Be Still

Today is Thursday, December 14, 2017. Day 21,826.

Bill Buckner, born on this date in 1949, said, “I think Red Sox fans have always been good to me; they’ve treated me well.”

The word of the day, from, is tidings, a noun, meaning, “news, information, intelligence.” “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.”

Today is Roast Chestnuts Day. Makes me think of “The Christmas Song.”

C and I both had a bit of a stressful day, yesterday, for reasons best not share in a public forum. Not to worry, though, as everything will be okay.

We had a “Town Hall,” followed by a pot luck lunch, yesterday. I took one of our favorite recipes, called “Grilled Cheese Pizza.” It’s really easy. We change one thing when we make it at home, though. Since I am the only family member who really likes pepperoni, we make it with ground Italian sausage, instead. But the one I took for work, yesterday, had pepperoni. C actually made it for me, as she got home early from work Tuesday evening.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)
Thursday – Second Week of Advent

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! 
Psalm 96:9
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Psalm 25:21
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Luke 20:1-8
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Psalm 37:1-7
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

I’ve always loved (well, maybe not always, but as long as I can remember) Psalm 37. Especially verse 4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” For a long time, I’ve taken that to mean that, rather than giving me what I want, if I delight myself in God, he will change the desires of my heart to match his.

However, that’s not the verse that struck me, this morning. It was verse 1 and verse 7, today. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” And, “fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” These are powerful words, and, based on everything I see around me, quite difficult to accomplish. We, as a society, fret too much over what we disapprove of. We need, I need, to heed the words of the Psalmist, here, and “fret not” over these things. The key to that, I believe, is in the first part of verse 7. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”

Father, help me to “be still before you and wait patiently for you.” Help me, by your Spirit who dwells within me, to not fret over the “evildoers” or those who prosper by doing wicked things, regardless of who, how, and where. Help me to be still.
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.

First Or Last?

Good morning. It is Friday, December 19, 2014. Just 6 more days until Christmas! My last day of PTO for this year.

(New feature)Today’s Word of the Day is syncretic: “characterized or brought about by a combination of different forms of belief or practice.”

Today is Underdog Day. So go ahead; cheer for the unlikely winner today. Or watch cartoons featuring a little dog that wears a leotard.

We had a great time, yesterday. After the doctor’s appointments (the dental appointment was canceled, because the dentist we were taking Stephanie to doesn’t take Medicaid for patients over 21), we went and had breakfast for lunch at Joe’s Coffee Shop in Watauga. Or is that Haltom City? Anyway, they always have a good breakfast. After that, we took our new bowling balls to Watauga Brunswick Lanes, and had the pro there fit us and drill the balls. Christi decided on a fingertip grip, rather than conventional. We aren’t sure, but it may be her first time to use fingertip. I have used fingertip for years, but it has been twenty years or more since I have been fitted, so the pro wanted to do a new fitting, rather than copy my old ball. We also both elected to have slugs and grip inserts put in the balls. He said it would be about thirty minutes to an hour, so we left to go look for bowling shoes and bags. Academy Sports does not have any bowling equipment. Dick’s Sporting Goods, even though the Interwebs claim they do, did not have bowling equipment.

So, we wound up back at the pro shop, where I found some decent bowling shoes for about the same price they were selling for on Amazon. Then we looked at several rolling bags that he had, which fit two balls and shoes, and picked out one of those, so we can both put our bowling balls in the same bag. It’s pretty likely that we will always be together when bowling, so that’s a good thing. He had our drilling finished, and all he had to do was determine which finger grip inserts to put in them. Within fifteen minutes we were bowling with our brand new Columbia 300 Throw Down balls. I have used Columbia 300 bowling balls for about 30 years. Of course, they really aren’t “Columbia 300” any more, even though they carry the logo. They are made by Ebonite.

Anyway . . . Stephanie bowled with us, and we had an awesome time. Christi did very well, and by the end of game two, had really found a groove! She got three strikes in a row, at least twice, and finished game two with a 172, significantly above her average from twenty years ago. I failed to break 100 the first game, as I had a little more trouble figuring out the new ball’s breaking characteristics. Also, my “style” suffers severely, from lack of usage. But the second game was much better, with a 162. Christi beat me soundly, 319-259, for the two game score. We plan to get in more practice, and possibly join a league next year, sometime, maybe over the summer.

