Drink Deep

Today is Tuesday, the fourteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,469

The Rangers beat the Astros, last night, in a fantastic game. The Astros went ahead early, and led 3-0, until the bottom of the third, when the Rangers scored their first run. The score remained 3-1, until the bottom of the seventh, when the Rangers scored another, making it 3-2. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Rangers scored three times, to make it 5-3. Matt Moore came in and shut things down in the top of the ninth, to notch his first save. This makes the Rangers 29-31, in second place in the AL West, 7.5 behind the Astros, whom they will play again tonight at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees are still the best in MLB, at 44-16. The KC Royals are back at the bottom, at 20-40. The Atlanta Braves won again, extending their winning streak to twelve games, the longest current (and maybe the longest for the season, so far) win streak. The poor Cubs and Pirates both lost again, extending their losing streaks to seven games. The Yankees continue to have the best run differential, at +127, and the Pirates have the worst, at -93. The Rangers’ run differential is currently +6. The Red Sox didn’t play, so theirs stays at +40.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open kicks off tonight, in South Glens Falls, NY, with the “Bowl with the Pros” event, at 7:00 PM EDT.

Since it’s Tuesday, I will be working a four-hour shift at the library, tonight, doing shelving. 4:15 – 8:15. This means I will miss the beginning of the Rangers game, but will catch up when I get home. I will likely keep tabs on it, on my phone.

Here’s a pic of four of our cats, probably the closest they’ve all been to each other without some hissing.

From the top, Rocky, Luna, Trixie, and Cleo

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, in the grace of Jesus Christ we pray to you that your will may be done for us and for all the world. Through Jesus Christ grant us faith that you love us, faith that we may live in your love, that we may hope in your love every day and have peace on earth, where there is so much unrest and trouble. Keep us firm and constant, remaining in your peace and in the inner quiet you give us because Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He has truly overcome, and this fills us with joy. We praise you, Almighty God, that you have sent Jesus Christ and that he has overcome the world. We praise you that he has overcome all evil, sin, and death, and that we may rejoice at all times in your presence. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
(1 John 5:3-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God's commands are not burdensome . . . really, they aren't, as long as we walk in the "easy yoke" of Jesus
2. for the faith to know that God loves me and that I live and hope in His love
3. that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life
4. for the "living water" from Jesus
5. that God has given me a generous heart

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “water.”

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
(John 4:14 NLT)

Who among us manages to drink enough water? The standard line is that adults should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. That’s – gets out fingers and toes – 64 ounces of water. A mere half-gallon.

But everyone is different. Having gone through the WW (formerly Weight Watchers) program, I know that they do not subscribe to that blanket theory. There’s another theory (and I first heard this one at WW, many years ago) that, in order to know how much water your body needs, divide your weight in half (or multiply it by .5) and that’s the answer in ounces.

So, let’s see . . . my current weight is right at 290 lbs. 290 X .5 = 145 ounces.

Egad. That’s well over a gallon a day. I get up too many times in the night, as it is!

And I just saw another site that said you should multiply weight by 2/3! That would have me drinking almost 200 ounces of water a day. Well, that would certainly be incentive to lose weight, wouldn’t it? And, they all say you should add more if you work out, up to twelve ounces per thirty-minutes of working out.

But we aren’t talking about literal water, here, are we? We are speaking of Jesus and “living water.” I think it is probably safe to say that none of us gets enough of that water, either. In fact, I’m not even sure it is possible to get “enough” living water.

Nevertheless, Jesus tells us that, if we drink His water, we will not thirst. How often do we seek after other “thirst quenchers” in our lives? Yet Jesus tells us,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Jesus also tells us,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)

Note the word “the.” That article is actually in the Greek text. Not “a.” Jesus is the way (the road, the path, the means). Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. Also note that Jesus, Himself, says that no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is, in fact, only one road to God.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:34-36 ESV)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
(John 14:15-17 ESV)

One thing that happens when we are connected to this “water,” to this “way, truth, and life,” is that we become more generous. How much generosity is enough? There is no real measure of that. Scripture suggests ten percent. That seems to be a good guideline (however, I will protest anyone who claims it is a law that we must follow, today).

Truly, it is the heart that is more important than the amount or percentage. You can give 99% of everything you have, but if you are giving it begrudgingly, you might as well hang on to it. And remember the widow and her two “mites?”

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 ESV)

“Generosity means dealing with our greed and our impulsive self-indulgences. It means reordering priorities and values. Most people’s lack of generosity is due not to money problems but to greed problems, avarice problems, value problems.”

“If we try to live by getting instead of giving, we go against the stream.”

Our life is a gift. Everything that we see and “possess” is a gift from God. “God gives away everything that is. When we give our money, we begin to do, clumsily and awkwardly at first, what God does expertly.”

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

Father, I am grateful for the living water that Jesus Christ provides for us. I pray that I might drink more deeply of it, and, thereby, be more deeply connected with the way, the truth, and the life. I am also grateful that, through this connection, You have given me a generous heart. It could still be more generous, true, and I pray that You increase that generosity in my heart. Help me to not hold on to anything with a closed fist, but, rather, with an open hand and open heart.

I pray for more of the confidence in You that can enable me to sometimes simply sit in silence. It is true that, the more comfortable and confident two people are in their relationship, the more they can simply sit in silence, not requiring any words. Excessive words are the tool of the insecure. Make us more secure and confident in You, and help us to observe and practice the discipline of silence, that we might fall more deeply in love with You, in Christ.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Looking for the Good Stuff

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the ninth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,403

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. There was a period of tenseness, at one point, because I made a bad decision about when to go pick up Freebirds for dinner. I foolishly decided to go between 4:30 and 5:00. Not only was the restaurant behind, but traffic was horrible, as I tried to get home. Lesson learned.

