Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-eighth of December, 2021. The fourth day of Christmas.
May the peace of Christ be with you!
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
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.
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)
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."
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.