The Measure of Faith

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,512

23 days until S turns 29!

I apologize in advance for the length of this entry.

The heat wave continues, as yesterday’s high reached 103, for eleven straight days of 100+ temps, the longest streak so far, this year. That will likely continue today. We have had 31 days of triple digits, so far this year, and no relief in sight. There has been no rain for 53 days. The average high and low for yesterday are 97/73, and the record high for the day is 104. Today’s high is predicted to be 103, and the next ten days are predicted to be at least 100 degrees.

The Texas Rangers blew another one, last night. They had gone ahead by scoring in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, but then the bullpen blew the save in the bottom of the ninth and lost the game 5-4. They are now ten games below .500, at 43-53. They are still in third place in the AL West, though, still twenty games out of first (the cheaters have lost two in a row), and 8.5 out of the Wild Card race. They play Seattle again, this afternoon, at 2:40 CDT. That’s a strange time for a game.

The Red Sox lost to the Guardians, 8-3. So they are back at .500, with a record of 49-49. And they have dropped to last place in the AL East, a half game behind Baltimore. They are seventeen out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card Race. Now what does it say about a division when the last place team is at exactly .500?? The AL East is the only division that has any team below third place with a .500 record. In some cases, even the third place team is below .500. The Sox play the Guardians again tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Nationals, in spite of a three-game win streak, continue to hold the worst MLB record, at 34-65. The Blue Jays continue to hold the longest current win streak, at seven straight games. The San Francisco Giants have the longest current losing streak, at six games. The Nationals also keep the worst run differential, at -154. The Rangers are at +5, and the Red Sox have dropped to -15.

It is somewhat odd that the Rangers have a positive run differential, yet are ten games below .500. Almost every other team with a positive number in that category has a winning record, with the exception of the Giants, who are only one game below .500. The Orioles have a -5 differential, yet are one game above .500.

I guess that’s just how baseball go.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, bring us together as one. Give us your Spirit so that we may know you, so that joy may fill our hearts, not only for ourselves but also for others. Root out evil from the earth. Sweep away all that offends you, all lying, deceit, and hate between nations. Grant that all people may come to know you, so that disunity and conflict may be swept away and your eternal kingdom may arise on earth and we may rejoice in it. For your kingdom can come to people even while on earth to bring them happiness and to make them your own children. Yes, Lord God, we want to be your children, your people, held in your hand, so that your name may be honored, your kingdom may come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
(John 10:16 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope of unity in Christ
2. for joy that fills my heart and soul, not only for myself, but for others, as well
3. for the "measure of faith" given to us that we can obey God's commands to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and to not judge others, and to give generously and freely
4. that I can trust God and not be afraid, because the "universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be" (Dallas Willard)
5. that God is able to use anyone, anywhere, no matter what the weakness
6. for the power of intercessory prayer

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV, emphasis mine)

The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is “measure.”

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
(Romans 12:3 ESV)

The actual reading for today is so ridiculous I’m not even going to mention it. And they take the phrase from the verse completely out of context. So I’m winging it, here.

The NASB translates the last phrase in that verse, “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” For today’s reading, it is truncated to simply, “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

While that is a true statement, we need to realize the reason for this measure of faith, and to do that, we must look at the whole verse. And the purpose of the verse is to instruct us to “not think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.”

“Measure” could easily be thought of as “amount.” Yes, each of us has been given an “amount” of faith, and we need to use that faith to obey the commands of the Lord.

There are other uses of the word, as well. Jesus used the word when He cautioned us against judging.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 ESV)

Then there was this somewhat vague usage in Mark 4.

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
(Mark 4:24-25 ESV)

Then, He kind of wraps it all together in Luke 6.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
(Luke 6:37-38 ESV)

So how would I use the word “measure” in prayer? After all, this is the point of this whole devotional book, right? I would pray for God to help me use my “measure” of faith to obey His commands to not think more highly of myself than I ought, and to not judge others, and to give generously and freely.


“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

“There is none like God . . . who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
(Deuteronomy 33:26-27 ESV)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
(Psalms 46:1-3 ESV)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, 
beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live; 
in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, 
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 
when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; 
your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

Have you ever been afraid? Is that a dumb question?

I’ve been afraid. Many times in my life. At least one or two of those times were caused by my own stupidity or rebelliousness. Some of them are humorous, as I look back on them.

One of the times, C, R, and I were driving to east Texas to visit grandparents. C was driving, as she normally does on the road trips. It had been raining heavily, and as we passed through Dallas on I-30, we encountered some standing water. At roughly sixty miles per hour or so. The car began hydroplaning and drifting toward the center lane (we were in the left lane). C was desperately turning the wheel to the left, but with no result. There was a pickup pulling a trailer in the center lane, and we were headed straight for the back of the trailer, when suddenly, the wheels caught ground, and turned sharply to the left and struck one of the cement barriers on the side of the road. R, being a toddler, at the time, slept through the whole thing in her carseat. Some paint was scraped off the front bumper, and that was the only damage.

Then there was the time we lived in west Fort Worth, near White Settlement. R was a few years older, and S had not yet come along. C was going to night school to finish her college degree. When we lived in that part of the world, we frequently got pounded by thunderstorms. They always came from the west, and they always hit us head on, with full force. That night, C was at school, and one of those storms hit. Tornado warnings went off (back then, a tornado “warning” meant that there was one on the ground somewhere; these days a “warning” is what we used to call a “watch”). R and I got pillows and huddled in a hallway in the middle of the house. We had been watching a lot of Scripture song VHS tapes (remember those?) back then, and one of them was a Steve Green tape, I think it was called “Kids Sing Praise.” One of the songs was based off of Psalm 56:3-4.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
(Psalms 56:3-4 ESV)

Turns out it wasn’t “Kids Sing Praise,” but “Hide ‘Em In Your Heart.”

Anyway, R suggested we sing that song while we sat in the hallway with the storm raging outside and C somewhere in between Euless and our house, coming home from her night class.

Then there was the night before R’s birthday, I believe it was the year 2000. We were putting a basketball goal together, which she had asked for, outside in the driveway. At that time, we lived where we currently live. Clouds began building, and storm warnings began occurring. A tornado was coming, and it was heading straight toward us. I mean, it was miles away, at the time, but still on a trajectory to hit our area. We huddled in a bathroom (S was with us by then), and ate pizza, which had been delivered before the storms started. We prayed. Other people we know were praying, as well.

Here’s the thing. That tornado/storm did something really weird that evening. It took a hard left turn (“left” is totally arbitrary, there) and went through downtown Fort Worth, hitting the Bank One building the hardest. But it was after 5:00 PM, so no people were injured, because there was hardly anyone there.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid.”

Indeed.

Once again, I am reminded of some words by Dallas Willard, these coming from his book, The Divine Conspiracy. “Jesus brings us the assurance that the universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”


More words from Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country:

“No Christian should ever think or say that he is not fit to be God’s instrument, for that in fact is what it means to be a Christian. We may be humble about many things, but we may never decline to be used.”

