This Much I Love You!

Today is Wednesday, December 25, 2019, The Feast of the Nativity. Peace, love, and joy be with you!

Day 22,567

Today is Christmas Day!

It is also Pumpkin Pie Day. “Pumpkin Pie Day celebrates the humble pumpkin pie, a national favourite in the USA. Pumpkin pie is a traditional North American sweet dessert, eaten during the fall and early winter, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The pumpkin is a symbol of harvest time and featured also at Halloween.

“The pie consists of a pumpkin-based custard, ranging in color from orange to brown, baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. This pie is often made from canned pumpkin or packaged pumpkin pie filling (spices included); this is a seasonal product available in bakeries and grocery stores, although it is possible to find year-round.”

Seven days until New Year’s Day! 2020. That’s really hard to wrap my head around, let me tell you. I can still remember calculating how old I would be at the turn of the century (which, occurred in 2001). My childhood brain didn’t even fathom that 2020 would happen! Odd are, I won’t be around to see if Zager and Evans’s “In the Year 2525” will turn out to be accurate prophecy.

We’ve had our Christmas morning at the Bickleyhouse. Everyone seems to be happy with their gifts. We all had a wonderful time opening them. I got some books (surprised?). One will be one of my devotionals for 2020, The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller. It is subtitled, “A year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.” Anyone who knows me very well knows that I absolutely adore the Psalms. It’s by far my favorite book in the Bible. I also got a book by James Bryan Smith, called Embracing the Love of God: The Path and Promise of Christian Life, and The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, by Amy Hollingsworth. That last one was recommended by our pastor.

I got a couple of cool t-shirts. One says, “That’s what I do. I read books and I know things.” The other one says, “5 things I like almost as much as reading: 1. Looking at my books 2. Talking about my books 3. Going to the bookstore or library to get more books 4. Websites about books 5. Bacon.”

I got a couple of new games for the PS4. Days Gone and The Sinking City, which is an H.P. Lovecraft inspired game.

There was other cool stuff, too, including a couple of table games we can play with R & J (and other people, too), a bit of candy, some Fallout pint glasses, along with some Fallout “Nuka Cola” inspired soda, and some Peanuts themed cocoa and mugs. There was also a cool gear bag to carry cables and pedals and whatnot for my music stuff.

After a little bit, we will head over to Mineral Wells to spend the afternoon with my mother and have Christmas lunch.

By the way, the current temperature is sixty degrees, with sunshine. It doesn’t look a bit like Christmas. Not here, anyway. I’m not mad about that, either.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 32.11

Today I am grateful:
1. That our family is together, this morning, and that we are full of joy.
2. For the celebration of the gift of Jesus Christ.
3. The Jesus loves me “from one scarred hand to the other.”
4. That Jesus did not “count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself” (Philippians 2.6-7).
5. That my heart is full, this morning. I don’t think I could be more content.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67.3-5
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30.12
Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40.7-8
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 
This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 
And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 
The Shepherds and the Angels
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
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.” 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2.1-20
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 
The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! 
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! 
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98

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

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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

(From Faith That Matters)

How Much Do You Love Me?, by Brennan Manning

. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3.17-19

“I went to pray in the parish church in Tamarac, Florida, at two in the afternoon. The usual tenor of my prayer life is dryness, longing, and experiencing the absence of God in the hopes of communion. But the moment I knelt down my mind was filled with the image of a three-year-old boy playing on the rug in his living room. Off in the corner his mother sat on the floor in the lotus position, knitting. Suddenly she dropped her work and beckoned to him. He toddled over and climbed up on her lap. She smiled down at him and asked softly, ‘How much do you love me?’ He extended his tiny arms as far as they would go and exclaimed, ‘This much I love you.’

“In an instant, it was thirty-some years later; the little boy in the fullness of manhood hung nailed to a crossbeam. His mother looked up and said, ‘How much do you love me?’ His arms were stretched out to the ends of the universe. ‘This much I love you.'”

Have you experienced the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge?” Behold how much he loves you.

Father I thank you that Jesus loves me “this much!”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“O God, you have caused the holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that I, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

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

Grace and peace, friends.

In Search of His Presence

Today is Saturday, September 21, 2019. May your day be filled with good things!

Day 22,472

Two days until fall begins!!

