Good morning. Today is Monday, the twenty-eighth of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,391

Yesterday was a weird day, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Very interesting that it came on the heels of such a great day.

I have an appointment for my referral to the podiatrist, this morning at 10:30, and am supposed to be there by 10:00. I’m only going because my doctor’s office wants me to check in with one. As far as I know, there is nothing wrong with my feet. Other than they’re tired from supporting all of this weight for so many years.


Be Ready” by Daryl Madden

In our daily journey
Souls will appear
Let the thought be ready
That God sent them here

To be fully present
With an open ear
With a humble heart
And a soul that cares

One of heavens vision
Of ways beyond here
Let the voice of the Spirit
Of love, let us share

A blessing of calling
Let us be aware
To always to ready
To be there with a prayer

I am moved by a couple things in this poem. First, the idea that any souls I encounter during this day may have been sent there by God. Second, that I need to be fully present with them, with an open (see the prayer word for today!) ear, humble heart, and a soul that cares. Please check out more of Daryl’s poems at the link provided.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the mercies of God, fresh and new every morning
2. that God has made me more "open" in recent years
3. that I am God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do things that He has created beforehand for me to do (but I have to be "open" to the possibilities) (Ephesians 2:10)
4. that, in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation for us who believe
5. that You do not intend for our lives to be flat, boring, and listless, but full of Your life and love

The prayer word for today is “open.” (Isn’t that ironic, considering Daryl’s poem above?) Open can be a verb, as in “open the eyes of my heart, Lord.” Open can also be an adjective, as in, “I have an open heart,” or “our door is open,” or, “and now I come to you, with open arms.”

The reading has a quote from the Dalai Lama at the heading. “An open heart is an open mind.” While I respect the Dalai Lama, that is just not true. The heart and the mind are two completely different things. Perhaps it should say, “An open heart begins with an open mind.”

I believe that the context presented would have the word being an adjective, today. We, as human beings, in general, need to be “open.” While there are certainly things that we should not be open to, we should be more open, generally. And there are ways in which openness is indicated (or the lack thereof). Body posture reveals a great deal. Are your arms crossed? Whether we mean it or not, that is a “closed” posture. The reading even goes so far as to indicate that keeping our lips slightly open when we are not speaking conveys a more open attitude. Interesting. Whether or not that is true, you can certainly convey openness or closedness by the shape of your mouth and lips while someone else is speaking.

My life has been more open for the last decade or so. I was more closed-minded before that. In many ways, I can identify with Bob Dylan’s song, “My Back Pages,” with the famous line, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” I’m more open; my opinions are constantly evolving, as I am presented with fresh evidence. And yes, my theology changes along with that. There are, of course, certain theological truths about which I am not open to change. The Holy Spirit will see to that, I trust.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

The writer of today’s reading, Jerusha Agen, speaks of a time when she was leading a Bible study in a county jail. She was open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and, in a moment when she truly had no earth-shaking “theological” answers, opened her mouth and words came out; words that ministered to and inspired a woman who had suffered serious trauma in her life.

We are, indeed, His workmanship, and we created to do good works, “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” But we have to be “open” to those possibilities before we can walk in them.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today, Eugene Peterson asks the question, “Has life gone flat on you?” Sounds like the beginning of a commercial, doesn’t it? I would imagine he rather intended it that way. Have I surrendered my dreams? It happens, says Peterson. “Morals get flabby. Goals lose their magnetism. Imagination goes slack.” Goodness knows I have experienced that!

But we were not “created to live listlessly.” We are not “fated to boredom.” (I, myself, have even opined, in the past, that boredom is rather sinful.) “God did not design this marvelous creation and invest us with eternal hungers and thirsts with the expectation that we would sit around and in fatigued voices ask, ‘What’s next?'”

Jesus tells parables that wake us up “to the central vitalities of life, the realities that provoke intensity and participation and commitment. His example prompts us to live upward toward God, to live on tiptoe, to live in such a way that our lives increase and develop with the energies of God’s grace.”

And here is yet another concept to which we need to be “open.” I need to be open to having my static life challenged. Granted, since last July, it has been anything but routine. I’m still struggling to get a handle on this retirement business. But I have not come close to realizing the full potential of the possibilities, and have frequently caught myself sinking into a sort of boredom. So I have some things to ponder today.