“The gospel is full of reassurances to us, some of them startling. You are salt to the world! You are light to all the world! Even the hairs of your head have all been counted! These words were exciting to those who heard them. Things might be dark but they were to be the light of the world. They were given a new sense of their value as persons. Especially was this true of women.”

“There are therefore two things for us to do. The first is never to doubt that God can use us if we are willing to be used, no matter what our weaknesses. The second is to see that God can use any other person who is willing to be used, whatever his weaknesses, and if need be, to assure him of this truth.”

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


Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
(Luke 11:5-13 NLT)

“In true, unselfish prayer there is little thought of personal need or happiness. If we would be delivered from the sin of limiting prayer, we must enlarge our heart for the work of intercession.”

Our faith will be stirred, says Andrew Murray, by interceding for others. Murray lists these elements of “true intercession”:

Urgent need – In order to learn to pray as we should, “we must open our eyes and heart to the needs around us.

Willing love – “It is the very nature of love to give up and forget itself for the sake of others.”

The sense of powerlessness – In Jesus’s example, the friend admits that he has nothing to give.

Faith in prayer – What he doesn’t have, someone else does have. “To get from God and then give to others what we ourselves receive from day to day is the secret of successful ministry.”

“Intercession is the link between our powerlessness and God’s omnipotence.”

(From Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray)


Father, I do sincerely pray that I might use the “measure of faith” that You have allocated to me, and that I might not think more highly of myself than I ought, nor judge people, and that I might give freely and generously to those in need, as You direct me.

I thank You for the gift of intercessory prayer, and that You have led me, in this task, to pray for others and their needs. I know that I have nothing to give, but You do, so I can ask You to do things for others that I cannot do, and that they cannot do for themselves.

I praise You for the reassurance that You can use anyone, at any time, for Your glory, no matter what kind of weakness we might think we have.

I thank You that I can trust You and not be afraid, because, in Your kingdom, as we walk in You and trust in Christ, this universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be.

I continue to pray that You would bless us with some rain, Lord. We are in desperate need, and there are people all over the world who need relief from this heat wave. Have mercy, Father!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Bonus points if you’re still reading.

Grace and peace, friends.

Transformation

Today is Wednesday, the thirteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27 ESV)

Day 23,498

We have already been to the dentist, and Mama’s crown was successfully placed. It only took about thirty minutes, and we were back home within an hour of the appointment time, in spite of a delay by a train on the trip to the office.

There really isn’t anything else on my “plate” for today. I think I have a load of laundry to fold, but that’s about it. And I have a meal planned for this evening, which I’ll start cooking around 5:00-ish. Maybe I’ll get some quality reading done, today.

The Texas Rangers blew it big time, last night. They were behind for a good part of the game, but then tied it up. They went into extra innings, went behind in the tenth, but tied it back up in the bottom of the tenth. Then came the top of the twelfth inning. Oakland scored eight runs! Santana (not Carlos) was responsible for six of those, and why he was allowed to keep pitching for that long, I have no idea. The Rangers came back with only one run in the bottom of the twelfth, and lost the game 14-7. To the worst team in baseball. This puts the Rangers five games below .500, at 40-45. They remain firmly in third place in the AL West, a comfortable 3.5 games ahead of the Angels, four behind Seattle, and 16.5 out of first place, occupied by the Cheaters. The Rangers and Athletics will finish their series tonight, at 7:05 CDT.

The Red Sox lost another game to the Rays, 3-2. It is said that Chris Sale, back from the IL after a lengthy recovery, “dominated.” Maybe so, but it’s still an “L” in the stats. The Sox are now 47-41, and also now in third place in the AL East, a half game behind Tampa. They are 14.5 out of first place, and now occupy the second of the three AL Wild Card spots. They play another game with the Rays tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

Oakland continues to have the worst MLB record, at 30-59. Baltimore is now the sole owner of the longest winning streak in MLB, with nine consecutive games. The Mariners are right behind them with eight. The Angels and Cubs both have five game losing streaks. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, at -142.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our mighty God, look upon us in our poverty, for you call us your children and give us of your Spirit. From your fullness we constantly need to receive strength for the struggle meant for us in life. Grant that light may come wherever darkness still reigns, especially where it is so black that we do not know which way to turn. Hear our prayer for all people, and let your justice and your truth alone be victorious. Let all people receive what you have promised them, and let them realize that no matter what happens, they remain your children. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 
(1 John 3:2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God calls us His children and gives us His Spirit
2. that nothing can take that away from us
3. that true transformation of the human character is possible by practicing Spiritual Disciplines
4. that, by the grace and mercy of God, my eyes "see" and my ears "hear," that I might be transformed
5. for God's "consuming fire," which both purges me from impurities in my life and gives me the ability to leave a mark in this world
6. for the hope of eternity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ESV)
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 
(1 Corinthians 1:31)

The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
(Joel 2:11 ESV)


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is transform. I’m not going to reference the quote they use, because it’s a Joel Osteen quote, and I don’t like him. That’s all I’m going to say about him.

The reading is also not very good. It makes reference to something the writer calls “sudden deliverance through grace alone.” That is not what “transformation” is. Changes within us do not take place suddenly, just like changes in real life don’t take place suddenly, at least not most of them.

There are far better quotes that they could have used. One really good one is from Romans.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 ESV)

I mean, why quote Joel Osteen when you can quote Paul, right?

But Dallas Willard had a lot to say about transformation, as well. In fact, he wrote several books about it. One is called Renovation of the Heart. Another is The Divine Conspiracy. And in these books, along with The Spirit of the Disciplines, he shows the process of transformation to be, not instantaneous (or “sudden”), but a lifelong journey of practicing Spiritual Disciplines.

True transformation is possible. But, unlike our initial salvation, that takes work on our part, and it’s not easy work. I can attest to this.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)


But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
(Matthew 13:16 ESV)

The fact that my eyes “see” and my ears “hear” is two-fold. One, it is by God’s grace. He began that process by calling me to Jesus Christ and enabling me to choose to follow Him. But the rest of it has largely been up to me. And this, again, is where this business of “transformation” comes into play.

As I have grown older, God has placed this desire in my heart, perhaps because I have more and more “delighted in Him.” And one of my favorite Psalms says:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalms 37:4 ESV)

Too many people interpret that to say that if I delight myself in the Lord, then I can get whatever I want. That’s a double-edged sword, because, if you are allegedly delighting yourself in the Lord in order to get a mansion or a Ferrari, then what is your delight truly in? It most certainly is not the Lord.

I have, for a while, now, interpreted that verse to mean that, if I delight myself in the Lord, He will transform the desires of my heart! He will give me new desires. I do realize that the word that is translated “desires” can also be translated “petitions” or “requests.” I get that. But once again, those petitions and requests, if I am truly delighting myself in the Lord, will not be for things that will only benefit me.

The desire that I have, that the Lord is giving me, is to do exactly what Romans 12:2 says, to be transformed by the renewal of my mind, which is happening, gradually, not suddenly, by the practice of Spiritual Disciplines.


Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
(Zephaniah 1:18 ESV)

This is a somewhat frightening verse, and I don’t want to focus on the part that seems to indicate the end of the world. I just want to focus on the fire.

