PCKHG

Today is Friday, the seventeenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,472

Warning: This one is pretty long. Sorry.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we come into your presence and bow down before you, the Almighty. We come before you and repent, believing in you and in your will to save us. Your will to save goes out over the whole world, over the whole godless world, that all may repent and be redeemed. Grant us the thoughts of your heart so that we may begin to understand your will. We dedicate ourselves to you, the holy, just, righteous, and merciful God. Grant that we may be your children, led and guided by you every day. Turn our hearts to you so that you can make us more and more as you want us to be. Turn our hearts to you until your goal of atonement and redemption is reached through the quiet working of your almighty power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
(Mark 1:15 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the will of God to save us and His mercy and grace in making it possible
2. for the Good News (Gospel) that the Kingdom of God is here
3. for 1984 (that year in my life, not George Orwell's book), one of the best years of my life
4. for the Lord's great mercy and blessing in my life; unexplainable and totally and utterly undeserved
5. for wonderful friends, brothers and sisters, that the Lord has placed in my life, through the years
6. for the music and artists that have inspired me and kept me on the path of life
7. that "God is so good, He's so good to me . . . there's never been anyone like You, You are worthy!" (Pat Barrett)

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
(Mark 3:24-25 ESV)

Father, I pray desperately for the Body of Christ, Your Church, both in this nation and in this world, that we would be united under the authority of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. Heal our divisions that are over irrelevant politics and cause us to be focused on loving one another.

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”
(2 Samuel 7:18 NLT)

While I realize this is King David speaking, I pray the same thing, today, Father. Who am I, what am I, that You have brought me this far? I do not pray for my “kingdom” to be expanded. I do not pray for riches or wealth, nor do I pray for fame or fortune. My humble prayer is that I might effectively spread the Gospel of Christ, that Your Kingdom is here, and that we must do better at loving one another in Your Name.

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“For you are God, O Sovereign LORD. Your words are truth, and you have promised these good things to your servant. And now, may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you have spoken, and when you grant a blessing to your servant, O Sovereign LORD, it is an eternal blessing!”
(2 Samuel 7:28-29 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is lead. (We are referring to the verb, not the element.)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
(Matthew 6:13 NIV)

I confess that I, probably like most people, when repeating the “Lord’s Prayer,” rush right through that phrase, many times without thinking. Either that, or focusing on the second half of that verse. “Deliver.”

What if there was a comma after “us?”

“Lead us.”

Full disclosure, here, I’m not making this up, it’s coming from the daily reading.

What if there was a pause after “us?”

When a shepherd leads the sheep, he sets the pace. He watches ahead for dangers or obstacles. He makes sure the sheep stay on the right path. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us,
Poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us,
Grace to cleanse, and pow'r to free:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Early let us turn to Thee;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Early let us turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor,
Early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior,
With Thy love our bosoms fill:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

(Attributed to Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836)

Yes, Father, lead us. I always thought it strange that most translations use the word “temptation” in that prayer. I do not believe any of us would ever think that You, our heavenly Father, would lead us into temptation! I can see that another acceptable word might be adversity, which would make more sense to me. One translation says, “keep us safe from ourselves” (MSG). But I like to envision Jesus, as my Shepherd, setting the pace, watching ahead for danger, and looking behind to make sure we stay on the path. He leads us, not into adversity or danger, but into safety and peace. Hallelujah! Lead us, O Lord!

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NLT)

I stumbled across this verse back in the early to mid eighties. I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life, and the Lord had brought a couple of people into my life, as well as some extremely important music albums. I started writing signs to myself and placing them in conspicuous places in the house, probably much to the confusion of my roommate at the time.

Two of those albums were Michael W. Smith’s second album, simply known as “2,” and Amy Grant’s “Straight Ahead.” In addition, a fellow trombone player in the seminary symphonic band introduced me to Daniel Amos, which changed my life forever, but that’s a story for another day.

One of the songs from the MWS album was called “I Am Up.”

I am up
Like the sun is up
I can feel my life on a rise
I am up
Like the stars at night
I get up on bein' alive
I am up
Like the Lord is up
And my life is filled with His life
I was freed and I am saved
I am up
I am up

That’s the chorus. The last verse goes like this:

There are times life is so fine I can't contain it
Everywhere I look I see what God had done
And I don't have to work and worry to sustain it
When I walk with God His joy will always come
When I walk with God His joy will always come

Another important song was the title track of the Amy Grant album.

Day by day, dream by dream
I fight to find the way to go
Every day opens a different door
Every dream shadows the one before
But slowly I can see
The way You've made for me

Straight ahead, I can see Your light
Straight ahead, through the dark
Straight ahead, there's no left or right
Straight ahead, to your heart

Carry on through the night
When the road is hard to find
Lying lights tell me to turn around
Lying thoughts tell me I'm lost not found
But clearly I can see
You're waiting there for me

Those two songs don’t seem much alike, do they? But I did mention that it was a very difficult time in my life. And, by His grace, I determined that, while 1983 was probably the worst year of my life, 1984 would be the best year (at least up to that point). And it was.

You might wonder what any of this has to do with Colossians 3:12. I’m getting there. In the middle of all of this, I found (or, perhaps it might be better to say that God planted it) that verse. I think the most modern version of the Bible we had back then was the NIV.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NIV)

Since it uses the word “compassion” instead of “tenderhearted mercy,” one of the signs I put up said, simply, “PCKHG.” I pronounced that “puckhug.” Patience; Compassion; Kindness; Humility; Gentleness.

That sign was right by my front door, where I had to look at it every day when I left the house. It reminded me, then, and still reminds me (the verse, not the sign . . . it is long gone) today how I am to “dress” myself each day when I go out into the world.

I think it is safe to say that the world could use a lot more “PCKHGs.”

Oh . . . and the best thing that happened to me in 1984? December 7. First “date” with C, my wife of almost 37 years.

Father, You are so good. I look back up at that verse from 2 Samuel, from that prayer of David, and I can only shake my head in wonder at Your goodness and mercy. I am absolutely and utterly unworthy of the favor that You have shown me in my life. I deserve the opposite. Why on earth You never struck me dead on the spot, I cannot explain, other than to simply believe that there must be something left that You have for me to do on this earth.

Best I can figure, that “something” is to spread those PCKHGs around as much as I can. I thank You and praise You for the people who kept me sane and on Your path, back in those days. Some of them, I can’t remember their names. But I can remember most of their faces, and how they ministered to me. I praise You and thank You for those friendships. And I pray that, even this late in my life, I might be able to be that kind of friend to someone.

I am also so very grateful for the family that You have given me and placed me in. I have thanked You many times for that, and it can never be enough. Thank You for bringing my wife into my life in 1984, and for keeping us together all these years. It is You and only You that has accomplished that.

I don’t want to leave this place, this morning, Father. But I have things to do. I praise You for Your goodness. And like Pat Barrett said, “there’s never been anyone like You; You are worthy!” Only You are worthy of my worship and praise and adoration, Lord. And, while I must leave this room, I don’t have to leave You. Thank You for coming with me wherever I go. Help me to spread the love and mercy of Your Kingdom as I venture out into the world today.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and make everything right!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

What Makes A “Strong” Christian?

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

Today is Friday, the tenth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,465

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, Almighty God, you are our Father and we are your children, who want to live for you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Strengthen and renew our hearts. When discouragement and fear try to mislead us, may your Holy Spirit help us again and again to hold fast, for no matter what difficulties arise, your will is being done and your will is good. Your name will be honored. Your kingdom will come for all nations. Your reign will come over all peoples, for they are all yours and must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to your honor, O Father. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us. 
May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere.
(Psalms 67:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have Fridays off
2. that I was able to sleep until almost 9:00, this morning (very rare)
3. that God is constantly making me new, reviving me, day after day
4. for the promises of God that help me in this reviving
5. that the marks of a "strong" Christian are selflessness, being considerate of others, and building others up, rather than building oneself up

We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
(Romans 15:1-2 NLT)

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

The prayer word for today is “revive.”

Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.
(Psalms 119:50 NLT)

One thing that has always fascinated me is the perennial plants. Last year, my mother gave us some “Four O’clock” seeds. The proper name for these is “Mirabilis jalapa,” also called “the marvel of Peru.” We planted them in several spots in our front flower bed, and one of the plantings survived, giving us a pretty good-sized flowering plant. I have always loved Four O’Clocks.

I wasn’t sure if they would come back, but sure enough, this spring, the plant came back up (along with a couple smaller ones) and is producing more flowers. I suppose you could say it was “revived.”

God revives me, frequently. I don’t suppose it could be said that I have ever “died” spiritually, but I have certainly had periods in my life when I was not as spiritually active as others. Perhaps “dormant” might be a better word, just as a perennial plant is “dormant” during the “off-season.”

The psalmist wrote, in Psalm 119, that God’s promise revived him. And this is what I have experienced. In my lowest times, a verse of Scripture, more often than not Psalms, has “revived” me, or sparked a new interest in me, or a fresh perspective on life. Some of my favorites include:

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
(Psalms 86:11 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)

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalms 16:11 NLT)

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NLT)

There are many more. Here are some verses that actually use the word.

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NLT)

I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.
(Psalms 119:25 NLT)

I think, based on that verse in Psalm 119, that a condition to being revived is knowing that one lies “in the dust.” In other words, I have to know that my spiritual condition is desperate before I can be “revived.”

Our God is in the business of making things new.

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

But this “newness” is not a one and done deal. God continues to make me new, throughout my life, day after day.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Being an old Southern Baptist, I must say that the first thing I thought of when I saw the word for the day was this old hymn, written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay

1. We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

2. We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

3. We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv’n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav’n.

4. Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Refrain - Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

Also, being an old Southern Baptist, I’m pretty sure I have never sung that third verse. Hahaha!

Speaking of what makes one a “strong” Christian:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 NLT)

It wouldn’t hurt to read that entire chapter.

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
(1 Peter 2:12 NLT)

Father, I pray for the ability to continue to seek to not be selfish, to not try to impress anyone else. Let my motivation be only to do what is good for others and to build them up and help them. Help me to always think of others as better than myself. I pray that this would be true for all who call the name of Jesus. May we all be “strong Christians.”

Help me to “live properly” among my neighbors, so that, should they not be believers, they will still give honor to God for my behavior.

I praise You that You are always in the business of making things new, reviving us. This gives me hope when my soul is downcast, because I am reminded, by Your great and precious promises, that You will never give up on us, and that we cannot be taken out of Your hands.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

Today is Friday, the third of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday, working in the computer center. It was fairly busy; a little slow up until lunchtime, but it picked up after lunch. And now, I’m off work until next Tuesday night.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Rays, yesterday, 3-1, to split the series. There were multiple opportunities blown, where they had two men on base with the go-ahead run at the plate, but they just couldn’t get them across. They are now 24-26 for the season, in third place in the AL West. They are 8.5 out of first, and two out of the Wild Card race. They begin a weekend series with the Mariners tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees (36-15) continue to have the best MLB record, while the Nationals and Royals are in a virtual tie for the worst, with 18-35 and 16-33, respectively. They are separated by .013 percentage, with the Royals being on the bottom. The Blue Jays continue to win. They are now on an eight-game win streak. And the Angels continue to lose! (Wheee!!) They are on an eight-game losing streak. The LA Dodgers remain at the top of the run differential column, having outscored their opponents by 114 runs. The Washinton Nationals are all alone at the bottom, having been outscored by their opponents by 83 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by ten runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 22.

The PWBA bowlers are currently in the first qualifying round in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.

The only thing on the agenda for today is getting groceries delivered (already set up) and taking Mama to the bank to deposit some oil royalty checks. Yes, she still gets some of those, and occasionally, they are pretty good. And, since C was out of town, and we did not have our chili last Monday night, we are going to cook chili tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for all your goodness and for the peace you give us. Unite us as your people, we pray. Unite us as one people with all your children who have ever lived, as one people with all who want to serve you. The more faithfully and joyfully we are your people, the more blessing you can give. Let the material world come under your hand. Guide your children on earth. Lead us in such a way that others may be helped. When we suffer, grant us strength and understanding of your will. Protect us today and every day. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
(Ephesians 2:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this Good News of peace; praying that we can spread this message of peace to the world
2. for the hope of unity within God's people
3. that, even though circumstances may look grim, yet there is hope, and still I can praise Him
4. for the goodness of God and for all the wonderful things He has stored up for us, which is one of the reasons for all this gratitude
5. for the way true prayer makes us more honest and human

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:14-16 NLT)

Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
(Romans 9:20-21 NLT)

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. 
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you 
in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 
I have seen you in your sanctuary 
and gazed upon your power and glory. 
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. 
I will praise you with songs of joy.
 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 
Because you are my helper, 
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
(Psalms 63:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yet.” Such a small word, yet full of potential meaning and significance.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT)

In some cases, this word has a similar meaning as “still.” Even though all of these seemingly negative circumstances are prevailing, I will still praise Him. Or, “yet” I will praise Him or rejoice in Him.

There is another sense, though, in which to use the word “yet.” We might be waiting for a particular problem or situation in our lives to be resolved, and bemoaning the fact that it remains unsolved. It has not been resolved.

Yet.

In this case, the word “yet” provides hope that there is still an opportunity for the situation to be resolved. And that hope should allow joy to continue. Even when there are no blossoms on the fig trees.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
(Psalms 31:19 NLT)

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness. 
Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. 
Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

How many times, in the past couple of years, have things that we wanted been unavailable? I’m not talking about things that we need or must have. That’s a different conversation. I’m talking about things that we want.

My biggest example is cherry-flavored sugar-free sodas. There have been periods of time when I have not been able to find Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar at all. In fact, there was one long stretch when I couldn’t find any cherry flavored soda at all. There was even a stretch when we couldn’t find C’s drink of choice, Sprite Zero.

While it was certainly disappointing, and the temptation is to moan, complain, and grumble, if I force myself to stop and consider Psalm 31:19, there is no reason for grumbling.

I desperately wish more of my brothers and sisters would do the same. Instead of trying to point fingers and place blame, what if we spent more time being grateful for the things that we do have?

I saw this video a long time ago, and was able to find it again. While it is produced by a charity organization (Water is Life), it presents some stark realities. And the bottom line is, “First world problems are not problems.” Watch this video, and then, the next time McDonald’s forgets to put mayo on your burger, think about these people.

Instead of complaining, we should be singing songs like this:

O God, listen to my cry! 
Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
 Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
(Psalms 61:1-2 NLT)

For us who name Jesus as Lord and Savior, “prayer is the most comprehensive and essential of actions.”

We separate ourselves from the bombardment of outside stimuli when we engage in prayer, and, in doing so, “deliberately develop every part of our lives, body and soul, in response to God.” This is not, of course, an easy task. “It is hard, exacting work – this life of prayer – but not at all grim.” There are times when “geysers of spontaneous joy erupt and spray out goodness.” And, in addition, we need each other in this journey. While one can pray quite well in solitude, one still needs the support of other saints.

One such companion, though long passed from this world, is David, the psalmist. “Read his psalms. They are David assembling all his experiences, all his difficulties and achievements, and all his doubts and affirmations before God and finding them shaped into wholeness, into salvation – as he becomes more honestly himself and more God’s both at the same time.”

Hopefully, we can also accomplish this. In true prayer (not just daily recitations from a “shopping list”), we become more honest and human as we pour out our hearts to God, our Father. And, in that context, it might be perfectly fine to complain about the grocery store not having any Cherry Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. As long as we come away in gratitude, remembering all the blessings that we have, and the promise of eternal bliss.

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

Father, I pray daily to You. Some days, my prayers are more authentic than others. Some days, my prayers are more numerous than others. Some days, those prayers are truly in response to You, and some days, they are more oblivious to Your blessings. I do love, though, how true prayer makes me more honestly myself and more Yours, at the same time, as Peterson suggest. Help me engage more in this kind of prayer on a daily basis.

Also, I pray for more gratitude. I know I share a good bit of gratitude, each day. But do I continue in that gratitude after I have typed and shared my list? Not that my list is contrived . . . not at all. But sometimes, I walk away from it, and then later find myself complaining about something trivial, that is not at all relevant or important. I pray that You deliver me from this trivial small-mindedness and help me to remember the plight of people in countries that do not have all the conveniences that I have here. In other words, keep me mindful of the great privilege that we have in this country. Well, some of us.

I thank You for the hope that comes when we remember that, just because You have not answered a prayer in the way we had hoped, doesn’t mean that You won’t, still, or “yet.” I also pray that You help me to remember that I can still praise You, even when circumstances look grim or challenging, as the Habakkuk verse says, and as the Matt Redman song says. “Blessed be Your name, when the road’s marked with suffering . . .”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Whatever the work of peacemaking is, it cannot be thought of as simply maintaining the “rule of law” of whatever regime holds political power. The path of peacemaking is altogether different than the one that leads to mere good citizenship or the preservation of a polity. Indeed, if peacemaking involves emulating the Prince of Peace who bears the government on his shoulder as whip scars and a wooden cross, it’s clear that peacemaking is intrinsically tied to solidarity with whomever one’s regime is presently nailing to a cross. The justice of Christ’s cross is a justice of reconciliation, a pathway to peace for those who have been denied it.
(Anthony M. Barr, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Say “Yes!”

Today is Friday, the twentieth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,444

My day at the library was pretty good, yesterday, and went by somewhat quickly. There were periods when it was relatively busy, and the day started out fairly busy. By that I mean that there were people who needed assistance. There could be someone at every computer in the place, but if no one needs any help, it might as well be empty.

I finished a book, yesterday, The Twelve Tasks, by Katharine Wibell. I will get that review posted on my other blog, this afternoon. Late last night, I started reading Starman Jones, by Robert A. Heinlein. I realized, as I looked at my various lists, that I have not read any of the Science Fiction Grandmasters since last July.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Houston Astros, last night, 5-1. The Rangers scored first, in the top of the first inning, but the Astros quickly answered with two in the bottom of the first. It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth inning, The Rangers brought Josh Sborz in to pitch in the seventh, and he did okay, but in the eight inning, he completely lost it, and I swear to you, he couldn’t manage to get the ball all the way to home plate! I lost count of how many pitches bounced in front of the plate. He gave up a hit and walked the bases loaded before Woodward finally took him out and brought in Matt Moore. Sborz only got one out in the eighth. Moore got the second out, but then gave up a bases-clearing double, which made it 5-1.

So the Rangers are now 17-20 for the season, but still in third place in the AL West, a game ahead of Seattle and 2.5 ahead of Oakland. They are seven games behind the Astros. They play again tonight, at 7:10 CDT, on Apple TV. Martin Perez gets the start tonight. Hopefully, he can continue his good performance streak.

The reason the Rangers are still alone in third place is that the Red Sox beat the Mariners, last night, 12-6. Wow. They scored runs in five out of eight innings (they didn’t bat in the ninth because they are at home). The Sox are now 16-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 1.5 ahead of the Orioles. They will play the Mariners again tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

Someone listened to me, because the Yankees finally lost their tenth game, last night. They still own the best MLB record, though, at 28-10, 2.5 ahead of the LA Dodgers. The Cincinnati Reds (11-26) are still the worst, a game behind the Washington Nationals (13-26). The LA Dodgers have the longest win streak, at five games, and the Cleveland Guardians (can’t get used to that!) are tied with the LA Angels (yay!!!) with the longest losing streak, at three games. The Dodgers continue to have the highest run differential, at +83, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest differential, at -71. The Rangers and Red Sox both have a current run differential of -8.

It’s Friday, so I have pretty much nothing planned today. I like that. C is working from home, so we are all here, and Mama likes that. 🙂 I have to say I like it, too. C is going on a trip, though, next Friday, and I already miss her. 😦 She will have an opportunity, though, to visit with our oldest daughter in Indianapolis while on this trip, though, so that is good. I was unable to go along, because I’m scheduled to work that weekend, and, since I’m part time, I don’t get PTO. Plus, the first part of her trip is work-related.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, give us your Spirit, we pray, that we may learn to understand what we are and what tasks you have set for us. We thank you for all the light you give us. Grant that we and many others may come closer to knowledge of the truth and be at peace about all that belongs in your hands, our Father in heaven. Keep us now and forevermore in your almighty hand. May we know your goodness and the blessing it brings. For through your goodness we can endure even the hardest days and be victorious in the battle of life. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 
who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 
For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:1-5 NLT emphasis mine)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, who can reconcile God and humanity
2. for the ability to let God worry about the things that only He can control
3. that the Lord has redeemed me and snatched me from the power of the grave
4. for my beautiful and good inheritance in Christ
5. for the reality that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is actually closer to me than any human being; I pray to know this reality in every waking moment
They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. 
Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. 
Redemption does not come so easily, 
for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave. . . .  
But as for me, God will redeem my life. 
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
(Psalms 49:6-9, 15 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yes.”

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Psalms 16:6 ESV)

That verse is tricky, because the reading quotes it from the NKJV, which I don’t have in my Bible program on my PC, and have no desire to pay for. But the NKJV uses the word “yes,” where the ESV says “indeed.” The original KJV says “yea.”

I believe that I can say, along with David, that, yes, I have a beautiful and good inheritance. Truly, the lines have fallen in pleasant places, for me.

I love to cry out “yes!” in praise when I am worshiping the Lord. I say “yes!” to His mercy and grace; “yes!” to His steadfast and unending love; “yes!” to His provision; and “yes!” to His magnificent glory.

But there is another usage of “yes,” that I think needs to be highlighted.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
(2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)

You see, God says “yes!” to us, as well. Not in a “name-it-claim-it” prosperity gospel blank check kind of way. But the real and true promises of God are always “yes” in Christ. And that verse brings up another thing that I forgot about. Essentially, the word “amen” means “yes.” In fact, I recall, when listening to the album that propelled Hillsong into the limelight, back in the nineties, (Shout to the Lord) it became apparent that Australian Christians had a tendency to say “yeah,” in place of “amen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I cry out with a resounding “yes!” in praise to You. I praise You for all Your glory, Your magnificence, displayed around the world in Your glorious creation. I praise You for Your unending love, Your infinite mercy and grace. And I also praise You for Your “yes!” in the promises that You have given and their fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
(Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
(Luke 6:37 NIV)

The main thrust of this topic is forgiveness. We all have the tendency, as humans, to want revenge. Or, perhaps, we want what we consider to be “justice.” Sometimes, our idea of justice is nothing more than revenge wrapped in a different skin. But we’re human, after all, and that’s how we roll.

I love The Message version of the Luke passage.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:37-38 MSG)

And wouldn’t you know it? I can tie this all back around to that thing that I keep harping on. Love. And that “golden rule” thing that Jesus talked about. You know the one . . . treat others the way you want to be treated. There’s a thing making the rounds on TikTok, currently. It says, “Turns out when you treat people the way they treat you . . . they get mad.” Well, duh.

We live in an age of unprecedented picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults. Unless, of course, they’re on the same political side as we are. Then, their faults don’t matter. If we were following the commands of Jesus, that wouldn’t be happening. Plain and simple.

This is why I’m paying less and less attention to politics. It’s hard to avoid, sometimes, because it gets right in your face. I just try to move my face.

Just say, “Yes!” to forgiveness and treating people the way you want to be treated. Say “Yes!” to being Christlike.

Father, I pray for us. Not just us in the U.S., but “us” all over the world. I pray for all the people who claim to be following Christ, but insist on disobeying the commands of Jesus to not be judging and picking on people, and treating them the actual opposite of the way they would like to be treated. Help us to love, Father. Help us to say “yes” to forgiveness and love; “yes” to mercy and grace. We love receiving Your mercy and grace; help us to also love dispensing that mercy and grace, and help us, that our mercy and love would be like Yours, infinite and never-ending. I know that’s ultimately impossible, but at least we could try, You know?

Here’s a brief word from Eugene Peterson.

“Worship centers our life. In worship, we let God have the first word. We set the mood of days to come by practicing adoration and praise. We establish a sense of reality in which the ‘great invisibles’ (God, Christ, and Spirit) can be as fresh and present to us in daily life as our family members and workplaces and job lists.”

(From On Living Well)

Okay, just stop for a moment. Can you even imagine that sense of reality of which he speaks? Can you imagine a sense of reality in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are as real and fresh to you as your family?? Can I truly conceive of practicing a reality in which God is as close and real to me as my wife, mother, and daughter that live in the same house as me?

But here’s the thing.

He

Is

Closer!

This is reality, folks! God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is literally closer to us than even our families! We just have to enter into a reality where we can feel this and experience it. And this begins, according to Peterson (and I find myself, as usual, in agreement with him), with worship.

Just say “Yes!” to worship!

Father, I pray for the ability to worship You in such a way that leads to this reality. Frank Laubach believed that we could live in such a way as to consider You during every minute of every day (at least the ones in which we are awake). What would our lives look like if we could achieve this? If, during every minute of my waking hours I knew of Your presence within me and all around me, as the prayer of St. Patrick envisions, what would my life look like? I want to know this reality. I desire to live and walk in this reality. Help me to say “yes” to this kind of worship and experience.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

This song wrecks me, every time.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Poetry of God’s Love

Today is Friday, the thirteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,437

I had a fine day in the Computer Center, yesterday. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I was able to help most of the patrons who needed it without any assistance from the manager. There were a couple of instances that required his assistance, and one of those turned out to be something that was wrong with the program on one of the computers that is supposed to wipe all the memory when it reboots at the end of a session.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the KC Royals, 3-1. They also won the series, and I swear I heard one of the announcers say that the Rangers have not won a “rubber” game at home since 2001?? Anyway, the Rangers are now 13-17, still in fourth place, still seven games out of first, and still a half game ahead of the Athletics. They begin a weekend series against my other favorite team, tonight, the Boston Red Sox, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox did not play yesterday. They remain 11-20, and are in last place in the AL East, 12 games out!

The NY Yankees (23-8) continue to hold the best record in MLB, two games ahead of the cross-town Mets. The Yankees are the only MLB team that has not lost at least ten games. The Cincinnati Reds (8-24), while still holding the worst record, have been improving. They are only one game behind the struggling Detroit Tigers (9-23). And those two are the only remaining teams who have yet to win ten games.

The Houston Astros have the longest current win streak (10), while the Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays both have four game losing streaks. The LA Dodgers continue to hold the largest positive run differential, at 76, while the Cincinnati Reds hold the largest negative differential, at 68. That’s all the stats I care to give you, today.

I have an appointment at the Atlas Vein Clinic at 10:30, this morning, where they will look at the results of my wearing compression socks for the past twelve weeks, and we will discuss the next steps. I doubt, at this time, that I will proceed with any procedure, just yet, as I still need to schedule a colonoscopy (Wheee!!) in the near future.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, whose light shines out of the darkness and gleams brightly into our hearts, we thank you for all the goodness you allow us to see. We want to see your goodness clearly and have confidence in it, no matter how much around us is dark and disquieting. We want to remain firm and full of trust, looking to what you have put into our hearts so that we may come to know you. Be with us with your Spirit. Lead us to realize ever more clearly that we are made for your honor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the light that shines out of the darkness into my heart that I might know the glory of God
2. for the Lord's unfailing love, poured out over me
3. that we are God's poetry, still in the process of being written
4. for the Lord's comfort in times of suffering and sorrow, and that we can turn around and provide that same comfort to others who suffer and mourn
5. that not a single thing has ever been accomplished by worrying about it
6. for the "congregation" with which we gather each Sunday morning, a group of people "who have decided, together, to pay attention" (Eugene Peterson)
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 
I thirst for God, the living God. 
When can I go and stand before him?
(Psalms 42:1-2 NLT)
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 42:5 NLT)
But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, 
and through each night I sing his songs, 
praying to God who gives me life.
(Psalms 42:8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is a Greek word, “poiema.” The word is traditionally translated “workmanship” in most translations of the Bible, in Ephesians 2:10.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

The NLT renders it “masterpiece,” and the NIV says “handiwork.” The interesting thing is that this is also the word from which we derive our English word “poetry” or “poem.” From this, we can get the beautiful image that we are, in fact, poetry that God is writing. A recent translation, called The Passion Translation, renders this verse:

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
(Ephesians 2:10 TPT)

In recent years, I have become a bigger fan of poetry, and have even ventured into the writing of Haiku, from time to time. Most Haikus that have been seen in this blog, unless otherwise accredited, were original. To learn of this meaning of this word gives me great delight.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Your amazing love;
You are writing on my heart;
Lovely poetry

Father, I thank You for the beauty of this word, and its various meanings. There are times when poetry says things to me that normal prose cannot convey. I don’t quite understand why, other than to know that You have given my hear the ability to appreciate beauty in many things. This gives me great delight, and it helps me to delight in You! I pray that You continue to write Your great poetry of love in my heart and in the hearts of all of Your children. I also pray that, in the writing of this poetry of love, You erase all of the meanness and hatred that still resides in the human heart.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
(Isaiah 58:11 NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18 NLT)

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NLT)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

Father, maybe someone needs to see these verses today. I thank You for the comfort You give those who mourn, for we all have mourned at one point in our lives, and we will all mourn again, surely. Until the day when we all get to heaven, and there is only rejoicing, there will be mourning and sorrow on this earth. It is inevitable. So we praise You for this comfort that You give. I also pray that You would help us who have been comforted by You give comfort forward to those who are suffering in sorrow. As Your Word tells us, You are our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. You comfort us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1).

Martin Luther, in The Place of Trust, reminds us that we daily see examples of God’s provision, right before our eyes. He urges that we allow these illustrations to persuade us to “lay aside your anxiety and your unbelief and to remember that you are Christians and not heathens.”

He paraphrases Jesus’s teachings from Matthew 6. “Since you are Christians, you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

Then Luther says, himself, “If nothing grew in the field unless we were anxious about it, we would all have died in our cradles; and during the night while we are lying asleep, nothing could grow. Indeed, even by worrying ourselves to death we could not make a single blade of grass grow in the field.”

He goes on to say that we are, in effect, godless people, when we refuse to give up our anxiety in the face of such overwhelming care from our Father.

I love the example of what it would be like if nothing grew unless we were anxious about it. It is a humorous example, but also quite true.

Let us take to heart Jesus’s final statement in that passage.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

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

Father, I thank You for these teachings of both Jesus and the examples by Martin Luther. I am quite grateful for the teachings of the ancients that we still have available. I am grateful for the technology that has preserved the words of these people, that we might learn from them. Certainly, they all had their flaws, and we are not going to agree with every word that they said or wrote, but we can still extract diamonds from their library of work. Give us discernment as we look at the words that came out of those eras.

Help us to stop worrying. People are full of fear and worry, right now, over worldly circumstances that truly have no bearing on eternity. Inflation and gas prices have absolutely nothing relevant to us, when we consider Your kingdom. All of these things are mild inconveniences in the face of the treasure that we have awaiting us in eternity. So give us stronger faith, that we might stop the worrying and focus on what is waiting for us, and how we might lead other people into that glory.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
(Romans 8:18 NLT)

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, is a simple, single sentence. “A Christian congregation is a group of people who decide, together, to pay attention.”

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

I love this. “Pay attention to what??” you might ask. I can’t speak for Peterson, but my answer would be “anything and everything.” We pay attention to God and His Word. We pay attention to what is going on around us. However, we don’t worry or fret or complain bitterly about what is going on around us (we might, but we should not). Rather we pray about it, and we look forward, with great anticipation to that inheritance that awaits us.

Father, I am grateful for the congregation with which I gather each week. We are a group of people, I believe, who have decided to “pay attention.” Help us to follow Your commands to love You and to love others. Help us to be even better at paying attention to Your Word, as well as to events around us. Help us to not be ones who moan and complain about things, but, rather, look at the world through the glasses of faith; faith in You, faith in Christ, faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us, provide for us, to continue to save us, and, eventually, to lead us Home, where we will live forever in Your glory.

I pray desperately that You would inspire Your people to stop fretting and worrying about things because of this main reason; when the unbelievers see Your children doing nothing but moaning and complaining (and being angry, to boot), it certainly does nothing to draw them into Your kingdom. And I believe that is one of the things we are supposed to be about . . . even though it is Your job to draw them in, I believe that we might be making Your job a little bit more difficult than it should be.

“If the world hates you because of Jesus, that’s fine. If the world hates Jesus because of you, that’s a problem.” ~ seen in several TikTok videos in the past week.

Grace and peace, friends.

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place

Today is Friday, the sixth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,430

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday. There were a couple of challenging patrons, but I always have help from at least one other manager or librarian during my time, there, and they were graciously helpful. As usual, I learned more about my job while I was there, and it is always good to learn new things, so that I can help the next person better.

The Rangers didn’t play yesterday, but the Red Sox did, and lost tremendously to the LA Angels, by the score of 8-0. The sad thing is, Boston’s starter, threw five shutout innings! It was the bullpen, once again, that blew the game and gave up 8 runs. The Sox are now 10-16 for the season, tied with Baltimore for last place. They begin a series with the Other Sox (11-13) tonight, in Boston.

The Rangers begin their series in NYC, against the Evil Empire tonight. Game time is . . . oops. No they don’t. Tonight’s game has already been postponed, and a double header is planned for Sunday. So there you go.

Those Yankees still hold the best record in MLB, at 18-7, but are only a half game ahead of Milwaukee’s Brewers and the Mets. The Reds have now lost nine consecutive games and are 3-22. There remain five teams who have yet to win ten games. The aforementioned Reds, the Washington Nationals, the Detroit Tigers, the KC Royals, and the Chicago Cubs.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer)

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
(Psalms 34:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies and mild weather, today
2. for all things that are lovely, and for the loveliness of the Name of the Lord
3. that God will show me the right path to follow; that His Spirit will lead me forward on firm footing
4. that God is rooting out all false gods from my life, any idols that may be in His place in my heart
5. for the hope that you will see these things and be inspired to practice your own gratitude

Today’s prayer word is “lovely.”

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8 NLT)

We have the ability to choose what we allow our minds to dwell on. One of my favorite Dallas Willard quotes is in regard to this. “The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon and think about.”

The casual observer might be forced to think that the majority of US citizens are choosing to dwell upon the most negative things possible. Paul gives us this admonition in Philippians, a most wonderful encouragement, to think about, to dwell upon, whatever is “lovely.”

What are some things that are “lovely?”

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude
(Psalms 84:1-4 NLT)

The dwelling place of the Lord is lovely. Now, we know that when the descendants of Korah wrote this psalm, they were speaking of a physical building. But we now think of the “dwelling place” of the Lord as the human soul. Therefore, I must believe that the soul of a human being is “lovely.” Believe me, that is extremely difficult, sometimes, especially when confronted with a human being who seems to have no soul.

The name(s) of the Lord is “lovely.”

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; celebrate his lovely name with music.
(Psalms 135:3 NLT)

There is a song that I like, called “Tremble.” It’s all about the wonder and beauty of the name of Jesus. The bridge says this:

Your name is a light that the shadows can't deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome

The name of Jesus is lovely, indeed, and most worthy of the attention of our minds.

This is the value of meditation and contemplation, the classic disciplines. By practicing these disciplines (and there is a difference between the two), we train our minds to do exactly what Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 4:8, to think upon things that are “lovely.”

And what Dallas Willard said is true. As human beings, we have the unique ability to control what we allow our minds to dwell on. The problem is, we simply fail to do that, most of the time. Just because a thought pops into our head, doesn’t mean it has to stay there, right?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me, today, to dwell upon what is lovely. If a negative thought comes into my brain, help me to push it right on through, dwelling on the loveliness of Your name or Your dwelling place. May I look upon every human being as lovely in Your sight, because You created all of us in Your image. I pray that all of Your people would do the same, and treat others with dignity and respect, even if they don’t agree about things. Your Name is lovely. The Name of Jesus chases shadows away and will not be overcome. Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble! Hallelujah!

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.
(Psalms 25:4 NLT)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
(Psalms 143:10 NLT)

As I reflect on the things that are lovely, meditating on and contemplating the name and characteristics of the Holy Trinity, then the Spirit of God can “lead me forward on a firm footing.” The Lord can “show me the right path,” and “point out the road for me to follow.” But this takes work on my part. Yes, I can pray for God to do these things, and He does answer prayer, but it’s not just automatic. I have to do the work required to learn these things. I must practice the disciplines in order to train my mind to think about the things that are pure and lovely.

Father, I praise You that You will point out the path, show me the road, and help me keep my feet on that path. But I ask You to help me practice the disciplines that will enable me to hear You when You guide me. Help me to learn how to pay attention. When I have trained my mind, heart, and soul to listen to You and focus on Your loveliness, then fear has no place in my life. Regardless of the circumstances that I see in the world around me, I will have no fear if I am simply focusing on the right things. So help me to focus on the right things. Help me practice those disciplines.

"Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus' name, Amen."
(From The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer)

Eugene Peterson expresses a wonderful sentiment in a reading called “Do It Yourself.” He relates a personal story, in which he attended a concert by Pete Seeger (I’m not at all jealous)(yes, I am, that was sarcasm), where Seeger played the banjo and sang folk songs. Peterson was inspired by Seeger’s banjo playing, to the point that he went and bought a second-hand banjo and found some used instructions books and tried to learn how to play, himself.

Here’s the thing. As much as he enjoyed the concert, and likely would have enjoyed another, the “distinctive thing in that experience was not that I wanted to go back and here Pete Seeger sing again but that I wanted to do it myself.”

And then, as he has a way of doing, Peterson applies this to the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. “That is what pastors should want to take place when they teach and preach the Scriptures–not to have people become dependent on them but to have people become eager to get the Bible in their own hands and become competent in reading it.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this way of thinking. Sadly, however, when I observe the world around me, I see a veritable plethora of people who have not, in fact, studied the Scriptures, themselves, but, rather, are spouting nonsense that they have heard from other people, who may or may not have studied Scripture, or have studied it wrongly.

I have several goals with this blog. One is simply nothing more than to have a record of my daily devotions. Years ago, I decided that keeping them online would take up a lot less space than writing them in notebooks, and would be quicker, as well. I can type a lot faster than I can write. But another goal (as well as a corresponding goal for my Facebook posts and TikTok posts) is to inspire people to 1) read and study the Scriptures themselves, and 2) practice daily gratitude.

Don’t read what I say and just believe it (or not believe it, for that matter). Be like the Berean Christians in Acts who “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” And, for heaven’s sake, don’t just believe something because a pastor said it from a pulpit.

But more than anything, I want to inspire you to be grateful. I want to inspire you to think about things that are “lovely.” I want to inspire you to love God and love people, to take part in a Love Revolution.

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

Father, I pray that people will see this blog, read it, and then take it upon themselves to think about things that are pure and lovely, to love You and to love each other, and then to practice their own gratitude. I pray that people would see Your loveliness reflected in the way I live, not the ugliness of the world around me. Help me to reflect Your love and mercy and grace, rather than everything negative in the world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

Today is Saturday Friday, the twenty-ninth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

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

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

Sticking Around to See What Happens

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,416

It was a mostly quiet day at the library, yesterday. There were spurts of busy-ness in the Computer Center, and most of that occurred after 5:00 PM. I won’t be back there until next Tuesday evening.

The Texas Rangers came back and won a game, last night! They beat the Mariners 8-6, after falling behind on Taylor Hearn’s terrible pitching in the first inning. So they avoided a sweep by the Mariners. They are currently 3-9, for the season, still in last place in the AL West. They begin another three-game series in Oakland, tonight, at 8:40 CDT. I find it interesting that they seem to have changed the west coast game times. I don’t know if twenty minutes makes that much difference to the rest of us, as I’m still not likely to stay up to watch the game. There might be some fans at the game tonight, but Oakland’s attendance has been pathetic. In fact, a couple nights ago, their AAA team had a bigger attendance than they did.

One thing I’m happy to see is that the Astros are in fourth place, with a 6-6 record. I’m not happy to see LA in first place, but “it is what it is,” right?

Boston lost another game to the Blue Jays, 3-2, which makes two consecutive losses and they lost the series. So they have dropped below .500 again, and are in fourth place in the AL East. These teams are not making it easy for me to stay interested in baseball, this season. Already.

How much longer do we keep saying, “It’s early, still”?

There’s nothing really on the agenda for today. Probably some laundry. Maybe a quick trip to the store for a couple of things. C is working from home, and I’m off today, so we are all home together. Dinner tonight will probably be our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust.

And, at the last minute, we have decided that we are going to go to Scarborough Rennaissance Festival tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Friday in Easter Week)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
(Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is always right beside me in this journey, to help me when I need to take up my cross and follow Him
2. that Jesus is the water of life, satisfying every thirst
3. for God's marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, and His forgiveness, and that He knows my heart better than I do
4. that God's Word is living and active
5. that God watches over His Word to make sure it accomplishes what He sent it out to do

Today’s prayer word is “cross.” Obviously, this one could have a veritable plethora of meanings. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”

The reading for today speaks of a medically chronic condition with which the writer suffers. I respectfully disagree that this is a “cross” that she must bear. Many people use the phrase, “I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” or something like that.

The reason that I disagree that a medical diagnosis is a “cross” we must bear is that it is not something about which we have a choice. Jesus bids us “take up our cross daily.” This is something we choose. There is a reason that, accompanying that command is also the command to deny ourselves.

Jesus took up His cross and He died. It was His choice. It was not something He was forced to do; He gave up His life willingly.

Most of us don’t do a very good job of taking up our “crosses,” myself included. I didn’t make it through a couple of weeks of Lent, with the “fasts” that I was intending. When we “give up” something for Lent, we are taking up a cross, and denying ourselves. When we choose to not participate in something that others are doing, we are taking up a cross and denying ourselves.

All that being said, I agree with the Pope Francis quote. Jesus would never ask us to take up our cross if He were not going to help us carry it. That’s why He also invites us into His “easy yoke.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that I would do better at taking up the cross that You would have me carry, each day. There are certainly things in my life that need to be avoided or eliminated. There are attitudes and personality characteristics that still need to change. In short, I need to do better at denying myself. Help me to do that, and to step into Your easy yoke as I do so. Thank You that You are willing to be right beside me in this journey.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:19-22 ESV)

The thing I want to point out in this passage is verse 20, that bit about our hearts condemning us. Who among us does not struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? How often do we feel that we are just too bad, and that there is no way God can forgive us yet one more time for the same thing? I’m reminded of a song by Twila Paris, in which, I believe, the first line says, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

I have most certainly been there. But here is the thing. “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” I am in no position to judge myself. J.B. Phillips, in his book, Ring of Truth, says, “It is almost as if John is saying, ‘If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?'”

And, in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to believe or accept God’s forgiveness. We are placing ourselves higher than Him. And we call it “humility.”

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

Father, I praise You for Your great mercy and grace and forgiveness. Please forgive me when I act like I know better than You and doubt Your forgiveness. Help me to accept the truth that You know better than I, and that You know my heart way better than I. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

We’re back to talking about words again. Eugene Peterson says, “Words are never truly empty.” That’s a pretty bold statement, because I’m pretty sure I’ve both heard and spoken some pretty empty words. But every word has meaning. And real, true words “get under our skin and shaper our lives.”

Especially the Word. Once again, I will share that verse from Hebrews.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
(Hebrews 4:12 MSG)

“When the Word is preached or taught, said or sung, prayed or meditated, that is not the end of it. God continues to watch over this Word, tending it and caring for it until it brings forth love, obedience, hope, belief, or joy.”

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 MSG)

We should be watching along with God, but not like spectators watch. We should be watching as shepherds, parents, lovers, and friends, “watching for signs of grace, watching for movements of joy, watching for evidence that once again the Word has become flesh.”

All too often, the leaders of the church miss out on this. Or, perhaps, it’s not “church” leaders, but itinerate evangelists or traveling preachers, who show up, preach the Word, and then disappear. But we need to “stick around and see what happens, and pastors need to lead their congregations to stick around and see what happens, to see how God performs this Word.”

We are all “great wanderers.” We hear something and ten minutes later, we’re off doing the next thing; we’ve gone shopping or turned on the television, or gone to get a snack.

“Everything that goes on in people’s lives is, or can be, connected with the Word that is proclaimed. God is watching over the Word to perform it. And we watch with him because we don’t want to miss out on a thing that comes out of these words that God puts in our mouths.”

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

Father, this is something that requires some pondering. But we definitely need Your help in this matter. We are too quick to forget the truth that You stick around and make sure that Your Word does what You say it will do. I am grateful for this, but acknowledge that I am not always so good at sticking around to see what happens. Help me to be better at this, and help me to be more faithful to watch with You, when it comes to seeing Your Word in action.

Help us to be better at believing what Your Word says, too. I’m not trying to get into any kind of prosperity gospel, here, but Your Word is truth, and it is powerful, and it dwells within us. So we need to do better at believing it, so we can see the power at work in and around us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

True Success

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. It is “Good Friday.”

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,409

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

I’m off work today, as I will be every Friday, going forward, until my schedule changes again, if it does. But the library is closed today, anyway, and, based on what I’m hearing, usually is closed for Good Friday, as all city offices are also closed.

We have a funeral to attend, this afternoon, and are about to get ready to go pick up a good work friend of C’s, and go have lunch together, and then she will ride to the funeral with us, as she also worked for the man who passed away.

I have several book reviews to write, today, at some point. I may not attend the Good Friday service this evening. I have not yet decided on that. And I’m still not sure what we are doing for church Sunday morning.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the Angels (and Ohtani!) 10-5. Included in that game was a grand slam by catcher Jonah Heim, who also batted in another run, and scored at least one more, himself. That was the first grand slam ever allowed by Ohtani, and I think I heard the radio announcers say that it was the first home run hit off of that particular pitch of his. Also included in the game was Corey Seager finally getting his first Rangers home run (he flirted with that a couple days ago, but it was stolen from him by a great outfield catch). They play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, apparently with Matt Bush starting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Good Friday)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for great discussions/conversations with C and Mama
2. for friends with which to have lunch
3. for the death of Jesus on the cross, which paid for all our sins
4. for a life that has been lived with the "correct" definition of success (obeying God's voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family)
5. that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”
(Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “success.” This is a tricky one, I think. We need to be careful, of course, how we define “success.”

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.
(Proverbs 16:3 NLT)

There is also this famous verse, not included in the reading for today.

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.
(Joshua 1:8 ESV)

What is success? When classmates vote “most likely to succeed,” they are probably considering who will “make a name for themselves, earn lots of money, and enjoy an illustrious career.”

I really like what today’s reading says. Written by “Barbranda,” she says “While I’ve had goals, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a master plan. I just take life step by step and make the most of the opportunities that come my way. For me, true success is obeying God’s voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family.” (I added the emphasis)

Indeed, I agree. That is what makes up true success. I have never really had what others might call a “life goal,” or “master plan.” I’ve just kind of plodded along, trying to do that same thing that Barbranda said.

" . . . and step by step You'll lead me,
and I will follow You all of my days."
(Written by David Strasser, aka "Beaker," for Rich Mullins)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41 NIV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

We need a lot of help “getting our feet on the ground and making sure we are headed in the right direction.” Our ground is, to a degree, “holy ground,” and the “‘right direction’ is toward the Cross of Jesus.'” Unfortunately, a lot of clutter gets into our lives, littering that holy ground, and voices cry out to us, distracting us from the Cross.

We have to cultivate our inwardness, and this must be intentional. “Spiritual practices, including prayer and fasting, are about getting our inside stories straight.” We must realize that a lot of, maybe most of, Jesus’s life happened “behind the scenes, in prayer. . . . It is not enough to become knowledgeable in surface facts. it is not enough to gain access to the biblical reports. We need the inside story, the God-story, that is at the heart of everything.

“Prayer grants access to inwardness, to the God-action that is taking place within us. This God-action is the most distinctive thing about us. it is more important than our circulatory systems, our brain waves, and our skeletal structures. When we realize that huge centrality, we are no longer content with prayers that are brief and occasional expressions of thanks or general laments upward. We want something comprehensive – prayer that is rigorously probing and capable of getting at the entire inside stories of our lives.”

I apologize for the lengthy quote, but, as is so often the case, I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s writing.

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

Father, this is the kind of prayer, this kind of inwardness, that I am looking for. As I walk through this Good Friday, may my heart, soul, and mind be turned inward toward this “inside story.” I want to know Jesus in this way, and I want to be walking on this “holy ground,” toward the direction of the Cross of Christ. Even if I only move 1% closer each day, I am satisfied with that, as it is progress toward true success. And “success” will be realized when I “arrive,” which will not happen until I stand face to face before You.

Help me to know as I am known. Help me to walk in the present, being aware of Your presence always with me, beside me, behind me, in front of me, above me, below me, and inside me.

May all the glory go to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Love that Comforts and Provides

Today is Friday, the eighth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign within you, today!

Day 23,402

Today is a very special day. It is my mother’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mama!! I love you!

I’ve already been out and got flowers and donuts to help the celebration, and we plan to have Freebirds today, at some point, probably for dinner tonight. C also made a strawberry cake for the occasion. Yum!!

My first Thursday at the library was a good day. It was a lot busier in the Computer Center than a typical Friday, which helped the day go by faster. I had a couple of patrons that needed extensive help, and I was able, for the most part to get them what they wanted.

I literally have nothing else on my agenda for today, other than going out to pick up the Freebirds (and Sonic drinks of course) later. Oh, and watching the Texas Rangers opening game, later, this evening, as they open the season in Toronto.

In baseball news, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Mets, Reds, Astros, and D-backs, won their opening day games. The Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins games were both postponed and will hopefully happen today. Everyone else is scheduled to play today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; 
call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples! 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wondrous works! 
Glory in his holy name; 
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually! 
(Psalms 105:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the lifelong instruction and wisdom of godly parents
2. the comfort that God gives us in our sufferings and afflictions; comfort with which we can, in turn, comfort others
3. the love of God that results in His provision for our lives
4. the things I can learn from studying my past experiences
5. that God gave me a brain and the ability to use it

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
(Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “comfort.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days.”

We all have difficult days. Some of us have more difficult days than others, seemingly more than our fair share of them. There are some good words in 2 Corinthians about comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The word appears a few more times in 2 Corinthians, as well. God comforts us, why? Not so that we can just feel better and not be sorry for ourselves. It is so that we can, in turn, comfort others.

The Bible is very clear, throughout, that this life is not all about me, and is not for me to benefit. Yes, I do receive benefits from the Christian life. But it doesn’t stop there. I’m not like the Dead Sea, that is all receiving and no giving. Anything I receive, I should be, in some way, giving away. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. We cannot pay God back. That is simply impossible. But we can “pay it forward.” We can take the comfort which God gives us in our sorrow and in our difficulties and comfort someone else who has experienced loss or is having a bad day.

“God often redeems our sufferings by equipping us and giving us opportunities to extend comfort to others. Sometimes we do that in person by sitting or crying with a struggling or heartbroken friend, but always we can pray for God’s comfort to visit them.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 
And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
They said to him, "Twelve." 
"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
And they said to him, "Seven." 
And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)

When we re-read these miracles of Jesus, what is our intent? Is it just to refresh our memories? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, with Jesus and His disciples. He wants them to dwell on the two particular miracles of which He speaks. “For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation – the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.”

Jesus warned them against the teachings of the religious leaders, teachings which would have us believe that God withholds blessings based on legalities; teachings that resemble those of today’s “religious leaders.” Finally, the disciples did understand. “He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at east can discover a reason.” The lesson here was that God cares for His children, and will provide for their necessities. And it is love that is the driving force of this provision.

You see, the disciples were failing to trust. Look at verse 16. They discussed among themselves the fact that they had not brought any bread. After all that they had seen Jesus do. “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when His children want it.”

All too often, we, as humans, remember the loaves but forget the Father, even as, in our theology, we “forget the very Logos.”

The care the Father has for us is care for the day (see Matthew 6). “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years – in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

“The moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.”

(All above quotes from Creation in Christ, by George MacDonald, referenced in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

The Spiritual Discipline being highlighted, here, is that of study. That may sound odd, as we normally consider study to be a discipline that involves books and reading. However, Jesus has called His disciples, here, to study, dwell upon, and learn from their experience. We should do the same. It is worthwhile to look back upon our experiences and learn from them. We can learn much, both from experiences when we felt God moving in our lives, and experiences when we felt far from Him.

Here is another nugget from Eugene Peterson: “The Christian faith does not turn us into robots who are conditioned to behave in moral ways by reflex. The Christian faith does not lobotomize us so that we don’t have to think through anything. Jesus said, ‘Learn from me’ (Matthew 11:29). He intends to shape our minds, inform our intelligence, and mature our judgment so that we can understand and participate in the meaning of new life.”

The disciples were so fortunate to have that in-person experience with Him. We, on the other hand, must learn these things from a distance.

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

Father, I thank You that You have given us brains and the ability to think things through, and that You do not expect us to be pre-programed robots, conditioned to behave in certain ways. While I am expected to surrender my “rights” and walk according to the words and steps of Jesus, I still have the ability to make decisions and think about things. Those decisions are not always the right ones or, perhaps, not the best ones. But I am still me because You did not use cookie cutters to create us. If that were the case, all eight billion of us would have the same DNA, wouldn’t we?

I am grateful for Your work in my life, and that I can and should look back on my life and study it and learn from it. It is not a looking back, like Lot’s wife, where I regret that I have left some things behind. That is looking back and longing. I prefer to look back to learn, to learn from the times where I can see Your hand at work, and to learn from the times where I ignored Your hand and went my own way. It turns out that Your love and compassion for me worked through those times, even.

I am also thankful for that love and compassion that drives Your provision for Your people. We are quick to be able to quote the numbers, how many people were fed, how many loaves the little boy had, and how many baskets of food were left over. We like to memorize statistics. But we miss the point when we do that. With only a couple of fish and some loaves of bread, the miracle would have been just as powerful if fifty people were fed. The numbers are not the point. Your love, compassion, and overwhelming provision are the point. The same love that dropped manna from the sky for Your people, Israel, who were also quick to forget Your love and compassion only days after they had seen the miracle of the Red Sea parting and their enemies’ chariots drowned in the same sea.

Forgive us for being so quick to forget, and help us to remember to study; both Your written Word as well as the past events of our lives. I thank You for people like George MacDonald, Eugene Peterson, Richard J Foster, and Emilie Griffin (and others) who have written so that we can more easily remember.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.