Messy Community

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the fourth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. It’s the eleventh day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill you today.

Day 23,308

Nineteen days until Hamilton!

It’s chilly, this morning, some would say cold, but not as cold as the last two mornings. I do not think C had to scrape ice off her windshield, this morning. As I begin, this morning, it is 34 degrees, with a projected high of 65. A nice day.

I don’t believe I have mentioned our neighborhood cat. He lives across the street, and is named Dommy (or Dommie, not sure how they spell it). Several times a day, he activates the motion sensors on our cameras in front of the house as he makes his rounds. We actually enjoy watching this. Twice, yesterday, he followed exactly the same path, across the sidewalk in front of our porch, and then down the driveway on the driver’s sided of my car. I’m thinking about finding something to give to the folks across the street for him. I need to find out if he is also an indoor cat, or strictly outside.

I have a little bit of laundry to do today, as well as a side trip to a different grocery store. There is at least one thing we need more of that we can only get at Walmart Neighborhood Market. Maybe I should sign up for their delivery service, as well.

I work my four hour shelving shift this evening, from 4:15 – 8:15. So, at some point, I will go out and pick up Subway for lunch for S and me, and get a salad for C for her dinner. I also just remembered that I need to swing by CVS to get some scripts for S. Hopefully there won’t be four people in line getting Covid tests.

I finished my first book of the year, yesterday, so that’s good. It is called The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski (Polish). It introduces a beloved character known as The Witcher. I plan to read more of his books, and believe we have most of them in the library. Next up is A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, author the best-seller, The Girl on the Train. Believe it or not, I am also still working through The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. Hopefully, I will finish that soon. It is actually a good book, but not an easy read. Lots of footnotes and historical information.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Spirit Blessed, by Daryl Madden

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
As colors rising to express
To start this day with our request
In the light of dawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With humble will let us confess
To Your power we attest
Unto our knees of falling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
When we are put to the test
Through Your grace let us profess
Your Word of wisdom spawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
Let this weary soul find rest
And turn to you when we are stressed
When we feel darkness calling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With our praise, our joy express
In sharing prayer, let us invest
Our daily path of walking

I like the rhythm of this poem, as well as the prayer expressed. Yes, Spirit, come!

For great is the LORD, 
and greatly to be praised, 
and he is to be feared above all gods.
 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, 
but the LORD made the heavens. 
Splendor and majesty are before him; 
strength and joy are in his place. 
(1 Chronicles 16:25-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the splendor and majesty of the Lord, and the strength and joy we receive from Him
2. for the opportunity to spend more time with Jesus, as He asks me, "What are you looking for?" (John 1:35-42)
3. that Jesus revealed the way to God; it is not hidden
4. for the enlarged capacity to love each other and be more generous with our resources
5. for the communities that God has placed us in, messy as they are

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, 
"Behold, the Lamb of God!" 
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, 
"What are you seeking?" 
And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), 
"where are you staying?" 
He said to them, "Come and you will see." 
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him,
 "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). 
He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 
"You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). 
(John 1:35-42 ESV)

Jesus asks the question, here, “What are you seeking?” This could be stated as “What are you looking for?” I believe that we could hear Jesus asking us that same question today. What is my answer? What am I looking for?

The answer to this question varies, depending on the day, depending on my spiritual state of being. Today, my answer is going to be more spiritually-leaning than materially-leaning. I am looking for Him. That’s not just a “Sunday School” answer, either. I really am looking for Jesus; I’m looking for God. Not that I have not found Him, mind you. But that I am looking for more depth of relationship. I am looking to be more like Jesus so that I can be more in tune with what God wants for my life.

Apparently, the two disciples that were following Him weren’t quite ready for the question. The best they could come up with was, “Where are you staying?” To which He simply replied, “Come and you will see.” So Jesus invites me to come and see where He is staying. What do I find there? What does He say to me? How do I respond?

Obviously, these are questions that require the use of imagination, and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe I would find a simple abode, simply furnished with basic necessities, no frills or extras. Jesus would only have what He needed to live. And I believe that, as I spend time with Him, He would ask me again, “What are you looking for?” Or maybe, “What do you want?” I don’t believe He is satisfied with the first answer to His question. And my response would be what I typed earlier. “I want to know You. I want to know as I am known.”

Reading/listening to this passage again, I use my imagination and consider spending an afternoon with Jesus. What would this feel like? My heart’s desire is to spend more time with Him during 2022.

