He Is For You

Good morning. Today is Friday, December 31, 2021. New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2021, and the seventh day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,304

I wonder if there are “reverse friggatriskaphobics” who are afraid of Friday the 31st . . .

One more day until 2022! Which is slightly redundant, given my statement in the first paragraph. And, technically, not even a full day. Seventeen hours and twenty-nine minutes, as of the exact time I am typing this paragraph.

Will we be staying up to welcome 2022? I might still be up, but it won’t be for that specific reason. In the grand scheme of things, this is just another day. Nevertheless, I do wish everyone who reads this a blessed, peaceful, and prosperous 2022.

Either later today, or tomorrow, I will share a complete list of my reading accomplishments for 2021. That may actually happen in my other blog, as well. I’m up early, this morning, because I have get to work today. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get my blog done and not be rushing out the door at 9:00.

Today is my day in the computer center, so it should be a pretty good day. Who am I kidding? It would take a major catastrophe to not have a good day, working at the library.

Oh! I almost forgot to say something about our sushi experience, last night. As previously mentioned, we met with some church friends for dinner last night, at Goldfish Sushi, next door to the Hoffbrau Steakhouse in Haltom City. It was amazing! We all go the $22.99 all you can eat deal, so we were all able to share all of the appetizers and sushi. We got an appetizer called “Honeymoon,” which was, essentially, stuffed jalapenos, tempura-fried. They were delicious. Then, we had a variety of sushi rolls, including Crunch Orleans Roll (Crispy crabmeat, Avocado, Crawfish with 4 season sauce), Rainbow Roll (California roll over tuna, salmon, w/tuna, shrimp and Redsnapper, raw fish), Crunch Roll (Crabmeat, Cream cheese, Avocado Crispy crunch with spicy mayo, Eel sauce), Hawaiian Roll (California roll topped Fresh Tuna, raw fish), Spicy Tuna Roll, Watauga Roll (Shrimp tempura, cream cheese, avocado roll over crab stake spicy mayo, wasabi, eel sauce and crunch), Volcano Roll (California roll topped w/ scallop, crabmeat baked special volcano sauce), and I swear there was one called King Tiger Roll, but I can’t find that on their menu online. There is one called White Tiger that is “Spicy crab, cucumber, avocado roll, top seared white tuna, scallion masago, spicy ponzu sauce.” I’m not sure if that is it or not. Then there was a dessert that was very simple, a small orange (maybe a “cutie” or “clementine”) cut into four pieces with chocolate sauce drizzled on top.

It was all quite delicious. My favorite was the Crunch Orleans Roll and the Honeymoon appetizer, which may only be available on the all you can eat menu, as I do not see that listed as an appetizer on the online menu. The service was also wonderful and friendly. Our friends are regular customers, so that probably helped. Hahaha. I feel pretty certain that we will be back.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Who will roll away
the stone from the entrance of
the tomb of our lives?
(based on Mark 16:3)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, 
who does not turn to the proud, 
to those who go astray after a lie! 
(Psalms 40:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the "new song" that God has put in my heart and in my mouth
2. that He has caused me to put my trust in Him
3. that the steadfast love and mercies of the Lord, which are "new every morning," actually no nothing of boundaries such as days, hours, weeks, and years
4. for twenty-three thousand three hundred and four days of life (so far)
5. for the hope of wisdom
6. for the hope of the love of God and loving my neighbor as myself

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
(Revelation 22:13 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)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Good verses with which to end a year. And while I realize, contextually, that Jeremiah 29:11 is specifically a prophecy to Israel, how can it not be applicable to us who are the “new Israel?” God certainly does not have plans for evil for us. He has a future and a hope planned for all of us who are in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah!

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! 
Serve Yahweh with gladness. 
Come before his presence with singing. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 WEB)

I pause, at this moment, to reflect on the grace of God throughout the past year, as well as the promise of hope and His grace into the next. Truly, December 31 is just a day, and January 1 is just another day. The grace and steadfast love of the Lord knows no boundaries such as days, hours, weeks, and years. I am grateful for this.

BIBLE SONG

A prayer of Moses the man of God.

 Lord, you have been our dwelling place 
throughout all generations. 
Before the mountains were born 
or you brought forth the whole world, 
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

You turn people back to dust, 
saying, "Return to dust, you mortals." 
A thousand years in your sight 
are like a day that has just gone by, 
or like a watch in the night. 
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— 
they are like the new grass of the morning: 
In the morning it springs up new, 
but by evening it is dry and withered.

 Teach us to number our days, 
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; 
establish the work of our hands for us— 
yes, establish the work of our hands.
(Psalms 90:1-6, 12, 17 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 
"'"The LORD bless you and keep you; 
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."' 
"So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
(Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, I mull over these passages, reading them again. I pray the prayer of Moses back to God, verbatim, reflecting on its appropriateness for the last day of a year, humanly speaking.

I also take note of that bit about a thousand years being like a day to Him. See the comments in my earlier reflection between the invitation and the bible song. “From everlasting to everlasting You are God.” From eternity past to eternity future, God is the Lord; His majesty is never-ending and His rule will remain, while we will turn to dust. However, it is only our bodies that will return to dust while our souls live on, with those new, glorified bodies that we have yet to even imagine.

Verse 12 is literally the reason that every blog entry begins with how many days I have been alive. Trivial? Perhaps. And, while I confess that I began that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I still take it somewhat seriously. I have been around a lot of days, but those twenty-three thousand three hundred and four days (it seems larger when it’s typed out) have gone by in a flash. It seems like only yesterday that my family was moving from a rental house to the house where my mother still lives. But it wasn’t yesterday. Ironically, it was November 22, 1963.

Yes, that’s right. The day that C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died.

I’ll bet that’s not what you expected to see. Of course, we all know what date that is. And those two deaths were overshadowed by the more famous death of JFK.

But I digress.

What is the point, here? Sometimes, I’m not sure. But I think, for me, today, it’s this: God is God from everlasting to everlasting. We are dust; from dust we came, to dust we shall return, and our puny little existence is nothing more than a mote of dust in comparison to eternity. We would do well to consider this. Not so that we feel badly about ourselves, but maybe, just maybe, so we don’t get so cocky. Because mankind has gotten quite cocky, especially in the USA.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I also think it highly appropriate to end the year with the Aaronic blessing from Numbers.

Father, I pray for wisdom for us. I pray that as we all “number our days,” that we may truly “gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom seems to be in short supply in our land, these days. And lest I point any unnecessary fingers, may it start with me. Give me wisdom. Give me the wisdom to know what opinions matter and what opinions don’t. Give me wisdom, today, tomorrow, and for 2022, to know how to love You and love my neighbor as myself. Give me wisdom to know how to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, just as He loved us, and gave His life for us!

I pray for the blessing to be on all who read this blog today (or whenever they read it . . . even if it’s way into next year, may all who read this be blessed with Your richest blessings).

Father, I pray for spiritual renewal for all of Your children. May we know You as never before. May we realize that knowing You is the absolute most important thing we can do; more important than any human-invented “cause,” and infinitely more important than my opinion about anything! May You lead us into repentance as we look back on the past year. May we fully know the knowledge and experience of Your forgiveness.

"Covenant-keeping God,
at the end of another year I thank You for keeping me connected and at home in You through the Holy Spirit by Your free,
unchanging love and by the strong intercession of Jesus.
In Your faithfulness,
continue to preserve and keep me and all Your people from the power of evil throughout the coming year.
In Jesus's name,
amen."

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"May His presence go before you
and behind you,
and beside you,
all around you,
and within you,
He is with you,
He is with you,
In the morning, 
in the evening,
in your coming,
and your going,
in your weeping,
and rejoicing,
He is for you!"

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Name Alone

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the thirtieth of December, 2021, the sixth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,303

Only two more days until 2022!!

Temperatures continue to be unseasonably warm (albeit comfortable) as we have a projected high of 76 in DFW today. However, the weekend looks like it will be, how you say, “brisk.” No, let’s don’t mess around. It’s going to be freakin’ cold Sunday and Monday mornings. We’re talking in the twenties, and low twenties, at that. In fact, Saturday’s temps will go from a high of 73 to a low Sunday morning of 20! At least the temperature is supposed to get above freezing Sunday afternoon before dropping back down to 24 Monday morning. And both days are slated to be “sunny.”

Not a lot happened, yesterday. I got a package returned to Amazon, via the UPS store, and picked up Sonic drinks while out. There seems to be a growing shortage of Sprite Zero at the Sonics, so C had to drink Diet Coke. We got our grocery delivery from Albertsons and everything was good on that, except they were out of Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar products. No worries. If we run out, we have plenty of Coke Zero. And if we run out of that, we have plenty of water.

