Listen

Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,424

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful day that we had yesterday
2. for the prediction of a pretty day today
3. that the journey I am on is a marathon not a sprint; I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I cannot accomplish everything that I'm supposed to accomplish in a short amount of time; I must have endurance
4. for the conviction that I need to do better at listening
5. for the boldness to proclaim that a) humanity is terribly broken, and b) that God is working mightily to fix that

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’”
(Acts 13:38-41 NLT)

Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
(Joshua 21:45 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “listen.” This is a pretty important word. Our culture, in general, has forgotten how to listen.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey

It is my opinion that most people who claim to be followers of Christ think that prayer is asking God for stuff. Primarily, that means that they talk to God for a few minutes, then “close the door” and go on about their day.

Trust me, I have been guilty of that.

And, while most of the definitions of prayer that you can find only seem to indicate our part of outward expression, it also includes listening to what God says back to us. And, in some ways, it could be said that, even in prayer, God initiates, not us.

I kind of like the Wikipedia definition of prayer. “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.”

The writer of today’s reading, Evan, speaks of being assigned to a specific ministry where his job was to listen, not talk. “It occurred to me, that’s what I’d been doing with God. I’d been talking up a storm to Him, but listening, really quieting my mind and hearing Him speak? Not so much. The difference was amazing, as if an entire world had been opened up to me, simply by learning to listen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

If you were to listen in on a conversation in my family, you might surmise that not a single one of us knows how to listen, because we constantly interrupt each other. I catch myself doing it all the time. We don’t intend to be rude to one another. It’s just a habit that has been developed in our society.

I have, for many years, now, been captivated by what God said to the three disciples, upon Jesus’s transfiguration.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT, emphasis mine)

Ever since I took note of that little three-word command, I began to try to pay more attention to the words of Jesus, recorded in Scripture. But I need to carry that even farther. I need to work more at listening to the Holy Trinity in my spirit. And this is the intent of meditation and contemplation.

Father, help me to be a better listener. Today, in my conversations, help me to stop and listen with intent to understand. And, when my tongue revs up to speak, help me to stop it, especially if the other person is not through speaking. Moreover, help me to listen better to You, the Son, and the Spirit, as I walk through my days. And in moments like these, help me to be in a more meditative state, fully concentrating on what You would say to me.

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
(Psalms 37:5 NLT)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NLT)

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
(Proverbs 21:5 NLT)

"You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last"
(Rush, Marathon)

We live in a culture where everything is instant. Everything has been “instant,” now, for decades. We get so impatient when we have to wait for things. Yesterday, on our trip back from Mineral Wells, we were delayed in traffic at least four times. Two of those times were because of accidents on the freeway.

But I can truthfully tell you that we never once got impatient or stressed. If you knew me, you would know how huge that is. We enjoyed our time together and it simply didn’t bother us. Although I did joke, a time or two, about what the Waze app told me would be our ETA if I had avoided freeways (I was thinking about that, because we would be hitting Fort Worth in the thick of rush hour).

In todays’ Daily Guidposts article, Tia McCollors remembers a time when one of her kids told her, “Big things take time.” Our lives are “big things,” although in the scope of eternity, they are but a speck of dust. They are big things to us. And the Christian life, this journey that we are on, is a marathon, not a sprint. We cannot accomplish everything in a few days or weeks.

Every one of those passages up there is applicable. Trust is the most important thing in living the Christian life. We must trust that our God knows what He is doing, and that He will, in fact, direct our steps. We can make plans, yes. But we must be prepared for the times when God has other ideas.

Father, I believe I have gotten better at trusting You, but there is always room for improvement. I still get frustrated with myself when I don’t progress as quickly or as much as I believe I should have. Help me to trust You more in everyday things. Help me to believe that You are directing my steps, and that You will work all things out for good in my life. Give me endurance; help me last and not “burn out.” Honestly, Father, I believe with all my heart that there is no excuse for a Christian to ever burn out.

There are two things that the Psalms tell us, both of which are astonishingly accurate. Peterson calls them “the most accurate mirrors of the human heart we have.” But they tell us these two things: “humanity is involved deeply in unhappiness and wrongdoing, and God is cosmically involved in both a glorious creation and a gracious redemption.”

There is a boldness in which we must live, based on these two truths. First, “we must be bold in admitting who we are: people who fall far short of God’s will and who often are active accomplices in plans to thwart or destroy his will. If at any time we fail to do this, we become self-righteous, arrogant, pontifical, and almost insufferable to those outside the church.”

I want everyone to read those last two sentences again. And then I want to point out that it’s not just “those outside the church” who find those to be insufferable. I am constantly saddened by the rampant self-righteousness of those who claim to be Christ-followers who can’t seem to admit the truth of those two sentences.

There is a reason that confession is included in the early part of the Christian worship service. It is not to make us feel bad about ourselves. That is not the point at all. It is to “get the whole human affair into perspective and have a base from which to work.” It’s a good starting point.

We must also, however, be bold in “proclaiming God’s mighty acts.” One of the primary reasons we exist is “to tell a world already full of doubt, skepticism, contradictory evidence, hopelessness, sorrow, and death that God is the creator and redeemer, that God loves his creatures and will redeem and restore them to full health and fellowship with himself. This is the boldness that our time, more than most, needs us to proclaim.” (Emphasis mine)

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I know my condition, because I believe the things that Your Word tells me about us. But I also know what You are doing and have done to fix that condition. The work of Christ on the Cross was the primary means of fixing our condition. And after that was completed, You sent the Holy Spirit to continue the work in sanctifying us, daily.

I am broken. We are all broken. This world is terribly broken, and it is sin that has done this. The Cross of Christ has done its work to erase sin in our lives. It has not simply covered it up like the OT sacrifices, but has effectively washed us clean. You have tossed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and have promised that You remember them no more. This astonished me to a degree that I cannot comprehend, because I, as a human, am incapable of intentionally forgetting things. I still remember sins from my adolescence, even though, in Jesus Christ, it is as though they never happened.

Thank You, Father, for all the might works that You have done and continue to do. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when all of this is completely restored and we will dwell in peace and safety with You for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

Today is Saturday Friday, the twenty-ninth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

Free To Love

Today is Thursday, the twenty-eighth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you, today!

Day 23,422

This being Thursday, it will be my late shift at the library today, from 11:15-8:15. I will be in the Computer Center today. I was in Circulation, yesterday, and will be back there again Saturday, after having tomorrow off.

C and Mama may go back to Mineral Wells on Saturday, to do some measuring and bring back some more stuff. Since we got rid of our grand piano, we have some space to add bookshelves, a couple of which we are going to retrieve from Mama’s house. We are also looking at purchasing some more new ones to put between the exercise equipment in the front of the house and the reading chairs that are now in the “dining room.”

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Astros, last night, 4-3. It was close, but their ninth inning rally fell short. Brett Martin was tagged for the loss, in relief. The Rangers are now 6-12 for the season, in last place in the AL West. Out of those 6 wins, only one was credited to a starting pitcher. The rest are credited to the bullpen. 7 of the losses are credited to starters. So, out of 18 starts, only 8 decisions have gone to the starters. This speaks highly of the mediocrity of the team’s pitching staff. But we Rangers fans are used to this, aren’t we?