21 days until Galveston and our 34th anniversary!!

I’m late, this morning. We decided to give the Walmart grocery app a try today. They don’t charge for grocery pickup. Kroger charges $4.99. A negligible fee, but Walmart is also cheaper on a lot of items. However, after going through and placing everything in my “cart,” the app messed up and only showed 16 items in the cart, for a total of $38. Everything else was gone. So we went back to Kroger. Which meant we basically had to do our grocery order twice, this morning. Now, C and S are out getting S’s bloodwork done for her doctor visit. We’ll be picking up the groceries between 3:00 and 4:00 PM.

The Rangers lost 8-0 to the Athletics last night. They have now lost six in a row. They don’t seem to be trying to win, which is sad. Especially since they are expecting folks to pay “upgraded” prices for that expensive new stadium next year. I predict that the city of Arlington is going to be sorry they approved that thing. They are 78-80, in third place in the AL West with 8 games left. Their chances of ending the season at .500 or higher are very slim. They are playing the Athletics in Oakland again today.

The Red Sox lost in extra innings to the Rays, last night. 5-4. That loss eliminated them from any playoff hopes. For me, baseball is essentially over for this season. None of the remaining games matter, and the playoffs won’t matter at all to me. I might pick a team and cheer for them, but I won’t really pay much attention to the playoff games. And if it winds up being the Yankees and the Dodgers in the World Series, I definitely won’t be paying any attention.

The Wild Card in the AL is still anyone’s game. Oakland has the top spot, with Tampa and Cleveland tied, two games behind. If the Red Sox could at least beat Tampa this weekend, Cleveland could get in the second spot.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. 
He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, 
who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.

Psalm 66:5-7

Today I am grateful:
1. For my beautiful wife of almost 34 years
2. For our two wonderful daughters
3. For the weekend to refresh and renew for the coming work week
4. For the impact we have on others, even when we don’t realize it
5. For the part of prayer that consists in seeking only the presence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit

We thank thee, heavenly Father,
for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior;
and we pray that, after his example,
we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
The Book of Common Prayer, Collects: Traditional, Saint Matthew, September 21

(From Faith That Matters)

Prayer: A Longing for Presence, by Brennan Manning

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:2

“Whatever else it may be, prayer is first and foremost an act of love. Before any pragmatic, utilitarian, or altruistic motivations, prayer is born of a desire to be with Jesus.”

What attracts us to prayer? What causes us to desire to pray? Is it because we need God to do something for us? If most of us are honest, that’s where it begins, isn’t it? Every day I put out a call for prayer requests on my Facebook page. Some days I get quite a few, other days I get nothing. Most of them are for some physical thing that is afflicting either the person making the request or someone close to them. I have made note of the people who tend to ask for something for someone other than themselves.

But what I have also noticed is that rarely, if ever, do I get a prayer request from someone asking for more love for God or Jesus, or a more intimate relationship with Jesus. What does it say about us if our impetus for prayer is only our need or a crisis in which we find ourselves?

“His incomparable wisdom, compelling beauty, irresistible goodness, and unrestricted love lure us into the quiet of our hearts where he dwells. To really love someone implies a natural longing for presence and intimate communion.”

So if we say we love Jesus, but aren’t longing for his “presence and intimate communion,” are we lying?

“Jesus prayed primarily because he loved his Father. Praise, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition emanated from his profound consciousness of being bonded to the transcendent God in filial intimacy. His personal experience of Yahweh Sabaoth as loving Father shaped not only his self-understanding but, like a knife slashing through wallpaper, brought a dramatic breakthrough into undreamed-of intimacy with God in prayer. Childlike candor, boundless trust, easy familiarity, deep reverence, joyful dependence, unflagging obedience, unmistakable tenderness, and an innate sense of belonging characterized Jesus’ prayer.”

People, this is what I’m after. One thing we are supposed to be doing, as followers of Jesus, is living more like he lived, right? Therefore, our desire, when it comes to prayer, should be driven by a longing for his presence and intimate communion with him, more than just healing for this person or a new job for that person or even revenge on this other person for cutting me off in traffic.