C has a prescription ready to pick up at CVS, and I tried to get it yesterday, but the line was wrapped around the building, and she said she didn’t have to have it until Friday. So I will try again today.

We made chili for dinner last night, the first meal we’ve cooked since Christmas. We don’t normally have chili on Wednesday, so that was a departure from our normal schedule. Which is fine, because the “schedule” has been anything but normal this week. So much so that I’m still having trouble remembering what day it is. I do know that tomorrow is Friday, and I am supposed to work. So I will need to get to bed at a more decent time tonight, and get up before 9:00, because I’m supposed to be at work by 9:15. And I don’t want to have to rush through the last blog of the year, right?

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.
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
 Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
(Psalms 33:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the ability and skill to "make melody to Him," and to sing new songs to the Lord
2. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which endures forever (see Psalm 136)
3. for the promise of Home
4. that only the name of the Lord is worthy to be exalted
5. for the many names of God and what they all mean for us

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
(Psalms 36:5 NIV)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 
"I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, 
but will have the light of life." 
(John 8:12 ESV)

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
(John 17:16 ESV)

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
the holy habitation of the Most High. 
God is in the midst of her;
 she shall not be moved; 
God will help her when morning dawns. 
(Psalms 46:4-5 ESV)

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
(Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

"Let not your hearts be troubled. 
Believe in God; believe also in me. 
In my Father's house are many rooms. 
If it were not so, would I have told you 
that I go to prepare a place for you? 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
I will come again and will take you to myself, 
that where I am you may be also."
(John 14:1-3 ESV)
He will come again,
and will take us to Himself;
I long to be Home.

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Shout praises to the LORD,
 everyone on this earth. 
Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the LORD! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 CEV)

As I pause, this morning, I’m reflecting on Home. While there is nothing I can do to hasten my arrival there (it is God’s purpose that keeps me here), I can express my desire to be there, and, hopefully, prepare myself for the eventual transition. Dallas Willard once opined that some people’s transition from this life to the next might be so smooth that they don’t even realize that they “died.”

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD. 

Praise the LORD from the heavens; 
praise him in the heights above. 
Praise him, all his angels; 
praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 
Praise him, sun and moon; 
praise him, all you shining stars. 
Praise him, you highest heavens 
and you waters above the skies. 

Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
for his name alone is exalted; 
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.  
And he has raised up for his people a horn, 
the praise of all his faithful servants, 
of Israel, the people close to his heart. 

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:1-4, 13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. 
(Luke 2:36-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me, lingering over them, giving them my attention. I pray my life to God, resting in His presence.

In the midst of Psalm 148, such a great panoply of praise, one phrase catches my attention, today. It comes in verse 13: “His name alone is exalted.”

We “praise” a lot of things and people in this world. WE speak fondly of our favorite places, people, foods, books, songs, games, and so on. But there is only One who deserves to truly be worshiped.

He goes by many names. 
YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) - I AM
El Shaddai - God Almighty
Adonai
Elohim
El Elyon
El Olam

There are many suffixes to the name, Jehovah. 

Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace
Jehovah Jireh - The Lord will Provide
Jehovah Tsidkenu - The Lord our Righteousness
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord is my Banner
Jehovah Sabbaoth - The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah Maccaddeshcem (M'Kaddesh) - The Lord who Sanctifies
Jehovah Rohi - The Lord my Shepherd
Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord who Heals

I’m sure I have not exhausted the list . . . these are just some of the “bigger” ones, or more well-known names of God.

Consider today . . . who do you need God to be in your life today? Call on the Name of God that you need the most today. Do you need peace? Do you have physical needs of provision? Do you need protection? Do you need healing? Or do you just need to know that He is there? Call on Him, and He will answer. If you seek Him with all your heart, He will hear you and He will make Himself known to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

Father, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that I have ever sought You with “all my heart.” For surely, there is always a piece of my heart that longs for the things of this world. Otherwise, I would have ceased chasing after anything sinful, long ago. So I need You to do what Psalm 86:11 asks for. Unite my heart to fear Your Name. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. My heart’s desire is to be whole-hearted toward You, so that I might truly know You and see Your face. I know that, someday, I will see what can be seen of You, in glory, and I truly long for that day, because I grow weary of the fight in this world. Yet I know that I am still here for a purpose, and I want to fulfill that purpose for You. So keep drawing me closer, and keep showing me Yourself, that I might come closer to calling on You with my whole heart.

Your Name, alone, is to be exalted and worshiped. Help me to worship You more faithfully, Father. And for anyone who stumbles across this, today, Lord, I pray that one of those many names of Yours will inspire them to call upon You for whatever they need in Your life. Show Yourself, faithfully, to all who call upon You, that Your name may be glorified, on earth as it is in heaven. I seek no recognition, as I am only a channel of the words that Your Holy Spirit puts in my brain and on my heart. I pray that I am “hearing” correctly, though. Let me never say or do anything that brings dishonor to Your Holy Name!

Father, please give Your children the commitment to do justice and love mercy. I pray for the rights and protection of children in our land and around the world. And, for anyone who is lonely, today, may You, Jehovah Shammah, show Yourself to them as their faithful companion.

BLESSING

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel! He has come to save his people.
(Luke 1:68 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Good morning (probably afternoon by the time this is finished). Today is . . . must be Wednesday, because I worked at the library last night. Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of December, 2021. The fifth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill your body, soul, mind, and spirit, today.

We’ve been staying up really late and sleeping late, this week. This doesn’t make it any easier to remember what day it is, especially since C has been off work all week. She does have to work some on Friday, but only from home. It’s the year end, and things always change and/or roll out on December 31/January 1, so she has to be available.

We slept until after 9:00, this morning. It may have been close to 10:00. I really can’t remember. I cooked some breakfast for us all, because I was hungry, before sitting down to do my morning devotional, so it’s running pretty late today.

There is very little on our “agenda” for today. C has already cut up the extra ham and put it in the freezer. We never found anyone who needed it. I’m sure we could have if we had tried a little harder, but there were several interested parties, who never followed through with coming to get it. So it’s in our freezer for future meals.

C is planning to put up a new set of LED lights in S’s room, today. The old set has quit working, probably due to some cat activity in the room. Some people blame aliens, some blame gremlins. We always blame cats.

I have a small grocery order set to deliver between 1:00 and 2:00, and we have one box that needs to be taken to the UPS store to return to Amazon. And, of course, there will be Sonic drinks, at some point. We have had an issue, though . . . our closest Sonic seems to have run out of Sprite Zero, which is C’s drink of choice.

I might try to get some serious reading done today. I would like to get at least one more book finished before 2022. I’m currently reading The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the book that introduces the character known by many as The Witcher, aka Geralt of Rivera. The Witcher is a wildly popular video game series (I have played one of them) that has also now become an immensely popular Netflix series, now in its second season. The books are written in Polish, but have been translated to English. I’m a little less than a fourth of the way through it, currently.

I also checked out another book, last night. I was supposed to shelve it, but when I saw it, I realized that I “need” to read it. It is the latest by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On the Train, and is called A Slow Fire Burning. I have read both of Ms. Hawkins’s books, the other being Into the Water, which was also very good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, to begin. The first is:

Lessons of Receiving, by Daryl Madden

Of our Gods great wisdom
His plan of conceiving
In nature surrounding
Are lessons of receiving

In humble flowers
Who open to light
Welcome the gift
With colors bright

Of trees standing tall
With branches raised
In calm and in storm
Arms stretched in praise

And of the pasture
Letting rain seep
To nourish the soil
Of roots growing deep

Why as His children
So difficult be
To accept the graces
That are blessed to me

We expect and we take
What’s given for free
Oh Lord, let me learn
From the flowers and trees

Let’s cherish each blessing
To receive gratefully
Well find in this way
We’ll live joyfully

I pray that we can receive these blessings and not simply expect and take what is freely given. In addition to cherishing each blessing, I also pray that we will cherish one another, in this Kingdom walk. Please check out Daryl’s poetry in the provided link.

The other is another one of Susan’s short poems.

Carpe Deum, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

This is
your time, give
your all

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

Please see more of her beautiful and inspiring Haikus at the provlided link.

As 2022 approaches, just around the bend, it is, indeed “your time.” It is my time, to give my all to Jesus. In the coming year, while I don’t do resolutions, and can’t rightfully say that these aspirations are truly “goals” (they have to be measurable to really be goals), I do have desires and aspirations for the new year. I want to read more books; I want to pray more consistently, and I want to do even better at this thing of “loving one another.”