Otherwise, the day was great. Well, hold on. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox both lost their opening day games. The Sox went extra innings to lose to the Yankees, and the Rangers’ bullpen blew a 7-0 lead against the Blue Jays. It’s just one game, though. One out of 162.

The cake was very delicious. Did I mention that C made a strawberry cake?

The cats want to eat the flowers

Those are the flowers that I went out and bought before I even started my morning routine, yesterday. And that’s Rocky on the left and Luna on the right.

Fortunately, in spite of the difficulty in obtaining it, the food from Freebirds was delicious. And we enjoyed watching the Rangers game together.

Today, we plan to go out for lunch in a little while, and then head over to a gift shop in Keller, where a relative of mine is autographing copies of her newest children’s book. She’s the sister of my aunt-by-marriage, so I’m not sure what you call that. I suppose she’s sort of my aunt, as well, but only by marriage . . . there is no blood relation. So far, the Internet has been no help in answering that question.

Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Minerals Wells, to FBC, for their Easter music presentation, as it is Palm Sunday. We plan to pick up something and have lunch at the home place, and Mama will probably pick out a few more things to bring back to Fort Worth. At some point, there’s set of chairs and a table on the back deck, that we want to bring over and put on our back porch. But I don’t think we will be able to fit that tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Answer Is Yes,” by Daryl Madden

The question from our God
Of our life to bless
Will you accept my love?
Let our answer be yes!

The precious gift of grace
A humble soul, confess
Will you receive my mercy?
Let our answer be yes!

With your gifts bestowed
Our purpose to profess
Will you live my calling?
Let our answer be yes!

Of our life’s unknowns
In times of fear and stress
Will you trust in Me?
Let our answer be yes!

For life is a practice
So, we don’t have to guess
With Me to dwell, forever?
With joy, we answer, yes!
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 
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 6:6-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another day to celebrate with my family
2. for the ability to sing praises to God
3. for the therapeutic value of humming a happy tune
4. to be a sheep of Jesus Christ
5. that the "good stuff" is found far beyond "the crowd"

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is interesting. It is “hum.” You know, as in when you don’t know the words, you just hum?

“There’s no better way to calm your mind and boost your spirits than by humming a happy tune.” ~ Psychology Today

The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of exhortation to sing praises to God. But what if you can’t sing? I know people who couldn’t carry a tune in an iron-clad safe! What are they supposed to do? Well, I know . . . the Bible also says, “Make a joyful noise.”

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
(Psalms 98:4 ESV)

I once knew a man who would whistle during the hymns at church.

Jennie, today’s writer, brings up the idea of kazoos. If there is anyone out there who does not know what that is (and I’m not talking about the little green guy that troubled Fred Flintstone), it’s a musical instrument through which sound is created by humming! There is a mouthpiece, followed by a piece of thin paper of some kind, a membrane that vibrates when you hum through it, making a buzzing noise.

Of course, if you can’t really sing in tune, I don’t know that you could hum in tune, either.

In all seriousness, though, our writer for today has a good point. Even if one has a decent singing voice (I’ve been told that I do), humming can be therapeutic, and even cathartic.

It can also annoy people, though, so discretion is advised.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 28:2 ESV)

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
(Deuteronomy 28:6 ESV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(Psalms 32:8 ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(John 10:27 ESV)

These are some good verses. Especially the bit in John 10, which is one of my favorite chapters.

Daily Guideposts 2022 writer, Tia McCollors, uses her son’s Easter egg hunt experience to illustrate a great concept, that of not going along with, or going beyond, “the crowd.” I would like to think that I fall into that category.

You see, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I am an only child. No brothers and sisters to play with. One would think that this would cause me to grow up not knowing how to share. I don’t think that is true. I like to think I’m pretty generous, these days.

And, while I did have friends, it never bothered me to play alone. And it still doesn’t. In fact, I struggle, sometimes, with playing with others. The phrase “does not play well with others” comes to mind.

I even wrote a song, once upon a time, in honor of my mother (it was called “Mama Won’t You Hold Me Just A Little Longer”) that talked about being left out a lot. The bridge went something like this:

I'm still the one who gets left out 
because I don't like to play their games.
But now I run to a different One
Because my Mama taught me well
To the One who knows all my pain
To Him my sorrows I can tell

There are actually a couple of lines up there that I can’t remember, and the song lyrics, sadly, have been lost, I’m afraid. There may be a recording of it somewhere, but it’s likely on a cassette. Also, the last chorus shifts from “Mama, won’t you hold me” to “Jesus, won’t You hold me.” I thought it was clever.

The point is, though, that I don’t tend to “follow the crowd.” Yet, I would gladly consider myself a “sheep” for Jesus’s sake. I am one of His sheep. I like to think I know His voice, and follow Him. And it is exactly those truths that make me tend to not follow even the “religious” crowd.

Like Tia McCollors’s son in the Easter egg hunt, I realize that all the “good stuff” is beyond where the crowd tends to be.

Continuing to speak of Jesus, Eugene Peterson reminds us that His parables often make us look beyond what we call our “real world.” We tend to reduce His words to make them fit into our own preconceived ideas about what life should be like.

But, says Peterson, “Jesus’s words bring us the news of an expanded world, a bright world, a full-dimensional world – a world in which God rules, mercy is a common experience, and love is the daily working agenda, not an occasional romantic interlude. Jesus’s words orient us to the world that is changed from the inside out by his arrival and rule.”

That is the world I want to be part of. I don’t want to be part of a world where people who claim to be following Jesus spew hatred and meanness to anyone who looks different from them or thinks different from them. And that’s why I look beyond the crowd for the “good stuff.”

That is not “Christianity.” That is a cult.

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

Father, first, I thank You for the ability to sing Your praises. You have blessed me with that ability, and I strive to use it for Your praise and glory. I am also grateful for the concept of humming. Sometimes it makes one feel better just to hum a happy tune.