Maybe we need to dispense with our “laundry lists.” I don’t really have a “prayer list,” per se, any more. People still ask me to add this or that to my prayer list, and I always pray for that thing or person. And I do use an app to keep up with some of them, but I don’t look at it every day. I pray for things that people put on my prayer request post on Facebook. And I usually respond at the moment that I am praying. I save every post, so I occasionally go back and look at them again, and will, from time to time, reply back, asking for an update on the person or situation.

But this is almost exclusively reliant upon the Holy Spirit to remind me to do something. Which is, in turn, reliant upon my relationship with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“Do you see prayer as an act of love, a necessary evil, a tired habit, a search for joy?” Good questions. It could be any of those, at any given moment. But what it needs to begin with, every day, is the need, the desire, the necessity to be in his presence, and to simply bask in that for a bit. As the long-time title of this blog page says, I need to revel in his presence, in his overflowing grace and love for us.

How do I make that happen? To be honest, I’m not sure. Disciple; practice; or, as Nike famously said, “Just Do It.”

Father, even though I do not always acknowledge it, I am grateful for your constant presence in my life. I am also grateful to be aware, at least as much as I can be, of the amazingly intimate relationship between the members of the Trinity. I pray that I might comprehend the love that flows between you, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I pray that I might experience the same kind of love that Jesus had for you when I pray. I pray that my prayers may be an expression of my longing for your presence. May each day’s prayer consist of nothing more than me seeking you, only you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Know the Love of Jesus

Today is Saturday, August 24, 2019. Blessings to you!

Day 22,444

Nine days until Labor Day!!

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We worked a half hour, roughly, of overtime, which I’m not going to complain about. As I commented to a co-worker in the break room, if I’m getting off at 5:00 PM on Friday, I ain’t mad.

We don’t have much in the way of plans today. Our grocery order is set to pick up between 1:00 and 2:00 PM. We might take a tub of books to Half-Price Books. Anything else we decide to do will be bonus. I do need to practice a little for a song for church tomorrow.

For those of you who might remember me saying that I had applied for a shift lead spot in our department, I have a bit of news. I can’t give much in the way of detail, largely because I don’t have a lot to give, yet. But I will say that there is something in the works, and I am a bit excited about it. Stay tuned, as I will give more details when I have them.

The Rangers lost to the White Sox, again, 8-3. Lance Lynn was the losing pitcher. They are 63-67, still in third place in the AL West, 20 games out of first place and 12.5 out of the wild card race. In spite of that, they are fifth in the wild card race. They will play the White Sox again tonight, with Kolby Allard starting. They have 32 games left.

The Red Sox beat the Padres 11-0. Eduardo Rodriguez got his 15th win of the season. They are 69-61, in third place in the AL East. They are 15 games out of first place and 6.5 out of the wild card race. They are in fourth place in the wild card standings. They will play the Padres again tonight, with Nathan Eovaldi starting. They also have 32 games left.

Tampa Bay has the top wild card spot. Oakland and Cleveland are tied for the second spot. The LA Dodgers have the best record in MLB, closely followed by the Yankees and the Astros. The Detroit Tigers continue to hold down the worst spot with a 39-87 record. Baltimore, however, is only slightly better.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. 
O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. 
For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 54:1-2, 4, 6-7

Today I am grateful:
1. For the weekend to rest for the coming work week
2. That we appear to have gotten some rain overnight
3. That the Lord will make our paths straight if we but simply trust in him (Proverbs 3:5-6)
4. That we can have rest in the Lord
5. For what Jesus did for love

“Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth,
you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom
and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one
may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet
to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, Prayers and Thanksgivings, 41. For the Conservation of Natural Resources)

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 
The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 
Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” 
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 
The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 
For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:1-9

(From Faith That Matters)

For Love of You, by Brennan Manning

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

This reading speaks so loudly to me that I want to quote it in its entirety. It is not long, only two paragraphs. It is from Manning’s book, A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred.

“My own glimpse of Jesus moved from obscurity to increasing clarity on a winter’s night in the Zaragoza desert in Spain. The world was asleep, but my heart was awake to God. During prayer I heard Jesus say, ‘For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, who fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood of the cross.’