They will get a chance to tie the series, this afternoon, as they face the ‘stros at 1:05 this afternoon. I might watch a bit of that on the PC at work in the Computer Center.

The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 7-1, last night, improving their record to 8-11. They are in fourth place in the AL East, 4.5 behind the Evil Empire. Those two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 3:07 EDT.

The NY Mets have risen to the top of MLB, with a 14-6 record. The Yankees, having won 5 consecutive games, are rising fast, and currently third, behind the Mets and the SF Giants. The Cincinnati Reds continue to hold down the worst spot, at 3-15. The Rangers are fourth from the bottom.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He existed in the beginning with God. 
God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 
(John 1:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for cantaloupe and grapes
2. for prayer, the comfort it gives, and the power that it contains
3. that He who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121)
4. that Jesus paid the price to set me free
5. for the wisdom and wealth that I have in Jesus Christ

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.
(Psalms 33:11 NLT)

“In the morning, prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings; in the evening, it is the key that shuts us up under His protection and safeguard.” ~ Billy Graham

“God’s response to our prayers is not a charade. He does not pretend that he is answering our prayer when he is only doing what he was going to do anyway. Our requests really do make a difference in what God does or does not do. The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best . . . of course, this is not the biblical idea of prayer, nor is it the idea of people for whom prayer is a vital part of life.” ~ Dallas Willard

The prayer word for today is “desert.” That’s “desert,” as in a large, sandy, hot expanse of land. Not to be confused with “dessert,” that is a sweet, tasty, treat.

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
(James 1:3 NLT)

The desert is only bad when you’re lost in it. How many movies have we seen where someone is lost in the desert, crawling around, looking for water? That is most definitely bad, and the odds of surviving are, I would think, slim.

But we must remember that the land where Jesus walked was surrounded by desert. And it is often said that He disappeared for hours at a time, going off into “desolate” places to pray.

The desert can be a trial, or it can be “a moment to be still and be loved.” And even when it is a trial, it is still, as James mentioned, a place for endurance to grow.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, if I experience any desert times today, or in the near future, remind me that You are always close, always with me, and that You are helping me grow through those times. Help me to remember the truth of Psalm 121. You are always there; You don’t slumber or sleep, and You are always watching over me as I come and go, both now and forever.

If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. If they listen and obey God, they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives. All their years will be pleasant.
(Job 36:8-11 NLT)

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.
(Proverbs 26:11 NLT)

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”
(Isaiah 44:22 NLT)

There’s a mixture of ideas presented here. But what we need to know is that we are forgiven. A few days ago, I mentioned a Twila Paris song that opens with the lines, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

We are, sadly, oftentimes that fool who repeats his foolishness. But the Lord has swept away my sins “like a cloud.” He has cast them as far as the east is from the west. He has thrown them into the depths of the sea, and Scripture proclaims that He remembers them no more. The price has been paid. Hallelujah!

Father, I praise You that the price has been paid to set me free. I hang my head in shame when I return to my foolishness, but then You remind me of my forgiveness and call me back to holiness, that I may continue to walk in Your kingdom and follow the path laid out for me. I pray that You make it harder and harder for me to return to my foolishness. I pray You would continually work within me to take away even the slightest thought of sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to that day when temptation will no longer be an issue. Truthfully, I’m not sure we will know how to act.

Eugene Peterson points out that wisdom and wealth cannot save us. While it is true that God has paid the price for us, it is also true that there is not enough wealth in the world to make that happen. “Neither PhDs nor fat salaries can bring us to God as free men and women.”

This doesn’t mean that wealth and education are not useful in this life. Unfortunately, we tend to be a reactive people who are either all or nothing. But wisdom and education are certainly liberating in our civilization. “In Solomon’s life, his wisdom and wealth were admired rather than despised. But they were not capable of freeing him from his sins and bringing the rule of God to the people.”

This is important because of the possibilities of the culture in which we live. “Each one of us has a good chance of being both wealthy and wise. We know a lot and we have a lot. Yet there are many indications that we are not using our wisdom and wealth according to God’s will.”

Yet, in spite of this, there are still millions of hungry people in the world. “Surely it is not the will of God that people be hopelessly trapped in desperate poverty at a time when our culture as a whole has become one of affluence and abundance. Beyond economics, beyond politics, this is an issue of love (or the deplorable lack of it.”

Wait. Did he say “love?” Funny how that word keeps popping up here.

In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question is “What is the chief end of man?” That could be rephrased, “why are we here?” The given answer is, ” . . . to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Says Peterson, “We must look for a deeper reason for living than simply acquiring better educations and better jobs and more wisdom and more wealth. We must seek a more substantial means of glorifying God – deeper wisdom and a greater amount of wealth than Solomon’s. We must take steps to protect ourselves from Solomon’s paradox: the outward signs of wisdom and wealth that cover up an inward stupidity and a social poverty.”

This must begin on the inside, with the foundation. “We begin with ourselves as creatures of God and seek his wisdom and wealth at our deepest levels of being. We seek them through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is described by John as the “Word” of God, which could be seen as “the intelligence or the rationality of God.” Then, Jesus is also called the “glory” of God. According to Peterson, the word “glory” in Hebrew is similar to the word for “wealth.”

“We speak of receiving Christ into our hearts, receiving God’s kindness and nearness within our own existence. When we do this voluntarily, the Word of God and the glory of God, his truth and his grace, his wisdom and his wealth, become implanted as life principles within us. Our lives begin to reflect the rationality of divinity and the solid wealth of eternity.”

Of course, we must remember that the world will never see this as either wisdom or wealth. But we should really care what they think, should we?

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, thank You for the Word made flesh! Thank You for Your glory that was and is reflected in Jesus Christ. And I praise You that, in Him, we have all the wisdom and wealth that we need. Help us to reflect this in love as we walk through this world. Help us to show this wisdom and use this wealth to serve others. There has been a huge failure, Lord, as people have pretended to love while actually displaying the hatred in their hearts. That ought not be so, and it is giving Your Church a bad name in this world. I pray that You would intervene and cause Your people to show love for their neighbors, to love others as they should. I am thankful (but not boastful, because it is not of my own doing) that You have put love in my heart. But I’m still flawed and broken, as are all humans, and sometimes that love doesn’t make its way out and I find myself being judgmental. I pray for Your Spirit to control me and stop that. Help me, in my life, to “reflect the rationality of divinity and the solid wealth of eternity.”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pretender

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of God be with you today!

Day 23,421

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Ordinary Day Becomes,” by Daryl Madden

An ordinary morning
As light comes to this day
A breath of fresh air
Clouds drift on their way

Flowers come to blossom
Branches of trees sway
Colors here awaken
Of vision to portray

Between the birdsong calling
Of silence to convey
Listen here dear soul
What Spirit has to say

And through our connection
Of binding here to pray
This journey now becomes
An extraordinary way

Father, I pray that this “ordinary morning” helps my journey to become an “extraordinary way.” Help me to listen to what the Spirit has to say to me, today.