I am also grateful to be considered one of Your sheep. Some people use the term derogatorily, but it doesn’t offend me. I’m glad to know Your voice, at least I hope I do, and follow Jesus as He leads.

Help me to always be looking for the “good stuff,” far beyond the crowd. Help me to never try to water down Your words by trying to make them fit into our concept of what reality is. I know that reality is what I bump into when I am wrong about something, or when I make a bad decision. Reality doesn’t always fit where I want it to be. But You are the true Reality and Jesus is the Truth and the Life, and my Way to reach You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

A Thousand More Hallelujahs!

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-second of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today!

Day 23,357

I don’t think the storms we got last night were nearly as severe as expected. In fact, I’m not even sure we got a “storm.” I do remember seeing lightning and hearing thunder, between 9 and 10 last night. But I was not awakened by any wind or rain or anything, during the night. Perhaps I should consult S. She would know.

The winter weather is still coming, though, it appears. The temperature is expected to drop at least thirty degrees between this morning and tomorrow morning, hitting thirty degrees around 6-7 in the morning. And that is supposed to be the high for tomorrow, as the temperature will continue to drop, but only a couple more degrees. The snow or precipitation is not supposed to begin until around midnight tomorrow night, though. So it looks like Thursday will be the worst day of it. There might be some light snow tomorrow afternoon, but the heaviest part looks like it is predicted around 2-3 in the morning, Thursday morning. But, it is supposed to get above freezing Thursday afternoon.

I’m hoping that C will plan to work from home on Thursday, just in case. I don’t work tomorrow or Thursday, so I will be safely bundled up in the house.

I don’t have much planned for today. I have a small grocery delivery coming between 1-2, this afternoon. I will go pick up lunch for me and S, around noon, probably. C has a dinner with work people, this evening, so she will not be home for dinner, tonight. And, of course, I will be roaming the shelves at the Hurst Public Library this evening, from 4-8 PM.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"If you are the Son,"
the devil said to Jesus,
knowing that He was.

"Not by bread alone,
but by words spoken from God.
Worship Him alone!"
(Inspired by Matthew 4)
The LORD reigns; 
he is robed in majesty; 
the LORD is robed; 
he has put on strength as his belt. 
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 
Your throne is established from of old; 
you are from everlasting. 
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, 
the floods have lifted up their voice; 
the floods lift up their roaring. 
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, 
mightier than the waves of the sea, 
the LORD on high is mighty! 
Your decrees are very trustworthy; 
holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. 
(Psalms 93:1-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that our storms last night, if any, were not severe
2. for the intrinsic holiness of the Name of God
3. that, even though that Name transcends us all, it is still accessible to us
4. for "hallelujahs," no matter how often they come, and how quietly they may be uttered
5. for the people who can write songs so full of meaning and inspiration

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.

I’m continuing to look at Simone Weil’s examination of the “prayer of prayers,” in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. Today, I’m looking at the phrase, “hallowed be Your Name.”

Simone tells us that “God alone has the power to name himself. She also opines that His name is “unpronounceable for human lips.” We might object to this, thinking that He told us His name when He told Moses “I AM” had sent him. And most are aware that this was “YHWH” in Hebrew.

But how many of you have seen a production of the musical “Cats?” In this adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem collection, cats are said to have two names. One that the humans know, and one that only they know. Yes, I know . . . God is not a cat (or is He?)(settle down, that’s a joke). But is it so far-fetched to think that He has a name or names that we couldn’t possible comprehend or pronounce? I mean, there are no less than a dozen other “names” that He is given, throughout the Old Testament.

And the beauty of this is that, even though the name(s) of God is transcendent to us, we still have access to Him and His name(s). Also interesting is that the name of the Lord is, in itself, holy and holiness. Therefore, to ask for His name to be “hallowed,” is to ask for something that already exists, or already is. I think Simone words this beautifully.

“In asking for its hallowing we are asking for something that exists eternally, with full and complete reality, so that we can neither increase nor diminish it, even by an infinitesimal fraction. To ask for that which exists, that which exists really, infallibly, eternally, quite independently of our prayer, that is the perfect petition.”

I might be, however, of the opinion that that phrase is not so much a “petition” as it is stating a fact. “Our Father in heaven, Your Name is holy.” Or, perhaps, it may even be a petition that His Name be acknowledged as holy throughout the world.

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does.
(1 Corinthians 14:1 MSG)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
(Psalms 28:7 ESV)

“You can complain . . . but it doesn’t stop the wind. Just sing along with what’s going on around you.” Advice from the Grandpa of Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts writer.

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalms 32:11 ESV)

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.
(Psalms 35:9 ESV)

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
(Psalms 98:4 ESV)

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
(Psalms 105:3 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is a rousing “hallelujah!” The quote, ironically, is from a very popular (and over-covered) Leonard Cohen song.

“And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.”

The word we see as “hallelujah,” is actually two words, in Hebrew. It is most often seen at the beginning and ending of a number of the Psalms; for example, Psalm 150.

Praise the LORD! 

Praise God in his sanctuary; 
praise him in his mighty heavens!
 Praise him for his mighty deeds; 
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
 Praise him with trumpet sound; 
praise him with lute and harp! 
Praise him with tambourine and dance; 
praise him with strings and pipe!
 Praise him with sounding cymbals; 
praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! 

Praise the LORD! 
(Psalms 150:1-6 ESV)

The phrase that is translated “praise the LORD,” is “halal yahh.” That eventually became mashed together to be “hallelujah.” By the way, I knew this before reading today’s reading.