(Questions taken from Pray As You Go)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.


As I continue to look at Thomas More’s “A Godly Meditation” in Spiritual Classics, the question is asked, “What lessons can I learn from Thomas More’s attitude and his meditation?” I posted the parts that spoke most to me a couple days ago, but if you want to read the entire thing, it can be found here.

What I learn or see in this meditation is an attitude of contentment and humility, or at least the desire to have more of both. There is value in setting our minds on the Lord and, for the most part, ignoring “the blast of men’s mouths” (I can’t get over how much I love that phrase). More expresses a deep desire to know the Lord and His ways, as opposed to the world and its ways. He desires no worldly company. He desires to “lean unto the comfort of God.” In our current culture, it is popular to use the phrase “press into God.” I, personally, prefer the concept of leaning. I’m not trying to force my way in; rather, I am depending on Him, leaning on Him.

More desires to know his own wretchedness and to have a deep humility and meekness about him. Death is not something to be ignored, but should be something of which we are very aware. It is reality. It does not go away if we ignore it. He uses the phrase “to abstain from vain confabulations.” I had to look that up. It basically means conversation. So there is a deep desire to have all conversations be meaningful.

But I think the most powerful piece of this comes toward the end. ” To think my most enemies my best friends; for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.” As Jesus told us, we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Thomas More bears this out in this meditation. And, as he ends it, he stresses that all of these attitudes are worth more than “all the treasures of all the princes and kings.” This seems to line up with the sentiment concerning wisdom, that we get from the book of Proverbs.

Father, I pray that You would help me develop the kind of mindset found in Thomas More’s meditation. And, as I hear Jesus asking me what I am looking for, I continue to answer that I am looking for You, and a deeper relationship with You, that I might be more like Jesus in every way.


In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene Peterson briefly examines the book of Numbers from a perspective of “growing up” in community.

When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at GOD’s command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored GOD’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to GOD’s command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment GOD issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at GOD’s command and they marched at GOD’s command. They lived obediently by GOD’s orders as delivered by Moses.
(Numbers 9:17-23 MSG)

“Many of us fondle a romanticized spirituality in our imaginations. The ‘God’s in his heaven/all’s right with the world’ sort of thing.” I love this, because it is, to a degree, true of many people. This tends to express itself in a longing for a simpler time, “nostalgia,” as it were. Or perhaps even wishing to be born back in “Bible times.” That’s kind of amusing, because, if you read the Bible accurately and carefully, there is no indication at all that life was easy, or that serving/worshiping God was a piece of proverbial cake. The books of Numbers through at least Judges show us what a mess these people were.

As communities, we need organizational help. We need relational help. “The people who find themselves called and led and commanded by God find themselves in the company of men and women who sin a lot – quarrel, bicker, grumble, rebel, fornicate, steal – you name it, we do it. We need help in getting along with each other.” I can think of no time when that has been more obvious than the present day.

Perhaps we need the prayer of Moses.

“Please forgive the wrongdoing of this people out of the extravagance of your loyal love just as all along, from the time they left Egypt, you have been forgiving this people.”
(Numbers 14:19 MSG)


“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(Luke 10:22 ESV)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
(John 17:3 ESV)

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:26 ESV)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
(Ephesians 1:17 ESV)

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:19 ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 ESV)


The word for today, in Pray a Word a Day, is “enlarge.”

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
(1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV)

Today’s writer, identified only as “Bob” (didn’t we already have a “Bob?”), writes this:

“It’s a great word to pray, and it can apply to so many areas of concern and desire. For God’s kingdom to rule in my life: Enlarge. For my capacity to love others: Enlarge. For my ability to give generously: Enlarge. For the church’s influence in my community: Enlarge. For the ability to see clearly, speak constructively, and work creatively: Enlarge.”

I’m not really a big fan of the “prayer of Jabez” fad from a decade or so back. However, taken in the context of the above paragraph, it is worthy of consideration. I don’t pray so much for God to “enlarge my border.” I don’t need more territory. However, along with “Bob,” I could use more of God’s kingdom rule in my life, more capacity to love others (and how!), more of a mind to give generously, more of a positive influence from the Church, and more ability to see, speak, and work clearly, constructively, and creatively.