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 
"Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. 
Remove this cup from me. 
Yet not what I will, 
but what you will." 
(Mark 14:35-36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus said, "not what I will, but what You will."
2. that the Kingdom of God is within us
3. that we have this Helper, the Holy Spirit
4. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world
5. for Jesus, the Light of the world 

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
(Luke 17:21 KJV)

"If you love me, 
you will keep my commandments. 
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Helper, 
to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, 
whom the world cannot receive, 
because it neither sees him nor knows him. 
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more,
 but you will see me. 
Because I live, you also will live.
 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, 
and you in me, and I in you. 
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, 
he it is who loves me. 
And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, 
and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
Little children, 
you are from God and have overcome them, 
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
(1 John 4:4 ESV)

“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

We spend so much energy looking all over the place for God’s kingdom. We buy up stacks of books (nothing wrong with books, mind you . . . some of my greatest inspirations have come from them) and flock to listen to inspirational speakers. But, “if we follow Jesus’s teachings, we need look no further for the kingdom than what we carry inside. Everywhere, all the time.” What we are so frantically searching for is right here, “in plain sight.” (Jacqueline F. Wheelock in Daily Guideposts 2021)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

Sing to the LORD, all the world! 
Worship the LORD with joy; 
come before him with happy songs! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 GNB)

I pause, briefly, as I consider the presence of the Lord and His Kingdom, here within me, and all around me.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm. 

I will sing of your love and justice; 
to you, LORD, I will sing praise. 
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— 
when will you come to me? 

I will conduct the affairs of my house 
with a blameless heart.
 I will not look with approval 
on anything that is vile. 

I hate what faithless people do; 
I will have no part in it. 
The perverse of heart shall be far from me; 
I will have nothing to do with what is evil. 

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, 
that they may dwell with me; 
the one whose walk is blameless 
will minister to me.
(Psalms 101:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. 
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, 
you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 
For my eyes have seen your salvation, 
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
and the glory of your people Israel." 
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from these meditations, and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

I feel like caution is necessary in the reading of Psalm 101. While I do want to be “blameless” in my life and in my actions, and I do intend to sing of the love and justice of the Lord, the sentiment of hating what “faithless people do” can easily lead down a dark path. Mind you, I’m not being critical of God’s Word, here, but we also must remember that these are songs and prayers of a man who, even though he was a “man after God’s own heart,” was also guilty of rape, murder, and various other heinous sins.

So, how “blameless” was he, exactly? I, too, desire to have “nothing to do with what is evil,” but at the same time, if I am going to be any kind of inspiration or minister to others, I must find myself in the company of “evil” people, from time to time. And we cannot truly be only in the company of the “faithful in the land.”

I’m not really sure how to interpret this psalm, or how to apply it to my own life in the twenty-first century. I think that, as best I can, I need to walk blamelessly, and to avoid those things that are “vile.” But we all slip, sometimes, some of us more than others. We all fall into the devil’s traps. And part of the division that we are finding ourselves in the midst of right now is due to an oversimplification of the sentiments of this particular psalm (and others like it).

We also have to be careful in how we determine who those “faithful” are. For me, it is people who are truly trying to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. Those are the people in whom I delight. Those are the people who are trying their best to do all those things Jesus said we should do for “the least of these.” Those are the “faithful” in whom I delight.

Father, I praise You for Jesus, the light for the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel. I thank You that He has come to bring salvation to us, as well as show us the Kingdom. He has let us know that the Kingdom dwells within us. It is not over there, hiding. It is not in the great halls with the eloquent speakers. It is not in the “Christian” book stores. It is within me, and within every other person who has taken that step into the easy yoke of Jesus and begun to walk with Him in Your Kingdom.

Help me to display Jesus, the Light of the world, in my life and through my words and actions. I pray for the joy of salvation to be experienced by all people, everywhere. I pray for a deeper understanding of the Gospel, in the coming year. And I pray for any family members and friends who do not know the love of Jesus in their lives.

"Faithful God,
in our world,
where evil is serious,
pain is no illusion,
and our guilt is real,
open our eyes to see how justice and mercy take the shape of a Savior dying on a cross for us.
With Simeon,
may all people see that Your justice and mercy meet when Jesus is born for our salvation.
Amen."

BLESSING

"Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! 
He has come to the help of his people and has set them free."
(Luke 1:68 GNB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. 
Amen. 
(Revelation 22:21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Want to Know As I Am Known

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-eighth of December, 2021. The fourth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,301

Only four more days until 2022.

Not a lot happened yesterday. Once I got the blog finished, C and I ventured out to Six Flags, where we did a couple of things and gave up and went back home. It was very crowded, and a lot of things were closed. There were lines like crazy, everywhere, even to get out drink cups refilled. The one place we found where we could walk up and get our free refills had no diet sodas. We rode the Runaway Mountain (after at least a ninety minute wait) and the train from the Texas Giant entry back around to the Boom Town side. From there got in a line for one place because C thought she wanted a funnel cake. But when she saw that the line went into serpentines inside the store, she changed her mind. We found a place to get our drinks refilled (and some pretty good popcorn) and only waited about ten minutes. Then we headed out. We park at C’s workplace so the walk back to the car isn’t so bad. She works literally right across the street from Six Flags.

We picked up some Taco Bell for dinner (we’re planning on getting “serious” about healthy eating again, maybe today or tomorrow . . . there’s still some candy left. And cake), where I discovered that they have a new “chalupa” (I put that in quotes . . . it’s what TB calls them) that is “Chipotle Cheddar.” They were ahmahzing!!!! Glad I got to have a couple, because that probably won’t be happening again for months.

So the new year is coming up, which means I have to choose what devotional materials I will be using. Everything I will use, I got for Christmas, this year. One of them will only be for sixty days, new-ish book by Eugene H. Peterson, published, I believe, posthumously.

Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson

On Living Well, also by Eugene H. Peterson, is a series of brief writings/essays on, as the subtitle says, “wisdom for walking in the way of Jesus.” I am not sure how many there are, but I do not believe it is enough to last the entire year. I have the kindle version of this one. In fact, the more I think about it, I might delay the start of this one until I am finished with the first one that lasts only sixty days.

Of course, there will be the old faithful Daily Guideposts. These daily writings, by a variety of folks from all different perspectives and “walks of life,” are sometimes deeply inspirational. Sometimes, they aren’t inspirational at all, but you can’t win them all, right? They are good enough that I keep reading. Plus my mother gives me a copy every year for Christmas.

The last one is Pray a Word a Day, published by Guideposts. This one just came out a few months ago, and when I saw the ad for it, I was intrigued and decided that I needed a copy. Each day, as suggested, provides a word to guide the day’s prayers, along with a short reading and some room for writing reflections at the bottom of the page. There are also multiple pages for more reflection at the end of the book. For example, the first day’s word is “goodness.” The idea is that I allow that word to be at the front of my thoughts and meditations throughout the day.

I had to make an unusual decision as the end of 2021 approaches. The book I have been using for the bulk of my devotional material this year, Seeking God’s Face, actually begins with Advent. Since I got the book for Christmas last year, Advent was already past. So I actually started the book on Christmas Day, last year (I think). There are twelve days of Christmas, ending on Epiphany, which is January 6. I will not carry over into 2022, so the days of Christmas will abruptly stop at day seven, since I don’t plan to use that resource in 2022. I realize I don’t owe any explanations, but just in case anyone wondered, there it is.

Today is a scheduled work day for me, this evening from 4:14 to 8:15. Then I don’t work again until Friday. The library is open, as far as I know, all day on Friday, New Year’s Eve, but will be closed for the holiday on Saturday. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, anyway. We have also planned to have dinner with some friends Thursday evening. Shocking, I know . . . we don’t ever do that. But there’s this sushi place that they really like, so we are going to join them for dinner there. It’s called Goldfish Sushi. They promise that they don’t really serve goldfish. We’ll see.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Work of Christmas, by Daryl Madden

The Journey of Christmas

When the star in the
Sky fades away
And we don’t hear
The angels this day

When the wise men
Return to their home
And the shepherds
To fields, back to roam

Here with our
God dwelling in
The journey of
Christmas begins

To find the lost
The broken heal
The good news spread
Of love, reveal

The nations build
Captive, release
To bring to all
The gift of peace

Committed no
Matter the cost
On our path that
Leads to the cross

I love this poem because of the idea that the “journey” of Christmas does not end when Christmas day is over, when we no longer hear the angels singing or see the star. In fact, the real journey only begins there, as this poem so beautifully expresses. The end of the “journey of Christmas” is no end, but the beginning of eternity.