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” 
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: 
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
And the four living beings said,
 “Amen!” 
And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
(Revelation 5:11-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this ordinary morning, and hopes that it will become extraordinary
2. for the vision of worship in Revelation 5
3. for the belief that God has placed in my heart; may I embrace it fully
4. for the command to really love others, and to not just pretend (Romans 12:9)
5. for the ability to embrace change in my life
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. 

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “believe.” The opening quote is from positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

I almost stopped typing in the middle of that and erased it. Because why? Because, here’s the thing: Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded or called upon to believe in ourselves. That is simply not a biblical concept.

There are, however, plenty of Scriptures to tell us that we are loved by God. And we are called upon and commanded to believe in Him. So, in obeying the command to believe in God, we must believe that we are beloved of God. The danger is that somehow we have to do that without becoming prideful.

So, yes. Believe. But not in yourself; not in your own ability. Believe in God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He who watches over you never slumbers or sleeps. Believe that He watches over your life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am constantly praying the prayer that that father prayed in the New Testament. You know the one. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Yes, that one. Help me to believe. Help me to believe in Your constant, never-fading love for me. Help me to believe in Your mercy and grace and forgiveness, because every time I sin, that belief wavers. How could you possibly still be forgiving me for that same sin?? But You do, because You already have, and that is a mystery that I still cannot fully fathom.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

I don’t believe I’ve ever read that version of that verse before. The ESV is more succinct, saying, “Let love be genuine.” But I like the idea presented in the NLT. It takes more words, but I think it says it better. The KJV uses the word “dissimulation.” I’m 64 years old, and I’m pretty sure I have never heard that word before. I guess I have read it, because I grew up with the King James Version. But I sure don’t remember it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation.

The Greek word could also be translated “hypocrisy.” The dictionary says it means “pretense.” So, it looks like the NLT nails it. And, oddly enough, the human-added subheading at the beginning of that paragraph says, “Marks of the True Christian.

Indeed . . .

One way to love someone is to care for them or care about them. And the way we care about or for others is to get to know them. What makes them click? What “floats their boat?” What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they need?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me. I’ve not done a good job at this. I’ve certainly pretended to love some people. But have I truly loved them in my heart? Have I loved them with my actions? I’ve heard the cliché, “Love’s not a feeling; it’s a verb.” But how do I do that? Please show me how to love, really love, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And then show me how to love my co-workers. Maybe first, please show me how to best love my family. I wear the shirt, “Love one another.” But I need to do more than wear a shirt.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation.
(Psalms 68:4-5 ESV)

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 NLT)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
(James 1:27 NLT)

There are times when living in both of the above thoughts will require change. In order to fully believe in God and to believe that He loves us and has forgiven us might require change. It might require (gasp) repentance!

When I use that word, though, I am not using it in the typical “evangelical” sense of “being sorry for my sins.” I’m using it in the purest form, which simply means to turn around, to change my way of thinking, to think differently about something. That is literally what repentance means. So, in essence, “change” and “repent” are kind of the same word.

In order to truly love someone without hypocrisy or pretense, change might be required, as well.

We don’t like change. We’re all familiar with the series of jokes that ask the question, “How many ___________ does it take to change a light bulb?” You can insert whatever you want in the blank and come up with a humorous answer. I once heard, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer was, simply, “CHANGE?????”

I grew up Southern Baptist so I can make fun of them all I want. There’s an old saying . . . “We’ve never done it that way before!”

But sometimes, we have to. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, and that takes work and adjustments and variations.

There are also times when we want change. We are tired of the “status quo.” “Life isn’t quite what we had hoped for, and we look for something new.”

But what makes the difference is how we involve God in that change. How do we approach the work? “God is shaping. His hand is molding. We can discover his ways in the changes of our own lives.”

“Change will probably always be uncomfortable. But we can begin to see it as desirable because the One who knows us best is carefully orchestrating the transitions of our lives.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, the thoughts that are presented above require change in my heart. Maybe not so much the act of believing, although there is always room for improvement in my “belief department.” But most assuredly the “love department.” I do not feel that I have done a good job following that command, and I need You to help me change. I know that You have already been at work in that area; You have been working there, building and shaping, for close to a decade, now. There is nothing that You cannot accomplish in me, I do believe that. But I also know that I am, at times, stubborn and resistant to change. (Someone who knows me might read that and laugh. “At times?? Hah!”)

Father, I want to fully love people, but first I want to fully love You with every fiber of my being. Back to those two commands, aren’t we? Love You; love people. But do it according to Scripture. Help me to not just pretend, but to really love, both You and the people. I do know that when I pretend to love You, I am only fooling myself, though.

Grace and peace, friends.

Think . . . Thank

“Thanking that is not preceded by thinking is shallow and inadequate, but thinking that does not transform to thanking is arid and sterile.” ~ Eugene H. Peterson

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-sixth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,420

It’s a normal Tuesday around here, which means that everyone is home, this morning. C is in her easy chair with her work laptop, working from home. I’m back here in the study churning out words on the keyboard, and Mama is in her room reading her Bible readings for the day.

In a little while, I’ll be making a trip to the grocery store, and, hopefully, picking up Subway for lunch for us. Then I will go to “work” at 4:15, this evening.

The Texas Rangers rallied late, last night, to beat the rival Astros 6-2. Initially, the game was a pitcher’s battle, marred only by a second inning home run for Houston, a second inning error that allowed a Texas run, and a fluke pop single for Houston in the sixth. But Texas scored 2 in the bottom of the seventh (which got Dunning off the hook that he shouldn’t have been on to begin with) and another three in the bottom the eighth to seal the deal. Willie Calhoun was stellar as a pinch hitter and DH, going 2 for 2, and Adolis Garcia had a bases-clearing double for 3 RBIs in the bottom of the eighth. It was, at the end, quite exciting.

This makes the Rangers 6-10 for the season, only one game behind the Astros (7-9) in the AL West. They play again, this evening, at 7:05 CDT. Taylor Hearn (0-1) will take the mound for Texas.

The Boston Red Sox dropped another game to the Blue Jays, last night, 6-2. How weird is that . . . the same score? They are now 7-10 for the season, only a half game better than Texas. But they aren’t in last place, because they are in the AL East, with Baltimore. But Baltimore has the same record as Texas. The Red Sox play the Blue Jays again today, at 7:07 EDT.

The LA Dodgers continue to hold the top spot in MLB, at 12-4. The NY Mets, at 13-5, are in a virtual tie, mere percentage points between them. The Giants are 12-5, a half game behind. The Cincinnati Reds must not have played yesterday, as they are still 3-13, bringing up the rear of MLB. The Rangers and Orioles are fifth from the bottom, now, with Royals, Diamondbacks, and Nationals between them and the Reds. The Tigers and White Sox are a half game above them. It’s so early in the season that everything could change in the space of one game.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Today is the day
The Lord created for us;
Rejoice and be glad!
(Inspired by Psalm 118:24)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
(1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. for the great expectation of that priceless inheritance
3. for the constant presence of God in my life
4. for the promise of hope and a future in God's plans for me, which make it possible for me to persevere in "doing good" (Galatians 6:9)
5. for the relationship between thinking and thanking
"God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. 
He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. 
He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. 
He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night. 
The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke. 
By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster. 
His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. 
These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?” 
(Job 26:7-14 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “presence.” You have to be sure to read that word correctly, and not just say it. The word is “presence,” not “presents.” I am, of course, being mildly facetious, but there are people out there who believe that God’s sole purpose is to give His children “presents.”