We throw the word around, sometimes, but even so, it is usually a celebratory meaning. I breathe the word, frequently. Sometimes, it could be over something as simple as a traffic light staying green for just a few more seconds. Other times, it might be shouted, when something inspirational happens during a worship time. Says our writer, identified only as “Bob,” “It enlivens my prayers, probably more than any other word. i pray it in good moods and bad, in ecstasy and misery, and it never fails to express my desires and lift my spirits. Hallelujah.”

It’s true. Sometimes, just saying the word can lift the spirits. So it’s definitely a great word to use in our prayers.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 
"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns."
(Revelation 19:6 ESV)

By the way, in case anyone wonders, here is what Cohen said about his song:

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can… reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah’.

“The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.”

Father, I cry “hallelujah” to You, this morning, in praise to the intrinsic holiness of Your Name. I sing praise to every Name of Yours that I can think of, and to the ones that I do not know and cannot know. I sing praise to You, because You, in Your infinite and absolute holiness, are, nevertheless, accessible to us. You have condescended to treat with us, and we, in no way, shape, or form, deserve this. So, “hallelujah!”

I thank You for the many admonitions that we see to sing and praise Your Name. I keep coming back to this, and am still aware that I need to do more singing. I find it coming back to me, though, as I randomly burst into song, during my days. So thank You for this. I pray that it continues to grow and swell within me, so that I cannot contain it, but it must be released.

I also pray that You help me continue to do what 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, to go after a life of love like my life depends on it . . . because it does! And help me remember that good advice, that complaining doesn’t stop the wind. It really does no good at all. So let us sing “hallelujah!” instead.

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

Hallelujah!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Here’s a different “Hallelujah.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Keep Your Eyes On the Son

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the third of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,338

It was a fairly busy day at the library, yesterday, as people came in to get books in preparation for today’s winter storm. We have a subscription service that was initiated during the time that the library was closed in 2020. Those who sign up get three books a month, personally curated by a library staff member, based on the patron’s likes and preferences. A bookmark is provided with each book, that gives an opportunity for the patron to respond to the choice, indicating if the library staff person made a good choice for them. I see a lot of those come back through, some with good comments on them, but some with nothing at all, which is not at all helpful for the next month’s bag of books. I have thought about signing up for that myself.

Anyway, I handed out no less than seven of those bags, yesterday, which is, by far, a record for me. I handed out five during my first hour at the circ desk, and I don’t think I had ever given out that many in a whole day before.

The library, along with all city services (other than emergency of course), is closed today. I can’t speak for the rest of the area, but at my house, we pretty much only got sleet/freezing rain all night, and have had very little snow. Snow would be better, because sleet is ice, which means the roads are covered in ice. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, regarding my library shift, because it won’t get above freezing today. In fact, the projected high is only 23.

Our power went out for about an hour, last night, at around 1:30. At first, I was angry. I will confess that, in the spirit of transparency. I always want to hold myself accountable for the things I “preach” here, and show that I am not, in fact, perfect, and have a long way to go. I was angry at our governor and the farcical board that controls electricity in the state of Texas, since a few years back (many of us had no idea that our government had even done this) when the state decided to foolishly remove itself from the federal power grid. This is why we were without power for over thirty hours last February (some people for even five whole days). And no improvements at all were made in the last year, because our government caters to capitalistic greed and will not hold power resource companies accountable to their actions.

However, in the midst of my anger, it was as if the Holy Spirit were speaking peace into my soul, reminding me that my trust and hope is not in human beings, but in the Lord. The power was restored in less time than predicted by the power company. It took me a while to calm down and go back to sleep, which may not have happened at all, had it not been for that peace received from the Spirit. I was wrong to be angry, yes. My thoughts were not wrong, and someone in power still should be held accountable, and hopefully in this year’s election, that will happen. But I was wrong to be angry, because my hope is not in princes, kings, presidents, or governors. My hope is in the Lord God Almighty, and He is my strength and shield.

Today is my normal day off, anyway, so the library closing really means nothing to me. However, I am glad that my beloved library friends won’t have to try to get to work in this weather. Hopefully, they are all safe and warm. One of them said she was going skiing. Hahaha! The only thing on my “plate,” today (besides the chocolate cake I ate for breakfast), is likely a few loads of laundry. There should be some reading and gaming done, as well. And probably chicken stir-fry for dinner.

And here is my Wordle score for the day. As one of my Facebook friends says, I had a “fortuitous” second guess.

Wordle 229 3/6*

🟨⬜🟩🟩⬜
⬜🟩🟩🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 
(Psalms 34:4-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good
2. that He has delivered me from all my fears (so far)
3. that my hope and trust is not in any human being, but only in the Lord God Almighty
4. for Nathan Buchanan and his ministry to FBC Mineral Wells
5. for angels
6. for the light and warmth of the sun (as well as the Son)

“Let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice; seek the Lord and be strengthened, seek his face always. Entering into prayer today, I too am seeking the Lord, seeking his face, looking for the signs of his presence in my life, gently guiding me in truth and peace and love.”

When David's time to die drew near, 
he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 
"I am about to go the way of all the earth. 
Be strong, and show yourself a man, 
and keep the charge of the LORD your God, 
walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, 
his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, 
as it is written in the Law of Moses, 
that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 
that the LORD may establish his word 
that he spoke concerning me, saying, 
'If your sons pay close attention to their way, 
to walk before me in faithfulness 
with all their heart and with all their soul, 
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'" 
Then David slept with his fathers 
and was buried in the city of David.  
So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, 
and his kingdom was firmly established.
(1 Kings 2:1-4, 10, 12 ESV)

In today’s reading, we see the final words of King David to his son, Solomon. David tells Solomon to “keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes.” Perhaps there is not a lot of agreement on what it means to walk in the ways of the Lord, keeping His statutes. It seems to mean different things to different people.