“Although it was many years ago, this morning in an hour of quiet time, I realized that those words still burned on my life. Whether I am in a state of grace or disgrace, the words impose themselves with the stark realism of objective truth. That night in the cave I stared at a crucifix for hours, figuratively seeing the blood streaming from every wound and pore in Christ’s body. The longer I looked, the more I realized that no man has ever loved me and no woman could ever love me as he does. I cried out in the darkness, ‘Jesus, are you crazy–are you out of your mind to have loved me so much?’ I learned that night what a wise old Franciscan told me: ‘Once you come to know the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem beautiful or desirable.'”

Truly, is there any love that is more attractive than the love of Jesus?

The words of that Franciscan are echoing in my ears and in my soul. Have I truly come to know that love? Because there sure do seem to be a lot of things in this world that I still find “beautiful or desirable.”

Father, in Ephesians 3, Paul prays for his readers to know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” I pray, with all of my being, this morning, that I and all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, would know that love, would “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ. Truly, there is nothing more desirable.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

A God Who Serves

Today is Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Blessings to you!

Day 22,441

Twelve days until Labor Day!!

The Rangers split a double-header with the Angels, yesterday. They lost the first game, 5-1, Joe Palumbo the loser. They won the second game, in eleven innings, 3-2, Emmanuel Chase the winner. The Rangers are 62-65, tied with the Angels for third/fourth place in the AL West. They are 19 games out of first place and 11 out of the wild card race. The elimination number is 17. There are 35 games left. They play the Angels again tonight, with Mike Minor starting.

The Red Sox dropped a game to the Phillies, 3-2. Brian Johnson was the losing pitcher. The Sox are 67-60, 16 games out of first place and six games out of the wild card. The elimination number is 20. There are 35 games left. They play the Phillies again tonight with Rick Porcello starting.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 51:9-11

Today I am grateful:
1. For coffee
2. For the love of my family
3. For the love of friends
4. For the love of God
5. For the example of Christ who teaches me how to serve

“Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess:
Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and,
remembering the account which we must one day give,
may be faithful stewards of thy bounty,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, Prayers and Thanksgivings, 38. For the Right Use of God’s Gifts)

(From Faith That Matters)

Amazing Faith, by Brennan Manning

And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. 
Matthew 8:13

A few verses earlier, the centurion had said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (verse 8) “When Jesus heard this,” said Matthew, “he marveled.” (verse 10) Then he said that he had not found this kind of faith anywhere in Israel.

There is an interaction with the disciples where Jesus says that he came to serve. 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 20:26-28)

The old Baltimore catechism says that God created us “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” Brennan cites a biblical scholar who says that this is slightly inadequate. He said “it should read that man is made to know how God longs to love and serve him.”

This is a difficult concept for us to grasp. We are raised hearing how we need to serve God, and this is not inaccurate. We do need to learn how to serve God by serving others. But the way we learn it is to look at Jesus, who came to the earth to serve us.

Father, help me to fully grasp this concept of Jesus as not only Savior, but also as Servant. Then help me to imitate him by serving others around me.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Hate Yourself

Today is Tuesday, August 13, 2019. Blessings to you!

Day 22,433

Only six more days until S turns 26!!

The Texas Rangers lost (that’s one word for it) to the Toronto Blue Jays last night. 19-4. While you try to wrap your head around that score, think about the fact that the Blue Jays have a losing record against the Baltimore Orioles, who are the second worst team in MLB. It seems that one thing that should be learned, but has yet to be, is that they need to stop letting Ariel Jurado start. The Rangers are 59-59, still in third place in the AL West, eighteen games out of first place, and ten out of the wild card race. They will try again tonight, with Lance Lynn starting. They are in Toronto.

The Red Sox lost to the Indians, 6-5. At least that’s reasonable, considering the Indians are in the lead wild card spot. Marcus Walden took the loss in the ninth inning. The Sox are 65-59, in third place in the AL East, 17.5 games out of first (the Blue Jays are thirty games out of first, so there isn’t much chance of the Sox losing third place, at least), and 8.5 out of the wild card race. They play again tonight, in Cleveland, with Chris Sale trying again.

I actually misspoke. Cleveland is atop the AL Central, at the moment. Minnesota and Tampa are in the two wild card spots.

We are broken-hearted this morning, as we received word that our pastor’s father passed away early this morning. Please be in prayer for his family, as well as us, his church family, as he was dearly loved by us. And he was a great friend to S, so she will be taking this very hard. We are grateful to God for the joy of knowing that our brother and friend is fully healed and in the presence of the Lord. We are also very grateful for the love and sense of family that abides in The Exchange Church.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments! 
Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, 
consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation 
that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.

