A Witness

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

Today is Thursday, the sixteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,471

I’ll be working my usual eight-hour shift in the computer center today, from 11:15 to 8:15 tonight. That reminds me, I need to start tonight’s soup in the crock pot. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

Oh. That also reminds me. Last night’s dinner was delicious! Here is the recipe for what I made last night.

Spaghetti Pie

It’s a great dish, but one that I should only try on days when I don’t work, as it is a little involved and takes close to an hour, total time. But it was well worth it.

Tonight will be our standard Chicken-Ranch Crock Pot Soup.

The Texas Rangers lost pretty badly, yesterday afternoon, 9-2, to the Astros. It was dismal. Unfortunately, they put a rookie in for his first MLB start. Against the Astros. So much for his ego. Anyway, the Rangers are now 29-33, in second place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Angels, and 9.5 behind the Astros. They are also 4.5 behind in the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series in Detroit tonight.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox discombobulated the Athletics, last night, 10-1. Egad. Of course, any time the Athletics lose, it benefits the Rangers. The Sox are now 34-29, but still in third place in the AL East, 1.5 behind the Rays, and 12.5 out of first place. Barring a complete disaster (which most of us are hoping for), there won’t be any catching the Evil Empire. Best we can hope for is a wild card, and the Sox are currently in the third wild card spot. I didn’t find out until two days ago that there will be three wild card in each league.

I’m tired of telling you who has the best MLB record. You know. 46-16. The worst record, though, seems to fluctuate, daily, lately. Today, the Athletics are the proud owners of the worst record, at 21-43. The Braves won again! They now have a fourteen game win streak! That sounds like a lot, but they have a ways to go to catch the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row. The poor Chicago Cubs have now lost nine games in a row. You-know-who also still has the best run differential, at +130. The Washington Nationals have taken over the worst, for today, at -102. The Rangers dropped back into the red, yesterday, and are now at -2. The Red Sox now have a +54 run differential, still the sixth best, but only one behind the Cardinals.

Tune in tomorrow for more meaningless but fun (at least to me) statistics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let Me Give,” by Daryl Madden

Let me give my eyes to You
Your vision of seeing
Let me give my ears to You
Your Spirit of hearing

Let me give my feet to You
To Your way of walking
Let me give my hands to You
To souls of suffering

Let me give my heart to You
To Your grace of cleaning
Let me place my trust in You
For Lord you are my king

Let me give my praise to You
My song is what I’ll sing
Let me pray a prayer to You
A humble offering

Let me give me will to You
For I can do nothing
Let me receive Your grace oh Lord
For You bless everything

Let me give my soul to You
Faithfully trusting
Let me give my life to You
In Your love of sharing

What a beautiful prayer to being the day! You can read more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link above.

Lord God, we thank you that you have upheld us and brought us to the Savior. Help us to remember this truth through your Holy Spirit, and constantly remind us while still on earth to live in heaven with all your angels. We are helpless without you. Your Spirit alone can overcome our sinful nature so that we never forget to be in heaven with the Savior now and in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
(John 14:2-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father's home
2. that we are able to walk in God's Kingdom while still on earth
3. that God is control, not me
4. that I can pray with confidence, knowing that You hear, and will answer according to Your will
5. for the witness we give when we attend a house of worship together; the witness that "God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift." (Eugene Peterson)

But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
(Daniel 3:24-25 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, from Pray a Word a Day, is acceptance. The quote is from the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

There are some very wise words in today’s reading. Words that seem even more wise in the midst of today’s struggles.

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

This applies to more than the rampant complaining and whining that is going on in social media circles, right now. It also applies to how upset I get when things don’t go the way I think they should, like when I was trying to switch mobile carriers Tuesday afternoon. It was a terrible and complicated process that looked, on the surface, like it shouldn’t take very long.

I got quite upset. And it didn’t help anything. I also got frustrated as I tried to cancel the one remaining line on our ATT plan, yesterday evening, so that account would be closed out. The issues were most definitely caused by ATT, but there was nothing I could do to change those. So my frustration only served to raise my blood pressure and make everyone around me uncomfortable.

So today’s word is good for me. And while the word acceptance can apply to a wide range of things (accepting people for who they are, for example), the focus today is on accepting things as they are, if I have no means of changing them. If I can do something to change it, then my responsibility lies in doing that thing, but my emotions still need to remain in check.

Father, I confess my failure to keep emotions reigned in when things are outside my control. Things happen the way they happen, and I can do nothing about that. I can’t control the complexity of processes when it comes to certain things in life. I can’t control which TV channels are provided by which carriers. I can’t control whether other people will answer their phones or respond to voice mails. I can’t control whether technology will work properly. What I can control is the way I react to these things. I pray that Your Spirit will fill me with His fruit, each day, and that I might dwell completely within Your Kingdom as I walk through each day. But also, let me take this life one step at a time, and not get ahead of myself.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”
(Matthew 6:7 NLT)

While this verse refers to how we pray, audibly, using words, I think there might be something here that we can apply to the concept of silence. And that’s not all. I think it also has some wisdom in the subject of anxiety.

Of course, Jesus spoke a good bit about anxiety, as well, didn’t He?

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? 
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Luke 12:22-34 NLT)

Another reason to not pile on the needless words or “vain repetitions” is found in the verse immediately following the one that heads up this section.