I will tell you what it means to me. It means paying close attention to the words and actions of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, if I am to walk in the ways of God, then Jesus is where I need to look. Of course, it is wise and helpful to read and meditate on the Law of the Old Testament. But that should not ever take precedence over the words and steps of Christ. And even if it does, we have the words of Micah, who said, “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?”

And Jesus boiled all of the commands of the Law and Prophets into two commands. If you’ve read my blog before, you know what is coming. Love the Lord your God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything is covered in those two commands.

The question is asked, do I know a leader who carries great responsibility. I do, as a matter of fact, one whom I respect greatly. His name is Nathan Buchanan, and he pastors my mother’s church, FBC Mineral Wells. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate him very much (as well as the worship leader, Mel Kincaid). Pastor Nathan is bearing quite a load, right now, as his wife is quite ill. I believe that he is striving to walk in the ways of the Lord, as made evident by Jesus Christ. And I pray for him, that he might have “wisdom, kindness, strength, and courage” and everything else that he needs in order to successfully minister to the people of Mineral Wells, Texas.

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.

(From Pray As You Go)

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
(Hebrews 1:14 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “sun.” This could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It could also be read phonetically to be “Son.” Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”

If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you might be a cat owner. Dog owners might experience this, as well, but I’ve seen more cats do it. And that is laying on the floor, stretched out in a streak of sunlight that is shining through a window somewhere. Sometimes that streak is really narrow, yet the cat always finds a way to fit inside it, basking in the warmth.

“Like the sun, the warmth of Jesus’s presence does the same for me. When life feels wild, His faithful love leaves me feeling sated and calm. In light of His mercy, anxiety and anger fade away. There is no darkness in Jesus. His Holy Word is a lamp for my feet, guiding my way. His face shines upon me, bringing peace. Like the sun, Jesus brings light and life. I have all I need.” (Susanna, in Pray a Word a Day)

I’ve written a few songs, in my lifetime. One of my favorites is called “Keep Your Eyes on the Son.” It begins like this:

Have you ever looked at the sun, my friend?
If you have, then you know, when you look away again,
All you can see is a big yellow ball;
When you look at the sun, you can't see anything else at all.
Some people say, "If you look at the sun, then blind you'll be,"
But I'm here to tell you, it's the only way to see.

Keep your eyes on the Son . . .

We started out, this morning, talking about walking in the ways of the Lord (the version read in Pray As You Go had the word “faithfully” after “walk”), and walking faithfully. As we conclude, we see that the best way to walk faithfully in the ways of the Lord is to keep our eyes on the Son. The physical sun provides light and warmth to our physical bodies. The Son of God provides light and warmth to our spiritual selves.

Father, I have many things to pray, this morning. I lift up Your servant Nathan to You, asking that You would provide all the wisdom, kindness, strength, and courage that he needs in order to do Your work. I also pray for healing for his dear wife. May You bless them richly, especially for the kindness that they have shown my family.

I pray for my friend Robert’s granddaughter, Addison, who is struggling with breathing, in the hospital. Father, breathe life into this child and fill her lungs with oxygen.

Keep teaching us, Father, how to walk in Your ways, how to walk in Your kingdom. Help us to know the ways of Jesus, how to keep our eyes on Him as we walk in this world. The older I get, the more distracting life is. There are so many things that threaten to take our eyes off of Jesus, and successfully, all too often. Help us to stay focused; help us to walk correctly. Help us to do those things that are mentioned in Micah, things that please You.

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.

Don’t Panic

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

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.

As Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Messy Community

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the fourth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. It’s the eleventh day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill you today.

Day 23,308

Nineteen days until Hamilton!

It’s chilly, this morning, some would say cold, but not as cold as the last two mornings. I do not think C had to scrape ice off her windshield, this morning. As I begin, this morning, it is 34 degrees, with a projected high of 65. A nice day.

I don’t believe I have mentioned our neighborhood cat. He lives across the street, and is named Dommy (or Dommie, not sure how they spell it). Several times a day, he activates the motion sensors on our cameras in front of the house as he makes his rounds. We actually enjoy watching this. Twice, yesterday, he followed exactly the same path, across the sidewalk in front of our porch, and then down the driveway on the driver’s sided of my car. I’m thinking about finding something to give to the folks across the street for him. I need to find out if he is also an indoor cat, or strictly outside.

I have a little bit of laundry to do today, as well as a side trip to a different grocery store. There is at least one thing we need more of that we can only get at Walmart Neighborhood Market. Maybe I should sign up for their delivery service, as well.

I work my four hour shelving shift this evening, from 4:15 – 8:15. So, at some point, I will go out and pick up Subway for lunch for S and me, and get a salad for C for her dinner. I also just remembered that I need to swing by CVS to get some scripts for S. Hopefully there won’t be four people in line getting Covid tests.

I finished my first book of the year, yesterday, so that’s good. It is called The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski (Polish). It introduces a beloved character known as The Witcher. I plan to read more of his books, and believe we have most of them in the library. Next up is A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, author the best-seller, The Girl on the Train. Believe it or not, I am also still working through The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. Hopefully, I will finish that soon. It is actually a good book, but not an easy read. Lots of footnotes and historical information.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Spirit Blessed, by Daryl Madden

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
As colors rising to express
To start this day with our request
In the light of dawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With humble will let us confess
To Your power we attest
Unto our knees of falling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
When we are put to the test
Through Your grace let us profess
Your Word of wisdom spawning

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
Let this weary soul find rest
And turn to you when we are stressed
When we feel darkness calling

Come, oh come, oh Spirit blessed
With our praise, our joy express
In sharing prayer, let us invest
Our daily path of walking

I like the rhythm of this poem, as well as the prayer expressed. Yes, Spirit, come!