You see, part of the process that I have been describing above, that of the gradual transformation of the human character, is purging. And while I am practicing Spiritual Disciplines, the Lord will also work to purge impurities from my life.

Eugene H. Peterson writes a little bit about this “consuming fire” in On Living Well. We know that fire has many uses. Peterson writes of his experience as a youth, watching ranchers do a controlled burn of a field that had been overrun by weeds and thistles. When it was done, there was nothing left but black ashes. This is an example of how God’s consuming fire works in our lives.

He also writes of watching ranchers brand their cattle. In this case, the branding iron was placed in the fire, which did not destroy it, but made it so hot that it quickly left its mark on whatever it touched.

While Peterson doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit in this, but that is what comes to my mind when I think of this use of fire. The Holy Spirit presented as flames of fire on Pentecost. When the fire of the Holy Spirit touches us, it creates a “heat” within us that will leave the mark of God on anything we touch.

There can, of course, be negative connotations here, and I don’t want to dwell on those. Needless to say, I believe that God’s fire in our lives should only be to make us a more positive force in the world. And this is where, like all analogies, this analogy of cattle-branding falls apart. The branding causes the cow much pain, I can only imagine. And when I leave God’s mark on someone or something, I most certainly do not want to cause them pain. I want it to be a mark of love, because God is love.

One other quick word about this fire. It is also preparation; preparation for us to spend eternity with the One we love.


Father, I thank You that transformation is truly possible, and that You have made a way for us to be transformed. I do thank You for the grace that brings us into Your Kingdom, for that journey seems to have a sudden beginning. But the rest of the process lasts a lifetime, as You prepare us for eternity with You.

I am so grateful for the Cross of Christ, that which began the journey for all of us, and erased the debt of sin from our lives. But there is so much more to this story, and I long to embrace it in its entirety. Let Your consuming fire burn away everything within me that is not of You. I pray that I might fully delight myself in You, that I might receive the desires of my heart, and that the desires of my heart will be transformed to match the desires of Your heart.

Father, prepare me for that eternity. May my heart, soul, and mind be transformed for the rest of my days, until the point where, when I step into eternity, I won’t notice any difference.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
(1 John 3:2 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Let It Shine

Today is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of July, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of God find you today. Whatever is going on, just stop. Stop and embrace the peace. Let it hold you.

Day 23,481

We had a great day at the library, yesterday. It was just busy enough that it didn’t get boring, but not busy enough to be crazy. And there weren’t any over-challenging patrons. A very pleasant day.

Today, C and I will be going to Bass Hall for the 1:30 performance of Oklahoma! We are really looking forward to that.

Tomorrow, I have jury duty. Not really looking forward to that. But not dreading it, either. Something different to do on a Monday, when I never have a work shift, anyway. I just hope it doesn’t carry over into Tuesday.

The Texas Rangers beat the Washington Nationals, last night, 3-2, on a walk-off home run by Adolis Garcia (“El Bombe”). After losing 2-1, the previous night, their record is back to two games below .500, 34-36. They are in second place in the AL West, 10.5 behind the Astros, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race.

The Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Guardians 4-2, to improve their record to 41-31. They are now in second place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and in the first of three Wild Card spots. The other two Wild Cards are currently Toronto and Tampa. Again, if the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs. I’m sorry, Mr. Manfred, but this just doesn’t seem right.

I just sent an email to the MLB about that issue. I’ll let you know if they respond. Hahaha!

The Yankees still have the best MLB record, at 52-20. However, the have lost two games in a row, and were no-hit (??) last night. Unfortunately, it was the Astros who no-hit them, so I can’t exactly be happy about that, can I? Today, the Athletics have the worst record, at 24-49. The Yankees continue to have the best run differential, at +141, but the Dodgers aren’t far behind them, at +130. The Nationals (with whom the Rangers are struggling!) have the worst, at -113. Come on, Rangers!! The Red Sox have the longest current win streak (YAY!!) at six games, and the Diamondbacks have the longest current losing streak at five games.

The Rangers will play the Nationals this afternoon, at 1:35, while we are watching Oklahoma! at the Bass Hall. The Sox will play the Guardians at 1:40 EDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

What I Long For, by Daryl Madden

I longed for the day
Of future years
I long for the past
Now that they’re here

I’m looking forward
To what happens today
But the gift of this moment
I let pass away

And even of heaven
Where I long to be
I can lose focus
To let life pass by me

So let all my longing
Be now in a prayer
In dealing with you, Lord
In heaven right here

So much truth here, in this lovely poem. Please visit Daryl’s site, using the link provided above, for more.

O Lord our God, grant that we may have fellowship with you every day. May our hearts be ready to fulfill your commandments and to do what you want in all things. Hear our prayer. Hear and answer when we pray for the nations, for the whole world, and let your holy will be done. Remember all who are in distress, and lead them on the right way. May we go with joyful hearts wherever you lead us. Your name will be our help, your glory will come, and the world will be full of your love, your power, and your splendor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the fellowship we have with God, in Christ, and the desire to see others have that same fellowship
2. that my desire to draw people into the love of God supersedes my devotion to any other "cause"
3. for this moment, right here, right now (yes, the one that's already gone), because that is all we truly have
4. for the heart of gratitude that God has grown in me
5. for the admonition in Isaiah 58 to stop blaming and slandering, and to pour out our lives for the hungry and afflicted

Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is thanks.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)

That is one of 72 times that the word “thanks” appears in the NIV. 33 of those appear in the Old Testament, and 39 in the New. I’m actually a little surprised that it doesn’t appear more often. However, if you take off the “s,” the word “thank” appears another 35 times. And “thanksgiving” another 22. Three more times for “thankful.” So there’s a total of 132 appearances of some form of the word in the NIV Bible.

I think God desires for us to be thankful. Do I think it’s because He desires the attention? Does it make Him feel better when we say “thanks”? You know, the way it makes you feel better when one of your kids or a close friend says “thank you.”

Here’s the thing. Actually, I’m posing a question. Which do you think is more healthy for you, a life of complaining about things, or a life of gratitude?

As you know, I start each day’s devotional with gratitude (after a brief prayer, sometimes an inspirational poem, and a verse to jump off from). This sets the stage for the day. But it would be even better (and a practice that I need to begin) if I said some thanks before I even put feet on the floor.

Dallas Willard once said that, before he got out of bed in the morning, he would meditate through either the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm. Both worthy things, and a great way to start the day. And I’m sure gratitude was a part of that. How much better to simply start the day with some thanks, before ever getting out of bed? (Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not at all being critical of Dallas Willard!)

I mean, how many of us jump out of bed all happy and cheerful? If you do, I don’t want to be around you. Even my wife, who is more of a morning person than I, doesn’t exactly spring out of bed in the morning. So stopping to express some gratitude would certainly help. It would set the stage for a better day, I believe, and prepare me for pretty much anything that could come my way.

I’m still not doing any “springing,” though.

It also would make me think, to be aware. I sometimes have to think about what I’m grateful for. Some days, it’s harder than others. Other days, I might lie there for a half hour, giving thanks.