Psalm 48:11-14

Today I am grateful:
1. For the never-ending lovingkindness of the Lord.
2. That, as God provides for us, we have resources to serve him by serving others.
3. That he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
4. That the Lord has called me by name.
5. That God will never leave us or forsake us.

“O merciful Father, who has taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servants for who our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, Prayers and Thanksgivings, 55. For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement)

(From Faith That Matters)

Let Christ Rewrite Your Script, by Brennan Manning

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
Psalm 5:11

How many of us are locked in a “script” of self-hatred? For some, it is a misunderstanding of words that Jesus spoke. We understand that we don’t have to be first, and shouldn’t try to be first, but, rather strive to be last. But we humans tend to over-reach that and take it too far. Not only do I need to be last, I need to hate myself while I’m doing it. This cannot be true; I don’t for a minute believe this is what Jesus is getting at. It’s even a common thread in the “Christian self-help” industry. How can you lover your neighbor as yourself if you hate yourself? Cliche, yes, but still true.

Says Brennan Manning, “With a graciousness, a kindness, and an understanding of human weakness that only God could inhabit and exhibit, he liberates us from alienation and self-condemnation and offers a new possibility to each of us in our brokenness. He is the Savior who saves us from ourselves. His gospel is Good News indeed! Jesus, in effect, says, ‘Burn the old tapes spinning round in your head that bind you up and lock you into a self-centered stereotype. Listen to the new song of salvation written for those who know that they are poor. Let go of your fear of my Father and your dislike of yourself.'”

Our God has compassion on us, “like a rising sun, drenching the dawn’s shadows with inescapable light.” May the light of Christ show us the way.

Father, thank you for this great love with which you have loved us. I pray for our brother’s family today. May you bring peace and comfort, and, yes, even joy, to their hearts today as they grieve and mourn this loss. Blessed are those who mourn . . . Teach us to love ourselves, not despise ourselves. And teach us to love others as you have loved us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The True Disciple

Today is Sunday, June 16, 2019.

Trinity Sunday

Day 22,375

Eighteen days until July 4

Today is Father’s Day. My father left this world a little over four years ago. April 20, 2015. I can only hope to leave behind the kind of legacy he left behind.

The Texas Rangers beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3, last night. Mike Minor got the win for Texas. The Rangers are 38-32, in second place in the AL East, 9.5 games behind the Astros. The remain in the second wild card spot. They play the Reds again today at 12:10, in Cincinnati. Ariel Jurado will take the mound for Texas.

Chris Sale got his third win as the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-2, yesterday. The Sox are 38-34, in third place in the AL East, 5.5 games behind the Yankees. They are one game out of the second wild card spot, currently held by the Rangers. The play the O’s again today, at 12:05, in Baltimore.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning, which will be of the “scattered” variety. Today we are meeting in a home, not at the YMCA.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:22

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ
2. For the steadfast love of the Lord, and his wondrous works to the children of man (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31)
3. For the love my father had for me and how he led me down a path of righteousness and love for God
4. That God is teaching me compassion
5. That God is teaching me to be nonjudgmental

“Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday)

(From Faith That Matters)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

Brennan Manning writes the excerpt from today’s reading.

“The Christ who weeps over godforsaken neighborhoods such as the old Times Square is a man of sorrows moved in the pit of his stomach for the lostness of the sheep who do not know him. Jesus is the incarnation of the compassion of the Father. . . . God was present in the Compassionate One in a unique, extravagant, and definitive way. Through meal-sharing, storytelling, miraculous healing, preaching, teaching, and a life of compassion that knew no frontiers, boundaries, or sectarian divisions, Jesus inaugurated in his person the reign of God. In Jesus’ own conduct the new age dawned: the messianic era erupted into history. His present-day disciples’ loving concern, nonjudgmental attitude, and compassionate care for their brothers and sisters is the visible form in which the reign of God is manifested today. What makes the kingdom come is heartfelt compassion. it is the way that God’s lordship takes.”