We were so tired from the bowling, that we came home and collapsed to watch TV for a little while. Then Christi had her Huddle group, after which she stopped and got some dinner to bring home for us. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic day.

Today, we plan to go out and get some last minute Christmas shopping finished up; gift cards, cash, stocking stuffers, and so on. Also that evasive oil change. Looks like I’m going to have to skip the car wash for now, as there is a 60% chance of more rain today.

(Source: This Day In History)

On this date in 1986, Michael Sergio was sentenced to a fine of $500 and 100 hours of community service. His crime? Parachuting onto the field at Shea Stadium in the first inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox.

And people blame Bill Buckner . . . sheesh. Lo, and behold . . . Buckner was batting when the incident occurred!!

Today’s birthdays include Alyssa Milano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cicely Tyson, Jennifer Beals, Mike Lookinland, Kristy Swanson, Al Kaline, Robert Urich, Alvin Lee, Maurice White, William Parry, Ford C Frick, Ralph Richardson, David Susskind, and Robert Sherman.

Kristy Swanson is an actress who was unfortunate enough to play the part of “Buffy Summers” in the original movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The movie was quite awful. Fortunately, Joss Whedon was able to resuscitate the character into a very successful TV show.

Alvin Lee was the lead guitarist and singer for the blues/rock group, Ten Years After. He was born on this date in 1944, and passed away last year, on March 6. Here he is with a virtual army of other guitar players. I’m not sure what this performance is taken from, but it’s a lot of fun.


(From The Divine Hours)

Third Week of Advent

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Psalm 147:7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Psalm 57:5
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110:4
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:1-4
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are
sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and
deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:9-12
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:20-28

In The Reformation Study Bible, this passage is prefaced with the heading, “A Mother’s Request.” I wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this shameless request by their mother. Or, do you think they put her up to it? Who knows? We really aren’t given any insight into the motive behind the request. Either way, it is quite arrogant, especially when they answered in the affirmative Jesus’s question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” Was Jesus surprised by this request? Of course not. You cannot surprise God! Nevertheless, I can easily see him shaking his head as he responds, “You do not know what you are asking.”

I am not surprised at the reaction of the other ten. But then, Jesus gathered them all together, and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they still weren’t quite getting it. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” He had just alluded to this a short while ago, in the parable of the landowner, when he said, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” This turned their world upside-down, just as it does ours, today. We want to be first. We don’t want to serve or be “slaves” to one another. Just look at the way we drive! We cannot stand the thought of someone getting in front of us! I struggle with this on a daily basis, as I drive to work. But God is steadily working on this attitude in me. I’m finding it much easier to allow plenty of space between me and the car in front of me; space for someone else to slide on in, if they need to. I don’t need to be concerned about who gets in front of me. Ever.

And, you know, even this gets tricky. If I’m letting people in front of me, all the while thinking, I’m going to be last so I can be first, I’m still not quite getting it, am I? I need to be letting people in front of me because I care nothing for my own status or position. All is for Jesus; all is for Christ. It is all about him; none of this is about me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m first or dead last. God will take care of me.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Gigantic Secret.”

“‘Christmas for the pagans is small publicity,’ Chesterton said, ‘for the Christian it is a gigantic secret.’

“And the gigantic Christmas secret is that Emmanuel, God-with-us, is a baby boy ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ When Jesus Christ is born in me, hope burns brightly and everything else fades into twilight. The roof can collapse, winter heat becomes unavailable, fair-weather friends shift their allegiance, popularity wane. The Kingdom of Christ Jesus remains alight within me. As Don Quixote tells Aldonza in The Man from La Mancha: ‘Wins and losses don’t matter, all that matters is following the quest.'”