For great is the LORD, 
and greatly to be praised, 
and he is to be feared above all gods.
 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, 
but the LORD made the heavens. 
Splendor and majesty are before him; 
strength and joy are in his place. 
(1 Chronicles 16:25-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the splendor and majesty of the Lord, and the strength and joy we receive from Him
2. for the opportunity to spend more time with Jesus, as He asks me, "What are you looking for?" (John 1:35-42)
3. that Jesus revealed the way to God; it is not hidden
4. for the enlarged capacity to love each other and be more generous with our resources
5. for the communities that God has placed us in, messy as they are
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, 
"Behold, the Lamb of God!" 
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, 
"What are you seeking?" 
And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), 
"where are you staying?" 
He said to them, "Come and you will see." 
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him,
 "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). 
He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 
"You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). 
(John 1:35-42 ESV)

Jesus asks the question, here, “What are you seeking?” This could be stated as “What are you looking for?” I believe that we could hear Jesus asking us that same question today. What is my answer? What am I looking for?

The answer to this question varies, depending on the day, depending on my spiritual state of being. Today, my answer is going to be more spiritually-leaning than materially-leaning. I am looking for Him. That’s not just a “Sunday School” answer, either. I really am looking for Jesus; I’m looking for God. Not that I have not found Him, mind you. But that I am looking for more depth of relationship. I am looking to be more like Jesus so that I can be more in tune with what God wants for my life.

Apparently, the two disciples that were following Him weren’t quite ready for the question. The best they could come up with was, “Where are you staying?” To which He simply replied, “Come and you will see.” So Jesus invites me to come and see where He is staying. What do I find there? What does He say to me? How do I respond?

Obviously, these are questions that require the use of imagination, and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe I would find a simple abode, simply furnished with basic necessities, no frills or extras. Jesus would only have what He needed to live. And I believe that, as I spend time with Him, He would ask me again, “What are you looking for?” Or maybe, “What do you want?” I don’t believe He is satisfied with the first answer to His question. And my response would be what I typed earlier. “I want to know You. I want to know as I am known.”

Reading/listening to this passage again, I use my imagination and consider spending an afternoon with Jesus. What would this feel like? My heart’s desire is to spend more time with Him during 2022.

(Questions taken from Pray As You Go)

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.

As I continue to look at Thomas More’s “A Godly Meditation” in Spiritual Classics, the question is asked, “What lessons can I learn from Thomas More’s attitude and his meditation?” I posted the parts that spoke most to me a couple days ago, but if you want to read the entire thing, it can be found here.

What I learn or see in this meditation is an attitude of contentment and humility, or at least the desire to have more of both. There is value in setting our minds on the Lord and, for the most part, ignoring “the blast of men’s mouths” (I can’t get over how much I love that phrase). More expresses a deep desire to know the Lord and His ways, as opposed to the world and its ways. He desires no worldly company. He desires to “lean unto the comfort of God.” In our current culture, it is popular to use the phrase “press into God.” I, personally, prefer the concept of leaning. I’m not trying to force my way in; rather, I am depending on Him, leaning on Him.

More desires to know his own wretchedness and to have a deep humility and meekness about him. Death is not something to be ignored, but should be something of which we are very aware. It is reality. It does not go away if we ignore it. He uses the phrase “to abstain from vain confabulations.” I had to look that up. It basically means conversation. So there is a deep desire to have all conversations be meaningful.

But I think the most powerful piece of this comes toward the end. ” To think my most enemies my best friends; for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.” As Jesus told us, we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Thomas More bears this out in this meditation. And, as he ends it, he stresses that all of these attitudes are worth more than “all the treasures of all the princes and kings.” This seems to line up with the sentiment concerning wisdom, that we get from the book of Proverbs.

Father, I pray that You would help me develop the kind of mindset found in Thomas More’s meditation. And, as I hear Jesus asking me what I am looking for, I continue to answer that I am looking for You, and a deeper relationship with You, that I might be more like Jesus in every way.

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene Peterson briefly examines the book of Numbers from a perspective of “growing up” in community.

When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at GOD’s command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored GOD’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to GOD’s command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment GOD issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at GOD’s command and they marched at GOD’s command. They lived obediently by GOD’s orders as delivered by Moses.
(Numbers 9:17-23 MSG)

“Many of us fondle a romanticized spirituality in our imaginations. The ‘God’s in his heaven/all’s right with the world’ sort of thing.” I love this, because it is, to a degree, true of many people. This tends to express itself in a longing for a simpler time, “nostalgia,” as it were. Or perhaps even wishing to be born back in “Bible times.” That’s kind of amusing, because, if you read the Bible accurately and carefully, there is no indication at all that life was easy, or that serving/worshiping God was a piece of proverbial cake. The books of Numbers through at least Judges show us what a mess these people were.

As communities, we need organizational help. We need relational help. “The people who find themselves called and led and commanded by God find themselves in the company of men and women who sin a lot – quarrel, bicker, grumble, rebel, fornicate, steal – you name it, we do it. We need help in getting along with each other.” I can think of no time when that has been more obvious than the present day.

Perhaps we need the prayer of Moses.

“Please forgive the wrongdoing of this people out of the extravagance of your loyal love just as all along, from the time they left Egypt, you have been forgiving this people.”
(Numbers 14:19 MSG)

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(Luke 10:22 ESV)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
(John 17:3 ESV)

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:26 ESV)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
(Ephesians 1:17 ESV)

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:19 ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 ESV)

The word for today, in Pray a Word a Day, is “enlarge.”

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
(1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV)

Today’s writer, identified only as “Bob” (didn’t we already have a “Bob?”), writes this:

“It’s a great word to pray, and it can apply to so many areas of concern and desire. For God’s kingdom to rule in my life: Enlarge. For my capacity to love others: Enlarge. For my ability to give generously: Enlarge. For the church’s influence in my community: Enlarge. For the ability to see clearly, speak constructively, and work creatively: Enlarge.”