Father, as I walk through this day, I do pray that You would enlarge these capabilities within me, especially that one about loving others. This is a topic that You have me stuck on, now, for a number of years, and it’s not going to stop. I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want to rest until I see at least Your people following this command to love You and love people as we love ourselves. I can’t get over how difficult this seems to wrap our heads around. Help us, oh, God! Enlarge our hearts and fill them with Your love for each other.

Jesus, thank You for showing us the Father. You are the only way to get to Him, and I praise You that You have shown us this. I also praise You for giving me the capacity to believe this and live in it. Thank You for the communities in which You have placed us. They are messy, Lord. Really, really messy, even the small ones. Or perhaps it just shows up more in the small ones, because it’s not so easy to get lost in the crowd. Whatever. I still thank You and pray for Your guidance and leadership in these communities. Make Your pillars of fire and cloud more obvious to us.

Lord, the Covid virus continues to rampage through our society (and our world). Please relieve us from this plague. We implore You to eradicate this virus. I also pray for unity within both our nation and Your Church (I’m always much more concerned with the Church), that we may succeed together.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Good morning (probably afternoon by the time this is finished). Today is . . . must be Wednesday, because I worked at the library last night. Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of December, 2021. The fifth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill your body, soul, mind, and spirit, today.

We’ve been staying up really late and sleeping late, this week. This doesn’t make it any easier to remember what day it is, especially since C has been off work all week. She does have to work some on Friday, but only from home. It’s the year end, and things always change and/or roll out on December 31/January 1, so she has to be available.

We slept until after 9:00, this morning. It may have been close to 10:00. I really can’t remember. I cooked some breakfast for us all, because I was hungry, before sitting down to do my morning devotional, so it’s running pretty late today.

There is very little on our “agenda” for today. C has already cut up the extra ham and put it in the freezer. We never found anyone who needed it. I’m sure we could have if we had tried a little harder, but there were several interested parties, who never followed through with coming to get it. So it’s in our freezer for future meals.

C is planning to put up a new set of LED lights in S’s room, today. The old set has quit working, probably due to some cat activity in the room. Some people blame aliens, some blame gremlins. We always blame cats.

I have a small grocery order set to deliver between 1:00 and 2:00, and we have one box that needs to be taken to the UPS store to return to Amazon. And, of course, there will be Sonic drinks, at some point. We have had an issue, though . . . our closest Sonic seems to have run out of Sprite Zero, which is C’s drink of choice.

I might try to get some serious reading done today. I would like to get at least one more book finished before 2022. I’m currently reading The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the book that introduces the character known by many as The Witcher, aka Geralt of Rivera. The Witcher is a wildly popular video game series (I have played one of them) that has also now become an immensely popular Netflix series, now in its second season. The books are written in Polish, but have been translated to English. I’m a little less than a fourth of the way through it, currently.

I also checked out another book, last night. I was supposed to shelve it, but when I saw it, I realized that I “need” to read it. It is the latest by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On the Train, and is called A Slow Fire Burning. I have read both of Ms. Hawkins’s books, the other being Into the Water, which was also very good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, to begin. The first is:

Lessons of Receiving, by Daryl Madden

Of our Gods great wisdom
His plan of conceiving
In nature surrounding
Are lessons of receiving

In humble flowers
Who open to light
Welcome the gift
With colors bright

Of trees standing tall
With branches raised
In calm and in storm
Arms stretched in praise

And of the pasture
Letting rain seep
To nourish the soil
Of roots growing deep

Why as His children
So difficult be
To accept the graces
That are blessed to me

We expect and we take
What’s given for free
Oh Lord, let me learn
From the flowers and trees

Let’s cherish each blessing
To receive gratefully
Well find in this way
We’ll live joyfully

I pray that we can receive these blessings and not simply expect and take what is freely given. In addition to cherishing each blessing, I also pray that we will cherish one another, in this Kingdom walk. Please check out Daryl’s poetry in the provided link.

The other is another one of Susan’s short poems.

Carpe Deum, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

This is
your time, give
your all

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please see more of her beautiful and inspiring Haikus at the provlided link.

As 2022 approaches, just around the bend, it is, indeed “your time.” It is my time, to give my all to Jesus. In the coming year, while I don’t do resolutions, and can’t rightfully say that these aspirations are truly “goals” (they have to be measurable to really be goals), I do have desires and aspirations for the new year. I want to read more books; I want to pray more consistently, and I want to do even better at this thing of “loving one another.”