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
(Matthew 6:8 NLT)

I’ll admit that I’m on the fence about something when it comes to prayer. And that is the matter of whether I need to ask God more than once. I have a prayer book where I keep requests that are sent to me. And I do go through the requests on a semi-regular basis. But I also stop and whisper a prayer immediately, in most cases, when I see a prayer request.

I really don’t think it is an issue to be concerned about. The important thing is where our heart is when we are praying. Am I repeating prayers because I’m anxious about something? When I pray for something once and let it go, do I find myself being doubtful or anxious, or am I confident that God hears and will answer according to His will?

He knows what we need before we ask. Therefore, I believe, it is pointless to blather on about things. Jesus’s model prayer that follows these instructions is short and to the point. It takes five short verses (six if you add the benediction that was added in later manuscripts).

Have you ever heard someone pray out loud, in church, for ten or fifteen minutes? I really believe that that is what Jesus is addressing, here.

Don’t babble on, don’t be anxious, don’t pray for show. And, honestly, I have found, sometimes, that prayers in silence do a lot more for my state of mind than praying out loud.

(Inspired by Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help us to pray better. Help me to pray better and more faithfully. I also pray for a better mindset when it comes to prayer. Help me to have consistent faith and practice, believing that You will answer my prayers, but not always, necessarily, the way I think they should be answered. After all, You are God, not me. I don’t need to explain the situation to you; I don’t need to tell you what kind of disease a person has. I don’t need to be frantic or anxious. There are no “emergencies” in Your Kingdom. Help us/me to live in this world with that same point of view. You are in control. Help me to remember that at all times, and to pray with that truth in mind.

As for praying without ceasing, that means not praying out loud for a long time, but, rather, walking through my day with my mind and soul focused on You, remaining, as much as possible in constant contact with You and being aware of Your presence throughout the day.

Why do we go to church?

This is a question that a former pastor (and still good friend) used to ask us. To our frustration, he never answered it. Hah!

I believe I have found an answer (at least partial) from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning, in his book, On Living Well.

First of all, he points out that worship is not voluntary. It is a requirement for anyone who calls the name of Jesus. But it is also not coerced. In generations past, the “church” official attempted to coerce people into going to church, even to the point of being punished when they were not in attendance. “But coercion is no attribute of God.”

One answer to the above-mentioned question, of course, is that we go to church to worship. But, some may object, we can “worship” anywhere, and this is, to a degree, true.

I believe that Peterson nails down a major reason for going to church, for meeting together with the saints on Sunday morning (or whatever day your group meets). That reason is for a witness; “a witness that God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift.”

You see, there are people in this world who are not aware that God is present and speaking and saving and giving Himself. They believe that, if He exists at all, He is remote and silent. Oh, sure, He’s a nice idea when crisis comes, but “they don’t know that God is right now speaking and changing lives and pouring out abundant life.” They need to know these things, and one way we show them is by the witness of “going to church.”

“When you walk into a house of worship and take your place – singing, praying, listening, receiving – you are a witness to this action of God, the greatest of all actions in the world. You are irreplaceable in this witness. No one has your particular slant on it.”

Each of us is unique. If one hundred people gather to worship and you are missing, the other hundred cannot replace you. Evangelism, says Peterson, “begins in the act of worship.”

Father, I pray that we would do better at being that witness for You. I am grateful that You are speaking to us and changing people and lives and giving Yourself to us that we may live. May we gladly and joyfully receive Your gifts, and spread them around our little “kingdoms” with great joy. Let us not become affected by the distress in the world, right now. Let the circumstances of life not steal our joy in You. These things, You have told us, will always be around. They were around when You walked the earth, they were around when Your disciples started Your Church, and they are around now. You are still in control, and You are still acting in people and circumstances. And it is our duty and responsibility, our requirement, to worship together, that You might be glorified.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! 
Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“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)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

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

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

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

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Promises, Promises

Today is Thursday, the nineteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,443

We stayed up (well Mama, S, and I) to watch the end of last night’s Texas Rangers game, and I’m glad we did. It went into extra innings after Matt Bush blew the save in the top of the ninth. They were ahead 4-2, and for reasons that only God Himself knows, Chris Woodward elected to not use the closer. Bush blew the save, and the game was tied 4-4. The Rangers got bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but were unable to plate a run. My new favorite Texas Ranger, Jonah Heim struck out.

The Angels scored in the top of the tenth, because of the loathsome “zombie runner” lunacy that was instituted in the shortened pandemic season. That was all well and fine for that weird year. But it should not be continued. It’s a little league thing, in my opinion, and has no place in “grown-up” professional baseball. So the Rangers were behind 5-4 going into the bottom of the tenth. Zombie runner on second base, Nathaniel Lowe plonks the first pitch into the right-field stands to win the game. Walk-off home run.

You might say, “But the zombie runner helped them win.” My response to that is that the zombie runner also put them behind. With no zombie runner, the score still would have been 4-4 in the bottom of the tenth, and Lowe’s home run still wins the game.

I’m also glad Bush didn’t wind up getting the win. One of the things that MLB desperately needs to change is allowing a pitcher to blow a save and then come away with a win if the team wins in the bottom of that inning. No pitcher who blows a save should ever get credit for a win.