The writer of today’s reading gives his own suggestions. “Thanks for a good night’s sleep. Thanks for a bed and a pillow. Thanks for hot water. For indoor plumbing (ever lived without it?). For toothpaste. For soap. Thanks for a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat, and coffee to drink, hallelujah, amen!”

I know that my mother is thankful for being able to go out shopping with my wife, yesterday.

There’s a book that has been on my TBR list for a while, now, and I think I may try a bit harder to get it read, this year. It’s by Anne Lamott, and it’s called Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. And, judging from the fact that our Father knows every word before it comes out of mouth, and knows what we need before we ask it, those are three pretty good prayers.

As “Bob” has advised, try it today. “See how many things – including diverse things – you can say ‘thanks’ for today.” It just might change your whole outlook.

Of course, if you enjoy your whining and complaining, never mind.

Father, You know my heart, and You know the heart of my gratitude, each day. You also know that some days, it is more difficult than others to come up with five things that I’m grateful for. I pray for help for those days, and I pray that You would remind me, by Your Spirit, every morning, when I wake up, to give thanks before I even get out of bed. Help me to do that, as I want the general attitude of my day to begin with thanksgiving. And then help me to punctuate the rest of my day with constant thanksgiving, giving thanks in all circumstances, as Paul tells us to do.


if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:10 ESV)

Hmm . . . I think the previous verse needs to be included in this.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:9-10 ESV)

The thing I found interesting, when including the previous verse (it would actually be helpful to read the whole passage), is that it is not just the pouring oneself out for the hungry and helping the afflicted that makes one’s light shine. It must be accompanied with the ceasing of the blame game and slandering!

And this is exactly where our society is, today, both within and without the church. We are blaming and slandering. I can hardly stand to look at my social media feeds, these days, because of all the slander and hatred being spewed out, by “Christians!!” It hurst my soul! If we wonder why our lights aren’t shining, we need to take a closer look at that.

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

Father, help us to stop pointing fingers and speaking wickedness, so that we might turn our attention to the things that really matter, pouring ourselves out for the hungry and helping the afflicted in our world. These are the things that Jesus seems to care about, as He indicated in His parable of the sheep and the goats. Turn our hearts toward You, Father, toward Your generosity and Your heart for the oppressed and afflicted, for the “orphans and widows.” Have mercy, Father!


We serve a God who comes to us. He is not at a fixed point in the universe, and we do not have to work hard to find Him. Yes, the Bible tells us to “seek Him,” but it’s not like He is hard to find.

He came to us, in Jesus Christ, and He has promised to return in Jesus. We live our lives between those two events. What does it mean to live in a world where God comes to us?

“This is the expectant believer’s task: to clarify that question, to celebrate it, and to live heartily and hopefully in response to the God who comes to us. Will we live slovenly, with unbuttoned minds and disheveled spirits, thoughtlessly supposing that the same things will be forever monotonously repeated, over and over again, in creation and history? Or will we live alertly and ardently, convinced that God continues to come to us and will come to us again in Jesus? Will we believe that in expectantly waiting for his coming, being hospitable to his arrival, we are getting the most out of life?”

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

Father, help me to live expectantly, not slovenly. Keep my mind sharp as I interact with You and with my fellow human beings. Help me to resist the temptation to blame and slander, but to wait expectantly for Your coming again in Christ, all the while doing my utmost to obey His commands to love You and love my neighbor as myself. May we, as Your people, be open and hospitable to the arrival of our Savior, whenever that may occur. Thank You for being the God who comes to us and does not sit out there in the ether, waiting for us to find You. I praise You that You have condescended to interact with us, and that You initiated it all. May we respond appropriately, with worship, prayer, and thanksgiving.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

Today is Saturday Friday, the twenty-ninth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

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

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

Free To Love

Today is Thursday, the twenty-eighth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you, today!

Day 23,422

This being Thursday, it will be my late shift at the library today, from 11:15-8:15. I will be in the Computer Center today. I was in Circulation, yesterday, and will be back there again Saturday, after having tomorrow off.

C and Mama may go back to Mineral Wells on Saturday, to do some measuring and bring back some more stuff. Since we got rid of our grand piano, we have some space to add bookshelves, a couple of which we are going to retrieve from Mama’s house. We are also looking at purchasing some more new ones to put between the exercise equipment in the front of the house and the reading chairs that are now in the “dining room.”

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Astros, last night, 4-3. It was close, but their ninth inning rally fell short. Brett Martin was tagged for the loss, in relief. The Rangers are now 6-12 for the season, in last place in the AL West. Out of those 6 wins, only one was credited to a starting pitcher. The rest are credited to the bullpen. 7 of the losses are credited to starters. So, out of 18 starts, only 8 decisions have gone to the starters. This speaks highly of the mediocrity of the team’s pitching staff. But we Rangers fans are used to this, aren’t we?

They will get a chance to tie the series, this afternoon, as they face the ‘stros at 1:05 this afternoon. I might watch a bit of that on the PC at work in the Computer Center.

The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 7-1, last night, improving their record to 8-11. They are in fourth place in the AL East, 4.5 behind the Evil Empire. Those two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 3:07 EDT.

The NY Mets have risen to the top of MLB, with a 14-6 record. The Yankees, having won 5 consecutive games, are rising fast, and currently third, behind the Mets and the SF Giants. The Cincinnati Reds continue to hold down the worst spot, at 3-15. The Rangers are fourth from the bottom.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He existed in the beginning with God. 
God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 
(John 1:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for cantaloupe and grapes
2. for prayer, the comfort it gives, and the power that it contains
3. that He who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121)
4. that Jesus paid the price to set me free
5. for the wisdom and wealth that I have in Jesus Christ

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.
(Psalms 33:11 NLT)

“In the morning, prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings; in the evening, it is the key that shuts us up under His protection and safeguard.” ~ Billy Graham

“God’s response to our prayers is not a charade. He does not pretend that he is answering our prayer when he is only doing what he was going to do anyway. Our requests really do make a difference in what God does or does not do. The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best . . . of course, this is not the biblical idea of prayer, nor is it the idea of people for whom prayer is a vital part of life.” ~ Dallas Willard

The prayer word for today is “desert.” That’s “desert,” as in a large, sandy, hot expanse of land. Not to be confused with “dessert,” that is a sweet, tasty, treat.

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
(James 1:3 NLT)

The desert is only bad when you’re lost in it. How many movies have we seen where someone is lost in the desert, crawling around, looking for water? That is most definitely bad, and the odds of surviving are, I would think, slim.

But we must remember that the land where Jesus walked was surrounded by desert. And it is often said that He disappeared for hours at a time, going off into “desolate” places to pray.

The desert can be a trial, or it can be “a moment to be still and be loved.” And even when it is a trial, it is still, as James mentioned, a place for endurance to grow.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, if I experience any desert times today, or in the near future, remind me that You are always close, always with me, and that You are helping me grow through those times. Help me to remember the truth of Psalm 121. You are always there; You don’t slumber or sleep, and You are always watching over me as I come and go, both now and forever.