I’m not really a big fan of the “prayer of Jabez” fad from a decade or so back. However, taken in the context of the above paragraph, it is worthy of consideration. I don’t pray so much for God to “enlarge my border.” I don’t need more territory. However, along with “Bob,” I could use more of God’s kingdom rule in my life, more capacity to love others (and how!), more of a mind to give generously, more of a positive influence from the Church, and more ability to see, speak, and work clearly, constructively, and creatively.

Father, as I walk through this day, I do pray that You would enlarge these capabilities within me, especially that one about loving others. This is a topic that You have me stuck on, now, for a number of years, and it’s not going to stop. I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want to rest until I see at least Your people following this command to love You and love people as we love ourselves. I can’t get over how difficult this seems to wrap our heads around. Help us, oh, God! Enlarge our hearts and fill them with Your love for each other.

Jesus, thank You for showing us the Father. You are the only way to get to Him, and I praise You that You have shown us this. I also praise You for giving me the capacity to believe this and live in it. Thank You for the communities in which You have placed us. They are messy, Lord. Really, really messy, even the small ones. Or perhaps it just shows up more in the small ones, because it’s not so easy to get lost in the crowd. Whatever. I still thank You and pray for Your guidance and leadership in these communities. Make Your pillars of fire and cloud more obvious to us.

Lord, the Covid virus continues to rampage through our society (and our world). Please relieve us from this plague. We implore You to eradicate this virus. I also pray for unity within both our nation and Your Church (I’m always much more concerned with the Church), that we may succeed together.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

God Will Do What He Says He Will Do

Good morning. Today is Monday, the twentieth of December, 2021, the fourth Monday of Advent!

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,293

Only five days until Christmas!

There will be a flurry of Christmas wrapping today, as I work on getting C’s presents wrapped. They’ve been in a pile in my study for a couple weeks, and today is the day to get them wrapped. Hopefully. Heh. If I don’t get them done today, I also have tomorrow. I’m working Wednesday, this week, so I’ll need to get that done by then. On the other hand, I’m not working Thursday, so there’s that.

Procrastination 101.

I have some help, this morning.

Cleopatra wants that cursor

Oh. I’ll be right back. I need to start some laundry.

It’s going to be a slightly busy day, for a Monday. There’s the aforementioned laundry. Then I need to make a side trip to the grocery store, to pick up a few things that we either didn’t decide we needed yet, or weren’t available from Alberton’s, yesterday. Tonight, I’m going out to eat with C, courtesy of USBC. I believe we are going to the Winewood Grill, in Grapevine. C has her yearly checkup with her doctor, this afternoon, so she’s coming straight home after that, and we will be able to drive over there together.

I also, apparently, have yet another package to pick up at the hub locker.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

On the Path, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

All of
our footsteps
lead home 

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

I admire this poet’s ability to express things so simply, yet beautifully, in so few words. For many of us, “Home” is the ultimate goal, and we certainly hope that we are walking in the right direction. Please check out her website for more poetic imagery.

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, 
"Which commandment is the most important of all?" 
Jesus answered, 
"The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 
(Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, 
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
 I am the LORD. 
(Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love of God in my heart, which drives me (and enables me) to love others
2. for my weaknesses, which allow God to display His power in me
3. that the Lord has searched me, and knows me, inside and out
4. that God's Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent
5. for the blessing that comes from believing that God will fulfill His promises to us
But he said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
But the LORD said to Samuel, 
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, 
for I have rejected him. 
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. 
People look at the outward appearance, 
but the LORD looks at the heart." 
(1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)
You have searched me, 
LORD, 
and you know me.
(Psalms 139:1 NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us also lay aside every weight, 
and sin which clings so closely, 
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-THREE

INVITATION

Turn us again to yourself, O God. 
Make your face shine down upon us. 
Only then will we be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NLT)

As I pause during this quiet moment (the cat is currently not on the desk), I consider that the Lord’s face is assuredly shining down on us. I acknowledge the truth that I cannot begin to comprehend my life from the middle. God is working His plan, and all will be clear when it is completed. I must trust Him and not lean on my own “understanding,” which is truly no understanding at all.

BIBLE SONG

Endow the king with your justice, O God, 
the royal son with your righteousness. 
May he judge your people in righteousness, 
your afflicted ones with justice. 
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, 
the hills the fruit of righteousness. 
May he defend the afflicted among the people 
and save the children of the needy; 
may he crush the oppressor. 
May he endure as long as the sun, 
as long as the moon, through all generations. 
May he be like rain falling on a mown field, 
like showers watering the earth.
 In his days may the righteous flourish 
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more. 
(Psalms 72:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 
where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, 
the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 
In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 
But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 
As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"
(Luke 1:39-45 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I seek the guidance of His Spirit as I ponder and meditate on what has connected with my heart and mind. I pray my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

My Father, I rejoice, along with Paul’s writing, in my weaknesses, knowing that it is in them that You are made strong, or that Your strength is made evident. Your grace is, indeed, sufficient for anything we might be going through. I also take joy in the fact that You do not regard outward appearances, but are concerned with what is in the heart. Doesn’t mean I’m going to go around looking like a slob, but it also means that I don’t need to “dress to impress,” at least not for You. It is apparent that I cannot impress You with anything. For You have searched me, and You know me, inside and out. You know things about me that I do not know. As that psalmist said, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain it.

Help me to lay aside all hindrances, any sin that entangles me, and run the race set before me. Help me to know that I cannot understand my life, my circumstances, by looking at them from the middle. I will only be able to fully comprehend my life when I can see it from beginning to end, as we can see Your Word. Of course, I cannot fully comprehend Your Word, yet, either. Help me to know what I need to know, to comprehend what I need to comprehend, and to trust that You have given me everything that I need for life and godliness.