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
(1 John 4:16 NLT)

You may notice that our prayer word is not in that verse. The actual word may not be, but the idea is.

I’m one of those people who grew up in church. I’m a “lifer.” I was on the “cradle roll.” I’ve said this before, but I’m sure my parents had me at church, as an infant, as soon as it was safe to take me out of the house. And, back in 1958, I would dare to venture that it was safer sooner than it is in 2022.

For those of you who have attended some kind of church for most of your lives, do you remember “that person” who was always there? There is a word for that – ubiquitous. “Ever-present.” “Present, appearing, or found everywhere.”

Mr. Crump was one such person. I have fond memories of Mr. Crump. At various points in my life he was my bus driver, my Sunday School teacher, and the church custodian. But he was always there; he was there before we got there, and he was still there when we left. For all I know, he lived there.

There is a certain comfort in life when you see people like that. And God is exactly like that. The fifty-dollar word we like to use for Him is “omnipresent.” That basically means the same thing as “ubiquitous.” He is always there, everywhere. He is there before you get there, and He is still there when you leave. He is there when you wake up from surgery or some medical procedure. He is there when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. He is there when you are celebrating a promotion or some other significant life event.

And here’s the thing. Sometimes, His presence is known in the presence of other human beings. Like Mr. Crump.

He is present. And we can know and feel that presence if we open ourselves up to it.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, thank You for being here, and thank You for making Your presence known to me every day. I praise You that You have created within me that longing for Your presence, and the fact that I can feel it and know that You are here. My heart’s desire is that all people, all around the world, would know Your presence and acknowledge it. To me, knowing and feeling Your presence is even better than knowing my own salvation. Yes, that salvation is amazing and wonderful, but it pales in the knowledge of Your presence, right here, right now.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Initially, there might not seem to be much in common between these three passages of Scripture. But it is the last word of the 1 Corinthians passage that ties them all together for me.

“. . . always perseveres.”

Because of the promise of God in Jeremiah 29:11 (I know that statement was made specifically to Israel, but how could it not be true for all of God’s children??), that He has plans to give us a hope and a future, we have the ability to “always persevere,” which is also part of the definition (or one of the characteristics) of love.

It might also be noted that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is, to a degree, a description of our Father.

Because of that promise of hope, because of that characteristic of love that “always perseveres,” then we can “not become weary in doing good;” we can “not give up.” And I will proclaim with my dying breath that it is the presence of God that makes all of that possible.

I thank You, Father, that Your plans for us are not plans for disaster and harm, but, rather, plans for hope and a future. Our problem is that we get caught up in what’s happening right now, and forget about that hope. Or we get caught up worrying about that future, instead of hoping and trusting in what You are already providing for us. Help us to focus on what we are doing now, while at the same time looking forward (not worrying, big difference) to what You have planned for us.

I praise You that I am able to not grow weary in doing good because of the promise of a hope and a future, and because You are constantly with me, reminding me of these things. Help me to always be aware of Your presence with me, so that I may also always be aware of that hope that I have for the future, that great expectation of a priceless inheritance that is waiting for me/us.

“Think.”

“Thank.”

Two totally different words with only a vowel different between them. “The change of a single vowel triggers a quantum leap in meaning.”

To think is to employ the intellect. To thank “is an expression of the whole person. Thanking that is not preceded by thinking is shallow and inadequate, but thinking that does not transform to thanking is arid and sterile.”

I’m going to type that last sentence again, because I perceive that it is extremely profound (as is par for Eugene Peterson, right?).

“Thanking that is not preceded by thinking is shallow and inadequate, but thinking that does not transform to thanking is arid and sterile.”

Says Peterson, “It is our acts of gratitude that complete our processes of worship and remembrance. We recollect all that has happened among us by Christ’s design. We praise the Lord, who makes our lives, like all things, work together for good. Is there any other place in our society where so much is remembered and praised as here among Christians in worship, where there is such a concentration of memory and such exuberance in gratitude? I think not.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I read these words, and I am grateful that You have given me a brain with which to think. We humans, these days, are quick to accuse others of not thinking. But if the truth be known, we all think. It is only when we combine that thinking with thanking that we are complete. And I praise You that You have led me down this path of constant gratitude for the past few years. That gratitude, that “thanking,” is most certainly preceded and accompanied by thinking, and I am grateful for this. Help me to continue to use my mind, and to always include thinking with my thanking, that my worship of You can be complete.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Signpost Up Ahead . . .

Today is Monday, the twenty-fifth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be within you, today!

Day 23,419

Today, I’m attempting to begin a new habit/ritual. I’ve tried this before, but it didn’t stick. But I’m going to attempt to get my morning devotional actually finished in the morning, from now on, and get it done before I give significant attention to anything else. Facebook is not open; my email is not open. Only this tab is open, along with one where I can look up anything I need to know, such as how many days since I was born.

The following was added after the devotional was completed.

The Texas Rangers failed in their bid to sweep the Oakland Athletics, as Marcus Semien was the only batter to get any hits until the top of the ninth inning. Jonah Heim and Nathaniel Lowe got hits in the ninth, but the Rangers were unable to bring them home, and lost the game 2-0. They are now 5-10 for the season, still in last place in the AL West. Their next game is today, back in Arlington, against the Houston Astros. Dane Dunning (0-1) will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Boston Red Sox dropped another game to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2. They are now 7-9 for the season, and remain in fourth place in the AL East. The Yankees and Blue Jays are tied for first place. The Sox will play the Blue Jays tonight, in Toronto, at 7:07, EDT.

The LA Dodgers continue to hold the best record in MLB, at 11-4, followed closely by the NY Mets, at 12-5. The Cincinnati Reds finally managed to win another game, but still hold down the bottom of the list, at 3-13. The Rangers are third from the bottom, but only because the Nationals have somehow played 3 more games than they.

Today is an “always off” day, but I have some things that need to get done, so I will be moderately busy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for In the Morning)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day; may it be lived in Christ's kingdom
2. for the many examples of prayer given to us in Scripture
3. for what Christ did for us in His life, death, and resurrection
4. that I have no need nor cause to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)
5. that if I take delight in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)
6. for the joy and peace that comes from knowing these things

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:4-6 NLT)

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
(Matthew 6:30 NLT)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 NLT)

There’s enough good stuff in those verses to get one through a whole week, I believe. Truly, we have no cause to worry about anything. Nevertheless, worry, we do. It seems to take much more work than it should to delight myself in the Lord, every day. And this, even knowing the truth of that verse in Psalm 37!

I am thankful for this reminder, this morning.

Father, thank You for reminding me that I don’t have anything to worry about. Thank You for the reminder that, if I take delight in You, You will give me the desires of my heart. Thank You for the example of the wildflowers and the birds, and the reminder that I am much more valuable to You than they. And thank You for the joy and peace that comes from knowing all of these things and trusting in You.