Anyway, the most important thing is that the Rangers won, and that they swept the Angels! Final score, 6-5. Dennis (I think I called him Danny, yesterday) Santana got the win again. The Rangers are now 17-19, only two games below .500. They are in third place in the AL West, five games behind the Angels, who were tied for first until last night. The Rangers begin a four game weekend series against the first place Astros tonight, in Houston. Bring ’em on! Game time is 7:10 CDT.

Speaking of the Astros, the Red Sox beat them soundly, yesterday, 5-1, behind a very strong outing by starter Rick Pivetta. The Sox are now 15-22, in fourth place in the AL East, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore, and 4.5 behind the Blue Jays. The Sox play the Mariners tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees (28-9) keep winning. They still have the best MLB record, and still haven’t lost that tenth game. Somebody please beat them!! The Reds (10-26) still have the worst MLB record, by a game and a half. The LA Dodgers continue to have the best run differential, at +83, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the worst, at -71. The Rangers have reduced theirs to -4. The Dodgers also have the best win streak, currently at five. (The Rangers have a four-game win streak.) The Orioles and Diamondbacks are still tied with the “best” losing streak, at six consecutive losses.

Today being Thursday, I will be heading to the library for my eight-hour shift at 11:15 today, working until the library closes at 8:00. My shift goes until 8:15, because it takes a few minutes to do our closing process, which involves several of us walking through the stacks to make sure no one is still in there, and also checking the restrooms. I will be starting a crockpot soup as soon as I finish my blog, this morning. Today it will be Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken, which we have tweaked a bit (not much) to make it more of a soup. We just add more cream of chicken soup and a little more chicken.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you that we have often felt you close to us. We thank you that you are near us and that you strengthen the weak. Remember us and give each one the help he needs to be true to his calling. Remember all humankind and grant that we may go forward in spirit and in truth. Give new light to the peoples who are still in great darkness. Let your kingdom and your reign be revealed and your name at last be honored by all. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I love you, LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the nearness of God and His help to be true to that which He has called me
2. that God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer
3. that God has called me to spread the message of love for one another
4. for the great and precious promises of God that enable me to partake in His divine nature
5. for the community of saints and how they have encouraged and loved me, through the years; may I be as loving and encouraging in response
6. for language; that You speak to us, and that we can speak to You in response

The prayer word for today is “promise.”

Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
(2 Samuel 7:28 NIV)

It is almost ludicrous to compare the promises that God has made to His people to promises that we make one another. Every time I’m watching a TV show and one person says to another, “I promise I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” I feel like shouting back at the TV. Because no one has that ability. There is not a human being on earth that can keep that promise.

And guess what. God never promised that, either. God has not promised that He will keep anything “bad” from happening to us. God didn’t even keep anything bad from happening to Himself! Have you considered that?

The idea of “promise” is tricky. There are many things in the Bible that people say are promises that are not promises. The biggest one is the thing that fuels that “prosperity gospel,” which is, of course, no “gospel” at all. One of their main verses is the second verse of 3 John.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 NLT)

Looking at it in KJV makes it a little clearer as to why the prosperity people like it so much.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
(3 John 1:2 KJV)

You see, KJV actually uses the word. “Prosper.” Oddly, the Greek word there literally means, “to help on the road,” or “succeed in reaching.” But here’s the thing. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) That is not a promise. It’s not even God speaking. This is a greeting from John, the author of the epistle, to his “dear friend,” Gaius. Basically, it is John saying, “Hey, there, I hope all is well with you!”

That’s all it is.

But there are some promises that God has made to us. One of my favorites is in Isaiah 41:10.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

And while the word “promise” is not used there, I believe that any time God says the words, “I will,” He is making a promise, because God will do what He says He will do.

Here’s another statement that Jesus made, that I believe is also a promise.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:27-30 NLT)

I read this as a promise that my eternal salvation is secure.

Finally, I will mention a verse in 2 Peter. Several verses, actually.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
(2 Peter 1:3-7 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for Your “great and precious promises,” through which I can share in Your divine nature. I pray that You help me to respond properly to these promises, that I might escape the corruption in the world that is caused by human desires. May I supplement my faith with moral excellence, and with knowledge, and with self control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly affection and love for everyone! And because of Your great and precious promises, help me to be faithful to keep promises that I make here on earth. And remind me, before I open my mouth and make some promises, that there are some “promises” that simply cannot be kept. Give me the wisdom to know when to not make those promises.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. . . . And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
(Philippians 1:3, 6 NLT)
In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry. 
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. 
May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. 
May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. 
Interlude 
May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. 
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
 May the LORD answer all your prayers.
(Psalms 20:1-5 NLT)

Side note: Is Philippians 1:6 a promise? We have certainly looked at it as one, historically. I am not 100% sure that it a promise. I believe it is true, mind you. I do believe that God will complete the work that He has begun in me. But this verse is, not unlike the verse in 3 John, part of Paul’s opening greeting to the Philippians, and is more of an encouragement than a promise. Just my nickel’s worth.

The idea behind these readings, though, is community. Paul opens Philippians by thanking God for them. He is grateful to God for the people he has encountered in his journeys. Do we feel the same way about the people we have encountered, the people with whom we worship on a regular basis? Do we encourage them? Do they encourage us?

Paul’s certainty that God will complete the work He has started is directed toward the Church in Philippi, not any individual within that group. This is another thing to consider when we are considering “promises.” Are they made to us as individuals, or to us as the Church?