. . . who through him are believers in God,
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:21

Father, as this Christmas season progresses, I sense more of the joy than I have felt in many years. I am savoring that, to the point that I almost wish it was still another week or so until Christmas Day. The funny thing is that this really should not be an issue, at all, as I should feel this joy all year long. So that’s what I pray for. May this baby be born in my all year long, and may the attitude of not caring if I am first or last be prevalent in my thoughts, words, and actions, every day of the year. May I be willing to be the servant of all, and pour myself out for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ, love them the way you have loved us, which is one of the commands that you have given us. May I grow to the point that I am constantly pursuing this idea of intimacy with Jesus in my life, thinking more about him than I am anything else. Let this color everything I do every day, and may my heart be undivided toward worshiping, thanking, and serving you through Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day, that we would have a good time as we go out and about. May we get everything accomplished that we need to do. I pray for your grace to fill this family during this season, and the rest of the year, as well. As our celebrations approach, next week, I pray that we would do a good job of sharing the Kingdom with our friends, co-workers, and family members. Especially those who tend to annoy us more. May your grace rain on Stephanie during this Christmas. I pray for Rachel, in the aftermath of her accident, that she would be okay, mentally, and not be overwrought over it.

Do you want to be first? We might wind up being first in line, here on earth, but that won’t get us far in the Kingdom. Kingdom rules are different.

Grace and peace, friends.

Oh, How He Loves Us!

Good morning. It is Sunday, December 14, 2014. Eleven more days (close enough that I start spelling out the numbers)!

Do you know why night vision goggles are always green? It’s because the human eye can detect different shades of green more efficiently than any other color.

Today is World Choral Day. Being a musician, myself, I couldn’t help but highlight this “holiday” (there were a couple other choices). Uhoh. I just looked at their website, and it turns out that World Choral Day was actually last Sunday. Oh, well. So, instead, today is Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. I checked it out. It really is, so light a candle at 7:00 PM, this evening, in memory of children who have died.

We had an amazing time, last night, at the USBC Christmas party. It was probably definitely the best company Christmas party I have ever attended. The food was delicious, and we had a great group at our table. Oddly, they put all the IT people together. 🙂 Maybe that’s not so “oddly.” The DJ did a great job of keeping people involved, at one point bringing four guys up to the dance floor to mimic “YMCA,” by The Village People, and then, later, he called ALL the men up to the dance floor. After we were all lined up, he asked us to roll our sleeves up to our elbows, after which he had our ladies come up. He asked the ladies to bend down and roll our pant legs up and our socks down. What this was setting up, then was a dance line, to the tune of “Macho Man,” also by The Village People. We all hammed it up pretty good. Between that and the earlier “Party Train” that circled the room about six times, I believe I’ve gotten my cardio for the rest of the month. During the final round of door prizes, Christi won a free bowling ball and an hour at the USBC training center, at the same facility where she works. As we were getting ready to leave, we talked to the guy who is in charge of getting the free bowling ball, and he indicated that he would get one for me, too! Bonus!

During the party, I started getting some odd text messages from some of our old Huddle group. It seems that one of the other ladies got this idea to surprise Christi by enlisting some of the guys to come over and put our Christmas lights up on our house, which we were unable to do, this year. So, I had to stay up later than Christi, after we got home, so I could get into the garage and put the lights and ladders out in front of the garage, without her knowing about it. So far, she is still clueless. She knows something is up, but I haven’t let on what it is. At least a couple of them are here, right now. Tessie keeps barking, so I figure she will eventually look out there and figure it out.

Today, nothing is planned, except that I need to take my car in for an oil change, which I will do this afternoon. I was planning to get it washed at the same time, but we have thunderstorms predicted for late morning, early afternoon. We’ll see how it all plays out.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 2012 that a lone gunman shot and killed his mother at their home in Newton, Connecticut, after which he drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he gunned down 20 children, six school employees, and, finally, himself. Adam Lanza, the gunman, was known to have “significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others.” However, it was stated that no one had seen anything that would have predicted this behavior. In the fall of 2013, Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished. A new school is planned on the same site.

Today’s birthdays include Vanessa Hudgens, Nostradamus, Patty Duke, Cliff Williams, Justin Furstenfeld, Craig Biggio, Spike Jones, Charlie Rich, Lee Remick, Morey Amsterdam, Tycho Brahe, Shirley Jackson, Bill Buckner, and Chelsea Noble.