Eugene Peterson gives us “Three Short Thoughts on Direction.”

“All life is a pilgrimage. We are on our way to a destination.”

This is undoubtedly true of all of us. Even those who don’t think they are moving in any direction are on some kind of pilgrimage. This life is a journey, and there is a “final destination,” somewhere.

“Christians believe that we are on our way to God and that our companion is Jesus Christ.”

Even though we consider that God is “omnipresent,” there is still a sense that we are traveling toward Him. This is truly a mystery, and I am incapable of fully comprehending the truth that I am on my way to God, but God is also my traveling companion, because we also believe that Jesus is God.

Jesus is most definitely my companion, especially if I consider that I am walking in His “easy yoke.” If I am yoked with Him, He is right beside me. This is something that I confess that I fail to take into consideration at all times.

Is it even possible to do this? Frank Laubach believed that it was. He was a missionary to the Philippines in 1915. In 1930, he went to Mindanao, the second-largest of the Philippine islands, where he eventually taught about half of the population of that island to read and write. It was during this time that he wrote the letters that would eventually be compiled in Letters From A Modern Mystic.

Laubach came to believe (and, presumably, practice) that one could, in fact, be aware of the presence of God during every moment of one’s existence. Here is an excerpt from that book.

“We used to sing a song in the church in Benton which I liked, but which I never really practiced until now. It runs:

"Moment by moment, I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

“It is exactly that ‘moment by moment,’ every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions: First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master. Open your soul and entertain the glory of God and after a while that glory will be reflected in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head.”

And it is with this constant thought that Jesus is our companion on this journey that helps us know this “moment by moment” reality.

“One of the primary (maybe the primary) signposts showing the way is the Cross of Jesus.”

How does the Cross show us the way? It is more than just by wearing it on a chain around our necks or having it hung on the wall in our house. It is on the Cross that Jesus was lifted up to draw all men to Him. It is the Cross that is probably what many of us think of when we think of Jesus.

Sure, we consider His life, and most definitely His resurrection. But separating all of time is the Cross of Jesus. Without the Cross, His life would have been nothing more than a good example. Without the Cross, there would have been no resurrection. And without the Cross, there would be no “body and blood” to consume whenever we partake of the Supper.

The Cross points us to the way of sacrifice. The Cross points us to the way of putting others before ourselves. And, through the Cross, we gain the power to do that.

Jesus, I thank You for the Cross. I thank You for the life lived before that dreadful event, and I thank You even more for the power and miracle of the Resurrection that came after. As I continue to walk on this journey of life, may I see the Cross every day as my signpost, directing me to my destination. I thank You for inviting me on this journey, and for giving me the many other human companions that You have given me along the way.

Some of those companions seem to have wandered off the path, or simply stopped. I pray for those, Lord, that You might reach out to them and draw them back to Your path, letting them know that there is no condemnation for them, as they are fully forgiven by the very Cross of which we are speaking.

I believe, with all of my heart, that I will reach my destination, and I believe that You are my companion along the way. I thank You for this, as well. Help me to consider You, the Father, and the Spirit during every moment of every day. Perhaps this an unrealistic expectation, but Laubach didn’t seem to think so. So I will pray for it, and I will endeavor to do so. Nevertheless, I will not “beat myself up” when I fail. Because You, Lord Jesus, are full of grace and mercy, for which I also praise You.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Sticking Around to See What Happens

Today is Friday, the twenty-second of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,416

It was a mostly quiet day at the library, yesterday. There were spurts of busy-ness in the Computer Center, and most of that occurred after 5:00 PM. I won’t be back there until next Tuesday evening.

The Texas Rangers came back and won a game, last night! They beat the Mariners 8-6, after falling behind on Taylor Hearn’s terrible pitching in the first inning. So they avoided a sweep by the Mariners. They are currently 3-9, for the season, still in last place in the AL West. They begin another three-game series in Oakland, tonight, at 8:40 CDT. I find it interesting that they seem to have changed the west coast game times. I don’t know if twenty minutes makes that much difference to the rest of us, as I’m still not likely to stay up to watch the game. There might be some fans at the game tonight, but Oakland’s attendance has been pathetic. In fact, a couple nights ago, their AAA team had a bigger attendance than they did.

One thing I’m happy to see is that the Astros are in fourth place, with a 6-6 record. I’m not happy to see LA in first place, but “it is what it is,” right?

Boston lost another game to the Blue Jays, 3-2, which makes two consecutive losses and they lost the series. So they have dropped below .500 again, and are in fourth place in the AL East. These teams are not making it easy for me to stay interested in baseball, this season. Already.

How much longer do we keep saying, “It’s early, still”?

There’s nothing really on the agenda for today. Probably some laundry. Maybe a quick trip to the store for a couple of things. C is working from home, and I’m off today, so we are all home together. Dinner tonight will probably be our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust.

And, at the last minute, we have decided that we are going to go to Scarborough Rennaissance Festival tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Friday in Easter Week)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
(Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is always right beside me in this journey, to help me when I need to take up my cross and follow Him
2. that Jesus is the water of life, satisfying every thirst
3. for God's marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, and His forgiveness, and that He knows my heart better than I do
4. that God's Word is living and active
5. that God watches over His Word to make sure it accomplishes what He sent it out to do

Today’s prayer word is “cross.” Obviously, this one could have a veritable plethora of meanings. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”

The reading for today speaks of a medically chronic condition with which the writer suffers. I respectfully disagree that this is a “cross” that she must bear. Many people use the phrase, “I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” or something like that.

The reason that I disagree that a medical diagnosis is a “cross” we must bear is that it is not something about which we have a choice. Jesus bids us “take up our cross daily.” This is something we choose. There is a reason that, accompanying that command is also the command to deny ourselves.

Jesus took up His cross and He died. It was His choice. It was not something He was forced to do; He gave up His life willingly.

Most of us don’t do a very good job of taking up our “crosses,” myself included. I didn’t make it through a couple of weeks of Lent, with the “fasts” that I was intending. When we “give up” something for Lent, we are taking up a cross, and denying ourselves. When we choose to not participate in something that others are doing, we are taking up a cross and denying ourselves.

All that being said, I agree with the Pope Francis quote. Jesus would never ask us to take up our cross if He were not going to help us carry it. That’s why He also invites us into His “easy yoke.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that I would do better at taking up the cross that You would have me carry, each day. There are certainly things in my life that need to be avoided or eliminated. There are attitudes and personality characteristics that still need to change. In short, I need to do better at denying myself. Help me to do that, and to step into Your easy yoke as I do so. Thank You that You are willing to be right beside me in this journey.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:19-22 ESV)

The thing I want to point out in this passage is verse 20, that bit about our hearts condemning us. Who among us does not struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? How often do we feel that we are just too bad, and that there is no way God can forgive us yet one more time for the same thing? I’m reminded of a song by Twila Paris, in which, I believe, the first line says, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

I have most certainly been there. But here is the thing. “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” I am in no position to judge myself. J.B. Phillips, in his book, Ring of Truth, says, “It is almost as if John is saying, ‘If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?'”

