Teach Me To Listen

Today is Monday, December 30, 2019. The sixth day of Christmas. The Feast of the Holy Family. Peace be with you!

Day 22,572

Two days until New Year’s Day, 2020.

Today is Bacon Day. “There’s nothing in this world that doesn’t taste better with Bacon. Whether it’s chocolate covered bacon from the confectioners shop, bacon cheeseburgers, bacon wrapped tater tots, or even bacon covered chapstick, you can’t deny that it’s a delicious tasty treat that’s truly gotten it’s fingers in everywhere.”

Bacon Day. Yes.

Did I mention that it’s Bacon Day? Well it is. Bacon Day.

C didn’t go to church with us, yesterday, and is still coughing quite a bit. Still feels like it’s just a bronchial/sinus kind of thing. I hope that is true. I feel fine. Except that my stomach was angry with me, last night. Something I ate, maybe? I’m still not exactly hungry, so not eating breakfast, this morning.

I have tomorrow off for my last day of PTO, so I will be off two days this week, just like last week. Next week is going to be tough. Haha!

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51.15

Today I am grateful:
1. For another shortened week, with two days off.
2. For the good church meeting we had yesterday morning. There was a lot of good discussion on the Scripture passages we read.
3. That, in spite of the things that we see around us, the Lord reigns.
4. That God gave us two ears and one mouth, indicating that we should listen more than we talk.
5. That God has placed in my heart a desire to be a better listener.

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

Psalm 86.1-2
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90.1-2
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Psalm 85.9
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 
(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 
and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 
And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 
he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 
for my eyes have seen your salvation 
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 
And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2.22-38
The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 
Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. 
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. 
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! 
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.

Psalm 93

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

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.”
Ezekiel 3.10

The Common English Bible translates this verse to say, “Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you.”

The key word and concept in the verse is “listen.” The English Standard Version says to “receive” the words. I like that, too. We can “hear” a lot of things, but when we truly “listen,” we “receive” what we hear.

We have lost the art of listening. In the days of Jesus, not everyone had a copy of the Scriptures that they could read for themselves. It wasn’t a control thing, like the Catholic Church in the time of the Reformation. It just wasn’t simple to get a copy of the Scriptures. They were hand-written. It took a long time to transcribe them.

So they listened to the Scriptures being read to them. The letters that Paul (and others) wrote, that became our New Testament, were read out loud to the various churches that they were sent to. People listened to the words.

Our culture simply doesn’t know how to listen any more. In a conversation with someone, do you listen when the other person talks, or are you thinking about what you are going to say next? Even worse, are you just waiting for that person to stop to breathe so you can jump in with your two cents worth?

We are quick to give advice and slow to listen. James, the brother of Jesus, had different advice for us. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1.19-20)

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in the famous passage that would become a sixties pop hit, says that there is “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

And Jesus explained his reason for parables in Matthew 13.13-16. “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘”You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”

Time after time, the Lord laments the fact that Israel would not listen to him. And over and over, Wisdom calls out in the book of Proverbs: Listen, listen, listen, listen, LISTEN!

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have something in mind for 2020. There are a few things I want to accomplish in this new year. One of those is to be a better listener. I don’t call it a “goal,” because it’s not something you can measure. But I want to do a better job of listening, both to God, and to other people.

Father, thank you for bringing this to my attention, this morning. I desire to be a better listener, both you your words, and to people, as well. Remind me, when I am in conversation, to shut up and listen. Two ears . . . one mouth. Listen twice as much as talk. And, as I listen to your word, each day, may I receive it into my heart, into my soul, that it may reap the harvest it is intended to reap.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3.20-21

Grace and peace, friends.

Did I mention that today is Bacon Day?

New Every Morning

Today is Saturday, December 30, 2017. Day 21,842.

The sixth day of Christmas. Six geese a-layin’, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Two more days until 2018!

Davy Jones, born on this date in 1945 (died 2012), said, “Wherever I go, people still shout out: ‘Hey, hey, we’re The Monkees.’ And I never tire of that.”

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is whoop-de-do, a noun, meaning, “lively and noisy festivities; merrymaking.”

Today is Bacon Day. I will do my best to have some.

So, yes, I’m up. I had the alarm set for 6:30, fully prepared to do this after I get home from work, but I woke up at 5:20 and decided to get up.

It’s going to be gradually getting colder today, as the cold front moves in. It’s currently 46, which is the high for the day. Tomorrow’s high is 38, and Monday’s (New Year’s Day) will be 29. Fortunately, we weren’t planning on going anywhere for New Year’s Day.

C went to bed early, last night, with a sore throat. I’m hoping she feels better today.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Interestingly, somehow, this Saturday got left out of the Divine Hours. It skips from Friday in the fourth week of Advent to the first Sunday in January. I’m not planning on using Divine Hours in 2018, so I guess I’m done with those for now. So I will read one of the Psalms, this morning.

