Praise in the Storm

Today is Wednesday, December 20, 2017. Day 21,832.

Only FIVE more days until Christmas!!

99 days until Opening Day!

Alan Parsons, born on this date in 1948, said, “Folk rock was my real roots. I did a few gigs as a folk artist, in the style of Fairport Convention.”

The word of the day, from, is facepalm, a noun, meaning, “the gesture of placing the palm of one’s hand across the face, as to express embarrassment, frustration, disbelief, etc.”

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)
Wednesday – Third Week of Advent

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:21
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

The Request for Presence
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36:5
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 
Psalm 145:1
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
John 19:25-27
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. 
Psalm 138

(From The President’s Devotional)

Today’s reading is called “Preemptive Praise.”

“Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees the mud, and one the stars.”
(Frederick Langbridge, “A Cluster of Quiet Thoughts”

Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill. But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
Psalm 59:14-16

“There is power in preemptive praise,” says Joshua DuBois. When David’s enemies were near, seemingly closing in on him, he sang praises of God’s power and “steadfast love.” He proclaims, “For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge.”

Says DuBois, “My slave ancestors used to call this ‘praising in the middle of the storm.'” I believe, along with the writer of this devotion, that God is, indeed, delighted that we trust him enough to “speak words of praise even in advance of our breakthrough.” When we are in the midst of our troubles, singing and proclaiming his praise speaks volumes more than whining and moaning about our circumstances. And many times, breakthrough is the “fulfillment of our praise.”

“Dear God, you know the challenges, the fears, the insecurities of my life. Instead of letting them weigh me down, I will use them as fuel for the fire of my praise. I know that you are a deliverer. And I know that you are with me, and I am with you. Amen.” (Joshua DuBois)

Father, I cannot add to that prayer. I can only echo it, for it speaks exactly what my soul speaks, this morning. Amen and Amen!
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.

Creatively Responsive

Good morning. It is Saturday, December 20, 2014. Only five more days until Christmas!

Today’s Word of the Day is “nurture.” Nurture is a fairly well-known word. It has several meanings, though. 1. “To supply with nourishment.” 2. “To educate.” 3. “To further the development of” or “foster.”

Today is Sangria Day. Sangria can come in a lot of forms, but it is basically a fruity wine that originated in Spain. The historical origins seem to have to do with the time when Romans inhabited the area, around 2000 years ago, and put all kinds of things (along with alcohol) in the water to make it safe to drink. The name comes from sangre, or blood, due to the original color of the drink that resembles fruit punch more than wine. This reminded me of this old song by Jerry Jeff Walker.

We had a very busy day, yesterday. And we didn’t quite get everything finished, either. One thing that took a bit of time, that was not originally planned, was me getting a new phone. I had been thinking about this, on and off, for a few months. My previous phone was a Samsung Galaxy 4S. For the most part, I have been happy with this phone. However, there were occasional issues with its connection to the bluetooth in my car, and being able to make calls to Christi and Stephanie (or, I guess, anyone else). Several times, I was knocked off of the bluetooth connection when merging calls, and there were frequent times when I simply could not hear the person on the other end, and they could not hear me, either. At those times, I would wind up having to completely restart the phone. I don’t know if this was an issue with my individual phone, or with the Galaxy in general. At any rate, both Christi and Stephanie still have iPhones, so I elected to switch back. On the “Next” plan, the payment for the iPhone 6 was only a dollar more than the payment for the iPhone 5s, so I went ahead and got the newer model. So, now, I’m having to relearn all the operating nuances of the iPhone.

We went ahead and did our grocery shopping yesterday, both for our weekly needs, and for the Christmas dinners we will be preparing for Wednesday and Thursday. We also picked up some gifts for relatives, as well. By the time we got all the groceries, picked up our ubiquitous Sonic drinks, and got home to unload all the groceries, it was after 4:00 PM. As soon as we got everything put away, we headed across the street to Fogata’s for “lunch/dinner.” (Why is there a word for “breakfast/lunch” but not for “lunch/dinner??” “Linner?” “Dunch?”) After that, we went to the mall (*gasp*) and got a case for my new phone, as well as a new screen protector for Christi’s phone. Oh, and a new car charger, since the one in my car only fits Samsung phones. Of course, we had to buy cookies while we were at the mall.

Today, we still need to go out and hit the dollar store for stocking stuffers, and I think, after that, we are done with Christmas shopping! Oh, and I still haven’t gotten that oil change. Tonight, as is our custom, we will have our prayer gathering at 4:45, followed by our worship service at 5:45. As always, I would welcome anyone who is in the area to visit us. We are The Exchange.