If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. If they listen and obey God, they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives. All their years will be pleasant.
(Job 36:8-11 NLT)

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.
(Proverbs 26:11 NLT)

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”
(Isaiah 44:22 NLT)

There’s a mixture of ideas presented here. But what we need to know is that we are forgiven. A few days ago, I mentioned a Twila Paris song that opens with the lines, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

We are, sadly, oftentimes that fool who repeats his foolishness. But the Lord has swept away my sins “like a cloud.” He has cast them as far as the east is from the west. He has thrown them into the depths of the sea, and Scripture proclaims that He remembers them no more. The price has been paid. Hallelujah!

Father, I praise You that the price has been paid to set me free. I hang my head in shame when I return to my foolishness, but then You remind me of my forgiveness and call me back to holiness, that I may continue to walk in Your kingdom and follow the path laid out for me. I pray that You make it harder and harder for me to return to my foolishness. I pray You would continually work within me to take away even the slightest thought of sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to that day when temptation will no longer be an issue. Truthfully, I’m not sure we will know how to act.

Eugene Peterson points out that wisdom and wealth cannot save us. While it is true that God has paid the price for us, it is also true that there is not enough wealth in the world to make that happen. “Neither PhDs nor fat salaries can bring us to God as free men and women.”

This doesn’t mean that wealth and education are not useful in this life. Unfortunately, we tend to be a reactive people who are either all or nothing. But wisdom and education are certainly liberating in our civilization. “In Solomon’s life, his wisdom and wealth were admired rather than despised. But they were not capable of freeing him from his sins and bringing the rule of God to the people.”

This is important because of the possibilities of the culture in which we live. “Each one of us has a good chance of being both wealthy and wise. We know a lot and we have a lot. Yet there are many indications that we are not using our wisdom and wealth according to God’s will.”

Yet, in spite of this, there are still millions of hungry people in the world. “Surely it is not the will of God that people be hopelessly trapped in desperate poverty at a time when our culture as a whole has become one of affluence and abundance. Beyond economics, beyond politics, this is an issue of love (or the deplorable lack of it.”

Wait. Did he say “love?” Funny how that word keeps popping up here.

In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question is “What is the chief end of man?” That could be rephrased, “why are we here?” The given answer is, ” . . . to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Says Peterson, “We must look for a deeper reason for living than simply acquiring better educations and better jobs and more wisdom and more wealth. We must seek a more substantial means of glorifying God – deeper wisdom and a greater amount of wealth than Solomon’s. We must take steps to protect ourselves from Solomon’s paradox: the outward signs of wisdom and wealth that cover up an inward stupidity and a social poverty.”

This must begin on the inside, with the foundation. “We begin with ourselves as creatures of God and seek his wisdom and wealth at our deepest levels of being. We seek them through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is described by John as the “Word” of God, which could be seen as “the intelligence or the rationality of God.” Then, Jesus is also called the “glory” of God. According to Peterson, the word “glory” in Hebrew is similar to the word for “wealth.”

“We speak of receiving Christ into our hearts, receiving God’s kindness and nearness within our own existence. When we do this voluntarily, the Word of God and the glory of God, his truth and his grace, his wisdom and his wealth, become implanted as life principles within us. Our lives begin to reflect the rationality of divinity and the solid wealth of eternity.”

Of course, we must remember that the world will never see this as either wisdom or wealth. But we should really care what they think, should we?

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

Father, thank You for the Word made flesh! Thank You for Your glory that was and is reflected in Jesus Christ. And I praise You that, in Him, we have all the wisdom and wealth that we need. Help us to reflect this in love as we walk through this world. Help us to show this wisdom and use this wealth to serve others. There has been a huge failure, Lord, as people have pretended to love while actually displaying the hatred in their hearts. That ought not be so, and it is giving Your Church a bad name in this world. I pray that You would intervene and cause Your people to show love for their neighbors, to love others as they should. I am thankful (but not boastful, because it is not of my own doing) that You have put love in my heart. But I’m still flawed and broken, as are all humans, and sometimes that love doesn’t make its way out and I find myself being judgmental. I pray for Your Spirit to control me and stop that. Help me, in my life, to “reflect the rationality of divinity and the solid wealth of eternity.”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

God of Wonders

Today is Thursday, the seventh of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,401

I’ve got a thing or two that I want to get done before I go to work today, this being my first Thursday to work at the library. I’m due in at 11:15 and will work until closing time. The entire shift will be in the Computer Center, as this is replacing my previous Friday shift. I don’t work this Saturday, so my next shift will be next Tuesday evening.

I really don’t have much else to mention, this morning. I actually just got one of the things done, which was starting the soup we will have for dinner tonight. In case anyone is interested, we call it “Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup.” All it has in it is three chicken breasts, three cans of cream of chicken soup (we usually use the 98% fat-free variety), a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and a can of water. It cooks in the crockpot on low all day, and we shred the chicken right before serving. Delicious and easy!

Oh, and one more thing. I haven’t mentioned it, lately, but today is Opening Day for baseball season. The Red Sox and Yankees were supposed to play today, but have been postponed until tomorrow. The Texas Rangers open their season in Toronto tomorrow. I reckon we will be watching.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for love; for the love God has for us and the love that I have for Him and the love He has placed in my heart for you
2. for the wonder of God's creation
3. for baseball, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox
4. that my treasures (and my heart) are not on this earth
5. that, when I walk in the kingdom of God, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be (Dallas Willard)

Today’s prayer word is “wonder.” Now, there’s a word I can be fully behind. In this case, I see the word as a noun, meaning, “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” I really like the last half of that. “Something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” That is a great way to describe the wonders of God and His creation.

You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
(Psalms 77:14 NLT)

Like the writer of today’s reading, I haven’t seen any seas parting or rivers drying up or water coming from a rock or turning into wine. But I have seen things like this:

That was beautiful and unexpected and inexplicable.

I choose to celebrate God’s wonders, and I also wonder at His beauty, love, and faithfulness. So, you see, “wonder” can be either a verb or a noun, and both ways work equally well.

And I believe this song has always said it pretty perfectly.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
(Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Luke 12:32-34 ESV)

In other verses in that Matthew 6 passage, Jesus points at some of the “wonders” of creation in His efforts to get people to take their eyes off of themselves and their problems. And, truthfully, once I have witnessed the grandeur and majesty of God’s creation, in “wonder,” how can I even consider laying up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal?

Father, I revel in Your many wonders. I am reminded of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” especially that bit about seeing the stars and hearing the rolling thunder, “Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” I thank You for the wonders that You have created and for the wonder that You placed in my heart when I gaze upon these things. I am still grateful for the opportunity that we had to visit those mountains in the photos above. You have blessed us with so many opportunities to see Your beauty, just in our country alone (and a few in Mexico, as well). How someone can gaze upon these wonders and refuse to open their hearts to Your love and grace is beyond my comprehension.

I thank You that You have led me to not place my trust in the “treasures” of this world. The older I get, the more generous I get with the resources that You have provided. This is partially because I know the truth of the old phrase, “you can’t take it with you.” But I don’t really want to take it with me, either, because I believe that my inheritance in heaven will be so much greater, beyond my wildest expectations and dreams. In fact, it too, I believe, will be wondrous. I look forward to Home, Father, wherever that will be and whatever it will look like.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Blessed in Time

Today is Monday, the twenty-first of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.
May the peace of Christ be upon you today.