The emphasis on that one sentence is mine. I emphasized this because we don’t see it a lot today. And I would submit to you that if you see someone who claims the name of “Christian,” and they are not exhibiting loving concern, a nonjudgmental attitude, or compassionate care, then they are not, in fact, true disciples of Christ. They are charlatans and posers.

And, in the spirit of full disclosure, there are certainly days in my life when I, as well, am nothing more than a charlatan or poser. May God help me.

Father, help me to be a true disciple of Christ each day, showing forth true loving concern, a nonjudgmental attitude, and compassionate care for all.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Put On Christ

Today is Sunday, June 2, 2019

Day 22,361

Thirty-two days until July 4

C and I had a wonderful adventure, yesterday evening. After she and S got through with their dentist appointments (they loved the place and talked me into letting them schedule an appointment for me), C and I went and picked up the groceries. Then we went and had lunch at a new diner-type restaurant nearby, called Huddle House. It was quite good, and not too pricey. After that, we headed north to parts unknown, specifically Gunter, Texas. I had never heard of it, either. The destination was “Treeland Nursery.” If you recall, our twenty-year-old Bradford pear tree began falling apart about a month ago. So we were shopping for a new tree, and C had found this place on line. Their “delivered and planted” prices were cheaper than more local tree farms. Gunter is way north on 35, slightly east of Sanger, which is north of Denton. If you’re not from around here, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyway. We found a Red Oak in a 65 gallon planter that had some good height and seemed to have a lot of good growth to it. The price, delivered and planted, is $420. It is scheduled to be delivered on July 2.

The trip home was even more adventurous, as we got caught in a pretty bad storm when we got back to Sanger, to get on I-35. The wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid we were driving into a tornado. Then the hail started. We pulled into a convenience store parking lot, because I was having trouble seeing to drive. We were unable to get under any cover, so we sat there, watching and listening as hail pounded the car. Fortunately, we were not in C’s brand new Civic. And we didn’t get any hail at home. That store eventually lightened up enough for me to see, so we headed out. We could see on our phones that if we could just get a little bit south, we would be out of it. There were a few flooded spots on the Interstate, and we ran through one other hard rain before we got home. It was an exhausting trip.

Lance Lynn got his seventh win, yesterday, as the Rangers beat the Royals 6-2 again. They are leading this four-game series 2-1, and finish it today at 2:05 CDT. Adrian Sampson will start. The Rangers are in second place in the AL West, 8.5 games out.

The Red Sox lost another game to the Yankees, 5-3, and have dropped to .500, at 29-29. They are in third place in the AL East, 9.5 out. They play again today at 6:05 CDT. David Price will start.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. It’s a little later, because we don’t have to be there early. Today, we are meeting in a home, and the format will be entirely different. In fact, most of us have no idea what to expect.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
Psalm 32:6

Today I am grateful:
1. That we got home safely through the storms, yesterday evening
2. For a fun adventure with C yesterday, as we picked out a new tree for our front yard
3. For an opportunity to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ today
4. That God grants me faith and helps me believe
5. That, as I “put on Christ,” I am putting on his qualities and characteristics

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Other Christs,” by Brennan Manning.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Galatians 3:27

The word, or title, “Christian,” literally means, “little Christ.” Brennan Manning has chosen to call us “other Christs” in this reading.

“When we ‘put on Christ’ and fully accept who we are, a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and human respect develops. Christ’s preferences and values become our own. The kingdom of God is built on earth when we do the will of our Father in heaven. We become ‘other Christs’ through a life of Christian integrity.”

This truth should humble us. To be considered “another Christ” is, indeed, humbling to me. I don’t normally think of myself in that way. But, if I have, as Paul put it, “put on Christ,” then that is exactly what I am. I am a “little Christ,” an “other Christ,” a “Christian.” This is true of all people who call themselves by the name of Jesus. “Every Christian who walks in the way of integrity and fidelity to the dream of the kingdom is ‘another Christ.'”

Join me in taking an inventory of the qualities of our lives today and see if we measure up to the title. May we seek and find the qualities of Jesus in our lives.

Father, may I live up to the title of “other Christ” today and every day. As I go back to work tomorrow, to my “holy work,” help me to live in the way that Jesus would live my life if he were me.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

What Is Your Dream?

Today is Thursday, May 2, 2019.

Day 22,330

SEVEN DAYS until Vegas!!!!