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at the link provided.

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which is truly better than life
2. that God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, my refuge and my fortress
3. that all I think I know and all I think I know about God does not equal one nth of all that there is to know, and that, one day, when I meet Him face to face, I will know Him completely
4. that You, God, are my God; that my soul thirsts for You and my flesh faints for You
5. that You, Jesus, are my "reality"

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
(Psalms 68:5 NIV)

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
(Psalms 32:7 NIV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
(Psalms 91:1-2 ESV)

Today’s Daily Guideposts reading made me think of my mother. And how well she knows that our God, our Father is her defender, her refuge, and her fortress. I can assure you that she abides in His shadow.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:6 ESV)

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalms 27:4 ESV)

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, 
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 18:2-4 ESV)

Consider how much you think you know. (For me, that’s easy. I don’t think I know very much at all.) Then consider how much you think you know about God. Then consider how much you think there is to know about God. All of this makes me feel about as big as a speck of sand on the surface of the sun.

But then, I consider this:

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.
(1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

My puny little brain almost explodes at that thought. Once again, I find myself thinking of Psalm 139.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
(Psalms 139:6 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

A thanksgiving psalm. 

On your feet now—applaud GOD! 
Bring a gift of laughter, 
sing yourselves into his presence. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 MSG)

As I pause, briefly, I consider this idea of singing myself into His presence. I like the way that is phrased.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. For giving grateful praise. 

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 
Worship the LORD with gladness; 
come before him with joyful songs. 
Know that the LORD is God. 
It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving 
and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations. 
(Psalms 100:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 
(Luke 2:15-20 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for a word or phrase that catches my attention and stirs within me. As I linger over these, I consider what I need to ask God about or pray about, praying my life to Him, and resting in His presence.

One of the desires of my heart is to see all people worship the Lord, with gladness. Have you ever observed a worship service? Having seen a veritable plethora of them, myself, I have observed many different faces in those worship services. Sometimes, I see gladness. Sometimes, not so much. Sometimes I see some of the most sour faces . . . people who do not seem to be enjoying the time at all.

Now, I get it; I understand that we cannot be “happy” all the time. There are things in our lives (we call them “circumstances”) that affect our happiness. Sometimes, those things are even allowed to affect our joy. So we aren’t always going to appear joyful or glad when we worship.

But we certainly shouldn’t appear to be angry! I’ve seen a lot of angry faces in worship services.

My desire, though . . . back to that . . . is to see all people be able to worship God and to shout His praise, “with gladness.” Not fake gladness, mind you. I don’t want to see people put on fake smiles and pretend that everything is all right.

The heart of this desire is that everything would truly BE all right for everyone; that everyone’s heart would be able to worship and celebrate the Lord, “with gladness!”

In the meantime, maybe we can be more like Mary and the shepherds from the Luke story. Maybe we can be like Mary by storing up these things and pondering them in our hearts. And maybe we can be like the shepherds who just had a visit with the baby King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They returned, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

For just a few minutes, all their problems were forgotten as they focused on what they had just experienced.

Father, I praise You for the experience of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I thank You for what He has done in me, and what He continues to do, via the power of Your Holy Spirit. I thank You for the work of the Trinity in my life and in my heart. I realize that much of what I say sounds like madness to those who are not believers. Oh, well. For me, it is reality. It is reality that I love. I am able to worship You with gladness, most of the time. I do allow myself to get down, sometimes, for circumstances to steal my joy, but it always returns, because You always remind me of reality, and that what I see around me, sometimes, most of the time, isn’t truly the essence of reality.

Help me to ponder like Mary and worship like the shepherds. And help me to approach You like the child who barely knows anything at all, looking forward to that day when, yes, I will “know it all,” but only because I am finally and completely in the fullness of Your presence, at Home, for eternity.

"Jesus,
You are truly Immanuel,
God with us.
You share in this flesh and blood life,
entering my ordinary circumstances,
filling it with wonder,
hope,
and promise.
So, 
like the shepherds,
make me quick and ready to spread this good news to all.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed be the Lord, 
the God of Israel; 
he came and set his people free.
(Luke 1:68 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Lord Reigns

Good morning. Today is Monday, the twenty-seventh of December, 2021, the third day of Christmas. (I literally had to stop for a few seconds to think about what day this is.)

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,300 (the number of days since I was born)

Only five more days until 2022!

We had a busy day, yesterday, it seems, and we got quite a bit accomplished. First, we got our new robot vacuum set up and running. It did very well, I think, and ran for quite a while. It’s pretty quiet. The cats were very interested, but wary.

Then we started setting up/installing our new Blink security system, along with the new Alexa Echo Show device. This was a little challenging, because you have to do things in the correct order, and the instructions are not exactly forthcoming on what that order is.

Here’s the thing. The doorbell does not come with the cameras. It’s a separate entity. So C went to install the doorbell first, but then I discovered that, before you sync up the doorbell, you need to sync the “sync module” which is a piece that does come with the cameras. And, in addition, there are QR codes that have to be scanned, most of which are actually on the inside of the devices. So those have to be scanned before putting the back covers back on the doorbell and cameras.

We eventually got all of this figured out, and successfully got three cameras and a doorbell installed and activated. We armed them last night before going to bed. We got several notifications that they were activated (motion-sensitive). We need to adjust them a little, because a couple of the driveway view activations were made by garbage trucks driving by on the street, as well as people just walking by on the sidewalk. One of the front door activations (front door is a different camera than the doorbell) was caused by the cat that lives across the street.

We can adjust where the camera (especially the driveway one) points and then pick certain areas in the photo that will not be activated. It will just take a little time and effort to do this.

I also called Mama using the Alexa Echo Show device, which was really neat. I just say, “Alexa, call Mama,” and it does. I don’t have to even open my phone.

Technology is pretty amazing. We can also say, “Alexa, show me the back yard,” and it will show us the live camera view from the Blink camera back there. Here is a view of our driveway and our back yard.

I was going to add a bunch of pics of books that I received for Christmas, but I believe, upon further reflection (and the fact that it is already almost noon), that I will do that in a separate post, perhaps in my other blog.

I’m not sure what else is in the works for today. C and I might go to Six Flags, in a little while, if my allergies let up some. I’m currently feeling better after taking some otc meds. We also have an entire ham that needs to be cut up and put in the freezer.

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.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. 
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. 
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! 
(Psalms 32:8-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I can see colors
2. for books (I got some new ones for Christmas)
3. for the steadfast love that surrounds us who trust in the Lord
4. that the Lord goes before me and establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9)
5. for the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

For if you keep silent at this time, 
relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, 
but you and your father's house will perish. 
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom 
for such a time as this?" 
(Esther 4:14 ESV)
But, as it is written, 
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"— 
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. 
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 
(1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
 according to the power at work within us,
 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
 throughout all generations, forever and ever. 
Amen. 
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
 bright as crystal, 
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 
through the middle of the street of the city; 
also, on either side of the river, 
the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, 
yielding its fruit each month. 
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
 No longer will there be anything accursed, 
but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
 and his servants will worship him. 
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 
And night will be no more. 
They will need no light of lamp or sun, 
for the Lord God will be their light,
and they will reign forever and ever. 
(Revelation 22:1-5 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY THREE

INVITATION

A Psalm for giving thanks. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 
Serve the LORD with gladness! 
Come into his presence with singing! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 ESV)

As I pause, at this moment in time, I consider Home. There is a lot to think about already, what with the Scriptures concerning how the Lord establishes my steps and has plans for my life that truly do not have any regard for what plans I might have (if I’m doing things right, my plans line up with what He has planned for me). And, as the thought from Esther so aptly puts it, we should be ready for anything, and ready to do what the Lord is leading us into, because, for all we know, that is exactly why we are here at this exact moment in time.

But Home . . . no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard about, what has been prepared for us. We have not even truly imagined it. The Spirit has revealed bits and pieces to us, but our finite minds and limited understanding can’t comprehend what has been revealed to us. And have those who have “gone on before us . . . ” have they seen it? Has anyone seen it, yet? This vision seen in Revelation 22 . . . if I understand things correctly (and there is a HUGE chance that I do not), this has not happened, yet. These are questions for people who have much more understanding than I.