Then I look at Psalm 20 in that same light. What a wonderful blessing/prayer is the first five verses of that Psalm! I may start alternating that with the traditional Aaronic blessing from Numbers. I challenge anyone who reads this to pray Psalm 20:1-5 over someone today.

Father, I am grateful for the people You have placed in my life, through the years. Most assuredly, I am grateful for the community of saints, the believers with whom I have worshiped in my life, in all the various places. Many of them encouraged me; some of them taught me; some of them challenged me, and not always in a good way. Most of the, though, loved me, and that is the most important thing. Help us to remember that most important part, Father. When someone in the Body of Christ challenges us or annoys us, help us to remember the command from Jesus that we are to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. This is a difficult challenge, at least for me. So I pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in times when I am challenged by another believer.

Father, You work all things together for our good. I believe that is a promise. When we love You and are called according to Your purpose, You are actively working for our good (we have to remember that “good” is according to Your definition, though, not ours). Since You are actively working for our good, then we should also be actively working for each other’s good, as best as we are capable of understanding that.

“God speaks to us. This is the great foundational fact of our faith.” In His speaking, God has brought us both into existence, as well as into salvation.

Regardless of what we believe about the length of time that creation took, I think we can agree that God spoke things into existence. He created everything, ex nihilo, by speaking. In his song, “AlrightOKuhhuhAmen,” Rich Mullins said, “Well the Lord said let there be and there was.” He initiated language, and with that language, he brought things into existence.

Side note: I believe it is worth noting that God created “light” on the first day, but didn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day. Ponder that, eh?

“Language is the means by which what is unknown becomes known and what is hidden becomes accessible.” God brings His will into existence through language.

“In return, we speak to God. This is the great foundational consequence of our faith.” We do not bring anything into existence with our language, at least nothing that is “new,” or was not already in existence. Let me clarify this. Certainly, being created in God’s image, we are able to create, to a degree. But we do not create ex nihilo. While God can, according to Romans 4:17, create new things out of nothing, we cannot.

But what can and does happen when we speak is that “our speaking brings into the open his glory, our assent to his creating and saving Word, and our sheer and exultant joy in him.”

“Language–this wonderful gift, this mysterious capacity that we have to say who we are, to bring out into the open the secrets of our hearts, the nuances of our emotions, and the thoughts whether confused or clear in our minds–is our basic means for working out who we are by answering god, responding to his invitations and commands.”

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

But there is a warning about language, as well, seen in the little book of James, perhaps one of the most difficult books of the Bible to digest.

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. 
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
(James 3:1-12 NLT)

Father, when I consider Your works of Your “fingers,” the moon and stars, like the psalmist, I am amazed and think, “what is man that You are mindful of him?” I consider that You, in Your wondrous majesty, simply spoke language and things came into existence. I believe, perhaps, that we should beg forgiveness for even entertaining the notion that we could also call things that are not as though they are.

I praise You for Your creation. I praise You for speaking those words and bringing the universe into being, because that universe includes me and all of those whom I love. It also includes beauty; things that I can see with my eyes (another miracle); mountains, oceans, trees, flowers, deserts, colors, the myriad of stars that I can see in the night sky, which You know by name.

I pray that You, by Your Spirit, which resides within my soul, would help me to respond correctly to Your language, using language that You have also created. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. And may my words not be like James warned against. I pray that blessings and cursings would not both come out of my mouth; that I would not be hypocritical. That is so difficult, sometimes, as I’m sure many would agree with me. But it is how we should be as people of Christ. So, as I call myself by the name of Christ, may my tongue represent that Name well on this earth. And when I am tempted to say things that would be unbecoming to a child of Yours, please stop me and make me reconsider.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Physical and Spiritual — Inseparable

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,415

There’s not much going on around here, today. We did try a new recipe (new to us), last night, that we got from Emily Bites, a cooking blog that we were introduced to at WW. This recipe is called Chicken Taco Rice Skillet. It’s not a crockpot recipe, so it took a little time, but wasn’t any harder than our normal stir fry dish. And it was absolutely delicious, a big hit with the whole family, so it’s a keeper, for sure. I tweaked it just a little bit, adding a little more chicken and used a cup and a half of brown minute rice. Everything else was per the recipe.

Tonight, we will be having another Emily Bites dish, called Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken. I also have tweaked this one a little, as well, putting in three cans of chicken soup and a whole can of water. C will add the yogurt when she gets home from work, and I will have my serving after I get home from my evening library shift. We had this one last week, and it was at least as good as the Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup we have made in the past.

I highly recommend Emily Bites for recipes. All of her recipes are WW friendly. I get semi-regular emails from the site, each one with a new recipe to try.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, 4-2, to the Mariners. Dan Dunning was the losing pitcher. They play again tonight, at 8:40 CDT (on the west coast), with Taylor Hearn taking the mound. How much longer do we keep saying “it’s still early in the season?” Not necessarily giving up, already, but it seems as though they have picked up right where they left off last season.

The Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays, last night 6-1. They are still floating around .500 (6-6), in fourth place in the AL East.