Quote of the Day

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”
Timothy Leary, American educator, 1920-1996

Word of the Day

Bombinate ~ to make a humming or buzzing noise. (

Tonight, we have a dinner meeting with our financial/life insurance guy. Hopefully, it won’t go too late. I’ll be driving straight from work to a restaurant near where C works, so that shouldn’t be too bad. But we do have some things we need to talk about, so I guess it’s necessary.

The Rangers lost another game to the Pirates, yesterday afternoon, 7-5. Shelby Miller took the loss for the game. He started out good, but in the fourth inning, he kind of fell apart, giving up four runs. The Rangers tried to battle back, but couldn’t plate enough runs to win. Hunter Pence struck out swinging to end the game, with two men on. They are 14-15, still in third place in the AL West. The Rangers have an off day today (which is why we picked today to meet with our finance/life insurance guy . . . no game at Rangers Ballpark), and will begin a series with Toronto tomorrow, with Mike Minor scheduled to take the mound.

The Red Sox swept the Athletics, beating them 7-3 yesterday afternoon. Marcus Walden (?) got the win in relief. The Sox are now 14-17, still in fourth place in the AL East. They begin a series in Chicago with the White Sox tonight with David Price taking the mound.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Psalm 25:20-21

Today I am grateful:
1. That God has given me a loyal heart
2. That the desire of my heart is to follow Christ
3. For coffee
4. That God has shown us his vision
5. That the Kingdom of God is here, now, and available to us all

We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon
our infirmities; and, for the glory of thy Name, turn from us
all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant
that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and
confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness
and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our
only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, The Great Litany)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Live Jesus’ Dream,” by Brennan Manning.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 16:19

“Even when preoccupied, distracted, or salivating, we each have a dream, a vision of life that corresponds to our convictions, embodies our uniqueness, and expresses what is life-giving within us.” This dream gives our lives definition.

If our dream is security, we buy insurance. If our dream involves pleasure, we will spend our money and time on “hedonistic pursuits.” If our dream is scholarship, “we will be properly pedigreed and securely settled in an academic environment.” Whatever our dream, even if it is on hold for some reason, it will be embedded in our consciousness, and it will, somehow, sustain “our will-to-meaning in the world.”

“The dream of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God, and the committed Christian buys into his dream.”

That sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And in some ways, it is. But it is also complicated. Much of the complication, however, is added by well-meaning people. What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If you asked twenty preachers, you would probably get twenty different answers. But what if you ask Jesus? In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The answer is in that sentence. The Gospel is that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus embodied the Kingdom of God and made it accessible to everyone who wants it. That was the “dream” or “vision” of Jesus Christ.

This is not an abstraction, but is “a concrete, visible reality, forged by the personal commitment to act on his teachings.” When we are following the teachings of Jesus Christ, we are walking in the Kingdom of God and living out the Gospel.

Father, I pray that I might live my life and build every moment of that life on the dream of your Kingdom.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Grace and peace, friends.

Fullness of Joy; Pleasures Forevermore; Love Incarnate

Today is Sunday, march 24, 2019. Nineteenth day of Lent.

Day 22,291

FOUR DAYS until Opening Day!!!

Quote of the Day

“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.”
John Galsworthy, English author, 1867-1933

Word of the Day

Isolato ~ a person who is physically or spiritually isolated from their times or society. (

We had a wonderful visit in Mineral Wells, yesterday! After arriving, we chatted a while, gifts were presented to the birthday people (R & me), and then we decided on lunch. The overwhelming favorite seemed to be Dairy Mart, but we all acknowledged the smallness of their dining area and how crowded it can be. There are, after all, six of us. Then I had a wonderful idea (actually, I had already thought of it, but was waiting to see what the majority choice for lunch was going to be). We called in the order, picked it up, and ate at my mother’s house! It was so much more relaxing! Afterward, we had a number of choices for dessert. C made a Sopapilla Cheesecake, which was delicious. We had bought a “Neiman Marcus Brownie Cake” from a friend who was having a bake sale, and there were also strawberries and angel food cake. I had some of all three, and they were all delicious!