Bill Buckner is a retired MLB player who played first base for the Boston Red Sox. He received a lot of blame for the Sox losing the World Series in 1986, but, truth be told, he contributed heavily to their victory in the ALCS that year. One play does not lose an entire series. The very fact that he was in game six of that series was a managerial error. Buckner was injured, and shouldn’t even have been playing. But this video of him throwing out the season’s first pitch at Fenway in 2008, shows that, yes, there is forgiveness in baseball. Happy 65th birthday to Bill Buckner!


(From The Divine Hours)

Third Week of Advent

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Psalm 66:16
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Psalm 17:6
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah.
God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!

Psalm 47
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are
sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and
deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Matthew 19:1-12

Talk about a tough passage!! Jesus “lays down the law” about divorce in this passage. The Pharisees, again trying to trick Jesus, set him up against Moses. But Jesus explains that it was the hardness of man’s heart that the law was making provision for, not just so that men could divorce their wives for any cause. In fact, Jesus states clearly that, if a man divorces his wife for any other reason than sexual immorality, and then marries another, he, himself, has committed adultery. The disciples, perhaps being cynical, expressed that it would be better not to marry at all. Unexpectedly, Jesus seems to agree with them, but states that if one abstains from marriage, it should be for the sake of the Kingdom.

All this being said, we must be careful not to make divorce and adultery “unpardonable sins.” According to Jesus, there is only one “unpardonable sin,” and that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Even for people who have divorced and remarried, there is grace and forgiveness, and the Lord can certainly bless such a marriage. I even know of couples who divorced and remarried the same spouse again, which is expressly forbidden in the very passage that the Pharisees were alluding to! The beauty of salvation and grace is that God can take the biggest mess and make something beautiful out of it. Let us never forget that. At the same time, let us never take the subject of marriage lightly. God takes it very seriously, and this is indicated by the words of Jesus, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Making Time to Listen.”

“It is one thing to know Jesus Christ loves and and another thing to realize it. In prayer we slow down to a human tempo and make time to listen. In prayer we discover what we already have.” Truly, we have everything we need, but seldom fail to realize it. A couple of my favorite verses, that I “discovered” back in 1984, are 2 Peter 1:3-4, which says, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. We have everything we need for “life and godliness,” through Jesus Christ! “All we need now is to experience what we already possess.” Part of this process can and should be the precious experience of alloying ourselves to be loved by God, which can happen during prayer times.

“During the Christmas season we don’t have to seek after God in prayer.” We already have him. In fact, we would not be “seeking” at all, had we not already “found” him. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been there all along, “and if we create the opportunity in prayer, God will make himself known to us.” Said Thomas Merton, “We learn to pray by praying.”

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Psalm 141:2

Father, may my future prayer times include times of listening and honing in on your love for me! As I experience the joy of this Christmas, may I know your love for me; and not just know, but experience it, realize it, embrace it! That’s it! May all of us who call your name embrace your love for us! We can all easily say, “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.” But it’s another thing altogether to embrace this love and feel it down to the very core of our existence. I pray for this, Father! And let this knowledge, this realization, this embracing, come during those times of prayer, times when I stop talking and let you “speak” or act. And let my times of prayer not be hurried. This happens to me, frequently, during my drive time prayers. Let me not be so concerned about finishing that I fail to experience you. Let that be what prayer is all about!

I pray for the remainder of this day. I give you thanks and praise for brothers and sisters who would sacrifice their Sunday morning to put Christmas lights on our house! Christi was moved to tears, Lord, and it was a beautiful thing. May we, in turn, be willing to sacrifice in other ways, when our brothers and sisters need us. This is what Church is about . . . caring for one another, loving each other as Christ has loved us! I pray that I will be able to get the oil changed in my car today, as it badly needs this. It’s currently raining lightly, so the car wash is probably out. I pray that you would give us good rest for the rest of the day, that we can be well-rested for the week ahead.

Thank you for the joy of Christmas.

I know I’ve shared this video numerous times, but I can’t emphasize it enough. Oh, how he loves us!

