Attitude Check

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG)

Today is Saturday, the fifth of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,368

There’s not really much to write about, this morning. Yesterday was a pretty normal day. Usual stuff at the library, and we had one of our favorite meals for dinner, the Pecan Crusted Buttermilk Chicken. And there are leftovers for me to take for lunch today, as today is my Saturday to work in the circ department. C may bring Mama to the library today, which would be cool. I’ll probably text her with the schedule when I get there, so she knows when I’m at the desk and when I’m not.

I’m getting a new hard drive for this PC. It should arrive today, and I will likely attempt to install it tomorrow. I’ll make sure and check some YouTube videos, but I think it’s simple enough that I should be able to do it. The current hard drive (the D drive, which is mechanical) seems to be operating non-stop. At least that is what the noise I am hearing would indicate, after speaking with the computer center manager at the library. The mechanical hard drives are cheap. I’m getting a 2TB drive for less than $50. I could have gotten 4TB for less than $70, but I simply cannot fathom ever needing that much storage. The current drive is 1TB and is not even half full.

The Lenten fast continues to go okay. I still have not had any candy. The criticism is getting better. The cool thing is that I am being more aware of when I am beginning to launch into something critical, and can stop myself. What I’m looking forward to is when I get to where it’s not even a temptation. That will take a while.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD 
and to inquire in his temple. 
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
 he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
 he will lift me high upon a rock.
(Psalms 27:4-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for grapes and cantaloupe
2. for quiet mornings
3. for time to read and meditate on God's Word
4. that this world is not my Home
5. that I have the strength to do everything I need to do

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG)

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time.
(1 Peter 5:6 MSG)

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:6 NIV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NIV)

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be. 
(Psalms 139:13-16 NIV)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:13 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “attitude.” The referenced Scripture is Proverbs 17:22.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
(Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.
(Proverbs 17:22 MSG)

Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.
(Proverbs 17:22 GNB)

There it is in several different versions.

This is appropriate for the season, for me. I’ve talked about my Lenten “fast” for this year. As I strive to eliminate the critical nature from my personality, attitude is everything. What a shift in attitude to change from judgment to praise. When I am tempted to judge someone or be critical of a situation or circumstance, my attitude needs to be adjusted to find something positive in it or about the person. I’m not talking about “toxic positivity.” Yes, there is such a thing, and I used to work around it. And I promise you, I will never be guilty of that. I most definitely not a “Rah-Rah” person, and have no intention of being so.

And, like most things, there is a time and a place for healthy, positive criticism. That’s not what I’m talking about, either. I’m talking about the constant picking at things, always being dissatisfied with things. Always trying to blame someone for something. Sadly, a lot of what I am seeing from many people that are in my generation, right now.

The thing is, there is always something that I don’t know about any given circumstance. I never know what that grouchy person might be going through. They may just be grouchy, or a mean person. That’s entirely possible. But my judgment or criticism of them is not going to change that. However, if I smile and give them a positive word, anyway? It might make a difference, and it will certainly make me feel better about the world.

Father, as I go into this day, may I live these words that I’m typing. Give me the courage to approach the day with determination; determination to not judge people, to not express negative opinions about things, to not be critical. Sometimes, it may just mean keeping my mouth shut and not saying anything. You know, the old “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all,” schtick. But I pray for my attitude to be one that reflects You, Your love, and my walk with Christ. And let my walk with Christ be such that it creates an attitude that is acceptable.

Help me to submit to You, to acknowledge You in all my ways, that my paths may be straight. Please help me to remember that I can do all of these things through Christ, who strengthens me by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Remind me, today, that this world is not Home. And how glad I am of that, considering everything that is going on in it, right now. Oh, how I long for Home, but I know that I am not really ready, yet. I know that I still have work to do here; work on myself, and work ministering to others. Otherwise, I would not still be here. So help me do that work. Help me to be content with who I am, and not be trying to change things (well, other than making the aforementioned positive changes).

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Oh, come to the Father,
through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory,
great things He hath done."
(Fanny Crosby, 1875)

Grace and peace, friends.

Wisdom and Forgiveness

Good morning! Today is Friday, the fourth of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,367

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other photography at the link provided.

We had a successful and uneventful trip to get Mama, yesterday, and she is safely back here in Fort Worth, with us, for a little while. We dropped off a mail hold form at the Post Office, and left her tax documents with her CPA, and I also grabbed a couple cases of Crazy Water while in town.

