the only survivor of the family, and when he returned to Amsterdam after the war, he discovered that Anne’s diary had been saved. He was able to get it published, so the world knows the story of Anne Frank. It was given to her on her thirteenth birthday and spans the dates from June 12, 1942 through August 1, 1944.

Anne Frank
Anne Frank

Honorable mentions go to Samuel Z. Arkoff, 1918, Dave Berg, 1920, Jim Nabors, 1930, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1977.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! Psalm 80:7
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23
Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. Psalm 68:28

Father, may my lips truly shout for joy this morning, as I sing your praises. Let your face shine on me this morning, as I look into your word, seeking truth and wisdom for my day.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “A Mentoring Influence.” The scripture reading is 2 Timothy 1:3-7, 13-14.

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

“Paul and Timothy met during Paul’s second missionary journey and worked together for some seventeen years.” Timothy was young, but had a spiritual maturity about him that defied his age. Paul took Timothy on and acted as a “spiritual father” to him. Timothy found in Paul someone who could train him in his faith, love him, and guide him in growth, while modeling the Christian life to him. Today we call this “mentoring,” or even perhaps, “spiritual direction.” Whatever it is called, Timothy participated in the discipline of guidance as he opened his life to Paul and sought growth through his influence.

“God’s speaking in union with the human voice and human language
is the primary objective way in which God addresses us. . . . This is best
suited to the purposes of God precisely because it most fully engages the
faculties of free, intelligent beings who are socially interacting with agape
love in the work of God as his colaborers and friends.
“~~Dallas Willard, Hearing God


As I continue reading chapter one in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, he continues to write about how we were “made to rule.” Humanity was created in covenant with God, with the command to “rule over all living things on earth, animal and plant.” God initially equipped us for this weighty task “by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him.” This “rule” was to be exercised in cooperation with God.

I can do very little in my own unassisted strength. If I have mechanical, electrical, or even atomic power at hand, i can do much more. But what can I do in union with God? All of the atomic power in the world pales in comparison! God created and controls all other forces.

Of course, we fell from this “intended divine context and from the task for which we are by nature fitted.” Over time, we have distanced ourselves from both God and each other, as mistrust has grown. “In our arrogance and fear we flounder through our existence on our own.” It is easy to see that lack of trust characterizes humanity today. However, our “fundamental makeup” has not changed! We still long, in the deepest places of our heart, to fulfill this original calling. We all desire to rule something in our personal life circumstances. When animals get in trouble, there’s always someone jumping up to take the cause. We experience creative will, we want to accomplish things, things of value. Unfortunately, when we jump up to take charge of the earth, we are doing it through distorted values. “Much of our time and energy is spent trying to dominate others or escape domination by them, from ‘office politics’ to tribal warfare to international relations on a global scale.” (pp. 22-23)


Father, as I prepare for the day ahead, I pray that I can be both Paul and Timothy. Let there be someone in my life, someone older and more mature, who can share his experience with me, who can teach me what he has learned about you. (This gets increasingly more difficult as I get older . . . not to find someone wiser, but to find someone older in my immediate circles.) Perhaps it can be someone who is “spiritually older,” yet not necessarily physically so. At the same time, I pray that someone could come into my life that I could share my own experience with. Surely I have learned something along the way that could be of value to someone else. I pray, however, for a humble spirit, that seeks not to “rule” my own kingdom, but to share in it, to share in community with other believers as we work together, play together, and worship together. My heart desires, not singular rule of a kingdom, but that of community. I desire fellowship with brothers and sisters. I pray that as our church moves forward, that this is what we will become, more and more.

I pray for this day ahead. I pray for Christi’s first day back at work wearing normal shoes. Help her to take it easy walking, to not try to walk too fast or too much. i pray that her foot will continue to heal as well as it already has. I also pray for job stability for her in the future. I also pray for her to find favor in this other thing that’s going on. As always, I pray that you show Stephanie your steadfast love today, teaching her your love and your ways. I thank you for my newfound attitude at work, and pray that that will remain intact today. Give me a “double portion” of your spirit today, of your wisdom, of your love, of your peace, that I might be a rock of strength in your strength today. I have no strength of my own, as seen in the above segment from Dallas Willard’s book, but in you, I can accomplish anything. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Your grace is sufficient.


Do you have a “Paul” in your life? How about a “Timothy?” In light of Willard’s writing, these kind of relationships are getting scarcer. We need to recapture the spirit of mentoring, of community, in our lives, regardless of belief systems.

Grace and peace, friends.

I Have A Kingdom!

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Not much new to report at house today. Amber (cat) is about the same. Still hand-feeding, still pretty week, but seems to be gradually improving. Christi has an appointment today to see if she can get out of the boot and into a special shoe for the next two weeks. We are very hopeful. I have nine more work days on this account. It’s getting to be funny. Every day, something major goes wrong. It’s getting to a point where it no longer stresses me out. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.


Today is National King Kamehameha Day. I think we should all travel to Hawaii to observe this day in honor of the Kamehameha the Great, he who first created the unified kingdom of Hawaii. Of course, the Hawaiian gummint should pay for the trip, too, right?


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1292, “Doctor Mirabilis” was laid to rest in Oxford. Roger Bacon was born in Ilchester in Somerset, studied in Oxford, then Paris, and joined the Franciscan order. He was a “medieval polymath, excelling in mathematics, optics, languages and astronomy,” and had a special interest in alchemy. “He conceived the telescope and found that he could cause explosions by combining charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter.” Of course, we now call that mixture “gunpowder.” He also came up with the scientific method, “that is, the repetition of carefully controlled experiments until the certainties of cause and effect can be demonstrated and proved.”

Due to his extremely advanced methods and concepts, he was imprisoned in his monastery for ten years, condemned because of “his heretical views about science and his virulent criticism of other scholars and theologians, while the Pope banned the reading of his works.”

Bacon died two years after being released, believing his life to be a failure. However, “he is considered one of the fundamental founders of modern science.”


Today’s birthday is Gene Wilder, born on this date in 1933. Hard to believe that this star of such hilarious movies as Young Frankenstein has turned 80 years old today. Here is a scene from that movie.

Honorable mentions go to Richard Strauss, 1864, Vince Lombardi, 1913, Adrienne Barbeau, 1945, Frank Beard, 1949, Hugh Laurie, 1959, and Peter Dinklage, 1969.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! Psalm 9:11
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. Psalm 67:1
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Psalm 65:5

My Father, I would ask that you would show me awesome things today, as I look into your word. Left me up and let your face shine upon me this morning.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “What Makes for Understanding.” The scripture reading is Job 32:6-10.

And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’

The youngster, Elihu, proclaims in this passage that it is “the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty” that makes someone wise, rather than the popular notion that age makes for wisdom. Elihu shows wisdom beyond his age, and has listened carefully, throughout the orations of the other three “friends” of Job. As we participate in the “discipline of guidance,” we learn that the secret of spiritual maturity is to “put off the old nature and ‘put on Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:27).” As we put on Christ, in the spirit of love, we “fall deeper and deeper in love with God” as well as loving each other as God has commanded us.

There is an ancient practice called “spiritual direction,” in which “one Christian consults with another, spiritually experienced Christian.” Perhaps this is what we might call “mentoring” in our modern day. What qualities would we look for in a spiritual director? How do you know if someone possesses the “breath of the Almighty?” Who is there in your life who could serve as a “spiritual director?” The person who comes to my mind immediately is, as this passage indicates, quite younger than I. It is tempting, of course, to say, “Well, I don’t need a spiritual director! I’ve ready the Bible from cover to cover close to 20 times in my life!” But I’m not that arrogant. I always need someone in my life to help me understand God’s teachings, as well as to help me discern the direction God is pointing me.


I’m currently reading chapter one of The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. He writes about how we are “made to rule,” and that we all have a “kingdom” of sorts. While most of us might shy away from that concept, here is how Willard defines “kingdom.” “Our ‘kingdom’ is simply the range of our effective will.” In other words, whatever we can directly control is our kingdom. God created us to rule, to “have dominion in a limited sphere.” It is this control over certain things that makes us a person. “Any being that has say over nothing is no person.” And how true is that? What would it be like to have control over nothing at all? Some would argue that this one is still a “person,” and I would not necessarily disagree with that, however, in the context of what Willard is talking about here, I will go along with his precept. “The sense of having some degree of control over things is no recognized as a vital factor in both mental and physical health and can make the difference between life and death in those who are seriously ill.” I have seen this to be true. I have seen the physical and mental decline of those who have begun to lose control in their lives. And, we also know that attacks on our “personhood” most usually take the form of someone diminishing what we can do or have control over. When someone else takes control over us, either physically, or perhaps even worse, mentally, “it reaches most deeply into our substance.” (pp. 21-22)


Father, as I continue to work on this discipline of guidance, help me to see where you are leading me. I believe that I made a giant step yesterday afternoon, on the way home from work, when I realized that I was taking a large part of these work challenges personally. They are not personal. Yes, they are causing me stress and anxiety. However, as soon as I came to that conclusion, the stress and anxiety level decreased dramatically! Father, no one is doing anything directly to me! That is a silly notion. I am in the middle of some trying circumstances, true. However, you are there with me, and will not abandon me. You have promised that, and demonstrated that to be true. Help me to maintain that state of mind today, whenever these challenges continue. May I also be one who is not afraid to seek out human connection when seeking guidance. You have placed people in my life, over the last couple of years, who have been faithful in your service, and I see them as ideal candidates for seeking guidance. Help me to always humble myself and never be afraid to ask for help.

I pray for Christi today, as she goes back to the doctor for her foot. May the healing be advanced enough to get her out of the boot. She certainly feels better and says that her foot is doing much better. I also pray for her work day today, that it be smooth, and I pray for this other thing she has going on. You know. May your will be done in her life. I pray also for Stephanie today, that she might find more promises and truth in your word that will encourage her and lift her up as a person. Help her discover her own little “kingdom” in her life. I pray for my job today, that the challenges will be met with faith in you and confidence that you are in control of all things, and that all things work together for my good. I’m giving up praying for a stress free day until this account is over. 😀

I pray for a friend, Leslie, who has a job interview today. May she do well and get the job she desires.

Your grace is sufficient.


Look for that “spiritual director” in your life. We all need some help in this life.

Grace and peace, friends.

Looking For A Sign

Good morning. Today is Friday, June 7, 2013. Well, as if we weren’t already having enough cat problems, now we have one that is very sick. Our cat Amber spent last night at the animal hospital, almost totally dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting over the past few days. They hooked her up to an IV for fluids, with some anti-what-I-said-before meds and some broad spectrum antibiotics because she obviously had some kind of infection. Hopefully, she made it through the night, and will recover from this. She was pretty weak yesterday afternoon. We don’t really know how old she is. She was grown when we got her, and we figure she is somewhere between ten and thirteen.

Work continues to be a challenge. My sleep was interrupted last night by a message that one of the drivers’ tractors was broken down and we didn’t have a driver for that route. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well for the rest of the night. At this point, I don’t know what has happened, so I’m probably walking into another mess. However, I am finding it less stressful each day, as it is getting easier to shut off my caring filter. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but this transition period has been handled very poorly by my company. Still waiting for something new to come along. Stay tuned for further developments.


Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day and National Donut (they spelled it “doughnut;” does anyone spell it that way any more?) Day. How cruel to put both of those on the same day! The good news is, if you’re going to speed, today is the day! (Please don’t make me explain that . . .)


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1914, the first ship, the carrier Cristobal passed through the 51-mile Panama Canal. According to this book, the idea for this canal started in the 16th century when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered a route surveyed for such a canal. Work was never started. 300 years later, the Spanish government looked at it again, but abandoned the idea. It was Teddy Roosevelt, wielding his “big stick,” that finally got it rolling. The total cost was $350 million, a staggering amount for that day, but it was completed $27 million under budget.


We have received word that Amber survived the night and is doing okay. So far so good.


Today’s birthday is Michael Cera, born on this date in 1988. While I don’t usually choose one so young, just look at my other choices. Anyway, Michael first made his splash on the movie scene in the movie Juno. (Actually, he was in Superbad the same year.) Before either one of those movies, however, he played the part of George Michael Bluth in Ron Howard’s insanely hilarious series, Arrested Development. Here is a fan made clip tribute to George Michael, to the tune of “Help” by The Beatles.

Honorable mentions go to Dean Martin, 1917, Tom Jones, 1940, Liam Neeson, 1952, Prince, 1958, Dave Navarro, 1967, and Mark Lowe, 1983.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. Psalm 66:8-9
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life. Psalm 119:145, 149
I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. Psalm 56:12-13

Father, as I cry out to you, this morning, I ask that you hear my voice, “according to your steadfast love.” I praise you that you have enabled me to walk before you. Keep me in your path, teach me your ways, so that I may walk in your truth.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Asking for a Sign.” The scripture reading is Judges 6.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (12)
“Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.” So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. (14b-19a)
And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. (20-22a)

As we see, Gideon responds, at first, with skepticism when the angel of the Lord appears to him. Even after the Lord says to him, “I will be with you,” he insists on a sign. God is very gracious to provide this sign, showing extreme patience with Gideon. We see later in this story that Gideon continues this trend by putting out the infamous fleece.

We all struggle, I am certain, with knowing whether a leaning or impulse we feel comes from God. How often do we ask for signs? Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, not necessarily. I once remember (and I’m certain I have shared this in this blog before) being in a particularly dark time in my life. I was standing outside, in front of my Grandmother’s house in east Texas, a few miles outside of Henderson. I sincerely asked God, “Am I really your child?” I was immediately overwhelmed with the most amazing sensation of God’s love that I have ever experienced in my life! It was as though God had reached down and wrapped his arms around me and hugged me! I believe that was my sign, and I have held onto that moment for the rest of my life. (It was almost 30 years ago.) After the sensation subsided, I looked down and saw a bluebird feather at my feet. I picked it up. I still have that blue feather. I’ve asked God to give me direction in a decision that I hope to be making very soon (perhaps even today). I’m not sure if I have received a “sign.” I could look at circumstances and proclaim that they are a sign, and they very well might be. I’m still praying on that one.


I have recently started reading The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. I hope to be sharing some “nuggets” from this book in here, soon. However, I am just barely into the first chapter, so nothing yet. Also, some might wonder why I stopped talking about E.M. Bounds and his works on prayer. I have to confess, I ran across a couple chapters that put me off a little. I may get back to that, but it seemed as if he were saying that if we weren’t morally perfect, God wouldn’t hear our prayers. I can’t go along with that, because if that were true, God would never hear any of our prayers. Perhaps I will revisit those chapters someday and see if I read them wrong. For now, I have set that book aside.


Father, I thank you that you give us guidance in our lives, and, when we truly seek you, help us find our way. Sometimes you even help us find our way when we aren’t doing a very good job of seeking you. I love your patience, Lord, and it humbles me. Your patience with our example today, Gideon, was amazing. Even after you had answered his request for a sign, he asked for yet another one, the exact opposite. I’m sure I am that obstinate, as well, and I praise you for your immense patience with me. Help me to be more observant of the signs that you do give me, the guidance that you give me through scripture, other people, and my circumstances. I pray that, if this decision time comes, that you will give me clear direction on the right thing to do.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that the problem at work has been resolved, or at least will be soon. I pray that Christi will have a good day at her work, and that her job will remain secure, or you will bring something else her way. Surround Stephanie with your steadfast love today, and I pray that our cat will be okay. I know, she’s just a cat, but she’s our cat, and we love her.

I pray for my friend Leslie, who has a job interview today. I know she doesn’t necessarily believe in you, but perhaps you could reveal yourself to her, that she might believe. I also pray for another friend, Danielle, whose CAT scan results will be in Monday. I pray that she gets good results from this test.

Your grace is sufficient.


I leave you with this classic seventies rock song, and a home made video for it.

Grace and peace, friends.