Grace and peace, friends.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Good morning. It is Saturday, December 14, 2013.

Today is “Monkey Day.” Really? So we’re supposed to monkey around today?

Yesterday was a pretty fine day. Christi went to her foot doctor yesterday afternoon. This doctor is wonderful! She is Dr. Sara Suttle. Anyway, she said that Christi’s feet were exhibiting classic, textbook symptoms of something or other that resembles carpal tunnel syndrome. She gave Christi an injection of a steroid substance in each foot. This morning, Christi’s feet feel wonderful. We’re hoping that this lasts, and is not just a temporary result of the injections. However, she is supposed to return in a couple of weeks for a followup visit.

I got off work early yesterday, as it was a rather slow day, and everything was done by 4pm. That was really nice, because, as noted in yesterday’s entry, Christi and I rode to work together. She came and got me after her doctor appointment, and we went over to Grapevine Mills Mall area, where we looked at some chairs in furniture stores, and then went into the mall for a few minutes. We were a little hungry, so we went to the food court. All we wound up buying was a couple of drinks from the Sonic there, because several of the restaurants had people standing out front, giving away samples. We got enough samples to curb our hunger until we got to the party. This party was in Flower Mound, at the home of Christi’s ex-boss. We had a great time, having snacks and chatting with people, some of whom we knew, some of whom we had never met before. Good times.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1799, George Washington died at the age of 67. He died at about 10pm, having suffered for a couple of days with what seemed to begin as a simple cold. He had gone for a horseback ride a couple of mornings earlier, riding “for several hours in the damp cold of a snowy Virginia December.” He had a sore throat the next morning, and “remained in the house to pursue farm business at his desk.” However, he went back out later in the afternoon, “to mark trees for removal.” His cold had gotten worse by dinner, and he was hoarse, but remained cheerful, refusing to take any medications. However, the next day, he was seriously ill, “suffering from fever and acute laryngitis, possibly with diphtheria.” The local doctor ordered him to be bled (that was the way they did things back then), but none of the doctor’s methods had any effect. He knew death was imminent. He was afraid of being buried alive, though, and ordered that his body not be put in the vault for at least three days. Just before he died, he said, “I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.” His last words were, “‘Tis well.”

One year ago today, in Newtown, Connecticut, a mentally disturbed lone man entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and began shooting. Before it was over, six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys (all between 6-7 years of age), were dead. As the nation reflects on the one year anniversary of this tragedy (the second deadliest mass shooting in US history), this video was brought to my attention. It was made by the family of Emelie Parker, one of the girls who was killed. Grab some tissue and watch this. It is aptly titled, “Evil Did Not Win.”

Today’s birthdays just might be Nostradamus, 1503, Francis Beauvier, 1902, Morey Amsterdam, 1908 (or 1912), Spike Jones, 1911, Shirley Jackson, 1916, Charlie Rich, 1932, Lee Remick, 1935, Patty Duke, 1946, Christopher Parkening, 1947, Dee Wallace Stone, 1948, Bill Buckner, 1949, Spider Tracy, 1958, and Craig Biggio, 1965.

Bill Buckner is a retired baseball player who played for the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, he is most remembered for the ground ball that dribbled between his legs in game six of the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox went on to lose that game, and, subsequently, the World Series title. However, as is made evident by Joe Castiglione’s welcoming speech in this video, they might not have even made it to the World Series that year without Buckner. Here he is, throwing out the first pitch of the 2008 season.


Second Week of Advent

Psa 104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Psa 141:3-5 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Psa 119:174-175 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.

Psa 71:17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Eze 34:11, 15-16 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”

“O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who
watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship
may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Treasures on Earth.” The scripture reading is Matthew 6:19-21, 24.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

All of this relates to what we put our trust in, and where we allow our security to lie. Do we count on earthly treasures and possessions for our security? They will not last. Rust will destroy them, moths will eat them, thieves will steal them, the market will crash, totally devastating retirement accounts. We cannot serve two masters. The reading points out the irony of the statement “In God we trust,” printed on our money. As we consider giving away unneeded possessions, it is good to consider their finite nature.

