Anxiety and Chesed

Today is Monday, the fourteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,377

Today has also become known as “Pi Day,” as it is 3/14. Pi, of course, begins with 3.14. And because of the homonym, it has also become a good day to have a piece of pie. I will not be doing that, however, because I’m going to try to get back on track with my eating habits, today. We darn nearly finished that cookie cake yesterday. I think there are a couple bites left, and I think I will let other people finish it off.

I had a wonderful day/weekend for my birthday. I got a new PS4 controller (red), which I had requested because my original controller only holds a charge for a couple of hours, now. I also got a few new books from my Amazon wishlist. They were The Healing Light, by Agnes Sanford, God’s Message for Each Day, by Eugene H. Peterson, and A Closer Walk, by Catherine Marshall. I also got a new PS4 game, Dying Light 2: Stay Human.

The Peterson book is a 365 day devotional, so I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to start it now or wait. What I may do is wait until I’ve finished the current Peterson book in my devotional arsenal, and then begin it mid-year. The other two books landed on my wishlist because of inspiration from the Spiritual Classics book I am currently reading.

We decided on Cotton Patch for lunch, yesterday, which turned out to be a delicious choice. I had a chicken fried steak, which was wonderful. We watched part of Hamilton! on Disney+ while eating lunch, and then C moved some stuff from the garage to the curb for the bulk trash pickup this week. She claims we can once again get a car in the garage. This is also because we got rid of a king-sized bed and a futon on Saturday.

This is a normal Monday for me. No work at the library, a couple of “chores,” probably, and we will attempt to get some of Mama’s billing accounts set up for automatic payment. She will likely return home to Mineral Wells, later this week, maybe just for a day. I believe she is ready to call this “home,” now. A difficult transition and decision, as it would be for anyone, and we have tried to make it completely her decision, letting her know that she is welcome here whenever she decides it is time.

This is my “long” week at the library, with shifts tomorrow evening, and all day Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. There are no threats of freezing temperatures this week, and very little threat of any precipitation, except for maybe today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.
(Psalm 16:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a wonderful weekend, with the love of family and friends
2. for cookie cakes
3. for the "chesed,", the steadfast love and mercy of God
4. that we can control what we allow our minds to dwell upon (this includes anxiety)
5. that all who are on God's side are considered "saints"

Starting today with the prayer word, which is “chesed.” That is a Hebrew word, which I’m fairly familiar with, but always need to be reminded about. Hebrew words that begin with “ch” are not pronounced like “cheese.” It’s a somewhat awkward sound for English-speaking folks, sort of a hard “H” sound, not quite “K” and not quite “H.” The e is short, in both instances. “Jewish Awareness Ministries” puts it like this: “pronounce with the guttural “ch” and two short “e’s.”  The accent is on the first syllable.”

But what does it mean? The writer, Bob, puts it like this: “Chesed is a Hebrew word from the Bible that is so rich that no English word captures its full meaning.” I agree with this statement, even with my limited knowledge of Hebrew (and by “limited” I mean hardly any). You will see this word translated in several different ways, across various translations. One translation might say “lovingkindness.” Another might say “steadfast love,” while yet another will say “mercy.” All of them are correct.

I confess that I rarely, if ever, have used this word in prayer, but I certainly have used its English renderings quite a lot. I can see, though, that it would certainly be a good word to use in prayer, in a variety of different circumstances. Perhaps after today, I will try to remember that. While I don’t believe that using another language in prayer will make God pay closer attention, I can see the value of using a word that has such rich meaning.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.
(Psalm 17:7 ESV)
Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.
(Psalm 17:7 NKJV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

Here’s something to think about. One little line in today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, by Edward Grinnan.

“Too often my worries occupy the space where God’s love and grace can abide.”

That’s worth pondering for a bit. While we can never be separated from God’s love and grace, I believe it is accurate to say that they cannot abide and grow in the same space where we allow worry or anxiety to live.

It’s hard not to worry; I know this for a fact. Some of us are more inclined to it than others. To some people, anxiety is debilitating, and they actually need professional help. But for most of us, it is just a condition that we allow to thrive within our spirits, and we do have some control over that.

fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

It’s always good to read Matthew 6:25-34. I’ll only put the last two verses here.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:33-34 ESV)

The next selection on fasting, from Spiritual Classics, is written by one of “the most important convert[s] to Christianity after St. Paul,” Augustine of Hippo. He teaches us things about fasting from a writing called “The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.” In this, he emphasizes the fact that we should not be engaging in spiritual practices or disciplines to show others how devoted or spiritual we are.

We must, when engaging in any discipline, such as fasting, be sure that “no spirit of self-display creeps in, no craving for human applause.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

In these disciplines, we are striving “to be directed towards inward joys,” not “outward rewards.”

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

“For a long time, all Christians called each other saints.” Thus opens a short reading from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning. All followers of Christ were “saints,” regardless of whether they were “good” Christians or not. “It was not a title given after a spectacular performance; it was a mark of whose side they were on.”

The word simply means “being set apart for God’s side.” We are not “cogwheels.” We are not “the keyboard of a piano on which circumstances play hit tunes or parade music. It means we are chosen out of the stream of circumstantiality for something important that God is doing.”

And what is God doing? The same thing he always does. (I can’t help but think of “Pinky and the Brain,” right now.)

God saving; He is rescuing, blessing, providing, judging, healing, and enlightening. “There is a spiritual war in progress in our world, an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in a continuous and an energetic battle against all of it.

“God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. Go is for heaven an against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.”

And we, His “saints” are “enlisted on his side in the contest.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I embrace the words “saint” and “chesed” in today’s readings. I acknowledge Your “chesed” in all aspects of my life. Your steadfast love, Your mercy, Your lovingkindness, and all other meanings of that word are what sustains me every day. It is because of this that I am able to be considered a “saint.” I love that “saint” doesn’t have anything to do with my performance. It is human beings who have tried to change the meaning of the word, to make it indicate some kind of super-spiritual person. But, in truth, all who call the name of Jesus, who are called to be on Your side, are truly saints. The Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of saints, and this is true of us, whether we are very good at it or not. I do pray that we will all be better at it, growing constantly in the love of Christ.

It is also Your chesed that helps us when we get anxious. Your mercy and steadfast love are the best thing for us to focus on when we get anxious. Because of Your great lovingkindness, we truly have nothing to fear, looking toward that day when we will all be Home, where we will be totally and forever “safe.”

As I continue to ponder the discipline of fasting, I pray that I will never engage in any kind of spiritual discipline in order to receive the applause of men. Even this blog is not so much to get recognition or reward (if it were I would have given up long ago), but serves a couple of purposes. First, it is a record that I can go back and re-visit, if necessary, and second, it is for the potential inspiration of anyone else who happens across it. I pray that the words typed here would do just that; be an inspiration for anyone who stumbles onto it.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent)

Grace and peace, friends.