Wilderness

Good morning. It is Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Today is Corn Fritters Day. Can’t say as I’ve ever had any of those. Now, apple fritters . . . there’s a different story altogether.


Not much to report around here today. No news on Christi’s thing yet. Oh, Stephanie’s probably getting her wisdom teeth out in a few weeks. Christi took her for a consultation yesterday. It will probably take three to four weeks for everything to be processed and approved by Medicaid. We also started working on Steph’s room last night. Cleaned it out and moved furniture to one half of the room to start tearing out the grossest carpet we have ever seen in our lives. I think we’re going to go ahead and put down the laminate that we have in most of the rest of the house. We thought about just leaving bare concrete and staining it, but Stephanie doesn’t like that idea.


I realized that I forgot to link to a different blog yesterday. I was planning to try to do that on a regular basis, but it may not happen that way. Today, I direct your blog-reading to a blog that is, often times, very deep. “All Along the Watchtower” is not a blog about Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix. It is, in fact, a mostly theological/historical blog that is administered by Jessica Hof. However, there are several people who write regularly on this blog. The most recent entry was written by Geoffrey Sales, who is a “Baptist in the Independent tradition.” But this comes from Great Britain, so that’s a different kind of “independent” Baptist than we U.S. people are used to. Other contributors are “Calcedon451,” a convert to Catholicism, who typically writes articles about the early church, and Malcolm, who is an ordained priest in the Church of England. I find Malcolm’s entries to usually be very inspiring. Jessica, I believe, is a Catholic student (I might be mistaken on this, I hope she will correct me if she reads this). As an evangelical Christian in the U.S., I don’t always agree with what is written, but frequently find inspiration and interesting historical information here. Jessica’s original post states that “This is a blog about Christianity under siege.”


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

In the year 711, an Arab chief named Tarik led his warriors across “the eight-mile channel that separates Morocco from Spain,” and landed at a point that, according to this book, still bears his name, Jebel-al-Tarik. Over time that name has been corrupted to “Gibraltar,” and is the peninsula at the southern end of Spain. Anyway, the Arabs (or Moors) advanced over the next 500 years, until they ruled most of Spain.

In 1158, Alfonso VIII inherited the throne at the age of three. As he grew older, he became increasingly determined to “rid the peninsula of the Moorish.” In 1212, “he finally acted decisively.” He gained the support of Pope Innocent III, who had already instigated two crusades to the Holy Land. Innocent promptly proclaimed another crusade and “urged the rulers of Aragon, Navarre and Portugal to join the Castilian army under Alfonso’s leadership.”

On this date in 1212, their army met the Moors “at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.” The victory, led by Alfonso, was complete, and is said to have been one of the “decisive battles of European history.” From this day forward, the Moors were in retreat, and the threat of Muslim-ruled Spain was over, at least until over 300 years later.


Today’s birthday is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, born on this date in 1887. Shoeless Joe was a slugger for the Chicago White Sox, setting a rookie batting average of .408 in 1911, a record that still stands to this day. He led the league in triples in 1912, 1916, and 1920, and in 1917, he and the White Sox won the World Series. However, in 1920, he and seven other members of the White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 series for money in the infamous “Black Sox Scandal.” This was chronicled in the 1988 movie, Eight Men Out. Even though Jackson was acquitted of all charges by a judge, the first commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, went against this ruling and banned all eight men from baseball for life. Shoeless Joe died in 1951.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.” (This “quote” probably never happened.)

Honorable mentions go to Will Ferrell, 46, Corey Feldman, 42, Ginger Rogers, 1911-1995, Jayma Mays, 34, Barbara Stanwyck, 1907-1990, Phoebe Cates, 50, Stewart Copeland, 61, Orville Redenbacher, 1907-1995, Michael Flatley, 55, and Pinchas Zukerman, 65.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Psalm 96:1
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. Psalm 67:1
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. Psalm 65:5
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

Father, I praise you for a new morning, in which you have brought me before you, seeking to learn from you and from your words. I pray that you will, indeed, be gracious and make your face to shine upon me this morning, and answer me with your righteousness. My soul longs and faints for treasures from your word. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth.


Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “In the Wilderness.” The scripture reading is Luke 4:1-2a.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.

“The solitude of the wilderness gives Jesus strength.” I’m not sure I agree 100% with that statement, although I agree with the general principle behind it. It was not the solitude that gave Jesus strength. It was the “preparation and perception” gained by intimate interaction with the Father during the time of solitude. It was the absence of “human power structures and controls” that enabled him to be more in touch, more in communion with the Father. “The spiritual formation process requires time spent in the wilderness.” That I can agree with, as long as that time is not just spent wandering aimlessly. “It is in the wilderness that we are most aware of our need for God’s provision and protection.” Yes, indeed, that is true. when we are out of touch with the rest of humanity (which gets more and more difficult in our techno-age), we are more in touch with our need for God and his touch. It is easier to hear God in a place that is lonely and quiet. Biblically, the wilderness seems to be “God’s special meeting and training place for his people.” We must view those “wilderness experiences” in the same way. They are not our undoing. They are times of preparation for what is ahead in our lives. They are opportunities for more intimate communion with our creator.