The LA Dodgers are currently the best in MLB, with a 9-3 record. The Cincinatti Reds are worse than the Texas Rangers, bringing up the bottom of the list, but only because they have played (and lost) two more games than Texas.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Thursday in Easter Week)

Bread of Life,” by Daryl Madden

Communion here
Of unity
That I long for
Longs for me

This living bread
Divinity
That I desire
Desires me

This gift, divine
Of grace freely
That I love
Is loving me

The bread of life
Eternity
That I consume
Consuming me

The Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ, desires me, loves me, and consumes me. This, of course, is rather oxymoronic, to say that bread consumes me. But, if we are truly walking with Him and in His kingdom, we are consumed by His grace and mercy. It’s mystical, and words don’t do a very good job of explaining it. I appreciate Brother Daryl’s poetry, and wish that you would visit his site at the link provided above.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky (there's an event going on right now, even though I couldn't see it, this morning because of the clouds - planets are lining up)
2. for the Bread of Life
3. for the example of grace, mercy, and inclusion that we get from Jesus
4. for the brightness of the future we have in Christ and His kingdom
5. that this life combines both the physical and the spiritual; we must both work and pray, and the two cannot be separated

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:8-9 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “inclusion.”

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:11 ESV)

I’m sure the word “inclusion” is a trigger word for some folks, in this day and age. But, personally, I would rather err on the side of grace and mercy, if I’m going to be wrong about something. In other words, I would rather be guilty of including too many people than not including enough. After all, Jesus chose to hang out with “tax collectors and sinners.”

But this also hearkens back to the bit, a few days ago, about angels and how we should show hospitality to everyone, because, who knows, they might be an angel. Our primary characteristic is supposed to be love. If we work harder to exclude than include, we are not showing love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to be more inclusive with my hospitality, and show grace and mercy to all with whom I come in contact. This includes not getting angry or upset when restaurants don’t get my order right, or when they are out of Route 44 cups or drink carries or tuna or whatever. People need grace, and if we don’t show them grace, how are we supposed to lead them toward You?

You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright.
(Psalms 16:6 CEV)

Think of the bright future waiting for all the families of honest and innocent and peace-loving people.
(Psalms 37:37 CEV)

Don’t be jealous of sinners, but always honor the LORD. Then you will truly have hope for the future.
(Proverbs 23:17-18 CEV)

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,” is a popular phrase, and was included in a popular song, back in a previous decade. But the truth is, for those of us who walk in Christ and in His kingdom, the future really is bright. I don’t know how innocent we are (truly, is anyone??), but if we are peace-loving, that demonstrates our love for Jesus Christ. We show that love by showing love to others. The way we love Jesus is to keep His commands, and those commands (in case you’ve missed it, here) are summed up with “love God with all your might,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then there’s the additional, “Love one another as I have loved you” that He gave strictly to His disciples, later.

My future is bright, regardless of outward appearances, because I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and will not fade. My treasure is laid up in heaven, where rust will not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. The politics of earth have no bearing on my future, whatsoever. Oh, sure, the PTBs may start WWIII anytime, now, but that has no bearing on my true future. And, once again, I will repeat the words of Dallas Willard. “This world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.”

Father, I praise You that I feel safe in this world. Sometimes I forget this, and I worry, especially when madmen seem to be in charge and in control of things. Then I remember who is really in control, and I remember that this physical body is temporary, anyway, and that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me some pain, which will also be temporary. I thank You for the bright future that I have in You, and for the way You have led me to try my best to spread love and inclusion in this world. Help me to keep doing this, and, thereby, spreading the “good news” of the Gospel, which is that Your kingdom is here, right now.

The Christian life, the Christian faith, is both physical and spiritual at the same time. It is inescapable. There are times when we want to make it purely one or the other. Heretics, allegedly dealt with long ago, would have us believe that the physical is completely evil and unnecessary. I say “allegedly,” because those types of heresies always seem to resurface, centuries later.

But we, as Christians, have to work. It is, again, inescapable. “Caulking a cracked sidewalk, washing windows, trimming azaleas, pointing eroded masonry, fixing a broken pipe, and hauling debris to the landfill.” But also included in the physical part is “healing a hurt body, training the brain to recognize truth, and disciplining bodies to behave in acts of justice and love.”

There seems to be a great dearth of “training the brain to recognize truth,” these days.

On the spiritual side, there are acts of faith that are, for the most part, invisible. “Believing in the real presence of the Christ we do not see, loving people around us when they don’t seem to deserve it and we don’t feel like it, and expecting the arrival of the kingdom of God at the very moment journalists are announcing the latest sleaze.”‘

“Everything physical is at the same time spiritual. Everything spiritual is at the same time physical. There is no separating these realities. The Saturday workers and the Sunday worshippers are the same people. Everything we do, on both days, can be to the glory of God – or could have been for his glory, for the physicality and the spirituality of both work and prayer can be perverted into prideful sin.”

I find myself grimacing at that bit about loving people who “don’t seem to deserve it,” and when I “don’t feel like it.” But that is where I have to squash pride and obey the commands of my Savior. Because . . . well, you already know, because, if you’ve read this far, I addressed that in the previous section.

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

Father, I pray that You help me to do just that, to love people around me who don’t seem to deserve love, and to love people when I simply do not feel like loving them. Who am I to determine if someone is worthy of love?? I am not You! I am not all-knowing and all-wise! Therefore, it is simply my duty to obey Your commands. Even when I don’t feel like it.

