Training, Not Trying

Today is Thursday, May 18, 2017. Two days until our family reunion.

Quote of the Day

“It’s not the having, it’s the getting.” ~ Elizabeth Taylor

Word of the Day

Slacktivism ~ actions taken to bring about political or social change but requiring only minimal commitment, effort, or risk. Signing an online petition, for example.

Today is Notebook Day, which celebrates the benefits of journaling. I like journaling; some folks don’t. That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. Some people feel like they are supposed to be doing it, especially in the spiritual community, but that’s not a burden anyone should assume. If you like it, by all means do it. If you don’t, then don’t do it; don’t even try. Being miserable does not make you a better person.

In the shocking news category, I was greeted, this morning, by the news that Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave, has passed away at the age of 52. This is totally unexpected, according to news reports, and, as of now, no cause of death has been identified. I have a friend at work who was excited about an upcoming concert with Soundgarden, his favorite band.

More sadly, and more close to home, I report that C’s good friend and work associate, Theresa, passed away Tuesday night, after a painful battle with cancer. We are saddened, but, at the same time, glad that she no longer suffers. In addition, she was confident in her Savior’s ability to keep her, so we are confident in her ultimate destination, which is far better than even the best circumstances in our world. As Dallas Willard said, things are much better than you could ever imagine, in the kingdom of God.

For some happy news, the Rangers beat the Phillies quite soundly, last night, 9-3. At one point, it was 9-0. The starting pitcher got the win, which is always good. They now have an eight game winning streak, and one more game with the Phillies this afternoon. Hopefully, the rain will hold off until after the game. Unfortunately, the Astros won again, too, so the Rangers continue to be in second place, eight games out.

The Red Sox beat the Cardinals again, too, in thirteen innings, 5-4. They remain in third place, four games behind the Yankees. They gained a game on the second place Orioles, though. They begin a weekend series in Oakland, tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are ESV, unless otherwise noted

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97:12
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

Psalm 86:1-2
Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
Psalm 28:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Luke 11:9-13

(From Living the Message)

“Spirituality requires context,” writes Eugene H. Peterson. “Always. Boundaries, borders, limits.”

There are people who believe that just by becoming less material, they automatically become more spiritual. This is, of course, not true. “No one becomes exalted by ascending in a gloriously colored hot-air balloon.” To become mature, spiritually, requires what Peterson calls “askesis.” What is askesis? “A training program custom-designed for each individual-in-community.” Training, not trying, as Dallas Willard would say.

The way we train is through the Spiritual Disciplines. And what makes it “custom-designed” is that no two people need the same program of disciplines in their lives. Some people may not need to practice the discipline of silence as much as I need to. And boy do I need to! We all need to determine which disciplines we need most in our lives in order to reach our potential, spiritually. Spiritual maturity cannot be “mechanically imposed from without.” I can’t become more spiritual simply by getting rid of all my stuff. While that might not hurt anything, it doesn’t, by itself, serve any purpose.

Askesis must be context sensitive.”

You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23:2-3 (The Message)

Father, I am excited about where we are going in my life. I truly am. As I learn more about Spiritual Formation and the disciplines, I begin to see which ones I need to focus on. Immediately, I see the need for silence and solitude. Simplicity will probably be right on the horizon, as well. I’m sure occasional fasting would be beneficial to me, also. Teach me these things as I go. I would even pray that someone might come into my life who has a good handle on these things that could help lead me along. May your Spirit guide me in this “askesis.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

“He Remembers That We Are Dust”

Today is Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Three more days until our family reunion.

Quote of the Day

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Word of the Day

Zugzwang ~ a situation in which a player is limited to moves that cost pieces or have a damaging positional effect. This word was featured heavily in season eight of Criminal Minds. It literally means “compulsion to move,” and represents a situation where you have to move, even though you would rather not.

Today is World Baking Day, so get out there and bake stuff. Cookies, pies, cakes, casseroles, whatever. Send the cookies and pies to me.