Day 23,384

I missed that yesterday was the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of Spring, in which both daylight and dark were exactly equal. From this point until the Summer Solstice, which will be Tuesday, June twenty-first, the days will grow longer.

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day around here. C and Mama rested a bit, since they worked really hard on Saturday.

Today, I have a doctor appointment at 10:00, for my yearly checkup. I haven’t been since last February, because of various life circumstances, the most major being that I retired right at the end of July. I was supposed to go see them in August, but I wasn’t sure what my health insurance was going to look like, or what my weeks would look like, as I was still looking for a part-time job to supplement my SS. So here I am, in March, finally going back.

I originally had an appointment scheduled for two weeks ago, March seventh, but canceled postponed that one because a plumber was supposed to come to the house that same morning. And I got a call last week to tell me that the PA that I had scheduled with would be out today, so I’m now scheduled to see a NP (Nurse Practitioner). The downside of this appointment is that I have gained at least forty pounds since last November. Oh, well. “It is what it is,” as “they” say. Whoever “they” is.

I do plan to get back on track, though, and perhaps “facing the music” in today’s checkup will be the impetus for that.

Tomorrow, we take S to a doctor for evaluation as to her disability status for the SSA. And then, on Wednesday, it’s back to Mineral Wells to pick up Mama’s cable box and Internet modem so we can send them back to Suddenlink. C and her successfully got that service canceled yesterday. One more thing marked off the list.

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)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
(Romans 15:7 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my health; I have some issues, but for the most part, I am quite healthy
2. for God's provision in the life of my family, and our willingness to share His generosity with others
3. for my "lucky" (or "blessed") life
4. for today, this moment, which is truly all I have
5. for the community of saints, as we share in each other's blessings and burdens, and as we care for one another

Today’s prayer word is “time.” This is a good one. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” It seems to be verifiable that she said this, but even if it wasn’t her, it’s still a good thought.

Time is relative. We are familiar with the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” A half hour with a good friend will go much faster, in your mind, than, say, a half hour with your hand on a hot stove. Ultimately, thirty minutes is thirty minutes, but perception is everything. The days and years really are not going by faster than they did when I was ten years old, but they seem to be.

Chicago famously said, “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Well, yes. Maybe. Unless it’s Daylight Saving Time, or it’s not, or we’re in a different time zone than we are used to. Greenwich Mean Time has been established as the standard, so someone knows what time it really is. It’s 1:25 PM. Unless you use military time, then it’s 1325. But for me, it’s 8:25 AM, because I’m six hours behind the standard.

In a conversation with John Ortberg about spiritual health, Dallas Willard told him that he needed to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” That is one of my favorite Willardisms. If you hurry, it means your concentration is on the time, you are watching the clock. Ironically, there are two reasons for watching the clock. One is if you are in a hurry, and you are checking constantly to see how much time you have left before you need to be somewhere or do something or finish something. The other is if you are waiting for someone or something, and they are running late. In the first case, time seems to go faster; in the second, it seems to crawl.

But, in reality, it is all going at the same, constant speed, one second at a time. Which is, by the way, how we got so old. One second at a time.

Regret looks back and worries about past decisions. But “Yesterday is gone.” Worry and anxiety fret over things that haven’t happened yet. But “Tomorrow has not yet come,” and those things may or may not even happen.

“We have only today.” We have only this moment. The only “time” that truly exists is this moment. Everything else is speculative.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
(Romans 15:7 NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

These verses speak volumes to us. The world would look vastly different if we could manage to obey them.

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, in On Living Well, is short. It is called “The Good Life.” It features a word that I often try to avoid using, but based on the footnote, can more easily accept.

“Christians launch daily into lucky lives – lives of amazing grace, surprised by joy, where they count blessings. They are not easy lives. They are not cozy lives. Christians go to work exploring and experiencing all the details of new life that Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection pour into them through the Holy Spirit. They are not explained lives, making neat or perfect sense, but they are good lives, robust with a goodness the Christians did not earn. Lucky.”

You might have guessed the word. “Lucky.” You see, I do not believe in “luck,” being defined as random chance. However, the footnote says that the context of Peterson’s word, “lucky,” comes from the Greek word, makarios, which has more of a meaning of “blessed” or “happy.” In fact, “makarios” is the very word used at the beginning of each of the Beatitudes. “Blessed.”

And indeed, my life is blessed, or, as Peterson would call it, “lucky.” it is not easy, it is not always cozy. It is seldom neat, nor does it always make sense. But it is blessed.

Father, I thank You for today, for this moment. Help me to make the most of each moment, realizing that it is really all I have, all that I can call “now.” Help me to, as Michael Card, once said, “know You in the now.” Ease my mind from worry or anxiety about the future, as it has not yet happened, and worry steals moments from today. Help me to not have regrets over the past, as it is gone, already happened, and cannot be changed, so that also steals moments from today. Help me to, rather, celebrate this day.

Thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ, all over the world. I pray for more sense of unity withing the Church, and that we would be more accepting of one another, as we experience differences in opinions of matters that may actually not be that important. Help us to realize that the one thing that truly matters is our walk with Christ and our love for You and our love for one another. Also help us to bear one another’s burdens, as well as sharing in one another’s victories.

Thank You for my blessed life, my “lucky” life. Truly I count myself blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 15:5-6 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Have All That I Need

Today is Friday, the twenty-third of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,143

27 days until S’s birthday

The quest to become a bus driver continues. After multiple communications with my doctor’s office, yesterday, it was determined that they will not order a new CPAP for me without a new sleep study. That has been ordered, and the people doing that should contact me within the next day or so. From what I can tell, they will send a machine to my house, and I will do whatever I need to do with that for two nights and send it back. Results will be shared after they get the machine back, after which it will be determined that I either need a new machine or don’t need one at all. Ideally, I would hope for the latter option.

If I get a new machine, I will have to use it for ten days in order to get enough data for the DOT physical. So, realistically, we are looking at at least two to three more weeks before I can even start training for the bus driving.

After some discussion, last night, we are at peace with this. I will stick with my ending date with my current employer, and will simply be a “house-husband” during the interim. If SS kicks in in August, even better.

I don’t have any updates on R and J’s situation, after their horrible Tuesday. Apparently, it has not been 100% confirmed that the car is totaled.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
(Psalms 37:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace in my soul today;
2. for good news from friends
3. for the frequent command/encouragement from Your Word, "fear not, for I am with you;"
4. that because You are my Shepherd, I have all that I need;
5. that You guide my feet along the right path, for Your name's sake;
6. that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK NINE – DAY SIX

INVITATION

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalms 24:1 NIV)

I pause in stillness before the Lord, this morning, enjoying His peaceful presence. While I was waxing impatient, Wednesday, today I find that I am more patiently waiting for Him to act. “Fear not,” He says, over and over and over in His Word.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.
(Psalms 23:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: . . . I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
(Genesis 8:1-2, 15-17; 9:8, 11-13 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to rest in Your presence, this morning, I find such peacefulness in Your Word. Holy Spirit, please guide me through the remainder of this time, allowing me to dwell in Your Word and find sustenance within.