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65

I’m not using the reading from Daily Guideposts, this morning, but the Scripture references give me something to ponder. I’m kind of working them backwards, too.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15

I believe this is a good verse to meditate on, at the beginning of a new year. It seems negative, at first, but I don’t find it so. Every year, people make all these declarations about what they are going to accomplish in the new year. Projects to complete, places to go, goals to accomplish, things to do. But, truthfully, none of us have a clue what 2018 will bring. In reality, we do not even know we will be alive in two days. For a number of years, I have been using a phrase that I once heard a sportscaster on a Christian radio station use: “If the Lord says so, too.”

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:5-7

In light of the verses from James, these seem like a logical continuation. And, if you notice, I’ve included the last phrase from verse 5, which I realized not too long ago, belong to the sentence in verse 6. Because “the Lord is at hand,” we can continue with verses 6 and 7. And the Lord is most definitely at hand, as he is everywhere; his presence is with us every second of every day. Therefore, we have no reason to be anxious about anything.

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Psalm 32:7-8

Because the Lord is at hand, he is a hiding place for us, a refuge. We can be confident of his protection and preservation. And we can count on his instruction, if we but pay attention and be willing students/disciples.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Finally, I think, the most powerful of this little group. My God’s love and mercy never cease, never come to an end. “They are new every morning.” Not just at the beginning of every year; every morning! So, while the beginning of a new year is significant, let us not lose the significance of each new day!

Oh, my God, great is your faithfulness!! I praise you for your compassion, your mercies, your steadfast love that is new every morning. Make me aware of this the moment I wake up every morning, and even during the watches of the night, when I, at times awake! You are faithful; you are near; you are able; you are good! Thank you for these meditations, this morning, and may they stay with me throughout this day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

Equipped and Empowered

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”~~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is wormhole, “a hypothetical structure of space-time envisioned as a long thin tunnel connecting points that are separated in space and time.”

Today is . . . oh, boy. Today is Bacon Day. What else do I need to say about that?

Christi finally got her new car, yesterday. While she was picking hers up, I was getting new front tires on mine (I really need to do a better job of rotating those suckers), and then getting the oil changed. Right as Christi was about to leave with her new car, they told there was some kind of recall that had been issued the day before. It delayed her another hour or so, but wasn’t too bad.

I played Fallout 4 some more while I was waiting for her to get home. We watched a few episodes of Criminal Minds while we ate dinner, then Christi went to bed, while I stayed up to . . . you guessed it . . . play Fallout 4. It’s going to be tough going back to work and a regular schedule.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Christi’s new car, sitting right next to mine.
Christi's new car

On this date in:

1903–A fire occurred at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing 600 people
1922–The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed
1924–Edwin Hubble announced the existence of other galaxies
1948–Cole Porter’s musical, Kiss Me, Kate, opened at the New Century Theatre on Broadway. It would become the first show to win the Best Musical Tony Award.
1965–Ferdinand Marcos became President of the Philippines
1981–Wayne Gretzky scored his 50th goal of the season in the 39th game, setting a new NHL record
2006–Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging

Today’s birthdays include:

1865–Rudyard Kipling, English writer
1904–Dmitri Kabalevsky, Russian composer
1914–Bert Parks, American TV host
1920–Jack Lord, American actor, Hawaii Five-O
1928–Bo Diddley, American blues musician
1931–Skeeter Davis, American singer
1934–Del Shannon, American singer
1935–Jack Riley, American actor, The Bob Newhart Show
1935–Sandy Koufax, American pitcher
1937–Noel Paul Stookey, American folk singer, Peter, Paul and Mary
1937–John Hartford, American singer/songwriter
1939–Felix Pappalardi, American musician and record producer, Mountain
1941–Mel Renfro, American football player
1942–Fred Ward, American actor, Tremors
1942–Michael Nesmith, American musician, The Monkees
1945–Davy Jones, English singer, The Monkees
1946–Patti Smith, American singer
1947–Jeff Lynne, English musician, Electric Light Orchestra, The Traveling Wilburys
1959–Tracey Ullman, English actress/singer
1976–A.J. Pierzynski, American catcher
1980–Eliza Dushku, American actress, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse
1986–Ellie Goulding, British singer

So today is the birthday of both Michael Nesmith, who turns 73 today (born in Houston, TX), and Davy Jones, who will sadly not be turning 70 today, as we lost him back in 2012. Here is a music video The Monkees singing “Daydream Believer.”

I can’t ignore the fact that it is also Jeff Lynne’s birthday, frontman for Electric Light Orchestra, as well as Tracey Ulmann, British pop singer. Lynne turns 68, and Tracey turns 56.