As usual, on Wednesday, there’s not much going on around, to speak of. We are waiting for the weekend, for our trip to east Texas to visit uncle and cousins (and brother for my mother). Our vacation to Oregon looms ever closer. Seventeen days, to be exact.

The Rangers continue their winning streak, which is now at seven games. But listen, folks. They simply aren’t playing anyone that’s any good, right now. Their current series is against the Phillies, who are 14-22 on the season. However, a win is a win, right? And the Rangers are finally at .500. They are in a tie for second place, eight games out.

The Red Sox beat the Cardinals last night, and the Cardinals have a better record, so that’s good. The Sox remain in third place in the AL East, four games out.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scripture references are ESV, unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared.
Psalm 76:11
Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! 
Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.

Psalm 119:169-170
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Psalm 54:6
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14

Bill Giovannetti writes of frustrations with a beloved pet. We all know the sound, at least all of us who have pets. That disgusting sound that means the cat or dog is about to barf. Bill had one occasion when his dog, Lacy, did so on the nicest rug in the house, rather than on the nearby tile floor. His impatience grew as he cleaned up and wondered, “Why this rug? why not the tile floor? What’s she gotten into to upset her stomach?”

Later, as he read Psalm 103, he was convicted with the knowledge that God cleans up after us without griping or complaining at us. “My Father knows how weak I am. He understands my limitations. His patience knows no bounds.”

I have had similar experiences, not so much with pets as with a daughter. There are plenty of frustrating times with an autistic child, as many parents know. But many, also, are the times when I hug my head in shame after getting angry with our daughter, realizing that I tend to act the same way toward my Father in heaven. It’s a sobering realization, I assure you.

“Gracious Father, no matter how many times I mess up, You never sigh, never frown, never chide. You make all things new, over and over again. Thank you.” ~ Bill Giovannetti

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Revelation 21:5-7

Father, keep me ever mindful of the grace you have shown me in my life, through all of my mess-ups and failures, through all of my outright rebellion. Help me to show the same grace to everyone with whom I come in contact, in family, in work, in life. Your grace is sufficient.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

God, Work, and Reality

Today is Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Four days until our family reunion. I said six yesterday. That was wrong. Should have been five.

Quote of the Day

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” ― Studs Terkel

Word of the Day

Forgettery ~ a faculty or facility for forgetting; faulty memory.

Today is Biographers Day. Truthfully, no matter what topic you are into, biographies can be inspiring to read.

Band practice was fun last night. We started rehearsing music for the July 3 concert, so there are a lot of marches, which are always fun for trombones. Plus we are doing an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, as well as a couple of Aaron Copland tunes, “Lincoln Portrait” and “Hoedown” from “Rodeo.” Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

(From The Divine Hours)
All Scripture quotations are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Psalm 31:23
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.
Psalm 118:28
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. 

Psalm 33:1, 4, 18-22
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

(From Living the Message)

This almost goes hand in hand with the Studs Terkel quote above. Eugene H. Peterson’s reading for today is called “God Constitutes Our Work.”

He says, “The moment we drift away from dealing with God primarily (and not merely peripherally), we are no longer living vocationally, no longer living in conscious, willing, participatory, relation with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. The storm either exposes the futility of our work (as in Jonah) or confirms it (as in Paul). In either case, the storm forces the awareness that God constitutes our work, and it disabuses us of any suggestion that in our work we can avoid or manipulate God. Once that is established, we are ready to learn the spirituality that is adequate to our vocation, working truly, easily, fearlessly, without ambition or anxiety, without denial or sloth.”

Sounds very complex. but what I take from this is that we need to be willing to deal with God in every aspect of our lives, not just our “church life.” True reality is the kingdom of God. Until we recognize that, our lives are going to fall short.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Philippians 3:15-15 (The Message)

Father, I have believed this to be true for a long time, yet I don’t always practice it or live as if I believe it. Help me, today and every day, live my life in the reality that you are all there is; your Kingdom is truth; your Kingdom is the only reality.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Refuge

It’s Monday again. Monday, May 15, 2017. Six days until the family reunion.