BIBLE SONG

The LORD reigns, 
let the nations tremble; 
he sits enthroned between the cherubim, 
let the earth shake. 
Great is the LORD in Zion; 
he is exalted over all the nations. 
Let them praise your great and awesome name— 
he is holy. 

The King is mighty, he loves justice— 
you have established equity; 
in Jacob you have done 
what is just and right. 
Exalt the LORD our God 
and worship at his footstool; 
he is holy.
(Psalms 99:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. 
(John 1:9-14, 16-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the Lord’s presence, I read these passages again, asking the Holy Spirit to guide me toward how God might be speaking to me. I will allow my heart to respond accordingly and take refreshment in His presence.

I take great comfort in the truth that the Lord reigns. I look around me, though, and, many times, my eyes do not see evidence of this truth. It all looks like chaos to me. This is where faith comes in. I realize that those who do not believe, call them atheists or agnostics or whatever, would consider me foolish for going down that path, but I, frankly, couldn’t care less about their opinions. The Lord reigns. And while my eyes may not see the evidence, my heart and my spirit know that it is truth. Things are seldom what they seem.

I would that all the nations would praise His name, and that they would do it before that great and terrible “Day of the Lord,” after which every knee will bow and every tongue confess, some willingly and some under the most fearful of compulsion. I cannot begin to imagine the hate and fear that will fill the hearts of those who will not believe in our God, on that day.

I also see that this King, this Lord, who reigns, is mighty and He loves justice and has established equity. I fear that there are many who will find themselves not on His side, at the end, because they have not loved justice and have refused to “establish equity” in their own dealings with other human beings.

The final word on the matter is in Psalm 99:5.

Exalt the LORD our God 
and worship 
at his footstool; 
he is holy.
(Psalms 99:5 NIV)

These words are trustworthy and true. He is holy. He is mighty. He loves justice and mercy. He has established equity. All humanity would do well to exalt Him and worship at His footstool.

We have been given the right to become His children, because we have believed in His name, according to the passage in John 1. Note that our “birth” in this passage is not of human descent or will, but “born of God.” This is what is meant by the whole “born again” thing. We have been born “from above,” born “of God.” This was made possible by the Word (who existed from before, all throughout eternity past) who became flesh and dwelt among us.

John, who wrote this Gospel message, was an eyewitness to these things and beheld the glory of Jesus Christ, “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

We may not have seen God, but Jesus Christ has made Him known to us. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and NO MAN comes to the Father except through Him.

Father, I praise You for these truths, today. I thank You that You have placed faith in my heart, many, many years ago, and that this faith is still alive and well within me. I thank You that You have also fashioned within me a love for justice, mercy, and equity. I pray for justice in all the world, in every land, in every tribe and nation and government, and that everyone in any kind of authority would see Your majesty and might, and would exalt You and worship at Your footstool!

I pray that all Your children would heed the call to follow You in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. I pray that we would all have increased capacity to serve the common good. And I pray for special blessings on those who have had to work through the holiday season.

"Unseen God,
I sometimes wonder:
what are You like?
Thank You for not leaving me in the dark but making Yourself known in Jesus.
Because He is one with You, 
I see exactly what You are like in Him,
a perfect reflection of Your glory.
Give me the eyes to see You and faith to serve You.
Amen."

BLESSING

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, 
for he has visited and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 ESV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

All Creation Sings

Good morning! It is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of December, 2021, the second day of Christmas.

The peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,299

Only six days until 2022!

Yesterday was a lovely day, for the most part. The one thing that was a bit of a “downer” was that S’s stomach was upset for most of the day. It’s never fun to be feeling sick on Christmas.

We had our morning gift-unwrapping via live Zoom with R & J, which was great fun. Eventually, I may run down everything I got for Christmas, but I’ll need to have everything in front of me, or have pictures of it all, which I have not done yet. C is still asleep, so I don’t want to open the study door, because it goes into the bedroom and I don’t want to bother her. I will say that the highlight of the gifts was the trombone kazoo that C found for me. There’s quite a story behind that.

The trombone kazoo

After the gifts were unwrapped, C cooked a couple of dishes, and we left some at home, because S did not go to Mineral Wells with us. Remember, her stomach was upset. And this was genuine. Sometimes, she just doesn’t want to go, but this time, she really didn’t feel well. Trust me, there was evidence.

We had a great visit with Mama in Mineral Wells. We started out with another Zoom visit with R & J, and Mama opened her present from them. I don’t remember everything that she got from them, but there were a couple of LED nightlights, which I thought were very cool and decorative. I may consider getting something like that for our home.

We decided to go ahead and have lunch before opening our other presents to each other. It was a nice lunch, more ham, corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, fudge, pecan pie, and I’m probably forgetting something.

We surprised Mama with a new 42″ Amazon Fire TV for her den. Amazon just started marketing those, this year, and I was excited to be able to get one for her. We use the Fire Stick in our TV and love it. The new Fire TV basically does the same thing, but it’s built into the TV. We also started an Amazon Prime account for her so she can have Prime Video alongside her Netflix. We successfully got her cable hooked up to the TV, so she can now watch all of her favorite things on a full-sized TV instead of having to watch Netflix on a tablet.

This morning, our house church will not be meeting. I had thought about trying to visit the Anglican church I had visited before, but I won’t be finished in time. Their service begins at 10:00 AM, and it is currently 9:43. I slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

C is off for the whole week. She will likely have to log on to work a few times, but won’t have to go to the office until next year. It’s my “light” week, meaning that I’m only scheduled to work Tuesday night and Friday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, 
and his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning. 
(Psalms 30:4-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful celebrations we had with our family
2. for the joy that we celebrate during this season
3. that I can cast my anxiety on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
4. that we are a people called to peace, who can comfort one another in our afflictions
5. for the admonition and ability to let the Word of God dwell in us, richly
6. for my imperishable inheritance, waiting to be revealed to me
7. that darkness will never overcome the light

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
 who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace. 
And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 NIV)

There’s a progression here, that I can appreciate. First, we can cast our anxiety on the Lord. He can take it. He can hold, on His “shoulders,” the anxiety of the entire planet. He cares for us, and will gladly take our anxiety from us, if we would only surrender it. Second, we can comfort one another in our troubles (some versions say “afflictions”). Anxieties are certainly troubles. I know people who struggle with anxiety. It can most certainly be an “affliction.” We can comfort each other in these afflictions. The reason we can do so is that we have been comforted by our Father in our own afflictions, and, perhaps, surrendered our anxieties to Him. Third, we can let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts. We have been called to peace. This seems to be a thing that a lot of us struggle with comprehending. While it may be true that “peace” is not necessarily the absence of conflict, we should, in my opinion, most certainly not be involved in creating conflict.

I do like what comes next in Colossians 3, which is a wonderful chapter, in its entirety anyway. If you keep reading after verse 15, you get this:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, 
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
And whatever you do, in word or deed, 
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the thought behind that first line. We need to let God’s Word dwell in us, “richly.” I used to think this meant we had to do things like memorize it and study it intensely, knowing all of the ins and outs of Scripture, backwards and forwards, even learning some of the Greek and Hebrew nuances.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with knowing all of these things, I don’t believe that is what it means to allow the Word of God to dwell in us. I like the mentality that is presented in the likes of Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat This Book. This is also the idea that has been presented in the devotional book that has been the main thrust of my devotions this year, Seeking God’s Face. It’s this concept of lectio divina, or “divine reading.” This involves four stages (I don’t always manage to do all four of them). The first is simply reading this passage(s) at hand. The second is to meditate or reflect on the words that have been read. This is where I begin to catch certain words or phrases that stir within me or catch my eye. We sometimes use the phrase “jumps out at me.” During the meditation/reflection phase, we focus on those particular words or ideas.

The third stage is response. This is the piece where I pray back to God the things that He has “nudge” me with, during the reading and reflection. It is in this stage where we might also have questions to ask God about the passages that we have read.

The final stage, and, truthfully, the one that I fail to complete most often, is the contemplation stage. This is the stage where we rest in silent contemplation of the things that have been learned and/or prayed during the time. Nothing else should happen during the contemplation time. Of course, the brain will be active. It is impossible to simply shut it off. But we can direct it, and simply sit in silence, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds, regarding the things we have read. The difference between this phase and the reflection/meditation phase is that, in this phase, we are not specifically pondering a particular word or phrase or idea. We are allowing God, via the Spirit, to direct the process.

This, in my opinion, is the best way to allow the Word of God to dwell in us, richly.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
According to his great mercy, 
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
 to an inheritance that is imperishable, 
undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 
who by God's power are being guarded through faith 
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 
(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 2

INVITATION

A psalm of thanksgiving. 