As I read through the psalm again, that speaks of defending the afflicted, saving the needy, and crushing the oppressor, I am drawn, instead, to the words of Elizabeth at the end of the Luke passage. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” I believe that I can appropriate this blessing for myself, as I believe that we can all do so. If we believe that You will fulfill Your promises, we are, indeed, blessed. And I do believe. I believe that You will do what You say You will do.

"Son of Man and Son of God,
in real time,
You were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary.
Deity and humanity were inseparably joined together in You.
Thank You for the way Christmas reminds me that faith is both material and mystical.
No confusion,
but lots of wonder.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(Based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven 
and do not return there but water the earth, 
making it bring forth and sprout, 
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
it shall not return to me empty, 
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
(Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Known By God

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of November.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,267

Thanksgiving is tomorrow!

We got the outside lights up, yesterday. And of course, one of them is already not lighting up. It’s possible it is just a bit loose in the connector. That happens sometimes, especially with a brand new set. We might have a chance to get the ladder back out, later today, and try to fix it. Of course, as well, it is the next to the top light on the house.

I finished a game on my PC, last night, after work. I got home from the library, cooked some eggs and toast for a quick dinner, and sat down to play Cyberpunk 2077. I knew I was close to the end, because, in a recent session, I reached one of those points where you get a warning asking if you’re sure you want to keep going, because there’s not going back from this point. Sure enough, I completed the story line.

As the ending approached, there were multiple choices to be made. There were at least three different choices as to who I wanted to take with me for the final fight, and then, at the very end, there was a very important choice, as well. I like the ending that I got, but am aware that, similar to Fallout 4, there are multiple ending possibilities. Makes me want to play the final sequence again, making different choices, just to see what happens.

But not for now. According to the Steam app, I have put 265+ hours into the game. Time for something different. Hahaha!

Today, I’m working from 9:15-6:15. I’m off tomorrow and Friday, for Thanksgiving holiday. I would have been off tomorrow, anyway. However, I will be working from 1:00-5:00 next Thursday. The circulation manager asked me if I would work that shift, since I’m going to be short hours on that pay period, and she needs help with coverage that day, so I said, “sure!”

Oh. I forgot to mention that we have another cat in the house. We got this one from the Watauga shelter, and she is already two years old and spayed, so we don’t have to worry about that. She is a tabby who looks a lot like S’s cat, Honey. We have decided that she will be called Magnolia. We will probably call her Maggie or Mags, for short.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

What Is A Blessing?, by Daryl Madden

What is a blessing?
But a share of
A taste of heaven
A gift of Gods’ love

Of nothing deserved
But one of pure grace
Let us receive it
With a grateful embrace

A treasure to cherish
Shared in many ways
If we are aware
We will be amazed!

Just a reminder
Of this message true
As a child of God
You’re a blessing too!
LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all my friends and family; you are, indeed, a blessing to me
2. that I am alive and breathing, and have awakened to another new day
3. for the Light of Jesus Christ in my life
4. that I can sing praises to You and make music on various instruments
5. that You know me, intimately, as You know the number of and the names of all the stars in the heavens

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
(Luke 2:52 ESV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers,
you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.
You need milk,
not solid food,
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness,
since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature,
for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV)

Father, make me more like Jesus, increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with You and those around me. Make me mature in Your Word, living on the “solid food” that comes from constant immersion in it.

Arise,
shine,
for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
(Isaiah 60:1 ESV)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake,
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven
and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning,
and his clothing white as snow.
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women,
Do not be afraid,
for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here,
for he has risen,
as he said.
Come, see the place where he lay.
(Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)

“Awake,
O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:14 ESV)

For you are all children of light,
children of the day.
We are not of the night or of the darkness.
(1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV)

Father, may the Light of Christ shine on and through me, today.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

“Step out of the traffic!
Take a long, loving look at me,
your High God,
above politics,
above everything.”
(Psalms 46:10 MSG)

As I pause during this quiet morning, I am struck by the Light that is Jesus Christ. My heart’s desire is to be “alive and awake,” shining brightly, in this world of darkness, with the Light of Jesus. I stop to take a long, loving, look at my Father, who is present with me, at all times.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
(Psalms 147:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
(Jonah 1:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that have stirred within me. I linger over them, giving them my attention. Is there something within about which I need to ask God? I pray my life to my Father and rest in His presence.

Do you know how many stars there are? Does anyone? God not only knows the number of stars, He “determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.” Yes, I do realize that this is poetry, not theology. But it gives us insight into the infinite wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of our God. “His understanding has no limit.”

If He knows every star and calls it by name, how much more does He know each of us? God Almighty, the Creator of everything that we can see and much that we cannot see, condescends to know us. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows everything that I am going to do and say today. He knows what I am going to think.

Yet, still He loves me. He remembers that we are only dust.

This causes me to do what Psalm 147:7 tells me to do. “Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.” I don’t have a harp, but I have instruments, and I can use them to make music to God. I also have a voice, with which I can sing praises to Him.

Father, I praise You for Your knowledge of us! You, who created everything, have made Yourself known to us, just as You know us. Someday, when we see You, face to face (as much as will be possible), we will know You as intimately as You know us. But, for now, we cannot handle such knowledge; it is too wonderful, we cannot attain it. As I go through this day, may this knowledge carry me through all challenges that I might face. Give me Your wisdom and shine in me with the Light of Jesus Christ. May His light be visible in me. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

"Father,
never let Your salvation,
Your free choice of me,
make me lax or arrogant toward others.
Never let me forget that You've chosen me for both a special relationship as Your child and a special service,
becoming a channel of blessing for all.
In Christ's Name,
amen."

BLESSING

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on
and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.
For such persons loyally in love with God,
the reward is life and more life.
(James 1:12 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.