Help us also, Father, to train our brains to recognize truth. Apparently, it isn’t always so obvious, even when we think it is. And Lord, please, please, please, help us to show grace when we think that someone else’s version of “truth” is wrong.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

In Wonder, Now

It is Tuesday, the twelfth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,406

It was a pretty lazy day, yesterday, but I did manage to get a few things done. I never left the house, though, except for going to get the mail and retrieving the trash/recycling bins from the curb. Today, I will be going out to get lunch and dinner for everyone. Our tradition Tuesday meals are Subway, since I work late on Tuesdays. I get enough food for C, Mama, and S to have something for dinner while I am at work.

Tomorrow, we are going to try something new in the crockpot. I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken Soup at Emily Bites. We have found a few good recipes there, and they are all WW friendly. This one will cook while I am at work on Wednesday. And, since I am also working Thursday, now, I’ll make sure the crockpot is clean Wednesday night so I can cook our other chicken soup dish Thursday.

The Texas Rangers lost their home opener, yesterday, thanks to a couple of errors by Cory Seager, and a really horrible review call from the folks at MLB in NYC that ended the game. The current regime of “leadership” in MLB is ruining the game, in my not so humble opinion. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The final score was 6-4 in ten innings. The Red Sox lost their game to the Tigers, 3-1, so both the Rangers and the Red Sox are at 1-3 on the season. The Rangers sit in last place in the AL West, a position they have gotten far too comfortable with, and the Red Sox are also in last place in the AL East.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost, yesterday, so after only four games, there are no undefeated teams in MLB. Houston, Tampa, and Chicago continue to lead the AL, while Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego lead the NL. The Rangers play the Rockies again tonight, at 7:05 CDT. The Red Sox play the Tigers in an afternoon game, in Detroit, at 12:10 CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Sense Of,” by Daryl Madden

A sense of the morning
Of what is to be
To draw a new breath
Of possibilities

A sense in life daily
Past stress and of fear
A whisper of calling
To pause and draw near

A sense in the sunset
Of grace here to flow
Regrets of the should done
And letting it go

The sense of the Spirit
To foster and grow
With a prayer of moment
To let God’s love flow

I love the end of the third stanza, “Regrets of the should done And letting it go.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for chocolate covered toffee, such as Heath bars
2. for "now," the only time that we truly have; may God help us stop worrying about the past and the future and focus on the now
3. for the beauty, majesty, and glory of God's creation, and how He has revealed Himself to us
4. for unexpected encounters with God
5. for the faith that helps me always be ready to give an answer

Today’s prayer word is “now.”

God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.
(2 Corinthians 6:2 MSG)

How much time do we spend rehashing the past or worrying about the future? Both activities create much unnecessary stress in our lives. “Eac removes us from the present and cheats us of the full blessing of this life, this day, this moment – this ‘now.'”

I love the way that “Bob” words this next part. “The single, simple word now can be a way of awakening yourself to the beauty of your own life, a way of fully breathing in and breathing out the blessing of being alive . . . now.”

The past is gone, nothing can be done about it. The future is not yet, and while you may be able to do something to have an effect on it, worrying or stressing about it is strictly forbidden by our Lord. Praying “now,” that simple word, may be a way to focus on the only time that we can call our own, this very moment.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”
(Luke 19:39-40 MSG)

“‘How can anyone see mountains and not know there is a God?'”

That’s why I’m thanking you, GOD, all over the world. That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.
(2 Samuel 22:50 MSG)

Sing to GOD, everyone and everything! Get out his salvation news every day! 
Publish his glory among the godless nations, his wonders to all races and religions. 
And why? Because GOD is great—well worth praising! No god or goddess comes close in honor. 
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense, but GOD made the cosmos! 
Splendor and majesty flow out of him, strength and joy fill his place. 
Shout Bravo! to GOD, families of the peoples, in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo! 
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name, lift high an offering and enter his presence! Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness! 
God is serious business, take him seriously; he's put the earth in place and it's not moving. 
So let heaven rejoice, let earth be jubilant, and pass the word among the nations, "GOD reigns!" 
(1 Chronicles 16:23-31 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

It was just a normal average weekday when the “woman at the well” found herself discovering God in her life, as she did a normal average task that she had done countless times before, drawing a bucket of water.

“This kind of thing happens all the time. And it happens to all of us. We meet God when we least expect it in places that we never would have guessed. In the middle of routines, a sudden longing is released and comes out into the open. While passing the time of day, we hear God’s Word spoken and life is changed.”

As we go about our daily, ordinary lives, as ordinary people, we mistakenly think that God is a million miles away, but then Jesus engages us in some conversation, out of the blue, and changes our lives. “There is no style of life that exempts us from these meetings, there is no day of the week on which it may not happen, and there is no work that may not provide the scene for an encounter.”

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

On the other side of that coin (the rest of this is my thoughts), there is no place that makes it more likely to happen, no day of the week that makes it more likely to happen, and no vocation that makes it more likely to happen. Sunday isn’t special. It’s just another day of the week. It is not the “sabbath.” It’s just Sunday, and God can interact with us just as well on Thursday as He can on Sunday. (I originally typed Wednesday, but then remember that a lot of Baptists still have meetings on Wednesday evenings.)

I have met God listening to Pink Floyd on the radio in my car. I have had encounters with God on what appeared to be prank, random phone calls.

