Over and Over and Over Again

Today is Thursday, the twentieth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,324

Only three more days until Hamilton!

There’s not a lot going on around here, today. It’s one of my days that I’m always off (Monday and Thursday), so I’m home all day, and C continues to work from home, probably through next week, as well. She has an appointment with her foot doctor, later this morning. I ordered some groceries, but they’re coming from Amazon Fresh, because Albertson’s was booked up until tomorrow afternoon. I needed some things for this evening’s dinner, which will hopefully be chicken stir-fry.

I could have ventured out to the store, in person, but it’s really cold out there, today. Currently 24 and only supposed to get up to 34 today. Now, the low for tomorrow morning is predicted to be 18. In DFW, Texas, that’s stay-in-the-house cold. Fortunately, the precipitation possibility remains very low until Monday, when it is supposed to be above freezing all day. And, also, it has been in the sixties and seventies for the past week, for the most part, so the ground is probably still fairly warm, in comparison.

So I’ll move on to the devotional. I’ve already said some prayers for people, this morning. There are troubles all around, and people are losing loved ones all around us, as well. Some Covid-related, some not. These are simply tough times. I received word this morning that a young woman we have been praying for for the past two weeks, who had leukemia, but also came down with Covid, passed away, yesterday. She has seven kids, all home-schooled. It’s tragic, and it breaks my heart. And we wonder, when things like this happen, why God doesn’t act. Or maybe He did. His ways are so much higher than ours, and His understanding is infinitely beyond ours. But I guarantee that the “world,” the skeptics, mock statements like that.


Your Window, by Daryl Madden

Through Your window of presence
In prayer to reside
Of the Spiritual world
We’ll dwell on that side

Through Your window of grace
An insight is shown
Through the vision of soul
The unknown is known

Through Your window of sight
The world disappears
A glimpse of heaven
Of being appears

Through Your window of love
Of heavenly grace
Our home found in You
We can always embrace

Right about now, I’m longing for that third stanza, for the world to disappear. Please check out Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided.

“All those who sow, weeping, go out with songs of joy.”

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 
and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 
for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 
And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." 
And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 
(Mark 3:7-12 ESV)

People always flocked to Jesus because of what He was doing, not because of who He was. This is typical of human nature. We tend to read a passage like this and think that, because there were great crowds following Him, He was “successful.” This has translated into today’s mega-church. There are certain pastors around the country and the world who have managed to draw great crowds. But are they really “successful?”

I believe the measure of “success” is in the results. “The proof is in the pudding,” I’ve heard. For Jesus, I believe that, in the passage above, the evidence of success is in verse 11. The demons fell down before Him and declared His identity.

Just because a “church” is large does not mean that it is “successful.”

 Glory be to God the Father, 
God the Son, 
and God the Holy Spirit. 
As it was in the beginning, 
so it is now and so it shall ever be, 
world without end. 
Alleluia. Amen.

There is a quote from Thomas Merton, in Spiritual Classics, which has grabbed my attention. “There are so many Christians who have practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and of the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness.” This quote is in a larger piece that speaks of the gift of contemplation to the Christian life.

Contemplation, as defined by Merton and others in the book I am reading, is nothing more than a way of paying intimate, close attention to God and His love for us, as well as our love for Him. In fact, Merton says that contemplation increases our love for Him. “It is the work of love and nothing is more effective in increasing our love for God.”

The condition, though, is closeness to God. We cannot remain at a distance, we cannot confine our lives “to a few routine exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty.” Oddly enough, such people do, in fact, avoid sin and “respect God as a Master.” But, says Merton, “their heart does not belong to Him. They are not really interested in Him, except in order to insure themselves against losing heaven and going to hell.”

Do we only invite God when we need to “smooth our difficulties and to dispense rewards?”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalms 1:1-6 ESV)

What obstacles stand in our way, in regard to this kind of interaction with God? What stereotypes do we need to work on, either about God, ourselves, or prayer?

One way of entering into contemplative prayer is to choose a passage of Scripture with rich meaning, such as Psalm 23, and read it, reflectively. When a particular phrase or word grabs the attention, focus on it. Contemplation is not, as some mistakenly think, “emptying the mind.” Far from it. However, it is largely intended to be wordless. This is harder for some of us who are inundated with words every day.