And, in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to believe or accept God’s forgiveness. We are placing ourselves higher than Him. And we call it “humility.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I praise You for Your great mercy and grace and forgiveness. Please forgive me when I act like I know better than You and doubt Your forgiveness. Help me to accept the truth that You know better than I, and that You know my heart way better than I. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

We’re back to talking about words again. Eugene Peterson says, “Words are never truly empty.” That’s a pretty bold statement, because I’m pretty sure I’ve both heard and spoken some pretty empty words. But every word has meaning. And real, true words “get under our skin and shaper our lives.”

Especially the Word. Once again, I will share that verse from Hebrews.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
(Hebrews 4:12 MSG)

“When the Word is preached or taught, said or sung, prayed or meditated, that is not the end of it. God continues to watch over this Word, tending it and caring for it until it brings forth love, obedience, hope, belief, or joy.”

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 MSG)

We should be watching along with God, but not like spectators watch. We should be watching as shepherds, parents, lovers, and friends, “watching for signs of grace, watching for movements of joy, watching for evidence that once again the Word has become flesh.”

All too often, the leaders of the church miss out on this. Or, perhaps, it’s not “church” leaders, but itinerate evangelists or traveling preachers, who show up, preach the Word, and then disappear. But we need to “stick around and see what happens, and pastors need to lead their congregations to stick around and see what happens, to see how God performs this Word.”

We are all “great wanderers.” We hear something and ten minutes later, we’re off doing the next thing; we’ve gone shopping or turned on the television, or gone to get a snack.

“Everything that goes on in people’s lives is, or can be, connected with the Word that is proclaimed. God is watching over the Word to perform it. And we watch with him because we don’t want to miss out on a thing that comes out of these words that God puts in our mouths.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, this is something that requires some pondering. But we definitely need Your help in this matter. We are too quick to forget the truth that You stick around and make sure that Your Word does what You say it will do. I am grateful for this, but acknowledge that I am not always so good at sticking around to see what happens. Help me to be better at this, and help me to be more faithful to watch with You, when it comes to seeing Your Word in action.

Help us to be better at believing what Your Word says, too. I’m not trying to get into any kind of prosperity gospel, here, but Your Word is truth, and it is powerful, and it dwells within us. So we need to do better at believing it, so we can see the power at work in and around us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Physical and Spiritual — Inseparable

Today is Thursday, the twenty-first of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,415

There’s not much going on around here, today. We did try a new recipe (new to us), last night, that we got from Emily Bites, a cooking blog that we were introduced to at WW. This recipe is called Chicken Taco Rice Skillet. It’s not a crockpot recipe, so it took a little time, but wasn’t any harder than our normal stir fry dish. And it was absolutely delicious, a big hit with the whole family, so it’s a keeper, for sure. I tweaked it just a little bit, adding a little more chicken and used a cup and a half of brown minute rice. Everything else was per the recipe.

Tonight, we will be having another Emily Bites dish, called Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken. I also have tweaked this one a little, as well, putting in three cans of chicken soup and a whole can of water. C will add the yogurt when she gets home from work, and I will have my serving after I get home from my evening library shift. We had this one last week, and it was at least as good as the Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup we have made in the past.

I highly recommend Emily Bites for recipes. All of her recipes are WW friendly. I get semi-regular emails from the site, each one with a new recipe to try.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, 4-2, to the Mariners. Dan Dunning was the losing pitcher. They play again tonight, at 8:40 CDT (on the west coast), with Taylor Hearn taking the mound. How much longer do we keep saying “it’s still early in the season?” Not necessarily giving up, already, but it seems as though they have picked up right where they left off last season.

The Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays, last night 6-1. They are still floating around .500 (6-6), in fourth place in the AL East.

The LA Dodgers are currently the best in MLB, with a 9-3 record. The Cincinatti Reds are worse than the Texas Rangers, bringing up the bottom of the list, but only because they have played (and lost) two more games than Texas.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Thursday in Easter Week)

Bread of Life,” by Daryl Madden

Communion here
Of unity
That I long for
Longs for me

This living bread
Divinity
That I desire
Desires me

This gift, divine
Of grace freely
That I love
Is loving me

The bread of life
Eternity
That I consume
Consuming me

The Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ, desires me, loves me, and consumes me. This, of course, is rather oxymoronic, to say that bread consumes me. But, if we are truly walking with Him and in His kingdom, we are consumed by His grace and mercy. It’s mystical, and words don’t do a very good job of explaining it. I appreciate Brother Daryl’s poetry, and wish that you would visit his site at the link provided above.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky (there's an event going on right now, even though I couldn't see it, this morning because of the clouds - planets are lining up)
2. for the Bread of Life
3. for the example of grace, mercy, and inclusion that we get from Jesus
4. for the brightness of the future we have in Christ and His kingdom
5. that this life combines both the physical and the spiritual; we must both work and pray, and the two cannot be separated

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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:8-9 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “inclusion.”

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:11 ESV)

I’m sure the word “inclusion” is a trigger word for some folks, in this day and age. But, personally, I would rather err on the side of grace and mercy, if I’m going to be wrong about something. In other words, I would rather be guilty of including too many people than not including enough. After all, Jesus chose to hang out with “tax collectors and sinners.”

But this also hearkens back to the bit, a few days ago, about angels and how we should show hospitality to everyone, because, who knows, they might be an angel. Our primary characteristic is supposed to be love. If we work harder to exclude than include, we are not showing love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to be more inclusive with my hospitality, and show grace and mercy to all with whom I come in contact. This includes not getting angry or upset when restaurants don’t get my order right, or when they are out of Route 44 cups or drink carries or tuna or whatever. People need grace, and if we don’t show them grace, how are we supposed to lead them toward You?

You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright.
(Psalms 16:6 CEV)

Think of the bright future waiting for all the families of honest and innocent and peace-loving people.
(Psalms 37:37 CEV)

Don’t be jealous of sinners, but always honor the LORD. Then you will truly have hope for the future.
(Proverbs 23:17-18 CEV)

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,” is a popular phrase, and was included in a popular song, back in a previous decade. But the truth is, for those of us who walk in Christ and in His kingdom, the future really is bright. I don’t know how innocent we are (truly, is anyone??), but if we are peace-loving, that demonstrates our love for Jesus Christ. We show that love by showing love to others. The way we love Jesus is to keep His commands, and those commands (in case you’ve missed it, here) are summed up with “love God with all your might,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then there’s the additional, “Love one another as I have loved you” that He gave strictly to His disciples, later.

My future is bright, regardless of outward appearances, because I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and will not fade. My treasure is laid up in heaven, where rust will not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. The politics of earth have no bearing on my future, whatsoever. Oh, sure, the PTBs may start WWIII anytime, now, but that has no bearing on my true future. And, once again, I will repeat the words of Dallas Willard. “This world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.”

Father, I praise You that I feel safe in this world. Sometimes I forget this, and I worry, especially when madmen seem to be in charge and in control of things. Then I remember who is really in control, and I remember that this physical body is temporary, anyway, and that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me some pain, which will also be temporary. I thank You for the bright future that I have in You, and for the way You have led me to try my best to spread love and inclusion in this world. Help me to keep doing this, and, thereby, spreading the “good news” of the Gospel, which is that Your kingdom is here, right now.