Quote of the Day

“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz

Word of the Day

Luddite ~ someone who is opposed or resistant to new technologies or technological change.

Today is Chocolate Chip Day. Seriously, do I even need to say anything else about it?

No breaks for the weary band players, yet. We’re back at rehearsals tonight, preparing for our next gig, which will be on July 3, for the Southlake Stars & Stripes event. Then, after that, we’ll get a month off. This year, July 3 is on a Monday, so I have taken the day off from work in order to avoid hassles of getting to the Southlake Town Square early enough to get a parking place.

As already mentioned, this coming weekend will be our “family reunion” in east Texas. I’ll be picking up my mother Friday after work, bringing her back home with me, where she will spend Friday night. Saturday morning, we will load up and head to east Texas (Henderson area) to my uncle’s house (my mother’s twin brother). My cousins will, hopefully, all be there, so the “four Js” will be together again! Maybe even some of their kids, as well. One of them is smoking a brisket for us. Yum! We’ll come back home on Sunday, but C and I have Monday off, too.

Then we get the following Monday off for Memorial Day, and the following Saturday, we will take to the skies to travel to Oregon, where we will spend a week at Rockaway Beach. We are looking forward to some rest and relaxation in the Pacific Northwest, as well as some beautiful scenery. It looks like we will even be in the vicinity of Astoria on “Goonies Day.” Look it up.

The Texas Rangers have won six games in a row, boosting them into second place in the AL Worst West. I think it’s premature to get all excited about this development, though, as two consecutive wins of those six were on walk-off home runs, and the starting pitcher only won one of those six. Still, a “W” is a “W,” no matter how it happens. They are still under .500, though, and 7.5 games out of first place, behind the Houston Astros.

The Red Sox are one game above .500, still in third place, 4 games out of first.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scripture references are English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:1-2
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 16:1-2
I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Psalm 18:1-2
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Father, as I go out into this new work day, may your Spirit go with me, before me, behind me, and beside me. May I find myself walking with you, in your Kingdom, consistently today. When I am tempted to be angry or frustrated, give me the presence of mind to think first, to visualize Jesus standing between me and whatever circumstance or person that is frustrating me. May I take refuge in you today; may you be “my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Sunday, May 14, 2017. Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, and also to my wife! I am blessed beyond measure!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 
  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 96:2-4
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14
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
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Psalm 91:5-6
“Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
The Diving Hours

As we celebrate Mother’s Day today, I know that it’s not the same for everyone. Not everyone has good memories of their mothers. Not everyone who wants to be a mother has been allowed to do so. No words will help either one of those situations.

But for those who have good memories/experiences with their mothers, I call upon you to celebrate that today. At the risk of sounding corny, like the people on The Voice, sometimes, if it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be here, today. I know. I always make fun of people who say that. But I also know what they mean. My mother (and my father) taught me truth, honesty, integrity, and the love of the Lord, from an early age. I don’t remember it, but I’m 100% sure that I was at church the first time they were able to bring me. I was on the nursery roll. I’m what they call a “lifer.”

But there’s more to it than that. My mother taught me to love the Bible. She also taught me to love music and hymns, which evolved into a love for the most wonderful classical music, and even contemporary Christian/worship music.

And after my father passed away, my mother displayed strength that we never knew was there. We all know how much it hurt. But her faith in God, that faith that she began passing on to me, even before I was born, has carried her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. I love you! May the Lord reward you for your faithfulness.

Dear Father, I am so thankful for my mother and my wife, two incredible women that you have placed in my life. Both of them have taught me love, integrity, and faithfulness. Both of them have loved me without reservation, the closest that a human could come to displaying “agape” love. May you bring blessing to both of them on this day and every day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

No Temptation Has Overtaken You That Is Not Common To Man

Today is Saturday, May 13, 2017. One week until our “family reunion.”