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 NLT)

As I pause, in quietness, this morning, I reflect on the joy of the season, and the admonition in the above Scripture, to both worship in gladness and to sing with joy.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. 

Sing to the LORD a new song, 
for he has done marvelous things;
 his right hand and his holy arm 
have worked salvation for him. 
The LORD has made his salvation known 
and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 
He has remembered his love 
and his faithfulness to Israel; 
all the ends of the earth 
have seen the salvation of our God. 
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn— 
shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, 
the world, and all who live in it. 
Let the rivers clap their hands, 
let the mountains sing together for joy; 
let them sing before the LORD, 
for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalms 98:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning. 
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I reflect on them, looking for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder what has connected with my heart and mind, and respond in prayer to the Lord, finally turning my thoughts to Him and resting in His presence.

Father, as I ponder these things, I know that singing “a new song” is something of which You are more than worthy! You are worthy of every song we could ever sing, new and old alike. As a song says, You are even worthy of every breath that we could ever breathe. As the Psalm says, You have made Your salvation known and revealed Your righteousness to the nations. And yet, the “nations” seem to be unable to see. Open their eyes, Father! Open their eyes, that they might see Your great salvation and Your awesome righteousness, and begin to worship You! But in the meantime, until the people do it, let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing for joy; let all creation sing!

I ponder the incomprehensible truth that Jesus was with You from the beginning, and that all things were made through Him. I do not understand this; I confess. I also confess that I don’t need to understand it. I revel in the truth; I see the glory; I feel the majesty; in Him is LIFE, the LIGHT of all mankind! Darkness will never overcome this light!

Father, as I look around me and see this creation, all of which was created through Jesus, present with You for all eternity, help me to see and savor the majesty, the wonder, the beauty, and the complexity of it all.

"Eternal, 
almighty God,
how did Your hands,
which flung galaxies into elegant orbit,
become the awkwardly uncontrolled hands of a newborn?
How does Your eternal being get inseparably woven into time-bound humanity?
While the how of Your incarnation widens my faith,
may the wonder of why You've done this for me bring deep joy today.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy

Today is Saturday, the twenty-fifth of December, 2021. It is Christmas Day!

I wish you the peace and joy of Jesus Christ, today and every day!

Day 23,298

Seven days until 2022!

Christmas Eve was very nice at our house. C’s family started showing up around 2:00-ish, to help with food preparations. Everyone was there by 4:30, and I think we ate dinner around 5:00 or so, but I don’t rightly remember. Dinner was quite delicious, with ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. There were also sweet potatoes, but I don’t eat those. Oh, and there was cranberry sauce, which I enjoy, as well. We also had the savory and sweet crescent pull-apart Christmas trees, fudge, and two kinds of pie. Everyone was so full that one of the pies never got touched. The pecan pie was left at our house (yay!!).

We have plenty of everything left over. We decided to not make the green bean casserole, because there was plenty of food. We may not make it for today, either, as there is probably enough of everything else left over. So we will be taking ham, the leftover corn and mashed potatoes (I think my mother is making more), and rolls that were left, as well. And fudge, the rest of the crescent Christmas trees, and pecan pie . . . all of this to Mineral Wells today.

After all of that, we will still have a whole twenty-pound ham left. If we can’t find someone who needs it, I guess we will be eating ham for a while. That’s fine with me, though. And we will likely have green bean casserole for New Year’s.

As for gifts, I got a new telescope, along with a book about the night sky (National Geographic), and Stephen King’s latest book, Billy Summers. Just for kicks, I had gotten $20 scratch-off lottery tickets for everyone. Out of the seven tickets that were scratched, last night, C’s sister won $30, S won $50, and C’s niece’s boyfriend won . . .

TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!

I feel like we got my money’s worth on that. I kept trying to convince him that I gave him the wrong ticket, but it didn’t work.

This morning, in a few minutes, we will be zooming with R & J, as we open presents. The blog will be interrupted during that time, but will be resumed immediately afterward. I have my cup of coffee and have had a few pieces of fudge (it’s Kahlua fudge, by the way) for “breakfast.” Oh, and I also already went up to the nearby Amazon Hub Locker to retrieve the final Christmas gift that wasn’t supposed to arrive until Tuesday, because it showed up yesterday! So everything (at least I think) has been delivered!

I wish everyone who reads this a blessed and joyful Christmas day. I pray that the peace of Christ will be in your hearts today. If you are not a Christ-follower, I pray for peace to be in your heart and soul, anyway. And I have no ill will toward anyone, Christ-follower or not. “Love one another” is my mantra.

Okay . . . time to go play Santa Clause. Be back in a bit.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Come, by Daryl Madden

Come to awaken
In the dawning light
Come Spirit to dwell
With deeper insight

Come to contemplate
And celebrate
The gift of wonder
Of His birth so great!

The gift of love
Come to our hope
Of binding divine
Beyond human scope

Source of our joy
Come wisdom revealing
He is God with us
Our comfort and healing

Through His sacrifice
His grace is the key
Come know the way
To eternity

With great rejoicing
To all the world
Oh come, oh come
Emmanuel!

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at the link provided above.

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the truth of those two verses
2. for all the wonderful Christmas gifts
3. for the angels who sang "Glory!" at the birth of Christ
4. for my Savior, Jesus Christ
5. for love, received and given, shared and experienced

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:11 KJV)

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
(Isaiah 40:5 KJV)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
Glory to God in the highest, 
and on earth peace, 
good will toward men. 
(Luke 2:13-14 KJV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 1

INVITATION

A psalm. For giving grateful praise. 

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 
Worship the LORD with gladness; 
come before him with joyful songs. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

As I pause, during the mid-morning quiet, after all the gifts are opened, I reflect on the best gift, the gift of Jesus. Because after all these years, “through the pain, and the grief, through the lies, through the storms, through the cries, and through the wars” . . . “through the cold and the heat, through the pain and through the tears, through the crowds and through the cheers” . . . “through the shame and through the grief, through the heartache, through the years, through the waiting” . . . I still believe!

BIBLE SONG

The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; 
let the distant shores rejoice. 
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; 
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 
Fire goes before him 
and consumes his foes on every side. 
His lightning lights up the world; 
the earth sees and trembles. 
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, 
before the Lord of all the earth. 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, 
and all peoples see his glory. 
(Psalms 97:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. 
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." 
(Luke 2:1-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. As I linger over them and give them my attention, I look for anything that I want to ask God about. I pray my life to God, resting firmly in His presence.

Father, I praise You for Your reign on this earth. Sometimes, we sit back and think that You’ve lost control. But I do not believe that to be true. You are allowing humanity to “do their thing.” You could have created robots, who would never do anything other than Your will. Instead, You created us with a measure of free will (I used to cringe at that phrase), able to act on our own accord, within the framework of Your “bigger picture.” And even though I still believe that my salvation was planned out before the foundations of the earth, and You chose me to be one of Your children, there was still a point at which I had to decide to follow You.

You reign over all the earth. Your power is evident in the forces of nature, and even that is a small indication of the scope of Your infinite power. The heavens proclaim Your righteousness, and we see Your glory.

On this, Christmas Day, I praise You for the Gift. I thank You for Jesus, for His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. I praise You for His teachings, which He gave us to show us how to live and walk in Your kingdom. I pray that more of Your children would follow those teachings rather than being sucked into the erroneous teachings of men. Help us to love one another and to leave the judging to You, the One who is perfect in all Your ways.

Give me the willingness and ability to share the good news of Jesus to others. Give me the words to speak when opportunity arises, and the means to answer the questions that will naturally come up. Thank You for “Christmas,” and I pray for Christmas hope and joy for anyone who stumbles across this blog.

"Jesus Christ,
our newborn King,
we rejoice that You came among us in all Your glory,
taking on our life so that we might share in YHours.
In Your conception and birth You've come to remove our sin -
ours since we were first conceived -
delivering to us the hope of new life.
Make Your home among us today and always.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends. Merry Christmas!

The Gift; The Wonder

Good morning! Today is Friday, the twenty-fourth of December, 2021. It is Christmas Eve!

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,297

One day until Christmas!

C is already busy cooking. She has cut up the fudge that was made last night. It is delicious! She is currently putting together a couple of crescent roll pull-apart Christmas trees. One has garlic and herb soft cheese inside, and the other will have cream cheese, powdered sugar, and chocolate chips inside. We have never tried the chocolate chip one before.