Tomorrow, we just might go bowling again. 🙂

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1597 (mistake point out . . . that should be 1957) received his draft notice for the U.S. Army. Elvis was spending Christmas at Graceland when he received the notification. By that time, he had a run of gold records, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” as well as a hit movie, Love Me Tender. Elvis was at the peak of his career, and here he was, getting a notification that he would be required to serve for two years in the Army. Thousands, nay, tens of thousands of letters were sent to the Army, begging that he be excused, but the King of Rock and Roll would have none of that. He willingly served, after receiving a one year deferment to finish work on his movie, King Creole. Elvis was sworn in as a private in Memphis, on March 24, 1958, eleven days after I was born.

Today’s birthdays include Jonah Hill, JoJo, Peter Criss, David Cook, Chris Robinson, Branch Rickey, Harvey Firestone, James Shields, John Hillerman, Alan Parsons, and Aubrey Huff.

Alan Parsons is a musician and producer of great fame. He began his career at the age of 18, as the assistant engineer for the Beatles album, Abbey Road. He received his first Grammy award nomination for engineering Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of the Moon. He also engineered five albums by The Hollies, including their hits, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and “The Air That I Breathe.” In 1975, rather than return to work on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, he started work on his own project, The Alan Parsons Project, with songwriter and singer Eric Woolfson. He is 66 years old today. Here is my favorite song by the Project, “Old and Wise,” featuring Colin Blunstone on lead vocals.


(From The Divine Hours)

Third Week of Advent

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
Micah 4:2
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—
Psalm 18:46
“At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.”
Psalm 75:2
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 145:1-13
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are
sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and
deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who watch
for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship may give
you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20:29-34

“What do you want me to do for you?” That is the question that Jesus asked these two men. What would I say, if he asked me that today? My response might be exactly the same as those two. “Lord, let my eyes be opened.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Kingdom of Liberty.”

“Jesus calls us at Christmas to enter the Kingdom of Liberty, to be set free by his Father’s love.” His unexpected birth in Bethlehem creates a “longing to be free from self and free other others.” Perhaps it even creates in us a desire to look for “intelligent and imaginative ways to celebrate an unconventional Christmas.”

God’s Word is fresh and alive, and Christmas bears witness to this. Our God is not one who defends the old, that which is settled or familiar. “The God we encounter in Jesus is free from preoccupation with his own glory, free to be for us, free to be gracious, free to love and let be.”

This same God might well expect us to be “creatively responsive” this Christmas. “Indeed, he might call us to set free captives bound by loneliness and isolation, to share our hope with prisoners of gloom and despair, to invite the unlovely to our table, to celebrate our freedom in forgetfulness about our comfort and convenience, to cry the gospel by ministering to widows and orphans, to be the Church by bringing soup to the poor, to ignore conventional expectations, to call his Son out of Egypt once more.”

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward,
since he himself is beset with weakness.

Hebrews 5:2

Father, I pray for the desire to be creatively responsive this Christmas. I’ve acknowledged that I’m feeling a little more joy this season than in seasons past, although, this particular day, I’m struggling with feelings of failure, as I have, once again, allowed my selfishness and insistence on not having my routine disturbed to cause disharmony. I certainly need your Spirit to speak in me that I might forget about my own comfort and convenience, in order to help someone else who is in need. May your mercy flow through us, this Christmas, as we encounter needs for encouragement and ministry.

I pray for this day, that we might finish up things that need finishing. I pray that Rachel will make her flight on time, so she can be with her friend in Virginia, for the wedding she is attending. Give us wisdom and patience, as well, as we work through the details of car repair or replacement and insurance stuff. May your grace prevail in us. I pray for this evening’s prayer and worship time, that your name will be lifted high and glorified. Help me get my heart into things the way it should be.

Indeed, Christ calls us to be “creatively responsive” as we celebrate Christmas. May we find ways to do that, this season.

Grace and peace, friends.

What the World Needs Now…

Good morning. It’s Thursday morning, December 20. Five days to Christmas, six days to Cancun. Today is “Mudd Day,” apparently named after the doctor who tended to John Wilkes Boothe after he shot Lincoln and broke his leg. He went to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who apparently delayed contacting the authorities, and, subsequently, served four years in prison for participating in the conspiracy to assassinate the President.

It’s also “Go Caroling Day.” I like that one better. 🙂

On this date:
In 1803, the “Louisiana Purchase” was completed.
In 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede.
In 1941, the “Flying Tigers” had their first battle in Kunming, China.
In 1957, Elvis was drafted. (Presley, not Andrus.)
In 2007, Elizabeth II became the oldest monarch of the U.K, passing Queen Victoria.