The woman in John 4 thought she was just going to the well to get a bucket of water. Not only was her life changed, but the lives of everyone she knew were changed, as well.

Another thought. This reading seems to be pointing in the direction of being the woman, who has the unexpected encounter with Jesus. We who follow Christ should also be prepared to be Jesus in that scenario. We should be ready to have an unexpected encounter (I realize that Jesus never had an “unexpected encounter”) with a “woman at the well.” This is why, I believe, that Peter admonishes us to always be ready to give an answer.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
(1 Peter 3:15 MSG)

Father, help me to always be ready to give an answer, to explain the reason for the way I live, the way I am, for the joy that overflows my soul, most of the time. I’m not joyful all the time, I confess that. I don’t know very many people who are. Also help me to always be ready for that unexpected encounter with either You or with someone else who needs an unexpected encounter with You. Help me to be that channel of Your grace, Your steadfast love and mercy, Your compassion. Let me never get so caught up in the “ordinary” that I forget to look for You.

Thank You for opening up my heart, my eyes, my soul, to wonder. I know the truth of “I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” My soul has, many times, sung “How great Thou art,” as I look around me. I, too, wonder how anyone can look at a scene like the one pictured above and not believe that You exist. I don’t get it. But I do know that it is true, and will go to my grave proclaiming Your glory and majesty.

And, finally, I thank You for “now.” I am one who spends way too much time rehashing the past (“I should have said”) or worrying about the future (“What if??”). I still beat myself up over that day, in seminary, at the Thanksgiving chapel, when I didn’t do what I felt Your Spirit urging me to do! There is no point in that, though. I can’t change the past, and there’s not an awful lot I can do about the future, either. Even preparations for the future can be derailed by unexpected encounters! So help me focus on “now,” help me “know You in the now.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
(Psalms 39:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Come; Listen; Seek

Today is Friday, the twelfth of March, 2021, in the third week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,010

23 days until Resurrection Sunday

Yesterday was a wonderful day! After I finished blogging, C and I got bowling gear together and headed up to the local Bowlero house. I know. It’s a stupid name, and I hate it. But they pretty much rule bowling, now, having even purchased the PBA. I had a fourteen-pound ball that needed drilling, so we started at the pro shop. We had to wait a little bit, as there were people already in there, and a sign on the door said only two customers at a time. Masks were “suggested” at the front door of the bowling alley, but required in the pro shop.

We finally got inside the pro shop, and the young man inside took measurements and told me to give him around a half hour. We both figured he was being a bit liberal with that estimate, and it turns out, we were right. It took closer to an hour, but that’s okay. We went ahead and started our two hours of bowling with another ball I had brought along.

Ironically, I bowled a 235 in the first game, starting out with four straight strikes. With no warming up. It was crazy. And the thumb hole on my older ball was too big, because, you know, I’m down a hundred-plus pounds. We finished two games before the new ball was done. The second game, I bowled 166, which is more realistic. Then I got the new ball. It’s an Ebonite Nitro, and it’s pretty porous, even more-so than the Hammer I was using. But it fit perfectly! I bowled a 186 with that ball. It felt great.

However, by the end of that game, I had a muscle in my forearm that felt strained or pulled or something, so I only made it through about four frames of the last game, which C finished out. I think the pain was starting before I got the new ball, because I noticed some pain between my ring finger and pinky finger on my right hand, due to the way I was having to try to grip the ball, because the thumb hole was too big.

It was a great time, though, and I have a great new ball to use. And, bonus, my left knee never hurt at all. Oh. That reminds me. I remember mentioning the possibility of drilling the new ball for left handed. I decided not to try that.

After bowling, we ordered Applebee’s for whatever meal you want to call that (it was somewhere around 3:00 PM), and picked up Sonic. We ate our food, and then I settled in for some Playstation time.

Today, we plan to check out the Electric Starship Arcade, during the early afternoon. I have also done prep on a new recipe we are going to try for dinner tonight. From the Emily Bites website, it’s called “Crispy Onion Dip Chicken.” The “onion dip” is made from fat free Greek yogurt, onion powder, and chives. The chicken needs to marinate in the dip for a few hours (up to eight), so I’ve already prepped it and have it in the refrigerator. I will update tomorrow on how it turns out.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God, my Father,
You have promised to remain forever with those
who do what is just and right.
Help me to live in Your presence.
The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when
Jesus, your Son, became man like us.
I want to obey His commandment of love
and bring Your peace and joy to others.
Keep before me the wisdom and love
You have made known in Your Son.
Help me to be like Him in word and deed.


(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)

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 63:7-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • For the wonderful day we had yesterday; thank you, C, for what is going to be a wonderful birthday weekend!
  • For my beautiful and marvelous wife, and the wonderful marriage we have
  • For bowling; that was great fun!
  • That You extended the invitation to come to You
  • That You gave me ears to listen to You
  • That You caused me to seek You and call upon Your name while You can still be found
  • That You have had mercy and have freely pardoned me
  • For Your wonderful words of life!

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

LENT – DAY 21

INVITATION

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
(Isaiah 6:3 NIV)

Spend a moment in silence, resting in the shadow of His wings, enjoying His presence.