Psalm 23. The most famous of all of the Psalms. I dare say that there are even atheists who are well familiar with its first line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (KJV). I love looking at this verse in multiple translations. This devotional book features the NIV translation.

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (NLT)

GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. (MSG)

The ESV, it turns out, is exactly the same as the KJV. But all convey the same message. Because God, my Father, is my Shepherd, I have all that I need; I shall not want or lack; I don’t need a thing.

Dallas Willard taught six lessons that sprang from that verse, and were eventually turned into a book called Life Without Lack.

I was suddenly struck with the thought that I am focusing on Psalm 23 on the twenty-third of July, in the midst of one of the biggest of life’s events. Coincidence?

I don’t really believe in coincidences.

Anyway, moving on. The rest of the psalm is well-worthy of the attention that it gets. In fact, it is worthy of more than what it truly gets, in my opinion. A lot of people memorize it, and can quote it. Ironically, I didn’t actually memorize it until either last year or 2019.

But I have quoted it to myself, repeatedly, since then, sometimes more than once in a day’s time. I have meditated on it, taking each phrase and mulling it over. The actual words are important. Words are more important than we think, sometimes.

Take verse 3, for example. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (NIV) Note the emphasis I placed on the word “HIS.”

Everything God does is for His own glory. If a human being acted that way, we would call him arrogant or selfish. But here’s the thing. God is the only being that can get away with that, because He is perfect, and He created everything; it all belongs to Him. So when He guides my feet along the path, He is doing it for His own name’s sake. I benefit from that, of course, and it may seem like He is doing good things for me. And He is! But there is a deeper motivation there.

And nestled in the middle of the psalm is a reference to that very command that I referenced earlier. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (verse 4 NIV).

Father, I worship You, this morning. I praise You for the inspiration You gave David to write this psalm. I thank You that You have led me down a path that leads to acknowledging that, with You as my Shepherd, I have all that I need. I can truly live a “life without lack.” It doesn’t mean I get everything that I want. Or maybe it does, because You have changed my “want,” so that I want whatever I have. I am content, wherever You choose to lead me. Thank You.

I pray and give thanks, this morning, for Your covenant promises. May You remind us of them, constantly, that we may celebrate them and walk in them. I pray for all who are living in poverty and are suffering injustice. Be their mighty provider and their strong hand of justice and mercy. I also pray for all who have suffered and are suffering any kind of abuse, especially domestic, and I pray for those who support them.

"Faithful God,
I am here today,
praying to you now,
because you've kept your word.
Today is a gift because of your almighty and ever-present power that holds all things together.
Thank you that I don't have to live anxiously but can live confidently, 
trusting in your providing hands to keep me in your love.
Amen."

BLESSING

“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.'”
(Isaiah 51:16 NIV)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
(John 10:27-29 ESV)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
(Romans 6:4-8 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

I believe I’m ready to go to work, now. I have all that I need.

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

In Your Presence, There is Fullness of Joy

Today is Thursday, the fifteenth of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,135

35 days until S’s birthday

The week seems to be going by slowly. That’s only imagination, of course, just as the concept that time moves more quickly as we get older. Time moves at the same pace it always has. One second at a time. Perspective, however, is what makes it appear to go slower or faster. For example, compare five minutes doing your favorite activity to five minutes sitting on a hot stove.

Somehow, in the midst of all of this hustle and bustle, we need to learn how to savor the good bits. I believe that is why Dallas Willard advised John Ortberg to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” from his life. I have tried to adapt that in my life, but it’s not always easy, because someone or something is always bidding you hurry.

C put down the payment on the granite stone, yesterday, and even sent a picture of a computer program’s estimate of what it would look like. However, C’s phone is taking pictures in “HEIC” format, which won’t transfer into the blog, so I’m still trying to figure out how to fix that. The next step is the laser measuring, which is scheduled for next Friday. The countertops will be installed on August 10. We have also ordered a new sink to go in the counter, and it will be flush with the countertops, rather than raised. C is currently looking at new faucets, as well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You hear us when we call.
2. that You promise to rescue us from our troubles.
3. that You are close to the brokenhearted (I can think of several in that category, this morning).
4. that in Your presence there is fullness of joy.
5. that this joy, along with pleasures forevermore, is available now!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK EIGHT – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!
(Zechariah 9:16-17a NIV)

Father, as I take this moment to settle into Your presence, I ponder Your heart, Your closeness to those who are brokenhearted. I know of a family this morning, that is planning a memorial service for the unexpected death of a close family member. May You be especially close to them, this morning.

BIBLE SONG

A miktam of David.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalms 16:1-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
(Revelation 18:1-3 NIV)

Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
(Revelation 18:8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to rest in the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, meditating on what the Spirit chooses to reveal to me.

Today, I will begin with the second passage. There is a risk of celebrating this fall of Babylon. But I dealt with my feelings on this kind of thing, yesterday. And the caution, I believe comes in that little phrase in verse 3: “All the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

All the nations . . .

I’m not wise enough to know who “Babylon” represents in this passage. There are plenty of people who think they are wise enough. I usually disagree with them. We will know, some day, when the judgment comes as predicted. But I have to believe that “all the nations” will be judge right along with her.

Now, let’s look at the psalm. Psalm 16 is among my favorites, mostly because of the final verse. I have memorized it in the ESV.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Since I am in His presence, constantly, and there is nowhere that I can be that He is not, there should be fullness of joy at all times. So why isn’t there? I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I know it’s not His fault.

Remember my favorite definition of joy? “A pervasive sense of well-being.” And you’ve read my words before, that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy should not be disturbed by circumstances. If I have a pervasive sense of well-being, it matters not what “bad” things may happen. I am in the presence of God, therefore, there should be fullness of joy.

Actually I do know the answer to the above question. It’s because I forget. Plain and simple. Circumstances happen and I forget that I am in His presence. In fact, I tend to forget all about God, sometimes. Which is, of course, tragic, especially for me, because, it’s like He’s kind of just standing there, arms crossed, waiting for me to acknowledge Him. Kind of a “well??” expression on His face. And when things go badly, He kind of spreads his hands out and says, “See??”

I’ve gotten a little better at it, in recent days, though.

And doesn’t that line about “pleasures forevermore” make you feel good? That has to be one of the ultimate “feelgood” verses in the Bible. Yes, at the right hand of God, there are pleasures forevermore.

My eternal inheritance, I believe, will be quite pleasureful. The spellchecker doesn’t like that word. I don’t think it’s real.

But here’s the thing. Yes, my eternal inheritance will be full of pleasure, and yes, in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy. But I am walking in the Kingdom of Heaven, now! So all of this is already happening! And it is up to me to notice it and acknowledge it.

Father, I praise You for the fullness of joy that is available to me now, as I walk in Your Kingdom and abide in Your presence. I pray that, today, as I walk through my day, that whatever happens will not threaten that joy; that I will remember Your presence and remember those pleasures forevermore. Help me to recall that things in Your Kingdom are far better than I could ever imagine.