Today’s birthdays include Samuel Mudd (see the info on “Mudd Day” above), 1833, Branch Rickey (baseball exec), 1881, Fred Merkle (first baseman, “Bonehead”), 1888, Peter Criss (drummer for KISS), 1945, Alan Parsons (musician and producer), 1948

Cecil Cooper (baseball player), 1949, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), 1966, Aubrey Huff (baseball player), 1976 (grew up in Mineral Wells, Texas, my home town), James Shields (baseball pitcher), 1981, David Cook (winner of American Idol), 1982, Jonah Hill (actor), 1983.

We didn’t do much yesterday, other than watch the two episodes of The Voice from this week, including the season finale. I won’t be a spoiler, but let’s just suffice to say that I was VERY unhappy with the final result.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:15)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)
Father, you truly have been my refuge for all these years. Open my lips this morning, and I will praise you. Show me a vision of you, that I might serve you faithfully today.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:6-9.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The beautiful scenario begun yesterday continues in today’s reading. The peace envisioned in the reign of the Messiah is almost unfathomable. Verse 9 is especially beautiful. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
There also some interesting thoughts regarding children and animals that I don’t have time to get into this morning.

Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Right Lines of Work.” The scripture reference is John 12:32, in which Jesus says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

“Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, and there was no need for it.” The world doesn’t just need love, the world needs open-heart surgery.

If a soul that is in difficulty can get to God through any other line than the Cross of Christ, then that Cross was unnecessary. I’m about to say something very unpopular, so get ready. If what many people say is true, that there are “many roads to God,” then the horrible suffering that Jesus Christ went through was a tragic, terrible joke on him. If there is any other road to get to God besides the road of the Cross of Christ, than that God is a cruel, sadistic, jerk. The truth, as I believe it, is that there are only two roads, and they lead in opposite directions. (That’s a Timothy Keller thought, there.) Even Led Zeppelin only mentioned two roads. “If you can help others by your sympathy of understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ.” I must keep my soul rightly related to God, and I must only try to help others on his line, not trying to help on the “human line” and completely ignoring God.

I must show the world Jesus Christ and him crucified. I must lift him up, so that he may draw to himself. “Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray.” My usefulness to God depends solely on my simple relationship to Jesus Christ, and nothing else.

Our calling as “New Testament workers” is to “uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior.” Chambers says we “cannot be poetical,” we “must be surgical.” While I might agree with that sentiment, I find great comfort in waxing poetical, at times, especially since I’m a fledgling songwriter. However, I do agree that “We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses.” The aesthetic quality of our speech matters not one iota as long as the message being presented is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All that being said, there is still a need for the truth to be spoken in love. There is a way to “uncover sin” that is not so harsh as some want to make it. The Gospel of Christ can be shared without being “judgmental.” “You’re going to Hell because of your sin,’ is probably not the best way to win someone over. “Here’s how much the Creator of the universe loves you,” is probably a better start.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Father, I pray for compassion for all people. While I recognize that sympathy is not what the world needs, and that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love,” is not quite an accurate assessment of the problem, when we attempt to spread the Gospel of Christ while spewing hatred at sinners, we don’t do much good. Over and over, your word tells us that we are to take care of the needy. The widows and fatherless are especially dear to you, and your word does not differentiate between the saved and lost widows and fatherless, at that point. The poor and needy are poor and needy, regardless of their spiritual condition. Nevertheless, I pray that, while we generously provide for the needs of the people, we don’t forget to give them what they really need, and that is Jesus Christ. I pray each day that I might help someone find your peace. That peace comes through Jesus Christ and him alone. Obviously, I don’t believe that there are many roads to get to you. But I do believe in using compassion to help someone find that one true road. So I pray for more compassion for people. You have told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You have told us to treat people as we would be treated. That must lead me to the conclusion that there are a lot of “Christians” out there who would prefer to have hatred and venom spewed at them. I don’t want to be that person, and I thank you that you have brought me down a path of compassion instead. I want to love like you love, Lord. I pray daily that the characteristics of love presented in 1 Corinthians 13 would be manifest in my life. I pray that you would make me
not envious,
not boastful,
not arrogant,
not rude,
not insistent on my own way,
not irritable,
not resentful,
not one that rejoices in wrongdoing,
one that rejoices in truth,
bear all things,
believe all things,
hope all things,
endure all things.
In short, I want to be like Jesus.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for a good work day for Christi and for me. I pray for a day with no anxiety for us, as well as for Stephanie. I pray that Stephanie would feel better today, as she was a little “under the weather” yesterday. Draw us all closer to your heart today.

I thank you that our pastor’s wife is improving, and continue to pray for her healing and recovery from pneumonia. I also pray for my manager’s recover from shoulder surgery.

Repeating a previous statement. The world doesn’t just need love…it needs open-heart surgery.

Grace and peace, friends.