The book offers this prayer:

Father god, help me to break my addiction to material things. Help me
to identify and rid myself of those things that are keeping me from fully
serving you–not only the goods, but my vanity, my pride, my selfish am-
bition. Teach me what true simplicity is. In your name I pray. Amen.

Father, as I ponder what possessions I might give away during this season, I pray for the attitude of simplicity to prevail in my life and in my family’s life. Traditionally, certain members of our family have gone above and beyond necessity, lavishing expensive gifts, spending tons of money for things that really aren’t even necessary. There have been times when affections were obviously being purchased with lavish gifts. I pray against that attitude this season. Our direct family has scaled back Christmas spending a great deal this year, and in recent years. That’s not what this is about. I pray that, as we celebrate the season, and as Christmas Day approaches, we will remember what the day is celebrating. Let us celebrate the sacrifice made by you through your Son, and, in turn, be willing to sacrifice things that we have for the sake of others. Let us not attempt to serve two masters, but only serve you.

I pray for the rest of this day. We will be going out for a few errands. Keep us safe as we go, Lord. We look forward to worshiping with our Exchange family this evening, and also the possibility of connecting with an old friend tonight. Give us rest for the remainder of the weekend.

Your grace is sufficient.

As the holiday season progresses, may we consider who or what we serve with our lives. And if you think you don’t serve anyone or anything, think again. Everyone serves somebody or something.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Great Life Still Has Problems

Good morning. Friday finally got here! Today is December 14, 2012. Today is National Bouillabaisse Day. I welcome any explanations as to what that is. I see something about “fish stew.” Doesn’t sound very appetizing. Maybe I’ll have clam chowder instead. Is that close?

On this date in 1542, Princess Mary Stuart became Mary, Queen of Scots.
George Washington died on this date in 1799. Should we call that his “deathday?”
Alabama became the 22nd state in 1819. Roll tide.
On this date in 1903, the Wright Brothers made their first flight attempt at Kitty Hawk.
Roald Amundsen and his team became the first to reach the South Pole on this date in 1911. They found the Anti-Santa.
On this date in 1947, NASCAR was founded in Daytona Beach, Florida. They’re still making a left turn.
On this date in 1962, the Mariner 2 became the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.
On this date in 1977, Saturday Night Fever made its world premier. Sadly, the effects are still being felt today.
On this date in 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw two shoes at President George W. Bush.

Today’s birthdays include Nostradamus, 1503, Tycho Brahe (Danish astronomer), 1546, Morey Amsterdam (actor in The Dick Van Dyke Show), 1908, Spike Jones (musician), 1911, Shirley Jackson (writer of The Haunting of Hill House), 1916, Charlie Rich (country singer), 1932, Lee Remick (actress), 1935, Patty Duke (actress), 1946, Christopher Parkening (classical guitarist), 1947, Dee Wallace (actress), 1948, Bill Buckner (baseball player), 1949, Paul Zaloom (Beakman’s World), 1951 (I always liked him better than Bill Nye), Craig Biggio (baseball player), 1965, Beth Orton (singer/songwriter), 1970, Vanessa Hudgens (Disney girl), 1988.

Christi and I realized, with great anticipation last night, that we have less than two weeks until our Christmas Cancun Vacation. Here’s hoping it goes better than Clark Griswold’s Christmas Vacation.

Work yesterday finally went pretty smoothly. The thing that has been causing an issue all week has still not been resolved, but it wasn’t as big a factor yesterday. I guess we’ve gotten used to it.

Christi didn’t make it to the gym last night. For some reason, she was having a lot of joint pain, in a lot of places. She’s still in a bit of pain this morning. We’re certainly not sure what’s up with that. She thinks that maybe she got too tense during the MRI procedure. Christi and MRIs don’t get along very well.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness…; make your way straight before me. (Psalm 5:8)
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)
Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:6-9)
Father, I pray for a vision of you this morning, that will keep me looking to your grace throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 9:13-17.
13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.
14 So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day—
15 the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Like much of the book of Isaiah, this passage is sobering. While written specifically to Israel, I think it still may hold some lesson for us. Verse 13 is tragic. The people did not turn to the Lord, even in their desolation. The one place they could have gone for relief, for refuge, they refused to turn. Note verse 15, in which their prophet teaches lies. Many faithful Christians in our day have been able to identify “false teachers,” even those who claim to be preachers of the gospel of Christ. This is tragic, as they are also those who, like those in verse 16, are “leading them astray,” and cause people to be “swallowed up” by their falsehoods. We must be careful, not only in what we teach, if we are teachers, but in who we follow. Follow Jesus, and it will be difficult to go wrong. When we start following men, we may run into problems.

The reading for today from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Great Life.” Note that it is “great,” not “good.” The scripture reference is John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

When things get difficult in our personal experience, who do we blame? We tend to blame God, don’t we? We have to identify the thing that we will not let go; as soon as we do, “everything becomes as clear as daylight.” Well…I don’t know about that… But I do know that, when I let go of things that are hindering my fellowship with God, things do become, um, “easier” is probably not the best word. Clearer? Hopefully, you get my drift. The point is, we can’t serve two masters, can we? And as long as we try to serve our own ends, as well as God’s, we are going to have struggles; we will have “perplexity.” Chambers says, “once we get there, there is nothing easier than living the saintly life.” Obviously, I’m not there, yet, because this life ain’t easy! But it’s true, “difficulty comes in when we want to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own ends.” Note the last four words in that sentence. “…for our own ends.” There are a lot of people out there insisting that God wants to bless us (which is true, mind you), but their focus is on themselves and what they can get out of God. It’s like the prodigal son parable. When we truly focus on both of the brothers in that parable, we realize that both of them only wanted the father’s stuff, not the father. When we are only after God’s blessings, we are usurping the Holy Spirit’s authority “for our own ends.”

When we obey God, we get this peace. You know…the peace mentioned in that popular Bible verse. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This peace is, as Chambers says, “unfathomable.” It is not natural. It is the “peace of Jesus.” If I am not experiencing that peace, I must do two things. First, I must simply wait. But I must also try to figure out why. If the decisions come from God through the Holy Spirit, there will be a feeling of simplicity. When we humans get our fingers in the mix, things get too complicated. Of course, we fancy ourselves to be clever, but that’s not truly the case.

When I am obeying God, the problems in my life are not hindrances that come between me and God, they are, rather, “probes to keep the mind going on with amazement at the revelation of God.” If the problem comes between me and God, it is a result of disobedience; if it comes alongside me while I obey God, it should increase my delight in God, “because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.” I love this! It truly helps me comprehend this past week. You see…I believe I can honestly say that the issues that I have experienced this week are not stemming from any disobedience on my part (at least none that have been revealed). So I wait. I endure them. I take them to God, and yes, I watch to see how he will “unravel this thing.” And my mind is full of the amazement of God. It’s actually a quite pleasant feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still worn out and weary from the trials. But spiritually, I’m fine. Of course, the tricky thing is that it could all change tomorrow, with just one little act of disobedience. But until then, it truly is “The Great Life.”

Father, I praise you this morning for your awesome power in my life. I thank you for “The Great Life,” and the season of obedience that you have me in right now. Some would misunderstand and think that I’m saying life is perfect. It’s not. There are always problems. But these problems are designed to help me find your peace, not to push me back onto the right path. I thank you that you are my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in you; my heart dances with joy in your presence! I praise you for the peace that is in my life right now.

I pray for this day. I continue to pray that Christi might have relief from her pain. She says she’s alright, but I know she is hurting. I pray that you would heal whatever is causing this, or that the doctors will be able to see from the MRI what needs to be done. I pray for Stephanie today. Apparently, she had some stress yesterday that she didn’t talk about. I pray that you protect her from any anxiety-producing things today. Draw her heart closer to yours, Lord. I pray for my work day, that it might be as smooth as yesterday was. I also pray that I might help someone find your peace today. Lord Jesus, live your life through me; let the characteristics of the beatitudes flow out of my life today.

The great life is better than the good life. And the great life comes from being obedient to God and knowing his peace. Note that the great life still has problems. They just serve a different purpose.

Grace and peace, friends.