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

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
(Psalms 28:1-2 NIV)

Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
(Psalms 28:6-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”
(Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in His presence, I see some beautiful words, this morning. The entire passage in Isaiah 55 is an invitation. It is threefold, at least. For the moment, I’m focusing on three words. You might be able to guess what they are.

First, is “come.” To all who are thirsty, and to all who are hungry, the Lord says “come.” Come to the waters; and if you have no money, it doesn’t matter. The word “come” appears four times in verse 1. The door is open, the invitation is given. God does not make Himself hard to find. It is human pride that makes God hard to find.

The second word is “listen.” Between verses 2 and 3, “listen” occurs three times, and a once, it is repeated immediately. “Listen, listen.” The fact that it is directly repeated like that adds emphasis. If you include “give ear” in verse 3, then that invitation is also given four times. The reason is found in verse 3. “Listen, that you may live.”

There’s another old hymn that I remember. I grew up Southern Baptist in a small town in north central Texas, minutes away from DFW. All we sang were hymns. Worship “choruses” and contemporary worship music didn’t come on the scene until at least eighties, at least as far as adult “church” was concerned. We had our youth songs, like “Pass It On,” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” But in “church,” we only sang hymns.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Here you go. By the great hymn-writer, Philip P. Bliss.

1. Sing them over again to me,
wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see,
wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty
teach me faith and duty.

Refrain:
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed one, gives to all
wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the loving call,
wonderful words of life;
all so freely given,
wooing us to heaven.
(Refrain)

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call,
wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all,
wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
sanctify forever.
(Refrain)

I know some of you are singing this, right now.

I love that line, “wooing us to heaven.” God’s Word is life. The words that He speaks are words of life! And He bids us come and listen to Him, that we may live! To refuse to do so is simply and utterly foolishness!

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
(Psalm 14:1 NIV)

The third word is “seek.” Only used once in verse 6, we are encouraged/admonished to “seek the Lord while He may be found.” This, of course, implies that there will come a time when He will not be found. When will that be? After the final judgment, when everything is said and done. Then, and only then, will there be a time when humanity will not be able to seek and find the Lord. Until that day, there will always be a chance. As Led Zeppelin famously sang, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” I suppose I should clarify that it is also too late, once one has passed on from this life, at least as far as I understand things.

The final result of all of this coming, listening, and seeking is found in verse 7.

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
(Isaiah 55:7 NIV)

He will have mercy, and He will freely pardon.

FREELY!! Liberally! At no cost to us, because the high, high cost of salvation has already been paid!

Father, I praise You, this morning, for the truth of these words, these “wonderful words of life.” I thank You that You bid me come, so many years ago. I thank You that You gave me ears to listen to you (although they still fail to do so, at times). And I thank You that You led me to seek you and call on Your name, before it was too late. Thank You for Your great mercy, and Your free pardon! Thank You for Your Wonderful Words of Life!

True God,
who can save?
So many pretenders
serve up hollow promises,
but it's all foolishness.
No one else can release me
from my punishment;
no program can set me right with you.
Turn me again to Jesus,
the only true deliverer,
and clear me from my sin.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 14)

BLESSING

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1-2 NIV)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:18 NIV)

You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.
(Job 22:27 NIV)

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
(Psalms 17:6 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
(Revelation 2:12-17 NIV)

The chapter of This Hallelujah Banquet that treats this letter to the church in Pergamum is called “The Test of Our Truth.”

We live in an age where “word making” is a huge enterprise. It’s one of the biggest businesses going. The computer age hastened this along a great deal, and, now that they are everywhere and small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, making words is even easier.

“Words are big business.”

Says, Peterson, “With this great emphasis on words, you might think they are studied and valued and understood more than ever before.” (Keep in mind that these words were part of sermons preached in the 1980s!) Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it is even more true than ever, today, in 2021. Social media has exacerbated this problem, along with the ignorance of the masses.

Words are used “badly, sloppily, carelessly.”

In fact, the actual words seem less important than the effects they can cause. “Words are used in order to influence, to sell a car or a candidate, to seduce, to persuade, to win for propaganda, or for advertisement. The skill of our times is not using words as words but using them as weapons, as tools.” (Emphasis mine)

“One of the large and persistent tasks of living the Christian life is learning to tell the truth.” Unfortunately, we continue to lie quite a bit, even when we don’t realize it. “Lies are not usually blatant falsehoods. In order to be successful, they have to be mostly truth.” And, the root cause of most lies is laziness. “Most people tell lies with the best of intentions. They think they are helping the cause of their country or company or their own fortunes and that this is the best way.” Lying is easier than doing the work to make sure we are telling the truth.

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray earnestly for us, Your people, today. Help us discern truth. As we deal with people on social media, may we be more diligent to do the work to make sure that we are always telling the truth. Help us to stop spreading lies because of our affinity to a political party or candidate, or because of our support for some “cause” that is not You. We have fallen far, Lord, in the cause of truth. Jesus is The Truth! Help us to always remember this, and to make sure that we are not telling lies, even unintentionally.

Lord, I pray that, today, You might cause me to think seriously on the Cross of Jesus Christ, and its benefits to my life. I pray for all who are currently living in poverty and suffering injustice. May Your people rise up and help, Father, and may we send more than “thoughts and prayers.” I pray for all who face temptations today (that should be everyone, right?), that You would give us all the strength to withstand the temptation and find the escape route that You promise.

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!

Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
(Isaiah 51:11 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.