It is also suggested that visiting a quiet chapel, garden, or park would be helpful, if one is able to do that. I would go sit in the back yard, but, as mentioned earlier, it is prohibitively cold for that kind of activity, today.

Going back to that idea about us not having any idea of the immense love of God for us, Richard Foster comments that Merton seems to be teaching that “at its core contemplation is simply and profoundly falling in love with God over and over and over again.”

I am a little surprised that, after devoting four chapters to Job, Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, only devotes one to the Psalms. However, in that one, I believe he does them justice.

The Psalms are a prayer book/song book. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms the prayer book of the Bible. If I’m not mistaken, the Psalms are where Peterson began when he began paraphrasing The Message. His reasoning was to get prayers in the hands of the people.

You see, we have misconceptions about prayer. We tend to think we aren’t “good enough,” and need to wait until we “clean up our act.” Or, we believe our vocabulary to be inadequate. Peterson’s response to these ways of thinking was to put the Psalms in peoples’ hands and tell them, “Go home and pray these. You’ve got wrong ideas about prayer; the praying you find in these psalms will dispel the wrong ideas and introduce you to the real thing.”

People are generally shocked when they do what he asked.

Please, GOD, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. 
Treat me nice for a change; I'm so starved for affection. 
Can't you see I'm black and blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? 
GOD, how long will it take for you to let up?
(Psalms 6:1-3 MSG)
God, don't just watch from the sidelines. 
Come on! Run to my side! 
My accusers—make them lose face. 
Those out to get me—make them look Like idiots, 
while I stretch out, reaching for you, 
and daily add praise to praise. 
(Psalms 71:12-14 MSG)

“Untutored, we tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose that there must be an ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not.”

GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. 
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; 
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; 
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
 then guide me on the road to eternal life. 
(Psalms 139:1, 23-24 MSG)

These are not the prayers of “nice people. And, if there is any doubt about that (I’m adding this part myself), one need only look as far as Psalm 137.

Alongside Babylon's rivers we sat on the banks; 
we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion. 
Alongside the quaking aspens we stacked our unplayed harps; 
That's where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: 
"Sing us a happy Zion song!" 
Oh, how could we ever sing GOD's song in this wasteland? 
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, 
let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves. 
Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you, 
If I fail, O dear Jerusalem, to honor you as my greatest. 
GOD, remember those Edomites, 
and remember the ruin of Jerusalem, 
That day they yelled out, "Wreck it, smash it to bits!" 
And you, Babylonians—ravagers! 
A reward to whoever gets back at you for all you've done to us; 
Yes, a reward to the one who grabs your babies and smashes their heads on the rocks!
(Psalms 137:1-9 MSG)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
(Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19 ESV)

These are a couple of good verses to spark some contemplation, by the way.

Father, there have been a couple of good topics today. I pray for us, Your people, that we would dispense with any misplaced notions of what constitutes “success.” May we always see success through Your eyes, and the eyes of Jesus, taking note that the result is what marks whether something is successful. Regardless of how many people flock to our ministries or church services . . . are we reaching the “least of these?” Are we clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, providing healing help to the sick, comforting the dying, freeing the oppressed?

Help me to do better at understanding Your immense love for us/me. Help me to be better at contemplating these things, trying to simply sit and love You, looking at You without adding my own words (which is really hard). Draw me into depths of intimacy with You that defy explanation and description. Give me “experience” with You that cannot be described. Help me to fall in love with You over and over and over again.

And, as for prayer, I have long been aware that prayer is not just for “nice” or “good” people. If it were, I would not bother, because, most of the time, I am neither one. But also, give me patience and tenacity, especially when, after we have been praying, a mother of seven home-schooled children dies anyway. This kind of thing affects me greatly. But let it affect me in the right direction, driving me further into You, rather than away from You. You have blessed us with the Psalms, and I have been diving into them a lot for the past decade or so. Remind me that I need to stay in them more. Help me to embrace the language of prayer that we get from the prayer book of our Bible. And help me to be as honest as possible when I pray.

Thank You for Your everlasting love.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. 
I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:6 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Psalms and how they help me pray
2. for the everlasting love of God and how contemplation helps me enter into that love and fall in love with Him all over again'
3. that "success" isn't measured by how many people we attract
4. that those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy (Psalm 126)
5. for the sweet mercies of God, falling from heaven, fresh every morning
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.