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

Father, thank You for challenging me, today. I am grateful that You have worked to open me up more, in recent years. I am grateful that You have opened my heart, my mind, and my spirit to more love, and, more recently, to the idea of a love revolution. Please keep pushing me in that direction.

But I also pray that You would push me further toward more creativity, and help me to live in a more “upward” way toward You, even, as Peterson said, “on tiptoe.” Help me to live expectantly, not flat and listlessly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I might be composing more music and playing more, but I can’t help but think that that would be my primary outlet. Prayer will figure into this, as well, I suspect. I see prayer as a mighty place where imagination can figure in, heavily.

I believe in the truth of Ephesians 2:10, and have for many years. Help me be more open to seeing the possibilities around me, of the good work that You have created in advance, for me to walk in and through.

Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Bury the Talents

I’m going to jump right into the Bible readings this morning.

The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 communicates the message of the last few verses of chapter 24. Be ready, because you don’t know when the “bridegroom” is coming. The Reformation Study Bible adds this note: “Being ready means being prepared for a long delay; short-lived zeal is inadequate.” I look at this, and I wonder…is my zeal adequate? I have lived a life of devotion to Jesus Christ. As long as I can remember, I have been following Jesus. Sure, there have been times where my path was crooked (times that I almost lost it altogether), but NEVER have I walked away from my Lord. I have watched friends over the years fade away. Through it all, I have held on to my devotion, my love for Jesus. I am not boasting of anything in myself. I know that it is the grace of God that has held me. I know that, somehow, he still has a plan for me. My efforts to serve him have been feeble, at best. This is not false humility. This is simply recognition of my inability to do anything at all outside of his grace and mercy. Last night, on Facebook, Joel Engle asked us what our favorite song on his new cd was. My answer was a song that he wrote called “Without You.” The reason is that the lyrics to this song describe perfectly my inadequacy to do anything without the mercy and grace of God.
Am I ready? Do I have enough oil in my lamp? I don’t know, but I’m still waiting, and I haven’t given up on his coming.

Jesus tells another parable in verses 14-30, the parable of the talents. Many people have “literalized” this parable to mean talents in the same way we think of them today. Jesus was referring to monetary values, of course. Is the other interpretation valid? Perhaps. My take on this parable is that, whatever our Lord gives us, we need to use for his glory. The one servant buried his in the ground. That was of no use to anyone.

In Isaiah 44, there is prophecy concerning the number of believers that will spring up.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.
5 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”

I am part of the fulfillment of that prophecy, and so are you, if you call on the name of the Lord.
Once again, the Lord declares his uniqueness as God.
:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

There is no God besides our God!
The next section of Isaiah is a fascinating description of the folly of idolatry. When put the way Isaiah writes this, it is almost humorous, but also tragic. Verses 9-20 describe the process of making an idol out the same wood that is used to warm the house and cook the food.
14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”
17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

The Lord calls on Jacob to remember. He tells Israel that they will not be forgotten. Then the most beautiful words…”I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Father, I praise you for your mercy and grace, without which I could do nothing. I can’t even breathe without your Spirit, Lord. I pray that I will keep myself ready, waiting for your return. Let me not “fall asleep” as I wait. Let my zeal for you and for your word not diminish. And I pray that I will use whatever it is you give me, whether it be money or literal talents, to glorify you and to share your mercy and grace with those around me. Let me never be guilty of worshiping something that I have made with my own hands (or that anyone else has made with their hands). Let my worship never be directed at another person. You are the object of my worship and praise. You and you alone are worthy of my praise.

I continue to pray for our friend Kathy. She had to reschedule her followup appointment on the mammogram yesterday, due to other difficulties. I also pray for our dear friend Amy, who has a job interview today. She was hit by the cuts in education budgets this year.

I pray that this day will be a good day, Lord. Let Stephanie have a great day at school today. Yesterday’s ARD meeting seems to have gone very well. We also pray for wisdom and guidance as we continue to work out this guardianship issue.

We continue to pray for much-needed rain in our area, Lord. I also pray for the extinguishing of the many wildfires that are raging in Texas.

Use what you have for his glory, and stay ready.

Grace and peace, friends.