The only “incident” that occurred was that my tire pressure light came on, in the car, before I got out of Fort Worth. Everything felt okay, so I didn’t stop to check it until I got to Mama’s house in Mineral Wells. The lowest tire had 30.5 (after driving that distance), so I wasn’t terribly worried about it. I just checked it, this morning, and it has 26, which is about seven pounds low. I’ll keep an eye on it, and, unless it drops drastically more between now and then, I will put some air in it Sunday afternoon.

Today is a normal work day for me, at the Hurst Public Library, in the computer center. Tomorrow is my Saturday to work the circulation desk. Sunday, our house church is not meeting, so I am going to take the opportunity to attend a Lutheran church in Grapevine, with my friend and former pastor. I’ve never been to a Lutheran service before, so this should be interesting.

The Lenten fast continues to go fairly well. As expected, keeping critical comments out of my vocabulary has been much more challenging than not eating candy. I have not been 100% successful, but am being more aware of when they occur, and able to stop them in their tracks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Nothing Called My Own,” by Daryl Madden

I know I’m in danger
But need not of fearing
If I remember
That I am nothing

I’ll know that danger
Can take nothing from me
When I feel afraid
I forget, nothing I be

And If I remember
I’ve nothing called my own
That will not be lost
At the end of life shown

That only what’s not mine
But God’s will ever live
And free me from false fears
With a heart to give

(based upon words by Thomas Merton)

This poem really spoke to me, this morning, as I recall words from a little book by Horatius Bonar, called How Shall I Go To God? It opens with the line, “It is with our sins that we go to God–for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own.” Please check out Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the WordPress community; I am constantly encouraged and uplifted by my blogging friends
2. for the safe trip to Mineral Wells and back, yesterday
3. for the wisdom taught in the book of James, difficult as it is
4. for the lineage of faith that is in my ancestry
5. for the strength of God that is helping me in my Lenten journey

The book of James is a tough book to swallow. Every time I have to read it, I cringe, because it doesn’t just step on my toes. It crushes them.

But one thing we learn from this difficult book is that “Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.” The outside world looks at that statement and gives out a hearty “Ya think??”

Part of the problem, though, is that 1) the outside world seems to have the mistaken idea that the Christian church should be a model community of good behavior; and 2) the Christian church often tries to deceive the outside world into believing that it is a model community of good behavior.

James would have us believe otherwise. And, as Eugene H. Peterson points out, “Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential.” This does not necessarily involve knowing truth, although that is helpful, because “what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?”

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
(James 3:17-18 MSG)

James was traditionally known as a man of prayer, spending much time on his knees. He lived what he wrote:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.
(James 1:5-6 MSG)

“The prayer is foundational to the wisdom. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.”

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.
(James 1:17 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:22 ESV)

Or, if you prefer:

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
(Matthew 18:22 NLT)

Speaking of wisdom, in this passage of Scripture, we see the wisdom of forgiveness. And we see Peter, thinking himself extremely righteous by offering to forgive someone seven whole times, having his toes crushed by Jesus’s James-like wisdom, telling him, essentially, don’t count how many times you forgive someone.

“God – on Whose repeated forgiveness I depend – requires that I do the same for others and that they do the same for me. Not grudgingly, but from a sincere heart. . . . Forgiveness is a wisdom near to the heart of God.” (Carol Knapp)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
(Matthew 6:9-15 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s prayer word is “link.” I almost passed over this one, but I got to thinking about it. Laurence Overmire, an American poet who is also a genealogist, is quoted as saying, “All of our ancestors give us the precious gift of life.”

There is not a word of Scripture in this reading, nor is there any reference to it. It is entirely about someone’s lineage.

And when I think about my lineage, I am blessed. God didn’t have to birth me into this family. But He chose to place me in it. (Remember yesterday’s prayer word?)

My family has a long history of God-loving people in it, and I am very grateful for this. My spiritual life would likely have been much different otherwise.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You and thank You for placing me where You did. What a blessing to have been born into this family. Random luck, some would say, but I don’t believe in “luck” or “coincidences.” It was part of Your plan, and I am very grateful for this. And You kept it going, even when I tried to leave (or at least wander off) the path. You always kept me on the path, sometimes nudging me, other times outright shoving. There may have even been a few times You had to tie me up and carry me over Your “shoulder.”