May I grow in holiness today, Lord, a little bit each day. And if there are any “idols” tucked away in my heart, please reveal them, that I might deal with them. I pray that my prayer life will be vibrant, and that it will be effective, both in my life and in the lives of those for whom I pray each day.

"God of wrath,
I don't need to see your terrible vengeance inflicted on evil ones right now.
It's enough to know that your justice will prevail against all who tyrannize,
oppress,
and torment in this world.
I praise you that your wrath is not an abusive flare of temper but springs from your steady love for creation.
Amen."

BLESSING

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
(1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Anger, Wisdom, and Humility

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Today is Friday, October 9, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,856

TWO DAYS until we head to Broken Bow, OK!

Three days until our 35th wedding anniversary!

And, we have begun our six days of PTO (Paid Time Off, what they call “vacation” now; actually, it also includes “sick leave,” at least in Texas).

I actually slept until almost 8:00 this morning! So I’m feeling pretty well-rested, this morning. According to my Fitbit, I got seven hours and six minutes of sleep with a sleep score of 90. The “sleep score” is “a daily snapshot of your sleep quality and duration.”

It includes “Time Asleep,” “Deep and REM,” and “Restoration.” For “Time Asleep,” I got 46/50 points. I was sleep for 7 hours, 6 minutes, awake 53 minutes over the course of the night. This measurement includes a cool graph that displays the times I was awake. The longest awake times were around the times I had to get up to use the bathroom. The others are times when I probably wouldn’t even recognize that I was awake.

For “Deep and REM,” I got 21/25 points. I had 1 hour and 36 minutes of deep sleep, and 2 hours and 16 minutes of REM sleep. The value of these, according to the Fitbit app, is that “during deep sleep your muscles relax and repair themselves, blood pressure drops and energy is restored. REM is when you’re likely dreaming, which is key for memory and mood.”

One interesting tip that is given is to avoid alcohol three hours before bedtime, as it can suppress REM sleep.

In “Restoration,” I got 23/25 points. In this category, it measures my sleeping heart rate. For 95% of the night, my sleeping heart rate was lower than my resting heart rate. My average sleeping heart rate was 63 bpm. My average resting heart rate is usually around 70 bpm. I only had 5% of the night where my sleeping heart rate was over my resting heart rate, and that bit is tagged as “restless.’

They recommend meditation or breathing exercises before going to sleep, which I did attempt last night. I fell asleep during the exercise.

All of this is courtesy of “Fitbit Premium,” which I got free for a year with my new Fitbit Inspire 2.

Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with this every morning. For one thing, during the work week, I wouldn’t have time. It is fascinating information, though. I never knew how much healing goes on during sleep. Even WW has been teaching us these facts, when the workshop weekly topic deals with sleep.

So. Today, we plan to go to Mineral Wells and have lunch with my mother. We are taking the ingredients (and a pan) for our Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken, and are going to cook that for her. Oh. That reminds me. I need to print a copy of that recipe to take with us.

Okay. Did that.

I also plan to take a quick side trip to the Crazy Water store and grab a couple cases of Crazy Water #4. I still have almost two full cases, but any time I’m in town, I’m going to buy some.

Tomorrow, we’ll be making last minute preparations for our trip to Broken Bow. A brief grocery run might be necessary. Especially if C eats all the grapes before then. Hahaha!

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
(Psalms 98:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For time off from work
  2. For the promise that, if we delight ourselves in You, You will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37)
  3. For the promise that we will find You when we seek You
  4. For the admonition to not be angry, but to be filled with humility
  5. For the book of James, which I don’t like to read

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
(Psalms 119:76-77 ESV)

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalms 108:3-4 ESV)

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
(Luke 17:7-10 ESV)

Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.
(Psalms 37:3-9 NLT)

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
(Isaiah 55:6 NLT)

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.
(Proverbs 15:1-2 NLT)

A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.
(Proverbs 15:18 NLT)

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.
(Proverbs 15:31-33 NLT)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
(Romans 12:16 NLT)

How do you handle criticism?

I’ll confess right away that I do not handle it very well. Especially depending on from whom it comes.

But I have two different kinds of anger when confronted with criticism.

If I am told that I made a mistake, and it is proven to be true (I’ve never claimed to be perfect), I become angry at myself, because I loathe making mistakes. I WANT to be perfect! At least when it comes to my job responsibilities. The other day, I was shown a mistake that I had made. I was picking a part, and I went to the location, and there was a large crate. The lid was loose, so I pulled the crate, strapped the lid down, and sent it out.

Turns out there were five pieces in that crate, not one. I didn’t check the putaway label, or the inventory count. I assumed that the crate held one piece. It all worked out okay, because the reason the mistake came up was that the customer had submitted an order for the other four pieces. When the picker went to get them, the location was, of course, empty.

I was very angry with myself. My friend who pointed out the error tried to soothe me by telling me that that whoever did the putaway should have taken the top of the crate completely away, so that it was evident that there were multiple parts in there. Nevertheless, the fault is mine because I didn’t verify the stock.

But another way that I react is with anger toward the person doing the criticizing. One time, I went to a person to apologize for something I said, or at least in the manner that it was said. That person then spent the next fifteen minutes telling me why I was wrong, and so on. That didn’t set well with me. Frankly, that’s not, in my opinion, the way to accept an apology. And that person tends to think he’s right about everything.

I would say that, in both cases, the anger is out of order. I make mistakes. No, I don’t like to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that I should get so angry with myself when I make them. I should simply accept the facts, learn from them, and move on, taking whatever action is necessary to make sure that I don’t repeat that mistake.

In the second instance, people are going to be who they are. My anger in that situation didn’t help anything. And, of course, I, being who I am, did not express that anger. Well, I may have expressed it to my wife, later.

Look back up there at those verses from my least favorite book of the Bible, James. (Yes, I would rather read Leviticus than James. Why? Because Leviticus doesn’t constantly punch me in the gut. I would rather be bored than convicted.)

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

Period.

Dallas Willard said (“there he goes again with that Dallas Willard guy”), “There is nothing that can be done in anger that cannot be done better without it.” On a related note, he also said, “The person who has the most power in your life is the person you have not forgiven.”

So how do we prevent anger? Proverbs gives us answers. A gentle answer; wisdom that “makes knowledge appealing.” In these tumultuous pre-election times, anger is not going to change anyone’s mind. But gentle words might at least get someone to listen to your point of view. And the concept of “How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian vote for . . .” should just be thrown out with yesterday’s garbage.

I am easily angered, it’s true. I don’t always express it, but my wife can tell. And some days, I just wake up mad at the world, for no apparent reason.

Wisdom and fear of the Lord are two good resolutions. Another verse up there from Proverbs says, “Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.

Ooh. Humility. Another gut-punch. And not even from James!

Father, I hesitate to pray for humility, because I know what kind of trials that can bring. Tests that produce humility are, well, humiliating. But that’s the point, isn’t it? So I need more humility in my life. And I need less anger. I confess . . . I get angry over silly things. The Internet doesn’t work right; some technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Someone at work asks a question that I feel like they should already know the answer to, or maybe I have even already provided the answer. Humility and wisdom would not allow anger in those situations. So, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would produce more humility in me. Calm my soul and help me to always have a gentle answer.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.