The Christian life, the Christian faith, is both physical and spiritual at the same time. It is inescapable. There are times when we want to make it purely one or the other. Heretics, allegedly dealt with long ago, would have us believe that the physical is completely evil and unnecessary. I say “allegedly,” because those types of heresies always seem to resurface, centuries later.

But we, as Christians, have to work. It is, again, inescapable. “Caulking a cracked sidewalk, washing windows, trimming azaleas, pointing eroded masonry, fixing a broken pipe, and hauling debris to the landfill.” But also included in the physical part is “healing a hurt body, training the brain to recognize truth, and disciplining bodies to behave in acts of justice and love.”

There seems to be a great dearth of “training the brain to recognize truth,” these days.

On the spiritual side, there are acts of faith that are, for the most part, invisible. “Believing in the real presence of the Christ we do not see, loving people around us when they don’t seem to deserve it and we don’t feel like it, and expecting the arrival of the kingdom of God at the very moment journalists are announcing the latest sleaze.”‘

“Everything physical is at the same time spiritual. Everything spiritual is at the same time physical. There is no separating these realities. The Saturday workers and the Sunday worshippers are the same people. Everything we do, on both days, can be to the glory of God – or could have been for his glory, for the physicality and the spirituality of both work and prayer can be perverted into prideful sin.”

I find myself grimacing at that bit about loving people who “don’t seem to deserve it,” and when I “don’t feel like it.” But that is where I have to squash pride and obey the commands of my Savior. Because . . . well, you already know, because, if you’ve read this far, I addressed that in the previous section.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray that You help me to do just that, to love people around me who don’t seem to deserve love, and to love people when I simply do not feel like loving them. Who am I to determine if someone is worthy of love?? I am not You! I am not all-knowing and all-wise! Therefore, it is simply my duty to obey Your commands. Even when I don’t feel like it.

Help us also, Father, to train our brains to recognize truth. Apparently, it isn’t always so obvious, even when we think it is. And Lord, please, please, please, help us to show grace when we think that someone else’s version of “truth” is wrong.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Remembrances

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,414

It was seven years ago, today, that my father went Home. I still remember the phone call that I received right after I got home from work on that Monday evening. He had been “found unresponsive” at the nursing home/rehab facility to which he had been taken the previous Saturday. I immediately got hold of Mama, and called C, and we raced to Mineral Wells.

In my opinion, he was already gone. We gathered around and watched nothing happen for a few hours. Other friends and family arrived to wait with us. We didn’t wait very long. There wasn’t any point in keeping the machines going. His body wasn’t breathing on its own; it was 100% machine-enabled. Mama and I made the decision.

The rest of the week was a blur, as more family arrived at the house, and friends brought tons of food. Isn’t that interesting? When someone in your family passes away, everyone brings food. That’s an odd tradition, to me. I mean, it was good food, sure, and we enjoyed it. C and I got a new recipe for strawberry cake, thanks to Mama’s friend Shirley.

I also saw my favorite and beloved cousin, Joan, for the first time in years. And isn’t that a shame, that it took a family death to bring us together again?

My mother survived on her own for almost seven years after that. Oh, she’s still alive, and doing pretty well, but has now moved in with us, here in Fort Worth. But she made it alone in her house for quite some time. She had lots of help from some really good friends, some virtual angels.

Some people lose their minds when a parent dies. A pastor, that ministered at the church Mama and Daddy were going to, lost his dad, and his life practically fell apart. It changed him, and not for the better. For me, life definitely changed. For the last seven years, I have struggled to enjoy baseball, like I used to. That was something I had in common with my father (S, too). I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that, before. But I think there’s another effect. One that I haven’t mentioned, I don’t think. And maybe I have only recently come to realize this.

My love of music has not been the same. Oh, sure, I still love music, and still play and sing when I want to. But those times seem fewer and farther between. And sometimes, it seems, I simply don’t want to listen to any music.

Anyway . . . just some thoughts in my brain, today, as we remember back seven years ago. I’ll carry on, now, with the main reason I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
(Psalms 116:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the life I had with my father, and the legacy he left behind
2. that we still have my mother with us, and for the joy that we continue to share together
3. that I still have memories and can remember good things
4. that God remembers that we are dust; we are flawed; we are far from perfect, but well on our way
5. for the power of words that contain truth

Ironically, today’s prayer word is “remember.” I don’t think I could have made that up.

Philosopher George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We remember a lot of things in our lives. Who among us has not suddenly, quite “out of the blue,” remembered something stupid we said in public? Or some mistake we made at work? Or some grievous sin we committed at one point in our lives?

We also remember good things. I remember beautiful scenes from wonderful vacation trips: the ocean, seen from the west coast, and the east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico; mountains in various parts of the country; redwood forests in California, as well as the forest on the way to the west coast of Oregon.

And we remember phone calls with bad news, like the one I mentioned above.

Memory is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, some of those things I would like to forget. Mostly the stupid things I have said and done in my life.

Apparently, according to my Bible app, “remember” is in the NIV 166 times. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a command or admonition from the Lord. Sometimes, it is in the form of a promise from the Lord. And sometimes, it is in the form of a prayer from one of God’s people to Him.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8 NIV)

“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
(Genesis 9:14-16 NIV)

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
(Exodus 33:13 NIV, Moses speaking)

Then there are verses like these.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 NIV)

We see from Scripture that our God is able to intentionally forget things! Have you ever tried to do that?? Just try and forget something, sometime! It is impossible for a human being to intentionally forget something. It’s like trying to not think about a pink elephant. Don’t do it!

(From Pray a Word a Day)(Except for the bit about pink elephants)

Father, there are things I want to remember, and things I would like to forget. I suppose there are reasons why I cannot forget some of those things; good reasons, hopefully, lessons learned. I’m not always so sure about that, though, that the lessons were learned, because I keep making some of the same stupid mistakes.

But there are also things I never want to forget, like my father’s face and his voice and his love for me. I never want to forget other people that have come through my life, and the good things they have brought to my life. And most definitely, I never want to forget You and Your benefits to my life. Help me to always remember that I belong to You.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Philippians 3:12 ESV)

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:36 ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

It is important to remember (that was not intentional) that we have not yet “arrived.” Just like Paul, I have not obtained what I am after, yet. As U2 stated so well, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Of course, I have found Jesus, or, rather, He found me, because He is the one looking for “lost sheep,” right? But I have not fully obtained the perfect salvation that awaits me at the entrance to Home.

I have not arrived; I am not perfect. In fact, I’m pretty far from perfect. But there is one other important thing to remember.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

Father, I am so grateful that You remember that we are dust. While You “command” that we are “holy,” as You are holy, or “perfect” as You are perfect, You still remember that we are dust, and that we are not, in fact either holy or perfect. We have the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, though. His righteousness has been added to my account. So You do not see, nor do You remember, my sin! Oh, Hallelujah!

I still search, and I still seek. I seek, first, Your kingdom. At least when I remember, I do that. Help me to remember to keep seeking Your kingdom, so that all other things will fall into place, as they should. Help me to lay aside the weight that I am not intended to bear, and that could mean a lot of different things. We take on weight that we should not, and that’s not always about sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to being Home, and seeing that “great cloud of witnesses” that has gone before me.