Father, as Your Church continues trying to survive these years, I pray that You help us in several things. Help us to forgive the way Jesus told us to forgive, not the way Peter tried to. It is unlimited. Jesus didn’t mean seventy-seven times or four hundred and ninety times, at least that is what we believe. He seems to have been indicating that the amount of forgiveness is as unlimited as Your love. And praises be that You don’t stop forgiving us at seventy times seven times!!

I also pray that You help us, as a Church, to get along in wisdom, the way James is trying to teach us. We are strongly divided, these days, and we need Your help. There are factions that are focusing on the wrong things. We need to be focusing on Your love, the love of Jesus, and our love for each other. Maybe it really is “all about love.” And, while I wouldn’t go quite as far as the Beatles, we definitely do need love and more of it. Help us to remember that our jobs are to love You and love people, not to judge people and condemn people. That is actually Your job, and Yours alone. But You also have promised that, in Christ, there is no condemnation. Thank You for that, as well.

We are broken, Lord, all of us. So we need Your “fixing.” Give us wisdom, give us love, give us one another. And help us, as brother Daryl reminds us way back at the beginning, that we really have nothing that we can call our own.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Only

“One of the first things we learn in experiences of fasting is how it reveals what controls us. You see, we cover up with food and other good things what is inside of us, but in experiences of fasting these come to the surface.”

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the third of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today.

Day 23,366

I’m a little behind, this morning, apparently. It is almost 10:00 AM, and I’m just starting this thing. I actually slept until almost 8:00, this morning, which was nice. And I slept much better than the night before. I still had, typically, a couple of long awake stretches, though.

As soon as I finish this, I’ll be heading to Mineral Wells to bring Mama back here for an extended stay. We don’t know how long. That is TBD.

My first day of Lent went pretty well. I had no candy. I even resisted some Oreo cookies at work, but that’s not candy. I had some ice cream at home, that had chocolate flakes in it, but that doesn’t count as candy. Candy = M&Ms, Reeses, Heath bars, and so on. Pieces of chocolate in ice cream is not candy. As for the criticism, I did pretty well. I forgot myself for a few minutes, during a conversation with C, but was able to acknowledge what had happened and stop. (I was not criticizing her, by the way.) And I resisted talking about a scenario or two at work that would have resulted in me being critical or judgmental. So that’s good.

What needs to happen, though, in order for this “fast” to be effective, is that, when I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me . . .

Oops. Sorry. My fingers just took off on their own.

When I find myself being tempted or craving candy, or when critical thoughts pop into my brain and threaten to come out my mouth, I need to stop and be thankful for something; to consider my blessings and be grateful. The idea is to divert the temptation or craving or thought into something positive.

Enough of that, let’s get on with the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for a good night's rest and a day off work; praying for a safe trip to Mineral Wells
2. that circumstances have worked out the way they have, so that I/we can do things for Mama
3. for the spiritual benefits of fasting, both from certain types of food, and from other things, like being critical
4. for the beauty and love of the Lord that chase after me every day of my life
5. that I am chosen to be one of God's children, and that is totally by His good pleasure, not for anything that I did to deserve it

I’m going to share Richard Foster’s reflections on the writing of Catherin Marshall on fasting.

“The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. Now, when we understand fasting from this perspective we see its reasonableness as well as its broader dimensions. The Catherine Marshall reading helps us see these broader dimensions by teaching us about a way of fasting that is not from food but from a critical spirit. Then as she chronicles her day we see the intense spiritual activity she enters, especially as it relates to the young man for whom she was praying.

“One of the first things we learn in experiences of fasting is how it reveals what controls us. You see, we cover up with food and other good things what is inside of us, but in experiences of fasting these come to the surface. Did you notice how true this was in Catherine Marshall’s experiment? She learned how dependent she was on criticism even to feel like a whole person and how utterly bankrupt her critical insights were at creating positive change in anyone or anything. She saw what was controlling her, and this released her to begin moving in a new direction, a direction free from a critical spirit. The same will be true for you and me.”

Two major points I see here. First is the idea that we find out what controls us when we embark on a fast. This is so true. What is harder for me? To not eat candy (difficult) or to not be judgmental (virtually impossible)? So what is it that controls me? Not so much the desire for sweet treats. I have proved before that I can squelch this. But this need to judge people . . . does it make me feel superior? I have prayed desperately that this is not the case. I have no desire whatsoever to feel superior to anyone.

Or do I? That is the big question, isn’t it?