C’s sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend will be coming over, this evening. I believe they plan to bring a deep-fried turkey, something we have yet to try. We will be preparing our usual fare for holidays. Ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and mashed potatoes. And some of those “Parker House” style rolls. We also still have most of the bundt cake that I bought at Nothing Bundt Cakes. C gave in and cut into that a couple days ago. I’m not sure how much is left.

Tomorrow, after we have our Christmas celebrating, we will load up more food and gifts and head to Mineral Wells, where we will celebrate some more, along with some Facetiming with R & J, up in Indy.

I wish everyone who reads this a joyous Christmas, if that is what you celebrate. For the rest, I will say, gladly, “Happy Holidays,” in whatever your celebration of choice is. I’m not one of those grumpy folks who insist that everyone say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just silly. And quite disrespectful, in my opinion.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All Is Calm, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

All peace,
all joy, what
great love

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

I pray for peace and joy for all people. Please check out this poet’s site at the link provided above.

"But I say to you who hear,
 Love your enemies, 
do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, 
pray for those who abuse you. . . .  
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. . . .  
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
(Luke 6:27-28, 31, 36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the gift of Christmas, the love of God coming down to mankind in the Christ-child
2. that our Father is merciful, even to those who are "ungrateful and evil" (Luke 6:35)
3. that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep
4. that I am one of those sheep, and my salvation is secure (John 10:28-30)
5. for the wonder and miracle of Jesus, God's ultimate gift
Neglect not the gift that is in thee . . .
(1 Timothy 4:14)
If you then, who are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your Father who is in heaven 
give good things to those who ask him! 
(Matthew 7:11 ESV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of lights 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 
(James 1:17 ESV)

Okay, so right off the bat, I will acknowledge that some of this is taken out of context. So sue me.

Nevertheless, here is my takeaway from these, this morning. The older I have gotten, the more joy I get from giving gifts than receiving them. When we are children (and sometimes beyond), we love to receive gifts. Countless Christmas Eve nights are spent in sleepless suspense (see what I did there?), waiting for parents to get up and indicate that it is finally time to see what Santa has put under the tree. Or, if we have grown beyond the Santa phase, what the parents have put under the tree.

But now, for me, at least, the joy is in the giving. Our Father in heaven takes great joy in giving. Jesus Christ gave His life “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). “Every good and every perfect gift is from above.” So, to me, that means that, if my gift to you is “good” and “perfect,” then it came from God. Because any gift that I could possibly give is flawed.

And look at that verse from Matthew. I am, as human, inherently “evil.” That’s not a topic for today’s discussion, just go with it. And if I, being “evil,” can give “good” gifts to my children, my family, my friends, “HOW MUCH MORE” is our Father able to give REALLY GOOD gifts to us??

So, over the next day or so, take a look at the gifts you receive (hopefully you are receiving some), and if you really like them . . . if they seem “perfect,” consider how much better God’s gifts are!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 
and his name shall be called 
Wonderful 
Counselor, 
Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace. 
(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? 
Who is like you, 
majestic in holiness, 
awesome in glorious deeds, 
doing wonders?"
(Exodus 15:11 ESV)
And awe came upon every soul, 
and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 
(Acts 2:43 ESV)

An interesting thing that I have learned, this morning. The word translated “wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6 is the same as the word translated “wonders” in Exodus 15:11. The Hebrew word is pele (pronounced “peh’-leh”) and means “a miracle, a marvelous thing.” Taking that into consideration, we see that the gift of Jesus, the son that is given, is the ultimate wonder of God, the ultimate miracle. In Jesus, the miracle and wonder of God’s love is displayed, and the miracle and wonder of our salvation is accomplished.

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

CHRISTMAS EVE

INVITATION

Restore us, O God; 
make your face shine on us, 
that we may be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NIV)

As I pause, this morning, I continue to ponder the wonder of the Gift.

BIBLE SONG

Sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth. 
Sing to the LORD, praise his name; 
proclaim his salvation day after day. 
Declare his glory among the nations,
 his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; 
let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; 
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, 
he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples in his faithfulness. 
(Psalms 96:1-3, 11-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 
(Matthew 1:18-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts and desires and needs and feelings to God, reflecting on things that I have already read, this morning, as well, enjoying His presence.

Father, I praise You for this gift, this miracle, this wonder of Jesus Christ. I pray that, today and tomorrow, and days after, that people all around the world will know the peace and joy that comes from participating in this life, this wonder, this miracle. He has saved us from our sins, indeed. Because of this, I will sing to You a new song, and I cannot wait until that day when I sing a brand new song in Your presence, along with everyone else from every tribe and nation and tongue and people on this planet. What a day, glorious day, that will be! In the meantime, let the fields be jubilant; let the rocks cry out; let the rivers clap their hands; let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy!

Thank You for Your perfect Gift!

"God with us,
quiet me before the Christ-child,
filled with wonder that in this tiny child,
You have come near.
Amen."

BLESSING

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV).

Grace and peace, friends.

Become the Blessing

Today is Thursday, the twenty-third of December, 2021, the fourth Thursday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,296

Only two more days until Christmas!!

It is Christmas Eve Eve. Or as one Facebook friend stated, “Christmas Adam.” If you get that, good on you!

So, yesterday went great at the library, another great day in circulation. I received a couple more gifts from librarians. Our circ manager gave us all a festive pitcher/planter thing, with matching shears and paring knife, along with a bag of crunchy goodness made of pretzels, peanuts, and Chex cereal. And one of the other librarians sneaked in and handed me a bag with some Bath and Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar hand soap. She probably doesn’t know this, but Warm Vanilla Sugar practically melts me. It’s my all time favorite BBW scent. Oh, and there was a handful of Lindor chocolates in that bag, as well. Yum!! Next year, I’m going to have to figure out something to give all of them.

Tuesday night, I got a lovely (and quite comfy) pair of soft, warm socks, a wooden ornament, and a little package of magnets with book designs on them.

Have I mentioned, lately, how much I love working at this library?

The Bundtinis that I took to work were quite the hit. I wound up eating the last one, though, because no one would take the last one. Hahaha!

Today, the cooking will begin. This evening, there will be fudge, and at least two crescent roll pull-apart Christmas trees made (one savory, one sweet). We may make four of them, if we have enough pans. If not, then we will make two more tomorrow night, after the Christmas Eve festivities are over.

C is working from home again, today, for which I applaud her. Especially considering that the traffic may not quite be back to normal, yet, today, after this happened, yesterday!

That is Loop 820 in North Richland Hills, at around 8:00 AM, yesterday. All lanes, both east and west-bound, were closed for a while. I passed by at around 9:00-ish, on the way to the library and it was still burning. I could not see what was burning, because there were high walls blocking the view at that particular point of the freeway. However, at that point, the west-bound lanes were still closed, as well as both directions of express (toll) lanes. The walls near the event were completely blackened by the smoke.

Apparently (and this is the best information I could find) there was an accident involving a fuel tanker and an empty animal waste truck (and possibly one other vehicle). There are reports that say one person died at the scene and another person was air-flighted to a hospital with critical burns. As of 6:30 last night, the west-bound express lane was still closed, and traffic was extremely heavy on the normal lanes. I was able to avoid most of that by exiting early.

Later today, I need to take some Social Security documents and fax them to the SS folks. I don’t know why they still insist on faxing, rather than having them scanned to an email. It would be much simpler to do that. I have a printer that will fax, but we have no land line at our house. So I suppose I will go to the Hurst Library to do it, after 10:00 AM. I know how to use that system, and I suppose there is an outside chance that I won’t have to pay, although I probably would not ask for that. If they offer, I won’t turn it down, though. Heh.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let Me Forgive, by Daryl Madden

Let me come to
This realization
Here to reset
My expectations…

They were so selfish
So, I sacrificed
Let me forgive them
For not being Christ

They didn’t care
Their love was a fraud
Let me forgive them
For not being God

They gave bad advice
Wish they didn’t share it
Let me forgive them
For not being the Spirit

And forgiving myself
For I’m one in the same
In the love of the Three
Let us remain

The point is, not a one of us is perfect. We are not Jesus, we are not God, we are not the Holy Spirit. We are all flawed, so we all should forgive ourselves and one another.

Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

"I have said these things to you, 
that in me you may have peace. 
In the world you will have tribulation. 
But take heart; I have overcome the world." 
(John 16:33 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace that I have in my soul, because of Jesus Christ
2. for the gift of joy in my life
3. for the love of God that is in my life
4. for the ongoing desire to share that peace, love, and joy with all who live in my world
5. that whatever I have received from God, I must give away to others
So do not fear, for I am with you; 
do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
God is our refuge and strength, 
an ever-present help in trouble. 
(Psalms 46:1 NIV)
As you go, proclaim this message: 
'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 
Heal the sick, raise the dead, 
cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. 
Freely you have received; freely give. 
(Matthew 10:7-8 NIV)
Very truly I tell you, 
whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,
 and they will do even greater things than these, 
because I am going to the Father.
(John 14:12 NIV)

“Whatever you have received from God, you must give to others. If you’ve been loved, you must love. And if you’ve been loved without having deserved that love, then you must love those who don’t deserve your love. If you’ve been given joy, your life must bring joy to others. . . . if you’ve received that blessing, your life must become a blessing. And if you received that gift, your life must become a gift.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-SIX

INVITATION

Bring us back, O God! 
Show us your mercy, 
and we will be saved! 
(Psalms 80:3 GNB)

As I pause, this morning, I reflect on the peace, love, and joy that comes from knowing God, through the Son, and by the Spirit. I reflect on the perfection of the Trinity and how that plays into my life. I acknowledge that this knowledge is unfathomable.

BIBLE SONG

I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; 
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known 
through all generations. 
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
 that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. 
You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, 
I have sworn to David my servant, 
'I will establish your line forever
 and make your throne firm through all generations.'" 

He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, 
my God, the Rock my Savior.' 
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, 
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
 I will maintain my love to him forever, 
and my covenant with him will never fail. 
I will establish his line forever, 
his throne as long as the heavens endure. 
(Psalms 89:1-4, 26-29 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
(Romans 16:25-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me, lingering over them, giving them full attention. Do I find something I need to ask God about? I pray my life to God, taking refreshment in His presence.

Father, the sense of peace, love, and joy in my heart is almost overwhelming. Certainly, there are things in my life, in this world, that trouble me, that unsettle me, but they seem distant at this moment. C is experiencing turmoil in her work, at the moment, and I pray for Your peace to settle in that place. I pray for Your intervention in the circumstance, that the issue they are furiously working one would be fixed, seemingly out of nowhere.

I will sing of Your great love forever, Father. With my lips I will make known Your great faithfulness, and Your mercies, Your great mercies, which never fail and are new every morning when we awake from our sleep. The mercy exists in the fact that we wake up at all! I will sing of the joy in my soul, and the peace in my heart. These are things that will be sung from my heart for all eternity. I so look forward to the days when I will be singing them in person with You.

Thank You for the encouragement and admonition that I have nothing to fear. You are my eternal help; I fall down, You pick me up; I stumble, You are there to catch me. Sometimes, I intentionally walk off of the path, and You gently guide me back. I am spared from Your wrath by the gift of Jesus. Help me to gift that back to others, as well. Your steadfast love never fails.

Help me to be a blessing and a gift to others today. Give us spiritual renewal and refreshment as we walk in Your kingdom. Help us to truly understand the full meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bring about racial peace and reconciliation in our world. And may You lead us into new relationships with people who do not share our beliefs.

"Wise God,
thank You that Christ's incarnation was not a quick reaction to surprising circumstances but part of Your eternal purpose,
the unfolding of Your long-ago decreed will.
To think that my salvation is part of Your grand eternal purpose leaves me stunned with joy-filled awe.
Amen."

BLESSING

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Come and See what God has Done

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, the twenty-second of December, 2021. 12/22/21, a palindrome. It is also the fourth Wednesday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,295

Only three more days until Christmas!

I’m pretty sure that, as of right now, all the Christmas gifts have been delivered, except for one, which is now showing a delivery date of 12/28. Oh, well. Unfortunately, that particular one goes along with three or four of the other gifts. That’s no big deal, though. It will all come together, in due time. And, from past experience with Amazon, it could still change. I know they have, before.

We are talking about plans for Friday and Saturday, at least cooking plans. There’s a lot of cooking to be done, and the bulk of it will happen both Friday morning and Saturday morning. Not on purpose, I wound up with at least forty pounds of ham in the fridge. I ordered two whole hams from Albertson’s, earlier in the week, fully expecting a couple of hams that were approximately twelve pounds each. They delivered two hams that were approximately twenty pounds. Egad! My whole lower shelf in the fridge is filled with ham. And one twenty pound ham would have been plenty for both days. We may give one away. I don’t know.

Today is my last full work day until New Year’s Eve. In fact, my next work day, after today, will be next Tuesday, 12/28. And there is at least one meeting that I will be involved with, today. There is a Circulation staff meeting from 1-2, this afternoon. And then, if it happens, the Adult Services “stand up” meeting is at 2. That manager has been out for a bit, and isn’t scheduled back until 12/30, so that meeting may not happen. My monthly “one-on-one” with her was also scheduled for today, so I’m not expecting that to happen, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And Jesus said to him, 
"'If you can'! 
All things are possible for one who believes." 
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 
"I believe; help my unbelief!" 
(Mark 9:23-24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the belief that God has placed in my heart, even thought it is still tainted with unbelief
2. that God is love and whoever abides in love abides in Him
3. for the security that comes in living as one of His "sheep"
4. for the ability and willingness to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters, just as Christ laid down His life for us
5. for all the things that God has done
Anyone who does not love does not know God,
 because God is love. 
(1 John 4:8 ESV)
So we have come to know 
and to believe the love that God has for us. 
God is love, 
and whoever abides in love abides in God, 
and God abides in him. 
(1 John 4:16 ESV)
By this we know love, 
that he laid down his life for us, 
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 
(1 John 3:16 ESV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. 
Abide in my love. 
If you keep my commandments, 
you will abide in my love, 
just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, 
that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be full. 
"This is my commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this,
 that someone lay down his life for his friends. 
(John 15:9-13 ESV)
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe! 
(Psalms 150:4 ESV)
And it was told King David, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 
And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 
(2 Samuel 6:12-15 ESV)
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. 

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 
"What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!" 
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! 
(Psalms 30:1-12 ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" 
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 
(John 7:37-39 ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; 
against such things there is no law. 
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-FIVE

INVITATION

God, come back! 
Smile your blessing smile: 
That will be our salvation. 
(Psalms 80:3 MSG)

As I pause, this morning, I reflect on love. God’s love for us, made evident in the coming of Jesus. Our love for God, made evident in the way we live, as well as how we lay down our lives for the kingdom of God and for one another.

BIBLE SONG

You, LORD, showed favor to your land; 
you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 
You forgave the iniquity of your people 
and covered all their sins.

 I will listen to what God the LORD says; 
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— 
but let them not turn to folly. 
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, 
that his glory may dwell in our land. 

Love and faithfulness meet together; 
righteousness and peace kiss each other. 
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
 and righteousness looks down from heaven. 
The LORD will indeed give what is good, 
and our land will yield its harvest. 
Righteousness goes before him 
and prepares the way for his steps. 
(Psalms 85:1-2, 8-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
though you are small among the clans of Judah, 
out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are from of old, 
from ancient times." 

Therefore Israel will be abandoned 
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, 
and the rest of his brothers return 
to join the Israelites. 

He will stand and shepherd his flock
 in the strength of the LORD, 
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. 
And they will live securely, for then his greatness 
will reach to the ends of the earth. 
(Micah 5:2-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I reflect on what the Lord might be saying to me through them. I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, allowing my spirit to respond to the Lord in prayer and meditation. I enjoy His presence, this morning, preparing myself for the day ahead.

Father, I cannot get away from these passages on love and laying down our lives for one another. Teach me Your ways, Lord, that I might walk in Your path. Show me how to best lay down my life for the sake of my brothers and sisters and others in this world. Teach me how to love the way You have loved. Just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for me, show me how to do the same for others. In our culture, Father, this has become quite a challenge, over the past couple of years.

Time is short, Father, so I must bring this to a close. You are our great Shepherd, Father, and I am thankful for the security that this brings my soul. I find it easier and easier to obey that often-stated command, “Fear not,” as I find myself resting more and more in Your provision and safety. Thought this world is harsh, I find myself resting in the shadow of Your wings and in the cleft of the rock, where You have hidden me. But even as Job said, Lord, even if You see fit to slay me, yet will I trust You.

I will listen to what You say, Lord, and You promise peace to us. Only let us not turn to folly, Father. Let us not turn to folly and chase after the wind and vanities.

"God of place and time,
You chose the little town of Bethlehem to be the birthplace of David and of David's greater Son.
Make us aware of Your active purpose in our towns and neighborhoods,
so that we see them as places of promise in our time.
Amen."

BLESSING

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.