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 
"Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. 
Remove this cup from me. 
Yet not what I will, 
but what you will." 
(Mark 14:35-36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus said, "not what I will, but what You will."
2. that the Kingdom of God is within us
3. that we have this Helper, the Holy Spirit
4. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world
5. for Jesus, the Light of the world 

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
(Luke 17:21 KJV)

"If you love me, 
you will keep my commandments. 
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Helper, 
to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, 
whom the world cannot receive, 
because it neither sees him nor knows him. 
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more,
 but you will see me. 
Because I live, you also will live.
 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, 
and you in me, and I in you. 
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, 
he it is who loves me. 
And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, 
and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
Little children, 
you are from God and have overcome them, 
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
(1 John 4:4 ESV)

“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

We spend so much energy looking all over the place for God’s kingdom. We buy up stacks of books (nothing wrong with books, mind you . . . some of my greatest inspirations have come from them) and flock to listen to inspirational speakers. But, “if we follow Jesus’s teachings, we need look no further for the kingdom than what we carry inside. Everywhere, all the time.” What we are so frantically searching for is right here, “in plain sight.” (Jacqueline F. Wheelock in Daily Guideposts 2021)


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

CHRISTMAS – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

Sing to the LORD, all the world! 
Worship the LORD with joy; 
come before him with happy songs! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 GNB)

I pause, briefly, as I consider the presence of the Lord and His Kingdom, here within me, and all around me.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm. 

I will sing of your love and justice; 
to you, LORD, I will sing praise. 
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— 
when will you come to me? 

I will conduct the affairs of my house 
with a blameless heart.
 I will not look with approval 
on anything that is vile. 

I hate what faithless people do; 
I will have no part in it. 
The perverse of heart shall be far from me; 
I will have nothing to do with what is evil. 

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, 
that they may dwell with me; 
the one whose walk is blameless 
will minister to me.
(Psalms 101:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. 
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, 
you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 
For my eyes have seen your salvation, 
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
and the glory of your people Israel." 
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from these meditations, and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

I feel like caution is necessary in the reading of Psalm 101. While I do want to be “blameless” in my life and in my actions, and I do intend to sing of the love and justice of the Lord, the sentiment of hating what “faithless people do” can easily lead down a dark path. Mind you, I’m not being critical of God’s Word, here, but we also must remember that these are songs and prayers of a man who, even though he was a “man after God’s own heart,” was also guilty of rape, murder, and various other heinous sins.

So, how “blameless” was he, exactly? I, too, desire to have “nothing to do with what is evil,” but at the same time, if I am going to be any kind of inspiration or minister to others, I must find myself in the company of “evil” people, from time to time. And we cannot truly be only in the company of the “faithful in the land.”

I’m not really sure how to interpret this psalm, or how to apply it to my own life in the twenty-first century. I think that, as best I can, I need to walk blamelessly, and to avoid those things that are “vile.” But we all slip, sometimes, some of us more than others. We all fall into the devil’s traps. And part of the division that we are finding ourselves in the midst of right now is due to an oversimplification of the sentiments of this particular psalm (and others like it).

We also have to be careful in how we determine who those “faithful” are. For me, it is people who are truly trying to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. Those are the people in whom I delight. Those are the people who are trying their best to do all those things Jesus said we should do for “the least of these.” Those are the “faithful” in whom I delight.

Father, I praise You for Jesus, the light for the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel. I thank You that He has come to bring salvation to us, as well as show us the Kingdom. He has let us know that the Kingdom dwells within us. It is not over there, hiding. It is not in the great halls with the eloquent speakers. It is not in the “Christian” book stores. It is within me, and within every other person who has taken that step into the easy yoke of Jesus and begun to walk with Him in Your Kingdom.

Help me to display Jesus, the Light of the world, in my life and through my words and actions. I pray for the joy of salvation to be experienced by all people, everywhere. I pray for a deeper understanding of the Gospel, in the coming year. And I pray for any family members and friends who do not know the love of Jesus in their lives.

"Faithful God,
in our world,
where evil is serious,
pain is no illusion,
and our guilt is real,
open our eyes to see how justice and mercy take the shape of a Savior dying on a cross for us.
With Simeon,
may all people see that Your justice and mercy meet when Jesus is born for our salvation.
Amen."

BLESSING

"Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! 
He has come to the help of his people and has set them free."
(Luke 1:68 GNB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. 
Amen. 
(Revelation 22:21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.