Unity Under Christ

Today is Saturday, the fifteenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,074

Five days until our Glen Rose trip (and four-day weekend)!

Yesterday turned out to be quite the productive day. After I got the groceries picked up and put away, I took out the trash, did the dishes, and hung up shirts from the laundry. Put away some underwear and socks, too. Then I heated up our leftover Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken for lunch. I had some black-eyed peas with mine, and S had some Lean Cuisine mac and cheese with hers.

I watched the Fantasy Island movie on Starz while I ate. It was pretty good. There was some resemblance to the old TV show, which I didn’t watch regularly, but did see. I know that “The plane!” was said a number of times during the movie. The movie was also a bit more horrific than the TV show was. Probably a bit more bloody, as well. It was fun, though.

After that, I carried my dad’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder to the study and plugged it in. I found a tape and threaded it through, after several attempts to get it right. Sadly, the unit doesn’t work. I’m not sure how disappointed I was, because I think I truly doubted that it would. But there was some hope in there.

The motor won’t turn for more than a second. When play or rewind is activated, it will spin for barely a second and then stop. It would make sound, and I could hear something going through the speakers, so the heads seem to be fine. There might be way to fix it, I don’t know. I’m not going to get rid of it, just yet. Oh, also, I broke off about three feet of one of the tapes, too. Turns out fifty-year-old recording tape is somewhat brittle. Have to be really careful with it.

As I perused the box of tapes, I ran across one that apparently contains a sermon preached by Bro. Don Turner at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. That has to have been back in the mid-to-early seventies.

After discovering that the tape recorder wouldn’t work, I cranked up my amp and keyboard, took my guitar down off the wall, and played some music. Not a long time, but at least a half hour. I need to work my guitar fingers back up to speed. Why? For my own pleasure, mostly. No other reason, other than to play with excellence and skill before the Lord.

Today, we have our WW workshop at 10:30. I think I will lose in the neighborhood of three pounds since last weigh-in, two weeks ago. I gained .4 at that one. I should be under 220, today, though, which is exciting. Any time we hit a new “decade,” it’s exciting. And I’m edging closer and closer to “Onederland.” (That’s under 200 for those who don’t get it.) C is maintaining quite well. I’m proud of her for being able to shift her mindset from losing to maintaining. That has to be difficult.

The rest of the day, I plan to spend chilling. More music, probably, along with some reading, which did not happen yesterday, and, of course, gaming, either back here on the PC or on the PS4. I’m a little excited, as I just purchased the Mass Effect Legendary Edition for the PS4. I have played the last game of that franchise, but they have combined the whole thing into one game and remastered the whole thing. It’s a Science Fiction space travel adventure . . . great fun!


"A place of beauty
Of vision foretells
One of the drawing
The morning mist dwells

A place in the heart
Of deep longing swells
A needing of love
Where emptiness dwells

A place of heaven
Where earth parallels
In Presence of here
Where the good Lord dwells

A place of being
Of our inner cell
A prayer of connection
Let the Spirit now dwell"
(Place of Dwelling, by Daryl Madden)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
(Psalms 138:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your steadfast love and your faithfulness
  • for Your Name and Your Word; may they be exalted forever
  • that You will neither fail nor abandon me; there is nothing to fear
  • for the infinite riches of Your grace, lavished upon us
  • that, in Christ, ultimately, all things will be brought into unity, in heaven and on earth

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



God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:5-7 NIV) 

I pause to quietly reflect on the Name and Word of the Lord. He has so many names . . . focusing on YHWH, “I Am.” You are, Lord! Before Abraham and Isaac, You are. After everything else is done, You are!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!