The second major point involves the lack of ability to create positive change. Being judgmental or critical, especially in a negative way (judgment is rarely if ever positive, where criticism can be), I think it is safe to say, never creates any kind of change. One only has to look at social media for a few minutes to see that. Many opinions being forcefully stated, and no minds being changed, largely because both sides of any given issue insist that they are the only ones with any brains.

So this is where I find myself today, with a “promise” to God to try to eliminate candy from my diet for forty days, and to try to not be judgmental for forty days (that one I would prefer to be a permanent change).

The suggested activities and/or questions in the chapter involve enlarging one’s ideas about fasting. This is something that I have already accomplished, as evidenced by the two things I am fasting from for Lent. But I didn’t always think like that. Up until about a decade ago, fasting only involved food, in my mind. But if one is considering embarking on a fast, there are different types and lengths and concepts.

One suggestion is to consider a fast from criticalness for one day. Well, you can see that I’ve already gone beyond that one, looking for a complete life change in that regard.

But here is one that I find intriguing, and worthy of contemplation. “Pray over a particular personality trait of yours, one from which you would like to ‘fast,’ and consider writing in your journal about it. Express your struggle as a dialogue between you and the Lord.”

One such personality trait that I might find myself praying over is my tendency to be late, like I am this morning. Granted, I have no scheduled “appointment,” but I did have a self-imposed goal for leaving the house, and it looks like I may not make it.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Jesus Christ is “the centerpiece of everything we believe” (Hebrews 3:1 The Message). “Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.”

But we tend to become “self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth.” This results in “Jesus-and” theology. When I was in college, we defined a cult as anything that added to Jesus. In other words, anything that produced “Jesus-and” thinking.

Sad to say, if we went by that definition today, almost every major “Christian” group would be classified as a cult, because very few of them are “Jesus only.”

In the book of Hebrews, according to Eugene H. Peterson, it was “Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood.” Today, he says, “it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha.”

But the unknown writer of Hebrews warns us:

Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
(Hebrews 13:9 MSG)

And, perhaps more importantly:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
(Hebrews 12:2 MSG)

“When we do that, the focus becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.”

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
(Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Still, when I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache . . . Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture:
(Psalms 73:16-17 MSG)

How often have we struggled through a week’s events (or two years??), feeling defeated and, sometimes, useless. But then, we enter into that sanctuary, that place, whether it be a huge cathedral, a tiny church building, or a house, where God’s people gather, and it all comes together. “Fellowship occurs. Stability returns. The Lord is near. And I am blessed.”

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

I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.
(Psalms 27:4 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s prayer word is “chosen.” It’s a dangerous word, true. We can get a little caught up in the pride of being “chosen.” It happened to Israel, right?

Tim Hughes, English songwriter and worship leader, is quoted as saying, “But at the heart of the gospel is this truth, we are called and chosen by God to join in with the dance of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

For many years, now, I have loved the idea of our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being described as a “dance.” As stated by a writer known only as “Heidi,” “My part in this dance of faith is small, but important. Without me, God’s song would be incomplete. He chose me specifically for the part I play, and I’m honored.”

Yes, we are chosen. Whether this indicates predestination or not is not the topic of today’s devotional. But we are chosen by God to be His people. And He “needs” (that’s in quotation marks because God truly “needs” nothing) every one of us . . . okay, I’m going to change that. He requires every one of us for the picture to be complete. That’s why it takes all kinds of people to be the Church. That’s why we are so diverse.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, remind us, today, that we are chosen. Help us to remember this when we pray, not to produce pride, and make us think we deserve something. Rather, the truth should humble us and give us humility and grace in in our prayers. The idea that I am chosen for Your Kingdom makes me more humble and creates a greater gratitude within me, especially when I know that this choosing had nothing to do with anything that I possibly could have done to deserve it!

Help me in this fast, Father, to accomplish the purpose that You desire. Remind me, when I really want a piece of candy, to be grateful for something else in my life, or to pray for someone who needs prayer. Stop me when I’m about to be critical and give me something to praise about, instead. Help me to find positive things to say to and about people. Yes, even those people.

Lord, forgive us when we add things to Your great grace and action in Jesus. Please teach us and remind us that our faith involves Jesus only, not Jesus-and-anything. Remind us that, anytime we add anything, we “dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity” of Jesus and Your grace.

And thank You for Your Church, with whom I can always gather to help me figure things out and bring my focus back to what is important.

All of this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.