We are getting ready for our worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, Texas. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 17:8

Today I am grateful:
1. For the wonderful visit we had with family yesterday.
2. For safe trips to and from Mineral Wells.
3. That God is so good and that through everything, he keeps my eyes on him.
4. For joy
5. For Love Incarnate

Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, from Psalm 51)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Accept God’s Love in Christ,” by Brennan Manning.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
1 John 4:9

Brennan shares an exercise that he learned from “an old evangelical pastor.” He says that this man “seemed to have the gift of mediating the experience of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, to people.” That, in my opinion, is an exceptional gift. So here’s the exercise:

“Recall the presence of the risen Lord with you. Tell him you believe he is present to you.

“Reflect on the fact that he loves and accepts you just as you are now. Take time out to sense his unconditional love for you as he looks at you lovingly and humbly.

“Speak to Jesus–or just lovingly stay in silence and communicate with him beyond words.”

This kind of “soul-deep emphasis” on Christ’s love was much more vigorous in the past than it is today. Our society needs to accept that Jesus Christ is “love incarnate,” that he is “the manifestation of the unconditional love of God for us.” Romans 5:8 says it, perhaps best, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

When we accept this love, we experience joy beyond measure. We can experience the truth of Psalm 16:11: You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Fullness of joy; pleasures forevermore. All in the presence of Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank you for the joy that comes from knowing the love of Christ. I thank you that you have given us Love Incarnate, and I thank you for the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore that are available in your kingdom. Help me to keep my eyes trained on you through all events and circumstances in my life.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Soli Deo Gloria!!

A Little Touch Goes A Long Way

Today is Friday (we made it!), April 27, 2018. Day 21,960.

One more day until our next Night of Worship!

It’s the birthday of Brennan Manning (1934-2013), who said, “I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.” BrainyQuote

Bonus quote: It’s also Rogers Hornsby’s birthday (1896-1963), who said, “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it.” BrainyQuote

The word for today is treen, pronounced “tree-uhn.” It is an adjective which means, “made entirely of wood.”

C and I went to the Y last night and participated in a T’ai Chi class. It was interesting. I think I like it, but it’s going to take me a while to get all the motions down. It’s very fluid and “graceful,” but, at the same time, takes muscular coordination. It may not be anywhere near cardio, but it is certainly exercise, and some of the movements require balance. I believe I’ll try it again next Thursday.

The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays again, last night, 5-4, to win the series. That’s two consecutive wins for them, and improves their record to 19-5, still four games up on the Yankees in the AL East. The Sox are still the best team in MLB, two games ahead of the D-backs. They go back to Fenway tonight, to begin a weekend series with Tampa Bay.

The Rangers had the day off, and will begin a series in Toronto tonight.

The Cincinnati Reds are still the worst team, with a 5-20 record, but close behind them are the Royals (didn’t they just win a World Series a few years ago?) and the Orioles. The White Sox and the Marlins are also in the bottom five.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Psalm 43:3

“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. 
Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! 
I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. 
Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever. 
But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81:11-16

Some of the saddest words in Scripture, “But my people did not listen to my voice.” God would feed us with the finest of food, if only we would listen to him. Our God is sufficient for our every need, if only we would believe.

I don’t know much about plants and gardens, other than I like to eat some of what they produce. I’ve been frequently skeptical about the idea that touching and talking to plants helps them grow better and stronger, but today’s Daily Guideposts writer, Sabra Ciancanelli, makes it a habit of giving a daily “soft touch” to her tomato seedlings.

This idea is quickly transferred to human relationships. Whether plants gain any benefit from touching and talking, I have no idea. But I know that people most certainly do. While I don’t like being around large groups of people for very long, I do love a good hug, both giving and receiving. The human touch is necessary to survive. I truly believe we cannot exist without it. Even more important, are words. I wrote about words yesterday. It is so very important that we encourage one another in this walk of faith. A kind word can turn a person’s day around. Couple that with a good hug, and a person’s life might be changed. I truly believe this.

So take a little time today to say a kind word, an encouraging word, to someone. If you know someone who is in isolation, reach out to that person. And if possible (and appropriate) give someone a hug today.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

Father, I am glad that you made me a person who likes to hug. Give us all a reminder that human contact, physical touch, and encouraging words, are all things that we need to survive in this world. Bring someone my way today who needs a hug and an encouraging word. Then give me the words to say, that I might fulfill that need.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.