Praise the LORD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.
(Psalm 106:1-5 NIV)


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV)


As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, and, to my delight, I find that I can truly do that, in spite of my own mind and its wanderings, I read these passages again. Today, rather than copy and paste from my PC Bible app, I have typed the words out, letter by letter. I find that this allows me to pay more attention to the actual words as I type them. I will try to continue this practice, if time allows during the work week. It helps me be more “present” with His Word. I invite the Holy Spirit to teach me and challenge me.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
    Spirit Divine!
(Open My Eyes That I May See, hymn and music by Clara H. Scott)

The psalm asks a great question. “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?” I attempt to do so, but my feeble attempts fall far short. Can I “fully declare his praise?” How can I, when my mind and heart so quickly become distracted by the attractiveness of worldly things?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Are we only blessed if we “always do what is right?” I don’t think that is the idea, here. Certainly, if there is anyone who exists who always does what is right, that person is surely blessed. But I find myself blessed, as well, and I most definitely do not always do what is right. Maybe I do, most of the time. But not “always.”

I can echo the prayer in the closing verses of today’s psalm, though. My heart’s desire is to enjoy the aid and “prosperity,” share in the joy, and sing His praises, along with the rest of God’s “chosen ones.”

There is much, much “good stuff” in that Ephesians passage. But I’m looking for a certain word or phrase that connects with me, this morning.

I’m finding two. First, this idea of “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” What precedes that phrase are the words “redemption” and “forgiveness.” When I stop and ponder that for a minute, I am stopped in wide-eyed-wonder. The riches of God’s grace are limitless, infinite. He owns it all because He created it all. I just stumbled onto something spectacular and marvelous.

God created grace. God invented grace. God is the author of grace.

And because our redemption and forgiveness was accomplished based on those riches, they are complete and final; they are, like His grace, without limit. I am redeemed, perfectly and completely. I am forgiven, perfectly and completely. The record of my past life and sins is erased. They simply did not happen, thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross.

So why do I still sin?

Sorry . . . that’s a topic for another day, but, as we all know, we still do.

The other phrase is in verse 10, “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” This is part of the ultimate plan, and, frankly, I think that idea is going to be quite uncomfortable for a bunch of people.

I can only imagine the heads of some of my extreme right friends exploding when they discover Democrats in heaven.

I’m only being partially facetious, there.

There will be no politics in glory, friends. We will be neither right nor left, Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal, male nor female, race will be utterly unimportant. While it is painfully obvious that we will never have complete unity in the Church on earth, there WILL be unity in all things when Jesus returns to tidy things up.

And if you’re not okay with that, there is a good chance you won’t be part of it.

Perhaps that is a thought worthy of ponderance, this morning, eh?

Father, setting aside all thoughts of politics, because they only cause trouble, I praise You, this morning, as best I can. I cannot praise perfectly, because I still carry around this “jar of clay,” this “body of death,” and I still walk around in the “country of death.” I long for the day when I am Home; the day when all things, as promised, will be brought into unity under Christ Jesus, our Savior. I praise You that my redemption and forgiveness is based, not on what I can do or accomplish, but on the riches of Your grace, which You have lavished on us. Thank You, Father, for this perfect work; thank You, Jesus Christ, my Savior, for sacrificing Yourself for us; thank You, Holy Spirit, for ceaselessly pointing me in the right direction.

And even though it seems impossible as long as we live on this earth, I pray for unity within Your Church, Lord. I pray desperately that Your people would stop depending on politics and politicians to fix things. I pray that we would completely and utterly stop this ridiculous dependence on other human beings to fix the problems in this world. Only You can do this; true, You do use human beings to do the work, but it is You driving it, and only You can accomplish anything “good.” All glory and praise to You, Lord!

God of faith-stretching wisdom,
I stand in awe before your eternal plan to unite all things in Christ.
May your Holy Spirit be the seal of your promise,
and may my life be directed to the hope of your coming kingdom.
(Heidelberg Catechism 49)


“Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage.”
(Psalm 27:14 KJV)

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

Father, it has been noted, numerous times, that the most often stated command in Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” or some variation of this. This brings great comfort to me, because there are certainly times when it seems there is much to be afraid of. Not so much today, though. As I sit in this room, I am comforted by Your presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, dwelling within me. I don’t understand all of this, and will never pretend to. But I believe it, and when my belief falters, Father, “Help my unbelief!” Thank You for the many promises that tell me that You will not, cannot fail, and that You will not ever abandon me.

Lord, in light of the truths presented here, today, I pray for deep care, bold love, and rich community to be experienced within Your Church. May the leaders of Your Church be creative and risk-taking in their ministries to their communities. I specifically lift up all in Your Church who are longing for children. May Your blessing be upon them, Father.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.