Over and Over and Over Again

Today is Thursday, the twentieth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,324

Only three more days until Hamilton!

There’s not a lot going on around here, today. It’s one of my days that I’m always off (Monday and Thursday), so I’m home all day, and C continues to work from home, probably through next week, as well. She has an appointment with her foot doctor, later this morning. I ordered some groceries, but they’re coming from Amazon Fresh, because Albertson’s was booked up until tomorrow afternoon. I needed some things for this evening’s dinner, which will hopefully be chicken stir-fry.

I could have ventured out to the store, in person, but it’s really cold out there, today. Currently 24 and only supposed to get up to 34 today. Now, the low for tomorrow morning is predicted to be 18. In DFW, Texas, that’s stay-in-the-house cold. Fortunately, the precipitation possibility remains very low until Monday, when it is supposed to be above freezing all day. And, also, it has been in the sixties and seventies for the past week, for the most part, so the ground is probably still fairly warm, in comparison.

So I’ll move on to the devotional. I’ve already said some prayers for people, this morning. There are troubles all around, and people are losing loved ones all around us, as well. Some Covid-related, some not. These are simply tough times. I received word this morning that a young woman we have been praying for for the past two weeks, who had leukemia, but also came down with Covid, passed away, yesterday. She has seven kids, all home-schooled. It’s tragic, and it breaks my heart. And we wonder, when things like this happen, why God doesn’t act. Or maybe He did. His ways are so much higher than ours, and His understanding is infinitely beyond ours. But I guarantee that the “world,” the skeptics, mock statements like that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your Window, by Daryl Madden

Through Your window of presence
In prayer to reside
Of the Spiritual world
We’ll dwell on that side

Through Your window of grace
An insight is shown
Through the vision of soul
The unknown is known

Through Your window of sight
The world disappears
A glimpse of heaven
Of being appears

Through Your window of love
Of heavenly grace
Our home found in You
We can always embrace

Right about now, I’m longing for that third stanza, for the world to disappear. Please check out Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided.


“All those who sow, weeping, go out with songs of joy.”

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 
and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 
for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 
And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." 
And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 
(Mark 3:7-12 ESV)

People always flocked to Jesus because of what He was doing, not because of who He was. This is typical of human nature. We tend to read a passage like this and think that, because there were great crowds following Him, He was “successful.” This has translated into today’s mega-church. There are certain pastors around the country and the world who have managed to draw great crowds. But are they really “successful?”

I believe the measure of “success” is in the results. “The proof is in the pudding,” I’ve heard. For Jesus, I believe that, in the passage above, the evidence of success is in verse 11. The demons fell down before Him and declared His identity.

Just because a “church” is large does not mean that it is “successful.”

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.


There is a quote from Thomas Merton, in Spiritual Classics, which has grabbed my attention. “There are so many Christians who have practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and of the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness.” This quote is in a larger piece that speaks of the gift of contemplation to the Christian life.

Contemplation, as defined by Merton and others in the book I am reading, is nothing more than a way of paying intimate, close attention to God and His love for us, as well as our love for Him. In fact, Merton says that contemplation increases our love for Him. “It is the work of love and nothing is more effective in increasing our love for God.”

The condition, though, is closeness to God. We cannot remain at a distance, we cannot confine our lives “to a few routine exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty.” Oddly enough, such people do, in fact, avoid sin and “respect God as a Master.” But, says Merton, “their heart does not belong to Him. They are not really interested in Him, except in order to insure themselves against losing heaven and going to hell.”

Do we only invite God when we need to “smooth our difficulties and to dispense rewards?”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalms 1:1-6 ESV)

What obstacles stand in our way, in regard to this kind of interaction with God? What stereotypes do we need to work on, either about God, ourselves, or prayer?

One way of entering into contemplative prayer is to choose a passage of Scripture with rich meaning, such as Psalm 23, and read it, reflectively. When a particular phrase or word grabs the attention, focus on it. Contemplation is not, as some mistakenly think, “emptying the mind.” Far from it. However, it is largely intended to be wordless. This is harder for some of us who are inundated with words every day.

It is also suggested that visiting a quiet chapel, garden, or park would be helpful, if one is able to do that. I would go sit in the back yard, but, as mentioned earlier, it is prohibitively cold for that kind of activity, today.