Words are important. Words are powerful, both spoken and written.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

The spoken Word of God created the universe and brought light into being. It’s quite a wonder, if we ponder it, that light was created before there were any stars. But that’s a topic for another day.

“The spoken and written word is active; it does things, makes things happen. it is so easy to lose connection with this reality and let ourselves be intimidated by force and might, by horsepower and nuclear power, by money and militancy, and by terrorism and brutality.”

A man named Vaclav Havel “sat in prison in Czechoslovakia for many years because the communist government was afraid of his words and what his words would do.” He cared nothing about politics, but was “a deeply committed Christian who wrote plays for the stage and letters to his wife.” They were afraid of him because “he wrote truth, wrote well, and used words that were full of energy.”

After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, “he stepped out of prison and was immediately made president of his country. In the speeches he made after that remarkable reversal, he spoke over and over again to the Word, to the nature of the Word, to the Word of God and the Word made flesh.”

Not all words are active, though. If we separate our own words from the life of God, without His Spirit, they are small, meager. “Words used without accuracy, without passion, and without love are lifeless. . . . Words that make and root the world, that bring truth into lives, and that ignite love in hearts are the words that are born in the presence of God.”

And the place where we get those words is in our closet, in prayer; in His presence.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, help me to remember the power of words. But also that that power is contingent upon your presence. Yes, words that do not contain Your life and wisdom can be powerful, but they are lifeless. They do great evil. We are inundated, in today’s culture, with inaccurate words, words that spread misinformation, even though they may be spoken with passion. Help us to have wisdom when we listen; give us ears to hear only truth, Father, and let that truth be from Your Word, the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Let all other words fall by the wayside.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Remembering

Grace and peace, friends.

Live Quietly and Mind Your Own Business

Today is Tuesday, the nineteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,413

I had a great night of sleep, last night, and slept until almost 8:30, this morning. In fact, I might have slept even longer, had someone not called me. I didn’t figure out what was happening in time to catch the call, but I didn’t recognize the number, so I won’t be calling them back.

I had thought to make a trip to the grocery store, today, but it’s not urgent. I will be heading out, in a little while, to pick up lunch/dinner for everyone at Subway. That’s our Tuesday tradition, since I work my four-hour shelving shift on Tuesday evening.

We are finally getting rid of the grand piano, hopefully, today. C found someone who wants it, and is supposedly having professional movers come by this afternoon, to get it. That will free up a large amount of space in the front “dining” room, which we are considering converting to a reading area, with chairs and a couple bookshelves. We can then move the exercise bike up to the front living room, next to the treadmill.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week)

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
(Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a really good night's sleep
2. for Your justice, righteousness, and faithfulness
3. for the desire in my heart to stir up love and peace, rather than anger and harshness
4. for the tasks that You have given me, praying that I might do those things while living quietly and minding my own business
5. for my brother and sisters in the faith, and the relationships You have built between us.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
(Job 19:25-27 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “stir.” This word could mean a number of things. The reading provides this verse for context.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

I used to be one who loved to argue. My father and I would engage in spirited debates, often. But, as I grew older, I found myself thinking more like he thought. I have also learned that arguing is no longer fun. Part of that is because it has gotten more hostile, for which I blame social media.

These days, arguments on social media are not “won.” No one’s mind is changed, because no one wants to have their mind changed. Everyone wants to be right, and “truth” or “facts” don’t enter into the picture whatsoever.

Because of this, I have made it my practice, my goal, to only stir up love and peace. It’s not easy to be a peacemaker, these days, because no one wants peace. They want to be right. They want the other side to . . . well, to be perfectly honest, I think that a lot of people would only be satisfied if the “other side” ceased to exist.

It’s hard to not engage. I have typed many a comment or reply on Facebook, only to delete it and not post it, because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful. So I just keep scrolling, and do my best to be one who stirs up love and tries to make peace.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

Somehow, I don’t think calling other people “stupid,” “idiot,” and “snowflake” does a thing toward spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 ESV)

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV)

We all have different tasks to do in this world. Paul goes on at length, in Corinthians, about the different gifts and body parts that we fit into. Here, we are admonished to love one another (where have I heard that before?) by minding our own business (!), and tending to the work that is set before us, no matter what it may be. Why? So that we may “walk properly before outsiders.”

I am seeing a lot of instances where people are 1) not living quietly, and 2) not minding their own business, and 3) not walking properly before outsiders.

Things look a lot better in the world when you can manage to do those things. I’m not advocating a “head in the sand” mentality. Not at all. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on in the world. But the truth is, we have no control over most of it. And spouting off our “expert” opinions about the latest current affair tends to have no effect whatsoever, other than making us look somewhat foolish. Because very few of us are “experts” about anything.

Father, help me to pay attention to what is my business, to mind my own affairs, and to live quietly, so that I may walk properly before “outsiders.” It is in this way that “outsiders” might be drawn closer to becoming “insiders.” I thank You that You have drawn me more and more toward being one to attempts to stir up love and peace, rather than stirring up anger with harsh words. I pray that I may be more and more like this.

What is one of the first things we tend to ask people when we first meet them?

“What do you do?” Implied, of course, in the question, is “What do you do for a living?”

Eugene Peterson recounts a time when he asked that of a person, and received a twenty-minute discourse on all of the daily activities of the person. However, at the end of it, Eugene still had very little idea about what the person actually did.

But another friend shared a similar account, in which, upon being asked what he did, another person’s answer was, “I’m changing the world.”

That is, in a way, the job description of the Church, and every person who is part of the Church. We are changing the world. I am changing the world. No, I’m not solving the problems between the Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (let’s be honest . . . Ukraine doesn’t have a “Russia” problem, they have a “Putin” problem). I’m not going to solve world hunger, or create clean water resources for third world countries.

But I’m changing the world, doing my best to influence people toward “love and good deeds” in my own little corner of the world, in what Dallas Willard would call my own little “kingdom.”

Is that what we have in mind when we prepare for worship each week? “Maybe you just expect a little inspiration or solace. Maybe you just want to get away for an hour or two from life’s daily clutter and be refreshed by some beauty and sacred order. Maybe you are following an old habit. But we are changing the world.”

Creation is in motion every time the Word of God is spoken. When we invoke the Holy Spirit, “salvation is in motion.” “Every time we open our mouths in praise, confess our faith with our lips, and believe in our hearts, the world is changed.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Wait. I thought you said we were supposed to live quietly and mind our own business.

I am firmly convinced that both are possible. You see, there are people who believe that the only way to express their faith and belief is angrily, with loud shouting. (I once worked for a manager who subscribed to the belief that he who talks the loudest wins.) My brothers and sisters, this should not be! It is possible to express our faith, to confess our beliefs, and believe in our hearts, meekly and quietly, and while minding our own business.

Father, I pray that You would help me to change my world, quietly, and consistently, without anger, without condemnation, and by stirring up love and peace. That is my desire, that is my goal. I want to know You, and I want to present You to this world, in my little “kingdom,” as the God who is there, the God who loves and cares, the God who IS compassion, and the God who saves.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends