Ordinary People; Extraordinary Jesus

Today is Monday, the eleventh of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today!

Day 23,405

We had another wonderful day, yesterday. The trip to Mineral Wells and back went very well, with no delays or incidents on the road. We made it to FBC just in time to get seated for the worship service, which was a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus, and looking forward to Resurrection Sunday. The music included several choir soloists, as well as the handbell choir which played during the Lord’s Supper. I was also glad to get to take the Supper with the saints at FBC.

We picked up burgers and sundaes at Braum’s and took them to Mama’s house for lunch. Then we grabbed as much as we could squeeze into the car and headed back home, listening to the Texas Rangers trounce all over the Blue Jays, 12-6. That was good fun.

The Red Sox also managed to get their first win, beating the Yankees 4-3. In other scores, the Cleveland Guardians (now that’s going to take some getting used to . . . doesn’t sound like a baseball team name at all) jumped all over the KC Royals, 17-3.

After one weekend of play, one team remains undefeated, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers are in third place in the AL West, and the Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East. Houston leads the West, Tampa the East, and the Other Sox lead the Central. Mets, Cubs, and Padres lead the NL divisions. Chicago has two first place teams.

Today will mostly be a resting day as I get ready for one of my alternating “heavier” weeks at the library (working 3.5 shifts, this week). Couple loads of laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. Later, this afternoon, there will be groceries to put away. And I will probably do some practicing, as we are getting ready to have another Night of Worship on April 23. Oh, and I almost forgot, we have the Texas Rangers’ home opener this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Days of Wonder,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I Am
remaking
all things

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

The hope of this promise is one of the things that keeps me going through this life. Please check out the beautiful poetry and lovely images that accompany it, at the link provided above.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
(Psalms 149:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the most wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for the truth that the Lord takes pleasure in His people
3. for the knowledge of God's presence
4. that God works in the "ordinary"
5. that God expects us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in His presence (Micah 6:8)

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20 ESV)

“The most extraordinary feature of the gospel is its ordinariness. The fact that the Word that created the heavens and arranges the seasons enters ordinary lives and fashions eternal life in them is truly extraordinary.”

There is so much truth to this proclamation. Even when the miracle of new birth occurs in someone, to all external appearances, they are the same, ordinary people as they were the day before. Yet Scriptures says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

What does all this mean? Is there a “secret ingredient?”

“One of the extraordinary things about Jesus was that he unassumingly took his place among the ordinary men and women around him.” Consider this scene after the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" 
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 
Jesus said to her, "Mary." 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 ESV)

The resurrected Christ appeared so ordinary that Mary thought He was a gardener.

Then we have the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:28-32 ESV)

These two travelers just thought Jesus was another pilgrim on the road.

Even the disciples, having gone fishing after the resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus when He called out to them from the shore.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
(John 21:1-4 ESV)

Until, of course, He did that thing where He told them where to cast their nets and they couldn’t pull the net in, as it was so heavy with fish.

Is Jesus trying to hide Himself from us? “He didn’t make it easy for us to see God in him.” Except, of course, when He was baptized, and then, again, at the Transfiguration.

I have to confess that this puzzles me a little bit. Because I don’t see it as Jesus intentionally making it difficult for us to see God in Him. Rather, I think He tries to make us feel comfortable in His presence.

There is something about the Transfiguration which I had not considered until a few weeks ago, when I heard what was probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject. The pastor who was preaching that morning, at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine, TX, wondered if maybe what the three disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured, that which caused them to be “terrified” (Mark 9:6), was the same vision of Christ that John the Revelator saw.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:12-16 ESV)

Here were these three ordinary fishermen, who had been walking with this “ordinary” guy for a little while, and suddenly, they see this?

Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Jesus appeared to Mary as looking like an ordinary gardener, and He appeared to those two travelers as just another person on a journey. If we saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way John the Revelator did, we, too, I’m sure, would fall “at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

So, in between the appearances of Jesus in the New Testament, and His appearance that “every eye will see,” at the end of days (I’m not including the “Rapture” because I do not believe in that as a separate event from the Second Coming), we see Jesus walking in around in you and me. Ordinary people carrying around a miracle in our “jars of clay,” so that, hopefully, other ordinary people will see Him and take note of this great salvation that we have.

But there’s a catch. It’s that pesky bit about “love.” Unfortunately, people aren’t seeing a lot of Jesus in those who are supposed to be carrying Him around, because the hate that they are spewing is louder than the Gospel.

That just needs to stop. Period.

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

Father, I thank You for all of the “ordinary” that we see in Scripture, especially surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly, He did many extraordinary things, things that drew attention to Him and showed Your might power in this world. But He also appeared so very ordinary, as evidenced by the Scripture passages above. So ordinary that people didn’t realize who He was until He spoke or acted.

I pray for Your children today. We are walking around in our world, supposedly carrying the truth of the Gospel in our “jars of clay,” so that it is evident that we are nothing special, but the message we are carrying is so very special. But that message is getting obscured by a lack of love and compassion in those who are making the most noise.

I pray for them to be either silenced or have a severe, drastic change of heart. And, lest I be misunderstood, by “silenced” I am not praying for You to smite anyone. I’m simply praying for their voices to be drowned out by the prevalent voice of Your love and compassion and mercy coming from the rest of us.

I pray for Your truth to be known. I don’t claim to understand all of Your ways, and know that I will not understand them until the day that I stand in Your presence (or fall on my face, which is more likely). So, in that case, I choose to err on the side of love and mercy, rather than on the side of legalism and judgment. Hopefully, I am not erring at all.

May Your grace and mercy be known in all the world, and may the earth be filled with the knowledge of You as the waters fill the seas. I think that’s a hymn somewhere.

Give us glimpses of extraordinary Jesus, our Savior, as we walk through this ordinary world in our ordinary mortal coils.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Looking for the Good Stuff

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the ninth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,403

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. There was a period of tenseness, at one point, because I made a bad decision about when to go pick up Freebirds for dinner. I foolishly decided to go between 4:30 and 5:00. Not only was the restaurant behind, but traffic was horrible, as I tried to get home. Lesson learned.

Otherwise, the day was great. Well, hold on. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox both lost their opening day games. The Sox went extra innings to lose to the Yankees, and the Rangers’ bullpen blew a 7-0 lead against the Blue Jays. It’s just one game, though. One out of 162.

The cake was very delicious. Did I mention that C made a strawberry cake?

The cats want to eat the flowers

Those are the flowers that I went out and bought before I even started my morning routine, yesterday. And that’s Rocky on the left and Luna on the right.

Fortunately, in spite of the difficulty in obtaining it, the food from Freebirds was delicious. And we enjoyed watching the Rangers game together.

Today, we plan to go out for lunch in a little while, and then head over to a gift shop in Keller, where a relative of mine is autographing copies of her newest children’s book. She’s the sister of my aunt-by-marriage, so I’m not sure what you call that. I suppose she’s sort of my aunt, as well, but only by marriage . . . there is no blood relation. So far, the Internet has been no help in answering that question.

Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Minerals Wells, to FBC, for their Easter music presentation, as it is Palm Sunday. We plan to pick up something and have lunch at the home place, and Mama will probably pick out a few more things to bring back to Fort Worth. At some point, there’s set of chairs and a table on the back deck, that we want to bring over and put on our back porch. But I don’t think we will be able to fit that tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Answer Is Yes,” by Daryl Madden

The question from our God
Of our life to bless
Will you accept my love?
Let our answer be yes!

The precious gift of grace
A humble soul, confess
Will you receive my mercy?
Let our answer be yes!

With your gifts bestowed
Our purpose to profess
Will you live my calling?
Let our answer be yes!

Of our life’s unknowns
In times of fear and stress
Will you trust in Me?
Let our answer be yes!

For life is a practice
So, we don’t have to guess
With Me to dwell, forever?
With joy, we answer, yes!
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another day to celebrate with my family
2. for the ability to sing praises to God
3. for the therapeutic value of humming a happy tune
4. to be a sheep of Jesus Christ
5. that the "good stuff" is found far beyond "the crowd"

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is interesting. It is “hum.” You know, as in when you don’t know the words, you just hum?

“There’s no better way to calm your mind and boost your spirits than by humming a happy tune.” ~ Psychology Today

The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of exhortation to sing praises to God. But what if you can’t sing? I know people who couldn’t carry a tune in an iron-clad safe! What are they supposed to do? Well, I know . . . the Bible also says, “Make a joyful noise.”

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
(Psalms 98:4 ESV)

I once knew a man who would whistle during the hymns at church.

Jennie, today’s writer, brings up the idea of kazoos. If there is anyone out there who does not know what that is (and I’m not talking about the little green guy that troubled Fred Flintstone), it’s a musical instrument through which sound is created by humming! There is a mouthpiece, followed by a piece of thin paper of some kind, a membrane that vibrates when you hum through it, making a buzzing noise.

Of course, if you can’t really sing in tune, I don’t know that you could hum in tune, either.

In all seriousness, though, our writer for today has a good point. Even if one has a decent singing voice (I’ve been told that I do), humming can be therapeutic, and even cathartic.

It can also annoy people, though, so discretion is advised.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 28:2 ESV)

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
(Deuteronomy 28:6 ESV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(Psalms 32:8 ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(John 10:27 ESV)

These are some good verses. Especially the bit in John 10, which is one of my favorite chapters.

Daily Guideposts 2022 writer, Tia McCollors, uses her son’s Easter egg hunt experience to illustrate a great concept, that of not going along with, or going beyond, “the crowd.” I would like to think that I fall into that category.

You see, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I am an only child. No brothers and sisters to play with. One would think that this would cause me to grow up not knowing how to share. I don’t think that is true. I like to think I’m pretty generous, these days.

And, while I did have friends, it never bothered me to play alone. And it still doesn’t. In fact, I struggle, sometimes, with playing with others. The phrase “does not play well with others” comes to mind.

I even wrote a song, once upon a time, in honor of my mother (it was called “Mama Won’t You Hold Me Just A Little Longer”) that talked about being left out a lot. The bridge went something like this:

I'm still the one who gets left out 
because I don't like to play their games.
But now I run to a different One
Because my Mama taught me well
To the One who knows all my pain
To Him my sorrows I can tell

There are actually a couple of lines up there that I can’t remember, and the song lyrics, sadly, have been lost, I’m afraid. There may be a recording of it somewhere, but it’s likely on a cassette. Also, the last chorus shifts from “Mama, won’t you hold me” to “Jesus, won’t You hold me.” I thought it was clever.

The point is, though, that I don’t tend to “follow the crowd.” Yet, I would gladly consider myself a “sheep” for Jesus’s sake. I am one of His sheep. I like to think I know His voice, and follow Him. And it is exactly those truths that make me tend to not follow even the “religious” crowd.

Like Tia McCollors’s son in the Easter egg hunt, I realize that all the “good stuff” is beyond where the crowd tends to be.

Continuing to speak of Jesus, Eugene Peterson reminds us that His parables often make us look beyond what we call our “real world.” We tend to reduce His words to make them fit into our own preconceived ideas about what life should be like.

But, says Peterson, “Jesus’s words bring us the news of an expanded world, a bright world, a full-dimensional world – a world in which God rules, mercy is a common experience, and love is the daily working agenda, not an occasional romantic interlude. Jesus’s words orient us to the world that is changed from the inside out by his arrival and rule.”

That is the world I want to be part of. I don’t want to be part of a world where people who claim to be following Jesus spew hatred and meanness to anyone who looks different from them or thinks different from them. And that’s why I look beyond the crowd for the “good stuff.”

That is not “Christianity.” That is a cult.

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

Father, first, I thank You for the ability to sing Your praises. You have blessed me with that ability, and I strive to use it for Your praise and glory. I am also grateful for the concept of humming. Sometimes it makes one feel better just to hum a happy tune.

I am also grateful to be considered one of Your sheep. Some people use the term derogatorily, but it doesn’t offend me. I’m glad to know Your voice, at least I hope I do, and follow Jesus as He leads.

Help me to always be looking for the “good stuff,” far beyond the crowd. Help me to never try to water down Your words by trying to make them fit into our concept of what reality is. I know that reality is what I bump into when I am wrong about something, or when I make a bad decision. Reality doesn’t always fit where I want it to be. But You are the true Reality and Jesus is the Truth and the Life, and my Way to reach You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

He Will Deliver . . .

Good morning. It is Monday, the thirteenth of November, 2021, the third Monday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,286

Only twelve more days until Christmas!

We had a lovely day, yesterday, in Mineral Wells. Yesterday’s Christmas worship, at First Baptist Church, was very good. I love what their worship leader does. Rather than present a “canned” musical, he curates a set of music, himself, which incorporates the children’s groups, as well as the congregation, in the singing. In other words, it is not a “performance,” as much as it is simply worship.

Afterward, we had a great lunch from Natty Flats BBQ. I had sliced brisket and sausage, along with their “baked tater salad,” and some “Natty Flats BBQ beans,” as well as a side of their delicious chili. We also had some banana pudding for dessert.

After a few hours of visiting with Mama, we headed home, but not before having to extricate a neighborhood cat from her house. He (or she?) sneaked into the front door while we were saying our goodbyes. Fortunately, S saw it happen, so I was able to get the cat out with little effort. It was quite funny.

Today is a standard day off for me. Laundry is already started, and a trip to one or more grocery stores will be in the near future. Not a big trip. We actually don’t do much of that, anymore, since I can easily go on either Monday or Thursday of any week, not to mention Tuesday morning or early afternoon.

I finished reading The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly, on Saturday night. I’m going to focus on trying to finish The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber, this week. I need to take a glimpse at what I’ve already read, just to refresh my memory. I’m on page eighty-five of a little more than two hundred. I have no idea what will be next.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Lord is strength and song;
He has become salvation;
I will praise my God.
(Exodus 15:2)
But let all who take refuge in you 
rejoice;
let them ever sing for 
joy, 
and spread your protection over them, 
that those who love your name may exult in you. 
(Psalms 5:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we have enough; food, clothing, shelter, and more
2. that our hearts are drawn toward helping those who do not have enough
3. for Christmas music
4. for Your care for the needy and weak
5. for Your rescue for the oppressed
And he called his disciples to him and said to them,
"Truly, I say to you, 
this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 
For they all contributed out of their abundance, 
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, 
all she had to live on." 
(Mark 12:43-44 ESV)
The righteous flourish like the palm tree 
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; 
they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; 
he is my rock, 
and there is no unrighteousness in him. 
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)
The glory of young men is their strength,
 but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
(Proverbs 20:29 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY SIXTEEN

INVITATION

How beautiful on the mountains 
are the feet of the messenger 
who brings good news, 
the good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israel reigns! 
(Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

I pause, this morning, in the silence of the hour, to reflect on the beauty of the message, and on the joy that comes from knowing Jesus.

BIBLE SONG

Endow the king with your justice, O God, 
the royal son with your righteousness. 
May he judge your people in righteousness, 
your afflicted ones with justice.  

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, 
the afflicted who have no one to help.
 He will take pity on the weak and the needy 
and save the needy from death. 
He will rescue them from oppression and violence, 
for precious is their blood in his sight. 
(Psalms 72:1-2, 12-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, 
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 
And do not begin to say to yourselves, 
'We have Abraham as our father.' 
For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 
The ax is already at the root of the trees, 
and every tree that does not produce good fruit 
will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 
(Luke 3:7-9 NIV)
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 
John answered them all, 
"I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 
(Luke 3:15-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, attempting to notice how God might be speaking to me through His Word. I dwell on any words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, allowing my heart to respond to the Lord in prayer. I take refreshment in His presence.

Father, I see again, the emphasis placed on the needy, the afflicted, the weak, those who need to be rescued from oppression and violence. I see that their blood is precious in Your sight. This causes me anxiety, as I look around me, because I see so much of all of it. So much, in fact, that I am virtually paralyzed because I don’t see how I can help. Yet You move my heart toward generosity, and I pray for direction. I have, we have, resources with which You have blessed us. Guide our hearts and our hands, Father, to know where to direct those resources, that they might provide the most relief for the most people. Help us to do the work of Jesus on this earth. I pray that more of Your people would care more for those whom Scripture clearly tells us that You care about, deeply.

Let us not get complacent or over-confident, either, Lord. We have the example of Israel, who was exiled because of their sin. While it is true that they were allowed to return to their land, and they produced the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ, yet they continue in their unbelief. Being of Israel will do them no good if they continue to deny the truth of the Messiah. Likewise, if we do not follow Jesus and obey Him, we will be lost. I do not believe that we can become lost, once we have begun to follow Him. However, I fear that there may be many who believe they are following Him, who are truly not. Give us clarity of vision, Father, and weed out all false teachers, that the message of the Gospel not be muddled. We leave that to You and Your angels, though, as Your disciples were instructed to not try to remove the weeds from the true grain.

May I not be chaff, Father, that becomes burned with “unquenchable fire.” Sometimes, my enemy foments doubt in my heart. Keep me confident . . . make me struggle with my sin, and not give in to temptation. Increase my joy, that overwhelming sense of well-being, that comes from knowing You through Christ.

"Holy God,
lead me to repentance that brings life.
Not the groveling show that's more about convincing You I'm worthy of Your forgiveness,
but the cut-to-the-heart kind of repentance that is grieved at my sin because of Your holiness and glory.
Move me by Your mercy and lead me to a life of joyful obedience.
Amen."

BLESSING

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

And the Glory of the Lord . . .

Today is Saturday, the eleventh of December, 2021, the second Saturday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,284

Fourteen days until Christmas!

It currently doesn’t look or feel like Christmas around here (DFW, TX), but it definitely looks and feels better than last February. It’s unseasonable warm, for the most part, around here. I hear that the reason for it is that the jet stream is stuck in Canada. That’s the easy, oversimplified version, because that’s the version I understand.

We are expecting a low of right at or just below freezing tomorrow morning, but it’s supposed to get up to 61 tomorrow, so it should be a beautiful day.

Speaking of tomorrow, we are going back to Mineral Wells, tomorrow, to attend FBC’s Christmas music presentation. S wants to do that, so we can do that for her. Hopefully, Mama will be able to attend with us. We will probably have lunch from Natty Flats BBQ afterward. That seems to be our new “go to” place for lunch in Mineral Wells.

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be at the library from 9:30-6:15, today. Several of us are bringing food to share today. I’m not sure what the others are bringing, so I will also bring something for lunch, just in case. I’m bringing this:

Crescent Christmas Tree Pull Apart

It has a whopping four ingredients. Pillsbury crescent rolls, Boursin Gournay Garlic & Herb cheese, butter, and parsley flakes (that’s the green stuff on top). Easy to make, and comes out very pretty. Also delicious.

I have also agreed to work in place of one of my associates, next Saturday. He has something he needs to do, so I agreed to work his shift next Saturday. Not that I care that much, but it will help to make up for the sixteen hours I will miss on Christmas weekend. We are closed Friday and Saturday, for Christmas, both days on which I was scheduled to work. We are also closed New Year’s Day, but I would have already been off that Saturday, anyway.

There has been a flurry of Christmas present buying, lately. We are almost finished. We still have a few things to come up with, though.

Please continue to pray for Benjamin’s wife, over at Brother’s Campfire. They could use some miracles.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other lovely photographs at the link provided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Awaiting, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

Believe…
miracles
happen…

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

Indeed, miracles happen, sometimes whether we believe or not. Please check out her other poetry in the link provided above. You will also see some lovely images for each poem.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. 
The Lord is at hand; 
do not be anxious about anything, 
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, 
which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, 
whatever is honorable, 
whatever is just, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is commendable, 
if there is any excellence,
 if there is anything worthy of praise, 
think about these things. 
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things, 
and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:5-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the glorious truth of these verses
2. that every good and perfect gift comes from You
3. for Your peace, which, when I allow it, floods my soul like a river
4. that Your glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together
5. that Your mouth has spoken these things

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

It is good to note that rest isn’t necessarily related to activity or the lack thereof. Rest can be a state of mind, as we allow ourselves to be immersed in and embraced by the love of God in Christ Jesus. I could be running a marathon (actually, no, I could not be running a marathon, but this is just for illustration) and be “resting” at the same time. Likewise, I could be sitting on my rump in an easy chair and not be resting at all.

The best rest comes when we walk in the easy yoke with Jesus, who bears the brunt of the labor in our lives, willingly and easily.

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

ADVENT – DAY FOURTEEN

INVITATION

Yahweh is my light and my salvation. 
Whom shall I fear? 
(Psalms 27:1 WEB)

I pause during the quietness of this morning to reflect on the peace of God, the theme of this second week of Advent. I allow His peace to move over me, covering me like a fleece blanket.

BIBLE SONG

I will praise the LORD all my life; 
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, 
the sea, and everything in them— 
he remains faithful forever. 
He upholds the cause of the oppressed 
and gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets prisoners free,
 the LORD gives sight to the blind, 
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, 
the LORD loves the righteous.
 The LORD watches over the foreigner 
and sustains the fatherless and the widow, 
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 

Praise the LORD. 
(Psalms 146:2, 6-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Comfort, comfort my people, 
says your God. 
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 
and proclaim to her 
that her hard service has been completed, 
that her sin has been paid for, 
that she has received from the LORD's hand 
double for all her sins.

 A voice of one calling: 
"In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be raised up, 
every mountain and hill made low; 
the rough ground shall become level, 
the rugged places a plain. 
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, 
and all people will see it together. 
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 
(Isaiah 40:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words and ideas that stir within me. I linger over them and give them my attention. Is there something I need to ask God about, to pray to Him? I pray my life to the Lord, resting in His presence.

Because You have ordained it, and made it possible, my God, my Father, I will praise Your Name for as long as I live, which will be for eternity in Your presence. “I can only imagine,” as the song says, “what it will be like” to be in Your presence for eternity. I know what Your presence feels like now. The very thought of how powerful it will be when I am Home nearly makes my heart burst.

You, the creator of heaven and earth, have condescended to interact with us. You care for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the widow, and the fatherless. Over and over, throughout Scripture, You tell us these things. And then that bit where Jesus talks about “the least of these,” and how that applies directly back to Him . . . it would do us well to heed these words and act accordingly. When we are blind, Father, please restore our sight. We become “blind” when we look too long at the wrong things. Return our sight to the things that matter to You. Help us to take up the cause of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the widow, the fatherless, and the foreigner, while somehow managing to avoid the traps of the wicked.

Make the desert road straight;
raise up the valleys;
make low the mountains and hills;
level out the rough ground;
make plains out of the rugged lands.
Reveal Your glory to us, O Lord!
For Your mouth has spoken it!

I pray, Father, for servant leadership in Your Church. Give us “kingdom vision, godly stewardship, and effective organization.” May we have a deep identity with the mission You have given us. I pray for unity in the midst of the chaos.

"Satisfying God,
it sometimes hurts to hope,
and so I settle for less.
I confess that I've often given my heart to impostors and counterfeits that can never deliver.
Nurture in me a desire for Your generous reward -
a glory I can hardly begin to imagine -
and a longing for that great day when I will fully enjoy Your promises in Jesus Christ,
our Lord.
Amen."

BLESSING

Wait for Yahweh. 
Be strong, 
and let your heart take courage. 
Yes, wait for Yahweh. 
(Psalms 27:14 WEB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Worship Him

Today is Monday, the eighth of November, 2021.

May God’s peace reign in your heart today.

Day 23,251

Four days until C’s birthday!

Today’s header photo is from Paul Militaru. Please check out his photo blog.

We had a mostly nice day, yesterday. The worship time at FBC Mineral Wells was pretty awesome. We had a great lunch from Natty Flats BBQ (although slightly delayed, as they were shorthanded).

This brings up an important point. I know from experience, it is quite easy to get impatient when I have to wait longer than usual for a food or drink order. But please keep in mind . . . it is not the fault of the person/persons serving you and they are most definitely not deserving of our wrath. Many people have left the restaurant/serving industry because of how rudely they have been treated during the past eighteen months or so.

Most especially, if you call Jesus your Savior, you must be patient and kind with people.

After lunch, we had a nice time of conversation with my mother, during which many topics were discussed. Our trip home was safe, but had a few tense moments. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m off work today, and only have a few chores planned. I’ve already been to the grocery store, which is why I’m running a tad behind with the blog, this morning. We have a pool tech coming, sometime this afternoon, to check on why our indoor control panel won’t connect with the outside panel. That’s about it.

There have been some big changes made to WW (Weight Watchers), beginning today. My plan has changed quite a bit, based on some answers I gave to questions upon opening the app, this morning. The biggest thing for me is, based on my ongoing bout with type 2 diabetes, fruits are no longer zero points. That means I have to count grapes!! Egad! But, as a trade-off, I can now have avocados/guacamole for zero points! And, when I eat a cup of non-starchy veggies, I get to add a point back. So that’s cool. Just some adaptation to be made, but I plan to carry on and keep moving forward.

Today is World Orphans Day.

The word for today is angakok, “a shaman in Inuit society.” “Inuit” is what we used to call “Eskimo.”

Today’s quote is from Winston Churchill, British statesman. “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Birthdays for November 8:

Julian of Norwich, English saint, 1342-1416
Vlad the Impaler (really!), Wallachian prince, the inspiration for Dracula, 1431-1476 (It should be noted that most sources do not provide a day of the year for Vlad's birth. My guess is that it has been put on this date because it is also Bram Stoker's birthday.)
Edmund Halley, English mathematician and astronomer (Halley's Comet), 1656-1742
Bram Stoker, Irish author (Dracula ), 1847-1912
Hermann Rorschach, Swiss psychiatrist (inkblot test), 1884-1922
Margaret Mitchell, American author (Gone with the Wind), 1900-1949
Joe Flynn, American actor (McHale's Navy), 1924-1974
Patti Page, American singer (Tennessee Waltz), 1927-2013
Bert Berns, American songwriter (Twist and Shout, Piece of My Heart, Hang on Sloopy), 1929-1967
Darla Hood, American child actress (Little Rascals), 1931-1979
Ben Bova, American sci-fi author (Exiled from Earth), 1932-2020
Bonnie Bramlett, American blues-rock vocalist (Delaney and Bonnie), 1944 (77)
Bonnie Raitt, American blues singer/songwriter/guitar player (Something to Talk About), 1949 (72)
Jerry Remy, American baseball player and broadcaster (Boston Red Sox), 1952-2021
Gordon Ramsay, British chef (Hell's Kitchen), 1966 (55)
Bonnie Bramlett
Another Bonnie

I really wanted to post a video of Gordon Ramsay freaking out over raw food, but there were too many bad words.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

All your works
shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints
shall bless you!
(Psalms 145:10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all the saints, who are constantly giving You thanks and praising Your Name
2. that I am alive and breathing
3. for our good visit with Mama yesterday
4. for the rest You give when we step into the easy yoke of Christ
5. that my help and salvation is from You, in the Name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY TWO

INVITATION

Then Jesus said,
“Come to me,
all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NLT)

I pause, now, during this very quiet moment, peacefully sleeping kitten nearby, and consider the rest that Jesus gives to those who are weary. If our burdens are heavy, we need only step into His “easy yoke,” and allow Him to carry the bulk of the load. It doesn’t mean we don’t work . . . but it does mean our work is much easier.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

If the LORD had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.

Praise be to the LORD,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalms 124:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, in order to force myself to pay more attention to the words. How has the Word of God moved me? I ponder and meditate on what has connected with my heart and my mind. I pray to God what has moved me, turning my every thought to Him and quietly enjoying His presence.

Along with Israel, I can firmly say, “my help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth!” Through Him, in His power, by the power of His Holy Spirit, I have escaped the “fowler’s snare.” The binding traps of the enemy have been broken.

As the Church, the new Israel, I do believe that we can confidently believe that the Lord is on our side. That means the Church, capital C, world-wide, and does not at all apply to any single country. However, lest we get too big-headed about it, we should remember that, in the big picture, the Lord is on HIS side. We should, therefore, be careful to be found on His side, as well. Let us not champion ourselves and hope that the Lord joins in. Rather, let us champion Him and His purpose, joining in His “cause,” the only cause worthy of defending.

Isaiah 6 is, indeed, a beautiful passage. When I was in music school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, it was presented as the biblical model of a worship service. I do believe there is something to be said for that, however, I don’t feel that it needs to be adhered to, rigidly.

There are certainly characteristics of the chapter that should be found in any worship service, regardless if it is in a huge cathedral or an intimate living room in a house.

First, God is central. Worship is all about God. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this. Worship is not, and never has been, about us. When we make it about us, it is not “worship.” It is idolatry. Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on His throne. We have no other description of what the Lord looked like, other than the fact that the train of His robe was really, really big.

Second, it is worth noting that the attending “living creatures” (these seem to be the same beings that Ezekiel saw), covered their faces and their feet with four of their six wings. I’m not sure what that means for us, to be honest, other than that we had best be careful how we conduct ourselves in worship. If the seraphim, these terrifyingly majestic beings, felt the need to cover their faces and feet, I believe we would do well to exercise a bit of humility in the holy presence of God.

Side note . . . maybe they aren’t the same creatures Ezekiel saw . . . they are only described as having four wings. He saw four of them. We do not know how many seraphim Isaiah saw, and it really doesn’t matter.

Third, the seraphim “sang” a hymn to the Lord. Maybe they weren’t singing. Whatever they were doing shook the very foundations of the temple, their voices were so powerful. This tells me that, when we praise the Lord, it needs to be

loud.

Now, this doesn’t mean the musical instruments need to be blasting through the speakers. What it does mean is that the sound of our voices should not be timid, but strong. How beautiful is it to hear the sounds of many voices, singing in unison, the praises of our God?

Side note . . . I believe it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who preferred unison singing when congregations sang together. While harmony is pretty, unison is more powerful.

Fourth, back to humility. Note Isaiah’s response to this vision. “Woe to me! I am ruined!” While the narrative doesn’t specify this, I have a vision of Isaiah falling on his face while he cried out those things. He recognized his own impurity, his own uncleanness, his SIN! Isaiah! The called prophet of God! When we come into the powerful presence of God, there is no room for pride and arrogance! I am not calling for shame. That is a tool of our enemy, the devil. Not shame, but recognition of, acknowledgment of, our condition before Him. He is HOLY! We are most definitely NOT holy!

He is “Other.”

Fifth, there is cleansing. Now, I don’t know how literally to take this passage. I know people who are way smarter than me when it comes to theology. But could it be that Isaiah’s sins were atoned before Christ’s blood was shed? This puts Isaiah in a rather special place, does it not? But that’s what one of the seraphim told him, the one who touched Isaiah’s lips with the burning coal. I know . . . vision. Not reality. Nevertheless, before we can be sent out on mission, naturally, we must be cleansed. Our cleansing comes from the shed blood of Christ, but there must be confession, just as Isaiah did.

Finally, there is an invitation and an acceptance. The invitation comes from the Lord. It’s more of a challenge, actually. “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah responded. “Here am I! Send me!”

I do not see this as an argument for the traditional evangelical invitation at the end of every service. I personally am not in favor of those, and feel they are largely unbiblical and manipulative. But that’s just my opinion, arrived at after years of observation and Scripture-searching.

There’s a twist, here, though. If you keep reading beyond the selected passage for the day, you will see that Isaiah’s message was anything but the traditional, evangelistic message.

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
(Isaiah 6:9-13 NIV)

Father, I am grateful that I can proclaim, along with David, that You have rescued me from the “fowler’s snare,” that I have escaped from the traps of our enemy. Why do I manage, though, to find myself back in them, after having escaped?? That is a question that I will have to wait to have answered. Until that day, I will strive to keep my feet out of those snares. They are broken (the traps, I mean). . . they cannot hold me. So if I find myself back in one of them, it is my own doing, even though I am free to walk away at any time. I thank You that I am part of Your Church, a small piece of “all the saints,” who praise Your Name and give You thanks, daily. I pray for the times of worship that we have, that they will be You-centered; that our attention will be on Your glory and majesty, and that we, like the seraphim, will practice humility as we cry out praises at the top of our lungs, praises to You, who are completely and utterly “Other,” and “Holy, holy, holy!” And then, just like Isaiah, when we acknowledge our sinfulness and our unworthiness to be in Your presence, cleanse us from our impurities, and send us to proclaim whatever message You give us to proclaim. Most importantly, may we listen to You for that message, for we will not all have the same message. All praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit!

"High and exalted God,
Your holiness crushes my pride and pretense,
and I cry, 
'Woe is me.'
Thank You for Jesus,
the cleansing fire from Your heavenly altar who takes away my guilt so I may hear Your call.
Amen."

BLESSING

LORD,
give me your unfailing love,
the salvation that you promised me.
(Psalms 119:41 NLT)

Father, take us through this day, make us humble, and make us kind to one another.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the Lord make your love
increase and overflow
for each other and for everyone else,
just as ours does for you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Enjoy!

Today is Monday, the first of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your hearts today.

Day 23,244

Six days until Daylight Saving Time ends

Welcome to November! I’m sad that October is over, but fall carries on. And the tree in our front yard is still green.

We had a wonderful time, last night, at our friend’s house. Her chili, as always, was delicious, but the fellowship was deliciouser. It was truly refreshing to get to see some faces that we have not seen in many a moon. There were a few hugs, as well. We got to meet her new grandchild, finally, too. Most everyone sat out on the driveway, in a big circle, for most of the time. It was joyous!

As the new day moves along, and the new month begins, I have a few things to get done today. Some may get pushed into tomorrow, and maybe some even to Wednesday or Thursday. I’m washing the bedclothes, this morning, and will get the floors swept later today (that task will be a regular Monday thing, now that my schedule has settled down, some). The yard needs mowing, but I need to get an attachment for the lawn mower before I do that. C likes to mow the yard, but she has not had enough recovery time to do that, yet.

There are other things that I need to do, some straightening and putting away, perhaps cleaning out some things and “de-cluttering” a little. But this is my week where I only work two days and only four hours on one of those (tomorrow). So there is literally no hurry on any of these things.

As soon as I get done with this, I will be heading to a grocery store to get a few things. I think I’ve previously mentioned that I am planning to “normalize” trips to the store on Mondays and Thursdays, and avoid the big grocery runs on Saturdays and Sundays.

We plan to go to FBC Mineral Wells, this coming Sunday morning for their first worship service back in their remodeled sanctuary. S is really looking forward to this.

Oh. The Astros won last night, so the World Series will continue in Houston tomorrow night. The Braves lead the series 3-2.

I think I’m also planning to have lunch with C on Thursday. We briefly discussed that yesterday. I haven’t gotten to do that in a long time. Sadly, the place we used to go get a Japanese lunch closed a few years ago. We’ll have to figure something else out.

Today is Scented Candle Day. Perhaps I will light one, later.

The word for today is columbarium, “a sepulchral vault or other structure with recesses in the walls to receive the ashes of the dead.” That’s probably because today is also All Saints Day.

Today’s quote is from Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Austrian novelist. “We don’t believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack.”

Birthdays on November 1:

Stephen Crane, American author (Red Badge of Courage), 1871-1900
John W. Peterson, American songwriter (Night of Miracles, Love Transcending, Hallelujah! What A Savior!), 1921-2006
Gordon R. Dickson, Canadian-American science fiction author, 1923-2001
Gary Player, South African pro golfer, 1935 (86)
Marcia Wallace, American actress (Carol on the Bob Newhart Show), 1942-2013
Richard "Kinky" Friedman, American singer/songwriter, novelist, and politician, 1944 (77)
Jim Steinman, American songwriter and producer (Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"), 1947-2021
Dan Peek, American pop vocalist and guitarist, (America), 1950-2011
Lyle Lovett, American singer/songwriter (Joshua Judges Ruth, Pontiac), 1957 (64)
Fernando Valenzuela, Mexican HoF MLB pitcher (Dodgers), 1960 (61)
Rick Allen, British one-armed drummer (Def Leppard), 1963 (58)
Matt Chapman, American cartoonist and voice actor (Homestar Runner), 1976 (45)
Coco Crisp, American baseball player (2007 Boston Red Sox), 1979 (42)
John W Peterson
Rick Allen is the drummer
Matt Chapman, one of the “Brothers Chaps,” turns 45 today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Living and active,
sharper than a two-edged sword,
is the Word of God.
(Hebrews 4)

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright,
in the congregation.
(Psalms 111:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You have given me a thankful heart
2. that You have led me to make my gratitude public, "in the company of the upright"
3. that Your hands made me, formed me, and gave me understanding
4. for the encouragement found in Scripture to enjoy life (reading Ecclesiastes right now)
5. that You have provided me with a life that is enjoyable
6. for music, color, beauty, and all the senses

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY TWO

INVITATION

For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.
(Psalms 48:14 NLT)

As I pause to prepare myself for these meditations, I consider what our God is like, giving thanks to Him for His nature and His attributes. He is loving and kind, patient and forgiving; He shows compassion on His people, remembering that we are dust.

BIBLE SONG

Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.
(Psalms 119:73-80 NIV)

BIBLE READING

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.
I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.
(Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I search for words or ideas that stir within me. I linger over them and give them full attention, praying these thoughts to God, and resting in His presence.

The acknowledgment that we are made and formed by God’s hands, and then given the gift of understanding, that we may learn His commands, is a great beginning. I truly believe that we cannot even begin to learn His commands unless He first grants us this gift of understanding. The knowledge that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made,” found in Psalm 139, at least for me, results in great humility. I suppose it could cause some to go the wrong direction and become arrogant about it. But I see every day, every breath of life, as a gift from the God who made me, formed me, and gave me understanding.

The Teacher took on a pretty daunting task when he decided to “explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.” I mean, who has that kind of time on their hands, right? But, if these were, in fact written by Solomon, then I guess, as King, he had the time. He continues, though, in his assessment that it is all meaningless, “a chasing after the wind.” And, truthfully, most of the activities of humanity are, indeed, the equivalent of chasing after the wind.

But look! At one point, he even decided that applying one’s self to the “understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly,” even those are “a chasing after the wind.” And then he nails closed the coffin with these words, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”

Again, I don’t think we can overstate the problems with reading only chunks of Ecclesiastes like this. If we stopped here, we would think that this Teacher decided to never do anything at all, because everything is chasing after the wind.

But you know what? Sometimes, chasing after the wind is a jolly good time! And any serious reader of the Bible knows that (I haven’t looked ahead to see if we will read this particular part of the book) the old Dairy Queen mantra was borrowed from the writings in Ecclesiastes, as the Teacher eventually comes to the conclusion that the best thing we can do is “Eat, drink, and be merry.”

One of the big lessons that we can learn from the writings of the Teacher is that there is a danger of getting too serious about things. And I agree. While I am serious about reading Scripture and gaining intimacy with my Father in heaven, I also recognize the need to simply have a good time and enjoy life. There’s nothing wrong with seeking wisdom and knowledge (as long as we don’t make it habit to seek those things on Facebook or Twitter). But the writer of Ecclesiastes makes a strong point when he says that much sorrow comes along with much wisdom, and knowledge produces grief.

Therefore, I will balance my pursuit of wisdom and knowledge with frivolous, time-wasting pursuits of fun and entertainment. As well as times of productive work. That is necessary, too.

Father, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; that Your hands have made me, formed me, continue to form me, and given me both the understanding and the desire to learn Your commands and more about You. I pray that these desires will only increase as I get older and, hopefully, wiser. However, I do pray, based on the reading in Ecclesiastes, that I do not take too seriously the desire to acquire wisdom and knowledge. Both are important, but let me enjoy life along the way, as well. You know . . . may I never forget, while in these pursuits, to “stop and smell the roses.” “And let me live whole and holy, soul and body, so I can always walk with my head held high” (Psalm 119:80 The Message).

And while I’m at it, I praise You for music, color, beauty, and all the senses with which I am able to take in the wonder and complexity of creation.

"Great God,
without You any search to find meaning is futile,
any quest to name the reason for living a dead end.
Turn me today to Jesus,
who is the Word that speaks purpose into life under the sun,
the wisdom at the center that gives significance to my days.
In His name I pray,
amen."

BLESSING

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
(Matthew 5:10 NLT)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
(Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
(Ephesians 1:15-21 NIV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
(Psalms 91:1-4 ESV)

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
(Song of Solomon 2:3-4 ESV)

In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious,
and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.
And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy,
everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.
Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day,
and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night;
for over all the glory there will be a canopy.
There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat,
and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
(Isaiah 4:2-6 ESV)

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

He Brings Us Together

Today is still Sunday, the twenty-second of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,173

Fifteen days until Labor Day

I changed my mind, and decided to go ahead and get the devotional blog in, this evening. “Better late than never,” as they say.

I will, however, forego all of the trivial matters and jump right in.

I will say that we had a wonderful time with my mother, today. After dropping S off at her house, last night, and having a piece of strawberry birthday cake, we checked into our hotel and got a good night’s sleep.

We went to FBC for worship, this morning, and it was a lovely service. We had the pleasure of experiencing something a little different, this morning, as Pastor Nathan Buchanan preached on the subject of prayer. After preaching a short message, he then had people write down prayer requests (if they were so led) on a sheet of paper provided in the morning bulletin, and then place the rolled up papers in a small “prayer wall” that had created out of chicken wire. After a couple of songs had concluded, he then asked for anyone who wished, to come up and retrieve someone else’s prayer sheet and then spend some time praying for them. It was very meaningful. I still have the paper I retrieved and plan to continue praying for them.

We then had a nice lunch with the pastor and his family, at La Estrella Taqueria, which is near my mother’s house. It was a great day, all around.

So, without further ado,

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number:
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
(Psalms 49:15 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

Today, I am grateful:
1. for Your power over the grave, and the redemption of our lives
2. for the opportunity to worship with family and friends
3. for the best job I’ve ever had #hurstlibrary
4. for the love and companionship of furry friends 
5. for the overwhelming pervasive sense of well-being #joy

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FOURTEEN – DAY ONE

INVITATION

Your name, LORD, endures forever, your renown, LORD, through all generations.
(Psalms 135:13 NIV)

I pause, briefly, settling into the presence of the Almighty, recognizing that His great name endures forever and ever, through all generations.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.”

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.
(Psalms 52:1-5, 8-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
(Exodus 19:3-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in His presence, I linger over these passages, looking for things that speak to me. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me find words that my spirit needs to feed upon, for I am dealing with the Bread of Life.

The contrast is clear, between the evil, wicked, deceitful, liar at the beginning of Psalm 52, and the one who is like an olive tree, at the end. Of course, my heart’s desire to to be like the composer of the psalm, flourishing in the house of God. I do trust in His unfailing love, and fully trust in His Word, which I meditate on, daily. It is so important to me that I did not want to skip it today.

And, like the psalmist, I will praise Him, in the presence of His people, for all the things that He has done. His Name, you see, is “good.” Jesus confirms this when the well-meaning guy comes to ask Him a question and calls Him, “Good teacher.”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”
(Mark 10:18 NIV)

Of course, I also believe that, in saying this, Jesus is confirming that He is, indeed, God in the flesh.

Now, in the Exodus passage, Moses is called up to speak with God, and given a message for the people, which he dutifully carries back to them.

“We will do everything the LORD has said,” they said.

They lied.

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe they didn’t “lie,” since a lie, in my opinion, is intentional. Maybe they had the best of intentions. But they were wrong, as we will see, as we follow their trek to the promised land, which will look an awful lot like Billy walking home from the bus stop.

And, as it turns out, God had His fill of a bunch of them, and they were not allowed to go in to the promised land. We are in a different era, and our Father deals with us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and there is now no, nor with there ever be any, condemnation for us.

Nevertheless, the Old Testament stories should give us pause.

Father, we all have the best of intentions, I believe. We promise to You that we will follow Your Words. We intend to follow in the steps of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we do pretty good at that for a while. But then we misstep. We stray from the path. We start following our own desires and briefly forget (or maybe not-so-briefly, sometimes) about Yours. Please forgive us and keep after us, nudging us, when necessary, with Your Spirit. Oh, God, I am so grateful for Your Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us! Thank You for sending Him when Jesus ascended to be by Your side! We would not survive without Him.

I pray that I would be like that olive tree, flourishing in Your house, abiding in Your Word, eating Your Bread of Life, which is Jesus, who is the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I pray that resurrection hope and joy will fill our lives. I also pray for opportunity to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Gathering God,
we tend to think that we make church happen.
So ground us again in the reality that it's you who carries us to yourself.
We're a living part of this community of grace not because of our feeble efforts but because of your love.
Protect your treasured possession from those who would make it a legalistic body,
and preserve it in the gospel.
Amen."

BLESSING

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
(Matthew 6:7-8 NIV)

” . . . prayers aren’t a performance but an expression of what is in and on your heart.” (Gayle T. Williams, Daily Guideposts 2021)

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

then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being.
(Job 33:26 NIV)

When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.
(Joshua 6:5 NIV)

Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
(Psalms 95:1-2 NLT)

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
(Matthew 5:44 NLT)

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:21 NLT)

When you feel evil coming against you, don’t fight it with evil; make your own noise, noise of love and goodness. Make that noise louder than the noise of the evil. Drown out the evil with goodness and love.

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!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:6 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Toward Bethel, Not Meribah

Today is Monday, August 22, 2016. 53 days to Galveston!

Quote of the Day

“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” – John Galsworthy (Think about that one for a few minutes.)

Word of the Day

Lucubrate – to work, write, or study laboriously, especially at night.

Today is Be An Angel Day. While that is technically impossible, we still might have the opportunity to be someone’s “angel” today by helping them through a difficult situation.

It was a wonderful weekend! We got to Mineral Wells around 2:00 PM on Saturday, picked up Grandma, and headed pretty much straight to Dairy Mart for lunch. They still cook a mean cheeseburger! Then we went to pick up some more Crazy Water (I drink about half a liter a day, and I swear to you it has helped my arthritic knee!), after which we stopped at Jitterbeans for some smoothies and hot chocolate. I actually had a “frozen hot chocolate,” and it was quite delicious! We went back to Grandma’s house, where we had some strawberry cake (we brought it with us), and then sat and watched the Rangers lose to the Rays. We left around 8:00 PM, stopped by McDonald’s, then went to check in at the hotel.

Sunday morning was nice. We had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel, got checked out, and went back to Grandma’s to pick her up to go to church, at First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells. The worship service was very fulfilling, in my opinion. Good worship, and Nathan’s message was quite good, being all about unity in the body of Christ. Mel Kincaid always does a marvelous job of selecting and leading the music for the service, too. Lunch, afterward, was at Pastafina, delicious, as always, then back to the house to finish off the strawberry cake. We visited and watched the Rangers lose some more, then headed on back home for some R&R before getting back into the work week.

S was extremely grateful for the great birthday weekend, and has thanks us profusely for it. We are grateful to God for it as well.

Another thing we are grateful to God for! We had had a low tire pressure alert in the car on Friday afternoon, so we stopped and put some air in the front passenger side tire before heading to Mineral Wells on Saturday. When we got to Grandma’s house, I looked at the tire, and, low and behold, there was a very large screw in the tire! After lunch, C took the car up to Wal-Mart to see if they could fix it. It turns out that the screw was too close to the side of the tire, and they couldn’t repair it. BUT, there was also a split in the tire, as well as a bubble (all on the inside, where we couldn’t see it), and it was apparent that the tire could have blown at any time! That screw very well may have saved us some much worse troubles than a flat tire! Both front tires were original on the car, so we elected to go ahead and buy two new tires for the front.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account,
for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips
.
Psalm 106:32-33

There are many places in the Old Testament story that remind us of faith and God’s grace; Bethel, Sinai, Carmel, and Olivet, to name a few. However, there are also places, such as Meribah, where the people of God severely tried his patience and sinned greatly. “The geography of salvation shows desirable places to go and troublesome places to avoid.”

“I forget, Lord, how dangerously my discontent can affect another’s trust. I want to be especially considerate of those who are leaders and companions in the way of faith, supporting them with appreciation and intercession, not toppling them with criticism and grumbling. Amen.”

Father, show me how utterly helpless I am without you. Ruthlessly show me how much my mumbling and complaining hurts your Church. Teach me how to pray for your leaders, both locally and nationally, in ways that lift them up and support them. Keep me away from Meribah and lead me always toward Bethel.

Come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.