Going back to that idea about us not having any idea of the immense love of God for us, Richard Foster comments that Merton seems to be teaching that “at its core contemplation is simply and profoundly falling in love with God over and over and over again.”


I am a little surprised that, after devoting four chapters to Job, Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, only devotes one to the Psalms. However, in that one, I believe he does them justice.

The Psalms are a prayer book/song book. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms the prayer book of the Bible. If I’m not mistaken, the Psalms are where Peterson began when he began paraphrasing The Message. His reasoning was to get prayers in the hands of the people.

You see, we have misconceptions about prayer. We tend to think we aren’t “good enough,” and need to wait until we “clean up our act.” Or, we believe our vocabulary to be inadequate. Peterson’s response to these ways of thinking was to put the Psalms in peoples’ hands and tell them, “Go home and pray these. You’ve got wrong ideas about prayer; the praying you find in these psalms will dispel the wrong ideas and introduce you to the real thing.”

People are generally shocked when they do what he asked.

Please, GOD, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. 
Treat me nice for a change; I'm so starved for affection. 
Can't you see I'm black and blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? 
GOD, how long will it take for you to let up?
(Psalms 6:1-3 MSG)
God, don't just watch from the sidelines. 
Come on! Run to my side! 
My accusers—make them lose face. 
Those out to get me—make them look Like idiots, 
while I stretch out, reaching for you, 
and daily add praise to praise. 
(Psalms 71:12-14 MSG)

“Untutored, we tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose that there must be an ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not.”

GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. 
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; 
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; 
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
 then guide me on the road to eternal life. 
(Psalms 139:1, 23-24 MSG)

These are not the prayers of “nice people. And, if there is any doubt about that (I’m adding this part myself), one need only look as far as Psalm 137.

Alongside Babylon's rivers we sat on the banks; 
we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion. 
Alongside the quaking aspens we stacked our unplayed harps; 
That's where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: 
"Sing us a happy Zion song!" 
Oh, how could we ever sing GOD's song in this wasteland? 
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, 
let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves. 
Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you, 
If I fail, O dear Jerusalem, to honor you as my greatest. 
GOD, remember those Edomites, 
and remember the ruin of Jerusalem, 
That day they yelled out, "Wreck it, smash it to bits!" 
And you, Babylonians—ravagers! 
A reward to whoever gets back at you for all you've done to us; 
Yes, a reward to the one who grabs your babies and smashes their heads on the rocks!
(Psalms 137:1-9 MSG)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
(Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19 ESV)

These are a couple of good verses to spark some contemplation, by the way.


Father, there have been a couple of good topics today. I pray for us, Your people, that we would dispense with any misplaced notions of what constitutes “success.” May we always see success through Your eyes, and the eyes of Jesus, taking note that the result is what marks whether something is successful. Regardless of how many people flock to our ministries or church services . . . are we reaching the “least of these?” Are we clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, providing healing help to the sick, comforting the dying, freeing the oppressed?

Help me to do better at understanding Your immense love for us/me. Help me to be better at contemplating these things, trying to simply sit and love You, looking at You without adding my own words (which is really hard). Draw me into depths of intimacy with You that defy explanation and description. Give me “experience” with You that cannot be described. Help me to fall in love with You over and over and over again.

And, as for prayer, I have long been aware that prayer is not just for “nice” or “good” people. If it were, I would not bother, because, most of the time, I am neither one. But also, give me patience and tenacity, especially when, after we have been praying, a mother of seven home-schooled children dies anyway. This kind of thing affects me greatly. But let it affect me in the right direction, driving me further into You, rather than away from You. You have blessed us with the Psalms, and I have been diving into them a lot for the past decade or so. Remind me that I need to stay in them more. Help me to embrace the language of prayer that we get from the prayer book of our Bible. And help me to be as honest as possible when I pray.

Thank You for Your everlasting love.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. 
I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:6 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Psalms and how they help me pray
2. for the everlasting love of God and how contemplation helps me enter into that love and fall in love with Him all over again'
3. that "success" isn't measured by how many people we attract
4. that those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy (Psalm 126)
5. for the sweet mercies of God, falling from heaven, fresh every morning

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Messy Community

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

May the peace of Christ fill you today.

Day 23,308

Nineteen days until Hamilton!

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Spirit Blessed, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Questions taken from Pray As You Go)

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Perhaps we need the prayer of Moses.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.