Richard Plantagenet, Sonny Liston, Melba Rae, Richard Rodgers, Ling-Ling, Maureen Starkey, Jack Nance, Artie Shaw, and Saddam Hussein are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “Outfitted and Empowered.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

There will be a lot of talk, over the next couple of days, about the new year coming up. 2016 will arrive in just over 36 hours (as I am typing this, it is 11:44 AM). As Christ has shed his blood for us, fulfilling the eternal covenant, he was raised from the dead by the “God of peace,” and is our “living Lord and Shepherd.”

As we look forward to 2016, we can be confident of two things:

1. God “equips us with everything good that we may do his will.”

2. God “works in us that which is pleasing in his sight.”

These two things are secured for us by the “eternal covenant,” which is also the “new covenant.” The promise of the new covenant is given in Jeremiah 31:33: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The will of God, as we understand it, is not just some words written on papyrus or stone. It is worked in our hearts. The result of this is that “we feel and think and act in ways more pleasing to God.”

We still have to work and use the things with which God has equipped us. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The only way that we are able to please God, to do his good pleasure, is because “the blood-bought grace of God has moved from mere equipping to omnipotent transforming.”

As 2016 approaches, may we understand these things, and allow the will of God to work within us, that we might do what is pleasing in his sight.

Father, I pray for your work in me to increase in the coming year. I have struggled, this year, ever since April. It is time to move forward, to move ahead in your will, and with what you have equipped me for. It is time to stop sitting still. May your equipping in me and your work in me move me toward what is more pleasing in your sight.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Is Everything

Good morning. It is post-Monday, December 30, 2014. Only two more days left in this year. 97 days until Opening Day.

Today’s Word of the Day is “nithered.” Nithered means, “Shrivelled or pinched with cold or hunger; wasted, stunted, withered.”

Today is Bacon Day, which also should be called “Ron Swanson Day.” Do I even need to say anything about this? My mouth started watering the moment I saw the title, “Bacon Day.”

The drive to work in the mornings continues to be really great. I pulled into the parking lot about twenty minutes early. Of course, I don’t dare leave later to try to compensate for that, as you never know what might happen along the way. So I sat in the break room for a little while. The day went pretty well, and the work load continues to be much lighter than usual. I’m hoping that will continue on, at least through the rest of this week, and, possibly, into next week.

It’s finally beginning to act like winter around here. The temperatures are dropping, and it is projected to be 26 for tonight’s low. That’s pretty cold for our “neck of the woods.”


(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psalm 95:1
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Psalm 144:5
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23
Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
Psalm 89:47
Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:13-17
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to
be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child
by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Matthew 22:23-33

After the Pharisees had been befuddled, the Saducees took a turn. Just like the others, they are trying to trick him. But, just like before, Jesus turns it around on them. The first part of his answer is probably the worst insult he could give these religious leaders. “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And then he proceeds to quote from the Pentateuch, the portion of Scripture that they regard the most highly. One statement I think that is very important is the part about neither marrying nor being given in marriage, in the resurrection. I find that very interesting. I think there are a lot of aspects about the resurrection and after-life that we have made up, that have no biblical foundation. But, more importantly, Jesus refers to God in the present tense, as being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is the God of the living, not the dead. This means that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive in some way, just as we will be after the resurrection.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “No One Greater Than He.”

“The faith that Jesus inspired in his disciples had such a profound impact on them that the disciples found it impossible to believe anyone could be equal or greater to him, not even Moses or Elijah, not even Abraham.” The idea that anyone could come after him, any prophet, judge, or even another messiah, and be greater than Jesus, was inconceivable. There was no one else for whom to wait. “Jesus was everything.” He was all the Jews needed and had hoped for; he would fulfill every promise and every prophecy.

Can we truly call ourselves disciples if we do not feel the same way? Do we believe these things about Jesus?

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written,
King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16

Father, I confess . . . I have not lived as though I believe these things about Jesus. My heart even hurts right now, as I realize that I have not acted as though I believe Jesus Christ is everything. Sure, I have vigorously and enthusiastically lifted my hands in worship as I’ve sung “You Are My All In All,” but have I truly believed it? I’m sure I believe it when I sing it, and when I say it, but my daily life, the thoughts, speech, and actions of the day to day drudgery, do not bear this out. Change me, O God, change me! I want to act like I believe that Jesus is everything. There is no equal to him; there is no one greater, and there never will be. Let this be the cry of my heart; let this boil over “from the inside out,” Lord! Remind me of this throughout this day, Father, especially as I go to work and interact with people there.

I pray for this day. May our trip to work be safe and smooth, and may we continue to enjoy this time of year when many people are taking vacations, making traffic smoother. I pray for our work day, that it will be a good day. May our evening together be restful and pleasant. I pray for Stephanie, that you might show her your unfailing love and grace, and that she might understand as best she can. Teach us all how to love you more, as we strive to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom.

What do you believe about Jesus? Do your thoughts, words, and actions bear this out? I have much to meditate on after this reading. My heart is troubled.

Grace and peace, friends.