Here’s a quote from Gifts from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

“It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and
family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day
or a week. For me, the break is the most difficult. Parting is inevitably
painful, even for a short time. It is like an amputation, I feel. A limb is
being torn off, without which I shall be unable to function. And yet,
once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly
precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than
before.”


Father, I thank you for wilderness times, which, when we are in them, seem so desolate and hopeless, but then, looking back, seem full of you and opportunity. May we always think of them in this way, seeking the most from times when we are able to be more intimate with you and commune with you in a way that is almost impossible at other times in our lives. I pray for some time in the near future when I might be able to be utterly alone with you for at least a brief period. Not that I seek to be away from my family. I love them more than I can say. But the need to commune with you in a more pure way is becoming more evident to me.

I pray for this day, Father, that Christi might get some news. May her work day be productive and good today, and may you surround her with your steadfast love. I pray the same surrounding for Stephanie today. Give her a hug today, through your Spirit. May my work day also be a good day, and productive. May I continue to learn and excel at the things that I am supposed to be doing now.

Your grace is sufficient.


When we go through “wilderness” experiences, we need to recognize them as times for more intimacy and learning from God.

Grace and peace, friends.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Good morning. It’s Thursday, July 5, 2012. Gotta make this quick today, because I’m going to work at 8am, since we had a holiday yesterday. The holiday took a tragic turn when we had to put our beloved cat, Midnight, to sleep yesterday. It’s possible she had some kind of stroke or seizure, or maybe even cardiac arrest. She was pretty old, though, and had a thyroid disease. We were pretty sure this day was imminent, anyway.

Midnight (1997-2012)


Today is “National Graham Cracker Day.” I just might have some of those somewhere.

It was on this date in 1921 that the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series. The infamous “Black Sox” scandal named players such as the great “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, and Eddie Cicotte. Jackson, however, had the best batting average of either team in the series, so it’s unlikely that he participated. Nevertheless, he, and all others implicated in the scandal, even though acquitted by a jury, were banned by newly hired baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. It was one of the saddest days in baseball history.
On this date in 1954, Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right (Mama).”


Our lunch yesterday was delicious, and we had a very nice visit with Rachel and Justin. Stephanie and I got in our workout, while Rachel and Christi attended to the unpleasant task mentioned at the beginning of today’s entry. We thought it would be good to get Stephanie to the gym to keep her mind off of Midnight. The great thing is, even thought today feels like Monday, there are only two more work days until the weekend. It’s kind of like having two Fridays in the same week!


Father, I pray for some inspiration today that would help me live this day in the shadow of your grace. Create in me a clean heart, O God…


Today, I’m reading Psalm 35. In this one, David prays for vindication against his enemies.
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
(1)

Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me!
(4)

He speaks of the unfairness in the way he was treated as people for whom he wore sackcloth and fasted when they were afflicted rise up and malign him, rejoicing at his stumbling. (11-16) But in verse 18, he still insists that he will publicly praise the Lord.
I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.

I believe we see from this that it is okay to ask the Lord to vindicate us; it is fine to pray for the Lord to avenge wrongdoing against us. I suggest, however, that we be very cautious with our motives.


My Utmost For His Highest

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:5

Today’s reading pretty much takes up where yesterday’s left off. It’s called “Don’t Calculate Without God.” Chambers notes that it almost seems as if God takes delight in upsetting the plans we have made without taking him into account. We don’t really believe this, of course; I don’t think God would delight in upsetting us. But sometimes, it’s as if he chuckles at our plans and then says, “Just watch this…” “We get into circumstances which were not chosen by God, and suddenly we find we have been calculating without God; He has not entered in as a living factor. The one thing that keeps us from the possibility of worrying is bringing God in as the greatest factor in all our calculations.”
We always say we put God first, especially in our “religious” activities, but when it comes to our personal lives, it’s a different story. We must come to God as we are, every day, with the practical things of life.
Chambers makes a bold statement: “You cannot lay up for a rainy day if you are trusting Jesus Christ.” Jesus told us, “Let not your heart be troubled…” That was a command. “Haul yourself up a hundred and one times a day in order to do it, until you get into the habit of putting God first and calculating with Him in view.”


Father, I pray that I will always put you first in life…not just in matters of religion. Help me to always calculate with you in mind, not with the “rainy day” in view, nor with the idea of the evil that may happen in view. You should be first in mind, and you should be first in our plans and calculations. I commit to let not my heart be troubled; I commit to not fretting. Forgive me when I do, and nudge me with your Spirit when I begin to fret over anything. Whatever will be, will be…that much is true. I cannot alter one inch of what will come by fretting. Let that be the thing that I live by today.

I pray for this day, Lord, quickly, as it is time to go. I pray for Christi today, that she will continue feeling better. Comfort us in the loss of our family pet. Some think it silly that we grow so attached to an animal, but, nevertheless, we do. Especially, I pray for Stephanie today, as she will be at home with the memories. May she take comfort in your Spirit, as well as with her other cat, Honey. Bring her great peace today, Lord.


I will continue my prayers on the trip to work this morning. Take comfort in knowing that God has his hand on all things in your life. Do not fret; let not your heart be troubled.

Grace and peace, friends.