Quote of the Day

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Word of the Day

Microcosm ~ a little world; especially : the human race or human nature seen as an epitome of the world or the universe. Also, a community or other unity that is an epitome of a larger unity.

There are a number of choices for today’s “holiday,” some more strange than others. I’m going with one of the stranger ones. Today is Leprechaun Day. I love the idea of leprechauns. I also love Lucky Charms, represented by a leprechaun. “It is said that if you catch a leprechaun, he will have to give you his pot of gold, but leprechauns are resourceful when it comes to defending their gold, and they are not easily caught.”

It’s another busy weekend at the Bickleyhouse. Tonight, there is a Southlake Community Band concert that doesn’t begin until 8:00 PM. I have to be there by 7:30, and it should last until around 9:30. Since we only had a couple weeks to prepare for this one, we are basically re-playing our Disney concert from earlier in the year. The next gig is on July 3 for the July 4 festivities.

Tomorrow, of course, is Mother’s Day. Since we are all going to east Texas to visit my uncle and cousins next weekend, we will not be going to Mineral Wells tomorrow to see my mother. She promised that she is fine with that. And the trip to east Texas is part of our Mother’s Day gift to her. R & J will be coming over tomorrow, though to celebrate with C. We will probably order out and have food delivered, rather than fight crowds at a restaurant. We just don’t like doing that scene at all.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 115:18
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Psalm 142:5
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psalm 108:3-4
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalm 84:11
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 
  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 
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 25:1-5

(From The President’s Devotional)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

“But Satan now is wiser than of yore,
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.” ~ Alexander Pope, Moral Essays

“The wave is coming. Its crest high, thundering, overwhelming. We see it from far off and tremble at what it portends. The great wave of temptation.”

This wave comes at us, wanting us to believe that it is undefeatable, that no one has ever survived it. But it lies. Temptation always lies. God tells us that “no temptation has overtaken” us “that is not common to man.” Many people have come before us and survived this wave. “They’ve come out whole. And so will we.”

“Dear God, I know temptation is coming. Give me the mettle to withstand. Amen.” (Joshua DuBois)


Father, I have succumbed to temptations many times, as have many other people. But you have always picked me back up on the other side and placed me back on your path, my journey to you. More temptations will come. They will not stop until I finally reach my destination. The thing is, I can’t even imagine what life without temptation will look like. As I continue to train, strengthen me against temptations of all kinds. Grow me to the point that following and obeying Jesus is second nature; to the point that I don’t even have to think about whether I’m going to do something that I ought not do.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Through the Midst

Today is FRIDAY, May 12, 2017.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Psalm 96:1
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.
Psalm 119:145
Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you, beholding the depths;
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

(Te Deum)
Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.
Psalm 85:13
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! 
In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. 
Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.

Psalm 31:19-21

(From The President’s Devotional)

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
Luke 4:24, 28-30 (ESV)

How many close calls have you had in your life? How many times have you been on “the brink of major disaster or really poor decisions,” yet found your way “to the other side?” We might attribute some of the outcomes to our own hard work and/or wisdom, but if we are honest, and consider all of the instances, we must admit that we have seen the hand of God at work.

“Just as Jesus, when backed up against a cliff, simply disappeared through the midst of the crowd, so does he help us press through the toughest of times in an almost miraculous fashion, with so much ease that we scarcely recall the crisis when the moment has passed.” The result of this, for Christ-followers, is confidence that, when the night is falling, morning will be close behind.

“Dear God, thank you for being a miracle worker. On so many occasions I’ve made it to the other side, too many for me to remember or recount. I rest in the knowledge that you will do it again and again, for your greater glory. Amen.” (Joshua DuBois)

Father, I echo Mr. DuBois’s prayer, as I think back upon my life. There have been many times that I/we have been on the brink of disaster, and you have pulled us through, walked us through the midst of the crowd of challenges, into the bright morning that waited on the other side. I praise you for your providence in our lives. Help me to live in the confidence that you “have my back” all the time. But also help me to not get into situations that would take me down that troublesome path.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.